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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2289

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - I have been amazed that the Opposition has found so little to criticise in our educational program. It is fastening on to the fact that the socalled A category schools are to be deprived of support either at the beginning of next year or possibly the year after. The decision on that matter has not yet been finally made. But supposing that these so-called A category schools, of which there will be about 70 over the whole of Australia, were deprived of Commonwealth support simply because they have already achieved a standard which we hope that all other schools, government and private, will reach by 1979. What the Opposition conveniently forgets is that even the parents of students attending A category schools will still be able to get the taxation concessions they have always got despite all the propaganda to the contrary. It will still be true for at least a while yet. There was never any protest in the past about the fact that most of the senior secondary scholarships - 25,000 last year, tenable this year - went to children in the higher socio-economic bracket and that as a consequence of that most of those who go on to tertiary education come from that socio-economic group.

No notice is taken of the fact that as from the beginning of next year all of these privileged people, amongst, I hope, many others, will be able to go to a university, to a college of advanced education, or to a technical college full time and have all their fees paid by the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth is taking over complete financial responsibility for each of these institutions, and all full time students attending those institutions will receive their education free. Under our liberalised means test many of them will also receive a living allowance increased somewhat above what has been provided in the past. Amongst all the documents that pour onto my desk each day I noticed yet another one yesterday titled 'Teacher Education 1973-75'. It is the report of the Special Committee on Teacher Education. I will be fair enough to acknowledge that in the dying days of the last Government the Australian Commission for Colleges of Advanced Education was asked to set up a special committee to inquire into teacher education. All I can say is that it should have been done about 10 years ago. Anyhow, it was set up and it has now brought forward a report. If we accept it, it will commit the Australian Government to spend over the next 2 or 3 years a tremendous amount of money. As a matter of fact the report indicates that if we accept the recommendations as reported in table 7 on page 58 of that report the total commitment will be 5206,649,000, of which, on a matching grant basis as operated under the previous Government, the Commonwealth will have to supply $83,943,500. In fact it is quite likely that the Commonwealth will be accepting a much bigger liability than even that which that report recommended.

I turn, though, to another aspect of education that hardly gets a mention in many of these debates. I made some reference to it in my speech the other day on the second reading of the Schools Commission Bill which promises over $600m to be spent by the Commonwealth in 1974-75. All this has been conveniently forgotten in the petty criticism by the Opposition. I made brief reference to the state of technical education. Of course I am glad to note that under this Government we have set up a committee of inquiry into technical education, and that committee is expected to bring down a report that will lead to implementation of recommendations as from July of next year. The simple fact is that the previous Government did so little. Unfortunately at this stage I cannot reveal the information given to me as a member of the Public Accounts Committee about what went wrong with previous allocations for technical education by our predecessors. But the simple fact is that we are very short of technicians and tradesmen today simply because there was inadequate support for technical education in the past. Furthermore, the recession we had in 1970-71 also led to the curtailment of apprenticeships, and as a result it is no wonder the people in the community today are finding it so hard to obtain tradesmen, even in many cases at grossly inflated prices, whether they be television technicians, bricklayers, plasterers or tradesmen in any of the building trades or the engineering trades. In every one of these fields our progress has been retarded because of the unavailability of skilled labour. An article in the 'Australian Financial Review' of 30 March of this year stated in part:

Total apprentice intake in Victoria has been declining for some time and in 1971-72 reached a low (in all trades) of 7.SO0. This compares with 11,000 boys who applied for apprenticeships during the year and a projected actual need of 15,000 new apprentices.

In other words only half the number of apprenticeships were taken up as the community estimated was desirable in the State of Victoria alone. Not only do we need to give much more encouragement to technical education to the apprenticeship system in particular, to the technician level of training and to the technologist level of training, but we also ought to be doing something about teacher education in the Department of Technical Education in New South Wales and in sections of the departments of general education in the other States of Australia. I only need quote from the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on the Commonwealth's role in Teacher Education of February 1972. This is what is said by way of introduction to the chapter on the training of technical teachers:

The economic standard and quality of life in Australia will in future depend to an increasing degree upon the standard of education provided for the skilled work force. If high quality education is to be provided in technical training, institutions must be both highly qualified in their specialist fields and adequately equipped for their teaching role.

So it goes on. Time would not allow me to go on and quote all of the things that were said. I wonder how many members in this House or how many people in the community recognise that there are more students involved in technical education in this country than there are in all other levels of post-secondary education - and that takes in the universities, colleges of advanced education, teachers colleges and all the rest of them. There are in Australia over 400,000 students involved in technical education. From my observation, especially under the previous Government, technical education was the poor relation, the Cinderella, and that applied under State systems of education as well as under the Commonwealth. One would have thought that a Liberal-Country Party Government so intimately interested in the material development and allegedy so interested in the economic development of the community would have seen to it that technical education got a fair go. Unfortunately I note that even the latest report on teacher education does not seem to take up the recommendation of the report of the Senate Committee to which I referred a while ago - the recommendation that every State should have at least one technical teachers college. In New South Wales the technical teachers college is only part of the Sydney Teachers College, and a pretty derelict place it is. Victoria alone in all these years is the only State that has received a Commonwealth grant for the building of a technical teachers college. That was in the suburb of Hawthorn, I think in 1967. I make a strong plea that if we are talking about productivity, if we are talking about uplifting the economy of this country, we ought to give greater attention to this vital sector of education - technical education.

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