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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1624

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - I believe it is appropriate that we should remember that the legislation seeks to establish a Schools Commission. With respect, many members of the Opposition have failed to take that into account tonight. They have gone into a wide excursion on matters other than the one under discussion. Senator McManus tonight said, I believe quite fairly, that other people should be on the Commission apart from those nominated by the Government. I hope I am not reporting him incorrectly but I think he said that there are many voluntary organisations involved in education which should be represented on the Commission and that they should appoint their own representatives. It is easy to say those things. But what about the number of voluntary organisations in the field of education? Who will nominate? Who will elect? Many organisations, such as parents and citizens associations and school committees, will be involved in the suggestion of Senator McManus. I suggest that in those circumstances some of the criticisms and in fact some of the serious suggestions offered for what the honourable senator believes to be the improvement of the legislation will fall by the wayside.

I now come to the most important matter. I believe it is most important because, of all the principal parties that contested the Federal election in 1972, the Australian Labor Party was the only party which gave sufficient attention to this matter to warrant the consideration of the people of Australia. I was most amazed tonight to hear members of the Australian Country Party enter into the debate. Senator Drake-Brockman, on behalf of the Country Party, spoke at some length on this matter. Let me read the policy of the Country Party at the 1972 election. 1 dearly hope that some honourable senator will ask me to table this document when I have concluded. I shall be most disappointed if I am not asked to do so. It is an amazing education policy. The Country Party policy states:

The Country Party gives, and believes the nation must give, a high priority to education.

We seek to achieve the greatest possible equality and balance in educational opportunity. We want to see the overall quality of education improved at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The Country Party remains concerned at the special difficulties facing children and parents in country areas in gaining access to all levels of education. We see the Government's decision to provide $400 a year to help the isolated child as a practical step towards reducing these inequalities. The Country Party will pursue its objective of giving country students greater equality of opportunity with their city counterparts.

That was the policy of the Country Party which was put to the people of Australia at the election of 1 972. Let me read one pan again. It states:

The Country Party remains concerned at the special difficulties facing children and parents in country areas in gaining access to all levels of education. We see the Government's decision to provide $400 a year to help the isolated child as a practical step towards reducing these inequalities.

That is not a factual statement. The 5 governments prior to the present Labor Government refused all overtures to give any assistance whatsoever to children having education difficulties in isolated areas.

Honourable senators will know that the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts is investigating this issue at present and is going to Bourke on Friday to take evidence there. Not one member of the Country Party is on that Committee. How insincere can the Country Party be when it states policies of that nature. Let me refer again to the $400. The Country Party says the provision of that amount is a magnificent effort. One of the first things that the Australian Labor Party did when it gained office and before there were any pressures at all from any organisations was to give to the parents of children in isolated areas an amount of $1,004 a year towards the education of those children.

Senator Byrne - It was the Democratic Labor Party which created the Committee.

Senator MILLINER - The Democratic Labor Party is not even represented on the Committee. What I have said will indicate to the Senate that that is the attitude of the Country Party to education in Australia. That is the policy that the Country Party put before the people of Australia at the 1972 Federal election. I hope that someone challenges me to table that document which, for the information of honourable senators, came from the research section of the Parliamentary Library. Now let me come to the Liberal Party policy. This is the magnificent policy which the Liberal Party put to the people of Australia in the 1972 Federal election. With the aid of an autocue Mr McMahon, the Prime Minister as he was then, said:

Turning to education- which touches the lives of all of us in a dozen different ways.

What an astounding statement. But listen to the next paragraph. Mr McMahon said:

We need better schools, more teachers and more facilities.

After 23 years in office the then Prime Minister on behalf of the Liberal Party said: 'We need better schools, more teachers and more facilities'. The Teachers Federation had been telling that Government for many years that that was the problem in education. But it was not until the Government came to an election that it realised that that was the problem and consequently it said: 'We need better schools' and so on. Have honourable senators heard anything of a more hypocritical nature than that statement? Mr McMahon went on to say:

In the current financial year the Commonwealth is providing directly and indirectly -

Directly more than indirectly- more than half of the $ 1,900m being spent on education in Australia.

This was not coming out with any forthright statement of how much the Government was spending but relying on a vague statement which would defy any economic expert to determine what the whole thing meant. Then the Liberal Party Prime Minister went a little further to say:

The initiatives we have taken during the last 12 months have broadened and developed the Commonwealth's involvement in the education of your children.

There are several new measures we now plan to introduce in particular areas of education.

These are the areas which after 23 years of government the Liberal Party found were new. Just listen to them:

We will provide $25m a year over the next 3 financial years for capital and recurring expenditure to assist the States in their efforts to expand pre-school education.

