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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1276

Senator PETER BAUME —My question to the Minister for Education relates to a question I asked her recently on the future of the Commonwealth Schools Commission. Did the Minister meet with the Prime Minister and representatives of the National Catholic Education Commission, the Australian Parents Council and the National Council of Independent Schools on Wednesday, 17 April, at which time the future of the Commonwealth Schools Commission was discussed? Did the Minister put to that meeting that her proposal, entitled 'Transfer of Administration of General Recurrent and Capital Programs from the Commonwealth Schools Commission to the Department of Education', had the almost unanimous support of non-government school groups? Is it a fact that by the end of the meeting the Prime Minister had determined for himself that the non-government school groups represented were unanimously opposed to the dismantling of the Schools Commission? Finally, did the Prime Minister instruct the Minister to revise her proposal to take account of these discussions before she took them to Cabinet?

Senator RYAN —Senator Peter Baume seems to have a highly coloured account of one of the consultations the Government has undertaken on this matter. It is the case, as Senator Baume has set out, that there was a meeting between the Prime Minister, me and some representatives of the non-government sector, as there have been meetings between me and representatives of the non-government sector and representatives of the government sector on this matter over the last few months. It is the case that at that meeting some reservations were raised about the proposals which, from memory, centred on matters such as the desire of the non-government sector to continue to have access to the Commission, and to the Department of Education on policy matters, and to be reassured, which they were, that the public reporting role of the Commission would continue. At the end of the discussion the Prime Minister and I said that we would take note of the matters raised, and the matter is still under consideration. I do not expect that we will make a final decision on this matter until some crucial stages of the budgetary discussions have been concluded.

Senator PETER BAUME —I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister to address the last part of my question. Was she instructed, at the end of the meeting, to revise her proposal to take account of the matters raised in the discussions before the matter was taken to Cabinet?

Senator Robertson —What cheek; what impertinence!

Senator RYAN —It certainly is an impertinent question, as my colleague pointed out. As a matter of fact, it is certainly not the case. There were no instructions. The Prime Minister and I discussed the matters that were raised and obviously, as it was the purpose of the meeting, those views will be noted.