by JOHN HORGAN
NY hopes that a Labour government in Australia would reconsider the position of the country's Catholic schools were dismissed by the leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Arthur Calwell, himself a Catholic, in London this week. In an exclusive interview with the CATHOI IC' HFRAI D, Mr. Calwell emphasised that the Australian constitution made no provision for financial aid to private schools, and that the constitution could not be changed except by a majority of the people voting in a plebiscite, backed up by a majority of the states.
He promised. however, that a I abour government would undertake a full-scale investigation into all branches of the educational system. At the last General Election the Labour Party reduced the Conservative majority from 32 seats to one,
The next Genera! Election is due to take place at the end of next year, and Mr. Calwell said that he did not anticipate that the question of aid to religious schools would be a major issue.
Earlier this year. many Australian parents were reported to have withdrawn their children from private schools and sent them to state schools in an effort to force the government to reconsider its attitude. These demonstrations. said Mr. Calwell, would have "no lasting effect" and were provoked by Australian parents in the middlesincorrle groups ("we don't talk about social classes in Australia" he told me) who did not want their children to attend State schools.
One of the reasons for this, he said. was because the educational standards in the privately-run religious schools were very often lower than those in the State schools, because the private schools lacked adequate building!. equipment and teachers. In addition. popile in some private schools did not have to take yearly examinations, as they did in the state schools.
Anglican an non-conformist Church feeders also opposed the granting of aid to church schools, Mr. Calwell said. A Labour government would. however, be prepared to institute a scholarship system through which pupils who passed examinations at a certain standard would be given a scholarship to any state school of their choice.
"There has also been a certain amount of talk, among intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals", Mr. Calwell said. "about the possibility of establishing a Catholic university in one of the big cities. As far as I'm concerned. a person's character should already be formed by the time he enters university."
Pope John's reign. he said. had brought about a considerable amount of goodwill between the different religious denominations in Australia. "although not all the suspicion has disappeared." Some of the bad feeling he attributed to a "ghetto mentality" among Catholics, and he pointed out that the percentage of Catholics among immigrants was almost 30 per cent -considerably higher than the national average.
Asked about the "White Australia" immigration policy for which successive Australian governments have been criticised. Mr. Calwell. who became Australia's first Minister for Immigration in 1945. said that the decision to restrict Asian entry to the country was an economic, not a colour bar. "Every country has illiberal immigration laws." he stated. "and they are usually designed to keep people out rather than to let people in. Ours are a great deal more liberal than those
of many other countries."
Asians, he said, were not as "assimilable" as Europeans, who very often spoke the same language. had the same social backgrounds and wage standards. Asians could. however, enter Australia on such terms as the Minister for Immigration laid down: to study, for instance, or to travel, but not as labourers.
"After all", Mr. Calwell said. "the Asians bypassed this country for centuries. and now that we have come and done the hard work they expect to be allowed in on an equal footing."
Asked whether Pope John's encyclical Pacrrn in Terris, with its lesson that no political communities were inherently superior. and none inferior. Mr. Calwell replied that it was all a matter of interpretation. He emphasised that anyone who was born in Australia. whatever the colour of his skin, had the right to Australian citizenship.
Resignation of Vicar General: regret note
From Rennie McOwan Glasgow, Wednesday.
B'SHOP WALSH of Aberdeen told reporters this week that he regretted the publicity given by the Press over the resignation of his Vicar-General. Canon J. Lewis McWilliam. of St. Mary's Beauty. I n vernees-shire.
The Bishop asked for Canon McWilliam's resignation after a recent meeting with him in Aberdeen. It is understood that the Vicar-General has not been in agreement with Bishop Walsh on matters arising from the Vatican order that the Bishop should dismiss his housekeeper. the divorced wife of a Church of Scotland miaister.
Canon McWilliam refused to comment on his resignation.