Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2188

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - This evening we heard the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) demonstrate his almost total commitment to the policy of the Government in regard to the Department for Education and Science, whose estimates we are considering. But before his 10 minutes were concluded he had very adequately shown that even for one who was totally committed he was dissatisfied with many aspects of the administration of the Education and Science portfolio by the current Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This is, of course, understandable because this ministry, which was created in 1966 out of political expediency, has, since its establishment, been somewhat the neglected child of successive coalition governments. The Minister who now holds the portfolio has held it for longer than any of his predecessors. He has held it now since August this year for the second time. As he has been Minister for longer than any of his colleagues, one would expect that he would be fully conversant with the problems confronting the education system of this country.

With such a history of instability in ministerial administration it is understandable that only last Tuesday the present Minister should speak of the Government's education programme for 1971-72 with indifference and Irresponsibility. He told honourable members that the Government fully recognised the national importance of education and of the development of educational services. He then proceeded to downgrade the importance of the education requirements of the States as disclosed in the nationwide survey of educational needs for the years 1971 to 1975. It was obvious from the Minister's statement that under this Government the vital responsibility for financing education in Australia will continue to be regarded in terms of how many votes it may be worth rather than how many children may be handicapped educationally by the current inequalities of the various systems throughout this nation.

Tonight I wish to refer to one glaring example of Commonwealth neglect. I do so because without assistance from the Commonwealth Government that neglect will continue. The plain fact is that the Queensland State Government's financial position will not make it possible for the problem to which I wish to refer to be overcome without a stronger realisation by the Commonwealth Government of the needs in this particular field. At present one university is serving the needs of Brisbane and its immediate environs - the Queensland University at St Lucia. This university has Australia's largest student enrolment, currently reported to be 18,024. For some time it has been obvious that it is becoming impossible to accommodate young Queenslanders who seek tertiary education at that university. For years the Queensland University has resisted the imposition of the obnoxious quota systems that have developed in other States. Even this year quotas apply only in respect of second year students in the faculties of architecture, medicine and social work.

The open door policy of the Queensland University has been maintained through the untiring efforts of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zelman Cowan, and the Senate of that university. It was maintained despite the Commonwealth Government's policy of restricting financial assistance to that amount which the States could match. But the open door is now to be closed slightly. In August the University Senate was forced by the Queensland Government to impose higher minimum entrance qualifications for next year. Intending students must now qualify by attaining a minimum of 24 matriculation points. This represents an increase of 2 points on the previous level for entry. The University Professorial Board, in making the recommendations for this increase, estimated that the number of students who would be prevented from entering the University next year would be about 700. This decision has been forced on the Queensland University by the decision of the Queensland Cabinet and, indirectly, by the Commonwealth Government failing to take adequate responsibility for education problems at this particular level. The President of the Queensland Teachers Union, Mr Gavin Semple, summed up the effects of the Senate's decision very clearly when he said that the recommendation to raise the matriculation level was deplorable and educationally unacceptable. He said that if it were adopted - and it has been adopted - it will mean that in the next 3 years at least many hundreds of students who previously would have qualified for the University will be denied entrance. Mr Semple said that the folly of postponing the completion of the Griffith University until 1975 could be linked unquestionably to the introduction of quotas at the one university serving the area, the St Lucia university. I believe there is no doubt about this.

It is the Commonwealth Government's responsibility that the development of the university at Mount Gravatt has not been proceeded with, and because it has not been proceeded with next year 700 students will be refused admittance to the Queensland University. Originally it was planned to enrol students in 1969 for the Mount Gravatt university. This proposal was post poned until 1972 but it now seems that even 1975 will be an impossible target for this vital project to commence enrolment. In 1969, in referring to the financial needs of tertiary education in the 1970-72 triennium, the Queensland Treasurer said:

It is clear that the rate of increase in expenditure envisaged is well in excess of the rate of increase expected in the State's resources in that period.

At the same time in a Press report in answer to my criticism of the delay in starting work on the Mount Gravatt university my predecessor in this House - a representative of the Liberal Party - said that the delay in starting work on this university was caused by the State Government requesting the Commonwealth Government to hold off the availability of funds for Mount Gravatt because State matching funds were not available to proceed with its development. I am sure that the Minister for Education and Science knows of this situation because he held tha education portfolio at that time. My predecessor said the Minister stated that if State funds were made available for the Mount Gravatt university serious handicaps would be inflicted on the future development of the university at St Lucia and, in fact, the completion of that university could not proceed.

An urgent review of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States for the financing of universities is long overdue. When crisis threatens an industry associated with the rural sector of this country the Commonwealth Government acts quickly to make finance available by way of subsidy or grant. Often tens of millions of dollars are made available without delay. I do not question this. In many instances it is right and proper that such finance should be made available, but surely this critical development in the universities must be overcome, not only in Queensland, as I have outlined, but in universities throughout the nation. Secondary student graduates are being denied tertiary education in increasing numbers each year at our universities.

