Minister Fails to Meet Legal Obligations on School Closures Information

The Save Our Schools group said today that the Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, has failed to meet statutory obligations to provide parents with statements of reasons for schools being listed for closure.

SOS spokesperson, Dr. Ian Morgan, said that the Minister had failed to comply with the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1989, and his Government has shown contempt not only for the school parent community, but also for the Legislative Assembly and ACT law.

“The Minister has failed to respond to requests for statements of reasons submitted under the ADJR Act by several school parent groups as well as P&C Council and SOS Canberra. The Minister hasn’t even provided a formal acknowledgement of these requests.

“This is yet another example of how the Stanhope Government is refusing to provide sufficient information to parent organisations to enable them to respond to the Towards 2020 Plan.

“The refusal to provide statement of reasons opens up the Government to legal action by parents and parent organisations. The ADJR Act provides recourse by way of application to the Supreme Court for an order directing the Minister to prepare the statement of reasons. Parent organisations are now considering their options.”

“The so-called consultation process has been hampered all along by the Government’s refusal to provide full and accurate information about the criteria used to select schools for closure, school capacity, projected enrolments, detailed cost and savings data and so on. The Minister has refused point blank to provide information formally requested by the Estimates Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

“So, the Stanhope Government is thumbing its nose at the parent community, the Legislative Assembly and ACT law. What a combination! It demonstrates the arrogance and incompetence of this Government.”

Dr. Morgan said that the ADJR Act provides a mechanism for people affected by government decisions to appeal against them and hold decision-makers accountable for their decisions.

“Under the Act, a person can request written statements of reasons for decisions that have been made. The making of a report or recommendation before a decision is made constitutes the ‘making of a decision’ under the Act (section 3A), and so is relevant for the Toward 2020 Plan.

“The statement of reasons must be requested within 28 days of receiving notification of the decision or proposed decision and the Minister must reply within 28 days of receiving the request. Parent organisations have submitted their requests within the required time frame, but the Minister has ignored his obligations to respond.”

Dr. Morgan said that the statement of reasons from the Minister was necessary for school groups to respond to the Towards 2020 Plan.

“The statement of reasons will help concerned parents understand why their schools were selected for closure. It will give them an indication of the issues they need to address in their submissions. Otherwise, they are operating in the dark.

“SOS calls on the Minister for Education to explain his failure to meet his legal obligations and to promptly respond to requests.”

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