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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3842


Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - We have just listened to an address from the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). He questioned the arithmetic of the honourable member for . Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) in assessing the fantastic cost of the educational programme which was outlined by the Opposition. It is very easy when in Opposition to say that one will provide everything without worrying about how these things are to be financed. I know that this argument is sometimes ridiculed by our friends opposite. The honourable member for Wills said something to this effect: 'What about doing with one less Fill?' The Opposition always makes the cry: 'We will cut down on our defence expenditure to provide for expenditure in other fields'. As far as I am concerned and as far as the Government is concerned, we want adequate defence for this country and we want adequate education facilities, too. But we have to provide both and therefore as a responsible government we have the problem of seeing that we do the best for the people and that we do not cut our defence expenditure so as to jeopardise the security of this country.

The honourable member for Wills also stressed the need for an educational survey in depth. I wonder whether he has ever heard of the nationwide survey on educational needs which has taken place and a report on which was presented to the Parliament in summary form I think in September 1970. I think he should have a look at that. Listening to the speech he has made one would think that the Commonwealth had the sole responsibility for providing funds for education whereas in fact it is largely the responsibility of the State governments. The Commonwealth, realising the problem and realising the necessity of giving support to the State governments' educational programme, has given them financial assistance to an ever increasing degree, and I am sure it will continue to do that.

I agree with quite a number of speakers that libraries are a fundamental factor in education generally. A better educational system is provided in our schools if the libraries are up to the high standard that the Commonwealth Government desires them to be and for which it has provided these funds. Libraries also provide possibly the best avenue for self help in the educational field that we can provide, so it has been of great benefit to secondary schools to have these libraries brought up to the standard that they have been brought up to in those schools that have had the benefit of this assistance.

I believe the Government is to be very warmly commended on continuing its programme and increasing the amount it makes available for secondary school libraries to $30m for the next 3 years from 1972 to 1974. I am not sure whether the honourable member for Griffith in his speech made the point that the amount of $1,358,000 that is being made available to Queensland is for I year. The total amount under this Bill for the purposes of providing libraries in Queensland is no less than $4,015,151, but the honourable member for Griffith was right about the amount that is being paid for 1 year. 1 heard the honourable member for Wills say that the Government had no concern for the threequarters of the student population who are in State schools. Let me point out that of this $30m that is being made available no less than $22,536,338 will go to government schools, ls this not giving consideration to all sections of the student population?

I believe that it is quite wrong in discussing a Bill such as this to suggest for one moment that the Government is neglecting the government schools in particular. The honourable member for Wills might claim that he was going into the wider field of the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition to establish a schools commission to advise the Commonwealth Government on all forms of assistance necessary to bring all primary and secondary schools to an acceptable standard. The bringing up to an acceptable standard of all schools is an ideal to which we would all subscribe. It is just a matter of being able physically to accomplish everything we desire in this and many other fields. There can be no question that in tackling the problem of providing. libraries to secondary schools, both government and independent, the Commonwealth has done a job that has hit on a section of education which needed special attention, and that is pretty largely what the Commonwealth has aspired to do. It has looked at the educational field. It has endeavoured then to give assistance where it felt is was most needed, and very largely, of course, in the earlier stages this assistance was given to tertiary education. It is very pleasing to me to see this assistance being given to secondary schools. ft might be worth while to mention - I will probably be accused of looking at this in a parochial fashion - that in my vast territory we do not get direct benefit from a university. We do have the advantage of a college of advanced education at Toowoomba which serves a big area. But there aire secondary schools scattered round the countryside, and the children attending those schools are deserving of assistance to enable them to reach a standard of education which will in turn allow them to take advantage of the assistance given at the tertiary level of education. 1 think that the Commonwealth is to be commended on the effort that it has made to provide those educational facilities for which it felt there was probably the most need from a national point of view.

Expenditure on education generally has increased tremendously over recent years, and the assistance that the Commonwealth. Government has given in the field of education has enabled this programme to be continued and developed. I want to support the suggestion that has been made in this debate that the provision of libraries should be extended to our primary schools. When I refer-to primary schools I mean all primary schools. I believe there is a need for libraries in primary schools, and these libraries will continue the line which will enable students generally to take advantage of the special provisions that are being made under this Bill and indeed under the Government's educational programme generally. I am quite confident that the Commonwealth Government will have to take a continuing and increasing part in providing finance for our education generally. There are areas which need assistance now. Only recently people in these areas have formed an organisation known as the Isolated

Children's Parents Association, which is appealing to State governments and to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. Again 1 stress the point that unless assistance is given and students in these areas can be given the opportunity to get a grounding in education they will not be able to take the advantage that they should be able to take of the educational facilities that are provided by the State governments, which are supported by the Federal Government in the amount of money that has been made available to them.

One of the ways in which assistance can be given - f believe it is a method that we could expand if we are to continue our assistance to schools - is by increasing the per capita payment. I mentioned an increasing expenditure on education generally. In my own State of Queensland there has been an increase in total expenditure on education of 21 per cent, and there has been quite an increase in the education allocations of all the States. This is all to the good. I believe the per capita grants are of valuable assistance to education generally. The Queensland Government in its Budget increased the per capita grants from $25 to $45 per annum for primary school students and from $67 to $77 for secondary school students. T believe this is one of the fields in which we can provide finance without necessarily tying it to a particular measure. I believe the' Commonwealth should give assistance generally, including assistance to those independent schools which are in need of it while at the same time providing the facilities that are needed, in special areas, including libraries for secondary schools which is the main feature of the Bill that we are discussing. .

The importance of the assistance1 can be gauged from the great financial problem that is confronting independent schools. I am nol detracting from the needs of government schools in this field, but the Government has been criticised for trying to look after that quarter - the students who do not attend government schools. Unless we do give assistance to the- independent schools we will have them all under a State system of education. Therefore it is wise from every angle to give them the assistance that they so certainly deserve. I have bad approaches from independent schools - not only Catholic schools - in my electorate stressing the need for this assistance if they are to carry on. I have visited schools, both State and independent, whore library facilities have been provided. This has been a great advantage to them. I hope this type of assistance will be continued. I believe that we must provide the right type of assistance. I am quite happy to see surveys made and assistance provided as a result of the needs which are shown, but I point out that this has been done.

There is a great deal one could say on the subject of education. I have shortened my remarks considerably because I understand that there is a desire to get through the business before the House. For that reason I intend to limit my remarks to the time that I have occupied. I certainly feel there is a tremendous need for a continuing expansion of Commonwealth participation in education. In line with that I trust that the State governments also will continue to expand their expenditure on education to enable the students of this country to have the standard of education that we all so earnestly desire them to have.







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