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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3852

Mr McKENZIE (Diamond Valley) - When one looks at so many Bills which do so many things, one hardly knows where to start. Perhaps I ought to start by repeating what I said in the first speech that I made in this place. I said:

I believe that we need to start thinking of education not only as a service- for the young but as a service' to the whole community, to be used as and when necessary - like health services. This will need a completely new emphasis on the role of adult education and retraining programs.

These Bills go part of the way towards assisting tertiary education in various aspects, not only in relation to universities but also in relation to colleges of advanced education and preschool and ordinary teachers colleges. I believe that the additional funding which will be made available through these Bills will be of tremendous importance and great significance for the future of education in Australia.

The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) mentioned children with specific learning difficulties. This is something on which we both agree and I am sure on which most honourable members in this place agree. As a teacher, I have taught children who, although appearing to be and in fact being very intelligent and able to cope in many ways, have had a blind spot in their ability to grasp certain information - perhaps in reading. I can remember one outstanding case where the brightest boy in the school was unable to read above grade 1 level. At that time I had not heard the word 'dyslexia' but I am pretty sure in my mind, looking back on it, that that child had dyslexia. If I had been specially trained and if the facilities had been available to give that child a better education by providing the specialist service that was available, he and, I believe, the community would have been much better off. We hope that this Bill will provide additional specialist teachers in particular fields.

The honourable member for Gwydir also mentioned various ways of looking at fee abolition. One of the Bills proposes to abolish fees for tertiary education completely. I think we would all agree that there are difficulties in doing this, with sufficient regard being paid to the ability of children to reach this level in the first place. What this Government is attempting to do is to raise the level of education over all. I agree entirely with the honourable member for Gwydir that, unless a child has sufficient motivation and has been given sufficient opportunity in his early schooling to become motivated and to be able to build upon that groundwork, he will have great difficulty in establishing himself and gaining benefit from tertiary education although it may be completely free. This is one of the things we must look at.

I think it was the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) who referred to the establishment of a fourth university in Victoria. Certainly the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) mentioned it before. Just to put the record straight I would like to state the situation concerning the fourth university in Victoria. The promise was made by the Victorian Government at the election held in 1970 to move for the establishment of a fourth university in Victoria. A committee was set up. It reported in about October 1972. The Victorian Minister for Education was then asked for a detailed submission by the Australian Universities Commission and by the then Minister for Education and Science, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In December, on the election of the Labor Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as Minister for Education in the First Whitlam Ministry set up an inquiry into university needs in Melbourne and the surrounding areas. A further request for details of the Victoria proposal was ignored. Then in February the Victorian Premier announced the 3-campus proposal, which was mentioned previously. In May the Australian Universities Commission report was tabled. There was still no submission in detail from the Victorian Government. In May the Victorian Minister attacked the Commonwealth for ignoring his proposals. In July the Victorian Minister submitted proposals that were contrary to the wishes of the local education authorities. Obviously if we are going to solve the problems of where to put the fourth university in Victoria we will have to sit down and really work out where we are going. Until now one would have imagined that the Victorian Government was not quite sure where it was heading in this matter. As at least 2 honourable members on the other side of the House wish to enter into this debate, I shall be brief. I shall confine my remarks to one or two matters.

Firstly, the Bills before the House provide additional funds for kindergarten training institutions - kindergarten teachers' colleges. For a long while kindergarten teachers' colleges were independent not only in their administration but also in the provision of their finance. This meant, because of the fees that had to be charged, that only girls who belonged to relatively wealthy families could afford to attend these institutions. This was not a good state of affairs, not only because it cut down the number of potential students but also because it limited the variety of people offering themselves for training as kindergarten teachers. During recent years, a great number of kindergarten teachers have entered kindergarten teachers' colleges for training additional to, perhaps, their training as primary teachers and this has, of course, built up the numbers.

We know that pre-school education will go through a great phase of expansion. In Victoria, which is probably the best equipped State so far as pre-school education is concerned, there is still a great need for improvement. In my own area in the shire of Diamond Valley, which is part of the electorate of Diamond Valley, I think that the shire council during the years has provided the best standard of pre-school education available anywhere in the Commonwealth. It is something of which I am very proud. I am proud also to have been associated with it. But there are still children, even in that municipality, who do not receive the one year of pre-school education which most people who understand the work in this field believe is necessary. So, the provision of additional funds for training teachers in this work is of great significance.

Finally, I hope that the additional funds which will be released - and despite any arguments from my friends on the other side of the House, if they examine the figures they will find that additional funds are being made available which will allow other State funds to be released - will be used in the forthcoming year to make sure that the promise which was made, and partially backed up, to abolish composite fees in secondary schooL and even in primary schools will result in those schools having enough money to be able to do away with levying parents for the basic needs of those schools. I make a plea on behalf of those parents who will find, if this is not done, that they will be asked yet again to provide additional funds to help run the schools. I trust that the additional money which is being released through the funds provided by these Bills will be spent partially in this area.

A number of the actions which are being taken in relation to education are real landmarks in education. I acknowledge that the former Government did take initiatives on the Cohen report and similar reports. I am pleased that so far as something like the Cohen report is concerned, we are not only implementing its recommendations but also are going that extra mile. When the provisions of these Bills are put into operation and the money is provided not only schoolchildren but also the whole community in Australia can look forward to a better education system. I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting these Bills. I commend the Bills to the House.

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