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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2465

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I move:

That the Senate does not insist on the amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives.

There was a long debate in the Senate 2 or 3 weeks ago on this very important Bill, which the Government says that it quite plainly and quite frankly received a mandate to introduce and implement from the people at the time of the last elections. The Bill proposes the establishment of a Schools Commission. One of the first acts of the Labor Government when it was elected was that of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his capacity as Acting Minister for Education, to appoint an Interim Schools Committee. The Government was elected by the people on 2 December. On 1 1 December the Prime Minister wrote to the States advising that an Interim Committee was being established. That Committee was established. A report was presented. It was tabled in the Parliament in May. As all honourable senators know, this legislation which flows from the report seeks the approval of the

Parliament to establish the Schools Commission in accordance with government policy.

The debate took place at some length over a number of days. Amendments were moved by Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition and by Senator McManus on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. By a combination of weight of numbers exercised by the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party, the amendments were forced through. But the Government still believes, as I said when speaking on behalf of the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) at the time, that its proposals were being emasculated. We believe that gross inequalities exist in Austraiian education. The Opposition's amendments to the Bill would gravely impede the Government in its announced intention to introduce measures designed to remove these inequalities. The amendments would impose a Schools Commission of members representative of conflicting interests. To that extent, the effectiveness of the Commission would be reduced and its decision making capacity would be severely and intolerably limited.

A Commission to be established in the way proposed in the Bill as originally presented would remove the issue of State aid from the present position which unhappily it occupies or appears to have occupied in the political field. The model proposed by the Government for the establishment of a Schools Commission closely follows that which was adopted by its predecessorsnamely, the McMahon and Gorton governments- in establishing the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. The policy speech of the Australian Labor Party delivered by the Prime Minister during the last Federal election campaign stated that we would establish a Schools Commission along the same lines as the Universities Commission and the Advanced Education Commission. The Opposition's amendments reduce the methods of determination of assistance by relative need. The attempt to eliminate the Schools Commission Advisory Boards is unacceptable because in the opinion of the Government it would destroy the concept of continuous consultation and co-operation between the Commission and the community.

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