Jon Stanhope’s ill-tempered attack on Jane Gorrie, President of P&C Council, has all the hall-marks of a government in crisis, says Save Our Schools Canberra.
SOS spokesman, Dr Ian Morgan said:
“What Jane Gorrie said was very clear and simple – if the Chief Minister wants to use the excellence of the government school system in the ACT to attract skilled workers to Canberra, then he should inform them that his Government is proposing to close down nearly a quarter of this excellent system.
“The Chief Minister has told the Canberra community schools must close. His advertising should also inform potential Canberra residents of the Government’s plans, before they make major decisions and investments based on mis-information. After all, truth in advertising is a moral obligation and a legislative requirement.
“Apparently the Chief Minister has some problem with the concept of honesty, of providing full and accurate information to the community.
“He is refusing to release the Costello Review, taking refuge in Cabinet-in-confidence, when Cabinet can, in fact, release the document if it wants to.
“His Minister for Education – who is now off on holidays while students, parents and teachers cope with the mess that he has created – is refusing to provide further information on the financial analysis of the costs and benefits of school closures. Their figures are clearly in tatters, but the Chief Minister has closed the books to further scrutiny.
“The Chief Minister has chosen to misinterpret Jane Gorrie’s call as asking for immediate closure of schools, in an attempt to score a cheap political point. This is clearly non-sense, and the Chief Minister is not fooling anyone – except perhaps himself.”
Dr. Morgan accused the Chief Minister of posturing on the national stage instead of dealing with the litany of community protests about incorrect, misleading and inadequate information on the Towards 2020 Plan and its impact on communities.
“The Chief Minister has taken a series of principled stands on issues such as gay unions, anti-terrorism legislation, and the treatment of David Hicks.
“Many people will have some sympathy for some of the positions taken by the Chief Minister. But they are issues on which he knows he cannot win because the Commonwealth holds the upper hand.
“He is simply posturing on the national stage.
“He has only narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence from his own Party members on his school closure plan. He is desperate to distract attention from the most vicious attack on government schooling since that of the now reviled Kennett Liberal Government in Victoria. He has abandoned all pretence about open government with his refusal to publish the secret Costello report and provide detailed school cost and savings data. He has abandoned his own Social Plan’s commitment to real equity and social justice for the most disadvantaged children in our community.
Dr Morgan concluded:
“It is time for the Chief Minister to get down from his high horse and face up to the reality of running Canberra. He needs to stop posturing, and provide the people of Canberra with the information they need to assess the school closure proposals. He needs to deal with the inadequacies of his Plan so clearly revealed in the Estimates Committee hearings.
“It is, in fact, looking increasingly likely that the only way to force Stanhope and the Stanhope Government to come clean on the issue is to have an independent inquiry, with sufficient teeth to get at the truth, despite the efforts of the Chief Minister to keep it under wraps.
“It will then be up to the Labor back-benchers who have expressed concerns about the closures to vote to open up the books. This will be a critical test of how real their concerns are – and how they vote will certainly be remembered at the next election.”