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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 2034


Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - Clause 13 is one of the most important clauses in the whole Bill. It is the one that comes to the substance of the operations of the Commission and points the nose of the Commission in whatever direction the Government might intend. Earlier the Minister was somewhat scathing of the admittedly hasty drafting that has been undertaken of our amendments because of the short time that the Opposition had to examine this important Bill. The Government and the parliamentary draftsmen have had several months to examine the legislation. I should like to read one sub-clause which we propose be deleted because of the convoluted and verbose manner in which it says something which is very hard for anyone to understand. The Minister might well get to his feet afterwards and say what he thinks it means. I think that people would have to read the clause very carefully several times to find out what in fact it means and then they would not be sure. Paragraph (c) of clause 13 (1) states:

Matters in connexion with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of schools and school systems and to schools in the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, including matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance to be so granted by Australia, the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted and the amount and allocation of any financial assistance so granted;

That is a somewhat lengthy paragraph. It is' somewhat verbose and difficult to understand. We are proposing that this whole paragraph be deleted and that it be replaced with a shorter one in these terms:

Any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b).

We also believe that the preamble to clause 13 is inadequate, because we want the Commission to be a co-operative arrangement. We want to enshrine in the Bill itself the cooperation that we believe ought to be undertaken. For those reasons we believe that the first 3 lines of sub-clause (1) of clause 13 ought to be deleted and that in its place we should insert these words:

The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and the Independent school authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters:

We propose that following these words would be paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Bill and the new paragraph (c) which we have indicated we wish to have inserted by way of amendment. In addition, further on in clause 13, in paragraph (d) of sub-clause (1) we want to insert a provision so that the Australian Education Council and not only the Commonwealth Minister will have the capacity to refer matters to the Commission. I would hope that at least the Minister might agree to that innocuous but helpful suggestion. It needs to be noted that the Australian Education Council does not consist of a single Minister of a State; it is a body on which the Minister himself is represented. I think it would have been reasonable to allow that body to refer matters to the Commission for examination and not merely the Commonwealth Minister, who as the Bill stands could ignore the Education Council in its entirety.

When we come to sub-clause (3) of clause 13 we find the matters to which the Opposition objects most significantly. Here the Government enshrines the words which admittedly were taken from the Australian Labor Party's own platform or words that are very similar to the ones in the platform. Paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3) states: the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children;

We do not deny the Government obligation in that area but at the same time we believe that there are obligations to all children. In addition to the obligations concerning Government schools there is an obligation to those who choose to go to independent schools. I think the best way to explain the differences between the Bill and the Opposition's intention is to go through our amendments to sub-clause (3.) We seek to insert the following words:

In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in Government or independent schools. Further the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights a copy of which is set out hereunder.

The Minister chose to ridicule that Charter and to say that it was inappropriate to Australia. I suppose that he would claim that it would be appropriate only to Africa, and he has said as much.


Mr Beazley - Rot.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - He did say it and if he now wishes to retract it and say that he did not mean it-


Mr Beazley - I did not say it was appropriate only to Africa. I said that in Africa there were many countries that needed the statement that you had to make primary education free, but it happened in Australia in 1890.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The Minister was speaking of the Charter as a whole. If he now wishes to qualify what he said I accept his explanation completely. The Minister is quite right when he points out that the part of Article 26 which we believe to be important and relevant is the third paragraph, which states that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Again in the spirit of ecumenical compromise that has applied to this legislation, Jet me state that if the Minister because of his objections wishes to delete the first 2 paragraphs of Article 26 and enshrine in the Bill only the third paragraph of Article 26, the Opposition will have no objection to that comcomprise. I think it would be a reasonable one. It would certainly make the Bill a little shorter. The third paragraph states:

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

If the Government wishes to vote against that it is voting against something which many people, including many who go to government schools, believe to be a fundamental right of parents, and it will be interesting to hear the Government's intentions. The proposed new sub-clause (3) goes on:

Furthermore in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the need to provide increased and equal opportunities for education in all Australian schools. In pursuit Of these objectives the Commission shall have regard to -

(a)   the obligation for governments to provide and maintain -

This is what the Minister sought to ridicule this afternoon - government schools systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees; lt was really an unnecessary comment by the Minister which he might regret tomorrow morning. The proposed new sub-clause goes on:

(b)   the pre-eminent position of State Departments of Education in relation to their own schools;

(c)   the pre-eminent position of independent authorities in relation to their own schools;

All we are doing here is asking the Schools Commission to take into account the rights of parents. We stress the obligation for governments to provide government school systems of the highest standards open to all children, the pre-eminent position of the States in relation to their government schools and of independent authorities in relation to theirs. I would have thought that there is nothing in any of those amendments that runs counter to any honourable policy in education. If the Minister wants to say that those words would make it quite impossible for the Government to carry out its education policy he will have to demonstrate that with greater capacity than he has so far done. The remainder of our amendment seeking to insert a new sub-clause (3) assigns new letters to the existing paragraphs (b) to (g), but the remainder of it is as the Minister has intended in the Bill he has presented to the Parliament.

I move:

In sub-clause (1) omit the words '(1) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters: - ', substitute the following words:

(1)   The functions of the Commission are to inquire into the co-operation with the States Departments of Education and the Independent School Authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters: - '.

In sub-clause (1), omit paragraph (c), substitute the following paragraph:

(c)   Any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b).'.

In sub-clause (l)(d), after the word 'Minister', insert the words 'or by the Australian Education Council'. .

Omit sub-clause (2).

Omit sub-clause (3), substitute the following subclauses:

(3)   In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in Government or independent schools. Further, the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on human rights, a copy of which is set out hereunder:

ARTICLE 26. -1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2.   Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3.   Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. (3a) Furthermore, in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the need to provide increased and equal opportunities for education in all Australian schools. In pursuit of these objectives the Commission shall have regard to -

(a)   the obligation for governments to provide and maintain schools systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees;

(b)   the pre-eminent position of State Departments of Education in relation to their own schools;

(c)   the pre-eminent position of independent authorities in relation to their own schools;

(d)   the educational needs of handicapped children and handicapped young persons;

(e)   the needs of disadvantaged schools and of students at disadventaged schools, and of other students suffering disadvantages in relation to education for social, economic, ethnic, geographic, cultural, lingual or similar reasons;

(f)   the need to encourage diversity and innovation in education in schools and in the curricular and teaching methods of schools;

(g)   the need to stimulate and encourage public and private interests in, and support for improvements in primary and secondary education and in schools and school systems;

(h)   the desirability of providing special educational opportunities for students who have demonstrated their ability in a particular field of studies, including scientific, literary, artistic or musical studies; and

0)   the need, in relation to primary and secondary education and in schools and school systems, to promote the economic use of resources.'.


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Is it the wish of the Committee that these amendments be dealt with together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - The only exception to the amendments I have moved would be if the Minister were going to accept any part of those amendments, thus obviating the need for a vote on that part, but we might know that after the Minister responds.







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