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Vanstone’s hypocrisy exposed.

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The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Labor Member for Lingiari Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and Indigenous Affairs

Contacts: Warren Snowdon — 0419 626 601 Markus Mannheim — 0418 846 596

Thursday, 11 November 2004

Vanstone’s hypocrisy exposed

Warren Snowdon today condemned a plan to tie Indigenous Australian’s welfare payments to school attendance as humbug and hypocrisy.

Mr Snowdon, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs, said Senator Vanstone’s explanation that the idea had come from consulting with Indigenous communities was a farce.

“The Minister is keen to talk about consultation and involving communities in this new plan to improve education,” Mr Snowdon said.

“How, then, does she explain her government’s moves to restrict the key education programs that are aimed at boosting student participation?”

In April this year, the Howard Government announced tough new funding restrictions for the Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness (ASSPA) program, which works to increase attendance rates among Indigenous students, and a plan to cut students’ access to the Aboriginal Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ATAS).

The government’s decision to restrict the flexibility and funding of the ASSPA program came after just 10 of the 3,800 ASSPA committees were consulted — less than 0.25 per cent.

“I have been talking to school committees, principals and teachers across the Northern Territory for months, from both the public and private education sector,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Everyone I have spoken with has voiced their consternation, and in many cases anger, at these changes to ASSPA and ATAS, which they believe will have a significantly detrimental impact on education outcomes.

“It is a farce for the government to now claim that it wants to work closely with these communities when it has shown no interest in listening to them over the last six months.

“If the government is serious about community consultation, it should immediately scrap its proposals to restrict access to ASSPA and ATAS funding.

“But the government seems keener on punitive approaches than ones that are developed by parents and schools working together.”