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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1684

Senator PETER BAUME(6.04) —It is important to examine this report of the Commonwealth Schools Commission containing its recommendations for 1986. The report is the Commission's latest assessment of what is necessary for Australian schools to meet what it considers to be educational priorities. I want to speak very briefly on this matter and to make just a couple of points. The report sets our what the Commission considers to be the urgent needs for funding in order to meet high priority needs. Paragraph 1.3 of the report says:

The Commission has confined its financial recommendations for 1986 to the urgent measures set out above-

that is, specific purpose program measures-

because it is presently undertaking a major review of the Commonwealth's specific purpose programs and detailed investigations are yet to be completed.

However, the Commission has considered some of the very high priority programs against the solemn promises that the Government has made to certain communities. The Commonwealth Schools Commission has come up with a very high-spending set of recommendations which really challenge the Government. For example, it has recommended that $26.5m in December 1984 prices be provided in 1986 for recurrent expenditure relating to the education of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. This represents a very considerable increase in real terms. It recommends as well in relation to the English as a second language program that grants be increased by 20 per cent in real terms for 1986. It recommends in relation to disadvantaged schools programs that funds be increased by 20 per cent in real terms for 1986. It contains several other recommendations for real increases in funds. For the special education program, for example, it recommends extra money to restore in real terms the amount by which this element was reduced under a Labor government between 1984 and 1985.

The point that needs to be made is that this is a very high resource-requiring ambit claim made by the Schools Commission on the basis of several things, including its assessment of educational need and priority and its assessment of what the Government has promised. I refer particularly to the Aboriginal educational program in respect of which the Government has made promises. In fact it referred to these promises today in the discussion of a matter of public importance. We are awaiting next Tuesday a financial statement, a mini-Budget, or whatever we call it, from the Government in which it hopes to unveil areas in which it will be cutting expenditure. It will be very interesting to see how the Government approaches the educational needs set out in this report from the Schools Commission, how it sets out its general budgetary management program and priorities, and how, for example, it approaches the achievement of its trilogy, to which we will not object if the Government can approach the trilogy in the interests of good national housekeeping, except of course that the trilogy is not enough in terms of what needs to be achieved.

Senator Aulich —Not enough?

Senator PETER BAUME —No, the trilogy is not enough to restore this nation to prosperity. It is a necessary start, but the challenge for the Government in responding to this Schools Commission program is to say how it will try to achieve its other economic goals and at the same time not turn its back upon the disadvantaged, the Aboriginal, the migrant and those in need of special education whose needs have been set out by the Schools Commission in this report. It is an extremely difficult problem for the Government. It is very likely that the disadvantaged and the weak will lose out once again when we see next Tuesday's package.

Question resolved in the affirmative.