AusOpinion Reblogged – “Everyone’s an Expert on Education” – Pyne’s Education Revolution of Two Men

This is probably my best blog post, thinking about it. It was certainly the most exhaustive examination of an issue I had undertaken and featured deconstruction based on my own knowledge of education.  It was also my most widely read piece of all on Ausvotes / Ausopinion. Sad thing is that the “findings” of this farrago of a committee still haunts the teaching profession with a whole lot of feelpinions flooding from the out of touch Donnelly to this day.

There’s going to be a bit of talk about Christopher Pyne’s attempt to redirect the shape of the Australian Curriculum and the way it is taught.  There’s also going to be a fair amount of talk about Kevin Donnelly, the next in a line of columnists for The Australian who have provided with a position to help shape the ideological direction of the decisions to be made by this new government, following on from Henry Ergas and Tim Wilson.  On that note, I wonder if we will see Chris Kenny involved in a review of the ABC on some level.

There are also going to be a fair amount of the public who will wonder who Kevin Donnelly is.  The Australian isn’t widely read and in my experience, most teachers outside Victoria have never heard of Mr. Donnelly and his “Education Standards Institute”.  Nor would they know about his employment by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris in order to promote something called “I’ve Got the Power” – an anti-smoking program that had fairly significant inclusions and exclusions.  (edit – there’s more here about the program, with thanks to @abissicus) Something that is left off many biographies for Dr. Donnelly is that he was the Chief of Staff for Kevin Andrews during the Howard Government. It is, for example, omitted from his Punch biography, which incidentally names him as “one of Australia’s leading education commentators” – an unverifiable assertion.  That fact, however, is on his biography on The Drum, which also handily provides a link to all of his views about education and teaching.  There is plenty to chew on there in terms of views contrary to Donnelly’s – such as here and here – and I think there will be a number of teachers who would be preparing fact based, peer reviewed material in rebuttal to Dr. Donnelly’s opinions over the next few weeks.  That is not the focus of this post.  The focus is on the way the announcement was handled. It was fairly telling in terms of how the Minister and the current Government thinks how education is done.

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CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Good morning everyone, and thank you for coming to the circulating library here at the State Library, this beautiful setting.

Today I’m announcing that the Federal Government is appointing Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly to review the National Curriculum.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Government is concerned about the results for our students over a long period of time. For 10 years, whether it’s OECD statements, PISA reports, the NAPLAN data, TIMSS documents, and all the international and domestic studies of our students’ results indicate that we’ve been going backwards for a good decade.

A good decade – so that includes the last few years of the Howard government, I’m assuming. Plus, in regards testing – PISA reports and OECD statements haven’t told us that education results have been going backwards for an entire decade.  Nor do NAPLAN results, which are nowhere near 10 years old.  But anyway…

Students are our first priority for this Government. And therefore, during the election campaign, we talked about four pillars that would form the centrepiece of our approach to school education. It was teacher quality, parental engagement, school autonomy, and the National Curriculum.

Note there are no students mentioned in the four pillars – and it will be interesting to see how they deal with the other three “pillars”.

We said we wanted to have a robust curriculum that was going to serve our students well. And today we are keeping that election promise by addressing that pillar of our approach to school education by announcing a national review of the National Curriculum.

“Robust”. It’s one these deadly buzzwords so beloved of all Governments. Robust in what sense? In being able to be defended?

Of course, the states and territories own and operate all the schools. So we’ll be working very closely with our state and territory ministerial counterparts to ensure that, whatever the national review comes up with, the recommendations of that review are implemented by the states and territories in concert with the Commonwealth.

So this is a cooperative approach to school education. I want to make sure that our students are put first, and I’m sure every state and territory education minister would accept and agree with that priority.

This appears to be a signal to the states that they had better co-operate with this new review of the National Curriculum, plus an acknowledgement of their power in this arrangement, which was more than appeared to have happened with Pyne’s double somersault on the Gonski funding announcement.  Glad to see the Minister is “sure” that everyone will agree – plus will always attempt to use “for the students” as a way of asserting his point of view.

I’m not going to pre-judge the outcome of the National Curriculum. But suffice to say there has been criticism of the National Curriculum over a lengthy period of time.

The criticisms have ranged from it being overcrowded and heavily prescriptive and rigid through to the necessity to have themes that form the National Curriculum at the moment.

