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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2209

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - Mr Deputy Chairman,this Government has a policy of utter discrimination so far as education is concerned. During the course of the debate this evening, one has sat here and listened somewhat patiently to members on the other side frequently say that because expenditure has increased one year in comparison with that in the previous year, they - with their thumbs in the lapel attitude - have done all they could possibly do for education. Mr Deputy Chairman, I want first of all to complain very bitterly about the fact that we get only 10 lousy minutes in this debate in which to discuss the Department of Education and Science and the explanations of the estimates for 1970-71 which number 130-odd pages. Coupled with that is the ministerial statement which takes in a study and survey of education in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory generally. It is just not possible for us to cover all those matters in the time allocated. I believe that the number of minutes that are provided for us by the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) for this debate is totally inadequate and matches, admirably or otherwise, the Government's effort towards meeting the educational requirements of the young people of this nation.

During the course of last 12 months I have visited many, many schools in my electorate. I went to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is at the table tonight, and endeavoured to get his consent to the incorporation of some of the submissions of those schools in Hansard. But the Minister wiped me off as he has been wiping off the problems of education for some time. I would extend to the present Minister, who at one time-


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Mr Deputy Chairman

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Mr Deputy Chairman, the honourable gentleman apparently wanted some letters from some school children included in Hansard. If the honourablehonourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has no objection then I have no objection if the honourable member so requests it.

Mr FOSTER - Why did he not say so before instead of taking up my time? It was not only that. I have submissions from Campbelltown High School, Stradbroke Primary School and Highbury Primary School which are in my electorate. In fact, I have submissions from almost every primary and high school throughout mv electorate. The preparation of these submissions was brought about by a meeting that was called during the winter recess by the parents and friends organisation and the Institute of Teachers in South Australia. The then Minister, who is now the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), finally, with some reluctance attended that meeting and no doubt he got the story, if he read the signs correctly, as to what the meeting of almost 2,000 people thought of the manner in which he addressed them on that occasion. What was said by the Minister was indicative of what has been said here today - the Government does not want to pursue the question of education. So I ask the Minister for Education and Science now whether he is prepared to visit South Australia as his predecessor was not.

Mr Giles - What nonsense.

Mr FOSTER - He was not game enough, and this is recorded in the minutes of the meeting that the honourable member attended. Surely the honourable member's memory is a little better than that? The honourable member for Angas who is interjecting knows that perfectly well. Anyway, he is out of seat. Put him out, Mr Deputy Chairman. The fact is this: The former Minister for Education and Science went to South Australia, but he dodged the issue by not inspecting actual school conditions. He was challenged in that regard -

Mr Calder - He did not dodge the issue.

Mr FOSTER - He went there and he only attended a meeting. Just listen to me. He attended a meeting, somewhat reluctantly, but he backed off completely from a request by the State Minister for Education, Hugh Hudson, to familiarise himself with the schools and the conditions of schools in South Australia, conditions which have been brought about by the attitude of this Federal Government down through a great number of years.

What then does the Government propose to do about the gap of $l,443m? This money is considered necessary for education over the next 5 years? The Minister was given a pamphlet on this matter but he probably stuffed it into his brief case and did no more than that about it. What does the Government propose to do? Certainly, whilst the Government has increased expenditure in some fields of education it still is not making any real provision for many of the schools in most of the States of the Commonwealth. It is merely paying lip service to the idea. The line of last year's figures is being held. The Government is doing no more than that. Where is the massive grant that ought to be given to the whole range of education in Australia, about which we have heard talk? No provision is made for this in the estimates for forthcoming years. These massive grants are not (here.

It is all right for Government members to rise and to say that this is a problem for the States and that the Commonwealth has given the money to the States. Who the hell collects the most money in the country? The Commonwealth Government does. What does the Commonwealth want to do? Does it want to sit on a great pile of gold? The honourable member for Angas asked: 'Where are you going to get the money from?' 'Where has the money gone?', is a better question.

Mr Giles - I told you.

Mr FOSTER - The money has gone on Vietnam. Amounts of money totalling millions of dollars appear in the estimates under consideration. People probably think that these estimates set out expenditure on education for students and children and the provision of facilities. But bound up in these estimates is a domestic conversion worth half a million dollars. An appropriation of $45,000 with respect to the crown.crownofthorns starfish appears in these estimates. So it goes on and on. The estimated expenditure for the Anglo-Australian telescope that is being built is included also.

The Estimates that are under discussion at the moment should spell out correctly and properly in the figures presented where we are heading so far as the betterment of education for the student children of this country is concerned. More than Si 30m would be needed to eliminate all the temporary classrooms in South Australia alone and to provide some form of decent accommodation. What attention is being paid to this pile of submissions that I hold aloft now from primary and secondary schools in my electorate? I say to the Minister at the table: What do you propose to do about the actual size of classes in

South Australia? Do you propose to do anything about this matter? If this matter is not included in this Budget - and the Minister has not done this so far - he is unlikely to do it.

Some members on the Government side have spoken of the additional increase to non-government schools. If time would permit, I could go to my office in this parliamentary building and fetch down to the Committee letters from the heads of nongovernment schools in South Australia. They express opinions of utter disgust because of the action of this Government. The false promises of this Government have been confirmed by its action in this field. The Government has used this section of the community completely to achieve office. It is using the minds of children to achieve office. That is all that its action amounts to.

The Government has done nothing real and tangible in this field with respect to lower private schools - the St Joseph Orders and so forth - which are in the electorates of many honourable members. Can any say those schools have received sufficient assistance from the Commonwealth Government? Of course they cannot. Can anyone say that the Federal Government has paid proper regard to what it ought to have done as far as the States are concerned? Can any sane person or any reasonable thinking person accept the attitude of Government members who have risen one after the other and said that, because Commonwealth expenditure on education has been greater in a certain year, the Commonwealth must be doing something for education?

What is the good of Government members continually rising and saying that as far as education and a whole host of other matters, including hospitalisation, health and what-have-you - if I may transgress for a short moment, Mr Deputy Chairman - are concerned, the problem is one for the States? The Commonwealth is the main taxing authority. Most of taxation money collected comes into the Commonwealth which should accept its proper responsibility over a whole range of fields none of which is more important than education. Nothing is more important than education.

Nothing is more depressing than to go into primary schools particularly and see evidence of the concept that we still retain that with good parents and teachers organisations and good welfare committees certain equipment can be obtained but that if these bodies do not exist a school can go begging for this equipment. In the last 12 months in South Australia, the State Government has altered this concept to some extent by making grants available to schools. I cannot recall the figure at the moment. This means that each and every type of school receives something for this type of activity whether or not an active school committee is at work. It ought to be and it should be the responsibility of this Government to do these things.

Honourable members opposite have hung on to office for 21 years by subterfuge and dishonesty. It is time that the Government realised the need for Commonwealth action. The Minister has been given back the crumb of this portfolio. The portfolio is a crumb from a little fellow who is now Prime Minister and who made the promise to give the portfolio to the Minister provided he drove a knife into John Gorton's back. That is how the Minister comes to be Minister - with a big dagger. Now he has used the dagger and brought forth blood, let him get down to the real job for which this country pays him damn near $30,000 a year and let him-

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

Mr FOSTER - 1 am informed that he gets $45,000 a year. It is time that he got down to using that money for the benefit of the people-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr FOSTER - Yes, I will resume my seat, Mr Deputy Chairman. I had not noticed that my time was gone.

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