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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2606

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) - The Opposition readily appreciates the need to have a cognate debate. Nevertheless, I say at the outset that we propose to move amendments which are in the process of being circulated. I shall talk to them later. The significant aspect of the whole of the Government's thrust in the Budget in relation to education was that there was growth in real terms and that this would satisfy the needs concept of education in Australia. I put to the Parliament that an analysis of the figures- that is what it is- does not support that contention.

For example, if, in dealing with universities, I look at capital figures, I find that in the triennium 1973-75 the capital needs were of the nature of $294m. Now we find that in the forthcoming triennium, 1977-79, that actual allocation is reduced to $9 1.8m. In fact, as I understand the situation, if we look at the history of this matter we find that the triennial average prior to 1977 was of the magnitude of $ 192m. We will drop in the next triennium, on an average basis, with a cost equalisation of about $75.2m. In other words, there will be less than 40 per cent of the former base. We see that the Universities Commission is critical of this fact. It says that, because of these limitations, it cannot really meet the needs. The most significant factor it draws attention to in this respect is that there will be a growth in enrolments of 1.8 per cent. If there is a 1.8 per cent growth in enrolments, how can we expect a growth in real terms of 2 per cent when no allowance has been made for this enrolment factor.

I draw the attention of the House to the report of the Universities Commission which clearly makes this point. It states:

* One consequence of holding intakes constant will be that the smaller, newer universities will have to operate at levels of enrolments which would be a good deal lower than those for which they were planned and which will be relatively uneconomic and prevent a desirable diversification of the universities' academic work. This applies to the University of Wollongong, Deakin University, James Cook University of North Queensland, Griffith University and Murdoch University.

Again, in the report we find it is stated quite effectively that in 1979 the financial resource allocation for a university student will be 3 per cent less than what it was in 1 975. 1 ask: How can it be that the Government is so confident that the alleged growth in financial support in real terms meets the Commission's needs? The big, basic problem in education has been that the Government, for the first time, has decided to set out money guidelines. It has allocated the money. We can see in this action the influence of the Department of the Treasury, which is monetary. The various Commissions have had to work within that allocation. They have been able to say in rather strong words that the allocations will not meet the needs or the growth. Accordingly, there will be a reduction in real terms. If we look at the factors as explained to me, we find that in the normal triennium of 1973-75, expressed in December 1974 prices, basically $ 1500m was available for universities. In the next triennium, expressed in December 1975 prices, only $ 1700m will be available. Allowing for the normal inflationary costs that means a retardation, not an acceleration. It means no growth. It means a reduction. This supports what the Commissions have said. At the end of the decade the resource allocation for a student will be less than what it was at the commencement. In other -words, one must urge the Government to look at this factor.

The Commission in dealing with this point states in its report:

The Australian universities have been passing through a period of rapid growth . . . Unless there is a change in the policy expressed in the guidelines, all universities will be in a no-growth position before the end of the present decade. Lack of growth brings with it two kinds of problems; the first relates to increases in costs (other than those resulting from increases in salary scales and in prices) which cannot be avoided and the second to the difficulty of maintaining flexibility in the face of virtually static budgets.

So, on that premise, we urge the Government to look again at the monetary allocation in relation to the needs of universities and not to be so subservient to Treasury's dominance which, of course, affects every department in Australia.

In relation to colleges of advanced education, the Commission on Advanced Education expresses its concern. The guidelines clearly indicated to it that it needed to provide for an intake increase of 10 per cent. Yet, if we look at its growth in funds, we find that it is only 5 per cent. The Commission makes this point. It says: 'We cannot possibly cope.' If they calculated in realistic terms capital expenditure needs for the triennium 1976-78 was $583. Yet we find that in the 1977-79 triennium the colleges are apportioned only $2 12m. This is a drop of over 60 per cent. That cannot be supported on the basis of the needs of these institutions. It will mean a drop in standards.

From the recurrent expenditure point of view, the Commission on Advanced Education said that, in the triennium 1976-78, it needed $ 1,087m. Yet in the forthcoming triennium it will get less, namely, $976m. We cannot support a Government attitude which is that in respect of the guideline factors there has to be an increase in enrolment. Obviously, the implication is that standards should be maintained. But then the Government reduces funds very substantially in the capital field and does not even maintain the current expenditure. The Commission in its report makes the point:

In considering the allocation of funds between recurrent and capital expenditure in 1978 and 1979 the Commission noted the advice that colleges of advanced education should increase their intake . . . 'by about 10 per cent' . . . A summary of the allocations of expenditure is shown below, and the minimum increase in recurrent expenditure of 2 per cent per annum on this base would provide an additional amount of recurrent money available in 1 978 of less than $7m. Appendix 3 indicates a rate of growth in enrolments between 1977 and 1978 of about 4 per cent and the Commission considers that an increase of that magnitude could not be funded within the additional allocation for recurrent expenditure without a reduction of standards. Moreover, colleges are required to meet-additional expenditures which are not considered as 'cost increases' for the purposes of the adjustment of grants. The most significant of these are the annual incremental payments made to members of academic and non-academic staff and it has been estimated that these costs alone can lead to increases of about 2 per cent per annum in a college 's recurrent budget.

