House debates

Monday, 22 November 2010

Private Members’ Business

National Curriculum

Debate resumed, on motion by Mr Pyne:

That this House:

expresses its concern that the Government’s deadline to have the national curriculum available for implementation from January 2011 will result in a substandard curriculum; and
requires the Government to delay the implementation of the national curriculum until January 2012 for K 10 in the areas of English, maths, science and history.

12:09 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | Hansard source

This motion on delaying the national curriculum until January 2012 is an attempt by the opposition to help the new minister for schools. We know that the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth feels cornered by the promise that the government made to implement the national curriculum in January 2011. We know that the minister for schools feels particularly cornered because the current Prime Minister was the person who began the process for the implementation of the national curriculum in a serious way over the last three years. We know that with the record for failure of the minister for schools in respect of solar panels, the Green Loans scheme and, of course, the diabolical Home Installation Program he does not want to fumble the ball yet again on a government program like the national curriculum. We know that all these thoughts are coursing through the mind of the minister for schools. So the opposition has decided to reach out and provide the minister for schools with a life rope.

Photo of Daryl MelhamDaryl Melham (Banks, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Melham interjecting

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | Hansard source

I am trying to help, as the member for Banks points out. It seems counterintuitive to some people that the opposition—particularly me, some people would be unkind enough to say—would try to help the minister. In the opposition we believe that it is better for the curriculum to be right than for it to be forced into schools unready. We believe that it is better to get the national curriculum right than to get it in, and we would rather give the government an opportunity to get off this hook and delay the national curriculum until January 2012. That extra year will prove crucial in ensuring stakeholder support for the national curriculum, state government support for the national curriculum and a much better outcome for the students from reception to year 12 through the introduction of our national curriculum, which the opposition supports in principle and, of course, which we initiated when in government.

The current minister for schools has picked up where the previous minister left off, but unfortunately she left him with a bugger’s muddle when it comes to the national curriculum. This is an opportunity to get him out of that muddle. You do not have to take my word for it. There are many stakeholders expressing very genuine concern about the implementation of the national curriculum. A letter to the minister in New South Wales on 22 October 2010, signed by groups such as the Australian Association for Research in Education, the Australian College of Educators, the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, the Australian Education Union, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, the Australian Primary Principals Association, the Australian Professional Teachers Association, the Australian Secondary Principals Association, the Independent Education Union of Australia, the National Education Forum, the Catholic Secondary Principals Australia and the Principals Australia Association—13 of them—said:

We believe that the timeline for the project must be extended to ensure that the Australian curriculum is as good as it can be. The timelines for all stages of the project at present are unreasonably short, and in the end this will be self-defeating. The consultation timelines do not allow enough time to provide considered, detailed feedback, and do not allow the voices of teachers and other stakeholders to be heard. The speed of the development process is contrary to what is known about the conditions for effective professional development practices and educational change. It was noted that schools require time for both evaluation of the curriculum documents after they are provided and planning for their effective implementation. This will also require an extension of the timeline.

That is point 2 of the document provided to the minister by 13 peak education organisations in October, all of them calling for the time line to be extended. This is not a group of people who you would normally find in the same room agreeing on educational policy. You would not normally get the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia and Catholic Secondary Principals Australia as well as the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union of Australia getting together in the same room and signing up to exactly the same document without any qualification.

Nobody came out after this letter was published—not Angelo Gavrielatos, Leonie Trimper or anyone else—and said, ‘We’d like to qualify our signature on that letter.’ They signed that letter because they were genuinely concerned. We have comment from the President of the Mathematical Association of New South Wales, Mary Coupland, who said:

A lot of work needs to be done to make it anywhere near as good as what we have in NSW. I get a sense it is all being rushed.

Mark Howie, the President of the English Teachers Association of New South Wales, said:

A number of things create the sense that it is a backward step. It has an incoherent sense of learning.

Margaret Watts, the President of the Science Teachers Association of New South Wales, said:

We are very concerned and it may well be a step backwards.

So we have maths teachers, English teachers, science teachers and all of the peak education associations and unions in Australia begging the government to extend the time line for the implementation of a national curriculum.

