Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1029

Senator CARRICK (New South Wales) - The Senate is debating a Bill for an Act to establish a Commonwealth Teaching Service, and this of course is a new departure. The Act is necessary arising out of the fact that the Commonwealth has a responsibility for education in its Territories. It has a responsibility, first of all, in the Northern Territory for its community schools and Aboriginal schools; it has a responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory for its government schools; and it has other quite significant responsibilities for teachers, some of whom have been appointed already - the number is growing - both in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. As Senator Wheeldon pointed out, until now the provision of teachers for those services has been met by 2 States. Provision of teachers in the Northern Territory has been met by the Government of South Australia and in the Australian Capital Territory by the New South Wales Government. The primary reason for this Bill arises from the fact that in 1970 the South Australian Government gave notice that in 5 years time it would like to be freed of the responsibility with regard to the provision of teachers for the Northern Territory. I think the Federal Government has in mind that perhaps the New South

Wales Government might so wish to acquit itself in long term of this responsibility. Another factor is that in the Territories there is a rapidly growing population, and our commitments may grow elsewhere. Against that background we have before us a Bil] to establish a Commonwealth Teaching Service.

I think the Australian Labor Party in its attitude to this Bill has failed to understand its purpose. The aim of the Bill is stated in clause 16. Clause 16 (1.) reads:

The function of the Commissioner is to make persons available for the performance of teaching duties in Commonwealth schools and other schools in accordance with this section.

Let me spell out what the Bill is and then let me state emphatically what it is not. The Bill aims at the employment of teachers. It aims to provide upon request qualified teachers on appropriate terms and conditions. It provides for the setting up of a supplying or an employing authority. Much of the misunderstanding of the Labor Party and much of the misunderstanding that lies within its amendment arises because the Labor Party has failed to see the limitation of this Service. Let me state emphatically that this Service is not a teacher training service. It is not a service with authority over school systems. It is not a service with authority over education policies. With respect to Senator Wheeldon, each time that he referred to teachers in terms of schools and teaching in the schools and then tried to relate this to the Bill he failed to understand the aim of the Bill - so much so that the amendment in itself is either redundant, as I would like to demonstrate, or the proposals it puts forward are incorporated in the present legislation already.

In regard to teacher training, the Labor Party has talked about the need for diversification, about the need to set up institutions of high quality and high capacity for experimentation, innovation and academic excellence. This Government would agree entirely with that principle. May I commend to the Senate the report on teacher education of its Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in which honourable senators will find set out not only the existing attempts throughout Australia to achieve quality in teacher training but also recommendations to do all those things which Senator

Wheeldon in fact is seeking to do in that section of his amendment which aims at the upgrading of excellence in the quality of teachers. I remind you, Mr Deputy President, that whereas in the past the normal situation in Australia was that the teacher was trained in a teachers college for a very short period - mostly 2 years - the abnormal situation was that the teacher would do a degree course at a university. We are moving more and more rapidly towards a situation where teachers, instead of receiving their training at teachers colleges, attend colleges of advanced education which have a similar status to that of universities and where universities have either an integrated education course or an end on course of the B.A. or Dip.Ed. type.

The fact is that throughout Australia great things are happening in teacher education. Therefore, it is not necessary in an employing authority to build in these kind of qualities. In Australia we are separating the training authority from the employing authority. In Australia we are taking away standardisation by allowing in some dozens of different institutions throughout Australia different methods of stimulating teacher training. So this country is embarking already on the adventure of attaining professional standards, and this Senate is about to embark on the adventure of examining further policies in that regard. Nevertheless, under the provisions of this Bill it is competent for the Commissioner to take such steps as necessary in this regard. He has very broad powers to do these kinds of things if necessary in order to upgrade the quality of teacher training. But this Bill certainly does not envisage that the Commissioner should be interested in school systems, education policies or curricula.

