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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2464

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(11.17) —It seems that I have arrived at the right time as Senator Michael Baume's outburst would have been extremely misleading to the Committee. He quoted Michael Raper in respect of the response of the Catholic education system in New South Wales to Budget decisions. Michael Raper does not speak for the Catholic education system. He is a trade unionist who represents teachers, some of whom work in the Catholic system. He has not been involved in the negotiations about the ongoing provision of programs that may have been affected by Budget decisions; nor do I expect that he will be. Those negotiations have been at a very high level and have included negotiations between the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and me, Bishop Murphy, who is now the Chairman of the Catholic Education Commission, and Brother Taylor, who is the Director of the Catholic Education Office. The negotiations have been along the lines that there is adequate room in the very great increases in the general recurrent program funds flowing to Catholic schools in New South Wales to make the necessary adjustments so that the essential services to migrant children can continue. Those agreements in principle have been reached at the highest level and are being worked out.

It is true that the resource agreements to be made between the Commonwealth and the Catholic education system are not yet concluded. The reason for that is not specifically any lack of common purpose with regard to the use of general recurrent funds in the English as a second language area, but that those resource agreements cover a range of areas. Those resource agreements cover the use of the entire extra general recurrent funding which will flow to New South Wales under our four-year legislative program. A number of programs are to be negotiated. Senator Michael Baume may not be aware of the structure of the administration of Catholic education in New South Wales, which is regionalised through the various dioceses. So, there needs to be negotiation and settlement of the use of funds for particular purposes not only by the Catholic Education Commission but also with the Catholic Education Commission as a result of fairly extensive negotiations with the various dioceses throughout New South Wales. I can assure Senator Michael Baume that ad-equate funding is available for the education of migrant children, indeed all Catholic children, in New South Wales. If Senator Michael Baume would like to look at the net increases in Commonwealth funding for Catholic schools in New South Wales, he would see that they are very considerable.

It is true that the Catholic system attracts a high proportion of migrant children. Therefore, those children are beneficiaries not only of ESL programs but also of a whole range of other programs in which the Catholic education system participates: The disadvantaged schools program, the participation and equity program, the country areas program, the basic learning in primary schools program and so on. I recently had the pleasure of opening extensions to Casimir College in Marrickville, which is a very good example of a Catholic school which has a very high enrolment-about 90 per cent-of children from migrant backgrounds. That school is attracting in the vicinity, I think, of $1m in general recurrent funds each year. It has attracted a number of major capital grants. The migrant children in that school are benefiting from all of those things. The school is involved in the disadvantaged schools programs, it receives PEP funding and so on. All of these programs are flowing to the benefit of the migrant children in that school. As I said, it is a typical example of a Catholic school with a high migrant enrolment.

In the case of the changes made to ESL, we indicated in the original Budget decision that we believed that there was scope in the extra unallocated general recurrent program for any slack to be made up. As I said, we have in-principle agreement that that will be the way we will proceed. It is now for the Catholic Education Commission to negotiate that agreement throughout its own system. I believe that that will be satisfactorily done.