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Thursday, 23 March 1972
Page: 870

Senator CARRICK - Yes. The norm for over a century or more was opposition. After the negative clause was removed the practice has been again a negative one. It has been one of obstruction, and advocacy and adoption of policies which, I suggest, will destroy the independent system.

Senator Drury - It had always been Labor Party tradition up to 1957.

Senator CARRICK - Tradition or not, one thing is certain: Performance was virtually nil. It is no good saying that we have the power in our locker to do these things because that only compounds the felony.

Senator Little - That applies to both Parties.

Senator CARRICK - Let me say this: The Liberal Party is some 25 years old. Throughout its journey from the mid- 1950s onwards 1 have been walking in parallel with the development and the pioneering of State aid to independent schools from the first start which was made here in the Capital by paying interest on capital. That is not a bad journey because it is three-quarters of the journey of the existing life of the Liberal Party which has proudly advocated the right and supported practically the right of the twin system of education. But apart from traditional opposition, the Labor Party - if honourable senators will pardon the phrase - has been thoroughly wrong-headed in its approach. It has always taken the view that the Government has a primary obligation to the State system. This situation is compounded in the wording of the platform of the Labor Party which underlies the present proposed amendment which in part slates:

(i)   the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard. . . .

I reject that amendment. Any government has as its primary right the responsibility for the highest possible education for all students in Australia, whether they attend government or independent schools. I reject the fundamentals of this proposed, amendment as being, as I say, wrong in concept, narrow and prejudiced as, indeed, Labor's policies have been. In Hansard of 1st December last year there is a statement by the Leader of the Labor Party in this House, Senator Murphy.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I wish to interpolate. There has grown a custom both in question time and debates to refer to the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. I only acknowledge the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party by nomination. I cannot accept that honourable senators should be singled out to be leaders of particular parties. Inside the parliament they are leaders of the formed areas of the Parliament.

Senator CARRICK - Thank you, Mr President. It was not my intention to be discriminatory. That was inadvertent. I repeat that on 1st December 1971 Senator Murphy is recorded in Hansard as saying in relation to the proposition that the primary obligation of governments is to provide state schools:

That means government schools first.

I reject that statement. Again, that is a fundamental reason why we should reject the amendment and support the Bill. But the Labor Party has decided in its State aid policies to interpolate a means test or, as Senator Wheeldon says in his amendment, a 'needs or priorities' test. Senator Wheeldon convicted himself with his own argument both ways. I propose to examine it. It is a strange situation that a party which in its platform advocates in many other fields - as 1 will demonstrate - the abolition of the means test because it is discriminatory, advocates a means test in this field and this field exclusively. In the other major field of education, that is tertiary education or university education, the Labor Party platform explicitly says that education at the university level shall be provided for all students at no fee so that the rich man's son or daughter can without fear or favour receive education to (he university level equally with the poor man's son and daughter. I ask why that application should be correct for a university but not for a primary school, a parochial school of a high school? That question remains to be answered because the answer is inherently inside Labor Party philosophy. Using Senator Wheeldon's remarks, why does the Labor Party advocate the abolition of the means test for age pensions? Personally, if I may say so, I think that this is a very proper goal and desire. Yet by advocating it and advocating that the richest person in the land shall receive a retirement allowance along with the poorest person in the land why does the Labor Party pick out and discriminate against the parents and children of the independent school sector?

Senator O'Byrne - It perpetuates class distinction.

Senator CARRICK - If there is class distinction there is removal of it in the Labor Party platform in relation to universities and in the abolition of the means test. If the Labor Party is to be consistent this policy must remain now. The means test is punitive. It is discriminatory. It is a blunt instrument. It is an ugly thing wherever it applies, and it applies to social services. It is bureaucratic. In this case it costs as much as or more than it could possibly save. It is grossly unfair. It does not discriminate between the provident and the improvident. It would encourage the improvident and discourage the provident. To me that is a rejection of a sound philosophy.

