Page 2348 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.55): There are a number of parts of the education budget that I would like to make some comments on. There are a number of positive initiatives that we certainly support. The Calwell high school performing arts centre will be a great facility, hopefully, for the people of Tuggeranong and we look forward to that being built. We also see money here set aside for quality teaching for better outcomes, and of course we announced some time ago an extra $2.2 million over four years for teacher training, additional professional development for teachers. We believe that that is a really important part of the overall equation of supporting teachers better. And there will be more to come on that.

The feedback that we have had, very strongly from teachers and parents, is that teachers in our schools, both at a non-government level and a government level but focusing on a government level, are facing more and more challenges in the variety of students that they face, in some of the challenges that students have, in students with mental illnesses or behavioural problems. And the overwhelming feedback we have had from the community is that they do not blame teachers for the bad outcomes; that they do believe that teachers are facing some of the real difficulties in our community and they are at the difficult end of that; and that some of the problems have become much more complex.

Certainly one of the responses to that is to provide that additional professional training which can be targeted towards dealing with behavioural issues but certainly not limited to that. We believe that that is an important part of assisting our teachers, supporting our teachers, so that we can get better quality outcomes for our students. And that is really what it is about.

It is worth reflecting on some other parts of the education debate in particular. We have seen the issue of Lyons primary school which the opposition highlighted some time ago. It is worth reflecting on what the plans were because we did get some mixed messages, did we not, on what the plans were. In fact, we know that the Canberra Times were told very clearly by the department that one of the options being considered was to have the students in the school hall for a significant period. That is what they were told. We have been given different stories at different times as to whether that was actually being contemplated but it certainly seems clear to me that that was very much on the cards until it was highlighted, until the minister was embarrassed into a backflip. And we are certainly very happy that we were able to embarrass the minister into that backflip.

It takes us back, I think, to the school closures debate. We know that the school closures decision was not well thought through; we know that it was rushed. In fact, Lyons primary school is simply another example of that; it is another outcome of having rushed those decisions. It is simply a result of poor planning that they were contemplating doing that to students, disrupting the school year for students. Really, it is a bit of a final insult, it is a bit of final kick to this community, having had their school closed and their school taken away from them, that it was handled in such a poor way that they were contemplating having to stick them in the hall in order to do their refurbishments. I do see it as part of a broader narrative and broader problem with the way this government has handled the schools closure issue.

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