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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1752

Senator TEAGUE(8.46) —The Commonwealth Schools Commission's report on funding policies for Australian schools is of utmost importance to education policy decisions in the coming few months. Much of the report from this responsible body is to be welcomed by members of the Parliament and the public. I urge members of the Government to note that the principles that the Opposition has been urging on this Parliament over the last 12 months have been fully endorsed by the expert body-the Commonwealth Schools Commission. The Schools Commission has endorsed the principle of there being a basic grant to every Australian school student whether in a government school or a non- government school. This report also directly endorses the principle of there being a percentage link between the per capita grants to non-government schools and the grants made available to government schools. Thirdly, this report endorses the principle of there being realistic mechanisms for the availability of Commonwealth financial support for the establishment of new non-government schools. As we have seen in the last 10 years or more, there has been a persistent trend by the public towards the kind of schooling offered in non- government schools and there needs to be a recognition of that trend and the ability of Australian families to choose the type of schooling which they wish to provide for their children. This funding policy for Australian schools recognises that realistically and provides that there be, under certain appropriate procedures, capital grants for the creation of new non-government schools. We have been urging all three major principles on the Government for months and months. I think we have done so every week since this Parliament has been sitting since 5 March. Of course, the Government was most reluctant until the public uproar occurred even to recognise what it now fully recognises as the legitimacy of the Opposition's arguments in the Parliament. So the Opposition welcomes the thorough endorsement of these three principles in this report on the funding policies for Australian schools. Whatever options are put for consideration by government, they are assuming full endorsement of those three principles.

As the Opposition has said in recent weeks and will continue to say, the education policy decisions of this Government in relation to schools are one of the litmus tests for the coming election. The Australian public, the Australian electors, will be watching most intently what the Government decides to do in response to this important Schools Commission report. If there is departure from these principles along the lines of the very unwise decisions of the Government last year, as announced by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan), there will be public uproar again and there will certainly be constructive, serious arguments from the Opposition opposing such decisions of the Government.

I urge the Government to take very seriously the decisions of the experts. Maybe my words will fall upon fertile soil in regard to the Ministers who are in the chamber because, as I understand it, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has already put those Ministers on notice that there is to be no disturbing of these delicate matters in the coming months because it is an election year. The Prime Minister has put on notice his Ministers not to rock the boat and not to go out on ideological paths that would upset the already achieved basic principles and concepts in this area of funding for schools. I welcome the basic principles of this report.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

(Quorum formed)