Page 155 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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MR STANHOPE: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. We can quibble over the language used by the Minister for Education or the government, just as we can quibble over the language and authority of a government spokesperson who made a comment and who was reported on this particular issue.

The Hansard extract I tabled yesterday is quite explicit in that it leaves open—this is the point that I made yesterday—the prospect that the government would consider the possibility of closing schools. The minister foreshadowed quite clearly the need for discussions, just as she did in the Canberra Times on 14 August, when she foreshadowed quite clearly that this was an issue in relation to which there should be continuing discussion.

When somebody presents the position in words such as—when somebody says clearly, in good English, grammatically—”at some stage in the future the community will have to have a conversation about this: about old schools, small schools and what we want from schools in the future”, it is clear. I know that members of the opposition are seriously challenged in a range of areas. But that English and that language are quite clear.

We know of your difficulties; they are patent to everybody in this place and the community. But the language is clear; the language is explicit; the language is grammatical. This was just two months before the election. This community needs to come to grips with the issue of schools and their efficiency. Our position is quite clear. You can bang on for as long as you like about what was or was not said. The words are clear, in English, grammatical. This is a conversation which the community must have. And we did.

MR SPEAKER: Is there a supplementary question?

MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Chief Minister, given that you are unable to find a repudiation of the previous promise not to close schools in the next term of government, will you now acknowledge that your government misled the people of Canberra in relation to school closures prior to the 2004 election?

MR STANHOPE: The community was not confused or misled, just as the Liberal Party was not confused or misled. As Mr Pratt, the then spokesperson, said on behalf of the Liberal Party—and if Mr Pratt got it, I am not quite sure what it says about other members of the Liberal Party—in his press release of 11 August 2004, in response to the comments made by the then minister for education, Ms Gallagher, “The Liberal opposition has today agreed with the government”—

Mr Seselja: You ruled it out the next day, on the 12th.

MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Seselja!

MR STANHOPE: This was issued on 11 August by Steve Pratt, on behalf of the Liberal Party. The words that Mr Pratt used in response to the statements by the minister for education at the time, Ms Gallagher, were: “The Liberal opposition has agreed with the government that some Canberra schools may have to merge due to

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