HURLSTONE AGRICULTURAL HIGH SCHOOL
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [11.55 p.m.]: I speak about Hurlstone Agricultural High School, at Glenfield. Helen Keller, who was blind, once said, "There is only one thing worse than not to have sight, and that is to have sight but no vision." The Government's plan to geld Hurlstone Agricultural High School by selling off 140 of the 160 hectares that make up the property is akin to an act of terror against our heritage. The school is the product of a great vision on the part of our forefathers, who saw the need for the development of sustainable agriculture in a nation handicapped by the tyranny of distance at the time. They saw the need to establish an agricultural learning facility for students from metropolitan Sydney and rural New South Wales. Today, 101 years after the school's establishment, Hurlstone Agricultural High School has almost 1,000 students and it has been in the top 20 high schools in New South Wales in academic achievement every year for the past 20 years—a proud record. But, more importantly, the school has a cultural uniqueness that would most probably exceed the expectations of the founders.
Today, some 64 per cent of the school's students come from a non-English-speaking background. They hail from around 30 different countries—30 different languages and 30 different cultures. The boarding section of the school is home to students from all parts of rural New South Wales. The diverse mix of students who work, study and play together in a working agricultural environment will do more to bridge cultural divides in our society than any other program I know of. Such an educational environment will serve to establish social and business networks that will serve this State and this country well.
The decision to sell off 140 of the 160 hectares that make up this environment simply has not been thought through. The sale has been based, supposedly, on a decision about surplus land requirements. We are asked: Who determined that this land was surplus? Is this Government willing to enlist an agricultural consultant who can explain the concept of stock rotating through paddocks to ensure a constant supply of feed? In addition, is the Government aware of the feed surplus from October through to March, where feed needs to be cut and stored as hay and silage to meet feed supply deficits from April through to September?
The current stocking rate exceeds rural lands protection board recommendations. Each hectare of land is used in the provision of area and feed for animals currently within the school's agricultural teaching programs. Does the Government suggest that these programs should be cut back? Is the Government aware of agriculture syllabus requirements—for example, studying a working farm in year 11? Many students in other schools are disadvantaged by not being able to fully meet syllabus requirements. In order to level the playing field, does the Government suggest we should disadvantage Hurlstone Agricultural High School students in a like manner?
The 20 hectares quoted in the recent Government media releases erroneously implies that the 20 hectares is for farm uses, whereas in fact the current core school buildings and surrounding grounds equate to nearly 16 hectares. Does this mean that the area used for agricultural purposes will be a mere four hectares—which is less than the James Ruse counterpart comparison of five hectares? This is an appalling decision. There is no doubt that this Government has the stench of a rotting political carcass. It would be a tragedy if it were to destroy such an iconic educational institution in its quest to hang on to power.
As I said, the reasons the Government has given for the sale simply do not stack up. But while nothing can save this inept Government, there are four people who can save the Hurlstone Agricultural College. A self-labelled Team Macarthur of Andrew McDonald, Graham West, Geoff Corrigan and Phil Costa can salvage some respectability for the Government by crossing the floor to put the interests of the Macarthur community and rural New South Wales ahead of this cheap sale and their own political ambitions. They can cross the floor and vote against the sale, and save this iconic institution. [Time expired.