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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 1718

Senator CARRICK (New South Wales) -The Senate is debating the Schools Commission Bill. This Bill aims to set up in terms of structure and function a Schools Commission. Quite clearly the Australian Government has a mandate from the people to establish a Schools Commission. Quite clearly also during its presentation of its platform to the public the then Opposition- now the Government- had submissions from parent and teacher organisations which argued strongly that on any such commission there should be direct representation of parents and of teachers and, indeed, of other interested segments of education. Equally clearly Government supporters, then in opposition, responded by indicating that they would support such a proposition. This has become a fundamental part of the policy, as understood by the public, in giving a mandate to the present Government. It is equally true that the parents and teachers' organisations have pressed for such representation. I am reminded that in the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission of May 1973 it is stated in chapter 13.6:

In submissions to and discussions with the Committee the Australian Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of State School Organisations argued strongly for the right to nominate representatives as members of the Commission.

I have also before me a selection from a great volume of correspondence ranging over the last 1 8 months from the various parents and teacher organisations. For example, I have a copy of a letter written on 27 March of this year by the Australian Council of State School Organisations to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The second paragraph states:

The purpose of this letter is to request you to agree to the representation of parents and of teachers organisations on the Schools Commission.

Since then there have been some discussions on what was meant by representation. The Government has come forward with a Bill which does not grant such representation. Last week we had deputations within the precincts of the Parliament from various organisations and views were expressed to us. But so that we can be quite explicit I read from the very latest official communications which I, probably in common with my colleagues in the Senate, received today. It is a letter dated 13 November 1973 signed by Susan Ryan, Executive Officer, for R. G. Helyar, President of the Australian Council of State School Organisations. The letter directs itself to what is meant by that organisation in terms of representation. The key paragraph is the third paragraph which I read:

Like the Australian Teachers Federation, ACSSO submitted to the Minister a panel of nominees from which one was chosen as a part-time commissioner. It is our view that if every group represented on the Commission were required to do the same, the result would be a Commission properly representative of the education community, but free enough from sectional pressures to be able to function as an expert, objective body.

The very latest and most immediate submission from this organisation reveals that the 2 main bodies, the Australian Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of State School Organisations submitted to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) a panel from which one person was chosen by the Minister. This being so, in putting together the Committee the Minister has acknowledged the representations of a panel. I want to say that it is precisely in line with the amendment moved by the Opposition in the Senate that this should be so. The Opposition in the Senate has recognised the desirability of submitting a panel to the Minister from which the Minister may select members. The relevant amendment, as circulated, concerning the teacher organisations says this: the Chairman and five other members upon the recommendation of the Minister and of whom two shall be members of teacher organisations selected by the Minister from a panel of not less than five persons' names submitted by the Australian Teachers' Federation and one shall be a person involved in research in relation to education;

I pause here to say that the Opposition envisages, not one nominee representative of the teachers, but two. It has put forward a panel of five from which the Minister can accept two. By the acknowledgment of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, this is precisely the principle that has been followed. Of course, it is not the principle that has been embodied in the Bill. But it is the principle which that organisation urges should be adopted and it is precisely the principle which the Opposition puts forward. In regard to parent representatives, I quote from page 2 the amendments that have been circulated by the Opposition:

Six other members upon the recommendations of the Australian Education Council and of whom two shall be members of parent organisations selected by the Australian Education Council from a panel of not less than five persons' names submitted by the Australian Council of State School Organisations and one shall be a person involved in special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties;

In fact, our amendment strengthens the submission of the Australian Council of State School Organisations. It recognises its principle that there should be submitted a panel from whom a choice might be made. The amendment recognises that instead of 1 parent, 2 parents shall be selected and, it goes further to include the representation of handicapped children.

What the Opposition is doing by way of its amendments is twofold: It is translating in the amendment form for adoption by the Senate those propositions put forward by parent and teacher bodies which prior to the election were acknowledged and supported by Labor Party members who therefore tacitly indicated that these propositions would be part of Labor policy. In other words, the amendment translates into legislative form the second part of the mandate that the Labor Party was given by the people.

