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Wednesday, 21 November 1973

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - I feel that I should refer to one remark which was made by the Minister for the Media (Senator Senator Douglas McClelland). He said that he would not suggest I was trying to impart sectarianism into the debate, and I am glad that he said that. I point out that my statement was based on the fact that this clause says that the Schools Commission shall have regard to 'the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems'. I said that the primary obligation upon the Government should be to provide adequate education for all children in the community. There is certainly nothing sectarian in the suggestion that we treat the children as a whole and not divide them into 2 sections according to the school which they attend.

Senator Mulvihillspoke about the needs question. I do not think that his speech was entirely germane to the clause. I mention to him what happened at a meeting at Festival Hall in Melbourne at which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) attended. It was made clear that not every child who goes to a government school has parents who are poor or in need. This question was posed to Mr Whitlam: 'Let us take the case of 2 parents, each receiving the same income and each equally well off'. In Melbourne there are government schools such as Melbourne Boys High School, University High School and MacRobertson Girls High School which are magnificently equipped and are staffed by the best teachers in the State. Any child who goes to those schools will get an education equal to anything which can be obtained in the top class independent schools. The questioner said to Mr Whitlam: 'Two parents receive the same income. One sends his child to the top class government school, and one sends his child to the top class independent school. Why should the parent who sends his child to the top class independent school have to pay hugh fees, and the parent who is in the same wage bracket but who sends his child to the top class government school not have to pay fees?' Mr Whitlam 's answer was illuminating. He said: 'I cannot answer that question'.

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