The whole aim of the Bill, as it was spelt out in the second reading speech, is to ensure that the supplying of teachers caters for a diversity of systems. There would be the Northern Territory system; there would be the Australian Capital Territory system; there would be the Papua New Guinea system; and perhaps there would be other island territory systems. There would be the demands of the underdeveloped countries or requests from overseas and, who knows, there may be demands from other States. So there would be not any one system to supply but a diversity of systems and therefore there would be a diversity of qualifications to be met. Consequently, the Service will be the employing agency.

The Bill before us is an enabling Bill. It is extremely flexible. It sets out powers, principles and general guidelines and very largely relies on regulations and the broad powers of the Commissioner to carry out its work. Senator Wheeldon sought to have the Commissioner converted into a commission, his argument being that there should be a commission with a broad base with representation by teachers and perhaps others. If in fact there were to be a commission which controlled or supervised an education system as distinct from being emphatically an employment agency then there well might be the argument put that we ought to have the expertise of teachers alongside to advise and to assist. That, I think, might be very much a valid point. But I remind you, Mr Deputy President, that the Public Service Board as an employing agency does not regard itself as having to have on it a specialist in every particular profession that it employs as such. It is an employing agency. Any industry or profession as such uses an administrator with qualifications to be the employing agency, and, shall we say, the staff officer or industrial officer who is given and develops some standards and carries them out.

In the first place the broader commission suggested by Senator Wheeldon is not necessary because the functions of the Commissioner are very narrow indeed - they are very narrowly defined. Secondly, for quite some time to come the total number of staff whom the commission will handle will be relatively small. Therefore, one commissioner is adequate. If there are defects in the argument that I advance in regard to one commissioner, let me say that to the extent that they might be found they can be patched up or overcome, because the Bill itself provides exactly what the Labor Party amendment seeks - advisory committees to be set up at all points to advise the Commissioner oh all specialist and all technical matters and all expertise.

Senator Young - Actually this would give it a broader base.

Senator CARRICK - As Senator Young said, it gives a broader base than if we had some artificial commission consisting of 3 members. The arrangement proposed by the Bill gives the commission an enormous flexibility to draw upon the whole community. 1 remind the Senate that the Minister for Education and Science, when introducing the Bill in another place, drew attention to the fact that a committee has been set up under agreement with the Australian Council for Educational Research comprising Dr Radford, the Director of the Council, and Professor Neal of the University of Alberta. That committee has been asked to look at and conduct investigations into the current and emerging ideas in schools and staff organisations in Australia and overseas countries. Here, right at the beginning, there is classical evidence of the fact that the Commissioner will be able to draw upon first class expert evidence. He will be able to call upon evidence from educators and teachers to assist in decisions. This is exactly what the Labor Party is seeking. Indeed, I would hope that in each stage where the outlook of the teacher is concerned the commission would seek to consult with teachers. It would be very remiss if it did not do so.

The idea is that here we should have an employing authority; he should be one man; and he should be a statutory authority responsible to the Minister and outside the Public Service. I am mindful of the fact that the Teachers Federation has been very keen over the years to take its teacher services outside the Public Service in the various States. So on this point, and on many other points in this legislation, the Australian Teachers Federation as I understand it has found a comity of view with the Government. Although there may be some differences, as I understand it the broad base of agreement is wide at the moment between the Federation and the Government.

The Bill has some very interesting characteristics. First of all it says that when the commission looks at standards for promo- tion it shall look to efficiency as the criterion. Clause 28 sets out quite clearly the following: (1.) In the selection of an officer for promotion to a vacant: position, consideration shall be given first to the relative efficiency of the officers available for promotion and, in the event of equality of efficiency of two or more officers, then to the relative seniority of those officers.

The clause goes on to give a definition of efficiency'. I think that those who read it would find it to be adequate. 1 commend this clause because if we are to have incentive and stimulus in the teaching service, which I regard as the highest temporal service in our nation, we must reward efficiency and put a premium on excellence. Therefore, all other things being equal, efficiency should be the basis of promotion.

Senator O'Byrne - That knocks the Peter principle.

