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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2287

Mr MCVEIGH (Darling Downs) - Members of the Opposition generally appreciate the increased Government spending on education although we and the Australian public are fully aware that the increased percentage of Government expenditure is largely due to a change in bookkeeping principles as between the Commonwealth and the States. Notwithstanding the increased allocation for education, we of the Australian Country Party take issue with some of the principles decided and programs adopted within the general budgetary allocation for the Department of Education. We submit that the present Government has endeavoured to be superb exponents of the art of manoeuvre, the compromise deal, the clever arrangement that resolves disputes but settles no issues. We submit that the issues have not been solved.

I refer to the principle adopted by the Government which resulted in the categorisation of schools by the Karmel Committee, a categorisation which denies aid to all children on a per capita basis. This change of procedure follows the present Government's policies in the education arena. I would like to state where I stand on this issue. The previous Government's policy was a sound one, based on the principle of moral and distributive justice. Every child was treated in the same way and received the same per capita assistance. The amount of this assistance was geared to a percentage - 40 per cent - of the average cost of educating an equivalent child in a government school. It was relatively easy and simple to administer, and took into account the right of every child to basic adequate assistance and the inalienable right of every parent to exercise his inalienable right and responsibility to decide what type of education his child would receive.

The grants rose with inflationary trends and enabled schools to plan ahead without too much worry about spiralling costs. There is one criticism I would like to make and that is that, in charity and not basic justice, extra aid should have been given to the many disadvantaged schools and disadvantaged students. I quite readily admit that the previous Government failed in that regard, but I want to emphasise that this is charity and not justice. I regard it as absolutely imperative, based on moral and distributive justice, that payments should be equal for all children at similar levels of education irrespective of the school they attend and of the financial position of their parents. The establishment of the various categories has many anomalies and needs review and correction. The methods adopted completely by-pass such things as school fees, whether a school was in debt; they took absolutely no regard of boarding fees and special expenses attributable to boarding. The only thing they were concerned with was how much the school would have paid per student for tuition had all the teachers received the same average salary. In other words, the more the school paid for tuition of its pupils, the higher its index, the higher its category and the more it would be penalised. The more teachers, the higher the index; the bigger the classes, the lower the index. What an extraordinary inversion of a cry for more teachers and smaller classes.

I submit that boarding schools are entitled to special consideration. They have special problems and are, in many cases, situated in rural areas where they play a great part in meeting educational requirements. They were established in the days when rural industries were able to pay their own way, but following a succession of droughts, declining world prices and increased costs rural people are having problems in educating their children. We find that these schools do not have the enrolments of the large city schools but they require a headmaster, bursar and so on to look after their enrolments of 200 or 300 just as the same positions are required to look after 1,000 children in the big city schools. In the Downs area we have a large number of boarding schools such as Toowoomba Grammar School, Downlands College, Concordia College, Glennie School, the Church of England Boys School, Fairholme College, St Ursula's College - all in Toowoomba; the Presbyterian Girls School, Scots College, Slade, St Catherine's and St Mary's - all in Warwick. These schools are all caring for children who on most occasions have to attend boarding schools because they live too far away to travel daily to school, although transport is often available.

I pay tribute to the principals, the teachers and staff of these schools for the great contribution they are making to moulding the characters and basic motivation not only of Queensland children but also of children from faraway places, sometimes from overseas. It is amazing to read of big city schools purchasing areas, and in some instances taking over established schools in rural areas for the purpose of establishing other school centres away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. This Government is not doing anything about special help for schools away from the metropolitan areas, which schools face extra costs associated with distance, small numbers and specialised courses to fit people for specialised rural careers. It must be borne in mind that these schools contribute in no small way to the economy of their various areas. This Government appears to be ignoring completely the concept of decentralisation in its basic educational philosophy and aims.

Before leaving this item, I make a plea to the Government not to terminate abruptly the aid to those schools in the higher Karmel categories, but - without agreeing to their philosophies and without prejudice, at least - if it must be so that no aid is to be given to them, at least it should be phased out gradually over a period of 2 years, as was recommended in the Karmel Committee's report, which recommendation was not accepted by Cabinet. I repeat and emphasise that this policy of the Labor Government is unjust and is not based on moral and distributive justice.

I am heartened to note the increased sum that is being given for the purposes of training librarians. Horizons are broadened through books and we must do everything possible to encourage an insatiable thirst for knowledge through good books. It is pleasing to note the amount that is detailed in division 200 subdivision 3 of the Estimates. But at this stage I would also make a very special plea for extra grants for library books for external study centres of the university such as we have in Toowoomba where, through the generosity of the Boyce family and a group of supporters, a substantial external centre of the Queensland University will be established. We need extra books for colleges of advanced education away from the metropolitan areas. Universities and colleges of advanced education in metropolitan areas have ready access to books from each other, but colleges and centres of learning in rural areas are not so conveniently situated as to have available the exchange of books, technical publications and textbooks. Often they have to wait many days while the books arrive through the post or by other means of transport.

The appropriation of $200,000 in division 200 subdivision 3 under the heading 'Teaching of Asian Languages and Cultures in Schools' appears to me to be rather insufficient, as does also the allowance for SPELD Associations and the Nuffield Foundation. Following recent emphasis and changes in foreign policy and trading arrangements, we will have much contact with the Asian sub-continent. As my colleague the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) knows, it is essential when dealing with these nations to have a knowledge of their culture and the workings of their minds in order to communicate properly with them. In Toowoomba the officers of the Darling Downs College of Advanced Education have been to the forefront in moves to establish a lectureship in Asian languages by the beginning of the 1974 academic year. The State Commission in Queensland has sent a submission to the Australian College of Advanced Education making application for 3 Chairs in Queensland, including Toowoomba and Gatton. On their behalf I request from the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) a reply as to whether plans can be made for the lectures to commence early next year. No decision has been made, and this is causing some concern. As I said initially, Asian languages will be essential for people associating in trade matters with people from the Asian sub-continent. The people concerned are to be congratulated on their initiative in putting before the authorities a proposal to establish a lectureship in Asian languages, but their efforts are being frustrated by the inability to get a decision from the Government authorities.

The final point on which I would like to comment is that in Toowoomba, through the generosity of the local people and of the Apex Club in particular, moves have been made to create a lectureship in specific learning difficulties at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education. I was perturbed to find that the allocation under the Estimates to the Australian Council of SPELD Associations in the Budget Estimates was rather miserable. It certainly is giving no encouragement to these people to go out and raise sufficient sums of money to get this lectureship off the ground. This is an area of education which is of great concern to the people involved.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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