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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1996


Senator RAE (Tasmania) -A further amendment is to be moved to clause 13. Again, by way of illustration I refer to the fact that clause 13 deals with the functions of the Schools Commission and that it sets out: 13.(1) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:

We have dealt with 2 of them, we now come to the third which is:

(c)   Matters in connection with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of schools and school systems and to schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, including matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance to be so granted by Australia, the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted and the amount and allocation of any financial assistance so granted;

As the Bill is presented to the Committee for consideration, the Government is adverting to matters in connection with the grant by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to the States in respect of schools and school systems both in the States and also the application of money to schools in the Territories. It also includes matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance and the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted.

What is made quite clear in the last mentioned part is that it is contemplated that they should always be subject to conditions- rather an unfortunate situation, I would have thought, if that is to be implied on every occasion. Then comes the reference to the amount and allocation of any such financial assistance. Again, in the spirit of endeavouring to make the Schools Commission legislation workable and in the endeavour by the Opposition to make the Schools Commission a body which can and will contribute to the development of education and the interests of the students of Australia, we suggest that this paragraph should be re-drawn. I move:

Leave out paragraph (c) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph:

(c)   Matters in connection with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of primary and secondary government and non-government school students, schools and school systems in Australia including the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and whilst recognising the desirability of maximum flexibility and diversity and the right and responsibility of the State and individual school authorities to determine the specific allocation of such financial assistance, the conditions, if any, upon which financial assistance should be granted and the total amount and total allocation of any financial assistance so granted; and . . .'

In relation to this I would again draw upon the Karmel Committee report which in a great number of places relied on and gave great emphasis to the importance, as the Committee saw it, of the considerations of constitutional responsibility. This is what it said in chapter 13.2:

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.

The Committee went on to say:

Moreover, the Committee's attachment to diversity is an argument against a centralist approach to educational matters.

It went on to say later: 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.

It is my suggestion to the Committee that our amendment is far more in accord with the thoughts and concepts of the Karmel Committee than is the somewhat abbreviated version put forward by the Government in its Bill. We had regard to what was frequently referred to by the Karmel Committee, the need for flexibility and diversity. As I have mentioned, the rights and responsibilities of the States and of individual school authorities were referred to by the Karmel Committee. What, therefore, is contemplated is that the Schools Commission should be inquiring into and advising the Minister about the granting of financial assistance, which bears in mind these principles which were put forward so strongly by the Karmel Committee in its report and which I think are in accordance with what the Minister said on a number of occasions in his second reading speech. I would refer very briefly to two of them. He said:

The objectives of ensuring sound basic standards in all schools . . . Our approach is to establish commissions of expert, advisers rather than a vast centralised administrative machine . . . Diversity and innovation in education at the school level are desirable.

He said also:

The States will retain responsibility for administering their own educational programs.

He also made further elaborate remarks on the general concept which I think is far more clearly stated in our amendment than in the original draft.







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