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
Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 1923

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - The Committee will recall that I indicated that because perhaps of some misunderstanding Senator James McClelland was interrupted and I wanted him to complete what he had to say. But I feel that he did get a little to the stage of the cart going before the horse. I shall refer, first of all, to the provisions of the Bill before us and then to the specific amendment which I wish to move. The position is that the Bill provides for a Commission, as I said, of up to 12 people appointed totally at the discretion of the Commonwealth Minister for Education. For reasons which I have not yet had any real opportunity to outline, it is the Opposition's view that after clause 4, about which there has been discussion already, there should be inserted a new clause 4A and a new clause 4B. Accordingly I have moved: 4A. The members of the Commission shall be appointed as follows:

(a)   the Chairman and five other members upon the recommendation of the Minister and of whom two shall be members of teacher organizations 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;

(b)   six other members upon the recommendation of the Australian Education Council and of whom two shall be members of parent organizations selected by the Australian Education Council from a panel of not less than five persons' names submitted by the Australian Council of State School Organizations and one shall be a person involved in special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties; and

(c)   three other members of whom one shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia, one shall be upon the recommendation of the National Council of Independent Schools and one shall be upon the recommendation of the Australian Parents' Council. 4b. A member shall not be responsible to the body or organ isation which recommended the member or submitted the member's name in a panel of names.

What the Opposition has in mind is to comprehend a number of what we believe have been strongly held views of a variety of people, including even the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) as expressed in past statements and actions, of the Labor Party in its approved policy speech, and of a number of organisations throughout Australia which are interested in education, and basically supported by the Constitution.

The position in Australia is this: There are 3 administrative power areas in relation to primary and secondary school education. We believe that it is totally unreal to approach the question of primary and secondary school education in Australia from the point of view of a failure to recognise the existence of those 3 major administrative power areas. Those areas are as follows- and not necessarily in order of importance. The first is the Commonwealth area administered by the Commonwealth Minister for Education, in relation to which he has the responsibility of the administration of schools in the Territories- the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. There is also the administrative aspect in relation to the expenditure of Commonwealth funds in the state and non-government school areas.

The second administrative power area which must be recognised, in my suggestion to honourable senators, not only is in existence but is the major administrative power area in Australia. This is a fact recognised by the Minister in his second reading speech and also recognised by the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the second reading speech which he made on the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973 that was introduced into the House of Representatives last Thursday. That major administrative power area is the State government area. Under the Constitution, the States clearly have the overall education responsibility but certainly have responsibility in relation to primary and secondary schools which are the ones with which we are concerned here. Thirdly, the non-government school sector, although diverse, can be regarded collectively as an administrative power area. An attempt to set up an Australian Schools Commission which fails to recognise the existence of the administrative power areas is, in our submission, a Schools Commission which is bound to fail.

We all know the problems which have arisen already in relation to the recommendations of the Interim Committee- the Karmel Committeebecause of this very point. There was an inadequacy of communication between the nongovernment schools which were categorised by the Karmel Committee and the Committee itself. I do not wish to re-open in detail the debate that has taken place already in that regard. I just wish to make this point: Much of the problem which arose in relation to those schools and the fact that so many appeals were upheld are, I believe, proof of my point that there was a lack of communication and that problems did arise. Let us hope that they do not arise on the massive scale on which they could arise through a failure of adequate communication between the various administrative power areas involved in primary and secondary education in Australia. If the Minister genuinely believes in the creation of a body which does not have a direct liaison with all of those major administrative power areas and if it is not felt in those major administrative power areas that they have some say in the creation of the body, the Minister is indulging in Alice in Wonderland type thoughts if he thinks the body will work. It prospects of working as at present constructed are dim, in our view. We see it as important that it should work.

I deny emphatically the suggestions made by Senator James McClelland that this is an attempt to destroy the Bill. I repeat that we see it as desirable and necessary that if there is to be a Schools Commission, it should be a Schools Commission with a prospect of working. We also see it as desirable to start from the point of view of considering its constitution and identification and therefore the involvement of the major power areas. Therefore, we propose a Schools Commission of 15 members. Six of the members will be appointed by the Commonwealth Minister and six will be appointed by the Australian Education Council which is, of course, that body of State ministers responsible for education and the Commonwealth Minister for Education meeting together. I take the opportunity to point out that, of course, the Commonwealth Minister is a member of the Australian Education Council and would have an opportunity to have his say in the deliberations of that body as to the persons to be appointed by it to the Schools Commission. So if there were some person that the Australian Education Council was considering to appoint that the Minister thought was totally unsuitable for one reason or another, he has the opportunity to argue that this is so and to put forward his reasons to have them taken into account by the other ministers before they make their nominations for appointment.

