Hurlstone Agricultural High School - 20 October 2016

20 October 2016

Private Members’ Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (18:37): I draw the attention of the House to two high-achieving schools in my electorate and the use of social media. Social media is a wonderful thing. Applications like Facebook, Twitter and so on have undoubtedly revolutionised the world and how we interact with each other. For politicians, social media can be a powerful tool for conveying key messages and priorities. It can also be used simply to provide a timeline of our daily activities in our electorates. Therefore, it is with interest that I occasionally look at the Minister for Education's Twitter account to see what he has been up to. A close examination of his Twitter account shows an interesting mix of both policy issues and school visits, as it should.

Issues such as Gonski funding and NAPLAN feature heavily. Of course, both of them are Labor initiatives. Also on the Minister's Twitter account are photos from his visits to schools across the State. Orange High School, Georges River College, Brewarrina Central School, and Bourke Public School have all featured in the Minister's tweets. Not to be left out, mention is also made of one of the primary schools in my electorate, Curran Public School. For those who do not know, Curran Public School is in Macquarie Fields and it has a wonderful reputation for its teaching and learning programs. It was national champion for two consecutive years in the Future Problem Solving competition. Its reputation is such that I am not surprised that the Minister wants to visit it. I believe he has visited twice in recent times. It could have been more often, but I am not sure.

What I do find interesting is that just a short drive from Curran Public School, in nearby Glenfield, is another school the Minister has said plenty about—Hurlstone Agricultural High School. But unlike Curran Public School and the countless dozens of other schools the Minister has visited, this school never seems to feature in his itinerary, even when the Minister is just five minutes away. I wonder why. Is it because Hurlstone is underachieving academically? Surely not. Hurlstone always features in the top 20 or 25 schools in the Higher School Certificate results. Is it because the Minister does not know it exists? Surely not. The Minister visited and protested loudly against any sale of Hurlstone's farm to developers when he was the shadow Minister—I have seen the photos to prove it.

Which leaves me wondering: Why will the Minister not visit Hurlstone? Why will he not pop into the school for a cuppa and catch up with the parents and students? Why will he not take the five-minute drive from Curran to see one of his flagship schools? Is he really that busy? I can, of course, only speculate why the Minister cannot or will not visit Hurlstone Agricultural High School. But I think it has something to do with embarrassment. The Minister knows that he has betrayed the Hurlstone school community at Glenfield with his plan to sell the school's farm to developers. He knows there is no excuse for his about-face on the position he took in 2009 when he outspokenly defended Hurlstone and its farm at Glenfield. He knows that he may fool some with his spin about his so-called plan, but that he cannot and will not get away with it with the local community and with the school at Glenfield. Even this education Minister is not that naive.

Surely if this Minister were so proud of his plan to sell off Hurlstone's farm and then move the school to the Hawkesbury, he would come out to my electorate to talk about it. Why will he not come to Hurlstone to trumpet his great policy? In all truthfulness, I am not surprised that the Minister is hiding from the community most affected by his decision. I am not surprised that he carefully navigates around Hurlstone every time he visits Curran. After all, the battle to save Hurlstone back in 2008-09 was only ever a political game for him. In reality, he had no regard for the school back then and he has no regard for it now. He simply used the school and my community as a tool to promote himself and to land cheap political punches on the then Labor Government. It really is shameful stuff.

I have no doubt that Minister Piccoli will pop up for a sod-turning here or there—photo opportunities are not something he is shy about doing. But what he is shy about is accountability—and add to that consistency and guts. If he had guts he would admit his duplicity on this issue, keep his word and save Hurlstone from the bulldozers and developers. But this Minister is short on decency and principles, and on keeping his word. As I stated at the outset, social media is a wonderful thing for conveying messages and priorities. Would it not be nice if this Minister for Education used his Twitter account, just once, to convey his regret and to apologise for misleading everyone about Hurlstone back in 2008-09, and then commit to reversing his decision? Now that would be a tweet or a post worth sharing—but I will not hold my breath.