Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991
Parliamentary Record 3
Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 1 May 1991 because Individuals within those families are invalids or need very close access to medical facilities. Many of those people are in a low socioeconomic group and do not own cars. The public transport system in the area is inadequate in terms of transporting children to the 2 schools which are alternatives to Tiwi. As usual, this government has picked on the weakest sections of the community - children, the aged, invalids and Aboriginals - for the benefit of the rich. I issue a challenge to the ministers opposite. In the context of the ERC cuts, I challenge each of them to give up 1 of their many ministerial advisers, consultants, public relations officers or whatever and not to close any schools. Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member's time has expired. Mr BELL (MacDonnell): Mr Speaker, I intend to take the opportunity to speak to the amendment as well as to urge on honourable members the virtues of the censure motion that I moved this morning. I believe that the government, and the minister in particular, do not have a leg to stand on. The economies that this government has sought to place on the Northern Territory have been economies that it had no mandate to place. I believe that all opposition speakers have made very powerful cases, either in respect of their individual electorates or more broadly, why this motion should succeed. I believe that the government pulled the wool over the eyes of the Northern Territory electorate in its election campaign in October last year. There was not a word to the voters about the possibility of school closures nor about the possibility that the education of their children would be thrown into massive disarray in the way that we have seen in the first few months of this school year. That will continue as families seek possible ways to do the best by their kids. This government has sold them out, and sold them out in spades. The very terms that the minister uses in seeking to defend himself against the substance of this motion give the lie to the very claims he makes. He uses terms like 'task force'. Let us look at the term 'task force'. It implies a degree of forward planning that has been absolutely absent from this whole exercise. I do not mean to urge bad faith on all the officers who have been involved in it. They have been forced to administer an irresponsible government decision. Earlier in this morning's debate, I tabled a copy of the procedures and criteria for closure of schools. That refers to the annual review of schools. For example, as a matter of policy, Band 3 urban schools whose enrolment numbers are 170 or less are to be reviewed annually by a standing committee consisting of the deputy secretary (schools) as the chairman, the regional superintendent, the departmental demographer and the Northern Territory COGSO nominee. In addition, there is to be a nominee of the school council of the affected school, and the principal of the school. That does not happen. That was 1985's policy. It is not heard about now. Last year, an election was held. That election was preceded by a budget. That budget made no mention whatsoever of the possibility of school closures nor of any alteration in staff-student ratios. This type of proposal has never been adhered to and the minister has the gall to rise in this Assembly and suggest that somehow a responsible process has been put in train. I suggest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the opposition has made its case well and truly. Throughout his speech this morning, the Minister for Education was clutching at straws. He made a couple of comments that really need to be nailed down. He said the community must ask itself whether it was prepared to pay the cost of keeping small schools open. I will quote him directly 832
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