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Wednesday, 13 November 1985
Page: 2073

Sentor LEWIS-I ask the Minister for Education why it is that she refuses to disclose to the council of the proposed Presbyterian King's College, Warrnambool, the reasons she has refused to grant funding to that college. If she will not tell the council why she will not give it funding, will she tell the Senate? Is it not a fact that the Warrnambool branch of the Australian Labor Party made representations opposing the establishment of this college? Is it a fact that it was the only group of people who had any opposition to the funding of the college?

Senator RYAN —The question put to me by Senator Lewis is typical of the misleading and, I think, very dishonest treatment of the new non-government schools policy which the Government has experienced at the hands of the Opposition. Firstly, I do not know whether the Warrnambool branch of the Australian Labor Party opposed or did not oppose the establishment of a particular school in that area. However, whether it did or did not would be absolutely irrelevant. If Senator Lewis is interested in finding out how the new non-government schools policy works, there are numerous documents put out by the Commonwealth Schools Commission, which administers that policy, which will explain it to him.

Of the various criteria which State planning committees take into account in considering whether to recommend a school's proposal for funding, support or opposition from a Labor Party branch or any other political party is not relevant. There is simply no way in which such a representation would be relevant to the process. What is relevant to the process is a series of things, such as the financial viability of the proposal, whether the proposal can expect to achieve registration from the State education authorities, the number of children that can be expected to be enrolled in the proposed school, whether the school will be set up in an area to draw students away from existing government or non-government schools, and whether the State planning authorities have been adequately consulted in the preparation of the proposition. There are a number of very clearly laid out planning considerations, and considerations to do with registration and financial viability which are taken into account when a representative State committee-that is, a State committee representative of non-government school interests and the State education department's interests-makes recommendations.

In the case of that particular school, I will seek information for Senator Lewis. However, it is certainly not the case that any group of people wishing to know the fate of a submission are not given that information. They are given that information. In this instance I expect they would have been given the information by the Commonwealth Schools Commission, which is administering the policy. If they seek further information they may get a reply from my office. However, that reply would be based on information provided by the Commonwealth Schools Commission.

I think that it behoves Senator Lewis, and anyone else who wants to take an interest in whether schools get funding, to address himself to the actual policy guidelines which are used in these cases and not to go running off with these very misleading and, I believe, very dishonest imputations about activities of Labor Party branches.

Senator LEWIS —I ask a supplementary question. Why has the Minister not replied to the council's letter dated 15 October?

Senator RYAN —I do not know how long that letter has been with the Schools Commission. I do not know whether that letter came directly to my office. If the letter came to my office it would have been sent to the Commonwealth Schools Commission because, as I have just endeavoured to explain to Senator Lewis, who seems to be determined to remain totally opaque on this issue, the advice on these matters comes from the Commonwealth Schools Commission. Such decisions are not determined by me alone; they are determined in discussions with the Commonwealth Schools Commission. If a letter dated 15 October arrived in my office some days later and was sent to the Commonwealth Schools Commission for investigation and advice, I am not surprised that a reply has not yet been forthcoming.