Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 April 2008) . . Page.. 897 ..
from teachers, families and others that the government’s safe schools policy is still very much on shaky ground. I think it is sound in principle, but I do not think it is being well applied.
There is still very much the unfinished business of a particular high school which was the subject of an emotional debate in question time today. There were very strong and repetitive claims of serial offences around unacceptable activity in school hours, allegedly leading eventually, in early 2006, to gang assault, violence, intimidation—even intimidation of teachers. I have spoken to the teachers affected. The unfinished business remains unfinished. Yes, no police charges were laid, although Mr Barr does know that the principal at the time believed there should have been and would be.
I speak of a horrendous series of allegations that came to light on 18 May 2006. Mr Barr is too frightened to answer the questions that have been repeatedly asked about this school situation and its history and activities through 2005 to early 2006—questions such as, “What is the welfare situation of the central victim and other potential victims?”, “What happened to the perpetrators?” and “Were all the parents at the school informed about at least the general nature of the allegations so as to ensure that their own children had not been caught up in the matter?” What we saw was a rapid shutting down of the matter and a continual refusal to answer questions.
Did Mr Barr believe that not talking about the matter would stop the central victim from self-harming? In fact, the opposite was the case. Because no justice was seen to be done, or no justice was done, the victim continued to self-harm. What of the perpetrators? Were they remorseful? Have they been counselled? These are reasonable questions, never answered.
Given the approaches from the collateral victims to members here, the Assembly has a right and a duty to ask what departmental steps were taken, as well as what police action was taken. I recall the minister stating at the estimates hearings in July 2006 that he would be prepared to return to the committee and give evidence about what had happened and what steps were being taken—to give evidence in camera, as members requested. But he did not. The mystery continues.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.21): The pontificating by those opposite in relation to schools in this debate never ceases to amuse me. Mr Barr’s self-serving statement should be treated just as that—a self-serving statement. The hypocrisy of the current Labor government on school closures is absolutely mind-boggling; it is absolutely breathtaking.
The Chief Minister and the minister have said, “We had the courage to do this and no-one else had.” We need only to fast rewind the clock to see what happened 10, 15 years ago when there were school closures. The people at the forefront of any school closure, be it even a preschool with only about 13 people, were those in the ALP. Now we have this amazing road to Damascus change, which suddenly seemed to grip them about a month after the 2004 election, it seems today, in terms of disclosures now made by the Deputy Chief Minister who was the education minister at the time.
I find it really quite amusing and somewhat sad to see the pontificating of this lot opposite in terms of trying to take some—I would not call it high moral ground, but