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Friday, 21 May 1965


Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I begin my speech by referring to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth in the field of education. For many years education was traditionally an activity reserved to the States, in relation to which they jealously expressed their rights and resented interference. The position has changed a little down the years, in that the Commonwealth has now come to use the enormous power under section 96 of the Constitution, whereby it may make grants to the States with or without conditions. That section has been invoked very heavily in recent years to make grants to the States to aid education. The money, of course, must go through the States. Particular purposes can be specified by the Commonwealth. These operate only if they are acceptable to the States. Hitherto there has been no question about the acceptability to the States of the grants with the conditions.

What is often overlooked is that the Commonwealth has an enormous direct power, which was written into the Constitution in 1946 in the new placitum 23a which, amongst other things, gave to the Federal Parliament express power to legislate to make provision for benefits to students. I am not attempting to embark upon any discourse on the full extent and scope of that power, lt is undeniable that it does confer direct power on the Commonwealth. In the view that I put. it also imposes on the Commonwealth a very great responsibility, lt has not been used to any great extent, but it lies there as a reserve power which would enable the Commonwealth, if it wished, to make a different type of approach and to play a most potent part in influencing the educational development of the Commonwealth.

The first Bill to which I refer is the one to provide financial assistance to the States for science laboratories and equipment in schools. The grant is made to a State on condition that the State expends it upon the establishment of laboratories and equipment for use in the teaching of science in schools at the secondary level of education. The second Bill deals with technical training. It. too. proposes the making of grants to the States, on condition that they be expended on projects approved by the appropriate Commonwealth Minister, on buildings and equipment for use in the training in State schools of persons for employment in trades and technical occupations. The third Bill revises the three-year programme set up in 1963 for university aid. It proposes the addition to the amount to be expended of a total sum of £6.9 million over the three calendar years 1964, 1965 and 1966. The amounts paid to technical schools and secondary schools in relation to science are to be spread over three years. Each of the Bills relating to science laboratories and technical training seeks a direct appropriation of the sum of £15 million. However, it provides that it be expended over a three year period in equal amounts. When we add to those two sums the amount of £6.9 million for additional- assistance for universities we find ourselves called upon to approve the appropriation of the very considerable sum of £36.9 million for the three purposes of this Bill.

Broadly, I indicate at once that the Opposition does not oppose the Bills. However, to the Bill relating to the establishment of science laboratories and the provision of equipment we will propose an amendment to express the Opposition's point of view, which is completely fundamental and vital to the structure of education in the Commonwealth.


Senator Wright - Can the honorable senator give us an idea of it, in just a few words for the present?


Senator McKENNA - lt is very short, so I will state it now in order that it may be circulated to honorable senators. I move -

That the following words be added to the motion: " but the Senate is of opinion that the scheme proposed by the Bill is inadequate as science education cannot bc divorced from the need to advance and improve education at all levels and in all fields and will suffer unless an immediate inquiry into all aspects of education is instituted ".

Senator Gorton__Is the honorable senator proposing that amendment to the Bill relating to technical schools?


Senator McKENNA - No, but it applies to technical schools. I am proposing an amendment to the Bill which is immediately before us, but the Minister will notice that in applying it to the Bill relating to science laboratories I indicate in my motion that there is a need to advance and improve education at all levels, which includes the technical level, and in all fields, and that even science will suffer unless an immediate inquiry into all aspects of education is instituted.

I will return to the terms of the proposed amendment at a later stage, but I indicate now that after reviewing briefly Commonwealth activity in the field of education I will press to the conclusion that the Commonwealth, under this Government in particular, has continued putting patches on a leaking edifice instead of starting at the foundations and going through the structure from bottom to top. We so regard the approach which has been made by this Government.

I should like to deal with the history of the matter before returning to that theme. I have indicated that for decades education was traditionally a State responsibility. Probably the first real Commonwealth activity in this field was in the post-war period when the Labour Government had responsibility for the administration of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. That directed the attention of the Commonwealth Government of the day to the grave defects in the universities in the provision of accommodation, qualified teachers and adequate facilities.

