ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry survived a no-confidence motion in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning, with the government labelling the motion a stunt.
The no-confidence motion was raised by the opposition after the workplace safety watchdog issued a prohibition notice to Calwell High School over serious risks to health and safety.
The WorkSafe ACT notice was issued to the school after inspectors found teachers and administration staff were being abused, sworn at, screamed at and subjected to sexualised behaviour or violence from students on a daily basis.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee was scathing of Ms Berry when she moved the motion. She said the Education Minister needed to resign and if she did not that Chief Minister Andrew Barr must demand her resignation.
"On this minister's watch Calwell High School has become every teacher, every student and every parent's worst nightmare," Ms Lee said.
"The minister has had the education portfolio for five years. Five years of incompetence, five years of failures and five years of dangerous workplaces."
Ms Berry sought to defend herself in the Assembly by mentioning strategies undertaken by the ACT government around education, including budget investments. She mentioned $21 million for Chromebooks, $12.5 million for early childhood care and $11.5 million for an education equity fund.
She mentioned the teacher shortage and COVID safety plans implemented by the government for schools.
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Ms Berry did not mention Calwell High School until she was halfway through her speech. She gave a rundown of the WorkSafe visit and told the assembly that the school's principal was on leave.
Again, Ms Berry sought to paint the issues at Calwell as rare.
"I want to be very clear, violent incidents like this are very rare in ACT public schools and when they do occur, we treat them very seriously as we have done in this instance," Ms Berry said.
"Directorate executive are in place at the school to support the school's staff and leadership team.
"Counsellors are onsite at the school to provide wellbeing support to those staff who wish to access the service."
Manager of government business Mick Gentleman labelled the move by the opposition a stunt and defended Ms Berry.
"It's only been a short tenure of the leader of the opposition, but she's already copying the playbook of her predecessors, devoid of substance and ideas," Mr Gentleman said.
"The Deputy Chief Minister has worked closely with the Chief Minister to keep our community safe. She has worked closely with officials across [government] to ensure the best outcomes for families, students, teachers, staff, and our community."
The Greens also voted against the no-confidence motion.
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Lucy Bladen has been a journalist at The Canberra Times since 2019. She is an ACT politics and health reporter. Email: email@example.com
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