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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2474

Senator RAE (4.9) -The matter with which we are concerned is the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973 which is a Bill introduced by the Government to replace from the beginning of next year legislation which has been in force for some years in various forms providing funds from the Commonwealth Government or, as it is now called, the Australian Government to the States and to the independent schools systems. This Bill provides for general building grants, supplementary science laboratory building grants, grants for recurrent expenditure, grants for libraries, grants for disadvantaged schools, for special schools for handicapped children for teacher development and for special projects. There are then contained in the Bill a number of schedules which set out the amounts of money involved. This Bill has become a somewhat celebrated piece of proposed legislation since it was introduced into the House a short time ago. It is unfortunate that there has been a great misunderstanding and a great deal of misrepresentation as to what is involved. So I wish to state the background very briefly.

Legislation providing for grants to schools and to students in Australia is not something novel. The novelty involved in this proposed legislation is, firstly, in the amount of the increase, which is substantial. It is an increase recommended by the Karmel Committee which was set up by the new Government shortly after its election last year. But the Government has not introduced something novel from the point of view of the Commonwealth providing funds to the States for the Government schools system or the nonGovernment schools system. The fact that that is so is important in relation to one matter which perhaps will be the most contentious matter in relation to this Bill, that is, the provision for recurrent per capita grants. At this stage, in referring to the legislative background, I make the point that for some years there has been provision for basic per capita grants to be made by the Commonwealth in respect of each child at a non-government school. The importance of that we will see in just a moment.

The Bill is welcomed in most of its terms by the Opposition. In fact, the only term which is not welcomed is an omission rather than a provision. There is an omission which the Opposition will suggest should be rectified by an amendment which the Opposition will request to be made to clause 15 (5). Clause 15 of the Bill provides for recurrent grants in respect of non-government schools, that is, for recurrent expenditure of nonsystemic non-government schools. The provision is that grants shall be made as provided in the Schedule. But the Schedule will have the effect of dishonouring a solemn promise given by the Government on many occasions in the period leading up to the election last year and reaffirmed by it on a number of occasions since it became the Government in what I think would be regarded by anyone as the clearest terms. What it will do is reduce the amount of grant to 40 per cent of the children of Australia who attend nonsystemic schools which they receive towards their education from Federal Government sources. This is notwithstanding the fact that all taxpayers contribute and notwithstanding the fact that we have a government which is abolishing fees for tertiary education and letting anyone regardless of his income, wealth or need attend a university without any payment on his part so that he receives the same kind of sustenance, subsidy or payment from Commonwealth Government sources as any other person.

This is so notwithstanding the fact that this Government has introduced that policy this year, that it has taken steps to abolish the means test, that it still pays child endowment- I might add, originally introduced by the present Oppositionupon a basis which means that every child in Australia, irrespective of the means of the parent, is entitled to child endowment. This is so notwithstanding an acceptance of the view throughout this community that in these respects there are certain rights which go with children, not with schools, not with their parents and not with some other relationship which may be attributable to them. We suggest that the child himself has a right to the basic grant from the public purse towards the child's education so that his parents may on his behalf or later in his development exercise a right to attend whatever school he chooses and to receive the form of education he wishes to receive or which his parents wish him to receive.

We see as fundamental to the exercise of that right the continuation of the basic per capita grant with needs being provided for over and above that. I pause to make that point, because we have been misrepresented in this regard repeatedly by scurrilous advertisements placed by people who know better and who have therefore done it deliberately to mislead the public. Our position is clear. In relation to need we started a system while we were in government of providing on a basis of priorities. The new Government describes it as a basis of need. There is no real difference. It is a matter of identifying who has the prior right or the priority or the greatest need- whichever way we like to look at it- for extra assistance from the public purse. We totally support that. The Opposition will vote for the second reading of this Bill. I remind you, Mr President, and I remind honourable senators that in the House of Representatives the Opposition voted for the second reading of the Bill. We do not in any way oppose the positive provisions of this Bill which provide for what have become known as the Karmel funds to be made available to children throughout Australia. Any representation to the contrary is a scurrilous misrepresentation of the position of the Opposition in relation to this legislation.

