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Tuesday, 30 November 1976
Page: 3000

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Mr Deputy Speaker,I had no intention of rising to speak in this debate this evening. I came in to try to be informed by the debate in this House but I am sadly disappointed with the speech of the honourable member for Eden- Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) who has just spoken. It seems to me that he has the idea that in the education system in this country people blindly and meekly accept those things which are put to them. As was stated by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) this thinking is in line with Liberal Party philosophy. If you do not agree with the philosophy of that Party, you receive a brand and all sorts of names are hung upon you. If that does not work, the eminent President of that Party writes letters to the Press and to a Prime Minister urging that the Press be brought into line.

I always thought, in my own limited way, that the purpose of education was to make people question those things which are about them and not to accept blindly things that are put to them. When they do that, when they raise questions about what is happening around them and do not blindly accept what is happening, members like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro stand up in this House and say that there is something wrong with the education system. If there is anything wrong with the education system, it is that not enough emphasis is given to the questioning of things that go on around people. There is not enough encouragement given to people to question things that are happening, to question the motives of those who are doing those things and to question what is happening all around us all the time. The honourable member spoke about the amount of money spent on education and claimed it was being wasted. I put it to him that a far greater amount of money is spent on the education of a pupil in the private schools such as Geelong Grammar and Melbourne Grammar than there is on any workers' child who has to attend a school that is run by the State. Is the honourable member saying that, because that large amount of money is spent per pupil in those schools, they turn out dunderheads?

Mr Antony Whitlam (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They do over there.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is a product of one of those schools and I might have to eat my words. However, it seems to me that by and large he would support that sort of system. I, in turn, support the system where every child in this country, irrespective of the station in life of his parents and the depth of his parents' pockets, has the right to a proper education. The teachers in this country should not be regimented by people such as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and those who support his attitude to prevent their students from becoming involved in demonstrations. I remind the honourable member that if it had not been for demonstrations around this world in the decade that led up to 1970, the world would still be involved in the holocaust that was Vietnam. It was the people coming onto the streets in the United States of America, in Britain and other countries around the world and questioning the right of those who had been elected to government to take decisions and the morality of those decisions that forced governments as powerful as the Government of the United States to withdraw its troops from Vietnam.

If this sort of result is to be brought about by demonstrations, then I support demonstrations wholeheartedly. School students ought to be taught to demonstrate against things that they consider to be immoral, unjust and improper. To suggest to this House and to the people of this country that teachers ought to say to children: You have no right to question these things; as your teacher my word is law' is to place a teacher in the position of a person who rules a totalitarian country.

Mr Sainsbury - I did not say that.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I did not suggest that the honourable member said this but if he wants to take the bait, it is entirely up to him. All that I said was that it was improper to suggest these things. If that bothers his conscience, let him take the bait. I want to dissociate myself and I am sure all of my colleagues and comrades who sit with me on this side of the House -

Mr Sullivan - Hiscomrades!

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I remind the honourable member for Riverina that next time he attends the Returned Services League he will find somebody there who will call him a comrade. I want to dissociate myself and my colleagues from the remarks made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I do not believe that what he has put to the House tonight is the proper situation of education in this country.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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