We embarked - very successfully - upon the task of honouring our obligation to exservicemen who wished to be trained at university level. The Commonwealth came generously to the aid of the universities in providing buildings, maybe of a temporary nature, and facilities, and in helping exservicemen to acquire academic qualifications, professional and otherwise. I would say that for the first time in any substantial way that directed the mind of the Commonwealth to what was happening in the field of education.

The next step was taken in 1949 when, just prior to the defeat of the Labour Government, a system of Commonwealth university scholarships was set up. The sum of £1 million was allocated for that purpose. The scheme was not in active operation when the Labour Government was defeated, but it was picked up and carried on by the succeeding Government. They were the first steps. Then the Commonwealth came into the field of university education. It addressed itself to the pyramid. It went to the top of the structure first and did the wise thing in obtaining a comprehensive report - the Murray report - which has been of tremendous assistance to the Government and the Parliament in addressing their minds to the problems of universities.

We acknowledge that what was done was good. We have supported it. We give generous acknowledgement of the fact that the Commonwealth has done so much in that field. Leaving aside the physical aspect of what was done, it is interesting simply to record the expenditure in the present triennium, the three years 1964 to 1966 both inclusive. There have been additions to the amounts appropriated for the universities in those three years since the first Bill was passed in October 1963. There was a provision in 1964 increasing the amount, and we now have before us a Bill to provide an additional £6.9 million. As the Minister has indicated, in all £64 million, or more than £21 million a year for each of the three years, is to be provided by the Commonwealth through the States to the universities.

By all standards that is a very substantial and generous contribution. It is one which will not remain static. As needs increase and the universities have to expand and as more universities are required, it is inevitable that this Parliament, now committed in this important field, will have to be ready and willing to make additional financial contributions through the States.

Following the election at the end of 1963 the Commonwealth embarked for the first time in the fields of secondary and technical education when it promised scholarships in those spheres. That really was the first venture by the Commonwealth into the field of secondary education. In 1964 we had a bill which dealt with the provision of science laboratories in secondary schools and gave assistance regarding the construction and equipping of technical schools. That was the first tentative step.

When that scheme was announced Senator Gorton, the Minister in charge of the Bill today, rather tentatively stated that we might expect the announcement of provision over a triennium to operate from the end of the financial year 1964-65. But there was no promise, so those who obtained the benefit of the new approach to the provision of science and technical facilities could only plan, when they began upon this scheme, on the basis of the £5 million grant for those facilities last year. It is not surprising, therefore, that in those circumstances, as the Minister has told us, a good deal of the allocation was not expended. The money has been paid over but it takes time to gather momentum in attending to these projects and in sorting out one from the other.

As a further indication of the inadequacies of the grant - already evidenced by the fact that it is to be repeated for another three years - the Minister stated that 189 secondary schools had received aid for science facilities and 708 secondary schools had registered for assistance. Even at the tempo of 1 89 schools a year, the whole field would not be covered - even in the area of independent schools - in three years. Obviously a mammoth attack has not been made upon the provision of science facilities in any one year, lt is the sort of assistance that must be spread over a three year period.

As members of the Opposition see it, the Commonwealth Government has been righting a rearguard action. It has been reluctant to enter the terrifically important field of education. It has yielded only after pressure. First, enormous pressure was exerted in relation to universities and then in relation to additional scholarships followed by pressure in other areas of the tertiary field. Recently we debated in the Senate aspects of tertiary education following the presentation of the report of the Martin Committee. In that debate, which proved to be most interesting, Senator Cohen led for the Opposition. Decisions made by the Government in relation to the recommendations in the report and aspects of the report that the Government did not adopt provoked a most informative discussion.