If Pyne isn’t “pre-judging the outcome”, why does it need a view – it is clear from this that he is actually pre-judging it.

The current three themes are Australia’s place in Asia, Indigenous Australia and sustainability.

Now there’s some question about whether those themes fit with maths and science for example. So these are some of the things that I am going to ask the national review of the curriculum to look at and I’m sure they will do an excellent job.

Interestingly, it might be very difficult to sell an attack on the first two themes as they are issues the Government has suggested they support in principle – even if our place in Asia seems to be clouded currently with the desire to Stop the Boats.  But let’s meet the reviewers.

Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire are both highly intelligent and well considered very experienced educators—over a long period of time and in broadly similar, but also different fields.

So while Kevin Donnelly has been a teacher for 18 years and since that time become an academic, a researcher a commentator, a writer about education and curriculum. He brings that particular perspective to a review of the National Curriculum.

Ken Wiltshire is a professor at the University of Queensland. He has been a longstanding academic involved in the development of curriculum in Queensland and internationally, and both men will bring a real perspective to this review that I think will make a difference for our students in achieving a better curriculum—a curriculum that is robust and worthwhile and sets up our students for the 21st Century.

Note that the employment of Dr. Donnelly by Kevin Andrews is not mentioned. Nor, obviously, his work for Philip Morris.  Nor is Ken Wiltshire’s partisan beliefs mentioned – for example, he stated in a 2010 Australian column that the independents should have supported the Coalition – using language such as this:

It might also be reasonably conjectured that the citizens of these three country electorates would be further alienated from Labor now that Julia Gillard has entered her Faustian pact with the Greens.

In this interpretation, the Greens must be Mephistopheles.  Hardly a non-partisan commentator.  The problem here is that these two people seem to have been employed not due to any long standing position in education, more as outsiders who have written columns that either support the Liberal Party or believe that education administrators have some kind of “leftist” bias.  And now we have Kevin’s contribution.

So I might ask Kevin to make a few comments and then I’m happy to take any questions.

KEVIN DONNELLY:

Thank you very much Minister. Welcome to all of you here today. It’s a great honour and privilege to be involved in this review.

My background as some of you might know, I was a teacher for 18 years as the Minister has said. I suppose I’m a “curriculum nerd” if you like, I actually wake up in the morning and my wife gets a bit distressed (laughs) I always sort of read the papers and see what’s happening with education.

He reads what newspapers say about education. Note that contemporary research and conferences aren’t mentioned.

While I was a teacher I did postgraduate work in curriculum and I’ve actually been involved in three significant benchmarking projects over the last 20 years or so—one in Victoria when Phil Gude was the Minister, one federally, when Brendan Nelson was the Minister, and also one in New Zealand for the Business Roundtable.

Most teachers do some kind of postgraduate work in curriculum, so nothing remarkable there.  But his involvement in “benchmarking projects” is an interesting phrase that would need some follow up in the future.

And one of the things that fascinates me and I think is critical as the Minister has suggested, is to try and look at those better performing systems—those education systems overseas. Now whether it’s in Europe, most of them are in Asia–Pacific actually, so Singapore, Japan, Korea, but also Finland.

To look at those education systems and to try and learn as much as possible that we can in Australia, at the state and territory level what can be done, to improve, strengthen the curriculum.

So, Dr. Donnelly is about to review how other nations do education, in order to “strengthen” – that very loaded word – in entirely different social, economic and funding contexts. Finland, for example, have a GST of 24%, few private schools, as well as recent PISA results that are not vastly different from Australia’s.  One could extrapolate from that sudden fall for Finland is it less about the success of their system and more about the vagaries of blunt, common tests like PISA – but that’s for another day.  Donnelly might be disappointed when he lands in Helsinki as a part of the review.  Let’s go back.

Now, it will be consultative. I was on the Board of Studies in Victoria for a couple of years. I know the states and territories have ownership, if you like, they employ the teachers, they manage the schools. So it will be consultative. Many of the people who I will be talking to are friends who I’ve known for many years. Australia is quite a small education community in some ways.

“Consultative” – so it appears from this language that this panel will consult with a range of people. This seems to be a signal that he wants some kind of opened doors across Australia – his “couple of years” at the Victorian Board of Studies being enough in order to understand how every education administrator operates.  It’s also telling that he will be “talking to… friends” – that’s possibly a narrow scope for a serious, wide ranging review. You would hope that there would be a few more people consulted than that.

