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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2220

Mr TURNER - I am all for the building up of excellence but what I deplore is the destruction of excellence. It is easy enough to destroy. When the barbarians came in on the Roman Empire they destroyed much that they could not rebuild. Honourable members opposite, as barbarians, are destroying the excellent schools that have excellent facilities. The honourable member talks about building up excellence.

Dr Jenkins - In 23 years your Government built up no excellence at all.

Mr TURNER - The honourable gentleman is entitled to his opinion and no doubt if he can get the call he will be able to express it in this chamber. But I am expressing my opinion at this moment and I will not have any interjections from the honourable gentleman. If he has something to say, let him get on his feet and say it, but he should not continue interjecting while I am speaking. All of us are agreeable that measures should be taken to assist those who are handicapped in one way or another - for example, mentally or physically handicapped, migrant children, children with specific learning difficulties and children in slums. Of course we all agree with this. But does the Government have to reduce the small amount that it has been providing to the independent schools in order to do so? This is a program that costs tens of millions of dollars. This Government would take away a trivial amount on the pretext that it was necessary to assist it in doing those other things. Promises were given before the election by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who is seated at the table that this would not be done, and those promises were broken. But I am not making political points. I am concerned that as barbarians the supporters of this Government are destroying excellence - a rare and precious thing. I believe that this is a wicked thing to do.

Most debates in this chamber on education, most debates in this community, in State parliaments and everywhere revolve around questions on classrooms, equipment, teacher pupil ratio and all those material things. Nobody ever seems to think about the values that are instilled into the minds of children. Yet surely this is the objective of any education. The places in which these values are instilled are in homes, in schools and by television. The things that are going into the minds of children through television are quite deplorable, yet we do nothing about it. In many cases, unfortunately because it is not the fault of the parents, the homes are not able to supply what is best for the values of the children. It is only in the schools that this can be done. So this Government has set out to destroy schools which seek to develop rounded personalities.

The real objectives of education were established in the days of the Renaissance in Italy by that greatest of all humanist educators, Vittorino da Feltre. about whom the Minister would know very well. Vittorino da Feltre realised that it was a question not only of the intellectual development of children but also of the development of their characters, the development of their bodies and rounded personalities. The schools such as the one to which I have referred have sought to instil these particular values. Of course it should be done generally. I agree with my friend opposite, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr

Jenkins), that they should be built up. For heaven's sake build them up and do not seek to destroy them because this is what this Government is doing and it is doing it in a miserable fashion. I believe it is doing it out of envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness and not as honourable members opposite say to provide a few extra dollars for the people who really need assistance. It is not for that purpose at all. It is because of envy, hatred and malice. I believe this to be true. I deplore it. I am not seeking to make political points here but I simply deplore a policy that I believe to be absolutely and utterly miserable.

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