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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1998

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - I move:

Leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3), insert the following paragraphs:

(a)   Article 26 of the United Nations Chaner of Human Rights and in particular the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children; (aa) the obligation for governments to provide or assist in the provision and maintenance of educational opportunities for all children which are of the highest standard and which recognise the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and where provided and maintained by or on behalf of a government ensure that these opportunities are open without fees or religious tests, to all children; (ab) the rights and powers pursuant to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of the State Governments in relation to education; (ac) the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunities in Australia; (ad) the importance of the improvement of the quality of education available to all students attending primary and secondary schools; '.

By way of brief introduction so that people can be reminded of where we stand, I point out that we are dealing with clause 13 which provides that the functions of the Commission are to inquire into and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to the matters which are set out in that clause. We have just given some consideration and made some amendments in relation to those functions. Subclause (3) of clause 13 reads:

In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to -

For the purpose of explaining the words which I propose to move by way of amendment, I shall summarise the position. Having set out in this clause what the functions of the Commission are, the Bill goes on to say that in the exercise of those functions the Commission shall have regard in particular to certain things, and those things are set out in paragraphs (a) to (g) in sub-clause (3). We wish to suggest some improvements in relation to the matters to which the Commission shall have regard. The first of those proposes that the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and, in particular, the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. I would seek from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) an indication of whether this part of the amendment will be opposed in view of the fact that in the debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives on 11 October 1973- this appears on page 1987 of Hansard- one of the speakers for the Government said:

Let me say at once that the Government gladly accepts the inclusion in this Bill of the extract from the Declaration of Human Rights from which the former Minister for Education and Science, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has quoted, embodying, as it does very thoroughly, the philosophy and statement of faith on which the legislation before the House rests.

He went on to say:

Although it accepts that amendment from the Opposition, the Government rejects the remainder of the Opposition's amendments-

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who said that?

Senator RAE - Mr Mathews,the honourable member for Casey in another place. I can send over the Hansard copy to the Minister if he would like to see it. I inquire whether I need elaborate on this amendment. I think that the need for it is clear. It is taken straight from Article 26, paragraph 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights. In view of the further fact that the Attorney-General and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) this afternoon introduced into the chamber a Bill for the total incorporation of the Declaration of Human Rights into the statute law of Australia, I cannot imagine for a moment that the Government has any intention to oppose this amendment. I will take it that unless the Minister says something to the contrary, I need not elaborate further-

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think the honourable senator should take it that he should elaborate further.

Senator RAE - I will take the position as such notwithstanding the matters to which I have referred.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I assume that on the honourable senator's argument he will support Senator Murphy 's Bill.

Senator RAE - I have not as yet seen Senator Murphy's Bill in detail. Therefore, I cannot comment. But I do know that it provides for the incorporation of the Declaration of Human Rights into Australian law. Further, I point out that the Declaration of Human Rights in this respect embodies a principle which I think has been accepted as an important principle, namely to avoid the possibility that there could develop in a country- one hopes that it should never be a fear in Australia- political indoctrination and the opportunity for the political education of children, where steps are taken which would mean that children were not obtaining the type of education which they or their parents might wish them to have. I was interested in a statement by the 3 federations in New South Wales which are a powerful group of people interested in education in Australia. The 3 federations consist of the New South Wales Federation of Infants School Clubs, the New South Wales Federation of Parents and Citizens Association and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. They made the following remarks in a joint policy statement:

While recognising the democratic right of people to educate their children in any system we believe that non-government schools should not be established or maintained by the use of public funds.

It is not the latter part, which I quote only for the sake of completeness, but the earlier part which is relevant to this amendment. So it is quite clear that those 3 powerful groups in New South Wales would all support the right to have included in the consideration of education in Australia that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children. We believe it is important to have as one of the matters to which the Commission should have regard the right available to every parent and every child in Australia not to be directed as to the form of education which they are to receive. This is a principle which we regard as fundamentally important.

Although I have put together in my amendment No. 10 the proposed new paragraphs (a), (aa), (ab), (ac) and (ad) it seems to me that perhaps we may make better progress if a debate were to take place on these amendments one after another. I will pause at this stage and rise later to refer to the others.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not understand what the honourable senator means.

Senator RAE - I propose to the Temporary Chairman that having referred to this question of the Declaration of Human Rights- the amendment to insert a new paragraph (a) into clause 13-1 should later deal with the other proposed new paragraphs one by one.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would say that we take them together. After all, they are all interwoven into one clause and the honourable senator has not set them out as separate amendments.

Senator RAE - No, I have not. I mentioned that when I made this suggestion to the Temporary Chairman. I am quite prepared to do as the Minister suggests.

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