Senator CARRICK - J agree that this may knock the Peter principle. But perhaps I have risen above the level of efficiency if I understand the Peter principle. Whenever an important decision is to be made a commission on a broader base is formed either by way of a promotion appeals board or by a disciplinary appeals board. This, 1 think, is significant. The Labor Party has sought to bring in teachers representation at various levels, and in particular at the level of the Commissioner. I suggest that this representation can be brought in at will by the advisory bodies. It can be brought in at the level of the promotion appeals board.

I draw attention to the fact that clause 30 sets out that a promotion appeals board shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister, an officer appointed by the Commissioner and an officer elected as prescribed by the officers of the Service. Therefore officers of the service will serve on these boards. Also there is provision for an appeal from any arbitrary decision on promotion. This is something that I think all of us on both sides of the chamber who look towards an effective arbitral system would approve. I note that the Labor Party has accepted this, presumably without comment. Also, it is to be noted that where there are appeals on salaries and conditions the Bill makes provision in clause 38 that the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act shall be invoked. Therefore, teachers have recourse, as is the case in other sections of the community, to the arbitral processes to settle any disputes, assuming that they have gone that far.

Where a question of discipline occurs and where there is any challenge to the authority of the Commissioner, such matters will be dealt with by a disciplinary appeal board which is set up under clause 37. The board shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister, an officer appointed by the Commissioner and an officer elected as prescribed by the officers of the Service.

Quite clearly the person appointed by the Minister as chairman undoubtedly would be someone learned in the law, such as a magistrate or some other independent person, so here again fairness and equity is built into this legislation. I draw attention to the provisions of the Bill which enable the Commissioner to offer scholarships - scholarships on extraordinarily generous terms, I notice, free of bonding - to encourage people to come along and develop their skills.

I want to deal paragraph by paragraph with the amendment moved by Senator Wheeldon on behalf of the Opposition. In the first paragraph of the amendment the Opposition seeks a commission of 3 persons instead of one Commissioner. It seeks to have one member of the commission elected by the teachers. I have said that this is to be purely an administrative employing body; that it is, and will be for quite some time, a limited body in terms of the number of teachers; that it can and will seek - and indeed already has sought - expert advice from teachers and educators at every point, and that it will no doubt support itself with advice from advisory bodies which will be heavily interlarded, no doubt, with teachers and other educators. Therefore it seems that it is a reasonable decision that it should be a commission of one. Where the question of an arbitrary judgment arises, at the point of promotions appeal and at the point of disciplinary appeal, there is to be a commission of 3 which will include a Service officer representative and an independent person. This seems to me to be excellent.

The second paragraph of the Opposition's amendment says that the Bill should provide: for the heightening of professional standards of teachers in the Commonwealth Teaching Service by empowering the Commission to negotiate for the establishment of Faculties of Education in universities where necessary, including the Australian National University;

There is no doubt at all that under this Bill the Commissioner will have full power to do exactly those things. In addition, it is far and away the responsibility of others, including the Australian Universities Commission, the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, the various registration boards for teaching in the various States and the State education departments, to look for the heightening of professional standards of teachers and, through these institutions, to set about developing those qualities. The Commissioner has clear powers, by stimulus and by incentive, to encourage this. But surely he would consult the Universities Commission and with the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. Surely he would have talks at the level of the Council of Education Ministers in order to get throughout Australia some understanding of the needs, standards and requirements of the teaching profession. Therefore I say that paragraph (b) of the Opposition's amendment in fact has been catered for more than fully and that that will be the case in the future.

