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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 2031

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (Minister for the Capital Territory) - It is always a pleasure to listen to the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley). He says it all so we' I but what he says never seems to mean everything. Just recall the way he referred to a mindless centralism. We are talking about an operation in which a Schools Commission is to dispose of very large sums of money to innumerable institutions for them to dispose of according to their own considerations and he calls that centralism. If honourable members opposite would only depart from some of the slogans and start to think about what the problems. Let us consider for a moment his charge that the Karmel Committee was not given enough time. That may well be true. However I believe it performed a prodigy in producing its report so soon. However the point is that my colleagues opposite might stop and consider next time they get back to their electorates what this Bill really means for the schools.

Of the 10,000 schools of Australia and the 8,000 State schools in particular there are hundreds if not thousands that ought not to be allowed to continue a day longer than necessary in their present condition. A great number of them are in electorates such as mine. There is an urgency about this matter which we have been promulgating for the last 17 or 18 years but it still escapes my friends opposite. Over the years the Australian Education Council produced continuous reports about the needs of education. We placed those reports before the Parliament year after year but to no avail. Now we are applying a sense of urgency to an immediate human problem. Most of the children that pass through our schools will pass that way once and if this is not done for them this time their opportunity has gone for good. That, I think, is the urgency involved in this Bill. The establishment of the Schools Commission is the next step.

What are some of the other things that honourable members opposite say. I am always intrigued at the use of the phrases 'the independent schools' and 'the independent system'. Independent of what? The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), for instance, earlier told us how important it was that the independent schools have public funds. Obviously they are not independent of the public purse. Are they independent of the education system? Of course they are not. They design their education system generally speaking to fit into the same pattern as everybody else and to produce the same type of people to go to the same sort of universities. They are not independent in that respect. They are not independent of anything but public responsibility. We believe that that is one of the most important functions of government. They do not accept the same responsibility as do the State education systems. To find out one only has to get on the telephone and ask whether it would be all right to take 6 children along tomorrow.

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