Doorstop Interview: Local school announcement; paramedics; wages and the cost of living

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TARA MORIARTY, MLC: Good morning, everybody, Welcome to Jerrabomberra My name is Tara Moriarty, I’m a local resident, I’m here today with the Labor Leader, Chris Minns, the Deputy Leader Prue Car, who’s also the Shadow Minister for Education. We have our local mayor Kendrick Winchester, and a whole group of local residents who are very concerned about the decision that’s been made by the state government in relation to the school zoning for Jerrabomberra for high school. This high school is so very needed for this community. It’s been promised for a long time, people are ready to enrol their kids, enrolments, in fact, close in a couple of weeks and we still don’t have a commitment or details about the zoning is going to work. It’s also splitting this community in half, which is quite a ridiculous decision. So we’re here to talk about that today and also any other issues.

Well, I’ll hand over to Chris Minns.

CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: Thank you so much, Tara. It’s wonderful to be here with you in Queanbeyan as well as with Bryce and the Mayor of Queanbeyan Shire Council Kenrick Winchester, as well as local residents from Jerrabomberra, Prue Car Shadow Minister for Education and Joanne, Kylie, David, Andy, wonderful to see all of you here as well, to talk about this beautiful, wonderful community that needs infrastructure to keep pace with its rapidly growing population. It’s about 9000 people that live in Jerramoberra, the local public School behind us has over 900 enrolments as of today, but the local high school, which is due to be built soon, must open day one term one of 2023, has capacity for just 500 students. Now that’s about half of the enrolments of the local public school. Clearly you cannot have a situation where the high school will only take 50% of the enrolments from its feeder primary school.

So, we’re making an announcement today that if we win government in March 2023, we will change the enrolment zones so that every child from Jerrabomberra public school has the opportunity to attend the local high school when it’s completed and when it’s built. This is essential, there wouldn’t be a school in Sydney that would have a population half as big as the local feeder primary school. If we’re going to build this infrastructure, it needs to be done properly, and it needs to be done well the first time. Now, I know the local member has been talking about]inaudible] and I agree with her, so as the government makes a decision in the next few weeks to reverse course to include all the children that attend Jerrabomberra public school, allows them to attend the local high school, we won’t criticize anyone in the NSW Government for it. In fact, we’ll issue a media release congratulating them for reversing course.

The local community has needs, they’re building the infrastructure for the community, but it must be adequate to cope with the population as it’s currently constituted and that means making sure the high school is bigger and can accommodate local kids. This is essential and frankly, it can’t wait until March 2023 when the NSW elections on, enrolments close on the 17th of June for the new high school, parents and the local communities are making decisions about their children’s enrolment right now. So we’re calling on the Minister for Education to come and speak to the local community, to reverse the decision around enrolments, to allow every child that attends Jerrabomberra public school to go to the local high school. That’s what was promised in the past, that’s what needs to be delivered right now.

And I’m happy to call on Kylie to come and speak.

KYLIE PRESCOTT, JERRABOMBERRA PUBLIC SCHOOL P&C: Hi there, my name is Kylie Prescott, I’m the president of the Jerrabomberra public school P&C, we’d like to welcome Chris Minns and Prue Car to Jerrabomberra today. We are delighted to hear this commitment from Labor today. The P&C and the community feel seen and we feel heard. We very much support the announcement from Labor to zone all of Jerrabomberra High School, we insist that the NSW Government match Labor’s commitment, zone all of Jerrabomberra to Jerrabomberra High School. This is the right thing to do for our community, enrolment forms are due now, we must have action on this now. We want everybody in Jerrabomberra to be able to access our local new high school.

PRUE CAR, NSW SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks, Kylie, just a few words from me, whether it’s Jerrabomberra or Googong, this community and these communities around Queanbeyan are constantly being disappointed by the Perrottet government when it comes to the delivery of local schools for this local community. It absolutely makes no sense to anyone that they promise a school in Jerrabomberra but not everyone, every child that goes to Jerrabomberra public school will be able to go to the promised high school. This is really simple, the government has promised this local community, a brand new high school and local children should be able to go to the local Jerrabomberra High School. And today by committing to this if a future Minns Labor Government is successful in March we’ll deliver that zoning that this community needs. We’re challenging the NSW Government to match that commitment so this community can get certainty.