The third paragraph of the Labor Party's amendment states that the Bill should provide: for the active encouragement of recruitment and training of teaching staff, not only for Papua New Guinea should it desire this assistance, but for other islands of the Pacific the Governments of which seek such aid;

This clearly is spelt out in the Bill. Indeed, Mr Deputy President, the Bill goes further than that. It foresees not only that the Commonwealth Teaching Service might be asked in the future to provide special teachers with special qualities for the Territory of Papua New Guinea or elsewhere; it foresees that the very existence of the Service should enable a continuity of service by high quality teachers in those Territories. Whereas a high quality teacher might not be willing to go to the insecurity of the Territories after they gain independence, the existence of this Service and the fact that a teacher can be seconded gives the teacher the kind of security which will enable a high quality indeed to emerge inside Papua New Guinea. I commend the Government for this concept. I commend it also for its foresight in expecting that more and more, not only from the island territories around us but also from various underdeveloped countries, there will be requests to us, as there are today, to provide teachers by way of loan to advise on specialist subjects. If we have a permanent employing body such as the Commonwealth Teaching Service we can give continued service to the teaching profession. I say emphatically that paragraph (c) of the Labor Party amendment in fact has already been satisfied in the Bill, and more adequately than the Opposition seeks in its own wording.

The fourth paragraph of the amendment paragraph (d) says that the Bill should provide: for the provision of an advisory council to assist the commission, this council to be representative of the community and of educational research and of administrative bodies; . . .

In this respect I want to draw attention to clause S3 of the Bill which states:

The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters that are required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and, in particular:

(a)   providing for and in relation to the appointment of committees of persons to advise the Commissioner in connection with the performance of his function under this Act; and

(b)   providing for penalties, not exceeding a fine of One hundred dollars, for offences against the regulations.

Clause S3 (a) gives to the Commissioner complete power to set up advisory bodies or advisory councils to do exactly the things spelt out in paragraph (d) of the Opposition's amendment, or more. I would say it gives the Commissioner more power because throughout the Bill the powers of the Commissioner are extraordinarily wide. Clause 1 6 (8.) of the Bill states:

The Commissioner has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of his function under this section.

Clause 16 relates to the function of making persons available for the purpose of teaching duties in Commonwealth schools and in other schools as set out. I doubt that I have seen in any legislation a wider power of initiative given to any Commissioner.

Before coming to the ultimate suggestion in the Labor Party amendment I want to draw together the first 4 suggestions. As to the proposed commission of 3 members, I say that this is a misunderstanding of the functions of the Service. The functions are those of employment, not of teacher training, not of school systems, not of education policies and not of curricula. The upgrading of standards and qualities of the profession primarily must be the function of the bodies charged with those responsibilities - the Universities Commission, the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and the various State bodies. Consistent with that, the Commissioner will have enormous powers to upgrade the quality of his staff. He will have power to send any officer to an institution to provide scholarships and other living allowances and to pay fees, in order to give him training in specialist courses. The Commissioner can do that. Indeed, the Commissioner will have the advisory bodies which the Opposition refers to as advisory councils. These are more than adequately catered for in clause 53. The final paragraph of the Opposition's amendment relates to accouchement leave - leave granted to female employees on account of pregnancy. As I read it the paragraph says, in effect, that we should embrace the conditions for accouchement leave as laid out in the International Labour Organisation recommendation. Clause 33 of this Bill sets out the conditions of accouchement leave. I note that the Minister for Education and Science in another place said - I have no knowledge either for or against this statement - that it is his understanding that the provisions of this Bill are, in fact, in accordance with the ILO recommendation. That may not be so; there may be need for other steps to be taken. The step to form a Commonwealth Teaching Service is a novel step. It is an important step for the Commonwealth and in the whole orchestration of education in this country. Its impact will be felt not only here but also in the territories and countries around us.

This Bill must not be looked at as a Bill which provides all the answers to education. Clearly it must be looked at as one instrument in the orchestra. The enormous need in this country in relation to education is not for us merely to work on the basis of old principles and values and apply ourselves to those principles but, first of ali, to lake slock and decide whether what we did in the past is right for the future. I mention again the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in relation to the Commonwealth's role in teacher education. When it comes before this Senate honourable senators will note that pride of place is given to a scries of recommendations for widened research. 1 conclude by saying-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Suggest corrections