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Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham: 2GB: 1 February 2011: national curriculum

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Transcript - 2GB Ben Fordham - 1 February 2011

Published 1/2/2011

SUBJECTS: National Curriculum

Ben Fordham: Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.

Christopher Pyne: Good to be with you.

Fordham: We wanted to come to you yesterday, but we had power outages across Sydney. What do you want to do with the curriculum?

Pyne: Well, I think parents expect the national curriculum to teach their students about the history of Australia and about where we've come from, and you can't teach that without talking about Western civilisation and Western society and where we've come from and how we've been developing for a couple of thousand years. And yet, the national curriculum in history attempts to do exactly that. So what I've said yesterday is that the national curriculum should only be adopted if it's better than the curriculum that is in place in each of the states. And if it's not better then there's no point in doing it.

Peter Garrett on the other hand is a process driven minister. He says there will be a national curriculum regardless of whether it's good bad or indifferent, or in fact he's happy to accept whatever he's given. My view is we need to ensure it is a better curriculum then that which is being offered.

Fordham: Ok, you say Australia has gone backwards in literacy and numeracy. Out of 38 countries, Australia is just one of four that saw a decline in reading performance. Is the basis of your argument about the themes they're being taught or just equality?

Pyne: The national curriculum has required the themes be sustainability, indigenous culture and Australia's engagement with Asia. Now, on their own, none of those things are bad things; obviously we would want to teach all of that kind of material to students. But what Peter Garrett has to explain is why those three things are more important than learning about why we are Australian, why we are like the way we are and how our society has developed. Every day parents say to me, "I want my child

to learn more about Australia's history and why we've ended up being a Western society in South Asia.

Fordham: Well if they're not learning that now what are they being taught?

Pyne: Well that's a very good question and I think what they're being taught at the moment is a piecemeal mish-mash of different kinds of history which is too embarrassed basically to say that we are a western society which is trying to be all things to all people and politically correct rather than recognising that we should be triumphant about the fact that we are a very successful western society that is developed around people's human rights; respect for the individual; property rights; respect for the rule of law; the parliamentary system that's the Westminster system. I can't understand why our educators constantly want to basically make excuses for our past rather than celebrating that Australia is like it is today because of our western heritage.

Fordham: OK well listen we've been talking about bullying this afternoon. A question without notice, as you say in Parliament, where do you stand on all this? Not in terms of, I know your against it, do you think schools take it seriously enough?

Pyne: Well I think principals should be given the power to act on bullying both on and off campus. One of the problems that principals have at the moment is with cyber bullying, for example, they can't act if the cyber bullying occurs of campus. Yet of course how can you prove where it occurred? So I think that as part of a policy of giving principals more autonomy you give them the power to act on any kind of bullying whether it occurs on the campus or off.

Fordham: OK Christopher Pyne. Thank you very much.

Pyne: Pleasure.