26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. V. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.33 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr BENSON presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth showing that the National Service Act 1968 is unduly harsh in that it (i) makes provision for the use of conscripted young men for overseas service; (ii) makes no allowance for conscientious objection to a particular war; (iii) provides an unduly harsh penalty of 2 years gaol for those young men whose conscience compels them not to comply with the Act.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should respond to our plea for the early repeal of the Act, and the immediate release of any young men who are now in prison as a result of their conscientious refusal to comply with the Act.
Petition received and read.
Mr HANSEN presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as self-reliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there by qualified teachers are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system preschool facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
Mr HULME presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as self-reliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there by qualified teachers are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1.975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system preschool facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
Mr MUNRO presented a petition from certain electors of the Eden-Monaro Division showing that the decision of the Government to lift the 40-year old ban on the export of merino rams will do irreparable harm to the present and future merino wool industry of Australia: that the initial quota of 300 rams will be sufficient to make any future protest worthless; and that the production of fine medium quality merino wool in cheap labour countries will put the Australian merino wool grower and all connected with this industry out of business.
The petitioners pray that the Government will cause to be held a referendum of wool growers to determine this issue.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and Science. 1 refer to the Minister’s public support of colleges of advanced education and his claims that they should offer courses in no way inferior to those available at universities. As these colleges have been disadvantaged because they have originated from a depressed technical college system and as they will continue to be disadvantaged because of limited contributions from the States owing to the financial difficulties of the States, will the Government offer a generous and extensive programme of unmatched grants to colleges for all development purposes in the next triennium and increase the Commonwealth contribution to current expenditure of colleges to a $1 for $1 basis for that triennium?
– I understand and sympathise with the thoughts behind the right honourable member’s question and his desire to support the colleges of advanced education to a maximum extent. Reference was made to the fact that before the joint Commonwealth-State programmes resulted in greater support in this area of education these colleges were not getting the proportion of funds that should have gone to them. That is quite correct. But the joint Commonwealth-State programmes have been designed to remedy the defects of the past. I believe that when we see the results of not only this triennium but also the ones that will follow we will see that the programmes are successful. The nature of the right honourable member’s question suggests in part at least that the problems relating to these colleges are purely financial ones. This is certainly not so. There are other problems as well, many of which stem from the background and origin of the colleges.
A great deal of advocacy and work needs to be done to help build the status and prestige of the colleges so that they will be regarded not by a few but by a large proportion of the population as genuine and viable alternatives to universities. The view of parents and students is something that needs to be effective. The Commonwealth has appointed two committees which 1 believe will play a significant part in helping to achieve these objectives. One is the Wiltshire Committee, which I hope will be reporting soon on the nomenclature and standards of awards in the different colleges. Honourable members are no doubt aware that the standards vary greatly from one college to another. Mr Justice Sweeney is conducting an inquiry into the scale of salaries that should prevail in the colleges. I believe that this will add to the status of the professional staff at the colleges.
One of the things that needs to be overcome, and I think the right honourable member’s question refers to it, is the 3-acre or 5-acre inner suburban concept of the colleges, with a large number of students housed on a small piece of ground. The plans encompassed in the first triennium envisage the relocation of these colleges over a period on much more adequate grounds and better sites so that they can expand and develop in a proper manner - much the same as universities - over a long period of time. But there is a limit to the rate of expansion that can be encompassed in a short period of time. There is not only a limit to the rate at which buildings can be constructed but also a limit to the rate at which well qualified staff can be recruited. I do not want to foreshadow what the Commonwealth’s Advisory Committee on Advanced Education might recommend or predict what the Commonwealth’s decisions might be in relation to this matter, but I firmly believe that the joint programmes, which will be supported by the Commonwealth and the States for the next triennium, will take the colleges of advanced education a significant further step in the advancement of education in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. It refers to a statement he made in this House that an inter-departmental committee would look into certain aspects of military detention. I ask: Has the Minister any progress report from this committee or any information to give to the House?
– lt is true that in 1968 some complaints were made and questions were raised in the House concerning the treatment of members of the armed forces undergoing detention at Holsworthy. 1 undertook then, on a promise given by the Deputy Leader of the Government who was then Acting Prime Minister, to have the matter looked into. The result was that in July 1968, I set up a committee of inquiry, which was chaired by Mr F. J. Mahony, the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney. Its members were Mr J. A. Morony, the former Comptroller-General of Prisons in New South Wales, Mr G. P. Temme of the Department of Defence, and Brigadier O. H. Isaksson, who was Deputy Adjutant-General of the Department of the Army. In fact, the Committee has now finished its deliberations. It has produced a very detailed report on the question of Army detention and 1 have already circulated the report to the Ministers of the three Services authorising them to put into operation immediately such recommendations as are easily manageable. It will be clearly understood, I am sure, that there will be recommendations in the report that will call for some planning and for some expenditure which will, in turn, become a Budget matter. These matters, of course, will have to be studied in a little more depth. I take the opportunity, firstly, of saying how much we appreciate the services of the Committee in providing this very detailed report. For the benefit of the House and those who were critical at the time, I am bound to say that the Committee in its deliberations and investigations found no evidence of harsh treatment beyond the regulations in any of the Army detention camps. This was not a report to the Parliament; it was a report to me as Minister for Defence, but for the benefit of honourable members I propose to lay a copy of the report on the table of the Parliamentary Library.
– The Prime Minister will have noticed the visit of Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins to Australia. The Air ViceMarshal is pictured on the front page of the ‘Australian’ and elsewhere in the Sydney Morning Herald’ and the Melbourne ‘Sun’. He was formerly Commander of the Rhodesian Air Force and he is to become Rhodesia’s diplomatic representative to South Africa. I recall the information which the Minister for Immigration gave me last August that an Australian passport had been issued to the Air ViceMarshal as he had established that he had never lost his Australian citizenship. I now ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will make it plain that the Australian Government does not approve of an Australian citizen taking a position described as ‘Rhodesia’s diplomatic representative’.
– I did notice the picture to which the Leader of the Opposition refers - a picture of an Australian who had had a most distinguished career fighting for the free world against Fascism as a pilot with great distinction and finishing up as the head of the air force of a country which was then joined, I think with the approbation of all of us, in opposing Hitler, Fascism and Fascist rule.
– It was a country in which some of our pilots were trained.
– Indeed, it was a country, I am reminded, in which many of our pilots, who then went to fight against this aggressive Fascism, trained, just as they trained in Canada, since we were all in the Empire Air Training Scheme together for the one objective. Having noticed that picture, I felt that that man had had a career which was distinguished and which had greatly helped the freedom of the world and the relief of Europe from conquest from abroad. I understand - I do not know this for certain - that he still is an Australian citizen, and if he is an Australian citizen then he has a perfect right to visit Australia. For the rest, I would ask the Minister for Immigration for any further information.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the New Zealand Government has decided to adopt the metric system of weights and measures? Has the Government considered the unanimous recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures regarding the desirability of introducing this system into Australia? If so, can the Prime Minister give the House any indication as to when an announcement might be expected?
– 1 was not aware that the New Zealand Government had decided to adopt the metric system of weights and measures nor am I aware - although perhaps the honourable member can later enlighten me - whether it has determined any timetable for such adoption. For all I know, it may be 10, IS or 20 years ahead. 1 do not know. I would be surprised if the suggestion were that it was to be rapidly adopted, although that might be so. The report from the Senate Select Committee has not yet been considered in detail by the Cabinet, although it has been looked at by various public servants who will make recommendations to the Government. It involves very great expense. It involves considerable disruption, lt could well lead in the long run to advantages to Australia. But that, I think, is all I can say in response to the honourable member’s question at this moment.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that recently the Commissioner of Taxation gave a ruling that expenses incurred in the removal of nightsoil and effluent from dwellings in unsewered areas by councils and shires was not an allowable deduction under section 72(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Does this mean that thousands of taxpayers who own properties in’ unsewered areas arc to be deprived of the opportunity to deduct, for tax purposes, sanitary expenses which are charged each year by councils and shires, simply because section 72 (J) of the Act does not specifically include the words sanitary expenses’? In view of the importance of the Commissioner’s ruling, especially to low income earners, will he have section 72 (I) of the Act reviewed and, if necessary, amended so that all ratepayers will enjoy equality in taxation concessions in respect of rates?
– I was not aware of the ruling by the Commissioner of Taxation. I will have a review made of the decision, as the honourable member suggests, if in fact it was made. Later on I will see what is to be done in a budget context.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to a recent announcement by the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that Darwin would receive television transmission - an amenity which I have been constantly advocating for the Northern Territory. I ask the Postmaster-General whether he can advise me of the approximate date when the television station will be established. Could he also inform me whether consideration is also being given to the establishment of an ABC television station at Alice Springs?
– Members of the House will recollect that some months ago i indicated that approval had been given for the erection of national television stations at Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, the Upper Murray, Mount Isa and Darwin. The instrumentalities responsible for this - the Post Office, the ABC and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - are at the moment designing the transmitter sites and buildings and making preparations for the calling of tenders for the construction of these installations. I understand thai it is expected that the Darwin station will be brought on air in the early part of 1971. Recently the Australian Broadcasting Control Board made recommendations to me in regard to other smaller centres. By the time the five stations I have already mentioned come on air no less than 96% of the Australian population will have television available to them. The other 4% of the population, roughly 500,000 people, are distributed over a large number of different areas. A plan for further extensions of television services has been put before me and the Government. The centres covered by this plan include Alice Springs, which is one of the larger of the centres at present not provided with television services. We will adopt the plan as far as it affects Alice Springs and certain other areas, and I hope that in the not too distant future I will be able to make a more definite statement on this matter.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the American Department of Agriculture has placed a ban on the import of meat and dairy products from certain areas of Australia because pesticide poison has been found in the products? One Tasmanian firm has been affected by this prohibition, and exporters from other States have had certain of their shipments of foodstuffs condemned in America because they have been affected by pesticide poison. Because of the dangers, isolated and rare as they are at present, of foodstuffs being affected by pesticides used for spraying pastures, with the resultant impact on the American market-
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– Will the Federal Government ban altogether the use of pesticides that have a DDT component?
– lt is true that the American Administration bans any meat which contains certain insecticidal residues, particularly DDT, and certain organic phosphates. The Commonwealth Government, however, has no authority to ban the use of certain chemicals; this comes under the control of State health authorities. But where certain exports are implicated my Department consults with State departments. A sub-committee of the Australian Agricultural Council constantly reviews the question of insecticides and acaricides and if it is found undesirable to use any of these the State departments are asked to place a prohibition on their use. I am led to believe that in Tasmania there is a ban on the use of DDT for the control of certain pasture grubs. If this is not being complied with I will certainly look into the matter.
– ls the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that the head of the Italian Fiat organisation is due to arrive in Australia shortly? If so, can the Minister undertake to arrange discussions between the gentleman concerned and Federal and State government authorities interested in the local manufacture of automobiles? Will the Minister advise whether to date any discussions have taken place between his Department and the Fiat corporation with a view to investment in Australia by that organisation for manufacturing purposes?
– I am not aware that an executive of the Fiat organisation is coming here in the near future, but a few weeks ago one of the principal owners of the Fiat organisation, whose name escapes me at the moment, was in Australia. By courtesy of the Italian Ambassador I met him and had conversations with him. 1 discussed the possibility of the Fiat organisation commencing operations in Australia, in respect of the manufacture of either motor vehicles or tractors, and 1 proffered him all the assistance that the Department of Trade and industry could give in studying what would be involved, what the prospects would be, and a comprehension of Australian Government policies. It would be quite consistent with that assurance that an executive of that corporation should come to Australia. The company already knows that the good offices of my Department will be available to it. I have no doubt that the Fiat organisation, which I think exists in Australia on an agency basis at the present time, is aware that it is the constant practice of the Department of Trade and Industry to stand ready to discuss this kind of business with entrepreneurs or manufacturers.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the Minister’s concern about inflation and ask him whether he supports the Chairman of the Metal Trades Federation who has suggested a curb on wages. Has the Treasurer taken into account Mr Justice Moore’s comment in his reasons for judgment in 1964 when he said that increases in prices are determined by those who fix prices, and that there was no authoritative control of prices whilst there was a tight control on wages? Will he consider consulting State authorities on the introduction of price control?
– The honourable member introduces a subject of great profoundness and complexity. He may rest assured that I will very carefully consider what he has said, and if there is anything I can do about it I will do it.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that the future of city and country clothing factories is being threatened by an unparalleled increase in imports of children’s clothing which is coming from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong? The toddler’s suit I hold in my hand is made in Australia and sells at $3.66 in the shops.
-Order! I think the garment has had enough advertising.
– ls the Minister aware that garments similar to this one are being imported from overseas and retailed at only $1, and that this will have disastrous results in clothing factories, especially in country towns where it is difficult for girls to obtain employment? Is it a fact that in some cases completed garments are imported at a much lower rate of duty than is the material from which Australian manufacturers have to make similar garments?
– The Australian clothing industry has been protected by means of the Australian tariff for many years and, as I have said on many occasions. I would expect that if in the future the producers of Australian textiles or garments felt that they were threatened by undue imports from overseas they would ask the Minister for Trade and Industry to study their case and if necessary refer it to the Tariff Board. These are the procedures which stand today, but if urgent action is necessary to protect an industry before the matter goes to the Tariff Board it can be referred to the Special Advisory Authority. This can be done quite expeditiously and the law requires the Special Advisory Authority to make a report within 30 days. About 15 months ago, following representations by local manufacturers and in accordance with the recommendation by the Special Advisory Authority, temporary protection by means of a quantitative restriction was imposed on imports of a range of knitted outer garments. More recently requests were received for temporary protection of knitted shirts. The latter request is receiving serious consideration at the present time. I know that in the last few days I have referred to the Special Advisory Authority an item of knitted goods. My memory fails me at the moment as to what particular category of knitted goods it was.
– Thank you. Apart from these instances, I have received from the industry producing children’s clothing no application for increased assistance. If such an application is received from the industry it will receive my urgent consideration. May I say in respect of this matter that 1 was delighted on my last visit to Japan to be asked to open in Tokyo a display of Australian textiles manufactured in the town of Seymour, in the electorate to which the honourable member for Lalor aspires. There we are manufacturing textiles and we are selling them competitively in Japan.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. I refer the honourable gentleman to his reported statement that the Australian Task Force has made the Phuoc Tuy province relatively secure in the past 3 years. If the province has been secured why has the Australian medical team at the Baria hospital been withdrawn for security reasons?
– The honourable gentleman is in fact asking me to justify my recent statement that the province of Phuoc Tuy is today relatively secure, a statement which was made on the best advice available to this Government. Let me say at the outset that when the Task Force first went to the province on 1st May 1966 it was literally dominated and controlled by the Vietcong, and they had reached this position as a consequence of acts of terror and assassination. The honourable gentleman will be aware that our area of responsibility was the greater part of the province and some adjacent areas, although it has always been understood that the Task Force was available for deployment anywhere in III Corps zone and also in Binh Thuan in II Corps zone, and it has been so deployed in recent months. The role of the Task Force in the province was the pursuit and destruction of the enemy main force units attempting to further infiltrate the province and to attack the developing towns, villages and agricultural areas. I say that in pushing the Vietcong away from the more populated areas the Task Force undeniably has assisted the South Vietnamese Government in its objective of improving the security and the lot of its people.
I also say that concurrently with the military performance of our troops in this province our diversified form of civil aid has made an important contribution to improving the general living conditions of the South Vietnamese people. Finally, in terms of the contribution we have made towards security In the area-
– What about the hospital?
– If the honourable gentleman will give me a moment or so 1 will come to that point at a later stage. Let rae say on the third point that apart from our military performance and apart from the civic action work as in other parts of the country, of course, our team of Army advisers has made a first-class contribution to the training of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam forces and the improved performance of those forces is in some way due to the contribution which we have made. Everyone with whom I spoke in South Vietnam* whether they were South Vietnamese military or civil authorities, our own authorities, military or civil, or United States authorities, military or civil, agreed that according to the latest estimates the province of Phuoc Tuy is today relatively secure and that the people are able generally to go about their business free from danger.
Let me also say that as a result of operations in the province the enemy has been forced to withdraw to areas from which it is difficult for him to mount and launch attacks of any strength or duration. For the purpose of informing the honourable gentleman, I emphasise the words ‘of any strength or duration’ because at no time have I or any member of this Government said that the enemy bad no capability to mount attacks. On the contrary, I have on a number of occasions made it quite clear that the enemy still retains the capacity to mount sneak attacks and sporadic raids but this in no way contradicts the judgment made on the basis of the assessment of many competent observers that the degree of security in Phuoc Tuy is immeasurably improved if one compares the position 3 years ago or even 1 year ago. I say further to the honourable gentleman that he completely overlooks a number of the major advances which the Australians and the allied forces have made. He overlooks the strength of the forces of the ARVN. He overlooks the quite staggering losses which the Army has suffered since this offensive began. He overlooks also the fact that to this stage the enemy has been unable to mount the major offensive planned to ba mounted earlier this year. He overlooks the strengthening political base of the Government of South Vietnam. The honourable gentleman has queried, as presumably the only semblance of fact that he can produce to this House, the reason why our medical team has been withdrawn from Baria. Of course, this is a matter which is really the prerogative of my colleague, the Acting Minister for External Affairs, but might I take the opportunity of saying briefly to the honourable gentleman-
-I would appreciate it if the Minister would be brief.
– Briefly, the medical team was withdrawn because of a situation which followed a sneak raid of the type to which I have earlier referred. It was the judgment of the Government that the situation to which the medical team was exposed was not consistent with the degree of risk to which Australian civilians involved in what is essentially a humanitarian task ought to be exposed.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether approval has been given for the construction for the R. W. Miller organisation of a 62,000 tons tanker at the Whyalla shipyards of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd? If approval has been given will the Minister indicate when work on the vessel might begin and whether any likelihood exists of other such vessels being built at Whyalla?
– The tender submitted by the Whyalla shipyards of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd for the construction of a 62.000 tons deadweight vessel for the R. V/. Miller organisation has been accepted. Preliminary planning and design of the vessel have started. The construction of the vessel is expected to commence in 3 or 4 months. At this stage I am not sura of the expected date of completion. It is true also that prospects exist for the construction of other vessels of this size or even larger. If this happens it will once again augur very bright prospects for the shipbuilding industry in Australia.
– I ask the Treasurer a question about the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. How soon will the Treasurer bring down legislation relating to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, which he promised in a ministerial statement made 5 months ago? In particular, will public servants who retire between the time of making the statement and the passing of the legislation be granted the benefits of the legislation? Since it is taking much longer than expected to make the distribution dealt with 5 months ago in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill, why has an interim distribution payment not been made from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund as has been done in the past from the Superannuation Fund?
– When the honourable gentleman asked the first part of this question one of my colleagues behind me said: Is he getting very anxious about his future?’ As to the matters raised by the honourable gentleman, I have already, in answering questions in the House, referred to the difficulties associated with the legislation referred to. Whenever I have been asked about these matters I have said that we are doing our best to expedite them. The honourable gentleman may rest assured that as soon as question time is over I will again approach the officials involved in this matter and see whether I can do anything to expedite action.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to a newspaper article which stated this week that Australia has greatly contributed to the collapse of the minimum price regulations-
-Order! The honourable member will not quote from a newspaper. He can refer to it sufficiently to make his question understandable.
– The newspaper article states that Australia has greatly contributed to the collapse of the minimum price regulations of the International Grains Arrangement. Is this statement correct?
– I have not personally read the statement, but officers of my Department have informed me of it. To the extent that it is an allegation that Australian conduct has contributed to a likely breakdown of the International Grains Arrangement, this is utterly untrue and utterly incorrect. The present International Grains Arrangement, unlike previous ones, has a rather complex basis for pricing. It not only takes into account the various grades and qualities of wheat, but it is based upon a fixed price for a number of grades of wheat at American gulf ports. From that there is a calculation of freight to certain destinations of the wheat from America, and a complex formula of calculations of freight for any other exporter from any other port to any other country. An argument has prevailed as to whether Australia has been able to use freights other than those which might be accepted as the normal freight. That is the only basis of any allegation about Australia.
I think there have been allegations against other countries - perhaps not Canada; I would not make any allegations about Canada. In the United States the Government enters into an international contract in respect of wheat and then permits the international trading of wheat to be in private bands, and there have been strong allegations that the trading of wheat by Americans has been contrived privately in a manner to avoid the minimum price specifications. There have been allegations, in respect of the export of wheat by the European Economic Community, concerning the avoidance of the obligation. There have been allegations in respect of the export of wheat from the Argentine. I regard these matters as teething troubles in a great and complex international agreement covering one of the major internationally traded commodities.
When it was brought to my notice that this controversy was proceeding I immediately said that T did not intend to have Australia suspected, let alone breaking the rules, and that what we should do should be to have the major trading nations gather together, discuss the problems which were tormenting each of them and arrive at an agreed solution. That discussion, which was held at the level of very senior public servants, in the presence of members or representatives of the Australian Wheat Board in the case of Australia, took place in Washington. 1 think, while the Prime Minister himself was over there. This is a very complex …alter and it has not involved Australia alone. As a result of the discussion 1 have mentioned, all the nations agreed that they were determined to sustain the International Grains Arrangement. They agreed that they would individually study very carefully the operation of their own trading arrangements to ensure that none of them as individuals could properly be alleged to be impairing the International Grains Arrangement. I do not think there could be a better outcome than that for the Arrangement and for Australia’s interest.
I think that the writer of the article to which the honourable member referred is Mr Donath, who is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. All the articles I have read by Mr Donath have been adverse to the interests of the Australian wheat industry. He does not believe that the Australian wheat industry should be supported or that the Australian wheat industry should be allowed to expand. He is living in the world of Adam Smith of .150 years ago when it was assumed as pure economic theory that items should be produced only by those who could produce them most economically and that those who could not produce as economically as others should refrain from producing and should purchase from someone else. This is pure economic theory which does not belong to this age. this century or this generation at all. I just take no notice of Mr Donalh’s writing.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to tell the Parliament and the Australian wheat growers the Government’s grain production targets for the current season. Will he say what decisions have been made in respect of production control and to what extent production is to be restricted? Does the Minister realise that to delay clear-cut decisions now may result in chaotic conditions at harvest time? is the Minister able to indicate any substantial storage plans for this year’s surplus wheat or whether there will be new marketing proposals or any other propositions to dispose of all of our surplus production?
– It is not the Government’s policy to determine production targets or the extent of production of this commodity or that commodity. These are matters for the primary industries themselves to determine, lt is a matter even for the individual grower to decide what he should produce and how much of it he should produce. Even if this Government wished to make such decisions, it would have no authority under the Constitution to do so, because such matters lie within the jurisdiction of the States. However, I have been warning the wheat industry for some time that there will be great difficulties in delivery and disposal of this season’s crop if it attains anything like the dimensions of last year’s crop and if we are unable to dispose of it at any greater rate than we have been able to achieve in the past 2 or 3 years. As a result of my warnings the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation has studied the matter in great detail and brought forward a proposal to apply a quota system in respect of the delivery of wheat to the terminals. This proposal is contingent upon the Government providing a first advance of $1.10 a bushel for a certain quantity of wheat and on the State governments implementing such a proposal.
At this point of lime it appears that there will be a carry-over of 250 million bushels in the silos when this year’s crop is to be harvested. The total storage space in this country is sufficient for about 517 million bushels. This means that only about 270 million bushels can be accepted at the terminals. When we realise that last year’s production was about 530 million bushels, of which 505 million bushels was delivered, we can appreciate that this year there will be an awful lot of wheat left on the farms because it will be impossible to deliver it to the terminals. Without some orderly system of deliveries there would be utter chaos and the proposal that the Federation has put forward is designed to bring about some orderly delivery system. But even under that proposal it will be necessary to build additional storages for approximately 90 million bushels. The responsibility for storage of wheat is that of the bulk handling authorities and the Australian Wheat Board, and it will be up to these bodies to provide additional space. But additional space means additional money, and the people who will provide this money are the wheat growers. So, it is a decision they will have to take. They will have to meet their obligations. I know that the Wheat Board and the bulk handling authorities are examining this matter. No doubt they will take into account the facts that I have revealed to the House.
Discussion of matter of Public Importance
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s disappointing record on the ratification and application of International Labour Organisation Conventions.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– In raising this matter of public importance I draw the attention of honourable members to the chart of International Labour Organisation ratifications dated 1st June 1968. The chart shows that the Australian Government has a disappointing record in regard to the ratification and application of ILO conventions. The International Labour Organisation was es ablished in 1919. So, this is the fiftieth year of its existence. During that half century the ILO has been able to formulate over 128 separate conventions on labour and social questions. These international labour standards have been ratified on such a scale that the total number of ratifications at the51st Session in 1967 had reached 3,356. The question of actual performance is being raised with increasing insistence. The adoption of international legislation and its formal acceptance by an increasing number of countries does not add to the growing stability of relations between states unless the contracting parties comply with their obligations. Under the ILO’s constitution annual reports are required on the effect given to the ILO instruments. At the 1964 Conference the Director-General of the ILO said:
We must scrupulously safeguard the rigorous supervision over the application ofILO standards. This is essential to the integrity of the Organisation and to the self-respect of the member-states which have through it undertaken international obligations.
What has been the impact of ILO supervision on governments which have been found to infringe their treaty obligations? Breaches of obligations are not deemed to have been eliminated when a government has merely voiced its intention to initiate the necessary measures or has introduced draft legislation. They are only deemed to have been eliminated when concrete action has been taken. The ILO’s constitution devotes twenty-four of its forty articles to the preparation, adoption and implementation of ILO standards.
Adoption of a decision in the form of a convention or a recommendation requires a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast by the delegates. This indicates that decisions are not taken lightly. This is further borne out by the fact that each member country has a delegation of four persons - two government delegates, one employers’ delegate and one workers’ delegate.I had the honour of representing Australia at the 1959 ILO Conference as a workers’ delegate. Over the past 49 years - the fiftieth annual session has not yet been held - the ILO Conference, as I have already mentioned, has formulated 128 conventions.
We come now to the attitude of this Government to its obligations to ILO. In a previous debate I stated that as at 3rd June 1963 the International Labour Organisation had made 118 conventions of which Australia had ratified only 25. The international chart of ratifications, which is dated 1st June 1968 - 5 years later - shows that the ILO has ratified 128 conventions but Australia has ratified only 26, which is fewer than one-fifth of the total ratifications. It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom has ratified 60, France 79, Italy 67, The Netherlands 63 and New Zealand 44. Australia’s sorry record is revealed by the fact that although it has been a member of the ILO since its inception in 1919 it has ratified only 26 of the 128 conventions. Time does not permit me to deal with all the conventions that have not been ratified by the Australian Government. Some of them will be dealt with by other speakers from the Opposition, but I refer to just a few: Convention 105, Abolition of Forced Labour; 107, Indigenous and Tribal Populations; 115, Radiation Protection; 101, Holidays with Pay (Agriculture); and 99, Minimum Wage Fixing (Agriculture). So I could go on. But let me say something about Convention 100, Equal Remuneration, and 111, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation). The Government has failed to honour its obligations under the 1951 FLO conventions and recommendations concerning equal remuneration for the sexes for work of equal value, lt has failed to ratify convention 111 and recommendation M’l concerning discrimination between the sexes. And it has failed to implement the provisions of the vocational recommendation of 1962 with respect to girls and women. The Government has not ratified convention 100 which provides for equal pay for equal work for the sexes, and I quote the pertinent part of it:
Each Member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and, insofar as is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.