The amendments have a second leg: They are implementing specifically what was stated in the letter of 13 November from the Australian Council of State School Organisations and they go further than that. They carry out precisely what was indicated quite inadvertently by Senator James McClelland in the debate on 7 November as reported at page 1620 of Hansard when he drew attention to the composition of the existing interim committee. Step by step he spelt out the names of the persons and their qualifications. I want to say this to the Senate: That Committee would find itself wholly likely to arise in its form and categories under the amendments proposed by the Opposition. Indeed, in every way that would be possible. The only thing would be that the Committee would be enriched by some additional categories from which there can be no disagreement. Senator James McClelland, in drawing attention to the Committee, said that the present Committee has as its Chairman, Dr Kenneth McKinnon who was Director-General of Education in Papua New Guinea. In other words, he is a leading educator in Papua New Guinea.

He went on to mention Dr Gregory Hancock, 30 years of age, who was associate chief of the New South Wales Education Department's Division of Planning; Mr David Bennett, who was a lecturer in education at Monash University and who no doubt is well equipped in education theory and research; Mr Peter Moyes, Headmaster of Christ Church Grammar School in Western Australia, who is obviously the type of person who would be looked at by the National Council of Independent Schools; Mr A. D. J. Wood, Principal of St Michael's School for the Handicapped just outside Launceston, which is a category specified by our amendments; Mr McNamara, President of the Sydney Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends' Associations, a category which we provide in terms of our amendment; Father F. Martin, Director of Catholic Education in Victoria, which is a similar category; Mrs J. Kirner, who was selected from a panel of names presented by the Australian Council of State School Organisations- and we, of course, would allow for 2 such persons.

He mentioned Mr Ray Costello, President of the Queensland Teachers Union- and we would allow for 2 such persons; Mr Albert Jones, Director of Education in South Australia who is, of course, capable of being appointed by the Australian Education Council; Dr Peter Tannock, a young man who is Dean of the Faculty of Education in the University of Western Australiaagain capable of being categorised; and Mrs J. Blackburn, who has been an outstanding member of teachers' college staffs in South Australia. I again point out that I have used the words of Senator James McClelland in what I have just said.

Therefore from all points- from the preelection policy indications, from the submissions by parents and teachers' bodies, from the categories that have emerged from the present Committee and by the understanding now quite clearly from ACSSO that the Government sought a panel from the parents and a panel from the teachers and submitted one from them- the Government can find no possible objection to the amendments that the Opposition proposes to move to the structure of the Schools Commission. Those amendments are completely in line with all of those headlands. They are particularly in line with the submissions made directly to the Karmel Committee, which I have read out previously, by the parents and teachers' body. Therefore in terms of structure our amendments can only enrich the Bill. They can in no way weaken the Bill; they must strengthen it.

One point, and one point only, remains in terms of the argument advanced by Labor Party speakers. This was a very, very weak point. Labor Party speakers sought to claim that our indication that there should be a nominee from the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia would be ultra vires section 1 16 of the Australian Constitution. This was a remarkable fact because I think that the very same senator, without a smile on his face, read out that the Australian Government had found no difficulty in appointing Father F. Martin, the Director of Catholic Education in Victoria, and no doubt nominated to such an office. But as I read the Constitution, in no way would there be a restriction, quite apart from the fact that the Government itself has sought to use exactly such a category, because section 1 16 reads as follows:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

The latter words 'no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office' are the significant ones. We are not nominating members of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia. A person would come forward from the Executive and there would not be an infringement. If there were infringement the present situation is that Father Martin's place on the Interim Committee would be in similar jeopardy. I challenge that.

The remainder of our amendments deal not with structure but with function. They are, of course, wholly in line with the philosophy and the principles spelt out by the Karmel Committee. The Karmel Committee was set up in the knowledge of the impending establishment of the Australian Schools Commission and in the knowledge therefore that it should recommend objectives in line with that Commission. It is of great importance to look at chapter 13.2 of the report of the Karmel Committee. With the indulgence of the Senate I desire to read this because it is the basic theme and the basic philosophy of the Committee. If I may say so prior to reading this part of the report, as I understand it the Australian Government has indicated that it will adopt the general philosophy of the Karmel Committee. Certainly the Government has said nothing to the contrary, and if that is so, this paragraph is important. The paragraph states:

The constitutional responsibility for the provision of public education rests primarily with the States, as at present does the major financial commitment. The Committee believes that the Commission 's influence should be of a general kind and that it should not intervene in or interfere with the management of schools or school systems. As has been emphasised in Chapter 2, the Committee places great value on the encouragement of grass-roots developments in education, as local knowledge and initiative are more likely to produce effective educational experiences than fiats imposed from remote sources. Moreover, the Committee's attachment to diversity is an argument against a centralist approach to educational matters. On the other hand, the planning of the strategic development of education on a national scale, as distinct from its centralised administration, may yield many benefits in meeting the requirements of the twenty-first century. In the light of these considerations, the Committee has formed the opinion that the Commission should concern itself more with providing incentives for the schools to move in one direction or another, than with delineating a particular model of precise development.