If we were to apply a means test as proposed by the Labor Party, and as education is not compulsory beyond the age of 15 - I think in all States - why not apply that same means test in relation to high schools run by the State? Those high schools are providing a free service which, under the relevant Acts, is not compulsory for children whose parents are as affluent as or more affluent than the parents of other children who go to independent schools. Where is the equity in this? If the Labor Party wants to be consistent why does it not apply that principle to both levels? Of course the aim is very simple. It is to centralise. I remind you, Sir, that all independent school bodies from the National Council of Independent Schools and the Catholic Schools Committee to the Australian Parents Council have all advocated - I have in front of me their written advocacies - the need for per capita grants to independent schools free of means tests. The spokesmen for all the bodies of the independent schools, whether parochial or otherwise, whether underprivileged or otherwise, have asked in the words of the National Council of Independent Schools, to which Council virtually all subscribe that 'no means test, of school or parent, should be associated with these per pupil grants'. Therefore the Labor Party's policy is seen to be an aim at monopoly and an aim at discrimination. I believe that that is consistent with its desire to have the independent schools wither on the vine - to die out - so that there can be only one school system.

The Labor Party says that it will set up a commission. It is instructive to look at what the commission will do. Firstly we should look at Senator Murphy's statement, but more particularly we should look at the statement made, by the. Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Mr Barnard, in another place. He has spelt out very clearly that the schools commission will not be an advisory body but will be an authoritative body. It will have direct control of and will be able to intervene, in the State, local and grass roots area of education, probing and controlling even the supply of chalk and blackboards. Mr Barnard has made it clear that the kind of things that a schools commission will do will be to look at the source of inequality 'in the allocation of teachers'. He said:

A schools commission could look at ways of getting a better spread of more experienced and talented teachers.

The purport of his statement is that the commission could send one teacher to one place and another teacher to another place. Imprinted clearly in Hansard is the intention of the Labor Party to control the movement of teachers in all States: He continued:

It could look at the physical environment of schools to cull out those with inadequate buildings and facilities, and insufficient teaching aids.

Will we have the socialistic concept that from Canberra the chalk, the school boards, the projectors and the exercise books will be allocated? That is socialism gone absolutely mad. That is not a statement which I devised. It is the clear interpretation of Mr Barnard. He continued:

It could review the present system of Commonwealth subsidies and find ways of getting funds to the schools so all essential items now supplied by parental contribution could be supplied by the Commonwealth.

I have been and I still am actively associated with a parents and citizens association. Everybody associated with parents and citizens associations knows the struggles and heartbreaks of parents and knows that the aim of having governments assist is a noteworthy one, but I wonder whether the 6 State Premiers, including the Western Australian Labor Premier and the South Australian Labor Premier, and the 6 State Education Ministers will agree with this policy which aims to take to the centre everything which now lies within the State sovereignty. Those are Mr Barnard's words. Under such a system anything is possible.

Backing up this part of the Labor Party's policy is the aim to centralise, to nationalise and to destroy the independent system. Throughout the attempts and the practical achievements of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments to bring in per capita payments for schools the Labor Party has opposed the system and has asserted a system which primarily is one of subsidising teachers' salaries. If I wanted a short cut to the nationalisation of independent schools the first thing I would do would be to implement a system of subsiding teachers' salaries. Once the Commonwealth has them on the book it has them standardised. The Commonwealth would subsidise at one level today and at another level tomorrow. Soon it would be in virtual control of all the teachers. Soon there would be compulsory unionism, with the independent teachers and the Teachers Federation joined together, and the philosophy of teaching would be nationalised. The control of teaching through the control of the purse - through the control of salaries - would be nationalised. I am sure that the Labor Party would not argue that it has not advocated as its primary intention the subsidising of teachers' salaries. I say that would cause the destruction of the system.

It is envisaged that the commission will intervene - I say disastrously - not only in the independent system but also in the State system. Mr Barnard was at length and at pains to say that it was wrong to think that a centralised commission could not intervene - to use his words - in the 10,000 schools in Australia. He sees intervention by the commission at all levels of the affairs of all schools. The device of approaching this matter on the basis of the needs and priorities of schools is an insidious device because, if a government has the power to discriminate between schools and to determine which ones shall be encouraged and which shall wither on the vine, that government has the power to wipe out the freedom of choice in education. The position would be the same as with bank nationalisation. I say that the principle of priorities and needs as applied to schools is one that would corrupt and ultimately destroy the dual system. I reject the principle.

I again test the principles of the Australian Labor Party. Only recently the Australian Labor Party members of the

Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, when reporting on the Commonwealth's role in regard to teacher education, presented a dissenting report on the proposal to treat independent teachers colleges on the same basis as other teachers colleges. In essence, the aim of the majority report was this: Where an independent teachers college can qualify by standards, by practice and by performing parallel with other teachers colleges it should be entitled to be treated as a college of advanced education and it should receive the recurrent and capital funds that other colleges of advanced education do. That appeared to be an eminently fair proposition to sustain. I say that the Labor Party's desire to destroy the assistance to independent schools has been demonstrated by this report. It is fair to say that no Labor member in this place or in another place has risen as yet either in Parliament or in public to oppose the dissenting report.

