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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3062

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -I move:

That the Bill bc now read a second time.

Because this Bill was introduced in another place and has been transmitted to the Senate, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

The purpose of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill 1974 is to provide funds for post-school technical and further education in the States in accordance with the general program of development recommended by the Committee on Technical and Further Education.

The Committee was established under the chairmanship of Mr Myer Kangan, in April 1973, to advise on the development of technical and further education and to make recommendations on the financial assistance to be provided to government institutions providing technical and further education. The Committee reported to the Government in April 1974 and its report was immediately tabled.

The Prime Minister in his policy speech earlier this year referred to the Committee's report. He stated: 'We are determined that technical education shall cease to be the Cinderella of Australian education'. He went on to say that the reports which the Government had commissioned will provide an effective and expert basis for bold new initiatives to allow technical skills to find their proper and honoured place in a changing society. The Bill which I am introducing is an expression of our determination to give technical education that place. The Government has endorsed the approach adopted in the Kangan Report of a national program to upgrade technical and further education, with the Australian Government providing funds additional to a maintained effort by the States.

We do not wish to see technical and further education denned in any narrow way, related only to skills required by industry. The definition of technical and further education in the Bill covers the broad range of post-school education, including courses which have a vocational bias in order to meet occupational requirements and also courses which are not necessarily vocational but are designed to meet community needs. The Bill is therefore aimed at meeting national needs for an adequately educated and skilled workforce as well as providing continuing education for the adult population.

The scope and status of non-government institutions in the technical and further education field are so diverse that a good deal of consideration needs to be given to the nature of the assistance they might receive. The needs of these institutions, of which two of the more widely known are the Workers Educational Association and the Victorian Council of Adult Education, are, with one exception, not being taken into account by the Bill. The question of support for them will be the subject of a report by the proposed Technical and Further Education Commission and submissions from voluntary bodies not operated for profit have already been sought.

There is one non-government institution which for special reasons is deemed by the Bill to be a government instrumentality so that it may continue to receive grants to offset the student fees which the Government has undertaken to meet. The institution is the College of Nursing, Australia. The College, a private organisation, provides some sub-tertiary courses in nursing practice and administration as well as tertiary courses. Both of these groups of courses have been receiving fees reimbursement grants and the tertiary courses are continuing to do so under arrangements for colleges of advanced education. So that the sub-tertiary courses can continue to receive reimbursement grants, the College is being treated as a State instrumentality and we will arrange with the States for part of the recurrent grants they receive to be paid to the College.

The report of the Committee on Technical and Further Education recommended that grants totalling nearly $ 105 m be provided to the States over the 18 month period 1 July 1974 to 31 December 1975. The total appropriation under the Bill is $ 107.8m spread over the two year period 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976. A further $7.2m, appropriated under the previous technical training legislation and unspent at 30 June last, is also available for expenditure. Together with the $3.5m to be available to the Australian Capital Territory and $250,000 provided for research, the total amount which we have set aside for technical and further education over the two years is over $ 1 1 8m.

If a single justification were needed for the level of expenditure we propose, it is given by the fact that the 1971 census recorded that some 67 per cent of men and some 80 per cent of women in the workforce claimed no formally recognized post-school qualification of any kind. While the provision of grants for training within industry, which is the province of my colleague the Minister for Labor, was excluded from the Kangan Committee's terms of reference, it will be recognized that the program we are putting forward will be of some consequence in providing the buildings, the equipment and the trained staff to cater for those people who undertake courses of training or re-training at technical colleges under the National Employment and Training Scheme.

I would like to mention that some concern had been expressed by the States regarding the adequacy of the provision for general recurrent grants within the total sums. The States referred to their loss of revenue resulting from the abolition of student fees, the increased enrolment in their technical colleges and the higher running costs. The Australian Committee on Technical and Further Eucation gave its advice on this matter and the Government has reacted quickly to provide in the Bill the additional funds required to compensate the States for their loss of fees revenue. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I shall later seek to have incorporated in Hansard a table summarising the various grants to the States which are to be appropriated, as set out in the Schedules to the Bill.

