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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14816

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (12:40): In 2009, when the rather questionable suggestion emanated from the then Labor government in New South Wales to abandon and abolish Hurlstone Agricultural High School, the then Liberal opposition quite correctly stated:

The Liberals/Nationals believe the relocation of Hurlstone is impractical and the school should be retained in its current form.

How a few years and the duties of government change people's concepts, because this opposition that was so opposed to the sale has announced it in the last fortnight. I have to say that that suggestion in 2009 was totally rejected by the independent Peters inquiry, which said that the plans to sell the majority of the farmland from the school site were not to be supported.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School, of course, is an agricultural selective coeducational public high school. Established in 1907 and moved in 1946 to its current site, it is regularly among the top schools in New South Wales. To give an instance, last year it was the 24th school in New South Wales and back in 2012 it was the 11th. It is the alma mater of three former federal members of parliament and of noted Wallabies, academics around the world—some of them in the United States—agriculturalists and the current commissioner for racial vilification with the Human Rights Commission. It is a first-rate amenity for our region. It is typical that it was renamed for a while in the 1940s to Macarthur in memory of John Macarthur, who played such a central role in Australian agriculture and also in this region.

It is being sold for one reason alone, and that is for real estate purposes. There are 140 hectares, and that is going to go on the market in an area that is currently experiencing phenomenal urbanisation. You can go down a road there one week and a few weeks later, basically, there are new houses there. But they have seen the opportunity for the quick dollar here. I have to say this was a deplorable decision under Labor or Liberal and, quite frankly, it is a major backward step for our region. As I say, it is one of the top state schools and it attracts people from the whole region. There is also an ingredient of local students going there as well as well as selective. The fact that it is selective and is local, available and easily accessible is a major asset for our region.

I just looked this morning at what the realities are for students. They are saying that in 2020 those students that are interested can relocate to the Richmond campus of Western Sydney University. If one were fortunate enough to live across the road from Glenfield Station, for the perfect trip to the school one would have to catch the 7.10 am train. You would get to Richmond at 8.49, and then there is an eight-minute walk, according to the indicators of travel. So the 7.10 train would probably get you to school two hours later, and they are saying that people might relocate there. This is ridiculous; very few are going to do it. They have also promised that there will be a selective school there with an additional number of students—360 students I think they talked about. It will not be this selective school, which is so respected in New South Wales and which attracts students of such a high calibre. In the nature of life, they have a very high Asian student population because of their absolute obsession with education as the way of their liberation. They will not be moving most of these people out there. It is a major loss to the region.

I have to say that Laurie Porter, typically of the region, said:

My older son graduated from HAHS in 2001. He then gained a degree in Veterinary Science at the university of Sydney; but he would not have been able to achieve this goal without his wonderful years at HAHS at nearby Glenfield.

Typically, he is a person in urban Australia who has opportunity in the agricultural sector going on to, as I said, veterinary science. Those realities are going to be denied to students in our region.

It is not as though there are many alternatives in south-west Sydney. Quite frankly, while there are a few selective schools out there, nothing private or public goes anywhere near the eminence, respect and outcomes of this school. I see that to try and get this concept through, they have corralled the University of Western Sydney into being a major supporter. The University of Western Sydney academics are going out publicly telling us how fantastic it is. It is just like the Badgerys Creek suggestion: what is supposedly good for the region will actually undermine living standards. This will deny education opportunities for people. I strongly condemn the government's decision to follow the previous, Labor government momentary madness.