Page 899 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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Mr Barr: You could, given your record—

MR STEFANIAK: I have closed schools, Mr Barr, but I have done it in a hell of a lot better way than you lot ever have. We had processes in place. In fact, we had a very good one in 2000, which Mrs Dunne tried to get back into place, which is what the AEU wanted and I think other educational professionals, the P&C and even the school boards liked, because it was a way of bringing the community along if you had to make any changes to your education system and close schools, but doing it in a logical way—not putting the cart before the horse, not arrogantly and insensitively dictating to the communities what schools should close and would close.

I have heard all sorts of reasons given why some schools were saved and others were not. I am not going to go into that because (a) I have not got enough time and (b) I think it is just one of the factors in this debate. But quite a number of people since June 2006 have said to me: “Where is the diversity in education? Our little school was a very good one. Our children felt safe there. It prepared them well. They got a lot of individual attention.” They reckoned it was a great school community, it operated well and the results were there. What is the benefit of closing a school that is producing the goods? Some of these people have grave fears about everyone being in a big mega school and naturally there are going to be a lot of issues there. Is it going to make it any better by having a whole lot of bigger schools and far fewer smaller schools with that much more intimate feel? I do not think so, and I think you are going to cause a hell of a lot more problems.

Mr Seselja’s motion talks about the 2020 program having failed to have an impact on the drift of students away from the ACT government system and the extensive disruption to local communities in the education system via that program. I have mentioned the latter, as other speakers have here today. We have heard some figures bandied about in question time today about that continuing drift. I recall Mr Barr saying it was a continuing drift, but he was trying to sheet the blame home to the Howard government. All Labor people now try to shift incredible amounts of blame, real or imagined, to that most competent government.

You do not have to look much further than your own backyard. The drift accelerated since you lot came in in 2001. I refer you to one year, Mr Barr, which I think was 1988, which is very indicative. The drift had been about half a per cent a year, but it was absolutely arrested; there might have been about 10 or 20 students either way. The reason was—this is the only way I can put my finger on that—that we gave every teacher in 1998 a computer. We showed that they were valued. We showed our faith in the system. It was a great fillip. It was not a huge gesture perhaps—it did not cost squillions of dollars; it was not $350 million worth of new buildings—

Mrs Burke: It gave Mr Rudd the idea.

MR STEFANIAK: It probably gave Mr Rudd the idea, but it was certainly well received. If you are strategic and you target how you do things, you can reduce the drift, and you can do it too by impressing such things as standards.

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