Page 989 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 25 February 2009

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MS LE COUTEUR: My question is to the Minister for Planning. Minister, thank you very much for the briefing, which I attended this afternoon with an open mind. From that, I understand that the proposed changes to the planning regulations for the schools stimulus package were largely to clarify the situation for the smaller school developments, like water tanks and shade structures. Was the purpose of your recent media announcements, therefore, to give the appearance of reducing red tape and to appear to fulfil the commonwealth’s requirements to fast-track design, application and assessment processes, rather than making any substantive change to the regulations?

MR BARR: No. My intention throughout this process has been to ensure that ACT schools are able to access $230 million in commonwealth funding; that the ACT education system, government and non-government schools are in a position to meet the commonwealth’s guidelines, and that I take every step available to me as minister for education and Minister for Planning to assist schools to achieve that outcome—and I will take those steps.

There are only two obstacles at this point left that will prevent ACT schools from accessing this commonwealth funding program, and those obstacles are the ACT Greens and the Canberra Liberals. But I am optimistic. As I indicated in a previous answer, the overwhelming weight of public opinion will come crashing down on these two parties and they will wake up, hopefully tomorrow, and realise the importance of getting out of the way, letting the government get on with delivering these projects in the government school system and letting our non-government schools get on with delivering the projects in their respective systems.

I am pleased to advise the Assembly of another organisation that has come out in support of the government’s position. The ACT Principals Association have issued a media release, and they are alarmed at the possibility of being blocked from $143 million in commonwealth government funding under the building the education revolution initiative if the proposed changes to planning regulations are obstructed. The ACT Principals Association co-president, Murray Bruce, has written to Canberra Liberals leader, Mr Zed Seselja, and ACT Greens Parliamentary Convenor, Ms Meredith Hunter, asking them to seek a resolution to the current impasse.

The opportunity to upgrade school infrastructure through the BER initiative is a once-in-200-year opportunity that will benefit current and future ACT students enormously. School principals are very excited at the prospect of achieving a range of significant improvements to their school buildings and facilities and believe it would be “a tragic waste of opportunity” if a resolution to planning issues is not found. This funding will not just build useless add-ons, according to the principals association; proposed additions will provide meaningful, long-lasting outcomes for our students, future students and communities our schools serve.

The Principals Association has asked the Liberals and the Greens to do whatever they can to negotiate a speedy resolution to ensure our students are able to benefit from this investment. Let me tell you what the Liberals and the Greens can do. Very simple: get

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