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Wednesday, 28 April 1965


Senator COHEN (Victoria) .- The Senate is debating a motion by the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton) that the Senate take note of the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia. The presentation of this long awaited report and the Government's statement of its approach to the major recommendations contained in it provide an opportunity for the Senate to examine what can only be called the crisis in Australia's education system, especially at the university level, and to discuss the future of tertiary education, and primarily the extent to which the Government's decisions on the so-called Martin report will assist in meeting the many and complex problems in our education system.

It is important to recognise at the outset that in dealing with education generally and with universities we are not dealing with machines or mere problems of statistics. We are dealing with problems relating to human beings - men and women, boys and girls. We should not speak of increases in expenditure on education in the same way as we speak about increases in production in industry and say that something has increased by 6 per cent, or 25 per cent, over a period of years. We are concerned with complex problems when we are dealing with the structure of the education system and the human beings whom that system is designed to assist.

Education is a subtle process. It consists in the maturing of the minds of young people so that, gradually, they develop skills to make them capable not only of earning a living in the vocation of their choosing but also of enjoying in their own way and according to their own inclinations, cultural and recreational activity, attaining their own standards of cultural achievement and, at the same time, learning to exercise judgment as citizens in a wide variety of private and public problems. So it is that when we come to consider what is done by governments and other institutions in the field of education, we are dealing with matters of some delicacy. But delicate as the human sub-structure may be, we cannot have education systems without institutions and without finance to oil the machine, to make the system work and to give it the opportunity to develop, to prosper and to serve the community and the individuals who are the objects of the education system.

It is with that kind of consideration in mind that we approach this extremely important report of the Martin Committee on tertiary education. That Committee was appointed in 1961. It consisted of a number of very distinguished citizens in the educational and public life of the community. It was authorised by its terms of reference to consider the pattern of tertiary education in relation to the needs and resources of Australia, and to make recommendations to the Australian Universities Commission on the future development of tertiary education. The first two volumes of its report were signed on 18th August 1964 and apparently became available to the Government within a matter of weeks after that. I sec the Minister shaking his head.


Senator Gorton - It was a month after.


Senator COHEN - At any rate, it was during the month of September. We waited until late in March not only for the decisions at which the Government had arrived upon the subject matter but also for a sight of the report itself. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in acknowledging in October last year that the Government had received the report, seemed to indicate that the third volume to come might be something which would delay the ultimate process of decision, but in the end it was plain that the Government had enough information in the first two volumes to make up its mind on the recommendations. Indeed, the Universities Commission itself, in the preface to the report, indicates that the recommendations in the two volumes may be acted on forthwith and that they contain an analysis of the present pattern of tertiary education in Australia, together with proposals for its future expansion and development, and the consequent financial implications.

I think it is important to say at the outset that the recommendations of the Committee have the support of the Universities Commission itself. That appears from the letter to the Minister accompanying the report.

I suggest that what has happened here has been somewhat unusual. The Government has presented to the Parliament at the same time both the report and recommendations of the Committee and its own decisions on the report. As though by some political sleight of hand, the Government has manage to convey the impression on this occasion that it has largely adopted the recommendations of the Martin Committee. The truth, of course, is that it has in large measure rejected the recommendations of the Martin Committee and has seen fit to adopt only in part the thinking and the specific proposals of that Committee. It is accordingly necessary, in outline at any rate, to distinguish between what the Committee recommended and what the Government is prepared to do about the recommendations.

Before dealing with the Opposition's attitude to the report, I want to sketch briefly the main aspects of the Committee's recommendations and the Government's decisions in relation to them. To clear the air for the discussion which I am initiating on behalf of the Opposition, I think I ought to say at the outset that we propose to advance an amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of thepaper.