It seems to me that the Commonwealth traditionally has been reluctant to enter the field of education. Yet education is fundamental to all activities of the Commonwealth. It is fundamental to our development, our rate of progress and our defence. It is fundamental also to our international stature and in that respect we have a deficiency of teachers, scientists and other trained personnel, whereas a nation such as Australia in the midst of under developed nations should regard as one of its prime responsibilities meeting the great and urgent needs of those nations for education and additional know-how. Perhaps no greater avenue is open to Australia to win goodwill amongst our under developed neighbours than to provide them with teachers to raise their educational standards. No true progress can be achieved without those personnel and, in fact, no stability. I believe that the higher the level of education is raised, the saner the world becomes and the quicker is our progress. I should like to see our own educational standards raised to a point where one of our most priceless exports would be trained personnel and scientists to teach people in the under developed countries immediately in our vicinity. The standards of our under developed neighbours could be raised to those we would like to set for ourselves.

Although education may be primarily committed to the States, it is a matter of fundamental importance to every activity in the Commonwealth. Education affects the economic development of the nation and has the very important international aspect that I have put. The Commonwealth has rather reluctantly and tentatively entered the field of education. It moved in last year with £5 million for the two types of assistance given to technical and secondary schools. It was a nervous and tentative approach which only broadly recognised that difficulties existed. No prior examination was made of the needs or the expected trends during the years ahead.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.


Senator McKENNA - On looking at the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) on the Stares Grants (Technical Training) Bill 1965 I note that he stated -

It has become clear in the course of the first year's administration of the scheme that equipment has neither been adequate nor up to date.

I understand that that statement is not repeated in the second reading speech on the Bill dealing with science laboratories, but I have no doubt that it would have equal application there. There is no information from the Minister as to the nature or extent of the inadequacies that were discovered. There is no indication from the Government as to when these defects or deficiencies will be cured. There is no statement as to what is contemplated for the period ahead as our population expands. I hope that the Minister in replying will convey to the Senate more information on these particular points. After some 15 years the Government has taken the first effective steps to assist technical schools and secondary schools in the matter of science equipment. I doubt very much whether that would have been done but for the dynamic nature of Labour's proposals at the federal elections in 1963. I have before me the speech made by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on that occasion. Our proposals were set out in that policy speech. I do not propose to take the Senate through all of them, but from the viewpoint of their relevance to the amendment I have moved I want to quote a few brief extracts. The extracts I have selected are not those dealing with our individual proposals but rather show the spirit that underlies our thinking in the matter of education. Under the heading of education the Leader of the Opposition stated-

Education is one of the neglected tasks facing the governments of Australia today. It has been said and truly said, that education is the most important activity of civilised nations. Labor puts education at the centre of its current thinking. An educated domecracy is a . powerful democracy, and for a nation as small as Australia, education is the key to our survival.

After setting out our specific proposals, Mr. Calwell concluded -

We further propose to set up an inquiry into all aspects of education in Australia.

Similar in its aims, and equal in its importance to the Murray Commission of Inquiry into Universities, this inquiry will invite evidence from all groups and competent persons interested in all aspects of education, State and private alike, in primary, secondary, technical and teacher training schools. A Labor Government will expect that inquiry to provide a blueprint for education in Australia for the next decade. We will act on the report when we receive it.

In short, Labor will plan education as a major task facing the nation.

The question is not just how much we can afford to spend; Australia just cannot afford the waste of not investing heavily in education now.

Mr. Calwellthen passed on to deal with science and I shall quote a few short extracts. He said -

As I have said, Labor is determined that there shall be a revolution in Australia's approach to education. We are equally determined that Australia shall play its full part in the revolution that is going on in the world around us - the revolution in science, technology and automation. We propose to harness these great forces of change and progress to the development and prosperity of Australia.

