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Wednesday, 21 November 1973

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - In addressing myself to this amendment, let me say that I think the points which Senator Mulvihill has brought forward are well understood. Many of us went through school at about the same time as he did, or perhaps a little earlier in the depression years, and we know something of the problems not only of sacrifice but also of schools in inner areas of cities. Therefore, it is altogether fitting that a piece of legislation such as this should give effect to the Declaration of Human Rights, which spells out in principle the very things that Senator Mulvihill was underlining with some effect. It is not without significance that in the second reading debate on this measure in the other place the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) 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.

The honourable member then went on to elaborate on the proposed amendment. Those were his opening words. There is no mistaking the conviction with which he put them forward. Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is a worthy series of 3 paragraphs. It states:

1.   Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2.   Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3.   Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

I point out to you, Mr Temporary Chairman, and to Senator Mulvihill that in those lines there is the very essence of the kind of thing that Senator Mulvihill was putting forward in a manner which I understood and appreciated. Therefore, I say to the Committee tonight that it is basic to the establishment of a Commission of this kind that there be written into the Bill setting up the Commission something which provides its guidelines and directions and something which provides information and assistance as to the way it shall perform its task and carry out its responsibilities.

So, I give my support to this amendment which writes into the legislation article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights. If the Commission has any ideas of working towards the full development of human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, then surely we are all united in the belief that this Article should be included. Of course, when we talk about that particular measure, as well as subclause (a) of this amendment, we open up this matter of the prior right to choose the kind of education that any parent wants to give his child. So we talk about the freedom of choice. But when we talk about this we want to emphasise the right of choice. It is one thing to say that there is a right of choice, but we always have to be watchful that circumstances do not develop, in terms of either expenses or fees or things of this nature, so that this right no longer exists or is priced out of existence or seriously impeded.

Looking further to the amendment I take the opportunity to refer to the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunity in Australia. Surely it must be acceptable to the Government, reflecting on what I believe to be its own views in relation to the United Nations Charter which has already been referred to in the Senate this afternoon, that there needs to be an emphasis on the need for research into variety and opportunities- 'opportunities' is the key word here- of education in Australia. If we look at the Bill we find the reference to research much further on than Senator Rae's amendment provides for. Therefore I put it to the Minister that there is another reason whey he should accept the terms of this amendment, namely, the importance it will give to and the flexibility, direction and autonomy it will provide for the Commission. I hope that the Committee and the Government will look very favourably on this most important amendment put forward by Senator Rae.

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