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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2462

In Committee

Consideration of House of Representatives message.

Clause 3.

In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- "acting Chairman" means an acting Chairman of the Commission appointed under sub-section 6(1); "acting member" means an acting member of the Commission appointed under sub-section 6 (2), (3) or(4); "Australian Capital Territory " includes the Jervis Bay Territory;

Clause 4.

(   1 ) There shall be a Commission by the name of the Schools Commission.

(2)   The Commission shall consist of-

(a)   a Chairman; and

(b)   such number of other members, not being less than four nor more than eleven, as is from time to time prescribed.

(3)   A member shall be appointed by the Governor-General.

(4)   The Chairman and each other full-time member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding seven years, and each parttime member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years.

(   5 ) A member is eligible for re-appointment.

(6)   The performance of the functions of the Commission is not affected by reason only of there being a vacancy in the office of a member.

Clause 5.

(   1 ) The Chairman shall be a full-time member of the Commission and, subject to sub-section (2), the Governor-General may appoint any other member to be a full-time member of the Commission.

(2)   The number of full-time members, other than the Chairman, shall not at any time exceed three.

Clause 12.

(1)   The Commission shall hold such meetings as are necessary, for the performance of its functions.

(5)   At a meeting of the Commission-

(a)   if the membership of the Commission does not exceed seven- a quorum is constituted by not less than three members; or

(b)   if the membership of the Commission exceeds seven but does not exceed nine- a quorum is constituted by not less than four members; or

(c)   in any other case-a quorum is constituted by not less than five members

(6)   For the purposes of sub-section (S), the membership of the Commission shall be deemed not to exceed seven at any time if the number of members, in addition to the Chairman, prescribed for the purposes of sub-section 4 (2) at that time does not exceed six.

Clause 13.

(   1 ) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:

(a)   The establishing of acceptable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities at government and non-government primary and secondary schools in Australia, and means of attaining and maintaining those standards;

(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;

(c)   Matters in connexion with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of schools and school systems and to schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, including matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance to be so granted by Australia, the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted and the amount and allocation of any financial assistance so granted; and

(3)   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-

(a)   the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children;

(4)   For the purpose of the performance of its functions the Commission-

(a)   shall consult with representatives of the States with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting non-government schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary; and

Clause 14.

(1)   The Commission shall, at such times and in respect of such periods as the Minister directs, furnish to the Minister reports containing recommendations with respect to the matters referred to in paragraph 13 ( 1 ) (c).

(2)   The Minister shall, as soon as practicable, cause each report under sub-section ( 1 ) to be laid before each House of Parliament

(3)   In addition to the reports referred to in sub-section (1), the Commission shall furnish to the Minister such reports as the Minister requires and may furnish such other reports as the Commission think fit.

Clause 16.

(   1 ) For the purpose of assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions by providing in each State and in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, means by which suggestions, proposals and information relating to those functions can be communicated to the Commission by, and the Commission can consult with, persons, authorities and associations responsible for, or connected with, primary or secondary education in the State or Territory, including, teachers, students and parents of students, the Minister may in relation to each State and each Territory, establish a Board or Boards to be known as the Schools Commission Advisory Board, or the Schools Commission Advisory Boards, for the State or Territory.

(2)   A Board shall consist of such persons, whether members of the Commission or not, as the Minister appoints.

(3)   A member of a Board shall be paid such fees and allowances as are prescribed, and shall hold office on such other terms and conditions as the Minister determines.

(4)   A board shall have such functions as are from time to time determined by the Minister.

(5)   In this section, "Board" means a Schools Commission Advisory Board established under this section.

Clause 17.

(1)   The Minister may, at the request of the Commission, appoint a Committee to assist the Commission in relation to a matter specified in the request

Senate amendment No. 1-

In clause 3, after the definition of "Australian Capital Territory", insert the following definitions: " 'Australian Education Council' means the Australian Minister for Education and every Minister for Education of the States of Australia meeting together. ".

Senate 's amendment No. 2-

At end of clause 3 add the following sub-clause: "(2) Any reference in a provision of this Act to schools shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be read as a reference both to government schools and to non-government schools. ".

Senate's amendment No. 3-

In clause 4, leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2), insert the following paragraph: "(b) fourteen other members selected or appointed as hereinafter provided.".

Senate 's amendment No. 4-

In clause 4, leave out sub-clause (4), insert the following subclause: "(4) The Chairman and each other full-time member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding five years and each parttime member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years.".

