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Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1034


Senator McMANUS (Victoria) - The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Commonwealth Teaching Service Bill, lt will not support the amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. As 1 understand this Bill, it marks a decision to set up a Commonwealth Teaching Service because of the feeling among certain State authorities that the assistance that they have given over the years should no longer continue and that the Commonwealth should become the employing body of the teachers who serve its schools. I have informed myself of the circumstances under which the Bill comes forward by a certain amount of research and also by an examination of the debates which took place elsewhere. In view of the statements which have been made in the course of the debates and the keen interest which bodies such as the Australian Teachers Federation have taken in this measure 1 have been somewhat surprised that the interest did not extend to any action to inform the Democratic Labor Party of views held by such bodies. Most people are aware that where there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition the Democratic Labor Party is in a position to influence the ultimate decision very strongly. For that reason it has become the commendable practice of persons who are interested in Bills coming before the Parliament to inform not only the Government and the Opposition but also the Democratic Labor Party of their views.

Reading the debates I have been struck by the fact that organisations representing teachers have been represented as being particularly concerned over matters con tained in this Bill. I find it hard to believe that that concern could have been as great as has been .stated because I am unable to find any honourable senator in my Party who has been approached in regard to this matter or who has been given any information as to the views of the teachers organisations concerned. 1 do not believe that reputable organisations would have acted through political bias and, as a former teacher with a high regard for my profession. I do not like to think that they acted from ignorance. I do not know why they have acted so. I can only say that my Party regards the statements that the teaching service is very keenly interested in what happens to this Bill with a certain amount of doubt and hesitancy. We feel that if people have views to put forward and feel strongly about them at least they should have gone to the trouble to let us know their views.

Looking at the Bill anyone such as myself who has worked in a very extensive educational service will be struck by the fact that the new service to be set up is far from being an educational service to the degree of that operating in each of the States. It may well be that one day it will become such a service. But even speakers for the Opposition in another place stress the point that, after all, this is only an enabling Bill, lt is a Bill to set up a skeleton service. In those circumstances 1 cannot go along with some of the suggestions which have been made. In putting before Parliament an enabling Bill which will set up a skeleton service which will be merely an employing authority without the other wide responsibilities which teaching services in the States have at present, I cannot go along with the plea that at this stage we should set up another bureaucracy. While, as a former teacher, I would be in favour - in a service of significant size - of the provision for a commission of 3 members, as one who has become also frightened by the allpervading atmosphere of bureaucracy in this city, I am not prepared to set up a bureaucracy in the infant stages of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. I believe that in view of the limited nature of the duties which the Commissioner will perform and in view of the fact that he will operate only in a very limited field in regard to teachers, for the time being the attitude of the Government that there should be one commissioner is justified. At a future time when the infant service has grown, when it has a significant number of teachers associated with it and when the Commonwealth Teaching Service is able to take over those many other duties which come under a State system, my altitude will be different. But at the moment when we are setting up, as is admitted, the skeleton of a service 1 will not vote for a commission of 3 commissioners because, candidly, I do not know what two of them will do.

The other points which have been made appeal to me very much. The second paragraph of the Opposition's amendment deals with the heightening or improvement of professional standards of teachers by the establishment of faculties of education. The third paragraph deals with the provision for the recruitment and training of staff, not only for Papua New Guinea but also other Pacific islands if they seek our aid. The fourth paragraph relates to the provision of an advisory council. I agree with all those, bin I notice from the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) - it has not been denied or negated in any way - that there is already provision in the Bill for paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) of the amendment to be complied with. Under those circumstances 1 see no reason for saying that the Bill should contain those paragraphs. 1 have no doubt that in its own good time, when the Service has reached the appropriate stage, specific provision will actually be made for those things. [ believe that the provision in the Bill that those things can be done is quite sufficient. Therefore I see no reason to vole against the Bill on those grounds.

The final paragraph of the Opposition's amendment deals with provisions of leave for pregnant teachers. In another place the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said categorically that the leave provisions in the Bill for pregnancy are in conformity with the International Labour Organisation recommendation. Therefore it is for the Opposition, if it says that the provisions are not in conformity with that recommendation, to produce evidence to that effect. If the Opposition produces that evidence my attitude will be different. In the present circumstances, when the Minister has made the state ment in the other place and when his statement has been subject to examination and rebuttal - I am unable to find any instance of rebuttal that satisfies me - I feel that I must accept the Minister's point of view until it is proved to be wrong. T know of no attempt to date to prove it to be wrong. If evidence is brought forward, my attitude will change. Until that happens 1 propose to support the Bill. 1 am glad that the Commonwealth is setting up its own Education Service, lt is another stage in the advancement of educational authority in the Commonwealth. 1 think that the fact that it has its own Service and that it does not have to rely upon temporary assistance from outside will eventually produce a more efficient and a more satisfactory teaching service in those areas over which the Commonwealth has control. Therefore my Parly supports the Bill and is unable to support the amendment.







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