Then, we would suggest that upon a pro rata basis of the number of children who are involved in government schools and the number of children involved in non-government schools, the representation of the non-government school area would be appropriately a 20 per cent basis. The number of children involved in this area of education represents slightly more than 20 per cent of the total number. But the closest percentage one can obtain on the basis of 3 out of 15 children is 20 per cent as the appropriate representation of the non-government school area. That is the first stage of my explanation of the Opposition's view in relation to the constitution of the Schools Commission. I take this opportunity to read again the Labor Party view on this matter as expressed in the policy speech of the Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition. He said:

Education is the prime example of community service which should involve the entire community- not just the Education departments and the Catholic school authorities and the Headmasters ' Conference, not just parents and teachers, but the taxpayers as a whole. The quality of the community's response to the needs of the education system will determine the quality of the system. But the community must first know and understand the needs. We reject the proposition that administrative convenience should over-ride the real needs of schools. We reject the argument that well-endowed schools should get as much help from the Commonwealth as the poorest state or parish school, just because it is easier to count heads than to measure needs.

I read the latter part of that paragraph not because I regard it as relevant to the point to which I wanted to address my remarks but for the sake of completeness. I point out that the Prime Minister then went on with that part which I have already quoted and in which he talks about representatives of the State departments, the Catholic system and the teaching profession. So what we are suggesting is quite in line with the policy speech of the Prime Minister delivered before the general election in December last year. What we are proposing goes a little further than the first outline which I have given. I remind the Senate that it is based upon a recognition of the 3 administrative power areas that must be drawn together to act co-operatively and with a feeling of involvement if the Schools Commission is to work. We then propose to recognise certain other aspects which we regard as desirable aspects of involvement in a Schools Commission. That is that there should be representation from the area of teachers in primary and secondary schools. We accept that the Australian Teachers Federation represents the largest body of teachers in primary and secondary government schools.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - It is a pressure group.

Senator RAE - Senator Sir KennethAnderson says that it is a pressure group. He is making reference to what was said earlier this afternoon by Senator James McClelland.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - I was merely re-quoting the honourable senator. It is not my opinion.

Senator RAE - This is so. I wanted to make it clear that that is what the honourable senator was doing. I suppose that after the experience of the past few weeks one could but agree with the comment. Notwithstanding that, we believe that the Australian Teachers Federation is representative of the teachers of Australia in its constitution. We believe that many of the teachers of Australia should take a more active interest in the affairs of the Australian Teachers Federation. But that is a second question. We believe that it is the body most representative of teachers and we would be content that it should be the body represented on the Schools Commission. I will outline the meaning of the word 'represented ' as I use it there in a moment.

We also believe that there should be one person selected totally at the discretion of the Commonwealth Minister. That person should be involved in the research area of education. This would mean that recognition of the Commonwealth power area would give to the Commonwealth Minister a total discretion to appoint 3 people. The only limitation on the fourth person is that he must be involved in research. The Minister would also have the right to select 2 teachers from a panel of five submitted by the body which I am sure is generally accepted as being representative of the Australian Government primary and secondary school teachers- the Australian Teachers Federation.

In using the word 'representative' what we have accepted- we have had many discussions about this and I am sure that other honourable senators have also had many discussions about this- is that bodies such as ACSSO- the Australian Council of State School Organisationsthe 3 New South Wales federations which have expressed their views to us on many occasions, the Victorian Federation of State School Mothers Clubs and various other organisations all of which I could refer to in detail are keen to have what they call representation of parents and teachers on the Australian Schools Commission.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse -Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.12)- I do not want to speak for very long because I feel a little conscious of the fact that I interrupted Senator James McClelland when he was speaking in the debate during the committee stage. I am intrigued at his argument that he put in relation to this clause. The Government 's recommendation is that its members on this Schools Commission could number anything from 6 to 13, as I read it, and in the case of the amendment which has been circulated by the Opposition the number is 15. So the margin between the Government 's proposal -

