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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4073

Mr MATHEWS (CASEY, VICTORIA) - Has the Acting Minister for Education seen reports that the Government is being asked to provide an amount variously estimated at from $3m to $15m in grants to the schools to which honourable members opposite send their children? Can he say whether these grants would cost $15m as mentioned by the honourable member for Wannon, $5m as mentioned by Senator Rae or an even lower figure, as mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition? Can he say whether the real cost will be $114m? Can he say whether the schools which will benefit from these demands are already superbly housed, staffed and equipped, and can he say by what percentage of Australia's school population they are attended?

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This matter was debated on Tuesday last. The whole issue revolves around clause 66 of the State Grants (Schools) Bill, which was opposed by the Opposition. The idea of clause 66 was to terminate the provisions of the old legislation. Under that legislation there is an appropriation of $114m. No other amendments were moved by the Opposition to that legislation which would in any way relate to a figure of $3m, $5m or $15m. This is a sort of deathbed repentance by the Opposition but it has been thought of after the debate. The real issue that the Government faces - and this is made clear by the spokesmen for the Opposition - is that it is being compelled to accept 2 Acts. If the 2 Acts are accepted, there is a figure of $700m plus $114m for which there is no appropriation. What has happened here is that the Opposition has decided to hold a gun at the head of the Government on the basis that unless $5m is given to wealthy schools, $700m will not be given to the needy schools. It is on that basis that the Opposition acts. There is no question of negotiation or of any equivocation on this matter. Clause 66 must be carried. Any other matter as to what aid might be given has nothing to do with clause 66. If the Opposition had had enough wisdom to realise that it could have moved amendments - -

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I point out in the first place that I understood that the question was for the purpose of seeking information as to Government policy. The Minister must not get on to what happened in a debate in the current session.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I appreciate the point, Mr Speaker. But if we are talking about Government policy - and I accept your ruling - we have to talk about the present legislation. If that is out of order, to that extent I cannot continue the answer.

Mr Lynch - Well, sit down.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the position.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Standing Orders are quite clear that one cannot refer to a debate that has taken place during the current session. Any honourable member is quite entitled to ask a Minister for an explanation of Government policy.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is right. Well, the Government's policy is as explained in clause 66. But the question related to Press statements issued since that debate as to what should have happened. It is quite clear that the authors of those Press statements are plucking figures out of the air. Those figures have no relationship to the mathematics of the situation. It is quite clear that the Government is being stood up on the basis that, unless it does something for wealthy schools, nothing will be done for the schools in need.

Mr SPEAKER - I call the honourable member for Deakin.

Mr Anthony - That is your interpretation of it.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the position.

Mr Anthony - You have got out on a limb.

Mr LionelBowen - You will deprive all the children of these benefits. (Honourable members interjecting) -

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The House will come to order. Honourable members are taking up a lot of the time allocated to questions by behaving in a disorderly manner. I do not intend to allow anyone to ask a question until the House comes to order. If epithets continue to be thrown across the chamber I will certainly take action. I warn the House to come to order.

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