Letter to parents sparks row

EDUCATION Minister Brian Wightman has been accused of breaching election caretaker convention by sending parents letters through their child's school about Labor government policy.

Opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson said yesterday the minister had got the department "to do the Labor party's dirty work" for him.

Mr Wightman said what he provided to parents was the truth.

The letter on a state government letterhead and dated March 5, is addressed to parents and carers. The first two paragraphs state his enjoyment about being minister and for parents to know they are supported.

The third paragraph states there would be "no forced school closures".

Mr Ferguson said: "He should apologise and withdraw those letters immediately."

"It is an abuse of the privilege of being the Minister for Education and an abuse and breach of the caretaker conventions."

He said Mr Wightman had failed to rule out forced school closures in light of the deferred decision by then Education Minister Nick McKim in April 2012.

Mr Wightman said he would not sit back and let someone deliberately spread misinformation and cause unnecessary concern.

He said he had a responsibility to families that had received Mr Ferguson's election campaign material in recent weeks, to inform them the government would not force any schools to close.

"Mr Ferguson is telling people lies. I believe they deserve the truth, and that is what I have provided them," he said.

A Department of Premier and Cabinet spokeswoman said the caretaker conventions are designed to avoid a government binding a future one to a matter and to preserve the apolitical nature of the public service.

The conventions are neither legally binding nor a hard and fast rule she said.

 Brian Wightman

Brian Wightman


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