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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 953


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - The honourable senator who has just spoken will remember, although he was not a senator at the time, that there was a very long and protracted debate last year on this very subject when we discussed the States Grants (Schools) Bill. The very subject to which the honourable senator has referred came up during the discussions. I think the honourable senator referred to the fact that the then Senator McManus made some comments on this matter during the very long and protracted debate that took place.

One of the first things carried out by the Labor Administration shortly after the Whitlam Government came into office was the establishment of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, which became known as the Karmel Commission. Thus, of course, the Karmel Committee was born. That Committee conducted a thorough investigation into the needs of schools throughout Australia generally. After its report was considered, publicly debated and looked at by this Parliament, the Committee recommended that future grants to schools be made not on a per capita basis but on the basis of needs. Of course, in so doing, the Committee established a system of priorities and categories. At paragraph 6.50 of the report the Committee had this to say:

Category A schools already use a volume of resources that well exceeds the 1979 targets: and the Committee believes that government assistance to these schools cannot be justified.


Senator Baume - But it is not true for this school, senator.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - The honourable senator says it is not true for this school. 1 will come to that in a moment. The Committee went on to say:

The Committee feels that the sudden termination of financial aid on six months' notice could place some schools within Category A in temporary difficulties. Hence the gradual phasing out of assistance over 1974 and 1975 is recommended: this implies that in 1976 schools whose resources use falls in Category A should receive no general recurrent assistance.

Therefore, having regard to the policy of making grants on the basis of needs, the Government in adopting all the other recommendations of the Karmel Committee for a 2 year program costing in all some $694m- and I say with pride that the Labor Government stands on its record of assistance to education and Australian school kids -


Senator Webster - If you say it often enough you will believe it yourself.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Well, I genuinely believe it and so does every workingclass parent who has kids going to school. In a 2-year program, costing in all $694m, it was decided that category A schools should receive no grants for recurrent expenditure. Subsequent to the Government's decision the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission published a schedule of non-systematic nongovernment schools which, as the honourable senator has said, included 105 schools which had an enrolment of approximately 58,000 students. The Government, after considering complaints and representations that had been made and that were made to it at the time, decided to receive appeals against classifications. As a result of those appeals being heard by a reconstituted Interim Committee, not the same committee as the original committee, the number of schools in the schedule was reduced from 105 to 50 and the number of students enrolled at those schools was reduced from 58,000 to approximately 33,000.

The honourable senator has referred to the Yeshivah College at Bondi. Whilst I personally have not been to the school, I assure the honourable senator that again I will draw his remarks to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). I assure the honourable senator that the Yeshivah College at Bondi was one of the schools that appealed against the original classifications. The reconstituted Interim Committee rejected its appeal.


Senator McAuliffe - That would be on the student-teacher ratio.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -That was one of the criteria.


Senator Webster - You never made the criteria public.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Senator Webstersays that the criteria were never made public. I remember that, as Minister representing the Minister for Education in this chamber, I tabled the reasons for the classifications during an education debate last December.


Senator Wright - They are a complete enigma.

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDSenator Webster says that I did not table them and Senator Wright says that they are a complete enigma. They cannot have it both ways. Either I tabled them and they were a complete enigma or I did not table them. Either Senator Webster is right and Senator Wright is wrong or vice versa.

According to figures supplied, the primary school teacher-pupil ratio at that school is one teacher to 17 students whereas in government primary schools the ratio is one to 27. Surely, on a primary school basis, compared with the ratio in government schools the teacher-student ratio at Yeshivah is a very important criterion. The secondary school figures that were looked at by the reconstituted Interim Committee show that at Yeshivah College there are 3 secondary school students to one teacher compared with 17 students to one teacher in government secondary schools. That was the basis of the criteria on which the reconstituted Interim Committee rejected the appeal by the Yeshivah College. It was an appeal that was made against the decision of one committee to a reconstituted committee. The reconstituted committee looked at the situation and on the basis outlined rejected the appeal.

The honourable senator says that he has been out and inspected the school and that there are difficulties. I accept that the honourable senator has been out to the school; but, on the basis of a comparison of needs on the figures that have been supplied, I must say that on the criteria adopted by the Government the pupil-teacher ratio is something that has to be looked at closely. I will draw the honourable senator's remarks to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Education. If it is thought that anything can be done or has to be done, knowing as I do that this Government has the interests of children at heart, we certainly will see that sympathetic consideration is given to the honourable senator's representations.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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