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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4025

Dr GUN (Kingston) - The Bills now before the House embody the new measures which are central to the new financial relationship between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments which evolved at the Premiers Conference in June this year. I want to discuss education not only because it is a matter that is primarily the concern of the States under our Constitution but also because the Commonwealth Government has claimed on a number of occasions that it is as a result of these new financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States that the State governments are now able to meet their commitments in education. I enter this debate to protest at the failure of the Commonwealth Government to make a specific commitment to education, apart from the circumscribed causes, such as libraries and science blocks, to which it gives money. It is now clear that the Commonwealth has shelved the findings of the national survey of educational needs. I would have thought that if the Commonwealth Government was sufficiently interested to find out by means of a survey what really are the educational needs of the States it would be concerned to see that the findings of the survey would be acted upon.

The findings of the survey are now well known - that under the CommonwealthState relationships which existed when the survey was carried out the State governments would have needed an extra $ 1,443m over and above what they could reasonably have expected to have found from their own sources of revenue. This $ 1,443m would have had to be found for the 5-year period 1971-75 to finance the reasonably anticipated educational needs of the States. Now through all the double talk the simple fact has finally emerged that the Commonwealth has no intention of acting on the findings. One could be excused for thinking that if there is a shortfall in State funds disclosed by the survey the Commonwealth would provide the necesasry funds to bridge the gap. Otherwise, why carry out the survey at all? But it is not to be. There is to be no specific allocation of funds for those educational needs. The history of stalling and gobbledegook since the survey was first launched strongly suggests that the Commonwealth Government never had any intention to implement the recommendations of the survey. Let us look at the recent history of this matter. When he was Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) spoke at a well attended and publicised meeting in Adelaide on 16th June 1971 and said that all the Commonwealth Government was waiting on was further information on priorities from a couple of State governments. Let us contrast that with what the present Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in this House on 5th October 1971. He said:

In September 1970, the Commonwealth sought further information from State education departments on their capital needs. The collection of this information took some time - the last of it was forwarded to my predecessor in March this year - but it was brought together and considered by the Commonwealth before it met with the Premiers in June 1971.

It was considered before it met with the Premiers. So the present Minister said then that all the information was returned by March 1971. Yet his predecessor said in June, 3 months later, that there was still further information to come. It is quite apparent, therefore, that there was never any intention to act on the findings of the survey. Ministers just say anything that comes into their heads, anything to fob off the critics. It is a history of deceit. Of course, now the Commonwealth Government tries to forget the survey. The present Minister's long statement in this House on 5th October contains no reference - I do not think I am being unfair to him, because I could not find any - to the figure of $l,443m mentioned in the findings of the survey.

Mr Peacock - I rise to order. I am reluctant to intervene in these circumstances but I believe that statements that Ministers are acting with deceit imply a degree of moral turpitude I cannot accept on behalf of myself or my colleagues. I ask that the remark be withdrawn.

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