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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2512

Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - I think that the amount of interest in this debate can be gauged by the number of honourable senators who have been present in the chamber. It seems to me that on the Government side an average of about 3 honourable senators have been listening to this debate, whereas on the Opposition side we have managed to sustain about 1 7 or 1 8 honourable senators in the chamber.

Senator McLaren - Count them again.

Senator JESSOP - I believe that is a measure of the interest that the Opposition takes in education. I can understand why my friend interjects, so furiously, his conscience is pricked. He has not been in the chamber for quite a long period this evening. I suggest that this Bill has been chosen by the Government as a vehicle by which to conduct a malicious campaign against the Opposition. I believe the Government has been intent on deceiving the electorate throughout Australia. It has claimed that we are not interested in the Karmel report and oppose its recommendations, but that is a lot of nonsense; it is dishonourable for the Government to suggest that. We are anxious that school children throughout Australia should be given the benefit of the recommendations in the Karmel report; we are anxious to provide the $640m-odd for this purpose.

Of course, the main bone of contention about the whole business has been that the Opposition has chosen to adopt an honourable stance with regard to recurrent grants to systemic schools. The promise which was made by the Governmentby the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) - that it would not disadvantage any student as a result of its education policies has been repeatedly emphasised this evening. We note that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has referred to one particular category A school and suggested that the reason why it had been placed in category A was that it had a teacher-pupil ratio of one to seventeen. I think that this tends to bring out the cargo cult attitude to education of the Australian Labor Party. It is all very well for certain schools to have first-class school room accommodation, with perhaps the occasional swimming pool dotted here and there, but if they choose to spend their money on providing more teachers for the benefit of their students they are placed in category A.

Senator Rae - They are penalised.

Senator JESSOP - They are penalised for having the foresight of providing extra teachers. This again demonstrates the distorted view of the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Little - Those parents are taxpayers, too.

Senator JESSOP - As the honourable senator says, they are certainly taxpayers. I wish to remind the Senate of one or two schools in category A that have been referred to this evening. Senator McManus referred to a Jewish school that is in dire straits because of the threatened Government action relating to per capita grants to its students. Senator Rae has given three other examples. One school in the suburbs of Melbourne has 53 migrant students, many of whose parents are both working to keep the child at this school. These people are being penalised because the school has been placed in category A. I understand from Senator Rae that the standard of the school is not pleasing at all.

Senator Rae - It is spartan.

Senator JESSOP -Yes. In all probability this is another example of a school which has a few extra teachers, and this factor caused it to be placed in category A. Senator Rae also mentioned the Australian Independent School in Sydney. I understand that he has had experience of that school. He has told me that the headmaster has a caravan for a study and that a converted bus is serving as the staff room. Because that school has a few more teachers than other schools, it is placed in category A. Senator Rae gave as an example the Loreto Convent in Portland, Victoria. Because there happens to be at that school a number of retired nuns who do some part-time teaching, its category has been lifted to category A. These 3 schools and the one referred to by Senator McManus have students whose parents have a modest background and, in fact, have to make considerable sacrifices to send their children to the schools. Yet the Government, which purports to represent the less affluent members of our society, has chosen to dishonour a promise made before and since the election with regard to persistent per capita grants for this type of school.

I was glad to hear Senator Wright remind the Minister of the statement he made earlier when he chose to refer to the promise by Mr Whitlam in his policy speech on 13 November that a Labor Government would continue all grants under the Commonwealth legislation throughout 1973. However, the Minister forgot to mention that the promise continued, stating that the Government would allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission. The terms of reference laid down by the Labor Government for this Schools Commission state:

The grants recommended by the Interim Committee will be:

(a)   for the period 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1975;

(b)   in addition to 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.

I believe that it is also relevant to read from a statement on the Karmel report made by the Australian Episcopal Conference in August 1973. The Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously made the following brief statement on the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission:

We have endorsed the report submitted to us by the Federal Catholic Committee.

Among other things the Conference made the following statement:

In view then ofthe many positive aspects ofthe Report, the Australian Bishops regret that some serious reservations must be made. We particularly regret that the principle of a basic recurrent grant to every Australian child has been abandoned. We support the overall right of all citizens to a freedom of choice in education, a right that the State should recognise in an effective way by giving all citizens, all children, some access to public funds for education. It is, therefore a matter for deep concern, with possible dangerous implications and consequences for the future, that the Interim Committee was unable to make a recommendation that would keep this principle inviolate, while reconciling it with the other principle that greater assistance should be given in areas of greater need. Such a reconciliation should be, we believe, the objective of future efforts aimed at removing divisions and disputes arising from a consequent sense of grievance.

We most urgently ask the Australian Government to achieve this reconciliation by including in its program effective assistance to every child in the form of a basic recurrent grant. Meanwhile as a first practical measure, we ask the Australian Government to revert to the recommendation of the Interim Committee to continue aid to the schools in the highest categories in 1974.

That sums up quite nicely the attitude of the Australian Episcopal Conference to this matter.

Senator Rae - That was unanimous, was it not?

Senator JESSOP - I have already said that.

Senator Rae - And included Archbishop Carroll, referred to by Senator Mulvihill.

Senator JESSOP - Those present were Cardinals Freeman and Knox; Archbishops Cahill, Carroll, Gleeson, Goody, Rush and Young; Bishops Brennan, Carroll, Faulkner, Fox, Gallagher Jobst, E. Kelly, J. Kelly, H. Kennedy, P. Kennedy, Little, McCabe, McKeon, Morgan, Muldoon, Mulkearns, O 'Loughlin, Perkins, Prasko, Quinn, Rooney, Stewart, A. Thomas, F. Thomas, Toohey and Torpie

Senator Rae - And Bishop Satterthwaite.

Senator JESSOP -Thank you. I could not pronounce that name. I thank you Senator Rae for your help. But this is a matter of conscience as far as we are concerned. The Labor Party has no conscience with respect to honouring its promises. The Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party fully support the implementation of the Karmel recommendations in this Bill. But we are adamant that the Labor Party should honour its pre-election and post-election promises that no student in Australia will be disadvantaged as a result of its education policy.

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