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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1514


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(10.08) —I move :

That the Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

STATES GRANTS (SCHOOLS ASSISTANCE) BILL 1984

This Bill gives effect to the historic decisions of the Government announced in the Guidelines to the Commonwealth Schools Commission on 14 August 1984. Those Guidelines set out policies for the implementation of a comprehensive long term scheme for the funding of government and non-government schools in Australia. The policies embodied in this Bill are designed to produce, for the first time, a rational system of Commonwealth funding for schools and an accompanying redefinition of the respective roles of the Commonwealth, States and non- government school communities in providing financial support for schools.

We have defined a new partnership between the Commonwealth and the States which will ensure co-operative relationships and planning through the medium of education resource agreements. It will not be a matter of the Commonwealth imposing its will on the States or riding rough-shod over their priorities. We hope, through these resource agreements, to produce a new era of improvement in resources and outcomes for government schools. Commonwealth agreements with non- government school authorities will ensure that Commonwealth funds are directed to raising standards and will require a partnership with non-government school authorities in pursuing this objective. In the case of non-systemic non- government schools, the Commonwealth will not be requiring individual schools to enter into a formal Resource Agreement, but schools will provide the Commonwealth with prior notice of how Commonwealth funds will be applied and will account for these subsequently.

Similarly, with this funding scheme, we believe that we have buried for good the futile debate on State aid which has proved so debilitating in our society over many generations. We have recognised the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government in assisting in the achievement of satisfactory educational opportunities for all children. While expressing in practical terms the primary obligation of Government to public schools, we have formally acknowledged the existence of a dual system of education in this country, and established mechanisms to ensure that the two systems can exist in an harmonious atmosphere. It is in the spirit of these sentiments that I put forward the provisions of this Bill.

The Bill appropriates an estimated $1,385m for schools programs in the States and the Northern Territory in calendar year 1985, subject to final enrolments in per capita programs. Grants will be supplemented retrospectively in subsequent amending legislation for further relevant cost increases, in line with approved cost supplementation arrangements. Funds are appropriated for the Commonwealth's new special purpose programs for Basic Learning in Primary Schools, with $6.7m p .a. for the triennial period 1985-87, and for early Special Education, with $3. 9m in 1985, together with a two-year forward commitment capacity of 70% p.a. of these funds.

The legislation fully maintains the Government's other major program initiatives in 1984, including the triennial program for Computer Education, as well as all other special purpose and capital programs for schools.

For the new long term Commonwealth general recurrent program, the Bill appropriates grants on a per capita basis for the four years 1985-88 for both government and non-government schools. The grants for government schools provide for significant real increases each year and include a special 10% supplement in recognition of the obligation of government schools to provide services to students in a variety of circumstances and locations. Per capita grants for non- government schools are being provided on the basis of the 12 category scheme, recommended by the Commission, which will ensure a greater differentiation in the needs of schools than the previous four group scheme. Categories 1 and 2 on the new scale will provide annual grants at the same real levels as in 1984 for schools with the highest incomes. Categories 3 to 12 will generally provide for significant annual real increases in grants for schools with progressively lower incomes.

As foreshadowed in the recent Guidelines to the Schools Commission, the increases in general recurrent grants for 1986-88 will be subject to satisfactory Resource Agreements with State and non-government school system authorities on the application of these additional resources to national objectives in education, to be established on the basis of the report of the Quality of Education Review Committee, under the Chairmanship of Professor Peter Karmel, which is due in April 1985. The Commonwealth would also expect the States to make a contribution towards the achievement of these objectives from their own resources.

It would also wish to be satisfied that the increases in Commonwealth grants are not being used to substitute for State expenditure. The Bill makes provision for the transfer of any increases in general recurrent grants for which there are no Agreements to special purpose programs.

Grants are appropriated for non-government schools which would be operating below the Community Standard on the condition that they will adequately maintain their private cash recurrent expenditure. Schools which fail to maintain their private effort, and which have no justification for failing to do so, may be assigned to a lower grant category. Schools will need to satisfactorily explain to the Commonwealth any circumstances where they are unable to offset any declines in the value of contributed services. Schools which are able to operate from private sources at or above the Community Standard are expected to avoid imposing additional charges, or taking any other steps which further widen the resources gap between themselves and other schools.

The Commonwealth would welcome moves by schools operating above the Community Standard to use their Commonwealth grants to ensure greater access for students from lower income families, as many of them have said they are committed to doing, by the introduction of differential fee structures. The Commission has been asked to monitor and report on schools' responses during the 1985-88 funding period.

The Bill implements the enhanced provisions for accountability by non- government schools which were approved in principle in the recent Guidelines, as recommended by the Schools Commission. The Government did not accept the Commission's proposal for public registers. The Government has given an undertaking that the Schools Commission will consult with non-government school authorities on the details of the information to be sought by the Commonwealth. The Commission intends to explore ways of simplifying the details of requirements on schools and systems for information relating to Commonwealth funding of both government and non-government schools.

To facilitate the streamlining of the administration of the Schools Commission' s programs, this Bill makes provision in a number of programs for the payment of grants on a block grant basis, rather than requiring the Commission to seek detailed proposals from school authorities for decisions by the Commonwealth Minister. The Commission reports that it will be undertaking consultations with school authorities on the further devolution of appropriate responsibility for the administration and allocation of Commonwealth funds to school authorities, subject to agreed administrative procedures being developed for the achievement of Commonwealth objectives.

