Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2925


Senator PETER BAUME(3.23) —The Opposition is happy to debate the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill, the States Grants ( Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Amendment Bill and the Commonwealth Schools Commission Amendment Bill cognately. I must say that the Bills are not entirely similar, but in view of the pressure of work this week we are happy to consider the Bills together. The first three Bills seek to provide supplementary amounts of money for schools assistance, tertiary education assistance and for the participation and equity program. The Opposition will not be opposing the provision of this extra money for education. It is provided to take account of the effects of inflation upon the education sector. The amounts, as set out in the legislation, cover the cost increases due to inflation. I understand that there is a further appropriation in the Bills of just under $10m for schools, of something like $62m for tertiary institutions and a bit over $1m for the participation and equity program. In relation to the Commonwealth Schools Commission Amendment Bill, I indicate now that in the Committee stage we will be proposing an amendment to the Bill seeking to provide for certain designated places on the new Curriculum Development Council.

I would like to take this opportunity to address myself to several issues which are raised by these Bills on education funding. The first matter I wish to raise relates to the participation and equity program referred to specifically under this legislation. We have had occasion previously to draw attention to what we believe is the inequitable distribution of funds under PEP-the participation and equity program. Honourable senators will be aware that this program is not being funded on an enrolment-driven basis, but that the Government has determined that smaller amounts of money will go to non-government schools for their share of the participation and equity program than to schools in the government sector. I remind honourable senators this program arose out of, and has subsumed, the school to work transition program. We are very happy to wish the participation and equity program every success, to see it develop and we hope that it can realise the high hopes that the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs ( Senator Ryan) has had for it. We believe that it is not being assisted by the decision to press forward with a quite unequal and inequitable distribution of funds such as we have seen. We are concerned because the majority of children within the non-government sector are in Catholic parochial schools. These schools are poor and their resources needs are great. It will be interesting to know whether they are getting what would be considered their fair share under PEP.

In relation to that, I have sought, and been provided with some figures from the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia. The Commission told me that Catholic schools are getting less under the participation and equity program than they were under the school to work transition program; they are getting even less now than they were under a program which was smaller in amount and narrower in concept. I will give the figures to the Minister so that she can have them available. In 1983, under the transition education program, the Western Australian non-government school allocation was $264,000. The allocation to the schools under PEP is a bit more than that, but the amount of $357,000 is far less than they would have expected on an enrolment-driven basis. The concern that they have is that they are not able to undertake the activities which they are supposed to undertake to examine the effects of increased and increasing retention within this program and they are not able to undertake the activities adequately to assess the implications of retention in relation to the need for new and improved facilities within the schools. My concern is merely that the allocation under PEP should be equitable. I believe that the Catholic system, particularly where resources are poor, should get as much money pro rata as it could have expected under the school to work transition program. The allocation should have increased by the amount that PEP has been increased in global terms.

The second matter I wish to raise is a rather more significant and substantial one. This relates to the Government's approach to the question of academic salaries in Australia. These salaries are determined by an independent tribunal. The tribunal is headed by Mr Justice Ludeke who sits to determine academic salaries. The Australian Labor Party policy covers the approach that it would take in government to academic salaries as determined by the tribunal. The Labor Party policy issued on 16 February 1983, at paragraph 6.3 states:

The Commonwealth would be bound by the decision of the tribunal.

The Labor Party undertook, before it came into government, not only that it would accept, but also that it would fund decisions of the Academic Salaries Tribunal. What has happened? Before the election the promise was made to academics that the Government would accept and fund these determinations. The case has now been heard. It has gone to the Academic Salaries Tribunal. The Government put a case to the Tribunal, it argued an economic case and initially it lost. The Tribunal awarded an amount of money and the Government has chosen to go back to the Tribunal to put fresh argument. Of course, the Tribunal has now determined that it will set that decision aside. I accept the umpire's decision but I am criticising the fact that the Government did not accept the umpire's decision first time round.

Thousands of academics around Australia have quite clearly in their minds the fact that the Labor Government, contrary to the promise it made before the election, has cheated and reneged on them and has denied to them a salary increase to which they are entitled. We are to see now in Australia the Federation of College Academics calling its members out on strike for the first time in this country in protest against this action. The Government, using its special position of privilege, did not honour-


Senator Macklin —I don't think it is the first time.


Senator PETER BAUME —The newspaper report states that it is the first time. Senator Macklin has questioned whether it is the first time they have gone on strike. I merely quote from the article in the Age newspaper which states:

College academics will stop work nationally for the first time in Australia . . .