The Leader of the Australian Labour Party then set out four proposals, only the first of which I shall quote. He said -

We therefore propose -

1.   To establish a National Science Foundation to expand, organise and co-ordinate scientific education and research.

Mr. Calwellindicated that in the early stages of the programme £10 million would be spent in this field and he concluded -

Unless we take urgent steps now to place Australia in the forefront of the scientific revolution, we are doomed to be a nation of borrowers and imitators, living precariously on the fruits of foreign research. This is completely contrary to our national traditions.

That is the type of thinking that has motivated us in pressing, down the years, for the type of inquiry we have proposed again in our amendment. Ours is not a lone voice in this field. I have before me a submission by Mr. Heffron, who was then Premier of New South Wales, on behalf of his State and the Premiers of four other States at a Premiers' Conference in Canberra in June 1960. Mr. Heffron then drew attention to the very great difficulties facing the States in education. He spoke of the shortage of school buildings, the insufficient number of adequately trained teachers and the limitations in the provision of equipment. Mr. Heffron developed the theme that education was a national problem and not merely a matter for the States alone. He pointed to the inter-relationship of one aspect of education with another. That, too, is an element that the Opposition has included in the amendment that I have put before the Senate. On behalf of the five Premiers, including himself, Mr. Heffron said -

I would ask at this stage that the Commonwealth agree to establish a committee to investigate" and make an up to date assessment of the needs of primary, secondary and technical education on a national basis and to suggest a long term basis of assistance.

That approach has been supported too by those who are very knowledgeable in the field of education - the Teachers Federation of Australia.


Senator Wright - Who were the four other Premiers for whom Mr. Heffron spoke?


Senator McKENNA - He spoke for himself and all the other Premiers except the Premier of South Australia. I am not aware whether the Premier of South Australia joined in the submissions subsequently. My information does not go to that point. Initially, five of the State Premiers subscribed to this proposition.


Senator Wright - What was the date of the submission?


Senator McKENNA - I have to rely on my memory but I believe it was 15th June 1960.


Senator Gorton - To what particular submission is the honorable senator referring?


Senator McKENNA - A submission at the Premiers' Conference made by Mr.

Heffron, who was then the Premier of New South Wales, on behalf of himself and the Premiers of four other States. We take the view that research is needed into the needs of education and all the trends in this field. It means research, and surely this should be the beginning of any intelligent approach to the problem. The first thing to do is to tease out the problem. Once that is done, tremendous progress will have been made.

I realise that education has pressing needs and that these are important. 1 face the fact also that there are needs in fields other than education and that their urgency fluctuates from time to time. You cannot deal with all the problems of education at one time. The only intelligent approach is to recognise that every aspect of education is connected or interrelated with another aspect of education and that all the defects in one aspect will have repercussions on other aspects along the line. The need is to begin at the bottom with primary education and to move through each aspect of education rectifying each one as we go through. This is in complete contradistinction to the approach the Government is making. It has done various things. In itself each of them is good. We have applauded them. But until the Government can align these moves and have them correlated one with the other in the various fields, and until it sees the problem as one project extending over at least a decade, then no intelligent and efficent approach will be made to this matter.

We find even at this late stage the Government resisting proposals in the field of private training. When we had the Tertiary Education Committee's report before us quite recently, a great deal of controversy surrounded the fact that the Government did not adopt the recommendation of that Committee in relation to this all important field. The Opposition, as I have indicated, supports the three Bills. We support the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill 1965 without reservation of any kind; the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1965 is subject to the amendment that I have moved; and the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill 1965 is also supported without a formal amendment, but as I have already explained to the Minister, that is covered not only by what I have said in developing my arguments in the Senate but also in the expressed terms of the amendment I have moved to the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1965 indicating that the Opposition wants the affairs of education looked at.

In conclusion, I ask the Government - in fact I beg the Government - to look at this problem as a truly national one in which, in partnership with the States, the Government should give leadership, one of its purposes being to provide the requisite finance. This is not necessarily the dominant purpose because the element of leadership and co-ordination of the States in a national effort is equally important as providing finance. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom at least of not making an ad hoc approach to aspects of the problem of education. The Government should see education as one unit all the parts of which must be co-ordinated adequately and properly. I commend the amendment to the Senate for its consideration.

