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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2367

Mr YOUNG —My question is directed to the Minister for Science and Technology and is related to the earlier questions asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition . I ask the Minister: Is he satisfied that all Australian young people are being given an equal opportunity of achieving the skills that will be required in Australia's future high technology industries? For instance, could he give an example of what chance a young person in his electorate would have against that of a young person in the electorate of Bennelong of achieving such skills?

Mr BARRY JONES —I thank the honourable member for Port Adelaide. If there is one major problem so far as the education base of this country is concerned, it is found in a number of traditional, safe Labor electorates with a traditional industrial base. Mr Speaker, your electorate is one of them, so is mine, so is the Prime Minister's and so is that of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Among the advantaged electorates are the electorates of Kooyong, Bennelong and many of those in North Sydney and in the--

Mr Goodluck —The electorate of Franklin?

Mr BARRY JONES —No, the electorate of Franklin in Tasmania is uniquely disadvantaged for a number of reasons. Strangely, the electorate of Denison has above average representation in educational terms, although not perhaps necessarily in terms of its member. It is a tragic situation that in those traditional industrial areas the educational response is the most limited and the capacity of people to make an instant response to the new technology is extremely limited. As Raymond Williams always says, the worst thing about the British tradition of education is the oddity that the slowest learners have had the least time to learn and the fastest learners have had the longest time to learn. The situation is the exact reverse of what it should be. I am very conscious that in my electorate, in the electorate of Chifley and in the electorate of Burke there is a very limited skill base because so few young people have had the opportunity to complete secondary education, let alone go on to tertiary education. It is taken as axiomatic that working class children drop out of school at the first opportunity and the figures confirm it.

Mr Goodluck —That is a lot of rot.

Mr BARRY JONES —Let me talk about the situation in Tasmania for a minute because it illustrates the point particularly well. If honourable members look at the figures to be found in the 1981 Electorate Atlas put out by the Parliamentary Library they will find that of the five Tasmanian seats one is well above the national average in terms of the skill base and that is Denison. The electorate of Bass is right in the middle. The other three electorates in Tasmania are well below the national average. That means that the capacity to change, the capacity for people to adapt and to go towards the new kinds of employment that need higher levels of formal training, is not there. That is one of the reasons why I and this Government believe that there has to be a redistribution of resources downwards. That redistribution of resources must do something to improve the capacity of people who have come from an impoverished economic and educational background. Otherwise, the terrible tradition of inequality, the widening gap between the information rich and the information poor, will continue. That would be unconscionable and it will not happen under this Government.