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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1989

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - The first thing to be said about Senator Rae 's amendment is that it is to be inserted in the correct place in the Bill. The amendment relating to this part of clause 13 spells out the functions of the Commission. We face the situation where for the first time in the Bill the functions of the Commission are delineated and here at this point, more than any other, is the correct and operable place for such a clause to be . inserted. The difference between the clause and the amendment is that these definitions as outlined in the clause are to be made in consultation. It is at this point of the Bill that this emphasis on consultation needs to be referred to the consultation with State departments and a number of other authorities listed in Senator Rae's amendment which has been read out by the honourable senator.

The other important point to emphasise is that early in the Karmel Committee report the same emphasis on distribution of responsibility and authority is made. As already stressed in the Committee debate today, the Karmel Committee made it perfectly clear that, it favoured less rather than more centralised control over the operation of schools. The report goes on to emphasise the fact that responsibility should devolve as far as possible upon the people involved in the actual task of schooling. This is reflected in the amendment which contains the words: . . State Departments of Education, the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory responsible for primary or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with authorities responsible for or connected with non-government schools in Australia, parent and teacher organisations and such other organisations and persons as it may deem appropriate.

Here indeed is the reflection of the Karmel Committee's very early reference to responsibility and authority.

As far as the Karmel Committee report is concerned, our amendment refers very early in its terminology to the emphasis on consultation. Here again the Karmel Committee surely in one of its most important chapters of its report relating to the Commission has expressed the view very firmly that the Committee believes that widespread consultation will be vital to the successful work of the Commission, especially with education authorities and with parent and teacher organisations. Senator Rae's amendment calls for this consultation with the organisations to which I have referred. The departments and organisations to which he has referred are highly organised. They are large and growing and they have a high diversification in their establishment. They are already in touch with parents, teacher and community groups and officers of the organisations work daily with the groups. These officers are people who are experts in design, programming or requirements but more importantly of course in organisation and development for the future. Plenty of people and authorities are already working in the education field. It is important that in this early clause of the Bill in which the functions of the Commission are delineated these details should be set out quite plainly and quite unmistakeably.

I also draw attention to the words contained in the amendment 'as it may deem appropriate'. This provides not only flexibility of movement but also calls for responsibility on behalf of the Commission. This we know it will exercise. The amendment also gives the Commission the opportunity to have a better chance to make up its own mind after it has had consultation with authorities that are already in existence in the education sphere. Therefore it will not be subject to any situation in which it feels that it may have to take certain advice simply because it may have been given to the Commission by a body established by the Government or established under the Act. Where the Commission moves, as it will move, freely under this amendment it will have the opportunity with a greater degree of freedom to make its own decisions. I support the amendment.

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