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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2259


Senator COLSTON(6.21) —I did not attend Estimates Committee D, which is a departure from my normal practice. On this occasion I was Chairman of Estimates Committee F and, therefore, was not able to attend. I should imagine that I will be back with Estimates Committee D after the Budget-that was the deal, anyway. If I am, I shall follow up at least one and perhaps two questions that were raised on my behalf during the Estimates Committee deliberations.

I asked my colleague Senator Reynolds to put some questions for me. The first question was on a matter of corporal punishment, which some honourable senators will know is a deep concern of mine. It is a practice which I think should be abolished forthwith, but as long as it is abolished in the near future, I would accept that rather than forthwith. I gave the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority some warning that I would ask a question. The answer given probably answered the question I asked, but I thought it was shallow. The Chairman, Senator Reynolds, asked on my behalf:

What does the Authority have to report on the use of corporal punishment in Australian Capital Territory schools since it last reported to the Committee on this subject?

Dr Butterfield replied:

In the year 1984 there were 39 incidents of corporal punishment in primary schools. These incidents were spread over 11 schools. In high schools there were 200 incidents spread over 12 schools.

That was Dr Butterfield's entire answer, which I thought was a little shallow, because it provided only some statistics and did not provide anything about possible policy changes or investigations into the use of corporal punishment and where the Schools Authority was going in this particular area. Dr Butterfield, after having been warned that I was going to ask this question through the Chairman, probably did not have at her fingertips all the figures that she needed, because Senator Zakharov followed up by saying:

Would you be able to tell me, since I do not have last year's figures with me, whether that is an increase or a decrease?

Dr Butterfield said:

I understand it is a decrease. I also do not have last year's figures with me but from memory it is a decrease.

I would have thought that if the Authority had been told that there would be some questions on this particular topic it would have had the figures so that the officer did not have to say: 'From memory it is a decrease'. It is not relevant to my first remarks, but there was some discussion about possible corporal punishment at the School Without Walls. The Minister said:

I do not think there is corporal punishment at the School Without Walls.

Dr Butterfield said:

No, I do not think there is either.

Senator Ryan said:

It would not really fit in with its tenor.

It is my contention and the contention of some of my colleagues that corporal punishment really does not fit in with the tenor of education. I have taken some steps, other than through Estimates committees, to find out more about corporal punishment. If I receive the information I have asked for I will probably raise the matter further in Estimates Committee D when next we meet.

I requested Senator Reynolds to ask a series of questions for me in relation to the theft of a personal computer from the Canberra College of Advanced Education. Again, I had notified officers at the CCAE that there would be some questions about this. I feel, and it is just a feeling, that something was being hidden from the Estimates Committee, or not being explained fully. The equipment was an IBM personal computer with two disk drives and various peripheral attachments. This piece of equipment cost about $4,800. The equipment to replace it cost about $5,000. It is a matter of some concern to the Government, which provides money for equipment like this, to find that an IBM personal computer, costing about $4,800, was stolen. When I said that some things were being kept from the Committee, this is perhaps one instance. The Chairman, on my behalf, asked:

Were the police called to investigate the theft, and what was the result of that investigation?

Mr Eadie said:

I am sure the police were notified. The result of the investigation is that the item of equipment has not been found.

That seems to me to be brushing over the question fairly superficially. I would have expected that the police would have notified the CCAE of more than the fact that the equipment had not been found. I regard the answer as being a little strange, in that he said 'I am sure the police were notified' and then went on to say that the result of the investigation was such and such. I would have thought the obvious answer would have been: 'Yes, the police have been notified'. All I want to say about that is that I do not think the full picture was given to the Estimates Committee. Provided that I am on Estimates Committee D on the next occasion, I may raise the matter in more depth. I just say at this stage that the CCAE officials, when they next appear before the Estimates Committee, should have the full details about this incident.