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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2633

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - -We have heard a lot of whingeing and wailing from the Opposition tonight in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Education, but it is a fact of life that this Government has done more for education than any previous Federal government. Before I refer to the Karmel Committee and the arguments about category A schools and all the other vested interests that this team opposite are prepared to push, I should just like to instance a couple of things that this Government has done in terms of education, other than establishing the Karmel Committee. As from this Budget, university education will be completely free. Commonwealth advanced education and teachers' colleges will also be completely free. The recurring capital costs of teachers' colleges are to be met by the Commonwealth. Pre-school teachers' colleges are entirely free. They are just a few of the things that the Opposition chooses not to mention. Let us look at the Budget allocation for education. It has increased from $439m in the days of the last Budget of the former Treasurer (Mr Snedden) to a staggering $843m under the Budget of the present Treasurer (Mr Crean), an increase of 92 per cent in one year. One could say that a 92 per cent increase in a Budget allocation, increasing it from $ 10m to about $20m, would be a substantial increase, but an increase from $400m-odd to $800m-odd is something that has never happened before in this Parliament.

All the debate on education by members of the Liberal and Country parties has been centred upon category A schools and how the wealthy parents have been chopped out of their lollies from the Commonwealth. That is what their contributions to the debate have been all about, not about the quality of education or the equality of opportunity for all Australian children regardless of their denomination or whether they attend a State school. This is not at issue; what is at issue is whether the Greater Public Schools from which most of the Liberal and Country Party members come will be able to get the money that was handed out by the Commonwealth under a per capita grants system which of course was devised by Mr Menzies in co-operation with Mr Santamaria and others.

Mr KEATING - The honourable member for Angas laughs but he knows that the science blocks grants were the medium used by the Liberal Party to retain the preferences of the Democratic Labor Party. That is what those grants were all about. The Party of the honourable member for Angas which traditionally has absolutely no ties or connections with the Catholic community or the Catholic Church was prepared to subsidise science blocks in Catholic schools so that that money could go to rich Protestant schools. That is what that was all about. Honourable members opposite want that money to continue going to these schools, regardless of the children in poor schools throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. If we get back to the issue, that is what it is all about. Honourable members opposite have used the Catholic Church organisation and the parents and friends of that organisation to bolster their adherence to the per capita grants system so that they could keep money going to wealthy parents.

Let us get back to the wealthy parents. Anyone who is claiming the maximum taxation deduction for education of $600 and who is sending his child to a school where fees are around $800 or $900 a year is paying in excess of 50c in the $1 taxation - probably about 60c in the $1 - and about $400 of this $800 is returned to him as a taxation deduction; not only that but also 80 per cent of the students at those schools were receiving Commonwealth scholarships under the previous Government so that it meant the parents were again getting an increment from the Commonwealth by way of those scholarships; and not only that but also 90 per cent of the students of these schools went on to university and it was costing the Commonwealth Government of Australia about $5,000 per head per student for every year that they were at university. These greedy people got the cream of the crop all the way. They got the best that the Commonwealth was able to offer and for that they have used, cajoled and badgered and had every one in the establishment, including those bishops of the Catholic Church who were on-side, come in and back them to prop up a rotten, iniquitous per capita grants system that denied a child in an electorate such as the one I represent, at a school with a pupil-teacher ratio of about 50 to one the opportunity of obtaining a reasonable standard of education and access to tertiary education later. That is what it is all about.

The Australian Labor Party recognises this and believes that children in Australia should get a better opportunity. We established the Karmel Committee. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) set up the Committee within a few weeks of the Labor Party taking office. That Committee brought down recommendations. In making those recommendations the Committee decided to look at the resources of various schools. Professor Karmel and his Committee decided that they would establish an index which they called a resource index where an index of 100 represented State schools. They found that, on the basis of the criteria represented by the index of 100, some private schools were at a resource index level of 270. Some poor Catholic schools were on a resource index level of about 40 while a lot of government schools were below the index of 100. The aim of the Committee in its recommendations was to raise the quality of education to a resource index level of 140 by 1979. This Government will ensure continuing and increasing allocations to that end.

In this resource index range of 40 to 270 were all the schools in Australia. The Committee graded as category A schools those schools which presently have a resource index of between 140 and 270 and which have a resource index target of 140 by 1979. My Party at Cabinet level decided that we would subsidise these schools no longer and I think that this is a completely justifiable decision. But unfortunately, the whole debate has ranged around category A schools and not the enormous benefit that will go to the children across the length and breadth of Australia, regardless of denomination, because of the policies of this Government.

Honourable members opposite talk about how badly we have treated those schools. In regard to recurrent and capital costs for libraries and science blocks of category A schools, at the end of the program in 2 years' time the amount allocated to these schools will total about $9.2m. Let me just refer to a couple of the schools to give honourable members some idea of the amount of money that has gone to these schools. Kincoppal school at Rose Bay, which could be regarded as a GPS quality school - a Catholic school - has received $128,000; Haileysbury College at Keysborough has received $303,000; Scotch College at Hawthorn in Victoria has received $236,000. The science block program will run until 1975 and the library program until 1974.

So these schools have been treated more than fairly. But we are obliged in terms of the media and of the establishment and the pressure which the Liberal and Country Parties can bring to bear to keep pouring money into category A schools.

If honourable members went to some of the schools around the foreshores of Sydney Harbour and the eastern suburbs they would see beautiful old schools with pupil-teacher ratios in the 20s, with lovely gardens and a flock of Mercedes and Jaguars out the front. Yet honourable members opposite argue that the parents of those children should get the same treatment as someone in my electorate with a child in a mud playground, being taught in a portable hut where the pupil-teacher ratio is about 40 to one. These grants have been used and abused too much but this will occur no more. What is more, once the report of the Karmel Committee is accepted by my Party and the Australian Schools Commission runs for a few years, honourable members opposite will not be game to change it back to the old system. The arguments of Mr Santamaria and others that the lack of bipartisanship will destroy the concept of aid to denominational schools is a lot of rubbish. He is saying that the system of granting money for education in the denominational area is in jeopardy because it does not have the support of the Greater Public Schools and of the protestant schools, which are basically in the GPS area, this being what he calls the lack of bipartisan support. The fact that the Karmel Committee is enshrined in a schools commission and in legislation with a major policy commitment by a one-Party Government which was elected at a Federal election does not cut any ice at all.

If the children of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and people like him are not receiving a subsidy by going to the schools which their parents attended, Mr Santamaria believes that the LiberalCountry Party will no longer be interested in aid to denominational schools. On that basis the Catholic bishops ought to refuse the money going to their poor schools. Some of them are silly enough and criminal enough to fall for it. One can see the shabby, lousy, miserable politics that members of the Opposition played with Catholic children just to prop up an iniquitous per capita grants system so that wealthy people like them who do not wish to pay out money to educate their own children will receive a per capita grant from the Commonwealth of Australia on the same terms as a parent in my electorate who has perhaps an income of around $3,500 or $4,000 a year.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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