Hurlstone Agricultural High School (1)

14 February 2017

Private Members’ Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (17:49): Applications under the Government Information (Public Access) Act are wonderful things. Unlike questions in writing in this place, which are almost totally ignored by the Government, applications under the Government Information (Public Access) Act often unearth a treasure trove of useful information and they do so without Government spin. A fine example is my latest Government Information (Public Access) Act find on the sale of Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield in my electorate. If ever there was an episode that personifies the hypocrisy and short‑sightedness of this Government, this is it. Those with a good memory will remember that the then Minister for Education announced with great fanfare the sale of Hurlstone to developers and its transfer to the Hawkesbury Campus of Western Sydney University. There was so much excitement that at one stage consideration was given to having a tethered cow at the announcement. At the time, the then Minister said the following:

The new Hurlstone Agricultural High School in Hawkesbury, in partnership with Western Sydney University, will be a world‑leader in hi-tech agricultural sciences and STEM.

The fully selective 1,500 student school is expected to start enrolling students from 2020. It will include boarding facilities and access to 1,400 hectares of agricultural land suitable for learning about modern day farming practices.

He goes on:

The Australian-first partnership between the university and the new school will give students access to university professors and cutting-edge science and agricultural facilities.

If only what the Minister said was true. My recent Government Information (Public Access) Act application dispels this spin and shows the hollowness of the statement of the former Minister. The facts are, first, the farm for the proposed new school at Hawkesbury is not 1,400 hectares—it is only a dedicated 41 hectares, which is less than 3 per cent. Originally, it was going to be only 20 hectares. Secondly, only 5 to 10 per cent of the current teaching and learning space at the university is suitable for the proposed use at the school. This figure was the result of a high-level review conducted by the current principal of Hurlstone. It makes a mockery of the former Minister's claim that students will have access to cutting edge science and agriculture facilities. Indeed, on this point, the Government's own Executive Director of Asset Management, Mr Anthony Perrau, made this startling comment to the university in an email dated 15 November 2016:

I am advised that we may not be getting the integrated outcome we anticipated.

In all honesty, there are no surprises. The former Minister was in such a rush to sell off the land to developers and put up the "for sale" sign that he obviously failed to do the required due diligence. It is only now that the Government has realised this situation. An email dated 17 November 2016 from the university confirms that the project team, at best, assumes only 10 per cent of shared classroom facilities. This is consistent with the view held by the current principal of Hurlstone at Glenfield. Astonishingly, option three, which is being considered by the project team, assumes zero per cent of shared classroom facilities. I repeat—zero, nought, zilch. Where is the integration in zero per cent?

Although it makes a mockery of the former Minister's announcement, it confirms what we have always known. This announcement was never about education. It was never about science, technology, engineering and mathematics and it was never about agricultural education. This announcement was only ever about selling off valuable public education land to developers, which is another greedy land cash grab by a government that is intent on selling everything that the public owns. Thank goodness for the Government Information (Public Access) Act. My constituents can rest assured that I will continue to use the Government Information (Public Access) Act to expose this Government's duplicity and ongoing spin.