The Government has done nothing about the ratification of that convention. The ILO now has 125 members and, of these, 62 countries have ratified Convention 100 to which I have referred. Unfortunately Australia is not one of the 62 countries that have ratified that convention. Over 56 countries have implemented recommendation 90 which states that wage differentials based on sex should be removed progressively and that as the first step the principle of equal pay for work of equal value should be applied in government employment.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I do not want to be discourteous to the honourable member but he well knows that the question of equal pay is presently before a conciliation commissioner. It has been a long standing practice of this House that such matters as are before a com missioner are not debated per se in this House. I suggest that the honourable member is about to do this.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. This matter is before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, not before the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
– I continue. The first paragraph of the recommendation reads as follows:
Appropriate action should be taken, after consultation with the workers’ organisations concerned or, where such organisations do nol exist, with the workers concerned -
to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value to all employees of central Government departments or agencies.
That applies to the employees of this Government. The recommendation continues:
I have referred to this as a responsibility more of State governments and other bodies concerned with that section of the recommendation. State governments have done more to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration than has the Australian Government.
The Western Australian State Government, for instance, decided in October 1967 to give to its female employees equal pay for work of equal value. This great reform will be fully implemented by January 1972. lt has also clarified the powers of the Western Australian Industrial Commission to write the principle into State awards. The decision of the Western Australian Government means that five out of the six States have granted equal pay and it leaves Victoria and the Commonwealth to come into line, lt is necessary that there should be national uniformity on the issue of equal pay for equal work. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has always argued that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commisson has power to grant equal pay. True enough, but when equal pay was awarded in the matter involving Commonwealth Hostels Limited he appealed against the decision.
This is a social reform and the Government should give a lead not only in the industrial tribunals but by granting this great social reform to its own employees. It would then fall in line with five of the six States. Government members often lend lip service to this much needed reform. They adopt a two-faced attitude. There is a section of the Liberal Party’s platform which states, as one of its objectives:
That is as far as it goes. Members opposite talk about it but when it conies to a vote on the implementation of the policy they do nothing about it. The Government has done nothing to give its own employees equal pay for equal work, ft gives equal margins, but that is as far as it goes. The regulations under the Public Service Act discriminate against women officers in the Public Service. Regulations 104, 105 and 106, under section 30 of the Public Service Act. pinpoint the inequalities that exist between the rates of male and female workers, many of whom are performing the same type of work and have the same qualifications. Regulation 104 (1.) sets out the salaries payable to officers of the Second and Third Divisions. Paragraphs (2.) and (3.) of the regulation provide that where a female officer occupies an office in the Second or Third Division the rate of salary per annum payable to such female officer shall be $308 less than the male rate for that office. This placing of women in a lower status to men doing the same work is revealed also in regulations 105 and 106. This discrimination should be removed.
The Government rejects all claims by white collar unions for equal pay to women employees in the Public Service. It is the responsibility of this Government, in accordance with its ILO obligations, to apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value to its own employees, but it does not do so. In the Commonwealth Public Service we have men and women working alongside one another, doing the same work but receiving different rates of pay. Among the countries that have implemented recommendation 90 are the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. These countries have applied to civil servants the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.
Britain did so some years ago. New Zealand introduced legislation to provide for equal pay for equal work in 1960. lt was designed to be implemented over a period of 3 years and, of course, New Zealand’s economy is not as sound as Australia’s economy. A Labor Government in New Zealand introduced this reform and it was not opposed by the Nationalist Opposition at that time.
Sixty-two member states of the ILO have ratified Convention 100. Several other States have ratified convention 111 which opposes discrimination against women in employment. Member states have a moral obligation to ratify decisions of ILO. For many centuries a woman suffered social neglect and political inferiority. She now has equality of civil rights, political rights and educational opportunity. She has equality of entry to most occupations, yet in Commonwealth employment in this country she is paid at a lower rate than men doing the same work. In fact, women have social and political equality but not economic equality. In the interests of social justice a woman should be paid the same rate as a man for doing the same job. Many women workers have dependants to support or to assist. Women often give help to aged parents, and divorcees, widows and deserted wives may have children to bring up. Why should a woman school teacher or public servant receive less than her male counterpart? A government that allows this situation to continue is treating women as socially inferior to men.
Unequal pay creates a feeling of inferiority and a rankling sense of injustice. Equal pay would remove this. This is recognised by ILO Conventions 100 and 11 1 and other conventions dealing with the matter of equality between the sexes which have not been ratified by this Government. The members of the so-called weaker sex who support the Government, whether in this House or in another place, have not shown much enthusiasm for the principle of equal pay for the sexes for equal work. When an issue has been raised before this House or in another place, they have not supported the people who have raised it. whether they be on this side of the House or on the other side. They have not the fight of the women of 50 years ago who showed great courage when they were fighting for another form of equality - the right to vote. The suffragettes chained themselves to the House of Commons railings in those days. Any politician who was not in favour of votes for women was fair game for a lashing - and not just a tongue lashing but a horse whipping.
In these days of demonstrations there is plenty of scope for women workers who are treated as inferiors by this Government to demonstrate in support of the great principle of equal pay. Sir Winston Churchill, when he was Home Secretary, was lashed by a suffragette in a Bristol railway station for his opposition to the principle of votes for women. I do not believe in capital punishment, but I think that women today lack some of the sting that was possessed by the women of the old days. They should go out and fight a government that gives lip service to the principle of equal pay for equal work, but which fails to adopt the system or to ratify ILO conventions on the subject.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– As indicated very properly by the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), it is deplorable that matters which are before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Abritration Commission should be the subject of detailed debate in this House. I agree with the ruling of Mr Speaker that technically, since the Act has been changed, the Commission is not a court, but our forebears in this Parliament have always accepted that it is sensible and wise to leave matters of wages, working hours and conditions to be established by the arbitral authorities especially set up for the purpose, and not to debate them on the floor of either the Commonwealth Parliament or the State parliaments. But since this convention has been ignored and the subject of equal pay has been thrust forward, 1 feel obliged to utter a few words in reply.
It is true that there are International Labor Organisation conventions on this subject. Convention 100 is the basic one on equal remuneration. Convention 1 1 1 deals with discrimination. What the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) did not say was that other countries, like Australia, have noi ratified this Convention because it does present a good many technical dif ficulties and is somewhat evasive and diffuse. Reading some of the words of these conventions, the layman does not realise what legal traps there are in them. I want to put the Government’s record straight. The point has been made many times that this Government has not been opposed to equal pay. What we have said consistently, and what we will continue to say, is that the decision on this matter is one that should be made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which has the prime function of determining these matters.
The equal pay case is presently before the Commission and the Commonwealth has stated its attitude quite clearly. Our counsel in this case has said that it will make clear that the Commonwealth accepts the principle of equal pay for equal work, that is, equal pay for women who are doing the same work as men, or like work, and who are doing the same range and volume of work under the same conditions. So our position is quite clear. When the matter has come before the Commission, we have slated that we accept the principle. We have noi made decisions ahead of the proper tribunal. The honourable member for Stirling referred in passing to the application recently to the Commission by Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. In such matters Commonwealth Hostels Ltd does noi act under my instructions, lt is a company, not a Commonwealth department. It opposed increases in a particular award for a number of technical reasons. I realise that the Opposition has tried to blow this up as a Commonwealth stand on the whole principle. This is not so. It is a relatively minor and technical case. Our overall position on equal pay has been made clear in the words expressed by our counsel to the Commission.
The honourable member for Stirling did not mention the fundamental difference between federal states, particularly industrial federal states, and unitary states, lt is a very fundamental difference. When we look at advanced countries whose labour conditions are in fact in most cases far ahead of those set out in ILO conventions - and this applies to Australia - the record looks somewhat different. As the honourable member for Stirling mentioned, we have ratified 26 conventions out of 128.
Of. course, of these 128 conventions some were quite inapplicable to Australian conditions. Some have been replaced by subsequent conventions covering the same matters. Canada on the whole certainly has working conditions which are in no way inferior to those in Australia, and that country has ratified twenty-four conventions. Canada is a progressive country with an enlightened government, and in many fields it is ahead of most other countries. Another large federal industrial state is the United Slates. The United States has always, or certainly has for many years past, taken a very close interest in a helpful attitude towards the TLO. The United States has ratified seven conventions. Australia has ratified twenty-six, so our record compares favourably. Of course the United States has more individual States to deal with. But conditions do vary widely between these countries.
We are following these conventions continually, and we discuss them with the States where relevant. Each year a number of conventions are discussed by a body set up by the Department of Labour and National Service. This body is known as the Department of Labour Advisory Committee, and it happens to be meeting in Sydney at this moment This year as a special project for the 50th anniversary of ILO we are undertaking a review of all ILO conventions and as soon as this review, which I am presenting stage by stage to the National Labour Advisory Council, is complete I will table it in the Parliament. I hope that it will be completed later in the year. The fact that a country supports a particular convention during ILO meeting does not mean that that country is necessarily obliged to ratify it. Many of these conventions when referred to the Australian State authorities are not applicable or there is some peculiar difficulty because of which one State or another cannot adopt them. Perhaps one of the reasons why our numbers lag a little is the scrupulous good faith in which we apply all these conventions. Unless we are sure that a convention is applicable throughout Australia - it takes a lot of time to deal with six governments on every minor point which arises - we do not feel we can ratify it.
Up to 1946, I think, it was accepted in ILO circles and at its meetings that federal countries could ratify these conventions insofar as they were applicable to their own federal jurisdiction. This would not be particularly difficult for Australia in most cases, although it would correspond with reality. But since the revised constitution of 1946 when a convention which is appropriate in whole or in part for State action is ratified by a federal government, the ratification extends to all the constituent states, provinces, etc. Therefore it would not now be appropriate for us to try to ratify any convention which was not being fully applied to all State governments. At the back of this motion which seeks ratification of International Labour Organisation conventions - which we certainly press on with as far as opportunity permits and as early as practicable - is a rather theoretical, unreal approach to real problems which He behind ILO conventions. What matters is what happens in fact, not what bits of paper have been signed.
Australia’s practice is well in advance of many of these ILO conventions. The question is: What standards does one apply? It is quite evident from the reports and the inspections that a large number of countries who have subscribed and signed and adhered to conventions apply them in a very simple and inadequate fashion. The drafting of them in many cases is rather vague, and this leads to loose interpretations being applied. Many countries ratify lightly whereas countries such as Australia have been completely scrupulous in keeping every convention they have signed. The purpose of these conventions is, firstly, to try to uplift and improve labour conditions in the member countries. In early days in particular much stress was placed on international competition and on the view that an industry of one country should not be handicapped by applying higher standards to its work force than in other countries with consequent higher costs. It was argued therefore that all countries ought to come in.
It should be recognised, particularly in Australia, that in the past the International Labour Organisation has addressed itself very largely to the requirements of advanced industrial countries. The kind of conventions which might apply in western Europe and which have occupied so much time in the past in many cases are quite inapplicable to newly developing countries which constitute a large part of ILO membership. We regard ourselves effectively as being part of the Asian group of ILO countries. We meet as part of the Asian group. 1 attended a conference in Japan in September of last year. From our colleagues in this field we do get the reaction that ILO is wrapped up in the conventions, which apply to western Europe and does not pay sufficient attention to the actual practical uplift and improvement in working conditions which is needed in this area.
We now have an Asian manpower plan for Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, lt is much more important for these countries to get practical aid in improving conditions than it is to concentrate on ILO conventions which are often designed just for western Europe. Recently I visited Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Mr Manickauasagan, the Minister for Labour in Malaysia, and also Singapore. The aid which wc are giving this area receives good support from both the trade unions and the employer groups. This is the part of the world in which we live and we should concentrate very heavily in TLO in protecting their interests and ours.
– The conventions of the International Labour Organisation feature a number of relatively moderate recommendations concerned with the material and also the spiritual welfare of nations and their people. When 1 speak about spiritual welfare, I do not speak in the narrow theological sense but rather in the very broad sense of the quality of life and values which people accept and are encouraged to develop. They are very important recommendations. I stress that they are quite moderate recommendations. Having studied the recommendations, there is nothing extremely radical about them and certainly nothing which would be inappropriate to the Australian community. I hope to indicate with a few pointers that the recommendations are quite appropriate to Australia’s needs. Therefore I am somewhat surprised at the attitude of the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr Bury).
There are two things I want to speak about in relation to the Minister’s speech - two pretexts which he put forward as reasons for the Government not involving itself in a greater number of ratifications of ILO conventions. Firstly, he said we are in the Asian area and he spoke about poor, humble, underdeveloped little Australia. This is the implication of what he says in relation to conferences, discussions, and so on of the ILO. Then he spoke about the huge developed industrial societies which bulk large and overshadow as. With the greatest respect for the Minister - I do have a great deal of respect for him personally - 1 think that the views, political ones on this occasion, which he has put in this House are a lot of humbug. They remind me of the occasion a couple of years ago when the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) went to Geneva to speak on behalf of Australia and represented Australia as a struggling, backward, underdeveloped country. Petty, in one of his pungent, satirical cartoons, defined the Minister as receiving the award for the actor of the year. Surely this year we could give the award for the actor of the year to the Minister for Labour and National Service for trying to picture our problems in handling ILO conventions as being related to our backwardness as a member of the overall backward Asian bloc of countries. 1 come now to the passing of the buck syndrome - the Commonwealth and State financial relations. He spoke about this at some length in relation to the problem of equal pay for women in the work force. What he ought to appreciate is that very largely the problems of the States in financing their various ventures arise from the fact that increasingly they are being forced to amass a greater debt while at the same time the Commonwealth is writing off its debt. So per capita the indebtedness of people under State administration is rapidly enlarging whilst at the Commonwealth level it is decreasing and before long may be eliminated. The Commonwealth is the organ which has the authority to regulate debt. It is a clever but unconvincing pretext that he has put forward to us.
Only 26 of the 128 conventions of the ILO have been ratified by Australia. The Minister for Labour and National Service compared this with the performance of countries with advanced economies. There is a contradiction here. Towards the latter part of bis speech he spoke about Australia’s problems as a member of the underdeveloped Asian bloc, but earlier he talked about Australia as compared with countries with advanced economies, with which he identified Australia. But let us neglect this unhappy contradiction. Comparing Australia with other countries with advanced economies he said that the record was not a bad one. Let us look at the record more appropriate to his Government’s term of office. Only two conventions have been ratified since his Government came into office in 1949 - Convention No. 105, relating to the abolition of forced labour, and Convention No. 116, relating to the revision of final articles. These were ratified in 1957 and 1961 respectively. We have been a member of the Organisation since 1919 yet there have been two ratifications in the period of nearly 20 years during which this Government has been in office. I hope that he is not satisfied.
I want to speak about Convention No. 107, which is an extremely appropriate convention for Australians to have been concerned to ratify a long time ago. It relates to tribal and semi-tribal populations and the need to promote continued action to improve the living and working conditions of these people by various forms of action. The appropriateness of this is quite current. Part If of this Convention relates to land rights and Article 1 1 states: The right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which lhe.se populations traditionally occupy shall be recognised.
Article 13 states:
Procedures for the transmission of rights of ownership and use of land which are established by the customs of the population concerned shall be respected. …
This is a vitally important convention for Australia. Australians must feel embarrassed, first of all, to find that only 26 out of 100-odd conventions have been ratified by Australia. They must be more embarrassed to find that in the period of nearly 20 years during which this Government has been in office only 2 have been ratified. They must feci quite humble to discover that amongst those which have not been ratified is this convention relating to the protection and integration of indigenous and other tribal and semi-tribal populations in independent countries. At the present time the Yirrkala
Aboriginals at Gove are expressing their concern - they have taken the issue to court - at the way in which the Federal Government has aided and abetted an outside organisation - a private enterprise organisation which has gone roughshod into their sacred tribal lands and exploited these lands for private profit.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) put the rights of the Aboriginal people very clearly in this House a few weeks ago when he said that we as a European advanced society would be appalled if someone said that a Catholic priest had to disclose the details of a confession or that a Mason had to disclose details of the private procedures at a Masonic meeting, yet we feel no revulsion and no alarm when a private organisation is able to move into traditional Aboriginal grounds and desecrate those grounds. Clearly there has been a complete disregard for the rights of these people and it is in conflict with the undertakings which we would have had to accept if we had ratified Convention No. 107. So it becomes obvious that we have not ratified Convention No. 107 not because, as the Minister suggests, there are problems in obtaining the agreement of the various State governments throughout the Commonwealth but because his Government is one of the main offenders against the rights of tribal and semi-tribal people in the Australian community. I am certainly not expunging any criticism or guilt of the State governments. They are certainly responsible for a great deal of this kind of treatment of these people. But the Federal Government itself has to establish standards here and has not done so. This is the main reason why the Government has not ratified Convention No. 107.
Convention No. 100, with which the honourable member for Stirling dealt, relates to equal remuneration for female workers. Surely it is a society based on discrimination which allows a discrimination to exist against women in their pay rates, merely because they are women. Frankly, my feeling on the equal remuneration case is that whether or not women are doing the same work as men, the fact is that they are in the work force and are entitled to the same level of wages as males are receiving. I see no problem in providing them with these wages. If in fact there would be immediate economic problems in providing the whole bulk of these wages in one movement, why not stagger it over 2 or 3 years? A case against this has yet to be established and I am yet to be convinced. Finally, I am concerned in any event as to whether, if we had signed or ratified this Convention, we would have fulfilled our obligations, because in Article 23 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations we ourselves have to provide equal pay for females in the work force. In fact, we have never fulfilled this obligation, yet we voted in support of this recommendation. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights there is a clear obligation in Article II of Fart 1 to eliminate poverty in our community and we have not done this at the present time.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with interest to the contributions so far made in this debate by the two Opposition speakers, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). The impression with which I am left is that the attack which the Opposition has sought to mount against the Government is based firstly - here I refer particularly to the honourable member for Stirling - on selective and therefore misleading quotation of statistics. The second impression that 1 have is that the Opposition just failed to understand the basic problem involved in ratifying Internationa] Labour Organisation conventions, particularly in the case of a country with a federal system of government. First let me deal with the selective quotation of random statistics by the honourable member for Stirling. He sought to suggest, by reference to the record in relation to ratifications by other countries, which are countries with unitary systems of government and not federal systems of government, that Australia has been a laggard.
The matter was placed in its correct perspective by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), because he pointed out that Australia’s record, by comparison with other countries with a federal and not a unitary system of government, is one with which Australia can well afford to be satisfied. We have ratified 26 of the ILO conventions, Canada has ratified 24, and the United States has ratified 7. So it is hardly to the point for my honourable friend from Stirling to make some criticism of Australia’s performance by reference solely to the record in relation to ratifications by such countries as be mentioned. One of these was Italy which, as we all know, has a unitary system of government. Let me come next to the other point I mentioned by way of criticism of the Opposition’s attack, if one can call it an attack. The Opposition’s approach reflects a b;;sic failure to understand the essential problems involved in the ratification by a federal government of ILO conventions. J can make the point by reference to the very mailer which was argued by the honourable member for Oxley in relation to Convention 107 which deals with land rights and other rights in relation to tribal and semi-tribal people. I would venture a passing criticism of the honourable member for Oxley’s contribution to this debate. He referred to the Gove dispute in which we all know there is a genuine legal problem as to the rights of the Aboriginals at Gove in relation to land said to be tribal land. He referred to that dispute.
– lt is not a legal problem, it is a problem of ethics.
– The honourable member for Wills is always interrupting and always blowing forth a lot of air but never saying very much, and he is running true to form this afternoon. T am trying to make a serious contribution to this debate and the honourable gentleman might listen to me in silence for once. The honourable member for Oxley referred to this question of the rights in respect of lands at Gove as though the matter was already concluded in favour of the tribal Aboriginals there. The point I want to make is that the dispute is distinctly sub judice. The case is presently pending in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and it is therefore not a fit subject to raise at this stage on the floor of the House. But be that as it may. The honourable member in his argument has glossed over a basic flaw. He must know - or if he does not know he ought to know and perhaps I can enlighten him if he needs enlightening or will take enlightenment - that questions of laws relating to land tenure are essentially matters within Stale jurisdiction except, of course, in Commonwealth territories.
What is the position - and this I would ask the honourable member for Oxley to think about - in the case of the Federal Government? Is the Government to ratify a convention just because it is prepared to apply a convention so far as application depends upon federal jurisdiction and implementation upon federal laws? Or should the Government - I suggest it should -take into account the fact that it would be quite improper for it as a federal government, to ratify a convention unless the State jurisdictions were exercised in the same way as the Federal Government proposed to exercise federal jurisdictions in relation to the implementation of the convention? It would be a gross breach of faith for a federal government such as the Australian Government to ratify a convention relating to land tenures unless it were certain in advance of ratification that State governments would come into line. It is idle for anyone on the Opposition side of this House to suggest that the ground has been laid or may be laid for Commonwealth Government ratification of Convention 107 because the necessary foundation for ratification is lacking inasmuch as State governments have not agreed and, for all 1 know, show no signs of agreeing to render their laws uniform to the point at which it could be said that the Commonwealth Government could bona fide ratify this convention or treaty.
That is why 1 say that the Opposition’s criticism is based upon a fundamental misconception of the whole nature of the problem. It is very easy to make a superficial attack upon the Government based upon what is really a selective misquotation of the relevent statistics and to gloss over the underlying problem. Let me inform the House that prior to 1946 a government such as the Commonwealth Government - a federal government - could ratify an ILO convention while limiting its ratification to federal jurisdiction. In 1946, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) will well know, the constitution of the International Labour Organisation was amended so as to provide in substance that any federal government, if it ratified a convention, would be taken to do so in an overall sense so that the ratification would extend to matters lying within State jurisdiction. In that state of affairs - I mention this for the purpose of emphasis - it would be not only idle but also bad faith for the Federal Government at this stage, in the absence of agreement by all the State governments on any particular topic, to ratify conventions. If, as 1 hope it will, this becomes understood by the members of the Opposition the weakness of the arguments they have sought to propound this afternoon will become apparent to any of them with any common sense.
There is another point which should not go unnoticed. If Australia ratifies a particular convention we undertake and bind ourselves in advance, according to the charter or constitution of the International Labour Organisation, to be bound not by our interpretation of what the convention means and our interpretation of the obligations which it expresses or implies but by the interpretation not of our own Government legal adviser but of a committee of experts set. up to interpret the text of the convention. This is in itself a very sound reason for adopting a cautious approach to the ratification of these conventions. No Opposition supporter so far this afternoon has mentioned the fact that in the United Kingdom where, as we all know, there is a Labour government - perhaps for not very much longer - which has announced categorically that it will not ratify Convention 100 on equal pay for women.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition has brought up for discussion the Government’s disappointing record on the ratification and application of International Labor Organisation conventions. It is quite clear that Government supporters from the Minister down are seeking to justify that record. Let me reiterate the facts. The ILO Conference has adopted 128 conventions. Of these, 26 have been ratified by Australia. Nineteen of those ratified were adopted at pre-war ILO Conferences. There have been 61 conventions adopted since the war and 7 have been ratified by Australia. There have been 30 conventions adopted during the 1950s and 1960s, that is, in the time of Australia’s Federal Liberal Government. Of those 30 conventions 18 have been supported at the Conference by the Australian Government representatives and 2 have been ratified by Australia.
This month, as my colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) pointed out, is the 50th anniversary of the ILO. Our record, which is bad and getting worse, shows that the present Australian Government has little regard for the organisation of which Australia was a foundation member. We have troubles as a federal state, like Canada, whose record is slightly inferior to ours, but at least Canada has had a spate of ratifications in the last few years under the Pearson Government. If we compare ourselves with all of our trading partners, particularly those in Europe, we find that their record is immeasurably better.
The greatest attention in today’s debate has been directed to the Equal Remuneration Convention of 1951. It was a convention upon which Australian Government representatives abstained from voting. They nevertheless supported the recommendation. Under the recommendation the Government has an obligation to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value in all central government departments and agencies, to encourage the application of the principle to employees of State, provincial or local authorities or agencies and to ensure the application of the principle as regards industries and services where such rates are determined under public authority, industries and undertakings operated under public ownership or control and, where appropriate, work executed under the terms of public contracts. It is quite clear that under the recommendation, which the Australian Government supports, we have had, since 1951, the obligation to provide equal pay in the Commonwealth Public Service, in Commonwealth instrumentalities and under Commonwealth contracts. We have not done so. We cannot hide behind the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in these matters. As a nation we have an obligation to apply this principle in these Commonwealth fields of responsibility.
In the federal public services in the United States and Canada and in the unitary public services of Britain and New Zealand equal pay has long since applied. While Canada and the United States have not ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention at least 70% or 80% of their total population enjoys equal pay because the principal industrial states of the United States and provinces of Canada have legislated for the principle. There were interjections earlier about the position of the only Labor Government in Australia, that in Tasmania. As the Premier of Tasmania pointed out in his policy speech last night, efforts to provide legislation for equal pay linger industrial awards had been thrown out by the Legislative Council, which limited equal pay to State government employees. So much for equal pay.
There is a field in which the Commonwealth clearly has sole authority, namely our overseas territories, particularly the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. There are ten conventions which are directly applicable to that Territory. We abstained from voting on two of them; we have applied none of them. To its nonmetropolitan territories in the Pacific, Great Britain has applied six of them, New Zealand six and France two. No arbitration commission is required here. All that we have to do is honour the obligations which we have assumed under the body of which we were a founding member 50 years ago. Again, the Commonwealth has the principal responsibility as regards Aboriginals, the greatest number of whom live in the Northern Territory. It did not require the 1967 referendum to give the Commonwealth authority to apply in the Northern Territory International Labour Organisation conventions - the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention of 1957 and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1958. We did not do so. We are in fact pursuing the policy which we followed in those years at the J.LO conferences where we abstained from voting on both of those conventions. Finally, the Commonwealth has the overwhelming responsibility in navigation. Nearly all Australian shipping is interstate or overseas; very little is intrastate. As regards interstate and overseas and territorial shipping, Australia has complete power to apply ILO maritime conventions. We have not done so. In fact, we have had the ludicrous spectacle of legislation amending the Navigation Act to permit compliance later being repealed before we had in fact ratified the conventions concerned.
As regards equal pay, overseas territories, Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, navigation between the States and to other countries: In every case we have failed to carry out our international obligations. In addition, under the 1 946 amendments to the ILO constitution the Australian Government has an obligation to arrange for periodical consultations between Federal and State, provincial or cantonal, authorities with a view to promoting within the Federal State co-ordinated action to give effect to the provisions of such conventions and recommendations. These efforts take place at a low level - the annual conference in April of Departments of Labour, between officials who have proved notably ineffective in persuading their ministerial masters or who have not been apprised sufficiently of our international obligations. International conferences may be attended by persons nominated by the Commonwealth alone. The States have no international standing whatever. As a matter of practice the Commonwealth has, since the post-war Federal Labor Government, nominated a representative of the State governments to the annual ILO conferences. We have the ludicrous situation where the States obstruct the Commonwealth in carrying out obligations undertaken at conferences where they have no standing. We make our federal system a farce where we undertake obligations which we. then allow our constituent States to frustrate. Our obligation since 1946 has been to arrange for periodical consultations. Answers to questions which I regularly ask about ILO conventions illustrate that there has been scant effort by the Commonwealth to secure State collaboration even on those matters where the Commonwealth itself has the greatest obligation, as in navigation, Aboriginals and equal pay. If it were not for debates of the kind we have initiated today this subject would never be debated in the Parliament. Statements which Ministers make to the Parliament are never debated. I can find no record of any debate in Parliament on statements about annua] ILO conferences.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In raising this matter today the Opposition has referred to what it describes as the Govern ment’s disappointing record in the ratification and application of International Labour Organisation conventions. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) dealt in some length with the difficulties, mainly of a machinery nature, in ratifying many of these conventions. These difficulties are well known. We have our difficulties even in ratifying agreements between management and labour in this country. When you get into the international field obviously the difficulties will be multiplied many times over.
