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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 2126

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1972-1973-which deals with the 1973-75 triennium so as to extend its terms to the provision of financial assistance for all State teachers colleges, and for pre-school teachers colleges, as from 1 July 1973. The Bill also makes provision for special grants in respect of the acquisition of library material, the employment of library staff, the conduct of special education courses, and the allocation of a further special grant of $425,000 to fund in 1973-75 the increased enrolments of pre-school teacher trainees.

In the view of the Government, the high quality and professional skill of the teacher are crucial to the process of education. The Bill now before the Senate demonstrates, in a practical manner, the Australian Government's concern for enhancing the quality of teacher education for teachers in all Australian schools. Honourable senators will be aware that the Bill has its origin in the recommendations of the Report on Teacher Education prepared by the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. The Commission's inquiry commenced in October 1972. On assuming office the present Government wished the inquiry to proceed to finality in the belief that it represented a belated recognition by the Commonwealth of the importance of the contribution made by teachers colleges. The Government considered that the scheme for Commonwealth assistance of teachers colleges in the past was little more than a token gesture and believed that it had an obligation to ensure that adequate funds were available to these institutions to meet the costs of their capital development and their recurrent needs.

The Government accepted the Commission's recommendations in entirety including the recommendations for special grants for the particularly worthy purposes of accelerating the development of teachers college libraries, of fostering research into aspects of teacher education, of increasing the numbers of students undertaking courses to prepare teachers for handicapped children, and, of extending teacher education facilities in existing colleges of advanced education. Moreover, the Government decided to amplify the Commission's recommendations.

The Report called for a program of $2 10m for the development of teacher education in the former State teachers colleges, the pre-school teachers colleges and in existing colleges of advanced education during the period July 1 973 to December 1975; of this amount the Australian Government contribution under the existing system of matching State-Federal grants would have been $86m. However, following the offer by the Australian Government to the States to finance tertiary education completely from January 1 974, our contribution will become one of $ 188m. Further, by applying to teachers colleges the same arrangements as will apply to universities and colleges of advanced education, the teachers colleges will be brought fully within the community of tertiary institutions.

The Bill before the Senate, in providing for the Government's decisions, integrates the teachers colleges completely within the framework of the advanced education legislation. I would draw to the attention of honourable senators, the fact that the Bill has been prepared on the basis of existing financial arrangements. Later in the sittings a further Bill will be introduced to provide for the new financial arrangements proposed for implementation from January next.

The $ 10.29m set down in the Report for preschool teachers colleges was on the basis that these institutions become self-governing under the general supervision of appropriate coordinating bodies in the States; however, the Government will make available its share of the recommended grants without this qualification. If the Parliament enacts later in this Session the legislation to which I have just referred, the Australian Government will meet $9. 17m of this cost.

Earlier this year the Government allocated $100,000 to increase the number of pre-school teachers in training; this grant will meet the cost of the additional trainees from January to July 1973. In conjunction with its decisions on the Commission's Report the Government agreed to provide a further $425,000 to meet the continuing cost of these additional pre-school teachers in training until December 1975.

Subsequent to the teacher education report the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has, at the request of State authorities, agreed to certain revisions to the building and other projects to be supported at Goulburn Teachers College in New South Wales and Secondary Teachers College in Western Australia and the changes are incorporated in the Bill. Further consideration is being given to projects proposed for Sydney Teachers College.

The revised Schedules in the Bill incorporate certain variations to the program for the previously listed colleges of advanced education. These variations have been requested by the States. They involve the transfer of funds rather than additional grants, and they have been approved by the Minister for Education or the Commission under the appropriate sections of the Act. The colleges concerned are- in the First Schedule: Caulfield, Footscray, Gordon, Preston and Royal Melbourne Institutes of Technology; Gippsland and Warrnambool Institutes of Advanced Education; and the Victorian College of Pharmacy; and- in the Second Schedule: Mitchell College of Advanced Education, The New South Wales College of Paramedical Studies, Footscray and Gordon Institutes of Technology, Gippsland and Warrnambool Institutes of Advanced Education, Victorian College of Pharmacy and, Torrens College of Advanced Education.

In commending this Bill to honourable senators I would advise them of 2 other developments in teacher education likely to lead to other measures that will be presented for their consideration in due course. First, consequent upon the Commission's Report on Teacher Education and the Report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission the Minister for Education has written to the Chairman of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education and the Australian Universities Commission asking them to report on the grants that should be made to ensure that adequate provision is made for the training of handicapped children. Second, honourable senators are aware that the Commission's Report on Teacher Education was limited to a consideration of the needs of the former State teachers colleges and pre-school teachers colleges. As teachers colleges are now becoming autonomous the desirability of a diversity of basic approach to education makes it opportune to consider the value of private teachers colleges. Pre-school teachers colleges are private institutions in many cases. The Australian Government's policy of full financial support for tertiary education makes the support of private teachers colleges a logical step. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.

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