I commend the members of the Interim Committee upon that philosophy which would be in my view wholly supported by the Opposition. The concept that education should not be centralised in Canberra, the stress by the Committee that some remote bureaucracy, using its words, in Canberra should not impose its will upon individual schools, the seeking for diversity, the seeking for innovation and the seeking for experimentation are the basic principles that the Opposition wholly espouses. The recognition that education is primarily, under the Constitution, and essentially, because of decentralisation, a State matter, is inherent in the beliefs of the Opposition and in the Karmel Committee's report. So basically if we are to look to an interpretation of the functions of the Schools Commission we should ask: 'Are they in line with chapter 1 3 of the report of the Karmel Committee which deals with administration and accountability?'

I want to say emphatically that all of the remaining amendments proposed by the Opposition are aimed at carrying out specifically the philosophy of the Karmel Committee. Therefore the amendments proposed by the Opposition will not only enshrine in legislation the Australian Schools Commission but will strengthen it within the full understanding of the community when the mandate was given, within the full request of the parents and teacher bodies, and within the full philosophy of the Karmel Committee itself. Against that background there has been an attempt to misrepresent the general philosophy of the Opposition, specifically of the Liberal Party of which I am a member, with regard to education.

The Liberal Party sees the responsibility of government with regard to education as a responsibility for every citizen in Australia and not just for some. We take the view that a member of Parliament, when he takes his oath, takes an oath to serve all the people of Australia and not just some, and that education should be provided without fear or favour and at the highest possible standard for all the people of Australia. It is important that that principle be written into any legislation in this field. It will be interesting to see how the Government reacts to the Opposition's suggestion, which I think is a very attractive one, that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations should be embodied in the legislation, because the Government on many occasions has said that it believed in and fully supported the Declaration of Human Rights in every way. Here is a test for the Government. Does it really support the Declaration of Human Rights or does it support it only when it suits it? The Opposition proposes to write into this legislation an amendment drawing attention specifically to Article 26, which reads:

(   1 ) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2)   Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3)   Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

I cannot believe that any member of this Senate would disagree with those sentiments, bearing in mind that the Labor Party says that it is pledged to support them. The Opposition intends to include them in the Bill. Of fundamental importance are the elements of that Declaration, namely, that education shall be for everyone and that everyone has the right to education- that is of great importance in that education shall be directed to the full development of the person and not only to material things; and the last of the three paragraphs, which states:

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

The Liberal Party sees the responsibility of government in the field of education as being to govern in the interests of all. Because the absorption of education between certain ages- 6 years and 1 5 years in most States- and attendance at school by children irrespective of living standards, affluence or poverty of parents are made compulsory, the Liberal Party sees the responsibility of government as being to provide within a state system a secular system of education which is free. I emphasise that the government makes laws to make educaton within certain years of life and the absorption of certain curricula within those years compulsory. It is those goals which government seeks. The instruments by which they are achieved are purely mechanical and are variable according to the philosophy of government. In order that poor people may obtain education, quite clearly the government must provide a free and secular education. But the government's responsibility does not and cannot end at that point.

Let me make it clear that the Opposition believes that it is an important duty of" government to provide a government system of education throughout Australia, of the highest possible standards, within which individual talent is encouraged and within which there is no disbarment or inequity because of the lack of financial assistance. The Opposition accepts as a major task the responsibility of government to establish a state secular system of education free of charge and of the highest standards. But it also accepts that, in complying with compulsion and with the curricula, parents and students should have the right of choice. One discharges one's function to the state by going to school or to college between the ages fixed and by absorbing the curricula during that period. That is the goal of government. The goal of government is not to enshrine education in one set of bricks and mortar to the exclusion of another. Therefore, it is fundamental to the second part of a philosophy on education that we understand and embody the third section of that Declaration; that is, that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

