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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2940

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)(4.52) —The Government cannot accept the amendments moved by Senator Baume, for reasons very similar to those just given by Senator Macklin for the Australian Democrats finding them unacceptable. It is not that we do not appreciate the sentiment behind the amendments, but the amendments would change the character of the Curriculum Development Council as we have determined it would be. In considering the most effective means of reactivating the CDC within the framework of the Schools Commission, the proposed membership received a great deal of close attention. It was considered, following consultation and consideration of the role of the Council, that it should be an expert rather than a representative body. That is not to say that representatives cannot also be expert; but clearly, if people were appointed on representative grounds to represent sectional interests, the opportunity for the Council to work in a way that is in the interests of curriculum development generally could be hampered from time to time. Given that the Curriculum Development Council is now part of the Schools Commission and that the Commission itself has sectional interests represented, it seemed to us not to be necessary to recreate a representational character in the Centre but, rather, to provide the opportunity to look for the best people who are able to make the best contribution to the development of curriculum in this country.

Clearly, the Government wants the Curriculum Development Council to succeed. In order for it to succeed, its work must be acceptable to all sectors of education . For that reason, we have a very high representation from the States, and we have co-ordinating representation from my Department. Clearly, if I were to make appointments which were not acceptable to the government and non-government sectors, the work of the Curriculum Development Council would fail. We do not wish it to fail. We wish it to succeed. So, of course, I shall be aware of the wishes and feelings of both the government and non-government sectors in this matter. To do otherwise would be inviting disaster.

I remind Senator Peter Baume of the composition of the Interim Council. It has a number of members who are directly associated with government schools, including three directors-general of education. It has two members who are directly involved with the non-government sector. They are Mr Peter Gebhardt, the headmaster of Geelong College, and Mr Vin Faulkner, the senior planning officer of the Catholic Education Office in Victoria. I believe that both of them will make a very valuable contribution. They were appointed because of their expertise and their past record in appropriate areas. I am sure that they have the confidence of the non-government sector.

It seems to me that it is sensible to retain some flexibility with regard to the kinds of appointments that are made. There are areas that we have nominated as priority areas for the work of the Curriculum Development Council, and we wish to appoint people who are able to advise the Government on those priority areas. It would always be the case, I believe, that there would be people drawn from the non-government and the government sectors. To do otherwise would be folly. But they are not being appointed because they represent a sector, in the case of the CDC; they are there because they have an outstanding track record in areas closely related to the work of the CDC. For those reasons, therefore, the Government will persist with the legislation in its present form and not accept the amendments moved by Senator Peter Baume.

Senator Macklin raised a matter concerning the Director of the CDC. I should like to explain, for the honourable senator's benefit, why the director will not be a member of the Council and why the Council will be chaired by a full-time member of the Schools Commission. Under the previous arrangements there was a part-time chairperson of the CDC, and the director was a statutory appointment. The senior person acting as adviser to the Commission on policy and administration matters with responsibility for implementing its decisions is a senior officer of the Australian Public Service. Similarly, it is proposed that the person acting as adviser to the Council have a similar role and status to that of the officer serving the Commission. It would be expected that a very close working relationship will exist between these officers to ensure that there will be co-ordination of school level education activities at the Commonwealth level. I firmly believe that the Curriculum Development Council will be a strong, creative and effective body and a very well co-ordinated body, and that the proposed membership and servicing arrangements will assure this.