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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 648

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - It is interesting to note that every speaker from the other side of the House who has spoken today in this debate which has centred on education has confined himself almost entirely to a discussion of the category A schools referred to in the Karmel report - a very small part of the total report. I remind the House that the Committee was appointed on 12 December 1972 and reported on 18 May. In a little more than 5 months the Committee produced a report outlining a blueprint not only for progress in education but also for equality. For far too long Australian children have received an education which in many cases and in many areas was inferior to that provided in countries with a similar standard of living. Australia was once one of the leaders in world education. Unfortunately this proud record was all too soon surpassed by other countries.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the Liberal and Country Parties during recent years has been their sense of timing. They have surpassed themselves today. Because of school holidays thousands of teachers and students who would otherwise have been unable to listen to this debate are in a position to hear the Opposition defending the status quo in education - the old schools, the poorly equipped schools, the lack of autonomy and decentralisation in education, the poor staff facilities and the lack of teacher controlled professional training. When the Opposition condemns the Karmel Report it condemns all recommendations which aim to change the situation with which we are faced after 23 years of conservative, selfish and discriminatory government.

How fortunate it is for the children of parents and teachers in the Australian community that education will not be forced to undergo yet another period of stagnation. We said quite clearly, and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has just explained, that we would not be able to do everything at once, that we would fix aid according to priorities. We have made a very significant start. I remind the House of the things which we propose to do in this Budget. The tertiary and post-primary students allowance scheme will cost $58m. Provision has been made for the Australian Government to assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education, and a sum of $2 12m has been appropriated for this purpose. Assistance to technical and further education will amount to S25.6m. In primary and secondary education programs of assistance to Australian schools in accordance with the recommendations of the Karmel Report will total $97m. A new program of financial assistance totalling $ 1.75m has been introduced for low income families and $9. 8m has been provided for assistance in the education of isolated children. Although a report has not yet been brought down on preschool education an initial amount of SI Om has been set aside.

I come now to education for special groups. The Aboriginal secondary grants scheme will attract $5.7m and $2m has been provided for the purchase of demountable school rooms for migrant children attending special English classes. A sum of $350,000 wm be allocated to research and development in education, an area of education long neglected. Support to the extent of $500,000 will be given for the establishment and maintenance of an independent curriculum development centre. The total outlay by the Australian Government on education in 1973-74 will be $843m, which represents an increase of 92 per cent over 1972-73. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Government is not spending an additional 92 per cent but only 60 per cent, on the ground that the States were spending $145m on tertiary education. The Australian Government's allocation is on condition that that $145m so saved will be spent on other areas of education. Therefore the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is without foundation.

I should also like to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning. I believe that the honourable member was engaging in some semantic quibbles on this matter. In fact the Government has kept its promise and this has been reinforced by what the Minister has said this morning. We have more than kept it. We are giving more than 321m in recurrent grants to non-government, non-systemic schools. The argument is about the way in which this money is to be apportioned. I direct the attention of honourable members also to the Coombs report which was tabled by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on the night the Budget was presented. In that report it was estimated that 64 per cent of all parents claim $100 or less as a taxation deduction for education expenses. I am reliably informed that approximately 25 per cent claim more than $150. As honourable members will know, the upper limit is $400. Most of the parents in the 25 per cent group send their children to category A schools. If the suggestion in the Coombs report, which could have been implemented by the Government and which the Press indicated might have been implemented, had been implemented, $55m would be saved over 2 years. The saving in cutting the recurrent grant to category A schools is approximately $5m. Honourable members can easily see who is advantaged and who is not.

I direct the attention of the House to the grants which have 'been made to the category A schools over previous years. In grants made to 30 June 1973, science program grants which will be made until 30 June 1975, and libraries program grants which will be payable until 31 December 1974, all schools which the Opposition believes have been so badly done by and are to be so badly done by have received or will receive in New South Wales $2,411,000, in Victoria S4,017,000, in Queensland $372,600, in South Australia $993,000, in Western Australia $1,095,000, and in Tasmania $336,000- a total of more than $9m. These schools have this money while children exist in disgraceful conditions in many of our other schools. I have taught in some of these schools. I taught for 2 years in a girl guides' hall with 2 classes present. Those children were not receiving the sort of education to which every Australian child is entitled. That was a state school. Nearby was a Catholic parochial school in which conditions were very much the same.

That is the situation we want to change. We are not satisfied with the present situation in education. We want to change it. We will change it. We will not be put off in implementing the tremendous recommendations of the Karmel Report. I take my hat off to the Karmel Committee for the great work it has done. We will not be put off carping criticism of honourable members on the other side of the House in implementing the recommendations of the Karmel report and helping Australian children. I challenge any honourable member on the other side of the House to talk about quality in education, community involvement in education and diversity in education. Community involvement is something that we will have to ensure in Australian education. We want to see teachers brought into the education system more than they are now. We want to see parents involved in the education system. We want to see a series of community schools which the community feels are its schools and in which the children will have some relation to the community around them. The Karmel report contains all these recommendations. I challenge again honourable members on the other side of the House to talk about this section of the report. They have talked about nothing except category A schools.

Mr Mathews - Nothing except privilege.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - Nothing except privilege, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Casey. We must do something about the schools which need our assistance. We will do this and it will go down in the history of education in this country that this Australian Labor Party Government has changed the whole face of education in Australia for the benefit of the children, the parents and the community.

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