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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2504

Senator RAE (Tasmania) -To clause 15 of the Bill which deals with recurrent grants to the non-systemic schools in Australia there is, as was indicated at the second reading stage, an amendment which the Opposition in this chamber would like to see carried. However, it is an amendment which we cannot move as such in this chamber and accordingly it is necessary for us to move a request. That is a procedural matter according to the Standing Orders. The option available to us in this chamber to seek a variation which would increase- and I take the opportunity to indicate the amount- by $5m the charge on the revenue, the expenditure from the public purse, is to make a request to the House of Representatives where it is necessary for a Minister to move the amendment if the Government so decides. Accordingly the position is that whereas the Opposition in the House of Representatives could not move an amendment of this nature, we can make a request, and we do make a request. The request which we make is that the House of Representatives should delete sub-clause (5) of clause 15 of the Bill and insert a new sub-clause. That sub-clause is substantially the same as the existing one except for the provision that as well as the grants to non-systemic schools which are provided for in the Bill, according to the tables which are set out in the schedules, there will be the following which I quote from paragraph (c) of sub-clause 5 of clause 15:

(c)   such further amounts as will ensure that, notwithstanding the foregoing or any other provisions of this Act-

(i)   a sum of $62 in respect of every pupil receiving primary education at a non-government primary school on the date in that year that is the schools census date for that State for that year; and

(ii)   a sum of $104 in respect of every pupil receiving secondary education at a non-government secondary school on the date in that year that is the schools census date for that State for that year, is payable to the school authority ofthe school.

To change that around into simple words, the situation is that the request which we are making to the House of Representatives is that in addition to the specific grants which are set out in the Bill, there will be a basic grant available to every pupil. The basic grant will be $62 in respect of primary pupils and $104 in respect of secondary pupils. Those are the amounts which apply throughout Australia at this time. They were provided for last year. They existed at the time the Government came into office. They are the amounts payable this year. I pause to point out that under the 1972 Bill there would have been an automatic escalation next year because the grant was based upon 20 per cent of the average cost of educating a pupil at a government school. The 20 per cent average means that the amount would have gone up next year to a stage which is slightly higher than the amount provided under category F.

But we see it as a matter of the Government's making a promise. Notwithstanding anything which Senator Douglas McClelland may have said the nature of the promise is quite clear. We go no further than asking that the Government honour its promise. We do not go to the stage of asking for and we do not expect the Government to provide the escalated amounts. Justice requires that that should be done, but we are not saying that we can take the role of being able to provide full justice to students. But what we, as a Senate, can do is to say that certainly if the people of Australia were made a solemn promise before the last election they are entitled to have this chamber keep the Government honest. The people of Austrafia are entitled to the basic minimum grant which was promised.

To enable people to understand what I am talking about I refer to what Mr Beazley said in his paper called 'Priorities and Education'. This was a statement he made many times but the occasion which I identify was at Haberfield on 27 October, long after this much vaunted speech in the House of Representatives in which he carefully obfuscated the question and made no reference at all to cutting out or reducing any grants. All he talked about in that speech was that the poorer schools would get more, a principle which we are supporting. But what he did not do and what he was very careful not to do was to give the slightest indication in the House of Representatives in September last year that there would be any reduction in grants. That would have been in direct conflict with what he and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had been saying throughout the earlier part of the year. What Mr Beazley repeated again on 27 October was:

Whispering campaigns to the contrary, no private school under Labor will in future get less than the per capita grant it gets now.

Now' was 27 October 1972. Let us analyse that promise for a moment. 'Whispering campaigns to the contrary' means that Mr Beazley is denying rumours which he alleges are circulating that Labor will not honour its promise, that it does not intend to keep per capita grants. Mr Beazley is saying that that is not true. 'No private schools ' means schools in categories A to H, systemic schools. No private schools under a Labor government will in future- not next year but during the term of office of a Labor Governmentwill get less than the per capita grant which it was getting then.

Senator Wilkinson - That is 'this year' and the honourable senator knows it.

Senator RAE - Let me repeat it to Senator Wilkinson. I am quite happy to spend as long as the honourable senator likes to explain the promise made by the Labor Minister for Education. He stated:

Whispering campaigns to the contrary, no private school under Labor will in future get less than the per capita grant it gets now.

He did not say 1 973 or 1 974. He did not limit the time in any way. He meant in the future, extending as far as it was possible to see a Labor Government extending, which in my horizon is about another 2 months.

Let us see what else was said. In the policy speech to which Senator James McClelland challenged me to refer the promise is:

A Federal Labor Government will:

1.   Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973;

3.   Allocate the increased

I emphasise the word 'increased '- grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations . . .

There is no suggestion that the Government would cut out any grant. There was no suggestion that the promises made so many times by Mr Whitlam, Mr Beazley, Mr Grassby, Mr Crean and various others would be withdrawn or would not be honoured. There was no suggestion to that effect.

Many times during this debate these promises have been referred to. But let me to refer to one more promise in case there is any doubt that just before the election the present Government had a change of heart. I think this is perhaps the most important one. This is a letter which was written just before the election. It confirms what Mr Beazley said personally in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) when he visited Tasmania at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister who is as equally culpable in regard to these broken promises. Mr Barnard was present at a meeting of headmasters in Launceston. At their request he brought the future Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, to Tasmania. The promises were then made orally. They were made in writing in terms to which I shall refer. They were also made to headmasters orally. This is an answer to a question which was written to Mr Beazley through Mr Barnard. The question was handed to Mr Barnard to give to Mr Beazley. Mr Beazley replied in writing. The question states:

Is it the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue per capita aid to Independent Schools for 1974 and the following years?

The answer is:


There is no question that it was not intended to be made in the following years or that it was to be reduced or there was to be nothing at all. It is a plain question:

Is it the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue per capita aid to Independent Schools for 1974 and the following years?

The answer, without qualification, is yes.

How can this Government now claim that the promises were not made? How can it conceivably claim that? The Prime Minister made the promises repeatedly last year and in his policy speech. The Minister for Education made them repeatedly throughout the year and they are documented. There are tape recordings. Every conceivable sort of evidence is available to prove this. There are letters signed on Mr Beazley 's behalf. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer were privy to them. Mr Crean made the promises. If he denies that I will give him chapter and verse of his promises. Of this present Government the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister of Education have repeatedly made the promises throughout the year. Does this Government now turn round and say that they were not made? Do honourable senators opposite deny those men? Do they deny those leaders? I know that they are sniping at each other all the time. But do they deny them to that extent? But let me go on. We have even the colourful Mr Grassby putting advertisements in the Press on 24 and 25 November, or whenever it was about that time, that this sort of aid would be available on an increased basis under a Labor Government. What has it done? It has dishonoured the promise, dishonoured the advertisements and dishonoured the statements made by the Leaders and by Mr Grassby, who is at least a Minister.

Senator Wilkinson - That is not true.

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