It might be convenient if I indicated to the Senate now the terms of that amendment. It will then be plain upon what basis we seek to amend the motion before the Senate. The amendment will indicate that there is a substantial difference of approach between the Government and the Opposition on this question. The amendment, which I move, is as follows -

That the following words be added to the Motion - but regrets

(1)   the Government's rejection of the Martin Committee's recommendations on scholarships, teacher education and scientific and social research,

(2)   the imprecision of the Committee and the Government in their outline of non-university tertiary institutions, and

(3)   the Government's continuing refusal to establish a Ministry of Education and to hold a national inquiry into vocational, technical, secondary and primary education.'.".


Senator Hannan - What does "imprecision " mean?


Senator COHEN - I think the honorable senator knows what it means. It means lack of-


Senator Gorton - Precision.


Senator COHEN - I am not sure from what quarter I received that assistance but 1 am very grateful for it. That is my short reply to Senator Hannan. It means lack of clarity or precision or preciseness. I am not sure which word is strictly acceptable according to the dictionary but " imprecision " is the one the Opposition has chosen to adopt in its amendment.

I think it will be plain from the terms of the amendment that we are not wholly at one with the Martin Committee in its report. There are areas in which we feel that clarificaiton is needed and areas in which, in our view, the Committee's approach fell short of what we think it ought to have recommended in the long term interests of tertiary education in Australia. But broadly speaking, we feel it was a constructive, comprehensive, reasonable document which came from the Martin Committee after many months of research and painstaking work. It would be wrong to let the opportunity pass without saying how valuable that report was and indicating appreciation of the work of the Committee and the very mature document that has come to the Parliament as a result of the research and work of the Committee.

Having said that, I emphasise that the main burden of the Opposition's attack is against the Government which, as we see it, has failed to implement more than a portion of the recommendations of the Committee and has lost a golden opportunity which occurs rarely in national life to move with the times and accept fully the implications of Commonwealth responsibility in this field of tertiary education. Some of the matters on which the Government failed to act - and notably in the field of teacher education - represent in our view an omission amounting to supreme national folly because we believe it is almost criminal folly to attempt anything less than the possible in such an important field as education, whether it is at the. primary, secondary, technical or tertiary level.

But I shall come to these particular matters in due course. For the moment, I content myself with saying we join issue with the Government on its failure to act on so many of these recommendations, and its failure to measure up to the responsibility that governments have at this time.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Harold Wilson, made a notable speech a year or two ago in which he dealt with the whole challenge of the advance of science in our time. He pointed out that the decade and a half between 1960 and 1975 would see as much advance in the scientific and technological field as in the previous 250 years. In the same speech, Mr. Wilson stated that there are living and working today the equivalent of 97 per cent, as many scientists as have lived in the whole of the time since Pythagoras. I think Mr. Wilson obtained his statistics from one of the academies of science. I mention this only to indicate the fantastic rate of progress of scientific and technical achievement in the advanced countries of the world. When we come to contemplate the education system and whether what is done is relevant and necessary it has to be decided against that kind of background. What has to be measured is whether what is being done is going to do the job that has to be done. If it is not, the figures, whether they run into hundreds of thousands or millions, do not answer the fantastically difficult problems that are presented by a consideration of the future of tertiary education.

I come now to some of the specific recommendations of the Martin Committee which failed to find acceptance by the Government. What we are dealing with here are two sets of propositions side by side - first, what the Martin Committee recommended and, secondly, what the Government decided it would do as a matter of policy. First, in the field of scholarships, there are set out by the Minister in the paper supporting the Government's recommendations, a number of categories in which assistance was recommended. Side by side with that is a statement of what the Government is going to do about it.

In the field of scholarships, the Government has slashed by rather more than half the proposals of the Martin Committee. For example, the Committee recommended that all full time university students who successfully complete their first year at the first attempt should receive Commonwealth scholarships. The Government's answer was: " No, but we will increase the total number of these later year awards as they are called by 250 to 1,530 as from 1966 and we will review that number ". In other words the Government has said that approximately two-thirds of those involved are now receiving scholarships and it is not prepared to move to the extent recommended by the Committee.

