Hurlstone Agricultural High School Site Bill 2016 - Second Reading Part 1

12 May 2016

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (12:28): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In introducing the Hurlstone Agricultural High School Site Bill 2016 I am reminded of something that I expressed in my inaugural speech in this place almost 12 months ago. In that speech I said:

We are here to serve our fellow citizens and to open up opportunities for their aspirations.

I went on to say:

Public education is fundamental to a fairer and more prosperous NSW. I know this because I have lived it. When Government's underinvest in our education or training systems or seek to commercialise what is a valuable common good … We deny people the opportunity to fulfil their potential .

The bill before the House today seeks to give expression to the ideas that I articulated in my inaugural speech. Fundamental to the hopes and the aspirations of my local constituents is the desire for world-class public education for their children. In my electorate and in the public sector that means a place at Hurlstone. Places at Hurlstone are highly coveted; I cannot emphasise that enough, and why would they not be? Hurlstone, its name, its history, its reputation and even its uniform are synonymous with excellence, opportunity and a better future. Reputations like Hurlstone's are not earned overnight. They are built over decades. In the case of Hurlstone it is more than 100 years.

From its initial vision by John Kinloch in 1878, to the school reopening in 1907, to its relocation to Glenfield in 1926, Hurlstone has led the way in rural education and academic excellence for generations. But now all that is under threat. That is why the bill I have introduced today is needed more than ever. This bill will protect Hurlstone's heritage, history and future at Glenfield; preserve its working farm and the green open space; promote educational hope, opportunity and aspiration in south-west Sydney; and prevent any greedy developer destroying our prized environment and our prized school for 30 pieces of silver. I quote the following words:

It would be a sad indictment of the character of any member of this Parliament who would contemplate a vote to sell off the proud heritage of Hurlstone Agricultural High School to property developers for 30 pieces of silver ... there could be no greater insult to the memory of Corporal John Edmondson, VC. It begs the question whether anything is sacred to this mob, which is desperate to stay in power for the sake of staying in power. The Hurlstone farm is a vital resource for the quality teaching of agriculture. The decision to sell the land is based on the notion that the school has surplus land. However, agriculture involves practical experience; you cannot teach it out of a book … Hurlstone agricultural farm has no surplus land.

Those eloquent words are not the words of the current Labor member for Macquarie Fields; they are the words of the Hon. Charlie Lynn, and former Liberal member of the Legislative Council in his contribution to the second reading speech on the Hurlstone Agricultural High School Site Bill 2009. Although those words were said about seven years ago, they are just as appropriate today, if not more appropriate. Charlie was right in every sense. Who would contemplate selling Hurlstone's proud heritage for 30 pieces of silver? Who would insult the memory of Hurlstone's alumni, including that of John Edmondson, VC? Who would declare the farm surplus? Who would deny local students a practical experience of agriculture? The answer is the Baird Liberal-Nationals Government.

In a backflip worthy of an Olympic gold medal, in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy, in an act of absolute treachery, the Baird Liberal-Nationals Government, led by the Minister of Education, is now proposing the exact opposite of what it sought to achieve and voted on back in 2009. Let me go through, one by one, the reasons why the Government should vote for this bill. On 13 March 2009 Mr Stoner, then Leader of the National Party, said the following in this House when speaking on the 2009 Hurlstone Agricultural High School Site Bill:

Hurlstone Agricultural High School is an educational facility that has tremendous significance in the history of this great State. The school has a proud tradition with outstanding alumni throughout New South Wales, across the nation and internationally.

Like his Coalition colleague Charlie Lynn, Mr Stoner was 100 per cent correct. Hurlstone is a school with tremendous significance. It does have a great tradition and does produce outstanding alumni, both across the nation and internationally. Graduates likes John Edmondson, VC; Sir William Keys, decorated World War II Royal Australian Air Force pilot Ron Rankin; former Federal Treasurer and Primary Industries Minister, the Hon. John Kerin; the current head of the Defence Force, Mr Mark Binskin; Professor Alan Trounson; Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane; actress Kate Ritchie; former Wallaby David Lyons; and members of the band Human Nature. The list could go on and on. Every year Hurlstone produces some of the most outstanding results in the Higher School Certificate and is always ranked in the top 20 to 25 schools.

The first reason why this bill needs support is that south-west Sydney needs a school of Hurlstone's history, calibre and reputation. I am afraid that a non-descript, no name selective school just does not cut it. Surely the fact that Hurlstone is to be relocated is because the Minister knows the worth and value of Hurlstone's history and legacy. The Minister knows that one cannot buy and create educational prestige overnight. Any proposed relocation and removal more than 50 kilometres away from its rightful home at Glenfield can best be summed up with these words:

The relocation of Hurlstone is impractical and the school should be retained in its current form.

Put simply, "it is ridiculous" for the Government to consider moving the school from Glenfield. Those were Minister Piccoli's words back in 2009 when he fought so hard to save Hurlstone. They remain as relevant if not more relevant today than they were back in 2009. I could not agree with him more—it is impractical and just ridiculous. On 26 March 2009 the Deputy Speaker said the following regarding Hurlstone when the 2009 bill was being debated. He stated:

Those students go to Hurlstone Agricultural High School because they do not have access to the same opportunities anywhere else in Sydney or even close to Sydney...

But this Government is going to take away that opportunity for children to learn about agriculture ... We are taking away a school that provides an initiative for people to go into the agricultural sector in this State.

Minister Pru Goward said similar things on 4 June 2009 when she said:

The loss of the Hurlstone Agricultural High School farm will deny a significant proportion of the future New South Wales agricultural industry workforce an opportunity to learn how that is best done.

Both Deputy Speaker George and Minister Goward, still members of this House, are surely right. South-west Sydney students need real, practical exposure to agriculture. They need access to a real farm and what better place is there than Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield—right bang in the middle of the south-west growth corridor and suburbia. What is also fundamentally concerning about the sell-off and removal of Hurlstone's farm at Glenfield is the loss of educational opportunities that this educational icon provides for the kids of south-west Sydney. Deloitte Access Economics estimates agribusiness to be a top five major growth industry, producing more than $40 billion in exports in 2015, with forecasted double-digit growth and global opportunities for rising exports, economic growth and income.

By relocating and selling off Hurlstone's farm to developers, Minister Piccoli is denying the kids of south‑west Sydney an opportunity to study and to share in the rising income and economic prosperity of the growing agribusiness industry. Minister Piccoli should remember he was quoted as saying on 1 April 2009 that he understood the importance of agricultural education. With Minister Piccoli's decision to remove Hurlstone from Glenfield, he must mean that this agricultural educational importance does not apply to the kids of south‑west Sydney.

A quick analysis of the Hawkesbury shows that there are four existing schools, each within spitting distance from the Western Sydney university campus that already teach agriculture. These are Windsor High School, which is nine kilometres away; Colo High School, which is 5.5 kilometres away; Richmond High School, which is 1.3 kilometres away and Hawkesbury High School, which is 1.7 kilometres away. The prospectus of Richmond High states that it has one of New South Wales highest performing agricultural show teams and prides itself on the quality of its agricultural programs. Hawkesbury High's plan for 2015-17 mentions that it has "excellent facilities with an agricultural farm". Windsor High's curriculum handbook outlines animals, plants, tractors and agricultural shows and that agriculture is a subject for students.