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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2010) . . Page.. 47 ..

MR BARR: I thank Ms Hunter for the most unexpected question in question time so far this year. I would invite members to have a look at what was published in the Canberra Times. This is anything but a simplistic league table. In fact, this is one of the most rich and important pieces of information that has been put into the public domain about education in this country. It is important in the context of this significant change in education policy and in this era-defining moment in ensuring that no longer do governments, schools, unions and those who are interested in education have excuses for inaction in relation to the performance of our schools.

There has been a lot of commentary in relation to the position that was taken by a number of newspapers around the country. Ms Hunter selectively quotes from an answer I gave in March to this question, ignores what I said in September, and ignores that there were protocols put in place throughout 2009 as education ministers from around the country met to consider these issues. Protocols on the reporting of student results were put in place. Individual students could not be identified and the My School website, in the presentation of data, moved away completely from a simplistic ranking of schools.

What the Canberra Times published was the 2009 NAPLAN test data. That is what they published, and that was what it was—the 2009 NAPLAN testing data. In contemplating this issue and the response of some of the stakeholders, I would like to quote from a particular article written in the Age by Shaun Carney. He is referring to the Australian Education Union in this context, but I think it equally applies to the Greens party. He says:

… the AEU has indulged in the worst sort of stakeholder behaviour—refusing to consider new policy approaches and simply sticking out its hand for more money.

If you set out to create a textbook example of an interest group destroying its own efforts at advancing a cause, and trying to get in the way of a Government that has a long-term reform objective, you could probably not come up with anything better than the AEU’s performance over the My School site.

It equally applies to the Greens party. What were the front-page stories that were on newspapers around the country after the My School launch? The fact that some of the nation’s richest private schools performed worse than comparable state schools. One would argue this is good PR for the state sector and the exact opposite of what the unions and the Greens had predicted.

We must move beyond this league tables debate. Whether you are for them or against them, they are a distraction from the real issues in education. We must move beyond it. The Canberra Times have published what they have published. In jurisdictions where there were some attempts to block the freedom of the press, information from the My School website was still published. So if the Greens have a particular concern and believe that there is some legislative path to prevent newspapers from publishing publicly available information, let them bring forward legislation.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Hunter, a supplementary question?

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