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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 958

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) -] move:

That the Bill be now read a second lime.

I am pleased to introduce to the Senate a Bill to establish a Commonwealth Teaching Service. I feel sure honourable senators will agree with me that this is an important piece of legislation. The establishment of the Commonwealth Teaching Service has become necessary because of the growth of education in the Commonwealth mainland Territories and hence the need for the Commonwealth Government to take a direct responsibility for the staffing of schools. At present, despite its wide involvement in education, the Commonwealth itself employs relatively few teachers. The largest groups of teachers in mainland Australia of direct concern to the Commonwealth are those employed in community schools in the Northern Territory and in government schools in the Australian Capital Territory. These teachers have traditionally been employees of South Australia and New South Wales and the costs, in both cases, are reimbursed by the Commonwealth. This arrangement has worked very well and the Commonwealth and its schools have gained from this association with the large and well-qualified teaching services of those States.

Honourable senators will recall that the Government's decision to establish a Commonwealth Teaching Service, which was announced in late 1970, was the result of the decision of the South Australian Government to withdraw its teachers, over a period of 5 years, from the Northern Territory. A first purpose of this Bill, therefore, will be to make immediate provision for Commonwealth staffing of the two school systems for the Northern Territory, that is, the community schools conducted by the Department of Education and Science, which have been staffed until recently by South Australia, and the special Aboriginal schools staffed by teachers employed by the Department of the Interior under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. At the same time, the Government has looked ahead to the time when it must take direct responsibility for the staffing of government schools in the Australian Capital Territory. Indeed, at the suggestion of the New South Wales Minister for Education, discussions have already commenced between the State and Commonwealth Departments on the implications of the existence of a Commonwealth Teaching Service on the staffing of Australian Capital Territory schools. The Bill makes provision for this contingency.

In summary, the Commonwealth Teaching Service is intended to include eventually all teachers employed in Commonwealth operated schools in mainland Australia. The Bill is framed in such a way that the Commonwealth Teaching Service may include also teachers in other schools where, for one reason or another, this is appropriate. Thus, the Bill will make it possible, for a number of the highly qualified and experienced Australian teachers in Papua New Guinea, to join the Commonwealth Teaching Service. In a few moments I will set out, in greater detail, how this Bill will apply in relation to Papua New Guinea. To take another example, the Department of Education and Science employs, under the Public Service Act, pre-school teachers in both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. We expect that many of these teachers will wish to avail themselves of the more flexible provisions and wider professional opportunities that, we hope, will flow from the creation of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. From time to time, in response to requests for assistance from developing countries, the Commonwealth sends teachers to those countries to carry out special tasks. In many cases the teacher concerned is a member of a State service who is seconded to the Commonwealth for a specific project and returns to the State service. Cases will arise, however, in which there would be advantages if a teacher, sent overseas by the Commonwealth, could join the Commonwealth Teaching Service. The Bill makes provision for this.

Before turning to the details of the Bill I would like to comment on some of the general factors which have determined its form. Honourable senators will notice that it is, to a large extent, an enabling Bill. The Bill establishes a Commonwealth Teaching Service under a Commonwealth Teaching Service Commissioner. It provides powers under which the Commissioner will have considerable flexibility to develop the Teaching Service so as to meet, in the most effective way possible, the needs of the Commonwealth and of the school systems that will draw on the Commonwealth Teaching Service for staff. It is concerned only to set out the principles and guidelines within which the staffing of these school systems can be developed. There has been no attempt to spell out in the Bill, at this stage, the precise details of how the Teaching Service will operate; rather, the Bill sets out the framework within which the Service may operate. Decisions as to how it operates will be framed in appropriate regulations, under sections of the Bill, and will be available for consideration by the Parliament. As the requirements of the school systems change and develop, so appropriate regulations will be drafted.

Unlike other government teaching services in Australia, (he Commonwealth Teaching Service will extend over more than one school system or education authority. There are 2 reasons for this. The first is that, at least in the foreseeable future, the school systems, in the Northern Territory and even in the Australian Capital Territory, will be relatively small. A teaching service confined to any one mainland Territory could be too small to be healthy. It could offer only limited opportunities for promotion or movement of teachers and hence would run a serious risk of becoming inbred. Second, we believe it is a good thing to facilitate movement of teachers between one school system and another. Such movement helps to stimulate fresh educational thinking.

