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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3067


Mr CARLTON (Mackellar) - I must say that, in listening to the response of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) to the statement of the Minister for Education (Mr Fife), one had a certain feeling of deja vu, as if we were back in the great period of Mr

Whitlam, the former Prime Minister, when it was assumed that all decisions were made in Canberra, that all funding came from Canberra, and that all initiatives came from Canberra. Certainly, the honourable member gave no indication in his speech of the real role of the Commonwealth in education funding, particularly in relation to schools. I remind the House that the Commonwealth, although it has a full financial responsibility for universities and colleges of advanced education, exercises only a topping-up role in the funding of schools and technical and further education institutions in the States and the Northern Territory.

The Commonwealth currently provides about 25 per cent of the total expenditure on technical and further education and about 12 per cent- I repeat 12 per cent- of the expenditure on government schools. The Commonwealth accepts a larger responsibility for nongovernment schools. It provides some 60 per cent of the total recurrent support. The Commonwealth is the sole source of public assistance for non-government schools by way of capital grants, leaving aside some interest subsidy from some of the States. The basic priorities for nongovernment schools are set in the States by the State education departments and also by those who administer those schools. It is within that context that I think we have to scale down the comments made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong in his response to the Minister's statement.

I wish to concentrate on a few fundamental facts about the philosophy of the Government's approach to education, particularly in relation to schools. The Government is firmly committed to the principle of choice in education. In other words, it believes that there should be a capacity for parents- admittedly at some additional costs to the parents- to choose to send their children to schools other than government schools. In fact, I would like to see this principle extended, if it were possible, in the States- it happens in some places but it certainly does not happen in Victoria or New South Wales- in relation to government schools so that parents were able to make a choice as to which school they send their children. I believe that there would be an additional discipline on the government systems in providing adequate education school by school if parents were able to move their children away from one school to another if they felt that the education at a particular school was not up to scratch. Some of the over-centralised and overbureaucratised State administrations take far too long to correct wrong situations in schools. For example, if it becomes clear that a bad headmaster had been appointed to a school, that the person appointed in all good faith turned out to be ineffective, it is extremely difficult to make a change in a government school within any reasonable time and the parents and children in that area suffer substantially. If the parents are able within that situation to move their children to a non-government school, that is splendid. It would be better if they had the additional choice to move their children to another government school.

The honourable member for Maribyrnong attacked the Government on the grounds that it had an elitist view of education and that it was pouring money into the so-called rich schools at the expense of the disadvantaged schools.


Mr Uren - Mr Deputy Speaker,I do not like to interrupt any honourable member who is speaking. There is a standing arrangement -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order!Is the honourable member raising a point of order?


Mr Uren - Yes, I am raising a point of order as to the procedure of the House because of the discourtesy of the Leader of the House who has precluded debate on General Business items. Unless General Business items are raised before 12.30 p.m. Opposition and Government members will not be able to exercise their right to debate these items.







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