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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 1934

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - I say at the outset to make my position very clear that I believe there should be representation from people in industry who are skilled in the occupation which they follow. Having said that, I want to oppose the amendment for the very reasons which have been outlined in its support. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said that Senator James McClelland was denying expertise. That was not so at all. I think that we must look back at some parts of history and its relevance to Senator Poyser 's interjection in relation to the trade union movement. On innumerable occasions I have seen governments comprised of Liberal Party and Australian Country Party supporters reject the proposal which the Opposition now espouses. Let me take an incident in relation to the Public Service. The Government in Queensland was to appoint a Public Service Board. The State Service Union which is the Public Service Union- I believe honourable senators will agree that that is a very respectable union- was asked to nominate a representative from the union to go on the Board. The union took a secret ballot of its members after calling nominations. There were 3 nominees and one person won rather handsomely. His name was submitted to the Government but it rejected that nomination in favour of someone who had been defeated. We come to another issue on which I speak with some knowledge. Others in this chamber will know it equally as well. It relates to a replacement in the Senate. The Australian Labor Party nominated a replacement but the

Government in Queensland said: 'No, we will not have that person. Put up a panel of 2 or 3 people and we will select the replacement. '

Senator Mulvihill - Who was the Premier then?

Senator MILLINER - He is not the Premier at present so it does not matter. I do not want to use names. Of course, if I have to I can quite easily.

Senator Gair - That did not happen in my time.

Senator MILLINER - No, I know. It is nothing to that Premier's discredit, I suppose. It was Sir Francis Nicklin. It is all right for honourable senators opposite to say what shall be done in relation to matters which this Government proposes but their Party when in government did precisely the opposite. Let me take one or two matters which have been referred to today. For instance, Senator Rae criticised the Karmel Committee report and the fact that in it there was opportunity for schools to appeal.

Senator Rae - No, I did not.

Senator MILLINER -With respect, that is in effect what you said.

Senator Rae - No.

Senator MILLINER - Wait a moment. The honourable senator said that the Karmel Committee report must have been wrong because so many schools were appealing. Surely that is what the Karmel Committee set out to do. It sought to bring out a recommendation and to make reservation for somebody who felt that he had been harshly treated. That type of criticism does not lend itself to a debate of this nature. We heard Senator McManus interject when Senator James McClelland was speaking about the appropriate parents' association from which a representative should be selected. Senator James McClelland said that he was with these people last Friday night and that they said the representative should be from their organisation. Senator McManus said that that is not the appropriate body from which the representative should come. So as honourable senators can see, we have those difficulties. Senator McManus in his amendment goes a little further. He says that the members shall be the direct representatives of the people who sponsor their nomination. At least Senator Rae 's amendment give a choice to the Government as to who the representative shall be.

Having stated that I believe that people representing an organisation and who have expertise should be selected on the broad basis, let me ask: 'Would that not be the opinion of 100 per cent of Government members and will that not be adopted '? It will be adopted eventually. I submit with respect that to tie this down to the precise details which we have before us in the amendment makes the whole situation ridiculous. Senator Rae, to fortify the arguments which he advanced, referred to the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. He said that there were specific nominees for that Authority. Of course there are, because it is a body in a specific area. This legislation applies to the whole of Australia and not to one comparatively minor part of Australia. To try to fortify fallacious arguments of that nature does nothing to support the amendment moved by Senator Rae.

Senator Rae - Congratulations.

Senator MILLINER - I do not know that anybody ever congratulated the honourable senator so I am one up on him. Let me look at some of the provisions of amendment No. 5. It states: a panel of not less than 5 persons' names submitted by the Australian Teachers 'Federation . . .

From that Federation one member is selected. Does everybody know that not all members of the teaching profession are members of the Federation? What about a teacher who has religious beliefs which preclude him from joining a union? That provision is found in the great majority of industrial legislation of which I am aware. I know numerous people in industry who have religious beliefs which preclude them from joining an association. In those circumstances, no matter how brilliant such a person may be he cannot be selected because he has not been nominated by the Teachers Federation. Also, head teachers are not always members of the Teachers Federation. In one of the States of the Commonwealth there may be an outstanding headmaster who cannot be appointed to the Commission by the Government because the Teachers Federation will not nominate him.