The Martin Committee recommended - and this was one of the major items in its report - that there should be new tertiary colleges or institutions attempting to bridge the gap between the secondary system and the university system. Those students who were not good enough to get a university degree but nevertheless wanted some tertiary education of a non-vocational kind after passing through the secondary school system would come into this category.

The Committee recommended 2,500 new scholarships for students pursuing full time tertiary courses at technical colleges and recommended the same benefits as Commonwealth university scholarships except that each would carry an immediate allowance of £J00 but would not be subject to a means test. The Government's answer to this recommendation was to say: "No. We will award 1,000 of these scholarships in 1966 and the benefits are to be the same as those for Commonwealth university scholarships but with no additional allowance." In other words, the number was cut by 60 per cent, and the recommended additional allowance was eliminated in the Government's decision on the report. The Government dealt with a number of other items. I do not propose to detail them but they relate to book allowances, differences between full time and part time students and so on. When dealing with scholarships I am excluding, for the moment, the teachers' scholarships because in my treatment of them they are under a separate heading covering the general problem of teacher education. But, broadly speaking, the Government's response to the Committee's recommendations was disappointing on the aspect of scholarships. The Opposition believes thai the proposals of the Martin Committee on this aspect were modesty itself. The Committee's proposals were minimal. They were by no means ambitious. They were practical and concrete proposals, but were on the conservative side if anything. What the Government did was to take the recommendations and slash them by about 60 per cent.

The second major aspect of the Committee's recommendations was the development of a new concept of tertiary education. There is a need, according to the Committee, for a new type of institution which will in some way bridge the gap between the secondary school and the university. The Committee put forward a series of proposals for institutes of colleges to which would be affiliated, so to speak, technical colleges, these new-look liberal arts colleges, or whatever you desire to call them, and other courses which might be developed over the years of a tertiary character but not reaching university J eve]. The proposal was that these should be created in institutes in each State; that there should be, additionally, a Commonwealth institute of colleges situated in Canberra to look after the needs of Territories including the Australian Capital Teritory. It was proposed that these institutes should channel the various requests for assistance from the non-university tertiary institutions and should act as the vehicle through which finance is distributed to the States. They would be the recipients in each State of the finance as it came from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth agreed to matching grants for these new tertiary institutions in the same way as for the universities. The Government has accepted the recommendation, or what it calls the " reasoning " of this proposal, but has, in effect, taken the teeth out of it by saying that it does not insist upon these institutes of colleges being formed at all; that these new tertiary institutions may be developed and encouragement given to them along the lines agreed upon, but any assistance would not be conditional on the institutes of colleges being formed in the various States, The recommendation for a Commonwealth institute of colleges was rejected.

I want to say something in a broad way about the policy of the Australian Labour Party relating to the Committee's report. I do not want to anticipate the particular criticism of this, but I do want to indicate that this is a matter of substantial importance. We do not believe that the Committee's proposals are sufficiently precise for us to form a final view upon them because although there is, no doubt, a good argument to be put up for what has come from the Committee, there are equally substantial arguments against it.


Senator Prowse - Does the honorable senator expect the Government to have a final view on them?


Senator COHEN - The Government has a final view on them but we say that that view is imprecise and we do not fully appreciate what it amounts to. The proof of the pudding here is going to be in the eating and in what kind of institutions there will be.


Senator Prowse - The honorable senator is saying that the Martin report is imprecise.


Senator COHEN - I am saying that the Martin report is imprecise, too, and 1 propose to deal with that matter a little later on.

The next aspect I want to deal wilh - and perhaps from many points of view it is the most serious omission in the whole of the Government's thinking on the Martin report - is the complete rejection by the Government of the proposals relating to teacher training. Again and again in its report, the Committee stresses that the question of teacher training is fundamental. The Committee's recommendations on this aspect arc documented and substantially detailed. lt recommends autonomous training institutes in the various States; a series of scholarships for teachers along the lines of Commonwealth scholarships for secondary schools and universities; the closest liaison between the Commonwealth and the States in setting up teacher institutions and the development of higher standards of teacher training. It is the view of the Opposition that the failure of the Government to act on this recommendation is an act of monumental irresponsibility because, first, it puts in jeopardy all of the rest of the Committee's recommendations on which the Government has seen fit to act; secondly, it throws doubt on the sincerity of the Government's intention to do something which will be, in the long run, of fundamental value in this field of tertiary education. I will return to the recommendations about teacher training but at this stage, in summarising what has been done and what has not been done, we say that this is the heart of the Martin Committee's report and the heart has been cut out.


