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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 1928


Senator RAE (Tasmania) - Because this is the major point of the whole of the debate which will take place I had anticipated that I would take half an hour in 2 parts to enable me to explain fully. I had designed what I was to say on that basis. I wish to go on and explain the second half of what I was going to say which is the basic reason which the Opposition wishes to move amendment No. 5. In speaking earlier I had reached the stage where I was referring to the meaning to be given to the word 'representation' as used by us. It is a limited meaning, the same meaning as was given in a number of submissions from a variety of interested groups throughout the community, which is that persons should be drawn from a particular area, that there should be a guarantee that the persons can be drawn from that area but that they should not be answerable to the organisations of which they are members. There should be a guarantee that they are not on the Commission because they have received particular directions from their committee or organisation and that they are not answerable to that organisation on a reporting back basis. It is for that reason that we included the proposed clause 4b. This amendment gives a guarantee sought by a wide variety of organisations in Australia that they shall be given representation. It is a guarantee that their areas will be represented or, to put it another way, that the people on the Commission shall be drawn from the areas set out in the amendment. This is as opposed to the total discretion of a Minister who may not be the present Minister for Education. There may be a reshuffle in the present Cabinet or there may be a change of government. There is no way in which we can tell who will be the Minister at any particular time.

The fact that the present Minister has indicated that he will appoint a group of people is no argument to say that that type of people will always be appointed. Therefore no one who is interested in ensuring that his parent group, teacher group or whatever type of" group it may be will be represented on the Commission can draw comfort from any assurance given by Mr

Beazley. The position at the moment is not a permanent one. Accordingly we would see as desirable some guarantee written into the Bill that persons would be drawn from these areas and included on the panel. We would therefore see as desirable the inclusion of 4 persons recommended by the Australian Education Council who would represent the interests as seen by the State area of administrative power. These people may or may not be representatives from the State education departments. There may be people who in fact come from a variety of areas. The Australian Education Council would be required also to select 2 people from a panel of 5 names put forward by the Australian Council of State School Organisations. The Council should also, in the forum in which it has total discretion, appoint one person who is involved in the special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties. Again, this is not something unusual; this is not something for which there is no precedent in education.

We have also put forward the suggestion that one member should be appointed on the recommendation of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia. I pause at this point to say that in the Catholic system of education the Education Executive is the ultimate body concerned with the direction of Catholic education in Australia. We suggest also that one member should be appointed on the recommendation of the National Council of Independent Schools which is a body comprised of representatives of the non-government school area, including catholic order schools, Protestant schools, non-religious schools and independent modern schools or progressive schools. Almost all schools in this category are members of the National Council of Independent Schools. To ensure that there is representation of the parent group coming from the independent sector we have suggested that a member should be appointed to the Schools Commission on the recommendation of the Australian Parents' Council, which is a body open to both Catholic and non-Catholic independent school parent bodies. Although the Council is in fact comprised of a large crosssection of parents who have children attending Catholic and non-Catholic schools, it is made up primarily of Catholic parents because most of the children who attend non-government schools go to Catholic schools. In my home State of Tasmania, for instance, parents and friends groups of some of the non-Catholic independent schools are represented on the Australian Parents' Council. Therefore the Education Executive of the

Episcopal Conference of Australia and the Australian Parents' Council are 2 bodies which are primarily representative, although not exclusively, of the Catholic area and another body is primarily representative of the non-Catholic independent schools although it does include Catholic order schools.

Senator JamesMcClelland has suggested that it is monstrous for us to say that we should draw people in this way from a number of areas of education. Senator James McClelland would do well to remember that his own Minister has just set up the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority on an interim basis apparently with the intention of making it a permanent body. It is interesting to note the structure of the A.C.T. Schools Authority because it includes people nominated as follows: two by parents' councils, three by the Australian Capital Territory teachers, one by the Canberra Pre-School Society, one by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and two by the Minister for Education. I remind the Senate that all of these people are nominated directly by those organisations. In other words, the structure accepted by Mr Beazley in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority, which is an authority directly within his administrative area has been based on the same type of 'representation' which we propose for the Australian Schools Commission. If it is good enough for Canberra it is good enough for Australia. We fail to see why the Labor Party should attack our proposals upon some monstrous basis when its own Minister is using exactly the same scheme for the Australian Capital Territory. There are certain other aspects which can be referred to at a later stage.

One point I want to make is that perhaps all of us have been neglectful for not seeing that the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech has been carried out because provision has not been made in the structure of the Schools Commission to include a direct representative of the taxpayers. This was referred to in the Prime Minister's policy speech. However, the Opposition wishes to ensure that there is community involvement in the Commission. It wishes to ensure that there is a guarantee in the structure of the Commission that representatives of parent interest groups, teacher interest groups, areas of research in education, State administration interests and the area of special education for the handicapped will be included in the membership of the Commission. We believe that we should not have a Minister who upon a whim can appoint, for instance, a Commission of 12 teachers, 12 State administrators, or whatever else it may be. We believe it is desirable that the group represented by its Secretary, Mrs Ryan, which has been referred to on a number of occasions, should be represented on the Commission, together with the parents of children attending government schools in Australia, with the right to have their say in the development of education in Australia. This is what we propose. We want an assurance that this is what will happen in the future and that the decision will not simply be left to the whim of a Minister.

Some effort has been made to compare the Schools Commission with the Australian Universities Commission. Some Government speakers and the Minister have laid great stress on the comparison between the Universities Commission and the Schools Commission. But how can one make such a comparison? How can one properly compare a commission which deals with between 10 and 20 universities- and this number has grown at various times- with a commission which deals with 10,000 schools? How can one compare schools which are administered by the States in State school systems with universities which have always been autonomous? Nevertheless, as I have said, great stress has been laid by Mr Beazley, Mr Whitlam and others on the great job that has been done by the Universities Commission. I simply point out that the net result has been that there is now a takeover or handover of university and tertiary administration to the Commonwealth Government. I ask the Minister whether the underlying intention of the Government is that there should be a takeover or handover of the administration of all schools in Australia to the Commonwealth. I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition in the interests of Australian education. We do so in the hope that the Government will give proper consideration to this matter which does after all basically carry out the Government's own promise of representation to people who are drawn from the various areas of education. It accords with the general wishes of a wide variety of groups in Australia which are interested in education. In our view, it ensures that the 3 major administrative areas are recognised and provides some real prospect of their feeling involved and being prepared to contribute to and work with the Commission in the development of education in Australia.


Senator Milliner - Mr Chairman-


The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse -Order! Senator McManushas notified that he proposes to move an amendment. I am wondering whether it would facilitate the debate if honourable senators were aware of that amendment before they heard other speakers. If the Committee is agreeable, I will call Senator McManus.







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