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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3539

Senator TEAGUE(5.45) —Mr President, on Friday last when we were debating cognately the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Bill, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, I was at the point, with a few minutes to go, of trying to outline how we see the strategy of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan). I described it as political schizophrenia-how to maximise support from the public by saying things that the public wishes in some instances but with the party ideologues, the party members and the branches saying other things. There is a direct dichotomy between, on the one hand, what will make for democracy and what will make for public support by the Government moving to reassure the public and, on the other hand, the Government fulfilling the ideological commitments of party members. Similarly, I referred to the statements the Minister made during her visit to Ireland. She said that the Government was serving the Catholic schools wonderfully and yet, at the very same time, Catholic bishops and representatives of Catholic schools were decrying the Minister. If only the people of Ireland had seen that, they would have seen that it was a much more complex picture than the simple, happy story she was telling them.

Another illustration of this political schizophrenia are the facts with regard to level 2 and level 1 schools. Quite apart from the 41 schools on the hit list, the Minister has acknowledged in the Senate that level 2 and level 1 schools will not be given greater support than they would have received under the nexus or percentage link formula of the past.

Senator Peter Baume —They will get less.

Senator TEAGUE —They will be getting less for the most part, except for some level 2 schools. The great majority of level 2 schools and all level 1 schools will be getting less than the formula. The example of political schizophrenia is that the Minister will not acknowledge that to the schools; she will acknowledge it only under careful questioning in the Senate.

I summarise my plea again to the Minister and to the Government with regard to these Bills: Please do not distract us in this debate and please do not distract the country from the main thrust of helping those schools that are most in need or from the issue that is most important in the education area; that is, quality of outcome for Australia's school children. The same could be said with regard to tertiary education. By the abandonment of the guidelines and established principles of funding for non-government schools, the Senate has been distracted by this kind of debate and by the uproar that is all about the country. I again say to the Minister that for $20m or less this Government could redress that situation by restoring the basic grant for all school children on the basis of the principles of the past, by restoring the nexus or the percentage link, and by making it possible for newly established independant schools to have the same access as in the past to capital funds for their establishment. I implore the Minister, in this six months of review, to re-establish those principles so that we are all pulling together in this country and focusing upon the education questions that matter.

In conclusion, I urge that honourable senators support the second reading amendment moved by my colleague Senator Baume. I understand that he is seeking to leave out one word from the original proposal. I do urge honourable senators to support that opposition amendment.