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Wednesday, 24 November 1965

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) . - Mr. Speaker, I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1965 has for its purpose the implementation of the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia. This is known to honorable members as the Martin Committee report. This Bill authorises the Commonwealth Government to make grants of £2,400,000 for new colleges for advanced education in respect of the States of Australia. These grants are for the period 1st July 1965 to 31st December 1966. The increasing interest of the Commonwealth Government in education is appreciated by the Opposition as it is appreciated by the nation. I join with the honorable member for Fremantle in saying that more could be done and more should be done. Quite obviously this nation is bedevilled by the problem that the States will go their way with their education systems and priorities while the Commonwealth, in its wisdom and finding the finance for education, wishes to take another course. In this particular instance, the Commonwealth is fortified. Its needs are strengthened by the excellent report to which I have referred - the Martin report. Thoughtful people now agree that national leadership in education in Australia is needed and that basically there is need for a searching inquiry into all forms of education so that a more uniform approach may be developed to the question of education.

I should like here to offer congratulations to the eminent gentlemen who were members of the Martin Committee for the excellent report that they have furnished to the Parliament and the Government. The volumes are of inestimable value not only to members of the Parliament and to educators but generally to people who are deeply interested in the advancement of our nation. The report goes far beyond dealing merely with the question of how the Parliament should act in making available £2,400,000. This seems to me to be only the beginning of further Federal assistance in the development of the important field of education in Australia.

When the report of the Martin Committee was submitted to the Parliament and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) delivered his speech on the report, we were all encouraged because we felt that this was the beginning of a new venture. It is true, as the honorable member for Fremantle said, that these are not universities in the full sense of the word. They are technological bodies based more on utilitarian values but dealing also with higher education. It is important that the findings of the Martin Committee should be known. In Chapter 1, which is headed "The Nation and Tertiary Education, Conclusions and Recommendations ", the Committee set out a number of principles which I believe are important. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in " Hansard " the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee.

The Nation and Tertiary Education.

Conclusions and Recommendations. 1. (i) During the post-war years in Australia there has been a rapid increase in the number of persons seeking higher education. The growth in population does not wholly account for this; it is the increased proportion of young people now seeking education beyond the secondary level that arrests attention. The Committee believes that this reflects a genuine demand on the part of the Australian community for increased opportunities for higher education. 1. (ii) The 20th century has been noteworthy for an exceptional acceleration in the rate of increase in knowledge. Translated into technological advance, this has resulted in societies of everincreasing complexity. Higher education, in both the sciences and the humanities, is an essential con dition for the stability and progress of such societies. 1. (iii) The Committee recognizes the interdependence of primary, secondary and tertiary education, and emphasizes that a balanced programme of educational development is essential. 1. (iv) The human values associated with education are so well recognized as to need little elaboration, but the Committee emphasizes that they are the very stuff of a free, democratic and cultured society. 1. (v) Education should be regarded as an investment which yields direct and significant economic benefits through increasing the skill of the population and through accelerating technological progress. The Committee believes that economic growth in Australia is dependent upon a high and advancing level of education. 1. (vi) Education in the humanities and the social sciences, as well as in the physical and biological sciences and technologies, plays an important role in the general education of all citizens and in specialized training for management and administration. 1. (vii) The Committee has framed its recommendations with the object of widening the range of educational opportunities beyond the secondary school, of providing extensive vocational and specialized training and of ensuring that Australia makes a worth-while contribution to the advancement of knowledge and of achievement.

1.   (viii) The Committee agrees with the view (widespread in Australia) that higher education should be available to all citizens according to their inclination and capacity. Such a view accords with the aspirations of individuals and serves the needs of the community in promoting dynamic economic growth. 1. (ix) The Committee recognizes that in certain specialized fields there may be conflict between individual aspirations and community needs. However, it believes that, in general, such conflict should be resolved by the operation of supply and demand. Research into future requirements for certain types of training is useful; but the Committee does not believe that the entry of students into various courses should be restricted to forecasts of future needs. This would circumscribe educational opportunity and involve the risk of grave error. 1. (x) Public interest in, and government support for, higher education have greatly increased during the past decade. The climate of opinion favours further expansion, and the Committee supports such expansion on both social and economic grounds.

