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Wednesday, 5 December 1973

The most rapidly growing sector of public spending under a Labor Government will be education. Education should be the great instrument for the promotion of equality. Under the Liberals it has become a weapon for perpetuating inequality and promoting privilege. For example, the pupils of State and Catholic schools have had less than half as good an opportunity as the pupils of non-Catholic independent schools to gain Commonwealth secondary scholarships, and very much less than half the opportunity of completing their secondary education.

The Labor Party is determined that every child who embarks on secondary education in 1973 shall, irrespective of school or location, have as good an opportunity as any other child of completing his secondary education and continuing his education further. The Labor party believes that the Commonwealth should give most assistance to those schools, primary and secondary, whose pupils need most assistance.

Education is the prime example of a community service which should involve the entire community- not just the Education Departments and the Catholic school authorities and the Headmasters' Conference, not just parents and teachers, but the taxpayers as a whole. The quality of the community's response to the needs of the education system will determine the quality of the system. But the community must first know and understand the needs.

We reject the proposition that administrative convenience should over-ride the real needs of schools. We reject the argument that well-endowed schools should get as much help from the Commonwealth as the poorest state or parish school, just because it is easier to count heads than to measure needs.

The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education- through a Commission. We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in Government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools.

I propose to prepare for the statutory Schools Commission as Sir Robert Menzies prepared for the Universities Commission. In December 19S6 tie wrote to Sir Keith Murray and some other leading educationists to advise him on the immediate needs of universities and their future requirements. They reported to Sir Robert within nine months.

I shall write before Christmas to a small group of leading educationists, including representatives ofthe State and Catholic systems. I shall write in precisely the same terms as Sir Robert, requesting for all schools, as he did for universities, recommendations upon 'their financial needs and appropriate means of providing for these needs'. It will not be necessary to delay the appointment of the Commission until legislation has been passed by the new Parliament in 1973. Moreover, their report will be promptly published. In this way the Government and non-Government schools will be able to make their longterm plans right from the very earliest stages of a Labor Government.

A Federal Labor Government will:

1.   Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973;

2.   Remove the ceiling imposed by Commonwealth legislation on grants in 1 974 and subsequent years;

3.   Allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission which will include persons familiar with and representative of the State departments, the Catholic system and the teaching profession.

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDHaving incorporated that part of the policy speech I think that is sufficient to reply to this spurious argument put forward by Senator Wright. The other matter to which I wish to refer is Senator McManus 's allegation that he had smoked us out by alleging that there was a difference between an additional expenditure of $ 114m as mentioned by my colleague the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the House of Representatives and the amount of $8m which I mentioned here tonight in relation to Senator Rae's amendment. But when I interjected that the proposition put by the Opposition in the House of Representatives was different from the proposition put by the Opposition in the Senate-

Senator Rae - Do not start that again.

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