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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3919


Mr MULDER (Evans) -When one reads the amendment moved by the Opposition to the States Grants (Schools) Bill one notes that it states:

(a)   the haste with which the Interim Schools Commission conducted its inquiries.

It was a promise by the then Leader of the Opposition the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) prior to the election that the Interim Schools Commission would be commenced at the earliest time. It was established before last Christmas and I have heard little opposition to it expressed by educationists, teachers, parents and friends. I have heard most educationists in Australia express only congratulations for the thorough report which has been presented by the Interim Schools Commission. The amendment continues:

(b)   the facts that requirements differ between different States, and (c) that the States are the best judge of their own needs and priorities. . . .

The amendment also suggests that the Government should allow an accountable flexibility between different categories of expenditure. This is not a trivial amendment, as previous speakers have claimed. This amendment has been moved to torpedo and destroy the entire report of the Interim Schools Commission.

The amendment proposes to give the money to the States for the States themselves to break up. Under this proposal, we would hand back to the political parties and to the Ministers of the various States the power to feather their own nests, as they have done in the past. As the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) said earlier, the proposal would allow politicians to nominate where this money will go. The Government's idea is that educationists - the Schools Commission - should nominate where money is to be spent. It is taxpayers' money which will be spent and the Government believes that it is the educationists - the people who will form the Commission - who should nominate where in the education system this money should go.

It will be a wonderful Commission - a wonderful system - if it can be started. The Australian Government has a mandate to establish a schools commission along the lines proposed in the Schools Commission Bill. The amendment which has been moved to the Schools Commission Bill to provide funds in the form of States grants would make the Commission unworkable. Most importantly, the Commission can easily be disbanded and the Australian Government does not want this to happen. We have promised the people a permanent schools commission and the people have the right to expect permanency, regardless of what government is in power. The amendment could mean that Australian government funds for non-government schools would not be available for the beginning of the next school year. The Bill we are debating today is most important and the amendments which have been moved by the Opposition are not acceptable to our Government.

Before I continue, I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who is now indisposed, for the amount of work he has put into bringing this Bill before the chamber. Prior to the election, the now Minister for Education spelt out Labor's proposal in no uncertain words. He came to my electorate of Evans and spelt out what the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, would do if it were elected to office. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his pre-election speeches also spelt out what was anticipated and what is now coming to fruition in this Bill which provides for an amount of money to be spent on a schools commission. I should like to congratulate the Postmaster-General and Acting Minister for

Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) on his handling of this Bill.

The honourable member for Casey has described the problems of disadvantaged schools in his electorate. His electorate is very similar to mine and his problems with disadvantaged children, migrant children and children from broken homes, high density living and low income families are similar to mine because I represent an inner western suburb of Sydney and the honourable member for Casey represents a suburb of Melbourne. Under this Bill, New South Wales government schools alone in the next 2 years will receive $140,320,000 while non-government schools will receive $62,238,000. This money which will be injected into education in New South Wales will increase the standard of education in that State. Two honourable members who spoke earlier criticised the amount of money to be poured into the education system. They said that the schools would not be able to expand at a sufficient rate in the year or two over which it is expected that this money will be provided to them. They said that the education system will not be able to cater for such expenditure. I should like to take these honourable members around my electorate and show them the requirements of an electorate in an inner western suburb of Sydney, where children are being taught in school corridors. I have seen the children of migrant families trying to teach other migrant children the English language. This is wrong. Bricks and mortar can be put up quickly, but educationists cannot be made instantly and this is where the slowing up period will begin. We may not be able to obtain the number of teachers required in the time that we envisage. But the Minister for Education has stated in this House that New South Wales is capable of carrying out such a program.

Some honourable members apposite who have spoken in this debate said that they were worried about additional swimming pools being provided. In my electorate people are not worried about the provision of additional swimming pools in the schools. They are worried about additional classrooms, teachers and facilities for education. There has been a marked increase in expenditure by the Australian Government on primary and secondary education for which this Government accepts direct responsibility. The Government is not only providing funds for secondary and tertiary education; it is also now directing money into primary education by the provision of libraries for primary schools. These were not provided by previous governments. The total existing grants for such purposes amounted to $38m but the proposed grant this year for New South Wales alone is $249m. This increase in expenditure will greatly affect New South Wales. The schools in my electorate will use this money. We will give these children, whether they be our own children or migrant children who are entering these schools, a decent education.

In conclusion, I mention that a member of the Opposition said that for only $2m in 1974 and Sim in 1975, the per capita grants could be continued. However, members of the Opposition daily stand and say that it is excess Government expenditure that is causing inflation. They say that it is Government spending that is causing inflation, yet they say it should spend another $2m next year and another $lm the year after. The per capita grants system is finished. The people of Australia said so on 2 December last year. I shall finish my speech where I started: If the amendments were carried the Schools Commission Bill would be finished and the Government's proposal and what it was elected to do also would be finished. It would mean that for another 20 years there would be no advance in the education system in this country.







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