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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1986

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The choice of epithets is, of course, a matter of taste. Senator Rae had made some play out of the proposition that he wants our word 'acceptable' replaced by the word 'desirable'. I do not think we should make too much of this. There does not seem to be such an awful gap between the 2 epithets. I suppose that when a man finds a wife acceptable it would be assumed that he also finds her desirable. I think we should not get bogged down in an argument about these words. I would think that in practice what was desirable would also be acceptable, and vice versa.

But a more serious criticism that I have to make in relation to this amendment is that it is totally unnecessary. One can only assume that the Opposition has not even read the Bill because everything, or almost everything, that it contends for in this amendment is already to be found in the Bill. What the amendment proposes to add is a stress on the need for consultation by the Schools Commission in carrying out its functions. I do not know whether the Opposition wants it to go out to the world that the Opposition alone is insisting that the Schools Commission should consult with the relevant authorities in the States and the Territories. But it is significant that the Opposition has not suggested the elimination of that portion of the Bill which already provides for that very thing. I refer to clause 13 (4) (a) which in clear and mandatory terms casts upon the Commission an obligation to do almost exactly what Senator Rae is suggesting. Just in case Opposition members have not read clause 13 (4) (a), I propose to read it to them.

Senator Rae - You may assume that we have read it with a great deal of detail.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Why does not the honourable senator propose to eliminate it now? It is surplusage, is it not?

Senator Rae - It is not surplusage. What I referred to was the fact that the Minister stressed that the functions as outlined are those matters of importance in education. It is not included in the functions so far as the Bill is concerned. We wish to see it included in the functions.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can only assume once more that Senator Rae has not read the subclause concerned, which I still propose to read.

Senator Rae - That is not under the functions, is it?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is under the functions.

Senator Rae - Read it, then.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Let me read it. Let me make clear to the honourable senator what he does not seem to be able to understand.

Clause 13 (1) reads

The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:-

We then proceed to paragraph (a) which is the part of the clause that Senator Rae proposes to amend by including an obligation on the Commission in carrying out its functions to consult with certain people. But if we turn to clause 1 3 (4) we find that it reads as follows:

For the purpose of the performance of its functions -

What could be clearer than that? the Commission-

(a)   shall -

Not 'may'- consult with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting nongovernment schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary;

I repeat that if that paragraph is to remain in the Bill it will be surplusage because it covers the same ground as what is proposed to be added to clause 13 (1) (a) by Senator Rae's amendment. I just do not understand the plain meaning of words if that is not what is involved in this amendment. If Senator Rae has not read subclause (4) (a) -

Senator Rae - Do not be so stupidly offensive.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why is it not eliminated? Why does the honourable senator want to have both subclauses? Why does he want to say one thing in clause 13 ( 1 ) (a) and the same thing in clause 13 (4) (a)? No matter how he may protest I can assume only that this is a mistake that is made through carelessness. But the position created by the Opposition is even worse than that. In a further amendment it is proposing to eliminate another clause- the whole of clause 16- which in my submission gives even further guarantees of consultation as it stands. In speaking to this clause, I am not departing from the general requirement that consideration of Bills at the Committee stage we consider one clause at a time. It is necessary to understand the point that I am putting for me to refer to the other provisions in this Bill which cover this same general idea of consultation. Clause 16 provides that in addition to the consultation which is made mandatory by clause 13 (4) (a) which I have just read, for the purpose of assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions the Commission may, in relation to each State and Territory, establish a board or boards to be known as the Schools Commission Advisory Board to give advice to the Commission and to have represented on it the various groups and tendencies for which the Opposition expresses such a tender regard.

I am open to explanation from Senator Rae, but I cannot understand why he wants an amendment to clause 13(1) (a) unless at the same time he proposes the deletion of clause 13 (4) (a). I can assume only that the reason is not regard for the proper functioning of this

Commission but a purely propagandist aim to have the Bill go out to the world to show that the Opposition and the Opposition alone is concerned with having this Commission consult with various groups and tendencies in the community.

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