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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3387

Senator COOK —Has the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs seen the report in today's Sydney Morning Herald headed 'Private teachers back Government policy '? In particular, I ask whether the Minister has seen the reported comments of Mr Michael Raper, President of the Independent Teachers Federation of Australia, that:

Calls for the end of state aid are totally irresponsible. But so too is the misrepresentation of the current funding guidelines by extremists like those at last night's (Monday) Malvern Town Hall meeting in Melbourne.

Do not these remarks from people in a qualified position to judge represent an endorsement of Government policy? What other expressions of support have there been from responsible and important education organisations?

Senator RYAN —I was aware of the Independent Teachers Federation of Australia's policy decision to support the Government's guidelines. In fact, its members have been supportive of the Government's guidelines since they were first announced. I spoke at the opening of their conference over the weekend and later met a delegation including their new executive on Monday morning. I am very heartened by what they had to say and I think honourable senators should take notice. They are the professionals who are running the independent schools which have been the subject of controversy in the media recently. They are the people who are committed to the education of young people in these schools. They are the people to whom the concerned parents, from whom we have been hearing a great deal, have entrusted their children. If those parents can entrust their children 's education to these teachers, I think they should take some note of what the teachers have to say about funding policies. They are informed people. They are professional people. They are dedicated people. It will be very enlightening for some of the parents of children in these schools to realise that the teachers, into whose care they have entrusted their children, do endorse the Government's policy.

I point out to honourable senators that these teachers are not only in a position to make a fair and professional assessment of recent decisions but also are well informed about the range of educational needs across systems. Of course , many of them, as honourable senators will know, will have taught in government school systems as well as private school systems. Many of them will have taught in the better-off private schools. Many of them will have taught in the poorer private schools. So, I think they represent a very broad base of understanding of the needs of children in schools. I think their statements ought to be taken very, very seriously by those who have chosen to participate in the present debate.

Of course, the Independent Teachers Federation of Australia is not the only responsible professional body which has endorsed the Government's guidelines. From memory, teachers federations throughout Australia have done so. The state school parents organisations throughout Australia have done so. Individual principals of state schools have done so. The Catholic education commissions throughout Australia have done so. It is very clear, I think, from the kinds of endorsements that the Government's policies have been getting, that those people who are informed and professionally engaged in the education of children in the government and non-government sectors accept the equity and justice and the positive and constructive effects of the Government's guidelines.