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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2473

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is Senator Rae talking about his amendment or the amendment moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party?

Senator Rae - They are the same thing. The proposed clause 4b.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am talking about the amendment which was adopted by the Senate and which it has been suggested should be embodied in this legislation. The Government says that the amendments adopted by the Senate on the motions of the Opposition parties are unacceptable. If they were accepted and became 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 the 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, in effect, be delegates of particular organisations or institutions under the Opposition's proposals and thereby, we suggest, would be inhibited in their capacity to make decisions. We say, as my colleague in another place said, that 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. The 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 the determination of assistance by relative need. They eliminate the requirements for the Commission to have regard in the exercising of its functions to the primary obligation of governments to government schools 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, which would have brought into the structure of advice about 80 people, the concept of consultation and co-operation between the Commission and interested groups throughout Australia on a continuing basis will be destroyed. We say that the overall effect of the Opposition's amendments will be to prevent the Schools Commission from being the national expert body to which the majority of the people of Australia are looking to improve the quality of education for all Australian children. That is why I have suggested that the Senate should not insist on the amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Douglas McClelland's) be agreed to.

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