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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3296

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -in reply- The Government asks the Senate to reject the expression of belief, deploring, assertion, contending and requesting as is set out in the Opposition's amendment. The purpose of the Bill is to provide $ 108m to the States over 2 years from 1 July 1974 for technical and further education. These funds are being provided in accordance with the general program of development recommended in the Kangan report which is the report of the Committee on Technical and Further Education that was established by the Labor Government shortly after it was elected to office. The Kangan report has proposed a national program to substantially upgrade technical and further education with the Australian Government providing the funds additional to a maintained effort by the States.

Previous governments provided funds for the development, firstly, of universities and later of colleges of advanced education. They also provided a limited program of assistance for schools. Since the Labor Government came into office we have broadened the whole approach to the funding of education. We have made substantial amounts available to schools through the Schools Commission. We have abolished tuition fees for tertiary and post secondary courses and we now seek to give technical education access to substantially increased funds to improve its acceptibility, to make it more readily available and to enrich its quality. In short, the Bill before the Senate is aimed at meeting national needs for both an adequately educated and skilled work force and for satisfying community needs for continuing education for the adult population. The Bill is patterned on the corresponding States Grants legislation providing funds for universities, for colleges of advanced education and also for schools. It closely follows the legislative concepts set out in the State Grants (Schools) Act 1972 which was introduced by the previous government.

The justification for the requirement that the Minister is to approve building projects and particular programs of expenditure is that it is the Minister who is accountable for the funds which he authorises for payment to the States. He must ensure that there is broad comparability in the approaches adopted towards expenditure of the funds between the States and that these approaches are in accordance with the needs and with the general program developed by the Kangan report as endorsed by the Government. I would like honourable senators to know that on the Kangan committee there were, for example, 2 State Directors of Technical Education and that there was a third member who was a senior officer of a Department of Technical Education. I also stress that there is very close contact with the States in the preparation of their programs. A series of meetings, at which State and Australian Government officers and expert advisers have been present, has been held already and similar meetings will continue to be held.

The development of technical education requires a co-operative approach but the Minister responsible for making the payments to the States must be accountable for the purposes on which those funds are spent. In other words he must be accountable for approving the projects and equally for revoking such approval. Indeed, there may be times when a State requests the revocation of approval. These are substantial reasons for retaining the Bill in its present form, and there are other reasons. I have just received a telegram from Mr Ryan, the Executive Officer of the Australian Council of State School Organisations which represents over one million parents, urging the Senate to ensure prompt passage of this Bill without amendments. Mr Ryan said in his telegram that it is of the utmost importance to Australia that the long-awaited technical and further educational program be implemented without further delay.

Mention has been made by Senator Hall and, by way of interjection, Senator Missen of the fact that the House of Representatives has gone into recess and that this legislation, if amended, cannot be represented to the House of Representatives until it is recalled some time next year. The simple fact of the matter is that the Senate is not the master of the destiny of the business of the House of Representatives. Senator Missen will recall that he was one of those who, during the proceedings of this sessional period, was anxious to see the Senate spend a fair amount of its time on debating and discussing the Family Law Bill. As Manager of Government Business in the Senate I think I estimated that some 3 weeks of debate in this Senate in this sessional period were taken up discussing and debating the Family Law Bill. The fact that the House of Representatives chose to deal with matters of the nature of this legislation and not debate, in the sessional period which has concluded on its part, the Family Law Bill was a matter for its decision and not a matter for the Senate. In accordance with the Government's requirements, and indeed in accordance with a Senate decision, that there should be discussion and debate of the Family

Law Bill, and that having been achieved, after lengthy debate proceeding over at least 2½ weeks if not 3 weeks, the Government also is determined that its legislative program should continue. As I have said in reply to what Senator Hall said, we in this Senate have no control over the sittings of the House of Representatives. The Government undertook at the last election to give technical education a proper and honoured place in a changing society and to prevent it from being the Cinderella of Australian education. That being so, having regard to the national importance of the measure before the chamber, I urge honourable senators to give the Bill a second reading and to reject the amendment proposed by the Opposition.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Guilfoyle's amendment) be added.

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