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Wednesday, 28 April 1965

Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) . - I thank the Government for the opportunity to acknowledge in the Senate the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia to the Australian Universities Commission. I listened quite intently to the very long speech that was made by Senator Cohen. I listened also to the recommendations which he put forward to the Senate on behalf of the parliamentary section of the Australian Labour Party. I have read the amendment to the motion by the Minister, which has been circulated. I intend to oppose the amendment. I take it that Government supporters in the Senate will do likewise.

Dealing first with the report, it may interest honorable senators to know that this report comprises 413 foolscap sized pages which are closely packed with facts, figures, findings and recommendations. It is a momentous document. I do not think it deserves the rather unkind reference that Senator Cohen made to quite a portion of it. He called it a reactionary report. In my opinion, it is a stimulating and original type of report. The action on the report which has been promised by the Government is, as it were, an instalment. There has to be action taken by the State Governments. Up to the present time I have not seen any specific action taken by the respective State Governments in the matter.

I think that the history of the report is worth recounting to the Senate. On 27th August 1961 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced the composition of the Committee which the Government established to inquire into the future of tertiary education. It was established as a subcommittee, as it were, of the Australian Universities Commission. All the members of the Commission were appointed to the Committee, and some other distinguished people were subsequently appointed. When the Prime Minister made his opening statement concerning the Martin Committee, he recalled that the recommendations of the Murray Committee, and more recently of the Australian Universities Commission, had been accepted by the Commonwealth Government and by the State Governments, with the result that there had been vastly increased grants for universities since 1958. Putting the Martin Committee in proper perspective, its appointment was a result of the great impetus which tertiary education received following the report of the Murray Committee in 1958. The Prime Minister said that the Committee would make a wide ranging investigation and it was hoped that it would be able to complete its work and submit its recommendations before the end of the 1961-63 triennium, that is, before the end of 1963. But, alas, this was not possible. This was a comprehensive matter, which involved the interrogation of 300 or 400 separate institutions and people. It involved also a visit to the United States of America by some members of the Committee. So we have had to wait a little longer than was first expected for the report of the Committee.

It goes to the credit of the Committee that it made such a comprehensive report, thoroughly studded with tables, diagrams and even illustrations of aspects into which it inquired. When the Prime Minister announced the appointment of the Committee, he expressed the hope that it would have the benefit of advice and co-operation from the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee, the university staffs, the Commonwealth Office of Education and the State Departments of Education. From my reading of this report, I get the impression that great help was received from all those instrumentalities. I was particularly interested to note the great work done by certain departments of the Australian

National University for which this Parliament has assumed such a great responsibility. I believe that this report will circulate throughout the world amongst scholars and educationists and will be received with great acclaim in such circles. One reason is that the cream of Australian thinkers was brought in to form the Committee. There were university administrators, academics from all of the disciplines, men of the land, manufacturers, and commercial figures. This was a real galaxy of talent and I think that this Parliament should give great praise to the Committee for the quality of the work that it did.

I should like to congratulate the Government upon seizing the nettle and saying, after a careful consideration of the report, what it intended to do, because after all so many reports come to the Parliament, are debated and redebated after debates have been adjourned, and nothing seems to happen. Here we are fortunate in having a report and at the same time having the Government's decision. This is quite important, because the grants that this Government intends to make are, in quite a number of cases, required to be met by the State Governments - with regard to capital expenses on a one to one basis, and with regard to what are virtually running expenses, on a basis of one to 1.85. So the States know exactly where they stand with regard to the matters upon which this Government has agreed to act.

From place to place throughout the Minister's statement one reads that the Government is giving further consideration to one aspect, that the Government would like the Vice Chancellors' Committee to consider another aspect, and so on. It is very good that the Government has committed itself and that the States know where they stand. Despite what Senator Cohen says, this was a straight out way of handling the problem, in order to get the thing started. It is well to remind the Senate that under our constitution the States have normal constitutional responsibility for matters of education. Even though Senator Cohen acknowledged this, he did not go along with the argument. Although it was important that the Commonwealth should define its attitude, one should not lose sight of the fact that the primary and normal responsibility for education lies with the States. It is im- portant for this to be noted by the Senate when it considers the whole question of teacher training.

