EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The Committee and its Predecessors
Since the establishment of the Senate Standing Committees in 1970, matters
presently covered by the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education
and Training have fallen, formally, within the areas of interest of the
- Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts
(Appointed 11 June 1970; Fully Established 15 March 1971)
- Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts
(Appointed 2 March 1976)
- Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training
(Appointed 22 September 1987)
The membership of the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education
and Training in December 1990 was as follows:
Senator T.G. Aulich (ALP, TAS) (Chair)
Senator R.J. Bell (AD, TAS)
Senator A.W. Crane (LP, WA)
Senator D.J. Foreman (ALP, SA)
Senator J.W. Olsen (LP, SA)
Senator K.C.L. Patterson (LP, VIC)
Senator N.J. Sherry (ALP, TAS)
Senator A.O. Zakharov (ALP, VIC)
A full listing of membership and Committee Chairpersons on the Senate
Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training and other related
committees are listed in an attachment to this section. Other attachments
to this section include lists of committee secretaries and reports tabled
by the committees.
The Work of the Committees
The issues encompassed within the Committee's various titles have included
science, employment and training along with education and the arts. In
practice, however, the Committee has focussed primarily on educational
and cultural issues as subjects of inquiry. Important themes that feature
in an examination of its Reports include broadcasting and television,
aspects of education in schools, higher education and language policy.
The Committee also undertook a series of inquiries examining Annual Reports
1985-86. Attachment D provides a complete list of the reports tabled by
In addition to conducting inquiries and preparing reports, the Committees
have occasionally met with visiting parliamentary delegations with similar
interests and also with subject specialists and representatives of associations
in relevant areas.
Broadcasting and Television
The Standing Committee on Science and the Arts conducted a wide-ranging
inquiry into all aspects of television and broadcasting, including Australian
content of television programs. This interest was pursued by the Senate
Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which examined issues such
as the employment of musicians by the ABC, the impact of television on
the development and learning of children, the Broadcasting and Television
Amendment Bill 1980 and the proposed amalgamation of the ABC and SBS.
An important group of reports reflected a continuing interest in children's
television. 'Children and Television' was tabled in November 1978
and 'Children and Television Revisited' in June 1981. They were
followed by 'Children's Television Standards' in August 1985 and
'Another Look at Children's Television' in March 1986, the third
and fifth reports in the series examining Annual Reports.
The concern the first of these reports expressed over the incidence of
violence on television and its possible impact on children was subsequently
picked up by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Following this report,
too, the ABC made substantial progress in upgrading the general standard
of its own children's programmes. In 'Children and Television Revisited',
the Committee expressed the view that the recommendation for an independent
Children's Television Production Unit in its first report had given some
impetus to the proposal which led to the establishment of an Australian
Children's Television Foundation. It endorsed the latter concept, recommending
that the Commonwealth Government support this Foundation and that its
support include a financial contribution. In the Ministerial Statement
tabled in response to 'Children and Television Revisited', the
Commonwealth agreed to provide funds to the Australian Children's Television
Foundation on a matching basis with the States and Territories. In 'Another
Look at Children's Television' the Committee recommended that the
Minister should review the funding of the Australian Children's Television
Foundation. The Government's response indicated that in its view it would
be inappropriate to conduct a unilateral review along the lines suggested.
Aspects of Education at School Level
Inquiries of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and
the Arts included an inquiry into deprived schools, one into the education
of isolated children and one inquiry into the role of the Commonwealth
in teacher education.
The Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts undertook inquiries
into 'Education and the Workforce', 'Audio-Visual Copying by
Educational Institutions', and 'The Education of Gifted and Talented
Children'. The Committee also produced a progress report on The Education
of Gifted and Talented Children. The inquiry subsequently passed to a
Select Committee for completion.
One of its reports in this area, 'Preparation For the Workforce',
revealed that an estimated 20 to 25 per cent of young people leaving Australian
schools each year were educationally disadvantaged in basic literacy and
numeracy skills and life role competencies. The Committee made recommendations
covering communication between schools and the community, teacher adequacy
and training, class and school sizes and school design, remediation, school
leadership, curriculum strengthening in literacy and numeracy, parent
involvement, career guidance and restructuring of the secondary school
system to cater for school leavers with non-academic intentions. The Ministerial
Statement that constituted the Government's response noted that the majority
of the recommendations were directed to the responsibilities of the States
and the non-government schools while making clear the Government's intention
to respond in the Commonwealth sphere by bringing the recommendations
formally to the attention of the Australian Education Council and the
non-government school authorities.
