Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 May 1965

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) . - I last discussed the Martin report on tertiary education in Australia a week ago. I dealt with the subject largely in a philosophic manner. I discussed whether or not the idea of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in seeking to establish what I might call a secondary group of universities in country areas where it was not possible to erect fully fledged universities might not be an attempt to implement a form of education which did not reach university standard. That was the theme I was developing, rightly or wrongly, when I resumed my seat.

During the last week I have contacted a few educationists who live in Wagga and Tamworth. They think as I do. They are not sure that the Government does not intend to give them a second class institution of less than university standard and that in so doing it will reduce the quality of education in these areas. I do not know whether such reasoning is right or wrong. But, as I said last week, again philosophically, even if secondary institutions of the kind that the Prime Minister has in mind - I think he calls them junior colleges - are to be made available to members of the community who want to pursue their education for one reason or another, and if there is no other way of catering for the mass of the people, in whom of course I am interested, it would be better to have that type of education than have no education at all. Some people want to be educated for other than utilitarian reasons; very many want to undertake further education just for the sake of being educated.

The Australian Labour Party has appointed committees to consider various specialist subjects, including one to deal with education. I am a member of the education committee. Members of this committee have considered the Martin report. Generally speaking, the members of the committee, and the Labour Party caucus generally, think that the report is a good one and that, although it has been criticised, it is a step in the right direction. Members of the Labour Party's committee not only considered the report themselves, but also invited expert opinion. Experts sat in with us and discussed the problem of education throughout Australia. We are very thankful to people from the University of Sydney and the Australian National University who discussed the subject with us. Of course, their support, and their criticisms, of the report had an academic base and probably necessarily so, because the academics really have been the driving force behind the moye for more education, particularly improved tertiary education, in Australia.

As a result of their discussions and their consideration of the Martin report, members of the committee believe that there is a general demand by the Australian community for increased opportunities for higher education. That is a very fine thing, and the Government ought to do all it can to satisfy that demand. The Government is not doing all that the Martin Committee has suggested - probably no Government could implement all its recommendations - but at least what it is doing is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the Government is not doing enough.

Members of the Labour Party's education committee gleaned from the experts with whom they discussed this subject that the Martin report has established the principle that higher education in both the sciences and the humanities is an essential for solidarity and progress. Education in the sciences, of course, embraces technological education. Nowadays there is a tendency to talk not so much about the humanities as about the need for more technicians and scientists. There is a need for such men, but the need for a study of the humanities ought not to be forgotten. The Martin Committee has adopted the attitude that the sciences and the humanities are co-related and ought to be kept together. That is a very good attitude to adopt. The report of the Martin Committee states also that primary, secondary and tertiary education are inter-dependent. I am of that opinion myself. It is necessary to go right back to the primary stage to complete the task of reviewing our education needs. For years the Labour Party has referred to the need for an all round inquiry into education from the primary level to the university level. I think most honorable senators opposite would agree that such an inquiry should be held. Half the educational world does not know how the other half lives. I believe that every Australian child is entitled to the best education it is possible to obtain. The Governments should have a knowledge of the form of education the children are receiving. Without particularising, some students in Australian schools get through because of their sheer ability but the system breaks down in many cases at the primary level. The Martin report draws attention to that shortcoming and I am pleased that it does.

The Martin report states that the economic growth of Australia is dependent upon a high and advancing level of education. We all know that is true and I am again pleased that the report emphasises that point. It seems to me that we should examine the attitudes of governments to education. All governments look upon the cost of education as a great burden. In this country where there is an intensification of capitalism and the corporation system of ownership of industry, I believe that industry should pay its share of the cost of education. The centralisation of industry continues to grow and I do not think that the community should carry alone the responsibility of finding the money to provide scientists, technicians and all the people with top level education necessary to back industry. Some of the burden of educating those people should be carried by industry. In some countries education taxes are paid and I think we ought to examine that aspect in Australia. Throughout the report frequent references are made to the needs of industry. I doubt that there are ten pages in the report that do not contain such a reference. I appreciate that it was not within the Committee's ambit to discuss taxation.

