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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1992


Senator RAE (Tasmania) - As a further amendment to clause 13, 1 move:

Leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph:

(b)   The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs and to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia;

Clause 13 relates to the functions of the Schools Commission. I remind the Committee that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), in his second reading speech, said that the functions of the Commission 'indicate matters which are important in the field of education'. I shall draw attention to the Government's proposals in this Bill and to the Karmel Committee's recommendations, and then I shall state our proposal. Clause 13(1) 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:

(b)   The needs of such schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities, and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs.

This paragraph is a marked example of the Government's failure to refer to the interests of students. The Government refers to the needs of schools, not the needs of students. It refers to a much overrated political slogan, in my submission, this question of needs. Of course we are all concerned with needs, but we are concerned with what is needed to make education of the greatest value, of the greatest availability and of the highest standard for students in Australia. We should not look to the needs of schools as such. I draw attention to chapter 1 3.3 of the Karmel Committee report, which states:

The Committee suggests that the Schools Commission should have the following functions:

(b)   to inform the Minister, either at his request or on its own initiative, on the needs of primary and secondary schools throughout the nation.

I assume that the Karmel Committee, in the haste with which it prepared the report, omitted to give some thought to the interests of students as opposed to the interests of schools. The Government, perhaps equally in the haste with which it prepared the legislation, forgot to give consideration to the needs of students as opposed to the needs of schools. So the Opposition, having had the time that it has had to consider this matter, has come to the conclusion that it is certainly necessary to make specific reference to the needs of the students. Our amendment seeks to insert the following paragraph:

The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs and to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia.

Our suggestion is that the paragraph does not change the meaning of the Government's wishes but makes it far clearer that the paragraph extends to students and to the needs of students. I refute entirely the scurrilous allegation which has been made against the Opposition, not by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) but by some sections of the Press and by some interested people, that the Opposition is in some way intending to kill the consideration of the needs of pupils in Australia. We are quite happy to improve the provision. We draw attention to the needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of 'buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids', the last mentioned matter being omitted by the Government. Apparently it is not concerned about teaching aids or in its haste it overlooked them. We would have thought that teaching aids would be an important matter for the permanent Schools Commission to consider. We think it important that it also have regard to the quality of education so that not only will it have regard to the needs in physical form but also to the needs of students in relation to the quality of education. We therefore wish to write into the Bill the words requiring that the Commission's functions shall have regard to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia, perhaps a striking omission on the part of the Government. Apparently it did not think to include this matter. 1 would not for a moment think that the Government would not agree that it is the needs of students about which it is concerned and I cannot for a moment think that it is not interested in improving the quality of education in Australia. I simply submit to the Committee that our amendment is clearly designed to improve the Bill. In no way does it reduce the Commission's functions or inhibit the Government's actions or likely actions as a result of any advice. It is simply designed to help the interests of education in Australia.







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