In claiming that the Government has a disappointing record in these matters it is obvious that the Opposition is referring to the principle of equal pay. This is the crux of the whole business. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) said, if I remember his remarks correctly, that the Government had failed to promote the concept of equal pay. It is on this claim that the Opposition bases its submission that the Government’s record is disappointing. If we combine these two particular issues, what is the responsibility of a government to bring about a position of equal pay for the sexes in Australia? It must be well known that what we would have to do in this country, or in any other country, is to create a climate whereby the principle of equal pay could be introduced, if this is the requirement.
The Government’s responsibility, as I see it, is twofold. Firstly, it has to set up certain machinery to deal with this matter. In this case the machinery would be the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This has been in existence for many years. Any disputes regarding wages have been dealt with by a commission or body set up for the particular case. This is the Australian policy. Secondly, as 1 see it, it is the Australian Government’s responsibility to make certain things possible, lt surprises me that this matter has been brought forward at this time. If, in fact, we did not have at this particular time a registered unemployment figure of a little over 1%, I would suggest that we would not be debating this particular matter today. If, for instance, there were an unemployment figure of 3% or 4% we certainly would not be debating it today. We are debating this matter because conditions have been established in Australia in which we are still very short of labour, notwithstanding the rapid influx of newcomers to this country under our migration programme. Australia is in fact in dire need of more labour. Therefore an atmosphere has been established in which we can perhaps discuss these matters.
I come to the question of whether the Government is opposed to this particular principle of equal pay for the sexes, lt is certainly not opposed to the principle. The Government has made it perfectly clear that it is not opposed to the principle of equal pay for equal work. So having created the position in which we can employ more people than are available at the moment, I suggest that we are putting ourselves in the situation in which we can support such a measure in a practical way, not merely in words or on pieces of paper. They would be empty words or empty paper if we were to advocate a principle but were not in a position to do anthing practical about it. This would be the case if the economy were nol sound and if the state of the labour force was not such that we could not absorb extra labour. But that is not the case in Australia. 1 think that one of our greatest problems today is that we want more skilled labour in Australia. One of our greatest inflationary pressures at the present time results from the fact that we do not have sufficient labour to carry out the development work that is confronting us.
So the first obligation of the Government is to create a healthy climate in which these things cun be done. If this is not done, then it is empty words to suggest that the Government recommends that they should be done. The Government does not oppose the principle of equal pay for the sexes and has not opposed it in the United Nations, which is perhaps the highest authority in the world in which these matters can be debated. The Government has agreed to resolutions on this question which have been moved at the United Nations, lt did not vote for them, but that is only a technical point. lt has agreed to the principle not only in Australia but also in the wider field of the United Nations. It is clear to me that it is not a matter on which we should make any decisions in this House. It should be left to the appropriate authority. Could you imagine anything worse than the government of the day making decisions in its own right in relation to what wages or salaries should be paid within the nation? What a chaotic situation that would create. That is why I said when I first rose to speak that I was a little surprised that this matter should be debated at this particular time.
Perhaps we do not always agree with the decisions which are made in some cases, but J believe that the correct policy is to have a tribunal to sort out the particular issues. That is the only fair and just way in which a case can be debated and in which each side of an argument cao be put in an unbiased way before an independent commission. It is not for governments and it is not for parliaments to deal with these matters, other than to set up the machinery. 1 repeat again that in this atmosphere and with the machinery we have in Australia, the first responsibility of the Government is to maintain a stable economy and to attract to this country the right sort of industries which can in fact employ labour - not only men but women. As we know, many women are in employment in Australia. The Government has a responsibility to maintain employment, and this has been done. In my own State the registered unemployment figure was approximately .7% or 8% for a long time. It is slightly higher than that at the present time, but it is falling again. In my book, it is too high and it results in inflationary pressure. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that a balance is maintained. It is not for a government to sort out differences of opinion between employers and employees. The government simply has to set up the necessary machinery. As the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) pointed out, there are six State governments also to be consulted regarding the ratification of the particular conventions of which we have been speaking this afternoon. The procedure is even more complex in Australia than it is in many other countries. It is not an easy matter to sort out all the problems associated with international conventions. It is difficult enough to sort out the many complications in Australia. I suggest that the Government has carried out its responsibilities in establishing the climate whereby this principle of equal pay for equal work can be introduced. The technical details can be overcome.
– Did 1 hear the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) aright when I heard him suggest that we are at a stage of over full employment?
– In fact, unemployment is part and parcel of his philosophy. He does not look like that kind of a person. The matter seems to be quite foreign to what we are debating this afternoon and to the general principles of the International Labour Organisation. Of course, we know that honourable members opposite do not care a darn when people are out of work. They are more concerned with inflation than they are with people. It is time that they started to apply themselves to the human problem which is before the House this afternoon. We have listened to a succession of speakers, including apologists for inaction, inequality, inability and insincerity who are capable of any slide of language or of logic rather than looking at the subject fairly and squarely. Today we are discussing Australia’s attitude to conventions in accordance with its membership of the International Labour Organisation, of which we were a foundation member and of which we have been a continuing member. In some ways it is an admirable organisation, as far as its structure is concerned. Governments send to the organisation delegates from employers, employees and government sources, all, I understand, with the right to vote as they think fit when they get there. It is an estimable organisation in that regard. lt has been disappointing that honourable members opposite do not face up to the question of where our responsibilities really lie. We have heard so much this afternoon about how difficult it is to do things. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) - he has fled the field but I have no doubt he will return because he is a man of great honour and intrepid political capacity but with a lack of sagacity in this matter - said that we were unable to face up to the basic difficulties in ratifying this question in a federal system. This afternoon an attempt was made to dodge the issue by means of a point of order which was taken by my friend the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), and by means of remarks in the debate to the effect that some questions which we have raised today are sub judice. The subject of equal pay for women is supposed to be sub judice. The matter of land rights of Aboriginals is supposed to be sub judice. I for one, speaking in the forum of this Parliament, do not recognise that sanction whatsoever. This Parliament must be in a position at any time to discuss whatsoever it needs to discuss and ought to discuss. It ought not be restricted in any way in these discussions.
What are our duties? It has been said here that we should look at comparable countries. In fact, there are very few comparable countries. Of the 130 nations in the world very few have our standard of living and very few now have continuing political stability. But of those 130 nations only some 30 or so could claim to be democratic, taking the most liberal view of democracy. Only 12 or 15 countries would measure up to the kind of society most of us want to live and play a part in. Until 2 or 3 years ago there were only four countries in which there were no political prisoners and Australia was one of them. I. am afraid we have spoilt our record by the way we have treated conscientious objectors. So we are not here this afternoon to follow other people. It is time Australia started to set some standards. Australia is a foundation member of and played a formative part in the creation of the United Nations. Our responsibility here today is to see whether we can apply the principles that have been worked out at these international organisations, to get them cracking in this community and not look continuously for an escape hatch.
Like my colleagues the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) I want to refer to the question of the Aboriginal people of Australia and talk about our responsibility there, because our responsibilities are now clear-cut. Has my friend, the honourable member for Parkes not noted that in 1967, some 2 years ago, the people accepted a referendum proposal which placed the responsibility for Aboriginal people fairly and squarely on this House, and that in fact the federal system no Longer need apply in this regard, if we have the sense, the wit and the right moral attitude towards the 80,000 Aboriginals of Australia, 21,000 of whom live in the Northern Territory. We have also the responsibility to apply the high principles which are expressed in the preamble to the amended constitution of the International Labor Organisation which we adopted when we put it into the Act in 1947-49. It reads:
The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, and with a view to attaining the objectives set forth in this Preamble, agree to the following Constitution of the International Labour Organisation:
Now let me come to ILO Convention No. 107. How is it that we are unable to apply this convention? It seems to me that the issues are clear-cut and that our responsibilities are well defined. Our constitutional responsibilities now lie with this Parliament. Morally and in every other way it is our bounden duty to get on with the job. Article 2 of the Convention states:
Government shall have the primary responsibility for developing co-ordinated and systematic action for the protection of the populations concerned and their progressive integration into the life of their respective countries.
There is nothing in that section which has been beyond the scope of this Parliament. This has been the case since May 1957, at least. Article 3 states:
This afternoon the point was made that we may not bring up the question of the people of Yirrkala, who f believe are being trampled or> rather unceremoniously, because the matter is sub judice. But the fact is that the culture and institutions of these people are not being treated with proper regard. This would also apply to the Aboriginals at Wattie Creek and other Aboriginals in other parts of Australia. There are two or three other instances in which people are being moved off their land and that land is being taken over for commercial purposes. Article 4 of the Convention states: due account shall be taken of the cultural and religious values and of the forms of social control
Have we really observed that? Do we really observe it even in Papua and New Guinea where, strange to say, we have often been more tender about the rights of the people than we have about the rights of the Aboriginals in Australia. Article 6 states:
The improvement of the conditions of life and work and level of education of the populations concerned shall be given high priority . . .
What have we done in that field? There is nothing to stop us. No State government is going to cavil if we produce plans which are definite and dynamic in the field of the development of Aboriginals and of their education.
I visited Yirrkala as recently as January. I have been there four or five times in the last 5 or so years. On each occasion I have taken a look to see what steps have been taken for the vocational training of these people to meet the confrontation which will happen as a result of the mining development. I can see very little evidence of any such steps. Article 9 of the convention states:
Except in cases prescribed by law for all citizens the exaction from the members of the populations concerned of compulsory personal services . . . shall be prohibited. . . .
Do we take any steps to see that on pastoral properties and other places this type of service is not exacted from the Aboriginal people? Article 10 of the Convention states:
Persons belonging to the populations concerned shall be specially safeguarded against the improper application of preventive detention. . . . lt is time we did something about that. Back in January, accompanied by some of my colleagues, I. visited the Woorabinda settlement in Queensland. An apologist for the system from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ visited the place a few days later and said: Well, the prison was all right. It was cooler inside the prison than it was in the office.’ The prison, in fact, was as I described it. It was similar to the cells which were used at Port Arthur over a century ago. The prison in this Aboriginal settlement consisted of 8 ft by 10 ft reinforced concrete cells. The prisoners are locked up in them for 14 days for the vicious and deplorable and abominable crime of overdrinking. I say it is a pity this punishment was not applied - speaking as a wowser - to a lot of other people if this is the system that we are to adopt. But, of course, we do not apply it to others.
What I am saying this afternoon is that most of the principles contained in Convention 107 are ones most members of this House would adopt in their personal relationships. They are mostly ones that people here would say are correct and in line with the generally established ethics and morality of the people of this community. I can think of no sound reason why Convention 107 ought not be adopted. It may well be that until the referendum in 1967 the Convention could not have been ratified because there were 6 State authorities and 2 Commonwealth authorities, 1 here and the other in the Northern Territory. It also may well be that this matter was complicated by State rights and such things. But that situation no longer exists. The political power, the constitutional authority and the dynamics of the whole system lie in this Parliament. While one may be able to say about equal wages - and I do not agree with it - that there are constitutional difficulties, and while this may apply to some other convention, it does not apply to Convention 107. It ought not apply to Convention 111 and it should not apply to any of the conventions that are applicable to our external territories.
So, this afternoon, when we say we are concerned and disappointed at the Government’s failure to establish principles of policy in line with ILO conventions, we are not speaking here just simply for the sake of politics. We are speaking because we believe that in this field at least Australia has the capacity and the social dynamics established in the past to set up standards for the rest of the world and should not wait for someone else to set the signpost up for us.
– Today we have had a very clever subterfuge perpetrated on this House by honourable members of the Opposition. I suppose it is good tactics in an election year to propose matters of public importance for discussion in this House each day. It gives the Opposition a chance of obtaining headlines, and this is good tactics. I can visualise the discussion that was held by the Executive of the Australian Labor Party when it met this week. When someone said: ‘Well, Mr Chairman, what is the matter to be proposed for discussion on Wednesday?’, I can imagine the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) would have chimed up and said,
What about giving equal pay another run?’ Someone with some sense of honour would have said: ‘No, we cannot do that because it is being discussed at the moment by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’. Now we see the subterfuge - a rather clever one. Equal pay is not the item on the agenda; it is the ratification of the International Labor Organisation’s conventions. Once the honourable member for Stirling paid lip service to this for about 60 seconds, he then proceeded for the rest of his speech to discuss equal pay. This was notwithstanding a point of order 1 took. I am glad I did this because I was able to register my deep concern. I now re-register my concern, Mr Deputy Speaker. While paying ultimate courtesy to Mr Speaker and to yourself, I think this Parliament is drifting into a very dangerous method of procedure if, when a matter is before a court, or a body such as the Commission, which has all the stature and facilities of a court, that matter is allowed to be debated by politicians in the heat and the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate. .If this is done I think the integrity of one of our most precious institutions, the judiciary, will be under some threat.
However, having made that comment, which I do with respect, let me come back to the substance, if one can so flatter it, of the matter of public importance which is before the Chair. The honourable member for Stirling, who is a notoriously gallant man as far as ladies are concerned, ended his speech with a rather extraordinary attack on the women of today. He said - and I hope I do not misquote him - that the women of today do not have the sting and the courage of their counterparts 50 years ago. I hope the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) will admonish his colleague for being so ungallant in this the twentieth century. What a dreadful thing to say! Why blame the women of today for the present situation? The honourable member for Stirling, who has had considerable experience in the trade union movement, knows very well that no trade union in Australia has raised the question of equal pay since this Government has been in office. The Government came into office in 1949. For 19 years the trade union movement has not brought this matter before an industrial tribunal in any form. With respect to you, Sir. I challenge any honourable member opposite to quarrel with that by way of interjection. They cannot because it is an absolute fact. Instead, we have the facade of an equal pay debate raised twice a year in this Parliament by Opposition publicity seekers to keep the pot boiling as far as the women are concerned. I take objection to the honourable member for Stirling blaming the women of today for the situation which exists.
I wish to refer briefly to the International Labour Organisation conventions themselves. The honourable member for Stirling and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) know full well that the TLO conventions are not adopted, cannot be adopted and were not meant to be adopted by all member states attending ILO conferences. The statistics would in a flash indicate that this is true. The average number of ratifications per member nation is 29. The honourable member for Stirling knows this. Why does he not say so and put his case in proper context? Australia has ratified 26 of the resolutions which have been brought forward. Some of the resolutions brought forward are clearly inappropriate to Australia, as the honourable member well knows. Canada has ratified only 24 and the United States only 7. Of course, the honourable member would be aware of this. He would also know that under the constitution of the ILO a member state is not obliged to ratify a convention and that until a convention is ratified by a member state that state has no obligation to obey it. On this point I wish to refer to the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman makes an outward fetish of credibility. He has an obsession about the credibility of other people. He should look inwards at some stage and examine his own credibility. He said that Australia now has a legal obligation under the conventions to grant equal pay and other things. So that I cannot be accused of being inaccurate in quoting what he said today, I will also quote what he said on 18th May 1965. It appears at page 1565 of Hansard. Referring to equal pay, the Leader of the Opposition said:
The Commonwealth now has some obligations internationally.
So, he is on record as having said it. But he knows as well as anybody else in this place that Australia has no legal obligations to follow these conventions until it has in fact ratified them. As the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said, we rely on the conciliation and arbitration system to bring changes of wage conditions and wage rates into being.
I come now to the effect of equal pay on the economy. I state categorically that I am for equal pay. I have stated this before. But I want it implemented in such a way that it will not fracture our economy or disadvantage the women who now constitute 30% of the work force. Over 1.5 million females are now in the work force. What would be the effect on certain industries, such as the food processing industry and the textile industry, where a predominance of females is employed, if equal pay for work of equal value were immediately impacted on them? The obvious result would be wholesale unemployment of women in those industries and skyrocketing costs. These industries are a very important and significant component of the cost of living structure which affects the working man. Does the Opposition want this Parliament, without the expertise and analytical background of a full scale investigation, which only the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can undertake, to pluck a figure out of the air - say $200m, $300m or $400m - as an estimate of what equal pay would cost the economy without going into it in a scientific way? The Opposition regards this subject as a matter of definite public importance and has brought on the debate on that basis. T regard the Opposition’s attitude as sheer humbug because the Commonwealth has already made it quite clear in the case that is being heard at present, as the honourable member for Stirling would know, that it does not object to equal pay. Mr Woodward, Q.C., has stated the Commonwealth’s position. The Commonwealth is in favour of it. He has pleaded with the Commission not to allow any undue delay in its decision.
In conclusion, may I add one more remark of my own? I hope that equal pay for women will be with us soon because I have never been persuaded of the justice or the equity of a breadwinner in a family who docs precisely the same work as a man and with equal efficiency having to go home with a pay packet which is reduced by 25% and look after an aged or ill mother. The same applies with a widow who has to look after 3 or 4 children. I make the plea that I have made before in this House: If the Com.misison does not see its way clear to equate wage levels at this point of time, will the Government take action of a social services nature to equate the income of the female breadwinners in a family with that of their male counterparts until such time as equal pay is instituted for equal work?
– The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 26 March (vide page 917), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, I will allow this course to be followed.
– These Bills involve technical amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act respectively. The short title of each Bill seems to have been carefully chosen so as to preclude general debate on income tax and pay-roll tax matters. The first Bill is described as a Bill for an Act to amend sections 23c and 160ac of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-58 and to make certain consequential provisions. The second Bill is described as a Bill for an Act to amend the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1968 in relation to rebates of tax allowable to producers of gold.
In fact, both sets of amendments to each of the Bills deal with the taxing of the sales of gold. This, I suppose, arises from what is now described as the ‘two tier system’ of gold pricing. Certain gold, in as far as it enters into central banking transactions, is sold at a fixed price of SUS35 an ounce, and it has been set at that figure for almost 40 years now. However, certain gold is allowed to be sold on what is described as the ‘free market’. Much of it is sold in Hong Kong, some in Australia and some on commercial markets in various parts of the world. But it has been the practice of the Australian Government, and of previous Australian governments, to subsidise the production of gold by, in effect, making it free from the impact of income tax. If a profit is made from gold mining it is not liable to bear any income tax at all. This has been a deliberate policy of governments and, of course, the gold industry in Australia today is confined primarily to one State, and to one very small part of that State - to the city of Kalgoorlie and the areas around about it. Slightly less than 1 million ounces of gold per annum is still mined in Australia, most of it from the Kalgoorlie fields, and it earns foreign exchange for Australia of about $30m to $35m.
Here we have one of the sections of our income tax legislation - and, to a certain extent, the same applies to pay-roll tax, because pay-roll tax is related to the provisions that exempt from payment of pay-roll tax undertakings that improve export sales during the year - where forms of taxation are being used to secure what essentially are not revenue provisions at all. We are endeavouring to obtain what we call ‘desirable economic and social practices’ by reason of the concessions that are available in our taxation legislation. I have in my possession a document that I secured from the office of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) a short time ago. It is entitled ‘Income Tax for the Mining Industry’ and contains some 80 fairly closely printed pages indicating the concessions that are available to the gold mining industry and also for the search and production of oil.
In recent days there has been quite a debate in the financial Press about the tax provisions which were ostensibly designed to encourage the search for and the production of oil in Australia. No-one would deny that oil has great economic significance for Australia, because we have an annual bill amounting to some hundreds of millions of dollars for the import of oil. Of course,
Australia is a country where the number of motor cars has increased rapidly. I think the motor car population is rising at a faster rate than is our population, and this places a great toll upon our roads and upon petrol and so forth. All of our petrol requirements, or most of them until last year, came from overseas. In order to encourage the search for and the extraction of oil certain concessions were given in income tax provisions. They had the blessings of both sides of the House when they were passed but recently it has seemed that the provisions that were thought to encourage the search for and the physical production of Oil are being used by people for purely speculative purposes. At the moment Australia is being obsessed by what might be called a ‘speculamania’ which goes all the way from the price of individual pieces of land to the search for minerals and natural resources. Again, one cannot be too categorical about this.
I noticed yesterday that when a question was addressed to the Treasurer he was rather cautious In his answer. I think that perhaps he had reason to be cautious because, unfortunately, it is difficult sometimes to determine who is a speculator and who is a genuine investor serving the purposes that the provisions were designed to cover. This is why I repeat a suggestion that 1 made on another occasion in this House. Some of the provisions are too complicated in their nature and, in essence, they do not collect tax, they rather see that tax is npt collected. They have a sort of negative effect which is designed to promote the economic benefit that the Government has in mind. I submit that many of these propositions are too complicated io be satisfactorily evaluated by the ordinary legislative processes that are available to the House. I point out that part of the reason for the amendments being before us today is the discovery that the legislation does not do what it was intended to do. In other words, there are mistakes in the wording of the legislation which, consequently, does not give effect to the intent of the legislation. This seems to me to be the case at present. An argument is going on about whether or not certain calls and certain capital subscriptions to oil companies ought or ought not to be allowable for taxation purposes. I submit that when a matter is as important as this there ought to be some machinery by means of which these complaints can be properly evaluated.
Sometimes I am astonished at the things that financial journalists regard as imaginative. This is a little bit off the trail of this Bill, but it is relevant to the argument that I am following. I refer to the enthusiasm that has been engendered among financial journalists for the new device called the certificate of deposit’. Apparently if a person holds a deposit, provided he has units of $50,000 - which takes it out of the province of most men in the street - and turns the deposit from a fixed deposit into some other kind of account at the same bank, it can earn him something like another i%. Why this is supposed to promote the economic development of Australia is beyond me. Nevertheless there are people writing in financial journals who get enthusiastic about this thing. 1. submit that something of the same kind of hysteria has crept in recently concerning the condemnation of the practices that are going on in respect of investments in oil companies. I do not think that anybody denied originally that the provisions of the law were beneficial, but if the provisions are being breached for other than the development reason, there is a case for re-examining the law. In order that the law may be reexamined it should be open for consideration by people other than the experts in the Department and the experts who manipulate activities on the stock exchange. There are other genuine pockets of interests in the community in which there are people who deserve to have access to the sort of information that is necessary to make a proper appraisal of this sort of situation.
I believe that the matter is important because in the mineral field - and here we are talking about only one mineral, gold - we talk about spending in the next 2 or 3 years as much as $ 1,500m or $2,000m. To some extent the question of where that money is spent is conditioned by the taxation concessions that are allowed. To a great extent the Commonwealth is underwriting this kind of expenditure by revenue forgone, but sometimes the transactions are encompassed in such a way that they yield gains to sections of the community in the form of capital accretions that are not always easily tied down for taxing purposes. For this reason we must have a much more sophisticated approach to amendments of this kind than is the case at present. It is competent for a parliament to argue about the incidence of income tax and the rates of income tax as these affect individuals in the community. It is competent for the Parliament to consider what is the basic rate of tax, what is taxed and what is not taxed. The same applies to a great extent to the basic rate of company tax. It is when we come to these special kinds of provisions that we should be especially careful.
The taxing of insurance companies, for instance, is another way in which the income tax legislation is used as a means of achieving what are thought to be desirable social objectives, although they may not be directly connected with the collection of income tax itself. Often matters of this kind are so complicated in themselves and can become so esoteric that the ordinary person can know very little about them. Often the first he hears of them is when somebody complains that a racket is being worked, if I may use a term that is sometimes employed in this connection. A famous judge many years ago in England said that every person was entitled so to manage his own economic affairs that he paid the minimum of tax that he was legally obliged to pay. Nevertheless, if clever people try to drive coaches and horses through the spirit of the law. the legislature is entitled to take its remedy by closing the loophole that allows that avoidance. 1 know that some people are very sensitive about whether one should use the word ‘evade’ or the word ‘avoid’. One can sometimes cloak what one’s left hand is doing by making that kind of dubious distinction. It is a fact that in many cases as soon as a provision is made in the law some clever person seeks a way to get round it, and that way usually enhances his income and often destroys the very principle on which the concession in question had been granted.
I do not make any judgment one way or the other in the argument that is going on about calls and subscriptions in oil companies other than to suggest that the matter ought to be probed very carefully by the Treasury. I think also that other bodies of opinion ought to be given a chance to indicate their views, and that we should not simply accept the opinion of the two sets of experts who are involved. Having made these few additional remarks, Mr Speaker, I may say that the Opposition offers no objection to either of these measures we have been discussing. They merely tidy up anomalies that should be corrected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 March (vide page 917), on motion by Mr Swartz: That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 5 which reads:
After section 71 of the Principal Act the following heading and Schedule are inserted: -
This amendment will correct an error in column 2 of the proposed first schedule in clause 5 of the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1969. It will substitute the figure of 46,854 for the figure of 23,476 first appearing in column 2 of that schedule. The figure to be replaced was wrongly calculated. The purpose of the figures set out in the schedule is explained in the notes relating to paragraph (a) of the definition of ‘the prescribed ratio’ at page 9 of the printed explanatory memorandum to the Bill which has been circulated. The amendment now proposed will not involve any change in the purpose of the schedule as explained in the printed memorandum. It will simply increase to what it should be the proportion, representing gold sold for industrial use in Australia, by which the value of export sales of gold producers for the base period year 1960-61 is to be reduced.
– The Opposition has no objection to accepting this amendment. I must say, however, that it supports one of the contentions 1 have been putting this afternoon, that these matters are so complicated that we have to rely on this kind of information being provided from outside. I am sure that the legislation would have gone through just as easily with the one figure as with the other. This in my view reinforces the need for some different kind of process at least for examining these aspects of taxation legislation where the Government is endeavouring to give a benefit not directly related to the tax concerned and where the provisions are of a complicated kind. With these few remarks, I indicate that the Opposition accepts the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swart/) - by leav. - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 919), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time
– The amendments contained in the Bill are described as technical amendments but they are different to those of the Income Tax
Assessment Bill and the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill. It seems to me that the short title of the Bill is wide enough to enable a general debate on all the principles of the Audit Act. This is a Bill for an Act relating to the audit of public moneys and the protection of public property, and it seeks to amend the Act of 1901-64, which has the broad title ‘An Act to make provision for the collection and payment of the public moneys the audit of the public accounts and the protection and recovery of public property and for other purposes’.
For the most part the amendments deal with the handling of what is described as the Governor-General’s warrant. It is one of the established practices of British parliamentary procedures, which Australia follows, that no sum of public money should be expended unless that expenditure has the sanction of Parliament. We go through the process annually of passing a Budget which is supposed to authorise the expenditure of every single dollar that is spent by the Commonwealth of Australia in a period commencing on 1st July of one year and concluding on 30th June in the following year. That period is known as a financial year. It is true that there are one or two measures to bridge the gap caused by the fact that Parliament does not meet on 1st July to determine expenditure for the next 12 months. The Budget does not come down until August, and by that time almost 2 months of the financial year have passed. So supply is provided in advance. And because modern governments cannot always conceive at the beginning of a year what is likely to happen at the end of it provision is made for Supplementary Estimates. Also in Australia we have what is called the Treasurer’s Advance where a block sum of about $20m is set aside for expenditure for which the Treasurer can give authority until finally it is sanctioned in the Supplementary Estimates.
