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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 75

Senator XENOPHON (9:16 PM) —I will be brief. We have a lot of legislation to get through, and I want to confine my remarks to the issues. I say to Senator Carr, with the greatest respect, that gratuitous remarks are not helpful—for example, calling the National Party backward-thinking. There are many in the community who would think that they are forward-thinking for their votes on the carbon sink legislation last night. And suggesting that Senator Fielding is in some way doing the dirty work of the coalition is, I think, quite a gratuitous and unnecessary remark.

The issue is this: should the national curriculum be tied to funding? I think there is consensus that it should be, but the point of difference is: should funding be tied to the national curriculum in the absence of the curriculum being available? That is what I understand the issue to be. I understand that the amendment moved by Senator Fielding has been moved with a genuine intent. There is not any malevolent intent to it. I understand the coalition’s position as well. I cannot support the amendment for these reasons: I believe that there are sufficient safeguards built in, given the statements that have been made by the government in relation to this. I would have preferred that there be further statements to crystallise it further, but we have got a broad outline and a framework of what will occur.

I think that private schools are in a dilemma. The many private schools and organisations my office has spoken to have varying views and I think a fair consensus is that they would rather see the national curriculum, but they do not want to see their funding held up. Is this good policy? Is this good practice? Maybe not, but in the context of this particular bill, in the context of what we have to deal with here, I am satisfied that there is a sufficient framework in terms of the information provided by the minister earlier and in terms of what has been on the public record about the processes involved.

Rather than saying that the coalition and Senator Fielding have a different view, I think it is a question of a difference of opinion rather than suggesting that there is anything malevolent or sinister in it. I will support the government and the Greens in relation to this. I note their position as well. I think that it could have been done better but, on balance, I am inclined to support the government’s position.