I also want to say a big thank you to Kylie and to the local community and their beautiful children and to Kendrick and to Bryce and everyone that has activated the local community to call on the government to do the right thing for Jerrabomberra and deliver the high school they were promised so that these children can go to their local high school which is the right of every child in NSW, regardless of where they live.

KENRICK WINCHESTER, MAYOR OF QUEANBEYAN-PALERANG REGIONAL COUNCIL: Good morning, Kendrick Winchester Mayor of Queanbeyan Regional Council, I would like to thank Chris Minns NSW Labor Leader for joining us here in sunny Jerrabomberra on this beautiful morning, Prue Car Shadow Education Minister, Kylie Prescott the president of the Jerrabomberra P&C. So I’m not only the Mayor but I also wear a second hat as I’m the local representative of a NSW P&C Federation. We had a kick-off meeting for the new P&C for the high school last week and we don’t even know if we’re able to form the P&C based on the people that turned up because more than three quarters of the parents who want to be part of our P&C live in Jerra Heights. They don’t even know if they’re going to be a parent of the new high school, it’s a ridiculous situation. From a Council perspective Council doesn’t get involved in school zoning, but I can tell you as someone who’s seen this, I’ve never seen this community have so much white hot anger at what’s gone on, I’ve received over 500 separate representations from members of the Jerrabomberra community. We just need the government to come out settle this once and for all zone Jerra Heights for Jerra High School so we can move on and build this fabulous new high school for our community.

MARGOT SACHSE, PRESIDENT JERREBOMBERRA RESIDENCE ASSOCIATION: Hello, my name is Margot Sachse, I’m the president of the Jerrabomberra Residence Association. Our community has fought for over 20 years to get this high school built in Jerrabomberra, when the announcement was made that the land was secured and that we could expect a high school for 1000 students, our community celebrated. It is such a tragedy that today that we stand here with no decision about what’s going to happen with the future of our community that has been split in two. Today should be a day of celebration where we are celebrating a new school and all of the wonderful things that come with such an important piece of infrastructure in our community and we hope that a decision is made before the 17th of June so that our whole community has certainty and that we can get on and enjoy what we’ve been promised.

Thank you.

JO REES, JERRABOMBERRA HEIGHTS RESIDENT AND PARENT: Hi, I’m Jo, I’ve been a resident of Jerrabomberra Heights for 17 years, I have two children, my daughter’s in year nine and unfortunately there wasn’t a high school here so she’s goes to Googong to high school. My son he’s one of his six year six boys standing here, and of those six, four of them can go to Jerra High, but two of them here have been told they can’t go in with their mates. I just think it’s so unfair, really upsetting for those kids who have been together, hang out together and they all play sport together, two of them have been told that they potentially won’t get to go to Jerra High unless you put in an out of zone application and you’re successful. I just think it’s really unfair and it’s disheartening as a community member to be told that you are going to get a brand new high school. There was no indication whatsoever that it wasn’t for the whole community. I was absolutely shocked when we got told that Jerra Heights was not going to be included. That wasn’t even on the radar as far as I was concerned as a resident. And now out of the six boys, four of them can continue going to school together, my son currently rides his bike or walks to school, he won’t be doing that if you’re not allowed to go to the local school. So I just hope that they reverse that decision, let our kids stay with their friends. It’s a fantastic community, it’s fantastic school here, we have great kids who are really good friends and they should be able to stay with their mates.

Thanks.

BRYCE WILSON, LOCAL COUNCILLOR AND RESIDENT:  Councillor Bryce Wilson, local Jerrabomberra resident here today representing the residents of Jerra. Look I really welcome Chris and Prue coming down and Tara, our local MLC making this commitment today. And look, you know the real nub of this is we’ve got our year six students behind us here, and that’s what really matters. We’ve got mates literally sitting in the same classroom one mate  heading to the Jerra High, the other one being zoned out of the community is just not good enough. I really call on the state government to overturn this decision, and I’ll be the first to welcome it if they do, just like our leader, Chris was as well.

Thank you.