Senator Cohenhas quite forcefully pointed out that he regards the whole question of teacher training as the heart of this report. Although this is a very important field, it is quite understandable that the Commonwealth is not prepared to enter it. This has been the exclusive responsibility of the States in the past, because they have a very big responsibility with regard to education. Each State has its own method of educating at the primary level and at the secondary level and it is in the teacher training colleges that the teachers are trained for these levels.

Senator Cohen - Is teacher training any different in principle from, say, technical training or any other aspect of education that is normally a State matter?

Senator LAUGHT - I regard teacher training as bound up closely with the State Education Departments. They always run the primary and secondary schools. It is logical that they should be responsible for the training of teachers to teach in the States.

Senator Tangney - Who trains teachers for the universities?

Senator LAUGHT - They are usually trained at the respective universities or overseas.

Senator Gorton - Not in teacher training colleges, which are for primary teachers.

Senator LAUGHT - The States have been carrying on these activities quite properly. My own State of South Australia has built a noticeable building in recent years for the purpose of teacher training. The building of 11 storeys at Kintore Avenue, Adelaide, is beautifully equipped, I understand. So far as I have detected, there has been no request from South Australia, at any rate, for the Commonwealth to enter the field of teacher training. I think that the Commonwealth Government is quite within its rights in saying at this point of time that it does not intend to follow the recommendation of the Committee on the question of teacher training. After all, this Government is a responsible government. It has a certain budget. It decides upon great and increasing allotments to the States each year for the normal services of the States. By adopting certain of the recommendations contained in this report the Government is doing something in addition to what it normally does for the States. In the past its calculations have been based on the assumption that the States will carry on their responsibilities in relation to primary education, teacher training and the like. I do not think it is fair to criticise the Government for failing to implement those parts of the report which it has decided not to accept. If and when the Minister replies to this discussion I should like him to say whether he has heard from any State Minister for Education what the States intend to to in regard to matching the grants that are proposed.

Senator Gorton - I have not heard as yet.

Senator LAUGHT - I thought that would possibly be the case because I have not been able to detect any reaction on the part of the South Australian Minister for Education. Let us consider for a moment what the Commonwealth is prepared to do about the recommendations contained in the report. .1 hope to be able to put the matter in true perspective and to show that the Commonwealth is prepared to do quite a lot for tertiary students and for universities, although that is not the primary purpose of the report, and to foster the development of a broad comprehensive system of tertiary education with an emphasis different from, but complementary to, the tertiary education provided by universities.

Let me deal first with Commonwealth University open entrance scholarships. Before 1963 there were 4,000 such scholarships. At the end of 1963 there were 5,000 and at the end of 1965 there will be 6,000. So, within the last two or three years there has been a 50 per cent, increase in what we have always known as Commonwealth scholarships - those open entrance scholarships which cover a student's first University degree at least. Then there are the scholarships known as later year awards. Those scholarships are awarded to students in their second and subsequent years. Before 1963 there were only 780 such scholarships. At the end of 1963 there were 1,280 and by the end of this year there will be 1,530. This is an increase of about 100 per cent, in the last three years.

I know that the Martin Committee suggested that every student who had successfully completed his first year's study should be entitled to these later year awards, but the Government said that it did not want to implement the suggestion in that way. Instead it decided to make this rather startling increase in the number of these scholarships.

Then there are the tertiary education scholarships for students who come from the secondary schools. By the end of this year the number will have increased from 6,280 to 8,530. Of these, 7,530 will be tenable at universities and 1,000 at the new technical institutions to which I shall refer in some detail in a moment. It can be seen that on the scholarships aspect also this report is important and the Government's actions are quite impressive.

I want to put these views before the Senate because one obtained the impression from Senator Cohen that the Government's actions are of no great consequence. I detected the idea running through Senator Cohen's speech that the Government was actually ruling out sections of the report and casting them aside. I point out that in certain instances where the report suggested something the Government went the second mile. It did not merely rule out pieces here and there and leave the remainder. It actually did more, in soma instances, than the Committee suggested. I believe that the Government was wise in granting scholarships to part time students. Admittedly the results obtained by part time students are not as good as those obtained by full time students, as the report shows, but I think the Government displayed great imagination in determining that despite that fact, there was a need for the encouragement of part time students. After all, part time students, having the benefit of variation in their study and their work, sometimes are of greater value to the community than are full time students who engage themselves on the academic side without having any contact with the practical side. So I am very glad that the Government has seen the wisdom of pushing the part time students along with the aid of the scholarships.

