28 June 2006

Gary Humphries says school closure ads misleading

| Kerces
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ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries says the ACT Government’s ads justifying school closures are misleading and (the usual attack) a waste of taxpayer money.

However Samuel Gordon-Stewart’s transcription of the radio version of these ads (see the end of this comment) suggests they have been paid for by the Labor Party, with the veryfastvoicer stating “spoken by P. Mills; paid for and authorised by Matthew Cossey, ALP Canberra” — Matthew Cossey is the ACT branch secretary.

Senator Humphries calls the ads a “Stalin-like rewriting of history”, and says the rhetoric used in them is very similar to that used by the then-governing Liberals in 1990 when they were trying to close down schools.

“[Mr Stanhope] conveniently neglects to mention that the Alliance Government tried to make the same ‘tough decisions’ but was stymied by a Labor led campaign,” Senator Humphries said .

“I am happy to lend Mr Stanhope my scrap book to refresh his memory. It was the biggest political issue in the Territory in 1990.”

He says when, as Education Minister, he tried to make the number of schools in Canberra sustainable 16 years ago he was “subjected to a vicious, personal campaign by many who took their lead from the Labor Party”.

“This campaign took school closures off the agenda for 16 years. Ironically, if Labor had supported my approach in 1990 it may have not now have to close a whopping 39 schools,” he said.

“I challenge Labor to explain how school closures in 1990 are bad while school closures in 2006 are good.”

UPDATE: Jon Stanhope has weighed into the debate, saying Senator Humphries is actually admitting to lacking “political bottle” with his press release and that it is “ridiculous” to blame the current Government for opposition posed 16 years ago.

Deb Foskey says it is the Labor Party paying for the ads and she doesn’t think this is a good thing.

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Laurie Short10:10 am 29 Jun 06

Any political party is entitled to run advertising on issues that they believe they need to campaign on – better that its from their coffers than from the public purse ala the Howard Government.

What it does suggest though is that the ALP believes that it needs to “sell” the education policy rather than rely on arguments of “quality”. That in itself is an indication that it doesn’t believe it can defend the policy without resorting to paid spin not just from the Government but from the party political machine.

The fact of the matter is that the AC economy is not broad enough, deep enough or robust enough to sustain the level of public expenditure it has had in the past. The population has been silently voting with their feet for years over 3,000 people net have move out of Canberra over the past 5 years.

The economic development agenda was also dropped in the last budget – wait for those impacts in 5 to 10 years (central coast raiders, more schools closed , more people tracking up the highway for complex medical attention, poorer public housing)

I blame the current govt as they haven’t even looked at risk assessment in this process.

Surely more parents will choose to enrol their children into local Non-Govt schools rather than in a Govt school that is further away as the local one was closed.

Govt schools will lose more students through this action rather than enticing students to the system.

It will be interesting to see the fall out in 3-5yrs when this process is over and done with.

Let’s put this perspective…. we live in democracy. Humpharies (last I saw) is a resident of Canberra, and I think it therefore entitled to vote in the ACT elections. Are the red hordes suggesting that as a federal politician he looses the ability to coment on local issues like every other voter.

Likewise Stanhope is entitled to a view on federal issues. Because he to is a participant in the democractic process.

The central issue to be asked and answered is have schools been closed unnecessarily because of mismanagement or is it necessary today but wasn’t in the past. I ask anyone to objectively answer that question.

This is one administration, attacking the other. Arguments about public administration, and who has the right to comment on what only clouds this issue.

No-one seems to have cottoned onto the fact that these 39 schools need to close becuase;

a) Economics: it is financially unviable for each suburb to have its own series of schools. The ACT’s income stream, cannot support this.

Not to mention the fact that the parcel of lands, when sold when help bail the ACt out of the shortfall it is currently experiencing.

b) The teachers in these schools need to be where the students are, in many cases, new outlying suburbs.

c) Education itself, is becoming more and more geared towards larger schools, more classrooms (same student size). This enables shared resources (libraries, IT etc) to become more affordable and available, to those who need it most, THE STUDENTS.

Education is for kiddies, perhaps we should start thinking more about them, than what it was like in the olden days…

As much as the term of ‘whole of government approach’ is thrown around in this town, the reality is that no government is a homogeneous beast with all parts acting in the same spirit. So apparent contradictions about policy reversals Simto are plenty to be found, not to mention inconsistencies in how one arm of the government acts to another.

But looking at the merit of the school closure proposal, Gary seems to be in conflict with the local libs on this one.

And as for federal meddling in territory affairs, are you kidding? If the recent CU saga has highlighted a single thing is that – self determination in the ACT is a thinly veiled farce perpetrated on the ACT population, in areas where the fed couldn’t give a stuff about running – unless of course it’s politically valuable for them to interfere.

uhh Humphries is elected by you Simto as a rep for the territory in the federal parlt.

i reckon all kids should have 90 minutes a day of physical education.

then they can eat all the donuts they like.

Three things to note:

1) Humphries is a FEDERAL politician – what’s he doing meddling in territory government? (or is it okay for him to do it, but not okay for Stanhope to make statements about federal affairs)?

2) The comment over government spending on partisan political ads is a bit rich coming from the federales, who have made a bit of an artform over this. Particularly when he’s got his facts wrong in this instance – the ALP is paying for ’em, not the government.

3) Sixteen years is a reasonable amount of time for a policy reversal to take place. I’ve noticed the Federal government has had a few major policy reversals that have taken a little less time – or does nobody remember the “never ever again GST” that came back three years later?

Gary is saying there’s a problem with the claims of ‘previous governments’ actions. While he’s not attacking the closing of the schools in the first place. Which I’d bet is the greater issue of concern for those ACT folks affected.

For my two cents, it’s long been obvious to me that the ACT is well over supplied with Govt maintained goods and services, for a population of ~ 300 000 (referring to all ACT govt. services, which invariably has budgetary impacts on important services like education. And I’m not even going to mention the tricky area of health spending here, since although a crucially important service, there are way too many donut eating cattle in the ACT, who put an unecessary burden on the health budget. Were the ACT govt to fund health to the level necessary to address so much of our lifestyle-caused illness, the territory would be bankrupt in a few years. [And I’ve just addressed it, oh well…end rant].

Look at other capital cities and per capita services and the ACT has long been over servicing (since self-government when the limitless federal reserve funded territory budget was closed up).

Too bad as a population we’re used to this overservice and now are squealing like guttered pigs, over what even Humphries is calling an ‘unsustainable’ number of schools.

well Stanhope can at lease say he wasn’t in politics back in 1990 and blame it all on Wayne and Rosemary.

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