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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2767


Senator PETER BAUME(12.16) —If it suits the convenience of the Senate I suggest that we deal with the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 3), the Commonwealth Education Institutions (Overseas Students) Amendment Bill 1985, the States Grants (Education Assistance- Participation and Equity) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1985, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1985, together with the States Grants (Nurse Education Transfer Assistance) Bill 1985 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1985, in a cognate debate, with the questions being put separately.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There being no objection, it is so ordered.


Senator PETER BAUME —I will deal briefly with the majority of the Bills because they enjoy the support of the Opposition. The Opposition supports the States Grants (Nurse Education Transfer Assistance) Bill, which will transfer nurse education from hospitals to the higher education sector, and the associated Bill, the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2), which provides some of the financial arrangements. My only comment on those Bills relates to the helping professions in general, the medical profession and most of the therapies-occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. Most of the other associated helping professions now receive their education in the higher education sector, mostly in the college sector. Over a generation there has been a move by nurses to have their training moved away from hospital-based training to institution-based training. These Bills provide the statutory basis for such transfer to take place at a more rapid pace.

The transfer is not without some difficulty and pain in several areas. Firstly, the people who have been teaching in hospitals want to ensure that they are not disadvantaged. They are concerned to ensure that some of the traditions of nurse education are not abandoned with the transfer. They are concerned to ensure that the institutions taking over the training will be able to do that job. There are concerns about the clinical training associated with such transfers. Of course, there are some quite complex arrangements to be made between the Commonwealth and the States for the new financial arrangements. Under the old arrangements nurse training was a State activity. Under the new arrangements, once nurses move to colleges of advanced education, which is a Commonwealth area of expenditure, there are questions of how and whether nurse trainees will qualify for the payment of student benefits as educational trainees. There are other questions of how the States will then proceed to rationalise the staffing within their hospitals. There is a whole range of questions, but we believe that they will be resolved and we believe that this legislation, on balance, is a desirable set of Bills to try to facilitate the movement of nurse training alongside that of the other helping professions within the higher education sector.

I observe only that it may well emerge that a new class of nurse trainee will be needed more and more within hospitals-people without higher education, perhaps a practical nurse or a nurse's aide, whatever the phrase may be, who will take over some of the functions traditionally carried out by nurse trainees. Many of the people who were trained in hospitals as nursing sisters-as was my colleague Senator Walters-may be concerned that something will be lost if the ethos of nursing, built up as a result of hospital training over many years, is lost. With those few words the Opposition indicates its support for those two Bills.

The Opposition supports the Bill which provides for the capacity of the Australian National University, the Canberra College of Advanced Education and the Australian Maritime College to take fee-paying overseas students. I will not discuss that legislation any further. However, I will refer to the other three Bills.

The States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 3) provides supplementation payments for higher education, to take account of price movements. I remind the Senate, as I did the other night, that it provides $45.2m in additional grants for higher education for 1986 and 1987, $280m for technical and further education for 1986 and $183.9m in adjustments for cost increases for existing grants. These are very large amounts of money. It is not possible to consider these amounts without reminding the Senate that this same Government introduced in the Senate one week ago a Bill to cut $10m from child care; child care being one of the essential components of the achievement of equal employment opportunity for women. We simply refuse to believe that it was not possible, for example, to have found $10m from amongst those amounts of $184m, $280m and $45m, and apply it to child care.

The Government has made a declaration of its priorities, if one sets alongside each other three recent decisions: Firstly, the decision to give taxation or duty concessions to those wishing to import thoroughbred racehorses. That is scarcely help for the needy; it helps the very richest group in society. Secondly, there was the decision to supplement very generously-I have indicated the amounts, totalling hundreds of millions of dollars-the support given for the most fortunate and most privileged in our education system. Thirdly, another expression of Government priority was the removal of $10m from the child care area for subsidised child care and for the places available to those who require subsidised child care.

The other comment one needs to make in considering the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill is to remind the Government once again that it is failing to satisfy or meet the requirements of young Australians, and of Australians generally, for access to higher education. Let me make that point in a rational and reasoned way. Let us acknowledge immediately that the Government has added to the places that are available in universities and colleges and that it has announced it will add more places. That is only one half of the equation. It is a question of balancing the places available against the numbers seeking admission to those places. I have obtained figures in regard to which I have sought to make a judgment on the numbers of people seeking and likely to be seeking places in higher education in Australia. It is necessary for the Senate to consider the fact that over the last few years more and more young Australians have remained in the senior years of school. I remember that when I was Minister I started a campaign at the end of 1982. Indeed, in 1983 retention rates at year 12 had increased substantially. The Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, and her Government have continued that campaign. They have extended it and they have achieved increased retention rates. Now up to 45 per cent appear to be retained in the school system to the end of year 12. Considerably more young Australians are being retained than was the case even five or seven years ago. It means that a larger cohort of young Australians is sitting for the examination which qualifies it for higher education.

