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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2715

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - It is not my intention to cover old ground because, as the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) has said, this is the third occasion within a fortnight on which a debate on the Schools Commission Bill has taken place in this Senate. I think that all honourable senators who have taken part in the debates probably now know the Bill clause by clause if not word by word. Senator Rae has objected to the title of the Bill- the Schools Commission Bill 1973-but the simple fact is- and I repeat this for what it is worth- that there is no doubt that we, the Labor movement, received a mandate from the people to establish a Schools Commission. The establishment of a Schools Commission was probably the paramount point of the policy on which we went to the people. It is in the expectation of that policy and to establish this Schools Commission that we have proposed these amendments, not so much as a proposal for an armistice- using Senator McManus 's term- as to get the education forces regrouped and moving on a forward and constructive basis. Our objective, despite what Senator Wood has said, is to obtain some equality of opportunity for all Australian children in the educational scheme of this country. Until educational assistance is put on an effective needs basis equality of opportunity cannot be implemented. I am pleased to note that the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party will support the 2 amendments which are now the subject of discussion. They are the proposed amendment to page 6 of the Bill, to clause 13, before subclause ( 1 ), relating to cooperation with the States and the educational system representatives generally; and the other at page 7 of the Bill, to clause 13, whereby we would insert the words: and the need for ensuring that the facilities provided in all schools in Australia, whether government or non-government, are of the highest standard.

In previous debates on this Bill I have emphasised the great significance that the Government attaches to the role which the Schools Commission can play in developing programs of assistance for all Australian schools and school children. By these proposed amendments, and in a spirit of compromise, the Government has indicated that it is prepared to offer these amendments to the Schools Commission Bill in the hope and expectation that the Senate will endorse them. In particular we will by our proposed amendments give prominence at the beginning of clause 13, which deals with the functions of the Commission, to the obligations of the Commission to consult and co-operate with education authorities in the States and the 2 Territories including those conducting nonGovernment schools. I point out at this stage that there is a consequential proposed amendment to subclause (4) of clause 13; that is proposed amendment No. 4. We are indicating also by these proposed amendments that we are prepared to include in the list of matters to be taken into consideration by the Commission in the exercise of its function a reference to the need for the provision of facilities of the highest standard in all schools, whether Government or nonGovernment. I offer that at this stage merely in reply to some remarks that have fallen from the lips of Senator McManus.

Having outlined the case for the Government, having listened to the arguments proposed and having heard with pleasure the remarks that have come from the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate and the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus) on this subject I now suggest that the Committee determine its attitude to these first 2 proposed amendments.

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