When the Prime Minister delivered his speech, I was particularly interested to learn whether money would be provided for country tertiary colleges, particularly at Bathurst and Wagga in New South Wales. The people in the Wagga district and throughout the western districts of New South Wales and all people interested in decentralisation were also eager to hear whether money would be provided. I was disappointed, as were thousands of people throughout the western districts of New South Wales and the Wagga and Riverina areas, to learn that the recommendation of the Martin Committee has not been implemented. This is not because the Commonwealth Government has refused to take action in this matter but because the State of New South Wales has failed to honour its obligations and has failed to play its part.

I was deeply interested in the second reading speech of the Prime Minister on this Bill. I waited to hear his remarks about the Bathurst tertiary college. Great enthusiasm had been developed within the Bathurst, Orange, Lithgow and central western regions. The City of Bathurst was supported by the City of Orange and the City of Lithgow. The adjacent municipalities and shires all joined in support of Bathurst's claim for a full university, to go beyond the tertiary college. All these people wanted to see the development in a city of learning of a centre of education that would work in conjunction with the numerous schools and colleges that exist there at present. I waited in vain to hear the Prime Minister refer to Bathurst and Wagga. Eventually he said -

No provision has been made for Commonwealth grants to new colleges at Bathurst and Wagga. The New South Wales Government has told us that it has no proposals for these colleges at present. Should such proposals be made in the future, the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to to give them favorable consideration.

If the New South Wales Government honours its promises and obligations and establishes tertiary colleges at Bathurst and Wagga, I hope that the sums of money mentioned by the Prime Minister on 24th March of this year will be made available, when presenting the report of the Martin Committee on 24th March, the Prime Minister listed the interim capital grants to colleges for 1965 and 1966. Colleges and institutions throughout Australia were mentioned and the list included the Bathurst college and the Wagga college. Each college was to receive an interim grant of £100,000. I hope that the money promised by the Prime Minister on that occasion will not be used in some other way but will be reserved for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

The Martin Committee emphasised the importance of Bathurst and Wagga. Its report is an outstanding document. The three volumes warrant the careful attention of honorable members. There can be no doubt of the need for increased educational facilities in Australia. At present, students are being turned away from our universities because of the lack of facilities for them. In the introduction to its report, the Martin Committee said -

The magnitude of the increases in university enrolments, for example, is shown by the following comparison: in the period 1946-63 the increase in the 17-22 year age group was 32 per cent., whereas the number of enrolments per 10,000 of the age group during this period increased from 230 to 740, i.e., by 220 per cent.

These figures demand the closest attention of the Commonwealth Government and particularly of the New South Wales Government, which has failed to honour its obligation to meet the educational needs of the people of that State. Shortly after it's triumph at the election, the New South Wales Government turned its back on the need to decentralise centres of education throughout the State. The Minister for Education in New South Wales previously had promised the Mayor and citizens of Bathurst that he would support the development of education there.

The report of the Martin Committee contains an important statement that should not go unnoticed. It is -

The factors which determine national survival in the modern world require the Australian community to provide talented young people with opportunities to develop their innate abilities to the maximum. With its increasing dependence upon skills of all kinds, the community will rely upon their efforts for its future welfare. But more is required than proficiency in skills . . .

Of course, that point has been made very well indeed by the honorable member for Fremantle. It is doubtful whether the people of any previous age have been confronted with social, national and international problems as complex and as far reaching as those with which mankind is faced today. These problems call for the mature judgment of free and well-trained minds. This statement by the Martin Committee is significant; it is the key to the document itself. Where better could we find places for the establishment of tertiary colleges and the development of full universities than in the country districts? The report of the Martin Committee has mentioned such places and it is regrettable that the New South Wales Government has turned a deaf ear to the representations of people from country districts. The New South Wales Government has also ignored the considered views of the Committee, which are contained in this report. As appears at paragraph 6.88 of the report, the Committee stated -

The Committee sees advantages in developing tertiary colleges in two country centres - Bathurst and Wagga. Each of these towns meets most of the criteria mentioned earlier in this chapter (para. 6.26).

