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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2433

Mr COWAN(10.40) —I very seldom speak in the adjournment debate, but I felt I must do so tonight. Although I did not intend to speak about the matter that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton) spoke about, it is always amusing to come into the chamber at night and to hear him and some of his left wing friends run down America and other parts of the Western world. I have never heard the honourable member and his colleagues speak about the Russians walking into Afghanistan and such matters. Not a word has been heard about those kinds of things. Without much thinking, one can only draw the conclusion that their doctrine is communistic-nothing else. That is how they would have to be branded, and they will always stick by it.

I feel sorry for the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), particularly after the uranium debate which involved the crowd sitting opposite and the boys sitting on the front bench. He must feel very uneasy, Mr Speaker, to be even a part of that team. Only this morning at the airport a stranger said to me that it is a wonder that he does not do the Lyons trick and go over to the other side. Quite a few people around said that they were wondering the same thing. I had to say that he has the same brand on him as other honourable members opposite, and that is the truth. But we respect honourable members opposite. They are elected to come here to represent their electorates. If they want to speak in such terms, if they want to condemn profit, condemn the rights of the individual and condemn the Americans for going into Grenada to save those free people, they are quite free to do that.

I was alarmed at Question Time today to hear the answer of the Prime Minister to a question asked by the honourable member for Bennelong and Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard). It was quite a sensible and straightforward question . He asked for some guarantee from the Prime Minister that the Government's financial support for the independent school system would be maintained on a similar basis to the policies which had been espoused by the Liberal Party and the National Party. The proceedings were being broadcast and the important thing is that the Prime Minister gave no guarantee that the level of funding provided by the previous Government would be upheld. In other words, what has been said today and before today in this chamber in regard to education is that this Government does not intend to continue financial support for the upgrading and financing of the independent school system. This concerns me because in my electorate there are a number of independent schools, mainly religious schools. I refer, for example, to the Roman Catholic schools.

On Sunday I opened a Seventh Day Adventist school. How proud I was to be able to say: 'This religion is prepared to establish a school to accommodate 33 children'. It is being established on mental, physical and spiritual grounds, not only for now but for ever. Why should children not have this type of education? I do not believe what the Prime Minister said today. I am quite sure that the great bulk of the Australian people wants a healthy dual system of education in this country. To follow on the remarks of my learned friend, the honourable member for La Trobe, there is no doubt in my mind that this Government has been influenced by the Australian Teachers Federation which gave, as somebody said today, $750,000 to finance this Government in its efforts to come into power. The Federation did this for one reason only-to destroy the independent school system of which we are so proud in this country.

Why does the Government want to destroy it? This is the question that should be answered. Why does this Government want to destroy the independent school system under which people have the freedom to send their children to get the type of education and religious training that they like them to have? I believe that there is a reason for this. I want to appeal to the Government to show common sense and to realise what happened in the Town Hall in Sydney last night when 5, 000 people-quite clearly many of them were Government supporters-assembled and told the Government what they thought of its Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and of its policies in regard to the financing of the independent school system. I deplore the attitude of the Government on that matter, because it is so important in this country. Religious groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists have educated 400,000 children around the world and over 6,000 within Australia. The Roman Catholic school system-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.