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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3417

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(8.28) —Madam Acting Deputy President--(Quorum formed) The Senate has been debating cognately the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 3), the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Amendment Bill (No. 2) and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2), the legislation by which Commonwealth Budget funding affecting schools and higher education institutions throughout Australia is appropriated. A number of criticisms have been made of the contents of the legislation by those Opposition senators who felt free to criticise the fact that the Government was forced to make reductions in some programs while having no alternative solution to offer with regard to the economic management of this country.

I point out for the benefit of Senator Reid, who made some detailed comments on Australian Capital Territory technical and further education colleges, that I will be happy to respond to her concerns but not on this occasion because in fact the funding of Australian Capital Territory TAFE colleges is not a part of the legislation before us. Strictly speaking, Senator Reid's remarks were out of order. Australian Capital Territory TAFE colleges are funded through my Department's vote and not through the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission Bills.

Generally speaking, there was a great deal of criticism of areas where cuts had to be made and very little acknowledgment of the overall increases in education funding contained in the Bills. For example, the States grants tertiary education assistance legislation demonstrates yet again our Government's determination to have growth and improvements of standards in higher education. Every Budget brought down by the Hawke Government has contained real increases of a substantial nature for the tertiary sector and, as a result, we have been able to create many thousands of places-in excess of 38,000 new places-and fund many new initiatives dealing with equity, standards, key centres of teaching and research and so on. Although there were, regrettably, some cuts in some schools programs, the major programs-those that appropriate most funding to schools throughout Australia-were not reduced. Indeed, the main program-the four-year general recurrent program-contains real increases for all schools in Australia, government and non-government, with the exception of the very high resourced non-government schools.

I do not know that Senator Macklin quite understands the four-year general recurrent program because he suggested that some instability would be introduced into the system because of our Government's desire to see some of that extra funding devoted to the English as a second language area. Senator Macklin seems not to understand that the vast amount of recurrent funding goes untied to the States and the non-government systems for them to use for their day to day purposes. We do not direct the use of those funds. The four-year legislation which gives them those funds has undoubtedly-anybody objectively discussing this will agree-given schools, non-government and government but particularly non-government because of their greater reliance on Commonwealth grants, the greatest period of stability they have ever experienced. They have acknowledged this on many occasions. The area under discussion, the area which can be directed to new programs agreed between State and Federal governments, is a very small part indeed of the general recurrent grant. Senator Macklin's suggestion that there is some disruption to the overall flow of money to the schools through the general recurrent program is quite wrong and seems to be based on a misunderstanding of how the program works. I will not take up the time of the Senate in saying again why the Government was forced to make some reductions in some areas. I will simply conclude by saying that in all the areas where there were reductions there are other possible sources of funds-Commonwealth and State-to be used to maintain those programs, if that is the desire of the States or the systems that are responsible for them. In the case of ESL it has been very well publicised that this will happen. In areas such as professional development there will be the direction of funds from other Commonwealth programs into the professional development area, and the States have the fundamental responsibility for the professional development of the teachers they employ. I indicate that the various versions of the second reading amendments which will come before the Senate are not acceptable to the Government. I commend the Bills to the Senate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bjelke-Petersen) —The Senate is at present dealing with three States grants Bills. With respect to the third Bill, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1986, Senator Peter Baume has moved an amendment to which Senator Powell has moved a further amendment. I now put the question: That the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1986 and the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1986 be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The question in relation to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1986 now is: That the words proposed to be left out by Senator Powell's amendment to Senator Peter Baume's amendment be left out.

Amendment (Senator Powell's to Senator Peter Baume's) agreed to.

Amendment (Senator Peter Baume's), as amended, agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.