In paragraph 6.(v) in the conclusions and recommendations in chapter 6 at page 171 of the report we find this -

The Committee has given careful consideration to the submissions advocating the establishment of university institutions outside the metropolitan areas. While the Committee is convinced that there is no case for the immediate establishment of universities in the extra-metropolitan areas, it believes that some tertiary institutions should be developed in the country and that they might become constituent members of the various Institutes of Colleges. The Committee has recommended the development of tertiary colleges at Bathurst, Wagga, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. The Committee envisages that diploma courses will be the main concern of the constituent members of the Institutes of Colleges.

I ask honorable members to note, Mr. Speaker, that Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo are in Victoria and Toowoomba and Rockhampton are in Queensland and that the Governments of both those States have honoured their obligations.. They have accepted the challenge and provided funds and the Commonwealth Government has matched them £1 for £1 as provided for in this measure which honorable members on this side of the House are pleased to support this evening. I would be considerably heartened if we could say that the New South Wales Government had played its part - if it had respected the findings in the Martin report and had remembered its declarations in favour of decentralisation and educational institutions in country districts. It should be remembered that those persons who were members of the Martin Committee and who compiled this report are eminent gentlemen whose views are worthy of the closest attention and consideration.

It has been thought by some that universities should be established in country centres like those that have been mentioned.

Australia needs the fullest possible education of all the people who make up our society. Those who are not to become doctors or barristers or who will not excel in some other profession could perhaps succeed in animal husbandry, in understanding the soils of our country, in farm management, in marketing and in other fields that relate to the management of the rural sector of eur economy. All these fields could be the subject of teaching in tertiary colleges. There is also an obvious need for the extension of these educational services to meet the needs of increasing industrialisation in many of our country towns and cities.

It has been said by some that if a tertiary college were established in a country centre there would not be sufficient students to avail themselves of the facilities. It should be known, Mr. Speaker, that the establishment of a tertiary college at Bathurst and another at Wagga has been carefully considered and that these proposals have had the support of many people who have given the matter careful consideration. On the question of travel we ought to know that today people already travel for their education but at present it is country people who are obliged to go to the cities where they have to pay high charges for accommodation, especially in Sydney. If evidence of the success of a country university is required, let us think of the magnificent record of the University of New England at Armidale, which has made a fine contribution to the cultural development of this country, situated as it is in the country. We should not forget, too, that when the School of General Studies of the Australian National University commenced operations in Canberra in 1960 it had 216 full time students. We have the evidence in the Martin report of the 220 per cent, increase since that time and we have heard of students being turned away. So it is difficult to understand why the New South Wales Government has not co-operated a little more closely with the Commonwealth in this important adventure in the advancement of education in Australia.

Looking through the first report of the committee appointed by the Minister for Education in New South Wales to inquire into various aspects of higher education in that State, which was presented in August 1961, I see at page 105 a table giving the hypothetical distribution of university students in 1960. It gives the figure for the Mitchell region, which includes Orange, Bathurst and Lithgow, as 433. That number is higher than the hypothetical number given for almost all other country regions in New South Wales. It is exceeded only by the Wagga, Griffith and Cootamundra region, apart from the Sydney, Newcastle and Illawarra areas. These figures are eloquent in their way because they indicate that there would be at least 433 full-time students available for a university college at Bathurst. When one adds to this number those prospective students who live in the western districts of the State, one finds that there are 1,356 prospective students in the Mitchell, Macquarie and Lachlan regions, together with what is known as the Western Division. These prospective students would have the opportunity to take advantage of a tertiary college at Bathurst. Even if the number were halved, there would be 678 full-time students available to take advantage of the facilities of a tertiary college there.

Why should not students travel to a country university or tertiary college rather than travel from the country to the city to attend such an institution? Those who speak so glibly about decentralisation in New South Wales apparently have deserted its cause with respect to the establishment of educational institutions. It is regrettable to hear the melancholy story of that State in education today, with a substantial reduction in the funds voted for education at a time when there is a greater need than ever to provide for the education of our people in this great age in which we live when the sciences are so necessary to our future and when training in the humanities above all is required so that people may play their part as good citizens of Australia in this difficult and troubled time. As I have said, education to the fullest possible degree is urgently needed in these days. I support the Bill. I wish it a speedy passage. I can only hope that the New South Wales Government will have a change of heart in its attitude to education.

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