Page 5855 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 7 December 2011

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And Dr Bourke’s performance as a minister on day one in this place has been extremely disappointing. He has been uninspiring, has been unministerial and has been unimpressive. In fact, you would think that Mr Barr was still the minister, the way he was talking earlier. What happened earlier, and some people may not have noticed, was that Dr Bourke left the chamber and Mr Barr suddenly went into full flight as if he was the education minister. He contributed far more substance to the debate than did the actual minister. Of course, I disagree with much of what he said but the fact is that Mr Barr contributed far more to the debate.

If Dr Bourke is serious, if Dr Bourke is really interested in taking on this portfolio head-on, you would think he would have a little more passion, a little more interest, than what he has demonstrated today. Instead, one of his first actions as a minister is going to halve the support that 5,000 students in the ACT so desperately need. It is not just support directly to the students; it is indirect support through the teachers. He is letting down all the teachers that support those 5,000 students.

What is he telegraphing to these students? What is he telegraphing to the parents, to the family, to the friends, of these students? He is saying: “You are not worth it. You are not worth two ESL executive officers.” When it comes down to it, that is what Dr Bourke is saying. And it is very important that we get to the heart of that issue, so much so that you have got to ask the question: what does this show? When you have the Australian Education Union, members in this place and the Association of Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages all coming out and saying that this is a bad move, it shows how stubborn this government is. It shows how stubborn this new minister is.

The thing about this minister is that he is taking on the culture and he is accepting the practices of a very tired government, a very tired cabinet. Who is his mentor? Perhaps it is the woman next to him, Minister Burch, who was there in question time giving him a few tips on how to answer. What was that great answer? The same one that got Ms Burch into so much strife: “I will take it on notice.” Dr Bourke, if you had paid much attention when Ms Burch was a minister in her early days, you would know that did not fare well for her then and I doubt it is going to fare well for you either. You have got an opportunity here to show some leadership and to actually have some courage.

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Mr Hargreaves): Mr Coe, through the chair, please.

MR COE: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. I think you too would agree that Dr Bourke has an opportunity to actually show some courage and to show some commitment to the 4,900 students that desperately need the support that English as a second language can provide. In doing so, he would be supporting the teachers who administer this support. Take the words of Marina Houston, who represents the Association of Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages:

We are particularly concerned that removing the second ESL officer position will jeopardise the insurance of most effective support provision of ESL in schools as well as an ongoing ESL teacher development.

Let us go to the AEU:

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