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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2638

Mr WILSON (Sturt) - Many of the speakers on the Government side in trying to defend the actions of their Government with regard to the withdrawal of aid to categorised schools have concentrated their attention on the withdrawal of aid from category A schools. However, if the figures are examined it can be found that there is in fact a withdrawal in real terms of aid from many schools in lower categories than category A. If one extends the figures on the basis of the current rate of increases in prices, or on the increases in average weekly earnings, or takes account of claims for salary and wage increases in the area of professional teachers, one can forecast the likely increase in the cost of education in State and independent systems. If one makes this forecast and is most conservative in one's estimates, the result suggests that there will be a 10 per cent annual increase in the cost of educating children in State schools, reflecting itself in the cost of education in the independent system.

Aid in terms of the amounts provided for in the Karmel report will result in a real reduction in aid to the independent schools, not only those in category A but also, those in categories

B, C. D, E and possibly F, if the increases in the cost of education rise at the more likely rate of 15 per cent or even 20 per cent. So, it is totally dishonest to suggest that those members on this side of the Committee who express concern for independent schools are worried only about those schools categorised in category A. In fact, those schools are the least of our concern. We are worried for those parents who wish to exercise the freedom of choice to send their children either to a State school or to an independent school. They should have a choice and they should not be priced out of exercising that choice. The decisions of the present Government will have that effect and will make it extremely difficult for many parents to finance the fees necessary to pay for the education of their children in independent schools. Many parents of these children today are making supreme sacrifices in order to provide their children with the sort of education which they want to give them.

It strikes me as extraordinarily strange that at a time when we are talking about community involvement in education we should deny to a community of Catholics, a community of Jews, a community of Anglicans, a community of Presbyterians or a community coming together because the people have particular attitudes to a style of education, an opportunity to choose to send their children to a school because we impose upon them their obligation under the law to meet their taxes and at the same time require that they pay the total cost of their children's education at an independent school if that school reaches a particular standard. If there is to be an adjustment between those with high incomes and those on lower incomes, let that adjustment be achieved from the tax systems and not by an indirect camouflaged system of taxation by imposing a price on people's freedom of choice.

We have in office today a socialist Government. It is a Government which mouths the phrase 'freedom of choice'. But when it is pressed on the point as to what it means, we find that it means a choice to make a decision within the limits of those alternatives selected by that socialist autocratic central Government. In this area of community participation in education, we are seeing as a result of the recommendations of the Karmel committee an expansion of the concept of community as well as parent participation in the school community. I hope that as this program is developed governments, both Commonwealth and

State, will look into the question of the extent to which the nation's education and community resources are, in some areas at least, overcapitalised. What I mean by that is that in new and developing areas we build first-rate schools and provide them with excellent facilities, but then use them only over a limited period of the year and over a limited period of time in any one week.

In recent days I have been in touch with many people in the state schools throughout my electorate. I have talked with them about the involvement of parents and the involvement of the community in the activities of the school and the activities of the education centre for the district that that school should provide. Members of school committees have said to me that they are concerned that, in the event of the use of school facilities for non-school activities, the ovals and extra facilities which the hard working parent committees provide for schools will suffer from the wear and tear that naturally occurs.

Mr Innes - What a lot of rubbish.

Mr WILSON - This is not rubbish. What I am expressing is the view expressed by parents involved in the schools within the area that I represent. They have expressed concern that, if the school facilities are used for other than school activities, there will be wear and tear. Honourable members opposite have their heads in the clouds if they believe that wear and tear will not occur, because in every community - be it a school community or the community at large - there are those who lack a sense of responsibility.

The point I wish to make is that it seems to me to be a very expensive solution of this problem to say that the answer is to close the schools when the school bell rings at the end of the day and not to use those facilities either for the school community or for the community at large. Where there are buildings, grounds and facilities, many of which are under-used - that is not to say that there are not some schools where the size of the community within the school is so large in itself that the physical facilities of the school are used to the optimum or in some cases are inadequate - and where the facilities are adequate and can be used for the community at large to provide library facilities, recreational facilities, school grounds and adult education facilities, I suggest that ways and means of using the community facilities in school buildings and their related grounds should be examined.

One suggestion I would like to put to the Committee is that consideration should be given to providing funds to enable the appointment of not caretakers but people with a greater sense of vocation and training - perhaps recreation officers or activity officers - with responsibility for the care and custodianship of the school facilities so that neither the school committee nor the staff will refuse to allow the use of school facilities by the parents or the school community because of the current concern that their hard won and hard worked for assets, gained for the use of the school children will run the risk of being damaged. If these recreation or activity officers were attached to schools they could serve a very useful purpose in providing maximum use of school facilities and greater opportunities for the school children in out-of-school hours still to use the excellent facilities of school libraries, school playing grounds and the other facilities that exist in the schools. I urge the Government to look into this question in order to see whether this scheme can be expanded.

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

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