The Bill sets out the purposes for which the funds appropriated under various headings, as shown in the Schedules, may be applied and the conditions to be attached to the grants. The approach adopted in the Bill is that general purpose recurrent grants are payable to the States as a matter of course, while grants for particular recurrent purposes and for capital purposes may be authorised by the Minister up to the limits of the appropriation and the particular programs or projects must be approved by the Minister. The recipients of the grants are required to account to the Minister for their use and to provide him with information on which he can report annually to the Parliament on progress made under the program. The Minister is empowered to obtain statistical and other information on which the improvement in quality resulting from the grants can be gauged.

While the Bill provides for particular amounts to be available to each State for particular purposes, as recommended by the Kangan report, it permits some flexibility in their use. Where a State is unable to make use of all of the capital funds available to it, the surplus may be transferred, by regulation, to another State. Particular purpose recurrent grants to a State may be used for general recurrent purposes and tied recurrent grants, contained in Schedules 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill, which are unused in 1974-75 may be used in 1975-76.

The States will be expected to continue their own support for technical education. The report of the Committee proposes a precise formula to guarantee the maintenance of the previous level of State expenditure. We consider this suggestion to be too restrictive. Instead, it is proposed that there be a degree of flexibility and the Minister will take up with the States satisfactory arrangements for the maintenance of State effort along the lines of those developed for the Schools Commission grants. It is to be understood that courses which are funded under other programs of assistance by the Government will not be eligible for grants under this legislation.

I would like to mention in the context of this Bill, although the thought applies more widely, that we see considerable economies being effected if what are basically educational buildings are so designed that they are suitable for other uses. In approving major capital projects under this program, it would be appropriate for discussions to be held with the States on the multi-purpose use of buildings in the interests of ensuring the integration of community and educational needs.

I turn now to the individual grants which are being provided by the Bill. In all, the Bill appropriates $107,838,000, the bulk of which is allocated among the States broadly to reflect their student populations and their needs.

Capital Expenditure Grants

General building grants of $25.85m are to be provided under Section 6 of the Bill. These grants may be used for the preparation of development plans for technical colleges and similar institutions, for the purchase of land and for the construction and initial furnishing and equipping of the buildings. The grants of $ 1 5.087m for minor works and equipment which the Bill provides for should do much to ensure an improvement in the facilities available at existing colleges. Minor works are denned by the Bill as those which cost up to $40,000.

The Bill appropriates $4m for the construction of student residential accommodation for existing colleges. Accommodation at new colleges may be provided from the general building grants. We regard the provision of residential accommodation for technical college students as a most important and desirable feature of the legislation. Assistance for student accommodation has long been a recognized feature of our grants to universities but here, for the first time, we intend to provide accommodation for technical college students. These student residentials will facilitate the development of block release training, both for apprentices and for students taking other courses. Reasonably priced residential accommodation is essential for country students who need to attend colleges full time for at least part of their courses. The States will be invited to submit proposals for the residential projects at their existing colleges.

Recurrent Expenditure Grants

Parliament is being asked to make the first grants by an Australian Government towards the recurrent expenditure of technical institutions in the States. Previous grants to the States for technical training were specifically for the construction and equipping of training colleges and other institutions. The Bill appropriates $48. 63m for general purpose grants, which the States may spend on technical and further education as they see fit.

Included in the general purpose grant of $48. 63m is, as mentioned earlier, a component to compensate the States for the abolition of fees at technical colleges. The Committee's report recommends that a formula be developed for the provision of grants after December 1975 to cover loss of income resulting from fee abolition. We have not accepted the recommendation in this form. However, the States' needs and resources will be taken into account in recommending future grants, without making a notional separation of the amount which they would have received as fees had fees not been abolished.

