Fighting for Equity in Education

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Media Release 31 July 2006 - Stanhope Government in Disarray

Monday July 31, 2006

Save Our Schools Canberra spokesperson, Dr Ian Morgan, said today votes taken at the ACT Conference of the ALP over the weekend showed that the Stanhope Government was in total disarray over school closures.

“A majority of the Government voted to delay the school closure program and against the arrogance of Chief Minister Stanhope and Education Minister Barr”, said Dr Morgan.

“Clearly, we have a Government and a party which are deeply divided on these issues, a Chief Minister who is out of touch, and a Minister who is out of his depth, out of control, and now, out of action.

“Two Cabinet Ministers, both former Ministers for Education, and five government members, voted to delay school closures, but they have since stated that they support school closures, but were bound to vote with their Left faction for a delay.

That, of course, is non-sense, for if the vote had gone ahead on straight factional lines, then the motion would have been carried. But, it does illustrate the extent to which some members of the government try to please both sides.

“One back-bencher, Karin McDonald attacked the current Minister for Education for his incompetent handling of the issue, and was in turn attacked by one of the Ministers.

“The view that the Minister is incompetent is one with which Save Our Schools Canberra can only agree. Andrew Barr now has a track record, in only four months in the job, of providing figures that do not stand up to public scrutiny, coupled with procrastination, obfuscation and deceit.

“In his latest display of contempt for the Legislative Assembly and the Canberra community, the Minister has refused to provide the Estimates Committee with more information about the costs of school closures, in defiance of his legal obligations. Now, he is taking two weeks leave, to further avoid accountability to the community, while students, parents and teachers agonise over the problems he has created.”

Dr. Morgan noted that back-benchers have also revealed that they were informed of the Cabinet decision on the morning of the budget release, and still have not been properly briefed on the issues.

“These revelations show that the Stanhope Government’s internal processes are as deeply flawed as their sham consultations.

“Back-benchers simply had the majority views of Cabinet imposed on them, and have apparently still not been given a proper briefing on the case for school closures. They have been denied access to the Costello functional review, just as the public as a whole has been denied access to the still secret report – despite repeated demands for its release.

“So the Chief Minister cannot be accused of hypocrisy in this case – for he treats his own party room with the same contempt that he is treating the people of Canberra.

“School communities should take credit for and heart from this weekend’s debacle. The ALP and the Stanhope Government are now deeply divided. That so much disarray has been achieved in only a matter of weeks is a tribute to the effectiveness of the campaigns that schools have waged. And there are many months of campaigning to go.

“Whatever the words said, the motion was not just about a delay – it was in reality a vote of no-confidence in the Stanhope Government, that, but for last-minute factional deals, would have been carried. If that is the best that the Minister and the Chief Minister can achieve with their own supporters, just imagine how they will fare when they face the wrath of the electorate as a whole.”

Contact – Dr. Ian Morgan, phone 0417 450 746

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