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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 93..

MR PRATT (continuing):

societal practice. Father and mother parenting is the fundamental benchmark. Let us see a government that has the moral fibre to defend the sanctity of the family as something that everybody must strive for, that every child must be given the chance of having.

The Stanhope government's irresponsible and careless position on parenting should not be entirely surprising when we take note of its ambivalence on important societal dynamics impacting in education. The cavalier approach by this government to family structure is reflected in its unwillingness to take seriously the very deep concerns felt in the community, and in the education community, about sliding values and deteriorating boys' education. The government thus far has demonstrated total ignorance, or a position of self-denial, about the urgent need to address the teaching and the imparting of values in our school system. Values and parenting are closely related issues.

Mr Stanhope: Are you talking about public or private schools there, Steve?

MR PRATT: I am talking about both sectors, Jon. Values mean developing responsible behaviour; love for family, community and nation; tolerance; and personal discipline to strive to better oneself in a positive and a contributing way. A stable family life and a mother-father parenting situation are fundamental to striving to achieve the development of strong values. Male and female role modelling is so important for boys and girls in their development of values at home and at school.

Similarly, boys' education, in terms of raising both the academic and behavioural standards of boys-a very important challenge across the Western world and here in the ACT-depends largely on loving father-mother families and sufficient male role models in our schools. I will quote an expert in the area of boys' education who talks about the problem that many of our boys face in single-parent families, which I believe goes to the heart of this debate about balanced families. Ian Lillico says:

A further issue impacting on our young males is the changing world of work and the steady reduction in the number of labour intensive jobs. Boys, previously, who didn't have an academic leaning, often took these up. The continued fracturing of the family unit and low engagement of fathers and male guardians in their sons' schooling has further exacerbated the problems boys face in their school years, particularly when going through puberty. As well as the disappearance of many traditional male careers there has been a marked increase in male anxiety regarding the future, employment prospects, role uncertainty and a marked increase in the male suicide rate.

I pull out particularly the issue of boys' education, but the impact on boys' education is only a marked issue in terms of the impact on boys and girls if they do not have male and female role models at home and at school. That is an issue that we should reflect on.

These serious issues go to the heart of how ACT society manages children's and youth affairs. We see self-denial by this government that these challenges even exist, let alone that they need to be addressed. Instead, this government has the audacity to waste its time and resources on social engineering initiatives, such as this one that we are debating today, rather than going to the heart of the core issues. The Stanhope government needs to spend more time addressing the core issues that we need regarding the development, raising and nurturing of our youth, rather than wasting time on social engineering initiatives, such as what we are seeing here today with the debate of this bill.

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