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Thursday, 29 April 1965

Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) . - As this is my fourth bite at the cherry, I am afraid that my remarks will be almost as disjointed as the opportunities I have had to make them. However, it seems to me that the Martin Report is so important that I cannot let this debate pass without adding my comments. I have endeavoured to approach the matter absolutely on a non-party basis and to give the chief points on which I would like the Minister to express the views of the Government in his reply. 1 have pointed out what I believe to be the necessity for the abolition of fees at universities. This step would not greatly increase the amount of Commonwealth grants. I believe that additional assistance should be granted to the States for teacher training colleges because any system of education is dependent for its strength upon the standards of the teachers who form such a vital part of it.

In examining the Martin Report as a whole, the Australian Labour Party affirms certain points which I should like now to state. These points have been enumerated by the Labour Party's educational committee and are as follows -

We endorse the insertion in the report of a clear need for an inquiry into all other levels of education.

I said last evening that tertiary education is only one section, and not the most important section of our .educational system. Tertiary education cannot be a success if the primary and secondary stages of education are not duly regarded. Labour's statement of policy continues -

Tertiary education should not be considered in isolation and this fact is responsible for some weaknesses in the report.

A full inquiry would best be conducted, we believe, continuously by a ministry and department of education in the fullest national sense. At present the State Departments of Education administer the educational policy within their own States. There is a need for a truly national system of education which is more concerned with educational problems at a national level. Perhaps it could become an extension of the Commonwealth Office of Education which to many people is most bewildering, because they are led to believe by that title that the Commonwealth is already taking a wide interest in education.' If the Commonwealth does not see fit to establish a ministry and department of education, there could be set up by the Government an education committee to carry out this work. I would prefer to see a joint committee of both Houses formed as a preliminary step to the other concept. A great deal of expense is not involved and very little organisation would be needed. The committee could report to this Parliament on the educational problems of this country. 1 believe that in that field the Senate could do a worthwhile job. In my opinion the committee would be able to do a better job if it were a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament. The statement continues -

We endorse the recommendations of the Martin Report on teacher education, especially the recommendations for the establishment of autonomous teacher training authorities and the extension of Commonwealth scholarships to student teachers.

Apparently the Commonwealth Government does not endorse that recommendation of the Martin Committee. The statement then continues -

While giving general support to the proposals of the Martin Report on technological education the party affirms the need for raising the standards of general education in technical institutions, lt also calls for a change in the attitude of the employers towards schemes for day release and part-time courses. Students should be free to spend more of their time studying so as to raise standards of achievement in the national interest. In a world of rapidly changing technology the skilled worker needs flexibility beyond the requirements of an immediate employer.

I said this morning that while the report stresses the utilitarian aspects of tertiary education, we believe that it does not face up to the other section of educational requirements which has come so much to the fore in these times of scientific advancement. Much more leisure has been given to people in industry and automation will enable them to have much more free time. We should have an educational programme which enables that leisure to be well spent and not allowed to lead to so much deliquency. Problems can arise when leisure time is not well spent. The statement continues -

The party considers the Martin Report lacks clarity in its recommendations for non-vocational tertiary colleges.

Our doubts arise here that a cheaper form of tertiary education may be provided. We do not want a second class type of education. We want the establishment of liberal arts colleges of high standard and capable of awarding internationally recognised degrees, but not proceeding to post-graduate research. That still remains one of the functions of the universities. The statement then goes on to say -

If the Martin Report envisages anything less than this it is reactionary and inadequate. In any event it needs clarification . . .

We would like the Government to state its views more clearly on these colleges. We also think that there is a need for a better and more nationally supported system of adult education. A radical improvement is necessary in secondary education, particularly to deal with the fall-out problem. The reasons should be established why so many students who begin their secondary education do not complete it. It is of no use talking about tertiary education if our secondary education is inadequate.

We also believe that the training of secondary teachers as well as tertiary teachers needs to be improved upon. I should like to pay tribute to the teachers in the primary and secondary fields and also to those in technical schools and universities who very often work in very poor conditions. The teachers in Australia who have the best working conditions are those in the National Capital. Many of my friends of my teaching days who come here from other States arc envious of their colleagues who work in the National Capital. However, we still have not in Canberra a teachers training college. That is something else which has not been mentioned in the Martin Committee's report.

The Martin Committee envisaged the establishment of an Australian Tertiary Education Commission. To establish such a body would be to narrow the field very much. We would like to see established a Ministry of Education which, as I said earlier, could investigate not only tertiary education but the whole field of education from the primary level to the tertiary level. There should be more active national support for research, including the field of social science. The Martin Committee recommended the establishment of a National Science Foundation. We heartily agree with that recommendation. We believe that such a body is long overdue.

I wish to end on the note on which I began. The Australian Labour Party has very strong views about the provision of free university education throughout Australia. We talk much about our free education system. If we really believe that education should be free, why do we in practice provide for free education only at the primary and secondary levels? The Commonwealth Government is already paying portion of the fees that have to be paid by' university students, but that represents only a very small part of the whole of university revenue. The expenditure of an additional sum of £3 million or £4 million a year would enable every student in Aus.ralia who is qualified to undertake such education to receive the benefit of a university education without any fear of being rejected solely on economic grounds.

As I did last night, I congratulate members of the Martin Committee upon the report that has been presented to the Parliament. Although I do not believe that the Committee has gone far enough or that the Government has promised to act upon sufficient of the Committee's recommendations, I realise the magnitude of the problem which confronted those who were called upon to investigate tertiary education. I am sorry that their terms of reference were not wider. They have done an excel-' lent job within the terms of reference that they were given, and I should like to thank them for their efforts. The presentation of the Committee's report and the public interest that it has aroused throughout the community cannot but do good for the. cause of education as a whole.

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