Page 777 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Mr Speaker, the latest debacle that we are seeing in relation to the handling of Lyons school, and, no doubt, in the coming days as we see more evidence emerging about plans for other schools, is really the final slap to the community. You have got a government going to an election promising not to close any schools, and then turning around 18 months later with a plan to close 39 schools, which was eventually whittled down to 23 schools. Having deceived the people of the ACT on its school closure program, you would think that it would actually show some decency after that.
In implementing its school closure program—the school closure program which it assured us was not going to happen prior to the election—you would think that, having broken that promise and having argued long and hard about the necessity of going down this path, that we would actually see some compassion from this government in the way it treated these communities. You would think it would actually say, “Well, yes, we feel that it was necessary to break our promise on school closures, but we will actually treat you decently now while we do it.” But they cannot even bring themselves to be open and honest with the community about their plans.
We saw the minister’s response in question time today on this issue—it was shrill and defensive, and it was because he and his department and his office have been caught out on their outrageous plans to either shift the kids early with maybe only two months notice to Yarralumla or to move them en masse into the hall to complete the 2008 school year. I happen to believe that Ms Wright, who is quoted in the Canberra Times, has no reason to mislead the community. I happen to believe that she is telling the community and the Canberra Times what she was actually told. What she was actually told was that options included moving the students to Yarralumla early, conducting all the classes in the school hall for the rest of the year or moving the children around other parts of the building. They were the options on the table as indicated to her by the department of education.
There is no doubt that this is what she was told. In fact, the spokesman for the ACT education minister, Andrew Barr, said that no decision had been made but did not dispute that these were the options on the table. The options on the table were to move to Yarralumla early, conducting all of the classes in the school hall for the rest of the year or moving the children around other parts of the building. These were the options on the table, and the minister’s office did not dispute it. All we get this morning is the minister’s media release saying that the ACT government has no plans to relocate students of Lyons primary school to Yarralumla primary school before the end of the 2008 school year.
What we have in response to a negative Canberra Times story, in response to being caught out on their plans to impose more hardship on the community of the Lyons primary school is that they take one of the options off the table. They have taken off the table one of the options that they were considering—that is, forcing students at two months notice to go to Yarralumla early. We can be thankful that we have a responsive government that makes policy so quickly in response to negative media coverage! When they get a bad story, how quickly they put some of these options away. We do not know whether or not the other options remain on the table.