Promises were made. There were many of them. They were made by the Government prior to the last election- made by the present Government. For instance, in a speech at the Festival Hall on 2 May 1972 Mr E. G. Whitlam stated:

We want to remove the inequalities in Australian education, and these are the greatest in the non-government sector, and my Party believes that where the need is greatest, there, this assistance should be given. We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any which there are already . . .

I repeat that speech was made on 2 May 1972. A tape recording of it has been played on a number of occasions over radio and, I think, on television. It is not disputed, as I understand it, by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I remind honourable senators that what he said then was:

We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any which there are already . . .

I pause to remind the Government that at the time of that statement there was a provision for a basic per capita grant to be paid to every child at a non-systemic school in Australia. There is no argument about that. There can be no argument. The fact that subsequently legislation was introduced which improved the system under which that money was paid does not take away from the fact that on the date of that promise a basic per capita grant was available to every child who wished to attend a non-systemic school.

On 11 May the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, announced the program which was subsequently enacted in the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972. The full details of the legislation were announced on 1 1 May but it went through in late September. In Melbourne on 20 June the present Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition stated:

The ALP has never voted against any Bill proposing Commonwealth aid for education and it will support any forms of benefit already existing.

That is a repetition of the promise. After the then Prime Minister announced what the system would be and after full details of the legislation which was enacted in 1972 were announced, Mr Whitlam said that the ALP would support any forms of benefit already existing. It has Deen suggested, and no doubt it may be suggested here today, that by some magical twist of logic the Australian Labor Party moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of the States Grants (Schools) Bill of 1972. The Australian Labor Party spokesmen said that the Government would set up a Schools Commission. They said that that was what they thought should be done. That was never suggested on the basis that it was the attitude of the then Opposition, now the Government, that there would be no honouring of the promise made or that there would be no basic grant. When one looks through the speeches made on that occasion it is interesting to see, looking back, the delicacy with which the path was trod and that no statement was made or really implied. It seems that people were keeping their options open at that time.

On 27 October 1972 at Haberfield in New South Wales Mr Beazley, the present Minister for Education, said something which was extremely significant. He said:

Whispering campaigns to the contrary, no private school under Labor will in future get less than the per capita grant it gets now.

That was on 27 October 1972.

Senator McManus - That was said by the present Minister for Education just prior to the election, as an election promise.

Senator RAE - Yes, Senator McManus. The present Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, made the statement to refute whispering campaigns. It now appears that if those whispering campaigns existed they were very well founded. To refute such statements the Minister said:

Whispering campaigns to the contrary, no private school under Labor will in future get less than the per capita grant it gets now.

This Government by this Bill would dishonour that promise. The Government, by its action in the House of Representatives, has dishonoured that promise. It is disgraceful that a government is prepared blatantly and flagrantly to dishonour a promise made in those terms. I want to continue, however, because this has been said on so many occasions by people on the Labor side. There can be no doubt that the people of Australia voted last year upon the basis that if they voted for the Labor Party it was going to retain a basic per capita grant. Why, even Mr Grassby, the famous Mr Grassby, placed advertisements in his local Press.

Senator Webster - Why do you say ' famous '?

Senator RAE - Because he makes such a show of everything and he made a show of this. He made a show of saying that he was going to be at certain places on 23 November and other places on 24 November, before the elections. In his election advertisement, which was headed 'Go Forward with Grassby', he had a message. It did not say that his Party would break all its promises. What it did say is this:

Independent schools will die in 10 years unless there is a new deal.

Al Grassby and his colleagues are pledged to that new deal which will immediately give another 1 S per cent on top of existing grants and aids.

I will read it again, Mr President. Just before the election Al Grassby said that he and his colleagues were 'pledged to that new deal which will immediately give another IS per cent on top of existing grants and aids.' He was referring, as he said, to independent schools which would otherwise die in 10 years. What the Government is doing now is killing them off in 2 years.

Senator Poyser - Which ones? Geelong Grammar?

