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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1990


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I have already indicated on behalf of the Government that I intend dividing the Committee on this amendment proposed by Senator Rae because this is the first of the amendments moved by Senator Rae that relates to the functions of the Commission. The previous amendments that he has moved have been related to the composition of the Commission. We debated the principal amendment that he moved and which Senator McManus moved in that regard at length yesterday. The amendment that was moved by Senator McManus was in fact carried by the Committee. The other amendments which have been put by the Opposition today in the main were of a consequential nature to Senator McManus' amendment yesterday. However, this is the first amendment that has been moved by the Opposition relating to the proposed functions of the Commission and if it is not a further emasculation of the Government's Bill certainly we would regard it as a mauling of the Bill.


Senator Carrick - That is not what Senator McClelland says.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well, if it is not what Senator James McClelland says it is what this Senator McClelland says. It is a mauling of the Bill.


Senator Young - Will the honourable senator give his reasons?


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Dear me, I have been on my feet a minute and a half and I have 13.5 minutes left to speak. I hope I will give the reasons.

First of all Senator Rae and, I think, Senator Carrick referred to a section of the Karmel Committee 's report at page 135 under the heading of Consultation'.


Senator Davidson - I did too.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think Senator Davidson likewise referred to it. But I suggest that they look at paragraph 13.3 of the Karmel Committee's report which sets out the functions of the Schools Commission. Subparagraph (a) states that one of the suggested functions of the Schools Commission should be: to determine acceptable standards for primary and secondary schools ...

Clause 1 3 ( 1 ) of our Bill states:

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

(a)   the establishing of acceptable standards . . .

Therefore clause 13 (1) (a) of our Bill allocates to the Commission as its first function the establishing of acceptable standards at government and non-government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia together with a means of attaining and maintaining those standards.


Senator Carrick - What do the 2 paragraphs of the Karmel Committee report which appear before paragraph 13.3 say, Mr Minister? Are they not exactly in line with what is put forward by the Opposition amendment?


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -The honourable senator has read to the Committee paragraph 1 3.2 which appears under the heading 'Administration and Accountability'. I have just read to the honourable senator what the Karmel Committee suggested should be the first function of the Schools Commission. The Government in its Bill has said that the very first function of the Schools Commission should be that which is recommended by the Karmel Committee. All the tautology in the world will not convince the Government otherwise. The suggestions of the Karmel Committee that the Schools Commission should determine acceptable standards is spelt out in black and white in paragraph 13.3 under the heading 'Functions of Schools Commission' of its report. Virtually all we have done has been to replace the words 'To determine ' with the words 'The establishing of.

The very first thing that the Schools Commission has to do if it is to operate successfully in the determination and assessment of needs is to determine what are the standards. The amendment moved by Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition limits the role of the Commission in that it requires the Commission to give the definition of desirable standards. The amendment also adds a further qualification in that this action should be carried out in consultation and co-operation with government and nongovernment school authorities and so on. Although the amendment emphasises the need for consultation it ignores the fact, as was pointed out by Senator James McClelland, that clause 13 (4) (a) of the Bill makes a specific requirement for consultation. Clause 13(4) states:

For the purpose of the performance of its functions, the Commission-

(a)   shall 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 Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting nongovernment schools in Australia, and -

I interpolate here to say that this is the answer to the point made by Senator Davidson- may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission -

Not as the Minister or anyone else- thinks necessary; and

The clause then goes on to say that the Commission may undertake and cause to be undertaken research and matters of that nature. So here in this Bill, as the Karmel Committee has set out what the functions of the Schools Commission should be, we too set out those functions.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Prior to the suspension of the sitting there had been a debate on the amendment moved by Senator Rae, on behalf of the Opposition, to clause 13 which deals with the functions of the Schools Commission. In replying on behalf of the Government, I had put the argument that the amendment moved by Senator Rae sets out to limit the role of the Commission to the definition of desirable standards whereas the Bill provides for the establishing of acceptabe standards. True it is that Senator Rae's amendment adds the further requirement that the action be taken in consultation and co-operation with government and non-government authorities; but the second point about consultation seems to ignore the fact that already in clause 13.(4) (a) there is a specific requirement for consultation. I also alluded to that matter before dinner.

In short, the words used in the Bill have been chosen to demonstrate the Government's intention to appoint an independent expert advisory body to assist the Australian Government in developing a national program for improving the quality of the education system and to recommend to the Government the nature and extent of the financial assistance it ought to make available to the States for both government and nongovernment schools. In the Australian Labor Party speech for the last election we said that we would embark upon the establishment of a Schools Commission along the same lines as the conservative governments had embarked upon the establishment of the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. By referring to the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Act 1971, particularly section 13 dealing with the functions of the Commission and section 14 dealing with the performance of the functions of the Commission, it will be seen that we have set out in this Bill to enact somewhat similar legislative requirements.

As I said earlier, we say that this is yet another attempt by the Opposition to water down- I think I used the term 'maul' earlier- the national initiative of the Government in improving education throughout Australia which certainly was put to the electorate by the Labor Leader, Mr Whitlam, during the course of the last election campaign and which certainly was endorsed by the electorate last December. The Government does not accept- indeed, it vehemently opposes- the amendment moved by Senator Rae. Because this is the first of his amendments which deal specifically with the functions of the Commission and because the Australian Democratic Labor Party has indicated that it supports the Opposition on this amendment, it is my intention to call for a division on this amendment.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Rae's amendment) be left out.







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