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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23613

Mr LATHAM (Leader of the Opposition) (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, and I refer him to compelling research showing that, if parents read aloud three storybooks a night to their infant children, those children will be literate and do numbers by the time they reach school at age five. Will the Prime Minister now join with me in a bipartisan initiative to encourage all Australian parents to read books to their infant children, plus provide special literacy programs for those parents who may not have the skills to do so? Prime Minister, can we work together on a great national campaign to ensure that education is valued and provided in every Australian home?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In reply to that question can I say to the Leader of the Opposition that I agree with him about reading books to your infant children, something that I did when my children were infants and something that my extremely well-read, literate wife, who is one of the most compulsive, regular readers I have met and whose knowledge of literature far exceeds mine and, I guess, that of many members in this House, also did. I applaud the ancient habit of teaching young children through reading bedtime stories—not only reading stories but making up your own stories to tell your children when they are young. Some of my most vivid recollections of the early years of being a father to my three children were the stories I made up. They were stories of encouragement and love; they were not stories of hatred and bile.

Mr Gavan O'Connor —You are still telling them!

Mr Griffin —You are still telling stories!

Mr Gavan O'Connor —Tell us the one about the children being thrown overboard!

The SPEAKER —The same protections I extend to the Leader of the Opposition I expect extended to the Prime Minister.

Mr HOWARD —When it comes to the welfare of Australia's children, I will always extend the bipartisan hand.