Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2509

Senator PETER BAUME(4.51) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the papers.

Today in the Senate I asked a question of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) concerning a very mischievous Press report which called for the removal of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Schools Commission. I am grateful to the Minister for having expressed her confidence in Dr Peter Tannock and in the job he is doing as Chairman of the Commission whose report we are examining at present.

But we cannot leave the matter there. Recently in the Sydney Morning Herald Mr Luis Garcia wrote an article entitled 'Split in advice on State aid worries Ryan '. This article contains some very trenchant and almost unprecedented criticisms of the Commonwealth Schools Commission by a Minister for Education. We raised this matter by way of question a little while ago and obtained no satisfactory reassurances from the Minister in relation to the matters which were raised in this article, some of which were alleged to be direct quotations from what is described as an extensive interview with the Minister. The article says that Senator Ryan 'has expressed serious concern about the quality of the advice she has received from the Commonwealth Schools Commission'. If that is her view, she owes it to the Parliament to come in here and make that criticism so that we can defend the Schools Commission against it. The article contains some words in quotations which are alleged to be the Minister's own words. The article states:

'It does raise some questions about the structure of the commission--

about the structure of the Schools Commission--

they are not questions the Government can address in a short term, obviously it is a longer-term consideration.'

This is a most sinister leaked piece of information in which a Minister of State is signalling that it is her intention to interfere with the structure of the Commission in the longer term. That can lead us only to the conclusion that somewhere there is an agenda to dissolve the present structure of the Commission and to restructure it with people who might be ideologically friendly to the Government. Of course, it is a suggestion that may lead to the stacking of the Commission.

Some of the criticisms which the Minister makes in the article-and, again, some of her comments are shown in inverted commas-are in fact totally unfair. The article reports her as saying:

'Where the report is not very helpful is that it puts up three options for the funding of government schools which suggests that the commission could not collectively determine the best way to go,'

The Commission was required by its guidelines, by the instructions it received, by the brief, to present options. That was its job. It was not asked to present a view. It was asked to present options and that is what it did. It presented options for the Government to consider and decide on. If Mr Garcia has reported Senator Ryan accurately, and the words that are in inverted commas are alleged to be direct quotations, in fact she has done the Commonwealth Schools Commission and the commissioners a grave disservice. If it is her view that they are not performing satisfactorily, that is not a view shared by this side even though we disagree with some of the minority reports. It is a view which is very unfair. I think the Minister owes it to the Schools Commission to make a statement and express her confidence in her commissioners.

Question resolved in the affirmative.