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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 551

Senator ARCHER(12.24) —I raise only a couple of points with respect to the report of the Panel of Commonwealth Schools Commissioners on Planning and Funding Policies for New Non-government Schools. My argument is predicated on the fact that the report is yet another attack on the very rich. I have been to many private schools as well as non-private schools, and I have found there circumstances which are seldom taken into account. Around the schools that I have been to I have found a considerable number of people who either choose to make or have to make special arrangements for their children if they wish them to be educated. The government system does not provide the sorts of facilities that are often necessary. Of course, quite a lot of schools cater very largely for the children of outback farmers, of seamen, of slaughtermen, of miners or of side-show operators. Those schools cater for special needs and activities, either educational or cultural. There are schools to assist children from broken homes to settle down. Some of these schools are boarding schools; some are day schools. Who will provide this sort of facility when we have wiped out the private schools? It is not a matter of dealing with the very rich. I find that very many of the children at the schools I go to are educated through parents' second jobs and second incomes, very often at considerable personal sacrifice. People should be encouraged to do what they see as most appropriate for their children at some personal sacrifice.

I shall make one or two other comments, including one that Senator Sir John Carrick made: It is just rotten economics to prevent the parents' dollar going into education instead of the tax dollar, particularly at a time when we claim to be short of money. I think this report cost $750,000. In the election before last the Victorian Teachers Federation claimed that it had been treacherously sold down the drain; having paid the money, it did not get what it bought. The report may be a little late, but it is probably the report that the Federation bought then.

I have even had letters complaining about private education from a couple of teachers whose best argument was that new government schools were affecting their promotion opportunities. Somebody even suggested to me that the Department of Education should be renamed the department of teacher occupation. However, the vast majority of teachers, whether in the private or public sectors, are dedicated and capable people interested in the good of their pupils. Why should we interfere to this level to try to get them to do things which are contrary to their training and professional dedication just to make them political pawns? The Government is so weak. I think I would have given it more credit had it just said that it intended to implement its policy for the elimination of private schools rather than going through this charade of producing this fabrication of a report which claims to say: 'Yes, it is bad that we should allow people to do what is reasonable, sensible and within their means'.