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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3292


Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) -The States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill is a Bill which has followed the presentation of the report of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education- the Kangan Committee. The purpose of the Bill is to provide funds for post-school technical education in the States in accordance with the general program of development which was recommended by the Kangan Committee. At this stage I think it is of note to mention that the Kangan Committee report was tabled in the Parliament in April of this year but no opportunity has been taken in the Parliament to discuss it in any way or to sift many of the recommendations which were made therein. However, we now have before us the Bill and it provides the funds for the States. It is hoped that many of the concepts and goals which were the conclusions of the Kangan Committee will be able to be implemented. Some of these goals were that we hoped that we would be removing all barriers to give unrestricted access to recurrent education, that is, that entry requirements should progressively be eased, and that technical and further education should be seen as an alternative, neither inferior nor superior, to other streams of education in this country.

We have a Bill that is designed to give assistance for these proposals. It is important to remember that the proposals under review have dated from 1 July 1974 for the period that will end in June 1 975. A total of approximately $89m is proposed under these grants. It should be remembered that we are now in the month of December, that almost half of the period that is covered by these grants has already expired and that the States have had some difficulty in making progress with many of the goals that they had decided should be priorities in the field of technical and further education. It was noted when the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) made his second reading speech to this Bill that he stated that the States will be expected to continue their own support for technical education. In other words, the purpose of these grants is to be an additional source of development for this form of education and is to be regarded as additional to what would be the States' normal programs in these matters.

When my colleague the shadow Minister for Education in the other place dealt with this matter he introduced 2 amendments from the Opposition parties. The first amendment is important, and we shall proceed with it. It seeks to insert certain words at the end of the motion that the Bill be read a second time. To put our attitude into perspective I think I should read the broad aims of the Opposition's amendment. It states that the Senate is of the opinion that the system proposed by the Bill for the development of technical and further education imposes intolerable and unacceptable administrative burdens upon the States and their education systems. It deplores the fact that Parliament has had no opportunity to debate the Kangan Committee's report with regard to technical and further education and notes with concern the departure by the Government from the recommendations of the Committee. It asserts that the provisions of the Bill for the extensive use of ministerial discretion will prove to be vexatious and will limit the States in their own education programs. It contends that the grants that are proposed to be made to the States for the purposes proposed by the Bill should be made without being subject to the conditions so prescribed. It calls upon the Government to implement a scheme of grants to the States for technical and further education that gives to the States the control of expenditure of such grants and requires them to report annually to the Minister for Education as to the manner in which such grants have been expended. I think in the terms of that amendment lies the philosophy of our Party towards this particular program. It will be noted that I stated that there were extensive ministerial discretions in the Bill that we are now considering. I think we have proposed a total of approximately 43 ministerial discretions that relate to the way in which the Kangan Committee report will be implemented under this Bill. Those ministerial discretions are vexatious to the States and they are an administrative burden because it is accepted that grants that are made may be subject to conditions.

I think it is time that we stressed in the Senate the duplication of administration that is being undertaken in so many areas of government responsibility. Not only are Federal grants subject to conditions but such a detail of information is required from the States that in essence 2 complete sets of accounts are being kept of many of the programs that are undertaken. It was recalled that on the roads grants bill the same detailed information was required for all the road programs throughout Australia. In the case of this technical and further education Bill there is a requirement for information with regard to all programs of technical education- not just those programs that are the subject of recurrent grants under the Bill, but all the States' activities in this field. It would have to be accepted that there is an extreme amount of duplication of administration. It will be readily accepted that this is a financial burden which is being placed upon government and upon national economic considerations at this time, because it will be accepted that, whatever facilities there are through technological advances in developing information sources, it will still be an extremely costly process and one which is intruding upon the funds which are available for all our government services. I believe that this is another instance of the duplication of administration which should be regretted in the style of government under which we live.

The projects under the Bill we are considering are briefly major programs which total some $28. 85m, minor projects totalling $15.08m and student resident projects of $4m. These 3 categories of projects are subject to the conditions which are specified in clause 1 1 of the Bill. They should be looked at in the context of the requirements in that clause and the conditions which relate to them. I think that our attitude to that requirement has already been expressed on behalf of the Opposition. We take note of paragraph (f) in clause 11. That that requirement states:

If the Minister informs the Treasurer of the State that he is satisfied that a condition applicable under paragraph (d) or (c) in relation to the payment has not been fulfilled, the State will re-pay to Australia such sum as the Minister determines, being a sum not exceeding the amount of the payment.

