Page 3088 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017
I also note that 20 new psychologists have been promised in this budget, but this is not enough. This is a crucial area where a shortfall in services has serious consequences. All students need to have access to adequate services. Importantly, this also crosses the divide between the government and non-government education sectors.
On a personal note, Madam Speaker, I would like to reinforce the very important point made here by Mr Wall in relation to school-aged mental health services. As the shadow minister for health, I have had extensive conversations with a number of school principals about their growing concern about the prevalence of mental health issues in ACT schools and the slowness of response to some of these issues.
I have encountered principals who have long work experience in the ACT and others who have come from other jurisdictions. The universal message is that mental health is a top-of-mind issue for all principals. It is probably the most important issue that they confront on a daily basis. The clear take-out message is that this government, through a multitude of ministers, is not fully engaged on this important issue.
Mr Wall also asked me to comment on the notion of choice. Canberra families can and do vote with their feet when it comes to which school suits their family needs. It is crucial that families are able to choose the educational setting that is right for their child regardless of their ability, race or religion, or their socio-economic status. The notion of choice extends to the rights of parents and carers to choose the kind of programs to which their children are exposed in the classroom. This is something that we on this side feel very strongly about.
I am not sure how Mr Rattenbury managed to pivot between safe schools and same-sex marriage during the debate in this place on Ms Orr’s motion on education last week, but he did. To be clear, the Canberra Liberals believe that parents should be informed about the content of any program that is linked to or includes any content at all from the Safe Schools Coalition programs.
What we do believe is that there is always a place for a dedicated program that teaches tolerance and acceptance and that focuses on real strategies to combat bullying in all forms. Anything associated with the Safe Schools Coalition program, however, should not be tolerated.
To finish on this issue of bullying, it would be remiss of us not to mention the wholesale attack waged on my colleague Mr Wall by UnionsACT. This attack related to a line of questioning during estimates about workplace safety programs that unions were delivering in ACT schools. Mr Wall was not questioning the program but he was questioning—and rightly so—the unions’ strategy to use that program as an opportunity to sell unionism. This is a political strategy at its worst.
This attack, this bullying by UnionsACT, was done under the false claim that Mr Wall was questioning the importance of workplace safety. Never once did Mr Wall question the issue of workplace safety. Never once did Mr Wall question the right of every individual to work in a safe environment. But UnionsACT sought to create for