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Wednesday, 30 May 1973
Page: 2843

Mr SPEAKER -Order! If the Minister believes he has been misrepresented he can ask to make a personal explanation after the present speaker has concluded.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - If I have misrepresented the Minister I will certainly apologise, but might I develop this point a little further. The report continues:

However, beyond 1973 some of these programs are to be phased out.

That, as 1 understand it, was a directive. I would like to know whether the Minister is prepared to table in this House the letters of directives that passed from him to Professor Karmel on this point. I return now to para* graph 1.19 on page 6 of the report. The Minister might have been better advised if he bad waited until I had come to this matter before he interjected on me. This is the para-; graph that deals with recurrent grants. It states:

Under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972, recur, rent grants are being paid to non-government schools in the States on a per capita basis. The rates for 1973, determined before the present Australian Government took office, were $62 per primary and $104 per secondary pupil. The Government - i

That is the present Government - las indicated to the Committee that, although grants are being made at these rates during 1973, after that tear the basic level of support for non-government s chools will not be pre-determined, and the nature and level of support for recurrent expenditure during 1974 and 1973 will be recommended by the Com- mittee, having regard to the overall assessment of needs and priorities and to the pre-existing situation.

The significant words are 'the Government has indicated to the Committee that'. How did the Government indicate to the Committee? Was it a verbal communication, was it a letter, was it a directive? That is what I would like to know. The Committee makes it quite plain that the Government circumscribed the manner in which the Committee could make recommendations on this point. It may well not be necessary to continue in these matters, but letters written to representatives of the independent schools authorities in December 1972 from the Prime Minister indicated that any payments recommended by the Committee would be additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of non-government schools, and implied that the pre-existing payments would be continued. That was the letter written on 13 December 1972 and signed by the Prime Minister. Then, of course, the Prime Minister made a speech at St Patrick's College, I think, at Prospect Vale in Tasmania in which the sense of those words was altered and the sense of those words was not going to lead to a situation in which the funds would be additional to the pre-existing per capita grants.

The other aspect, of course, is that on 20 June 1972, I think at a public meeting the Prime Minister, as he now is, is on public record as having said that any pre-existing forms of aid to independent schools would be continued if he won office. The whole tenor of what I have to say is that the Interim Committee was given an indication, a suggestion, a directive by letter, in writing or by word from the Minister for Education or from the Prime Minister that per capita grants as they had existed, as had been the policy of the Federal Catholic Schools Committee, the Australian Parents Council and the National Council of Independent Schools were to be phased out. It is also my understanding that this kind of directive was given to the Committee as late as April this year. If this is not correct I would like the Minister to explain, when there is a full debate on these matters, the meaning which was implicit in the Committee's remarks when it said that the grants recommended by the Committee were to be in addition to existing programs. The Government has indicated that certain programs are to be phased out. I know that the Science program was ending because we had built in additional sums for continued science building and in the general capital funds, but the Minister knows full well that the main tenor and thrust of these remarks is aimed at the per capita grants which in terms of previous legislation it is plain are being phased out. It is my understanding that either the Minister or the Prime Minister gave a directive to the Committee that this was to be so, and the only way in which this can be satisfactorily resolved is for the Minister to table the full correspondence that he has had with the Committee throughout its term of activity.

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.

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