House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Constituency Statements

Macarthur Electorate: Schools

10:00 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to inform the chamber of an issue with the physical condition of many of the public schools in my electorate of Macarthur. Many of the schools in Macarthur were built in the sixties and seventies and have only had infrequent and superficial maintenance since then. Conditions that would be unacceptable in other areas are considered okay for the people of Macarthur.

The particular issue I wish to raise is the present condition of Passfield Park School, a special school located in Minto, within my electorate of Macarthur. I've had a longstanding relationship with the school over my many years as a paediatrician and now as the federal member. Indeed, many of my patients have attended the school over the years, and I wish to state on the record that the staff and the teachers at the school are some of the most incredible people I've ever had the privilege of working with. They do a very hard job very well and very compassionately. However, over the years I've noticed the truly disturbing condition of the school's buildings, which the staff and students are made to deal with. The school's buildings are in such a poor state that I have in fact been contacted by members of the community, completely external to the school, who have noticed the conditions deteriorate even further over the last few years.

This is perhaps one of the worst-kept secrets in Macarthur, but I've had enough. The New South Wales Liberal government has failed to address the community's concerns in fixing the school, which is no surprise when one considers the backlog of school maintenance in the area. Instead of receiving the work it requires, the school over the years has merely received touch-up jobs. Some visible mould has been removed from time to time, and minor paint jobs have been undertaken. But, from firsthand experience and exposure to the school, I can tell you that the school needs much more than that to bring it up to an appropriate standard. It needs to be knocked down and rebuilt. It's no longer fit for purpose. Some classrooms are inaccessible to those in wheelchairs—and many of the kids at the school are in wheelchairs—and the mould problem is unrelenting. It is a truly sad state of affairs, and I must confess that I get quite upset when I see and hear of the conditions that these beautiful children and their loving teachers and carers are made to endure.

I've tried to undertake the appropriate action, lobbying the New South Wales government to take care of the situation, but its lack of compassion and empathy has left me with no choice but to call this out in the parliament of Australia. I wish to take this opportunity to formally invite the New South Wales Premier, the New South Wales Minister for Education and the federal minister for education to see firsthand the conditions of the school and see if they can justify the government's continued ignorance and lack of action. Premier, we can even meet there on a weekend. Trust me: I know my way around the school. There will be no PR, no cameras, no spin. Just bring yourself and some builders, please.