So, as I said I’m very eager to get involved, I’m very happy to be involved, it’s a great privilege, and it’s something that is critically important for young Australians, and for teachers.

I mean, my daughter’s a teacher, my wife was a teacher, I was a teacher. We need to look at a curriculum that is teacher-friendly. We need to look at a curriculum that is world’s-best to use that cliché, and we need to look at what will be, frankly, cost-effective, because a great deal of money goes into education, a great deal of innovation has occurred, and sometimes I wonder what the outcomes are in terms of, has it actually worked or not. So it’s a good time to be doing this, and thank you very much.

This sounds a bit like “Hi, I’m Kevin, I’m from Victoria and I’m happy to help”.  And having relatives as teachers is a help too, it appears.  Not sure that this comment will improve his credibility with many of the educators he has to deal with.  What would have provided more credibility is mention of “research”, “evidence based inquiry” instead of “I know a lot of teachers”.

Then the key phrase comes – “teacher friendly”. Donnelly and those in education circles like him is known to have long criticised the student-centric method of teaching, wanting instead a return to the sage on the stage, “teacher friendly” methods of old. For most, the disengaging, ineffective teaching method of old.  There’s a weight of evidence based research that has shown this.

So, we have gathered from Dr. Donnelly’s answers that it’s going to a wide ranging review, consultative, studying systems of many other nations in an exhaustive manner. However, also “cost effective”.  Sounds like a lot of work for a group of dedicated professionals helping them.  So, let’s look at the Minister’s answers.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Thank you Kevin…any questions?

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] …it won’t produce obviously a curriculum as such can you run us through what happens next up until to the point where we actually get a new curriculum?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well I wouldn’t say we’re going to get a new curriculum.

What we’ve got at the moment is a National Curriculum in English, science, maths and history, and a proposed curriculum in another four or five subjects which have been completed by the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority but hasn’t yet been adopted by all the states and territories as an extension of the National Curriculum.

This process of writing and adopting the National Curriculum in schools started with the adoption of the Melbourne Charter in 2007, onto the creation of ACARA in 2009 and countless hours of teachers writing new programs incorporating the new outcomes, ready for teaching all Year 7 and 9 students in English, Science, Maths and History across Australia in a month from now, Year 8 and 10 students in 2015.  The adoption is well and truly underway.  Five years from the creation of ACARA to implementation.  Next is Pyne’s timeline for change:

But what I’m hoping this review will do is look at all of those subjects, ensure that they are robust and useful and worthwhile, that they’re likely to achieve good results for our students. That will report to me, I’m hoping in May, possibly June, and then we’ll have six months to look at the recommendations of this review, being done by Ken and Kevin, and then I’ll work with the states and territories through the ministerial council process to ask them how they view the recommendations of the review of the curriculum, with a view to implementing changes in 2015.

So yes, I would like to see improvements to the curriculum in 2015. I’d like to see an extension of the National Curriculum into those four, five extra subjects down the track. But each of those new subjects, and the ones we’ve already accepted, need to be as good as possible and I’m hoping that in 2015 we’ll be able to implement changes that this review suggests should the state and territory ministers agree with me that we need to make those changes.

An extraordinary timeline. First of all – the review by Donnelly and Wiltshire is supposed to take 4 months. 4 months to consult educators, administrators and legislators in every state and territory, analyse the education system of other countries. That sounds like they’ll only have time for “talking to a few friends”, rather than broadly consulting.  Next, that the changes recommended will be implemented in 2015.  How Pyne suggests schools will be able to get time for teachers to rewrite programs is not mentioned, nor is how the review from Donnelly and Wiltshire will be converted to outcomes that could be easily integrated.  Programs for 2015 in Years 8 and 10 will start to be written in Term 1 this year – many schools would have already finished them. It’s been one of the largely program rewrites in the past decades of teaching and Pyne wants schools to change the programs within six months?  I would suggest school systems – not just public ones – may have a problem with this.  A point a journalist raises:

JOURNALIST: Is that pretty ambitious given you’ve got to get it past the state and territories [inaudible]…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well I’m very hopeful the states and territories will want to work with us to have the best curriculum possible. And this is a very objective process. We have a national review, it’s for people that are outside the current system, and I think having fresh eyes is always a good approach.

