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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4334

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that the scope of this Bill is very limited. He must speak only to the amendments which have been sent back from the Senate to the House of Representatives.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I am speaking about the structure of the Commission and the membership of the Commission. I am making the point that, because of the circumstances that have prevailed in recent times, tragic errors have been made in the categorisation of schools and that, therefore, we need to make quite certain in establishing the Schools Commission that the body is properly structured so that the interests of all schools can be properly safeguarded-

Mr Scholes - More schools, not all schools.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Catholic schools and parish schools classified in category B - is that your objective? It that your idea of justice? It is not the idea of justice on this side of the House. A school has been classified in category B because it is a place in which retired nuns and sisters live and do some part time teaching work. This fact has been used to weight unduly the teaching force so that people may say that that school is a rich and wealthy one, just because some buildings are alongside it and a convent is attached to it, all of which enable that work to take place.

There is no element of justice in that type of classification. If we are to have a schools commission which is not so established as to be able to look after the interests of such schools but which has powers which enable it to ride roughshod over those who are primarily responsible for such schools, I submit that we will have a situation in which injustice is perpetuated within the Australian community.

I would have thought that the Government could well have accepted our amendments and the terms of the message which has come from the Senate and so have a well constituted and well empowered schools commission established. That was our wish. That was our objective. Just as the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) showed a proper spirit of the workings of a democratic parliament by accepting about 25 amendments that had been moved by our colleagues in the Senate and by accepting the deletion of another 20 clauses from the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, so too should the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen). The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), tragically, has been unable to be present in the course of these debates. I think the Acting Minister would have shown greater sense, greater wisdom and more real concern for the matters under discussion if he had accepted the amendments that were moved and debated in this place and in the other place.

The Government has let it be known that, if the Opposition Parties do not give in on these matters, it will allow the Interim Schools Commission to run on. It can do that; I suppose that that is the Government's choice. But the opportunity to establish a body which would properly represent all schools and administrative bodies responsible for all schools and which would have proper powers to enable it to discharge those responsibilities and functions, is being lost by this Government. It is a loss that it will come to regret.

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