As a South Australian I acknowledge the suggestion in the report relating to the new university at Bedford Park about 7 or 8 miles south of Adelaide. This shows that the Government quickly realised the importance of ensuring that Bedford Park opens on time in 1966. The Martin Committee recommended the expenditure of an additional £400,000. Assuming that the State Labour Government in South Australia matches the expenditure-

Senator Gorton - It will.

Senator LAUGHT - In that case Bedford Park will benefit to the extent of £400,000 and will open on time. I express my appreciation of this direct help in the constructing and equipping of that building. I have now dealt with scholarships and this important capital accretion to the university in South Australia. Of course, this does not apply only to that State but I am highlighting it to illustrate my point. I want to spend some little time now discussing the new concept referred to in the Minister's statement to the Senate. As I see it, this new concept which the Minister claims to be the heart of the report is that Australia, during the next decade, should develop advanced education in virtually new types of colleges. The Minister said -

These colleges would provide for those students who, though qualified, do not wish to undertake a full university course, or whose chosen course is not considered appropriate for a university or whose level at passing matriculation indicated a small chance of graduation from a university in minimum time or minimum time plus one year.

This most imaginative part of the report has also attracted the attention of the Government which has fully supported the idea. The Committee recommended that in these colleges there should be appropriate courses in the liberal arts for young men and women taking up administrative positions in commerce, industry and government. Such colleges could be of great value as they would be spread all around Australia. As one who has been honoured by this Senate to be a member of the Council of the Australian National University I think it is beyond doubt that the young men and women of Canberra who attend that University and who work in government positions are greatly enriched in their approach to their daily life and are of great value to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. With these colleges or tertiary education institutions spread throughout the Commonwealth, the State Governments and municipal bodies will receive great help from the advanced learning open to students attending these colleges. They will make a valuable contribution to State and municipal government and also to the Commonwealth Public Service in the State capitals and larger provincial cities.

These tertiary colleges will be of a higher standard than secondary schools but not quite the standard of the universities and I hope they will find a place in the provincial areas. In this connection I am encouraged to see in the report the list of possible sites. It is recommended that in New South Wales there should be one each at Bathurst and Wagga; in Victoria, one each at Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo; in Queensland, at Darling Downs and Rockhampton; and in South Australia, the South Australian Institute of Technology. The Government, of course, wants more time to consider the locations of these colleges but I mention that list to show that there are prospects of education of a tertiary nature in the provincial cities which can be of great importance to the areas concerned.

The Martin Committee's report also referred to the various categories of colleges. It is interesting to note that in tertiary education in Australia at present there are universities, residential colleges, teachers colleges, technical colleges, theological colleges, agricultural and forestry colleges, non-departmental teachers training and para-medical colleges, library training and music colleges and a group covering other colleges. So before this report was issued there was a wide spectrum of colleges in the general classification of tertiary education. I hope that as the idea of these colleges develops, theological and musical as well as technological matters will receive attention.

My time has practically gone and I shall conclude by saying that the Australian Labour Party, like all Opposition parties, has adopted the attitude that not enough has been promised by the Government in connection with this report. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Opposition in its claim that not enough was done. But we must be reasonable in the consideration of this matter. There has been a noticeable lift in the number of scholarships provided in the past few years. In my earlier remarks I cited percentages to show that a considerable increase in the number of scholarships has been promised. I have shown the wide spread of the Government's interest in tertiary education throughout the States and the provincial cities.

I would say that the time has not yet arrived for the Government to enter into primary and secondary education in general. 1 think that the establishment of a ministry of education as envisaged in the amendment of the Australian Labour Party is not appropriate at this point of time. The approach of the Government has been cautious with due regard to its financial responsibilities. Earlier today we debated decisions by the United States of America on its balance of payments problem and the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and President Johnson. This should strike a note of caution in our hearts and in our thinking and should remind us that there is a lot to be done in Australia. The Government has allotted a fair proportion of its resources towards implementing recommendations of the Martin Committee. Therefore, I support the motion that the Senate should take note of the report and I reject the amendment moved by Senator Cohen on behalf of the Opposition.

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