I’ll be very surprised if state and territory ministers didn’t want to work to have the best curriculum possible. And I’m very willing to work with them and I’m sure they’ll be willing to work with me. 2015 is ambitious but we have to put our students first, and it is ambitious to want to have the best curriculum possible for our students but it’s too important to delay, so we don’t want any political bickering over this issue because that will slow down the process of getting the best curriculum possible for our students.

“Ambitious” is one of the the understatement of the week – it’s impossible – especially if it’s to be “national”. Then there’s the word “objective”, which is undermined by the partisan past of the two reviewers. Note that the “put the students first” line is there again, as I would suggest will be at every one of these conferences – even if the entire focus is on curriculum reform, not the actual teaching of the curriculum.

On the issue of “ambitious”, though – a proper review of anything should take a considerable amount of time and undertaken by a range of professionals working with the two chief reviewers. This is how Governments usually work.  A relatively expensive operation.  It is at this point we discover how this ambitious job is to be done.

JOURNALIST: How much is that going to cost and where is that money coming from?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well the review won’t cost very much at all, because there’s just Ken and Kevin. The whole process won’t cost a great deal and that money will be found within the current budget of the Department of Education federally. The Australian Government will pay for the entire process but this won’t run into large amounts of money at all.

Just Ken and Kevin. No-one else.  The absurdity of that idea – that a serious, wide ranging review of a curriculum the size and scope of the National Curriculum can be undertaken in 4 months by two men – is not questioned, not examined by the journalists present. It’s the cost that grips them.

JOURNALIST: So we’re not going to see any cuts…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

No, no, this is administrative support for Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly. That won’t cost very much, that’s within the Department of Education and Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire are being paid according to the remuneration that’s appropriate according to the department, and that is not exactly a king’s ransom, but it’s a little bit of money.

So, not only are the two reviewers it, there will be people within the Department to help them with the review, taking staff away from important work they would be otherwise doing.   However, as we will see, this point is left untested as well – with the money STILL being discussed.  Forget the actual policy implications of Pyne’s answers – that such a crucial thing as the future of the way students will be taught will be decided by two men and a few staff in 4-5 months.  It shows that the room of journalists don’t seem to know all that much about education or education policy – or were unable to research it before going to this press conference. But let’s go on.

JOURNALIST: But as far as any changes that they make, to get to the point where kids are learning what you want them to learn, are we talking about, like, how much money are we talking about there, and where’s that funding coming from?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Should there be changes to the curriculum arising out of this review that will be managed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. They already have a budget, and of course they have an ongoing process, of making sure the curriculum is not a static document, and any costs about changing the curriculum will be met within the current budgets of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

Changes that are made by the states and territories will be met within the states’ and territories’ budgets, if they roll out changes to the National Curriculum, but they each would already have in their budgets for education a line item for the curriculum because they fully expect that there will be new subjects coming on stream on a regular basis over the coming years.

On the issue of budgets – the changing of the curriculum is to be undertaken by ACARA – a body whose budget was reduced by $20 million in the MYEFO statement.  In addition, it appears that Pyne expects the states to stump up implementation costs – again, an interesting assumption. These points, about ACARA’s budget cut and the state implementation cost, is now left for others to ponder as the conference goes to the ideology of the panellists.

JOURNALIST: Minister. I’d like to ask you about the appointment of Kevin and the decision behind that. It’s no secret that Mr Donnelly’s opinions and critiques of the education system, things like Australia party Anglo sphere, equal funding for Catholic and independent schools, class envy, the cultural left likes to bang on about equity in education socialist utopia, the bible deserves a place etc. Are you getting people to objectively review the system or just tell you what you want to hear?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I’m getting people to objectively review the National Curriculum to ensure that it is robust, and to ensure that it puts students’ results first, that the priority is on outcomes and everyone in education, well everyone has been to school, everyone is an expert on education in one way or another, almost 40 per cent of many of the populations in capital cities have been to school, have been to universities, and they’re also experts on university education.

Everyone is an expert on education in one way or another.  Pyne is redefining the word “expert”. Under this definition the businessman, the politician, the journalist, is an expert in education because they went to school.  If we are to apply this new definition to other fields, that means that anyone who has been to a hospital in an expert on health care, anyone who has had interaction with the police and the law is an expert on the law, anyone who experiences climate is an expert on climate change.  I suspect many educators may feel very insulted that their expertise and experience in education has the same worth and “expert” status as anyone who has been in their classrooms.  That all students understand exactly how classes of 20 – 30 students are all taught with an approach that is concurrently collaborative and individualised.  This statement shows scant respect for teachers – hardly “teacher friendly”.

