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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2238

Mr HODGMAN(6.31) —The Hawke socialist Government is diabolically committed to destroying freedom of choice in education, as through Medicare it has destroyed freedom of choice in health. This is a socialist government whose bitter hatred of non-government, and particularly church schools has now reached manic proportions. This Hawke socialist Government, in its commitment to destroying freedom of choice in education and in sending into oblivion church schools makes the bitter sectarian Defence of Government Schools organistion look positively mild.

The Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) has brought fear into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Australian parents who cherish and have cherished for many years their basic and fundamental right to see their children educated in the manner of their choice. Implicit in the cognate debate on the reports of the Commonwealth Schools Commission, the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission and the Commonwealth Education Commission before this House today is the clear division which the people of Australia will see between us and those on that side of the House who occupy the Government benches, whose atheistic, socialistic and republican commitments have put them in a situation whereby they will impose upon the people of Australia one system of education.

Mr Gear —That is not so.

Mr HODGMAN —One does not need to be Mandrake the Magician to know which system of education will fall under the axe if this Government remains in office and if its diabolical policies are put into effect. Contrary to the remarks of the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Gear), who seeks to interject, I believe that it is a basic and fundamental right for parents to choose the type of education for their children. Under the present Government's policies and under some of its foreshadowed policies to be implemented in the Australian Capital Territory, that basic and fundamental right of choice will be taken away as deliberately and as maliciously as similar rights have been taken way in other totalitarian regimes long distances away from Australia.

I speak in support of the amendments moved and foreshadowed by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) and supported by other Opposition speakers who do stand up and are prepared to be counted on the right of parents to choose. I want to take some little time in the context of this cognate debate to refer to nine solumn promises made by this Hawke socialist Government prior to its election on 5 March, all of which have now been dishonoured, torn up and thrown to one side. I will take them in this order: Firstly, a clear election commitment was given that the tertiary education assistance scheme allowance would be brought to the same level as the unemployment benefit. What has really happened? Under the Government's Budget, the gap between students who are receiving TEAS and students who are on unemployment benefit has widened. Far from bringing the two together, it has dishonoured its promise in a shameful and disgraceful manner. Secondly, the Australian Labor Party promised faithfully in its policy speech that it would institute a new program for primary schools at the cost of $9m per annum. It actually put a money level on it. The Labor Party thought about it, it went to the electorate, made that solemn promise and has dishonoured it. It gave a clear and fundamental commitment.

This is the third broken promise: The Government promised that it would provide an additional $37m for recurrent resouces for government schools. Mr Deputy Speaker, we on this side of the House are prepared to be and always have been even handed because we recognise there are two streams of education in this country-government and non-government. It is part of our basic Liberal and National Party philosophy that parents have the right to choose. This Government got into office, amongst other things, on a litany of broken promises. This is a fundamental one which the Government has dishonoured. It said specifically that in its first year of office it would provide an additional $37m for current resources for government schools. It has dishonoured that clear fundamental election promise. Fourthly, the Government promised that it would provide $16m for needy non-government schools in the first year of its program. It has dishonoured that promise. Fifthly, the Government promised that it would provide $24m over three years for computer education. Let me say across this chamber, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am a not unenthusiastic supporter of the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones). I think the Minister is a very committed Australian. I am certain my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), who is also a very committed Australian, would be dismayed that the Government tore up and dishonoured that promise to provide $24m over three years for computer education. The Government has now said: 'We are going to discount it. We are going to cut it back to $18m'.

Mr Shipton —That is right.

Mr HODGMAN —That is shameful. I acknowledge the comment of the honourable member for Higgins whose heart is with small business in this country, and who recognises the role of computer education. He joins with all from this side of the House in condemning in the strongest terms the Government's blatant and flagrant dishonouring of a clear election promise. I might just say that it adds up very well when one considers that the Commonwealth Schools Commission recommended $125m. The Government bought votes on a false promise of $24m, which it has now slashed to $18m.

I turn to promise No. 6, Mr Deputy Speaker. This would never have happened in your time when you were a Minister. Promise No. 6 was torn up, dishonoured, callously breached and cast aside. The Government had promised to establish a revolving loan fund with an additional contribution of $5m for the construction of planned new non-government schools. That promise has not been honoured.

The seventh promise is in regard to the area of technical and further education . Long serving members of this House and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because of your very good memory, will remember that I was one of the few who got up in this Parliament in 1976 and said that there must be more spending in the area of TAFE and if that meant a cut in funding to universities and colleges of advanced education, so be it. I said that at the University of Tasmania because I happened to believe it was the truth. The Hawke socialist Government made a clear commitment in relation to technical and further education. It promised a special triennial program costing $30m to upgrade equipment and facilities in the least technologically advanced schools and to stimulate employment in Australian manufacturing. Again, this promise so strongly supported by the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Higgins, has been dishonoured.

If honourble members were to go to the Hobart Technical College they would see the students there working on machines, the majority of which still use the imperial measurement system. I see from newspaper reports that the Government is about to bring in a final piece of legislation to wipe out the imperial system and turn to the metric system. Yet students at that college and other colleges throughout Australia are working equipment with imperial measurements. There are more broken promises to come. The eighth one was the Government's basic and fundamental promise. It said that it would maintain existing funding for non- government schools. It made a clear and unequivocal fundamental commitment, a promise of enormous importance to the parents of all children attending non- government schools in Australia.