'Audio-Visual Copying by Educational Institutions' reported in
September 1986 on a proposed amendment to the Copyright Amendment Act
1986, and related matters. The Committee's recommendation that the proposed
amendment not be proceeded with was accepted by the Government as was
its recommendation that a statutory licensing scheme for the educational
copying of audio-visual material be introduced.
The Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training's
efforts in the area of education at school level resulted in the report
'Education for Active Citizenship in Australian Schools and Youth Organisations',
tabled in March 1989. This report revealed widespread ignorance among
young people not only about the political processes operating at the national,
state and local government levels, but also about what it means to live
in a democratic society. It revealed that young people's attitudes towards
the political system are often characterised by indifference and apathy
and by a sense of alienation and exclusion from decision-making processes
at all levels of government.
The Committee identified a need to give much higher priority to helping
people understand and take part in decision-making structures, whether
these be within the local community, or at state or national levels. In
the Committee's view, a major part of this effort should focus on the
young, implying a stronger commitment from schools and teacher training
institutions and a greater role for youth organisations in this area.
The Government in its response supported in principle the Committee's
proposal for a national effort to address the issues identified in the
report. It referred to relevant existing Commonwealth activities and acknowledged
the significant role it can play in stimulating and supporting developments
in this direction. At the same time, it pointed to the responsibility
of the States in developing specific schooling strategies and the role
of individual higher education institutions with responsibility for teacher
education in assessing priorities and needs for the use of available resources.
The Parliamentary Education Office also produced a response to this report.
It outlined areas in which the PEO had been active subsequent to the report's
The Committee is maintaining a continuing interest in this subject. By
resolution of 17 October 1990 the Senate referred to the Committee the
task of reviewing the implementation of the recommendations of the 'Education
for Active Citizenship' report. The review is designed to ascertain
the extent to which the Committee's earlier recommendations have been
implemented and to publicise instances of good practice in schools and
other educational institutions.
The Committee has produced two significant reports in this area.
The Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts tabled a comprehensive
report on the 'Tenure of Academics' in September 1982. It represented
a detailed discussion of a wide range of academic staffing issues including
tenure, and made thirty-nine recommendations. While endorsing the concept
of tenure in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education
for appointment at the level of lecturer and above, it asserted that tenure
should be subject to the requirements for flexibility in staffing and
to proper accountability.
Six interim Government responses to the report were tabled between December
1983 and December 1986, indicating that the government would be looking
at the issue when it considered the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission's
review of efficiency and effectiveness . The final response, tabled in
November 1987, announced that, because of changed circumstances, 'a specific
response to the report now seems unnecessary'.
The Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training tabled
'Priorities for Reform in Higher Education' on 22 August 1990.
In this inquiry the Committee specifically attempted to tackle some issues
concerned with the quality of higher education in Australia. The report
stimulated serious discussion in the press and higher education circles.
National Language Policy
A particularly influential report in terms of stimulating the development
of policy was 'A National Language Policy', tabled in February
1985. Although a national language policy had been both mooted and broadly
accepted as desirable before this inquiry was undertaken, the situation
remained one in which many unco-ordinated policies and programs existed
at different levels of government. National co-ordination promised a more
efficient allocation of resources and also a clear determination of priorities
in the language area.
Two important recommendations in the report were that a national policy
be developed and co-ordinated at Commonwealth level and that a national
advisory council on languages be established.
In 1986 the Commonwealth Department of Education endorsed a commissioned
policy study of its own. This report ('National Policy on Languages',
Joseph Lo Bianco), was based on principles not dissimilar from the Senate
report. In 1987-88 an Advisory Council on Languages and Multicultural
Education was set up to advise the Minister. In all $15 million was allocated
for the National Policy on Languages in the 1987-88 budget with $28 million
promised by 1988-89. The National Language Program became the focus of
annual budgetary allocations within the Department of Employment, Education
and Training until 1990. Estimated expenditure in 1988-89 totalled $12,756,000.
Issues Associated with Examination of Annual Reports
Issues concerning the powers and privileges of Parliament were raised
in 'The ABC's Radio Racing Service in Queensland', tabled in September
1986, the seventh report in a series examining Annual Reports conducted
during the Thirty Fourth Parliament.
The Committee conducted public hearings for the inquiry in Queensland
in February 1986. At a hearing in Brisbane on 25 February 1986, witnesses
summoned from the ABC refused to answer questions put to them by the Committee.
The Committee brought the matter to the Senate's attention in its report.
Following debate on the report, the Senate resolved that the ABC should
have answered the Committee's questions and asserted that witnesses before
Senate Committees have an obligation to co-operate with those Committees.