In this legislation, the Government has provided for new criteria for assessing applications for assistance for new non-government schools which were announced in the Guidelines. The legislation also makes provision for prescribing subsequently in Regulations other possible criteria, following receipt of advice from a special committee of the Schools Commission which has been established to consult closely with States and non-government school authorities on further proposals for co-operative arrangements for the notification and assessment of applications according to a negotiated set of priorities. The Government's objective is to improve the capacity of Commonwealth, State and non-government school authorities to plan a more equitable and efficient approach to new schools.

Consistent with the Government's policy to provide for retrospective cost supplementation of all programs from the beginning of 1984, this Bill also amends the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1983 by providing supplementary grants for 1984 programs totalling $16.8m, consisting of $11.7m for government schools programs, $3.9m for non-government schools programs and $ 1.2m for joint programs for all schools. Provision for this increase was included in the Budget. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

STATES GRANTS (TERTIARY EDUCATION ASSISTANCE) BILL 1984

On 5 July 1984 the Guidelines to the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission for the 1985-87 Triennium were released. The Commission responded with detailed recommendations in Volume 2 of its Report for the Triennium. The States Grants ( Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill 1984 has been prepared following consideration of the Commission's recommendations.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide the legislative basis for the distribution of Commonwealth funds for tertiary education in the States and the Northern Territory for the 1985-87 Triennium, and to provide cost supplementation for 1984 grants. The funds to be appropriated under this Bill are allocated on a fixed triennial basis for all elements of higher education. The funding provisions being legislated for 1986 and 1987 under this Bill are minimum amounts only. Final allocations will be determined after a further report from the Commission due in March 1985.

For the TAFE sector, funds are appropriated for 1985 only. The Government has, however, announced its intention to extend full triennial funding for TAFE if the States also indicate resource commitments for the three years. Discussions with the States on this matter are continuing. I would remind the Senate that the Commonwealth has a supplementary role only in the TAFE sector.

This Bill provides $1911 million for the higher education sector for 1985 and $ 1937 million and $1956 million for 1986 and 1987, respectively. The distribution of these funds is as recommended by the Commission. The key features are-

an increase in general recurrent funds of 2.3 per cent in real terms in 1985 with further increases of 1.3 per cent and 1.0 per cent in 1986 and 1987, respectively, to fund a further increase in intakes in 1985 and to provide for the pipeline growth in enrolments over the triennium;

an increase in capital funds in 1985 of 20.4 per cent in real terms to be maintained over the triennium at least at that level. This will enable 57 higher education projects with a total value of some $230 million to be commenced or completed during the triennium;

an increase in funds for equipment to be directed to those institutions where enrolments are increasing; $3.1 million over the triennium for pilot projects and investigations aimed at promoting equity in higher education;

$3.1 million over the triennium to establish new key centres of teaching and research. These centres will have an applied research focus and will be located in both the university and advanced education sectors;

$4.5 million over the triennium for proposals to increase participation of Aborigines;

$10.5 million over the triennium to be reallocated from existing subsidies for collegiate style residential accommodation to a special assistance scheme for needy students to help meet accommodation costs or other emergencies;

additional funds over the triennium towards the increasing costs of superannuation.

In TAFE a total of $272 million will be available under this Bill in 1985, an increase of 3.8 per cent in real terms. Increased funding will be provided for fees reimbursement grants, designated grants for special course provision and for college services and for equipment grants to assist the TAFE system to respond to technological developments.

This Bill also gives effect to the Government's decisions on recommendations by the Commission for changes in the legislation providing grants for tertiary education. Accordingly, this Bill enables the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, on the advice of the Commission and after consultation with the States, to vary amounts payable to institutions, sectors and States subject to certain limitations prescribed in the Bill. This provision provides flexibility for the efficient and effective management of programs over the triennium in accordance with the Government's objectives. Any determinations which have the effect of increasing or decreasing a State's allocation under the Bill are required to be tabled before each House of Parliament.

Other changes incorporated in the Bill include authority for the Minister to approve advance expenditure on the construction of approved capital projects, the removal of the existing limitation of 1 per cent on the amount of funds that a college of advanced education may apply to continuing education programs and provisions for the automatic carry over between years, up to prescribed limits, of amounts of under or over expenditure of an institution's recurrent grants.

Consistent with the Government's policy to provide for retrospective cost supplementation of all programs from the beginning of 1984, this Bill also amends the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1981 by providing supplementary grants for 1984 programs totalling $11 million. Provision for this increase was included in the Budget.

The measures that the Government has announced and the substantially increased funding allocations that are given effect to in this Bill are evidence of this Government's commitment to rebuilding of the tertiary education to a period of steady planned growth funded on a fixed triennial basis. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

STATES GRANTS (EDUCATION ASSISTANCE-PARTICIPATION AND EQUITY) AMENDMENT BILL (NO . 2) 1984

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Education Assistance- Participation and Equity) Act 1983 to: Allocate the bulk of 1985 funds to the States for PEP projects in government and non-government schools and TAFE institutions;

Provide an additional $4 million to TAFE institutions in 1985 and 1986 as previously announced in the Guidelines to the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission for the 1985-87 triennium; reserve some 1985 funds specifically for projects related to Aboriginal education as recommended by the Commonwealth Schools Commission; and supplement for cost increases the grants available to government and non-government education authorities in the States and the Northern Territory to conduct projects and programs under the Participation and Equity Program in the years 1984, 1985 and 1986.

The cost supplementation proposed is in accord with the government's undertaking to provide retrospective cost supplementation for this program. The adjustments are consistent with those being made to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) and States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bills which are also before the Senate today. This supplementation plus the additional $4 million being provided for TAFE will involve a further appropriation of $1.23m in 1984 and $6.403m for each of the years 1985 and 1986. Provision for these increases was included in the Budget. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.