We heard Senator McManus, in his closing remarks, deny entirely what the Opposition is saying. He said that he had been a member of the Adult Education Association of Victoria for an extended period. I just forget for how long he was a member- 20 years, I think he said. No member of that Adult Education Association, whether he be a teacher, an educationist or whatever he may be, can qualify for appointment to this Commission if he is not a member of any of the organisations to which the Opposition has referred. I go back again to what Senator James McClelland was saying about last Friday night, when he instanced the organisations which had been cited and Senator McManus disagreed with him as to which was the appropriate body that should be consulted in this direction. I have no quarrel with what Senator James McClelland said or with what Senator McManus said; that will be worked out eventually, I suppose. But the fact remains that this amendment refers in (b) to a panel from the Australian Council of State School Organisations and in (c) to a panel from the National Council of Independent Schools.

If the Opposition cannot agree here on which is the appropriate body from which the selection will be made, how is the Government going to do it? How does the Opposition know that there are not more organisations than the Australian Parents Council? I know that there are several organisations concerned with schools which do not go by that name. They are to be denied any opportunity to have representatives appointed to the Commission. Consider paragraph (b), which states in the last 2 lines:

.   . a person involved in special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties;

Say, for instance, that the Australian Council of State School Organisations nominates a person who has qualifications in special education of handicapped children as its nominee for a position. He may come from, shall we say, New South Wales. But in Tasmania there is a very well qualified person who has special education qualifications in respect of handicapped children and children with special learning difficulties. The Opposition says that the person nominated by the Australian Council of State School Organisations must be chosen; but someone whom it has not nominated but whom the Minister or the education authorities know to be far superior to the person put forward by that Council may not be appointed.

Senator Rae - Of course he can be nominated.

Senator MILLINER -No, with respect, he cannot.

Senator Rae - He can.

Senator MILLINER -Let me read that paragraph to the honourable senator again.

(b)   Six other members upon the recommendation 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 . . .

So the organisation submits a panel of names. It may, in its honest belief, say that person A is the best man for this job because he is highly qualified in special education of handicapped children. The Government may know of somebody in some other State who is qualified in both those fields of special education- handicapped children and children with special learning difficulties.

Senator Rae - You are misreading it.

Senator MILLINER - The honourable senator cannot get away from his own amendment.

Senator Rae - You are misreading it.

Senator MILLINER - Let me now read to him an extract from Hansard of 6 March 1973. It is a report of a speech by one of his own members on this issue. He said- I had better read it all in case I am accused of not reading the whole paragraph- as reported at page 255:

As I said, the Government's priorities in regard to education appear to be wrong. If the Government wants to give equal opportunity in schooling to every child in Australia, it should concentrate on the primary field because it is there that the child takes his first steps up the education ladder. It is a well known statistical fact that 20 per cent of all primary school children have some specific learning defect, whether it is an inability to leant to read or an inability to do sums. However, only approximately S per cent have a severe learning difficulty.

The Opposition is suggesting that that 5 per cent should have complete preference over others who have a far greater difficulty and a far greater need for education. I do not accept what Senator Rae's colleague in the other place said. Perhaps he knows more about it than I do. But my association with SPELD indicates to me that it takes quite a substantial part of any kiddie's primary school education to learn of his special difficulties. I believe that the Opposition can leave it to the Government to be fair and honest about these things. The Government has indicated its honesty and its sincerity of purpose by setting up the Karmel Committee to bring in this recommendationat very short notice- and I believe that it has done a very good job. True, it is not a perfect job; nevertheless, it is a good job and a pointer to what education in Australia shall be in the future.

There are other matters to which I could refer. I do not propose to do so. I ask the chamber to accept that the Government is sincere in wanting the best people available to do the job on the Schools Commission. Leave it to the Government. If it does not do a good job in that direction, then it is the Opposition's responsibility to point that out. But Opposition senators cannot point it out in advance because I submit with respect that all the sincerity has been exhibited by the Government in the first place. I could make some further references to what Senator McManus said about withholding the whole Schools Commission. The Minister for the Media challenged Senator McManus and said: 'You did no hear the Minister say that'. Senator McManus replied: 'No, I did not hear him say that, but others have said it'. 'Others' can cover a great multitude of people. I do not know who are the others'. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

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