The question is: Are young Australians as well off, better, or worse off than they were a few years ago? One must work out the number of places available in universities and colleges and the number of applicants seeking those places. I have here some figures prepared from Statistical Monograph No. 3-`Apparent Grade, Retention Rates and Age Participation Rates' from the Commonwealth Department of Education, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics schools publications and Statistical Monograph No. 1-`Education: School and Other Leavers', also from the Commonwealth Department of Education. We have used all of those sources-I am grateful to those who compiled the figures for me-to try to get some measure of whether the places made available by this Government are keeping up with demand.

In 1977 when the retention rate to year 12 was low, the figures suggest that of all those finishing year 12, about 48.7 per cent were commencing students the following year in regard to higher education. The figure dropped. Let me acknowledge that it dropped. The figure was down to 42.2 per cent in 1981 and 41.9 per cent in 1982. In 1983, which saw the result of the last Fraser Budget, it was 43.1 per cent; that is, 43 per cent of all those who finished year 12 seemed to be commencing students in universities and colleges. It seems that in 1985 that figure has dropped. It is now 41.1 per cent. Only 41 per cent of those completing year 12 seem to be commencing students, seem to be able to find places to be commencing students, in universities and colleges. That figure is lower than any since 1977. I cannot cite figures before 1977 because I do not have them.

In regard to the figures before us, a lesser percentage of that cohort finishing secondary school in Australia is able to enter universities and colleges today than has been the case for a decade. That is in spite of the Minister's efforts to provide extra places and her achievements in being able to provide some extra places. The extra places are welcome, but they are nothing like the number of extra places required to meet the increased retention in years 11 and 12 in secondary school or the completion rates to year 12. It is nothing like the number required to allow the same percentage of young Australians to find their way into higher education.

If someone urges a young Australian to stay in school so that he has a chance to enter higher education, he would be entitled to say: `What are you talking about? The chance of my participating seems to be dropping year by year, because whereas under the Liberals in 1977 I had almost a one in two chance if I completed year 12 to enter a college or university, now I have only slightly better than a two in five chance'.I hope that the Minister will be able to convince her colleagues that in pursuit of the interests of young Australians she should be able to provide more places. I doubt that the public purse will be able to fund the number of extra places that will be required. The Minister will have to acknowledge the fact that no matter what she thinks, it will be necessary to look to other sources of funding to achieve the extra opportunity, the extra access, and to maintain excellence in our higher education institutions. I remind the Minister that the Liberal principles for higher education are built around opportunity, access and excellence.

The only other Bill to which I wish to address a few remarks is the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill. My colleague Senator Baden Teague will speak to this piece of legislation. The Opposition will move some amendments, both to the motion for the second reading of the Bill and at the Committee stage. They were foreshadowed by my colleague Mr Shack in the House of Representatives. The purpose of this piece of legislation is to provide certain retrospective cost supplementation grants for schools programs in 1985-the Opposition will not oppose those; to tend and authorise funds for annual programs in 1986-I will come back to that point in a moment; to provide for the transfer of certain early special education responsibilities from the Department of Community Services to the Commonwealth Schools Commission-we will not oppose that measure; and to provide for the Government's new policy on new non-government schools-we certainly will oppose certain elements of that measure.

I return to the funding of annual Schools Commission programs for 1986. I make it clear that in very many areas this Government has reduced the funds for educational programs for 1986. Tables 17.1 and 17.2 of the summary tables on page 57 of the report of the Commonwealth Schools Commission for 1986 set out the figures. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the two tables.

Leave granted.

The tables read as follows-

SUMMARY TABLES

Table 17.1

1986 National Allocations Commonwealth General Resource Programs for Schools

(expressed in estimated December 1984 prices)

1985

1986

($'000)

($'000)

Government programs

General Recurrent (a)...

354 414

373 740

Capital...

165 501

150 890

Non Government Programs

General Recurrent (b)...

660 947

671 074

Short Term Emergency Assistance...

643

643

Capital (c)...

59 727

54 406

Total...

1 241 232

1 250 753

(a) As this program operates on a per capita basis, final costs will be subject to actual enrolments each year.

(b) Based on latest available year's actual enrolments (1984); final payments are dependent on actual enrolments for 1985 and 1986, the distribution of increased enrolments among the funding categories, the outcome of appeals by schools against their funding categories and the number of new schools to qualify for Commonwealth per capita and establishment grants; based on projected enrolments, total costs are estimated at an additional $13m-$15m in 1985 and $25m-27m in 1986.

(c) Includes amount to be transferred from Department of Community Services in 1986. An amount has also been included in 1985 for reasons of comparison.

Table 17.2

National Allocations 1986

Commonwealth General Resource Programs for Schools

(expressed in estimated December 1984 prices)

1985

1986

($'000)

($'000)

Government Programs

Primary Basic Learning...

5 549

5 549

Participation and Equity...

40 698

20 349

Computer Education...

5 251

5 251

English as a Second Language

- General Support...

42 458

40 855

- New Arrivals (a)...

10 004

10 004

Disadvantaged Schools...

30 034

30 034

Special Education

- Recurrent...

18 845

18 072

- Integration...

1 419

1 361

Early Special Education...

1 668

1 668

Non-Government Programs

Primary Basic Learning...

