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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 3006

Mr STAPLES(9.07) —The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Coleman) deliberately set out to misquote the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and then set out to cover his tracks with all the rebuttals. There was no need to go through that matter. It has been gone through in the House before, but it is typical of the deceit that has gone on on that side of the House during this debate. No one screams louder than the privileged when their privileges are threatened. No one screams louder to protect the privileged than the conservative National-Liberal parties in this Parliament. They have been at the forefront and behind the scenes of a national scare campaign, a national campaign of personal vilification against the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and a national campaign of division of the Australian community. They have used a $4m reallocation of resources in a total Commonwealth education Budget of more than $3,500m as the hysterical argument that this Australian Labor Government is hell-bent on destroying the non- government sector of education in this country. They have used this reallocation of $4m to play on the unwarranted fears of thousands of Australian parents. The language of the Opposition and the forces of sectarianism and privilege in this community is rabid and inflammatory. Before we get into the real issue of education, I say that this so-called state aid debate is not a debate about education of the 25 per cent of children at non-government schools: It is about the privileged resources of a very small minority who want far more than their fair share. So let us expose the campaigners of fear and misinformation.

We in this Parliament hear a lot about hit lists. What is a hit list? What is all the fuss about in real terms? Forty-one schools out of 2,312 non-government schools have had the Federal Government recurrent cost subsidy that they received last year cut by $2 a week for each primary student and by $3.35 a week for each secondary student. That is what this fear campaign is all about. These 41 schools will still receive from the Australian taxpayer $258 per year for each primary student and $408 per year for each secondary student in recurrent funding alone. These 41 schools, out of more than 10,500 schools in Australia, have private incomes available to them which are equal to 95 per cent or more of the standard cost per pupil at government schools. These 41 schools operate at resource levels far above the level of the standard government and non- government school. These 41 schools are part of a group of 210 so-called level one schools which, in the Fraser years of 1976-82, received increases in recurrent funding from $189 up to $509 per pupil-an increase in real dollar terms of more than 250 per cent. While the 210 schools in this group received an increase of more than 250 per cent, the schools that the Fraser Government had the primary responsibility for supporting-the Government schools-had their funding chopped by 12 per cent in real terms.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) and others wants to talk about hit lists, so let us talk about them. Let us hear no more about the hit list of the 41 resource richest schools in this country. It is about time we heard about the hit list of the 7,200 government schools and the hit list of the 1,870 resource poorest non-government schools at level three. That is what I call a hit list. That hit list affected more than four out of five Australian children and it will, and has, affected the lives, opportunities and futures of those children. The Australian Labor Party's education policies are needs based, and they are needs based because the needs clearly exist. The needs exist because the former Liberal-National Party coali- tion Government put four out of five Australian children on its hit list.

I repeat: We are talking about a reallocation of $4m in a total education budget of $3,500m. That is what this hysterical debate which has been whipped up in the community is about. That is what the forces of privilege are screaming about now. That is what these forces are using to scare the thousands of parents whose children attend schools with some of the lowest levels of resources in this country. It is about time that the parents of students attending those non- government schools realise that they are being used, and used badly. Their names and voices are being used to protect an elitist system that has failed to adequately provide an education system for their children. If it were not for the needs-based funding policy of the Australian Labor Party, many of those schools would not exist today. The Australian Labor Government's education funding is made on the basis of need and that is clearly the best safeguard of and the fairest policy for the education of all Australian children.

Honourable members on this side of the House will further highlight the hollow facade of concern of the Opposition parties for equality of opportunity and freedom of choice for all Australians. Freedom of choice is a poor schizophrenic phrase that has been belted around this place. It has a different meaning from what was intended by the United Nations Charter. The Charter states that parents are to have the freedom of choice to have their children educated how and where they see fit. The United Nations Charter does not say a thing about the freedom of choice having to be paid for by the taxpayer. That is one of the things that the Opposition has dreamt up. Australians have freedom of choice and the Opposition knows it. Australians have freedom of choice of where to send their children to school. The definition of freedom of choice that has been bandied around by the Opposition is that the state must pay for education. That definition virtually applies nowhere else except in Australia. It does not apply in the United States of America or Great Britain. Yet those countries support the United Nations Charter.

It is interesting in a limited way to listen to the contribution to this debate by the Opposition. Throughout the debate we have heard very little talk about other aspects of education. We have heard very little constructive talk about technical and further education colleges, colleges of advanced education, universities, participation rates, disadvantaged groups, treatment of government schools and the resource poor schools. No wonder members of the Opposition will not speak about those subjects. Their record is so incriminating and damning that they do not have the gall to talk about it. They have latched on to what they do best-that is, to create division in the community and promote privilege, and that is all that they are good for. But to broaden the real issues of this debate I want to highlight an aspect of education that has held back this nation socially and economically. I want to make some comments about the participation and equity program. I am sure that speakers following me in this debate will also speak on this topic because that is what the building of our skills and our education base is all about, and that is what is vital for employment prospects.

The participation and equity program which will start in 1984 is designed to encourage young people over school leaving age to continue to participate in useful and fulfilling education and training in schools and TAFE colleges. This program is an integral part of the overall development of a framework of co- ordinated youth policies. The programs will be directed towards those areas that show low participation rates in secondary education. As a supposedly developed nation, we are clearly undereducated and underskilled. The former Government, the remnants of which now justly sit in opposition, is responsible for much of this situation. Under the prime ministership of Malcolm Fraser the percentage of the Federal Government's contribution to the total recurrent costs of government schools fell from 10 per cent to 7 per cent. In dollar terms that is $111m less than what should have been spent on government schools. The Opposition claims that expenditure per pupil went up in that period. What it did not say is that the total number of pupils dropped. What did it ever do about that situation? It is a national disgrace that that was the case. The participation and equity program and the best of the Government's other education programs will seek in time to erase that national disgrace.

I can provide the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) with 20 million differences between the school to work transition program and PEP. He did not seem to know that there was a difference between the school to work transition and PEP. Those 20 million extra reasons are the $20.4m which will be spent in the schools sector of this program alone-$20.4m more than was allocated by the former Government. PEP will work to overcome the current educational inequalities that rely on differences of socio-economic background, sex, geographical location and ethnic origin. I said before that PEP is part of the co-ordinated framework of youth policies of this Government. At this very time a mission from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is in this country at the Government's request. It is here to investigate and advise on, among other things, appropriate income support systems for our young people.

The Australian Labor Party Government is determined to raise the education and skill levels of this nation. In difficult economic times we have clearly made the quality of education for all Australian children one of the highest priorities of this Budget. If education is too expensive, the lack of education is costing us a hell of a lot more. We have paid too much for a low national level of education and we cannot afford to pay for it any longer. These Bills, despite the hysterical protestations of the privileged and the misled, are the start of the regeneration of the total education system from where it was left in 1975.