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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5195

Senator PARRY (2:48 PM) —My question is to Minister Carr, representing the Minister for Education. Has the government conducted an evaluation of the successful School Chaplaincy Program?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The School Chaplaincy Program of course was a program of the previous government. I am not aware of any evaluation that has been undertaken by the department of education into that program.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! It is impossible for me to hear the answer of Senator Carr if there are interjections. Senator Carr is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator CARR —The chaplaincy program was a program introduced by the previous government. It operates across both government and non-government schools. The evaluation that is the normal part of any government programs is not actually due until next year, so it would be somewhat premature for the government to undertake a review in this budgetary period. There is of course the chaplaincy issue; it is a matter that has been canvassed at some length at Senate estimates for some time. There are a range of reports on the effectiveness of the program. I know that at my own children’s school they are actually running the presentational ball. So they do meet a number of requirements within schools, not just providing counselling services that have been of a religious type. I understand it is a program that has in fact been oversubscribed within the school system to date.

Senator PARRY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. If the government has not completed any form of evaluation of this program, how can it now then not continue this program past the end of its current funding run?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I am not aware that there has been any announcement of the type you are alleging. The National School Chaplaincy Program will be subject, as I understand—and I will take further advice on this matter—to the normal evaluation processes. Concerning the program itself, I am not aware that any announcements have been made.

Senator PARRY —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister, I am aware, has had representations from a number of groups concerning the cancellation of this program. Will the minister inform the Senate how the government plans to fill the void created by axing this highly successful program?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I am not aware of any developments of the type alleged here today. I will take further advice from the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Undoubtedly, she will have something to say to you on these matters.