Wednesday 13 October 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council
EDUCATION AND TRAINING (TASMANIAN ACADEMY)
AMENDMENT BILL 2010 (No. 39)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, the abandoned reforms
were not all bad but they were badly understood, resented
by some and resisted by some, particularly teaching staff.
I suppose that is stating the obvious. I believe this happened
because the changes were rushed. I remember that was expressed
during our briefings and during our consideration of Tasmania
Tomorrow. In fact, does my memory serve me correctly, did
some members vote against the Tasmania Tomorrow reforms?
Mr Dean - Maybe spoke harshly about it, I don't know.
Mr FINCH - Yes, maybe spoke harshly but we must have generally
been in agreement.
Mr Wilkinson - I think the previous member for Elwick had
a lot of concerns about it.
Mr FINCH - About the way it was coming through and that it
was being rushed. We had that complaint about a lot of bills
of course but we did feel that there was insufficient consultation
and insufficient public education about the process. However,
because of assurances that we had been given by the Government,
we were prepared to support the changes. We were involved
in a lot of briefings and were given access to a lot of information
which perhaps the general public did not have access to. We
felt assured that we were making the right decision when we
agreed to the Tasmania Tomorrow reforms.
Ms Thorp - You did.
Mr FINCH - Yes. Blame us. But, Madam President, it has been
clear for years that something has to be done with the structure
of secondary education to help that transition into employment,
particularly for young male students. I might have expressed
that in my second reading speech at that time. They tend to
disengage from the system. They disengage, they resist training,
they end up in the unskilled job scrap heap. However, as the
member for Rumney and our minister pointed out in her second
reading speech, there were early indications that changes
were starting to have a positive impact on retention and completion
rates and the number of students who were doing vocational
education and training. As you have been through in your second
The minister did acknowledge that there had been some issues
with the introduction of the reforms including issues of identity,
collaboration and implementation. She did acknowledge that
to gain community and staff confidence in the system there
needs to be greater identity given at the local level.
In our briefing we did focus on that particular local level
of operation. I am all for the operation at the local level
but my concern, and it may come through in our Committee stage
as we start to question the process here, my concern is that
this bill could lead to greater centralisation. We did touch
upon that to a certain extent when we were questioning during
the briefing but we might explore that a little bit more.
What we do not want to end up with is the Department of Education
extending the bureaucracy and the centralisation of education.
I think that is something that we do need to avoid.
Will the college association still have the same say? I know
that in the briefings the secretary did allay our fears to
a certain extent, that nothing has changed in these bills
in respect of the college associations being able to have
their voice heard through the system to the secretary. I hope
that is the case. Some feedback that I have had is that there
are some elements of concern that this may not be case. The
more local that it has become, the more the school association
has to concentrate on their local issues. That is where they
will stay. There is a bit of a feeling about that so let us
hope that it will be as the secretary did assure us, that
there will be that conduit through to the secretary who is
going to take responsibility as it does mention in the other
statutes that she is the person responsible.
Mr Wing - It does not seem to be actually expressed anywhere.
Mr FINCH - But I think that it is there in the parameters
under which she does function, that she does have the responsibility
for the operations at the college level. As I say, I got a
sense of her acceptance of that responsibility. One of the
reservations that we did hear about from the member for Windermere
was the redistribution of funding from the proposed academy
to college campuses at the instigation of the executive officer.
That is something that may be explored even more in our Committee
stage, those funds that are raised from the hiring out of
the college situation. There was a concern that that money
would go into a pool and not be used locally.
Ms Thorp - Through you, Madam President, if I may - I will
reiterate in the Committee stage that that is not the case.
It is an unfounded fear. Fees raised by any individual college
stay in that college.
Mr Wing - Through you, Madam President - they have to be paid
to the secretary.
Madam PRESIDENT - I might advise that in a second reading
debate you speak and the minister has the right to close.
At that stage it might be the best time.
Mr FINCH - Thanks, Madam President. I am happy to accept that
acknowledgment by the minister that she will address that
at the closing. That may allay some fears that we have heard
Let us go back to the original argument about education. There
is a short quote that I thought might be of interest from
Anatole Kaletsky, who is a British economist and author. He
'The education of children raises many questions, perhaps
more than any other human activity, and no one can claim to
have answers to them all.'
I am sure we are not getting all the answers here but as we
try to find more answers, more questions will arise.
I did speak earlier of the disengagement of some young people
with education and training making them turn off and ending
up trying to enter the workplace with few skills and that,
in this day and age particularly, has to be avoided. I do
not want to digress too far back to my own educational upbringing
Mr Wing - It's been entertaining so far.
Mr FINCH - I, for one, did enter the workforce with few skills,
let me tell you. Once my principal - a wonderful educator,
C. Dwight Brown, from the Hobart High School - decided that
we needed to part ways. He said that Hobart High School was
not big enough for the two of us, one of us had to go and
he liked it there.