With the concurrence of honorable senators I shall include in " Hansard " a summary of an examination of the Martin report by a Labour Party committee. It is quite a constructive document.

The Martin Report is a cautious and conservative assessment of Australian educational needs. Its recommendations are not even the minimum necessary to meet the demands of the immediate future. It is astonishing that it goes too far for the Government.

The Parliamentary Labor Party affirms the following policy points arising from the Martin Report on Tertiary Education.

1.   It endorses the assertion in the Report of a clear need for an inquiry into all other levels of education. Tertiary education should not be considered in isolation, and this fact is responsible for some weaknesses in the Report.

This inquiry would best be conducted continuously by a Ministry and Department. Failing the adoption of the suggestion for a Ministry and Department the needs of all other sections should be studied by a committee.

2.   It endorses the recommendations of the Martin Report on teacher education, especially the recommendations for the establishment of autonomous teachertraining authorities and the extension of Commonwealth Scholarships to student teachers.

3.   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. It also calls for a change in the attitude of 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.

4.   The Party considers the Martin Report lacks clarity in its recommendations for nonvocational "tertiary colleges". The Labor

Party expresses opposition to any concept of an inferior grade of education in what might be called Junior Arts Colleges. The Party fears that four critical needs may be neglected if a cheap and inadequate form of tertiary education is provided. These needs are -

(a)   The establishment of Liberal Arts Colleges of a high standard capable of awarding internationally recognised degrees but not proceeding to post-graduate research. If the Martin Report envisages anything less than this it is reactionary and inadequate. In any event it needs clarification as does the Prime Minister's reference to it.

(b)   The establishment of a nationally supported system of adult education or further education (in the British sense).

(c)   A radical improvement in secondary education. There is the danger that the establishment of low standard tertiary education may be accepted as a substitute for the great improvements vitally necessary in secondary education. More and better trained teachers and better facilities are acutely necessary at the secondary level.

(d)   At the end of secondary education matriculated students should be able to proceed to degree courses.

5.   The Martin Committee envisages the establishment of an Australian Tertiary Education Commission. Instead, we would propose a Ministry of Education and a Department to undertake continuous investigation and research of all Australian educational needs and to guide national action to meet them.

6.   There should be more active national support for research including the field of the social sciences. The recommendation of the Report that there be established a National Science Foundation should be adopted.

7.   The Labour Party asserts the need for free university education. In 1962 only £4.5 million out of £50 million university income came from fees. That 9% is declining. The abolition of university fees should be national policy. When that stage is reached, scholarships would be living allowances.

The report refers to enrolments of students in the period from 1963 to 1975. In 1963 it was expected that 69,000 students would enrol at universities and about 34,000 at technical colleges, and that 14,600 trainee teachers would attend teachers colleges. Teachers are very concerned about what they call the Government's lack of interest in supporting the extension of teacher training and the provision of training facilities. I have not been able to give the report a complete examination. Probably it has covered the aspect of teacher training. As far as I know, the Commonwealth Government is not doing anything to increase its aid to the States in respect of teacher training. [ understand that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said that teacher training remains the prerogative of the States. I believe that is incorrect. If the States are to develop a system of tertiary education which will increase their financial burden for teacher training, obviously the Commonwealth should act to increase its financial assistance to the States. The estimated figures I have quoted for 1963 illustrate the need to increase teacher training. Teachers who have come before the Labour Party committee which has examined education have said quite plainly that the supply of students to become teachers will fall off in the near future because the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to tertiary education will dry up some of the avenues of recruitment of teachers.

The report estimates that in 1967 there will be 86,000 enrolments at universities, 55,000 at technical colleges and 17,500 teachers will be in training. In 1971, 112,000 students are expected to qualify for university education and 80,600 for technical colleges. It is estimated that 20,500 teachers will be in training at teachers colleges. In 1975 the estimate of university enrolments is 125,000. Technical colleges are expected to enrol 96,000 students and 27,000 teachers are expected to attend teachers colleges. These figures illustrate that the bottom of the barrel will be scraped to obtain teachers. I believe that position should be corrected. The Martin report points out quite clearly that the Government has erred in not providing more financial assistance to the States for the provision of equipment and buildings and all that is necessary for teacher training.