Each Government department does not get at the beginning of a year all the money that it wants during the course of that. year. It receives its money by a series of dribblings out. There are two reasons for that. First, it enables some control to be kept. If all of us were to have our annual salary paid in advance we might nol be quite as prudent as we are when paid each fortnight or each month. We tend to budget during the course of the year and so to some extent can exercise control. The other reason is that the Government does not collect all its money immediately. Taxes are paid throughout the year. Direct taxes are paid periodically as people receive their assessments, and indirect taxes are paid daily as people purchase items such as motor vehicles, beer and cigarettes. It is for those two reasons that departments cannot be paid their full entitlement when the Budget is approved. Nevertheless, I suppose that in a strict sense once the Budget has been passed and the Parliament has approved the total amount that is payable to a department, it does not matter a great deal whether, as was previously the case, it is paid quarterly for groups of items, or, as is now proposed, item by item.
I would think that in 1969 we ought to have a different concept of what is described broadly as the auditing of the Government accounts to what we had in 1901 when the Audit Act was first passed. 1 have not had the opportunity to see what sort of fundamental amendments have been made to the Audit Act since it was first passed, but I doubt whether if the AuditorGeneral were to follow the strict letter of the Act that would be a satisfactory way of looking after the financial undertakings of the Government of Australia. The Auditor-General has perhaps had to develop discretionary powers that technically are not written into the Act. I hope that he has. One of the reasons for the amendments now before us is the influence, if you like, of the computer upon the processes of government accounting. I am one of those who still claim to be rather mystified by the processes of the computer. I asked someone rather recently: ‘How do you audit a computer?’ He, being one of Australia’s leading experts in this field, said: ‘It is a bit harder to And the audit trial, but you feed your trial samples into the computer’ - just the same, I presume, as happened with the checks in the old days when ledgers were hand processed.
Unfortunately this Bill was introduced into the House on the afternoon of the Thursday on which the House adjourned for the Easter recess and I did not have time to go down to see the computer establish ment in the Treasury building. What I did in the fortnight during the Easter break was to go into the Department of Social Services and see the computer mechanism in operation there. The way in which the computer picks up mistakes is astonishing. 1 was rather intrigued when shown a few samples of documents that had been put through the computer. One was returned because of a mistake by the clerk engaged in manual operations who had written across the document ’31st June 1969’. Apparently the computer knew that old rhyme: Thirty days hath September, April, June and November’. Back the document came with the mistake corrected. That is only, 1 suppose, a minor kind of exercise. Nevertheless, the arrangements there enable about 200,000 cheques a fortnight to be issued. The Victorian office of the Department of Social Services accounts for about a quarter of total social service payments. The annual bill for age pensions last year was about S520m - $10m a week or $20m a fortnight - and Victoria’s share of that was about $5m a fortnight. The cheques are simply churned out like great rolls of paper. Even the signatures are applied nonmanually.
This brings home immediately that efficiency in government departments and the efficacy of the audit are no longer questions of chasing money. I do not think there have been any large scale frauds in government departments recently. 1 noticed that the Auditor-General drew attention to one in the Department of Customs and Excise, but apparently that involved collusion between people outside and people inside the Department. The handling of cash in departments no longer seems to present a great problem. Auditing ought now to be turned in the direction of efficiency of departments. There is no difficulty, it seems to me, about whether a warrant is issued monthly, quarterly, annually, or item by item, or whether it is signed or countersigned by this person rather than that. I would think that what is not properly evaluated often is what happens to the money once it starts to be used. Time has been a little against me in trying to find some references to this but I found a rather interesting publication recently. The book apparently coincides more or less with the end of the first 100 years of the Audit Department of the United Kingdom. It is entitled ‘The Accountability and Audit of Governments, A Comparative Study’, is written by E. L. Normanton, and was published by the Manchester University Press in 1966. Mr Normanton, it seems to me, sums up very well the sort of problem that I am trying to indicate ought to concern us a bit more:
If a Department had a large sum voted for purchase of (unspecified) supplies’ and cared to spend it entirely upon green and yellow budgerigars, this would not be an infringement against regularity, provided that the proper authorisations were obtained and the birds were actually received. Their utility to the nation would be ‘an administrative question’ outside the competence of a state audit body charged with the sole control of regularity. The Minister concerned might have to face parliamentary criticism of his aviary, but the chances are that its very existence would not become known, since the auditors would not report a matter which was within the formal rules. In this way the confusion of control of regularity which a proper state audit often has covered, and in a few countries still does cover, a multitude of administrative sins. It has also obscured the meaning of audit to the state, by an oversimplification of its role.
I would suggest that the title of the Audit Act 1901-1964 certainly indicates an over.simplication of the role of audit.
According to the report of the Public Service Board for the year ended June 1968, the Auditor-General’s Office has a total staff of 527. They deal with government transactions that employ some 211,000 people and are responsible for an aggregate expenditure of $6,000m. I do not think there is any substantia] financial fraud. There are occasional instances both in government departments and in private business. 1 was astonished the other day to read that at a relatively minor metropolitan branch of a bank in New South Wales some character had got away with $320,000. I would not think that that kind of thing could happen in a government department unless there was collusion on a very substantial scale. Of this aggregate expenditure of $6,000m about $ 1,500m goes directly to the States. About $ 1,000m goes in expenditure on social service benefits which are transferred via the revenue system from taxes collected to people according to their categories of need. This still leaves a vast sum of about $3, 000m. One category of expenditure alone - defence - accounts this year for over $ 1,200m. This is a matter that the House ought to consider seriously.
We have one very useful committee concerned with this project - the Public Accounts Committee. Some members of it are present, including its distinguished Chairman, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver). I believe that it does a very competent job but these days there should also be other committees. We suggest there ought to be a separate defence estimates committee. I am not sure whether we ought to have Public Accounts Committees No. 1 and No. 2, but there certainly should be a defence estimates committee. In another publication from the Manchester University Press entitled ‘Public Sector Economies’, edited by Professor A. R. Prest, is a chapter on measuring the efficiency of government expenditure, which is what I am talking about this afternoon.
They say this:
An associated problem arises from the fact that many government services are indivisible. For example, the defence programme is ‘consumed’ by the whole community. Only one level of provision is possible, and there is no agreed method by which the value of (benefit from) the service can be arrived at and imputed to individual members of the community. It also follows that even those who would not voluntarily contribute towards the provision of such services may not bc able to be denied access to them. Market pricing cannot be used to govern efficiency in the provision of such services, to which a ‘principle of exclusion’ cannot be applied. The level of provision of services, and the allocation of their costs to individual citizens, thus becomes a matter for political bargaining.
I have heard a lot of speeches in this House by members complaining about the fact thai the role of Parliament has been taken away and that it has been assumed by the Executive. I do not believe that a government can govern in a modern sort of community unless it has strong executive powers, but I think that governments can make mistakes and that Ministers often do not have the time to check everything and to look at the efficiency of the departments that they administer.
The question arises of who ought to be responsible for this overall efficiency. I believe there is a better role that can still be played by the Parliament. After all, if a government decides on political grounds - and all these decisions ultimately tend to be political - that it wants to spend $l,200m it should be as concerned as anybody else that it gets value for every Si that ii expended. It is not just a question of determining whether the office boy is rifling the morning tea money, although I think there is still sometimes a tendency to think that thai is auditing. I am not being critical of the Auditor-General’s Department here because I think it is a very efficient department, and those officers that I have met - and I was a member many years ago of the Public Accounts Committee - are men of considerable competence. But nevertheless 1 think that today we ought not to be just contemplating a few technical amendments of the Audit Act; I think we should bc looking at this question as a whole.
– There is a further review.
– 1 know, and the further review has been promised for a very long time, lt was even promised when I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee and I ceased to be a member of that Committee in 1956, so it has been promised for a long time.
– It is to be a part of the review.
– All I am stating is that I hope when it does come that there will be comprehensive amendments to the Audit Act. I am pleased to know that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) suggests that it will come. I hope that it will not be treated quite as hurriedly as these measures have been. 1 believe that this sort of proposition should lay on the table of the House for about 6 months so that people inside and outside government can examine it because after all the people outside the House whose taxes are being expended surely have some right also to indicate their satisfaction or dissatisfaction as to what might be called the efficiency audit of the Government machine. I am not too sure that the AuditorGeneral or his staff should necessarily be cast in this particular role or whether it needs superior mechanisms in the various departments. These are not easy matters. 1 know one of the complaints of the nationalised industries in the United Kingdom many years ago when it was suggested that their day to day activities should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny was that they could not be efficient if they felt that someone was breathing down their neck all the time. I do not know how close the breathing down the neck of government departments is, but nevertheless I think that when sums as large as is the case here are expended there should be some scrutiny.
After all, how does one evaluate government efficiency. One of these documents 1 have quoted, and I do not want to quote any more of it now but I commend it to anyone who is interested in this kind of thing, says that as far as national accounts are concerned - and we talk about economic growth and gross national product and what is called the contribution of government to the national product - this is mainly reflected in the salaries paid to the public servants who perform the tasks. That is the way that the item of government production, or a large part of it, is entered into the national accounts. It is simply the salaries that are paid, and therefore one would get the rather curious result that the national income would appear to rise if there were more government servants and would appear to fall if a computer was installed and made a certain number redundant and they were released to go somewhere else. But if the computer was cheaper than the people disposed of - and I have no doubt that that would be the case - then it would appear that the national income had fallen.
That is why sometimes strict accounting methods of evaluating efficiency are not satisfactory. I have read, as 1 have no doubt a lot of others have, about trying to subject government performance to what is called benefit cost analysis. I should think that while that kind of conjecture has some value in equating one proposition with another - in choosing that one will do this rather’ than do that - there is a large number of fields of government activity where such a method of assessing has no validity at all, and that is why I think that other kinds of devices have to be applied to see whether the Government machine, if you like, is being as effective in its performance as it ought to be. I will conclude there, and I am glad of the assurance of the Minister that more fundamental amendments of the law are contemplated, but I hope that when they are made that there will be adequate discussion. I have no doubt that there has already been considerable discussion between the Auditor-General’s Department and the Public Accounts Committee on it, but if the matter finally is to become the subject of legislation I think that at least members of the House and interested sections outside the House should be given the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments.
– 1 have followed the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) with a great deal of interest. As usual the honourable member has brought to the subject of public accounting a broad expanse of experience both in the House and beyond it. 1 note bis reference to the possibility of additional committees. 1 am one who is beginning to fear that if the House of Representatives follows the line of the other House we will have members of this chamber so fully occupied with committee duty that we will never have time for other routine work. This is not to say that I am not a supporter of the analyses that parliamentary committees, select committees and others can make. I was a little concerned, however, when my friend from the Opposition referred to the possibility of a wider task to be performed by the officers of the Commonwealth Auditor-General. He talked of efficiency audits, and of getting down to areas of investigation that seem to me closer to the Parliament itself and closer to committee activity. I would be one who would think that the task of the AuditorGeneral is pretty clearly defined and has been magnificently performed. Speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts, I would point out that the Committee has repeatedly paid tribute to the efficiency of the Auditor-General. I would hope that we would not try to deflect him and his staff from a very clear-cut responsibility, to which 1 would like to refer later in my remarks.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
– In continuing my remarks upon the Audit Bill which is before the House, I would like to say that the Audit Act is, in my opinion, the fundamental legislation which supports the appropriation procedures, the control of funds and the preservation of the control of the Executive by the Parliament itself. I believe that there are five principal stages in the control over Commonwealth finances. I believe that my fellow members of the House will agree that the first stage is the preparation of the Budget and the draft
Estimates by departments, and that very close scrutiny which is given to those Estimates by Treasury. This, of course, is a strong system of control. Secondly, there is the consideration of the Estimates by Parliament itself and the subsequent appropriation of the necessary funds by Parliament. Thirdly, there is the execution of the Parliament’s authorisation by the departments which receive the funds. We can see here that there is a control to which I will be referring shortly when I refer to the warrant system. Fourthly, there is that all important check by the Auditor-General and his staff. The Auditor-General is a statutory officer who brings his own report direct to Parliament. We can call this the fourth method of control. Lastly, in the name of the Parliament we have here in Australia a Public Accounts Committee which carries out certain examinations according to the availability of time and presents its own report to both Houses of the Parliament. 1 felt that I ought to indicate that here was an inbuilt system of five varying stages which represents a control over the funds.
Like much of the procedure of the Parliament itself, the financial procedures embodied in the Audit Act to which 1 am making reference have so often an interesting history and derive their form actually from the earlier steps taken by the United Kingdom Government to set up an adequate scheme of control over the expenditure of the Parliament. It is for this reason thai in the debate tonight I want to make the point that I believe the Parliament should not permit an alteration to this type of traditional procedure which we find in the Audit Act without careful analysis. Alteration surely should only be permitted when the Parliament itself is convinced that circumstances completely justify the change and that there is in any amendment that is being approved no derogation of the authority of the Parliament. One of the main features of this small Bill which has been referred to by a previous speaker, I think, as a ‘technical Bill’, is the change in procedure concerning the use of the Governor-General’s warrant. From my own inquiries and the limited research I have been able to do 1 still find it possible to summarise the development of this warrant system and the existing requirements under the Act as we know it today.
No money may be withdrawn from the Commonwealth public account unless the Auditor-General in advance gives his certificate that the moneys requisitioned by the Treasurer are legally available and applicable for the purposes specified in the warrant. This procedure itself is of traditional importance in the British concept of parliamentary control over expenditure, and I find that it was in existence in the United Kingdom even before there was an AuditorGeneral appointed. Prior to the appointment of the Auditor-General in the first place in 1866, the officer who was responsible was known as the ‘ComptrollerGeneral’. So we see that this function in connection with the use of a warrant was carried on after the Prime Minister of the day, Gladstone, felt that there should be not only a check on issues from the public account but also a check on how moneys were being spent. In my opinion it represents, therefore, a traditional control by the Parliament over expenditure, and this is of significant importance.
I turn to a recent publication entitled Government Accounting in Australia*. The very first article in this informative book was written some years ago by an esteemed former member of this House, who was the first Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee when the Committee was reconstituted in 1951. Of course, I refer to the late Professor Francis Armand Bland. He wrote an article entitled ‘Control of Government Expenditure’. I believe that as we look at the Audit Act on this occasion we should not overlook what he said about this history. He said:
The long struggle for control which began as far back as the Plantagenets and the Tudors sought to limit the access of the executive - the Crown - to funds, and it has ended in surrendering to another executive - the Cabinet - all the powers it withheld from the Monarchs. lt is a different executive, it is true, and it holds office not by divine right but by popular vote; but it is still the executive and it has attained the right to say how much is to be spent and for what purposes.
He then set out the highlights in the struggle for control over finance. He summarised them briefly as follows:
the insistence by the Commons that they should have the sole right to levy taxation; and
The audit of the accounts developed independently. In 178S there were appointed the Commissioners for Auditing of the Public Accounts, but these were responsible to the Treasury. By 1834 they were made responsible to Parliament. Parliament was forced to become more interested in the integrity of public officials and in the honesty and regularity of public accounting. Thus came the Exchequer and Audit Act, 1866, which required all Departments to render detailed Appropriation Accounts to Parliament duly certified by an accounting officer. These accounts had to be submitted to a new officer, independent of the Government, called the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
Finally on this quote I refer to these words of the late Professor Francis Annand Bland:
The Act also provided that the credits for the operations of the Departments made available to. the Treasury were -to be issued by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Australian practice of obtaining Warrants is similar. The significance of this provision lies in the fact that it embodies the constitutional principle of prior Parliamentary approval over all issues from the Exchequer.
There is an appropriate reference to these warrants, which find a most important place in this amending Bill, in the 43rd report of this Parliament’s own Public Accounts Committee. I simply draw attention to paragraphs 18 and 19 of that report. Foi those honourable members who are interested, it will be on record for detailed reading. This Bill, among other things, specifically removes the arbitrary provision of quarterly Governor-General warrants. It is to this point that I wish to speak rather specifically. I suggest that if, with quarterly warrants, the Treasurer has had a form of control over the flow of expenditure within the year and he has had a device whereby he could curtail that flow in the public interest, one wonders whether, with the abolition of this arbitrary quarterly warrant system, he will now seek some other form of control. As a matter of fact, in earlier thinking about this and in earlier general discussion it was my understanding that there was seen in the quarterly warrant a very valuable control. I believe, for example, that the use of it had become traditional in the thinking of public servants, and perhaps of the Commonwealth Auditor-General and his staff. Now, if it is to be removed, one wonders whether previous suggestions about another form of control to replace it have been discarded entirely or whether some other device not requiring the approval ot the Parliament is in mind.
– It has not been mentioned in the Bill.
– No, there is no mention of this in the Bill. J think we can summarise the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) by saying that he stated that at present computerised methods provide information very quickly and as frequently as desired to the Treasury and to the many other Departments of the Commonwealth administration. I believe the Minister argued in his short speech that since the rate of expenditure can be observed much more readily the need to provide a quarterly warrant has virtually disappeared. ]. believe he said that it is therefore proposed to permit warrants to be obtained for the full amount appropriated. This would be done not at regular frequencies of every 3 months and the warrant would be not merely for the amount expected to be spent in that period of 3 months or less. Therefore, no-one can argue against the statement that, for the first time in the long years of history under the Audit Act, we see a very important change. Some may have feared it. 1 want to say, although 1 am underlining in my speech the value of much of the tradition of the Parliament and much of the value of the traditional methods and procedures regarding appropriations, funds and controls that are written into the Audit Act, that 1 am one who believes that computerisation will have very wide ramifications not only in parliamentary and government administration but, of course, in the field of general commerce. I believe we have to be flexible in our thinking and that we should be prepared to face rather drastic changes. Perhaps some of the traditions of Parliament will not be evident in 10 to 15 years time. Perhaps now, under this Bill, we will see a change along the lines of something that was said to me not so long ago by a very important official in this sphere. He said that he felt alterations were desirable. Even he, perhaps, has had to alter his mind in face of the facts brought out by the Treasurer and presented to the House. Actually, on a previous occasion I argued that the specific quarterly warrants could perhaps be wasteful. I pointed out that there was a pressure to issue warrants quarterly through the Treasury, that these would all have to be checked by the Commonwealth Auditor-General and that they would all have to be presented to the Governor-General for his approval and signature, f actually raised this point in some remarks that I made: Could the procedure regarding warrants possibly be a bit of the old tradition and in the modern context be entirely superfluous? I wondered whether we needed to be strongly convinced regarding its retention.
I pointed out that the permanent head of every department carries a very great responsibility for the administration of his department. No-one can really interfere with that administrative responsibility and his activities. All of the officers of a department are subject to detail checking, if this is desired, by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. As I have said tonight, the Auditor-General reports to the Parliament on the efficiency of a department regarding the proper usage of funds and the keeping of fund expenditure within warrant. Whilst I may have been a little controversial in the remarks that I made, any fear that I had about wastage has been vindicated, for the Minister in his second reading speech made the points about computerisation and that the previous reasons which required quarterly warrants are no longer valid. He pointed out that there is another control under the item heading instead of just the subdivisional heading. He went on to say that now that we have decided to do away with the arbitrary quarterly warrants the savings from these changes under the Bill are expected to be of the order of $100,000 a year. Being a member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee I can hardly complain of a saving of that magnitude in a procedure that many people thought was highly desirable, but which I personally considered might have been thought desirable simply because it was traditional and because we had become accustomed to it because there was, of course, an element of control inherent in it. Here I find that any fears I had that it might have been superfluous work have virtually been substantiated.
Apart from the warrant procedure there are other items or amendments in the small Bill. I want to refer to only one matter. Members of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, when a Treasury minute is reported by the Committee to the Parliament indicating action that is to be taken, are naturally delighted to see that action eventually taken in the Parliament in the form of an amendment. The amendment I refer to in particular was suggested as a recommendation in the 61 st report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The Committee in the report noted difficulties arising from the inclusion of deduction and transfer items in the schedules to the various appropriation measures. This matter has now been corrected by an amendment in this Bill.
The other items, whilst they are important, do not attract my attention on this occasion for comment. T would like to revert to the main point. We have an amendment to the Audit Act. I join forces with my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who, during the course of his speech said that the Bill touches only some items. The Minister at the table interjected and said that there were more amendments contemplated. To this, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said: ‘Yes, but we have been promised a complete review of the Audit Act for many, many years’. So 1 would add my voice to an appeal to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who is at the table and who is also the Minister assisting the Treasurer. I make an appeal for a determined drive to review every outstanding amendment which is being proposed to the Audit Act. As I said in the context of my opening remarks, you cannot go virtually beyond the Audit Act for these fundamental principles of control over the Executive. lt is through this very legislation that this Parliament exercises a control over all the funds of the Commonwealth. I hope that we will not be dilatory in bringing this Act completely up to date. Of course, I am realistic enough to know that as soon as this is done, in this changing world the need for other amendments will become apparent. But my fear, and that of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, is that there are many amendments which have been in contemplation for too long. I am satisfied that the main change being made by the Bill, relating to the warrant procedure, has been overdue. I trust that we as a Parliament will observe any other methods of control that may be exercised by the Treasurer and officers of the Treasury.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted lor third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 March (vide page 738), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a .second time.
Mr BARNARD (Bass) [8.201 - This is the first time that legislation of this nature has come before the House. In 1967 a Scholarships Bill was introduced in the Senate by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who was then Minister for Education and Science. The Bill was very severely criticised in the Senate and subsequently withdrawn. After a lengthy period of re-examination and redrafting the Scholarships Bill 1969 has been presented. The Bill was presented on this occasion by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who succeeded the Prime Minister in that portfolio. The initial Bill gave the Minister considerable discretionary powers, lt gave him power to determine the number of scholarships granted, the terms of eligibility for those seeking scholarships, the way in which they were to be selected and those authorised to grant scholarships. They were very great powers which were in no way circumscribed by regulations.
At the time, my colleagues in the Senate did nol dispute that the Minister needed a certain measure of discretionary power under the Act. The Opposition conceded that there were individual cases in which the Minister would have to exercise discretion so that fair and equitable treatment of all applicants could he assured. But the Opposition disputed the sweeping powers which would have been given to the Minister by the 1967 legislation. It argued that the powers of the Minister should be governed by regulations. It was not the intention of the Opposition to take away all discretionary power from the Minister. It recognised that be should retain enough power to prevent anomalies and abuses. On these principles several clauses of the original Bill were rejected by the Senate. One of the most notable critics of the wide discretionary powers that the Bill conferred was the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright). This Bill replaces the 1967 legislation. The Opposition believes that most of the objectionable features of the previous legislation have been removed.
Clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Bill refer to grants of Commonwealth technical, advanced education and university scholarships and post-graduate awards. Each clause provides that the appropriate scholarship or award may bc granted by the Minister in accordance with the regulations. 1 emphasise the words ‘in accordance with the regulations’. 1 understand that it is intended to issue quite extensive regulations covering the administration of the Act and in particular the terms of eligibility of persons for scholarships. This is commendable. It will not limit the discretion of the Minister to deal with the special circumstances which may arise from time to time. Of course, this should have been provided for in the initial legislation. The reassessment of the provisions of this legislation has certainly strengthened and improved it. in the main the Opposition will not oppose the provisions of the Bill. The Opposition endorses clauses 1 to 10 of the Bill without reservation. However, there are some points that the Minister should clarify for the House. If this is done the Opposition will raise no objections to the other clauses at the Committee stage. The first point the Minister should clarify is the use of the word ‘prescribed’ in clauses 1 1 and 12. 1 ask the Minister to explain whether this means prescribed by the regulations. If that is the intention of the term the Opposition accepts the clauses. But if that is not the intention the Opposition will move to ensure that the clauses clearly state that prescribed’ means prescribed by the regulations.
There seems also to be a clear contradiction between clauses 11 and 12, which deal with secondary scholarships, and clauses 13 and 14, which deal with tertiary scholarships. Clause 11 states that the benefits are prescribed. Presumably they are prescribed in accordance with the regulations. As I said earlier, this should be made quite clear. Clause 12 also uses the word ‘prescribed’ and provides that some forms of additional assistance shall be determined by the Minister. However, clauses 13 and 14 state that these benefits shall be determined in accordance with the regulations. On the face of it there appears to be a clear difference in terminology between clauses 1 1 and 12, which cover secondary scholarships, and clauses 13 and 14, which cover tertiary scholarships. I ask the Minister to explain whether this denotes a difference in the granting of benefits in these scholarship areas. It may be significant that different phraseology is applied to scholarships for secondary education and scholarships for tertiary education, lt could indicate practical differences in the awarding of scholarships. If any difference is intended in the awarding of benefits the Minister should explain this fully to the House. If that is not intended he should account for this apparent variation in terminology and again clarify it for the House.
Clause 18 of the Bill appears to give the Minister full authority to vary decisions made in relation to scholarships under the Act or the regulations. I ask the Minister to assure the House that there will be a final right of appeal to him where a scholarship is rejected or a benefit is varied. This is an example of where the operation of the ministerial discretion which is granted under the Act should operate. In his second reading speech the Minister said that he was impressed by the extent to which even the most carefully drafted regulations could cause injustice and hardship if administered inflexibly. He has quite rightly preserved his discretion to prevent injustice and hardship. The Minister concluded his speech by recognising the need for an adequate framework for the scholarships legislation and the need to provide for regulations in important sections. In essence, the Minister has considered the merits of the case made by the Senate against the original legislation and he has acted to remove deficiences. I believe that the Minister should be commended for this.
The Bill is also significant in that it brings about the formal dissolution of the Commonwealth Office of Education. Honourable members on this side of the House view this move with some nostalgia. This agency was established by the Chifley Government in 1945. For more than 20 years it served as a vehicle for Commonwealth aid to education. In particular, it made a noteworthy contribution to the administration of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme. The functions of the Office were absorbed into the Education Division of the Prime Minister’s Department and ultimately into the Department of Education and Science.
The process by which the great powers of the Commonwealth Government have been applied to education is a long and laborious one. These functions are still being applied in an extremely haphazard way, as the Opposition has repeatedly pointed out in this House. However, we can hope that the Department of Education and Science, which is still at an early stage of development, will assume increasing burdens in the guidance and promotion of education at all levels in Australia. It is regrettable that there is no longer a role for the Commonwealth Office of Education. I take this opportunity, on behalf of the political party which formed it, to formally acknowledge the Office’s passing and to pay tribute to its invaluable work.
In his second reading speech the Minister gave some account of the scope and nature of the scholarship schemes at present in operation in Australia. This gives honourable members a chance to consider the implications of the Commonwealth scheme, to assess the future of university finance in Australia and to consider the adequacy of the finance schemes for university students. The Minister pointed out that under the five schemes contained in the Bill some 56,000 students hold Commonwealth scholarships. He said that without further changes spending on the scheme would rise to nearly $35m by 1971-72. These figures sound impressive but on close examination grounds for concern about the future of the scheme and the burdens which it imposes must be reconsidered. There has been quite a marked erosion in the base of the Commonwealth university scholarship since its introduction in 1951. In that year 3,000 open entry scholarships were available for first year university students, and there were 7,601 enrolments at Australian universities. In short, scholarships were available for 40% of new enrolments. In 1960, 3,000 scholarships were available for only 29% of new enrolments. Although the number of scholarships available for first year students was doubled to 6,000 in 1968 there were scholarships for only one in four of those who enrolled.
