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Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2934

Mr ROBERT BROWN(10.41) —I refer to a statement that was made last Tuesday by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). I have advised the honourable member for Bennelong that I would raise the question this week if I had the opportunity to do so. During an attempt on the part of the honourable member for Bennelong to denigrate public education and public education school teachers in Australia, he said:

We are dealing with a whole new generation of parents who are worried about the quality of the state education system.

Mr Porter —Hear, hear!

Mr ROBERT BROWN —I am pleased to hear the interjection from the honourable member for Barker to the effect that he endorses comments of that kind. We are becoming accustomed to them in this House. It reflects little credit on members of the Opposition that they continue to attempt to discredit the public education system in Australia. We know that the Opposition wants to starve that system of funds. The honourable member for Bennelong then compounded his attack on public education by going on to say:

They are worried that the teachers unions in Australia contributed $750,000-

The honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) interjected: 'How much?' The honourable member for Bennelong repeated the claim. He said:

They contributed $750,000 to the Australian Labor Party's campaign funds.

That is a deliberate misrepresentation. It rests very uneasily on the shoulders of the honourable member for Bennelong, who is generally proud of the position of integrity which he maintains with some effect in this House. The claim was subsequently taken up on the same day by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Cowan), who said:

. . . there is no doubt in my mind that this Government has been influenced by the Australian Teachers Federation which gave, as somebody said today-

that was the honourable member for Bennelong, of course, who made the unsubstantiated and false claim-

$750,000 to finance this Government in its efforts to come into power.

The matter was reported in the following day's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:

Mr Howard claimed the Prime Minister's admissions on education during the past two days confirmed that his Government was now meeting its obligations to the Teachers Federation following their contribution of $750,000 to the Labor Party at the last election.

I do not know where that claim originated. I have more respect for the honourable member for Bennelong than to believe that he just dragged it out of the air. He was obviously quoting someone. I understand that it may have been that person in New South Wales called Mr Valder. I have taken the opportunity to examine the financial statements of the Australian Teachers Federation. Its campaign budget for 1983 indicates quite clearly that the total amount that it spent in the campaign was $166,205. That information comes from the audited financial statements of the Australian Teachers Federation. Not one item of that donation represented a donation to any political party. The affiliates of the Australian Teachers Federation, that is, the State branches, possibly spent up to $200,000. The cost of goods and services such as time could add another $100, 000 to that figure, making a maximum of $500,000 from all of the teachers' organisations in Australia as part of their own campaign. This all represents part of a continuing, malicious, deceitful and orchestrated campaign by the representatives of privilege in Australia against this Government, the Australian Labor Party, the 78 per cent of parents who have children at government schools, the pupils of those schools, the teachers of Australia and the professional organisations of teachers. Teachers within both the public and private sectors of our education system are overwhelmingly committed and dedicated people. They and their professional organisations should not be misrepresented to meet the miserable objectives of the Liberal Party of Australia.