I urge the Commonwealth Government to examine the report for the 1973-75 triennium in a responsible way when it is made available by the Australian Universities Commission. The Government must decide to end its policy of matching grants and release some of the $630m Budget surplus to the States for urgent university development. This is especially warranted for the development of Griffith University at Mount Gravatt. The next government - a Labor Government - will not be content until it ensures that the next generation of this nation has tertiary education available to every individual.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Sir JOHNCRAMER (Bennelong) {8.38) - 'Education is a State function but it is a national responsibility. It is interesting to look at the record of what has happened with respect to direct assistance from the Commonwealth Government. This assistance was started by the Menzies Government at the beginning of this coalition government's history. Finance was made available for universities. Since then, year by year there has been a constant increase in Commonwealth expenditure on education. Left to the States the inspiration for a higher education could never have reached the present standard. The Commonwealth Government has given a national impetus to education, not only in the national capital itself and in the Commonwealth Territories but also in State universities, colleges of advanced education and affiliated colleges. The Commonwealth has assisted in the provision of science laboratories, technical training schools, libraries, teacher training and research. One of the best things it has done has been to help independent schools.

No matter what may be said, the Commonwealth Government is now deeply involved in education. The Commonwealth Government's direct expenditure - this is apart from the money that the States receive and which they are entitled to receive from the Commonwealth - has grown in the 3 years from 1967-68 from $176m-odd to S345m in this current year. It has never been given the credit for what it has done. But it is too late to turn back; we must go on. We must now aim, as I see it, for closer co-operation with the States on a national basis. There are, as we know, great differences in the approach of the various States to education. This is something in relation to which I applaud the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because he understands the position and has the right approach to education.

Apart from the stimulation of higher and advanced education, one of the greatest things done by the Commonwealth Government has been the encouragement of the national acceptance of the dual system of education in the State schools and in the independent schools. Indeed, had it not been for this Government and its action in education over the years, many, many hundreds of independent schools in Australia would have folded up. Unfortunately there is still a minority, but a very vocal minority at times, who resent the government aid to independent schools. Mostly this is promoted, I believe, by the teachers federations of the States - the DOGS as they call themselves - and this is mostly based on a desire for a socialist state on the one hand. A certain amount of bigotry comes into it and a stirring up of the emotions of the people on a question like this to try to divide the people in the hope that they might gain some benefit from it.

On the basis of pure economics there can be no argument against independent schools. These schools have been part of our accepted system of education for over a century. They have saved taxpayers in this country not small sums of money but thousands of millions of dollars over the years. Government schools would never have been up to their present standard if the taxpayer had to pay for the teaching of all the children in this country. If it were not for independent schools we could never have afforded the standard we have today. At the present time denominational schools have insufficient teachers. We never stop to think that the nuns and brothers in the Catholic school education system have given their services free of charge over the long years. No-one ever thinks of this.

The denominational schools have insufficient teachers at the present time and of course they have to depend upon lay teachers who have to be paid. This has created a difficult economic position. If we did not support the independent schools it would certainly place a great burden on our government schools with less money to go around. So on the pure issue of justice in a country where education is compulsory no-one can deny the right of a parent to send his child to the school of his choice provided that the standard of education is met. One of the great things in this country, I believe, is freedom of religion and a parent therefore has the right to give his child a basic moral and religious education if he so chooses. All parents pay taxes and thus support government schools. They have the right therefore to assistance in meeting the cost of at least the secular part of the education in independent schools.

The Government has failed in this Budget to increase the aid to independent schools. I know the difficulties. Apart from help with science laboratories and libraries, etc, there has been no increase in the per capita payments. 1 know that the States were given more money and are increasing their per capita payments, and I know that the increased amount that may be deducted for taxation purposes in regard to education expenses will be a help. Of course the independent schools will benefit by this; but many independent schools are doomed without further assistance. I believe that this Government must give more assistance and I think something should be done urgently in this direction. The present assistance does not meet the situation.

In Australia there are 2,160,177 enrolments in government schools and 608,056 enrolments in independent schools. The Commonwealth grants are $35 for each primary school child and $50 for each secondary school child, which averages out at something under $40 for each child per annum. Direct expenditure on education by the Commonwealth today amounts to an average of $125 for each child in Australia. Less than $40 for each child is going to the independent schools, so it can be seen that the independent schools are at a very great disadvantage at the present time. The churches, and the friends and the parents of children going to independent schools pay at least an additional $300 a child to educate children in independent schools so this amount is a saving to the States and to the country.

We all know of the recent survey that has been mentioned here. It shows that non-government schools, notwithstanding government and parents' payments, will be short of money for the years 1971-75 of a total of $267.6m. This means that this Government, in my opinion, must take this matter very seriously. It is not only a question of justice; it is a question of pure economics and the advancement of education in this country. I believe that a system could be worked out whereby a contribution for education could be made to every child in Australia as a right, with the States making up the balance in the State education systems and the parents and friends making up the difference for the independent schools' requirements. But in my opinion all children are entitled equally to a share of assistance in education. Children have a right to be given the kind of education that their parents desire for them.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections