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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4097

Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - This is a debate in which one finds members of the Government Party putting forward archiac anachronistic class hatreds.

Government supporters - Ob!

Mr MacKELLAR - Honourable members opposite may laugh. One of the myths or lies continually perpetrated by successive speakers for the Government is that all this money will be going to the so-called rich schools, as though all the pupils at category A schools came from rich homes. If they are really concerned about the wealth of individual parents, why do they not move against the wealthy parents who send their children to state schools? Where is the hypocrisy that they suggest is in us when we say that all children, no matter where they come from and no matter what their background, should be treated basically as equals? That is our main proposition. The speech of the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) was a classic of class bitterness. All we seek to do - I want to make this clear to the people of Australia - is to hold the Government to the promises it made last year. I think that must be made clear because the Government is attempting to mislead the nation yet again on this issue. Let me quote from the statements made by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), last year. On 20 June 1972, speaking on recurrent grants, he said:

The ALP has never voted against any BUI proposing Commonwealth aid lor education and it will support any forms of benefit already existing.

In a letter to Mr Dixon on 13 December 1972 he, as the Prime Minister, said:

Per capita grants to non-government schools for the year 1973 will be paid at the rates now approved under the provisions of that Act. Commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions towards fulfilling the costs of non-government schools will be considered on the basis of relative need.

Additional - that is the point. Let up keep him to his promise. What about the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley)? On 27 October 1972 he said:

Whispering campaigns to the contrary, no private school under Labor will in future get less than the per capita grant it gets now.

Now what do honourable members opposite say about that? Let us try to bring a little honesty into the performance of the Government. The Minister for Education, in his speech on 26 September last year, said:

But we give a fair warning that if we are in power, while there will be an expenditure on non-government schools of no less than the sum total that will be appropriated in this Bill, the appropriation will be reapportioned - it will be reapportioned on the basis of need.

He said nothing about cutting it out.

Mr Mathews - Reapportioned.

Mr MacKELLAR - Reapportioned, surely, but nothing about cutting it out. That is what the Government has done, and not just to category A schools but to a large number of schools. Fifty-three per cent of the independent secondary schools will get less under this Labor Government. Let honourable members opposite remember that. I refer not just to category A schools but to 53 per cent of the independent secondary schools. Despite the preelection promises made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education a deliberate secret instruction was given to the Karmel Committee - 'government schools will not be pre-determined'. That was in complete contradistinction to the promises delivered to the Australian population before the election, because the Australian Labor Party knew before the election that this was a really live issue. It sought to pull the wool over the Australian electors' eyes by promising them these things, and it succeeded. Now we are simply trying to hold the Government to its promises so that this 53 per cent of non-government secondary schools will not be disadvantaged by the actions of the Government.

We have a very simple point to make. We believe that every child, regardless of where he comes from, whether he comes from Surrey Hills or the electorate of Casey, has a fundamental right to a basic level of support in terms of education expenditure from the Federal Government. This is the position we take. This is the position we have always taken. Every child - no class distinction, no lower class, upper class or middle class - has this fundamental right. In addition - we make no secret about this; we put it forward, and we put it forward clearly - where there are obvious areas of need we would seek to have additional funds expended. We have made this position quite clear. It is totally misleading for honourable members opposite to say that we seek to hold up or to destroy $690m additional government expenditure on education. We do not. Let them not try to confuse the Australian public. We do not try to hold that up. What we seek to do is have that money spent throughout Australia, because we agreed during the second reading debates on the States Grants (Schools) Bill and the Schools Commission Bill that that money needs to be spent. But in addition we seek to ensure the fundamental right of every Australian child, free from class bitterness and class distinction.

There is no attempt to block this legislation. What we simply seek to do is to put before the Australian people the promises made by the members of this Government when they were in Opposition last year and seek to hold them to those promises. What could be fairer than that?

The Minister sought information about costs. Let me quote to him a telegram received last night from the National Council of Independent Schools. It states:

The Committee of the National Council of Independent Schools meeting in Melbourne today-

That is yesterday - unanimously reaffirmed its strong general support for the proposal of the Australian Government to provide substantial additional funds for the improvement of all Australian schools-

We hold to that. We agree with it, and I am sure all honourable members opposite would agree too. The telegram goes on:

Its firm belief in the principle that each Australian child should receive basic recurrent educational suppott by a grant from the Australian Government of a proportion of the per pupil cost in government schools irrespective of the school attended and that further grants according to need should be added to this bask grant-

We agree with that completely.

Let me just add one more point. What schools in Australia need, whether they be classified in the lowest categories or the highest categories is security, and what they do not have under the legislation as proposed by this Government is security. What they would have under the policies as enunciated by the Liberal and Country Parties would be this security. It would provide a basic firm groundwork for future planning. Anybody who has had any experience in managing any organisation would know that you need to know what security you have for the future. If you do not have this the whole basis of your planning is cast in doubt. That is the position of a large number of schools - not just the lower category schools, not just the higher category schools, but all independent schools. They are deprived this basic security by the legislation proposed by the present Government. Let no headmaster from any independent school, be it Catholic or non-Catholic, be in doubt about that.

The telegram from the National Council of Independent Schools goes on to state that it reaffirms:

Its hope that all political parties will co-operate in the legislation necessary to implement this principle ... its belief that the additional cost of such action need not exceed 5 million dollars per annum.

Let us just have one or two clear points made. The Opposition does not seek to block this legislation. We seek to encourage the Government to expend the additional $690m. I repeat that we do not seek to block this legislation. In fact we voted for it in this House, and we made it perfectly clear at the time that we did vote for it. What we seek to do is to provide security for all independent schools, no matter what category they are in. What we seek to do is to provide a fundamental right for all Australian children to support from the Australian Government - to all Australian school children, no matter what school they are at - free of religious bias, free of class bitterness as put forward particularly by the Minister for Secondary Industry. This is all we seek to do, and we would hope that in this place and the other place the Government can come to some accommodation to enable this to be done.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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