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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1961

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I raise tonight a question relative to my electorate concerning a shortage of textbooks necessary for student study. I have spoken to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in relation to this matter and he quite arrogantly said to me: This is a State matter.' I informed the Minister's office and, indeed, the Government Whip that I intended to raise this matter tonight on the adjournment debate, but the honourable gentleman is not in the chamber. The fact is that because of the Government's policies which were outlined in the last 2 Budgets a very high rate of unemployment has been created. Many students who had contemplated entering the work force and taking jobs were unable to do so because of the Government's policy and, consequential upon that, they .were forced to return to school.

As I understand the position it is the responsibility of the high schools in my electorate to make application directly to the Academy of Science in Canberra for the number of biology textbooks that they require. I want to acquaint the absent Minister with that fact and inform him that he is acting quite incorrectly when he brushes aside honourable members of this House who put to him matters which are relative to his Department and says: 'This is a State matter. Go and see Hudson or whoever might be responsible for these matters in the States which have a Labor government.' A number of students had to return to school because of the policy of this Government. But the schools had not anticipated at the time when they were required to place their orders for textbooks for the ensuing educational year - this would be approximately September or October last year - that these students would be returning to school. Schools have found that there is a great need for additional books in biology. In fact, the Norwood High School, which is in my electorate, has been forced to put in a number of different orders at different times. After making some inquiries at the Academy of Science today I learned that these textbooks will not be available to the Norwood High School for the whole of this school year. It is all right for the Government to talk in this place and make statements publicly about its attitude to The Little Red Schoolbook'. I am not much concerned about its attitude in relation to that book, but I am concerned that at this point of time classes have completed almost the first quarter of the school year without the textbooks which are necessary for the education of the students. I was amazed to learn today that in fact these students will go through the whole of the school year without these textbooks. Criticism for this state of affairs can be levelled only at this Government.

I understand further from the Academy of Science that it has had these particular textbooks reprinted, but that these will meet only part of the requirements of 3 schools from which I requested information today. I learned that Gilles Plains high school, Modbury high school and Campbelltown high school will have thenorders met but the school I referred to, Norwood, will not. I raise this matter in the interests of the number of students - in the vicinity of 1,700 - who attend the Norwood high school. I am not suggesting that all of them are studying biology during the course of this year but I am suggesting that something ought to be done by the absent Minister to correct the situation. I am not concerned about what it will cost if there has to be a special printing of these text books so that they will be available to this school.

What is the Minister's thinking on this matter? Where is the Minister's sense of responsibility in regard to the students of this country? In what way can he excuse his attitude and the remarks he made to me in this chamber last night when I spoke to him about this matter? It is all very well for the Minister to stand up in this place wishfully hoping that somebody on this side of the House during the course of debates on education may say something that the Minister can latch onto about State aid. The Minister has not had that opportunity in recent weeks. Apparently that is the only interest he has in education. Let me take this one step further. The Minister frequently goes into a number of the States, particularly South Australia and Western Australia, does some type of tour, meets the State Education Ministers, meets the departmental heads, inspects 1 or 2 schools, says that everything is nice and lovely, but as he is jumping on an aircraft to fly out of the State he leaves behind a vicious Press statement. That has been the pattern followed by this Minister for a number of weeks now. It is deplorable that he should adopt this attitude and indulge in this type of criticism. The Minister could not care less about the educational matters which are raised time after time in this House.

Mr Morrison - Who is the Minister?

Mr FOSTER - The Minister for Education and Science, Mr Malcolm Fraser. The fact is that he is concerned only about boundary riding within his own Party in an endeavour to get a somewhat higher position than he has at present. He is concerned only about going into some States and endeavouring to lay a blanket of criticism over the whole structure as he endeavoured to do in regard to State aid in South Australia. At that point he ceases to do any more. I do not know whether it will do a great deal of good to raise this matter in this debate on the motion to adjourn the House, but I will certainly make it well known throughout the length and breadth of my electorate that I did raise this matter tonight on behalf of students who do matter to me, who do matter to their parents, who ase attending school at this time under sufferance as a result of the shortsighted policy of this Government, and who are being sold short as far as their education is concerned because of a lack of responsibility, a lack of human understanding and a lack of effort by a

Minister who wants only to make cheap political propaganda out of his position in this place and when he is in the various States of the Commonwealth.

I hope that the Minister picks up a copy of Hansard tomorrow and reads this speech. I want from the Minister next week a reply to what I have said tonight. 1 want an undertaking from him; I want some indication of understanding about this matter because I do not think it is my job to go into my electorate over the weekend, and endeavour to get a number of school teachers together and suggest to them that they confer with other school teachers in adjacent areas to ascertain whether some of these text books are available through normal channels. I point out that this is the only source of supply in the whole of the Commonwealth. These books are not available from bookshops. It is not my job to go into my electorite and say to the school teachers: 'Go across to the Division of Boothby and confer with the headmaster of the high school at Unley in the hope that some of the text books that you require at your school for the rest of the school year may be available'. This is about the only alternative means that I can think of, as forlorn and as unfruitful as it may be, to have these necessary text books made available to the schools which I have mentioned. I hope that the Minister will stir himself in some way to ensure that these books are made available. If the Minister comes to Adelaide, if he is buzzing in and out of the place as he has been doing, he can confront the headmasters and teachers of any number of schools in my electorate on a Monday or any other day he likes to come there to find out the facts of life and their requirements.

I conclude by saying that I think the Minister knew that I was going to speak on this matter. He would have come into this House tonight if I were raising a question on law and order or something which applied to him. It seems to me that he is not prepared to come into this House tonight to face up to his responsibilities and the position he should take in the interests of students generally in the Commonwealth. All I say is that if the Minister does not come to Adelaide or if he does not do something about this matter I will most certainly raise it next week at any opportunity which the procedures of this House afford me.

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