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Wednesday, 10 November 1976
Page: 2561

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) (Minister for Construction) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill provides for the payment of grants to the States for government and non-government schools in 1977, the first year of the 1977-79 rolling triennium. The Government issued guidelines for the triennial programs of the education commissions on 20 May of this year providing expenditure in 1977 of $508m, in December 1975 prices, on schools in the States. The Schools Commission's report for the 1977-79 rolling triennium was tabled in the Parliament on 18 August. The Government's decisions on the Commission's recommendations were announced in another place on 4 November.

The Bill provides for programs estimated to cost $459.4m-at December 1975 prices-for the 1977 calendar year, the balance of the $508m, that is, $48.6m, being available under the ongoing States Grants (Schools) Act 1972. This Bill therefore honours the Government's undertakings in relation to the first year of the 1977-79 rolling triennium. The amount represents a 2 per cent growth in real terms over 1976. The grants in this Bill are expressed in June 1976 prices for capital programs, and September 1976 prices for recurrent programs, except for the nongovernment schools general recurrent program which includes an allowance for cost increases during the first half of 1977. Consequently the grants for 1977 actually incorporated in this Bill amount to an estimated $509.5m. The grants will be subject to supplementation by amending legislation for subsequent movement in costs. Supplementary funds for this purpose will be determined by movements in the schools price index after any offsetting savings are taken into account.

The introduction of the rolling triennium will enable, as each year progresses, plans for the remaining 2 years of the triennium to be reviewed and updated and initial proposals to be made for a new third year. This Bill gives effect to the new arrangement for 1977. For years two and three of the 1977-79 triennium, the Schools Commission is to plan on the basis of a minimum growth of 2 per cent per annum over the level of expenditure in year one.

The Government has considered recommendations of the Schools Commission against the background of its own education policies for schools. These include widening educational opportunity and promoting equality; parental choice in schooling; encouragement of community participation in education policy development and implementation; and special assistance to the educationally disadvantaged. We endorse in particular the emphasis the Schools Commission wishes to see given to moves to create two-way communication between schools, parents, employers and the community at large, and encouragement of cooperative planning between government and non-government school authorities.

The Government welcomes moves by school communities and State governments to encourage a more active role for parents, teachers and local communities in school management and decision making. In particular it is the Government's intention that these groups participate with government and non-government school authorities in planning activities under the disadvantaged country areas program.

The Bill gives effect to several new initiatives proposed by the Commission. Principal among these are programs for disadvantaged country areas, to which I have just alluded, emergency aid for non-government schools in temporary financial difficulties, particularly in country areas, and grants for the education of children living in institutions. Funds will also be available for the first time in 1977 for the provision of boarding facilities in non-government schools. The Government has decided to guarantee loans for approved non-government school building projects and to implement a scheme of advance offers of building grants for these schools to enable projects to be commenced sooner than would otherwise be the case. Legislation to authorise the former of these 2 schemes will be introduced in the autumn session, while the latter does not call for legislation.

General Resources Programs

As indicated in the Government's statement tabled in the House on 10 November, we have accepted the Commission's financial recommendations for government schools in broad terms but have modified the recommended distribution between States of capital grants. This modification was made after considering the basis of the recommended distribution and relating this to the existing pattern of grants in 1976. The Government considered that, in the light of 1976 allocations, the recommended total of general recurrent and capital grants for Queensland would make it too difficult for that State to implement its planned programs for 1977. The modified distribution of grants decided on by the Government results in a $1.4m addition in December 1975 prices to Queensland's allocation for general capital grants offset against slight reductions in the allocations for four other States. As is the case in relation to grants for 1976, the Commonwealth is prepared to consult with the States on the question of transfers between the allocations for general recurrent and capital grants within each State. This move is aimed at providing each State with a degree of flexibility in planning the use of grants under these 2 programs.

The Government reaffirms its policy of providing basic per capita grants for all pupils in nongovernment schools while at the same time maintaining higher grants for schools in greater need. It is concerned to encourage parental choice. The Government has accepted the Schools Commission recommendation that the level of grants for non-government schools be linked automatically in future years to per pupil expenditure levels in government schools. The Government has generally accepted the Commission's recommended levels of funding for non-government schools in 1977 but has decided to increase the size of recommended general recurrent grants for the most needy primary schools from $223 to $229 per pupil, in average 1976 price levels. These schools cater for approximately 90 per cent of enrolments in nongovernment primary schools.

The Government has decided not to proceed with the introduction of a 'Supported Schools' scheme for non-governmental schools. The per pupil grants for non-government schools in 1977 are set out in the Bill and include allowance for price increases in the first half of 1977.

Specific Purpose Programs

The Government will be continuing the special purpose programs in 1977, generally at about the same level of activity as in 1976, for migrant and multi-cultural education; for disadvantaged schools; for handicapped children; for educational services and development; and for special projects. The provisions incorporated in the Bill will contribute significantly to maintaining and improving primary and secondary education in both government and non-government schools in the States. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.

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