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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1753

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(9.53) —Madam Acting Deputy President-

Senator Crowley —Let's hear it, Senator. You have got us all here; sparkle now. We are waiting for the sparkling wit and the gems.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —That is encouraging. Senator Crowley must in the past have had that experience and is eagerly looking forward to a repeat. I thank Senator Crowley for the implied compliment. The Senate has before it one of a number of documents presented by the Commonwealth Schools Commission in recent years. The 'Funding policies for Australian schools' document is an important one. It requires the most detailed reading, study and analysis of its various assertions and recommendations. The Commission itself has been asked to do a number of things including setting Commonwealth standards for Australian schools which is the subject of the next paper listed.

Over the years the Commission has brought forward very valuable information. That information has revealed a situation in Australian schools that ought to be brought to the attention of the public by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and the Government. The situation is that in the past seven or eight years the Karmel targets were passed rapidly and effectively by Government schools throughout Australia, but that independent schools, particularly the 90 per cent of needy independent schools, were trailing badly. Also there is still a significant gap in resources and obviously that gap should be closed. The Schools Commission has said that repeatedly.

In the face of that, members of the Teachers Federation-prompted and led by a member of the Schools Commission-have put forward misleading and false statements to the effect that the very reverse had occurred. Throughout Australia the Teachers Federation is always representing to the public that indeed the independent school system is the wealthy system and that the Government system is the poor system. I make it perfectly clear that I believe the Government system should be the very best in quality that the Government and the community can maintain. However, I relate my remarks purely to the falsity of the argument today. The fact of the matter is that day after day people are pretending to the public by paid advertisement, pamphlet and statement a situation the very reverse of what the Schools Commission is saying. I have not heard a single statement from the Minister or from any member of the Government attempting to put the truth. The fact is that it suits the Government to accept the propaganda of the Van Daveys of this world. The Government wants to gain from that propaganda, but it knows nevertheless that it is utterly false.

The situation is simply, as has been known since the formation of the Schools Commission, that some 90 per cent of all independent schools have very poor resource levels. During the time of the Fraser Government those levels were lifted and, indeed I think, got to within 70 per cent of government schools. However, they have never moved to equity. It is the duty of governments in Australia to provide an adequate and comprehensive education to every student in Australia whether rich or poor, irrespective of location or choice of schools. If the Government is going to face that every time a thoroughly misleading campaign is presented to the public, the Minister has a responsibility to stand up and tell the truth. I rose simply to say that what we look forward to is hearing the Minister put to rest the type of nonsense that Mr Van Davey and the Teachers Federation are constantly putting.

Question resolved in the affirmative.