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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 435


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) has made some charges. He was good enough to come to my office late last night and warn not only myself but also every member of my office about his attitude to this matter. As a result of that I thought he might ask a question in the House today; so a certain amount of research was done on some of the matters which he alleged he was concerned about. One of the matters which the honourable member raised was that I had told my Department that we would not give the information to him. That is false. He said that the information would be too embarrassing. That is false. He said that the information would be in my office. That is entirely false.

Mr Speaker,you know and every honourable member in this House knows that a large number of questions are placed on notice. A large number of questions asked of Ministers involve a good deal of work in the Ministers' departments. The 2 people most concerned in asking questions relating to education are the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Bendigo. I seek to give some precedence in terms of departmental time to questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition. When the Leader of the Opposition tells me that the questions asked by the honourable member for Bendigo are more important I shall give them precedence. In 8 questions alone asked by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Bendigo there are a total of 91 different parts. Another question asked by the honourable member for Bendigo, which is question No. 5360 to which he referred, sought 9 categories of information from 86 schools. I shall read the information which he required:

(1)   What (a) numbers and (b) percentages of students in (i) each and (ii) all of the following schools (A) sat for or applied tor and (B) were awarded (I) Commonwealth secondary scholarships, (II) Commonwealth university scholarships and (III) Commonwealth advanced education scholarships in (A) each and (B) all of the years since each scholarship scheme was introduced?

The University scholarship scheme began in 1951 or 1952. There are 86 schools mentioned. My Department estimated that it would take 2 people working full time 6 months to answer that question. I say quite flatly that I am not prepared to give precedence to answering this question unless the Leader of the Opposition says that it is to have precedence over every other question on the notice paper so far as the Opposition is concerned. The people in my Department just do not have that amount of time.

Before 1968 all the records in these matters and scholarship matters were held by State departments of education. It was only when 1 was earlier in this job that the Commonwealth took over responsibility for maintaining the records. It is a matter of going back through old records held by State departments, none of which are on computers. It would be an enormously lengthy, difficult and detailed task. In addition, in Victoria there is no computer information. This is the easiest way of obtaining the latest information for the last year or two. Information is now being placed on computers but there is no computer information concerning individual schools in Victoria. This would make the Victorian information infinitely more difficult to obtain.

One of the measures designed to try to make it possible to answer questions within a reasonable time is a rule which I have established in the Department. In fact it was instituted initially at the Department's suggestion, but I do not hide behind that. It was a good rule, and if I had thought of it first 1 would have suggested it to the Department. The rule is that if any honourable member has a concern for a particular school and mentions that school we will do everything we can to provide the information he seeks. But if an honourable member says: 'Give me information concerning every school in Australia, in Victoria or in my electorate' - we do not keep records on schools by categories of electorates, so it involves an enormous amount of work to decipher the schools on which information is sought - it immediately becomes very time consuming. We adopt the rule that we would ask honourable members to name the schools with which they are concerned. In the letter from the honourable member for Bendigo dated 22nd June he mentioned certain schools and he received the information relating to those schools. The rest of his letter mentioned every school in Victoria in a certain category. In compliance with the rule we answered in the following terms: 'If you will name the schools with which you are concerned the information will be provided to the best of the Department's ability and my ability'. That is the position.

The honourable member said that I would say, and 1 am saying, that we well know his attitude as to some of these matters. He recently participated in a radio programme and luckily the words from that radio programme did not just disappear into the ether. He said in the course of the programme: T do not care what the National Council of Independent Schools or the Federal Catholic Schools Committee say concerning the policy for the development of their schools'. He made it quite plain that if he were a member of a government and had authority to do things the concerns of people intimately involved with schools would be completely ignored. He quite deliberately enters into a campaign to denigrate policies of aid to independent schools. He knows full well that the Leader of the Opposition is on record as having said that the present forms of aid to independent schools would be maintained and not altered by a Labor government. Senator Murphy, the honourable member for Bendigo and other people may not agree with that, and if the Labor Party ever forms a government no doubt there will be arguments about that. But that at least is the publicly recorded view of the Leader of the Opposition, yet still the honourable member for Bendigo goes about the country making allegations of a very severe kind not backed by fact - allegations of corruption in the administration of aid to independent schools. He does this in terms which are designed only to discredit support for the independent schools system. I would suggest that the degree of the severity of the view taken by the honourable member for Bendigo derives from the fact that he believes the programme that the Government has determined to introduce in this session before the elections will give independent schools at all levels some security for support in the future which they have never had in the past because it will tie payments to a percentage of what it would cost for a government primary or secondary school. Because he now sees some guarantee of continued support for independent schools he is making a last gasp effort to denigrate the whole system of aid to independent schools and destroy the right of choice.


Mr Jess - He did not mention the school that Bob Hawke sends his children to.


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It is true that he does not mention the school that Bob Hawke sends his children to. He does not mention the school that Mr Dunstan in South Australia sends his children to or the school that the Leader of the Opposition sent his children to, but these arguments are not really relevant to the point at issue, because the honourable member for Bendigo is seeking to divide schools. He knows quite well that the new capital aid programmes are designed to achieve a greater equality of educational facilities in all schools around Australia. He knows quite well that the new capital aid programmes are designed to remove inequality in educational facilities. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is starting to see evidence of this in his own electorate, as is the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). This programme and policy will be pursued, and will be pursued vigorously; but people will not be deterred from a policy by the kind of allegation that the honourable member for Bendigo has made. I reject utterly allegations that I have refused to supply information. The suggestions made by the honourable member are completely and absolutely false.

Mr KENNEDY(Bendigo)- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER -Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr KENNEDY - Yes. I am sorry, but I will not take too much time. I do not know who the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) directed to tape record our interview. It was supposed to take place when we were both there. Incidentally, the Minister arrived an hour early and slipped away SO minutes early. It was a talk back programme and we were supposed to be there at the same time. The point is-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will state how he has been misrepresented.


Mr KENNEDY - The Minister for Education and Science said that I said that 1 did not care what the National Council of Catholic Schools - I am not sure what organisation he was referring to - said that it wanted in regard to education. The point that I was making on the radio was that the responsibility of the Minister and of any government was to the Australian taxpayer and it was the Australian taxpayer who was suffering discrimination under his policy toward schools. The attitude that he has expressed towards my views on State aid is again a deliberately inaccurate one. I have said again and again, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said and the Party has said that my policy and our policy is a policy that supports aid to schools according to need and the reason I am talking about these schools is that aid has been given-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.

Mr MALCOLMFRASER (Wannon Minister for Education and Science) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER -Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Yes. I will read one sentence from the text of this matter and the House may judge. It reads:

The honourable member for Bendigo said: 'I do not care what the leaders of the Catholic church or Protestant churches say what they want their education system to be as far as Commonwealth grants are concerned.'







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