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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1821

Senator MacGIBBON —My question, addressed to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, concerns reports that interim results of a survey of attitudes of young Australians have been received by the Federal Government. Is this the survey which the Minister suggested and to which she added questions concerning attitudes towards funding of government and non-government schools? What are the findings of the interim report on the funding issue? As taxpayers' funds financed this survey, will the Minister make a copy of the report available to all members of the Parliament, or does she intend that only Labor Party members will have access to this information on a very sensitive political matter?

Senator RYAN —The answer to the last part of Senator MacGibbon's question is no. It is not our intention that information which is being pursued by-

Senator Chaney —Who paid for it?

Senator RYAN —I do not think Senator Chaney heard Senator MacGibbon's question. It is not our intention to withhold from the Parliament or the public information which has been sought by public funding. That is certainly not our intention. As to the question on interim reports, I will try to be precise as I can. It is the case that there was some briefing of some departmental officers about the very early stages of the survey. I do not think that that briefing could properly be described as an interim report. It is my understanding that it was a briefing on the very early stages of what I think researchers call the qualitative stage where they investigate possible lines of investigation for the survey.

It is my understanding that there were some briefings of Special Minister of State officers and I was subsequently informed by officers in my own Department of that very preliminary work. I repeat: I do not think that that preliminary work can be accurately described as an interim report. Certainly to my knowledge there is no document relating to that preliminary briefing that could be described as an interim report. I do not think there is anything that could be made more widely available. I think the purpose of the very early briefing about the preliminary work was to assist Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls Pty Ltd to get directions for the survey which it has subsequently carried out. The result of that survey, as has been stated many times in this chamber and during Estimates committee hearings over the last couple of weeks, is not yet available . That is the extent of the knowledge that I have about this. It may be that there is more information available through the Special Minister of State.

However, it is my knowledge, and I repeat it because there seems to be a determination by the Opposition to misrepresent or misunderstand the nature of this, that there was a very preliminary briefing concerning preliminary work done prior to the design of the survey. Some officers of the Department of the Special Minister of State and some officers in my Department were briefed about that. The information I am now giving about the preliminary briefing does indeed relate to the youth attitude survey which was the subject of question to me at the Senate Estimates Committee hearing which dealt with the Department of Education and Youth Affairs and also the subject of questions dealing with the Department of the Special Minister of State at the Estimates Committee. It is that survey. There were some preliminary briefings prior to the survey being mounted. Some departmental officers from both departments were involved. That is the extent of my knowledge of it. There may be further knowledge but I do not have it.

Senator MacGIBBON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I did not want to get into a semantic argument on the differences between an interim report and a preliminary briefing. Was there any information conveyed to any Government department about the attitudes of the public towards the funding of private schools? When can we expect a final report to be presented?

Senator RYAN —I do not know when the final report will be presented. Again I suggest that the question should be properly directed to the Special Minister of State. I have not had a recent progress report so I really do not know when it can be expected. I do not think it would be useful to hazard a guess. I know ANOP has proceeded with the survey. How long it will take to gather the information and process it, I do not know. However, consideration of the estimates of the Special Minister of State is still in progress. No doubt officers from that Department will be able to answer that question. As to the ground that was covered in preliminary briefings, I think that the ground covered with briefings of officers of my Department covered the youth attitudes survey in what must have been an extremely preliminary way-because no decisions have been made-and also the question of schools funding.