The important factor here is the meaning of 'a prior right', because to have the right or the freedom to do something must mean that one has the opportunity to do it. It is not a prior right to choose education if only the wealthy can choose. It is not a prior right if there is a theoretical right to a non-government system but many people, through lack of finance, have no access to it. So, quite clearly, in that Declaration and in the philosophy of the Opposition it is implied that the right must be real and not theoretical and that, therefore, it is the duty of government to ensure that if a student desires, or his parents desire him, to attend a non-government school lack of finance in the family will not preclude attendance at the school. That is the only possible interpretation of 'prior right' or freedom of choice. But I do not say for one moment that that means that a government should provide the totality of funds to an independent system or a non-government system, as it does to a government system. The freedom of the nongovernment sector would be destroyed if that were so. The duty of government is to see that in the individual schools there is a free choice to go to a school without rejection by the parents because they cannot afford it. The important point is that we understand that expression and interpret it fully. The Opposition accepts fully the responsibility towards the Government sector. It accepts in every way the need to pump into that sector not only money but also ideas and drive which will give the primary and secondary education at the State level all the virtues and enlightenment which can move it into the next century. To give some earnest of that, let me measure the Budget for my own State of New South Wales in the current financial year. This year no less than $7 16m will be spent by New South Wales on education of all kinds in that State.

Senator McLaren - How much of that is Commonwealth money?

Senator CARRICK - This is a 20 per cent increase over last year so it is a fundamental increase. Senator McLaren interjects: 'How much of it is Commonwealth money?'. Let me say that I am quite excited about many of the Karmel Committee recommendations. But I understand that in terms of the total expenditure on primary and secondary education in New

South Wales the Karmel Committee increment represents some 2 per cent. I draw that information from a publication of the New South Wales Government. I say that in no denigration of the Karmel Committee at all. Incidentally, what it has done has been in furtherance of a whole series of advances which were made by the previous Liberal Government, such as going into the funding of colleges of advanced education and moving into libraries for primary schools. All of these things were foreshadowed and many of them were started. But I want to place in perspective that as an earnest of the Opposition's attitude we find in any State where a Liberal Government is in power that the great bulksome 42 per cent or more- of its total budget is directed to education. I think it is a rule of thumb to say that education costs as much as or more than the whole of the funds which a State gets by way of Commonwealth tax reimbursement. In other words, all money which comes back to the States by way of Federal income tax reimbursement and more, is absorbed by the States in education. It is their job to find by their own taxes and charges the money to finance other departments. In my own State I think there are some 15 other departments. I say this not in any sense of satisfaction because I would like to see more money put into education but to try to get a perspective.

I understand that in perspective the direct per capita grants to primary and secondary schools represent $ 15.6m in the year which I have mentioned. Some $7 16m has been spent on education, ranging over the whole of education and out of it in direct per capita grants some $ 15.6m has been provided. It we are to include the additions to the independent schools we must take what comes from the Commonwealth and from indirect grants. But the fact is that the 79 per cent of the community which go to state schools areand rightly so- drawing a major proportion, and a greater proportion per capita of funds than the 2 1 per cent of the community which choose not to do so. That is the perspective which I want to paint. The Opposition looks at education as a whole. Incidentally, it looks at education not only for every student but also in the concept of whole of life. Education will not be confined to formal education in the shorter age brackets but it will run throughout life. That is of enormous importance.

Now let me pull together what I have said. I have said that the Bill has 2 purposes, namely, to set up a structure and to set up functions. This is a Bill which arises out of election policies and out of the Interim Committee for the Australian

Schools Commission or the Karmel Committee. As to structure what we propose by way of amendments is wholly in line with election promises and undertakings and with submissions by education bodies. As to functions, what we have put forward is wholly in line with the Karmel Committee's recommendations and its philosophy and, I believe, wholly in line with the aspirations of the great majority if not the totality of the Australian people. When delegations from the various education bodies came to this Parliament last week and discussed with a number of us our amendments, their criticism relating to a panel of 5 from which 2 will be selected, whether teachers or parents, was that that was not good enough, that they should be able to directly nominate 2 and not nominate 5 from whom 2 would be selected. I understand that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has a further amendment which virtually states this. It is interesting that the Australian Council of State Schools Organisations in its most recent letter of 13 November goes to the panel as the idea. It suggests a panel from which the Government shall select one or, in our case, two. Therefore what we are doing is in line with the very latest submissions.

