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Wednesday, 29 February 1984
Page: 137

Senator COLEMAN —Is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs aware that last Sunday night the Leader of the Opposition participated in a Melbourne radio program, claiming that the education policies of the Labor Government are a failure? Has the Minister had equal time-or has she been offered equal time-to answer the allegations made, or will she take this opportunity, while the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, to refute those allegations?

The PRESIDENT —I call the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and ask the Minister to keep her answer brief.

Senator RYAN —Mr President, I can understand why you feel you have to admonish me on that score because were I to seek to refute the allegations that the Leader of the Opposition made on radio last Sunday night I would need a lot more time than the very brief time he took. Of course members of the Opposition, such as Mr Peacock and Senator Baume are totally preoccupied with one very small aspect of the Government's education policy. They are absolutely unable to look beyond the small aspect which they pursued with such tedious repetition last year. They ignored major initiatives such as the secondary school renewal program, the participation and equity program of $74m, the computer education program, to which Senator Tate's question earlier today referred and the extra participation money for 3,000 new places for disadvantaged students in higher education. Of course we need to look at those things and we need to start looking at initiatives in special areas such as the building of Aboriginal community schools, the setting up of multicultural co-ordination committees, the setting up of a portfolio working party on the education of women and girls and the setting up of a particular task force within my portfolio bringing in outside experts on education and the arts.

It is quite clear that the Opposition is not interested in the major initiatives which will affect virtually all primary school and secondary school children in this country, which will make many more places in higher education available and which will address the long neglected needs of Aboriginal students , students from different ethnic backgrounds and girls and women in our society. All those things which have been of great interest and which have been welcomed and endorsed by education bodies throughout Australia and the general public are clearly of no interest to the Opposition. Mr President, bearing in mind your suggestion to me that I should keep my reply to this question brief, I will refer honourable senators to the very extensive list of government achievements in education which are available through the publications of my Department.