In addition, Pyne ignores the question as to Donnelly’s past comments and actions and asserts that it’s an “objective” review.  That appears part of a pattern for the Government – just ignore a question and hope a journalist will drop it.  Which they did.  But onwards with Pyne –

So, it’s not possible to appoint anybody to review the National Curriculum who doesn’t have a view on education. The important point is to appoint people who are going to bring an intelligent, considered approach to the review. And both Kevin and Ken have a long history, and experience in education. Not everyone will agree with my views about education, or anybody that I would have appointed. I am very confident that Ken and Kevin will bring a considered approach.

Yes, people have a view on education. Listen to or read any of the “Your Say” sections of newspapers or radio shows (I’ve started to call them “Yoru Say” in honour of the Cricket Australia Twitter account, which has such a fondness to ask for Your Say – that they sometimes mistype it as “Yoru Say”). They have views on education. It doesn’t mean that they are informed by research, contemporary practice or contextual understanding of results.  As for the “intelligent, considered” approach – it’s hard to see that a four – five month review by two partisan reviews will produce anything but a set of prejudices supported by cherry picked evidence. And speaking of that…

One of the criticisms of course, of the curriculum, has been that it has not sold or talked about the benefits of western civilisation in our society so I would be surprised if there weren’t people who disagreed with the need to have the benefits of western civilisation as part of our curriculum. I’m sure they will criticise people who share the other view.

But we’re part of a robust democracy. I’m quite prepared to have people put their opinions one way or the other about this review. But I’m very confident that its outcome will be objective and fair.

Western Civilisation IS on the National Curriculum, especially in history, which appears to be the chief concern of Pyne. It’s all over it (note, I have set the filters on Years 7 – 10 – these can be changed). Let’s go onto the real concern for Pyne in all this – the way history is taught.

JOURNALIST: Is it your opinion that the curriculum is currently too left leaning?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I don’t think it’s worthwhile getting into the particular views about whether the curriculum is one kind of curriculum or another. What I want the curriculum to be is a robust and worthwhile document that embraces knowledge and doesn’t try and be all things to all people, that isn’t too rigid, that doesn’t try and be prescriptive about every aspect of maths, science, history and English.

I also want the curriculum to celebrate Australia, and for students, when they have finished school, to know where we’ve come from as a nation. Because unless we know why we are the kind of nation we are today, we can’t possibly know where we want to go in the future.

There are two aspects to Australia’s history that are paramount. The first, of course, is our Indigenous history, because for thousands of years Indigenous Australians have lived on this continent. The second aspect of our history is our beginnings as a colony and, therefore, our Western civilisation, which is why we are the kind of country we are today.

It’s very important the curriculum is balanced in its approach to that. It’s very important the truth be told in our history. So, yes, the truth of the way we’ve treated Indigenous Australians should be told in our curriculum. But also the truth about the benefits of Western civilisation should be taught in our curriculum. And I think that there is some fair criticism that the curriculum is balanced one way rather than the other.

The National Curriculum already largely does this.  What Pyne seemingly wants is that the word “happy” is put into the syllabus. That we people are taught the “benefits” of Western Civilisation – and then students will leave every history class, thinking of the greatness of the Menzies era and singing this:

But it’s hard to see where the curriculum documents actually say that Western Civilisation has been a disaster – rather, it outlines that there are facts of our history and they have made our nation what it is today.  The document also shows that we study the civilisation of other nations, which is a crucial part of what we should be doing. Otherwise, we would start resembling the United States, with their narrow focus on their own history.  But back to the interview, where the next question is a good one.

JOURNALIST: You’ve said that you want to take politics out of the curriculum. But just going on from a previous question do you think you could have appointed people to take part in this review that come from more varied sides of things and opinions if you’re looking to take politics out of education?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well I don’t believe you gain a great deal by appointing a committee, which will often come up with, if it’s a large committee, will tend to be harder to manage and come up with a report that tries to please everyone.

That isn’t the objective of this review. The objective of this review is to turn out a robust curriculum, a good curriculum that improves the results of our students. It’s not a political exercise so everybody ends up having a piece of the curriculum.