This remarkable erosion on the scholarship base can be illustrated further by information supplied by the Minister for Education and Science in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The information is contained in Hansard of 25th February of this year at page 111. lt shows that in 1952 51% of all applicants were granted Commonwealth scholarships. In 1968 18.3% of applicants received scholarships. This is a most alarming deterioration, despite the provision of substantially more scholarships. In 1968, 46,527 applications for Commonwealth scholarships were received. Of those applications, 8,524 accepted scholarships. Many of the unsuccessful applicants would receive university training by way of manpower schemes, that is, by various sorts of cadetships, by teacher training and similar schemes. On the evidence of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia, known as the ‘Martin Committee’, the numbers receiving such assistance would be about the same as those receiving assistance by way of Commonwealth scholarships. If we include those students whose families can afford to pay their fees or who obtain financial assistance to pay the fees, the best assessment that can be made is that only half of those young people wanting university education are covered by the existing system of student assistance. Even allowing for the hiving off of a substantial number of students into colleges of advanced education, quite clearly many able students are lost to tertiary education each year. This is a drain of talent which cannot be afforded.
The Commonwealth scholarship scheme has made an immense contribution to Australia. It produced some 30,000 graduates between 1952 and 1966, but on the present basis it is far from adequate. This raises the question of whether the scholarship scheme can be expanded and supplemented by other forms of assistance. There has always been a very strong case for fixing the number of scholarships at a certain percentage of new enrolments each year. This has been recommended by the Martin Committee and by the National Union of Australian University Students. In the past there has been too much emphasis on the aggregate of scholarships available and not on the number of new enrolments. This meant that over a period of 10 years the number of scholarships provided was fixed while enrolments increased rapidly. If the number of scholarships was fixed at 40% of new enrolments - the figure which applied when the scheme was introduced in 1951 - 10,000 scholarships should have been made available last year and not 6.000. I feel that the number of scholarships should be fixed at a higher level; certainly at 50% of the enrolments at (east. The value of scholarships also should be tied to the cost of living index. Existing benefits have fallen far below living costs. In the broader context there has been much debate in recent years over the financing of university education. Last year the Leader of the Opposition said that the spending of a further $ 10m of public money would provide free university education in Australia. This was hotly disputed by the Minister for Education and Science who said that education at the university level should not be free. He said that most of the taxes which supported universities came from general revenue; that these taxes should not be used for the education of students who would become very high income earners because of that education. Unfortunately, the Minister did not follow through the implications of those remarks. The Minister did not say that fees form a negligible percentage of the financing of universities today.
In the past 20 years revenue from tuition fees and private endowments have declined sharply. Every university student is already being handsomely subsidised by the taxpayer even if he is on a scholarship or even if he is paying fees. It is unfortunate that the Minister should have seized on a mere SI Om as the burden borne by unfortunate taxpayers whose income cannot be raised by university education. At the moment the financial elite will go to universities because they can pay the fees; the intellectual elite will go to universities through scholarships. However, there remains a very large number of potential students who cannot afford the fees and cannot win a place because there are not enough scholarships. It is unfortunately true that a high proportion of scholarships are won by students from economically more privileged groups. In these circumstances it is incorrect to argue that the incidence of making tuition free would fall harshly on the less privileged. The burden of taxation subsidies to universities already falls heavily on these groups. One solution is a substantial expansion of scholarships. Another is the provision of far greater credit facilities for students who cannot win scholarships but who have the capacity to benefit from university education.
The question of loans to students has always been a vexed one. It was rejected by the Robbins Committee on Higher Education in the United Kingdom, although the Committee did recommend that some experimentation with this sort of financing might be necessary. The concept of loans to students was also rejected by the Martin Committee. I feel that this attitude should be reconsidered with a view to providing credit facilities for students on a national basis. Credit facilities are provided to cover the whole range of tangible goods and services in the economy. It has been suggested that credit shoul’d not be provided for intangibles such as health and education. However, contributions to health funds and insurance funds are in a sense credit arrangements.
In these circumstances I feel that a Commonwealth corporation to provide credit for students seeking it could be established. Such a corporation could provide low interest loans for tuition fees and such loans could be repayable from the future earnings of the recipients. It could underwrite loans made privately to university students, lt could also be used to supplement a a expanded scholarship scheme. Such a corporation could make loans repayable at 1% interest during student years and 2% thereafter. Alternatively, it could subsidise tuition fees by the formation of a revolving fund that would be replenished by repayments. In association with an expanded scholarship scheme, it would replace the existing complex and unsatisfactory structure. An extensive loan scheme, allied to a wider scholarship scheme, would mean that everyone entitled to a university education would have his fees paid and would receive a living allowance during his education. Such a revision of the existing system is needed if a further erosion of the Commonwealth scholarship base and a further wastage of potential talent are to be avoided.
I have clearly indicated to this House how the number of scholarships as a percentage of the number of applicants has fallen in recent years. No doubt the Minister for Education and Science and Government members may be able to argue, and successfully argue, that some years ago the percentage of those students who were successful in obtaining Commonwealth assistance under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme was at a satisfactory level - although it has never reached the level that the Australian Labor Party has been advocating in recent years. But there has been a steady deterioration in the percentage of those who successfully apply for scholarships under the existing scheme. We have argued consistently, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition some time ago, that university education should be entirely free. 1 think that is a valid point.
The wastage of talent at the secondary school level is far more than this country can afford. Any country that refuses to acknowledge the importance of education and that is prepared to accept the percentage of wastage to which I have just referred will find itself inevitably in extreme difficulties in the years that lie ahead. The Martin Committee has made a number of very valuable suggestions on what should be the approach of an enlightened Government not only on the question of Commonwealth scholarships but also on the question of tertiary education generally. The Minister for Education and Science took the opportunity to criticise the suggestion that had been made by the Leader of the Opposition that tertiary education in this country should be entirely free, and he disputed the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that it would involve taxpayers in an additional expense of about SI Om annually. The Minister for Education and Science, as I have already indicated to the
House, did not point out that all university students are today being highly subsidised, whether they are receiving a Commonwealth scholarship or not. As a result of the recommendations initially made by the Murray Committee, which was set up by this Government, and the subsequent recommendations of the Martin Committee, the Government has accepted a measure of responsibility in education at this level. As a result of the Government’s decision university education has been heavily subsidised.
We believe that university education ought to be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. If the Commonwealth were prepared to accept full responsibility for education at this level, it would undoubtedly make additional finance available to State Education Departments for education at the primary, secondary and technical levels. Therefore, I want to point out once again that the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition on the question of tertiary education is one that will be implemented by a future Labor Government. University education should be free. No Government can condone the present deterioration in the facilities made available to those who want to undertake education at the tertiary level. The wastage at the secondary school level is far greater than this country can afford.
In addition to pointing out what we believe ought to be the Government’s approach to the question of Commonwealth scholarships and other scholarships that will be available under this legislation, I have indicated that the Government should consider granting loans to university students to enable them to complete a course at a university. I want to reiterate that those who belong to affluent families are in a position to undertake a university course of education. If they are gifted intellectually they can win Commonwealth scholarships. Those who do not belong to affluent families and whose parents cannot pay for their university education and who cannot qualify for a Commonwealth scholarship under the present scheme are the students who concern members on this side of the House. The Government must face up to its responsibilities on the loss of opportunities and the wastage of talent at this level.
Having made those points, I would like to say in summary that the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. It welcomes the very substantial modifications to the legislation outlined by the Minister for Education and Science. 1 have tried to draw attention to the deterioration of the present scholarship scheme and the need for rehabilitating and supplementing it. Unfortunately the Minister for Education and Science is not in the House tonight, but I hope that when he reads the points that have been made by myself in resuming this debate on behalf of the Opposition and the points that will be made by my colleagues who will follow me in this debate he will incorporate these suggestions in the Bill. If it is not possible to incorporate these provisions now I hope the Government will give serious consideration to amending the legislation as soon as possible.
– I rise to support the Scholarships Bill 1969 for several reasons. Before stating those reasons may I say that the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to education has always amazed me. Honourable members on the Opposition side are great theoreticians, but their main forte is in trying to cast suspicion on the aims and integrity of the Government in this field. 1 can understand this, because the record of the Labor Party in the field of education is so lamentable that the Party tries to hide its inadequacy by making wild promises and vaguely veiled aspersions. I often wonder whether it is really interested in education or only in gaining votes at the next election. It must be rather frustrating for members of the Labor Party to view the great strides this Government has made in the past decade. Let us face the fact that the performance of the Labor Party in the field of education has been a poor one, and the speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) made tonight will do nothing to change this. 1 often wonder why the Opposition still carries on with its extraordinary attempt to keep alive in Australia the phoney class attitude that permeates almost every phase of its political philosophy. That attitude was perpetuated tonight in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and it is just as phoney today as it was when the Opposition adopted it a decade ago. This type of snobbery, inverted though it may be, does little justice to the young people of today who care nothing for the time worn cliches of three decades ago, and who have completely rejected the emotional appeals to class hatred that the Opposition is consistently making in this House. The Opposition should recognise that we are at the end of the 1960s and not in the depression of the 1930s.
Another thing that amazed me about the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that he spent most of his time extolling the virtues of having a university education and uttered not a word about the education of those who wished to become tradesmen or technicians. For a Party which professes to have an interest in the working man and his family it is astonishing that he did not even mention the thousands of splendid young men and women who every year train to become tradesmen or technicians. These people are the backbone of our industrial life.
The first reason why I support this Bill is that I have great respect for the vast strides in education this Government has made possible in the last decade. One does not need to have a long memory to recall the days when it was considered to be quite improper for the Federal Government to take any part in the development of educational facilities in Australia. Education was regarded strictly as a State function, and attempts by the Federal Government to assist the States with specific projects were looked upon with great suspicion. This Government, under successive Ministers for Education and Science, first the then Senator John Gorton and now the Honourable Malcolm Fraser, has initiated moves vastly to improve the facilities for and the quality of education in Australia. Most of the advances made by the Government were new and imaginative, but almost invariably they were met with hostility by the Opposition in this Parliament and by the outside bodies which control the Labor Party and dictate its policies.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Barton that the debate on the Scholarships Bill does not range over the whole field of education. I am finding it a little difficult to see the relevance of these remarks to this Bill.
– I hope that I can remedy that. 1 think it may be of interest to honourable members to have a look at the types of scholarship schemes in operation at the moment because not everyone realises what is being done by this Government in the field of education. The first one is the Commonwealth postgraduate awards scheme which has been in existence since 1959 and was introduced by the Liberal Government after it considered the Murray report on Australian universities. The scheme provides assistance for well qualified graduates for an approved programme of postgraduate studies, usually leading to either a master’s degree or a doctorate at an Australian university. The benefits payable under this scheme comprise a stipend of $2,350 per annum, an annual contribution of $400 to go towards research costs for each student, and other allowances.
The second scheme is the Commonwealth university scholarship scheme. This scheme was commenced in 1951 by the Liberal Government as the Commonwealth scholarship scheme when awards were offered for first degree and diploma courses at universities and tertiary courses at other approved institutions such as technical colleges. In 1966 the Commonwealth scholarship scheme was replaced by two schemes, the Commonwealth university scholarship scheme and the Commonwealth advanced education scholarship scheme.
The Commonwealth university scholarship scheme provides awards for full-time and part-time study in first degree and diploma courses at Australian universities. Previously the detailed administration of these awards was carried out by the State Education Departments. It was decided that the Commonwealth should take over this function, starting at the beginning of 1968. There are three types of scholarships - open entrance scholarships for matriculation, later year scholarships for students who have completed some university studies, and mature age scholarships for students who have turned 25 years of age.
Benefits paid by the Liberal Government include the payment of all compulsory fees for all award holders without means test. A living allowance is also payable subject to a means test. Maximum living allowance rales in 1969 are $559 per annum for students living at home and $904.80 per annum for students living away from home.
Then we have the Commonwealth advanced education scholarships which were provided by this Government under a separate scheme from the beginning of 1966, assistance for similar courses being previously available under the old Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Awards are given by this Government for full-time and part-time study in diploma and other approved tertiary courses at technical colleges and similar institutions. There are two kinds of scholarships - open entrance scholarships for students at matriculation standard, and later year scholarships for students who have completed part of an approved course. Benefits are the same as those paid under the university scholarship scheme.
The fourth scheme is Commonwealth secondary scholarships scheme. The first secondary scholarships were taken up in 1965. Awards are given for the final 2 years of secondary schooling. Benefits available to a secondary scholarship holder include a living allowance of $200 per year, a text book and equipment allowance of $50 per year, and up to $150 per year for compulsory tuition fees, examination fees and service fees on production of receipts.
The last one is the Commonwealth technical scholarships scheme. The first technical scholarships were taken up in 1965 by this Government. Awards are given mainly for certificate level courses at technical institutions. Benefits available to a fulltime technical scholarship holder are: a living allowance of $200 per year, a textbook and equipment allowance of $50 per year, and up to $150 per year for compulsory tuition fees, examination fees and service fees on production of receipts. A technical scholarship holder taking a course part-time receives an allowance of $100 per year and reimbursement of compulsory fees up to $100 per year.
I want to emphasise that all these schemes were introduced by this Liberal Government and that all these payments were made by the Government. These were completely new advances in the field of education. In order to have some perspective in this matter I would like to draw the attention of the House to the number of awards given under each heading in 1969. The number for the Commonwealth postgraduate awards is 650; Commonwealth university scholarships, 9,500; Common.monwealth advanced education scholarships. 1,500; Commonwealth secondary scholarships, 10,000; and Commonwealth technical scholarships, 2,500. This gives an overall total of 24,150 for the year 1969. The number of scholarship holders in training in 1969 - this includes people who are undertaking the second and third year of their course - is estimated to be 56,500, which is a far cry from the total of only 6,444 in 1951, just after the Labor Government went out of office. The appropriations to finance these scholarships for the year 1968-69 totalled 828.880,000 compared with S632.194 in 1950-51. I mention these figures because the Opposition in this Parliament talks as though it had made great strides in the field of education when it was last in power. The reverse is true, however. The Australian Labor Parly has done little about education except talk about it and it was left to Liberal-Country Party governments to get down to work-
-Order! There is far too much conversation on my left
– I can understand that. This cannot be palatable to the Opposition. lt was left to the Liberal-Country Party governments to introduce the forwardlooking policies of the past decade.
– He reads so badly Mr Speaker.
– I hear mutterings from the Opposition benches and particularly from the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the Labor Party has not been in power in the past two decades, so it cannot be blamed. This is true, despite the fact that it has tried at election after election to buy votes of the Australian people by offering fantastic measures that it knew could not be carried out by any responsible government and that it knew it would never have the responsibility to carry out. It is true that the Labor Party, due to the sound common sense of the Australian voter, has not been in power in the federal sphere for 20 years, but it was in power in New South Wales for several decades and it let the education system deteriorate to such an extent-
-Order! I would again remind the honourable member for Barton that his remarks are very wide of the contents of the Bill. I can see in the last few statements no real relevance to the Bill.
– I apologise, Mr Speaker I thought that they were most apposite. I hope I may be able to finish that sentence. When the Labor Party was in power in New South Wales it let the education system deteriorate to such an extent-
-Order! If the honourable member persists in abusing the forms of the House 1 shall have to deal with him.
– I certainly do not persist. 1 am sorry if I was transgressing. I thought I could finish my sentence. Let me say that this Bill brings up to date the requirements needed for such a vast scheme to operate effectively, while at the same time it gives full protection to those who come under its various, wide-ranging ramifications. It also, I am pleased to note, emphasises the need to preserve ministerial discretion. Those of us who deal constantly with a wide range of educational problems for our constituents, as 1 do in Barton, know how many apparent anomalies crop up in such a vast scheme as this. While we may not always agree with the decisions of the Minister when he exercises his discretion, we know that these decisions are the result of long and searching research into each individual case and that the Minister is, to use a well worn Australianism, completely fair dinkum in both his approach and his outlook. We know that under his wise and imaginative administration we will have new and improved assistance given to both State and independent schools in Australia in the years ahead. I commend this Bill.
– Australians increasingly recognise that their Federal Government must treat education as a national problem and a national challenge. They recognise that a nation’s children can enjoy equal opportunities for the development of their talents only if its education system is financed and planned on a national basis. They recognise that education is the key to national development, national prosperity and national survival. Successive Liberal governments and successive Liberal Ministers responsible for education have, as a matter of policy, minimised the role of the Commonwealth in education. They have resisted the development of new Commonwealth initiatives in educational1 matters. Liberals are as anxious to slow down the inevitable increase in government expenditure on schools as they are to slow down expenditure on hospitals and urban services. Accordingly, both State and Federal Liberals assert that schools, hospitals and urban services are State functions. They know that the best way to restrict government expenditure on any activity is to say that the particular activity is one for the States, which have fewer financial resources than the Commonwealth, and which raise their revenue by indirect rather than direct taxation, by regressive rather than by progressive taxation. Again, Liberals seek constantly to dampen public interest in education and to lower the temperature of public debate by insisting that there is no crisis in education and by resisting demands for any national inquiry into education. State inquiries into education such as the inquiry recently commenced by the Government of South Australia are no substitute for a comprehensive investigation at the national level.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Are these matters appropriate to the Commonwealth Scholarships Bill, in view of the ruling given in relation to the remarks of the last speaker?
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– It would be possible for every State government to conduct an inquiry into its own education system without establishing the national needs and national priorities around which national expenditure may be organised with greatest advantage, and for which public support would be most extensive. Moreover, Liberals use scholarships as a device to defer free education for all by paying the fees of a minority. Commonwealth scholarships mask the failure of our national government to follow comparable national governments into sharing the provision of education without charge. Commonwealth
Secondary Scholarships are a typical example of the way in which Liberals defer pressing educational reforms by buying off potentially critical minorities within the electorate. They exemplify this Government’s cynical disregard for social priorities. Secondary Scholarships are awarded on the basis of intellectual tests and not financial need. Inevitably, therefore, they favour students who have benefited from social and economic advantages, not least among them access to superior schooling. Inevitably, a high proportion of the funds which are provided go to parents who are well able to afford to keep their children at school. A questionnaire sent to members of the Victorian Association of Headmasters in 1964 elicited the information that of 2151 Secondary Scholarship winners only 24 would have left school if they had not been awarded a scholarship. The headmasters pointed out that there was no way of knowing how many of the children who in fact left school would have been able to remain if they had received appropriate assistance. It is highly unlikely that the Secondary Scholarship scheme has significantly increased the number of young Australians who are able to complete a secondary education. Instead, the system has enhanced the situation described by the Director of Secondary Education in Victoria, Mr R. A. Reed, on 3rd September 1968. He said:
Compared with secondary schools, the celebrated rat race of industry and commerce is like a picnic for fieldmice Education is the only human enterprise based on a confident anticipation of failure. We not only accept failure as inevitable, we actually build it into the system.
Liberals are unable to see that at this stage of Australia’s development it may be worth devoting a significant part of our resources to developing the capacities of all our citizens. They cannot understand that there is no way of accurately sorting out human beings, and that attempts to do so in secondary schools invariably cost the nation some of its finest intellects and most useful graduates.
Twenty-four thousand young Australians were admitted to universities in 1968 but only 6,000 were able to secure Commonwealth scholarships. The total enrolment of Australian universities rose to 102,000, of whom only 25,000 were Commonwealth scholars. The Secretary of the Social Science Research Council of Australia commented:
It seems to me impossible to argue that barely more than a quarter of the new students entering degree courses in our universities are worth a scholarship. At least one half should qualify for such an award.
The leader writer of the ‘Australian’ pointed out:
Penalisation of a substantial proportion of annual matriculants, otherwise well qualified, by the government’s failure to offer financial assistance is inexcusable.
The number of Commonwealth scholarships available to university entrants has in fact declined from 40% in 1951, when the postwar scheme was launched, to 25% in 1968. The additional 1,500 scholarships foreshadowed in the 1968 Budget will not even restore the 1951 situation, far less improve it. Nor will the situation be improved by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) arguing, as he did in the ‘Australian’ on 20th May 1968, that:
When Commonwealth assistance to students is being considered it is important to survey the whole field and not just one particular aspect of assistance.
University students who now enjoy not much more than half as good a chance of obtaining a scholarship as they did in 1951 are no better off for knowing that scholarships are available elsewhere for education of a different kind. The loss the nation sustains when talented people are unable to undertake university studies for want of financial assistance is not reduced because scholarships are now available at colleges of advanced education. The Minister, moreover, should be in no doubt about the status to which colleges of advanced education have been reduced by the policies of his Government. The essential features of these colleges set out in the report of the Martin Committee have now largely disappeared. In particular, the Martin Committee’s insistence that they should acquire status equivalent to that of universities has been explicitly abandoned.
The public no longer believes and the Government no longer troubles to pretend that colleges of advanced education are anything other than also-rans, providing a limited tertiary education at bargain prices. The Minister himself is so little concerned with the colleges that he has so far been unable to tell me for how many students they cater. The Government is so little concerned that it provides for the colleges only one-fifth the number of scholarships which it provides for universities. Even so, the pent-up demand for a tertiary education is so great that the colleges are already falling a prey to many of the difficulties which beset the universities. Quotas have already been imposed for a number of courses in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. They will become much more widespread if the Wark Committee succumbs to pressure from State governments and recommends grants for the new triennium which are unrealistically low. Restricted entry applies also throughout the nation’s teacher training colleges. Although the number of Higher Certificate examination candidates in New South Wales increased between 1967 and 1968 by 5,000, only 200 additional places were provided in teachers colleges, and at least 1 ,500 eligible applicants were refused studentships. The Martin Committee recognised that any serious plan for tertiary education in Australia must include teacher training. By refusing to accept responsibility for teacher training in any form, Sir Robert Menzies abandoned at a stroke the possibility of an integrated tertiary system. He abandoned a unique opportunity to improve the quality of Australian schools. He abandoned a most relevant method of helping the struggling State authorities cope with their education crises. The present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was then Minister-in-charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research.
While Sir Robert Menzies on 24th March 1965 was extracting the heart from the Martin proposals in the House of Representatives, Senator Gorton was extracting it in the other place. He said in his ministerial statement on the report that:
Therefore, while we do not in the least denigrate the importance of the Committee’s recommendation in this field, we believe that it is one where action can be, and should be, left to the State governments who have before them the Committee’s recommendations for adoption and action should they so decide.
Teacher education is the only tertiary field in which the Commonwealth refuses to become involved. Is the Prime Minister aware of the acute shortage of teachers which is currently embarrassing each and every one of the State governments? Is he aware of the harm which is being inflicted educationally upon yet another generation of young Australians by over-large classes, untrained and semi-trained ‘temporary’ teachers and the unavailability of a whole range of specialist teachers, particularly at crucial stages of the secondary course? Does he still believe that this is a matter which can be, and should be, left to the State governments’?
Years were allowed to elapse before the Holt Government finally made available grants for the construction of buildings for new teachers colleges. In most States it was necessary for these grants to be used to replace existing buildings which had outlived their usefulness. In Victoria, the Teachers Union estimates that the grants will provide only a third of the sum actually required to provide adequate facilities. No assistance is being given with the recurrent costs of teacher training. Commonwealth teacher training scholarships recommended in the Martin report have not been provided. Unbonded teachers entitled to 10% of the new places created with the Commonwealth grant for buildings have therefore presumably been unable to take up those places. The number of additional places is in any case paltry compared with the 10,000 which the Martin Committee estimated will be required by 1975.
The Minister for Education and Science refers frequently, fulsomely and fatuously to the fact that Commonwealth expenditure for education has risen in 5 years from $70m to $2 10m. Yet Australia is still spending for education only 4.3% of its gross national product, whereas the United States spends 7.1%, Japan 6.8%, the Soviet Union 6.2% and Britain 5.9%. We are still able to retain in full-time education only 33% of our young people aged 15 to 19, whereas the United States retains 68%, the Soviet Union 52%, Canada 48% and the Netherlands 45%.
We still enable only 481 young Australians for every 100,000 of population to complete their secondary education, whereas in Japan 2,014 do so, in the United States 1,450, in Britain 893 and in Italy 625. We produce only 149 graduates from tertiary education for every 100,000 of population, whereas the United States produces 325,
Japan 204, the Soviet Union 198 and Canada 186. Yugoslavia and Greece equal Australia in the proportion of their young people undergoing full time education. Puerto Rico, Singapore and Taiwan excel us in the proportion of their young people who complete the secondary school course. Among 72 countries whose expenditure is listed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia ranks 37th. Consequently, although Australia has become one of the great mineralproducing countries of the world, we have only 1,300 geologists, whereas the United States with an area similar to our own has 20,000, and the Soviet Union with three times our area has 90,000. Although we are one of the world’s great centres of animal husbandry, we have 6.5 veterinary surgeons for every million head of stock, while Britain has 94 and the United States 65. These deficiencies are an index of the government’s 20-year failure to take an adequate or appropriate interest in education.
They are not, however, the only index. It is indicative of the Government’s whole approach to education that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and the Minister for Education and Science have given serious consideration over recent months to withdrawing scholarships from students who participate in demonstrations. It is indicative that income derived by universities from fees increased between 1963 and 1966 by 234%, although enrolments increased by only 32%. Clearly, the Government’s policy is one of making universities less free and more expensive. Clearly, State governments oblige the universities to increase their fees in order to squeeze greater sums from the Commonwealth through its commitment for scholarships, to wit, the payment of fees for scholars.
In 1966, 10% of university income, or $17m out of almost $171m, came from student fees and of these student fees 40% were paid by the Commonwealth. More than $135m came from Commonwealth and. State government grants. The abolition of fees would cost only (lim but would produce many favourable results. There would be a temporary strain on university places, but it would be fairer to have the places allotted on ability than distributed by parental income or employer sponsorship. As free university places increased, universities would cease to be regarded as places for an elite alone. Parents would recognise that a tertiary education is just as natural for their children as a primary and secondary education. Sweden plans education to the age of 18 years for 80% of its population by 1970 and for 96% of its population by 1980. I would recall that a generation ago Sweden had the lowest per capita income in Europe. Today it has the highest. It has made the maximum use of its natural and human resources. It has educated its people and its people therefore are able to make the maximum use of its natural resources. lt is remarkable and reprehensible that any government should direct scarce educational resources into the hands of those who need them least. A Labor government would not give scholarships to children whose families are in any case able to support them throughout their school careers while refusing grants to the schools on which underprivileged Australians depend for an equal opportunity in education. It would not finance second science blocks for wealthy non-government schools while other government and non-government schools are still waiting for their first blocks. Guided by a representative schools commission, Labor will develop in both government and nongovernment schools the excellence which at present characterises an affluent and fortunate few. Labor will invest discriminately in schools the resources required to overcome cultural deprivation and economic disadvantage, lt will provide the living allowances which families with smaller incomes require to support children throughout their secondary school careers.
Labor believes that able students should no longer be priced out of a university education, as my deputy said in resuming the debate on this Bill. Labor will provide over three years an additional $.llm a year to abolish fees at all Australian universities. For this investment the places for which fees are now charged will be filled by students on the basis of academic capacity and not financial capacity. As an integral part of its plan for the achievement of excellence in schools a Labor government will provide free teacher training for prospective teachers in both the government and non-government school systems.