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I make it 10 or 12.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONThere are contingencies there that I suggest the Minister wants to read again very carefully. However, I am sure that he and I will not come to very much grief over the mathematics of the proposals. I want to come to the matter of substance concerning which I heard Senator James McClelland advance a point of view during the second reading debate and again today. I am sorry to say that he has repeated some of the things that he said during the second reading debate which, on reflection, I thought that he would not have wanted to say. However, as I say, he said them again. What he is suggesting really is that the people who come from special organisations represent pressure groups. He puts this in a context to suggest that there is impropriety in the fact that they are pressure groups and that there would be impropriety in relation to how such people would function as members of the Schools Commission. I find that staggering. The whole of our concept of committees, commissions and various other bodies, not only in political life but also outside it, is that people with special knowledge are brought in. They do not prejudice their soul when they do that. If they are sent because they are members of some organisation, they do not immediately say: 'All right, I will look at things in a narrow view'. That is a denial of their lifetime and a denial of everything that they have done. For instance, if educationalists are members of the Australian Teachers Federation, that does not mean that they will have, as members of the Schools Commission, a narrow, mean and selfish outlook. After all, they are educationalists. The fact that they are chosen from a panel- not necessarily a narrow panel, but a wide panel- automatically suggests that they are people who will give good service to the cause of education, not to the Teachers Federation.

I refer now to the other amendment which deals with 5 persons from the Australian Council of State School Organisations. Will the people who are appointed by that organisation- in language which I think is a fair interpretation of what Senator James McClelland has put- be completely narrow and prejudiced in their approach to the problem of the education of all Australian children?

Senator McManus - Quarrelsome, too.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - And quarrelsome, too. I cannot accept the concept at all. If we did accept it we would never be able to put anybody on a committee if they were associated with the field into which the committee was inquiring because they might have a narrow, prejudiced view. I do not understand it. To me it is a negation of everything. I, for instance, am very ecumenical. I have been in organisations of one church and I have found going along to its meetings people of a different persuasion, prepared to give service to the good cause. I belong to some charitable bodies composed of members who belong to other organisations but when they attend the meetings they do not say that they are Labor blokes, Liberal or Country Party blokes and therefore are going to take only one sort of view. Those people attend for the cause.

Certain of us from different political organisations belonging to the same organisation are trying to achieve some good. We are not prejudiced.

I find it a complete negation of everything that we stand for in a democracy to suggest that people cannot be put into a job to do something for the community at large when they have special knowledge and a lifetime of training and experience. It is said that such people should not be put onto this Commission because they are prejudiced and narrow in their views and they will not take the wide national outlook. I just do not understand it.. I think that the argument produced by Senator James McClelland is really -

Senator Milliner - It worries you.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON -Yes, it worries the life out of me to think that he could imagine it. I have always looked upon him as a man who has a broad horizon. The world does not go on like that. This is a different world where we can agree to differ, where we can sit on a committee and say: 'I might think this and you might think that. You are a member of the bush whackers and I am a member of something else, but let us think about what is good for the cause.

Senator Poyser - Why did your Government not put trade unionists on commissions?

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONLook, what is being suggested is a very negation of conciliation. Where somebody is appointed to a committee he is not appointed because he will represent a certain view. A person is placed on a committee from a panel to give a wide canvass of opinion -

Senator Young - With experience and training.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON -With experience and training of a lifetime. A committee needs a wide canvass to get the best for the community, for the Government and for the people. To suggest that we cannot alter the number from thirteen to fifteen and we cannot suggest that certain groups should submit to the Minister a panel of five from which he can choose two because he wants a particular group to be able to make a contribution to the all-over good of the community, is wrong. Frankly, I suggest that because of some fear in the minds of the Government, indeed in Senator James McClelland because he has expressed it, that this amendment is calculated to destroy the concept of the commission it is being opposed. I suggest that Senator James McClelland has overreached himself in his opposition. The phrase pressure group' was a singularly unfortunate expression in the concept of this amendment. I hope that in the debate the honourable senator will be able to convince me that he did not mean it in the context in which I understood it.

Suggest corrections