All of this has been admitted by ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. They have accepted that there is consistent feedback highlighting overcrowding and that the draft curriculum was also found to be too difficult, inflexible and inadequate. The authority conceded that the suggested method of teaching grammar, vocabulary and spelling is out of sequence and needs revision to provide clearer and logical progression. They are still arguing over whether calculators should be used in grade 3 or in kindergarten. They are still arguing about the possibility of introducing consistent handwriting across Australia. They have identified a lack of continuity between the primary and secondary years, and language and terminology were found to be inconsistent. This is all in 26,000 submissions to the ACARA draft curriculum process, and ACARA have admitted that all of these issues need to be addressed in a very short time frame.

We know that the state governments are falling off the national curriculum faster than dags off a sheep, if I can put it that way. There is only one state—South Australia—that is in support of the introduction of a national curriculum in January 2011.

Photo of Daryl MelhamDaryl Melham (Banks, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Your home state.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | Hansard source

My home state, led by probably the most hopeless Labor government in Australia—and that is saying something, because the member for Banks is from New South Wales. Even he must admit that the New South Wales Labor government is close to being the worst government in Australia, but the South Australian government is giving it a good run for its money. But I do not wish to be distracted.

Only one state has signed on to the national curriculum in January 2011. New South Wales has indicated, in September, that there will be no expectation of any classroom implementation for 2011. The Northern Territory has said that 2011 will be identified as a pilot phase, and senior secondary courses will not be implemented in the Northern Territory before 2014. Queensland has said that schools will implement the Australian curriculum in English, mathematics and science in 2012 and in history in 2013. Tasmania has given no indication of a time to start the national curriculum. Victoria has indicated that it is expected that the new Australian curriculum for English, mathematics, science and history will be introduced in all Victorian schools in 2012 and, in years 11 and 12, in 2013 and 2014. In Western Australia they have recently announced that 2011 will be regarded as a time to familiarise themselves, but substantial implementation will not occur until 2013.

So the stakeholders are against it. The state governments are not supporting it. There is no money set aside by this government for implementation of the national curriculum in terms of teacher training or teacher support. At least the coalition, recognising the failure of the government, announced that if we won the election we would put $20 million into the implementation of the national curriculum to train teachers. Of course, we won the election but lost the negotiation. As a consequence, that $20 million will not be provided. I could talk at great length about the coalition’s concerns about things like the cross-curriculum perspectives, but suffice to say we are reaching out to the government to give them an opportunity to get themselves off the hook, and I hope they will grasp it.

12:19 pm

Photo of Bernie RipollBernie Ripoll (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

If anyone heard that contribution they would have worked out pretty quickly that the only bit of any importance was the last bit where the member for Sturt said that the opposition had won government. That is really what this motion is all about—apparently they have won government. We will see how that works when we are in the chamber and in terms of the law and the Constitution. Apparently Mr Pyne is a member of the government, so we find ourselves in an interesting set of circumstances. This motion is really just about trying to delay the role of the government and our implementation of some very important policy that we had in place before the 2007 election. There has been an ample amount of time for a whole range of stakeholders, including the opposition, to play a constructive role in this, which they have not done.

There are range of things which I think are very important in getting a national curriculum up and fully operational in Australia, and none is less important than the future of all of our children—the future of students in this country. At some point in time, when discussion, debate and consultation come to a natural end, if you like, there is a natural place where the situation goes from thinking about it, looking at it, consulting, doing surveys, going through all the motions and going through every part that needs to be done to actually getting on with the job and implementing something. That is exactly where we are at as a government and, I believe, as a country. That is the important part we are at now. This is not a new concept, nor is it a new idea. Not is it something that has taken people by surprise, whether they be teachers, students, parents or anyone else. I can recall many, many years ago, if not decades ago, people discussing the merits of having a national curriculum and how good it would be—in fact, how great it would be—if we ever got to that place in this country. We will get to that place and we will do it under a Labor government.

I note, because I think it is important, that this motion is about delay. Part (2) of the motion says:

… requires the Government to delay the implementation of the national curriculum …

I do not think we can delay any further. I do not think we can afford to delay; we have already had a delay. Those years of delay were the 12 years that the opposition were actually in government—they delayed it for 12 years. It took us getting elected in 2007 to get on with the job, to go beyond the delays and just thinking about it or considering it as a wonderful idea—and I know everyone believes that—to actually implementing this very much needed policy.

There are some great things about our Federation and there are some things that do not quite work very well, and one of those is the area of education. When you have six states and a couple of territories, there is bound to be a state with the best system and others that are not quite at the same level. What is important here is that we find a base level where we can bring up every child in this country and where every student can have the same opportunities. There needs to be an equalisation between the states and territories in terms of where education is going and the standards that are implemented.

