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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 2020


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the House that this Bill will go into the Committee stage shortly and then there will be ample opportunity for honourable members to say whether they are for or against what the honourable member for Sturt is putting. I call the honourable member for Sturt.


Mr WILSON - This legislation needs to be amended to ensure that the Schools Commission will pay regard to the educational opportunities of every Australian child and provide and guarantee the right of a real choice to parents to have their children educated either in a state-run school or an independent school.

The other aspect of the Bill that the Opposition wishes to see amended is that which relates to the composition of the Commission. We seek this amendment because at this time when there is this trend towards involving the community in education we believe that the community and those concerned directly with education should have an opportunity of submitting to the Minister a panel of names from which he can select the appropriate number to comprise the Commission. If one turns to the recommendations of the Karmel Committee it is interesting to find that that Committee reported as follows:

The Committee favours less rather than more centralised control over the operation of schools. Responsibility should be devolved as far as possible upon the people involved in the actual task of schooling, in consultation with the parents of pupils whom they teach and, at senior levels, with the students themselves. Its belief in this grass-roots approach to the control of the schools reflects a conviction that responsibility will be most effectively discharged where the people entrusted with making decisions are also the people responsible for carrying them out, with an obligation to justify them, and in a position to profit from their experience.

Later on the Committee went on to say:

As responsibility moves downward, the professionals in schools must expect to share planning and control with parents and interested citizens, safeguarded by limitations where professional expertise is involved.

It is upon those principles that we now advocate amendments which would require the Schools Commission to be comprised of representatives made up in the following manner: The Commission should be headed by a chairman who shall be the only full time member. There should be 2 other members appointed directly by the Minister for Education. There should be 7 more members selected from a panel of ten nominated by the Australian Education Council, representing the State school systems through the State education Ministers.

The Council, in selecting its nominees, no doubt would take account of the recommendation of the Karmel Committee that all those involved in the various aspects of education, teachers, professionals and parents, should be involved in that panel. Then there should be 4 members selected from a panel of seven nominated by the independent school authorities, and one member from a panel of three nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education. In this way the Minister will have the final say as to who shall be on the Commission but he will have an obligation to select the final group from panels selected by people close to education in the State systems, in the independent school system and in the area of education research.

We urge upon the Government that it give serious consideration to this matter and the other amendments that have been proposed. In this way we of the Opposition believe that under this legislation a Commission can be established which will far more effectively carry out the philosophy enunciated by the Karmel Committee and at the same time raise the standard of education of every Australian child whilst preserving a right which Australians hold dear - the right to freedom of choice, the right to select the schools to which they send their children. The States responsibility under the United Nations Charter is to provide free education. It is not the States' obligation to compel a monopolistic situation where freedom of choice is taken away, either directly by prohibition or indirectly by so raising the price of choice that there is no choice at all.







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