I wonder whether we will see another parallel in another commission - the Australian hospitals commission. In accordance with the Labor Party's policy the Australian hospitals commission would aim to standardise hospitals in the same way as the Australian schools commission would aim to standardise schools. Under rationalisation, a wonderfully euphemistic word, the rights and the roles of the independent hospitals would go.

If it is right for a government to subsidise teaching hospitals today, whether they are independent or government hospitals, it is right for a government to subsidise independent teachers colleges. There can be no difference between the teaching college concept that is installed in a teaching hospital and the one that is installed in another academic area. Therefore, if the Labor Party were to agree to one it should agree to the other. It has rejected the teachers colleges for the independent sector. In another debate I will assert with proof that the Labor Party aims also to destroy the independent hospitals and the independent teaching hospitals.

The whole argument of the Labor Party is that its aim with regard to priorities and needs - wonderful euphemisms - which governments and bureaucrats determine is that the poorer sector will receive more and the richer sector will receive less. This is wonderful, except that the Labor Party's practice has always differed from its theory. In practice today in South Australia, where there is a needs and priorities test, the fact is that the poorest schools in the primary sector are receiving very considerably less than other schools - poorer or otherwise - in 3 other States, and altogether in South Australia on a per capita basis the independent system is receiving less. So, by test the scheme has failed in its implementation. It has failed altogether because it has failed to attack the essentials of things.

The whole scheme reeks of paternalism, or the idea that the government knows best. The aim is, by needs and priorities, to destroy the flexibility and independence of the schools. I assert that the per capita grant system is of great importance because the grant is paid directly to the school and is paid uniformly per capita to the school. The school has a flexibility within it and the grant is paid equally to all schools so that there is no discrimination. If we withdraw that and subsidise needs and priorities, we destroy flexibility and freedom of choice. The independent system dies the day individual schools are stopped from competing, one against the other, and from being different. When we destroy the right to experimentation, the right to innovation and the right to choice, the independent system has gone.

The Labor Party's arguments have always been that we should not pour money into systems to which the wealthy send their children. Strangely enough, as I have said, members of the Labor Party do not seem too sorry if the wealthy send their children to State high schools in their final years. Because that is secular, monopolistic and socialistic, that is all right by the Labor Party test. But they do object if it happens that some few children in the independent schools come from independent families. It is fair to say that the great majority of parents who choose to send their children to independent schools are of moderate to poor means, are provident and make enormous sacrifices so to do.

It is an ugly and wrong principle which says that the price of a service or commodity should not be common to all, irres pective of income, but should be geared by a means test. Are we to have a pound of butter or a suit on a hook in a shop dearer to a wealthy person than to a poorer person? How far do we extend this? This is the very corruption of things. Education is a service. It should be available to all. All should be free to choose.

The one place in which the Government intervenes to establish equality of opportunity is in the field of income tax. Let anyone deny that this Government has not been brave and courageous in this field, with half the community breathing down our necks and saying that the tax scale today is too high. The way to take from the rich and share with the poor is through the income tax scale. When I sit here day after day and hear members of the Labor Party arguing that it is wrong that in the field of taxation deductions the wealthier person receives more by way of taxation rebate than does a poorer person, whether in respect of education expenses or hospital and medical expenses, I simply say to myself: 'How can anyone fail to understand that in the first place the person about whom they are talking is paying 5, 10 or 20 times the amount of tax that the other person with whom they are comparing him is paying, and that in fact the relatively small amount he receives by way of rebate is as nothing compared with that?' I demonstrate the point by saying that the sum of $ 1,700m currently being spent on education is equal to about $316 for each of the 5.2 million taxpayers in Australia today. Obviously the taxpayers in the medium to higher groups are paying for the taxpayers in the lower group.

I have spoken al length, but I thought it important, because of the amendment, to state what I believe to be the philosophy of the Government, what I believe to be the philosophy underlying the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what I believe to be the principles underlying equality of opportunity. In so doing I have sought to show - I believe that I have shown - that the Labor Party has introduced not something innocent or simply a little new policy point but a proposal which, if implemented, would create in Australia a centralised and unified monopoly of education which would be controlled from Canberra - all of this is agreed by Mr Barnard and others - and which, whether quickly or slowly, would cause the independent system to atrophy and to die. I reject the amendment. I commend the Bills.

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