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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Coe alleges ‘secret deal’ keeping ACT public schools closed

ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe today alleged the existence of a ‘secret deal’ between the ACT Government and union bosses that is keeping public schools closed.

The crux of Mr Coe’s complaint is that the Territory Government is placing the desires of the Australian Education Union (AEU) ACT ahead of medical evidence and expert advice.

“It is difficult to know how significant the secret deal is in informing the ACT Government’s decision to close ACT schools.

“Families are already doing it tough, and they deserve better than being kept in the dark over this secret deal.

“While the closure of ACT schools goes against the advice consistently provided by the experts, we hope that the ACT Government is relying on medical evidence first and foremost in its decision-making,” he said.

Mr Coe called on the Government to publish the ‘secret deal’.

“Given the significant disruptions school closures have caused, and the lack of publicly available evidence to support the move, stressed parents and the broader school community deserve to know what the secret deal entails,” he said.

Responding to the allegations, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr called it an unfounded “mad conspiracy theory”.

““I think the mad conspiracy theories that he comes up with from time to time that tend to have an element of anti-union hysteria really are unfounded,” Mr Barr said.

The Chief Minister categorically denied placing the wants and desires of union bosses above expert medical advice.

“We have an obligation as an employer to ensure the safety of our workforce, whether that is in education, in health, or in any other area in the ACT Government operations.

“Jurisdictions are responding in different ways, but today, on the entire eastern seaboard of Australia, there is no school system that is operating. Each have a different process around getting back to the point that we all hope to be at.

“Even the Federal Government’s bribes to the Catholic and Independent system talk about a return of 50% of students by the beginning of June.

“NSW’s one day a week trial for some students is still two weeks away. Queensland and Victoria aren’t making their decisions until the middle or thereabouts of Term 2,” he said.

AEU ACT Branch Secretary Glenn Fowler said in a statement that the union will not apologise for working with government to achieve the best health and safety outcomes for its members.

“Today I am visiting six of the 13 open school sites to personally check on the safety and wellbeing of our members. Yesterday I visited three. Tomorrow I will visit the remaining four. I don’t have time for student politics.

“I have issued dozens of invitations to meet with Alistair Coe. He always declines,” Mr Fowler said.

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