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Thursday, 29 April 1965

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) . Mr. Acting Deputy President,possibly Senator Tangney and I are suffering from the effects of an hour or two of emotional tension. Moreover, Senator Tangney's speech has been interrupted on two or three occasions. Nevertheless, 1 should like to express on my own behalf very considerable appreciation of much of what she has said. She had raised many matters that are of considerable interest to many of us. Her speech has been in sharp contrast to that of Senator Cohen, who led for the Opposition in this place, and also some of the speeches that were delivered by Opposition members in another place.

Senator Tangneyhas approached the subject of education with a very great degree of sympathy and with a great degree of knowledge. I should now like to comment upon one or two of the remarks that she made. She referred to part time students. I note that it is suggested in the report of the Martin Committee that the number of part time students should be reduced. I am very pleased to note that the Government does not go all the way with the Committee in that respect. Senator Tangney gave us in detail some of the more important reasons why those who desire to pursue part time study should be encouraged to do so. I should like to say more a little later about the part time student.

Senator Tangneywarned of the danger that was resident in the neglect of education in the humanities in favour of scientific education. Again, most obviously she was speaking with a great degree of knowledge. 1 am troubled by the fact that, with some justification, some universities in Australia have been referred to as degree machines or degree factories. Such comments can be coupled with what Senator Tangney has said. Much can be lost if, especially at the university level - 1 do not think this altogether applies at the lower levels of education - there is not considerable concentration upon the education of our people to become better citizens as well as citizens who hold degrees. 1 have sons at the university at the present time. As a father, I am eager that they should succeed in obtaining their degrees. But I hope that in obtaining their degrees they will not fail to receive an education in becoming better citizens. I found myself in considerable sympathy with what Senator Tangney said in that regard.

The honorable senator referred also to the need for specialised teachers for handicapped children. I think I said, by way of interjection, that that matter did not come within the ambit of this debate. She agreed, except that she did say that it bore a relationship to the training of teachers. And towards the end of her comments, the honorable senator spoke of the need for an inquiry into all forms of education in Australia. I do not think anybody on either side of the Senate would disagree with the statement that there is a need for teachers for handicapped children. I do not know whether we would regard it as being of the same importance as the various matters that are dealt with in the report now before us. Over the last 20 years I have had a lot to do with educational activity in Queensland in the kindergarten field and in relation to handicapped children. I have had much more to do with that kind of education than with general education. I do not suggest that I am sufficiently qualified to be able to place these various aspects of education in categories of importance. Indeed, they all are important. For that reason I found myself in considerable agreement with Senator

Tangney when she spoke of establishing a joint committee of both Houses on education.

I say this without having given the matter lengthy thought because it is not too long since she made the suggestion. I think it bad much to commend it- Possibly mature thought may reveal certain disadvantages of such a committee. But speaking off the cuff immediately after the suggestion has been made, not only can I see advantages in it, but I would be very keen to serve such a committee in any possible way. Senator Tangney referred also to other problems. They were many and they were certainly real, but I think they apply more to the internal domestic administration within our organisations than to the Martin report. Having said that, I repeat that I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Tangney for the things she said. The least I can do is to say so, and I have great pleasure in doing so.

Senator Cohenopened the debate on behalf of the Opposition. I would say that his speech was the most disappointing one that I have ever heard from him. Usually I listen with considerable interest to what he has to say. I find that his remarks are often pertinent, although I do not always agree with them. On this occasion quite obviously he was fighting for a cause which was foreign to him and with which he did not altogether agree. I am afraid that the old dictum that it is the task of the Opposition to oppose has become rather prominent in the minds of some honorable senators opposite. I might even say that they seem to be somewhat hag ridden by the old axiom regarding the duties of an opposition. On this occasion, not only are the members of the Opposition strongly opposed to the Government, but they also seem to find themselves in the position where they must oppose the Martin report. I think it is a great pity. Senator Cohen with his background of knowledge should have been able to address himself to this debate in a much more positive way than he did in fact.

Not many people have expressed their opinion of the Martin report. I am not troubled by that. I shall express my opinion. I believe that it is one of the finest reports of its type that I have ever read, and I have read many. I must confess that as yet I have not read all of it or studied all of it.