I took that statement in good faith. Nevertheless, the point is that college academics will go on strike to protest not at the action of Mr Justice Ludeke but at the action of the Government in seeking, when it lost the first time round, to use its privileged and special position to go back, contrary to its promises, to have this decision set aside. This is but one more of the many broken promises of which this Government has been guilty during its term of office.

I put it to the Government in the best of faith that it has lost the confidence of the staff associations over this action. What is now required from the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Senator Ryan, is a commitment again to deal fairly and decently with college academics in relation to their salaries to give them an assurance that the Government, having argued and lost its case, will never again go back to use its special position to have the decision set aside. I suggest to the Minister in good faith that she really needs to restore the relations with college academics through the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations or through the FCA which have been so seriously damaged by what has occurred recently.

The third matter I wish to raise under these Bills concerns the Australian scholastic aptitude test, which is a moderating test used in the schools in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. Money under these Bills will go to the support of education in those States. I wish to draw attention to this test and to some extraordinary events which occurred in the Australian Capital Territory last year when the Minister, Senator Ryan, in the most blatant act of sex discrimination in education which has ever occurred, intervened to upgrade the marks of every female student-


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. The honourable senator is seriously misleading the Senate. The decisions about modifications to ASAT were decisions of the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority; they were not decisions that came about as a result of intervention by me.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! It is not a point of order; it is a matter for debate. The Minister will have a chance to debate the matter when she speaks.


Senator PETER BAUME —Last year in the Australian Capital Territory the marks of young women were increased solely on the basis of their gender. The marks of young males were decreased in relative terms solely on the basis of their gender . That decision was defended in Parliament by the Minister as being necessary to correct what she calls 'sex bias'. It was, of course, a fiddle on the moderating marks in the Australian Capital Territory on the basis of sex discrimination. It was as discriminatory an act as could be imagined. It was not made on the basis of good evidence. It has now emerged that that decision was badly based in fact. This is supposed to be the last week of the sitting of the Senate. Honourable senators would be interested to know that last year the Minister set up a committee to look further at the sex difference in the ASAT scores. That committee has met and produced a report. The report is ready and has been printed but it has not been made available to the Parliament and it will not be released until next week when it is expected that the Parliament will not be sitting. This report establishes that there was no good basis at all--


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order.


Senator PETER BAUME —The Minister wants to gag this discussion.


Senator Ryan —The matters raised by Senator Baume are clearly out of order. These Bills do not relate to the Australian Capital Territory school system.


Senator Peter Baume —Mr Deputy President, I wish to speak to the point of order. The ASAT which I am discussing is used within the State school systems of Queensland and Western Australia. Money under these Bills will go to supplement those school systems among others.


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, further to the point of order, the justification given by Senator Baume is no justification whatsoever. The matter he is raising now concerns the administration of the school system in the Australian Capital Territory. These Bills do not relate to that system at all. The honourable senator clearly is out of order. I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to instruct him to cease this irrelevant activity.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Baume, insofar as you are discussing the Australian Capital Territory system, you are out of order, but you may relate your remarks to the State systems covered by the Bills.


Senator PETER BAUME —Mr Deputy President, I accept your ruling. What has occurred in the Australian Capital Territory has implications for the use of the ASAT test in other parts of Australia. The findings in the Australian Capital Territory, which I was about to set out, are findings of a study which involved the school systems in other States. The findings are part of a co-operative study which examined any sex differences. This is a matter which has implications in two States as well as the Australian Capital Territory and it is only in that sense that I am raising the matter. I just indicate that I am talking about the ASAT and sex differences now. The report which Senator Ryan has not yet chosen to release while the Parliament is sitting contains a summary chapter which begins at page 101 and goes through to page 110. I will quote just briefly in relation to ASAT generally from pages 108 and 110.


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that Senator Baume is now flouting your ruling. He is now reading from a report-the existence of which I am not aware of-which he alleges to be a report of decisions made by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority in relation to ASAT. If that report is what Senator Baume alleges it to be he is entirely out of order because it applies solely to decisions that were made by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. Mr Deputy President, you have already ruled those matters out of order in this debate.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I have ruled that Senator Baume is not at liberty to discuss the matters directly concerning the Australian Capital Territory education system. He is entitled to draw deductions from what might be relevant to the Bill in anything that has happened in the Australian Capital Territory. Insofar as he does that he is in order.


Senator PETER BAUME —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I have just been looking through the sections I intend to read. I do not believe that they relate to the Australian Capital Territory. They talk about the ASAT which is used in some of the States.