MINNS: So I’ve just got a few other issues in the media today to cover and then I think everyone’s happy to take questions if that’s okay. So first up is a NSW government announcement of over 1,800 new paramedics for the NSW Ambulance Service being announced by Dominic Perrottet later this morning. I just want to make the point that this is welcome news, this is a good decision. I’m glad there’s been a breakthrough between worker representatives and the NSW Government. We’re not going to be in the business of criticizing the government when they make good announcements that keep the public safe. I congratulate Mr. Perrottet for working constructively with the HSU and paramedics who’ve been on the frontlines of battling the COVID 19 pandemic for the last two years. This is essential when you consider hospital ramping at the moment ambulance ramping and the increased wait times for priority emergencies right throughout the Sydney metropolitan area in particular. So the NSW government has made a good announcement here. Obviously, we need to start working on the other aspects of health care and emergency management right across the NSW public health system, but I’m glad we’ve taken a step in the right direction here and the NSW Government deserves credit for working constructively and getting an outcome in relation to paramedics, it’s essential when it comes to the emergency health care of the people of NSW.

On other matters, there’s obviously increasing suggestions from the incoming federal government that inflation can be expected to be far higher in 2022 than what was previously expressed by the outgoing federal government. Now, inflation is burning a hole in the pocket of the families of NSW. Many people feel that they’re working harder than ever before but as a result of the rising cost of living, they’re going backwards. When you put that in conjunction with the fact that wages are not moving at all or being flat and have been flat for decades, for a family that has two incomes that lives either in regional NSW or in Sydney in real wage terms, they’re going backwards by $6,000 a year as a result of inflation rapidly increasing but wages remaining stable. So cost of living is burning a hole in the pockets of the families of NSW, many people are very concerned about their future, in fact, they feel that their future is closing down as a result of the increased costs for everything from energy, to petrol, to fresh food, to mortgage repayments, to tolls, to taxes, to fees, fines and charges. Nearly every aspect of the family budget is rapidly increasing in some instances by double digits, except for the ability to meet those financial obligations because wages have remained flat now for 10 years and the NSW government is showing no real signs of increasing the wages for frontline workers or those that rely or have their wages pegged to a ancillary job in the NSW public sector. So I’d like to see some action from the NSW Premier and Treasurer when the budget is brought down in several weeks time. We need to make sure the NSW Government is focused on the cost of living and I’m concerned that for many families, they’re falling further and further behind, despite the fact that they’ve worked harder and are working harder than ever before.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Just on the paramedics, I noticed you welcomed it [inaudible]

MINNS: It’s going to certainly address some of the issues in relation to ambulance wait times, particularly those that are waiting considerable amounts of time for priority cases. I know there was a case in the Sutherland Shire last week where a football player, a young man football player who had a suspected neck injury had to wait for two hours and 45 minutes before an ambulance attended. Now, obviously, that’s way too long. I’m concerned about the hospital wait times and the wait times for emergency treatment for paramedics in NSW. Over 1800 New paramedics will go some way to alleviating some of that stress. So it’s welcome news and I’m not going to be in the business of saying something’s a bad announcement when in fact it’s very helpful for the health system in this state.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] what does that do to the overall system, do you still need more people to be trained as paramedics or even brought in from over seas [inaudible]?

MINNS: Obviously we’re going to be scrutinizing the government’s announcement closely. At the last state election, the NSW government promised an extra 1,500 police officers for right across the state, we’re still 650 officers short of that target. A graduating class at the Police academy [inaudible]earlier this year was cancelled for the first time in history perhaps in the NSW Police forces entire history they had to cancel one of the incoming classes because they weren’t able to get enough recruits to begin training in Goulburn. So obviously labour shortages are an issue right across the economy, certainly that’s the case for frontline workers. We want to hear innovative ways of ensuring that we’ve got enough frontline workers to deal with health crisis in the state but 1800 new paramedics is a welcome first step.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

MINNS: Obviously we need to work with the Nurses Association and representatives who have been frontline workers. We’ve begun that process to ensure that we’ve got a package that meets not just nurse requirements and the real stress that they’ve been under over the last two years but also goes some way of alleviating the pressure on the public hospital system. But this has many, many layers, we need to make sure that COVID-19 vaccinations are continuing to keep pace with booster shots in the general community, we need to ensure that there’s a strong communication campaign around people receiving the flu shot because we’re predicting a tough flu season, shoulder season as well September-October and that puts real pressure on the hospital system. So while the government’s made an important announcement about paramedics, they still have to be treated in the emergency departments otherwise, we’re just going to have ambulances waiting out the front of emergency departments before they can be redeployed in the community. So this goes some way of solving what is a complicated problem. But obviously public health is a huge issue, we expect it to be a big one in the state election in March.

