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
Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1040

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree that this Bill has many positive features which we on this side of the Senate applaud. It certainly is appropriate that, with the Education Department of South Australia bowing out of the obligation which it has accepted up to now to provide teachers for the Northern Territory and with the possibility that the Department of Education in New South Wales will do the same in respect of the responsibility which it has hitherto shouldered to provide teachers for the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth Government should set up a teaching service of its own. That is what this Bill sets out to do. I also applaud the acceptance by the Commonwealth of a continuing responsibility to do something about supplying a pool of teachers for the needs of Papua New Guinea which is in the process of emerging into a new status but which obviously will need some continuing assistance from the Commonwealth in the early days of getting on its feet. The Government further has faced up to its responsibility in the Pacific region by accepting the responsibility of supplying teachers to territories other than those under its direct control or Papua New Guinea.

Another matter which has been adverted to by previous speakers, especially those who participated with me in the inquiry into the Commonwealth's role in teacher education by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, which- has just recently completed its inquiry and tabled its report in the Senate, is the separation of the authority which has responsibility for the teaching service from the authority which is actually responsible for running the schools. But I think that I sense in what was said by those speakers a misunderstanding of the application of that principle to the present situation. In the deliberations of the Senate Standing Committee, expert after expert who gave evidence before the Committee constantly stressed that it was not desirable that the education departments of the States should have control of the training of teachers who later would man the schools run by those education departments. These experts stressed the desirability of setting up autonomous teacher training institutions throughout New South Wales.

I detect both in the second reading speech of the Minister and in what has been said by speakers in this debate tonight some sort of extension of that principle into a suggestion that the teaching service which is being set up by this Bill should not in any way concern itself with the actual training of teachers but should be content to draw on the other sources which are at present available in the community; they are the universities, colleges of advanced education, teacher colleges and so on. It seems that to do otherwise would in some way be breaching the principle applied by the experts to whom I have referred and which is now enshrined in the report I am speaking of because, as is made clear in the Minister's second reading speech, the teaching service which is set up by this Bill will not bc part of the Department of Education and Science.

The Department of Education and Science is at present responsible for the operation of community schools in the Northern Territory and as such is an authority under the Bill. As the Minister said, it is his belief that there are advantages in the teaching service being separate from any authority responsible for the actual conduct of schools. This teaching service will be separate from the authorities which actually conduct the schools, and therefore I can see no reason why in the future it should not concern itself also with the actual training of teachers. It should not adopt a policy of hands off the existing institutions and should not wash its hands of any responsibility for training teachers, lt should not merely rely on getting them by advertising or by recruit ug them from the existing institutions. I can see some advantage in the future in perhaps setting up a teacher training centre of some kind in the Northern Territory and I can see no breach of the principle we are discussing if the teacher training centre should actually be under the auspices of the teacher training service set up by this Bill.

We concede that this is merely an enabling Bill which does not set out to give in detail everything which is ultimately sought to be achieved by this measure, but we express some disappointment that after - using the Minister's words - 'the drafting of this Bill has taken some time and considerable effort', the Government has come up with a Bill which is such a skeleton. We are disappointed that the Government should have left the fleshing out of this skeleton entirely to the making of regulations. We can see the difficulties. We can see that a teaching service in its infancy cannot be expected to foresee all of the problems which may confront it. We are aware that it may not be possible at the present stage to insert in the Bill everything that we would like to see in it, but I join with honourable senators who have already expressed the hope that in drafting the regulations the Government will not lose sight of the lessons that were drawn after the exhaustive hearing of evidence by the Standing Committee of the Senate to which I have referred.

As both Senator Carrick and Senator Davidson have said, the schools of the future will not be anything like the schools of the past or the present. All of the experts we listened to spoke with one voice. They said that education is really just beginning to face up to its problems; that fundamental questions are being asked about what is being sought to be achieved by education. Many of the experts frankly admitted that the answers are not yet known. For my part, I hope that the Minister, whoever he may be in the future, when he is drafting the regulations which will put flesh on this skeleton will have regard not only to the inquiry which is mentioned in the Minister's second reading speech but also to the lessons and messages enshrined in what I say, with all due modesty as a participant in the deliberations of the Committee, is a very learned and helpful report.

