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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 April 2008) . . Page.. 849 ..

government’s policy on school closures. She claimed that all the statements she had made were consistent and that the only inconsistent statement was the one made by her staff to the Canberra Times on 12 August 2004. Ms Gallagher apologised this morning for what she claimed was a mistake. However, on 24 August 2004, the last sitting day before the 2004 election, Ms Gallagher told the Legislative Assembly: “The government has no plans to close any schools.” Later, she said: “In short, we have no plans to close any schools.” Another mistake? Chief Minister, will you now apologise to the people of the ACT for these mistakes which misled them on school closures at the 2004 election?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question. The answer is no. Ms Gallagher this morning, quite appropriately and with significant integrity—an integrity that is not shown by the opposition in relation to this matter—sought to explain again the nature of statements made preceding the last election. The minister’s position at the time was patently clear. A statement was made by an officer. That statement did not represent the view of the minister. The minister at all times over the last four years has explained, and explained in detail, the nature of her position and the government’s position in relation to schools and school closures.

It is relevant, of course, that the then opposition spokesperson for education, Mr Steve Pratt, in public releases and public statements, explained the Liberal Party’s position in relation to school closures—namely, a position that schools would close under a Liberal government.

Ms Gallagher has shown significant integrity—the sort of integrity that one hopes would be accepted at face value and would be acknowledged as appropriate in the circumstances. Indeed, one would have hoped and expected—a forlorn hope in relation to this opposition’s attitude to issues of integrity—that it would have been accepted essentially with the grace in which it was proffered. The minister, on sober reflection, and having regard to the extent and the way in which the Liberal Party has deliberately over the last three years misconstrued the government’s position in relation to school closures, has stood up in this place and done something that you would hope would come naturally to all politicians and all people within this place—namely, having the capacity or preparedness to stand up and say to the Assembly and, through the Assembly, to the people of Canberra, “On reflection, I may have done this better or differently.”

The price in politics for standing up and acknowledging that something might have been done otherwise or may have been done differently is, of course, the puerile nonsense that we see proffered by the immediate past shadow minister for education. And who is the current shadow spokesperson for education? Oh, it’s the scarlet pimpernel—the invisible man! I must say that I had forgotten. The invisible man is the shadow spokesperson. In fact, it is the first question asked by Mrs Dunne on education, including during the entire time she was the shadow spokesperson for education.

It is interesting that we have to have this changing of the guard before the immediate past spokesperson for education for the Liberal Party actually gets around to asking a question on education. That is reflected, of course, in her commitment to public education and the infamous assertion by Mrs Dunne that investing money in public schools is throwing good money after bad.

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