The list of broken promises by the Stanhope Government on school closures continues to grow. The latest is the Government’s reversal on selling off school sites.
The Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, told regional consultation meetings held in June that school sites would not be closed. For example, he gave a firm commitment to the South-East Belconnen regional meeting on 27 June that ‘there will be no land sales as a result of school closures’ (Canberra Times, 28 June 2006).
Now the Chief Minister has unilaterally broken this commitment. He told the Canberra Times (5 August, 2006) that the Government will likely sell unused school land for residential development and aged-care facilities.
So, the Government’s commitment not to sell school sites lasted only about 5 weeks.
The Government clearly hopes to profit from land sales of school sites. Documents obtained last year under Freedom of Information revealed that the Department of Education obtained valuations on several school sites in the north Belconnen region, including Higgins, Holt, Latham primary schools and Melba high school.
Previous statements by the Minister for Education that the Toward 2020 proposal does not rely on revenue from selling school sites should be seen for what it is – a smokescreen for future intentions to bolster Treasury revenue.
Not only will communities lose access to their neighbourhood school under the Towards 2020 Plan, they will also lose their neighbourhood green space. The Government is diminishing not only public education, but also access to public space. Implementation of the Towards 2020 Plan thus involves an agenda to privatise public space.