SenatorLAUGHT (South Australia) [2.281. - I rise to support the three Bills which are being taken together and to indicate that I will vote against the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Mckenna). In supporting these Bills, I would like personally to congratulate the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton) and also offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) for this dynamic and earnest approach that they are making with regard to education on the tertiary, technical and, in certain cases, the secondary levels. I think that the Government has approached this matter with great care. It is receiving, of course, pressure from the States and from representatives interested in education in the States for a great handout of money to the States for the purpose of development of educational matters. But I think the Government is very wise in keeping its own control and administrative technique on the moneys that it is providing by this legislation.

It was only a year ago that we were debating the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1964. Honorable senators will recall that there was enthusiastic opposition from the Australian Labour Party at that time to what the Government was then doing. At the moment, there is no enthusiasm on the Opposition side at all either for or against these three Bills. I think that the change in the attitude of the Opposition within the space of 12 months clearly shows that the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1964 has been a great success amongst the people who are interested in education in the States. Briefly the position is that through the Bill I have just mentioned the Government provided in my State of South Australia £337,000 for science blocks and technical equipment in government schools. Independent schools received £124,000. This amount is to be divided, with £60,000 being shared amongst the Roman Catholic schools and £64,000 being shared amongst the other independent schools in that State. From my own observation and contacts with a number of these independent schools in South Australia, I have come to the conclusion that this money was very much appreciated and has already been applied for the purposes provided.

I was interested to hear the Minister reply to a question submitted by Senator Cohen in the Senate this morning. In reply to this question which was upon notice, the Minister set out in a schedule the precise figures that were allocated in the various States and the schools which received those sums of money. In South Australia, the Roman Catholic schools divided their share into eight unequal parts. The recommention from the Roman Catholic authorities to the Minister showed the following allocation of moneys - Blackfriars Priory, Prospect, £1,750; Christian Brothers' College, Adelaide, £1,750; Christian Brothers' School St. Paul's, Strathmont, £15,874; Loreto Convent School, Marryatville, £800; Rostrevor College, Magill, £1,500; St. Dominic's Priory, North Adelaide, £5,876; St. Joseph's Girls' High School, Kensington, £1,750; and St. Mary's Dominican Convent School, Cabra, £3,000. So, the Roman Catholic authorities decided to divide their £60,000 into eight parts. Payments have been made to all these schools, some in full and other in part. No doubt, within the next few months, the remaining amounts which have been granted will be actually paid.

The independent schools in South Australia, other than Roman Catholic schools, divided the amount granted into four equal sums into £16,050. This amount was distributed to the following schools - Girton, Kensington Park, Westminster School, Marion; Wilderness School, Medindie; and

Woodlands, Church of England Girls Grammar School, Glenelg. All the amounts have been paid. From my knowledge of visiting some of these schools, I have actually seen work in progress. I am sure that in a few months time the schools will actually be giving science lessons as a result of the money that this Parliament provided less than a year ago. Because of the vigour of the Minister this scheme has got under way. The people were ready for it. The committees in charge of the schools were prepared, and already the results are to hand. Consequently that is an excellent reason why the scheme should be continued. I am glad that it is being continued and I am also glad that it is being continued for a triennium. The schools in South Australia which have not received assistance under the scheme will now feel that their turn is coming within the foreseeable future and will be able to go ahead with their plans.

In addition to providing this money the Government has, I think, done a very sensible thing in providing know-how to schools which wish to improve their science teaching facilities. The Advisory Committee on Standards has developed a series of laboratory plants. The members of the Committee, all of whom have had much experience in science teaching, visit applicant schools and give advice on the most suitable laboratories to meet their individual needs. I can assure the Senate that this service which is provided with Government help by skilled former teachers of science has been much availed of in South Australia and is much appreciated. Principals of schools have telephoned me to find out when the gentleman from Melbourne - I think he was a master at Melbourne Grammar School - would be visiting South Australia because schools desiring to improve their science teaching facilities required his services.

