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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3372

Mr STAPLES —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs seen the reports in today's Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age in which the Independent Teachers Federation of Australia supported the broad thrust of the Government's funding policy of need based on a new community standards model and also the Federation's criticism of the 'misrepresentation of the current funding guidelines by extremists like those at Monday night's Malvern Town Hall meeting'? Has the Government any information about the groups who are organising meetings such as the one held on Monday?

Mr DAWKINS —I thank the honourable member for his question. Indeed my attention has been drawn to the articles to which he referred. Of course it ought to be remembered that the remarks that were quoted were from an organisation representing teachers in non-government schools. They are not members of an organisation representing government schools, who are so often quoted in this House by members of the Opposition. The article in the Age states:

Teachers in private schools have officially declared support for the Federal Government's needs-based policy on financing private schools.

The president of the Independent Teachers Federation of Australia, Mr Michael Raper, said yesterday that a new policy adopted by the federation's national executive last weekend 'supported the broad thrust of the Federal Government's funding policy'.

He said: 'We have rejected any notion of an integrated private public school system, but support the Government in the breaking of the nexus formula the federation wants schools funded on the basis of their need measured on a new community standards model.

'Calls for the end of State aid are totally irresponsible. But so too is the misrepresentation of the current funding guidelines by extremists like those at Monday night's Malvern town hall meeting.

It is important to recognise that some balance is being introduced into this very important debate. What this Government is concerned about, and of course what the former Government was totally uninterested in, is providing an equal opportunity for all children in Australia to have the best possible education that this country can afford. The intervention of this organisation in this totally responsible, totally non-hysterical way is an important contribution to the debate. It draws attention to those who were behind the meeting at the Malvern Town Hall.

Let me first indicate that the venue of the meeting was in itself very interesting. Honourable members recall that the last time we heard of the Malvern Town Hall was when the Liberal Party launched its last Federal campaign. Honourable members will know that that was the beginning of the end for someone to whom the Leader of the Opposition now refers as person Y from down in the country. We can see that the Malvern Town Hall has become the graveyard of conservative politics. A number of people and organisations involved in the organisation of that meeting. One, of course, was the Democratic Labor Party. The DLP has returned to the graveyard. Of course another organisation which made its debut at the Malvern Town Hall has the extraordinary name of DONGS-the Committee for the Defence of Non-Government Schools. I am sure we can think of a number of other more illustrative acronyms just by adding an initial here or there.

It is important that this kind of campaign is exposed for what it really is. This is a campaign of extremists. It is an hysterical campaign which refuses to recognise that the vast majority of kids at non-government schools will do better under the policies of this Government than they did under the policies of the last Government. People in non-government schools are sick and tired of the fact that the gap between the richest and the poorest non-government schools got wider and wider under the policies of the former Government. We are concerned with narrowing that gap and closing it as soon as we possibly can. When members of the Liberal Party decide to confront this issue honestly they will recognise that by exciting this campaign they are doing an enormous disservice to the parents and children in this country.

Mr Wilson —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister, in answering that question, read from a document. Can that document be tabled?

Mr SPEAKER —Was the Minister reading from a document?

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Pursuant to the Standing Orders I am required to ask questions of the Minister. Was the Minister quoting from a document on public affairs?

Mr Dawkins —Yes, I quoted from a document, and the House is welcome to it.

Mr SPEAKER —Is the document confidential?

Mr Dawkins —No.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister has tabled the document.