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June 20, 2003


From: Advertiser, Australia - Jun 20, 2003


THE State Government offered yesterday to help the threatened Cora Barclay Centre, but then delivered little more than words.

"I'm from the Government, and I am here to help," Social Justice Minister Stephanie Key said of the centre, which provides specialised education for deaf children. The centre needs $150,000 to remain open beyond September, yet the Government is prepared to offer only $40,000 and that is dependent on conditions.

The centre also claims it has been threatened by a staff member of the Premier's office that it will lose funding if it speaks to the media.

On Wednesday night the Government said it had guaranteed emergency financial help to ensure the school remained open.

But yesterday it emerged that was only partial funding of $40,000 and Ms Key had suggested the school should sell its Gilberton property, reduce staff numbers and increase student numbers, in order to receive assistance.

In a letter to Cora Barclay Centre director Richard Pascoe, Ms Key said if the Board "was prepared to take the major steps required to address the serious financial issues faced by the Centre, the Government will continue to support the CBC".

Ms Key defended the offer yesterday and said the letter listed "some of the options they might like to think about".

"We're happy to sit down and talk about how we can assist with future viability," she said.

A meeting will be held on Monday to discuss the centre's options for the future, Ms Key said.

Mr Pascoe said he received a call from a government staffer (Julia Grant) at 8.30am yesterday – 90 minutes before he was to join Opposition health spokesman Dean Brown at a press conference to denounce the Government's funding offer.

Mr Pascoe claimed he was told there would be no more funding talks if he spoke to the media.

"The impression that I got was that it (funding) would have been withdrawn," Mr Pascoe said. "I was devastated, as president of the centre and as a parent, it was a devastating offer, I was staggered."

Ms Grant, a member of Premier Mike Rann's staff, has been involved in negotiations with Cora Barclay since February.

In a faxed statement to The Advertiser last night, Acting Premier Kevin Foley expressed "disappointment that the Cora Barclay Centre has been targeting a loyal and dedicated member of the Premier's staff as part of its media campaign to negotiate a funding package".

Mr Foley said Mr Pascoe sent Ms Grant an e-mail on Tuesday warning her the centre was about to launch a "full-blown media campaign" to force the Government into a funding decision, but Mr Pascoe "did not agree with the campaign".

"Ms Grant says she remarked to Mr Pascoe (in yesterday's phone call) the media surrounding the issue wasn't helpful. She believed she was merely reinforcing his own views back to him on the matter," Mr Foley said.

Further, Ms Grant insisted she had not mentioned funding or threatened to withdraw it if a press conference proceeded and the "conversation had ended amiably", he said.

In Parliament's estimates committee yesterday, Opposition health spokesman Dean Brown called for the staff member concerned to be sacked.

Ms Key denied any funding threat had been made.

© Advertiser Newspapers Ltd