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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2827

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(8.44) —The amendments moved by Senator Peter Baume are not acceptable to the Government and I think Senator Baume's explanation of why he moved them was a very clear and lucid exposition of the philosophical difference between his Party in opposition and our Party in government. Senator Baume laid out a principle of total freedom of choice with no regard to cost constraints, existing planning provisions and so forth. That is not a position that we support. We are willing to fund freedom of choice and any examination of the records would demonstrate that we do that very extensively, but we also believe, as a government in charge of scarce public resources, that a point must come beyond which choices cannot simply continue to be funded. The logical extension of a totally libertarian position is that the same group of parents could ask every year for new funds to start yet another new school. In a totally unrestricted world that might be possible; but in a world where existing schools can be badly affected and, therefore, the choices of those children and their parents badly affected by the proliferation of schools in their areas, and where the government must account for the expenditure of public funds and has many demands on the public purse, we simply do not accept that the basic position should be that, wherever the parents choose to go, and no matter how many times they choose to change and start something new, public funding ought to be forthcoming. Public funding is forthcoming, very generously, and it enables a huge diversity in this country.

Having had the opportunity of examining other school systems throughout the world, I believe that Australia has more publicly funded diversity in schools than any other country. I think that is a good thing but it is not a policy which can prevail without any recognition of the need to plan and the need to make responsible choices about the allocation of public funds. So I appreciate Senator Peter Baume's clarity in explaining the philosophy which has led him to put forward the amendments. They are unacceptable to us for the reasons that I have given and I reject them at this stage.