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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 593

Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - I wish to raise a matter which concerns the future well being of literally thousands of children in New South Wales. 1 refer to the educational opportunities which are being denied to them because of the attitude of the present Federal Government. I am sorry to have to say that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who has built up a reputation in this House for fairness and for speaking his mind has, however unwittingly, misled the Parliament in my view in some way.

I wish to quote his reply to a question which was asked him on 28th February 1973 by one of the members on his own side of the chamber. ] refer first to the question which was asked as this demonstrates the point that the Minister did not answer the question as it was asked. As reported at page 38 of Hansard of that date, the Minister was asked:

Did the New South Wales Government make a specific application to the Commonwealth for additional funds to employ qualified teachers currently available for but unable to gain employment in New South Wales.

That is a fairly straightforward question. The Minister for Education chose not to be straightforward in his response. This is what he said:

.   . I have not received any letter from the New South Wales Government asking-

Here is the let out, I guess - in specific terms for Commonwealth finance to assist the New South Wales Government with unemployed teachers.

The Minister went on to say:

The form of submission which came to me from Mr Willis and was subsequently sent to the Prime Minister . , .

He admits that there was a submission. But he gave the undeniable impression to anybody reading that reply that the submission from Mr Willis, which he admits he received, did not deal with the teachers who were available and which he chose to call unemployed.

I would like to take the House through some of the aspects of this case, the chronological order of events. Let us look at the facts behind this statement and the answer given by the Minister for Education. Firstly, on 27th December 1972 there was a public statement by the Minister for Education in New South Wales in which he said that he had written to Mr Beazley seeking a meeting at the earliest possible time to talk over with the new Minister for Education at Commonwealth level some of the problems facing the Education Department of New South Wales. That was on 27th December. The conference which be sought was granted to him on 4th January and following that conference a Press statement was issued by the Minister for Education in New South Wales in which he said, amongst other things, that discussions ranged over all the aspects of education, from pre-school to tertiary school in all its forms. Following that a letter was sent by the Minister for Education in New South Wales to the Commonwealth Minister for Education at about the end of January and he released a Press statement about the contents of that letter. He did not give the specific terms of the letter but he did release a Press statement about the contents of it. Part of that Press statement reads:

In all I have asked for an allocation of $4 .4m which would involve the employment of over 1,100 additional class teachers, remedial teachers, teacherlibrarians, etc.

If the Commonwealth grants the State's total request, the current over supply of trained teachers will be quickly absorbed.

In my request to Mr Beazley f have pointed out thai at this stage I am essentially concerned with the employment-

I emphasise that phrase - of teachers in a manner that will increase significantly the quality of education, while avoiding any further expenditure on capital cost items which would delay employment opportunities.

Again I emphasise the phrase 'Employment opportunities'. On 1 6th February 1973 the Minister for Education in New South Wales released another statement in which he elaborated on the 1,100 teachers who were seeking employment in New South Wales and for which funds to employ them were not available. He spoke about them in some detail. He said:

Many of the 1,100 teachers seeking employment have placed such restrictions on the districts in which they are prepared to teach as to make early appointment extremely difficult, if not impossible.

He spoke about the various categories of these teachers who are seeking employment. He mentioned the fact that:

.   . 260 married women applicants are seeking employment in specified country towns, usually those in which they now live.

He said:

Another 260 married women will teach only in their own or adjacent suburbs in the metropolitan area.

Only 40 of the married women teachers living in Sydney are prepared to consider an appointment anywhere in the metropolitan area itself.

I mention this because in all this there is very clear emphasis on the fact that teachers were available for employment and there should have been no doubt in the Minister's mind that this was the case.

Mr Beazley - You do not seriously think that the Minister regarded himself as under an obligation to employ married teachers?

Mr MacKELLAR - He mentioned these teachers who were seeking employment. This is what he said:

.   . priority will be given to special education involving remedial groups, improved use of library facilities through the appointment of additional teacher librarians and provision for continuity of instruction through ready availability of relief staff.

Obviously here was a Minister for Education seeking to do the best not only for his teaching staff by endeavouring to employ these additional teachers but also, and much more importantly in my view, to bring about extra quality of teaching for the children of New South Wales. On 22nd February this year the New South Wales Minister for Education issued another news release which stated:

The Minister for Education expressed his extreme disappointment at the Prime Minister's rejection of a request by the New South Wales Government for funds to employ immediately an additional 1,100 teachers in departmental schools.

That was on 22nd February, yet on 28th February the Federal Minister for Education can say that he has had no specific request dealing with employment. What nonsense is this. It is complete semantics, in my view. The educational opportunities for literally thousands of New South Wales children are being shoved aside by this Minister - this socalled bastion of the people who alleges to bring educational opportunities to children throughout Australia. He is just ruthlessly shoving them aside and using semantics in answer to questions put to him in this House by members of his own Party. It is simply not good enough that people, particularly this Minister for Education, can fob off what is obviously a genuine request for additional funds to employ 1,100 additional teachers in New South Wales to do highly necessary jobs. If he rejects this application then he is depriving the children of New South Wales of quality teaching and depriving them of the facilities and the opportunity to make something of their lives. He could be damning them for the rest of their lives.

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