Liberals’ secret schools deal claim backfires

Ian Bushnell 30 April 2020 77
Alistair Coe

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe claimed the ACT Government had a secret deal with the teachers union. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Canberra Liberals’ bid to open up a local front in the Prime Minister’s offensive to get teachers and students back into the classroom blew up in their faces after the Barr Government’s so-called ”secret deal” with the teachers union was released to media outlets today (30 April).

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe had alleged the government had negotiated a deal in secret with the Australian Education Union on the introduction of remote learning for ACT public school students in Term 2 as part of the COVID-19 response.

Last week the Opposition called for the ACT Government to keep all schools open. They said the evidence showed that children were unlikely to contract the virus or be strong transmitters of the disease, in line with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s stance.

But today Mr Coe claimed that the government had a political motivation for keeping the union on side. He demanded the government publish the details of its agreement with the AEU and the health advice on which the decision to close all but nine hub schools was based.

“It should be scientific evidence that is guiding the decisions but, unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency with the ACT Government, there is a growing suspicion that it is the union that is dictating the government’s response,” he said.

Last night Liberal Senator Zed Seselja robo-called Canberrans, polling them on the schools issue, which Mr Coe said he was unaware of.

The ACT Government duly sent journalists a letter dated 8 April from Acting Deputy Director-General of the Education Directorate David Matthews to AEU ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler outlining plans for remote learning. It also proposed temporary changes to the enterprise agreement during this period.

Education Minister Yvette Berry said in a statement that there was no secret deal.

“The ACT Government has worked with teachers to support them to continue to facilitate learning in this unprecedented time. We will continue to work with them, their union, parents and schools on how and when face-to-face learning can restart,” she said.

”I have already committed to methodically do this work over the next four weeks, and unlike the Canberra Liberals won’t be jumping to changes that teachers know are unworkable.”

Ms Berry said she was disappointed by the Canberra Liberals’ behaviour.

“This isn’t a time for scoring political points,” she said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Liberals’ claim was another one of their mad conspiracy theories that tend to have an element of anti-union hysteria.

“I’m not sure if the Opposition Leader has taken off his tin foil hat or put it back on again,” Mr Barr said.

He rejected the assertion that the government had raised the union’s needs above the medical advice, saying the government had a responsibility as an employer to ensure the safety of staff.

He said all jurisdictions were making their own decisions and no school system on the eastern seaboard was operating normally yet.

NSW’s one day a week trial for some students was still two weeks away, and Queensland and Victoria were making their decisions in the middle of their Term 2, he said.

”Even the Federal Government bribes to the Catholic and Independent systems talk about a return of 50 per cent of students by June,” Mr Barr said.

But he suggested the broader loosening of restrictions expected in coming weeks would flow through to schools.

”People are rightly asking why is a general playground OK but not a school playground,” he said.

He urged Canberrans to continue to work together, which was how the ACT had got to where it is with COVID-19 – the first Australian jurisdiction with no active COVID-19 cases.

”Let’s not make this a divisive party political issue or an issue that’s going to pit parents against teachers,” Mr Barr said.

“We are living through an unprecedented public health emergency, what we need now is encouragement, support and collaboration, and we take steps forward together.”

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77 Responses to Liberals’ secret schools deal claim backfires
Kim Kim 5:45 pm 30 Apr 20

Note to Canberra Liberals. Not too late to change the leader.

    JC JC 7:12 pm 02 May 20

    Who do they have? They are all cut from the same cloth.

Megan Baker-Goldsmith Megan Baker-Goldsmith 6:06 pm 30 Apr 20

Alistair Coe and Zed Seselja couldn’t organise a pint in a pub.

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 6:14 pm 30 Apr 20

    Megan Baker-Goldsmith that is pretty complicated at moment.

    Megan Baker-Goldsmith Megan Baker-Goldsmith 6:16 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins not really- you hit them up on Uber eats, deliveroo or Bopple and they’ll bring the beer to you.

Duncan Whiterod Duncan Whiterod 6:08 pm 30 Apr 20

The Canberra Liberals need a real leader, not another political lackey.

    Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 8:24 pm 30 Apr 20

    Duncan Whiterod no I think they are just fine on their own...😁

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 6:13 pm 30 Apr 20

Well doesn't he have egg on his face now... 😂

    Lisette Robey Lisette Robey 7:33 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins unless his tin foil hat slipped and blocked it.

Mel Smith Mel Smith 6:17 pm 30 Apr 20

Lisa Hivers I watched part of this press conference and my favourite bit was when Andrew Barr said he had gotten the robo call from Zeds office last night during dinner and responded to his poll lol

John Williams John Williams 6:25 pm 30 Apr 20

Who is that person in the above photo? Don’t think I have seen him before

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:26 pm 30 Apr 20

“He (Andrew Barr) said all jurisdictions were making their own decisions and no school system on the eastern seaboard was operating normally yet.”

Amidst all the huffing and puffing, and accusations of politicking by people who are themselves politicking, it would be interesting to have an explanation of what’s wrong with the decision of the WA Government –

particularly in light of today’s news about known cases of the virus in the ACT.