I think it should be mentioned in the Senate that the scheme does not provide only money. It also provides interest and know-how in science teaching. The work that is being done in South Australia under the scheme is greatly appreciated in that State, particularly by schools that have battled on for the best part of a century without any Government interest whatsoever being evinced in their work. Now in 1965 the Government is providing first the money and secondly the know-how. I hope that the Minister will see to it that knowhow is provided for the schools that will be assisted in the triennium. I think that this scheme is one of the most brilliant moves made by the Gvernment in recent times. I am glad that the Opposition will not oppose the Bill. The amendment moved by Senator McKenna on behalf of the Opposition is really only a form of words. It does not in any way oppose the allotment of money for the next three years.

The States have been great recipients of bounty under the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill. For instance, South Australia has received £330,000 and I understand that a number of schools which otherwise would not have been assisted have received assistance. In South Australia 18 State schools have been able to improve their science laboratories and equipment because of this legislation. In addition, 12 non-State schools have been helped. I understand that because of the requirements of -departmental regulations, by and large the State schools have not got on to the job as quickly as have the independent schools. Nevertheless, the State Departments of Education are enthusiastically taking up the matter and I can see that there will be great improvements in this respect in the future.

T come now to the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill. In the field of technical training the money to be provided will go entirely to the State schools because 1 understand that there are no independent schools that conduct technical training classes. I believe that this is an important aspect of education. While there is a great need for trained scientists and technologists, we must also realise that many persons must be trained as skilled technicians and tradesmen. It is hoped that the technical training schools which the Government proposes to assist to the extent of £5 million a year for the next three years will be able to train the tradesmen and technicians that we need. There will be trade schools, improved schools of automotive engineering, printing schools, and schools which will teach carpentry, joinery and many other skills.

I was interested to note that in South Australia grants have already been made in the 1964-65 financial year for Department of Education establishments, to the South Australian Institute of Technology and

Roseworthy Agricultural College, and that the proposals for the forthcoming three years include substantial expenditure on an automotive trades school and further expenditure on engineering and food technology courses at Roseworthy Agricultural College. This College, about 35 miles north of Adelaide, was established about 80 years ago and has done splendid work in training young men in viticulture, agriculture,, pasture management and other matters connected with rural industry. I think it is of great importance to provide training in farm engineering for the young men who are attending the College, many of whom will become farmers. I commend the Government for its interest in this respect. I believe that the Government of South Australia will be the first to acknowledge the benefits that will come from the passing of this legislation.

In my short remarks I wish to compliment the Government also on what it is doing with regard to the provision of financial assistance to universities. As is well known, the increase in the number of university students in the last decade has been phenomenal. The Eggleston report indicated that academic salaries should be raised. The increased salaries, plus a number of other additional costs, have to be met by the universities. Some of those costs will be met by the finance to be provided under the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill now before the Senate. I was interested to see that the grants for recurrent expenditure for the year 1966 are quite substantial so far as South Australia is concerned. It is also interesting to note that the grants are to be made for individual establishments in that State. In this respect I point out that the university at Bedford Park, the new South Australian university, is to be assisted to the extent of £1,417,000. I am very glad that £121,000 is to be provided for the erection of a building for the Faculty of Technology at Whyalla. I am pleased to note that the Government is looking beyond the old established university in Adelaide and is looking at institutions in other regions of South Australia. As I have pointed out, interest is being displayed in the institution at Bedford Park, the South Australian Institute of Technology, and the Whyalla section of the South Australian Institute of Technology. All in all, the Government is to be commended for its interest in education. I believe that in the forthcoming three years Australia will reap great benefit from the provisions of these Bills. I support the Bills and oppose the amendment.







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