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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4279

Sir JOHN CRAMER (BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the Government proposes to deprive a small number of children of the subsidy given to all other children in Australia because their parents have chosen to send them to what the Government describes as 'wealthy schools'? Is it also a fact that many thousands of children of wealthy parents are given free education in public high schools? Is the Government proposing to give free education to all children attending universities irrespective of the wealth of their parents? Why does the Government discriminate against the children attending the small number of schools classified as 'wealthy' even though their parents are not wealthy? Is this equality and justice?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The Government has introduced legislation which will mean that in 1974 and 1975 non-government schools will receive an amount of $63m more than they would have received under the legislation introduced by the honourable gentleman's Government a year ago and that government schools also will receive grants amounting to $405m which they would not have received under the legislation introduced by the honourable gentleman's Government. It is quite obvious that school pupils overall in Australia will do better under the present Australian Government than they have done under any of its predecessors. The whole purpose of the Government's policies is to see that by 1979 - in 6 years time - there will be an equal opportunity for all children attending school in Australia. It is quite wrong that governments should allow inequalities and disparities to continue. It is worse still that they should encourage and promote those inequalities and disparities.

The Government's policy is based on the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission under Professor Karmel - a unanimous report by a committee composed of representatives of all school systems in Australia. The Committee reported that government assistance to category A schools cannot be justified. The Government accepts that opinion of that representative and skilled Committee. The honourable gentleman is doing what so many of his colleagues are doing. They want to promote the elite schools, the schools which they say train the leaders of this community. The fact is that government funds are not properly spent if the same amount goes to each pupil of the best equipped, housed and staffed schools in Australia as goes to each pupil of the worst equipped, housed and staffed schools in Australia. A person's opportunity in life is determined while he is at school. The present Australian Government is determined to see that pupils have an equal opportunity for a good education in Australia so that when they leave school at least they will have an equal opportunity in life.

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