Information from within the Education Department exposes the Newman Government’s insatiable appetite for asset sales and points to more school closures and more ‘For Sale’ signs on school playing fields, says Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt.
“Documents released under Right to Information reveal the Newman Government’s desperate scramble to flog-off school sites with unprecedented haste so it can meet its spending commitments and election promises,” Mr Pitt said.
“The documents let the cat out of the bag — the school closures and proposed land sales we have seen in recent months are just a taste of what’s in store for communities across our state.
“A briefing note prepared for Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek confirms that the department has budgeted to raise more than $30 million each year for the next four years through sale of school land and propert.
“It also notes that the $58 million in Education Department property disposals in the 2012/13 capital works program is a departmental record.
“But more worryingly for parents, teachers and students across Queensland is a note which says it is necessary to increase the number of properties on the disposal plan to ensure its annual budget is met.
“In other words the government has to keep selling to meets its election commitments.
“The LNP obviously sees school sports fields as money in the bank and an increasing number of school communities will be fleeced as the disposal program accelerates.”
Mr Pitt said the raft of RTI documents acquired by the Opposition made chilling reading.
“They lay bare the Newman Government’s disregard for local community sensitivity over school closures, the sale of school land, and the sale of other Education Department properties.
“They show the Newman Government ignored objections by the Central Highlands Regional Council to the sale of 11 vacant lots in Emerald because of concerns about the lack of affordable teacher housing and other frontline government workers in the growing town.
“The RTI material shows Minister Langbroek was advised to prepare for adverse media attention over that and a number of other issues.
“The RTI documents also reveal that local objections were dismissed after the government agreed to sell approximately 10 hectares at the Glenden State School.
“Glenden is a school which is forecast to grow, but it is losing a chunk of its land because the government needs the money and failed to properly cost its election promises.
“Schools such as Bowen State High, Charters Towers Central State School, Glenmore State High, and Yeppoon State School are identified among those where part of the school’s site has already been approved for sale in a program estimated to raise $29.48 million.
“There is an even longer list of sites the government intends to dispose of but has not yet given the go-ahead for the ‘For Sale’ signs to go up.
“The Minister should be honest with Queenslanders and come clean about the scale of his intentions to close schools and sell land. It appears that the program has little to do with educational need or sensible reflection and everything to do with an ideological mania for selling the people’s assets ,” Mr Pitt said.
He said for all the Newman Government’s talk about “open and transparent government”, a key document was missing from the Opposition’s RTI request — one that dealt with the list of school closures or land sales not previously approved.
“What does this government have to hide?,” Mr Pitt said.