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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2282

Mr OLDMEADOW (Holt) - When the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Education was adjourned last night I was pointing out that there has been an unprecedented increase in the flow of money into the nation's schools, both government and non-government, and indicating that the estimated expenditure in the government school sector during the next 2 years will be $495m - a twelvefold increase. To this can be added the sum of $188m that is to be spent on the training of teachers, which is $103m more than was recommended in the report of the Special Committee on Teacher Education - the Cohen Committee - should be spent by the Commonwealth Government. In relation to grants to non-government schools again we note that the amount of money proposed to be spent by the new Government represents a great increase on that spent in the previous 2 years. In 1971-72 the previous Government spent $7 1.5m on non-government schools. The present Government proposes to spend $195m - almost a threefold increase.

I do not believe that figures listing expenditure tell anything like the full story. What I believe to be important are the values and the philosophy that underpin the report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission - the Karmel Committee - and in fact determines where the money is going to be spent. The sorts of values that come out of that report which we as a Government regard as important are as follows: Firstly, we believe that there should be an education of equality for all students. We believe in equality of opportunity. We differ from the Opposition in that it appears to believe, from what was said last night by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), in excellence through elitism whereas we believe in excellence through equality of opportunity. We believe that the individual differences of children must be recognised. We believe in the need to develop the total personality of the child. As I have suggested, those are the values that have determined into which areas money should flow. Those values explain why the rate of increase in fund allocation has been greatest in the government school area. Those values explain why in the non-government sector it is the Catholic schools, particularly the parish schools, which are to get the greatest assistance - not because they are Catholic but because their need is greatest. That explains why initiatives are being taken in new areas, such as in relation to the pupils of parents who live in especially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, to whom an extra $50m is to be allocated, and the pupils who are handicapped, whether physically or mentally. One could continue. There is to be a great increase in expenditure on the education of Aborigines, migrant children and isolated children.

I believe that there is ample evidence from the money that has been allocated of the importance which we as a government place on diversity and innovation. I think that can be seen from the money that has been allocated for curriculum and more general educational development. It is my personal hope that great encouragement will be given to schools where innovation is carried out and schools where experimentation is carried out. This comes to mind, for example, in regard to the Australian Capital Territory where the schools without walls movement has been established. I think also of schools such as Swinburne Community School in Melbourne and other schools such as these in which new paths are being blazed in the educational field. It is my hope that the Government will increase expenditure in that area. I think it is encouraging to see the greatly increased amount of money being appropriated for school libraries.

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