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Tuesday, 11 May 1965


Senator McCLELLAND (New South Wales) .- The Senate is debating a motion that is takes note of the report of the Martin Committee which inquired into tertiary education in Australia. Senator Cohen, on behalf of the Opposition, has moved an amendment in these terms -

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

(i)   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.' ".

The report of the Martin Committee is a valuable and important document. It is of importance not only that I state what we of the Labour movement think about the report as a report but also that I set out on behalf of the Labour Opposition - it being the alternative government in Australia - our view of the report and our view on the subject of education generally. Senator Cohen, on behalf of the Opposition, already has done this, but I feel that the matter is so important that the public should be aware of the Labour movement's attitude not only to the Martin Committee's report but also to the important subject of education generally.

On 28th April a meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party carried the following resolution -

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 Parly 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 standard's of general education in technical institutions. It also calls for a change in the attitude of 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 the 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 clarity 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 a high standard capable of awarding internationally recognised degrees but not proceeding to post-graduate 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 arc 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 Labor 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% is declining. The abolition of university fees should be national policy. When that stage is reached, scholarships would be living allowances.

Those words affirm in clear, concise, succinct and, for the benefit of Senator Mattner, precise terms where the Labour movement stands in relation to the education of Australian citizens. In short, whilst we say that the Martin Committee has adopted a most conservative approach to the ever present problems of tertiary education the Government, by rejecting a great number of the Committee's recommendations and by not stating its view on other important facets that have been raised in the report, is adopting a more conservative if not reactionary point of view.

The report of the Martin Committee, though it is a conservative document, is very valuable. It consists of two volumes, the first being of 244 pages and the second consisting of about 180 pages. In the time that has been available to me I have read as much of the document as has been humanly possible. I give credit to the members of the Committee for the obviously diligent way in which they have tackled what has been quite an Homeric task. In the preamble to the report the Committee indicated that the ramifications of the problem of tertiary education proved to be much greater than they themselves expected. When one looks at the index to tables and figures and takes into account the wide variety of subjects that have been discussed one can readily appreciate the almost insurmountable difficulties that confronted the Committee in compiling such a detailed and comprehensive report.

Having read the two volumes of the report - another volume is to be presented in due course - I have formed the impression that the Committee believed that much more than it has recommended should be done to ameliorate the conditions that are complained of by educationists generally. The Committee has approached the subject more cautiously, and the recommendations it has made seem to be what it regards as being the absolute minimum. One thing which clearly emerges from the report is that today, despite the sums that are being devoted to education generally by Governments of ail political shades, still insufficient is being done to cope with the needs not only today but also of tomorrow. Beyond doubt that is the tenor of the Committee's report. One needs only to cite one or two of the conclusions and recommendations set out in the first chapter in the first volume of the report to furnish evidence of what I have said. In sub-paragraph (viii) of paragraph 1 the Committee said -

The Committee agrees with the view (widespread in Australia) that higher education should be available to all citizens according to their inclination and capacity. Such a view accords with the aspirations o£ individuals and serves the needs of the community in promoting dynamic economic growth.

Of course, today "higher education is not available to all citizens according to their inclination and capacity. Many would like to engage in some form or other of tertiary education but, because they have not the wherewithal to do so, they adopt an attitude of laisser faire. In sub-paragraph (x) the Committee said -

Public interest in, and government support for, higher education have greatly increased during the past decade. The climate of opinion favours further expansion, and the Committee supports such expansion on both social and economic grounds.

One can see that beyond doubt the Committee was of the opinion that not only are the needs of today not being adequately catered for by Governments of various shades of political thought but also that Until the presentation of this report very little if anything had been done to plan for the needs of tomorrow.

Mr. Wheelwright,now Professor Wheelwright, of the University of Sydney, recently wrote a booklet entitled "Costs, Returns and Investment in Education ". He pointed out that generally education is the largest industry in Australia today. He said that this industry, for want of another term, has an annual turnover of approximately £200 million, that it has a work force of approximately 100,000, and that it has a clientele of more than 2i million. Men and women, boys and girls are in this category, all clamouring for a greater knowledge and in quest of higher education. It is more than fair to say that the future of Australia is completely wrapped up in education. If we are to take our rightful place in the world of the future, much more money, effort and thought must be devoted to education.

On page 15 of the first volume of the Martin report is a table setting out estimates of enrolments. The estimated number of total enrolments at universities, technical and other institutions and teachers colleges for 1963 was 117,900. It is expected that by 1 975 - a decade from now - that number will have more than doubled. In other words, it is estimated that in the next 10 years the total number of enrolments at universities, technical and other institutions and teachers colleges will have reached the astronomical sum of 248,000. The estimate of enrolments at universities for 1963 was 69,000. In the next decade that number will be more than doubled. It is expected that enrolments at universities will rise by 1975 to 125,000. The problems involved can be appreciated, not only in the provision of buildings, staff amenities and the other appurtenances of universities, but also in terms of manpower. The Commonwealth " Year Book " for 1964 shows that in a period of a little over four years - from 1959 to 1963 - the number of students attending universities increased from 47,000 to over 69,000, a rise of almost 50 per cent.

