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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2783

Mr DAWKINS (Minister for Trade)(11.59) —As I said when I was taking a point of order, it is not normal to revisit these issues at this time in the debate and I will, therefore, keep my remarks very brief. The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) is obviously very fond of hearing his own voice. He spoke for some 30 minutes on these measures yesterday and he has just treated us to another 10 minutes of a repetition of what he said on that occasion.

It is very lazy of the Opposition to come forward with this kind of generalised amendment. If it had a real concern, and if it were able to establish any part of the assertion in this amendment, the proper course for it to take would be to move proper amendments to the body of the legislation. But, of course, those opposite do not want to do that because they know that the assertions made in this proposal are quite inaccurate and quite misleading. Therefore, rather than having the disciplined approach, the dinkum approach, of actually moving substantive amendments to clauses they might object to, they just make wild assertions about this Bill, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill, being in some way a constraint on the proper conduct of non-government schools.

I do not need to repeat what I said before. The Government does not intrude into the independence of non-government schools through its very generous funding arrangements. The dilemma that confronts the honourable member for Tangney and, indeed, the entire Opposition is that the non-government school sector is entirely satisfied with the funding arrangements which have been agreed between the non-government school sector and this Government. For the first time the non-government schools are experiencing generosity-a generosity which, I might say, is expanding over the years-in terms of recurrent funding. They also have predictability in funding arrangements as a result of the agreements made a couple of years ago.

The fact that non-government schools are very happy with the way this Government has entered into those funding arrangements means that there is really no debate outside this place about the issue. Therefore, the Opposition is trying to whip up a phoney debate in order to try to make some points which are quite unnecessary and quite misleading. There is no substance to the claim that the honourable member for Tangney makes about a massive intrusion by the Commonwealth into the affairs of non-government schools. That is just a fantasy which exists in his mind. It is very proper for the Commonwealth to ensure that funds which are provided for a particular purpose, that is, for the funding of non-government schools, are spent for that purpose and, therefore, there is a very proper requirement for the recipients of those funds to account for their expenditure. Where the fantasy comes in is in the Opposition's claim that through this device we are trying to manipulate the conduct of those non-government schools. That is totally inaccurate.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Shack's amendment) stand part of the question.