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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4026

The DEPUTY SPEAKER - There is no point of order unless the honourable member for Kingston specified a Minister. That is the precedent which has been set by the Speaker.

Dr Patterson - I rise to order. I think the Minister is too sensitive.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.

Dr GUN - All I can say is that the Minister at the table is nit picking. I am referring to a specific Minister now; I do not know whether I will be made to withdraw that remark. I was saying that in his speech in this House on 5th October the Minister for Education and Science made no reference to this figure of $ 1,443m which was mentioned in the findings of the survey of educational needs; I think he would like us to forget it.

There is yet another instance of double talk. The Minister now claims that with the Commonwealth-State financial relationship, which we are now debating, and the transfer of payroll taxing powers to the States, the Commonwealth Government has discharged its obligations to the States. This has been stated a number of times by the present Minister. As an example of this I will quote what the present Minister said in this House on 13th October this year. He said:

I think it is worth noting, as I have pointed out before, that there are two ways in which the Commonwealth can assist and is assisting the States in education. One is to have a direct programme of its own of specific grants for specific purposes . . .

These are such things as libraries and science blocks. He continued:

Secondly, there is a general method of geelong to build up the States' own financial resources so that the States within the allocations they have, can make their own decisions about their own particular priorities.

Mr Peacock - Were you quoting the present Minister?

Dr GUN - Yes.

Mr Peacock - Were you before that quoting the previous Minister?

Dr GUN - No. The Minister can read it tomorrow in Hansard where I think it will -be fairly clear to him. He should listen with both ears next time.

He went on to explain how the States' financial positions have improved under the new arrangements. In other words, be clearly regards the Commonwealth as having discharged its obligations in relation to the national survey. But the present Minister for Defence, when he was Minister for Education and Science, made no mention of the new financial arrangement. He said on 16th June that the Commonwealth was waiting only on further information from the States. He said this on the night of the Premiers Conference. Surely the Minister at the time must have had prior knowledge of what the Commonwealth was intending to offer the States. Once again this is clear evidence of Government double talk. The plain fact is that the Government does not intend to implement the survey.

Mr Peacock - I rise to order. I have now ascertained from the general thread of the honourable member's remarks that quite clearly those earlier remarks to which I took exception related to the Minister for Education and Science once removed. Therefore, I ask that the earlier remarks relating to deceit, implying, as they do. moral turpitude, be withdrawn because they refer to a particular Minister in a manner which would bc objected to by any Minister sitting at the table.

Dr GUN - I withdraw anything I have said which has offended any Minister rather than have my time taken up with capricious points of order by the Minister, who obviously does not like any reference to the Government's attitude on education. I can understand his embarrassment because quite clearly the present Government has no interest in education and has never had any interest in it. All that conservative governments have ever wanted is to have a servile, illiterate proletariat. I can well understand the attitude of the Minister.

Mr Peacock - I rise to order. I am only charged with the responsibility, Mr Deputy Speaker, of referring to you for your consideration the Standing Orders at times when I believe honourable members are in need of your protection, whether it is because they are being defamed or in any other way reflected upon. That is the only point I wish to make. Frankly the present contributions on education are hardly worth interrupting but the reflections upon the Minister were.

Dr GUN - It is quite obvious that the Commonwealth Government never intended to implement the findings of the survey. The survey was conceived in haste in response to proposals of the Australian Labor Party to establish an Australian schools commission. The Minister may try to argue that even though the Commonwealth has not provided the specific amount required it has enabled the States to find the funds from their own resources. But that is not so. Even the South Australian Minister for Education has declared that the Commonwealth must provide further funds. South Australia, I hasten to point out to the House, has provided for a greater expansion of educational expenditure this financial year than has any other State. The Commonwealth Minister, when talking about the South Australian expenditure, said:

The increase has been closer to 30 per cent than t7 per cent-- which is the national average - which is a very significant increase in expenditure in one year.

Yet this is not nearly sufficient. These are not just the views of the South Australian Minister. If the Commonwealth Minister does not believe me, let him visit some of the schools in my electorate and speak to some of the teachers there. It is quite clear that the Minister is deceiving himself if he thinks that the States can implement the survey without special Commonwealth support. Once again I point out what the

Minister said on 13th October in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Angas:

When the Survey of Needs was formulated, the Slate Ministers and the State departments made an assumption that the State recurrent funds would increase by 10 per cent a year. In fact since then they have increased at a much greater rate than that. To the extent that they have increased by a greater rate than that, the alleged shortfall in their statement of needs will be reduced.

But this is only half of the story. What the Minister did not say was that when the survey was taken a certain rate of inflation was assumed over the 5-year period. But that rate of inflation has been exceeded. So while it is no doubt true that the shortfall is reduced because of the greater increase in State funds, this reduction is at least partly offset by the rate of inflation being greater than that which was anticipated at the time the survey was taken.

Let us not forget that the goals of the educational survey were not grandiose. They were quite modest. In fact, as far as South Australia is concerned, we have had since the survey the Karmel Report which indicated an even higher level of expenditure being required. Remember also, for that matter, that the national survey did not include the needs of pre-schools or tertiary education. 1 shall curtail what I would otherwise say because the time that the Government has set for this debate is limited and other members wish to speak. I believe that the pronouncements of Commonwealth Ministers for Education over recent months have vindicated the policy of the Australian Labor Party in advocating the establishment of an Australian schools commission. Time and time again Commonwealth Ministers have said that we have not enough information on which to base decisions on the survey, that the criteria are not adequate and that the States criteria for education are different. Surely this is a vindication of our proposal. We believe (hat there should be a commission established whereby we could ascertain by means of a continuous, informed and ongoing survey the needs of all of the State governments in regard to education. Such a survey could be going on all the time and the commission could make from time to time recommendations to the Commonwealth Government as to the sort of expenditure that is required. Such an arrangement would not involve any loss of autonomy by the State governments; it would not involve any loss of autonomy necessarily on the part of the schools. In fact, we would like the schools to have a greater degree of autonomy. I am sure that this will come about as certainly as it has come about in South Australia where we have a Labor government.

The Labor Party would want only to lay down broad priorities in regard to national education policies. For instance, it would want to see the inequalities of education wiped out. It would not want to see people discriminated against because they have a limited income. Similarly the Labor Party does not want people to suffer because of their physical or mental handicaps. At the moment there is a very great degree of discrimination in that area. The Commonwealth will provide limited assistance to people who are handicapped but only if they are being helped by a voluntary agency. If the assistance is being provided by a State educational authority the Commonwealth does not provide specific assistance. These are the sorts of national goals that the Labor Party would look towards in implementing its education policy.

I point out to the people of Australia that only a Labor government will give education its correct priority. Look at the example of the Labor Government in South Australia which, as I have said, has already increased its expenditure on education to a greater extent than any other State of Australia. I also point to the reply which was given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the programme 'Monday Conference' some weeks ago when he was asked what the first priority of a Federal Labor government would be. He said: 'To set up an Australian schools commission'. That is where we stand.

Finally, as evidence of the seriousness of the Liberal Government towards education, I would like to refer to a delegation which South Australian members of the Federal Parliament received from the South Australian Association of State School Organisations some weeks ago. Many members from South Australia were present but they were all Opposition members. Government supporters were invited but none of them saw fit to attend. 1 felt rather sorry for one member of the delegation who has been a Liberal Party candidate in the past. 1 think that perhaps she has not woken up to the fact that her Party is not fundamentally interested in education. I thought the attendance that day was symptomatic of the attitude of this Government on education.

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