If the real answer is that some things won’t re-open until there is a vaccine and/or proven treatments, that needs to be made plain.

    JC JC 9:20 pm 30 Apr 20

    I can see geography wasn’t your strong point at school. WA is clearly not on the eastern seaboard.

    That aside there are 8 government school systems plus all the non government schools in this country and everyone of them is doing something different. Who is to say what WA is doing is right, or for that matter what the ACT is doing or any state for that matter is right?

    I recognise there is no black and white answer, at the end of the day it and the whole covid19 response is a matter of risk management on a scale never seen before, me personally I would rather the government take the time to fully work this through rather than do something just because someone else is doing it or there is vocal opposition.

    This despite me having two young kids who are well and truely driving me nuts day in day our, who I am trying to guide through their remote learning journey whilst myself and my wife are also trying to remote work. I would rather they be at school for my sanity but hey it isn’t about me.

    chewy14 chewy14 2:19 pm 01 May 20

    I would think that the government would take the advice of the chief medical officer in determining the risk mitigation necessary, particularly considering we have zero active cases and have always had extremely low numbers.

    There’s being cautious and being extraordinarily risk averse in a way they never are for other issues.

    JC JC 3:54 am 02 May 20

    Correct there is being cautious and being extra sanity ticks adverse in a way they never are for other issues.

    That pretty much sums up the whole worlds reaction to COVID19. And I think those who’s lives may have otherwise been lost are externally thankful that the ACT, the states, the federal government and the world have reacted they way they have.

    Oh and advice is just that. Advice. When doing a risk assessment the person doing the assessment considered the advice and makes their own conclusion considering all factors and much risk they are prepared to take on.

    Me personally I would love to send my kids back to school but I accept that to move back to full time face to face will take time. I also suspect the government and the teachers have a plan to do that which hasn’t been announced. Which I prefer to the half baked and confusing plans states like NSW have.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:00 am 02 May 20

    My point is exactly that. Individuals have made their own conclusions with regards to the risk assessment.

    Conclusions that are clearly not supported by the expert advice and evidence.

    And It’s not like this is an issue between saving lives or not either. There are massive, real world health consequences that are occurring from being in lockdown. The longer it goes on, the worse the outcome for other factors will be.

    Schools are part of the first areas that should be opened up and we can then review our position if transmission rates jump. The government should listen to the experts rather than the teachers union.

    JC JC 7:11 pm 02 May 20

    I don’t disagree that schools should be the first places to open. But I respect that those that are doing the risk assessments and balancing all factors (including political pressure) are making what they believe is the right decision.

    The fact that the 8 states and territories all have different plans is testimony to the fact that there is no right or wrong.

    One thing I am certain about is there is a plan to go back to full time education, but I think it is not being socialised so as to not create confusion like we have seen in NSW in particular.

Cass Andra Cass Andra 6:31 pm 30 Apr 20

I really do not know why this issue is being politicised. Isn’t it about safety of our Students and Teachers and ensuring that we all make it though this Pandemic. Going back to soon will be a mistake.

School staff have worked tirelessly to get the online learning off the ground. Let’s at least give it a go for a bit longer. This thing is far from over.

Winter is coming after all .

Stay safe out there . Huge thanks to all the school staff for just getting on with the job .

    Alex Burleigh Alex Burleigh 7:04 pm 30 Apr 20

    Cassandra Brown sorry but it’s not much good for kindergarten kids who are falling behind

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 8:01 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh you’re kidding right?

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 10:23 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh I don’t think a kindergarten kid can ‘fall behind’. 🤭.

    Alex Burleigh Alex Burleigh 10:34 pm 30 Apr 20

    Neenie Baines falling behind socially, and their mental health. As well as just not being engaged with learning. The whole idea of ‘remote learning’ for 5 year olds is ridiculous. It’s a disaster.

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 10:36 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh it’s kindergarten. The social aspect is sad yes, but they aren’t going to fall behind in a term. It’s all goi g to be ok. It will no doubt all be back to in class learning by the middle of the year.

    Cate Green Cate Green 8:36 am 01 May 20

    But if school isn’t safe why have they lumped the kids in huge groups at the hub schools rather than letting 10-30 kids keep going to each school??? Either it’s safe or urs not?!?

    Jasper Roo Jasper Roo 10:51 pm 01 May 20

    Alex no child is ahead or behind right now. We’ll be fine.

Kim Kim 6:37 pm 30 Apr 20

This goes to show the contempt Zed Seselja holds for Canberrans and the Canberra Liberals. Woe betide if Katy Gallagher carried out a robo poll without telling Andrew Barr on an issue as important as this. Dan Jervis-Bardy & Kirsten Lawson from The Canberra Times would be baying for blood.

Steve Gannis Steve Gannis 6:38 pm 30 Apr 20

Bring on the election!!

Johnathan Davis MLA - Member for Brindabella Johnathan Davis MLA - Member for Brindabella 6:41 pm 30 Apr 20

We’re all keen to see kids back in the classroom as soon as possible. But every effort must be taken to protect the health of teachers, students and the broader community. It would be great to see the Canberra Liberals making a positive and future focussed contribution to the conversation about education in Canberra.