When the Commonwealth 12 years ago entered upon its commitments, pursuant to the Murray Committee’s report, to help Australian universities it required the University of Western Australia - the only university in Australia which has been free - to charge fees over the course of the years equivalent to those charged in other universities. Accordingly, whereas in the last 1 1 years other Australian universities have doubled or trebled their fees, in the University of Western Australia the fees which have now to be paid are ten times what was paid in sports union, union and all other charges in the course of getting a university degree. Far from making university education free, the Government has effectively ended free university education in the only university which had it. The Commonwealth used its money power to ensure that the University of Western Australia could not expand or improve with the funds which the Commonwealth alone could make available unless it abandoned its principles and imposed charges over the following decade to bring it into line with all the other universities in Australia - those already operating and those established in the interim.
Only the Commonwealth can now ensure that an equal opportunity is given to every student to develop his natural talents irrespective of his parents’ locality, religion, means or occupation. The parents and teachers of students at government schools must realise that they will not receive necessary assistance from the Commonwealth unless the Commonwealth also gives assistance to non-government schools. The parents and teachers at nongovernment schools must realise that they are unlikely to receive necessary assistance from the Commonwealth unless government schools are assisted by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth must realise that it can involve itself as naturally in the affairs of all schools as it now does in the affairs of all tertiary institutions save teachers’ colleges alone. It must accept as its aim the provision of services without charge at every level of the education system. Scholarships, to which this Bill is restricted, are a method of providing a free education for a minority of students who already excell. They do nothing to emancipate the majority of students, whose natural talents remain under existing conditions unrecognised and underdeveloped.
– The first thing to which 1 would like to draw the attention of the House is the fascinating comment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), by way of interjection, if my ears did not deceive me, that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) was reading from copious notes.
– And reading poorly.
– On the contrary, it was the Leader of the Opposition who read poorly. I think the honourable member for Barton read rather well. I think that anybody who would shoot arrows in the fashion of the Leader of the Opposition might at least adopt a more liberal method of putting over a speech so that it sounded a little more interesting for those on this side of the House who had to listen to the honourable gentleman struggling through it.
I would remind the Leader of the Opposition of one small point. Tonight he seemed to adopt a rather noval method of dealing with his topic. He employed phrases such as ‘an affluent and fortunate few’. In the last few weeks he seems to have been conducting a personal vendetta - he is not alone in this. He. would have us believe that a class war exists, as though we were still in the throes of the depression. He also completely contradicted remarks that he has made in the past. I would like to quote a remark passed about the Federal Government’s record in education by a man from Western Australia named Chamberlain. The remark was made at a meeting in March 1964.
– Take your hand out of your pocket.
– The honourable member would need to take both hands out. Mr Chamberlain said:
The establishment by the Federal Government of science blocks and the provision of science facilities in private schools is quite obviously contrary to Federal Party policy.
Within a few weeks the Leader of the Opposition had said that he thought that the Government’s decision was consistent with the prime socialist objective of ensuring an equal opportunity for all in life. How does the Leader of the Opposition reconcile that encouraging statement about the Government’s policy on education with his discovery tonight of the class war? He referred to an affluent and fortunate few, and used these sorts of phrases. I suppose there are one or two reasons to account for this. The first, I expect, is that he imagines there is an election due shortly and he is scuffling for cover in view of his other rather unfortunate thoughts in terms of aid to all sections of education. The second reason undoubtedly would be that the case of the Commonwealth Government in the field of education has been so remarkably successful in the eyes of the people of Australia that frankly all that is left to do is to mouth a few words of encouragement along the line.
This time last year the Leader of the Opposition congratulated the Government on its Socialist objective and the efforts it was putting into education. This year, things being different when they are not the same, he seems to take a different point of view. Let us look at some of these facts or at some of his opinions. The first matter to which he referred and which alarmed me - and I think rightly so - was his statement that there was an intentional slowing down by the Government in various fields of education. This is the most rotten statement that I have heard for some time, and that is saying plenty. The Government’s record is one of doubling the number of scholarships of doubling the amount spent within a period of 5 or 7 years in every category of education covered by this Bill. The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) is trying to interject. Queensland has not a remarkably good record in any of these fields due to the terrible fact that it had a long and dismal run of Labor State governments which put Queensland so far behind every other State in the field of education that frankly it is not funny if you look at national need at this point of time.
Leaving that matter aside, the Leader of the Opposition then said that the national aspirations of the younger people of today were for greater education. I suppose he was logically thinking that that is the reason why they supported his Party in the new electorates during the last general election. Any opposition can sit back and come good with wild ideas, it having no responsibility, no power of the purse and not having to draw up its own priorities. It just talks for the sake of talking. As far as I am concerned, this Government has given a lead to this country in a very few years that has meant that education has gone on step by step to the remarkably successful stage at which we find it today. Over the last few years the number of Commonwealth scholarships given, for instance, in terms of applicants has been better than 1 in 4. This is at a time when the whole population of Australia is increasing its affluence and its determination for education and when people on the minimal wage in this country are succeeding, through their own thrift, in sending children right through education - right through university courses. They are doing this in some cases of which 1 know - not frequently - regrettably without the benefit of scholarships because they have not won them. This is the stage which this country has reached. People want to provide for their children and send them on to higher education. I do not think it is any use the Opposition thinking back to the days when these things could not be done, because they have been done. 1 feel rather keenly on this matter because a relation of mine who happened to be quite brilliant - a female - went through an economics degree course in the 1950s. She got her Batchelor of Economics degree. She went on and did her Master of Economics degree, and passed with top honours in every subject. In those days this unfortunate girl who was highly qualified and highly educated but who, perhaps because she was a female, could not get a job, because there was no room within the economy of the nation at that time for that sort of qualification, if the person concerned was a female. This molehill does not make a mountain, but I think the point was taken very well by my friend the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) a short time ago when he referred to the necessity for a national balance in education. The way in which this should be done has been accurately described by numerous expert committees which have looked info this question. They have said that we need a balance in education today. lt is quite wrong on any statistic to adopt the point of view which the Leader of the Opposition adopted when he said that the Government was attempting to slow down these things. In any figures at which one cares to look - and I will not weary the House by repeating them - there is the fact that the number of universities in this country has approximately trebled in the last 9 years. But it is no earthly use having a whole nation of university graduates. 1 think that any honourable member opposite will agree with me that this is so. One can talk about the national aspirations of the young people. One can try to ensure, as well as a government can, that every student will be given, as far as possible, equal opportunity. But there are many people in the community today who do not feel that half the youngsters of Australia should be university graduates. Many people in Australia today do not feel that this is the way in which Australia should go.
As I said previously, many expert committees have laid it on the counter quite clearly that our shortage in education in Australia today is in the field of technology. lt is not only we who have in this field a shortage of trained and technically accomplished young people; this is the case in the developing countries around us. 1 think that the Leader of the Opposition, when he makes some of his sweeping statements, forgets a lot of matters, including the fantastic effort of this Government in the field of providing scholarships under the Colombo Plan, and the role which we are playing in the region in which we live. There are Asian people training in this country today who in other countries would comprise an entitre university. This is a mighty performance.
I think, perhaps, it might be as well to look, for instance, at the number of new enrolments and total enrolments since the inception of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. In 1951 there were 28,000 total enrolments. In 1961 total enrolments had approximately doubled to 52,000. Between 1961 and 1968 they increased to 90,000. Once again there has been almost a doubling in the number. This Government has succeeded in providing scholarships at, by and large, an increasing rate, contrary to the point made, I think, by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who referred, perhaps, to a shorter number of years, and contrary to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition. Over 8 years this Government has succeeded in maintaining the same ratio of scholarships to total enrolments. In the years to which I have just referred, 1951 to 1968, the number of total enrolments not only doubled, but it doubled again. This is no mean feat. Quite contrary to the position in 1951, as the honourable member for Barton quite accurately described it when scholarships were down to 400 for the whole of Australia at the end of the period of rule by the Australian Labor Party and total enrolments at universities were only 28,000, enrolments today are nearly 90,000 and the percentage of scholarships from 1951 onwards has improved. Therefore, I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition is telling the whole story when he refers to only one factor. There are other factors involved that are very important and I think amply vindicate the Government for the mighty effort it has put into the field of education over the years.
Another favourite trick of the Opposition on any debate on education is to impress on this House and those who might be listening to a broadcast the deep national importance of education. 1 accept that it is nationally important. It has very significant national implications indeed. But the Opposition always glosses over the fact that we are living in a federation and the State governments do take seriously their responsibilities in the field of education. If the Opposition convinced the Government today that we should have a national inquiry into education I profoundly believe, on the knowledge that I have of my own State and others adjoining it, that the State governments would not co-operate with the Commonwealth in such an inquiry. If I am right - and I cannot, of course, give evidence that I am - what is the point in the Opposition repeatedly requesting the Government to hold a national inquiry into education? I wonder who is bluffing whom on this matter.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned my own State of South Australia, :n rather a derogatory fashion, I felt. I do not know why he picked on the South Australian Government. One would have thought that he might have picked on, for instance, the Tasmanian Government, because at that point of his argument hi was playing down the interest of Liberal governments in education. But, to be fair, he did not do so. Instead he mentioned South Australia and said that South Australia is running its own inquiry into education. If he had net been reading his speech I would have interjected and asked him why he thought that South Australia should not inquire into its education system. Although we give section 96 grants and other grants to the States, the responsibility for education is still with ‘he States and I know of no reason why the South Australian Government should not hold an inquiry into education if it wishes to. I agree that State committees of inquiry into State education systems must be limited. But then, so is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government of today limited. lt is easy, I suppose, for the Opposition to imagine what it would do if it attained office. Would its attitude be any different from that of the Government today? If it were, would it be accused of being centralist and of trying to dictate to the States in these matters? Would the Australian people agree that the Commonwealth should so dictate? If the answer to this is no, then, as I asked before, what is the basis for this suggestion of a national inquiry? Is it based on reality or is it based on bluff? What is the Opposition’s point in coming forward so frequently devoid of argument and relying solely on the demand for a hig inquiry? This has been going on for 5 years now to my certain knowledge.
The Leader of the Opposition also attacked the Government with an argument based on the percentage of gross national product spent on education in Australia. I think the original idea for this form of attack came from Professor Karmel of South Australia who made a comparison many years ago of the percentage of gross national product spent on education in various countries. His comments and comparisons were always taken out of perspective by those who wished to use a comparison without telling the whole, story. I remember that very shortly after Professor Karmel made those statements, and after I had heard Opposition, both State and Federal, attacking governments on the basis of Professor Karmel’s figures, I ran into him in South Australia and asked him about the different standards adopted in different countries in connection with expenditure on education. I knew very little about it at that time. He set to to tell me the different standards adopted in various countries. I do not remember them all now, but I do remember, for instance, that expenditure on education in the United Kingdom includes the cost of free lunches. I expect that in Queensland it would include the cost of air-conditioning plants - but I do not know. There was a wide variety of educational costs in the English total figures on which the percentage of gross national product was based.
The standards vary widely from country to country. If I remember rightly, in Switzerland the education costs included interest on capital expenditure incurred in the construction of school buildings. I would deny very vigorously that Australia suffers at all, on any comparison in real terms rather than imaginary ones, based on a percentage of gross national product. Frankly, I have not looked at these figures for 18 months or so. But when I last looked at them I was quite convinced that this country had nothing to be worried about on any comparison based on a percentage of gross national product.
Those are briefly the points in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that interested me. I would like, for a moment, to get back to the terms of the legislation itself. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who spoke before the Leader of the Opposition, referred to the 1967 Act which was put before another place during that year requesting sweeping powers. He said that the other place at that time argued in favour of regulations. The Government at that time, probably being aware of the situation then existing, accepted many of the remarks and comments made in the other place. Several people, one of whom was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition by name, now have confidence in this legislation.
I notice that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to clause 11 of the Scholarships Bill. Clause 1 1 deals with benefits under Commonwealth secondary scholarships. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out that he would have no complaint with clauses 1 to 10. He said that his only complaint with clause 11 would revolve around the use of the word ‘prescribed’. Clause 11 states:
I suppose the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is slightly more experienced than I am in theses masters. But the use of the word ‘prescribed’, to my way of thinking, can mean nothing other than ‘prescribed by regulation’. If anyone has any doubt on that, other than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I would like to hear his interpretation. From my experience of State governments and my minor experience here I know of no way in which we could interpret this term other than that it neans ‘prescribed by regulation’. Although I have not had a chance to consult with the Minister, I have no doubt that he will say precisely the same thing as I am saying when he replies to the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, the Bill sets up three criteria. As these were covered by the honourable member for Barton, I will not repeat them. The only source of doubt in my mind was not referred to by the Opposition. I refer to clause 19, which reads:
The Minister may, by instrument in writing–
Which I take to be definitely not verbally- delegate to a person, either generally or otherwise as provided in the instrument of delegation, all or any of his powers or functions under this Act, except this power of delegation. 1 am not clear to whom this power can be delegated. I do not know whether it can be delegated to an officer of the Department of Education and Science or whether the person to which the clause refers must be a prescribed person. That is my main doubt. Having regard to the line of the debate in the other place on the previous occasion, I have no doubts whatsoever, except the one to which I have referred, about the wording of the Bill in its new form.
A little while ago 1 referred to new enrolments and I quoted some figures. I thought that as soon as I could find some figures relevant to the contention by the Leader of the Opposition that the quality of payments and allowances in terms of the scholarships in the five fields covered by this Bill has not been kept up to standard I should cite them. I hope the figuresI have are entirely accurate and that I am not misquoting the Leader of the Opposition when I say that he said that the quality of allowances and other payments had been downgraded by the Government over the years. One could argue whether his remarks are correct in every facet - in relation to South Australia for instance. But they are not true of the Commonwealth’s interest in its own scholarships. There are many indicators to support this contention. Let us take as an example the living away from home allowance which is paid to full time scholars by the Commonwealth Government. In 1961, 39% of those in receipt of scholarships claimed the living away from home allowance. Today, 44.3% are claiming this allowance. This is in spite of the huge increase in enrolments at universities. Another indicator is the average allowance per scholar. In 1961 it was $434; today it is $534. So these payments have, in real terms, more than kept up with the standards set in the past. This is quite contrary to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on this matter.
Quite frankly, 1 think that the Opposition is very wise in not opposing the Bill. The Opposition has adopted a typical tactic that it adopts from time to time of preaching that more of everything is good for all. 1 am happy with the Commonwealth’s involvement in the field of education. I think it has proved to be extremely worthwhile. The Commonwealth’s rate of expenditure in this field is increasing enormously. I believe that the Commonwealth cannot just rush in and attempt to take over the control of education from the State governments. Frequently the State governments have a far more intimate knowledge of local priorities. In my view much of the control of education in the future must be retained by those closest to the local scene. I suppose it is all a matter of priorities. Any Opposition could habitually take the point of view that there must be more expenditure on everything. This is just a fact of life. I am quite sure that if one spoke quietly to many of the honourable members opposite one would find that they completely approve the Government’s record. But at this time of the year, with exciting times around the corner and elections hoving in view, it is customary for the Opposition to say:Let us spend a bit more on everything’. 1 support the Bill. 1 congratulate the Minister for Education and Science on the dedicated and first-class job that he is doing. 1 conclude my remarks by saying only one thing by way of complaint. 1 think that the means test on the living away from home allowance for scholarship holders - naturally this relates more to those living in country areas than it does to those living in city areas - should be raised. Quite recently 1 had personal experience in this regard concerning two families living in that fine area I represent, the Barossa Valley, where incomes can be very erratic. 1 seriously believe that the Government should relax the means test as it applies to living away from home allowances. I think that where incomes are erratic, as they can be in areas where people do not have an assured weekly salary, people can be disadvantaged. I think you will agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that is a very small suggestion to make. 1 congratulate the Government upon its education policy.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 support the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). 1 have listened with interest to the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). What struck me most about their remarks was their attempts to criticise the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for raising the point that there are many parents in Australia who cannot afford to send their children to places of higher learning. The honourable member for Barton and, to the best of my knowledge, the honourable member for Angas said that the Australian Labor Party was living in the past, the post-depression years, and that this is 1969. 1 do not know what sort of electorates the honourable members for Barton and Angas represent, but it is quite obvious that they mix in only the most elite circles. They do not have any contact with the under privileged people who must surely exist even in their electorates.
– The average person in my electorate would earn less than the average person in your electorate; make no mistake.
– The honourable member has had his say. There must be people in his electorate who cannot afford to send their children to places of higher learning, such as an institute of technology or a university. Certainly in the areas that I know there is still a large proportion of parents who do not have sufficient means to be able to send their children - even if those children have the capacity - to places of higher learning. The honourable member instanced a relative of his who gained, t should think with honours or distinction, the degree of Master of Economics and could not find a job. I do not quarrel with the honourable member about the facts, but I find it extraordinary because in the 1950s, the period he quoted, there was a tremendous demand for trained economists. That was a period when economists were coming into their own in increasing numbers as compared with arts students. There were few university graduates in economics and my own experience at that time was that there was a dearth - a shortage - of economists, particularly those with the degree of Master of Economics, lt is possible that the particular person to whom the honourable member referred may have wanted to specialise in a certain field of economics and there may not have been opportunities in that field. But speaking generally there is, always has been and will be in the near future anyhow a strong demand for trained economists.
I was not certain what the honourable member for Angas meant, but if he meant what I think he meant, 1 agree with him that there is an imbalance with respect to the types of graduates who are graduating from Australian universities. He made the point that there is a serious deficiency in the field of technology. He did not define technology, but technology, of course, can include university graduates in the fields of engineering and in the sciences for example. The main point I wish to make concerns the problem of priorities and how the Commonwealth Scholarships Board allocates or weights priorities between disciplines - between faculties - in the Australian universities, because 1 believe that the granting of Commonwealth scholarships at Australian universities should bear some direct relationship to the urgent problems facing our economy today. 1 find it totally unacceptable that the Commonwealth Scholarships Board should allocate a total of 47 post-graduate scholarships in agriculture and veterinary science compared with 108 post-graduate scholarships in French and German. I cannot accept that post-graduate research in French and German is more important than post-graduate work in agriculture and veterinary science. I am not in any way trying to degrade post-graduate work in French and German but I cannot accept that French and German post-graduate work is at least twice as important in the Commonwealth’s eyes as post-graduate work in agriculture and veterinary science.
– What was the demand for each scholarship?
– If the honourable member wants to speak, why does he not do so? He will probably follow his usual practice of not speaking but sitting on the sidelines and interjecting. It is apparent that there is a clear need for a revision of the priorities with respect to these scholarships. I am only going to give this one example because I believe this is an applied result of scholarship training. I am comparing the scholarships awarded for agriculture and veterinary science with those awarded for other faculties. Despite the great advances in secondary and tertiary industries it must be recognised that primary industry is still the backbone of Australia’s economy. As I said before, when one looks at the postgraduate scholarships in agriculture and veterinary science and compares them with post-graduate scholarships in other disciplines I rank the former as a practical type of scholarship which has a tremendous application to the Australian economy.
If we look at the annual report regarding post-graduate awards we find that postgraduate scholarships in music are five times as many as post-graduate scholarships in veterinary science. I understand that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has some claim to being a musician - I am not sure whether that is right or not, but I understand he likes music. Perhaps he may be willing to justify the provision of significantly more scholarships for music students. However, I fail to see why there should be five times as many post-graduate scholarships for music as there are for veterinary science. Of course, the answer may be that more people are doing music than veterinary science. If this is the situation, it is time something were done to encourage more people to do veterinary science. If there is one industry today which is dependent on veterinary science it is the export meat industry. Those who are associated with it in one way or another know that the export meat industry is in jeopardy because of the shortage of trained veterinary scientists. A very serious problem is developing between the United States Government and the Australian Government over the supply of veterinary scientists. Unless we can get veterinary scientists in our Australian export abattoirs there is the risk that we may not be able to export from those abattoirs.
I am using this only as a practical example because, as I have said before, I have no wish to criticise or degrade postgraduate work in French, German or music, but as far as I am concerned - and perhaps I am biased - I believe that post-graduate work in engineering, agriculture and veterinary science is more important to this nation when Commonwealth funds are involved. I am not saying this in respect of the funds of private individuals who can do what they like, but I am concerned where Commonwealth funds are involved. This is the principle I am arguing: Some priority should be given, in the actual allocation of funds, to the various disciplines and faculties. In Australia there are areas of work that are crying out for more trained men, because there is a shortage of such men. I do not know whether there is a shortage of graduates in French, German or music. Perhaps there are. But I do know that there is a severe shortage of trained agricultural scientists to do very valuable work in the arid zone of Australia for example. This zone is of extreme importance to Australia, but it is an area about which we know very little. We need ecologists, botanists, agronomists and climatologists - people trained in the specialties of agricultural or applied science - to work on various problems in this area. I am arguing that some greater priority should be given to the practical side - to those areas where there is a definite shortage of trained men. In the northern parts of Australia we have a severe shortage of agricultural scientists to work in the field of tropical pastures. This is a field which has tremendous scope for development and the increase of export income. We must do everything possible to train graduates at universities and to encourage post-graduate research in the specialised fields of tropical agriculture and tropical pastures.
This Government pays a subsidy on nitrogen, but very little is known in Aus: tralia about the effect, of nitrogen on pastures. Most of the elements that have been applied to pastures have been phosphatic materials, not nitrogenous materials. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland is showing that a tremendous response can be achieved by applying’ nitrogen to native pastures and to some species of natural grass such as pangola grass. There is a shortage of agricultural scientists and people trained in this field who can get the knowledge across to the farmer and show him what can be achieved.
– What work has been done on this overseas that could be applied to Australia?
– I do not think sufficient work has been done yet for us to draw analogies. Researchers must be able to set up their experiments, interpret their results, put forward their hypotheses and by induction pass their knowledge on to the farmer or the grazier. But we have not got these men. The. CSIRO and the State departments of agriculture - will tell us that we cannot get these men because there are not sufficient numbers of them going through the universities. I make the point again that I cannot find anything in this Bill nor in the explanation in the second reading speech that shows that any priority will be given to those fields of work where there is a definite shortage of trained personnel.
I do not wish to say anything more than that, but I would hope that the Minister will take my remarks as being of some value. I have given examples of certain practical fields where there “ are shortages of university graduates who could make contributions to the Australian economy. I am not saying that more research should not be done in the arts or the social sciences. We certainly need that, but to me at least there is some imbalance in the distribution of post-graduate scholarships in particular in this country. In conclusion, I would say that this position should be corrected if possible, because the granting of scholarships should not bear a direct relationship to the number of enrolments in each faculty at universities. Because the arts faculty, for example, may have ten times the number of students that the faculty of agricultural science has, this does not mean that arts students should receive ten times the number of post-graduate scholarships that agricultural science students receive.
– In many ways in this Bil) we see a change in the way in which the Commonwealth Government looks at education. I suppose we can say that the 1945 Education Act arrived with a bang because it marked the entry of the Commonwealth into the field of education in a legislative way for the first time. Since then it seems to have vanished from the field without even a whimper. It is time the attention of the House was drawn to the fact that what was the original charter of this Parliament in regard to education has been withdrawn and has been replaced by a definition of certain areas of scholarships. These scholarships are granted on a competitive basis and are about the only area of Commonwealth activity in education today. So I think it is time that we applied ourselves to some of the principles upon which the Commonwealth Parliament ought to be operating.
Tonight we are considering what one might call a hotch-potch of political sedatives. In recent years the Government has concentrated on various fields, some of which have been politically expedient. I refer io the Commonwealth grants to the States for science laboratories and secondary school libraries. In general, at times, the Government has done whatever has been politically expedient. I do not know whether it is because of pressure from the universities or pressure from other bodies for scholarships in certain fields that it has done this. I see no concept of a Commonwealth education policy. I see no plan or system being developed. If Australian education needs anything, it is planning and some systematic approach. 1 deny the assertions by honourable members opposite that we members of the Opposition are centralist to the extent that we want everything controlled from some press button system operating in Canberra. We are nothing of the sort. Those of us concerned with education on this side of the House would be the first to admit that we do not know quite the best way in which communities ought to participate in education or the best way of utilising the great resources of national effort that are available to us. I have a hope that somewhere in Canberra perhaps these problems are being worked out. I would like to see Commonwealth and State officials sitting side by side, working almost in the same office, on a modus operandi for educational effort that would be an example to the whole of Australia. Perhaps it is possible to get this kind of co-operation by establishing a system of local education authorities throughout. Australia, each covering, say 150,000 to 200,000 people. There is no doubt that with the administrative competence that is available to us, with the financial stability that enables us to give anything if we really try, and with the lines of communication that are available no matter where any person may live, we ought to be able to achieve something.
My regret is that in this instance we are repealing what is the fundamental charter of this Parliament and replacing it with a very singleminded education objective. In some ways I am one of those who believe that scholarships do not have strictly educational objectives. They represent some ideal which I reject as an educational ideal. I know, of course, that some of the honourable members opposite seem to be completely out of sympathy with our approach to education. 1 think it was the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who suggested that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was dredging up some elements of the class war. I am not sure what exactly he did say, but I know that he attacked the concept that there is economic deprivation in the field of education in Australia. One only has to look at the honourable member’s background to see that he does not know what serious economic deprivation could mean, and 1 would not like to wish economic hardship upon him.
At the present time the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in all his public announcements seems to be concerned with non-State education. We can look at his public announcements and see that they are always concerned with some political gimmickry such as what we are to do with what are technically called independent, schools. Of course, independent schools are non-existent anyhow. I do not see any approach to education in the total sense. I would remind honourable members that the 1945 Education Act imposed some seven or eight obligations upon the Commonwealth Office of Education. One would presume that the Department of Education and Science has become the heir of the functions of this body. What has been happening to some of these obligations? One obligation was to advise the Minister on matters relating to education. I. have no doubt that that is being done. Another obligation was to establish and maintain a liaison on matters relating to education with other countries and with the States and to arrange for consultations between Commonwealth and State authorities on matters relating to education. There were three or four more of them.
The interesting point is that this charter was enshrined in legislation and it was there for all to read. Tonight we are repealing that charter, we are removing it from the legislation. The Government makes no attack upon what I believe are the features of Australian education that ought to be under attack. What are we doing about inequalities in education? The Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) have pointed out where some of these inequalities lie. There is no doubt that there are great inequalities in this country arising from geography. Some of it is political geography inasmuch as there is a difference between the capacity of universities in New South Wales and universities in Victoria to absorb students. This is the product of political attitudes that have developed over a quarter to half a century. People in New
South Wales in general have greater access to university education than people who live in Victoria.
Then there is the geographical disability imposed upon people who live in remote areas. What are we doing to allow people who pass through the secondary stage of education in the remoter areas, of Australia to find satisfactory accommodation and financial support when they do go to the university? What are we doing to supply some mobility inside the university scheme so that the Australian National University could be expanded by perhaps 4,000 or 5,000 students, or so that the university in Tasmania, the one at Townsville or the one at Armidale could be expanded? This might be a more satisfactory method of approaching the problem than expanding the metropolitan universities. One does not have to look very far to realise that there are great areas of economic deprivation in Australian education. I represent one of the industrial areas of Australia, an area in which the great majority of the, people are in the lower income bracket. Every family whose children manage to matriculate, and even those whose children achieve a Commonwealth scholarship, have a great struggle to get their children through to the university. The Government has made no approach to this problem at all. The general Commonwealth scholarship scheme is based upon what might be called academic excellence, or whatever it is that one achieves to get a satisfactory result at the secondary and tertiary level. As I said, there is no approach to this problem at all.