Senator RAE - Senator Poyserasks: 'Which ones?' I wish to table in the Senate a document showing which schools because there has been such an amount of nonsense about this matter. With the leave of the Senate I will table the document. If leave is not given, Mr President, it is because the Labor Party is not prepared to see the full list of schools which are being killed off by it, not just category A schools, not just category B schools, not just category C schools and not just category D schools, because category E and category F schools as well are getting reduced aid under this Government which pretends that it is a Government which would honour its promises. It flagrantly breaches them. Let me continue with the promises. On 28 October, and unrefuted on 28 October, there was a report of the speech made by Mr Beazley at Haberfield. In the 'Daily Telegraph' he was reported as having said:

No private school would get less under a Labor Government than the per capita grant it received now.

I quoted earlier from the actual copy of his speech which is called 'Priorities in Education'. Then we find that in Mr Whitlam 's policy speech of 13 November 1972 he said:

A Federal Labor Government will:

Continue all grants under Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973.

And here is the important part:

Allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission.

Who would not have believed that he meant that there would be a continuation of all the grants that existed and that after that there would be increases on the basis recommended? No one could have taken it in any other way. I want to take the matter further. What I am about say no doubt will be of interest to the Tasmanians who are present in the chamber. Mr Beazley responded to a series of questions which had been asked in a letter written by the headmaster of one of the non-government schools in Tasmania. That headmaster asked a series of questions on behalf of a number of headmasters. The first question was:

Is it the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue Per Capita Aid to independent schools for 1974 and following years?

The answer, in a letter dated 24 November 1972 and signed by Mr Beazley 's secretary on his behalf, was one word: 'Yes.' There was no equivocation, no question of maybe and no question of We shall see'. The answer to the question of whether it was the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue per capita aid to independent schools for 1 974 and following years was the one word answer, 'Yes'. The letter did not say: 'We will cut out some of them '. It did not say ' We will reduce some.' What it said was: 'Yes, we will continue per capita aid'. What did Mr Whitlam say on 13 December 1972? In a letter to Mr J. Dixon, Chairman of the National Council of Independent Schools, written by Mr Whitlam as Prime Minister after the election, he said:

Per capita grants to non-government schools for the year 1973 will be paid at the rates already approved for 1973 under the provisions of that Act, -

He was referring to the 1972 Act-

Le. $62 per primary pupil and $104 per secondary pupil. Commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions -

I repeat those words- additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of non-government schools will be determined on the basis of relative need as assessed by the Interim Committee and subsequently by the Australian Schools Commission.

Senator Jessop - Who said that?

Senator RAE - That was said by the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, who had made the statements during the year, before the elections, and after the elections he repeated that there would be additional grants. In his policy speech he said that the grants would be additional to those which would be continued. I want to turn now to the terms of reference of the Karmel committee, which state:

The grants recommended by the Interim Committee will be:

(a)   for the period 1 January 1 974 to 3 1 December 1 975;

(   b) in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments;

I again draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that these grants were stated to be in addition to the existing Commonwealth commitments

(c)   directed towards increased expenditure on schools and not in substitution for continuing efforts by the States and non-government school authorities.

Then there is a reference to existing Commonwealth commitments. The Karmel Committee stated on page 6 of its report:

The terms of reference specified that grants recommended by the Committee were to be in addition to existing Commonwealth commitment.

On page 7 of its report the Committee referred to the fact that the Government subsequently told it that the basic level of support for nongovernment schools would not be predetermined after 1 973 and that the nature and level of support for recurrent expenditure during 1974 and 1975 would be recommended by the committee. This was where the Government clearly broke its promise. It broke it at the time of a letter dated 1 3 April, Mr President; a letter held secret by this Government and never published. The terms of reference were published but the Government refused to make known this letter although it claimed to be engaged in open government. It changed the terms of reference of the Karmel Committee by means of a letter. It was done in an underhand way, privately, in a letter to Professor Karmel which was not disclosed by the Minister and had to be forced out of him in the

House of Representatives by a motion calling for him to table it. That is disgraceful conduct.

Senator McManus -No wonder members of the ALP are ashamed of themselves.

