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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1155

Mr STAPLES(11.51) —A quotation attributed to Bismarck states:

The nation that has the most schools has the future.

Clearly no nation can rely upon its raw materials and its elitist aristocracy to survive and grow in this rapidly changing world of the twentieth century. For years we have been beguiled by successive conservative coalition governments into relying too much upon our primary produce and our rocks. Because of poor management, poor vision and conservative ideological strait-jackets, our greatest resource, the skills and minds of our people, has been left idle, unstimulated and under-utilised. We have heard it all before in this House and we are going to hear it again. In Canada, Japan and the United States of America between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of teenagers remain in education until the final year of secondary school. In Australia we struggle to keep 35 per cent of teenagers in education and we think that we are a developed and well educated nation. We are fooling ourselves, as other have fooled us before. However, now, under the Labor Government, there is a changing emphasis on education. Never since the Whitlam Government has so much emphasis been placed on education, training and youth affairs.

One of the major reasons why Opposition members now sit on the other side of the House is that they failed, and failed miserably, to give Australia's young people and Australian families a fair go in education. After the equitable distribution of education funding of the Whitlam years, when Commonwealth money was given to the needy and across a broad spectrum of Australian society, we saw , year by year, a return to the arrogant educational elitism of the Fraser Government. We have seen a severe downturn in economic growth and employment that has left 29 per cent of our full time teenage labour force out of work. Some 80,000 full time jobs, formerly held by teenagers, have disappeared in that time. Since 1975 the average period of unemployment experienced by young people has doubled. Apprenticeship numbers, which until 1981 were growing, have suddenly declined. The number of new apprentices in 1982-83 decreased by 32 per cent compared with 1981-82. That happened in one year. Despite the sincere efforts of the former Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, whom I consider to be basically a compassionate man, the former Government was paralysed by its conservative ideology and paralysed by a conservative ideologue Prime Minister.

Where were the training programs? In 1982-83, in real terms, 38 per cent less was spent on work force programs than was spent seven years before, despite the fact that unemployment has doubled in that time. While 50 per cent of our unemployed are aged 24 years or more, only 9 per cent of the meagre training expenditure was directed to adults. In December 1982, when more than 200,000 15 to 19-year olds were out of work, only 2,858 training applications were approved by the former Government. Opposition members, both in their matters of public importance and in their speeches to the Parliament, are trying to portray themselves as the worker's friend when for years they allowed Australian workers to be used as factory fodder and when for years they opposed workers and their families by legislation, by their stance in the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and by their Budgets. Their crocodile tears are a hollow facade of concern. Their hollow facade of concern for training and unemployment is unfortunately matched by their treatment of Australia's education system.

In the period 1976 to 1982 the former conservative coalition Government ripped the guts out of the government sector of education. Just as it destroyed the widely accepted Medibank system, so it set about breaking down the government sector of education. In the period from 1976 to 1982-those disastrous years-the former Government cut in real terms the grants to government schools from $140 to $123 a pupil, a decrease of 12 per cent, while in the same period it unashamedly poured millions into the wealthy end of the non-government sector by increasing grants by more than 250 per cent in real terms, from $189 to $509 a pupil. I repeat that Government sector grants were decreased by 12 per cent while grants to the wealthy group of the non-government sector increased by more than 250 per cent. So much for equal opportunity under conservative government!

It is a point of pride for me now to compare with that sad record the program of the democratic socialist Australian Labor Government. First of all I will look at some of the initiatives of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) as shown in this Budget. Expenditure on labour force programs has been increased from $245m in 1982-83 to $333m in 1983-84. That is an increase of $88m in one fell swoop. Expenditure on trade training is up 23 per cent and on skills training by 59 per cent. Expenditure on youth experience and training schemes for young persons is up 20 per cent and we have a new initiative-the private sector assistance program. Of course, all that money does not include the $300m which was made available in 1983 under the community employment program, most of which will be available to the States, to local government and community organisations. All of this takes place in the context of the nation's first real comprehensive industry development policy. This program will be carried out in the framework of consultation, the hallmark-the Hawke mark-of the Australian Labor Government.

We have consultation processes with the Economic Planning Advisory Council and with all the various Australian manufacturing and industry councils. We have greater consultation and co-operation with the States than there has ever been. We have the prices and incomes accord to back this Government, something that the former Government could never achieve and never sought to achieve. The Australian Labor Government can justifiably and proudly point to its record of consultation with business, unions and the community. This is indeed a far cry from the autocratic conservative attitude, the born to rule syndrome of the Opposition parties, the same parties that believe in their own golden rule- whoever has the gold makes the rules.

