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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2638

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - I would simply say in respect of the first amendment that if a provision to report to Parliament is part of the Act, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has skirted around that. The Minister, of course, carries out his work according to his charter as a member of this Parliament. I want to refer to the general principles of the second amendment. The Minister assumed there was an assumption behind his statement- that in fact government schools of any State belonged to the tate Minister and that if we start to deal directly with State schools we will be offending the State Minister in respect of some proprietary interest that he has. I think it is time that we broke this mystique. The schools do not belong to the State; they do not belong to the Minister- they are simply their responsibility. It is no good passing the initiative back to most of the State systems. They are not geared to devolve authority, to decentralise the system or anything else. My own view is- and it is not necessarily specific to this clause- that if we can entrust the expenditure of funds, the management of many aspects of administration and so on to non-State schools, we can do the same in regard to the State school system. This is an interesting contradiction inside the Australian schools system. I recognise that all sorts of conflicts can develop inside the community, with the school and the community itself, if we make the system totally autonomous. But the time has long passed when the management of schools- and this theme is developing in the school councils and so on in Victoria- should have more to say and more capacity to do things. It is time that not only more initiative was laid with them but also that they took more of the responsibility.

As I have said often before, speaking from my own experience in schools and school administration and with members of the school councils and so on, often these bodies are much better geared and equipped to carry out all sorts of operations, rebuilding programs, reconstruction programs and so on than is the education system. We will not produce any kind of equality in this country, any manner of advance in the progressive areas of education, unless we are prepared to take the bit between our teeth and do it ourselves.

I do not know why the Minister and the Government should be so delicate about the question of coercing the State Ministers when what is being implied is that State Ministers and State departments are allowed to coerce the schools. We are not being coercive in interfering in this matter. The reverse is true. We are trying to break up the authoritarian nature of the whole Australian schools system, particularly the government schools. I am bothered if I can understand why the Government is so diffident about this. Government supporters talk about new federalism, evolving power, decentralisation and all the rest of it, but when the initiative lies directly with them, when the responsibility is here with them and the chance to do something is here with them they back off. This is one area in which these things can be done with a great deal of advantage I think to the education systems.

Amendments negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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