It is the Government's belief that educational decisions should be made, as far as possible, in the school system serving a particular community and that the school system should reflect any special elements of the community it serves. This means that as the Commonwealth school systems in the Territories develop, so differences could well arise between them. The Government would have no objection to this and would welcome it. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said that he personally would be surprised if, over the years, significant and worthwhile differences did not develop between the system of community schools ultimately adopted in the Northern Territory and the school system adopted in the Australian Capital Territory. The aim of the present legislation is to create a teaching service sufficiently flexible to enable it to staff soundly more than one school system without imposing on these systems an undue degree of uniformity.

The Bill establishes a teaching service outside the Public Service. After careful consideration, the Government decided that the employment of teachers would be handled most effectively within their own service rather than within the Commonwealth Public Service. In coming to this view it had regard to the particular conditions under which teachers work, ft sought flexibility with regard to the recruitment of staff and their movement from one school system to another. It seemed to us that mobility in the field of education rather than between Commonwealth career fields was a key consideration. Therefore, the Commonwealth Teaching Service will be a statutory authority, under a Commissioner, directly responsible to the Minister and outside the Public Service. As a statutory authority, the Teaching Service will not be part of the Department of Education and Science. The Department is, at present, responsible for the operation of community schools in the Northern Territory and, as such, is an authority under clause 1 6 (2) of the Bill. It is our belief that there are advantages in the Teaching Service being separate from any authority responsible for the actual conduct of schools. It will be the task of the Commissioner to meet, as best as he is able, the needs of all authorities conducting Commonwealth schools.

I turn now to the Bill. Honourable senators will note that only clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill will come into operation on the day on which the Act receives royal assent. The other clauses will be proclaimed as the necessary regulations are drafted and approved. It is hoped that the steps, preliminary to proclaiming Part II of the Bill, can be taken quickly, after the Bill has been passed, so that a Commissioner of the Commonwealth Teaching Service can be appointed as soon as possible. Other parts of the Bill will come into operation as the Commissioner takes the necessary action. The definition of 'Commonwealth school* in clause 4 of Part I of the Bill has been designed to provide the flexibility I referred to earlier. It enables membership of the Commonwealth Teaching Service, not only by teachers in Commonwealth schools in the mainland Territories, but also by certain teachers employed in Papua New Guinea.

The application of the Bill to such teachers in Papua New Guinea is provided for in clause 16. I should like to describe how the Government sees the Commonwealth Teaching Service operating in respect of Papua New Guinea. We believe that the Commonwealth Teaching Service can make a valuable contribution to education in Papua New Guinea, both in the immediate future and beyond the time when Papua New Guinea is self-governing and independent. It is clear that Papua New Guinea will want to draw on Australia, for some time, in order to maintain the pace of educational development and meet the needs for highly experienced and specialised staff. In order to assist Papua New Guinea, the Commonwealth Teaching Service will include a complement of teachers who will be made available on secondment to the Papua New Guinea Teaching Service. The arrangement will allow their career status in the Commonwealth Teaching Service to be preserved while they are in Papua New Guinea. The Commonwealth Teaching Service will thus operate as a base to which the teachers can return, for service elsewhere, when they have completed their service in Papua New Guinea. We believe that the security of a base service will prove an attraction to teachers.

The arrangement is intended to help Papua New Guinea to obtain key teaching personnel and to encourage such teachers to remain as long as they are needed. Membership of the Commonwealth Teaching Service will also be made available to certain of the teachers now serving in

Papua New Guinea to encourage them to remain, so that their accumulated expertise is not lost to the country. The Commissioner will consult with my colleague, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Peacock), in the first instance as to the terms, including those of service and conditions, under which members of the Commonwealth Teaching Service will work in Papua New Guinea. The Commonwealth Teaching Service will also provide teachers for the smaller external territories as existing commitments to teachers or arrangements with State education departments are concluded.

Part II of the Bill deals with the Commonwealth Teaching Service Commissioner. The Commissioner will be appointed by the Governor-General and will be responsible directly to the Minister for Education and Science. His appointment will be for up to 7 years and he will be eligible for re-appointment. Clauses 7 to 14 inclusive set out the conditions governing the Commissioner's appointment and are similar to those governing other Commonwealth statutory appointments. Clause 15 sets out the conditions, also similar to those in other Commonwealth instrumentalities, under which a person may be appointed to act in place of the Commissioner. Clause 16 of the Bill sets out the functions, duties and powers of the Commissioner. His task will be to make persons available for teaching duties in Commonwealth schools in such numbers, and having such qualifications, as will, in the opinion of the authority running those schools, ensure their efficient operation.