The Liberal Party had found at last that preschool education is important though its Ministers had been going overseas in the 23 years supposedly to be studying education. They had seen what pre-school facilities were given to children overseas, and had then come back and had never done a thing about it. But when they came before the electors they found that we were inadequately served by pre-school centres and said they were going to do something about them, and that in the concept of the Liberal Party is new. It is as old hat as lace-up boots. The policy speech went on:

We will expand our present commitment to technical education and continue it into the future, allocating not less than $2Om a year

The value of technical training for potential tradesmen had been pointed out to the Liberal Party time and time again. Now the Liberal Party was going to put in $20m a year for technical education. I will come in a moment to what I hope is a fair analysis of that Party's expenditure.

Senator Young - Come back to the Bill and stop playing politics.

Senator MILLINER - One of your colleagues was thrown out this morning and that might happen to you if you are not careful. The policy speech of this grand Liberal Party went on:

We will also double the number of technical scholarships to 5,000 from the beginning of 1974, with emphasis on . . . those students from low income families.

Who caused the low income families? I tell members of the Opposition that their former Government did so by restricting workers on every occasion that they sought to improve their financial position and their industrial conditions. Who fought the teachers of this country when they sought a better way of life and a better standard of pay for the way in which they had to teach the children of Australia? You were the people who did that. You were the people who forced on the community low income families. You were the people who forced so many people out of work that everybody was scared of what was going to happen next, yet you had the audacity to put a statement like that in your policy speech. The speech went on:

We will give an education allowance of $400 a year free of means test for children in isolated areas who must live away from home in order to attend school or who have to be taught at home.

I say to honourable senators opposite: Parents from isolated areas made representations continually to you over this subject and you continually refused to provide anything of this nature. But you came to an election and you said you were going to give $400 for each child. A very good idea, but it is less than half of what we gave without one request from those people.

Senator Rae - Your Party never thought of it. Your Party thought it was so good that you pinched it and implemented it. It was not one of your Party's ideas.

Senator MILLINER - We never thought of it?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Milliner, I take leave to remind you that the Bill is the Schools Commission Bill and that you have ranged a fair way over the area. I would be glad if you would return to the general area of the discussion.

Senator MILLINER - Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I apologise for the interruption. The situation is that the policy of the Liberal Party went on in this way all through the speech. The Liberal Party said: 'We reject Labor's socalled needs test on independent schools'. It rejected the idea of finding out what is required by the people of Australia so that the school children of Australia might be better educated.

Senator Webster - Rubbish.

Senator MILLINER - You say 'rubbish'. You will not be here much longer to say that, so I will not say anything more about you. Mr Acting Deputy President, I hope you will bear with me because I propose to read to you the policy of the Australian Labor Party. I associate it directly with the Bill, because we say this:

It is our basic proposition that the people are entitled to know. It is our basic belief that the people will respond to national needs once they know those needs. It is in educationthe needs of our schools- that we will give prime expression to that proposition and that belief.

Under the heading 'Schools' the following statement is made:

The most rapidly growing sector of public spending under a Labour Government will bc education. Education should be the great instrument for the promotion of equality. Under the Liberals it has become a weapon for perpetuating inequality and promoting privilege. For example, the pupils of State and Catholic schools have had less than half as good an opportunity as the pupils of non-Catholic independent schools to gain Commonwealth secondary scholarships, and very much less than half the opportunity of completing their secondary education.

The Labor Party is determined that every child who embarks on secondary eduction in 1973 shall, irrespective of school or location, have as good an opportunity as any other child of completing his secondary education and continuing his education further. The Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should give most assistance to those schools, primary and secondary, whose pupils need most assistance.

Would any honourable senator argue that that is not a sound philosophy? The speech continued:

Education is the prime example of a community service which should involve the entire community- not just the Education Departments and the Catholic school authorities and the Headmaster's Conference, not just parents and teachers, but the taxpayers as a whole. The quality of the community's response to the needs of the education system will determine the quality of the system. But the community must first know and understand the needs. We reject the proposition that administrative convenience should over-ride the real needs of schools.

Senator Little - But senator, you forget-

Senator MILLINER - Now, Senator Little, you will shortly be getting a spell for a few days and you will be able to get some of that pornographic literature from your newsagency in Melbourne.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Milliner, you cannot go on like that.

Senator MILLINER - The speech continued:

The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education- through a Commission.

This is the important section of the policy. The Labor Party has not put forward policies like the policies from the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party which I have read to the Senate. The policy speech continued:

We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in Government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools.

That is the policy of the Australian Labor Party put to the people of Australia and overwhelmingly supported by the people of Australia.

I have told honourable senators what we have done to assist the parents of children in isolated areas. I would now like to read what the Budget Speech had to say on education. It stated:

For this Government, education is a top priority -

This is what we promised the people of Australia

It constitutes the fastest growing component of the Budget. We will provide $843m for education in 1973-74, an increase of $404m or 92 per cent on last year. There will be a further substantial rise in 1974-75 as the programs commencing in 1974 come fully into effect

Members of the Opposition tried to deny the arguments that the Australian Labor Party has put forward although they contain policies which must be to the advantage of all sections of the community. I ask honourable senators to support the Bill, which is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation that has been introduced into this chamber for the past 25 years.

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