Senate 's amendment No. 5-

After clause 4, insert the following new clauses: "4a. The members of the Commission shall be appointed as follows: -

(a)   the Chairman and three other members upon the recommendations of the Minister of whom one shall be a person involved in research in relation to education;

(b)   four other members upon the recommendation of the Australian Education Council of whom one shall be a person involved in special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties;

(c)   three other members of whom one shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia, one shall be upon the recommendation of the National Council of Independent Schools and one shall be upon the recommendation of the Australian Parents ' Council;

(d)   two other members who shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Australian Teachers' Federation; and

(e)   two other members who shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Australian Council of State School Organisations. " "4b. A member shall not be responsible to the person, body or organisation which recommended the member's appointment.".

Senate's amendment No. 6-

In clause S, at end of sub-clause (2) add: "of whom at least one shall be a member selected and appointed pursuant to paragraph 4a (c) ".

Senate's amendment No. 7-

In clause 12, leave out sub-clauses (S) and (6), insert the following sub-clause: " (5) At a meeting of the Commission a quorum is constituted by not less than eight members. ".

Senate 's amendment No. 8-

In clause 13, leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph: " (a) The definition, in consultation and co-operation with the State Departments of Education, the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with authorities responsible for or connected with non-government schools in Australia, parent and teacher organisations and such other organisations and persons as it may deem appropriate of desirable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities at government and nongovernment primary and secondary schools in Australia, and the means and provision necessary for attaining and maintaining those standards; ".

Senate 's amendment No. 9-

In clause 13, lines 30-32, leave out paragraph (b) of subclause ( 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; ' '.

Senate 's amendment No. 10-

In clause 1 3, leave out paragraph (c) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph: " (c) Matters in connection with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of primary and secondary government and nongovernment school students, schools and school systems in Australia including the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and whilst recognising the desirability of maximum flexibility and diversity and the right and responsibility of the State and individual school authorities to determine the specific allocation of such financial assistance the conditions, if any, upon which financial assistance should be granted and the total amount and total allocation of any financial assistance so granted; and".

Senate 's amendment No. 11-

In clause 1 3, leave out paragraph ( a) of sub-clause ( 3 ), insert the following paragraphs: " (a) 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 snail 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; ".

Senate's amendment No. 12-

In clause 13, paragraph (a) of sub-clause (4), leave out "conducting ' ', insert " responsible for or connected with ' '.

Senate 's amendment No. 13-

Clause 14, at end of clause add the following sub-clauses: " (4) The Commission shall, as soon as possible, but later than six months after the expiration of each financial year, prepare and forward to the Minister a report on the operations of the Commission during that year for presentation of both Houses of Parliament. " (5) A member may add a protest or dissent to any report furnished to the Minister.".

Senate's amendment No. 14-

Leave out clause 16.

Senate's amendment No. 15-

In clause 1 7, at end of sub-clause ( I ) add: "provided that such request shall be related to the matters referred to in section 13".

House of Representatives message:

Senate's amendment No. 2 agreed to.

Senate's amendments Nos 1 and 3 to 15 inclusive disagreed to.

Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Senate 's amendments:

The amendments adopted by the Senate on the motion of the Opposition Parties are unacceptable. If they were accepted and become part of the legislation, their overall effect would be to embed conflicting interests and to institutionalise the inequalities which exist in Australian education and which it is this Government 's intention to remove.

The amendments limit the flexibility of the Minister of the day in the choice of people best able to contribute to the Commission's activities. The majority of members of the Commission would be in effect delegates of particular organisations or institutions and thereby inhibited in their capacity to make decisions.

The Australian Education Council was not consulted before its suggested role was incorporated into the relevant amendments moved by the Opposition Parties in the Senate. A majority of the members of that Council do not wish it to make nominations to the Commission.

The amendments to the composition of the Commission constitute a complete departure from the proven model of the Australian Universities Commission which the Government undertook to follow in the case of schools.

The amendments reduce the emphasis on determination of assistance by relative need. They eliminate the requirements for the Commission, in the exercise of its functions, to have regard to the primary obligation of governments towards government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open without fees or religious tests to all children.

By eliminating the State and Territory Schools Commission Advisory Boards, the concept of consultation and co-operation between the Commission and interested groups throughout Australia on a continuing basis will be destroyed.

The overall effect of the amendments is to prevent the Schools Commission from being the national expert body to which the majority of Australian people are looking to improve the quality of education for all Australian children.







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