For the time being though, can we all work together to get through this crisis? Is that too much to ask?

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 6:42 pm 30 Apr 20

What we should be asking, how come the Federal Education Minister can be using the church schools, to wedge the state schools?

We won’t be asking that, because LibLab policy is, church schools are the preferred provider. Thanks, John Howard and Julia Gillard.

Marilyn Roberts Marilyn Roberts 6:46 pm 30 Apr 20

I’d still rather have Coe and the liberals than the slimy green labor union party

Alex Burleigh Alex Burleigh 6:49 pm 30 Apr 20

Surely now we have eliminated the virus the teachers could possibly go back to work? My son will only get to do kindergarten once.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 7:10 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh it's not just about YOUR son, it's about the community.

    Alice Pommer Alice Pommer 7:26 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh teachers would quite like to go back too. It’s not up to us 🤷‍♀️

    Kurt Halbauer Kurt Halbauer 7:33 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh teachers are at work, it's just done remotely.

    Tom Porter Tom Porter 7:37 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh der, who do you think is doing all the lessons. I know Alistair Coe.

    Alice Pommer Alice Pommer 7:38 pm 30 Apr 20

    Kurt Halbauer you’re absolutely right! I should have phrased that differently. We would like to return to the classroom.

    Kurt Halbauer Kurt Halbauer 7:39 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alice Pommer yes, we would. But we are still working contrary to some opinion.

    Tom Porter Tom Porter 7:40 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh you can always make him repeat. Who says we have eliminated the virus? I am still seeing stories of new cases and more deaths

    Alice Pommer Alice Pommer 7:41 pm 30 Apr 20

    Kurt Halbauer yes we are!

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 10:18 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh every kid will only get to do this year of their schooling once 🙄.

    This is not the end of the world. Especially for a 5yo.

    Tracy Gorman Tracy Gorman 11:38 pm 30 Apr 20

    Alex Burleigh if your child was doing year 10, 12 or other education in which they were graduating this year, then you’d have reason to be worried. Kindergarten is important, but in the scheme of things, your child won’t be missing a lot education wise.

    Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 10:01 am 01 May 20

    As disappointing as that is, people have sacrificed a lot more than Kindy.

    Jasper Roo Jasper Roo 10:55 pm 01 May 20

    Tom no child will need to repeat. It’s been 3 weeks for most kids, plus holidays. Seriously. Some parents take their kids out of school to go on holidays for weeks at a time- even an entire term or longer! Yet, none of those parents seem to think that time out of school would make them ‘fall behind’.

    Tom Porter Tom Porter 10:01 am 02 May 20

    Jasper Roo, so right. Our poster is just a bit painful.

    Alex Burleigh Alex Burleigh 10:27 am 02 May 20

    Lovely to hear the expertise of childless millennials. Not only are they medical experts but also parenting experts it seems.

    Chez Lee Chez Lee 8:45 pm 03 May 20

    Alex Burleigh I am far from a millennial and I have two children under 6 years of age. Teachers have children too.

    Tracy Gorman Tracy Gorman 8:47 pm 03 May 20

    “Childless millennials”?? My kids are long finished school, and my grandchild will be starting in a few years. Pull your head in, you’re acting entitled.

    Amy LD Amy LD 6:43 am 04 May 20

    Alex Burleigh I would much rather be in a classroom with my students teaching face to face. However on the flip side I don’t want to contract the virus and be off work with no leave or income due to community spread. It is a tough time for everyone to navigate online learning. There are students trying to do years 12 during this time and you’re worried about your son in Kindy. Come on it sounds so ridiculous.

David Brown David Brown 7:00 pm 30 Apr 20

Perhaps the Liberals can explain to me why it is so urgent to get kids back in school. I suspect, as usual, it is principally about the economy and little to do with education.

Kim Fischer Kim Fischer 7:01 pm 30 Apr 20


The Canberra Times

The RiotACT

why are you not publishing the letter to the unions that the ACT government provided you?

Were you specifically asked not to release it and if so, why did you agree? Sounds pretty "secret" to me...

Tom Porter Tom Porter 7:36 pm 30 Apr 20

Alistair, another fail. I remember when you first entered the Assembly and would run off at the mouth with some conspiracy and end up removing your foot each time.

    Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 8:20 pm 30 Apr 20

    Tom Porter agree he dribbles rubbish because he has no real policies. He just trash talks and makes himself look even more stupid.

Kim Kim 8:12 pm 30 Apr 20

Mel Smith, I didn’t hear that. What a hoot!

Kim Kim 8:23 pm 30 Apr 20

I do hope the letter is released. I don”t see anything sinister unless you have some other information Kim Fischer which you seem to be hinting at.

Susan Loring Susan Loring 9:26 pm 30 Apr 20

I would prefer to keep my Gkids, their teachers and their families all safe. The teachers are all doing a wonderful job with the on line lessons, kids are resilient, they will catch up.

    Annie Mills Annie Mills 2:32 pm 01 May 20

    Exactly - not to mention that there are thousands of children who have had perfectly good education through the School of the Air. You are right, the kids will catch up and won't pass on a deadly disease to their loved ones.

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