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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4099

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - The words that fall from the lips of the Opposition spokesmen fall very heavily indeed, because honourable members opposite do not have a feather to fly with. The situation is that the Bill which the Government put before the people is a Rolls Royce in education legislation, but the Opposition wants to take away the wheels. It wants to stop it working. One would wonder who the Opposition spokesman on education was. This morning the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in this House tried to defend the despicable action which has been taken by the Opposition. Senator Rae said that in his belief it will cost $3m more to allow the sections in the old Act to flow on. The Leader of the Opposition here said $5m and the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said $15m. 'Whom are we to believe when the Opposition cannot make up its own mind where it is going on this subject?

The fact of the matter is that the failure to carry in the Senate the clause relating to the repeal of the old legislation would involve an expenditure of $114m. I refer honourable members to section. 13 in the old Act, which very clearly points out that there is a onefifth, that is 20 per cent, tie-up between the amounts granted to government schools and those granted to non-government schools. I want to point out to the members of this House and to the people of Australia that under the old Act the former Government would have spent $225m on education in this coming year. We propose to spend nearly $700m, but the Opposition is not satisfied with that. The failure to accept the repeal legislation will mean that an additional $114m will be spent. Honourable members opposite are the people who say that Government expenditure ought to be cut, that this Government is spending too much and it is having an effect on inflation. I say to honourable members opposite that if that is the way they think then their logic is not very good at all and, of course, their figures are not very good.

I pointed out in a debate on social services that the Leader of the Opposition could not even calculate the percentage increase in social service payments. He added 11.4 because of a simple arithmetical error when in fact it was 13.95. Of course the Opposition is doing the same thing this morning. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), backed up by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), claims that 53 per cent of children will be worse off. I will argue in a moment about the way in which those figures were arrived at. Let me look at this on the basis of the figures of the honourable member for Gwydir. He claims that 53 per cent of secondary school pupils in private schools will be worse off. The reality of the situation is that only 8 per cent of all secondary school pupils go to private schools. Therefore on his own figures - 53 per cent is nearly half - only 4 per cent of all secondary school pupils will be worse off. In fact 96 per cent of the children attending secondary schools in Australia will be better off - and much better off. That is the truth of the argument of the honourable member for Gwydir.

Let me look at the table setting out categories A to H. Last year the amounts payable were $62 and $104. This year in category C - bearing in mind that we go down to category H - the amount payable for a primary school pupil will be $70. This business about abolishing per capita grants is so much nonsense. We have not abolished per capita grants at all. What we have done is to reallocate funds, as we said we would both in statements made in this place and in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). An amount of $70 will be payable for a primary school pupil and an amount of $100 for a secondary school pupil in category C. The amount payable for secondary school pupils is $4 less than it was previously and the amount for primary school pupils is $8 more. It is a fairly good cut-off point. By looking at the number of schools in category C we would really get a true picture. Let us consider the number of pupils in the categories, after appeals. Surely this is what we ought to be looking at in categories A to C. I have even included category A because as I have pointed out primary school pupils are better off and the secondary school pupils are only $4 worse off. Twenty-nine per cent of the children fall into categories A to C and 71 per cent of all children, primary and secondary, fall into the other categories where they clearly get more.

Members of the Opposition have always defended the status quo in education. They talk about security. What security is there for a child in a school like North Fitzroy, Brunswick or Surry Hills? What security is there for a child growing up in a society where he is illequipped to cope with the sort of things that he will have to cope with? What sort of feeling have those who sat on this side of the House for 23 years had for those children? Quite clearly they had very little feeling for those children at all. They allowed them to stagnate in shocking schools. I believe it is worth reading again what the Prime Minister said in his policy speech. He said:

The Labor Party is determined that every child who embarks on secondary education in 1973 shall, irrespective of school or location, have as good an opportunity as any other child of completing his secondary education. . . .

Mr SPEAKER - Order! It being 12.45 p.m. in accordance with standing order 106, I put the question:

That grievances be noted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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