The great wastage in Australian education is the disability imposed upon women by their sex. As I have said before, this is probably not a political ‘ issue but is something to do with the society in which we live. I think the figures show that at the present time about 60,000 or 70,000 young men and about 25,000 or 30,000 young women in Australia are at the universities. Between 40,000 and 50,000 young women have the same capacities as their brothers, and same social backgrounds, the same economic backgrounds and the same intellectual capacities. These girls who take out prizes at certain levels of education somehow drop out of the system. This is a most tragic wastage. It is one that all honourable members have to take up in some way or other if Australia is to get the greatest possible advantage from the intellectual capacity of the community.
There is also the wastage based upon race. 1 raised this question this morning during another debate, but during the day I received a new bulletin from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. It showed the Aboriginal population of Australia. Figures at page 29 of that document show that 39.23% of the Aboriginal population have no education at all. Of course that includes 16% under school age; so 23% of the adult Aboriginal population have no education whatsoever. But in the non-Aboriginal community only about 1% have no education. Any Australian government conscious of its duty would be tackling these problems.
What do we intend to do about the environment in which education is carried out? I suggest that honourable members should visit the schools in Canberra. These schools may have their deficiencies. I have heard Canberra citizens complain about them, but compared with schools in the rest of Australia or in most areas of Australia they are, although not exactly luxurious, substantially in advance of other schools. The Minister for Education and Science represents the western part of Victoria. I understand from his friends that he owns most of it. I suggest that he should drive a little further north out of his electorate and visit the city of Horsham, which is the centre of one of the wealthiest pastoral areas in Australia. I visited the high school there last week. I did not know that there was any such school building in Australia. I represent an area in which there is a great amount of neglect of school buildings, but the Horsham High School building is a disgrace to Australia’s education system. It is a disgrace to those people who have represented that area in this place and in the State Parliament. The walls of the building are cracking and the roofs are falling in. One area of the walls is buttressed up and part of it is capable of inflicting both serious injury on people should it collapse and hardship by inflictions on health. I suggest that the Minister for Education and Science should take a drive up there and have a look at the buildings instead of worrying about some of the wealthy schools which his children and the children of his friends attend. He might even come along to the Moreland High School in my electorate which has some substantial new buildings but where there is no room for any of the children to spread their wings.
-Order! I would remind the honourable member for Wills that this Bill deals with scholarships.
– That is right.
-Order! It does not cover the whole field of education. I remind the honourable member that I cannot see the relevance between the state of schools and the question of scholarships. I suggest the honourable member might get back to the Bill.
– With due respect, I point out that clause 3 repeals the Education Act of 1945. That Act sets out a number of functions for the Ministry and I am suggesting that those functions ought to have been retained. I am producing, I hope, evidence that it needs Commonwealth attention. However, I intend to conclude my speech in a moment because I want my colleague the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) to have his say, not that he will often vote against the gag when it is applied against me.
Fundamental requirements of education exist in the field of teaching. The Minister for Education and Science should consider making available scholarships to women in their 30s, 40s and even in their 50s. A great reservoir of skills, intellectual and otherwise, would be available in the community if there were a special system for training such people. If Australia needed 20,000 or 30,000 secondary teachers within the next few year, with dramatic and dynamic planning and by offering something to women whose family responsibilities were nearing completion it could obtain these teachers and have them qualified within 4 or 5 years. I have noted amongst my own circle of friends and in my own family the way in which many women are taking up university education quite late in life. Women in their 40s still have a quarter of a century of profitable professional endeavour before them. The present approach is quite unimaginative. The scholarship system that is inflicted upon the Australian community is a perpetuation of the continual competitive system of elitist education. Labor’s philosophy is one of totality as compared to the competitive system which the Liberal Party and its satellite inflict on society generally. I hope that the Minister for Education and Science will shortly bring some omnibus legislation before the House to tell honourable members what the Government’s proposals are to systematise Australian education.
– I fully realise that, time is moving on and the Minister . for’ Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is preparing to close the debate. I refer briefly to. the charge . of . political gimmickry laid by the honourable member . for Wills (Mr Bryant) against the Minister and his claim that every .time the Minister speaks what he says has something to do with gim- .micks. It is very easy for the honourable member for Wills to overlook the fact that the Minister has stated- this is not a matter of gimmickry - that in 1964-65 the expenditure on Commonwealth scholarships was $ 12.7m; in 1969 it was $28.9m; and that it is anticipated that in 1971-72 it will be $35m. Since. 1964-65 the expenditure has increased almost, three- times, and yet the honourable member for Wills shrugs it off. I refer also to remarks made by the honourable, member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), particularly his claim about the shortage of veterinary, scientists. Perhaps the lack of incentive is not just at the scholarship stage. It may be the end result when these men are out in the field. The honourable member for Dawson, who himself is so close to the soil, knows that many prospective veterinary scientists opt out of this field and choose medicine instead, perhaps because . of the attractiveness and glory of the medical profession. I agree with him when he says that the situation has arisen in the country areas where more than ever before technical knowledge is required.
I have risen to speak mainly on the subject of mature age scholarships. I am very pleased to see the Minister for Education and Science present tonight. He is aware that I have written various letters to him on this subject. I am quite sure that the Minister himself is quite concerned about this problem. However, for the purpose of the record I want to state that at present we have 250 mature age scholarships. In my electorate in recent weeks I have had no fewer than eight people over 25 years of age who have approached’ me with the problem of whether or not they would receive a mature age scholarship. Many of these people are in their late 20s or early 30s. They left school at an early age and, in this society of ours which offers opportunity for self education, they, have reached the stage where they have entered university and have passed their first year. I sincerely hope that serious consideration will be given either to increasing the lower age limit to 30 or 35 or increasing’ the numberof mature age scholarships available. I know that a sad situation exists now. in that many second year students have no hope whatsoever ‘ of ‘ obtaining a scholarship. Many of them have acquired up to three distinctions and credits in their first year’s studies. Many who have perhaps done early - years at the university on a part time basis and have had to face married life and work during the day have had early failures taken- into consideration. I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without saying something on their behalf. I hope that a freerattitude will be taken in - relation to this matter. I see that the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) is hot on my trail to ..j/se me to cease, so on that note I ‘conclude.
– in reply - I would like to thank honourable members for the remarks that they have made during this debate. 1 am glad to see that the Opposition in broad terms supports the Bill but a number of matters have been raised that do, in part at least, require some kind of answer. I would like to apologise to the House for not having been able to be in the chamber throughout the’ debate, butCabinet has been meeting’ on matters with which I have been concerned. The Leader1 of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), I am advised, made a number of points, not all strictly related to this Bill. He made some points which I think need greater examination than he has perhaps given them. For example, he said that he would abolish all university fees and that this would cost Slim. All right, that is Slim, but where are one’s priorities in terms of education? It is not just one amount. of Slim. It is Slim or an increasing amount for every year thereafter. If one sets this beside the other things that could be done in support of education with Slim, I suggest that it is extremely doubtful whether one would give the abolition of university fees complete and absolute priority.
I should also like to raise another question in relation to the abolition of university fees which I think I mentioned once before in this House and which representatives of unions in this place might do very well to consider. I think it is very widely recognised that whatever advances might be made in education in the future the majority of our population will not be going to universities. An increasing number and an increasing percentage will go to universities and an increasing number and an increasing percentage will go to colleges of advanced education. But no country, I think, has achieved a .situation in which a majority of its people of university age do in fact go to a university. What is the justice of taxing the unionist and the average worker throughout the country, to provide a free education for a doctor, a lawyer or a solicitor, who will be going out into the world with professional qualifications enabling him to charge fees at an extraordinarily high level - in a large part a charge on the unionists who are said to be the supporters of the Labor Opposition? I believe that this is a matter which members sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition might do well to consider, and to see where the true balance of justice, need and equity lies in relation to this matter. It is by no means as simple as the Leader of the Opposition suggests.
He has also said, as I think other speakers have said, that more scholarships are needed. Of course, it is always easy to say that more are needed. This is one of the things that the Opposition always can do and it is the Opposition’s privilege to be able to do it. But in saying that, one should not ignore the fact that repeatedly throughout its period in office the Government has increased the number of scholarships. It was the Government that first introduced the Commonwealth scholarship schemes. It was the Government, when the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, which did most to broaden our concern for education and which first did most, to be specific, in relation to scholarships, to increase the variety of scholarships and their numbers. Advanced education scholarships were introduced in 1966. Secondary scholarships and technical scholarships were introduced in 1965. Over the years the number holding scholarships has increased from a little under 6,500 to an estimated 56,500 in 1969, and the number of new scholarships that were available to be awarded in any one year has increased from 3,000 to 24,150. So the Government has given a great deal of attention to these matters. Growing from nothing, the annua] bill for scholarships will in a relatively short time rise to $35m, so it cannot be said that the Government has not given a great deal of attention to these matters - much more attention, I believe, than the Opposition might have believed we have in fact given. But still the criticism comes, as one would expect.
I believe that these figures and this performance show how unreasonable is the claim of the Leader of the Opposition that we use scholarships to restrict education to an elite. This certainly cannot be said when we look at the numbers of those who are now finding places in universities. There were 100,000 last year, when the United Kingdom, with five or six times our population, had an objective, according to one article I read, of about 225,000 university students in 1972-73. The United Kingdom swelled its numbers of university students by signing over, at one stroke, a number of technological institutions. By signing a piece of paper it called these institutions universities. That is one of the ways in which it achieved a figure much less than ours, lt is a case of Australia having performed very much better than the United Kingdom in this regard. The Leader of the Opposition also said, I am advised, that the scholarships do not basically provide assistance to those who are in need. Not only do they provide for those who are in need but also that need must be judged on ability. There is no point in providing scholarships to those who have not a reasonable chance and a reasonable opportunity of passing through university without too great a difficulty. This is one of the bases on which the scholarships are in fact made available. The living allowance is provided for those who win scholarships and who are in fact most in need. So the scholarships system does a great deal to assist people who would otherwise not find places in universities. The days are very far gone when one’s parents own finances could find one a place at a university irrespective of one’s own ability and irrespective of other considerations. The able student can get to a university and, I believe, does.
It should be worth noting that either the Martin Report on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia or one of the Australian Universities Commission reports at a time when Sir Leslie Martin was Chairman, indicated that one of the bases, of judging university entrants should be that students be able to pass through university in minimum time or in minimum time plus one year. In fact not all of those who are awarded Commonwealth scholarships achieve this performance and there are numbers in universities who after some difficulty pass but do so with a greater time lag than one year. We know, of course, that about one-third of those who do enter universities fail to leave with any degree. This merely makes the point that we are not restircting entry to universities only to those who can qualify in a minimum time or only to those who can qualify at all. There are sufficient places to enable a great number of people to go to a university, even though their chances of passing at the bottom level of entrance to universities are not particularly high.
The Leader of the Opposition again returned to the old criticism that we do not adopt the Martin Report recommendations on teacher training. Once again he ignored the fact that a great many of those recommendations were the particular prerogative of the States and it was for the States, having regard to their own administration and to their own systems, which had the responsibility of giving effect to those recommendations. One of those was that teacher training should be extended to 3 years. This is something on which every State has now acted, but it was the States which had to make a decision, and they have done so. The same report suggested that the Commonwealth should spend S2.5m on capital facilities for teacher training matched by a similar sum from the States. In fact, we have spent $24m on teacher training, or are in the process of spending it, and these are unmatched funds to provide an additional 5,000 teacher trainee places.
The Canberra College of Advanced Education is also actively planning to introduce courses in teacher training. So it cannot by any means be said that we have been ignoring this important matter of teacher training. I thought in view of the criticisms that have been made concerning the number of teachers that the House may be interested in the improved pupil-teacher ratios which have occurred over recent times in spite of the fact that there has been an explosive growth in the demand for education caused not so much by a higher number in a particular age group or by immigration as by a much higher percentage of those in the upper years of secondary schooling in the 15 to 18 year old age group seeking to stay at school longer than was once the case. This percentage over the past 10 years has risen from about 20% or 22% of the 15 to 18 year olds to about 40% last year. 1 have no doubt that this pressure on the top end - the expensive end - of secondary schooling will continue and that the percentage increase of the age group seeking to end their secondary school will continue.
Despite this pressure on the top end of secondary schooling the pupil-teacher ratios broadly have improved even if the improvement has not been as rapid as some would like. For example, in primary schools in Australia the overall ratios have gone from 30.2 to 1 in 1962 to 28.2 to I in 1967. In Victoria - and as a Victorian I am pleased to see that that State leads the field - the ratios have gone from 24.8 to I to 23.7 to 1. If one looks at secondary schools throughout Australia the ratios have gone from 20.9 to I to 18.7 to 1, and in New South Wales even with the difficulties of the Wyndham scheme and the extra pressure which that put on their secondary school system the ratio has improved from 21 to 1 in 1962 to 18.6 to 1 in 1967. So there has been an improvement in pupilteacher ratios and the combined programmes of the Commonwealth and the States and the assistance that we have provided are helping to make this improvement possible. Having said that, I know it will always be possible to point to a particular school or to a particular discipline and to indicate that there are shortages in one area or another, but the overall position is better than it once was.
I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) also mentioned the percentage of gross national product that we spend on education and compared it with the expenditure of other countries. I would only like to say that my Department has done a great deal of work on these comparisons over the last 6 months and very shortly I will be making available to all honourable members a very detailed paper which will analyse these figures and the considerations that need to be borne in mind when using them as comparisons. They will show that the comparisons are utterly meaningless when comparing the educational effort and the quality of education between one country and another. 1 hope that it will not be more than another week or two before this document will be available to all honourable members who would like to see it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) asked one or two specific questions concerning various clauses in the Bill and asked for the difference between the wording used in clauses 1 1 and 12 concerning secondary and technical scholarships. The clauses state that, the regulations will prescribe the funds to be used for a living allowance. It is possible to use the terms that were used in those clauses 1 1 and 12 because for the secondary and technical scholarships the living allowance is $200 and it is the same for everyone.
There is no means test on these particular scholarships, and the amount will, of course, appear in the regulations. If the amount were changed the regulations would be altered. But when one comes to the Commonwealth university and advanced education scholarships there is a means test. Some people get the full living allowance and others whose parents have greater means than others will get none. Whilst the living allowance will be awarded in accordance with the regulations they certainly will not be the same for everyone, and it is this difference between the nature of the living allowance and the way in which it is computed and paid which causes the difference in the regulations. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will bc able to accept that explanation. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) raised a query about the power of delegation in the Bill. This is necessary, and by and large it will be a power of delegation to officials in my Department because it is physically quite impossible for the Minister for Education and Science annually to award 25,000 scholarships. Except for the particular cases where discretion might need to be used or where something is brought to the Minister’s notice this is something that the Minister must delegate to his Department.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) told me before he spoke that he was going to put forward a plea for a generally broader Commonwealth approach to education and to activities in a wider number of fields. I think the record of the past, as all honourable members know - and the last 4 or 5 years in particular - will indicate that the Commonwealth is spreading its interest and concern in a much greater variety of fields than was formerly the case, and I have no doubt that our concern and increasing involvement in education will continue. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) asked why there are only four students undertaking study under post-graduate awards in veterinary science - which I agree is very important - when there might, for example, be 17 in music. I think he put the point forward that a post-graduate award in veterinary science is more important than a post-graduate award in music. As a farmer I would find it difficult to argue with him, but these awards may in part reflect the number of people who are studying in a course at the undergraduate level, and so therefore those numbers could affect the number of applications in a particular discipline for a post-graduate award.
By and large the greater the number of applicants the greater number there will be of sufficient quality to achieve an award. But I think the honourable member’s concern may, to some extent, be alleviated if he keeps in mind that if one looks at agriculture, biochemistry, chemistry, botany and other disciplines of this kind where the numbers of post-graduate awards are really quite great, and when one has in mind also that many of these disciplines cover subjects that are related to veterinary science, one sees that much of the postgraduate research work in veterinary science would be done under the name of another discipline. So I think that the position is not quite as grim as the bare figures on this table might indicate. I would only like to say to the honourable member for
Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) that the position of the mature age award holders is understood. Broadly, the Commonwealth in the past made a judgment that it is better to support those in universities who go through the normal educational stream. But it is recognised that this creates difficulties. Whether anything can be done about it or not I do not know, but I give the honourable member an assurance that the position of mature age award holders is being very closely examined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– What I have to say tonight may be described as a report. It is a report of my journey during the Easter recess through the Murray Valley from Kerang to Mildura in order to see at first hand the damage inflicted on the dried fruits industry by recent heavy rains. In making the report I want to give certain statistics. I will read the report.
During the Easter recess of the Parliament I travelled through the Murray Valley from Kerang to west of Mildura so that I might see the damage caused by the torrential rain of a few weeks ago. Greatest loss was experienced by growers of dried vine fruits, their losses being estimated at from 45% to 50% of the entire crop. When the storm struck most of the fruit had been picked and was on the racks, where I saw it rotting from the effects of rain. To harvest the fruit that remained on the vine up to double rates had to be paid to pickers, the remaining crop being too light for them to make reasonable wages at normal rates. In many cases this situation increased substantially the costs of the producer.
It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of growers who, after their year’s work, suddenly lost much of the crop on which they depended so heavily. I spoke at meetings of growers at Mildura and Woorinen and discussed the problem with others at Robinvale and Nyah. I also drove, through the Tresco settlement. I found that financial assistance was urgently needed and that the Government of Victoria, through its rural finance office, was inviting growers to state their case to government officers who would operate from central positions to be advertised. It is considered that this is the only practical method of assessing the individual and collective loss.
It appears that growers can be regarded as being in three categories - a small percentage who will not require financial assistance; a large percentage who require a long term low interest loan if they are to continue satisfactorily in production; and a percentage still to be ascertained who urgently require a liberal grant if they are to survive as primary producers. The Australian vine fruits industry is important to those engaged in it and to the economy of the nation. The average gross value of dried vine fruit production in Australia for each of the 4 years up to 1966-67 was $30,678,775. Of this production about two-thirds, valued at $20,452,516, was produced in the Mallee electorate. In the 4 years to which I have referred the value of fruit exported amounted to $22,121,500 per annum.
– I thought the honourable member did not read his speeches.
– This is a report. So the value of the industry to Australia may be readily recognised. Dried vine fruit growers were not the only ones to suffer from the disaster. Growers of citrus, wine grapes and fresh grapes, producers of seed and other primary producers in the Murray Valley must be given the opportunity to state their . case. The Commonwealth Government has been alerted to the fact that when accurate figures of the amount of the loss are established it will be expected to give financial aid in conjunction with Victoria so as to ameliorate to some extent at least the desperate financial position of these primary producers.
– Will this situation make any difference to the provision of raisins in the parliamentary members’ dining room?
– I hope not because 1 am aware that honourable members appreciate the dried fruits that have been made available. Honourable members are walking and talking advertisements for this great industry. They know that dried fruits are good for them. They notice the difference in their health after they have had one or two meals of dried fruits.
On quite a different subject 1 propose to quote from a report published in the Sunraysia Daily’ on 10th April. The report reads:
Ansett Airlines of Australia will revert to DC-3’s for its off-peak air services between Melbourne-Mildura-Broken Hill at least until August.
The more popular Fokker Friendships will be seen on the Melbourne-Mildura run only on the services which have departures from Melbourne each evening except Saturdays, and from Melbourne each morning except Sunday and Monday.
DC-3’s will be used on the Monday morning Melbourne to Mildura and return service; and on the Wednesday and Friday MelbourneMilduraBroken Hill and return services.
I have now been informed that the Fokker Friendship, which is more popular than the DC3, will be withdrawn from the Melbourne to Mildura to Broken Hill run on 28th April. The distance from Melbourne to Mildura is 300 air miles and from Mildura to Broken Hill about 200 miles. The people in the areas affected do not want the Friendship to be withdrawn. I appeal to the. Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) to look into the matter and to use his influence to see that the Friendship is retained on this important run. Everybody knows that Mildura is one of the great provincial cities of Australia. Broken Hill, which is not in the electorate of Mallee, is a very important city. On the run from Melbourne to Mildura to Broken Hill and return we should have nothing less than Fokker Friendships. Honourable members who in recent times have travelled from Melbourne, Sydney or other places to Canberra in Fokker Friendships have not been satisfied with the aircraft. They have wanted better aircraft. We now have better aircraft on these runs. I have heard a lot of complaints from members of Parliament about the lack of room in a Friendship. On the run from Melbourne through Mildura to Broken Hill we should have aircraft better than the DC3. This is no longer a popular aircraft. Surely it is not asking too much of the Minister for Civil Aviation to do his utmost to see that the Friendship is retained on this run. This is surely a very good paying service and the Friendship should not be withdrawn at. this stage. Aircraft may be getting scarce in Australia but why should the two great decentralised areas of Mildura and Broken Hill be deprived of a service which they should have and a service–
– Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting. He has just interjected for the third time in about 3 minutes. If he continues to interject I will have to deal with him.
– We know that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). comes from the city. He enjoys the very best of air services between Sydney and Canberra. What does the honourable member care for the people who Jive in Mildura and Broken Hill? He believes in centralisation. Whenever we speak in this place about decentralisation and the improvement of conditions in country areas so that people already living there will hot move to the cities and so that people may be attracted from the cities to the country honourable members in the ranks of the Opposition deride our suggestions. Air. services play an important role in taking people from the. cities to the country and from the country to the cities. An adequate air service can make people who live in decentralised areas such as Broken Hill and : Mildura feel that they are not completely isolated. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to look into this matter and to do what he can to help the people living in the areas to whichI have referred.I assure the Minister and all other honourable members that anything done to retain the Friendships will be greatly appreciated. ‘ , .
-I want to raise a matter in the House during this adjournment debate which concerns one of my constituents. It relates to a matter which comes within the administration of the Department of Health and the Department - of Social Services. This constituent is an age pensioner. He and his wife are in receipt of a pension. They felt that they would join a hospital benefits fund so that in the event of illness they could receive better treatment in hospital. In the event of sickness they would then be able to go into an intermediate ward. But something which they did not realise was that the moment they joined this hospital benefit fund and received the benefit of treatment in an intermediate ward this meant that they penalised themselves in the sense that they did not receive medical expenses on the pensioner medical card. I know that there are complexitiesin this matter and that it is not an easy problem to solve because of circumstances relating to the pensioner medical card and medical entitlement. But I think that this is a matter which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in consultation with the State Government, could perhaps discuss and reach a solution which would enable the person concerned in these particular circumstances to receive a benefit.
The circumstances in this matter are that these people are prepared to help themselves, but because they are prepared to do this and to make a contribution out of the money which they receive by way of pension towards paying for the cost of hospital treatment, they are penalised in this way. I do not intend to comment on the charge that was made by the doctor. I know that doctors do this, and it may be possible that in this particular circumstance the doctor literally made a donation to the people concerned. But the position in this case is that these people were prepared to help themselves, but because of that they were placed in a position in which they actually penalised themselves. As I said, I realise that there are complexities in this matter. At this stage when we are considering the question of health insurance, I hope that the Ministers concerned will look into this matter and see what assistance can be given, not only in the particular case to which I have referred, but also in many other cases of which I am aware. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services, the Minister for Health and the two Departments on the great progress that has been made towards providing assistance to these people. I am sure that if the Ministers get together they will be able to find a solution to the problem which will be beneficial to the people concerned.
-I wish to address a few remarks to the two matters which have been raised by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) and to one or two other matters which are important to the nation. Firstly, the honourable member for Mallee consistently criticises honourable members on both sides of this Parliament for reading speeches, but tonight I was interested to hear him read an epistle word for word. He repeated it like a parrot in a way for which he is contantly criticising other members of this Parliament. I congratulate him at least for learning that his read speeches are much better than those which he does not read. I only have this to say about what the honourable member had to say tonight: I thought it was an improvement on his usual speech. I congratulate him for seeing the light and realising that we appreciate it more when he reads something which he obviously knows and understands than we do when he makes a speech off the cuff without any knowledge or understanding of the subject with which he is dealing.
I should also like to point out that the honourable member for Mallee never fails to attack the city dwellers of Australia when he speaks. When all is said and done, five sixths of the Australian population live in the cities of this nation. What do members of the Liberal Party think about a member of the Australian Country Party, one of their colleagues, who consistently attacks people in the cities because they have some of the amenities of life for which they have fought under this LiberalCountry Party Government? Nothing is given to them. At the same time, the honourable member for Mallee gives us to understand that it is only the people living in country districts who make the nation go. Where would he be as a Country Party member if city dwellers did not wear suits which were produced from the wool and other products of primary producers?
– Do you wear synthetic suits?
– No. Members of the Labor Party do not wear synthetic suits. That is left to members of the Country Party. I mention this to the honourable members in order to show that when he criticises city dwellers, let it be understood that we eat the bread and wear the suits which are produced from the products of primary producers. Ii: every way it is the city dwellers, who are attacked by the honourable member for Mallee, who provide the wealth of the country, because they are consumers representatives. I do not speak tonight as a producer’s representative. But let the honourable member for Mallee know that if city dwellers placed a boycott on the products which come from his area there would be a lot of very poor people in the Mallee electorate. Therefore, when he makes these bitter and well read attacks on people from city electorates, let him remember that these people make his country district prosperous. Let bini remember that these people resent these attacks. Tonight when I refer to the well read and bitter attacks I am speaking on behalf of the city dwellers who are represented by myself and other members opposite. I hope that members of the Country Party will disown the honourable member for Mallee for the unwarranted attack which he has made on these people who mean so much to Australia.
I know that the honourable member for Mallee wears nylon socks. If he is not wearing them, let him prove it. Only recently we heard that wives of graziers favour synthetic materials in preference to woollen materials. I exempt other members of the Country Party, but I would like to examine very closely all the clothes which the honourable member for Mallee is wearing before 1 accept the fact that he is not wearing any synthetic clothing tonight. As a matter of fact, when he smiles I think bis smile is synthetic, too. Although there are Shakespeare and other great writers of the past to whom one can refer when making a speech, when the honourable member for Mallee speaks the only authority on which he relies for verification is the Sunraysia Daily’. What a magnificent document to refer to. What a great organ of public opinion. I suppose it has a circulation of about 55 or 60 in the area in which the honourable member resides. f mention these matters because for a long time in this Parliament T have resented the bitter attacks which have been made by the honourable member for Mallee upon the people whom I represent - the great city dwellers who provide wealth for the primary producers. I also resent the attacks which he consistently makes on the methods which honourable members use in produc ing facts and figures from a number of documented notes. Tonight 1 place on record the fact that the honourable member has seen the light. He has read his speech. His speeches are not much to listen to at any time, but they are much better when he reads them. Let him continue to do so. Tonight I thought that I should rise in my place and say a few words of rebuke to the honourable member whom 1 like as a man. but at the same time I appreciate that on a lot of matters, he is a long way ofl the beam. I should like to see a revival of those militant days when he stood and criticised the Government for its inactivity. Today when I see him pandering at the feet of those who maladminister this country I think it is sad to see a retired rebel who is only consoled. by the fact that there is another one who sits in Cabinet and that they have a community of interest as they think what they were, what they might have been and what they are today.
