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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 2002


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Most of this debate has been conducted in fairly temperate vein but when Senator McManus referred to equality he reminded me that I am one of those who argues on the basis of the needs concept. Senator McManus referred to the experiences of his own lifetime. I have never questioned this idea of the needs concept. Without going into the question of the independent schools versus the State schools and similar fruitless discussions, I am reminded of the experience of a lot of people such as myself who ended their schooling between 1934 and 1937. In those days those who attended schools such as the Christian Brothers College and the De La Salle College in largely working class areas such as Burwood and Ashfield came from families the income of which was far below those of families with pupils attending independent schools such as the Riverview College where the famous Father Jordan has had so much to say on this present controversy.

After all, the long range objective of the present Government was to lift up all the needy schools, whether it be a public school at Erskinville Sydney, or the Christian Brothers College at Smithfield. I am instancing areas in which there are glaring inequalities. The Opposition is saying that the efficiency of schools such as Riverview College and Santa Sabina will be impaired after a period of 5 years in which the Labor Party seeks to upgrade all schools on to an equal plane. I do not accept that argument. I believe that the Opposition should acknowledge all the other schools that will be lifted up by their boot straps.

The Opposition talks about sacrifice. I defy anyone here to say that the incomes received by the parents of pupils who went to Riverview College, Barker College or Sydney Grammar School in the 1 930s were not far in excess of the incomes received by the gas workers and railway men who provided money for the Burwood and Ashfield Catholic schools which their children attended. As a socialist, I do not care what religion a person is; I believe in the needs concept. I repeat that the independent schools have accumulated a lot of economic fat. I am deliberately referring to schools such as Riverview College. I am not having a shot at members of the Australian Country Party when I say that some of the wealthy old boys of these private schools who had big estates in the western districts of New South Wales have made bequests to those schools; but I do not know of any gas worker or railway man who could or ever did make a bequest to schools such as Burwood Christian Brothers or Ashfield De La Salle. This is the problem that we have to face.

Senator McManusin his heart of hearts knows that the Catholic schools in the inner Melbourne area are far inferior to some of the schools that are attended by the children of high middle class or wealthier people. I do not scorn anybody, no matter what his religious beliefs may be, for being able to send his children to those schools. But let us be realistic about this. If a parent receives a high income, then let him pay for that education. After all, my father, as a gas worker and many other people did not get the opportunity to be company directors. I am indebted to my father for the little education that I got. But let us not blandly say that those people have to put the hand out again. That is absolute stupidity. I know that members of the Opposition have a different opinion and that they see this matter in a different light. But, whether they went to a state school or an independent school, I believe that they should see that the time is long overdue to redress the imbalance.

It sometimes happens that the incomes of the fathers of children who attend wealthy independent schools become such that they have to go to other schools which do not have the same amenities. This happened to many people in the late 1930s, and it probably has happened during other periods. I indict Father Jordan for making what I thought was an ill-judged comment in regard to this matter. I say good luck to those children whose parents are wealthy enough to send them to independent schools which have lovely grounds and other amenities. But they should not put their hands out and adopt a narrow and uncharitable attitude when we are trying to bring up to standard those schools which are underprivileged. If anybody went along with me to the All Hallows Convent at Haberfield in the Evans electorate he would find not only that that school is attended by children from low income families but also that the problem is compounded by migrant children. State schools in the Lowe electorate, such as those at Homebush and Concord, have some very difficult problems. These schools are attended by the children of Turkish migrants and others who have real problems.

Is the Opposition blandly trying to tell me that we should make available a massive sum of money, divide it by the number of schools and give all of these schools equal grants? This is just not on. I believe that all of the battling schools should be lifted up to an acceptable standard within the next 5 years. I can assure everyone here that, like Senator McManus, I have received letters about the very matter I am mentioning tonight. I fired my argument back to the schools concerned, whether they were Anglican schools, Catholic schools or schools in a high income bracket. I said to them that I knew what sacrifice was in the 1 930s and that it is time they tightened up their belts, if they have to, while the Government lifts up the underprivileged schools, whether they are private, independent or state schools.







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