Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 May 1965

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research) . - in reply - The debate initiated on the Martin Committee's report and the Government's announcement of what it would do about the report has been a valuable one on all sides but as is perhaps natural, it has been confined largely to generalisations and it has revolved around the major questions which were first set out in the Government's report on the Committee's report. I do not propose to detain the Senate for long in reiterating what was said when this debate was initiated, although there are some points which have come out in a general sort of way upon which I would like to say something.

For instance, when Senator Murphy was speaking. I gathered an impression, and I think others may have gathered an impression, that very little had been done in recent years in the field of education or of tertiary education and that we were in such a sad state that newly emerging countries or under-developed countries - whatever the phrase was that he used - were liable at any moment to catch us up and surpass us in this field unless we pulled up our socks and really did something about it. Since there has been a tinge of that kind of approach in various speeches, I think I should put on record just what the Australian community and the Australian Government, using the community's funds, have done in the field of tertiary education, in which the Commonwealth Government is interested, and in the fields of secondary and primary education, which are the fields of the States. A few illustrations will indicate what has occurred in this field and just how far we are from slipping backwards. One half of the 14 universities in Australia have been established since this Government assumed office in 1949. Many of those are new foundations but they are foundations which will exist to take into faculties the students to whom Senator McClelland referred who are now in primary and secondary schools. If we add to the list of universities established during this Government's term of office the Australian National University, which was established in 1946 by a previous Labour Administration but which since 1949 has been nurtured and brought to its full stature by this Administration, then more than half of the university facilities in Australia have been provided in the last J 5 years during which the Government has been in office.

I have in my hands a report from the University of Sydney which is further indicative of the trend in this field. I think this was Senator Murphy's university. The report outlines the progress made in the university since 1947. The number of professorial chairs has doubled. The number of students graduating has doubled. The number of books in the library has trebled. The annual budget has increased eightfold. Here is an illustration not of how the number of universities has been increased but of the growth within existing universities since this Government came to power. If you look at what has been done in the field of universities recently - this matter was brought to my mind most strongly by Senator Murphy's denigration of what has been done - you will find that whereas, in 1950 there were 23,394 students enrolled in universities, by 1963- not 1965, but 1963 - there were 69,074 students enrolled in universities. In those 13 years the number of students attending universities trebled. If we express those numbers as a percentage of the 17 to 22 years age group, which is the group we would normally expect to attend universities, we see that in 1953 the number in the age group enrolled in universities represented 0.3 per cent, of the group, but by 1963 the number enrolled in the age group represented 7.1 per cent. I have emphasised 1963 because the figures have increased since that time.

Details of the financial backing which has made possible increases such as those to which I have referred appear in the Martin report. We see that in 1950 the Commonwealth was providing, in round figures, £800,000 for assistance to universities throughout Australia but that by 1963 it was providing £24,120,000 to enable the kind of increase that has been demonstrated by the report of the University of Sydney, for the development of established universities and for the new universities that have been created during that time. This is far from being a story of education slipping backwards in Australia in that period.

The Australian community and the Government do not have anything to be ashamed of in the assistance being provided to students in tertiary education. This matter has some relation to one part of the Opposition's amendment. A table on page 201 of the Committee's report shows that Australia ranks third behind the United States of America and the United Kingdom as regards financial assistance to students and that it also ranks third as regards the amount spent on students per head of population. AH these things show that in the field of tertiary education much has been done. It is true that much remains to be done. The report which is the subject of our discussion has indicated the ways in which more can be done. It has indicated that apparently too many people attend universities today if the first year failure rate is a sign of the capacity of university students to pass their courses. The report suggests, as Senator Murphy pointed out, that this is bad, because it means that you have somebody who has spent a year in the university and has not attained a goal. At the end of that year he has a sense of failure and he may be upset for the rest of his life. Apart from all those considerations, he has wasted the time of the teachers at the university and taken up space there without returning to himself or to the country the benefit that one might expect to be returned. The report suggests that there should therefore be an alternative to what has been done in the past in tertiary education and to what will no doubt be done in the university field. This is what remains to be done. This, I believe, was the central core of the Committee's report - that new colleges for tertiary education should be established; that they should embrace courses in the humanities, commerce and public administration as well as technological courses; and that they should provide, according to the capacity and the inclination of the student, an alternative education to that provided in universities. This proposal has been accepted and more millions will be added in the next triennium to the costs of tertiary education borne by the Australian community and the Commonwealth and State Governments.