The honourable member for Lyne raised a very important question concerning social services. I think that he has highlighted in this Parliament one of the factors associated with this Government’s administration. The anomalies in the social services system are so great that many people are being most unfortunately and unfairly treated. I am pleased to see a member of the Country Party rise tonight and bring to light in this Parliament a matter which Labor members have been raising for some time. I refer to the injustices which are so inherent in the social services system, and which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) promised to do something about. The case which the honourable member for Lyne raised’ tonight could be multiplied one thousand times over. The Government does nothing about it. Even today, in the face of the Nimmo Committee’s report, the Government is defending a health scheme which is the laughing stock of nations which believe in social justice, particularly so far as health is concerned. Credit is due to the honourable member for Lyne, the Deputy Speaker of this Parliament, for raising this matter which I believe should be aired and given the light of day. I hope the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and the Minister for Social Services will take notice of this. Members on this side of the House continually bring forward numerous anomalies - hundreds of them - involving invalid pensioners and others. There are amazing cases where people are living on discriminatory rates of pension simply because they happen to be married. Discrimination occurs right through the whole structure of social services. It is a disgrace that in this enlightened society events should occur such as those mentioned by the honourable member for Lyne tonight. Discrimination also exists between married and single pensioners, those on permissible incomes, the poor, the very poor and the aged or the frail aged. These discriminations are a disgrace to this Government and to Australia, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
I congratulate the honourable member for Lyne for having the courage to speak against this Government. After all, it takes a bit of courage to do this. Ask the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St. John) who is no longer with us - at least as far as the Liberals are concerned. This is because of the revolution that occurred when he exercised his right as a member of the Liberal Party to express his independent point of view. H is interesting to note what happened after the honourable member for Warringah expressed a certain point of view. After the honourable member for Warringah exercised his right as a Liberal to speak in his independent way, the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) decided, as he did in the redistribution, that he would move north again and that he would not sit with the honourable member. So he moved north in the House. I wonder whether the honourable member for Parkes realises thai a lol of honourable members do not like sitting with him but that we cannot all get out.
This brings me back to the point made by the honourable member for Lyne. I am pleased that he raised his criticism of the Government. I am delighted to see that he has exercised certain independence in this matter. I remind him. though, that Mr Russell of his Party did not have exactly a very pleasant fate when he spoke accordingly. So he joins the St. Johns and the Russells.
-Order! The honourable member will refer to an honourable member by the name of his electorate.
– Yes, the honourable member for Warringah. 1 would like to get back seriously to the question of social services which has been raised tonight. I point out to the Minister for Health that these injustices are numerous and should be remedied. The Government has a responsibility to do sc.
Having said so much, 1 express the hope that after December of this year, or a little earlier as the Liberals get frightened of impending by-elections, honourable members from this side of the Parliament will have the opportunity to bring real social justice in health and social services to this country. A Labor Party administration realises what this country can give, what people are entitled to and what a good government can give them.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honhonourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. You will recall that when I made my contribution tonight I said at the very start that I was quoting from a report 1 had written. 1 did not try to make out that I was speaking impromptu or anything like that. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) never forgets that 1 thrashed him on many occasions.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– I have been 9 years in this House and 1. would like to pay a tribute to the late honourable member for East Sydney because since he left this House I do not think the adjournment debate has been worth anything, indeed, if a private member has a matte to bring up on the adjournment I think he nesitates, wondering whether it is worth while doing so. There are few opportunities left for private members to raise matters of importance, and 1 apologise to my confreres and members of the Opposition for keeping them here at this time.
During the last session we listened to many matters of urgency raised by the Opposition. The subject matters have caused us to wonder why the Opposition could not think of matters of more importance to put before the Parliament and the people of Australia. The matter I wish to raise concerns a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 12th April, lt concerns the recent student demonstrations in Sydney. I would like to read certain extracts. 1 would like these extracts incorporated in Hansard but I do not think I would be given leave so I will not ask for it: The article is headed: ‘Sydney students run riot, seize court’. These are very large headlines. The article is written by Robert Drewe and Andrew Clark. I can read only certain extracts from this article. It says:
Students took over the Federal ‘ AttorneyGeneral’s office and the Special Federal Court before police flushed them out. 1 understand that would be a crime in most societies. I am not sure that it is here. The article continues:
The demonstration was organised by the militant Students for a Democratic Society. . . .
In Adelaide, forty-five students were arrested. Students and police fell to the ground fighting as boots and fists flew in the melee. lt is a fairly lurid report. It continues:
SDS and Labor Club university leaders said last night that after yesterday’s behaviour by police there would be no more peaceful demonstrations.
One of the ugliest Sydney incidents occurred when a police inspector reached behind Professor Peter Mason (Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Macquarie University) and held him by the coat.
Then another policeman hit him-
It goes on further:
In another incident, four policemen tried to’ throw a male student head-first through an open paddy-wagon door. But his right shoulder hit the side of the doorway.
Further on, it says:
And two policemen dropped a student they had been carrying face down into the paddy-wagon.
In the majority of the arrests, police twisted arms, pulled hair and grabbed students by throat and neck before forcing them into the wagon.
One begins to get confused as to who were the criminals, who were the police and who was on the side of law and order. The report continues;
The demonstration owed its violence mainly to over-enthusiastic opposition from 500 State police. They pushed, punched and kicked students, newspaper men, and unionists in separate fierce battles outside the Federal Court. . . .
The point I am trying to make is that one would think that in this country the police are the criminals and that the students never commit any offences even if they break into the court or into the AttorneyGeneral’s office. I know that it was not intended, but one of our major newspapers was purveying the line that in this country the police are the criminals. Two hundred broke away from the main march. Then, says the report:
Two motor cycle policemen and a divisional van tried to get past and stop their progress. …
Six policemen vainly tried to stop the stampede by tripping, punching and kicking the demonstrators.
I can imagine six policemen in the path of 300 people moving down on them, and I would question to a certain extent the authenticity of this report, which goes on:
More students and trade unionists swelled the mob and nearly 2,000 occupied Phillip Street.
A swathe of thirty fist swinging police indiscriminately punched and kicked demonstrators.
This was 30 police against 300. 1 question the report as to 2,000. There is an old adage that if a brawl starts anybody who does not want to get involved in it should get out of it. The suggestion that a policeman confronted with such a situation has got to go up to a person and say: ‘Pardon me, Sir, are you in this brawl, or are you not?’ is ridiculous. If he did this 1 think he would be king-hit by somebody from the side before he even knew what had happened. The question I ask . is: What is happening in this country? We have this demonstration in Sydney, we have a demonstration on the same day in Adelaide, and we have the same thing happening throughout the capital cities of the world. Not only do we have this, but we also have a leading member of the Opposition who I am sure all honourable members opposite will agree is a potential prime minister reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on the Monday following the incident as saying this:
Doctor Cairns, who was a policeman for nearly 10 years, said Sydney police . appeared to look forward to the prospects of ‘bashing up’ students.
He said New South Wales police used unnecessary and at times extreme violence in last Friday’s student demonstration.
He went on:
He said today that Brisbane “policemen had similar attitudes to their Sydney counterparts when it came to student protest demonstrations.
Dr Cairns said he felt the policemen used the demonstrations to vent their own personal feelings about the students and the war.
He ends up by warning the New South Wales police and Government that unless something is done about police violence they will be responsible for any counter-violence. I do not wish to quote it, but in the Communist ‘Tribune’ one can find articles by the Secretary of the Communist Party in Queensland saying that Communists must support this Student Democratic Movement and the Radical Left Movement which certain sections of the Labor Party appear to support. One can also find articles by Mr Michael Hamel-Green about the theory and practice of the Student New Left. What I am interested in and what I ask Labor members whether they are interested in is what is happening and whether the ordinary common citizen in this country knows what is happening.
We were once a peace-loving society. Wc used to be a society that looked to the police to protect our homes and children. When there was trouble we would ring the police. Some clergymen and academics apparently have heroic outlooks when they are surrounded by a large crowd, but I suggest that if a woman knocked on their door and asked for a postage stamp and they thought they ran any risk they would ring the police post-haste. It seems as though there is a move to depreciate the police; to pull down those who are responsible for upholding the law in this country. I am not attacking the students. They have some grievances. But once they break the law it is beyond what we should tolerate. We all know that many of the young people who get involved in protests are first year university students. They are grasped by the older radicals who are there for a specific purpose. That is why so many fail in their first year at university. But it is clear that we are reaching a position where the bastions of the security of our homes and our way of life are being slowly infiltrated. 1 put this question to the House: If what the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) says is true why has it not been raised by the Opposition as a matter of urgency? Why has it not been raised by the Australian Labor Party? Or is the honourable member for Yarra using it as propaganda? If the Government is concerned about the feeling of the people for the police and about the situations that the police have to face, why does it not make a statement about what has occurred? Once the bastions are broken down and once the confidence of the people in the police is taken away there will be trouble. I do not know where the situation will end and I do not think that many honourable members opposite know either. I conclude by quoting from a speech made by Mr Chifley during the coal strike. He said:
Either you forsake the law of the jungle, which is the Communist creed, and return to the proper and lawful arbitration authority or you ally yourself with a world-wide movement that seeks to wreck the democratic way of life.
I know that the majority of the members of the Australian Labor Party, of the unions and of the Labor movement generally do not condone this attack on the police. There could bc abuses; probably there are. But an inquiry should be set up by the Government to determine who is behind these riots, which often start off as peaceful demonstrations. The people of this country demand and deserve to know. If we wish to continue the way of life that we have enjoyed in the past it is time that these things were looked at very closely.
– I do not often inconvenience the House by speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but I think that something should be said about the current situation in Vietnam. There is no doubt that the Americans are pulling out. There is also no doubt that Australia has no intention of reducing its military forces in Vietnam. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) have confirmed this. I go back to the 1966 policy speech of the late Rt Hon. Mr Harold Holt, who said:
We seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict through negotiation. But think of the consequences of abandoning our objectives - and the people of South Vietnam.
South Vietnam would become a Communist slate, and the lives and security of millions who have resisted Communism would be in jeopardy.
On the strength of that appeal to fear the Government won the last election. But 2i years have passed since then and the situation has changed dramatically. I read in the Melbourne Press of Friday last that President Nixon proposes to withdraw 50,000 American troops before the end of this year and that that withdrawal will be followed by the withdrawal of another 100,000, constituting more than 30% of the total American forces in Vietnam. But no final date was announced. I had not seen a final date until I read something from the pen of James Reston, which appeared in the New York ‘Times’ last week. He wrote:
The strategy of the Nixon Administration is now beginning to come clear.. The indications are that the President has decided to reduce the level of violence at once in Vietnam, begin withdrawing substantial forces from that conflict by the end of 1969. and negotiate a ceasefire, a compromise settlement and complete withdrawal of American troops from that country by the end of 1970 …
That is about 19 months hence. What is the Australian Government proposing to do in regard to the Australian forces in Vietnam? The- Prime Minister has said more cautiously than the Minister for the Army that there will be no withdrawal. If 1 can express the views of the Australian people, I think they would like to know why, if American troops are to be withdrawn, Australian troops should not be withdrawn at least proportionately. 1 accept the view of our military advisers that we cannot split a certain force which, after all, is a small force or token force of about 8,000. What I want to know is why all the Australian forces cannot be withdrawn from Vietnam immediately if 150,000 Americans are to be withdrawn by the end of 1970. I have quoted what our late dear friend had to say on this question. But let me tell the House what has been said in the United States.
– What has Harriman said?
– -Harriman’s view is quoted in an article in a newspaper called Broadside’, which 1 recommend to honourable members because I write a fortnightly article in it. Harriman’s view is that we have to negotiate. Roger Hilsman, who was a lesser official in the Kennedy Administration and then in the Johnson Administration, said in a New York radio interview, as reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 25th March last:
The Communists can suffer casualties of 10 to ] over American losses and still keep going for 10 or 15 years.
This is a political situation. Only a coalition government in Saigon with Communist representation can succeed.
That is completely antipathetic to what this Government said, through its then Prime Minister, on the occasion of the 1966 election campaign. I know that 66% of the people in Australia still support the Government policy on conscription, if gallup polls are to be interpreted rightly, and that 68% of Anglicans interviewed and 68% of Roman Catholics interviewed support it. I thought that all these people who believe in Christ would not want to send people out to be murdered in South Vietnam. What are they doing? Are they trying to out-
Herod Herod by killing off the kids in a war for which no person of military age will volunteer? The late Mr Harold Holt said that. He said: ‘Our obligations are to Asia and aggression of any kind must be resisted’. He said that the Government had adopted a policy of conscription because there were not sufficient volunteers. There would be no conscripts in Asia today if those unfortunate people’ had the opportunity to refuse to serve, as everybody else of military age in Australia has. What sort of a cowardly, moronic nation are we when we are prepared to take a section of our 20 year olds by drawing marbles from a barrel, which represents the lottery of death, and send them out to kill or be killed in order to . preserve a capitalist society here? This is the whole story. The Americans are getting out and we ought to be getting out. Had I become Prime Minister in 1966 - and I . do not care who has been running under my neck since or who ran under it before,- but I speak honestly about what I- intended to do - I intended to bring every Australian soldier out of Vietnam by Easter 1967, not Easter 1969, 2 years later. I hope- that I will be justified on that point as I have been justified on a lot of other things that I said at that time. I feel very keenly about this. We have 307 dead in Vietnam - half of them conscripts, people who never wanted to go at all’. And all the others that are there should never have been sent.
I do not believe in Australian involvement in any Asian war. I did not want to see troops stationed in Malaysia, and we opposed that proposal at the time. I think it is ridiculous to suggest now that we will not put troops into Malaysia but will put in Air Force and Navy units instead. The policy that Australia should pursue is to render economic and social- aid to Asia and to keep out of every filthy Asian war in future. This war is an undeclared war - an unprincipled war. It is an unwinnable civil war.
– It is not.
– It is. Harriman said it is unwinnable and so did Roger Hilsman. President Nixon and his administration, by the fact that they are preparing to evacuate American forces from Vietnam, recognise that it is unwinnable. It was President Johnson who said: ‘lt is a cruel, dirty war’.
Worse than that, it is a filthy, bloody, rotten war and Australia should not be involved in any of these things. If we sow the dragon’s teeth our children and our children’s children will reap the whirlwind. We are throwing sops to Cerberus. It reminds me of the story of the Russian Czar who tried to save himself by throwing child after child out to the wolves. We cannot afford to do that and, in all honesty, if we are real democrats we will leave the people of Asia, whatever country they live in, to solve their own problems according to their lights. My philosophy has always been Asia for the Asians and Australia for the Australians.
– In listening to the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), who has just spoken, one sometimes wonders whether he reads the daily Press and what his attitude is to the hundreds of children who have been slaughtered by the Vietcong during the last few months when the. bombing of North Vietnam has been ceased and unprotected towns and villages have been wantonly subjected to attack without discrimination.
-Order! I would remind all honourable gentlemen that interjections are out of order. It is becoming far too prevalent in this House for members who have spoken in debate to endeavour to have a cross-fire exchange across the House. I tell honourable members that this position will not be tolerated by the Chair.
– The subject on which I wish to speak is the same as that which the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) raised. I believe it to be a most important matter confronting this nation inside its own borders. I refer to the development which is taking place in and around and through the protest movement. Mark you, I am not attacking the protest movement itself, because the right to protest is a sacred right indeed in a democratic society. It is a right that is not enjoyed in half of the world today, and it is a right which carries with it a great responsibility. I believe that there is in Australia today demonstrably and obviously a conspiracy to subvert our youth from allegience to the nation, its traditions and its constitutional forms of government. This is being done in a way which is not a genuine political movement but is the exploitation of political, religious and social attitudes among youth by extremist revolutionary forces. I believe that these forces are not concerned with the issues which are paraded as the apparent motives for the demonstrations. I believe that they have nothing to do with Vietnam as such or conscription as such. Indeed, documents which can be produced and tabled emanating from these sources show that such forces freely talk about the days after the Vietnam struggle is over, and of how their organisation will be retained intact so that they will be able to continue their activities.
Today amongst our student body there are those who are more- concerned with their orientation, enlistment and induction into a process which has little or nothing to do with political forms and institutions which we have built up in this country than they are with their education. These forces, which are often much to the left of the Communist Party, are seducing and subverting our young people aided and abetted by misguided academics, clerics and others whose positions give them special privileges in the community. The method of destroying our community includes the undermining of natural and constituted authority. As the honourable member for La Trobe has pointed out, the police force in particular is singled out as one of the authorities to be attacked.
Some little time ago in this chamber the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) drew attention to a very important reorganisation of the forces of the left that were to set out on this course. Immediately following the last Federal election in 1967 a conference was held over the Australia Day weekend. This most important conference laid down guidelines and the beginnings of many of the movements which have blossomed since, particularly among .the youth of the church and other bodies in the community. Many interesting discussions were held and many interesting decisions were taken. For instance, one group recommended to the general committee of the conference a splitting up into groups to train for and discuss civil disobedience. A move was made to recommend that acts of civil- disobedience be kept separate from mass demonstrations, but this move was defeated by a large majority.
In discussing the situation of young people in the community, particular attention was paid to the schools, lt was said that because of the introduction of a sixth year in high schools by the Wyndham scheme, the older and more mature students offered great possibilities for organisation in the high schools and the setting up of an anti-war underground news sheet. Other methods of bringing youth into the movement were then formulated. The conference was set up by a body known then as the Vietnam Action Committee. Later it changed its name to the Vietnam Action Campaign. Arising out of the conference, a number of other movements were formed. For instance, in Victoria the Vietnam Coordinating Committee came into existence. After setting up its headquarters in Parkville it set out to become the body which would, in its own words, be concerned with the role of organisation .of demonstrations. The Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee has an interesting list of office, bearers but I will not weary honourable members by reading their names. However, 1 trust that all honourable members will direct their attention to the kind of information which was made available.
I wish to quote from a newsletter sent out by the Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee. It slates:
The October 23 demonstration has been described as one of the most violent demonstrations Melbourne has ever seen. The police have accused the organisers, the Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee, of going back on their word. The Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee, organising the demonstration, wish to present their version.
It goes on to discuss the way in which members of the organisation say that they have tried to co-operate with the police but have found that it does not work, lt states:
The police say one thing and do another. They obviously prefer to push us around, rather than co-operate wilh us.
We are. not going to be pushed around any more. To prevent violence and disorder in future demonstrations* the Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee will provide ils own police force and will request the regular police to keep clear of demonstrators.
Then the whole situation is made ludicrous because in the very same report there is another statement which completely contradicts the charge that the police had gone back on their undertaking to the organisers of the demonstration. I quote another part of the report which says:
The more or less spontaneous deviations from plan at the last two major marches can never be accomplished with the same degree of success again. The police have contingency plans now and we must adjust our organisation accordingly.
So the thing is taking place in our midst which is giving rise to a plethora of organisations of many names such as the Society for Democratic Action and Students for Democratic Society. But some of their decisions and some of the resolutions which have been taken at these meetings are most revealing with regard to the matter brought up by the honourable member for La Trobe. I quote again. One speaker insisted that: . . to be worthwhile demonstrations should be made up of large numbers of people with a hard core using things like smoke bombs and rocks to attack the police. The rest should confuse and hinder the police with passive resistance tactics and so provoke them into violent action. This way maximum publicity was obtained, which was the prime aim of demonstrations. However, at all times the police should be goaded into taking the first violent action.
This is in keeping with other material that we find even in the decisions of the World Council of Churches at its fourth assembly in Upsala. It has given its own blessing to the use of force and use of violence iti revolution. This was, it said, morally ambiguous and something which could be employed even as soon as the forces of law and order began to use violence in withstanding the forces of change.
I conclude by saying that the method of destroying our community includes the undermining of all natural and constituted authorities in the home, the parents, the law, the police force, the Government, the school or university authorities. These are not opinions. They are facts that can be supported by publicly available information coming from these organisations. I believe that they are facts which could .be sustained before a royal commission or other inquiry. I believe that it is encumbent upon the Government to set forth before very long for the Australian people to see the pattern of what is being done to enlist our young people in the same kind of violence that is being seen right across the free world and which, when it is attempted in a demonstration in Czechoslovakia, is immediately clamped down on by the ruling authorities there. The demonstrations are not to bc stopped, but the kind of exploitation of the adventurous spirit of youth and its desire for change which is seen on these occasions is something which is foreign and inimical to the interest of Australia.
– The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) asked what has been happening in this country. What has been happening to the young people in this country cannot be divorced from what the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) said, because the students and young people of this country are disturbed about the conscripting of young men for overseas military service and for Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. The right honourable member for Melbourne explained that you cannot divorce one from the other. This is why the young people of this country are disturbed. They are disturbed because only a few selected young men of this nation are being conscripted and then being forced by men in this Parliament who are of military age themselves and by many who are old men to go overseas to an unpopular war, a vicious war, and a cruel war that has been decried and condemned by the majority of the nations of the world. The United States of America has stood practically alone because it could not get other countries to join it in Vietnam.
The honourable member for La Trobe seems to think that there is something unhealthy about the fact that the students of Australia are disturbed about and are demonstrating against this war. Everybody who has studied this question knows that university students on the whole set out on peaceful demonstrations. These university students march in peaceful demonstrations. The speakers who address them prior to their going out on a demonstration call for a non-violent approach. The leaders of these demonstrations emphasise that they should be non-violent demonstrations.
But we know that in all movements there are minorities who will try to do something unusual and who will try to make the headlines. But surely the police should be intelligent. The police should be able to understand and to deal with this very small minority. If the police are not experienced by now, all I say is that if they go on with the violence and brutality with which they are going on and with which they went on last week in the demonstrations in Sydney, there will be a bloody war and we will see blood running in the streets of Sydney. I make it quite clear to all honourable members that I have always advocated the nonviolent approach in demonstrations. 1 have stressed and over-stressed always the fact that when we have demonstrated against the Vietnam war we have stood for negotiations for a peaceful settlement. That war must be settled by negotiation. This has always been the view of the great bulk of the Australian peace movement and the great bulk of the student movement who have demonstrated against this war. This is what is happening in this country.
Do honourable members on the Government side know that people acting in accordance with their- consciences are prepared to go to gaol because of the blundering stupidity of the Government? Through this stupidity the Government is condemning them to 2 years in gaol because of their courage and their convictions against a particular war to which they have a conscientious objection. Are the newspapers right in what they say? For instance, Ian Fitchett wrote in the” ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ earlier this week - if he is right - that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) brought recommendations from his Department to Cabinet seeking to exclude from military services those who were conscientious objectors against a particular war. That war is the Vietnam war. The proposal was that they would be excluded from military service and should undertake special service. But no, the hard liners, the conservatives and the stupid blunderers in this Government have continued to say no. They say: We are going to make sure that, unless people go to the war in Vietnam they will be put in gaol with criminals and others for 2 years’. The men of conscience - *men like Bill White and Simon Townsend - as far as I am concerned will be the great men of our age.
– John Zarb too.
– And John Zarb too, as the right honourable member for Melbourne points out. These men are men of conscience and men of courage. Therefore, we must realise why these demonstrations are going on. It is all right for the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), ‘that holy gentleman, that godly man’, to talk about the students in Czechoslovakia. I applaud the students in Czechoslovakia who are demonstrating against the oppression that is being suffered there. This morning’s Australian newspapers told how the students refused to go to their classes. What did they do? They had a teach-in in their universities in Prague, Czechoslovakia. There are students demonstrating m Spain against the brutality of Fascism. We should be proud of them just as we should be proud of all students who have the courage to stand up against unjust laws. Throughout history great men such as Christ, Gandhi, Nehru and Niemoller have stood up against the law of the land. But they stood up against unjust laws. We should be proud of the young men in this country who have the courage to demonstrate peacefully against the unjust laws of this Government and against the stupidity of this Government in continuing to conscript our youth for overseas military service.
In the time that is left to me I want to deal with brutality which I saw with my own eyes. I did not need to read about this in the newspapers. I do not encourage young men to break the law or to go into the office of the Attorney-General to demonstrate. As a matter of fact of all the Ministers on the Treasury bench I believe the Attorney-General is the most liberal, and there is some hope for a man such as he. We should understand that these young men demonstrate because they want to make sure that their presence is felt. Last Monday I wrote a letter to the ‘Australian’ about the following incident. At 5.30 I was walking through Chifley Square in Sydney to pick up my car. In front of the Qantas building there were more policemen than demonstrators. The police had the demonstrators hemmed in in front of Qantas House. They were extended for about 15 or 20 yards in front of the Wentworth Hotel where there was a conference of international bankers. I saw a group of brutal sadists, with Fascist mentality - I use that term advisedly - young thugs with police uniforms on, barging in amongst young students to push them back. I was disturbed because many of these people were pacifists. They were Quakers; they were non-violent people. The police made a brutal approach and showed a good deal of antagonism. They had no understanding of what was going on. Unless the New South Wales police act more responsibly in future there will be violence. As I said earlier - and I hate to predict this - unless they act more responsibly blood will flow on the streets of Sydney.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . 19
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
How does the cost of electricity in Canberra compare with its cost in the twenty largest provincial cities in Australia?
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is difficult to make a direct comparison of costs because of the different forms of tariffs used by the various supply authorities. They differ not only for different consumer classes but also to suit ‘ population habits, climatic conditions, times and even rates of usage. Tariffs are also usually promotional, that is, the more that is used, the lower the unit cost. Therefore overall comparisons, except in regard to specific instances may be misleading.
It is felt that probably the most realistic way in which to provide the information sought is to show the’ average return per unit ‘sold. This is done in the following table, both for domestic consumers and consumers overall.
asked the Minister for the Inferior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Abroad: 14 Information Officers classified as Journalists Al grade and 3 at A grade. Within Australia: 16 Journalists Al grade; 11 Journalists A grade; 6 Journalists B grade; 1 Journalist C grade. 4 and 5: K. Darrow, J. Dickie, W. L.; Faragher, J.’ Graham, G. Handley, N. Hobbs,’ G. H. Jones; P. Kaye, B. C. King, J. Malone,
J. Dickie, P. Kaye, B. C. King, J. M aloneJournalists Al grade; M. McMillan, G. Morris,
Commonwealth Aid Roads Grants: Rural Roads (Question No. 1253) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What percentage of its Commonwealth Aid Roads Act grant has been spent by each State) in each of the last 15 years on rural roads other than main roads?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Papua and New Guinea: Control of Companies (Question No. 1288) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What provisions of Papua and New Guinea ordinances limit the ownership and control of companies by citizens of (a) Australia, and (b) other countries?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Legislation similar to the uniform companies legislation in Australia is in force in Papua and New Guinea as a Territory ordinance. As in Australia nothing in this Ordinance limits the ownership or control of companies by citizens of Australia or other countries.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. No, there is no record of any delay in payment having been caused by faults in Departmental computers. On the contrary, the computer installations have established a remarkable record for reliability and have enabled marked improvements to be made in the timeliness of benefit payments. It is always possible for an isolated case to be held up for other reasons and, if the honourable member knows of a specific instance, I shall be pleased to have it investigated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
High Court of Australia (Question No, 1319)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. It is possible for the High Court, if it is so inclined, to give a decision on the meaning of section 92 of the Constitution that is inconsistent with a previous decision of the Privy Council or of the High Court itself.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690416_reps_26_hor62/>.