23 May 2013 President’s comment

Lack of trust fuels education asset confusion

closures-amal-landsales.jpgSome commentators are calling it prudent forward planning; others are calling it a case of smoke and mirrors to distract from potential school closures and sales.

The Education Minister’s announcement on 22 May that 10 new schools will be built from Gold Coast to Caboolture has met with very mixed public reaction.

It is perfectly sensible that projected growth areas should receive such infrastructure; that is any government’s job. But decisions made by elected representatives must also be transparent, accountable and based on clear and publicly available criteria – and that’s where this government is failing to convince communities.

Understandably, communities affected by the current uncertainty about whether their schools are “viable” feel sold out. Communities with schools that appear to meet the criteria for future closure are nervous.  Communities in areas of rapid growth outside the south-east corner feel overlooked, particularly where land set aside for future schools is being auctioned off. Communities with schools that face being sliced and diced by partial land sales feel undervalued, and their future growth ignored. Communities with TAFE campuses under threat, including many in regional areas with few educational facilities, feel invisible.

The Queensland Government has only itself to blame for community unease. It has a record of non-consultation, of governing by media, of pushing legislation with indecent haste through Parliament, even of overturning decisions made by the previous government that were genuinely made on the basis of public consultation (for example, the move of Labour Day).

Government MPs cannot demand that Queenslanders trust them; trust is earned.

Kevin Bates