It has already been expressed that we have some concern that a provision should be written into a Bill in that form and create that sort of relationship between the States and the Commonwealth on the matter of a grant. We wonder what sort of conditions would exist whereby the Minister would determine that there is an indebtedness by the State to the Commonwealth under this paragraph. We wonder where it has been shown necessary for a provision of this type to be inserted in the Bill, and we wonder what acceptance there is by the Federal Government of State accountability and of State governments and their own responsibility in the field of education, when a grant that has been approved by the Federal Minister and may be determined by him not to be fulfilled, thus placing an indebtedness on the State to the Commonwealth Government, lt seems to us to be a new relationship; we question it and its desirability. We are also interested in the fact that a clause which gives a number of ministerial discretions in relation to approval or authorisation of grants, contains a condition that the Minister may revoke or vary such approval. Again we would have to question this sort of ministerial relationship with State Ministers who have the responsibility to undertake their own programs.

Clause 13 paragraph (c) is another requirement that we regret. It was the subject of an amendment moved by the shadow Minister for Education in the other place. It is a requirement for the States to furnish information required in respect of the provision of technical and further education in the States during that financial year. I give notice that, although an amendment was moved in the House of Representatives, the opposition in the Senate has considered the position with regard to it and has decided that, because of a ministerial statement that was made by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) last Friday, the Opposition will not proceed with the amendment in the Senate. We have the feeling that, if the amendment were carried and the terms of the Minister's Press release of last Friday were upheld, we would be forcing the Government into a position where it could not advance to the States the funds provided for in this Bill. The Minister's Press release of last Friday said, in effect: 'If the Bill is amended at all by the Senate the amended Bill must be considered by the House of Representatives before it can become law and before funds can flow to the States. ' It further stated that a recall of the House of Representatives was extremely unlikely this year. Therefore, I indicate that with regard to the amendment which was moved in the other place to delete paragraph (c) of clause 13, the Senate will not proceed with that particular amendment at this stage.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - The Opposition will not proceed?


Senator GUILFOYLE - The Opposition will not proceed with the amendment. You may move it if you wish, Mr Minister. We consider that it would be desirable for the amendment to be carried and I think that it is important for the Senate to stress that this duplication of statistics is to be regretted. I can only state most firmly that the Victorian Government asked its senators to be very strenuous in seeking the removal of this requirement. There are other States at present which are in extreme difficulty with regard to the funding of their programs. For the beginning of the next school year there are requirements which need to be met and contracts which need to be fulfilled. For that reason we have taken seriously the Minister's statement of last Friday and decided not to proceed with that particular amendment. An interesting thing to be noted is that the Kangan Committee report contains a recommendation with regard to the States and their relationship to those programs which were recommended by the Committee. At page 193 of the Kangan Committee report, paragraph (VII) reads:

As evidence of capacities in developing technical and further education relative to funds provided by the Australian Government, the States should be requested to report each December as to the actual distribution of the expenditure of these funds and in a form that will enable comparisons to be made of uses of the funds over a period of time.

That recommendation is in line with the sort of information that we would expect could be required and not the information which appears to be sought by the Government with regard to all programs undertaken by the States. These are all matters of concern to the Opposition in the efficiency of administration of educational programs in this country and I believe that the Senate should take an attitude that some of the requirements in the Bills which are presented to us are not in the interest of federalism and the relationship between State and Federal governments. I move, as an amendment to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time':

That the following words be added: but the Senate-

(a)   believes that the system as proposed by the Bill for the development of technical and further education imposes intolerable and unacceptable administrative burdens upon the States and their educational systems;

(b)   deplores the fact that Parliament has had no opportunity to debate the Kangan Committee's report with regard to technical and further education, and notes with concern the departure by the Government from the recommendations of the Committee;

(c)   asserts that the provisions of the Bill for the extensive use of Ministerial discretion will prove to be vexatious and will limit the States in their own educational programs;

(d)   contends that the grants proposed to be made to the States for the purposes proposed by the Bill should be made without being subject to the conditions as so prescribed; and

(e)   calls upon the Government to implement a scheme of grants to the States for Technical and Further Education that gives to the States control of expenditure of such grants and requires of them to report annually to the Minister as to the manner in which such grants have been expended.

I indicate that the Opposition supports the proposed Bill with that amendment.







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