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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 101

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (8:19 PM) —The senator's remarks give a clear indication of the trust the Democrats have in the capacity of normal citizens to make informed choices. The proposition she puts is that it is very difficult to give the public information because they will not know, for example, whether one school has a higher proportion of kids with a learning disability or more kids from a disadvantaged area. She says that without that information these statistics would be hard to interpret. I simply make the point that without any of this information it is impossible to tell. The senator's proposition is that the information being provided has some flaws. That may be, but her answer to that is to provide no information. That, certainly, is not going to work.

As to whether parents making a choice between schools understand the different intake into one school over another in terms of the level of disability and teaching needs, I think parents do understand the difference between one school and another and they can make a balanced and informed decision. They are comparing two like schools and they want to see how two like schools compare in performance.

As if it is not bad enough that Senator Allison thinks that because the information is flawed we should give them nothing, she then goes on to say that we should be interested. I am not sure who `we' are. I think they are the informed, elite group with which she would identify herself as a member. `We' should discuss it; `we' can have the information. The bottom line of the Democrats is to keep the parents in the dark. That is the top line of our view—shed some light for the parents. Let them into the debate. Make schools that think there is an explanation for a poorer performance give that explanation to the parents. The schools are entrusted with the parents' most valuable possession or resource—their kids—and our most valuable resource. Where a school's standards are not the same as another school and there is a good explanation, let them make it. The answer to give parents no information is a hopeless answer.

Question negatived.