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Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 1980

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister for Education. I ask whether the spokesperson for the New South Wales Teachers Federation, in referring to last night's statement by the Treasurer, said:

Our only major concern is with the cuts in school libraries. The Government should look at alternatives to substantial cuts in school libraries. As long as other cuts are applied fairly as responsible Australians and taxpayers we should take a responsible attitude to it. We, the teachers, did get out of it quite well.

Is it significant that the Federation made no reference to the re-scheduling of participation and equity program funds and presumably included that item amongst those to which the Federation, to use its own words, should take a responsible attitude?

Senator RYAN —My attention was drawn to a transcript of comments by Ivan Paget from the New South Wales Teachers Federation on a Channel 9 program using the words which Senator Colston has read out. I must say that I am very heartened to know that the New South Wales Teachers Federation seems to understand that the Government, at a time of necessary cut-backs, has had to address itself to all major areas of government expenditure, including education. I think it is significant that the only decision that Mr Paget commented on in particular was the libraries element. I explained to the Senate in response to a previous question from Senator Baume that there should be no downgrading of libraries as a result of the decision because the purpose of that program was to upgrade libraries and that has substantially been done.

I think it is significant that the Teachers Federation has chosen not to criticise the decision to slow down the amount of funds flowing into the PEP program. I hope that the teachers, with whom I will be having meetings, as well as parents and other interested parties will appreciate that adequate funds are still flowing to maintain the program at a constructive level, but given that we have had to slow down the flow of funds into that program, we will have the opportunity for a consolidation of what has happened to date. We still have the opportunity to review the operation of the program. As there have been some administrative problems in the past in that program, that is an opportunity that we should all use constructively.

I know that the New South Wales Teachers Federation had some criticisms of some aspects of the administration of the program-not of its overall objectives, of course. I hope that, in continuing this responsible attitude, it will seize this opportunity of a slower flow of funds into the participation and equity program to see in which areas the administration or targeting of the program needs improvement. In conclusion, I must say that I am appreciative of the view expressed by Mr Paget on behalf of the New South Wales Teachers Federation that the Federation will adopt a responsible attitude and accepts the basic strategy of what the Government is attempting to do and has succeeded in doing.