Senator Morris - Oh no!


Senator COHEN - lt has been cut out. If the honorable senator read what the educationists are saying about it-


Senator Morris - I have read what they say.


Senator COHEN - I challenge the honorable senator to point to any significant educationist of standing who approves of the Government's decision not to enter this field of teacher training. In Tasmania, the Minister for Education, speaking yesterday. I think, at a meeting of Directors of Education of all States, said that this action of the Government was a fundamental omission. He said that this aspect of the report was critical to the whole question and he virtually called upon the States not to accept this decision by the Commonwealth Government but to fight it.


Senator Gorton - The honorable senator would not call the Minister for Education in Tasmania an educator. He is a politician.


Senator COHEN - Well, he is a member of the Australian Education Council comprising the six State ministers responsible for education. This Council has produced an extremely important document on the needs of Australian education to which, as I am sure Senator Gorton is aware, the Martin Committee itself draws attention and regards as an extremely responsible document.


Senator Gorton - I only want to establish that he is not an educator.


Senator COHEN - No, he is not a professional educator. He is the Minister for Education. However, it is perfectly clear that professional educators agree with that view. The Commonwealth Government may have its own reasons for being unwilling to accept the implications of the recommendations concerning teacher training. But that has not always been the view of the present Government.


Senator Mattner - Will the honorable senator explain what he means by " teacher training "?


Senator COHEN - Yes, the training of teachers.


Senator Mattner - But in what sphere, primary, secondary or tertiary?


Senator COHEN - In primary, secondary and technical education; all spheres, but particularly in primary and secondary education.


Senator Prowse - Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Commonwealth should take over the whole field of education?


Senator COHEN - No, nor did the Martin Committee.


Senator Morris - Does the honorable senator agree with the Martin Committee?


Senator COHEN - I do not disagree with it on this.I have indicated the respects in which we are not happy about the Martin Committee's recommendations, particularly in this ill-defined area between secondary, tertiary and university education - the newlook colleges. It may be that when there is clarification on these points some workable system will emerge, but I am not talking about that at all. I am talking about a separate part of the report about which we say that if ever a report had a heart in it this section is the heart of the Martin report.


Senator Morris - It is that comment with which I disagree.


Senator COHEN - I am accepting this part of the Martin Committee's report and suggesting that the Government should implement it. I am calling in aid the educationists of this country. I have mentioned the statement by the Minister for Education in Tasmania as one example. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Renshaw, expressed his disappointment at the Commonwealth Government's failure to act on the teacher training aspect of the Martin Committee's report. Some of the other States - I am not dealing with this in any State or parochial way - have been disconcerted by the Commonwealth's rejection of this part of the report.

In respect of other aspects of the report the Commonwealth is committed to matching grants with the States in various fields of tertiary education - the new-look colleges, scholarships and so on. The States will not get anything unless they make their matching grants and they will have to pour into the matching grants resources which they might otherwise have been spending on secondary education or on other aspects of education. They will not be able to do anything about teacher training, because they will be flat out co-operating with the Com monwealth and getting the necessary finance in those areas in which the Commonwealth has agreed to move. I can see Senator Morris shaking his head, and I dare say that he will have opportunity to speak later, but I have limited time, as we all have, and it is important that I say what I want to say on behalf of the Opposition.


Senator Morris - I deliberately did not interupt the honorable senator.


