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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3909

Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - The honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), who has just resumed his seat, told this House that he found it hard to know where the Opposition stood regarding this Bill. This thought was echoed by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), who spoke earlier in the debate, although he seemed to have some certainty about the matter because he said that the Opposition spokesman on education in this House, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), had led us up the garden path. If he led us up the garden path he gave us a good time when we got to the end of it; contrary to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who has led us up the garden path of expectation in some areas of education, as indeed in many other areas, and has left us bereft when we reached the end of the path.

The Opposition, however, has no doubt that this Bill provides a very great deal that is good in Australian education, and it is in no way objecting to the fundamental provisions of this Bill. It is not seeking to withdraw or withhold any of the extra funds which are being directed to Australian education through this Bill. The honourable member for Barton, as have other Government supporters, talked about the old bogy of state aid. This old bogy of state aid is a matter about which the Deputy Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission is not nearly so certain. She said:

I am doubtful if anyone ever really thought about what the end result of a 'needs' approach to state aid would be.

She went on to say:

I really think that people will have to sit up and start thinking hard about what will have to be done In 1979.

She also said:

If anyone thinks about it, division is the inevitable result of taking a needs approach to state aid.

So it is clear that the Deputy Chairman and, as I would understand it, the Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission are seriously exercising their minds about the consequences of a policy which rejects some form of basic per capita provision for every pupil in Australian schools. The invitation has gone out to those working in Australian schools to come forward with suggestions about how moneys might be allocated on a recurrent basis for the future of Australian education. This is more or less what we on this side of the House are suggesting; not that grants should be made only on a per capita basis, but also that there should be some form of basic provision for all students, to which would be added special provision for those in some form of need or other. Of course, the need is many and varied. This concept, oddly enough, has some support in the media. The 'Australian' does not see our approach as an old bogy, as does the honourable member opposite. Indeed, on 8 August this year the 'Australian' said:

The best way to cope with the problem would be to retain the per capita grants for all schools and give extra assistance to the poorer establishments which genuinely need it

Mr Hunt - Intelligent thinking.

Mr STALEY - That is intelligent thinking indeed from the 'Australian'. As I have said, there is much that is good in this Bill. We all applaud the provision for teacher training and in-service training and the imaginative approach to teacher education centres. There is much in this Bill which goes towards meeting the problem of education of the underprivileged. There is aid for disadvantaged schools. One of the problems of migrant education which has been highlighted by some people recently is that the children of migrants, and of recently arrived migrants are involved in an environment at school which is in so many respects foreign to that which they have left behind in the old country. It seems to me that an approach to their education which stresses the values and traditions of their own cultures would be at least as important as constantly harping on the importance of their becoming proficient in English, as most of them will do, anyway. I am referring not necessarily to the older generation, but the young generation will learn English.

Let us talk more about the need for the school to understand the culture from which these children have come. The main languages of the cultures from which they have come should actually be taught in the schools in which they are learning. This obviously would be a novel approach to their integration in the

Australian community. In this whole area of disadvantage, I make the point that disadvantage can strike in any school, and the worst disadvantage of all which a student can face is the disadvantage of having parents who do not understand or appreciate what education is all about. Again the Deputy Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission, Mrs Blackburn, in South Australia on 13 July this year said:

There is no reason to believe that any amount of money poured into the school will make any difference to the outcome for the child.

As we are expending these very great amounts of money, I think, that we have to pause before we are certain that we are always expending the money in the best possible direction. We must simply not expect too much for our expenditure in many of these areas. For that reason I applaud the provision of resources for experimental projects in this Bill. It is so much better to do some research with a trial group in a small and restricted area to see how some new concept evolves than, in the name of experimentation, to force change on a community where that change might have only dire results. An obvious illustration from overseas experience is that of abusing which was conceived as a mode of overcoming problems of very deep disadvantage in urban America. The busing procedures are falling into ruin all over the United States of America as a quite inappropriate way of solving the problem regarding race and disadvantage in American education.

Mr Wentworth - It has been counterproductive.

Mr STALEY - Indeed, as the honourable member says, it has been counterproductive because the good education which is being received by many students is being destroyed and the position of others who are receiving a poorer education is not being bettered. Another area of this Bill provides assistance for special education for handicapped children. The Bill contains a good broad definition of special schools'. It states:

Special school' means a school in a State . . . at which special education is provided for handicapped children, or if education other than such special education is provided at that school, that school in so far as it provides such special education;

This is good because it enables the integration of special education within the ordinary education system. But what is not good is that this applies only to government special schools as far as building projects are concerned. In government special schools future building projects are being encouraged and provision is being made for recurrent expenditure. But there is a nasty little note in the Bill for it discriminates against non-government special schools, as it provides for only recurrent expenditure. This is most unfortunate because it severely limits the future of non-government special schools. If this policy were to be continued there would simply not be another building put up without immense effort, strain and hardship on the part of parents in the non-government sector. It would hit at parents who wished to make additional provision for their handicapped children. It would hit at parents who wanted their handicapped children to receive an education with a particular religious or philosophic bent. It would do nothing to aid the integration of children needing special education with normal children in ordinary school situations.