Senator RAE - No wonder that they are so ashamed of themselves. When one thinks of the sequence of events, it is one of the most shameful parts of Australia's political history. It is nearly as obnoxious as the monstrous fraud which the Government has committed in claiming to have increased expenditure on education by 92 per cent. When one takes out the funds which have been shuffled away from the States, when one accepts that one-third of the increased expenditure in the Budget is simply an amount which previously was paid by the States and which will now be paid by the Commonwealth- that amount is taken away from the money which otherwise would be paid to the States and does not represent one cent extra for education in Australiaand when one realises that two-thirds of the remainder relates to amounts which were approved by the previous Government and does not represent one cent of extra funds provided by this Government, one comes down to a very small amount, nothing like the 92 per cent claimed by this Government in its mammoth misrepresentations on education. The greatest confidence trick and the greatest political hoax in the history of Australia is in relation to education and has been perpetrated by this Government this year. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter of 13 April 1973 which is addressed to Professor Karmel and which is signed Kim E. Beazley, who is the Minister for Education.

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 13 April 1973

Dear Professor Karmel,

The terms of reference of your Committee specify that the grants you will recommend will be 'in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments'. It is also relevant that the Government has undertaken to continue during 1973 all grants to schools made under Commonwealth legislation which was operative when we came into office. I want to set down the Government's decisions about the phasing out of pre-existing programs after 1973.

We will honour as firm commitments offers of specific amounts for individual projects for science facilities in nongovernment schools which have been made for each year of the present program to its conclusion on 30 June 1975. The sums available for government schools under this program will be paid to 30 June 1975 also. Beyond that date it will be for the Schools Commission or, in the shorter term, the Interim Committee, to consider the treatment of science facilities in both government and non-government schools.

Some non-government schools had been informed by the previous Government that additional grants, up to the total reasonable cost of a project already approved, would be made available provided the Parliament agreed to extend the program and provided sufficient funds were available. We will not make any automatic provision for these additional amounts because under our system these projects should be considered by you in the context of overall educational needs and priorities. I have asked my Department to provide you with information about these projects.

A similar approach will be followed for the secondary schools libraries program. Specific offers have been made in respect of individual projects in non-government schools up to 31 December 1974 when the present authority will expire. The Government regards these offers as commitments and they will be honoured together with outstanding commitments for government schools under the existing legislation. After 1974 we will look to the Schools Commission to make whatever recommendations it considers appropriate about secondary school libraries.

Under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 provision was made for capital grants for government schools totalling $167m and for non-government schools totalling $48m over the five years commencing July 1973. In accordance with an undertaking we have given to the States, the grants for capital facilities in government schools will be made available as contemplated in the legislation. For the purposes of the Interim Committee those grants should be regarded as existing Commonwealth commitments. For the non-government schools the first year's instalments will be made available under the Dougherty Committee mechanism. However, for the remaining four years commencing July 1974 the allocation of the capital moneys for non-government schools under the Act will be as recommended by the Schools Commission.

In the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory a capital aid program of a particular kind has operated for non-government schools. We intend that that scheme should continue under the existing administrative arrangements until 30 June 1974. For that time applications for assistance will be considered within the Schools Commission's program. I would like the Commission and the Department to discuss appropriate arrangements before the Comission makes recommendations.

The Commonwealth per capita grants to non-government schools in the States in respect of recurrent expenditure are being paid during 1973 at the rates already approved- $62 per primary pupil and $ 104 per secondary pupil. In the two Territories the per capita rates are twice those in the States. We wish the Interim Committee to make recommendations for contributions towards recurrent expenditure in non-government schools for 1974 and 1975 on the basis of its assessment of needs and priorities. In subsequent years this will be a matter for consideration by the Schools Commission. The effect of this decision is that the Government will not pre-determine a basic level of support for all non-government schools after 1 973. It will be for the Interim Committee to recommend the nature and level of support for recurrent expenditure in those schools during 1974 and 1975, having regard to the overall assessment of needs and priorities and to the pre-existing situation.

Yours sincerely,


Emeritus Professor P. H. Karmel, C.B.E.,


Interim Schools Committee for Australian Schools Com mission,

P.O. Box 250,

Canberra City, A.C.T. 2601

Senator RAE - In that letter the Minister said:

It is also relevant that the Government has undertaken to continue during 1973 all grants to schools made under Commonwealth legislation which was operative when we came into office.

Senator Webster - You need to read that again.

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