Mr FINCH - I did enter the workforce at a very young age but
that was back at a time when in fact given that challenge
at 15 years of age I simply went down to the CES and at the
counter was offered a choice of three jobs. They were the
good old days - three jobs.
Mr Gaffney - That was the last century, though, wasn't it.
Mr FINCH - I did set myself up for that. But the point was:
here was Newton James, offsider on a furniture van, Cripps
Bakery or a control operator at radio station 7HT and I remember
saying that I would take the job at the radio station until
something better came up. They were my words. I was not being
cheeky, that was just my acceptance of the way the circumstances
Mr Wing - And that something better happened to be Parliament.
Mr FINCH - Then of course I happened on a career that has
served me very well and beaten my pathway here to Parliament,
but they were the good old days. It is not the same landscape
now. If you enter the workforce with few skills as a young
man or a young woman, you are really behind the eight ball
and you have to really have a lot of good natural intelligence
and commonsense to survive that setback in your start. It
is important and I agree with the Government and what the
minister is trying to achieve here.
The failed restructuring of Tasmanian education was partly
directed at solving this problem but where does the problem
start? As we agreed, Minister, well before year 10 there are
many non-school factors behind Tasmania's poor retention rates.
To name a few: gender, family wealth, community health, employment,
regional locality, regional economy, the youth labour market,
community involvement, parental attitudes to education, school
resourcing and the list can just go on.
If I could just pick out parental attitudes to education,
I would say that that is a primary factor. There is an argument
that disengagement with education starts in primary schools.
If primary school students do not leave with a positive attitude
to education and to school, they are unlikely to pick one
up in a secondary school and they will remain turned off from
learning. I know it is all too easy to blame parents but parents
are indeed a major factor in engendering a respect for education
in their children. It is so important for them to be positive
and encouraging to young children about that and some have
a laissez-faire attitude in respect of that encouragement.
Without wishing to digress too far again, let us look at the
high academic record of the children of refugees from, say,
Vietnam and China. Their parents were convinced that education
was the key to success in a new country and of course they
still are. That is the reason for their high success rate
and their application to education that sees them go a long
Mr Wing - Similarly with international students.
Mr FINCH - Yes, and that is a grab bag really of those people
who come and recognise the importance of it. It is a bit like
us in respect of our scenery in Tasmania; we just take it
all for granted. We have to stand alongside somebody who comes
to visit us from the mainland or from overseas and then they
are just gobsmacked by what they see in Tasmania, whereas
for us it is there and we just accept that it is there and
we roll with it.
Madam President, I suggest that we Tasmanians and parents
have become complacent and that complacency is a big factor
in our poor retention rates and the low standard of education
and training. Let us look at factors like these as well as
restructuring secondary education, which is not a panacea
if the other factors I have mentioned are not addressed as
well. It is a big issue, a bigger problem. In the meantime,
Madam President -
Ms Thorp - A challenge.
Mr FINCH - A challenge, thank you. Let us get our words right
and let us get this bill through the process.
Mr Wilkinson - So we are not mentally challenged.
Mr FINCH - Well, some are, as you can tell. We need to make
sure that there is some certainty for the coming new school
year and I think that may have even been the imperative that
we felt with the first Tasmania Tomorrow process.
I think we felt the imperative of needing to get the changes
in place so that there was that certainty for students - and
this reminds me about the other point I raised during our
briefing: sure, the bottom line is students and their outcomes
but we must through that consider the staff - the teachers
and the administrators who need to put these processes in
I realise some see it as a golden opportunity and wonderful
and they are progressing with it and they want to move on
to this new age, this new era, and we have heard that reflected
with the minister telling us about the union people and the
people she has engaged with through a heavy consultation process
that she does get generally that positive feedback. But we
need to be mindful of other people out there who are not as
engaged as you would like them to be. They do feel the uncertainty,
they do feel the fact that nothing is settled, it is not how
it used to be where they knew what their agenda was - the
programs they were teaching and where they were placed in
the system. Now it is as if all the balls have been thrown
up in the air and when they land, what is the new landscape
going to look like for them? I am cognisant of and I am concerned
about that uncertainty that some people have. Sure, there
might be some people who will always be uncertain, who will
always not be able to be catered for in any system. Okay,
let us hope that that is a minority of people and they can
move on successfully.
However, I want to just put on record that my concern is about
teachers and the spirit that they have moving forward - their
positivity - and that they are strongly considered in these
reforms so that they can enjoy their work. If they are enjoying
their work, surely the kids are going to benefit from that.
The kids, the students, are going to have better outcomes
and better involvement with the education system if their
teachers are more involved and enjoying their work.
In closing, Madam President, I would like to recognise the
dedication of the Minister for Education to the wellbeing
of our young people and working hard through this process
to resurrect, I would say, the spirit in which these reforms
were intended and seeing her way through the problems that
have arisen in people's minds and finding a new way forward.
I am of a mind to support these bills for that certainty.
It is needed for the next school year and I look forward to
the committee process