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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2711


Senator RAE (Tasmania) -The Liberal Party in Opposition will not support the motion moved by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that this chamber does not pursue the amendments which the Senate has made. As is well known, there has been a very full debate in relation to this matter. The reasons why our amendments should be made in the interests of the development of a successful Schools Commission have been put, and I do not think it is of advantage for us to repeat them in detail. However, I do make these points: We see the Schools Commission as having a function in relation to the education of every child in Australia. We see it as having a function in relation to children attending single schools or who are within systems which are conducted by the Commonwealth Government, by State governments and by independent authorities.

We regard it as of fundamental importance that there be an involvement in the Schools Commission by the people who are concerned with those systems. We see it as of vital importance that there is an involvement in the Commission at the community level of parents, teachers, and people in some of the special areas of education. We wish to see that it is not left to the total discretion of the Minister, whoever he may be from time to time, to say: 'I shall appoint so and so to the Commission', without regard to these basic principles which we believe will make for a more successful Schools Commission and a better development of education in Australia.

Having said that, I want to refer also to one or two of the specific points. We wish to see that the Schools Commission, which we believe has been unfortunately titled, has regard primarily to the interests of students, of pupils, and not of schools as institutions. The whole tendency in this Government's approach to the question of education has been to look at it from the point of view of the creation of and the interests of the institution which children attend. We believe that it is the children in education who are important, and not the institutions. We believe that it is important that adequate funds should be made available in the interests of those students.

To categorise education on the basis of the interests of the school as an institution rather than the pupil gives, I think, an interesting indication of the basic approach and attitude of the Government. It is not interested in giving each child in Australia an opportunity as an individual member of a free society to be able to obtain an education as an individual. What the Government wants to build up, as it has done in so many other areas of government, is a system in which you can have peas out of a pod. This is what the argument has been all about. This is why the Liberal Party stands by the principle that there should be within the Schools Commission and other areas of education a basic attention to the rights of the individual member of the Australian society, that the whole of the legislation should be drawn with that in mind, and that the interests of individuals rather than institutions and political parties should be looked to.

We find at various times great emphasis both in these amendments and in other places on the Government's needs policy. We have had it suggested that the Opposition has not been mindful of the Government's needs policy. The Government has never even defined its needs policy. How could we be mindful of it? This expression is used in a sloppy way by people who do not think about what is involved in real needs in education but who like a jazzy slogan which is a good shorthand way of saying something that might sound good to people who do not think about it. What are the needs of education in Australia? The Karmel Committee drew attention to the fact that it had no definition of the Government's needs policy, but it used need as one of the criteria for the purpose of the 2-year recommendations which it made, and this criterion obviously should not be used in the long term.

We find that the Government is not prepared even to have regard to amendments which were made in this chamber to the Schools Commission Bill, such as the one requiring a report. How extraordinary that the Government when in Opposition used this chamber to insist and to assert that the Parliament should have the right- I totally agreed with it- to receive reports and to have information from the statutory bodies which it creates. We are being asked to vote for legislation which creates a Schools Commission, which will be one of the most important statutory bodies to exist in this country, but the legislation provides that the Commission should not be obliged to report to the Parliament. The Government refused even to accept our amendment No. 13 which stated:

The Commission shall, as soon as possible, but not 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 to both Houses ofParliament.

The Government will not even accept that. Why? Does it have something to hide? Is it intending that this Schools Commission will operate in a way which would perhaps make it unfortunate if there were a requirement for annual reports of that nature? Why should it not report? No good reason was given during the previous debate. No good reason has been given to this stage. These are the sorts of things that one would have expected from a government which loudly proclaimed over the years when it was in opposition that it was interested in having the parliamentary institution informed and in having reasonable opportunity for the Parliament to know what statutory commissions it creates are doing. We would have thought that the Government would have seriously considered that amendment. But the indication is that it was not interested. It was not interested in a large number of other amendments which we moved. But one does not need to re-hash old ground.

So far as we are concerned, there will be an opposition to the proposition put forward by the Minister. But if we are not successful in this move, as very much a second best one cannot complain about the amendments which the Government now proposes and which it appears may have been forced upon it. But there are still some aspects that we would still assert are important. One of them is the amendment moved in relation to clause 13 (3) (a). We would wish to have that amendment dealt with specifically. That is the Government amendment which -


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Byrne - Senator Rae,are you dealing with the Government's amendment No.3?


Senator RAE - I am just indicating at this stage that I will be coming on to it.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - We are dealing with amendments No. 1 and No. 2 now.


Senator RAE - Yes, I will specifically come to outline amendment No. 3. An amendment has been proposed to insert a new paragraph 3 (aa) in clause 13. We will be drawing some attention to paragraph 3 (a). I just indicate that at this stage, because when we have dealt with the

Government's proposals contained in amendments Nos 1 and 2, in chronological order the next amendment to which we would wish to draw attention would be in relation to clause 13 (3) (a).







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