JOURNALIST: Just take it back to the schools Kylie [inaudible] how are parents feeling today?

PRESCOTT: Our community is feeling pretty anxious regarding the enrolment process. There’s been long standing frustration regarding the school size, when we were first told the school was being built for 500, immediately the community said that is too small, that is too small. Then to learn that the zoning for Jerra High School meant that half the community couldn’t access the school, that was met with great anger. We’ve been providing feedback for quite some time that the school is too small and we want all of Jerrabomberra rezoned to Jerrabomberra High School. We want to get this anxiety over and done with, we want to see our children enrolled in the new high school and we want to feel excited. We want the conversation to be ‘this is wonderful, this is great, this is what we’ve been advocating for, for 20 years’, and we really want to change the conversation to something far more positive.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRESCOTT: Enrolment forms for high school are due by the 17th of June. Parents living outside the current designated enrolment zone are in limbo, they don’t know if they’re going to be able to enrol in the high school or not. It’s beyond unfair, people feel angry, frustrated, anxious, and we’re dealing with 11 and 12 year old children here, you know, what are parents meant to say to their children about where they’re going to high school next year.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRESCOTT: There is uncertainty with regard to where children will go in 2023 particularly for those outside the current enrolment zone. If we don’t see a change in their enrolment zone this year that may mean children go to a different school for 2023 and may move if the enrolment zone changes later. That’s not what we want. We want all of Jerrabomberra zoned to Jerrabomberra High School so we can celebrate this school as a community.

Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Have you been given a reason as to why it was downgraded from 1000 to 500 students?

CAR: This from day one has been too small this high school. The communities around Jerrabomberra were promised a high school that would be fit for purpose for this growing community, and the government cannot answer why is it that this school is too small, they need to provide a school that is fit for purpose for Jerrabomberra.

JOURNALIST: I understand you’re critical of the government for doing that and want to turn that around  and say if you do get into government and you’re able to change zoning, you still got a school that fits 500 kids, [inaudible] how do you feel realistically you can change that?

CAR: Well, today we’re committed to appropriate zoning for Jerrabomberra so that all of these children, the children that come after them, can go to Jerrabomberra High School, the new Jerrabomberra High School, and we will work with the Jerrabomberra communities Jerra Heights, and Jerrabomberra to make sure there is a school that is big enough for the community of Jerrabomberra.

JOURNALIST: So does that essentially mean you have to build a bigger high school?

CAR: We will work with the community to ensure that there is a school that is fit for purpose for Jerrabomberra.

MINNS: Thanks Prue. So there’s a few things in relation to that, there’s the short term and then there’s the long term. In the long run we will make sure the infrastructure is here to accommodate the kids that need to go to the high school, so we need to determine what the long term rates of enrolment will be but we will ensure that there are classrooms to accommodate the increased number of enrolments. We fully acknowledge that may mean more capital works for the high school, but we’re prepared to do that. Obviously, we need to make sure the zoning changes in the initial instance before we can make announcements about what the school will look like. That’s in the longer term, in the short run because enrolments close on the 17th of June encouragingly, while the school is going to be open or the government’s given a commitment that it will be opened on day one term one 2023 they’re only accepting enrolments for year seven and eight, so not for the entire school. So we believe there’s enough capacity there to deal with an increase in enrolment on the first day of 2023 and that gives us breathing room to put the infrastructure in for the school over the long run.

Thanks, everybody.

CHRIS MINNS MP
NSW LABOR LEADER

PRUE CAR MP
NSW LABOR DEPUTY LEADER SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

TARA MORIARTY MLC

 

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