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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2297

The CHAIRMAN -Order! The honourable member for Bendigo is listed to speak in the debate. I suggest that he does so when his turn comes.

Mr BEAZLEY - Only 28 per cent of state school children complete a secondary education, so that the rest cannot go on to tertiary education. But leaving that aside, there is the other consideration of other ways of assisting parents. If we restore the grants to A schools in the 2 years 1974-75 it would cost us $7m. If we abolish income tax concessions over $150 in the same 2 years* that would return $55m in revenue to the Commonwealth Treasury. It is very clearly a fact that the higher the income group to which a person belongs the more he benefits by income tax concessions. The 30 per cent of taxpayers who are claimants of educational concessions of more than $150 a year will get $55m back in taxation concessions in the next 2 years, which is more than the $50m that Karmel recom mends for disadvantaged schools. The 70 per cent of taxpayers claiming less than $150 in the same 2 years will get back $35m.

The honourable member for Forrest spoke about the absence of a kindergarten education program. We are the inheritors of the past Government's policies on kindergartens. We have taken on the onerous obligation of attempting to spread throughout Australia in the next 6 years, or launching a program that will do it in the next 6 years, a program of kindergarten education or pre-school education equivalent to that which exists in the Australian Capital Territory. As an initial step we have made all pre-school or kindergarten training colleges entirely free and, without means tests, paid all the students who are training for that form of teaching a living allowance. I am sure the honourable member for Forrest will recognise that one cannot get pre-school teachers instantly - like instant coffee; they have to be trained. We have had to start the training. Before there can be developed throughout the country an adequate pre-school education we must have, first and foremost, the teachers, although I am bound to say that initially in the Australian Capital Territory a lot of this began with the self-help of parents rather than professional teachers.

Mr Drummond - The children in these rural areas are really too young to send anyway.

Mr BEAZLEY - I realise that if there is .any distance to be travelled, obviously there are going to be difficulties with pre-school education. Country children also do .not have the environment of the high rise concrete jungle areas of the cities. Very often they have freedom of movement and space in the country, which may to some extent mean that they do not need pre-school education to the same degree as other children, although they do not get the intellectual stimulus of association.

The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) did not seem to know whether to accuse supporters of the Government of being centralisers or demand that we be centralisers. I assure the honourable member that I will not have the power of decision as to what university sets up an Asian language faculty. I am not controlling universities. We are making grants to the States for them to pass on to universities. The measures concerned are called States Grants (Universities) Bills. I do not run the timetables, courses, appointments or anything else of the universities. If I had the power to make those sorts of decisions it would really be the centralisation of which we are accused coming in with a vengeance.

I would like to make some comments about what the honourable member for Darling Downs had to say about SPELD - specific learning difficulties. The honourable member is confusing decisions by tertiary institutions about courses in Asian languages and teaching the handicapped with departmental expenditure on an Asian language curriculum studies and support for the SPELD organisation. SPELD, with its specific learning difficulties policy, is dealing with handicapped children. The Karmel exercise has us making to the States an entirely new grant of $43. 5m for handicapped children, which is the field in which SPELD deals, and $ 10.2m for the training of those who are already teachers to be teachers of the handicapped. Of course, in the 5188m for teachers colleges there is an amount for the setting up of special courses to train the new younger teachers to be teachers of the handicapped. The courses approved by tertiary institutions will be funded by the Australian Universities Commission or the Australian Colleges of Advanced Education Commission, based on submissions from the institutions themselves. Honourable members opposite seem to forget that an interim committee which is set up, even the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, does not make decisions of itself. The States specified to the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission what they thought were their disadvantaged schools. That is how the grants have been determined; just as the universities make their submissions to the Australian Universities Commission and so on. I hope honourable gentlemen opposite will recognise that the Karmel operation was directed by its assessment of the evidence put to it.

I assure the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), who spoke in a very personal way just before I commenced to speak, that first and foremost not from one cover to another does the Karmel report - the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission - make one reference to wealthy schools. I have never seen a stalkinghorse dragged around like that one. Who called them wealthy schools? Karmel did not. He took the information which they gave him. Very often it was inaccurate information; they overrated their resources; they did all sorts of things like that. A lot of what have been called appeals are not appeals at all; they are corrections of facts. But that is a matter for later discussion. He took what they stated and compared their resources with those of state schools.

The honourable member for Deakin asked why $800 should be spent on one child. I presume that is what he thinks is the average spent on a state school child. According to the Australian Education Council, which is comprised of all the State Ministers for Education, it is about $511. It supplied the Government of which he was a supporter with that information. Correcting his figure from $800 to $511, what he asked was: 'Why should the whole $51 1 per pupil not be given to an independent school?' Of course, on that basis it would cease to be an independent school because one would insist upon total accessibility if it were totally financed by the state. The point is that the government supported by the honourable gentleman never did that. It did not take over the funding of education from the States. The essence of the Karmel operation is to look at the defects in state education and try to plug the holes and to look at the defects in nongovernment education and try to plug the holes. I am a little concerned about this question of what religion got the money. I have pointed out before that there are 1,768 Catholic schools in this country and 108 Anglican schools. The Anglican schools are outnumbered 16 to 1. On any system of grants that we like to devise what result would we expect?

But, coming to the per capita expenditure, some criticism has been made of the fact that there will be a weighted expenditure in favour of disadvantaged schools. I do not believe that we could ever again, use the staff-student ratio as a test. Nobody knew that it was going to be used as a test. But since 80 per cent of the recurring costs of education are teachers' salaries, if one school of 500 children has 50 teachers it must necessarily have a high degree of affluence. No advantage was conferred on the Catholic schools with their teaching orders because they were assumed to have salaries, if they did not have them. If there were 50 Christian Brothers they were counted as having $6,800 salary each, which would give something like 5340,000 to be divided by the number of students, and that gave the comparable figure with the state school's figure of $511 per pupil.

The Karmel operation is only the first 2 years of a 6-year plan. It is not a barbarian plan to destroy the non-government schools. It is a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government to spend $2,000m, at 1973 values of the dollar, over 6 years to try to bring all schools up to a level that is 140 per cent of the state school level of resources. A school which is already at 140 per cent of the state school level of resources - some are at 270 per cent - is beyond what all the other schools are going to be in 6 years time. It has therefore been held that the Commonwealth should again bring in its grants later on but that while this operation is on it should phase them out. 1 am not going to say that that is the law of the Medes and Persians.

People are talking as if the legislation about the 'A' schools - we will not know the number of 'A' schools until the whole of the analysis has been completed - had already been introduced; it has not. Until 31 December of this year, what is happening in the schools is happening under the legislation introduced by the previous Government in September 1972. We said we will continue it for a year and that after that the allocation to the nongovernment sector would be reapportioned. Many honourable members have commented on Karmel's recurring grants but no-one has commented on the fact that he doubles the capital grants to non-government schools.

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