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Thursday, 29 October 1970


Dr SOLOMON (Denison) - The matter before the House raises a difficult problem, as do many matters in the educational sphere. As the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) opposite and others on this side of the House will be aware, I saw these proposals only at the beginning of this debate. Therefore I have not had the opportunity to consider them deeply. I would not want to be misunderstood in what I have to say in this regard, because I find the interest of the honourable member for Fremantle, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) and any others who share their views entirely admirable, in that they want to take a direct part and participate actively in the processes of some of our leading educational institutions. I think that the honourable member for the Australian Capita) Territory even said that, to his knowledge, honourable members who have sat on the Council of the Australian National University have been enriched by the experience. I have no doubt whatever that this is the case, just as I am sure that I have been enriched by the experience of being in this chamber for a year. As I understand it, universities or colleges of advanced education do not exist primarily to enrich the experience of members of Parliament. They exist for other reasons which I do not need to dilate on at the moment. 1 submit, with all due respect to the honourable members whom I mentioned earlier and to any others who are equally well . intentioned and interested and who no doubt have done a stirling job in the past, that there is no prima facie case to suggest that 2 senators or 2 members of this House will necessarily add anything to the councils of governing bodies of the kind we are discussing than any other interested and experienced lay members of the community. Such members of Parliament may add as much as, and more than, some, but these governing bodies are framed on a basis of educational expertise, leavened by lay experience, good sense and other areas of experience which may be incidental to the argument, to make some kind of balanced plans for the governing of the institutions. I am well aware that it is possible for an institution - a long standing one or a new one such as the Canberra College of Advanced Education -to create an atmosphere, if not of nepotistic flavour then certainly of some kind of incestuous relationship, in the sense that the same people with the same sort of training are teaching themselves and those under their control the same sort of things. So the process goes on. ] believe that the fundamental philosophy of the matter is that councils of governing bodies of this kind have been leavened in their educational experience, such as it is, by the introduction of lay members. 1 adhere to the point I made in my speech on the second reading of this Bill, that there is a provision for 8 people, appointed by the Governor-General, on the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education. I would not like to appear to be the greatest fuddy-duddy and reactionary of all time, but quite frankly 1 cannot see that apart from indulging members of Parliament, who may be very well intentioned, very helpful, and any other useful adjective one can think of appropriate to the occasion, the proposal serves any useful purpose. It is not the prime purpose of the institutions to indulge the interests of members of Parliament, however profitable that might be. It seems to me that if there are 20 or so people on such a governing body who are well balanced - at least on paper - and who appear to be capable of offering a balance of governorship, control or whatever you like to call it, for such an institution, then I see not very much point in loading the cart further by adding people specifically from this House. I can say at the same time that I would be most interested to join the honourable member for Fremantle or somebody else on such a body, but that is not to make a case necessarily for the amendment which is before us.

As far as the Australian National University is concerned, I suppose it is a fair parallel, but if wc take it even as far as it has already been taken we start to query, as I think the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory particularly did and some others touched upon, the function of these institutions and the marginal line as between whether they are basically supposed to be institutions for inquiry or institutions for teaching. Certainly as of this moment the colleges of advanced education are slanted in the direction of teaching the gaining of knowledge, mainly of a practical kind, whereas it is well known, and often said to their detriment in fact, that universities are basically there for gaining knowledge for its own sake and not for direct application. I am well aware that there are faculties such as engineering, medicine and so on, but - and it does not matter whether the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) sniffs or not - the plain fact of the matter is that some of us have done a little thinking about this over the years and it is, as are so many problems on education, totally insoluble in terms of rights or wrongs. That is my point of view. It may vary from that of the honourable member for Fremantle.

I.   think I. will leave it at that. I hope that I do not do the proposals an injustice, but I believe that as they read they are not essential, however admirable they might be and however much they may cement and integrate a better relationship between a body such as the one under discussion and members of Parliament per se. 1 still believe it is possible for those members of

Parliament to take just as much interest, or very nearly as much interest, in the general workings of our educational institutions without necessarily being put by Parliament on their governing bodies. If the governing bodies wish to fill vacant places among their number under their control they will sometimes, of course, ask members of the public to fill those places, and I am quite sure that on occasion members of Parliament will be asked to do so.







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