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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1063

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia.) - As I understand it, the Senate tonight is in the course of a debate on the motion for the first reading of a money Bill. This provides an opportunity for discussion on a wide range of subjects. Members of the Opposition obviously have seized upon this opportunity and in their speeches have covered a wide range of subjects, thereby taking the time of the Senate in a way which I find singularly surprising when there is an anxiety that the people of Australia should have the benefit of the adequate and generous financial provisions which have been made for them in the recent Budget.

On the notice paper today' we find provision for the continuation of the" debate on the Aged Persons Homes- Bill which, as honourable senators will know, provides for the doubling of the rate' of the personal care subsidy. But because we are caught up in this continuing stalling debate - this filibustering process which has been going on this evening- approximately 360 homes for aged persons throughout Australia are being denied this money. At least 16,000 aged persons throughout Australia are being denied the proposed increase in personal care subsidy. I take the strongest objection to this filibustering process with which the Labor Party has been continuing. Let me warn the people of Australia to take note that, if this is all the care that, the Labor Party, has for the aged and needy people in our community, it does not deserve to become the Government following the election to be held this year.

Let us put this down firmly. Is not what I say right, Sir? It should be noted that this is a filibustering process hindering the business of the Senate. I take the strongest objection to it. I take the opportunity to put this firmly on the line because there are certain things which need to be said. Some things are going for the Government. Benefits are to flow from the Government's programme for pensioners and from the wide range of other matters in which the Government has concerned itself over its progressive 23 years. Contrary to what was said by Senator Gietzelt, the 23 years of office of this Government have not been long and weary. Those 23 years have been progressive, on-going, positive and creative.

I invite honourable senators to look at the Budget Speech which has recently been presented and to consider the measures which are before the Senate - if only we could get on with them - so that needy people not only would have the opportunity to receive the benefits but also would be enabled to live out their own lives enjoying improved and increasing benefits and improved standards of living.

I take up this opportunity to discuss a couple of events of today. I look first at this evening's Melbourne 'Herald' which has been distributed throughout the Parliament tonight. I turn to an article by our distinguished Minister for Education and Science, the Honourable Malcolm Fraser, which is headed( 'Take the struggle out of education'. In the opening paragraph of his article, the Minister draws attention to the fact that going to school in some areas can be a big problem for a small migrant boy. The Minister points out that:

When be cun barely speak English, let alone write if, it makes a normal Australian education almost unattainable.

The Minister has gone on record also to point out!

This year the Commonwealth will spend nearly SSm to make sure that he and 4,000 like faim gets special English lessons to reduce and eliminate that language disadvantage.

This has been further confirmed by the announcement of the migrant education programme by the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes). The details of this programme should be placed on record so that the great community of migrants and new settlers who have made such a remarkable contribution to our national well being and growth may have the benefit of this programme. It will enable them to make a greater contribution in depth as well as to our total growth rate.

The Senate may be interested to know that prior to 1970 expenditure on migrant education amounted to approximately $lm annually. In 1970-71, it was agreed that there should be some kind of major expansion in this service and expenditure rose to $3,875,000. Last financial year the amount was $6,275,624. In the Budget this financial year the amount is pushed to $9,225,000 which represents an increase of 44 per cent on the amount expended in 1971-72.

The main elements in educational services for the migrant community include, in the first instance, the child migrant education programme, then the adult migrant education programme, the full time intensive English language courses as well as the well tried and successful pre-embarkation and shipboard instruction. May I take a moment to look, first, at the child migrant education programme. A total of approximately $5m to which I referred earlier is provided in the current Budget for the child migrant education programme. This is a singularly important area of migrant education as it represents an increase of some 50 per cent in the appropriation for the previous year. Not only am I talking in terms of money, rather am I drawing attention to the fact that the number of children who may take part in this has grown from approximately 8,000 some 2 or 3 years ago to 40,000. This is the number of children to which the Minister referred in his article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald' tonight. Whilst I suppose this is the most important area of migrant education, another very important and significant area is the adult migrant education programme in both its education and its social contexts.

In the Budget presented this year the Government increased the amount provided for adult migrant education programme to $3m which represents an increase of 39 per cent over the previous allocation. I think it will be understood that the major part of this increase results from the decision made by this Government to pay living allowances to migrants attending accelerated courses on a full time basis. When I speak about courses being held on a full time basis, it is interesting to spell out to the Senate that these courses will be of some 10 weeks duration and will involve at least 6 hours of instruction each day for 5 days a week. Honourable senators will readily see that not only is a programme of money involved in this but also a programme of practical development which will have a wide ranging and special social effect.

