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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2440


Mr PYNE (3:40 PM) —I move opposition amendment (1):

(1)    Schedule 1, after item 3, page 3 (after line 17), insert:

3A Subsection 22(2)

Omit “31 January 2012”, substitute “a date set by the Minister by legislative instrument”.

3B After subsection 22(2)

Insert:

         (3)    The Minister may not set a date for subsection (2) that is earlier than the date by which he or she is satisfied the national curriculum will be implemented in government schools in each State and Territory.

         (4)    If it appears that the national curriculum will be not be implemented in government schools in each State and Territory by the date that has been set for subsection (2), the Minister must set a later date.

I will not delay the proceedings of the House very long. I simply wish to point out to the ‘packed’ House taking such an interest in the Schools Assistance Amendment (Financial Assistance) Bill 2011 that this bill contains a provision that the non-government schools sector be required to implement the proposed national curriculum in January 2012. Why is that significant? It is significant because it clearly indicates that the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth and his office have completely missed the fact that the ministerial council on education has already decided that the national curriculum will not be introduced until January 2013. In other words, while government schools will not be implementing the national curriculum until January 2013, when it may be ready, the law will be requiring that non-government schools implement a national curriculum from January 2012 which will not have even been completed. It is an absurdity.

It took the opposition to pick up this error in the government’s bill and to move an amendment to fix that date—in other words, to push the date out to a time set by the minister by legislative instrument. I therefore call on the House to fix the error that occurs in this bill, rather than allow to be passed through this House a bill that absurdly requires the non-government sector to implement a national curriculum a year before the government sector and a year before the national curriculum is even ready.

I understand from the Greens that the minister has assured them that he accepts that the bill is flawed in this respect but has said to them: ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll fix it all later.’ Quite frankly, Minister, that is not good enough. What is required of ministers is to actually understand the detail of the bills that they are taking through the House of Representatives. Without wishing to be churlish, I would have thought that, given this minister’s record on detail as the Minister for the Environment responsible for the home insulation debacle, the sustainable assessments program and the solar panels program—for which he was required to be removed from his portfolio and placed in the very important schools portfolio—the minister would have learnt his lesson about getting the detail right.

It is more in sorrow than anger that I have to stand at the dispatch box and point out that the minister for schools has brought to the schools portfolio the slipshod and sloppy approach that he brought to the environment portfolio and that it behoves the opposition to fix a technical defect in the government’s bill. I call on the House to vote in favour of the opposition’s amendment to fix the technical flaw that occurs in this bill, and I ask the crossbenchers to accept the wisdom of using common sense to ensure that the non-government schools sector is treated exactly the same way as the government schools sector—and that requires this amendment to be passed.