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Thursday, 29 October 1970

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - 1 cannot but feel depressed by the fact that the Government has rejected yet again a proposition to broaden this council. It seems to me that this is a vote of no confidence in the Canberra community. The people of Canberra would not recognise professors, with all due respect, as being typical or representative of the. community. They are particular people in the community. All that the Opposition is asking for is that the wide scope of the community should be represented on the Council. The Wark Committee recommended a more direct and intimate relationship between education and industry and other relevant organisations. That is plain enough. Surely the Government is prepared to make some gesture. It used its ingenuity on the previous proposition about parliamentarians to have it defeated by saying: 'Well, this is not a national body as is the Australian National University'. But we are now considering a different situation. Yet, another reason or reasons have been found not to accept representatives of the local community.

Wherever we go throughout Australia there is regret that there is not more community participation in the educational process. I remember when Dr Wyndham espoused this participation very strongly in New South Wales. He was very regretful that parent and citizens organisations took up so much time working out what would be the requirements of their next fete instead of looking at the content of education and how education could be better organised. We live in a democracy and we pretend that we are educating people to live in that democracy, but we use anything but democratic procedures in order to arrange or run our educational processes. The Minister for Education and Science mentioned the cost of the proposal put forward by the Opposition. This seems to be the last refuge of conservatives. The Minister was concerned about the cost that would be involved in electing community representatives to the Council. If this would cost so much why not run it concurrently with the other local elections that take place in Canberra? For instance, the election of community representatives to the Council could be run in conjunction with the election of members to the Canberra Community Hospital Board or the Advisory Council. I suppose there are a number of organisations that are elected by the community. For the Minister to dig up such petty reasons for rejecting our proposal is a contempt of the whole proposition. We are asking for the Council to be broadened. We are not asking that this should be done for any philosophical reason called democracy or something like that. We are suggesting that community representatives should be members of the Council because they would enrich the advice that would be coming to that body. The advice would be much more representative. After all, this is what the Wark Committee envisaged. But it did not need the Wark Committee to recommend this. As I said before, educators up and down this country regret that there is a tradition in this country of bureaucratic control, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy). We seem to have grown up in this tradition and there seems to be an unwillingness, unfortunately, in too many places to give people the opportunity to have a say in education. Education is too precious a thing to leave to the elite. If education means anything in a democratic society it ought to reach out and use the advice, the suggestions, the active participation and the interest of so many other people in the community. As the honourable member for Bendigo said, the community in Canberra has tremendous advantages. It has the most qualifications of any community in Australia. As the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has said, the most interested and active people which the education commit tee of the Australian Labor Party has run into have been people from the Canberra community. Why should they not be encouraged to participate in something that is peculiar to Canberra? After all, does the Minister not envisage that the Canberra College of Advanced Education will make its products available not only to Canberra - I refer here particularly to teachers - but to the whole of Australia? If we have people in Canberra who are prepared to contribute we ought to be encouraging them to do so.

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