Page 808 - Week 02 - Thursday, 12 February 2009

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Of course, these initiatives will not solve every problem. We know that the quality of teaching and a student’s socioeconomic background have the most significant impact on learning outcomes. Our $350 million investment in school facilities and the commonwealth’s $230 million stimulus package will also enhance the teaching and learning environment in ACT schools.

We need to continue to pioneer new tools for teachers; students deserve nothing less. Single-sex classes provide students and parents with a wider range of educational options to choose from. They will enable and encourage teachers to develop teaching methods and materials which cater to more targeted groups of students. Formally evaluated ACT-based trials will help build the evidence base for new opportunities for quality teaching.

This is an opportunity for teachers, parents, students and the community to engage in a debate on ways to address the gender gap in student performance, and we look forward to evaluating the results of the Western Australian government trial and future trials within the ACT system. We certainly encourage our public schools to continue to offer diversity in their educational offerings through the programs they already have in place.

Education—student union fees

MR COE (Ginninderra) (5:03): Thousands of students will start university again this year, with orientation weeks beginning next week in Canberra and around the country later this month. University life is an exciting time and represents a world of opportunity for students around the country. Since the 2006 academic year, students across Australia have not been forced to pay compulsory student union fees. In late 2005, the Howard government implemented legislation banning the collection of compulsory union fees. The then federal government cut the unfair student tax.

When talking about the passage of the 2005 legislation, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention some of those who fought hard to ensure the passage of the legislation. Liberal student leaders Rohan D’Souza, Julian Barendse and Tim Andrews dedicated themselves to the fight for freedom on campus for many years and were instrumental in 2005. Then Young Liberal president and now federal member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke, and other federal members, including Sophie Mirabella, Senator Mitch Fifield, Senator Eric Abetz, Dr Brendan Nelson, and Senator Steve Fielding were all instrumental in the bill’s passing.

Compulsory union fees do nothing except support the careers of aspiring Labor Party politicians and subsidise political protest at the expense of students who would rather spend hundreds of dollars on other things of their choosing.

In the lead-up to the debate on the legislation in 2005, we heard of the numerous examples of student union wastage. I will never forget one such example which occurred whilst I was studying at the ANU. At the 2004 market day, the ANU Students Association provided an effigy of Prime Minister John Howard for all who wanted to take a hit at it. What an absolute disgrace. I know many students who would have preferred to have spent hundreds of dollars on books or whatever else

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