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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2642

Mr OLDMEADOW (Holt) - I have listened with great interest to this debate. The first speaker in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Education accused the Government of being barbarians destroying excellence in schools. We have heard of category A schools and how the Government is cutting them down because it is not giving aid to them. We have heard also a vehement attack on teachers. Let us get some perspective in respect of what has been done and is aimed to be done in the field of education through this Budget. I think it would be agreed that from the point of view of the Government the starting point - this strangely has been missing in the debate so far - is children and the opportunities open to them. As a Government we have been concerned at what the previous Government failed to do in this area. We believe that all children, from pre-school age through to university, should have every opportunity to equality in education. We believe in excellence through equality of opportunity, not excellence through privilege, which seems to be the view of members opposite.

To get some sort of balance I believe one must look at what is aimed at in the field of education this year. In 1973-74 it is proposed to increase the allocation to universities by $123m; to colleges of advanced education and teachers colleges by $1 11.5m; to technical education by $26. 8m; to schools and preschools by $121. 3m; and to special groups - Aboriginals, migrant children, isolated children and the like - by $19.5m. Whereas the previous Government, for all its talk, was prepared to put up in cash in its last Budget $439m for education, this Government is proposing an expenditure of $843m, which is a 90 per cent increase.

Let us consider for a moment some of the criticisms that have been thrown at the Government. There has been preoccupation with the situation of category A schools - a preoccupation with the 2 per cent of children who attend those schools and almost a refusal by members opposite to talk about the other 98 per cent of children in other schools, whether they be independent schools or government schools. The Government has been accused of cutting off assistance to independent schools, but let us examine the facts. It is a strange way to cut off assistance when the Government increases threefold the amount of money to be given to independent schools. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) spoke of the Government's hidden plan, the one it has not yet revealed. It is interesting that no Government supporters know anything about it. Apparently the deep down plan is eventually to eliminate aid in progressive steps. We have knocked off the top group and apparently we are going to knock off the rest. What utter rubbish that is. An interesting point is that I was just glancing at a newspaper and 1 noticed that a certain bishop of the Catholic Church has made a similar statement. The honourable member for Bendigo in his speech expressed concern about category A schools, but on a quick check of the list I find that he does not have a category A school in his electorate. Therefore, apparently he is not interested in representing his own electorate. What he is interested in doing is trying to score a few hollow political points. Believe me when I say that they are pretty hollow because his facts were not even right.

In the field of government schools, we note that in the next 2 years there is to be a twelvefold increase in expenditure. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) explained this business of resources and told us how there is a spread from something like 40 to 260. He said that the aim is to lift the resources of government schools. It was found, of course, that the Catholic schools were in the greatest need. We believe that we do not have to get down on our knees and plead to the people of Australia. We want to help the people who are in greatest need. We believe that this is what is right, and we stand by it. We are not ashamed of the fact that we believe that money should go first to where there is need. That is the way in which we have arranged our expenditure in this Budget.

Tonight we had the astounding situation of 2 members of the Opposition making a vehement attack on teachers. They were the honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke). They have even continued their attack since then by way of interjection.

Mr Kerin - The 32-hour week.

Mr OLDMEADOW - Yes, the 32-hour week. It was said that teachers lack dedication and that they are the first out of the door, beating the pupils. I nearly said *we* instead of 'they9 because, after all, I was a teacher for 25 years. I happen to know what happens in schools. The honourable member for Petrie is in the chamber, but the honourable member for Bendigo is not. I can only say to the honourable member for Petrie that he was talking arrant nonsense when he attacked teachers in such a manner. My experience as a teacher and my experience over the last 9 years in the training of teachers is that they are as dedicated a group as there is in die communitity. I would defend teachers in any place. I find it difficult to understand why there was such an attack tonight. I can only put it down to complete ignorance because those who made it have not been in government schools. Maybe they have been in category A schools. I do not know what happens in those schools, but I do know that that does not happen in government schools - at least in my own State.

Who is to blame for the fact that the morale of teachers has broken down considerably in recent years? Why has it happened? It has happened because a succession of LiberalCountry Party governments have simply failed to give teachers adequate training. I support the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) in stressing the importance of teacher education. We as a government agree with it. It is for that reason that we have increased greatly the expenditure recommended by the Special Committee on Teacher Education - the Cohen Committee - in its report. In fact, we have increased it to in the vicinity of $188m. I believe that the Government has everything to be proud of in what it is doing in the field of education. In every way it has set a target that is a worthy one and one which in the field of education as distinct from the Opposition benches - among teachers and members of university staffs - I know, has given new heart to people who were dispirited. For the first time education has been given the priority it deserves.

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