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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1257

Senator COATES —Has the Minister for Education seen Tasmanian Press reports yesterday in which the Tasmanian Minister for Education, Mr Beswick, claimed the education of Tasmanian handicapped children will suffer in 1985 as a result of reduced Federal Government support for special education programs? Is Mr Beswick correct in his claims that the Federal Government has cut back its funding of special education programs in Tasmania? if not, can the Minister outline what financial support the Federal Government provides for special education in Tasmania?

Senator RYAN —My attention has been drawn to a report in the Hobart Mercury of 18 April in which the Tasmanian Minister for Education, John Beswick, is quoted as telling the House of Assembly that support for special education under the Commonwealth Schools Commission program to assist children in special and ordinary schools fell from $642,000 in 1984 to $614,000 in 1985. If Mr Beswick has been quoted correctly, his figures require correction.

Under the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1984, which sets out the Commonwealth programs for schools for both 1984 and 1985, $666,000 is available for special education in government schools in Tasmania for 1984 and $614,000 for that purpose in 1985. What Mr Beswick has ignored, however, in quoting the 1985 figure, is that under the Commonwealth's early special education program, which commenced in 1985, a further $50,000 is available for early special education programs that were formerly funded through the general special education element for government schools activities in this field in Tasmania.

The apparent reduction would, therefore, be from $666,000 in 1984 to $664,000 in 1985. This minor reduction is simply a result of the application of the formula for distributing funds under this program to the States, which program is based on each State's proportion of school enrolments. As Tasmania's government school population is declining as a proportion of the national government school population, it follows that successive annual amounts available to Tasmania will be reduced. Obviously there has been no real reduction in the level of services.