The numbers and types of teachers required, in a particular school system, will be determined by the department or authority responsible for that school system. In making its determinations the authority will be subject, of course, to the normal procedures, relating to the availability of funds and buildings, under which it operates. It will be the task of the Commonwealth Teaching Service Commissioner to provide the teachers.

This division of function will require close consultation and joint planning between the Commissioner and the various education authorities and such consultation is provided for under clause 16 (5.). Clause 16 (7.) enables the education authority to transfer teachers, within its school system, under its normal procedures but the promotion of any teacher in the Commonwealth Teaching Service will be subject to the conditions set out in Division 3 of Part III of this Bill.

Clause 1 6 (2.) sets out the Commissioner's responsibility with respect to schools in the Northern Territory; clause 16(3.) enables the Commissioner to make teachers available to education authorities outside the Northern Territory both in other Commonwealth territories and outside Australia. The extent to which the Commissioner would make teachers available in these places would depend on Commonwealth Government policy and its responsibilities for the provision of teachers in these places. The next sub-clause 16(4.), empowers the Commissioner to enter into reciprocal arrangements with the States. This sub-clause parallels a provision in the Commonwealth Public Service Act. We could see the possibility of a situation arising in which the special circumstances of an individual teacher should be mct or special skills should be exchanged between a Commonwealth school system and a State school system. In such cases, it could be desirable for a Commonwealth employed teacher to spend some time in a State without losing the advantages of his membership of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. This clause is designed to achieve this. Clause 17 gives the Commissioner powers of delegation. We expect the Commissioner to delegate certain of his powers, not only to members of his own staff but also to officers in the authorities running Commonwealth school systems, with a consequential increase in flexibility and efficiency of administration.

Part III of the Bill is concerned with the establishment and operation of the Service itself. The general approach of this Parliament is to take advantage of the experience, over many years, of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and other Commonwealth instrumentalities without imposing restrictions which are inappropriate for teachers. To this end several clauses set out the general framework only and provide for the Commissioner to make detailed arrangements by determination. The Government would expect that, in many instances, the Commissioner would consult with representatives of both teachers and education authorities before framing such determinations. lt will be noted that those clauses relating to terms and conditions of employment, in particular clauses 20 (4.), 23 (4.), 25 (2.) and 26 (1 .), require that the Commissioner's determinations be subject to the approval of the Public Service Board. The role of the Public Service Board, in respect of the Commonwealth Teaching Service, will be confined to this matter of terms and conditions of employment. As such it parallels the responsibility of the Board in respect of other Commonwealth agencies; that is to protect the Commonwealth's interests by ensuring co-ordination of terms and conditions of service, including salaries, in all Commonwealth agencies.

Clauses 25 and 26 set out the powers of the Commissioner with respect to the creation, abolition and classification of positions in the service. These powers will not have to be exercised in such a way as to impose uniformity of organisation on the school systems concerned. At the same time, the Commissioner's determinations must influence how education authorities organise their schools. The Government hopes the Commissioner will be able to make determinations on matters like promotion positions soon after he is appointed. It hopes also that these determinations will reflect current and emerging ideas on school and staff organisation. To this end, it made an agreement recently, with the Australian Council for Educational Research, under which, Dr Radford, Director of the Council, and Professor Neal, Vice-president of the University of Alberta, will conduct an investigation into practices in school and staff organisation in Australia and in certain overseas countries. Their report, which we hope will be available by the end of July, will be of great help to the Commissioner of the Teaching Service.

The Government had decided to follow the practice in the Commonwealth Public Service and in other Commonwealth agencies by establishing efficiency as the first criterion in the selection of officers for promotion. Only in the event of equality of efficiency will seniority be taken into account. We recognise that efficiency is frequently more difficult to determine than seniority and, to clarify the issue, the Bill sets out, in clause 28(2.) and (3.) the factors to be taken into account in determining efficiency. To further protect the interests of individual teachers, provision is made, in clauses 29 and 30, for the establishment of Promotion Appeals Boards. These will comprise a person elected by teachers and a person nominated by the Commissioner together with an independent chairman appointed by the Minister.