If I had a few more hours available to me I could speak in more detail about the Government's initiatives in industry development, assistance and training but I want to concentrate the remainder of my time on highlighting the major initiatives of the Government in the fields of education and youth affairs. Contrary to mythology and misinformation, the Australian Labor Government clearly supports a diversity of schooling in Australia. The funding arrangements for government and non-government schools are a clear reflection of the range of the educational needs, beliefs and backgrounds in the Australian community. In 1983 there is obviously a limit to the financial resources available to the Government and it has implemented the socially and economically responsible policy of allocating these resources on the basis of need.

There has been a lot of noise inside and outside the House about the reduction in recurrent funding to 41 of the 2,200 odd non-government schools in this country. If one looks at those schools and at the more than 250 per cent increase in funding to 210 schools in that group during the Fraser years, one will see that only a very few Australians are not content to see Commonwealth education expenditure being spent where it is needed most. Despite all the noise I will look at some groups in the non-government sector of education who were in favour of the Government's needs based policy. The Independent Teachers Federation of Australia, in welcoming the guidelines, said that they could provide a more coherent and equitable national pattern of education in Australia . The Independent Teachers Federation also said that the greater scrutiny of fringe non-government schools was particularly welcome. The Association of Independent Schools of Victoria said that there were several good things in the guidelines, particularly the Government's intention to help low income groups and to increase school retention rates. The Catholic Education Office of Victoria commended the general thrust of the guidelines. The Director of the Office, Father Tom Doyle, is reported in the Age on 30 July this year as saying that the significant increase in money to the most needy schools was particularly important and that it was consistent with the Government's aim of providing equal opportunity to children and so decreasing divisions within the community.

I do not intend to proceed further into the issue of funding to non-government schools except to say that the Government's fundamental obligation is to make available an elementary education to all children and to permit freedom of choice. That certainly does not mean that the Government has to pay for that education of choice. That is where the argument has been confused. If some parents choose to educate their children outside the government-provided system, that is their freedom of choice. They cannot expect the general community to support them to the continuing detriment of the people's system.

The Government's education reforms are aimed at increasing and broadening the education base of the whole nation. They are clearly aimed at encouraging our young people to participate more in education at secondary and, hopefully, later at tertiary level. More than $70m is being spent on a national program to make staying at school an attractive alternative to seeking work that is not yet there. The Government's program of computer education and awareness in schools will further increase the skill levels of this nation. There are substantial increases in student and family assistance schemes. An extra 3,000 student places in universities and colleges of advanced education have been funded. The Curriculum Development Centre has been reactivated. Programs are being put into operation to encourage mature age Aboriginals to seek teaching qualifications. Special attention has been paid to the technical and further education sector. The Government is seeking to improve the ability of TAFE to cater for the education and training needs of our 15-to 24-year olds. TAFE is a very important sector in our economic recovery in building up our skill levels.

In deliverance of a pre-election promise, there has been a return to retrospective cost supplementation for funding of tertiary institutions. This retrospective cost supplementation will allow more stability, more rational planning and safer budgeting for our universities and tertiary institutes. The prospective funding arrangement introduced by the Fraser Government in 1982 was a cheap exercise in passing the buck-or, more correctly, a cheap exercise in not passing the bucks to our tertiary institutes. On top of these educational initiatives, the upgrading of the Office of Youth Affairs to divisional status has clearly signalled the great importance that the Australian Labor Government puts on this hitherto Cinderella section of government and policy.

I have many involvements with youth groups in my electorate of Diamond Valley and in the non-government youth work sector in general. I can tell this House that they greatly appreciate the role of this Government in its concern for young people and their problems. There have been substantial increases in funding to the youth affairs area in this Budget, but people are looking beyond the dollars. They are looking at a government that has not only put its money where its mouth is but is also prepared to listen to the needs of young people, to the attitudes of young people, and to consider the alternatives for young people.

We had better listen to these young people. We had better empower them, and enact laws that will give them power in this society. They will be the ones pushing our wheel chairs, looking after our nursing homes, in charge of our life support systems and possibly coming into this House and talking about euthenasia . I think we had better start listening to them pretty soon. The young people of Australia want to be involved in the forces that are shaping their lives.

I am proud to be a member of the Government and proud to be working with Ministers such as the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan)-people who are concerned about young people and the quality of life options available to them. Any reasonable person who looks at this Government's policies, Budget and action in employment, training, education and youth affairs will agree with me when I say that the Government is going the right way to raise the employment, training, education and skill levels of this country. I put this quotation at the opening of my speech:

The nation that has the most schools has the future.

I believe that could be refined to say: 'The nation that is the most educated has the future.' That is what this Government is doing-making sure that all Australians have an education and a future.