Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview with Virginia Trioli - ABC Radio Melbourne

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: Concerns about the draft national curriculum and Tim Smith’s future in politics.

 

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, let’s turn to the education issue, and the Minister for Education federally, Alan Tudge, has stated that he wants standards in the school history curriculum to be lifted. And there's some acknowledgement, at least here in the state of Victoria, that yes, no doubt, key aspects of the curriculum need to be updated, and a big focus on phonics in the early years and key maths processes as well. But the conversation has since veered into complaints that the forthcoming National Curriculum update will reinforce, he fears, an already too negative view of Australian history that's taught in schools. Dare I say it, the old black armband view again? Not the culture wars again. Alan Tudge is the Federal Minister for Education and Youth and the Member for Aston. Alan Tudge, always good to talk. Good morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

G’day, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Now, look, you’re half John Howard's age. You're not going to bring in all this stuff back again, are you?

ALAN TUDGE:

I'm a little bit older than half John Howard’s age, Virginia. At the end of the day, this is actually about our kids’ future and what education they get. And we are reviewing the national curriculum as we speak, that's being done by an independent authority. And what I want to see is standards lifted. I want to see good evidence-based practices taught, and I want to see a positive but honest view of Australian history imparted on to our children. And I don't think those are unreasonable requests.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Which parts of the curriculum bother you?

ALAN TUDGE:

I was particularly concerned in the draft revised National Curriculum, that standards in some places had decreased rather than increased. Now, we've had a drop in standards across Australia over the last 20 years, both relative to other countries and in absolute terms ourselves. So, we need to lift our standards back up again. And in the draft revised curriculum, things such as the times tables was being pushed back to Year 4 rather than being taught in Year 3 where it is presently, and in other countries like Singapore, it actually is taught in Year 2. And there's about 20 examples like that just in maths alone. My main problem is on standards. But I equally have a problem in relation to the way that Australia's history is presented in the draft, because it has a very negative view about Australia's modern history, which I don't think is an accurate reflection of who we are.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Do you have a problem with First Nations history being taught and consent education?

ALAN TUDGE:

Absolutely not. Of course, we should be teaching about our ancient Indigenous history. That's a core part of what Australia is. That is very adequately covered in the draft revised curriculum. I haven't had anybody say to me that's inadequately covered and it's weaved throughout the curriculum, actually. And equally in relation to the teaching of consent. I think that's equally important to be taught in schools, and that is going to be taught in the revised curriculum.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

So, what's your positive view of Australian history that you'd rather see? Can you describe that for us?

ALAN TUDGE:

It's a reflection that Australia today is one of the most wealthy, freest, most egalitarian, and most tolerant societies that has ever existed anywhere in the history of the world, and that there is a reason that we are that today. It's because of the tremendous institutions which we inherited, the sacrifices and commitments of generations in the past, and the values which we have embedded into Australian society today. I want Australian children to deeply understand that, and particularly the origins and value of our modern liberal democracy, so that they will be great defenders of it just as previous generations have been.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

But Alan Tudge, its history. It's not an Australian tourism ad.

ALAN TUDGE:

What's your point?

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, what you're talking about there is actually some sort of speech that someone might give when they were trying to entice people to come and live here or work here and tour here. Its history. It's actually supposed to be the good and the bad, and an unflinching look at what's been achieved ...

ALAN TUDGE:

Of course.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

... and what's been failed along the way. So, it can't be positive spin.

ALAN TUDGE:

Of course.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

But what you’re talking is spin.

ALAN TUDGE:

It has to be accurate. But I can tell you the draft, for example, it barely mentions, other than in reference to say the power of the church, the influence of Christianity on the origins of our modern country. Whereas Geoffrey Blainey, one of our great historians, said it was actually the most important influence on the development of modern Australia. That's just one example.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

So, it's missing a focus on Christianity?

ALAN TUDGE:

It’s missing information, for example, I mean, Australia was the first place in the world where women got the right to vote, first in South Australia, and then across the country after New Zealand.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

And it doesn't mention that?

