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Thursday, 29 October 1970

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - in reply - Before dealing with the proposed amendment and the general topic of the Bill, perhaps I might refer to a couple of points raised by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). He suggested that, whereas the Australian Council for Education Research had had $50,000 in I year - according to his figures - the amount appeared to have been reduced to $40;000. This is an accountancy conclusion. I wish to inform the honourable member that this arose in the following way. The former figure that we supplied to the Council was $30,000 a year. This was increased during 1969 to an annual rate of $40,000. It remains at that figure, lt happened that 2 of the additional payments of $10,000 were made in the one financial year. This is why it appeared that the Council received $50,000 in the year in question.

The second point which the honourable member raised was the question of the survey of needs. He pointed out that some member of a parents organisation, I think, had suggested that it was a faked report or that the figures in it were not reliable because the inquiry was still continuing.

I point out that this survey was one conducted by the State governments and. to that extent, it is not one for which I have or the Commonwealth has responsibility. On the other hand, I was invited to the meeting of the Australian Educational Council on 25th May of this year at which the report was presented to the State Ministers. I was there by invitation. It was, in its way, a complete report. I do not think that it would be correct to say that the figures are faked or wrong. It may be said to some extent that there is a difference between the States in the way in which they made valued judgments in relation to arriving at the figures of the buildings that would be needed. It was complete as regards government schools.

There was 1 area in which it was incomplete. We had asked them whether they would cover in the survey the needs for the next 5 years not only of government schools but also of independent schools. In May of this year, the figures for the independent schools were not complete. It is true that inquiries are still proceeding to obtain those figures. But that is the only respect in which in a formal sense the figures were not complete.

Coming to the question of the amendment, I state first that I hope that this advisory committee will do very valuable work. It is one of the committees - and there are a number - which will be concerned with the quality of education and with the objectives and the methods of education. A couple of weeks ago, I announced the appointment of a national committee to advise on social science teaching. For some time now, we have been supporting the Australian science education project looking at the curriculum and the materials for science teaching. This particular committee will be directing its attention towards high level research into education which I think has been inadequately covered in Australia. I have great hopes that it will do extremely valuable work.I think that honourable members will agree that the calibre of the people appointed to the committee - they have been announced independently - indicate that it is a high level committee.

The amendment really suggests 2 things. Firstly, it suggests that the Australian Advisory Committee on Research and

Development in Education should be a statutory body. Perhaps time will tell whether it should have any more formal structure than it has at the moment. At present it is an advisory body. It advises the Minister, who on that advice makes the final decision.I should point out that in our form of government there is at least the advantage, in having that kind of structure, that the Minister is directly responsible from day to day in the Parliament. He can be asked questions on notice or without notice as to details. He can be challenged in the House at any time. He is politically responsible. I think, therefore, that the present structure, particularly in the initial stages, is an adequate structure. The second point which the amendment raises is whether this body should report annually to the Parliament its principles, actions and recommendations. I suggest to the House that this matter is sufficiently covered in clause 8 of the Bill. This clause provides that the Minister shall report annually the operations of this scheme, giving the following particulars:

(a)   a description of each research project. . . .

He is required to give a great deal of other detailed information, including the following:

(b)   in respect of each research project so approved, the name of the person by whom, or the body or institution by which, the research project is to be carried out;

(c)   the amount of the payments made. . . .

(d)   a description of each course of training . . .

(e)   the rate and amount of any living allowance, and the amount of any payments. . . .

Finally, clause 8 (2.) states:

Each report shall include a statement of the principles and procedures followed by the Minister during the year to which the report relates in approving research projects.

This is one of the most detailed requirements of reporting to this House that is contained in any modern Bill that has passed through the House. If we pass this Bill, this report will be about as detailed as any report required by legislation passed in recent years. It will be broader. I think that the Parliament should see, from a report laid on the table of the House, exactly what has been done in this field, and it should have an opportunity to ask questions on it and to debate it. I think that if honourable members look at clause 8 they will find that the present provisions of the Bill are entirely adequate in this respect. For these reasons the Government does not feel that it should accept the amendment which has been proposed by the honourable member for Fremantle.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Beazley's amendment) stand part of the question.

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