Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009) . . Page.. 4052 ..
nonetheless it was still a direct comparison in his mind between one school and another.
That is how perverse this debate can get. That is why it is important that we ensure that the data that is publicly provided is, as I say, valid, reliable and detailed so as to ensure that parents and students are appropriately informed and that we are able to have a constructive debate about the performance of schools and our education system. That, I believe, the ACT government believes and the Australian government believes is important for the future of education in this country.
MR SPEAKER: Ms Hunter, a supplementary question?
MS HUNTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, part 6 of that motion calls on you to outline, and hopefully in detail, how the performance monitoring system will operate and how privacy will be protected and harm not caused to school communities through the publication of league tables by the media. Given that legislation to prevent the publication of league tables in the media has already been introduced by two states, why wouldn’t you consider doing the same?
MR BARR: I have considered the matter. Certainly, my view is that it is a restriction on freedom of speech and it would be ineffective in the ACT context in that we cannot control the publication outside of the territory of information in relation to ACT schools. I think it is just a fundamental issue of principle. Whilst I would love to be able to control everything the media say in all of my portfolios, I respect that we have freedom of the press. Whilst it would be very tempting for every minister, every government official and every government department to seek to be able to control how the media report and what they are able to say, it is a fundamental principle of our democracy, and I have major concerns with seeking to limit the freedom of the press.
But I do stress that the media have a responsibility here as well in their reporting of school results and of the results and relative merits of educations systems and education policies to be accurate in their reporting. So it is my view that the best way forward in relation to this specific matter is not a legislative response but appropriate education. Simplistic league tables can only thrive in a vacuum of information. If there is real, rich, reliable information out there, there will not be the scope for media outlets to create their own simplistic league tables. I repeat: this government and the Australian government will not be creating simplistic league tables.
MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, a supplementary question?
MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, will you be using league tables to assess the possibility of future school closures?
MR BARR: As I think Mrs Dunne would be aware, there is a continuing resolution that was agreed to unanimously in this Assembly that there would be no further school closures, other than those that were previously announced, in this term of the Assembly.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Bresnan?