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Wednesday, 24 November 1965


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- Mr. Speaker,the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1965 makes an important contribution to technical education. I ask the House to note that every educational institution mentioned as being assisted with the grant of £2,400,000 is an institute of technology. This is somewhat different from what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said a couple of months ago. He reminded us in his second reading speech on this Bill that, in tabling the first two volumes of the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia on 24th March last, he announced -

.   . that the Government had accepted the Committee's central recommendation for the development of advanced education in institutions which will become virtually new types of tertiary colleges outside the universities.

Now, I do not make this as a criticism of the Bill, but I do ask the House to note that these institutions are not new types of tertiary colleges outside the universities. The States have taken the opportunity to use the grants to finance institutions of technology which are not the same things as university colleges which were foreshadowed as the new form of tertiary education to be financed in the Bill. I do not blame the States for this action; nor do I blame the Commonwealth Government for making matching grants to the States. But I do say that these institutes of technology are not some new development in tertiary education in Australia. We have had the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for a long time.

The grant of £2,400,000 is significant. But, realistically, it is not yet the basis of the advances we need. With matching grants from the States, it means an expenditure of less than £5 million. Vital as this expenditure is, do not let us delude ourselves that by world standards it represents generosity. It is additional, of course, to other technical expenditure. But in the last decade technological education in every country has undergone a revolution. In the last decade, the world has become highly competitive technologically. Technological advance in West Germany far outstrips Australia's advance in the same field. Japanese technological advance, with a concomitant advance in the whole Japanese economy, is far beyond the capabilities of Australia. The Scandinavian countries, Holland, Belgium and France are leaving our investment in technical and technological education far behind. So is the United Kingdom which, in comparison with some countries on the continent of Europe, has lagged. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has reminded us in his statement on international aid for Papua and New Guinea that we have responsibility for technical advance in this

Territory. We need facilities here for training the best young people of the Territory. This measure, no doubt, will provide something to meet this need.

Not long ago, a United States business expert informed a society of employers in Melbourne that the lack of skilled workers inhibited foreign investment in Australia. Investment in skills is as critically necessary to ensure industrial and technological advance as is investment in plant and machinery. The Opposition believes that the sum that we are authorising, though important, reveals that the Commonwealth and the States still are not possessed of an adequate vision of the future of technical education in Australia. We still are not seeing the new type of tertiary education foreshadowed in the original statement made by the Prime Minister. I do not say that the Commonwealth can rush ahead and make a greater matching grant at the moment than the States are prepared to make. But I do say that we should not delude ourselves that a measure of £5 million to establish these institutes of technology is anything other than the beginnings of a technical advance.

The Bill is welcome. The Opposition would have moved an amendment to it to ensure the tabling of an annual report from the Wark Committee but for the fact that, as this Committee is not a statutory body and as this is a financial measure, such an amendment would not have been in order. A heavy investment in technical education of the most advanced kind is the difference between developed and underdeveloped countries. We need to strengthen technical education at levels below the institutes of technology that are set out here. The private sector of education is chronically weak in technical education. The State education systems are seriously weak also. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States and other technical authorities, must produce a sounder secondary technical system to buttress the development of advanced education in institutions and institutes of technology, which will become a complete system of tertiary education outside the universities. We regret that the Bill, which will provide part of an expenditure of less than £5 million all over Australia, cannot really meet the needs. It is to be hoped that the Wark Committee will lift the vision of both the Commonwealth Government and, particularly, the State Governments. For this reason, we feel that an annual report to this Parliament should be made in order to keep us abreast of needs, thinking, vision and achievements.

We wish the Bill a successful passage and ask the Government three things. The first is that the Bill shall be merely the harbinger of an extensive new programme of education to develop the finest technical skills in the young people of Australia. Secondly, we ask that the Parliament be furnished with reports from the Wark Committee. We ask, thirdly, that the Commonwealth, which foreshadowed the new form of tertiary education which was not, strictly speaking, institutes of technology, will use its influence with the States to see that the new form of tertiary education does come into existence. With those remarks, I support the Bill on behalf of the Opposition.







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