Senator COHEN - I do not want to be discourteous about it but I do not propose to take the debate with you further at this stage. I have to develop the points which I want to put on behalf of the Opposition. I would like now to summarise the Opposition's view by inviting the Senate to follow me in a statement issued today by the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party on the Martin Committee's report. This statement of party policy seems to me to summarise the essence of the controversy that exists between the Government and the Opposition on this question. It reads -

The Martin Report is a cautious and conservative assessment of Australian educational needs. Its recommendations are not even the minimum necessary to meet the demands of the immediate future. It is astonishing that it goes too far for the Government. The Parliamentary Labour Party affirms the following policy points arising from the Martin Report on Tertiary Education -

(1)   It endorses the assertion in the report of a clear need for an inquiry into all other levels of education. Tertiary education should not be considered in isolation and this fact is responsible for some weaknesses in the report. This inquiry would best be conducted continuously by a ministry and department. Failing the adoption of the suggestion for a ministry and department the needs of all other sections should be studied by a committee.

(2)   It endorses the recommendations of the Martin Report on teacher education, especially the recommendations for the establishment of autonomous teacher training authorities and the extension of Commonwealth scholarships to student teachers.

(3)   While giving general support to the proposals of the Martin Report on technological education the party affirms the need for raising the standards of general education in technical institutions. It also calls for a change in the attitude of the employers towards schemes for day release and part time courses. Students should be free to spend more of their time studying so as to raise standards of achievement in the national interest. In a world of rapidly changing technology the skilled worker needs flexibility beyond the requirements of an immediate employer.

(4)   The party considers the Martin Report lacks charity in its recommendations for nonvocational tertiary colleges. The Party fears that four critical needs may be neglected if a cheap and inadequate form of tertiary education is provided. These needs are (a) the establishment of Liberal Arts Colleges of high standard capable of awarding internationally recognised degrees but not proceeding to postgraduate research. If the Martin Report envisages anything less than this it is reactionary and inadequate. In any event it needs clarification, as does the Prime Minister's reference to it. (b) The establishment of a nationally supported system of Adult Education or further education (in the British sense), (c) A radical improvement in secondary education. There is a danger that the establishment of low standard tertiary education may be accepted as a substitute for the great improvements vitally necessary in secondary education. More and better trained teachers and better facilities are acutely necessary at the secondary level, (d) At the end of secondary education matriculated students should be able to proceed to degree courses.

(5)   The Martin Committee envisages the establishment of an Australian Tertiary Education Commission. Instead, we would propose a Ministry of Education and a Department to undertake continuous investigation and research of all Australian educational needs and to guide national action to meet them.

(6)   There should be more active national support for research, including the field of the social sciences. The recommendation of the Report that there be established a National Science Foundation should be adopted.

(7)   The Labour Party asserts the need for free university education. In 1962 only £4.5 million out of £50 million university income came from fees. That 9 per cent, is declining. The abolition of university fees should be national policy. When that stage is reached, scholarships would be living allowances.

That is the statement made by the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party as the result of its consideration of the Martin Committee's report and of the Government's decisions on that report. Of course, the Government has made it plain that where it has not indicated specifically any decision, it is not to be taken as having a concluded view on the particular item in the report of the Committee. Apparently the Government rests its case for that limited view of what it ought to do in this situation upon the argument that these are, constitutionally, matters for the States and that so many of them depend upon particular matters of State interest and upon State institutions.


Senator Morris - Which is correct.


Senator COHEN - It is true, as Senator Morris says, that many problems of education can best be dealt with in the sense that the operations can be best carried out by the States. In the field of finance it is plain for all the world to see that if Commonwealth finance is not forthcoming, nothing can be done. Without the fullest appreciation by the Commonwealth of its responsibilities in this field, as in any other field, the work will inevitably be frustrated by lack of funds. This is the crying heart of the crisis in education today - the desperate need for funds to carry out the work.

