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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2115

Mr DRURY (Ryan) - In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Education and Science I should like, firstly, to compliment the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Department on the excellent presentation of those estimates. I cannot recall any other occasion when a Minister or department has presented estimates with such a full set of explanatory notes, item by item, as we have been furnished with on this occasion. I am sure it is appreciated by other honourable members besides myself. Secondly, I congratulate the Minister on his recent statement setting out the Commonwealth Government's education programme for 1971-72. In the course of that statement the Minister indicated that the Commonwealth's direct expenditure on education this financial year is estimated at $345,534,000 or 14 per cent more than was spent in 1970- 71 and twice as much as the direct Commonwealth expenditure of 5 years ago.

Apart from this, each year the Commonwealth makes available to the various States a large amount by negotiation with the Premiers and Treasurers of the States. In fact, approximately one-third of the total revenue collected by the Commonwealth is paid over to the States annually for various purposes. It is then a matter for each of the State governments to set its own priorities with regard to education, health and all the other fields of government for which they are responsible within their own borders. The Minister has indicated that the States at present are spending in this financial year an estimated $1,1 00m on education, so to ascertain the total amount currently being spent in approximate terms on education in Australia this financial year one adds those 2 sums together and the total is approximately $l,445m. I believe that all governments in Australia should be willing to cooperate in the increasingly important task of improving and developing education and education services and improving what the Minister referred to recently as the 'quantity and quality of education' in Australia. If we are to achieve our objective I believe there is need for closer co-operation.

The Commonwealth role in education no doubt will become more clearly defined as time passes. In the Australian Capital

Territory and the Northern Territory the Commonwealth has a direct responsibility. In the States the prime responsibility rests with the State governments to ensure that funds are applied to the best possible advantage. The Commonwealth Government has indicated that it will continue to provide matching grants to the States both for universities and for colleges of advanced education. In addition, the Commonwealth is providing special assistance in relation to increases in overhead costs due to steep wage and salary increases awarded to non-academic staff. I know that this problem has been of growing concern to the authorities in the field of tertiary education for quite some time.

The Minister has given an assurance to the House that the Commonwealth Government will continue to contribute to the capital cost of teacher training and has indicated that about $13m will be provided in the current financial year under the State Grants (Teachers Colleges) Act. Recognising that the States needed some additional teacher training facilities the Commonwealth has not stipulated that there should be a matching grant. It is difficult to understand why the States spent only about one fourth of the sum made available by the Commonwealth for teacher training colleges in the last financial year, but no doubt this matter will be sorted out and an explanation may later be forthcoming.

It should not be overlooked that the Commonwealth is making a major contribution towards the cost of teacher education courses in the tertiary field. Information supplied to the House recently by the Minister shows that there are more than 1,000 teacher trainees at colleges of advanced education and over 15,000 teacher trainees are attending universities. Commonwealth capital grants for pre-school teachers colleges are estimated to amount to more than Sim in the financial year to 30th June 1972 and $40m is being provided by the Commonwealth Government in the current triennium towards teacher education in teachers colleges and colleges of advanced education.

The States and the Commonwealth acting in conjunction have clearly made good progress in the field of teacher education. I have no doubt that more remains to be done. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) stated in his Budget Speech that the number of advanced education scholarships would be increased from 2,500 to 4,000 awards from the beginning of 1972 and that there would also be 200 new awards for students in teacher education who contemplate joining the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Expenditure in the various scholarship programmes is estimated this financial year at $43. 7m compared with $38.4m in the last financial year. The number of students granted scholarships is expected to rise from 66,000 in 1971 to 71,000 in 1972.

The colleges of advanced education which in some respects are still evolving are growing year by year and the Commonwealth Government is to be congratulated on deciding to grant 1,500 additional scholarships worth $430,000 during the current financial year. The nationwide survey of educational needs during the period 1971-1975, which was tabled by the Minister a few days ago, will, I believe, help greatly in assessing educational needs in primary and secondary education in nongovernment schools, and taken in conjunction with the survey of government schools published in 1970 by the Australian Education Council represents an important step forward.

The Australian Education Council, as I understand it, consists of the State Ministers for Education. In the interests of Commonwealth and State co-operation in the overall field of education, it would seem desirable that the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science should also be a member of the Council. After all, the Commonwealth does have a direct responsibility in the field of education in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Some people have a tendency to look unduly to the Commonwealth with respect to education. The Minister has made it clear that the Commonwealth fully recognises the national importance of education and that the Government wants to do whatever it can do appropriately in co-operation with the State governments.

He has pointed out that the Commonwealth has sought to improve the States' own general financial resources to assist the States in meeting their needs and responsibilities. This was the approach preferred by the State Premiers, as was indicated at the Premiers Conferences and Australian Loan Council meetings in 1970 and 1971. Figures furnished by the Minister with regard to Budget percentage allocations for education State by State show that some States place a higher priority on education than do others. There is also a marked variation in the pupil-teacher ratio objectives that the States are aiming at for 1975, the final year of the survey period to which I referred earlier. I hope that the State Ministers for Education will consult fully with the Commonwealth Ministers for Education and Science so that we may attain in Australia the maximum possible results from the national surveys that have been completed.

Progress reported.

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