The figures I have quoted should indicate to all honorable senators the difficulties that are being encountered and will be faced in the future in respect of accommodation, staff and administration. On 8th October 1963 in reply to a question placed on the notice paper by Mr. Whitlam in another place, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said -

Enrolments are now limited at the Universities of Sydney (all faculties), New South Wales (Medicine, full-time Architecture and part-time Commerce), Melbourne (all faculties except Education, Music and Physical Education), Monash (all faculties), Adelaide (Medicine) and Western Australia (Medicine).

The portion of the Prime Minister's reply which I have quoted appears at page 1577 of "Hansard" of 8th October 1963. Because of population growth and the great demand for education it has been necessary to restrict the intake of young Australians who have matriculated and wish to obtain a tertiary education at a university. It has also been necessary to restrict the intake of overseas students. I understand that in 1963 about 12,500 overseas students were attending Australian universities.

I have sought to indicate that the problem of tertiary education generally will become greater in the future unless more is done to overcome it. The Labour Party believes that the Martin Committee has adopted a most conservative approach. As the approach of the Government is even more conservative, honorable senators will appreciate that insufficient attention has been given to education and insufficient finance is being provided to solve educational problems. It is understandable that not all students who wish to become university graduates can achieve that ambition. Obviously a greater strain will be placed upon educational institutions in a decade unless more is done to cater adequately for the needs of the rising generation. In Australia today 250,000 more children between the ages of six and sixteen are attending primary and secondary schools than four years ago. These children will eventually come on to the labour market as trained professional men or trained artisans. This increase illustrates the enormity of the problem facing the Government in the next decade.

I believe that there should be more and smaller universities. This is the important change that should be made. More important than the quantity of university graduates is the quality of university education. Smaller universities, established according to population requirements, would tend to improve the quality of education, especially in the sciences, and would assist to decentralise the educational system.

An example of decentralised education is to be found in the great city of Armidale on the northern tablelands of New South Wales. From an ordinary country town Armidale has become recognised throughout New South Wales as a city of education and the site of the great New England University, of teachers' colleges and of training facilities. The economy of Armidale is now based on education from the primary level through the secondary level to the tertiary level. Other towns in Australia could follow this lead. Many bright children are attending schools in the country districts of New South Wales, the State I have the honour to represent in this Parliament. I have no doubt that there are many bright children in country towns in other States. Those children who do very well at primary and secondary levels are forced to travel to the big cities if they wish to obtain tertiary education. Their home life and the home life of their families are disrupted. There is an overloading of institutions on the coastline and in some ways, because of this centralising of university training in the great capital cities, there is a tendency for tertiary education to become bogged down.

Country areas and country people have to receive more consideration from those who are responsible for planning the future of tertiary education in Australia. Efforts have been made in other areas to get a university off the ground. I refer to the great Riverina district of New South Wales, where a committee led by a prominent citizen, Dr. Merrylees, has been working for some considerable time to establish a university to give service to the Riverina and the southwestern districts of New South Wales. One can imagine the untold strength that this would give the Riverina. One can imagine the untold wealth that would flow into the district as a result of this extension and expansion of tertiary education. These are the things that have to be viewed by those responsible for this important matter in the years to come.

I agree that the provision of Commonwealth scholarships has done and is doing much to assist those who are entitled to receive higher training but who, because of certain financial circumstances, have not the wherewithal to put themselves through their training. The scholarships have been of great assistance to a great number of Australian families and to a great number of young Australian men and women but I believe that this Government and all governments could well remember the efforts of the Chifley Labour Government in introducing and implementing the great Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme whereunder personnel returning from war service were given training in whatever avocation they chose to fit them for civilian life. Many men in the professional life of this community today owe their positions to that great scheme. Not only did we train university people, accountants and lawyers, but also we trained men in bricklaying, carpentry and skills of that nature. Economically, this country in 1947-48, immediately after the war, with a great body of men returning from the front, was poorer than it is today. I suggest that if we could afford such a great scheme for the training of men and women in 1947-48, we certainly should be able to do so now. That is why the Australian Labour Party asserts the need for free university education.

As Senator Cohen pointed out, in 1962 only £4.5 million out of £50 million of university income came from fees. Professor Karmel of the University of Adelaide wrote an article entitled " Some Aspects of Education, 1962". He compared expenditure on education in relation to gross national product in a number of countries. Some of these were -

 

 

It is important that we, as members of the Commonwealth Parliament, should take note of these figures and heed the warning of the Martin Committee.


Senator Gorton - To what year do those figures refer?


Senator MCCLELLAND - From recollection, I think that the year about which he wrote was 1959.


Senator Gorton - Or J 956 - somewhere back there?


Senator MCCLELLAND - The Minister could be right. My recollection is that it was 1959. The Martin Committee pointed out - it is well to reflect on this statement - that education should be regarded as an investment which yields direct and significant economic benefits through increasing the skill of the population and accelerating technological progress. The Committee believes that economic growth in Australia is dependent upon a high and advancing level of education.

I believe that greater efforts must be devoted by all political parties and by all men of influence in the community to the educational welfare of the younger generation of Australians. As I said, tertiary education does not concern itself only with the provision of adequate buildings, with the establishment of fine institutions. It deals also most realistically with the lives of men and women and with the future of boys and girls of this great Australia. I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Cohen and believe that the policy enunciated by the Labour movement on this question of tertiary education is the only one that will provide a fitting solution to the problems facing this nation.







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