In my home state of Queensland we have been working on this for a number of years now with the Queensland state government. We have now introduced what is called the prep year, the pre year 1 year, which will make an enormous difference over a period of time to bring young Queensland kids in line with other states in their educational experience and the opportunities they get. There are a whole range of very, very good reasons why this needs not to be delayed but to continue on. There is our international and global competitiveness. I believe competition between the states needs to end. Competition ought to be between students, not between states, and it ought to be at an international level. The time line for this has not been rushed. Development began in 2008 with the preparation of papers outlining the broad shape, and they were finalised and published in March 2009. Draft curricula were first published from March to May 2010 and 150 schools were involved in a trial. At the end of the consultation period 3,650 individual online surveys were carried out and 209 written submissions were received from 186 peak organisations.

The reality is that government and government agencies have been taking note of all of those. Twelve hundred people participate in national and state forums. Extensive consultation has continued; it has not just ended but has actually continued. There has been independent mapping of the four curricula against state and international assessments. The result of the mapping against international assessments is very encouraging. It shows that we should expect the same level of performance from our students as do high-performing countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Finland.

The program that we bring forward may be difficult. It may be tough. It may involve people actually getting on with the job, looking outside the square and starting to tackle some of the harder issues—but I do not believe that delay is one of them; I do not believe that that is the one we ought to pursue. If we listened to the opposition, they would have us delay for a further 12 months. But, in reality, we know that the game of politics—

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

You want to get it right then.

Photo of Bernie RipollBernie Ripoll (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

This is the point: we are getting it right. Getting it right is an interesting question. I was talking about delay for delay’s sake—12 years to get it right. In fact, it has been a few years since those 12 years. There has to come a point where there is a little bit of courage, a little bit of forethought and some hard work going into making it happen—delivering. If we were to listen to the opposition, who just happen to think that it was actually the government—which probably says a lot about their agenda—

Photo of Alan TudgeAlan Tudge (Aston, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Should be the government!

Photo of Bernie RipollBernie Ripoll (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Of course it ‘should’ be, and at some point in time you will get that opportunity. But unfortunately—or fortunately—you will actually have to apply the rules of the Constitution and the will of the people, not the will of Mr Pyne.

The important thing to note about what is happening in making sure that this implementation goes through and goes through properly is that it is a matter for the states and territories. We as a federal and Commonwealth government are working with the states and territories. This was a commitment for government schools that was given under the National Education Agreement and a requirement for non-government schools under the Schools Assistance Act 2008. It also includes provision for professional learning for teachers, which has always been a jurisdictional responsibility. ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment Reporting Authority, also has an agreed facilitation role in the implementation of the Australian curriculum. This involves working with the states and territories and helping them with the planning and implementation. That is taking place.

That is the reality: this is actually taking place. While the Australian government does have a direct role in implementation, it has invested significantly in a number of initiatives that will also support that implementation. The timing has been set. It is flexible. Education ministers have agreed that implementation of the K-10 Australian curriculum in English, mathematics, science and history will begin from 2011, with flexibility in commencement but with substantial implementation to be achieved by the end of 2013. I do not think we ought to delay it any further; 2013 is still some time away. I do not think it is right for young people in this country to have their good education delayed any further—to delay bringing this standard up and making sure that we have, for the very first time in this country, a national curriculum.

This agreement is subject to a three-year implementation window from when the Australian curriculum becomes available. The three-year window allows time for jurisdictions to determine the extent of the curriculum change, work with stakeholders, develop implementation plans and inform students and parents about those changes. I think that puts the lie to what we just heard from the member for Sturt, who said that people do not want this, that they do not agree and that we should just put it off. I do not think he was talking as much about a delay—he was more concerned about thinking that he was in government—as about putting this off for some other time.

These decisions can no longer be delayed. An extensive process has been put into place. There is agreement between the state and territory ministers and the Commonwealth government ministers. The real work at hand now is in having the courage to get this done and get it done properly. The Australian government will be resourcing it properly. We will be doing that through ACARA, through Education Services Australia and through the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. We are doing it in a total partnership with all those agencies. Again, this puts the lie to what we heard from the previous speaker—that there is no support, that this is just a rushed implementation and that the resources are not there. The resources are there. They are there in black and white, and they are being done through the peak bodies in this country. We will work collaboratively with ACARA, ESA and AITSL, who will play vital roles in supporting the implementation of the Australian curriculum. At the end of the day, it is always opportunistic for oppositions to simply say, ‘Delay everything, don’t do anything, just wait.’ We waited for 12 years for them to implement this very, very important scheme and it never happened. It will happen under Labor.

