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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 June 2015) . . Page.. 1881 ..

The Minister may establish a school education advisory committee … as required to advise the Minister, about school education or a related matter, for a specified period.

In other words, “Don’t call me; I’ll call you.” Looking at Ms Burch’s record over the last few years—indeed, the record of any one of the previous four other education ministers on Labor’s side—you can see that they did not call too often on this very valuable resource. I do not believe that is the spirit of wanting meaningful and accessible engagement by government with the community: “Don’t call me; I will call you.”

The minister has highlighted clearly through these changes that she will choose who she listens to and who she takes advice from. Presumably it will only be from people who tell her what she wants to hear. The minister is not known for her willingness to engage with the wider school community and she has been slow to recognise that there are both government and non-government schools. And she does have a reputation for blocking her ears to advice she does not like. I think the changes proposed in this amendment will only serve to further distance her from engagement with the education sector.

The Canberra Liberals believe these changes are unnecessary. We believe they vest too much power in this education minister. Under normal circumstances, that might not be a problem. However, it is a problem with this particular minister. Let us not forget just how disengaged she is with the education sector. She has already had a vote of no confidence moved against her by her own teachers. We know that parent groups in several schools have found her to be wanting in her ability to listen, to take advice and to make meaningful decisions. We know that every other week there is another mistake, another blunder. Now she is reducing her availability to receive advice and expertise from within and outside the education sector. We see this as just another example of her putting her fingers in her ears, as with her visit to Quamby some years ago.

The Canberra Liberals will not be supporting this bill, for the reasons I have outlined. The legislation is unnecessary. It concentrates power too much in the minister’s hands and reduces the opportunity for groups within the education sector to provide advice to the minister and have their views considered and responded to.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.35): This is a bill for an act to amend the Education Act to remove reference to the Government Schools Education Council and the Non-government Schools Education Council from the act, so on face value it is a very simple bill. As the explanatory statement says very clearly:

The Education Amendment Bill 2015 removes all reference to the Government Schools Education Council and the Non-government Schools Education Council … The Bill gives the Minister for Education and Training … general powers to establish advisory bodies as necessary to advise the Minister on school education matters under the Act.

The Bill has been drafted to allow for flexibility in application and committees may be established to inquire into any school education or related matter.

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