That’s not the purpose of the curriculum. Therefore, I’m quite unabashed that I’ve appointed people that I think would do a good job at creating a robust curriculum. I haven’t appointed a committee that tries to please everybody and therefore does not produce a robust result.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that here a “Robust result” actually refers to the one you want by appointing people who support your ideology.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you gave the Gillard Government’s changes enough time to take effect?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well the Gillard Government hasn’t made any changes to the National Curriculum. The Howard Government initiated the National Curriculum. Then the Gillard Government and Rudd Government got elected and they implemented the National Curriculum that the Howard Government had begun.

If Gillard and Rudd made no changes, then why review it?  Is Pyne here is saying that the current documents weren’t changed by the Labor Government, is he saying that the fault that needs to be corrected made by the  teachers, academics and administrators who worked on it?  A startling accusation. This is where Pyne is attempting vainly to walk away from the idea of this being a Liberal Party partisan activity.

That started in 2010. There have been no changes to the National Curriculum since it started being introduced into schools and I think it’s timely to review it.

I don’t think the National Curriculum is a static document. I think it should always be being tested and questioned and argued about because that is the nature of education and a good curriculum. Maths is often changing. Science is changing. The way we view history and English changes, the emphasis changes on what we think students might need.

So, the document should always be a living, exciting document. So it’s because the National Curriculum was introduced by a particular Government doesn’t mean it then stays that way forever. It is not a political document. It should be a document that is designed to bring about the best outcomes for our students.

Again, to be achieved in 4 – 5 months. If this wasn’t a partisan document, why such a rush?

JOURNALIST: How do you think teachers will respond to this review? Do you think that they will be welcoming of it? Are they unhappy with the way things currently are?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I think teachers like certainty. And I think that they have embraced the National Curriculum. In many states and territories, the National Curriculum is better than the offerings that were in place before. And I think that a lot of the teachers have invested their own personal time and money into embracing these, for subjects and doing them well, and I welcome that. And I think that they will also welcome improvements to it to make it a better curriculum.

We’re not suggesting that the curriculum be thrown out and started again. So teachers won’t have to re-learn a whole new way of teaching, or a whole new curriculum. We’re talking about improving a good document. And I think teachers will embrace that.

Yes, a lot of teachers HAVE invested a lot of personal time and money into creating material for the National Curriculum implementation.  As for the “teachers like certainty” line, by announcing this change near the start of the school year, Pyne has introduced the opposite of certainty. Instead of confidently implementing the curriculum and writing new programs for 2015, teachers and school systems will be waiting to see what the expert panel of two have to say about it and what changes need to be made.

Despite the fact there are so many good questions to be asked, so much left unanswered, the gathered journalists showed their lack of interest in education policy and asked the usual dreck about ephemeral issues that they consider exciting and sexy.

JOURNALIST: Speaking about education, do you believe that the Australian public deserves to be better educated about border security?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

(Laughs) I’ll leave answers to questions about Operation Sovereign Borders to the Minister for Immigration, and Tony Abbott.

JOURNALIST: And what about Cory Bernardi’s comments, do you agree with what’s been said in the media, from him?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well, Senator Bernardi’s entitled to his own opinions, and to be able to write about his views. And similarly I think he’s probably best to respond to questions about his own opinions.

JOURNALIST: But does he represent the Liberal Party?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well, the great thing about the Liberal Party is that we are a very broad church. It’s a hackneyed term, but it’s true. We don’t take a Stalinist approach to the views of our members. We represent the whole cross section, the broad spectrum of Australian thinking.

In many respects, the Liberal Party is the only true national party, because we don’t represent a section or interest. That’s been our history since 1944. So you would expect there to be a broad spectrum of views in the Liberal Party. Cory represents his view, and I represent my own, and I don’t seek to try and lecture anybody in the Liberal Party that they should change their views.

JOURNALIST: Do you share any of his views?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

On some things, I’m sure I do. Yes.

JOURNALIST: And what are those?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

(Laughs) Look, today is about a positive announcement about the National Curriculum, I’m not going to let it be railroaded by a minor debate about something that is many days old.

And that’s the end. There would be some that would point out that the gathered journalists were not of the Canberra Press Gallery, but were instead from Adelaide, where the announcement was made. What is fairly astonishing, though, is that the journalists gathered didn’t do a bit more research about education policy before the interview, instead asking questions about “how much will it cost” and “what do you think of Cory Bernardi”. Maybe not so astonishing.  But then again, I am no expert on journalism, despite Pyne’s new definition of the term “expert”.

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