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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2261

Senator PETER BAUME(4.56) —I thank the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button). I am aware of the document from which he was quoting because it was made available to Estimates Committee D. Another part of that document indicates certain points which should be taken into consideration. The first point is:

the Commonwealth is anxious to encourage a free flow of information from education systems on matters relating to the effectiveness of their capacity to deliver appropriate education services to the nation's children.

I support that. That is what this query is about. We did no more than to seek from New South Wales some of that free flow of information in respect of money which the State accepted. We want to know whether New South Wales is spending that money for the purposes for which it was allocated. The second point in the Commonwealth Schools Commission's advice to the Estimates Committee is as follows:

From time to time a State Government indicates that it does not wish to make public particular information which does not fall within the legislative requirements in respect of Commonwealth funds.

The problem really comes down to the fact that the legislative requirements are minimum requirements; a certificate is to be supplied by June 1986. Those are the the requirements that existed when I was a Minister and I accept that. But since a query was raised, all we wanted to get from New South Wales was enough information either to put the concern of my constituents to rest or, if it was correct, to put New South Wales on notice. It is very distressing that New South Wales has chosen to fall back on its mimimum legal requirements under the Act rather than to do as the Commission indicated and help to promote the free flow of information about which the Commission was talking in its answer. We certainly got nothing between April and October and we would have got nothing had the matter not been raised again. So New South Wales, at least, is being difficult.

In relation to the equal opportunity matter, I notice that the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) is now in the chamber. I now know that the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority document does say-I do not have it in front of me-that as near as possible to 100 per cent of all the higher duty allowance appointments will be given to women. I am a supporter of equal employment opportunity but I am not a supporter of gender preference. I am a supporter of merit. I ask the Minister: How is that condition consistent with equal employment opportunity based on merit-that as near as possible to 100 per cent of positions available should be reserved for people of either gender?