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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 2011


Mr Hurford - A good point.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member is aware of that. I remind the honourable member for Adelaide that whilst his comment may be enjoyable to himself, an absence from the House for a while would not be. Honourable members are not entitled to take points of order on subject matter other than the conduct of the House and the rules of debate.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Hear, hear!

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - That applies to the Opposition too.

Mr MacKELLAR - I was talking about the vagueness of the Bill. There are other areas of vagueness which I personally do not believe are good. For instance, the actual number of members of the Commission are not specified in the Bill. It says that there must be a number between one figure and another figure. We do not believe that this is specific enough. I would not like it to be thought for a moment that I can see nothing good in the functions of the Commission as set out in the Bill. I certainly agree with the Minister for Education in relation to the activities charged to the Commission in terms of assistance to handicapped children and particularly in relation to the clause referring to gifted children.

I have been concerned for some time that opportunities for the special treatment of extremely gifted children in the Australian environment have not been available. I think that the nation loses as a result of this unavailability of special treatment. We are extremely lucky, as is every population, to have highly gifted individuals. Once we have recognised these people I think that we should give them every opportunity to develop to their full capacity. If this opportunity is denied these extremely gifted children in many cases the effect on the child is extremely deleterious and as a result, of course, the Australian nation as a whole suffers.

In the remaining time that l have in which to speak I would like to bring up the point that has been made time and time again by Government supporters in relation to the increase in educational expenditure by this Government in the last Budget. Of course I concur that there has been a hefty increase in educational expenditure, but I would not agree for a moment with the argument - and I do not think Government supporters should be allowed to get away with it - that this is something extraordinarily new. I point out to them that increases in educational expenditure have been the largest individual increases as a proportion of Budget expenditure in successive Budgets over the last few years. I also point out to those people who loudly proclaim that educational expenditure has the greatest proportional increase in the Budget under the Labor Government that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself countered this allegation by pointing out that the greatest proportional increase in Budget expenditure is in housing.

We will not oppose the Bill as such. What we are seeking to do as responsibly and as clearly as we can is to put to this House and to the other place amendments which we believe will add immeasurably to the chances of success of the Schools Commission. We believe that these amendments are not put forward in any light-hearted fashion or simply in an obstructive manner. We sincerely believe that they can do a great deal to assist the Commission to function in a way which is in accord, I believe, with the feelings of many members on both sides of the House, and that is to function not as a centralised bureaucracy but as a Commission seeking to decentralise the administration of education as far as possible.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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