Mr Shipton —And the children.

Mr HODGMAN —And indeed the children. We in Opposition, as we are now, said to the parents of those attending non-government schools: 'Look, be careful. This promise is probably going to be dishonoured'. I can remember there were newspaper reports about a secret list of schools which were going to be hit. They called it the hit list. I can remember speaking, indeed being on the platform, with my Labor opponent for the seat of Denison, whose husband is a teacher at a non-government school. She said-I believe she said it in good faith -'Look, it is not going to happen. It is just not going to happen'. Yet within a short time of this Government coming to office, having bought votes on false promises, 41 schools in Australia have found that their funding is to be cut.

Mr Shipton —That is just a start.

Mr HODGMAN —It will not just be cut once, as the honourable member for Higgins has said, it will be the first of many cuts. It will be the first cut of the death of a thousand cuts for non-government schools in Australia if this Government remains in office beyond the next election.

Mr Gear —Which we will.

Mr HODGMAN —Quite frankly it will not. This Government has broken more promises in seven months than Malcolm Fraser broke in seven years. The people of Australia now recognise that the promises upon which this Government got into power were used to effect a purpose, Mr Deputy Speaker, a purpose to which you would never have been a party, that of bribing the electorate. Having got its votes, this Government turns its back on the electorate and dishonours those promises. This Government has broken the fundamental commitment it made that funding of non-government schools would not be cut. It has destroyed the principle of a basic grant to every Australian school child, with variations and increases in the case of needy schools. That, I thought, was a bipartisan approach up until the election.

Mr Shipton —Kim Beazley Sr would be distressed, I am sure.

Mr HODGMAN —Indeed. The honourable member is so close to the problem. Tasmania did not get hit on this 1983 hit list, but I have no doubt at all that there will be schools in my home State of Tasmania which will be hit. Mr Deputy Speaker, the extraordinary thing is that parents of children attending government schools were polled as to their views on funding of non-government schools. Three out of four said that they believed the funding of non-government schools should be increased, not cut back.

Mr Shipton —Freedom of choice.

Mr HODGMAN —Indeed, the freedom of choice. Having attended both government and non-government schools in the course of my education-some years ago, admittedly- the plain fact is that reasonable, rational parents of children attending government schools appreciate that justice in education requires that funding of non-government schools be increased and not cut.

I turn now to broken promise No. 9. What did this Government promise when it was in Opposition? It said: 'We will pay attention to the Commonwealth Schools Commission. We will act upon its recommendations. We will respect what the Schools Commission says. We will show you in the Liberal and National parties how a Federal government will do the right thing by the Schools Commission'. What has happened? The Schools Commission in its reports made 55 recommendations , nine of the most important of which this Government has already rejected. Let me just go through the list. This Government rejected the recommendation that the total amount of general recurrent funds to government schools in 1984 be increased by 2 per cent in real terms. It rejected the recommendation that the enrolment basis for the allocation of funds in the government schools general recurrent grants program in 1984 be the 1984 school census.

It rejected the recommendation that in relation to non-government schools general recurrent funds be provided on the same general basis as in 1983. It rejected the recommendation that capital grants for non-government schools be increased in real terms by 5 per cent. The Schools Commission itself recommended that capital grants for non-government schools be increased in real terms by 5 per cent. This Government has rejected that recommendation. Callously, it has rejected the recommendation that funds for severely handicapped children's programs be increased by 25 per cent in real terms. That recommendation has been tossed out the window posthaste. This Government rejected the recommendation of the Schools Commission that the general support element of the English as a second language program be increased by 2 per cent in real terms in 1984, to be used specifically to enable Aboriginal children to participate. This Government says in this Parliament and out in the world that it has a commitment to the Aboriginals of Australia, yet it does a thing like that.

In my area as shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I am appalled that this Government has rejected the recommendation of the Schools Commission that the ethnic schools program be known as the community languages teaching program. I am appalled that it has rejected the recommendation that the professional development program be provided with the same level of funds in real terms in 1984 and the recommendation that the country area program be provided with a funding increase of 18 per cent in real terms. This Government has rejected all these recommendations, and another 12 of the 55 recommendations -Mr Deputy Speaker, this would never have happened when you were a Minister-have simply been set aside. They have not been rejected; they have not been accepted. There has been no response at all.

I conclude my remarks by quoting a letter from Bishop Kelly to the Editor of the Melbourne Age in which I think Bishop Kelly sums up the feelings of many Australians, Catholic and non-Catholic, parents of kids at government schools and non-government schools. This is what Bishop Kelly said:

It has been announced that cuts will be made from the so-called 'wealthy' independent schools. But note the cunning inbuilt contradiction, the money from these cuts will not be given to indigent government schools, rather it will go to 'poorer' independent schools, i.e. mainly Catholic schools. In the face of that blatant sectarian tactic I challenge any Catholic independent school to accept this Judas money.

Bishop Kelly has hit the nail right on the head. The policies of the Hawke socialist Government in education are divisive, bitter, sectarian and unjust, and should be condemned by the overwhelming majority of right-thinking Australians.