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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1747

Mr KEATING (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Minister for Education a question. Is he aware of Press reports that Mr Scanlan, the Assistant Minister for Education in Victoria, has said that the Federal Government through the Minister has refused a request for an emergency grant of $17m for handicapped children in Victoria? The Victorian Minister went on to say that special grants had been made for technical education and isolated children without reference to the Interim Schools Committee on a previous occasion. I ask: Did the Minister refuse this request on the basis that it should go to the Interim Schools Committee, and if not, will he give the reasons why?

Mr BEAZLEY (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Education) - Within 3 weeks of assuming the portfolio of Education I called on Mr Thompson, the Victorian Minister of Education, at his home on Saturday, 6th January. Mr Scanlan was present at the time. The purpose of my visit was to offer them full cooperation in any joint action the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria might take in the field of education. Mr Scanlan took exception to the terms of reference of the Interim Schools Committee relating to the education of the handicapped. He pointed out to me that the Victorian Government had set up what he regarded as the finest committee of inquiry in the world into the field of education of the handicapped. I responded to his enthusiasm and said how valuable it would be to the Interim Schools Committee if the report of the State committee could be given to the Interim Schools Committee. I said that this obviously would short-circuit a lot of work they would have to do in Victoria.

Subsequently I received a letter on 15th January pointing out that his expert committee had been appointed in November 1972 and that he thought it would take more than a year to report. So obviously an interim report of the Schools Committee coming at the end of May would be made earlier than the report of the other committee. With the Victorian election campaign on he wrote me a letter setting out the plans over a number of years of the Victorian Government in connection with education of the handicapped which presumably were adopted before the finest committee in the world could report on them. His statement that I refused is an extremely grave misrepresentation which calls into question whether one should have any dealings with him. I replied to him thanking him for the care and compassion of his letter on the needs of Victoria in the area of handicapped children. I said:

As the points in your letter involve a plan of several years, I presume you have sent similar material to the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission, but in case you have not, I am taking the liberty of doing so. I presume, also that Mr Hamer will be briefed on these points for the Premiers Conference.

I also said that there was a report of a Senate standing committee and that I would shortly be tabling the report of the Cohen Committee, which was established by my predecessors, on the training of teachers for handicapped children. I will table that report today. Chapter 6 deals with the training of the handicapped. I said:

These, with the recommendations of the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission, expected at the end of May, should all enable the Commonwealth to act intelligently to back your efforts.

I have the outrageous statement in the Melbourne 'Age' that this is a refusal.

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