Out of those words and expressions of the Commission we see an indictment of the Government's policy in relation to guidelines which I again emphasise would reflect Treasury motivation.

In dealing with schools we come to the factor of a 2 per cent growth again. This is what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) says. This is fine. But it conveniently overlooks the fact that there will be a considerable growth in enrolments of about 1 . 1 per cent which affects the very factor which he mentioned. There is a serious problem in relation to those allocations. If we look at them in real terms as at December 1974 prices, for the 1976- 78 triennium we find that an amount of $2,070m was spent. We can predict that at December 1975 prices, for the next triennium 1977- 79, the amount will drop to $ 1,554m. This is an additional burden on which the States must pick up the slack. They have to face the problem of maintaining schools on the basis that they felt they had been encouraged to initiate new programs. If honourable members talk to State Ministers for education they will find that the previous activities of the Schools Commission in education excited the States to initiate new programs. This the States have done. The States now find that they are left holding the baby. No recurrent expenditure allocation has been made for new programs initiated. This will affect teacher in-take and they will have to bear the cost of that. As honourable members know, financial resources are fairly limited. Under Implications of the Guidelines in the report it is stated by the Commission:

While it is clear from the early part of the guidelines and from the finance provided that it is not expected that it will be possible to do more than maintain existing standards in government and non-government schools during the 1977-79 triennium, other parts of the guidelines direct the Commission's attention to needs which could only be met if there were considerable additional finance. The 2 per cent real growth in funds for 1977 must be seen in relation to the fact that enrolments . . . per cent. It is important to realise that the guidelines cannot be met in full; the objectives of maintaining existing standards while also undertaking other initiatives, though modest and directed towards immediate needs, are too ambitious within the funds allocated.

We would ask the Government to look at this situation. The Commission is suggesting that it really needs more resources if it is to maintain the situation at the present time. Again, there are serious problems in the capital needs area. The Commission feels that it has received about $50m short of what could be spent. A series of questions has been asked in this House and elsewhere relating to the massive unemployment, particularly in the building industry, and asking whether it would not be good value to encourage this type of capital expenditure. It would not be inflationary; it is necessary. It would mean that substantial renovation or commencement of building of schools could have been done with the labour and materials that are now lying idle. Taxpayers' funds which are being eaten up in unemployment benefits could be put to use for the needs of children. Let me place on record that if a child is not provided for in its formative years it is too late to try to correct the defect later on.

Every honourable member here knows that the schools in his electorate have substantial needs. In my own electorate both government and non-government schools have substantial problems in the capital sector. They need large amounts of money to give them a reasonable standard. Some schools have a higher standard because of parental support. That was indicated clearly in the earlier report of the Karmel Commission, which showed that people who were able to give additional financial support out of their own pockets could guarantee that their children would, in the main, complete the secondary course and be enabled to enter the tertiary field. In government schools, and particularly in the Catholic section of the non-government schools, there is not the same retention rate, not the same opportunity. Their needs are also greater from the point of view of both capital and recurrent expenditure. This report also makes the point:

While the position in government schools with respect to the targets for recurrent resources is . . . comparatively brighter than for non-government schools, the seriousness of the problem of providing capital faculties of adequate standard for both government and non-government schools cannot be over-stated. The needs of several State systems are so pressing, for example, that they are enlarging their capital programs for 1975-76 on the principle of 'build now, pay later'. All the analyses which the Commission has undertaken- the costing of urgent projects which it would be feasible to undertake within a triennium, the calculation of new place requirements as the result of population mobility and enrolment increases, an assessment of deficiencies of specialist and ancillary buildings in relation to each State's schedule of facilities for each school, an estimation of the cost of bringing existing buildings up to standard- all these have resulted in target programs the size of which is beyond contemplation within a single triennium. The Commission also draws attention to the tact that stationary funds in nongovernment schools not only retard refurbishing but also effectively place limits on future enrolments.