I shall give an illustration for honorable senators. The Committee on Tertiary Education gives some very startling figures, which almost make one's hair stand on end, in relation to the projection of potential university enrolments over the next decade. These figures are given at page 15, chapter 2, volume 1 of the report. The Committee has estimated that in 1963 117,900 students were undertaking courses at tertiary level; 69,000 of those students were enrolled at universities, 14,600 at teachers colleges and 34,300 at technical and other institutions.

The Committee has estimated the numbers expected to be undertaking tertiary education in the years 1967, 1971 and 1975, based on projections of pupils in the final two years of secondary schooling. For Australia as a whole the estimated enrolments for 1967 are 158,900; for 1971, 213,100; and for 1975, 248,000. It is the Committee's recommendation that tertiary education in Australia should be expanded to provide places for 248,000 students in 1975. Its recommendations are based upon the assumption that if all its proposals are accepted, including proposals for new-look tertiary institutions, of the 248,000 students to be enrolled in 1975, 125,000 will be at universities, 96,000 at technical and other institutions and 27,000 at teachers colleges. I said before that these statistics would make one's hair stand on end.


Senator Prowse - That would be a hard job for us.


Senator COHEN - Senator Prowse and 1 have little hair to stand on end. They are startling figures, but they need to be appreciated in order to fulfil the commitments. We all have to stand up to the implications of the figures. I concede it would be a nightmare both for Governments and educators to contrive and finance a system to cope with this inevitable and enormous expansion. In this situation one looks for national leadership of a very high order. It is a national problem of very large dimension which requires almost a touch of genius to solve. That touch of genius is singularly absent from the Government's consideration of the report. The Government's attitude towards the report is essentially negative and pedestrian. It has reduced a series of quite modest proposals to something substantially less than modest. In our view the Government's scheme is destined to prove inadequate before it is even launched. The Government has refused to face facts which were recognised by the present Prime Minister 20 years ago. In a now celebrated speech, the Prime Minister when Leader of the Opposition moved in the House of Representatives a resolution in which he called for the widest participation of the Commonwealth in the field of postwar education. I shall quote from "Hansard" of 26th July 1945. He said-

In particular, attention needs to be directed to increased facilities for secondary, rural, technical and university training, special adult education -

J pause to emphasise these words - and the problem of the qualifications, status and remuneration of teachers;

One can only applaud the direct statement of intention by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition in 1945. One would have wished that the reality would have coincided with the expectation. Mr. Menzies, as he was then, said -

Unless the Commonwealth, no matter which political party is in power, can aid the States financially, only limited objectives will be sought. ] have profound distrust of limited objectives on the great and vital problem which we are now considering. If adequate resources are not available to the States, they will cut their coats according to their cloth, and that should not be allowed to happen. As a nation we cannot afford to do anything less than our best in a campaign, the result of which will be to determine whether, in the new world, we are to be a nation of strong, self-reliant, trained and civilised people, or whether we are to be content with second rate standards and more devoted to the pursuits of material advantage than to the achievement of a genuine humane community spirit.

What has happened in the meantime to that broad outlook? Has it changed because the Prime Minister is now the Leader of the Government and not the Leader of the Opposition? One would hesitate to think that. The mighty problems of education have grown in complexity since the Prime Minister was speaking about them in 1945. Today we are entitled to expect a leader to respond to the extraordinary challenge that Australia faces. It is not to be found in the Government's approach to the Martin report.

I shall deal now with one or two matters in the policy statement of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party which I read a few minutes ago. We have stressed, and the Martin Committee stressed, the interdependence of the various levels of education and how impossible it is to separate into watertight compartments teriary, technical, secondary and primary education. The Australian Labour Party has for years in this Parliament called for a full national inquiry into all levels of education. We do not believe it is possible, any more than the Martin Committee believed it is possible, simply to deal with tertiary education as though it were a subject entirely separate from technical and secondary education. The whole range of educational institutions and educational problems in the community has to be assessed at some time. This still has not been done except in the field of tertiary education. Until it is done, we cannot speak with final confidence about the in between range of institutions and the function that they are to perform.

