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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2575

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - Like Senator Drake-Brockman I am going to be all sweetness and light so far as these Bills are concerned. I congratulate the Government for introducing them. I congratulate the Minister for Education, Mr Kim Beazley, who, even though we have caused him some trouble over the past couple of weeks, we all acknowledge is a man who has a very fine outlook in regard to education. He is a very broad minded man and one who is determined to do all he can to improve the status of education in this country. I want to make only a couple of points. About 10 days ago, in a cognate type of debate on certain Bills, I referred to the large number of students who enter universities and who do not complete even the first or second term in some cases and who, in an extraordinarily large number of cases, do not complete the first year. I suggested to the Government that there must be scope for some system by which the suitability of a student for a university course or some other type of course or training could be determined. No system which determines whether a student should go to a university would be perfect, but I put that suggestion because education is taking an increasing amount of Commonwealth finance. In those circumstances we should adopt the attitude that we will make available all the money which is required but we should get value for it. I raise that matter only because I believe that it would be to the advantage of everybody- the Government, the Opposition and the whole country- to ensure that the people who go to university at least have some real claim to go there. If we could ensure that a reasonable proportion of them would be weeded out rather than go to a university and fail, as such large numbers do in the first year, we would be doing good to them, because defeat saps their confidence, and we would certainly be helping the finances of the Government.

I will not labour the point about no means test for universities, other than to say that I remember when the Government announced that it intended to take responsibility for all the fees of the students. I was talking to the rector of my university college and he remarked to me: 'I hope the Government knows how much this will cost it'. He considered that the expenditure involved would be extraordinarily high. I presume that the Government looked at the matter, but he is an authority in regard to university education and the attitude which he adopted- he wants to see universities advanced- was that he thought that an extraordinarily large sum would be involved, and he questioned whether that money could not have been put to a better use in some other educational direction. I am glad that the Government has paid tribute to the work that was done by a committee of which I was a member which inquired into all aspects of teacher training. I am pleased that the Government has looked at quite a number of suggestions which we made and that there are indications of action in regard to them. I am also pleased at the final words of the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) on one Bill. He said:

As teachers colleges are now becoming autonomous the desirability of a diversity of basic approach to education makes it opportune to consider the value of private teachers colleges. Pre-school teachers colleges are private institutions in many cases. The Australian Government 's policy of full financial support for tertiary education makes the support of private teachers colleges a logical step.

I am pleased to see that statement. I congratulate the Government on that statement of policy. I congratulate it for introducing these Bills, and I congratulate the Minister for Education who has fathered them.

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