Public Interest Debate - Education Week

06 August 2019

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (17:24): I thought I had heard it all but the audacity and hypocrisy of this Government knows no bounds. Just when you think you have seen and read it all along comes this motion.

Clearly the Government lives in a parallel universe to me and my constituents. In fact, my difficulty with this motion is to know where to begin in attacking the Government.

But let me make a start with Passfield Park School. Passfield Park is a special school within my electorate, located in Minto. The school was never designed for special needs students and is woefully inadequate. For years teachers and students have suffered in facilities that do not come up to scratch.

 There are severe mould problems, putting the health of students, staff, visitors and parents at risk. Students in wheelchairs have to struggle up ramps that are too steep or through doors that are too narrow. There are no breakout areas or safe play areas for students whose behaviour escalates or becomes unmanageable.

What is this Government's response? Not a single dollar in this year's budget, not one single cent. What is worse is that when I raised this last week in Question Time the Premier clearly did not have a clue about the issue. It was pretty evident she did not even know where Passfield Park School was located.

In fact, the Premier could only speak about special needs schools in Liberal-held electorates that have received funding from this Government. The Government says that every student no matter where they live should have access to a high‑quality education—just not the most needy ones at Passfield Park Special School. Paragraph (2) of the motion is not only false but it is also insulting to the kids and the school community at Passfield Park. That is strike one.

I turn to Hurlstone Agricultural High School, a selective school in my electorate. Just over a decade ago a conga line of then Opposition members went out to Hurlstone to protect and save its farm from developers. "Hands off Hurlstone", they cried.

Such was their conviction they even moved a bill in this place to protect Hurlstone forever. Not a single blade of grass would be sold, they said. As was appropriate, the then Labor Government listened to the community and Hurlstone and its farm and its heritage were saved.

 Fast forward to now and the very same Opposition members, now Government members, could not move quickly enough to sell off the farm to developers and to move Hurlstone to the Hawkesbury. To boot, they then sealed their hypocrisy by voting against the Private Member's Bill that I moved in this House, which had almost the same sentiment as their bill 10 years before.

Let us be clear, this motion wants to congratulate the Government on delivering new schools when in my electorate the Government is closing an esteemed agricultural high school. The students in my electorate will be left with a school that will be a shell of its former self located on a postage stamp-sized block of land, only to be surrounded with overdevelopment in due course.

The Government shows twenty-four carat gold hypocrisy and double standards that do not get any better or any clearer. It seems that nothing will get in the way of this Liberal Government selling land to developers, not even valuable education land for the kids of south-west Sydney. Strike two.

Summer in my electorate is very hot. Almost every government building in New South Wales, to my knowledge, is air-conditioned but for some reason many of our public schools are not.

The matter of non‑air‑conditioned classrooms is something I and many of my colleagues have raised with the Government and every time we are told the same about guidelines—spin, spin and more spin.

When pressed on this issue the Government's hand is forced to do something, but it is nowhere near enough. In the meantime, schools in my electorate that suffer intolerably in summer will inevitably miss out—just as my community in Macquarie Fields always misses out on a lift at the railway station, every single time. Strike three.

I have not even mentioned the critical shortage of special needs places in local classrooms or the lack of planning that has left Edmondson Park without a public school or a high school despite a burgeoning population and out-of-control overdevelopment.

Then there is the completely unacceptable pedestrian safety issues at Bardia Public School.

Strikes four, five and six.

Where do I stop? Fair is fair.

The motion reads, "every student, no matter where they live, should have access to a high‑quality education".

Tell that to the kids of my electorate.