The ALP Branch Conference held at the weekend has revealed a party and a Government that is deeply divided over the Towards 2020 school closure plan. The Conference vote against a moratorium on the Plan was only 100 to 96. The two previous Education Ministers, Simon Corbell and Katy Gallagher, voted for a moratorium as did some Government backbenchers.
This is a major division that threatens the future of the Government. The Chief Minister has his head in the sand if he thinks otherwise.
The division in ALP ranks has been created by the resistance and protest of school communities and parents across Canberra at the Government’s plan.
Parents have demonstrated a litany of Government inaccuracies and mistakes in school enrolment, capacity, cost and savings data. The Minister for Education refuses point blank to supply all the relevant data and information to the public and the Legislative Assembly. He misleads and dissembles on the data he has provided. He dismisses or stonewalls parent objections to his plan.
Now, the Minister is going on holidays for two weeks. He has only been Minister for four months, and already he needs a holiday from the community protest. This means he is not available for consultation at a critical time in the process and no further information will be made available, at least for the time being.
The consultation has all the markings of a sham. The Chief Minister refuses to publish the secret Costello report that is behind the school closure plan. He asserts that his school closure plan is the right thing to do. In other words, he is saying that he is not open to an alternative view – the Plan will go ahead whatever.
Parents are justifiably angry at the intransigence of the Chief Minister and the Education Minister. However, our protests and arguments are having a demonstrable impact. Supporters of the Plan within the Labor Party have only a paper-thin majority – it would have taken only two delegates to change their vote for the Government to be at war with its own Party rank and file. There is significant backbench dissent within the Government.
It is important that P&Cs and Save Our Schools committees continue to press their case to Labor members of the Legislative Assembly. The key demand is to call for a moratorium on school closures and the establishment of an independent public inquiry on the school closure plan and the future of the neighbourhood school.
Things you can do are:
- Write or e-mail your local Member;
- Phone your local Member;
- Organise a delegation to meet with your local Member;
- Invite your local Member to meeting of parents at your school.
The next key period in the battle against Towards 2020 is the two sitting weeks of the Legislative Assembly in mid-August (15 – 17 August, 22 – 24 August). At this sitting the Budget Bills will be debated as will the ACT Greens’ Bill for a moratorium on school closures and a Liberal Party motion to establish an independent inquiry.
A public rally sponsored by the ACT Greens will be held outside the Assembly on Wednesday, 16 August at 1.00pm. Promote the rally in your community. Organise a contingent to attend. Bring your banners.