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, on a point of order, I ask you to clarify what Senator Baume is doing. Senator Baume is now claiming to quote from a report, the existence of which I have no knowledge of. I have no way of saying whether it is a report or some fabrication or invention of Senator Baume's mole in the Department of Education and Youth Affairs. Senator Baume is claiming to quote from a report which he alleges deals with the decisions made by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority relating to the application of the ASAT in the Australian Capital Territory. It has no implications for Western Australia or Queensland because those States are responsible for their own school systems; they are responsible for how they apply this method of testing within their own school systems. There is no budgetary implication in what he is saying. Insofar as what he is saying has any legitimacy at all it would have legitimacy only in relation to matters concerning the Australian Capital Territory. Mr Deputy President, you have already ruled those matters out of order. Senator Baume obviously has another little political stunt which he is trying to bring on at this late stage of the session. I ask you to bring him to order.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Ryan, you are making a number of points which are legitimate debating points but which are not relevant to a point of order. I will repeat what I have ruled: The subject of the Australian Capital Territory education system is not relevant to this debate. However, if Senator Baume can relate events in the Australian Capital Territory to what is relevant to the Bills, he is in order. I do not want to hear any more repetition of that ruling; I hope it is quite clear.


Senator PETER BAUME —Mr Deputy President, I do not believe that I will mention the Australian Capital Territory again. I will quote what is stated on page 108 of this report, under the heading 'Implications for Policy':

This study arose out of a need to investigate thoroughly the observed difference between the performance of males and females on ASAT. This difference was labelled a 'sex bias'-


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I wish to have clarified what document Senator Baume is now--


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —That is not a point of order.


Senator Ryan —If it is a document that relates only to the Australian Capital Territory school system then it relates to your ruling.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Ryan you may ask, in due course, for the document to be tabled if that is what you wish, if Senator Baume is quoting from it.


Senator PETER BAUME —I would be perfectly happy to table the document.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —However at this stage it is not a point of order to ask for the document to be identified.


Senator Ryan —Mr Deputy President--


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Ryan you are taking a lot of points of order.


Senator Ryan —I ask that the document from which Senator Baume alleges to be quoting be tabled.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You may repeat that request at the end of Senator Baume's speech.


Senator PETER BAUME —The report continues:

This difference was labelled a 'sex bias' against females undertaking the test.

Evidence from this report has suggested that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged on the basis of their sex, after variables such as confidence in success, hours spent studying mathematics and assessments in English were taken into account. However, females as a group were found to have a lower mean score on ASAT largely because they showed much less confidence in success than did males.

The report goes on to say that this had some implications for the sample studies . On page 110 it states:

Since the major conclusion of this investigation was that a student's sex had no significant direct effect on performance on ASAT it would appear questionable to adjust the scores of individual students for bias in ASAT.

They are the only parts I wish to quote. This report should give confidence in ASAT across Australia as it has been used and it would give no grounds for anyone anywhere to have adjusted people's scores on the basis of their sex alone as, of course, occurred in one part of Australia.

The other matter I want to mention in relation to these three Bills concerns participation in tertiary education. In 1983 many institutions increased participation in tertiary education, partly as a result of increased completion rates through year 12 and partly as a result of a deliberate program to seek increased participation in higher education. But the institutions took extra students on a promise of funds to come. They were promised that there would be full funding for the extra places of students whom they took. I am told by the institutions that they were informed that 1983 was to be the year of schools and that 1984 was to be the year of higher education. At graduations across the country to which the Minister was invited, as Ministers are, she was at some pains to tell people that they should watch for the new triennium and for the arrangements to be announced under that.

A very serious matter faces higher education across Australia. Institutions cannot continue on with funds frozen at their present level and they cannot continue taking people at the marginal costs only, which the Minister has offered them for 1984. This year extra numbers have been taken on only at what the Minister and the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission have determined as marginal cost. Even then, some strange things can happen. This year we had the extraordinary situation at the Western Australian Institute of Technology, which discovered in 1983 that it was 6 per cent over its allowed number of equivalent full time students. The Institute took steps to reduce that over- enrolment, as one would expect it to do, and brought the numbers down to 2 per cent over the allowed number of students. So its number of enrolments came down by several hundred. The Minister then announced that she wanted people to enrol extra students and announced that $10m would be available to provide, I think, 3 ,000 extra places at marginal cost. The Western Australian Institute of Technology said that it would do its part and provided places for 55 extra students. However, it was then told that because its enrolments were less than they had been the year before-so they should have been; it was over-enrolled the year before-it would get no money. I say to the Minister: There is a system of fair play between her and the institutions. There is a degree of fair play which will have to be observed if the institutions are going to be able to meet her requirements of extra participation and do so fairly.

