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New Democrats leader calls on supporters to join.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/1140 MONDAY 13 DECEMBER 2004 SENATOR LYN ALLISON LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS NEW DEMOCRATS LEADER CALLS ON SUPPORTERS TO JOIN In her first move as leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Lyn Allison called for new members to join the party saying it was a chance to have a say on Democrats policies and future direction. Senator Allison, speaking today at a press conference in Port Melbourne said with the Coalition set to control the Senate from July 2005, Australians need to pay close attention to what the government is up to and get more involved in politics. "The rate of membership of most political parties has been dropping but it is not wise to vote every three years and leave the Government free to make decisions without public scrutiny. "It is more important than ever for people, especially women to get involved," Senator Allison said. "Politics should be more than a male ALP leader and a male Liberal leader exchanging insults. Politics is about ideas and values and women should have a fair share of the say on where those ideas and values take this country." "The Democrats are far from dead and I am inviting Australians who care about this country's future to seriously consider joining us. We are still very active in the Parliament, a forum for vigorous policy debate and we keep our members informed about the vast array of government action that never makes the news." At today's press conference, Senator Allison, a former teacher, also welcomed Federal Education Minister Dr Brendan Nelson’s decision to overhaul the basic-skills test for children's literacy saying it has turned out to be a poor indicator and no solution to literacy problems. "Benchmark testing only works if governments are prepared to find out why students are failing and put in place the measures and the resources to fix the problems," Senator Allison said. "So far, this Government has been too ready to blame teachers and the states and put up bandaid, politically motivated solutions like the testing and one-off vouchers for tutoring. "A handful of tutoring sessions will not iron out the very wide range of abilities and readiness for learning that teachers face in their classrooms every day, any more than flagpoles or so-called plain English reporting. "Students with language and learning difficulties often slip through the net because their problems are not identified and the solutions are often impossible in large classes. Benchmark testing has only ever told schools what they already know," Senator Allison concluded. Media Contact - Katrina McGrath 0408 056 167