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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1416

Senator ELSTOB —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, concerns the Commonwealth Schools Commission funding guidelines for 1985-88. I refer the Minister to comments made by the Executive Director of the National Council of Independent Schools, Mr Berry Durston, in the Weekend Australian of 4 May 1985, when he said that the Government's new funding formula for non-government schools showed that the Government had a 'tall poppy' attitude to the welfare of private schools. Will the Minister comment on Mr Durston's statement that the Government's attitude is to cut the tall poppies down and that the new formula for recurrent funding is a disincentive to independent efforts to maintain standards of education?

Senator RYAN —My attention was drawn to Mr Durston's comments. I must say I was surprised to read them. He is apparently out of step not only with the whole of the private sector but also with his own organisation. I remind honourable senators that when the guidelines for the recurrent funding of government and non-government schools and the new formula on which the recurrent funding for non-government schools was to be based were announced last year, they were generally endorsed by all major organisations in the non-government sector. In fact, they were welcomed extremely warmly. I remind the Senate that the Chairman of the national Catholic Education Commission welcomed the clear statement of responsibility for all children which was contained in the guidelines and the practical implementation of this policy. The Australian Parents Council applauded the decision. I especially draw the Senate's attention to comments made by Mr Durston's Chairman, who said that the Government's guidelines had given the education of Australian youth a clear priority. The National Council of Independent Schools, Mr Durston's organisation, was also reported as having welcomed the Government's move to bring about financial justice for all Australian students.

All those comments and many more in the same tenor were made in respect of the very formula which has now been applied, and the results of its application have been made public. So it is quite surprising that Mr Durston seems now to have turned tail on the non-government sector and on his own organisation in making these critical comments.

Nothing has been changed and there is nothing new. The formula that was so warmly welcomed across the non-government sector has now been applied. Schools have been notified. The vast majority of schools, of course, will receive increased grants. Even those which will eventually end up in a lower funding category will have time to adjust to this by receiving the same money in dollar terms until they reach their appropriate funding level. I point out to honourable senators that the formula and the guidelines were extremely well received last year. The results have now been well received widely throughout the non-government sector. Remarks such as those made by Mr Durston are quite incomprehensible.