I am in the process of doing so, and I am taking a great deal of pleasure in doing so. The report is not only interesting, but it is also extremely informative. It is of a quality which is possibly a little rare in reports that we are able to receive and study.

Turning to the amendment that was moved by Senator Cohen on behalf of the Opposition, I have to express - I hope that it has become obvious already - my complete opposition to it. The propositions which are included in the amendment are not even correct. I may have read the Minister's statement incorrectly, but as I understand the position, there has not been a rejection by the Government of scientific and social research. It was pointed out in the Minister's statement that there are many aspects of the report - several of them were referred to - that are open to further discussion and further negotiation. A little later in my speech I shall refer to specific instances.

The point I am making at the moment is that section (I) of the amendment is certainly very far from being a correct statement of fact. I think that I have more or less covered the other sections of the amendment in some of my earlier comments. Indeed, as to the third section of the amendment Senator Tangney in some of her comments probably has broken down the force of its application. Not only is the Martin report informative and of great value, in my opinion, anyway, but it carries within its pages certain information and material which I have never been able to see before and which has never previously come to my knowledge although I have read a great deal about education generally. That makes it an even more important document.

Having said those things, I want now to go back 15 to 20 years. In that period the responsibility for education lay almost entirely on the State Governments; certainly not on the Federal Government. As the change has occurred over the years, particularly in the last eight or nine years, there has been a great transformation in the attitude to education, not only of governments but also of the people. This matter is referred to at page 8 of the Martin report. There is much material in the report that is valuable, but there are one or two short extracts to which I wish to refer so that they may be included in " Hansard ". I wish that much more of it could be included The report states -

While there are no grounds for complacency in the matter, one of the more interesting features of educational development in Australia has been the growing recognition of the significance of such an education.

Further on it states -

Yet there is, at least, a minority, steadily growing in numbers, which recognises that education is something more than preparation for a job and that it goes deeper than mere instruction.

Those may be only short extracts, but I think they are very important ones. They underline the movement in education that is detectable within Australia today.

I was interested to discover the financial aspect of the responsibility for education. In common, I think, with other people, I was rather surprised to hear that whilst in 1949-50 between £3 million and £4 million had been spent by the Federal Government on all branches of education, other than Commonwealth reconstruction, today the expenditure is in the region of £55 million a year. As a result of the decisions following this report, there will be a very large increase in this expenditure. It is just fantastic that in those short years expenditure should have increased from three or four million pounds to £55 million. 1 should like to refer to another aspect which appears at page 13 of the Martin Report. In 1947 the sources of funds of Australian universities were these: The Commonwealth provided £.467 million, the States provided £.584 million, and other sources provided £1.246 million. It will be seen that most of the funds came from sources other than the Commonwealth and State Governments. This characteristic persisted al though not quite to the same degree, until i952, when there was quite a change in the character of the provision of funds. In that year £2.919 million came from the Commonwealth, £3.376 million came from the States, and £2.293 million came from other sources. At that point of time other sources were dwindling. The Commonwealth Government, seeing this change, in 1953 began to step up its interest or its financial activity in education. In 1961, £18.699 million was provided by the Commonwealth, £16.056 million by the States and £7.879 million by other sources. I think that this is good and had. It is good that we have a Government, and that in those years of transition we had a Government prepared to step into the breach, but it is bad that other sources of income of universities have dwindled so very much. I should like to see this trend change a little, so that more of our wealthy people would regard the responsibility of assisting universities as more important than they have of recent years regarded it.

Here,I am afraid, I must be political, because this is the only way in which I can describe the position. Up to the stage when this Government took office, Federal Governments showed very little interest in education. With the advent of a Government which is forward looking, which is interested in the wellbeing of young people, a great change came. First was the appointment of the Murray Committee and later the appointment of the Martin Committee, in each case by a Government not under duress in any way but acting of its own volition, knowing that from the reports of these Committees would automatically grow a huge financial responsibility which was hitherto carried by people other than the Federal Government. I do not think that we should lose sight of this fact.It is all very well to say that we have now to look at a need in a way in which we did not look at it before, but had it not been for the forward looking of this Government over the past 15 years we would not be able to move forward, as we are undoubtedly doing, in terms of the statement made by the Minister following the issue of the Martin Committee's report. I am mighty proud to support a Government which has done so much in its period of office as this Government has done.

