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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) gave an interesting address. He spoke mainly about the educational needs of the Aboriginal people and he said that it was important to investigate these needs. However this may be, we do not necessarily have to set up a committee, such as the one that has been suggested, to do that. The honourable member referred to the remarks of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson), but I do not think the interpretation he placed on these remarks was correct. I am quite sure that the honourable member for Denison did not fear the result of an inquiry; he thought that such an inquiry could throw more responsibility on to the Commonwealth Government. All the members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate are ex-school teachers. I am reminded of the view expressed by a Minister in the United Kingdom. He said that a former Army general did not necessarily make the best

Minister for the Army. The members of the Opposition have shown today that ex-school teachers are not necessarily the best experts on education. However, as the honourable member for Fremantle said, we do not want to score party political points in this debate.

Education is a very serious matter. I have gained the impression that the Opposition's case is an expression of no confidence in the State education system and in the work the States are doing in this field. For my part, I believe that the States have done an excellent job in this difficult field. We know that in this country, under the guidance of a government that has developed it to a very considerable extent, we are getting all the things we are looking for in fields like immigration and development and a higher percentage of young people are going on to higher education. This greater number of students is putting a heavy strain on our economy.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spent some time discussing pre-school and kindergarten training although this matter was not mentioned in his motion. I agree that it was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in another place when a similar motion was proposed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned also the number of Australian teachers who are going to Canada, but it must be appreciated that in the circumstances existing today many young people from all walks of life - not only school teachers - are travelling overseas. The fact that school teachers are going to Canada does not mean that they are the only ones .who are moving around in the various countries; young people in various occupations have the opportunity to travel abroad.

Comment has been made during this debate concerning the policy of continuing progress. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was inclined to say that there was not continuing progress, but the record of the Government discloses increasing expenditure on education in recent years. In view of this, surely there could be no question at all that the Government has a policy of continuing progress. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claims that it is impossible to detect it, I suggest that he again examine the Government's record. This policy of continuing progress is so obvious and easily detectable that I cannot understand how anyone could miss it.

The Minister mentioned the Martin Committee, all the recommendations of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claims should be adopted. Putting the Minister's comments on this aspect in my own words, the Martin Committee's recommendations have been implemented wherever it has been reasonably practicable to do so. This is a matter of combined effort by the Commonwealth and States. As the Minister said, the Government's policy has been an improvement on some of the Martin Committee's recommendations. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) suggested that the State school, system was the best, and he quoted some instances to support his claim. I believe that the State school system has done a grand job; at the same time, 1 also acknowledge the excellent job that has been done by the independent schools. The combined efforts of the teachers in both categories of schools deserve our commendation. The honourable member mentioned also the cost of the Fill aircraft, and compared it with the cost of education. In reply, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) said: Surely these are two entirely different subjects.' The defence of this country is an essential part of Government policy. Surely we want the best equipment for our servicemen, in the light of present circumstances, to enable the most effective defence of this country. I also believe that the purchase of the Fill aircraft has no relationship to the cost of education. The honourable member for Wills also asked what is known of the teaching standards in the non-State schools. We know that the results achieved by them are sufficient to justify and guarantee their standards of teaching. That applies at least to the non-State schools that I know. The honourable member for Denison said that the Opposition, as usual, wants to have two bob each way.

To emphasise what the honourable member for Denison has said, I point out that Commonwealth expenditure in this field is now $194m, which is approaching $200m, and a considerable increase from 1961-62, when $54m was allocated. This is an example of how the Government is proceeding with the programme of developing education and how it is assisting the States. The Commonwealth's record in this regard is splendid; this is one field in which it can be justifiably proud. The Government's policy on education stands out when compared with the policy of the Opposition, which claims the credit for everything because it does not have to bear the responsibility of finding the money to implement its proposals. Of course, this is a common practice with the Opposition, and I realise that this is not the only Opposition that does it. Oppositions recommend all sorts of things. We have seen this done many times, and it is again being done in the matter that the House is now debating.

Mr Barnard - We did set up the Commonwealth Office of Education.

Mr CORBETT - I did not say the Labor Government did nothing, but we have done so much that there is no comparison. I should like to mention all the efforts that the Government has made, but they are so numerous that 1 could not possibly fit them into the time available to me during this debate. Suffice it to say that in 1967 about 50.000 students held Commonwealth awards at all levels, from higher secondary school to post-doctoral research. The new awards available in 1967 wereno fewer than 22,000. The Commonwealth scholarship schemes "cover post-graduate awards, university scholarships, advanced education scholarships, and secondary and technical scholar- ships. Up to and including 1967 the Commonwealth has',- through these schemes, assisted about 132,000 students. It will not necessarily stop at this, for this is a continuing programme and the Commonwealth has accepted responsibility in the education field to help the States. The Commonwealth realises that it has such a responsibility, but 1 ask the Opposition whether it wants to take all the education responsibilities from the States and concentrate them in the Federal Government.

Mr Barnard - No more than health, transport or anything else.

Mr CORBETT - If the Opposition wants this, an inquiry is not necessary. That is the. place where it could make this advocacy. IfI remember rightly, the honourable member for Wills said that we do not know where we are going. He was speaking for the Opposition. We do know where we are going - along the right road in a very creditable way.

I shall now mention some other aspects of the programme that the Government has undertaken so successfully. For example, it took a most significant step in 1965 by offering direct support for research projects of particular merit, through grants recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee. The. Commonwealth provided almost$2m for this purpose in 1966 and has allocated a further $3. 4m this year. During the 1967-69 triennium the Commonwealth will support a total programme recommended by the Committee, by allocating at least S9m. So it goes on. Referring now to the Martin Committee report, and coming back to teacher training, a tremendous amount of effort has been made in regard to. teachers' colleges. The difficulty here is the amount of money that has recently been applied to the States' many teacher training colleges.

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