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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15120


Mrs GASH (9:08 PM) —A few weeks ago I received a copy of a letter written to the New South Wales Minister for Education and Training, Dr Andrew Refshauge. The letter was from the Parents and Citizens Association of Moss Vale High School in my electorate of Gilmore. It was countersigned by several hundred signatories on an attached petition. The letter spoke of the conditions that 770 students and their teachers have to put up with at Moss Vale High School, and it is a pathetic state of affairs—more so because they have yet to get a reply from the minister, let alone some action.

Recently I had the opportunity of seeing things first-hand. The occasion was a visit by the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, in company with the state member for Southern Highlands, Peta Seaton. What we saw was appalling, and the reaction of the parents is quite understandable. I make some observations. There is a lack of insulation in `A Block', where the original asbestos insulation was removed 10 years ago. It has never been replaced, nor does it look like that is going to happen. On top of that, the sun awnings have also been removed and not replaced. You could imagine the discomfort this creates for the students and teachers, particularly in the extremes of weather conditions in the Southern Highlands.

The industrial arts rooms have numerous problems. As the letter says, the WorkCover inspectors could have a field day. I continuously ask the questions. There are rules for some and rules for others. For example, there is no safe welding bay, there is insufficient space around fixed machinery for safe working conditions, and the rooms have not been refurbished for effective teaching and learning. The students' toilets are a health hazard. They are situated next to the school canteen and the boys' toilets open into this area only a short distance from the canteen servery. As can be imagined, the stench is not pleasant. Again, new toilets have been promised, but there is no sign of them.

The school hall will hold only 300 students, making whole-school assemblies impossible, and that does not include parents and guests at functions. Remember, this is a school with 770 students. What happens to the other 470 students when a hall meeting takes place? The old school demountables have been there for 20 years—they leak when it rains; they are hot in summer and cold in winter. The visual arts rooms surely constitute an oxymoron because they, too, are demountables and are anything other than visually artistic. The school has a student in a wheelchair and, because there is no provision for accessing the upstairs rooms, she is being disadvantaged. There is more, but time prevents me from listing all the inadequacies. The point is that nothing is happening, despite several visits from the New South Wales Department of Education Properties Directorate, which came bearing many promises but not much else.

How long can the New South Wales government drag their heels on these issues? The students of Moss Vale High School and their parents deserve a better deal. They do not deserve vacillation and uncertainty; they do not deserve second-rate conditions simply because their school is not in a Labor electorate; and they certainly do not deserve to be treated with the disdain that they are experiencing. For all these people to countersign a letter such as this is a sign of exasperation. I call on the state government to match its rhetoric on education with action, and I call on them to do so now before we are faced with another Southern Highlands winter.

I also commend the P&C for going public on this issue. For too long they have been patient, choosing not to resort to political means. However, in the interests of their students, I support their pleas for much needed renovations and assure the P&C that my state colleague Peta Seaton and I will not let this matter rest. Moss Vale High School is an excellent school, with wonderful, caring teachers working under extremely difficult circumstances which are beyond their control but which are the total responsibility of the state government and Minister Refshauge.