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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2507

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - For the reasons I outlined in closing the second reading stage of this Bill the Government cannot support the request that has been made by the Opposition. We cannot support it because, for a start, it is opposed completely to the political ideology of the Government, the espoused policy of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Labor Party at the last Federal election, and the manner in which the Karmel Committee reported to the Government. Firstly. let me repeat that on 19 October 1972, when the former Government was in office, it brought in a Bill based on recurrent per capita grants. The Labor Party, then in Opposition, 6 weeks before the Federal election, moved that at the end of the motion 'That the Bill be now read a second time ' the following words be added: but the Senate, while not refusing a second reading to the Bill, is ofthe opinion that it should provide for the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools, and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school age children on the basis of needs and priorities-

These are the important words: and that the application of this policy could not allow the continued acceptance of the provisions of the Bill and that therefore grants should not be made on the basis provided in the Bill in respect of any year after 1 973.

That was the proposition that we moved, that was the proposition that we voted for, and it was the proposition that all members of the present

Opposition voted against, including members of the Democratic Labor Party. That happened 12 days before this House rose and 6 weeks before the election. Three weeks after we moved that amendment, on 13 November 1972 the Prime Minister, in announcing the Labor Party's policy speech, said:

A Federal Labor Government will:

Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973.

Nothing is plainer than that. Nothing could be clearer than that. That is the policy on which we were elected and it is in conformity with the platform of the Labor movement. On 13 April the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) wrote to Professor Karmel, the Chairman of the Karmel Committee, and said:

The terms of reference of your Committee specify that the grants you will recommend will be 'in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments'. It is also relevant that the Government has undertaken to continue during 1 973-

I emphasise the words 'during 1973 '- all grants to schools made under Commonwealth legislation which was operative when we came into office. I want to set down the Government's decisions about the phasing out of preexisting programs after 1973.

The effect of the Opposition amendment is to increase the grants to schools catering for 16 per cent of pupils in non-government schools and less than 4 per cent of pupils in all schools. The amendment would cost approximately $8m for the 2 years 1974 and 1975. All but a few hundred thousand dollars of that sum will go to nonCatholic schools. The Government's objection is not to the sum involved but, as I said earlier, to the principle.

Our policy is quite clearly to provide massive increased assistance to all schools, government and non-government, on the basis of need. We have moved from an existing level of $226m to a new total of $694m, which includes an additional $63m for non-government schools. The Labor Government's policy is that the assessment of need be made by an expert independent body-a schools commission or its interim committee pending legislation. At least all government schools and at least two-thirds of nongovernment schools will be better off under our program and under our legislation. We say that our policy was put in precise terms to the people at the 1972 election. The people endorsed our policy and rejected the Opposition's acrosstheboard per capita approach. Now we allege that the Opposition parties are trying to use their weight of numbers in the Senate to obstruct the

Government from giving effect to its undertakings which received the support ofthe Australian people.

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