We should remember that the proportion of the population in certain age groups pursuing full time education in Australia has risen with tremendous rapidity. Let me refer to males in the 15 to 19 years age group. In 1921 only 8.6 per cent. were engaging in full time education, which is obviously tertiary education. In 1947 the percentage increased to 12.2, in 1954 to 18.2, and in 1961 to 28.4. There was a drastic increase in the interest in education. Let me refer to other supporting facts. The percentage of persons aged 17 years completing secondary education in 1954 was 9, but in 1961 the percentage had increased to 15.6. The expected proportions of persons aged 1 6 enrolling at universities before the age of 30 in 1951 was 8 per cent., in 1956 12.4 per cent., and in 1961 16.2 per cent. All of these facts are indicative of the greater interest about which I spoke at the commencement of my comments. Nobody can deal fully with this report in a speech in this chamber, as it is so full of information. Any one who is interested in the subject of education will undoubtedly find great value in a copy of the report.

I want to offer only a few more comments, in relation to the ministerial statement which was made subsequent to the tabling of the Martin Committee's report. The first relates to scholarships. It is easy enough, when one has no responsibility, to stand in any Australian Parliament and say that not nearly enough is being done, that five times as much should be done, but no-one has a right to do it unless he does it with some responsibility. We should remember that those who are in opposition today, who speak so glibly about the importance of increasing scholarships, should remember that the present scheme commenced in 1951. At the end of last year 5,129 scholarships had been awarded. This year the number will be over 6,000, each covering periods of three, four or more years. I am only estimating now - I cannot obtain the exact information - but I suggest that at the end of this year probably 30,000 of our young people will be attending universities on scholarships.

It has been argued quite strongly that the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility for payment of the total fees of all university students. This suggestion, of course, is attractive, particularly to parents who are confronted with very high expenses if their children have not received scholarships. But, as always, there is another side of the coin. The other side is the fear that I have that there is developing within the universities of Australia today a lessening of appreciation of the value of university education. We all have heard the saying: " Easy come, easy go ". Some young people may say: " Well, so long as we matriculate we will receive the total cost of our university fees, so why should we worry a great deal? " There appears to be a lack of even fair concentration, on the part of some students, on the task in front of them. I am not altogether in favour of the suggestion

Senator Tangney - I do not think that was the experience in Western Australia when the university there was free.

Senator MORRIS - But the honorable senator is speaking of some years ago. I am speaking of a spirit which I feel is much more noticeable in our university life today than it was even five years ago. I may be wrong - this is only conjecture on my part - but 1 believe that our young people today are more inclined to say: " What we can get easily and without any trouble is not of the same value as that for which we have to strive and work very hard ".

Senator Cohen - It may be the other way around. Many people may think that * students are more serious minded today than they were in years gone by.

Senator MORRIS - This is an interesting subject to consider and examine. Possibly we all would differ, maybe to a slight degree or maybe violently. I am speaking of many things that 1 have seen in the last few years which, to my knowledge, were not in existence in earlier years. I think we are moving along in a very generous way in the matter of scholarships. The Minister told us that there will be an additional 1,000 scholarships as a result of the recommendations contained in the Martin report. I cannot say what the percentage increase is but I know that it is high. I know also that in many cases even the present number of scholarships is serving a very useful purpose.

J was quite surprised, and 1 have noted that many other people have been surprised at the recommendation - perhaps recommendation is a little too strong a word so 1 will say suggestion - that there should be a reduction in part time study. Here I express myself most strongly. I know that in Queensland tremendous use is made of the opportunities available to part time students. It would be most tragic if these opportunities were taken away from people who want to engage in a particular avocation and at the same time attend a university on a part time basis. I think part time study brings out some of the best in people. There is no better evidence of that than the evidence given to the Senate today by Senator Tangney. There are many people for whom the difficult brings out qualities that would not become evident in any other circumstances. I am most delighted that the Government has made the decision that it has made.

I think all States, with the possible exception of one, are rather pleased at the additional grants which will be made. Senator Laught told us of the value that they will be to the university in his State. I know that there is always need in this sphere, and no doubt every State will be extremely glad of the assistance.