Clauses 31 and 32 relate to tenure of office and are generally similar to parallel provisions of the Public Service Act. A more specific provision than in the Public Service Act is included, however, to protect the interests of teachers who may lack a position at their classification. This may arise because of a marked change in the size of their school. It could also arise when a member of the service returns from Papua New Guinea or overseas. Clause 32 (3.) provides that such a teacher, who lacks a position at his substantive classification, shall have first option on a position becoming vacant at that classification. The special provisions relating to female officers who become pregnant in Division 5 of Part III of the Bill are similar to those applying elsewhere in Commonwealth employment. The provisions of Division 6 of Part III relating to dismissals and punishments are similar to those applying in the Commonwealth Public Service. A Disciplinary Appeal Board will be established to protect the interest of a teacher who is punished in the ways set out in clause 36 (1.). This Disciplinary Appeal Board will comprise an officer elected by the teachers of the Service, an officer appointed by the Commissioner and an independent chairman appointed by the Minister.

The Government gave considerable thought to the mechanism by which claims for salaries and conditions of employment should be arbitrated when they cannot be resolved by consultation between the Commissioner and the teachers' organisation. The Australian Teachers Federation was consulted on this issue. We have decided that the Commonwealth Teaching Service will come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Division 7 of Part III sets out the powers and functions of the

Commission in respect of the Service. Members of the Commonwealth Teaching Service will have the protections and rights available under the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Acts, the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act and the Superannuation Act. It is not intended that the Commonwealth Teaching Service will become responsible for an institution training teachers. The Commonwealth Government's preference has been that, as far as possible, teacher training institutions should be conducted by authorities different from those authorities who will subsequently employ the teachers so trained.

We recognise the circumstances which have Icd State Education Departments to establish teachers colleges; at the time this was the most effective way in which facilities to train teachers in the numbers required could be provided. In recent years, however, there has been a dramatic growth in the range of institutions preparing teachers. In this growth the Commonwealth has, 1 believe, played a valuable role. The universities have trained a great number of teachers. Honourable senators will be aware of the development of teacher education institutions as a result of the States Grants (Teachers Colleges) Act of 1967 and 1970. They will also be aware of the establishment of schools of teacher education in colleges of advanced education, including the Canberra College of Advanced Education. These developments in our view make it unnecessary and, indeed, undesirable, for the Commonwealth Teaching Service to have its own teacher training institutions.

The Commissioner of the Commonwealth Teaching Service will have power under Part IV of the Bill to offer scholarships to persons wishing to train as teachers for subsequent service in Commonwealth schools. The precise conditions of these scholarships will be determined by the Commissioner under regulation. We would expect that, at least initially, he would take over the scheme of unbonded scholarships for teacher education introduced by the Commonwealth from the beginning of this year.

Part V of the Bill includes a provision that any Commonwealth public servant, who is appointed as Commissioner or who joins the Teaching Service, will retain his existing and accruing rights, lt provides for the Commissioner to furnish an annual report, the first such report to relate to the period ending 31st December 1972. The Minister will present such a report to the Parliament within 15 sitting days of the receipt of the report. Clause 53 provides for the Governor-General to make regulations under this Act. As I said earlier, it will be necessary to make significant use of such regulations to establish and operate the Service. We believe it desirable that the Commissioner make use of advisory committees in the operation of the Commonwealth Teaching Service. To this end clause 53 (a) specifically provides for the appointment of such advisory committees.

This Bill is of great importance from the point of view of the administration of those school systems for which the Commonwealth is directly responsible. It will be of great importance also to the growing number of teachers in the schools of these systems, lt has been Government policy, since the need to establish the Commonwealth Teaching Service first became apparent, that the legislation governing the service should make possible an attractive career for its members and at the same time give the fullest possible protection to the interests of individual teachers.

In considering the establishment of a Commonwealth Teaching Service, we have taken into account the views of interested teachers organisations. The Department of Education and Science has met with the Australian Teachers Federation and at those meetings there have been representatives of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the South Australian Institute of Teachers, and the Darwin Teachers Association. We have regarded the Australian Teachers Federation as playing a co-ordinating role in relation to the views of these organisations, and have had the benefit of their advice on a number of matters. We should like to express our appreciation of the Federation's help. We are pleased that we have been able to agree with the Federation that the appropriate arbitral tribunal for members of the Commonwealth Teaching Service would be the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We have also been able to accept suggestions of the Federation on certain clauses relating to discipline. The Australian Teachers Federation has made a number of other suggestions relating to the legislation to which it has not been possible to agree in full. 1 think it would be appropriate at this point to deal with those.

