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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1995

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This amendment is a fine piece of hair splitting. It is hard to see how a government can devote itself to the needs of schools without conferring benefits on the students who attend them.

Senator Rae - Is that a serious remark?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a serious remark and I will develop it.

Senator Rae - I am glad the honourable senator made it because it reveals the extent of the approach.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Could I be allowed to develop my argument so that the honourable senator may attempt to understand? Senator Rae spoke constantly of the needs of students as opposed to the needs of schools. If he can explain in some supplementary observation how there is an opposition between the needs of schools and the needs of students attending them I will be delighted to concede that he is a superlogician. But up to now I am afraid I cannot comprehend the opposition which he attempts to draw between them. In any event our case is even stronger than that because if Senator Rae had bothered to study closely the rest of clause 13 he would have found that clause 13(3) paragraphs (b) and (c) states:

(3)   In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to-

(b)   the educational needs of handicapped children and handicapped young persons;

(c)   the needs of disadvantaged schools and of students at disadvantaged schools, and of other students suffering disadvantages in relation to education for social, economic, ethnic, geographic, cultural, lingual or similar reasons;

So the suggestion that our legislation ignores the interests of students which are in some way in opposition to the needs of schools does not even stand up on a cursory examination of the wording of the Bill. The Commission's recommendations for assistance to schools in the States will result in grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Benefits which the Australian Government wishes to pay to students can be and will be made as direct Commonwealth grants under section 51, placitum (xx iiiA.) of the Constitution. As Senator Rae will be aware this provides under the amendment which was carried in 1946 that the Australian Government is able to make provision for benefits to students and family allowances. So what we are dealing with here is a division of powers under different sections of the Constitution. What we are dealing with in this Bill is a special purpose grant under section 96 to schools. Incidentally, in this Bill we also take cognisance of the special interest of students. But there is another section of the Constitution which enables us to confer benefits such as scholarships and allowances, which will be improved in legislation which will come before this Parliament and which will satisfy any demands which Senator Rae may see fit to serve on this Government to have regard to the needs of students as well as to the needs of schools- interests which, in his view, are opposed interests.

There is one other piece of hair splitting in which Senator Rae has indulged. He said, evidentally per incuriam, that the Government had failed to notice that attention should also be given to the matter of teaching aids. I draw his attention to the clause which he is attempting to amend and which contains these words:

The needs of such schools in respect to buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities . . .

Does Senator Rae seriously claim, in the light of the existence of those words in sub-clause (b), that this Government has overlooked the need to provide teaching aids? If he does he is going in for an almost Talmudic construction of the words of our Bill.

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