12:29 pm

Photo of Alan TudgeAlan Tudge (Aston, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to second the motion moved by the honourable member for Sturt. We are calling on the government to delay the implementation of the national curriculum for the simple reason that it is not ready. And don’t just believe me or Mr Pyne in this assessment but listen to the views of education stakeholders. For example, the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals has described the curriculum as ‘not up to scratch, drowning in content, overlapping subjects such as science and geography and contains no agreement as to how it would be assessed’. The Australian Council of Deans of Science wrote to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth asking him to delay the implementation of the science curriculum for six to 12 months. The President of the Science Teachers Association, Anna Davis, said there needs to be another round of consultation to include classroom teachers to comment on the latest version of the science curriculum. The Mathematical Association of New South Wales claimed the four maths courses proposed for years 11 and 12 are too difficult for students with learning difficulties and are insufficiently challenging for gifted maths students. The History Teachers Association has also written to the minister expressing concern about the pace of progress. The New South Wales Board of Studies and teaching associations for science, maths, English and history have all criticised the curriculum and the process. On geography particularly it has expressed concern that the curriculum contains an inadequate focus on physical geography. And finally, just last week, the New South Wales education chiefs from the government, independent and Catholic sectors wrote to principals arguing that ‘some dimensions of the Australian curriculum currently being developed by ACARA are not being considered for implementation by New South Wales at this stage’. They are simply not going to do it, against the express wishes of Minister Garrett.

I could go on with examples of real concerns from other credible stakeholders pleading with the government to delay. But one of the concerns that many have in relation to the draft curriculum is that it lacks a clearly stated direction or curriculum theory and has no overarching framework. It also appears to be unbalanced and ideologically biased in its approach to some issues. For example, it is promoting the teaching of the climate change film An Inconvenient Truth despite the UK High Court finding that the science in the film contained nine fundamental errors and had been used to make a political statement and to support a political program. The curriculum also has a heavy focus on Indigenous and Asian culture without giving similar weight to our British and our Judaeo-Christian traditions. Trade union history and the history of the ALP are also given special prominence in the draft national history curriculum. On the other hand, there isn’t a single mention of the most politically successful party in Australian history, the Liberal Party of Australia.

Even if the curriculum was up to scratch, there would be insufficient time to train teachers in the new curriculum to be ready for next year. Ms Leonie Trimper, President of the Australian Primary Principals Association, believed that August of this year was too late to finalise the draft curriculum and get the teachers up to speed. It is now November and the draft curriculum is not to be finalised until next month.

There are positive aspects of the draft curriculum and we should not lose these aspects. For example, grammar is finally being put back in its proper place, phonics is being introduced into the early stages of literacy learning, and students will learn more about Asian history and culture, which is a good thing. All of these are good developments. However, overall the national curriculum is far from where it needs to be. Something as important as a national curriculum needs to be of the very highest standard, and it is not that presently. I implore the minister to give the national curriculum another year, to give ACARA the time necessary to get it right. We are better off delaying than producing something inferior.

12:34 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The member for Sturt, in a moment of Billy Snedden madness, thought he was in government and that his party did not lose the election. The member for Aston, in a speech of ideological fixation and philosophical obsession, kept on attacking the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and the process. These guys, in the 12th, 13th or 14th year of their reign under Mr Howard, were yearning for some Menzies-like longevity of coalition duration. The bastions of privilege on the other side of the chamber think they have every right to be always on the governing side of the chamber, but they really did nothing.

Let me say to the member for Aston that in my electorate—which includes the municipality of Ipswich, the fastest growing area in all of Queensland—we have a RAAF base at Amberley with thousands of people working there. We also have thousands of kids who travel across states—80,000 every year—to come to Queensland and other fast-growing states such as Western Australia. And guess what? They do not get taught the same things in Torres Strait as in Tasmania or the same things in Palm Beach as in Perth, because those people opposite did not have the wit, wisdom, determination or commitment to implement a national curriculum. The coalition are now grizzling, griping, groaning and moaning about it. That is the reality.

This government is getting on with making major improvements not just in the national curriculum but also in teacher quality, partnerships and great rewards for great teachers. We are improving things by increasing funding. The member for Sturt went on and on about the BER. Let us get the money back. In my electorate, $108 million was spent in 65 local schools, so if those opposite do not want the money then give it back to me; we will use it in my electorate. I am happy to have the money if they do not want the BER in their electorates. But the BER legislation that we have put in makes a difference.

