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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3838

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald

Cameron) seems to be one of the most spectacular failures of the Queensland education system. Where on earth could he get all the figures through which he wandered and meandered tonight? The Aus-, tralian Labor Party has not produced any scheme which can be costed in the way in which the honourable member suggested. Where on earth he obtained the figure of $4 billion, or whatever the figure was, I do not know. Perhaps he has been studying astronomy. Again, it is the old old story: Where is the money coming from? Well, I suppose we could get it from the Fill account or from various other areas.

I turn to some of the other things that he mentioned. There is this dreadful thing called centralisation. This is the bogy with which honourable members opposite are able to try to confuse and to confound the situation. The Labor Party wants a national acceptance of responsibility for -education. I do not think the honourable member for Griffith has paid any attention to Australia's education needs at all. He certainly has not paid any attention to the debates in this Parliament. The facts of life are that back in 1963 as a political exercise by a former Australian Prime Minister to gather in a few more votes a scheme to provide Commonwealth assistance for libraries was introduced. I have no time to debate that scheme tonight. Unfortunately, the Parliament has little time to debate these matters, or this part of the Parliament anyhow. The Senate does it better. It has a Standing Committee to look into the matter of education. There is some possibility that at least in the Senate this matter will be examined in some depth. Tonight I will confine - myself to half my ' allotted speaking time so that some of my colleagues on this side of the House may have an opportunity to speak.

Earlier in this session, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) introduced a quite lengthy statement on Commonwealth aims . and objectives in education. We should have received adequate opportunity to ^debate that statement long since. We thought that this was to be the case during the. debate on these Bills. Now. .we find that. we. are being pressured not to have an adequate debate. I raise this point: Is this concept of the secondary school population which is in this Bill a fair criterion for the development of a library system inside Australian education, particularly inside our schools?

Now, nobody can visit all the schools, but the facts are that a large number of non-State schools, particularly the nonCatholic ones, have much more adequate libraries than those in the State schools. Perhaps some of the Catholic schools are also well catered for. In other words, there is only one way to approach this subject. We cannot lump all the schools together, but it ought to be within the wit of man and the administrative skills of the Commonwealth to examine each school to see whether a library is needed at a school and how much need be done with respect to it. I support my colleagues on this side of the House who say that the present method is a hit and miss one. It is a case of picking up little bits of education here and there and trying to do something about it - or attempting to do something for political purposes.

The other point that I wish to make is that, when we read the Minister's second reading speech we see that this is a State aid Bill. The problem in this Parliament, particularly on the other side of the House, on the subject of education is that one would be led to believe that the threequarters of the children of Australia who are in the three-quarters of Australian schools, those conducted, by State governments, did not exist. Every proposal from the other side of the House is directed towards that quarter of the population which sends its children to non-State schools. I believe that this is an important principle. The fact is, no matter how much we may squirm about it, that our responsibility is to the public institutions. This is where most of the public money ought to go. This is where the public responsibility really lies. The Opposition has moved its amendment because it believes, as the Labor.- Party has been saying for some 12 years or 15 years now, that it is only by an acceptance of national responsibility that we will get anywhere in the field of education.

What I wish to ask tonight, with as much brevity as is desirable in such a situation, is this: What is to be done about education? One may state the proposition thus: Society is changing' rapidly in all kinds of directions; is the school changing? I think the proposition is fair that in fact the school is changing too slowly to keep up with the society for which it now is supposed to be operating.

I believe that education is under greater challenge now than it has been at any previous time. We have been plodding along in schools for centuries. There is not a great deal of difference between what is happening in most school rooms of Australia now and what happened three or four centuries ago. I suppose that the introduction of printing produced a change in the form of education. Education became participatory and personal in a sort of way that it could not be before the introduction of printing. Now we have changed some things. Instead of teaching Latin in the schools we probably teach Japanese but we probably do so in much the same old way. Instead of teaching religion in the schools now we study social studies; instead of concentrating on mathematics we study biological sciences. But the principles inside the school room and some of the principles which flow through the education system remain much the same.

There are some areas in which we are trying to produce some kind of scholarly approach. But generally speaking our approach to education is to turn a person out as a function of society. I believe, as one has said here before on a number of occasions, that there is a fundamental change required in our outlook in education because of the effects of social change. Today is in so many ways a different era even from the one in which I was born which is a little over half a century ago but in terms of education and social change that is not a very long time. Leisure is now replacing function as the principal aspect of life. I use the word leisure' as that part of one's life in which one does not have to clock on at work. This, I think, is the great challenge which is facing young people of today in particular. The young man and the young woman who start work now at the age of 20 or thereabouts will, by the time they are 35 or 40, be working probably only 30 hours a week. Most of them probably can expect to spend 5 weeks of the year in relaxation or on holidays. Most of their lives is going to be outside their function in commerce, in industry and in services of life. We must develop education to fit them for this role.

