The following is a speech made by Kevin Rudd MP, Member for Griffith, 17th June, in Federal Parliament. You can add comments at the end of this post.
I recently advised the parliament of the Queensland Liberal National Party government’s plan to privatise school playing fields at both Balmoral State High School and Whites Hill College and to force the merger of two local southside schools, Brisbane State High School and Coorparoo Secondary College. Today I want to update the House further on recent developments.
These four decisions by the LNP state government have been taken without a skerrick of prior consultation—four decisions leaked to The Courier Mail which we then had to force the government to admit to. Since that time, local residents from communities right across the southside are rising up with a unified voice to say very clearly: these decisions stink. Hundreds of local residents have joined community action groups, about 4,000 have signed petitions, community meetings have been packed, hundreds of handpainted signs have been put up in the front yards of local residents outraged at the sheer arrogance of the Liberal National Party government believing that it can simply dispose of community assets with total disregard of community opinion.
I have attended public meetings with each of the affected school communities. Mysteriously, the federal Liberal National Party candidate for my electorate has been missing in action. Last Friday I attended a community meeting about the proposed sale of Whites Hill College playing fields—about 8.4 hectares in all. More than 700 students attend this college. A couple of hundred folk attended this meeting organised by the school’s P&C on a Friday night at the end of the working week. They were worried about the loss of green space so close to the city and concerned about the impact on the environment, including on sugar glider colonies. They were concerned about the impact of hundreds of units being built on the site, on traffic, parking and local amenity, and they were outraged at the simple lack of basic community consultation.
This is Liberal National Party ideology gone mad. It is the same conservative mindset that saw the Thatcher government in the UK sell off 5,000 school playing fields during the 1980s. Liberal National Party members Mr Ian Kaye and Mr Steve Minnikin spent the first half of the meeting either defending the LNP decision or just sitting on the fence. In fact, Mr Minnikin indicated during the meeting that his responsibility was to take into account the views of all 33,000 members of his electorate rather than automatically support the decisions of the Whites Hill P&C and the local community. About an hour and a half later, seeing the level of community anger, both Mr Kaye and Mr Minnikin, the two LNP state members, undertook a spectacular backflip on stage just before the meeting ended—almost like a road to Damascus conversion up close. As one man said, they do not want their local representatives to be mere mailboxes that blandly forwarded emails to their masters in George Street; they expect local members to be champions for their local community. I congratulate the local P&C and the local community for forcing these two LNP representatives to undertake such a spectacular backflip. We now await a similar backflip from Campbell Newman, the Premier.
We now go to the question of the proposed forced merger between Brisbane State High School and Coorparoo Secondary College. In addition we have a further school privatisation in terms of the playing fields at Balmoral State High School. We look forward to the Liberal National Party member for Bulimba, Aaron Dillaway, undertaking a backflip on his proposed privatisation of the almost three hectares of playing fields at that school. Again, the local community is outraged, given that P&Cs decades ago put their funds into levelling, clearing and preparing the playing fields in the first place. It is time the Liberal National Party government backflipped on this short-sighted decision. There is a community meeting on this very subject at Balmoral State High School this coming weekend. I look forward to the LNP state member being there to undertake another piece of gymnastics.
Now to Brisbane State High School and Coorparoo Secondary College. A public protest meeting which I attended was held on the weekend. Both the P&Cs have decided, as a result of consultation between them, to oppose the decision which has been taken by the state government to merge these schools. The result will, in effect, be to abolish or close the junior secondary school at State High and abolish or close the senior secondary school at Coorparoo Secondary College. This is just wrong, and the local community is up in arms about it. Once again, they found out about it through the media, and instead, the proposal being put forward by the state government is that the kids going to these schools should simply travel across three suburbs at peak hours and for their parents to be dropping kids at both schools.
The arrogance of these decisions taken in sum shows no bounds and I would simply suggest that the LNP state government sees sense. Privatising school ovals makes no sense at all; closing junior and senior secondary schools makes no sense at all. With Campbell Newman we have the first course and with Tony Abbott we have the main course.