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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2631

Mr COOKE (Petrie) made and made very clearly. That is that the approach by the Government in phasing out aid for some of the categorised private schools is simply phase one in a program to eliminate private schools altogether. One has only to look at the statement which has been made by the Catholic bishops of Australia and the Anglican bishops of Australia to realise that they have not been taken in by this subtle approach by the Labor Party.

I am fortified in my view about the ultimate aims of this Government by a report on an education debate by the Labour Party in the United Kingdom because quite a number of old slogans and catchcries that have appeared in the report on that debate in the London Times' recently have been repeated in this House by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) and others of his ilk.

They say that private schools provide an avenue for parents to buy privilege for their children and this is exactly the same sort of thing that the Labour Party in Britain is advocating. A report in the 'London Times' of 5 October 1973 dealing with the education debate in the British Labour Party is headed: Abolition of privilege but no pledge on "top 25" schools'. The British Labour Party spokesman on education is quoted in that article as saying:

We will never be able to abolish the concept of elitism in education while we allow some people to pay for education, not always better education, with the intention of buying privilege in education and in life afterwards. Privilege can never be defended on the grounds of freedom of choice.

That is what the education spokesman for the British Labour Party said about independent schools in that country. The same article reports another spokesman as saying that the Labour Party would never be able to abolish the concept of elitist education while they allowed some peole to pay for it. They had to start on the financial concessions made through rate relief and other tax reliefs. The outcome of the debate to which I have referred was that the policy espoused by the British Labour Party at the present time is that government money for private schools is to be phased out and not only are private schools to be stripped of government money but also they are physically going to be closed down in the ultimate.

Mr Grassby - Whereabouts is this?

Mr COOKE - In the United Kingdom. They will be closed because they say that it is contrary to the principles of Labour socialism that an independent school system should exist while there is a government-run comprehensive school system in existence. That provides the blueprint for the Labor Party in this country. Admittedly it is usually about 10 years behind but inevitably it moves towards the same conclusions and that is why I suggest that Anglican and Catholic bishops have been very wise in pointing out the disadvantages in the Government's proposal and the techniques being used by this Government to suck in the unwitting parents for the guillotine next year.

I want to get off the subject of private schools for a moment because I do not want to be accused of speaking on behalf of rich and wealthy schools. Let me assure honourable members that I have none of those schools in my electorate, nor do I have any multinational corporations which pay my campaign fees.

Mr Keogh - Are not you unlucky?

Mr COOKE - I am very unlucky. I notice that my friends from Queensland the honourable member for Bowman and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) are interjecting, and well they might in view of the public opinion poll figures published at the weekend which showed that support for the LiberalCountry Party was running at 52 per cent in their State. No wonder the honourable gentlemen are interjecting and doing all they can to try to put themselves in a better light. I wonder what they will say to their children when their children come home and say: Daddy, why is your Government cutting off aid for our schools?'

I now want briefly to mention something about government schools just to show that I am not entirely prejudiced. Let me point out to unbelieving members opposite that I started my school education in a government school - a state school. I probably attended a few deprived schools in my time as well. On the last occasion we were discussing the Estimates the honourable member for Casey said that illiteracy in secondary schools was very low these days. I asked him what he attributed that to and he gave me some jargon about input and outputs but basically his suggestion was that people cannot read and write as well today because of the enormous teacher-student ratio. I can assure him that in the school I attended during all of my primary schooling and for a substantial part of my secondary schooling there were no fewer than 60 pupils in the class. On one occasion for one whole year I can recall that a teacher was away sick and one teacher took 2 classes totalling something like 120 students. I can assure the honourable member that we can read and write better than the people who have been through classes of thirty and less. So in my submission his argument holds no water at all.

I want briefly to point out one part of the Karmel Report which appears to have been lost sight of by the Minister for Education, and that is the paragraphs dealing with community involvement in schools. I am a great believer in the principle that parents and the community generally ought to be far more involved in the school because after all the schooling of their children is of prime importance to the parents. Children learn not only from going to school. The contrary is a fallacy which professional organisations such as the teachers unions seem mistakenly to fall into. They assume that all education comes from the school and that it comes from trained professionals. This, of course, is not so. Children learn a tremendous amount from their parents. They learn a tremendous amount from other people with whom they mix in the community and they learn a tremendous amount from the people they mix with in their own peer group. So it is important, in my submission, that the community ought to be involved in what is taught at school and the way in which it is taught in school.

When the Schools Commission Bill was before the chamber and even in the debate on the Estimates there was no discussion at all of the Karmel Committee suggestion for community involvement. Recently the New South Wales Department of Education produced a consultative paper entitled 'The Community and its Schools'. That paper suggested that communities ought to be involved in the running of schools. What happened? We find that these lofty professionals who have nothing but the good of education in view complained bitterly about that paper because they were not going to share responsibility with parents for running schools. What an impertinent attitude to take! After all, they are employed to teach children at schools, not to tell parents the way in which their children are going to be taught and what they are going to be taught at school.

Let me highlight some of the problems and dissatisfaction of parents who must send their children to government schools. One problem is the frequent turnover of teachers. This is not going to be solved by some bureaucratic organisation in Canberra. The most prevalent problem is the lack of concern which teachers have for the children. How often have honourable members been to a meeting and heard the remark that when the school bell rings the first person out the gate is the teacher? That is the situation in government schools throughout this country. Teachers are not prepared to wait after school for one second without being paid. Sports days cannot be organised because teachers will not participate in sports unless they are conducted during normal working hours. They want extra time to do their period marking and preparation. How many times is that time spent in doing the shopping and putting their bets on at the TAB?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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