Tasmanian Education Minister Paula Wriedt has a letter in The Mercury
today “congratulating” the newspaper for “a thoughtful and challenging
editorial on March 16” on educational issues. (Actually, it was
published on 15 March). Her letter follows the release by the
Ministerial Council of Education, Employment, Training and Youth
Affairs which found that Tasmanian students in Year 7 performed
dismally in the benchmark tests of 2004 in reading, writing and
‘rithmetic.

The editorial referred to comments by Australian Education Union state
president Jean Walker and Greens candidate Paul O’Halloran, an
assistant principal in a rural area, that poverty and disadvantage were
behind the state’s poor ratings. The editorial says this can’t absolve
politicians of the hard task of lifting educational standards, but it
underscores the importance of building a strong state economy:
“Tasmania may be experiencing unprecedented prosperity, but this
follows decades during which the state was at the bottom of the
economic league table and the health and education systems suffered
accordingly.”

Wriedt, whose seat is in jeopardy, enthuses: “It is wonderful to
see some real educational analysis, given the simplistic mantras the
Liberals have repeated over and over throughout this election. It is
true that without a vibrant economy you can’t invest in education. We
have invested another $227.5 million into education, a lift of 43.5%.
We have steadily invested in education as the economy has recovered
from the disaster that it was under the Liberal/Greens train wreck of
the nineties. Education outcomes have undeniably improved under Labor.”

Wriedt’s media adviser is Sue Bailey. The Mercury‘s leader
writer is Norm Andrews, who also selects letters for publication. Both
are experienced and respected journalists. But Hobart is a small place
and it so happens that Bailey and Andrews are husband and wife.

Peter Fray

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