There is the egalitarian attitude replacing the sort of class acceptance of society. I do not believe that Australia has ever been strictly a class society in the real sense but there is a natural order of things which people accepted. When I left high school in 1932 I did not expect to go to the university. I had hopes that some day something might turn up and that L would go. Of the 88 or 90 students that started in second form with me at Frankston High School as it was I think that only four or five saw it right through to the end of secondary school and that only one or perhaps two of them went on directly to the university. But that is not the way we look at it today. The university and the whole structure of society are available to us all.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!I do not like to interrupt the honourable member but 1 ask him to relate his remarks to the Bill which deals with secondary school libraries. 1 remind the honour. able gentleman that this is not a general debate on education.

Mr BRYANT - Mr Deputy Speaker,an amendment has been moved on behalf of the Opposition and it covers the area of education and the needs of Australian society and Australian education. For Heavens sake, surely education has to do with society if it has to do with anything. The whole world is now replacing the parish as the school room's responsibility. All the communications of the world are being developed so that everyone has access to all kinds of information, and this relates to libraries. I believe that this is one of the problems we face in this House. There is no examination in depth of one of the most fundamental social questions of the time - and that is the education system. There is something wrong with the Parliament which cannot examine this question more thoroughly than we are doing in such a haphazard way tonight. Surely one can talk for a little while on some aspects of education. We on this side of the House have taken the opportunity to expand the areas of debate by way of our amendment because we have not been given the opportunity to do so in a thoroughgoing examination of the whole scheme.

Inside the school room there has to be fundamental change. Libraries are part of the machinery by which that is to be done. We have to produce a new form of social being; a person who has a great deal more self-reliance in the way that he approaches the whole of his life. We are replacing an ordered society in which things were done for us and things were done to us with a society in which we have to make our decisions for ourselves. We are replacing the acceptable standards of moral behaviour of the last four or five or six centuries with what is known as the permissive socieity, whatever that happens to be. But I do know that such a change throws a much greater dependence upon the customer, the client, the child, the student in school and the ultimate adult and that is what we are discussing here tonight.

The library system is the basis of it all. A tremendous change has been going on in some schools, and unfortunately in too few particularly in Victoria, ft is interesting that in Victoria, which is basically I suppose in many areas more conservative than some other States, that some radical movements have developed even further. Inside some of our primary and secondary schools in Victoria there has been a greater development of what one might call team teaching, reliance on library services and the resources of the school than I find in any other part of Australia. I believe that it is essential that we develop individual responsibility in the student. No longer can they conic through the school patterned and moulded from desk to desk, from form to form, progressing through the levels of education and being turned out at the end into a society such as the one into which we entered and in which there was a pretty set pattern for our behaviour. One of the things we need is an inquiring mind. This a.cain is where the library is part of the institution.

Briefly I would like to refer to the student we are trying to turn out, why libraries are important and why I believe the Government's approach to this aspect of education is not totally adequate. As my colleague the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reyonds) pointed out, there is a whole world of resources which we have to develop such as the use of all kinds of recorded material, the use of visual reproduction methods and matters concerning the school room such as the change m architecture and structure and design to produce effective discussion. These matters will have to be looked at because the world is going to be again one in which people will want to participate. One of the great changes in socieity has been the rejection of authority, not so much the rejection of law and order but the rejection of an authoritarian view of society. For example, none of us are going to be kicked around any more; our sons and our daughters are going to be kicked around less than what we would stand ourselves. Socieity will develop only by effective discussion between people. Effective discusson between people will develop only as a result of proper skills being developed inside of the school room. That will be done only by the development of school rooms which are fitted with all of this equipment.

We need to develop more effective human relations. We have to pattern ourselves to fit with one another and still respect the individual personality. I suppose in the school we have to develop a satisfaction in learning. In order to facilitate the debate 1 will leave the six or seven minutes which are available to me free for someone else. However, before concluding I would like to say that there are great changes going on in the world. The world is under greater threat than it has ever been before. There is more capacity for self-destruction by way of weapons of destruction; environmental destruction is threatening the world; and there is a plague of population. The people who are going to face this situation will be turned out through the schools by a more effective education system. We on this side of the House believe that this will happen only if the Commonwealth with all of its resources accepts the challenge; and the library system is part of that challenge.

I do not believe that we are approaching education in the right way. My colleague the Minister for Education and Science I think approaches this matter as well as one could expect from a person with his background and his colleagues who are not terribly perceptive and very largely insensitive to the needs of education. But surely it is possible to examine each school, school by school, and see what is needed. I am quite confident that the schools in the electorate of Wills need much more assistance than schools, shall we say, in the electorate of Higgins. Under the present system the position is likely to be reversed. Therefore, this problem will be answered only when we approach it as a national responsibility. For these reasons I accept the Labor Party's amendment.

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