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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2059

Mr BARNES (Mcpherson) - I wish to comment on the remarks of the last speaker for the Opposition, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), about the advantages that private schools have over other schools. His remarks were quite erroneous. Obviously he does not know of the situation that prevails at private schools. I have been associated with private schools.

Dr Klugman - I will bet that the honourable member has not been associated with public schools.

Mr BARNES - I have. I have had children at public schools; so I know something about them. A lot of nonsense is spoken about the private schools. That amazes me. I suppose there would be quite a number of wealthy people who send their children to independent schools. On the other hand there are hundreds of thousands of people who have to scrape and save to send their children to independent schools but who choose to do so because they are concerned about the situation that prevails at some government schools. The honourable member for Barton referred to quite a ridiculous tax formula. He went into the tax savings of people who send their children to independent schools. He said - I will take the extreme example - that a person who had a taxable income of $20,000 a year would receive a taxation deduction of $241 on education expenses of $400. That was the substance of the point he made. But he did not mention that the person paying this sum was also contributing a considerable amount by way of taxation to the support of government schools. Is that not a fair thing? The honourable member for Barton's argument is one which does not hold water. The important thing is that people should be able to choose where they want their children to be educated.

Many responsible people are concerned about education. After all the education of their children is a very important subject to them. I wish to quote what was said by Mrs Margaret Slattery on the television programme 'Monday Conference' on 18th September at Armidale. She said:

I want them-

That is, her children - brought up in the Catholic faith, and this is why I choose a Catholic school, because I look on the school as an extension of the home, and in my home I have certain values I try and transmit to the children. When they go to school I want them to be in an atmosphere where I feel the same type of values are transmitted to them. I feel I just don't want them taught purely secular subjects, because I feel that a religious background is vital to their whole wellbeing, their whole education, and for this reason I want them in this atmosphere.

We are living in an era of progressive movements and revolutionary groups. Strikes are taking place in high schools and all sorts of strange doctrines are being expressed in our schools. I shall quote an American authority on this. After all, to preserve our way of life is very important. We have long had a tradition of Christianity, which many people are now seeking to destroy. The American authority to which I refer states:

What has destroyed the capacity of society to contain its problems is that the American middle class has permitted its values to be destroyed in the minds of its own children by those it paid to teach them.

Many of the most distinguished academics, paid to teach, were barely known to their students, who never saw them. They became business gogetters, taking government jobs and using the funds of foundations. Their own students came to despise them, as their opposite numbers justly despise many academics in Australian universities.

The important thing is that at least we have an opportunity of choice of education for our children. This is not Labor Party policy. We heard in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health the Opposition's suggestion that we should not have a number of medical benefit funds but one great national fund and that we should have no choice. In education we would have a similar situation under Labor. Take an area where a State school operates. What child has an opportunity to go somewhere else? He must go to the local school.

Mr Martin - That is not so.

Mr BARNES - He has to go to the local school unless the parent suffers great hardship. In today's progressive society people have strange ideas about drugs, abortion and so on. We have different points of view represented in this Parliament. I respect different points of view. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), who I believe is a sincere man - and I admire him for his sincerity - is all for the legalisation of pot. For all I know he may be a headmaster some day, or a teacher in a school may have his ideas. Would I be happy to send my children to that school? The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) advocates legalised abortion. If a headmaster has the same views as the honourable member for Prospect and you have to send your child there, what is your attitude? The important thing is that parents should have a choice, so that they may send their children where they believe they will acquire the values they have been taught at home. We have to take these things very seriously. We have had 2,000 years of Christianity, and a challenge is being made today to our Christian principles by the new progressive movement. This is by no means the first time we have seen this in the world. I believe that Christianity will survive and Christian values will survive, but in the meantime we have to avoid these sorts of things. This is the value of independent schools. But for goodness sake let us get away from the talk we have had about wealthy schools. This is a lot of plain nonsense. I have been associated with church schools and people who strive, save and mortgage their homes to send their child to a church school because they do not want them to be corrupted. I admit that I sent my son to a government school because in a provincial city you get to know the headmaster of a school. The important thing is that parents have a responsibility for their children and they will not hand them over to the Government to be brought up in any old way and filled with strange views. A lot of people are satisfied to do this.

I congratulate the Government and the Minister on the measures brought forward. We do not want standardisation of education. We do not want standardisation of behaviour. We do not want a standard of mediocrity with everyone coming down to a certain level. I shall quote from a speech I made at the speech night of a church school of which my father was one of the co-founders. What I said may be completely out of date but I would like to get it on the record. I said:

The primary function of a denominational school is to produce leaders, not only in the sense of captains of industry, Ministers of State, distinguished men of the Services ... but in the sense of citizens, ready to grapple with the problems of life in the second part of the twentieth century, accepting responsibility, standing for something definite and having the desire to serve men in some capacity, however humble. This is the essence of a Christian teaching: These are the traditions of the great public school system.

We have inherited a great tradition, one that has given the British world so much that is good in that it inculcated a spirit of service and fair play that was carried to the end of the earth wherever Englishmen served.

I believe that this spirit is best expressed in that wonderful book of public school life 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' when Squire Brown meditates on what advice he should give Tom on the outset of the latter's departure for Rugby. I quote: I won't tell him to read his Bible and to love and serve God; if he don't do that for his mother's sake and teaching, he won't for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptation he'll meet with? No I can't do that. Never do for an old fellow to go into such things with a boy. He won't understand me. Do him more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his work, and say he's sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well, but he isn't sent to school for that - at any rate, not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles, or the digamma, no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go. If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that's all I want.'

This might be out of date philosophy, but in my speech I went on:

This is a philosophy of a simple, rural individualism, before the onset of the industrial revolution of the first half of 19th century Britain. Nevertheless it is a philosophy of basic civilisation tested and proven. To nurture these values is a challenge to our church schools and parents. I believe that it was the fervent hope of Sir Robert Menzies that aid to independent schools would further the cause of individualism.

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