The deaf unit at a school called the Yarra Valley Church of England school in Ringwood, Victoria, is precisely the type of school of which I am thinking. It has been working extremely well. It has a small unit set up for deaf children and provides them with highly specialised training in the broader context of an ordinary, normal, day to day school environment. I should have thought that we would all agree that wherever possible that is precisely the way we should be educating handicapped children. However, this Bill provides that that sort of thing can go on only in the government sector. It discriminates against future capital projects in the non-government sector and therefore against the worthy aim of integration of handicapped pupils with other pupils.

One of the amendments proposed by the Opposition provides for a tribunal to review categorisation decisions. Unfortunately the categorisation philosophy was conceived in hatred and executed in haste. I do not blame the Schools Commission for this; it had its riding instructions from the Government. For instance, schools were given only 3 weeks in which to complete the first questionnaire. Later those schools which felt aggrieved about the category in which they were placed were not even sent a letter by the Committee on which they could base an appeal. They were advised only by newspaper advertisements that appeals could be made to the Government on categorisation decisions. The limitations of the categorisation criteria demand that they be looked at again for the future and that there be a review tribunal procedure. Schools simply must know where they stand. It is awful, of course, to think that knowing where they stand they will make deliberate decisions to withdraw from some new projects which could only add excellence to their schools. Nevertheless, it is important that they should know where they stand.

The categorisation questions which the Committee asked the schools concerned the number of staff, both teaching and ancilliary, their salaries and wages, the school's operational expenditure and expenditure of durable teaching equipment. Many questions might be asked about these matters. For example, what amount has been included for staff superannuation? In independent schools that figure is most significant. Another question could be: What allowance was made for the higher average age of staff in most independent schools? The average age of staff in independent schools might well be 10 or IS years older than the average age of staff in state-run schools. Simply because of this factor salary costs to independent schools would be much higher indeed than to government schools, on a pro rata basis. Further, there can be no simple direct relationship between resources used in the particular year 1972 and either the recurrent needs of a school or the resources available to a school.

The formula used takes no account, or at any rate insufficient account, of deliberate educational policy choices of a school authority over such matters as quality as opposed to quantity, whether the school is a boarding school or a day school, whether it is small or large and whether it is located in the city or the country. The formula takes no account of academic programs, though a school may offer specialised courses to meet a particular need in the community such as a technical course at an independent school in the city or a Chinese language course at another school. Another relevant factor is class size. This can be determined not by educational policy but by enrolment procedures and problems. The school with small classes often is the school in most need and is not a school that is flush with funds. Another problem in categorisation was that a certain average salary level was taken as representing the salaries of senior people in the Catholic school sector. This average salary in no way relates to the sort of salary paid to senior administrators in other non-government and government schools.

Further, in relation to teachers in religious orders costs with respect to things such as superannuation, long service leave and so on are much lower than in respect to other teachers. As the Opposition has said before and will say again, very few visits were made by members of the Interim Schools Commission either to Catholic or non-Catholic independent schools in Australia. One could go on but I should like to finish on this note: There is in the report an admirable emphasis on the need to encourage community involvement and diversity in education. Yet the outpourings and the ultimate upshot of the report is that it strikes a cruel blow against countless parents who have given so much beyond their tax towards educating their children.

In our decision not to vote for clause 66 which repeals the across-the-board approach, the Opposition is in fact helping the Government to keep its own promises. There is no doubt that last year the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition went among the Australian community and convinced people that nothing would be taken away from the independent schools, their pupils or parents, but that things would simply be added onto in accordance with a needs basis. That is where the arguments of Government supporters are so facile and futile. On 2 May 1972 at Festival Hall, Melbourne, the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, said:

We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any which are there already.

In an address to the Catholic Luncheon Club of Melbourne on Tuesday, 20 June 1972, the Prime Minister said:

The ALP has never voted against any Bill proposing Commonwealth aid for education and it will support any form of benefit already existing.

Constantly we hear honourable members who sit on the Government side of the House talk about their mandate. In Labor's policy speech for the 1972 election the Prime Minister said that a Federal Labor government would allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission. I stress the word 'increased'. Clarifying this, the present Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) indicated to a delegation of the Australian Parents' Council in Canberra on 10 January 1973 that the 'base rate or "floor" of aid would be that applying in 1973 ($62 primary and $104 secondary) and that commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions would be made at a higher level than those applying in 1973'. It is said that there is some lack of clarity about the position of honourable members on this side of the House. On the contrary, there is a complete departure from promises made by honourable members on the Government side in this small but significant area.

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