There has been some suggestion that in the fields in which the Commonwealth is not directly interested - the primary and secondary fields - -it has not played a proper part. I do not believe that the figures indicate that this is so. In the last ten years the reimbursements to the States of lump sum* which it is up to the States to allocate as between education and other fields have increased. Apart from this, those who are interested will know that the State Ministers for Education met and published a document indicating what they believed was the total capital requirement to bring primary, secondary and technical education up to the level at which they thought it should be in all respects. That level embraced all the matters mentioned in the report, including science 'teaching facilities, technical facilities, gymnasiums, teacher training facilities, playing fields, curators, and housing for teachers. The total capital which they said was required over these four years was £98 million. By way of direct and unmatched grants to the States the Commonwealth will be providing over the four years, starting last year, by way of grants for technical education and science teaching education to the State Governments. £34 million, which is more than one-third of the total which was said to be required throughout Australia by the State Ministers for Education. It will be completely unmatched and the States, will still be able out . of their increasing revenues to increase, as they have been doing to their credit, what they have been putting into their education systems.

There were one or two other matters mentioned in the course of the debate to which I wish to refer. The amendment that has been moved indicates that the Opposition regrets the Government's rejection of the Martin Committee's recommendations on scholarships. This is a most misleading way of expressing what the Government did. I am charitable enough to assume that the amendment was so written because of lack of ability to express properly in English one's ideas, to which I heard Senator Murphy advert earlier tonight. The Government did not reject the Martin Committee's recommendations on scholarships. It rejected some of them. I believe it is true to say it has accepted the Martin Committee's recommendations on university scholarships but it has said that they should not be awarded at a level below that at which they were awarded at the end of 1963; it said that they should be kept under review as to the means test to be applied to them; and it said that they should be kept under review as to the living allowances paid. Indeed, after those words were written and before the report was produced, the Government reviewed the means test that was applied and also reviewed the living allowances which were payable. Since then it has increased by 1,000 the number of open entrance scholarships which were available. The Government did not reject outright the Martin Committee's recommendations on later year awards. It partially rejected them and it partially accepted them, which is quite different from outright rejection.

If one reads the report one finds that the Martin Committee's recommendation on teacher training scholarships was that the Committee itself would like eventually to see 10 per cent, of places in teacher training colleges reserved for unbonded students who went there with the equivalent of Commonwealth scholarships. But it pointed out that this would depend upon the State Governments being willing to make those places available. A student who wants a Commonwealth scholarship now can, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, use that scholarship to go to a teachers training college. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, this is perfectly permissible. But quite frankly, there are very few students indeed who would do it, because if they go to a teachers training college without a Commonwealth scholarship they go on a salary paid by a State Government, which is much more. The other night I was quite interested to hear a gentleman sounding off to the effect that the bonding of students - State Governments bond students who go to teacher training colleges to teach for three years thereafter - was a form of medieval slavery. He said that instead of bonding students they should be given Commonwealth scholarships to teachers training colleges. Quite frankly, I think that if he ever attempted to do this he would be very rapidly submerged in a howling mob of students. They would not like to lose £600 a year - which is the amount they are paid in Victoria, although it is less in other States - in order to take up such a scholarship.

There is one other point I wish to mention regarding the amendment. I, too, share Senator Mattner's dislike of the word " imprecision ". I suppose that it does exist, although I am not sure. I know that one can be precise or imprecise. I know that one can speak with precision or lack of precision. It may well be that one can speak with imprecision, but I am not convinced of it. I shall look it up later to see whether, in fact, there is such a word. Nevertheless, I know what is meant.

Senator Cohen - I accepted the Minister's statement that the word is the equivalent of lack of precision.

Senator GORTON - That was to help the honorable senator out when he could not think of what it meant. However, that is by the way, because I know what is meant by the word. The Opposition objects to the lack of precision of the Committee and the Government 'in their outline of nonuniversity tertiary institutions. I regret the Opposition's approach because I think at this stage that it would be very wrong to come along with a rigid definition of exactly what these colleges of advanced education are going to be and of exactly what courses they are going to conduct; whether they are to be limited; and what tramlines they are to be set on. It ought to be possible - and it is possible I am glad to say, because we think differently from the Opposition on this matter - for these colleges to be developed under their own autonomous boards of governors and through their institutes of colleges in different ways within the States and in different ways as between State and State, within general boundaries but not precise and rigid boundaries which, if this amendment means anything, the Opposition would like to have drawn up at this stage.

I do not wish to detain the Senate any longer on this matter. I have said enough, I think, to show what great advances have been made by the Australian Government in the field of university education in the last' decade and a half. The speech which initiated this debate showed how the Goverment stood ready to make new advances in the colleges of advanced education, the alternative to the tertiary system. I have indicated the assistance which has been given and which is being given to secondary education by means of the grants of which I have spoken. I can only say that I believe the Senate should reject the motion which has been moved by the Opposition and should accept the motion which I moved -

That the Senate take note of the following paper . . .

I only regret that I did not add the words -

.   . and congratulate the Government on what it has done and on its forward-looking policy in respect of the Martin Committee's report.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Cohen's amendment) be added.

Suggest corrections