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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1753


Senator PETER BAUME(8.58) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The Commonwealth Standards for Australians Schools report is one of a series of important and well written reports which come from the Commonwealth Schools Commission with great regularity, the quality of which is a credit to the Commission, to the commissioners and the staff. I put on record my admiration for the work done by the commissioners. I say again that I am sorry that the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) would not give it unequivocal support tonight in answer to my question to her. As Senator Sir John Carrick said a moment ago this report deals with the resources available to Government and non-government schools in Australia. It makes quite clear the falsity of the claims of the many people who engage in the public argument regarding school funding in Australia. The report demonstrates beyond doubt that income rich schools in Australia are Government schools. It shows beyond doubt that all Government schools in income terms are group one schools. The report demonstrates that the income poor schools are the Catholic, non-government schools. The report shows that the other independent schools, although they vary very widely, fall in between. That is the very opposite of what is put in public debate.

I will just restate the facts: In terms of schools systems in Australia the income rich schools are those of the Government school system. All of these schools-as Senator Sir John Carrick says they should be-are well resourced. There are figures in a table, I think at page 9 of the report, demonstrating State by State the movement that has been made in resource availability. The report is written in terms of the Karmel targets. These were targets, determined in the early 1970s, which it was hoped all schools would reach. If a school was at the target level it was regarded as having a Karmel figure of 100. Government schools across the country, State by State, have moved from a little over or a little under 100 now to somewhere between 120 and 130, with an average of about 125. Government schools across Australia have improved their resource standards markedly and stand now at about 125. Catholic non-government schools across Australia have also improved their resources. In the period under review they have improved from about 65 to 85. The fact is that they still lag beyond government schools. They possibly lag even further than they did, but they have improved their resources during the time under study. Other non-government schools have also increased their resources, but they do not match the government schools and the resources they have.

This surely is a very reassuring table. It is a table which indicates that the funding policies across Australia for schools are at about the right level. It indicates that government schools across Australia are, as they should be, receiving the bulk of public funding. It bears out the fact we all know that the 75 per cent of Australian children who are in government schools attract something like 86 per cent of all the public funds committed to schools across Australia. This is something we applaud, something which was part of our policies, but it is not something which the opponents of State aid ever let appear and which they try to confuse. This report should put away forever the false claims that are made about rich and poor schools and the false claims made that the public system is being short changed.

To the extent that in this report the Commonwealth Schools Commission raises and examines options for change or options for the future, it is pointing the way and offering us choices about which governments must decide. It is now incumbent upon the Government to determine which of the choices it will take up, which of the choices it will follow, and what it will do about continuing to improve the resources of all Australian schools, particularly in the non- government sector where the need is greatest, where the lag is greatest, and where resource improvement needs to occur. The Government's response to this report will be an important part of a merging policy and an important indication of whether this Government is fair dinkum about all Australian school children and the funding of their education.