The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: Is the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Minister for Tourism and Minister Assisting the Premier aware of a report in the Maitland Mercury recently regarding the cleanliness of some schools in the Maitland area? Will the Minister inform the House of the accuracy of the reports?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I have watched with dismay and increasing anger the political campaign that has been mounted by members opposite and their colleagues in another place to score cheap political points at the expense of public schools in New South Wales. I am well aware of the deliberate scaremongering tactics employed by the Australian Labor Party in regard to the contracting out of school cleaning services. Opposition members, including some of those seeking to interject - their guilt must be leading them to do this - have been circulating bodgie surveys and making unsubstantiated claims about the cleanliness of our schools. Who has been scared by this cheap political scaremongering campaign? It has scared the teachers and parents and done public education no good. It has caused unnecessary concern for the sake of the Opposition seeking to score cheap political points.
An example of this has occurred in Maitland. The ALP candidate in Maitland, Tony Keating, went well and truly over the top. Tony Keating - it must be the name I suppose - referred to some schools in the Maitland area as being rodent infested health hazards. In the Hunter! I guess he is learning from Bob Carr, the Leader of the Opposition, who talked about educational slums in some of our schools. The local member and my colleague in another place, Peter Blackmore, obviously was concerned and angered about this and he did the obvious and correct thing: he visited the schools to look for himself and talk with cleaners, teachers and parents. He found that the claims were false. They could not be substantiated. Where were the rats? Among Opposition members. The only rat in Maitland is Tony Keating, who has shown himself to be somebody who engages in exaggerated scaremongering campaigns and is willing to use little children and the fears of their parents to try to score some cheap political point. But the story gets even worse. Last week the Maitland Mercury ran a very interesting story.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I am having difficulty hearing the Minister's answer, which I am sure all honourable members want to hear. I ask honourable members to keep their interjections to a low level.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: This matter is serious. Last week the Maitland Mercury ran a story entitled "Health Scare Just a Cheap Political Stunt". The story was a response to the claims of Tony Keating about rat-infested schools. The article stated:
I do not know what the acoustic engineers would say about that conversation. However, no investigation of the matter was carried out, because the conversation between the Hon. J. J. Aquilina, Mr Keating and Mr John Eriani, the general manager of Tempo, took place at a small schools dinner at Kurri Kurri. Mr Eriani is quoted as saying that both Mr Keating and the Hon. J. J. Aquilina sat next to him during the dinner and told him that the cleaning issue was obviously a political matter, and that if a Labor government were elected the issue would fade away and cleaning services would still be conducted on a contractual basis, and Tempo need not be worried. That is what Mr Keating and the Hon. J. J. Aquilina told Mr Eriani in Kurri Kurri last month. What a revelation! As if it were any surprise to honourable members.
The Hon. Franca Arena: That is simply an allegation. The Minister should be very careful.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: It is not an allegation; it is an assertion, a statement of fact. Yet again the Opposition is content to use our schoolchildren and public schools as political playthings, regardless of the implications for teachers, students and local school communities. I am
absolutely shocked at this. Mr Peter Blackmore, the local member, who clearly has a strong and sensible interest in education, visited the school once the assertion was made to see for himself whether it was rodent infested. He also called a meeting. Mr Keating, on the other hand, did not even turn up for the site inspection - an absolutely gutless attitude. The scaremongering tactics -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Is he related to the other Keating?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: He could be, judging by his tactics. I am shocked by this matter. It is about time that Opposition members showed proper consideration for our schoolchildren and our public schools.
Group area manager of Tempo, Mr John Eriani, is surprised at Mr Keating's claims, after speaking with Mr Keating and the Shadow Minister for Education, John Aquilina, at a small schools dinner in Kurri last month.