Additional to the amounts provided for general purpose grants, the sum of $9.81 m is to be available to the States for expenditure in areas listed in Clause 14 of the Bill. These areas include curriculum research and development, improvement of library services and the provision of external study facilities and student counselling services. The States will be expected to submit general programs of their proposed expenditure in these areas in order to be eligible for payments from the $9.8 lm. Each State will need flexibility in allocating the amount available to it to suit its particular needs and the amounts and proportions which the report suggests should be used for particular purposes, are to serve only as a guideline. It is to be hoped that the States will be generous in allocating amounts to that purpose in Clause 14 which is concerned with the provision of staff to promote safety, health and welfare in individual colleges. We think it is right to place a high priority on expenditure in these areas.

Again as recommended by the report, the Bill provides recurrent expenditure grants for some specific purposes. The amounts are earmarked for the purposes designated because of the importance which the Committee places on stimulating qualitative improvement through initiating a range of innovative measures. Accordingly, the States will be expected to submit specific projects for approval. The purposes to which the grants may be put, referred to in clauses 1 7, 1 9 and 2 1 of the Bill, are- $2.4m for in-service teaching staff development; $805,000 in total for the provision of library furnishings, the training of library technicians and the investigation of the feasibility of a bibliographic centre; $lm for furthering the concept of unrestricted access to recurrent education; $56,000 for the development of proposals for community colleges; and $200,000 for the design of model library resource centres.

The Bill does not allocate among the States the last two items I have mentioned. The $56,000 is to be available for distribution among those States which wish to develop proposals for community colleges. We have no firm definition of what a community college should be because we would expect them to vary in nature and scope to meet particular community needs. Broadly, their purpose is to provide a wide range of courses, which could include courses enabling adults to make good deficiencies in their primary and secondary schooling, and courses at diploma level which are in demand by the community. Those colleges would be particularly valuable in locations removed from large metropolitan centres, opening new horizons to people cut off from the mainstreams of educational opportunities, assisting them to transfer from one type of course to another and encouraging the kind of broad based education which widens job prospects. The Darwin Community College is an example of what can be achieved in this area.

The $200,000 provided for the design of model library resource centres is also to be available to States which intend to develop these centres. States wishing to share in the funds for the development of community colleges and library resource centres will need to submit firm proposals. The total of the recurrent expenditure grants to the States is $62,901,000 over the 2-year period. It will be agreed that this amount will have a great influence on the number and quality of the teaching and ancillary staff at technical institutions.

The Bill before us is a States Grants Bill and as such it makes no provision for expenditure in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The broad principles of the Committee's report which the Government has accepted are to apply in these Territories as well as in the States and provision is being made elsewhere for expenditure in the Territories. In its examination of the barriers preventing ready access to technical and further education, the Committee refers to the special problems faced by people in rural areas, by women and girls, and by handicapped persons and migrants. Special consideration must be given to these groups when plans for the expenditure of the funds we are providing are being drawn up. The Minister shall be asking the States to ensure that the needs of these groups are taken into account by the various education authorities.

The pressure of Parliamentary business during this Budget session has been very great and for this reason alone we have decided to delay the introduction of legislation to establish the Technical and Further Education Commission as a statutory body. Obviously, the most important task is to get the money flowing into the technical colleges and to this end we have given priority to this Bill. Nevertheless, the work which will be undertaken by the Commission is being effectively carried out by the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education under the chairmanship of Professor Richardson of Macquarie University. We express our appreciation to him and to his Committee.

We live in a world of rapid technological change, change that is brought about by informed, creative people. Resistance to change and fear of change are natural attitudes when people cannot see the effects of change on themselves. We endorse the approach of the Kangan Committee that technical and further education should develop the general education of individuals as well as providing them with specialised training. In this way, people will become confident of meeting change because the breadth of their education fits them for alternative employment. I seek leave to have the table referred to earlier incorporated in Hansard.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-


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