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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 488

Mr McGAURAN(3.36) —Today the Government stands revealed with its previous litany of deceptions exposed. No education body in this country, no teacher, no parent, no student in the non-government school sector should have any doubts whatsoever about this Government's policy. The Government, during the election, managed to disguise its true attitude towards non-government schools, but that pretence is now ended. The pretence has been ended by no one more distinguished than the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins). I refer to an article in the West Australian newspaper of 22 November 1982. It was written by Mr Ron Banks, the paper's education writer. It is headed: 'WA's private schools safe, says Labor'. It goes on:

'None of Western Australia's private schools would have their funding cut by a Federal Labor Government'. Labor's spokesman on education, Fremantle MHR John Dawkins gave this assurance as part of the Party's attempt to promote this new Federal policy to the public.

There is more:

Mr Dawkins says that none of the private schools in Western Australia operate at a fee level that would disqualify them under Labor from the same sort of federal funding they now enjoy.

That must come as quite a shock to the parents of students at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Perth because that school had its funds severely cut by Senator Susan Ryan recently. You tell me, Minister, having heard that, whether you have any proper regard for the truth, whether or not your Prime Minister-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to address his remarks through the Chair.

Mr McGAURAN —Mr Deputy Speaker, having heard that remark, could you as a bystander regard this Minister as having any proper regard for the truth? That is to be expected from this Minister who, when he was shadow Minister for Education, was regarded as a severe embarrassment and liability to the then Opposition. Perhaps I should say that he was more of an embarrassment and a liability at the time than he is at the moment; so much so that his colleagues would not permit him to go into the election as shadow Minister for Education, such was his bitterness, such was his narrow ideologue approach to education and the issue of non-government funding. So, his sanctimonious reassurances to this House and to the people of this country fall on deaf ears because he is not to be relied upon and his Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is not to be relied upon. They are not the only members of this Government who are not to be relied upon. I refer to the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan). First off, I refer to a Canberra Times report on 23 June 1981 which reads:

The ACT Branch of the ALP has called on the Party to adopt an 'integrated public school' policy, in which private schools could be integrated into the public education system and fully funded, in return for full financial accountability and nondiscriminatory enrolment policies.

That was on 23 June 1981. Senator Susan Ryan in the Canberra Times on 25 August 1982 was reported to have said that there had never been an Australian Capital Territory Australian Labor Party policy for integration. She said:

The ACT Branch wanted it moved at the national conference but it was never moved and this year it was dropped [from ACT policy].

That is simply not the case. It is Australian Capital Territory ALP policy that the public school and non-public school systems be merged. The Government's policy could not be further removed from that of the Opposition. Today Australians have a choice between a government seeking to impose its will by way of an integrated school system and an opposition which will protect the freedom, a very basic freedom, of parents to choose their children's own education.

The Opposition is not prepared to stand by idly whilst hard-working, decent Australians are denied a basic right which previously was a guaranteed right in our democracy.

The Minister's obvious obsession with the so-called wealthy private schools blinds her to the realities of the situation. The realities are, first, that the overwhelming number of parents who send their children to non-government schools do so at great personal sacrifice and hardship. Normally both parents work to enable their children to attend. Secondly, non-government schools reach such a high standard of education because of extremely prudent management and dedicated teachers. There is no wastage. Thirdly, numerous government schools have higher funding and better facilities than most non-government colleges or schools. Two examples in Melbourne are University High School and Melbourne High School. They are two schools which have far better facilities and greater funding than most non-government schools. Yet they are not on the famous hit list of Senator Ryan. The fourth reality to which Senator Ryan is blinded is that the burden on the Treasury if non-government schools are integrated will be quite crippling. The fifth reality is that religious freedom, the right to choose the school which practises the faith of one's choice, is paramount. It is unquestionably of the utmost importance. Government schools do not permit religion to be taught; consequently parents have every right to send their children to a school of their faith.

Senator Ryan is so blinded by her narrow ideology that she is not capable of recognising non-government schools for what they really are. They are, first, an inestimable saving in government expenditure. They are the cheapest form of education under a dual system that a government could ever devise. Secondly, they represent the inalienable rights of religion and choice for parents in our democracy. Senator Ryan has made very clear this Government's policy in relation to non-government school funding. To repeat myself, every education authority in this country must now know that the duplicity that this Government practised in order to win an election has now been revealed. I refer honorable members to a quesion addressed by my colleague Senator Peter Baume in the other place to Senator Ryan. He asked:

How then does she explain her written statement in the Sydney Morning Herald of 10 October 1981?

This is the section that Senator Ryan wrote-

The freedom to send one's children to an independent school is bought at too high a price for the rest of society.

That unequovically states her position and that of her Government. Her answer to Senator Baume's question was this:

It is the kind of flourishing phrase that I like to think is typical of some of my written work.

Mr Howard —And she is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs!

Mr McGAURAN —She is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. She continued:

At the same time there was a very generous funding of schools which were already providing schooling in the private sector at a very high standard.

Under those circumstances, I believe that the price of individual choice is too high . . .

If this Government has any regard for the basic rights of this country and for consistency and honesty in government, and if this Prime Minister has any regard for honesty, they will distance themselves from that statement by Senator Ryan, which clearly enunciates a policy of integration of the two school networks in this country. Furthermore, the report on Radford College, it has been recently revealed, has exceeded its charter, exceeded it authority, stating that where a non-government school is to be established in an area which will affect already exisiting government schools, the Government will not provide funding. As this Government knows, in any area other than highly developing urban areas, there is not sufficient growth to enable non-government schools to satisfy that very strict, very harsh and unjust criterion.

In conclusion, Senator Ryan and this Government have never clearly stated to the Australian people that they will not allow the non-government school sector to suffer. I call upon her to do just that. This Opposition will not stand by idly nor, I believe, will the Australian people tolerate any longer this Government's and this Prime Minister's duplicity and, moreover, stupidity in pursuing a nonsensical education policy.