ALAN TUDGE:

It mentions that only as part of the optional teaching, whereas I would have thought that would be something we'd have immense pride in. That's just one element in terms of the development of our democracy. Now, there's also parts that are very negative parts of our history, which kids should absolutely learn, and the treatment of Indigenous people being paramount amongst that. Overall, we should be proud of Australia. There’s a reason that millions of people want to come here, Virginia. There's a reason for that. And I can tell you, I've never been to, for example a multicultural event where people haven't cheered when you say that we live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and that's exactly why they've come here.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, clearly, if millions want to come here, then they've got that positive impression of Australia already. But I wanted to ask you, do you feel emboldened in this argument, because I've got the state government response here, and they're saying that, while there's no doubt that important areas of the curriculum need to be reviewed, like phonics in the early years and key maths processes, they're standing by, the way they've described and designed the curriculum, with First Nations history and consent education, and they don't want to incite more culture wars. I'm just wondering, Alan Tudge, if you feel a bit emboldened at the moment in this discussion by the Republican win in Virginia in the US, which is being seen by some as a victory against progressive education. Does that feed into your thinking?

ALAN TUDGE:

And I've been talking about this for months, Virginia. As you know, I gave a very important speech to the Centre for Independent Studies a couple of weeks ago, where I was most forward leading in relation to this issue, well before the Virginian election. And this is something important for our country, and I tell you, I've been speaking very strongly about standards being lifted. I've been speaking very strongly about phonics being embedded. Because in the draft national curriculum, there was another area that was omitted, which it wasn't incorporated. Now, I've been told that in the revisions that has been much more incorporated once again, so that kids can properly learn to read in the early years. I'm not going to take a backward step on this, because this is critically important for Australia's future. We need to lift standards because, believe it or not, today a 15-year-old is about a year behind in their learning standards from a 15-year-old 20 years ago.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Let me just ask you a quick couple of questions about another issue before I let you go, Alan Tudge. Have you been advocating for Tim Smith to stay in his seat of Kew?

ALAN TUDGE:

I haven't spoken to Tim now for a few days, but he made a dreadful mistake and…

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Have you spoken to anybody else was my question? Have you been advocating for Tim Smith to stay with either him or anyone else?

ALAN TUDGE:

I have spoken to Tim and said that he needs to really consider his position because of the mistake that he has made and because of what Matthew Guy, the Leader of the Opposition, has stated. He needs to reflect on that and make up his own mind over the next few weeks.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

And what have you said to Matthew Guy?

ALAN TUDGE:

I haven't spoken directly to Matthew Guy.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

And what have you said to anyone in the Liberal Party about whether you'd like to see Tim Smith stay or not?

ALAN TUDGE:

Virginia, I've given you some very straight answers to…

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Not really.

ALAN TUDGE:

…in relation to conversations which I wouldn't ordinarily share with you and the broader public. I mean, I have conversations with my colleagues every single day about all number of policy matters and political matters. And those conversations I tend to keep private.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, let me just ask you this finally. Would you like, to see Tim Smith renominate?

ALAN TUDGE:

I am disappointed in what has occurred, primarily because of the mistake which Tim Smith made, and he acknowledges that mistake. And I think that he is a talented individual. He's got a very bright future for himself. And I hope that he's getting support at the moment. He needs to make up his mind over the next couple of weeks about what his future is.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Okay. I don't know how to interpret that, to be honest with you, Alan Tudge, whether you want to see him in politics or not. Would you like to clarify?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, Virginia, I'm a Federal Minister. Tim is a State Member of Parliament.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, he might want to head up federally, you know. Would you like him up there?

ALAN TUDGE:

His leader has made some strong comments and they need to be listened to very carefully and it’s really up to Tim now, for the electors, the Liberal Party members in the seat of Kew, to determine his future. And then, of course, the administrative Committee of the Liberal Party here in Victoria.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Okay. Thanks so much for your time, Alan Tudge.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Virginia.