Some of the specific criticisms that have been levelled at the amendment moved from this side of the House do not really stand up. I have in mind particularly the criticism of the first paragraph of our amendment which calls for the provision of a commission of 3 members of the

Commonwealth Teaching Service, one of whom shall be elected by the teachers. It is said that the move is unjustified on 2 grounds, firstly because it is possibly envisaged in the spirit of the Bill itself, and secondly, that because the Teaching Service in its infant stages will not be large, it will not be necessary to have more than one commissioner.

This does not seem to me to be a very valid reason. After all, there is widespread movement in the community for participation, especially in spheres such as education, of wide layers of the community. It would be very hard to imagine any government's setting up a body relating to architects and not having any architects on it. It is even more ridiculous to imagine a body concerned with doctors which would exclude doctors from its management. We can see no reason, even though the service in its infancy will bc small and will not have very great tasks to perform, why it should not get off on the right foot from the beginning. We believe that it is beyond argument that the deliberations and practical work of such a service would be assisted by having at least one practising teacher on its governing body.

One other matter particularly referred to is the alleged misunderstanding on our part of the provision in the Bill for accouchement leave for teachers. It is suggested that the Bill already provides for everything that is insisted on as a desirable standard by the. International Labour Organisation code. It was said that the Minister had made this assertion in the other place, that it had not been contradicted by us, and that we carried some onus to disprove the Minister's assertion if we were to make out any grounds for the cogency of this amendment. I have referred to the debate in the other place and on my reading our critics have -not correctly stated the position.

The International Labour Organisation Convention No. 103 which, incidentally, has not been ratified by the Australian Government, provides that on production of a medical certificate an officer - in this case a pregnant teacher - is entitled to maternity leave on pay of at least 12 weeks, there being a compulsory period of 6 weeks before the confinement and 6 weeks afterwards. It is true that clause 33 of the Bill provides for an amount of leave at least as generous as that requirement.

Senator Wright - Where did you find the provision that it should be on pay?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is my understanding. I do not have it before me. I am open to correction. I understand that that is what the international Labour Office recommendation states. If that is not the case I withdraw what I just said. Is it not the case?

Senator Wright

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In that case. 1 stand corrected, lt was my understanding that the requirement was that it should bc on pay.

Senator Wright - lt is for social insurance scheme benefits to the extent. 1 think, of two-thirds of pay.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In any event, I would like to point out that clause 33 certainly does not provide that the amount of leave granted would include any compulsory payment for 12 weeks leave. That would depend on the amount of sick leave standing to the credit of the officer in question. If those honourable senators on this side of the. chamber who have raised this objection are wrong about thai requirement of the International Labour Office, the misunderstanding has sprung from that point.

There is only one other specific point in the Bill to which I would like to make reference. It is contained in clause 20 of the Bill which seems not only to be archaic but also to contain an internal contradiction. This is a clause which crops up in Bill after Bill which is presented to this chamber dealing with people who become servants of the Commonwealth. It contains the requirement, first of all, that an officer shall be a British subject. This is contradicted in another sub-clause of the same clause. Clause 20 (2.) provides that an officer shall be a British subject. Sub-clause. (3.) gives the Commissioner discretion to employ somebody who is not a British subject. I would suggest that especially in the recruitment of teachers the insistence - it is not really insisted upon and should not be there at all - that an applicant for an office in a teaching service should be a British subject is quite unreal. Surely one of our requirements in the near future as we expand our contacts in the area in which we live and in which we shall have to come to terms will be for teachers of languages spoken in the area. Are the Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese people who may happen to be living in this country but who obviously are not by definition British subjects - I mention also Frenchmen, Hungarians and others in case some objection may be taken to the examples 1 have given - to be excluded from opportunities in this Service merely because they are not British subjects? As I said, there is a concession in this clause. This is not a requirement on which the Teaching Service will be able to insist. 1 have referred already to the contradiction between subclause (3.) and sub-clause (2.).

There is also this absurd proposition, in my view, that anybody seeking office in the Commonwealth Public Service should be required to take an oath or make an affirmation. This is tied up with this question of race, of being a British subject. I suggest that it is something which draftsmen of future Acts of this kind could well look at and omit. It adds nothing to the effectiveness of such a Service to have people going through this solemn procedure of taking an oath or making an affirmation. The larger corporations in this community do not insist on anything like this, and I suggest that it is out of date for this Government to be doing this sort of thing.

Suggest corrections