Julie Bishop is one of the brighter hopefuls in the ever-depleting talent pool of the federal Liberal Party. Alternatively, she has been pushed to the forefront by the Howard Government as the Anti-Gillard. Certainly she is one of the few female members of cabinet the JWH era who is neither (a) in the mould of Jeanette Howard, or (b) Amanda Vanstone. (Or indeed c, the unrelated Bronwyn Bishop).
Either way, the former barrister and Harvard Business School graduate, and now Minister for Education, Science and Training is not someone who could be described as a mindless ideologue. Usually.
This week, she made the call for a national education curriculum, complaining that the eight states and territories are doing their own thing (as, constitutionally, they are proscribed to do with education) and thus coming up with different curricula. Or is she saying that they are wasting resources by duplicating curricula?
The real clue to what she was on about came when an advance copy of a speech she was delivering on Friday was forwarded to the press. Some of the themes emerging from the states' curricula, according to Bishop, "are straight from Chairman Mao".
We're creating a nation of little Maoists! Now that's not an Australian Value, surely!
Now I've argued in the past that John Howard is a closet fan of Mao Tse-Tung. How else can we explain the fact that the Chairman Mao reference was deleted from the final version of her speech, as delivered to the History Teachers Association of Australia conference yesterday?
It was obviously time to fight no battle that Bishop was not sure of winning. Especially when she is leading the charge in Howard's Cultural Revolution - one that will surely end the same way as Mao's.
Today's editorial in "The Age" asks a pertinent question:
The Government has been in power for a decade, during which time it has made no significant investment in improving school resources but has expended much energy on denigrating the teaching profession. If there is any substance in her claims, how has the situation in schools been allowed to deteriorate so far?