That is the position as we see it in respect of the Schools Commission. The other aspect is the technical education field, a relatively new field. As one can imagine, the Technical and Further Education Commission has great difficulties indeed because the Commission regards itself as being the Cinderella of the education group. It was a late starter; it has to cater for large numbers of students, and enrolments show that there has been a quite massive increase in enrolments. At page xxxviii of the report of the Technical and Further Education Commission it is indicated that under the guidelines technical education received only $ 1 1 1 m in capital grants. The Commission needs $150m and it could spend $190m. There is a shortfall of 35 per cent, or $38m, from the point of view of capital, and that would have allowed for approximately 6000 additional places. If one considers it in relation to the basic needs to enable the Commission to maintain capital expenditure standards in 1979 equal to 1974 levels, it needs $78m. It received some 75 per cent less than it needs. The problem is that the Commission's recurrent expenditure allocation has not grown as fast as it should. It has been given $38m for 1977 and its allocation for 1978 is $39m. The Commission itself says that it needs $49m. In other words, there is a $10m deficiency for 1978, and it has been allocated $40m for 1979 when it needs $55m. The real problem in this field is that there is going to be a deterioration. The Commission makes the point:

An adequate skilled labour force is not available and without rapid development of the TAFE system Australia will not be equipped to meet its future requirements for skilled manpower. The problem is one of national importance and if it is to be corrected will require a change in the distribution of educational expenditure in favour of TAFE. It will require Commonwealth supplementation of State effort additional to that envisaged under the guidelines.

If one looks at the factors involved in the allocation of tertiary funds, one finds that for every $4 allocated the technical field gets $1, or onequarter. Nevertheless, it has to cater for 40 per cent of the tertiary load and it has been allocated less than that in funds. In other words, limited as the funds are, the technical education field is still the Cinderella in the fight for a share of the funds. If it has to cater for 40 per cent of the tertiary education group, why is it that it is given only one-quarter of the amount allocated for tertiary education? The Commission was anxious that the capital provided should give them another 34 000 additional enrolment places. When considering the technology position, the structural change, the need to acquire skills in this country, one has to accept that the technical field should have a top priority in the educational needs of Australia. The Opposition proposes to move this amendment because it believes that insufficient funds have been directed to this area of education. It is impossible to guarantee a structural change or to have a skilled work force if sufficient funds are not allocated at this time. The State governments cannot possibly predict what is going to happen to them if the structural change is as massive as one could predict. If the copper mines close, if the textile mills close, if the electronics industry is phased out and the shipbuilding industry is completely eroded, there will be a massive need to retrain the work force and no plans have been made for that. The one area which could carry out that retraining function, given the encouragement and incentive, is the technical education field. The Commission makes this point: ... the minimum objective must surely be to ensure that TAFE in 1979 will be, relative to enrolments, at least as well off for space and equipment as it was in 1974. Acceptance of such a limited objective will cause profound disappointment among all those directly involved in technical and further education, a sector which for many years has been denied the sorts of resources made available to other sectors of education and which has seen the hopes flowing from the ACOTAFE reports deferred if not dispelled by the political and economic events referred to . . .

The TAFE Commission would regard this limited objective as the absolute minimum consistent with the maintenance of TAFE as a viable contributor to the total spectrum of post-school education.

The amount available if the minimum growth of 5 per cent guaranteed for 1978 and 1979 under the guidelines formula becomes the actual program for 1977-79 would be $230m. The Commission must point out that a triennial program of this amount would fail to achieve even the minimum objective. It would not keep pace with the needs generated by increased enrolments, let alone begin to redress current deficiencies.

So we have this problem again. Enrolments in 1973 were 508 000. In 1979 they are expected to be 901 000. Next year they are expected to be 769 000. We can see the rapid growth in this area which, commendable as it is, is going to be quite disastrous unless sufficient funds are given for that purpose. Accordingly we propose to move the amendment that I have envisaged.

I would like to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on 4 November. My attention has been drawn to something that the Minister said as recorded on page 2 of the statement. He said:

I will be asking the Commissions to convey to authorities and institutions further details of the procedures agreed to by the Government

That seems to indicate that there is some doubt on the part of the Commissions and the Government as to what the position is. The Minister referred to 'further details of the procedures agreed to by the Government'. An air of uncertainty has been created with regard to financing. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has already said that there would be less than automatic cost supplementation. That means that there is not going to be full supplementation of cost. One can read into these words that there will be a retardation of what would be normal escalation. If as the

Commissions say, these institutions have committed themselves for a number of years to programs that are very worth while, particularly, for example, in the migrant education field and programs of that nature, and they are not able to get their recurrent expenditure, they will have to meet this expenditure from their own resources, or, alternatively, reduce some of the existing standards that they have been able to build up.