I have been most interested in the proposal for a new concept which will more or less take the place of the university degree course for some of our matriculating students. There is a great need for a type of additional tertiary education which is not quite on the level of university education. I do not agree, as was implied by one honorable senator, that this may cheapen tertiary education. I cannot see that for one moment. There is in industry and in many other spheres a great need for education beyond matriculation standard of those who, for one reason or another, are unable to take on the responsibility of a full university course.

A final proposal in relation to this new concept, as it has been referred to, has not been placed before us. That is good. I would not like to see a unification of educational approach to the degree that would be indicated if we were presented with a plan at this time. It is a splendid and healthy sign when a Minister will come along with a report such as this, will table the report, will tell us as a Parliament what the Government is prepared to do in this field and then say: " In relation to various aspects which are of great importance, constitutionally and otherwise, to the States of Australia, we will consult with the State Ministers so that we can set up in each State the kind of machinery that is most adequate and suitable for the educational system which each State, in its wisdom, has developed and intends to use in the future ". I would not like to see the whole matter of education become the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and so come within the Commonwealth Government's administration. One of the most healthy signs in the community is that we are permitting the various States - I do not think they would be very happy if we did not, and I do not blame them - to follow the principles they have followed over the years. That is evident in the ministerial statement that is now before us.

Finally, I want to refer to teacher training. Far be it from me to downgrade in any way the importance of teacher training. This is a vital aspect of education; but I do not agree with the Opposition that this is the heart of the Martin Committee's report and that if it is not implemented, the heart will be taken out of the whole programme. While we pursue individualistic -education procedures, this is a subject which is best left to the States. I am sure honorable senators opposite will say that they would like the responsibility for teacher training to remain with the States but want the Commonwealth Government to provide the finance. They cannot have it both ways.

I have here a resolution which was adopted by the Executive of the Queensland Teachers Union on 6th April last. It is expressed in fairly strong terms. Among other things, it calls upon all of us to face up to the responsibilities of public education. It calls upon members of the Commonwealth Parliament and others to do all they can to urge upon the Commonwealth Government, the Prime Minister and relevant departments to face up to the responsibilities of teacher training. I can only repeat that in 1948-49, the Commonwealth Government was spending between £3 million and £4 million a year on education; today it is spending £55 million. This is a magnificent improvement. If the expenditure were £155 million there would still be those who would cry out for a little bit more.

Senator Cohen - Is it not a question of needs rather than just spinning figures?

Senator MORRIS - I shall answer that question with an illustration: I know what my needs are. I would like a couple of new suits, another motor car and a lot of other things. But the need has to be coupled with other responsibilities.

Senator Cohen - It may be a question of national priorities.

Senator MORRIS - Even if it is a matter of national priorities, that does not indicate what is a national priority. I have been a member of this Senate for only 1 2 months but already I have heard honorable senators on the Opposition side rise and say: "This is a matter of national priority. The Commonwealth Government must forget its responsibilities elsewhere. It must spend more on this project which has the greatest priority." I am sure that Senator Cohen indicates by the smile on his face that he has heard that, too. It applies to practically every subject that comes up for debate. I suppose that in the final analysis a decision must be made as a matter of national priority but the essence of it is that someone has to decide what is a national priority. Senator Cohen's judgment of national priorities might not agree with mine.

Senator Cohen - Education would at least run a place in any race, would it not?

Senator MORRIS - Yes, it would in my book. I have always been particularly keen on the greater development of education; but I must say that it has had a mighty high priority in the Commonwealth Government's book also. The Government, of its own volition has stuck its neck out - if I might use that phrase in this context - by appointing the Murray Committee and then the Martin Committee, both of which have saddled it with a great deal of extra expenditure. This in itself illustrates that in the eyes of the Government, education is a matter of high priority. In this lies one of the reasons why the present Commonwealth Government has retained the confidence of the people. It has been realistic in its approach to priorities of the greatest importance. It has reason to be proud of many of the things it has done but it has reason to be particularly proud of what it has done in the field of education. What is more, it has reason to be proud of what is implicit in the statement that has been issued by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) and the responsibilities it will face in the years ahead.

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