There is a choice for this Senate in terms of the Democratic Labor Party amendment which goes to the root of further objections of some of the bodies which were here. I make one or two critical comments, if I may, in a speech which I do not want to be critical. I feel that no speech on this matter could pass without reference to the Report of the Interim Committee on the categorisation of schools. If ever the Senate should realise the importance of the danger of a remote body with respect to education- and I honour it- in Canberra making a not intensive investigation and hurried decisions, it must do so now when it looks at the first announcement of the categories, and the need to modify them out of sight and to come to a position in which the whole question of categorisation must stand under challenge. How can any committee, even as qualified as a committee led by Dr Peter Karmel- an acknowledged educator- sit in Canberra, send out questionnaires and from the response to disembodied questionnaires reach an answer? How can anybody invent the kind of ambiguous questionnaire which was sent out? How can anybody do so without sending out a covering explanation of the purpose of the questionnaire? This is a sad thing to have to say of a Committee which I respect very deeply. How can it then sit in judgment on the appeals without getting up and going to look at the schools? How can it make an appeal from a piece of paper to a piece of paper? This is the very nonsense of bureaucracy and centralisation against which the Karmel Committee is fighting and which all our amendments are shaped and designed to combat.

Let me give an interesting example. At Ryde, Sydney, along with many other schools which are still suffering, there is a school called the Australian International Independence School. Its headmaster is a retired state school headmasterBill Eason- a man of great vision who had a tremendous reputation as headmaster of Kuringgai High School. When he retired he was not content to stop. He wanted to carry into vision what he had seen. He wanted experimentation and innovation. He wanted the very things that were in the Karmel Committee report. With his efforts and the efforts of some others a small 10 or 12 -acre piece of land in Ryde, which was a chicken farm and orchard, with broken down chicken sheds and a couple of weatherboard cottages, was acquired. These people got together and set up the school. The headmaster's office is a caravan. The recreation hut is a broken down double decker bus. The study rooms are the chicken sheds. The cleaning and maintenance are done by the students and their parents. The headmaster takes half salary, and the teachers take cuts in their salaries. There is no formed footpath, only mud in the whole school as such. But there is something much warmer and much more vigorous. There is the vision of educational experimentation and the vision of a great ideal.

As a result of answering the questionnaire the school was put in category A. An appeal was lodged. A few people drew attention to the state of the school. Did flocks of people come to see it? It may have been interesting if they did. They may have learnt something. The educational achievements of these students are worth looking at, and the great dedication of the headmaster and his teachers is worth looking at. Now it is in category B. It has gained something. What does it have? It has virtually no material possessions- just chicken sheds. The headmaster has the firm desire to put to work the fees paid by parentsthey are not wealthy parents- so that the pupilteacher ratio shall be low and so that the school can carry out a massive experiment in the interaction between pupil and teacher and pupil and pupil, something which I would have thought that any government would have wanted and something which the Karmel Committee prays to heaven to have. Why is the school rated so highly? Because in the desiderata of the Karmel Committee, a growing school, a small school, a school with a small teacher-pupil ratio should be penalised. It is firstly put in category A, then in category B. The Government could not support the placing of the school in either category A or category B. I invite the Committee to go to the school to look at the position.

Trinity Grammmar is situated in the central suburbs, the inner suburbs of Sydney. (Extension of time granted) I appreciate the Senate's granting me an extension of time because I spoke for 15 minutes on the Bill last week. Take Trinity Grammar as an example. It is in the centre of Sydney's industrial suburbs. The geographical residences of the students are in Summer Hill, Petersham, Stanmore and the inner suburbs- all low to low-middle income suburbs. The school was given a massively high category. This matter needs to be looked at. I did not rise to make critical comments because, in my view, the concept of the Karmel Committee is visionary and, in terms of philosophy, is first rate. I drew attention to this matter because in the Karmel Committee report, a report which we have not been privileged to debate in the Senate, there is a marked distinction in places between precept and practice, between the principle that the Committee has seen and the methodology that it invents. Time and time again the methodology shows that it has hurried and that it has arrived at a conclusion which I am sure it would not have arrived at otherwise.

The Government and the Opposition are combined in one great adventure- that is, to provide for the people of Australia the best possible education we can. We are, I hope, combined in the view that that education should be extended to all children, not to only some. If we really believe in the Declaration of Human Rights, the amendments which the Opposition will move in the Committee stage will be carried. If there is opposition to the proposed amendments to the structure of the Commission, it cannot be said in any sense to be an obstruction by the Opposition because the Opposition is seeking to carry out, by those amendments, the promises of the present Government and the desires of parent and teacher bodies. So the Government must accept its responsibility if it rejects those amendments. If it rejects the amendments which relate to the functions of the Commission, it must fundamentally reject the philosophy inherent in the Karmel Committee and in the Declaration of Human Rights. I commend the Bill and the proposed amendments to the Senate.

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