The English language courses, for which a total of $1,200,000 is provided in the Budget, are again an intensive programme. What appeals to me is that the number of centres for full time intensive courses throughout all the States as well as in the Australian Capital Territory, will be increased from 12 to 17 with their annual capacity raised to well in excess of 2,000. Interestingly enough, in the Senate today a document has been distributed on the migrant education programme for the last year. This represents an increase and an improvement on the information contained in the report which has been distributed by the Minister. The standards of migrant education centres in all capital cities have improved and the centres will provide a focal point for migrant education in each State. There are new facilities for intensive courses, full time courses and classes for special groups with particular emphasis being placed on migrant women with a view to caring for the family. The Minister for Education and Science then dealt with another important area of education when he referred to the problems faced byAboriginal children. In the current Government education programme special attention is provided for Aboriginal children who, around Australia this year, will receive Commonwealth study grants to help them advance themselves. I think it is important to put on the record in the Senate that there is to be no such things as a means test or academic test. All that is needed is the general view that there is a reasonable prospect for the Aboriginal to improve himself through further study. It is firmly hoped that a large number of Aboriginal children will be able to benefit from this arrangement which will cost about $3.7m. All of this is part of the Commonwealth education programme for 1972-73.

The figures have been spelt out before but I think it is important that they be spelt out again because total Commonwealth expenditure on education has more than doubled in 4 years. It increased from something like $190m in 1968 to $426m in 1972. The major increase in this amount is in Commonwealth payments to the States which increased from $206m last year to $250m this year. Special attention is being concentrated on the grants to the States for universities and those very important and significant institutions known as colleges of advanced education which are making such a remarkable contribution to education throughout the Commonwealth. Also large amounts are being provided for research projects. Having been involved with the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts I have come to know something of the value of educational research. People from the Australian Research Grants Committee have put before the Senate Committee the need for extra funds and for extra' attention to research. The cost of this will total SI44m which is an increase of $15m over last year. Also of advantage to the Government's education programme is the continuation of unmatched capital grants. Some provision is made for technical training, teacher training and various other activities. Tn 1972 an amount of some $63m is provided as against $46m last year.

The education programme of the Commonwealth has included Commonwealth finance for state school buildings. This represents an increase of some 25 per cent. In this Senate reference has been made to the 5-year programme involving no less than $215m. This will be for capital development of government schools and it will also include independent schools. This programme is to commence in July next year. Of this amount I say with emphasis that $167m is for government school buildings and $48ni for the independent sector. It is obvious from what I have, just said that Government expenditure on schools and teachers colleges is heavily weighted in favour of government schools. Another factor in the Government's education programme deals with scholarships. This provides a great opportunity for many people to undertake further education. What is more, in the current programme the scholarship establishment has been increased in number. It provides for big changes in the secondary schemes. I think that some idea of the extent to which this scheme is moving is indicated by the expenditure figure which is expected to approach some $77m. This is an increase of $30m on the present figure and it is quite a substantial increase indeed. The total number of scholarships which are involved in this programme will increase from 70,000 to nearly 130,000.

All of this requires a background of a strong and contemporary teacher education system. As honourable senators will recall the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts carried out a study in relation to the Commonwealth role in teacher education. We brought down a considerable number of recommendations which provided for Government assistance to teachers colleges and particularly preschool teachers colleges. Some of these have already been the subject of legislation in this chamber. All of this proves that the Government is concerned not only with education but also with a diversity in educational style, forms and expenditure which recognises that in its programme education administration is largely and almost, entirely within the responsibility of the States. Some of the programme which I have outlined - it is only part of the programme - indicates that the Government is adhering to this idea of diffusing, spreading and providing opportunities for decentralisation and diversification. What is more, the Government's policy on education has provided massive amounts of money to all levels of education. We have heard talk about migrants, Aboriginals, universities, colleges of advanced education, scholarships and pre-school teachers colleges. A whole range of these are receiving the benefit of a programme of educational development which is being instituted through State authorities and emphasised through government schools. Assistance is also provided to the independent school sector. The Government provides for this dual stream, diversity and flexibility in education. This is being proved to be a success and the Government is certainly deserving of people's support so that the programme may continue its successful way.

I contrast this with the Labor Party's policy on education and this talk of an Australian schools commission which will have power to control every individual school in Australia. Dress this proposition up in any way they like, this is the background to it and this is the programme which has been spelt out and laid down. This would destroy existing State control over education. It would eliminate that diversity, seriously restrict and, I suspect, finally destroy the independent schools which have made such a valuable contribution to education in Australia. These are some of the things which I wanted to spell out in order to show that even when we have a first reading debate on a money Bill there are some worthwhile things to be said that are in favour of a positive programme in education and related fields.

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