This commitment to the national curriculum, which we took to the 2007 campaign, is important. The member for Oxley adequately and appropriately outlined exactly the history of what we are doing. Indeed, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority has made clear what is going to happen. Barry McGaw, the chair of ACARA, on 29 October 2010 said this about 2011—although those opposite do not want this rolled out next year:

So 2011 will, in the main, be a year of preparation and familiarisation, with some jurisdictions commencing a phased approach to implementation. In some states or territories, preparation may include working in classrooms with the new curriculum to test it more fully. This will help with the validation of the achievement standards specified in the curriculum and with the collection of additional samples of students’ work to illustrate different levels of achievement.

Implementation of the national curriculum is vital. We are working in partnership with the states and territories. There is a commitment to it for government schools and private schools. It is important to make sure that every child gets the same advantage in life: good quality teaching and a good curriculum to make sure they are not disadvantaged when they move from Coolangatta to Tweed Heads and that, if they decide to jump across the border between Albury and Wodonga, they get the same advantage in life.

But those opposite want to continue their opposition to making sure that young people throughout this country get access to good quality education. They do—that is the reality. They did not support the BER or digital education; in fact, they want to rip computers out of schools. That is their attitude; that is the policy they took to the last election. Here we are now and they are still complaining, still opposing and still wanting us to delay. ‘Procrastination, inertia, inaction’—that is the Liberal Party’s motto. When it comes to the national curriculum it is the same all over again. They simply want to sit on their hands—the do-nothing opposition, the negative opposition. To oppose this and to suggest we delay is nothing short of disgraceful. They should hang their heads in shame because they are the party of negativity.

12:39 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the member for Sturt in this motion. Let me say from the outset that I support the concept of a national curriculum, and many would say that in this country it is long overdue. The problem is that, while the national curriculum is a good idea, every indicator we have at the moment is telling us that this national curriculum is underdone and runs a high risk of being damaged in the long term because of its ill-preparedness. The president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, Brian Burgess, says:

We haven’t had a national curriculum in this country for 120 years; another six months to get it right is not going to disadvantage anyone.

There was a motion passed in this place last week exhorting members to go out and consult their electorates, something any half-reasonable member should be doing as a matter of course and certainly something I do as an integral part of my job. On the matter of the national curriculum, I have been consulting my electorate and I can tell you that the teachers at the coalface are feeling like a box of mushrooms: in the dark and isolated. They are being told they will deliver this curriculum next year but have little idea of what it will encompass and how they are supposed to deliver the syllabus and are far from convinced that it is an advancement in education. If the government does not have the teachers and the schools on board, the national curriculum will fail. Minister Garrett is saying the curriculum will be ready in December and expects schools to start delivering the syllabus in six to eight weeks. Surely even he can see that this is an impossible deadline.

School leaders are telling me that, while they are supportive of the concept, they have simply had a lack of information and no support for training and implementation. One leader of a subject area in a large secondary school told me they had no chance of doing anything at all in this area next year. As a member of the school’s curriculum committee, he said the school was focused on the implementation of the new South Australian Certificate of Education—which has had its own difficulties which I am sure you are aware of, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas, including the widespread criticism of dumbing down of requirements. He said:

We haven’t even considered it yet. We’ve had no support, no money for teacher training and no chance of starting next year.

Those who have had more than a cursory glance at the curriculum are not happy with the overly prescriptive levels of content and doubt they will be able to deliver anything more than rote learning. One principal in my electorate told me:

I am really concerned we will be focused more on content than process.

This comment is supported by Brian Burgess, who said:

In this day and age we need to be encouraging people to learn how to learn; just drowning them in content is an absolute waste of time.

Content in the world is growing exponentially, and schools have been trying to teach children how to learn rather than commit to memory a string of facts. While we need a national focus, we should not want a national curriculum to be so prescriptive as to discourage the development of learning skills. One principal told me that from what she had seen of the curriculum in her area:

… we will have to do a fair bit to sex this up, it’s dead boring and we’ll lose the kids before we start.

Criticism is widespread. John Rice, executive director of the Australian Council of Deans of Science, told the Melbourne Age that there was ‘a failure to articulate major scientific ideas about how the natural world worked, biodiversity, planetary history and processes and the atomic structure of matter’. Both the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals have raised serious concerns about content and quality. Art Education Australia President Marian Strong has said:

I just think it’s unteachable. This would be really dumbing down each art form rather than providing any depth of learning.

