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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2641

Mr GILES (Angas) - The one point of agreement between honourable members from both sides of the Parliament that seems to have come out of tonight's debate is that more funds should be found for teacher training and perhaps in-service teacher education. Member after member who has spoken, including the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), has supported just this concept. I can say - and no doubt honourable members opposite will laugh with their galahish cackles - that the former Government which comprised members from this side of the Parliament was the first government to give big funds to States for teacher training, and they were not utilised by some States within the first period of time they were allocated. It is no use holding the view that we should always judge our education record year in and year out by the effective expenditure on teacher training, the establishment of State schools, the establishment of libraries or science laboratories, when everybody knows that this Government has done more to ruin the value of the Australian dollar than has ever been done in recent history. It is no use the Government saying that it has a better record than the previous Government had. The criterion by which the nation will judge the education capacity of its children is the effective expenditure of funds.

Insofar as that is so, I would like for the first time in my life to get on the same side as the honourable member for Chifley because at least he says, although I cannot remember him doing so in debate - I can remember suggesting this from my own humble mouth 2 years ago - that schools should be open to the community to utilise the resources of those schools. I am reminded of the situation that applies in my electorate so often. Primary industry in the early 1950s was fairly affluent. Everybody was building, shall we say, a $15,000 shearing shed in case he had to shear about 60 per cent more sheep than he had ever shorn before. It was a waste of a resource. And so is the educational structure of Australia today a waste of a resource. I can name country towns in my own electorate where the taxpayer has financed magnificent libraries at schools, marvellous libraries, and some of those towns do not have a library for children to use when they leave school. What sort of stupidity is this?

This is not the first time that it has been suggested that greater use be made of school facilities. Of course it is a non-party matter. I know that I have suggested this many times before. For heavens sake, if this Federal Government wants to give leadership to the State governments, let it insist on what the honourable member for Chifley was saying and open up some of the doors and let people in to use the facilities that the taxpayer, not the Government, is providing. Of course I must talk from the point of view of my own electorate rather than from the point of view of cities that I do not know quite so well. I ask the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who I gather unfortunately cannot be here tonight, to look at some of these suggestions when he comes to study the speeches on the estimates of the Department of Education. The debate on the Estimates in this House and the other place is meant to provide an opportunity for honourable members and Senators to look at the expenditure of departments and to criticise it constructively if possible and to whether better effective expenditure can be made for the sake of the people and the children of this nation.

The honourable member for Chifley had the unmitigated gall to suggest that private schools should be the first to open their doors. Why should they? Apparently the honourable member regards this as his sole constructive suggestion for the sake of education. I remind him that the taxpayers finance the state schools, so if the Government wants to exercise leadership let it do so by opening the doors of state schools. A fact of life which Government supporters fail to recognise is that, as a result of the making of comparisons and through competition, eventually all schools may open their doors. But the ball is in the court of the honourable member for Chifley and his ilk. He is no longer in Opposition although sometimes he forgets it. Why should people who, by donation and fee, have helped establish and support private schools, and who also, by virtue of their taxation, have provided for the establishment of state schools, give leadership by opening the doors of private schools? In actual fact some private schools have already done so, although the honourable member for Chifley might not realise it. I know of two such instances where this has been done voluntarily by private schools to the great benefit of people outside the structure of those schools, which are located in country areas. Frankly there is not even a second prize for the honourable member's rather stupid and outmoded suggestion.

I was interested also in the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) who, I point out, won his seat from the Australian Labor Party despite the general swing against the then Government at the last election. I might add that I have some respect for the man he defeated. That person was in Parliament today. I note the fact that he will not be coming again. He has learned his lesson and realises that when one is up against a man of some competence one wants a safer situation than he had. I believe that the defeated member has nominated for the South Australian Upper House. It should be a remarkable situation if it ever comes to pass that he wins a seat in that chamber. However I will leave discussion of that possibility for another day. The point made so well by the honourable member for Sturt this evening was that if a party wants to remain in government it should not discriminate against schools in country areas or private schools in urban areas. If members opposite want to discriminate I suggest that they do the Politics I course again - that is, if they have even done it - because they will learn that if people have wealth the democratic way of coping with that situation is to tax them on that wealth. The Government should patch up its taxation system, because from taxation it can get funds to treat those people who are not so well off in an unequal manner so that their children may have some equality in life when their turn comes. But in all equity, if freedom is to remain in Australia, you should not tax people virtually 3 times. The Government should do what it aims to do - and Lord save us I do not agree with it - through the taxation structure. Having done that and got the funds it should let people choose where to send their children to school. There is no earthly need to hit them twice.

I would proffer another piece of free advice to members of the Government back benches. We all know it is a matter of grave doubt as to who leads what around which corner at present. If Government supporters see any merit in the situation where Caucus can reverse the policy of Cabinet or reverse the policy that its leaders put forward at election time, I suggest that next time they do not put those leaders in a position where a Minister looks a bloody liar. If he goes to the people and says that no circumstances will be changed-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The expression that the honourable member for Angas used was unparliamentary and I request its withdrawal.

Mr GILES - If that is so, Dr Jenkins, I certainly withdraw it. The only point I seek to make is that if the Labor Party goes to the people and its policy speech is delivered by its leaders, members of that Party have a nerve if, after being elected, they do not allow the promises contained therein to be implemented. No matter what term is applied to this circumstance, that is what has happened and that is why people - many of them quite poor, to quote the honourable member for Sturt again - who have worked their hands to the bone to make sure their kids take advantage of a free education system and can go to whatever school they choose, find themselves facing hardship. I say again to the Government: Make the taxation levels different if you must, but let the people of this nation choose what they want to do and use their parental responsibility in bringing up their children in the fashion they consider right and proper.

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