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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 327

Senator ZAKHAROV —Has the Minister for Education read statements reportedly made by a John Reid at a meeting of the principals of independent schools, describing the public education system as an `intellectual desert'. Is there any basis for this description? If not, what steps can the Government take to ensure that his uninformed opinions on education do not affect his role with the Australian Bicentennial Authority?

Senator RYAN —I did notice Mr Reid's reported comments, and I made some public comments on those comments myself. I find it extremely disappointing that a person in such a high profile public position as the Chairman of the Bicentennial Authority should have made such an insulting and ill-informed attack on the public education system. I do not think I have to regale the Senate with incidents of high intellectual achievement within the public school system, because I am sure all honourable senators know of such achievements in schools in their own electorates as, indeed, we know of other high achievements--

Senator Gareth Evans —Here we all are on the front bench.

Senator RYAN —Senator Gareth Evans himself is an example, as are Senator Grimes and Senator Peter Baume. I think all honourable senators will be aware that various public schools of various kinds in States and Territories throughout Australia have achieved, and continue to achieve, the highest level of academic achievement, as do various private non-government schools throughout Australia. This is known to all of us. It does not need detailed refutation by me at this point.

I conclude by repeating my regret that such a statement was made. I believe that it is particularly inappropriate that the Chairman of a project which is supposed to result in a very harmonious celebration by all Australians from all backgrounds of the bicentennial of European Australia in 1988 should have made what is an insulting and diverse comment. I hope that Mr Reid will have the opportunity to correct his own false impressions of the public education system and perhaps publicly make an admission of the error he has committed.