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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3939

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - Mr Chairman,I join with the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) in opposing the propositions put forward by the Opposition. It is somewhat hypocritical of the Opposition to be trying to force these kinds of amendments on the Government. The Government is quite serious about its intention to have the membership of the Australian Schools Commission appointed in the way in which it has decided. The Minister for Education, on behalf of the Government, will be responsible for making the appointments to the Australian Schools Commission. Such a procedure is not unique, as members of the Opposition well know. They will recall that the membership of the Australian Universities Commission was appointed by the Minister. They know very well that the membership of the Colleges of Advanced Education Committee was also appointed and not selected. As a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Library did a little bit of research on this matter for me before it came on for debate. I quote from as far back as Parliamentary Paper No. 77 of 1969, which is entitled 'Appendix A - Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and its Sub-committees Terms of Reference and Membership'. One of the paragraphs of that document states:

The Committee will consist of a full time chairman and not more than 7 part time members, al' appointed initially for approximately 3 years. Executive and administrative support for the Committee will be provided within the Education division of the Prime Minister's Department. Members will be appointed by the Minister.

That document related to the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and its subcommittees. It went on to allow the Minister to appoint the sub-committees as well. Another example is the Comonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee, which has dealt with quite a number of schools. Another document I have with me reads:

The Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee was appointed by the Minister for Education and Science to advise him on the conditions and standards necessary for the effective development of the new program in relation to the independent schools.

Once again the personnel are in a sense representative, depending upon the way in which one defines the term 'representative', of interested people. They did not have to be actually nominated by various interested bodies. They were, in fact, people who were representative in the sense that they had contacts with a variety of the interests that were being served by the Committee. Another example - I warn honourable members opposite that this is only a very small selection - is the national steering committee for promotion of the training function in industry and commerce, which was set up back in, I think, 1970. Whilst it had on it representatives - in inverted commas - of national employer organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Commonwealth Department of Education, the State Department of Labour and State technical education authorities, which had been invited to nominate members to the Committee, the members were appointed as individuals and not as representatives. I could continue with similar illustrations.

In his speech a while ago the Acting Minister reminded us that the Australian Educational Council - I am quoting the Acting Minister now - was not consulted before its suggested role was incorporated into the relevant amendments moved by the Opposition Parties in the Senate and that a majority of the members of the Council did not wish it to make nominations to the Commission. Honourable members opposite are trying to push onto the Commission people who have indicated that they have no wish to nominate for it. The Government has spoken to the people who have been breathing down the necks of honourable members opposite over the last few weeks and who have forced them to take a much more conciliatory attitude to this Bill by threatening that dire political consequences will follow if they do not allow this Bill to be passed by this Parliament. I have in my hand a letter from the Executive Officer of the Australian Council of State School Organisations to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which reads:

The Australian Council of State School Organisations wishes to express to you our satisfaction with the inclusion in the reconstructed Committee of the Australian Schools Commission of both a State school parent and a teacher.

The Organisation did not go on to demand that it be permitted to nominate a person. The Government has talked to these people about this matter. Some of them have expressed a desire to be allowed to nominate a panel. In some cases the Government consulted them informally. One does not go around picking the names of these people out of the air. One has to take advice. But the Minister and the Government have to accept responsibility for what happens. I remind honourable members that at least once every 3 years the Minister and the Government have to face the people of Australia and be responsible to them for all of their activities, including the selection of the people who are going to guide them in their education policy.

There have been further eulogistic remarks in support of the Bill from the New South Wales Federation of Infants School Clubs, the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. I think the Australian Teachers Federation also has expressed its admiration for the Bill. It has not made any great hue and cry about the type of Commission the Government has decided to appoint. In fact, the President of the Australian Teachers Federation is one of the persons to be appointed by the Government as a member of the Commission. I can quote further from newspaper articles in support of the Government's proposals. For instance, one entitled 'Big Catholic Parent Group Backs Minister' states:

Australia's biggest Catholic parents' organisation today publicly dissociated itself from criticism of the Karmel report made by some independent schools.

Mr MacKellar - Which one was that?

Mr REYNOLDS - Some of the spokesmen who honourable members opposite were quoting in this chamber as being very eminent authorities did not represent anything like a fraction of the Catholic schools.

Mr MacKellar - Which organisation?

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! If the honourable member for Mackellar cannot keep quiet, I suggest that he leave the chamber.

Mr MacKellar - Warringah.

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