One of the dangers to which we draw attention in our policy statement is that concentration upon the new look tertiary institutions that will ultimately produce graduates or diplomates at standards lower than those of the universities may well distract attention from the crying problem of secondary education. Not every community in the world approaches these problems in the same way. Sweden, for example, regards the last two years of secondary education as being the most critical in the education of its youth. Swedish authorities regard that particular area as the one that is most productive of results. Having developed a splendid system of secondary education, they have not found any need for the intermediate type of tertiary institution. This is not to be taken as a final word of wisdom on that approach; it is merely an indication that we in Australia must know nationally what we are trying to achieve. We must know what are the various aspects of the problem before we can decide affirmatively what "is to be done in any one area. It is the opinion of the Opposition that there is a lack of clarity about this inbetween range of institutions.


Senator Prowse - Would the honorable senator say imprecise?


Senator COHEN - I have used that word in the amendment I have moved.

The next aspect of the matter with which I want to deal is the problem of research. Inevitably I must hurry over a number of subject matters, but they all are important and all arise out of the recommendations of the Martin Committee. The Committee has recommended that the Government consider the establishment of a national science foundation to deal with the whole problem of research, including research in the field of social science. This is not a new suggestion. It has come from the Academy of Science in the past, ft has been put forward by a number of people in the academic world and in the field of research. It has been supported by the Australian Labour Party.

There is no real excuse for the Government's failure to act upon this recommendation. Instead of adopting the recommendation, the Government has agreed to the appointment of a committee to investigate the dimensions of the problem and to make some recommendations to the Government. Again, the Government has played down the full impact of the Martin Committee's report, lt is setting the solution at a lower level than that recommended in the Committee's report. This attitude permeates the whole approach of the Government to the report. The Government is always doing something less than was recommended. In one or two cases, the Government has turned its back upon a constellation of recommendations, as in the case of teacher training. Time and time again it has chopped down or whittled away the recommendations of the Committee. If the Government had said " We will accept the implications of the Committee's report and will implement its recommendations ", the Opposition, although it might well have been unhappy about some aspects of the matter, would have recognised that approach as being a proper attempt to cope with the problem and as measuring up to the challenge contained in the Committee's report. In those circumstances, we could hardly have complained if some aspects of the Government's action did not suit our thinking. We might have wanted different approaches to be made in certain cases, but we would have had less justification for quarrelling with the Government if it had grasped the nettle and had said: " This is what we want; this is what Australia wants ". Only by thinking big can the Government think relevantly about the future of education in Australia.

The Government's approach to the problem is inadequate. The Committee's recommendations rested upon a three-sided approach which dealt with universities, nonuniversity tertiary institutions under the institutes of colleges, and autonomous teacher training colleges and institutions separate from the Department of Education in each State. At the top of the pyramid, the Committee recommended the establishment of an Australian Tertiary Education Commission which would act as an expanded universities commission in dealing with Commonwealth responsibilities in tertiary education. The Government said: " We will not have an Australian Tertiary Education Commission. We will have a committee that will advise us." The Government has continually failed to think big; it has therefore failed to do its job properly. The Labour Party says: " If we were making the decisions, we ourselves would not have a commission for tertiary education. We would prefer to have a Ministry of Education and a Department of Education to undertake continuous investigation and research of all Australian education needs and to guide national action to meet those needs." We would not be entirely happy about a Tertiary Education Commission, because we would regard it as falling short of what really is needed - a Ministry of Education. We have pleaded for that at election after election since about 1958. But we certainly would have welcomed an attempt by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Martin Committee by setting up a tertiary education commission.

