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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2066

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Housing) - I want to comment for a few minutes on this Bill because it is an important Bill. Having listened for some minutes to the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) I merely want to say that he has expressed in a rather more sophisticated form, as did the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), the opposition of the Australian Labor Party to all forms of assistance at all levels of education which that Party has consistently adopted since the middle 1950s. Let me cite to the House some examples of this attitude. In 1956 when the Federal Government decided to assist with interest on capital construction in the Australian Capital Territory, the Australian Labor Party expressed disapproval. In 1961 when interest was extended to the primary sector in the Australian Capital Territory, once again disapproval was expressed. In 1963 when it was proposed that a science laboratory scheme be instituted by the Federal Government to assist all schools throughout Australia, once again disapproval was expressed. In 1964 when the Bill was passed which gave assistance for laboratories in all schools throughout Australia thereby assisting all parents and all students in all schools, opposition was expressed again. In 1965 opposition was expressed again. On all these occasions, particularly on the latter occasion, when Bills were presented to this House, if the Labor Party had been successful in its opposition no assistance would have been given.

So we come to the more sophisticated form of opposition which has been enshrined in this false, divisive, cruel needs policy which the Opposition wants to impose on a particular sector of education. The attitude of the Opposition to this needs policy really intrigues me, because there is only one section of activity on the Australian scene on which the Opposition wants to impose its divisive needs policy. This is with respect to non-government education. The Opposition has made it perfectly clear where it stands in relation to means tests. It has made it perfectly clear that its policies with respect to housing are a profligate rich man's dream. Under Labor's welfare housing scheme, if a person wanted to build a castle he would receive much more assistance than if he wanted to build a normal dwelling. If the Opposition wanted to impose compulsory health taxes it would apply them across the board. The only area left in which the Opposition wants to continue to impose a divisive needs policy is with respect to this level of education. It would be well for members of this House to ask why the Opposition should want to do that, especially in respect of this type of education.

But we find that the Opposition has strange running companions in this attitude. It so happens that on this occasion the attitude of the Opposition concerning aid to all schools is similar to the resolution carried by the Communist Party's Education Policy Committee meeting at the national training centre at Minto on 22nd May 1971. Present at that meeting were Mrs Colley, chairman, wife of the manager of the Communist Party of Australia, Mrs Kath McDonald, wife of Tom McDonald, and others. I will read part of the resolution which would almost seem to be out of the mouths of some honourable members opposite. It said:

Committee therefore proposed sustained campaign to propagandise-

They were speaking particularly about Catholic parents -

Catholic parents and split them into 2 camps. Campaign to focus on unequal division of resources within the Catholic system itself, e.g. poorer schools and staffing for pupils of poorer parents and consequent loss of opportunity for higher education for children of working Catholics, compared with wealthy Catholics.

One can see the similarity in motivation, intention and action between that and what the Opposition proposes and has proposed since 1969. It should be plain for all to see. The fact is that the Bill which has been presented by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is designed to assist all forms of education and it does so in various ways.

Let me produce one simple little piece of arithmetic which should demonstrate it even to some members of the Opposition. The assistance given for each child to remain at non-government high schools would enable $450 to be spent at present on an equivalent child at a government school. For each child who is assisted to remain at a non-government primary school through assistance such as this Government is giving and through assistance such as State governments are giving - the Labor State governments are always the most pasimonious in this respect - there is between $200 and $250 available to be spent from public funds on an equivalent child at a government primary school. Unfortunately, the blindness of honourable members opposite prevents them from seeing the good sense and the economics of this proposal. The words of the honourable member for Bendigo, who is competing for the shadow ministry of education, are not good social or economic sense.

Let me go a little further. The pattern of administration which is proposed in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle ought to be contemplated because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) indicated that the model for the administration of this needs system is to be South Australia. What a model! So the Leader of the Opposition will go around Australia and say that South Australia is to be the model for his administration in this area. Two points about South Australia ought to be contemplated. The level of assistance given in South Australia competes for the most parsimonious in the Commonwealth. No wonder it is the model. Secondly, the system which that needs programme is designed to assist is the smallest in the Commonwealth. No wonder it is the model. The point that is catching up with the Opposition in this respect is that poor people as well as well-to-do people are becoming increasingly aware of what it is up to.

Let me refer to the Cook Committee in South Australia which was set up to give assistance in this area. In its second report it said that the Committee wished to express its deep concern for all schools and the increasing need for adequate across the board per capita grants to meet recurrent costs.

Mr Kennedy - Read the rest.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The rest amounts to a saver. The schools have to live with the government that attempts to give them assistance. The Committee made it quite clear that the level of assistance and the type of assistance given in that State is quite inadequate and unfair. But let us go a little further. When an opposition proposes to put upon people a method of assistance which those people do not want, one must ask why this is done. This crying for poor schools is cynical and hypocritical in the extreme because all the poor schools in the non government sector in Australia want the per capita assistance which this Government proposes to give. All their organisations want it. Those who speak for that system want it. Yet the Opposition wants to impose its own divisive policies in this area. To find out why I go back to other doctrines. Perhaps it is to divide rich against poor, to divide class against class. In the process there is a denial of the basic right of a child to assistance merely because that child goes to school. That is why assistance is given. A superabundant efficiency or a relative lack of efficiency, a rich type of education or a poor type of education are not the measures. It is given because that child goes to a school.

Some honourable members opposite know that they should have been quoting a principle which has been in the United Nations Charter since 1948. That principle was affirmed, it continues to be affirmed and yet the Opposition departs from it. One ought to ask why the Opposition departs from it. The problem is that the Opposition, in promoting its amendment as it has promoted similar propositions since 1956, denies a basic right to parents. But above all it denies the means whereby increasing levels of education can be attained at all schools for all students in Australia. If the Opposition wants to introduce divisive policies let it go to South Australia. There we have it, and that State is to be the model. Mr Dunstan is concerned for education. He is concerned for social policies. That is to be the model of the Opposition in so many areas. One other thing that intrigues me is the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and I use his own words: We have to judge motives as long as we are in politics'. And we ought to judge motives. He will go to parochial schools in Sydney and say: 'Elect my Party. We have your interests at heart. We will look after you with a needs policy.' The people there do not want it. Judge his motives. Judge his motives in speaking to parents at such a school. Judge whether his aims would be their aims. He is a man who would use Mr Dunstan as his Steerforth. a man who would use South Australian policies as models for his own legislation. Judge whether the parents of a child at a parochial school would accept the Leader of the Opposition with his permissive policies as being appropriate for them. We could not judge that he would have any sympathy concerning their children or the other children of Australia.

Let us make one last point which deserves to be made. This Bill is a just Bill. Its provisions will assist education at all levels within Australia. In assisting students at government schools it will assist those at non-government schools and in assisting those at non-government schools it will assist those at government schools. The Bill will receive the unanimous support of this side of the House without qualifications but the intention of the amendment should be realised. It is part of a list of amendments moved over many years, all designed to split education into camps and to be divisive socially, politically and in any other manner.

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