Broken Promises, or Not?

The Minister for Education, Mr. Andrew Barr, has been telling regional consultation meetings that the Government did not promise that it would not close schools during its term of office.

Let the record speak for itself.

Before the 2004 ACT election, a spokesman for the then Minister for Education categorically ruled out closing any schools during the next term of government. He said:

“The Government will not be closing schools”.
Canberra Times, 12 August 2004, p.2

Last year, the same spokesman said that the Government has no plans to close more schools in Canberra beyond Ginninderra District High School. The actual statement was remarkable in its disingenuousness and the careful let out:

“There is no active consideration [of school closures] at the moment, it is not on the Government’s agenda.”
Canberra Times, 26 July 2005, p.1

The following day the Minister for Education was reported as ruling out further school closures, with a spokeswoman for the Minister stating:

“There are no other plans on the agenda.”
Canberra Times, 27 July 2005, p.1

A letter in the Canberra Times last year made the following observation on these statements:

“On this track record of Government integrity, we can expect that plans will be underway soon, if they’re not already in place, to close schools in Woden, Weston Creek and North Tuggeranong”.
4 August 2005

What an incredibly prescient comment in the light of what was announced in the 2006-07 ACT Budget!!

The ACT Government does not have an electoral mandate to close 20 – 25 per cent of Canberra schools. Its election platform did not canvass such a sweeping change to the government school system. Indeed, its public statements were designed to give some assurance that school closures were not on its agenda. At best, these statements were disingenuous and misleading.

The Government’s record of broken promises does not stop with school closures. The key education commitment in the ALP Election Platform for the last election was an additional $12 million to increase staff in government high schools to improve student support and education outcomes. It promised an average increase of 2 full-time professional staff in each high school.

The Government has a clear mandate to increase teacher numbers, but its promise has not been delivered and now has been clearly abandoned with the Budget cuts of around 120 teachers from government high schools and colleges.

Trevor Cobbold
24 June 2006

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