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Friday, 9 December 1983
Page: 3591


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)(11.21) —I am grateful for Senator Macklin's comments because they do clarify the situation. There is nothing in the new provisions that would inevitably prevent a school, such as the possible Muslim school, being established in an area where there was an influx of people of the Muslim faith who wanted that sort of a school. In fact if there were an influx that in itself , as Senator Macklin has pointed out, would change the demography of the area and so there would be a justification. All we are seeking to do here is to ensure that resources are used rationally. This is very much in the interests of non-government schools, as non-government school administrators in many cases have admitted or acknowledged to me in my discussion with them.

It is simply misleading for Senator Peter Baume to suggest that we can have a totally libertarian situation with regard to the development of schools. It would be irresponsible of a Commonwealth or a State government to say that anyone can set up a school of any character wherever that person may like and there will inevitably be funding regardless of how much community effort has already been put into schools in that area. The decisions, of course, are not made directly by me. Ultimately they are approved by me. The State planning and finance committees, whose work Senator Baume will be very familiar with, examine priorities for new schools. They make decisions. On those State planning finance committees are representatives from non-government schools, parents, teachers and administrators. They are very representative committees and they establish the priorities for the development of new schools in any State. We are giving guidelines to them, particularly in regard to developed areas, because there can be particular problems in developed areas.

In answer to Senator Macklin's question about why we did not require the same kind of impact statement from developing areas, we have confidence in the State planning and finance committees procedures in developing areas. We work in close co-operation with the non-government sector. The non-government sector knows that it is in its interests too in new areas to have the planning worked out as soon as possible. So if we know there is to be a new area developed out in the western suburbs of Sydney, the State planning and finance committees know from the earliest stage that, for example, the Catholic Education Commission will be interested in establishing a school there. The ratio is usually about 1:4; say, four government primary schools to one Catholic school. The committees know that they will need to put a school there. There does not seem to be the disruption that one can get in a developed area.

Similarly, if there were to be a school of another character in a developing area, that school's resources can be planned in a rational way because the school knows that it can start, get its capital loan and so forth. But in the developed areas it is simply not a responsible approach to administration to say that, regardless of how many schools exist, regardless of how many resources are being put into schools in an area, any school, without investigation of the impact, can automatically be set up. But where there is a genuine case for a school of a different character, where it can be established that there will not be serious disruption-in the case of the possible Muslim school I do not believe there would be disruption if the Muslims are coming newly into that area-then I presume that the state planning and finance committees would give their approval to such a school and I would certainly endorse that approval.