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Estimates Reply - Deputy Premier

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Tags: Education, Public Land

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise to make a range of comments for this Estimates committee. I asked some questions on behalf of Ms O'Connor who holds our shadow portfolio in education, skills and training, as well as questions on defence, industries, advanced manufacturing and some issues relating to infrastructure.

It is surprising not to have heard from the Labor Opposition member with responsibility for education. To have had 10 minutes of talking only about infrastructure seems a little disappointing and lopsided given the gravity of issues facing education and its pre-eminence in Tasmania and where we are tracking for the future and where we are investing in the children of the future. I spent a deal of time talking to the minister about the abiding concern the Greens have that this Government, in its hell-bent desire to push all high schools to offer years 7 to 12, is ignoring the real risk of losing the outstanding quality of education provided in the eight colleges in Tasmania.

There is a truly outstanding range of depth and rich variety of courses young adults can choose from in year 11 and 12. That can only be sustained with the same and increasing level of resources currently going to those colleges. There is a finite pool of resources in the education budget. With the suck of resourcing going into moving high schools to year 11 and 12, there is the real likelihood that it will damage the quality of education provided at some of our best and most amazing publiclyfunded colleges, which would be to the detriment of the students there. The continuing issue we have with this minister and this Government is the defence of the idea they continue to perpetrate, that there is not a one size fits all approach to how this is being rolled out. It is not true. I pressed the minister on a number of questions to speak specifically to the case of Taroona High School, which is a fantastic example of where it is appropriate not to force a once size fits all model onto a school that is already massively over capacity. It has massively outgrown its footprint and is right next to two extraordinary colleges - Elizabeth College and Hobart College - that are literally almost up the hill or in the next suburb.

I can see absolutely no credible argument to forcing a school which is over-capacity, bursting at the seams in buildings, to add yet more buildings, yet more teachers and yet more students to that site when there are two brilliant sites elsewhere. The minister refuses to grapple with this issue. Clearly there is a very important and real argument to take many regional schools to year 12. Clearly that is reaping some benefits to some schools in some areas, but to have a blinkered, one-size-fits-all approach is to do a grave injustice, not just to the children who will be missing out on the quality education they could look forward to, but also to us as a state. Why would we want to jeopardise that when we are doing so well, just to smear so thinly a pool of resources which should increase but instead under this Liberal Government is doing anything but increasing.

I ask the minister as we ask in most budgets: Where is this efficiency dividend coming from that the Treasurer will be exacting? Where are the teachers? Where are the backroom staff? Where are the not-frontline people in the Education department where the 0.75 per cent dividend cuts are going to come from? Where are those people? I cannot really imagine; I have not seen one in the Education department. I just have not seen one. Where are those people? Where is the so-called flab - the efficiency? The Treasurer is demanding his pound of flesh from every department in government as the way of trimming the Budget. It is a poor way to balance the books.

I mention the questions I asked around the Kangaroo Bay hotel. Evidence has come to light and has been confirmed that TasTAFE will not be considering or undertaking hospitality training at that site. It will not undertake hospitality training for the development by the Chinese petrochemical company that is still planned for that site. It is utterly controversial in the community and deeply conflicted because of its secrecy in promoting that development because of opacity of the Office of Coordinator-General, who made a number of secretive trips to China. He did not reveal to Tasmanian taxpayers who he was meeting, what the substance of those meetings were, nor exactly for what reason we are trying to court a Chinese petrochemical company to come and take some of the best foreshore land on the eastern shore -

Ms O'Connor - Public land.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, public land. That is right. Thanks, Ms O'Connor. Why are we trying to do that? Why did we put $200 000 into last year's TasTAFE budget just, as I found out through questioning, for them to determine that they could not provide a masters level course and therefore they are not going to be involved. An amount of $200 000 of taxpayers' money was given to TasTAFE to work out something they should have been able to do just by reading their list of the sorts of courses they provide. It is pretty clear it was just spin from the Premier's media unit from 2014 onwards, continual spin coming out in press releases, every six months or so, to garner the support for Shandong Chambroad to come to Tasmania to take some of this prime foreshore. That is a scam, and that money should be returned to TAFE and recouped from the developer.

The rollercoaster of responses from this minister was very interesting. It was very gratifying to hear about the Grove straight, the candid recognition from Mr Gregory, who admitted that there was an error and they were looking at options to resolve the road narrowing that occurred as a result of the work with Willie Smith's Apple Cider turning lane and the high risk created for bike riders now that the road has changed. We welcome that candid response. We look forward to the error, which has created a risk, being rectified. That work has been committed to be undertaken within the next month, and we look forward to that.

Finally, given the time I have, I have to say one of the most concerning issues for parents in the education system is the brainwashing their children have been subjected to in a number of places around the state by faith-based organisations that have not declared themselves properly to parents. Teen Challenge has gone into schools and provided courses that students are obliged to sit in on. Their parents have been told that Teen Challenge is there, but they have not, it seems, from the questions I asked, been properly advised that it is a faith-based organisation and another option will be provided to their children if they do not wish to be involved.