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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2508


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) Senator Rae has moved an amendment to this Bill which is designed to afford pupils at nongovernment schools Government grants according to policies which were established by this Parliament before 1972. The Government has made great play of the amount which it is appropriating for education. The Treasurer (Mr Crean), in his Budget Speech, said that the appropriation for education was being increased by $404m and that the increase for tertiary education, universities and advanced colleges of education will entail an additional outlay of $179m. If one subtracts $179m from $404m one gets the true increment which the Government is appropriating for schools. It follows, from the figures in the Budget Speech, that the previous Government's appropriation for education was $43 9m. It is history now that that figure had grown, in the period of Liberal-Country Party government, from almost zero to $439m during a period of 15 years when the States had multiplied their appropriations by 2.5. So this increment of which the Government is so boastful at present, representing about $200m to $230m for schools, has to be put in that perspective.

The first advance made by way of Federal assistance for education was when the Menzies Government, through the Murray Committee, gave direct assistance to universities, and then advanced that assistance to schools. A great reform was achieved after a few years of the application of that policy when the Federal Government recognised the need for assistance not only for government schools but for nongovernment schools. For the first 10 years after that policy was enunciated the Australian Labor Party bitterly and with bigotry, because of its hatred of the Democratic Labor Party which it identified with a considerable section of the nongovernment schools, namely, the Roman Catholic schools, fought against any assistance for the non-government schools. A large section of the non-government schools, purely because the Government of this day, the ALP, hated the DLP so much that it conceived a bigotry against the Catholic schools, was made the target of attack.


Senator Gair - That is true, from 1957, when Labor's policy was changed in Brisbane.


Senator WRIGHT -That is true. The ALP fought the principle with a bigotry which we all recall, until it had been defeated at successive polls and it realised that its opposition was a considerable millstone around its neck. When Mr Calwell gave way to Mr Whitlam the willow bent. He made overtures to the non-government schools for the purpose of attracting votes. Senator Rae has quoted several times tonight the repeated statements which were made during the last election campaign that no grants for nongovernment schools would be reduced by the Labor Government if it came to office.

The speech which Senator Douglas McClelland, who is in charge of the Bill, made to the Committee tonight shows the depth of deception to which even spokesmen for the Government can descend. He purported to quote from Mr Whitlam's policy speech. He quoted this sentence:

A Federal Labor Government will: Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1 973.

He stopped there, which suppressed the truth. He did not quote the next sentence, which states:

Allocate the increased grants for 1974-

I emphasise those words 'the increased grants for 1974'- and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I read that in my reply to the second reading debate.


Senator WRIGHT - The Minister suppressed that part, and it was a deliberate piece of deception which dishonoured the office of a Minister of the Crown. To show how shameful the distortion was, the actual submission of this proposition to the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission was couched in the terms of Mr Whitlam's letter, when he became Prime Minister, of 12 December. He asked the Karmel Committee to make grants. He said:

The grants recommended by the Interim Committee will be: . . in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments.

At that time there were Commonwealth commitments existing in favour of all non-government schools, on a principle that is absolutely incontrovertible. That principle is that in this country the rich and the poor alike may attend all government schools and may attend all nongovernment schools if they pay the fees. Whereas the governments of this country administering the taxes that they collect from the people allocate 100 per cent of the expenditure on a state government school pupil to that school, the fees discharge only about 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the expenditure on the education of a nongovernment school student. We arrived at a principle that is equitable and sound, namely, the bridging of this gap of hatred of nongovernmental schools which were Roman Catholic in character and treating all non-government schools, irrespective of any sectarian situation, as being entitled to some assistance from the Government. We said that from the Commonwealth sphere these schools should be entitled to one-fifth of the expenditure that we appropriate for state government school pupils.


Senator Gair - Their parents pay taxes, the same as everybody else.


Senator WRIGHT -The parents of the nongovernment school pupils, of course, pay taxes. If they are on a high income they pay much more tax than those on small incomes. But the principle is that every pupil at a State school is entitled to 100 per cent of the expenditure and every pupil at a non-government school, irrespective of means, irrespective of religion, irrespective of opportunity, and irrespective of the school to which he goes, is entitled to 20 per cent of that expenditure. Then by some quirk of the mind, some confusion impenetrable, the Interim Committeethe Karmel Committee- in its report brought forth a formula that required a considerable section of the non-government schools to forfeit their assistance. But on what basis were they required to do this? Anybody who has perused this report must be mystified, because that is the way in which the Karmel Committee formularised its basis of excluding these schools. In its report the Committee states:

The measurement of the quantity of recurrent resources used in a school or school system involves weighting the quantities of the various resources used within the schools by fixed salary and price weights, to form an index of quantum. The nature of the data available for analysis has led to the formulation of a simple, though not necessarily easy to construct, index. The recurrent resources used within a school have been taken to comprise the services of teachers, administrators, and support staff (both professional and ancillary), consumables, equipment, and, in the case of schools forming part of a system, resources such as itinerant specialist teachers, guidance and counselling personnel and curriculum advisers, provided at system level for use by individual schools. Excluded are resources devoted to teacher training, the conveyance and boarding of pupils, and, for systemic school organisations, those resources consumed in administrative activities not directly related to the running of schools.

The Committee went on to say that it discarded the liability of the school and that the pupilteacher ratio was of no real advantage. The Committee must have been frantic indeed to spawn such a confusion of ideas that has no relationship to equity, economy, or education and borders on the unreasonable or irrational. It is purported to give an appeal from an unknown formula for which no basis of reason is provided, and it is purported to have heard an appeal from itself on criteria which were never stated and to have given decisions for reasons which were unexplained.

In the light of the promises given by Mr Whitlam and his cronies for the purpose of capturing votes in order to gain office and receiving a report such as this which divorces the real benefits of our system from a significant section of the non-government school students, this Party would deserve to earn discredit if it did not fight to establish the principle that every child in this country is entitled to receive 100 per cent of the cost of his state school education if he wants it- and I took it- or, if he goes to an independent school, that he is entitled to such proportion of that expenditure as the Federal Government of the day decides. But this should be applied uniformly, without fear, favour or discrimination, to every child whose parents partly support him at a non-government school. That is the principle involved; not the distorted, rubbishing, ridiculous matter that we debated last week. All that is involved is this simple proposition. I stand here to support the terms of the clause that Senator Rae has moved be inserted in the Bill, and we will stand by that clause.







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