The 1982-84 triennium allowed, I think, a cost of $5,360 per student place, on average. I have been given a figure of something like that. If the institutions could get back in real terms to the marginal cost that applied at the beginning of the triennium for the 1985-87 triennium, it would be okay for the institutions to try to carry on. I draw to the Minister's attention the fact that right across Australia higher education authorities are waiting for the decision on the CTEC report. They are scared that this Government will announce that there will be no triennium; that this year will be taken out of the triennium. That is the argument that is being put to me. I am not able to say that that is what the Government is going to do but I plead with the Government to announce the triennium and to announce it with funds adequate to meet the needs of higher education authorities across Australia. In the same way, in relation to government and non-government school funding across Australia, I remind the Minister that the arrangements she announced for 1984 were arrangements outside any formula.

Here again the Government faces fundamental decisions which have to be made in relation to the way in which it will go about this funding. There is now no formula which allows educational institutions, government schools and non- government schools, Catholic schools and Catholic school systems to know in advance how much money they can expect. The amount announced last year was not derived from any formula; it was an arbitrary amount. We have heard talk about a community standard but so far we have seen no community standard. We cannot allow this kind of drift. I again ask the Minister: Can she assure us that a formula will be announced when the guidelines come out that will contain some predictability so that school systems will know the kind of funding which they can expect.

Since this is a cognate debate I will refer briefly to the other Bill, the Commonwealth Schools Commission Amendment Bill 1984. This Bill sets out to re- establish the Curriculum Development Centre in ways which the Government has announced as part of its policy. It sets out to abolish the Curriculum Development Centre as a statutory authority and to re-establish it as a Curriculum Development Council to vest the property of the Curriculum Development Centre in the Commonwealth and to provide that the Council will work closely with the Commonwealth Schools Commission. The Bill makes some minor updating provisions and it also provides that the Commonwealth Schools Commission may now inquire into and report on matters affecting pre-school handicapped children. The Opposition supports all those aims of this Bill. We give it our full support.

The only matter on which we have any concern at all is a matter which goes to the composition of the Council which will be established for the Curriculum Development Council. Because curriculum development matters are so important and because they go across systems we have thought it desirable to try to reserve places, make sure there are places, on that Council for representatives of government school systems and non-government school systems. I have asked that an amendment which we will move at the Committee stage be distributed in the Senate. We will seek to achieve the amendment at the Committee stage.

In the moments remaining to me I want briefly to return to the three supplementation Bills. I refer to the attack that has been made upon the Catholic school system, particularly by Mr Van Davy, in relation to the question of maintenance of effort. Maintenance of effort can be measured in several ways, but the way that matters most, it seems to me, is to look at the cash inputs by parents and to ensure that those cash inputs by parents keep pace in real terms and increase in real terms as the years go by. What we cannot have in the non- government schools system is a situation in which cash private inputs by parents decrease in real terms. What Mr Van Davy has been arguing is that the parents have to pick up the costs of the conversion of the staff of Catholic schools from religious staff to lay staff and pay proper wages.

In January this year the Commonwealth Schools Commission prepared a table No. 5 .6 which shows quite clearly that between 1976 and 1981 the private cash inputs in private schools at primary level increased by 11.9 per cent. They have not gone down. While the cash inputs are increasing it is not fair for Mr Van Davy to argue, or for the Australian Teachers Federation to argue, that the system is ripping off the taxpayer, because it is not. Catholic education is the most needy section. The private cash inputs into Catholic education at the secondary level between 1976 and 1981 increased by 32 per cent. This does not allow the Australian Teachers Federation to make the claims it does about Catholic education. If one combines the two one will find that, overall, private cash inputs have increased by 15.6 per cent.

I return to the beginning and say that we support all these pieces of legislation. We have many concerns about the way in which this Government is administering its programs. We are concerned that cash inputs under PEP to non- government schools, particularly Catholic schools, should be maintained in real terms so that they can do their jobs. We are concerned also that in relation to universities and non-government schools some certainty should be given as soon as possible as to their future and the possibilities of their planning. Having said that, I will move my amendment at the Committee stage. The Opposition supports the Bills.


Senator Ryan —Mr Acting Deputy President, I remind you that I have requested that Senator Baume table the document from which he quoted.


Senator Peter Baume —I am delighted to do so.


Senator Ryan —I thought you said it was a report.


Senator Peter Baume —The document from which I quoted is the document you are getting.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley) —Does the Senate grant leave to Senator Baume to table the document?


Senator Ryan —Yes.