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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3945


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - in reply - So there will be no misunderstanding, I remind honourable members that I will be speaking in reply and concluding the debate. The Government's attitude in this matter is quite clear. I repeat that we say we have a mandate for this type of Commission. I refer again to the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It states:

The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education - through a Commission. We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools.

He then went on to say that a schools commission would be set up in the same way as Sir Robert Menzies set up the Australian Universities Commission, and it was done virtually that way. This would be the only commission which, because of some amendments carried in another place, would be bound by a provision that its members be delegates from certain organisations. The Australian Universities Commission does not have this inhibition. The Australian Commission on Advanced Education does not have this inhibition. No State government has such a commission. Yet the Opposition wants to put the Commonwealth Minister in a position which the Karmel report warned against. I refer to the position of having on the Commission people representing a delegation and people who had not even sought appointment.

The honourable member for Warringah talked about lackeys. That is very offensive. The whole problem of having on the Commission people who represent others is that the question arises about whether they are lackeys. Let us look at some of the organisations which the Opposition suggests are representative of others. For example, four of the six on the executive of the Australian Parents Council are not even delegates. It seems to be a group of people who have access to members of the Opposition at all times and who influence them no end.


Mr Mackellar - Do they not have access to you?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, on the basis that they represent others. I am not impressed by the argument that, because they are members of the Liberal Party and use the sham of representing a lot of others, that fact should not be highlighted.


Mr MacKellar - Are you sure they are members of the Liberal Party?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, and you know it. Let us look at the situation. I am aware now that in 1971 they went to see the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and he issued a Press release for them. The honourable member for Warringah talks about lackeys. I am aware that in 1971 they went to see the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and he encouraged them to make a statement on per capita grants. That statement did not have the endorsement of the other people affiliated with that body. It was issued by a few people.


Mr Hunt - Do they represent any Catholic opinion?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, they do not, in the sense that you put it; they represent more your Liberal philosophy, and you are using them on that basis. The big group that represents the schools of Sydney are no longer affiliated with them. How does your argument stand now?


Mr MacKellar - Which big group?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The parents and friends associations which represent 320 schools. They are no longer affiliated with them because of this attitude of a domination by a clique who went down to see your Senate colleague in Tasmania and suggested to him what amendments, such as the amendment referring to the United Nations Charter, might be made. This is on record. Members of the Opposition put themselves in the position now of saying they are unhibited. They went along and saw the honourable member for Farrer in 1971 and he offered to make a Press release for them. They saw the honourable member for Wannon and he offered to do something for them to encourage them to fight on the basis that they must maintain the per capita grants system. They are not interested in the needs policy.


Mr MacKellar - When was this?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - For example, minutes dated 27 lune 1971 clearly indicate that they had seen Mr Fairbairn and that he issued a Press statement. The honourable member knows who they are. We see them ostensibly as parents. But the big issue is that they do not represent the schools of Sydney any more, nor did they ever. They are supposed to be representing people when of their executives of six, four are not even delegates. That means someone can get in a room and say: I represent somebody and I have a letterhead and so I become somebody'. The Opposition is unwise enough to suggest in another place that that has all the force of representation. It has nothing of the sort, and honourable members opposite know it. Who is representing the 320 schools when they are not? This is the very issue. We believe that appointments to the Commission should be left to the discretion of the Minister, who can be attacked here in the Parliament about whom he has appointed, but let it be on the basis that education is the primary consideration and educationists are the primary people. By all means consider teachers and those who are experienced in education but do not limit membership to small pressure groups who are not interested in the policy of the Government anyway and who are virtually members of the Opposition parties masquerading under another name. That fact ought to be highlighted. So the honourable member for Warringah should not talk about lackeys.


Mr MacKellar - Is their political affiliation going to bar them?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The political affiliation


Mr Hunt - Do they have to be Labor supporters?


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They do not have to be Labor supporters. Many of them in the parents and friends associations are not.


Mr MacKellar - That is what you are suggesting.


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am suggesting that your group is only interested in the per capita concept.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! I suggest that the Minister address the Chair and I suggest that other honourable members remain silent.


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The big issue is that the name of the Australian Parents Council appears in the Senate amendments. So what influence do these people have? Do honourable members opposite suggest that it was accidental that this body was included in the amendments? I do not want to say any more about the matter, but it is atrocious that children are being used in a political concept in amendments of this nature. For that reason we reject not only amendment No. 1 but also amendments Nos 3 to15. I repeat that they should be disagreed to.

Question put:

That the Senate amendments Nos 1 and 3 to16 be disagreed to.







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