The Labour Party accepts the Martin report as a valuable addition to the study of education in Australia. Those who are interested in education generally - and most people are - for the first time have a document which is the product of the concentrated effort of a special committee. The Martin Committee is one of the most specialised committes ever set up in Australia. It sat for about 31 years. The tables provided in its report are of great value to all people interested in education and particularly to the academics who make a study of education and keep it in the forefront of public interest.

I believe that we should compliment our educationists who build the education industry, as it is sometimes called, and their vocation of teaching into something monumental. Many fine people spend a lot of their time in trying to improve the educational standards of young Australians. It is a great problem. I am disappointed that so many members of the community are not receiving the education that they desire. The New South Wales Government has a very fine record in matters of education. As I informed the Senate last week, a fifth university for New South Wales is already on the planning board. The New South Wales Government has probably doubled the number of high schools in the State. My one criticism of that Government is ?n relation to technical colleges. This criticism probably applies to all technical colleges in Australia. I could not imagine that any other State Government would have a better type of technical college than exists in Sydney, but on going through it I found that most of the equipment was old. I suppose the authorities cannot keep on replenishing the equipment because it is so expensive.

In the modern world, boys who are studying electricity or electronics and allied subjects associated with electrical power ought at least to be able to learn more than the theory of the subject at a technical college. No government, probably, can keep up with the new inventions and developments that come forward every year. That is the reason why equipment becomes out of date. One of the lecturers told me: " All that we can do here is to teach the principles ". We all agree that we are moving into a technical world, therefore some method has to be found to give the right equipment to these young boys who come from industry to learn trades in the technical colleges. The Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. and quite a few other big companies have their own facilities for teaching apprentices. Their equipment is more up to date that the equipment available at Australian technical colleges. The Commonwealth Government could have a look at this problem and do something about it. We must have skilled people not only at the top but also in the centre.

Let me repeat something that I told the Senate last week. A short while ago we saw in the Senate club room a him on the Snowy Mountains project. On this magnificent work, in what I might call one of the most important industrial machines in Australia, three-quarters of the 8,000 men employed could not speak English and only about 5 per cent, of the top level men had a top level education. I think that we overstress the need for top level education if we forget about the mass that needs basic education. New problems are -developing all the time. I know a group of 8 or 9 young men, aged 20, 21 and 22. Two of them have had three years at university, one doing medicine and the other doing engineering. One was a King's School hoy; all were from the greater public schools. Seven of these boys became builders' labourers because they were getting big money in the affluent period on big capital buildings, where they worked the clock around, receiving double time for Saturday and Sunday. Why should they want to be educated? They gave it up. Some of them are getting £40 or £50 a week.

There is a great incentive for people like them to give up. They forget that they have had a top level education. Not everybody makes use of it. That is one of the anomalies in the present situation. There are no such things as over-award payments. Over-award payments today entice many people away from the higher levels of education which they would normally have attained. This is a problem that the Government ought to examine. I do not know whether it is a matter for the sociologists or whether it is the sort of thing that one forgets, hoping that when everything comes back to normal and we settle down young men who are well educated will follow their bent and go on to a university. We find this problem at all levels. It is a continuing problem in education.

The Government has made a very important addition to the volume of work that is being done in the interests of higher education in Australia. We shall propose some very small amendments. We consider that the Opposition is entitled to demand more, particularly in relation to teacher training. We think that the Government has not gone far enough. The proposed extratertiary institutions aTe being called by various names. I think that the Prime Minister referred to them as junior colleges. We would be happier if we thought that they were not to serve as substitutes for education at university level. People in major country towns think that this might be so and I hope that the Minister, in charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research will be able to say that this will not be so and that eventually these colleges will be able to grant university degrees with full qualifications. A professor who attended a meeting of our committee was most emphatic that there was a great danger of persons receiving second class certificates and degrees which would be of no value finally to them, because they would be competing with persons who had first class degrees. I leave the matter at that and ask the Minister to consider the ideas that I have mentioned, particularly the point that I have made in relation to what the Prime Minister has called junior colleges.

Suggest corrections