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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8176

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (16:56): by leave—I rise as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Education and Employment. I support the chair's remarks and thank her for them. They were a true and accurate representation of the committee's deliberations. As she stated, submissions were provided by six organisations that plainly stated the legislation must be passed with as little delay as possible and that there were no alternatives because, in fact, the independent schools' funding would be threatened by their inability to introduce the national curriculum in time.

The Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011 allows for more flexible implementation of the national curriculum, which is, of course, code for the fact that the national curriculum time lines were unachievable. As the 2008 act made the implementation of the national curriculum a prerequisite for continued funding, it is essential that the time lines be changed. This amendment will allow for the implementation of the national curriculum when all parties are ready. When this bill is debated in the House, I am sure that much more will be made of the lack of preparedness when the government passed the original bill in 2008. It is essential the national curriculum be got right before it is introduced. A rushed or hurried introduction will lead to a poorer result, and a severance of funding for independent schools would be a disaster.

As I move around the electorate talking to teachers at various schools and to parents, there is a view that many of the educational institutions are not ready to introduce the national curriculum yet, particularly in South Australia in the senior years of education—including, I must say, in the government schooling system.

The coalition members of the committee concurred with the government members that it is essential that the legislation is passed. However, we reserve our right to continue to put the national curriculum under the microscope through the parliamentary process.

The chair mentioned the National Catholic Education Commission and raised the fact that it has no representation on the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. That is the norm—it is, of course, a ministerial council—but perhaps the fact that that council was not listening to the independent school system was one reason the legislation was deficient when it was passed in 2008. I urge that body to take due note of what the independent school system is telling it, because the private sector is one of the very important planks in delivering a broad education to Australia. Its contribution should not be underestimated and should be taken into account at all times when the government plays around with the system.