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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3880


Senator PETER BAUME —My question is to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. I draw the Minister's attention to the Prime Minister's recent statement that the education policy of the Government is the policy which was taken by that Party to the election. Since that policy stated explicitly that moves will be made to phase down and cut out support for some children in some non-government schools, I ask the Minister: Is the education policy of the Government the education policy it took to the election?


Senator RYAN —I would have thought that Senator Baume would be as familiar by now as I am with the details of Australian Labor Party education policy. It was the policy that we took to the election to achieve some redistribution within the non-government school sector and to fund non-government schools on the basis of need. Our first Budget represented our first steps towards implementing that policy. But it was also the policy that we took to the election, to establish a new way of measuring the needs of non-government schools by getting the Commonwealth Schools Commission to report on a community standard. Once that happens, the needs of all non-government schools will be assessed in the light of that community standard. So it may well be that all existing non-government schools will still be entitled to some form of support under the needs based policy.

But as Senator Baume well knows, until that new way of measuring the needs of schools is established, there can be no specific indication about further reductions in funding. However, wherever a non-government school of any kind falls below the established community standard, it will continue to justify and receive Commonwealth recurrent grants.


Senator PETER BAUME —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. The Minister' s answer did not make the matter clear. Did not the policy which the Labor Party took to the election state explicitly that support for some children would be phased out over several years?


Senator RYAN —No, it did not state that. It stated that schools that continued to operate at a certain high level would have their funding phased out; but incorporated into that policy statement was a recognition that schools may change the way in which they operate so as to remain within the community standard and continue to attract Commonwealth grants. So there was a very clear implication in the policy that it would be possible for schools to remain within the community standard and to receive Commonwealth grants accordingly. There was also an implication that if schools continued to choose to operate well above that standard, a phasing out process would continue. But those questions have not been answered. They have not been answered by the schools themselves.