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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 1055

Mr McGAURAN(12.08 a.m.) — The appropriation for the Department of Education and Youth Affairs has been a severe disappointment to a great many people, not least of all the Council for the Defence of Government Schools, which was so moved by what it regards as Government discrimination and inaction as to insert in today's Canberra Times a full page advertisement which raises a whole range of questions. I will quote very briefly from that advertisement, which states in part:

Do you wish to be treated like your Victorian counterparts who are basically victims of the Premier's Media Manipulation Unit?

This is addressed to the Press. It is a rhetorical but very reasonable question. It continues:

No doubt you are aware that the A.L.P. spends a lot of energy and skill in managing the written and spoken media. The A.L.P. performances in the area of news management and particularly in the State-Aid area rivals the achievements of Goebbels in Nazi Germany. A.L.P. manipulation is made far easier because the way the media conducts press conferences with politicians and the way radio commentators handle talkbacks shows. The free press if it wishes, can perform an invaluable vital service to democracy if it thoroughly and persistently discusses the State-Aid Issue.

Madam Chair, it is a very dark day when you find me agreeing with the Council for the Defence of Government Schools, but on this one issue I have some credence in the questions it poses. The Victorian media are to a large extent manipulated by the Premier's Media Liaison Unit. It is a centralised body which feeds out, in dribs and drabs, Press releases to selected journalists at selected times as it sees fit. It is interesting to note that a body which has long supported the Australian Labor Party on education is so moved as to accuse the Australian Labor Party of deceit, downright dishonesty and media manipulation.

Mr Blunt —And they are right.

Mr McGAURAN —They are absolutely right. For a long time Opposition members have been accusing the ALP of double standards in many areas, not least in education. Who better typifies that standard of misrepresentation that the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins)? He was such a vitriolic disaster as shadow Minister for Education that the ALP sacked him from that position, unwilling to carry the burden of his personal bitterness into the election. He was removed as shadow Minister for Education, downgraded, thrust aside. His performances in this House since the election give a certain legitimacy to that concern of the ALP.

There are a number of other groups who rightly feel disfranchised by the Government's decision in the Budget on education. Residential colleges at universities and colleges of advanced education have had their residential subsidy cut by 25 per cent and by 1986 that subsidy will be phased out in its entirety. The sad irony is that this decision will hit those whom this hypocritical Government professes to serve. I refer to disadvantaged students, country students, students who rely on the tertiary education assistance scheme to allow them to pursue their tertiary education.

Mr Blunt —What about the TAFE colleges?

Mr McGAURAN —Furthermore, as the honourable member for Richmond interjects, what about the TAFE colleges? The stupidity of the Government's decision in higher education is best represented by the lack of appropriate funding for TAFE colleges. A short while ago we heard the honourable member for Chisholm (Ms Mayer) laud the participation and equity program. She forgot to add that once students are retained at secondary school and they complete that schooling, there is nowhere for them to go. Labor members can talk all they like about PEP, but unless they correspondingly fund colleges of advanced education or TAFE colleges, it is a wasted exercise and a cruel hoax to manipulate and fiddle with the unemployment figures. The Labor Government stands condemned for its callous cynicism and its playing of the political game.

Further, I refer to a matter that is close to the hearts of Victorian members, particularly the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), namely, the closure of student hostels by the Premier of that State.

Mr Howard —He has not done that, has he?

Mr McGAURAN —He has done that. He has closed tertiary education hostels in Melbourne, leaving more than 400 country students without a residence.

Mr Blunt —Mostly girls.

Mr McGAURAN —And mostly girls, as has been pointed out. Unfortunately, my colleagues and I made representation after representation to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and simply met a brick wall. She refused to assume the responsibility that had been abdicated by the Premier of Victoria.

I draw those few matters to the Committee's attention and add them to the matters which have already been listed by the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Blunt), in an attempt to explode once and for all the myth that the ALP is more concerned that we are about education. In fact, if one examines the Budget appropriation for the Department, one finds that not only is that a myth, but it is a cruel exercise in the utmost political cynicism.