I wish to refer now to the matter that is mentioned in the seventh point of the

Labour Party's policy statement which I have read to the Senate. We believe that in principle the Government should acknowledge the need for free university education. When we examine the mathematics of the matter, it appears that that objective would not be as difficult to attain as it would seem. Of the sum of £50 million which the universities received by way of income in 1962 only £4i million, or 9 per cent., came from students' fees. Of that sum of £4} million, the amount of £H million came from scholarships which the students had received from the Commonwealth. In other words, if the Commonwealth had paid the universities direct instead of the money having come through the students, the relevant amount would have been reduced to £3 million. In a discussion of this kind I do not want to quibble about £1 million or £2 million. Naturally, governments have a responsibility to watch such things, but I do not wish to argue that out at this stage. What I am saying is this: Free university education ought to be adopted as a matter of principle, because there exists the very serious problem of socio-economic class to which the Martin Committee drew attention at page 43 of volume 1 of its report. It stated -

.   . of the school leavers whose fathers were in the category " unskilled or semi-skilled ", and who totalled 33 per cent, of the fathers of male leavers, only 1.5 per cent, entered university. In contrast, only 2 per cent, of the fathers of male school leavers were classified as " university professional " but 35.9 per cent, of their sons entered university.

If we extend those statistics from universities to tertiary institutions generally, we find, as the report does in table 43 -

As before, 33 per cent, of the fathers of male school leavers were in the classification of unskilled or semi-skilled. Of their school leaver sons 4.4 per cent, entered tertiary institutions, where they represented 13 per cent, of all male entrants to such institutions. Of these sons, 30 per cent, entered technical colleges, 36 per cent, entered teachers' colleges and 24 per cent, entered universities.

As a contrast, only 2 per cent, of the fathers were classified as university professional.


Senator Prowse - Is the honorable senator saying that the cause of this is financial?


Senator COHEN - I am saying that a very large ingredient in it must be financial, but it is a complicated question of social attitudes and so on.


Senator Tangney - It is an economic problem.


Senator COHEN - Yes, it is economic, as Senator Tangney has said, and it must be economic. No other explanation would satisfy the inquirer because the disparity is so great. My point is this, and it is a short one: The recommendations of the Martin Committee, if they were adopted in full, would make no impact on this problem because it is too big. Any approach which looks to the future must come down on the side of saying: "These universities should be free. Our scholarships will take the form of living allowances. It will not be necessary to pay for fees." Basically, the money that is involved is a very small number of millions of pounds.

Finally on the question of costs, the Committee at page 204 of its report indicated that the cost of implementing all the scholarship proposals, including teacher education, would not be prohibitive. It was estimated that the cost of the scholarships for universities, institutes of colleges and teachers colleges, so far as assistance to students and scholarships were concerned, would be of the order of £1 1 million by 1975 compared with £2.7 million in 1962. It is big money from one point of view, but it is small money when compared with what is demanded of this country and of the Government if it is to attempt to fulfil its responsibilities.


Senator Cavanagh - Small on the results obtained.


Senator COHEN - Yes. I conclude by saying that there are many aspects of this report and of the Government's approach to it that we could consider in a critical way. There were some substantial misstatements in the Minister's speech. For example, he said that the Committee recommended an upper limit of 10,000 students as the number to be admitted to any university. The Committee said nothing of the sort. The report contains some observations about disadvantages that occur when universities have more than 10,000 students or fewer than 4,000. The Minister said the Committee recommended that there should be no new universities established for at least a decade. In the Minister's speech it is put that the Committee made firm recommendations to that effect. It did nothing of the sort. What the Committee said was that provided all its recommendations were adopted, there should be no need for further institutions until at least 1975.

When we reach the position that teacher training is out altogether, that the recommendations for assistance by way of scholarships are slashed by 60 per cent, or more and that the proposals for the interim type colleges seem to be vague because, to some extent, the Government has drawn the teeth out of these proposed institutions, we realise that it is quite wrong to say that the Committee recommended that there should be no new universities until 1975. That recommendation was conditional, and the condition has not been fulfilled.

On behalf of the Opposition, while paying full tribute to the Martin Committee and to the splendid report that it has produced, which is admirable in so many ways, and while accepting, so far as they go, the proposals of the Government with regard to the Committee's recommendations, I express keen disappointment that a golden opportunity has been lost by the Government to put Australia on the high road to educational maturity in the future.







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