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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2002


Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - It is a pleasure to commence my remarks in this debate by agreeing with the previous speaker, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). I think he has done a service by raising the question of an open university in the debate on the Estimates. I agree with his plea. I trust that the purpose that such an open university would serve will be well and truly investigated. I invite the honourable member to read the reports of the debates of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Paris in 1971 when a resolution concerned with the use of communications satellites for an exchange of educational and other material between countries was debated. The scope of the estimates clearly indicates the changing role of the Commonwealth in education. The question we must ask ourselves is whether the Commonwealth, or this Government, is playing an effective role in education in these changing circumstances. What relationship do the efforts it is making bear to the needs survey of the States in 1970? lt is very hard to draw firm conclusions from the propositions which have been put forward by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because they are put forward on a 5-year basis. The initial amounts provided sound very good until one realises that they are spread over 5 years.


Mr Reynolds - And over 6 States.


Dr JENKINS - And in 6 States. This indicates that what sounds like a bonanza is a very meagre pittance indeed. I want to pass some comments on pre-school education. Probably the most favoured area in pre-school education in Australia today is the Australian Capital Territory. The Commonwealth Government makes some contribution to research into pre-school education but I wonder whether the scope of this research will provide enough information on the provision of pre-school education in the States, including whether such pre-school education is the proper responsibility of education authorities or health authorities. It must be admitted that there is some debate throughout the world on whether pre-school education is really necessary, but the evidence would strongly come down on the side of the theory that in these years, the most formative years, of the individual pre-school education is essential for their future progress and education. Yet in Victoria at least 10,000 children are denied a pre-school education, and that is a conservative estimate. For some children in Victoria to receive preschool education they must attend private institutions to which they pay about $50 a term.

The tragedy is that in relation to the distribution of the provision of pre-school education it is the already economically deprived areas, such as the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne, which are tragically short of such facilities and so the children in those areas are further disadvantaged in their future education. The strain of providing these facilities is largely on local government in the provision of kindergartens. This is an unfair strain. The Commonwealth should interest itself more in this area and provide direct grants for capital and recurrent expenditure in preschool education. Much has been made of the grants that are made for science blocks and libraries. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) was recently informed that 93 per cent of the richest private schools in Australia had science blocks and that 53 per cent of them had libraries. We should compare that situation with that in the Victorian government school system. An old colleague of mine, the honourable member for Deer Park in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, asked the following question on 19th September 1972 of the Minister for Education in that State:

Which State high and technical schools are not expected to have - (a) science blocks; and (b) libraries, established with Commonwealth funds, at the commencement of the 1973 school year?

I seek leave to have the answer to that question incorporated in Hansard. I have shown it to the Minister and he has agreed.







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