The administration of the Teaching Service is to be vested in a Commonwealth Teaching Service Commissioner. The Australian Teachers Federation believes that the Service should be administered by a Commission of 3 members, one of whom would be elected by the teachers. We have given careful consideration to this proposal but, at least for the present, we cannot agree to it. The Commonwealth Teaching Service initially will not be a large service and, in our view, does not warrant the appointment of more than one Commissioner. Nor do we see any strong grounds for providing, in this legislation, for specific representation of particular interests in the administration of the service. This is because the function of the Commissioner is limited to providing qualified teachers for service in particular areas under appropriate terms and conditions. The demand for these teachers will emanate from educational authorities, which will specify the kinds and levels of teachers required for their schools. In effect, therefore, the education authorities will determine, in the wider sense, the composition of the Teaching Service. It seems to us that the Federation's proposal is inappropriate to the Commonwealth situation in which the Teaching Service will be separate from the education authority administering any one school system.

The Australian Teachers Federation has also suggested that the Commonwealth Teaching Service Commissioner should be assisted by a recognised advisory council representing all sections of the community. I believe that there well could be some matters on which it would be desirable to establish advisory committees and, as I mentioned earlier, the Bill makes provision for this. However, I do not think that an advisory council of the type suggested by the Federation would be appropriate for the administration of this Teaching Service. It would be more appropriate for an education authority running a particular school system. Indeed I would hope that

Commonwealth education authorities wilt make increasing use of such advisory councils.

In the Bill there is provision for the Commissioner to appoint persons to the Service following open advertisement. The Australian Teachers Federation believes that open advertisements, that is, advertisements inside and outside the Service, should be resorted to only when no member of the Service is suitably qualified or experienced for the position. I think it reasonable to say that the Commissioner will be as concerned as we are that persons recruited to the Commonwealth Teaching Service should be encouraged to regard it as a career service. This notion, of course, would be invalidated if all promotion positions were advertised inside and outside the Service without regard to the claims of officers already in the Service. I expect that the practice of the Commissioner, like that of the Public Service Board, will be to agree to open advertisement only when he is satisfied that there are not good chances of finding a person with the required qualifications within the Service. Where a position is advertised inside and outside the Teaching Service it will be competent, of course, for officers to apply, and their claims will be given the fullest consideration. The Federation believes also that the Commissioner should be restricted specifically to employing qualified teachers. It is not possible in this Bill to specify whom the Commissioner should regard as qualified for employment. Here again it will be in the interest of all concerned that only those persons who meet predetermined standards should be appointed as members of the Service. It will be a major task of the Commissioner to determine such standards.

Another suggestion by the Australian Teachers Federation was that the Bill make specific provision for the establishment of a promotions committee. In the Federation's view such a Committee would have teacher representation on it. While the Government would have no objection to such a committee playing a role in the nomination of an officer for promotion, it would regard the establishment of such a committee as occurring more appropriately in the education authority which, in the large majority of cases, would be responsible for nominating an officer for promotion. As this is a matter for the education authority it is outside the scope of this Bill. However, the Bill safeguards the rights of members of the Service when promotions are made. Promotions are provisional, are subject to appeal, and appeals are heard by a Board on which there is teacher representation. The Federation would also wish that, in making promotions, greater weight be given to seniority. The Bill reflects our view that priority should be given to relative efficiency and that it is only in the event of an equality of efficiency that seniority should be taken into consideration.

I feel sure honourable senators will agree that this Bill is an important milestone in the development of the Commonwealth's responsibilities in education. The intention is to establish a permanent career service which will be flexible and attractive to teachers and which will ensure the necessary stability of the teaching force. In essentia] terms the Commonwealth Teaching Service will be a mechanism to provide continuity of service and security for teachers working in schools for which the Commonwealth has responsibility and to facilitate movement between Commonwealth operated school systems. It seeks to do this without inhibiting the development in Commonwealth Territories of school systems which will best meet the specific needs of those Territories.

The drafting of this Bill has taken some time and considerable effort. There are already some hundreds of Commonwealth employed teachers in the Northern Territory and a significant number of Commonwealth employed pre-school teachers in both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. We know that many of these teachers have been waiting, with considerable interest, for the establishment of a Commonwealth Teaching Service within which they can make their career. To such teachers we extend our appreciation of their patience, and the enthusiasm with which they have carried out their duties while the Bill was being drafted. I trust that the Bill will provide the framework for a Service in which they and other teachers will follow a satisfying career. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.

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