1 466

1 466

Participation and Equity...

4 768

2 384

Computer Education...

1 313

1 313

English as a Second Language

- General Support...

17 958

17 084

- New Arrivals (a)...

1 070

1 070

Disadvantaged Schools...

5 833

5 833

Special Education

- Recurrent...

4 819

4 621

- Integration...

407

390

- Support Services (b)...

13 000

12 467

Early Special Education...

426

426

Joint Programs

Participation and Equity...

1 701

850

Early Special Education...

1 780

1 780

Multicultural Education...

4 975

4 771

Ethnic Schools (a)...

5 037

5 037

Country Areas...

10 228

9 809

Children in Residential Institutions...

2 289

2 289

Severely Handicapped Children...

3 738

3 738

Professional Development...

11 301

11 301

Education Centres...

2 393

2 393

Projects of National Significance...

1 818

1 818

Total...

252 246

223 983

(a) As these programs operate on a per capita basis, final costs will be subject to actual enrolments each year.

(b) Amount to be transferred from Department of Community Services in 1986. An amount has also been included in 1985 for reasons of comparison.


Senator PETER BAUME —I thank the Senate. These tables reveal that funding for a large number of programs in 1986 will be less, in real terms, than it was for 1985. Educational programs in a large number of areas will be less well funded. For example, capital funds for programs in government schools will be down from $165m to $151m. Capital funds for programs in non-government schools will be down from $60m to $54m. Turning to specific government school programs, funds for the participation and equity program will be cut in half. I will come back to that in a moment. Funds for the general support component of the English as a second language government program-one of the great opportunity programs in our community-will be reduced from $42m to $40m, a reduction, by the Labor Government, for those needing to learn English as a second language. Special education recurrent funding is being reduced from $18.845m to $18.072m. Funding for the integration component of the special education program is being reduced from $1.4m to $1.36m. Funding for non-government programs in the same areas is also being reduced. Funding for the English as a second language non-government program is being reduced from $17.9m to $17m. Recurrent special education funding, integration funding, participation and equity funding, multicultural education funding and funding for country areas programs are all being reduced this year. The Government has to explain why it is reducing funding for so many of the educational programs, many of which I have listed operate to the benefit of disadvantaged Australians or Australians in special need. How is it possible that the Government can announce at Budget time new concessions for racehorse owners when it cannot even keep up the funding for the English as a second language program in real terms?


Senator Teague —They are real cuts on all these special programs.


Senator PETER BAUME —They are real cuts. I am talking in constant dollar terms. My comparisons have already made allowance for inflation. These are real cuts in programs for the needy while we pander to the racehorse owners around Australia. The Government has to answer why it has set priorities this way, why it is willing to put public money, for example, into the defence of the America's Cup when it is not willing to maintain in real terms its support for the English as a second language program or the special education programs and the many other programs which are used by the poor and disadvantaged.

I turn finally to the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Bill 1983. Again, as we have said many times, the reduction of this scheme represents one of the great tragedies for young Australians. The participation and equity program was announced by this Government as `the centrepiece of our youth policy'. It is the kind of centrepiece which is now being cut in half without an effective replacement being established and put into operations. Sure, there has been an announcement about a new program-Priority One: Young Australia. But show me around the country where it is taking the place of the participation and equity program. A project has been announced by Ansett Airlines of Australia to take some people under the Priority One program but, apart from that, the program is not running at all yet. The participation and equity program, par excellence, was directed at the disadvantaged, particularly to the educationally disadvantaged, to the long term unemployed and to those who lacked the skills to become winners in society. Whereas we increase the funds for higher education by large amounts-by hundreds of millions of dollars-set out in the legislation which is part of this cognate package, we have cut in half funds for the participation and equity program for the long term unemployed, for the disadvantaged and for those in special need.

The obvious question is: What are these people supposed to do? What are they supposed to do now as their opportunities are reduced, as their chances to participate are lessened and as their opportunities to become winners are diminished? Why did a Labor government adopt this set of priorities? Is this the new Labor Government which will cut child care and educational programs for the needy, the disadvantaged and the long term unemployed-programs such as the English as a second language program which goes to the help of those who need special education-but which will provide new concessions for racehorse owners for taxation, will provide lavish funding for the cultural preferences of honourable senators such as me who go to the ballet, will provide lavish support of sport and put money into all the circuses around the place? It is disgusting, but it is a statement of priorities which those in the educational area know and understand. They have heard the message.

I have not discussed the provision for new non-government schools. My colleague Senator Teague will do so. In anticipation of what he is to say, I move:

Leave out all words after `That', insert:

`the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1985 be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for-

(a) the removal of constraints imposed on non-government schools, or on non-government school communities, which will in any way destroy their independence or opportunities for expansion or interfere with the special character of non-government schools; and

(b) a basic per pupil grant for each child for the basic necessities of schooling, adequate capital provision, and special additional funds for special educational disadvantage'.

I indicate that when we come to the Committee stage of the consideration of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1985 we intend to oppose a number of the clauses which put into effect changes in relation to non-government schools, again, in ways which my colleague will make clear to the Senate.