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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2185

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) - I had a few notes on what I intended to say in this debate on the Estimates for the Department of Education and Science but I am prompted firstly to reply to some of the points raised by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who, it seemed to me, spoke about somehow or other acquiring an educational system on the cheap. He used expressions like 'What a bargain we have got', and went on to ask: 'Where else would we get the money'? I can offer him one suggestion. If the Government had not wasted all the money it has wasted on the Vietnam war it could have afforded a lot more money for education.

Mr Cohen - And on the FI 1 1 .

Mr ENDERBY - And on the Fill and in all the other fields where money is thrown away in this country today. That point leads me to one comment I intended to make tonight. I represent the Australian Capital Territory and I have heard it said by honourable members on both sides of the House that in some way which is difficult to understand the Australian Capital Territory is favoured in education. The thinking behind that sort of remark is that this is so because all the school buildings are nice, just as all the houses here are nice - they are new, the trees are pretty and so on. But there cannot be any other part of Australia in which we hear and read more responsible protests, more complaints, more letters to the newspapers - here it is the 'Canberra Times' - and more petitions demanding that something be done about education. This is linked with the problem or the crisis in education throughout the country. I do not think it is because in any dramatic way the

Australian Capital Territory is worse off than New South Wales, although in certain ways it is. This springs from the bureaucratic dependency on the New South Wales Department of Education. I could go further into this matter if I had the time.

The real reason is that the Australian Capital Territory has something like 5 times the Australian average number of people with tertiary qualifications, or something like 5 times the average number with the leaving or equivalent certificate. These people did not get these qualifications by coming up through the Australian Capital Territory educational system. So it cannot be said: 'Well, that disposes of the criticism', because the Australian Capital Territory has been in existence for too short a period of time. Those are the figures, approximately 5 times the average number. The people have these qualifications because of the nature of this city, with its Public Service employment, the type of employment offered at the Australian National University, in the armed forces and in other institutions that require special skill, training and learning. When that kind of a population comes into an area like the Australian Capital Territory it has a very high expectancy, and quite properly so. In other words, these people do not set their standards low in an area such as that of education which is so important. That in part gives rise to the situation which prevails here.

I will give honourable members some examples with which I am personally familiar of the attitude here. At 2 public meetings called in the last 12 months in this city on very short notice and proceeded by only one advertisement in the newspaper, the 'Canberra Times', the attendance reached overflow level at the Albert Hall. The estimated number of parents who attended on each occasion to protest about education in the Australian Capital Territory was something like 1,000. I hesitate to think how many Parents' and Citizens' Associations meet regularly in Canberra not just to discuss whether they can meet the tuckshop expenses but to protest vigorously about the teacher turnover, the low state of morale that exists in the schools here and matters of that sort. I was proud in a way, but also quite ashamed, when I received a letter a few months ago from Sth or 6th grade pupils in a primary school in Canberra. They wrote because the message had seeped down to them from their parents and from what was said in newspapers and in other was by which ideas are communicated that there will be no teachers for them in secondary school. These children are entitled to grow up in a world where they should not at the age of only 10 or 11 be worrying about their future. Of course what they were led to believe is wrong; of course there will be school teachers for them. But Deakin High School, for example had 23 forms for which there were 4 or more teachers for each subject during the last 7 or 8 months.

What sort of a deal are we offering these children now in secondary school, who are moving on to the higher school certificate, with all the pressures that are imposed on young people these days to keep up with the Joneses and so on? These doubts are permeating the whole environment of the secondary school system and it is creeping into the primary school system. From a report released in Canberra the other day it is seen that the teacher turnover in primary schools is now similar to that which the secondary schools have had for some time. No-one is sure of the teacher turnover rate. I have seen figures which conservatively put it at about 13 per cent. I have also seen figures which put it as high as 20 per cent in Queanbeyan. Evidence was given before a Senate Select Committee by a Mr Hughes that the number of teachers leaving the service throughout Australia more than cancels out the gain from new teachers. What is bringing about this result? We cannot deny that this is happening. There is a complete misallocation of resources not only from the point of view of the lack of money, and there is a real failure to grasp the problem facing education and determine how it must be geared to the modern world.

I come back now to priorities. One of the Australian Capital Territory Parents and Citizens Associations held a public meeting on 28th July and produced what are now the usual sort of recommendations or demands that something be done. Of course, honourable members on the other side of the House may say: 'The more we hear it the more they will become tired of saying it and like all things it will go away.' Even a snigger can run around this House from time to time because when one cries wolf often enough - or so it is hoped - less weight is attached to one's words. But the real situation in Canberra is that there is a widely felt crisis. This meeting saw fit to draw attention to the conflict in priorities in the calling up of young meu for national service and the necessity to recruit people into the teaching service. This meeting asked that I draw the attention of this House to the fact that it demanded that teachers and trainee teachers be exempted from national service. And why not? If we were to draw up a list of our priorities in view of the socalled danger to this country from invasion by foreign forces and bearing in mind the undoubted crisis in education, then if we must have a national service scheme, why not give exemption to teachers and trainee teachers?

I finish with these thoughts: Education is not simply a matter of acquiring a skill or trade in order to earn money. Most people fulfil this objective because in order to get into their occupation they have to have an education. So the two things are related. But it is wider than that. Society produces its education system and the educational system in turn in some way tends to produce the society. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) is just as much a product of the Australian society and Australian education system as we are, and we all remember the answer he gave to a question asked by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) relating to population and the environment. The Prime Minister quite frankly admitted to this House that he knew nothing of the problems now being discussed and which are widely regarded as of crucial importance to the future of mankind, the writings of people like Ehrlich and others, and simply said, by reference to some undergraduate experence that he had one day 30 years ago at the Sydney University: 'These things have been said before'. I finish on this note: The real crisis in education is that it can produce this kind of insular remark.

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