This motion is not about destroying a national curriculum. A national curriculum has our support and should be pursued. The motion is about getting the format right and, most importantly, about taking with us the most important link in the system, the teachers. To treat them as bystanders in this process will lead to failure.

Minister Garrett, of all ministers in this government, should understand the risks of trying to rush a program before the ground has been prepared and before the training process and information systems are in place. It seems that once again we are at risk of being consumed with a time line to enable the government to say, ‘We’ve delivered on something—anything.’ But if the consequence is widespread failure then nothing will be achieved. This motion asks the minister to pause the process and get the foundations in place so that a national curriculum is a net benefit to the nation and not another point of ridicule and failure.

12:45 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to voice my opposition to the motion put by the member for Sturt. I was interested to hear the comments by the member for Grey about a national curriculum being long overdue. I notice that he is a South Australian as well. I think that Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas also is South Australian, and another South Australian has just entered the chamber. I think all of the previous speakers on this side were from Queensland except for one speaker from Victoria. Not being from New South Wales or Victoria may flavour their views on a national curriculum—with all respect to Victoria of course. I do not know whether South Australia has a different perspective or a different approach to curriculum because convicts did not go there or something like that, but it is interesting to see. I did mention that there was one Victorian—the member for Aston.

But, irrespective of the perspective that we bring to the national curriculum, the motion by the member for Sturt, despite his South Australian connections, is straight out of the Liberal Party playbook written by Tony Abbott, member for Warringah—deny, delay, destroy. In this case it is delay until January 2012. If we look at the position of those members opposite on climate change, a great policy under the Howard government that they would embrace climate change and put a price on carbon became, as soon as the member for Warringah was the leader, ‘Deny, delay, destroy.’ It has been the same with health reform and the NBN. It is just the way that those opposite seem to roll at the moment. I think the member for Sturt is a bit like the kid at school who is trying to organise the fight. He is not actually going to be in the fight but he is out there whispering: ‘Oh, the states aren’t ready yet. The states aren’t supporting this. There’s a fight on; there’s a fight on.’ But there is nothing constructive about something that the member for Grey indicated most sane people connected with education would accept as long overdue.

What is the national curriculum about in the federation of Australia? It is about ensuring that all Australian children get the best possible education regardless of the sign hanging over the front gate. We have had our experiences in the past where we have perhaps been a bit divisive about education. You might remember the 2004 election, Mr Deputy Speaker, where perhaps our policy was not necessarily the best policy in terms of trying to divide between the private and state areas and the haves and the have-nots. Now we understand that education is much more important and that it is not a political football.

We have to do the right thing by the 1,986,715 primary school children and the 1,474,611 secondary school children. Why? Because we do not want to play politics with the education of our kids, particularly with the 80,000 who move between states every year. That is about 2½ per cent of the school population, and a great majority of them would be children of defence personnel. Maybe the fact that we are all connected with the RAAF base at Amberley is why I, the member for Oxley and the member for Blair are particularly passionate about this policy—that we need to get it right. I was a schoolteacher for 11 years, and I know there is nothing worse than kids rocking up and you having to start over with them because they have come from New South Wales or Tasmania and they are not familiar with the syllabus you are using. It would be great if we could get this right for the sake of the defence children and all the children who have to move.

The Labor Party obviously is a party with a proud tradition of providing quality education for all. Look at what we are doing: look at NAPLAN, at the My School website and at increasing school transparency and accountability. The national curriculum is just another brick in that great process. The building block of a fine economy is to make sure that our children are educated.

The national curriculum now has to be fully implemented over the next three years beginning with English, maths, science and history. If I look at my teaching experience, I started in 1986 teaching Latin and Greek roots but finished with the internet. So even though I only had 11 years of teaching it is amazing how much teaching had changed in those 11 years.

Photo of Michael DanbyMichael Danby (Melbourne Ports, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Greek and Latin teaching—

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Yes, Latin and Greek roots. Teaching has been transformed. When I started I think it was called ‘the sage on the stage’, but now with the internet it is ‘the guide on the side’. It is different, but still a high-quality process—

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I didn’t know we had internet in Australia when you were growing up.

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

No, it was around in the late 1990s. I think if you move away from your Commodore 64 you will find that! (Time expired)

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.