So it is important that we get a clear understanding that there will not be any reduction. There ought not be vague statements such as 'I will be asking the Commissions to convey to authorities and institutions further details of the procedures agreed to by the Government' without their being known at this stage. Again we will be moving amendments to clause 7 of the schools legislation. The Federal Government ought clearly to indicate the position where there is any suggestion that there ought to be a re-allocation of resources, either recurrent or capital. It is just not good enough for a matter in which a State Minister finds it necessary to ask a Commonwealth Minister for approval to be left between those 2 Ministers. In my opinion such action should only be taken on the advice and with the concurrence of the Schools Commission. We think it is important that the Schools Commission's authority in this area be maintained and not down-graded. It is quite wrong, no matter how well-meaning it might be, for Ministers to make those decisions themselves when we have already established Commissions on the clear basis that there would be impartiality, that decisions would be non-political and most importantly that the whole accent would be on a needs basis. We must emphasise that we will be moving amendments to suggest that the Government might insert the appropriate words. The amendments in this respect have also been circulated.

I wish again to refer to the statement made by the Minister for Education on 4 November. He said:

The Government welcomes moves by school communities and State Governments to encourage a more active role for parents, teachers and local communities in school management and decision-making.

We also welcome these moves. In fact, the Schools Commission I think suggested that 5 per cent of recurrent funds be made available for this very purpose. We raised this matter when it was last debated. But we find that there is no specific allocation for this matter. Therefore, while we welcome these moves, it was important that some amount of money should have been provided on this basis. This matter should not just have been left on the basis that the Government says that it welcomes it when, quite frankly, no State can see where a specific amount has been given for this purpose. The States would like to know what the Minister's words really mean. They would like this matter spelt out. Is it to be 5 per cent? Why was not sufficient money made available to guarantee what has to be done. As I said earlier, there is a need for a full guarantee as to automatic cost supplementation. If this is not given everyone will lose confidence as to how much they can spend next year.

Before I conclude I want to come back to a specific matter. As shown on page 12 of his statement the Minister for Education said:

The Government has also decided to implement a scheme of advance offers of building grants to non-government schools to enable projects to be commenced sooner than would otherwise be the case.

That is an excellent decision. We have no objection to that. But why should not the same facility be given to the State governments? Why should not the State governments be encouraged also to make advance progress in respect of building in the knowledge that they will be reimbursed? Why just leave it in the other sector? It is important when we deal with these matters, particularly from the non-government point of view, we have a clear understanding that any capital expenditure in that area is to be based on the concept of need and not have this program eaten up by those who are more articulate, better managed, better able to extend their resources irrespective of need and then say that the Government said that it was all right for them to do so. We want the yardstick clearly defined in this area. Welcome as it is, both in the government and non-government area, we believe assistance should be given on a needs basis. It is quite ridiculous to find that a well endowed school, meritorious though it is from its point of view, saying: 'We are going ahead with our capital program because the Government will finance us next year', and find that a needy school did not do anything of this kind and did not have anybody to rationalise the situation. What about the needs of other youngsters? What about their chance to get an equal opportunity? We would like to see the Government's intentions in this respect spelt out in relation to this particular segment of the report.

The final matter to which I wish to refer relates to page 17 of the Minister's statement at which he said:

While the Government has accepted -

I disagree with him- most of the Commission's financial recommendations it is giving further consideration to the way in which the programs are to be managed. Detailed administrative arrangements will be announced shortly in guidelines being developed in collaboration with the States.

Again, the Commissions are not mentioned. Surely one would expect if the Government is to talk with the States about management guidelines and future policies, the advice of the Commissions would be sought. Therefore, whilst that statement may be defective in failing to mention the Schools Commission, we would like an assurance that the advice of the Schools Commission will be taken as to what should be done.

I mentioned at the outset the great problem of the limitation of funds allocated by a Treasury concept as against a needs concept in education. One cannot just say on a cost benefit analysis what the needs of education are. One just cannot guarantee what one is going to get out of a stream of life when it comes to the educational area. One cannot sit down as does an accountant and say what one is going to get and expect to come up with an exact result. One has to look at all the problems of humanity. There are those who are talented and those who are less talented but could be in the same class. One has all the problems of identifying these things. School programming should not be put on the basis that at the end of the secondary schooling you have someone who is employable and full of skill. These persons might need a lot more education after that.

The present education survey that is proceeding is upsetting State governments because they feel it may well affect the future of education if it is suggested that there is to be vocational training in secondary schools. This would mean that they would have to recast their whole programming. This could affect all the education programs. Triennial funding for them is a fallacy because while they would like to start many programs, they feel they cannot do so. They feel that annual funding represents a concept that ought to be eradicated. The States should be guaranteed now what building they can construct next year. It is futile for them to try to plan new buildings now and not have the money to build them. An exact case exists at Mt Druitt where the authorities would love to build a technical college but dare not enter that field because they do not have sufficient resources.

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