26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr BENSON presented from certain electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing that ultrasonic waves, translated to audible frequencies for interpretation, can be used to make blind persons almost as self-reliant as bats, which also use ultrasonic waves in the dark.
The petitioners pray: (1) That the Commonwealth produce and provide ultrasonic aids for the blind on the same terms as hearing aids for children, pensioners and others. (2) That alternatively the organisations struggling to provide these aids be approved for subsidy under the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act 1969.
Petition received and read.
-I desire to inform the House that the Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Bury, is leaving Australia today to attend in place of the Treasurer the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ meeting in Barbados and the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington. Mr Bury expects to return to Australia on about 7th October. During his absence the Treasurer, Mr McMahon, will act as Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Immigration, Mr Snedden, will represent the Minister for Housing in this House.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the recent invoking of the provisions of section 26 (e) of -the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act so as to charge imputed rent to employees of mining companies in Tasmania? The Treasurer will be aware that the effect of this decision is to increase considerably the taxable income of the employees. Is the Minister of the opinion that this decision 21050/69- fi- (631 runs counter to the intent of other sections of the Act designed to encourage the construction of suitable accommodation for employees in mining, timber, primary production and other industries? Why was this direction issued only in Tasmania and not in the mainland States?
– I was not aware of a direction, which could only have been issued by the Commissioner of Taxation, relating to section 23 and to the State of Tasmania. It was not referred to me and consequently was not referred to the Government. Obviously, therefore, this matter is exclusively within the Commissioner’s jurisdiction. Nonetheless I will give further attention to the question asked by the honourable gentleman. 1 will discuss it with the Commissioner and if I feel it is wise I will ask him to have a word with the honourable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. Is it correct to say, as some people are alleging, that not lc of the Budget has been allocated to government schools?
– This false allegation was first made by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget and I would like to quote his words. He said:
The Liberals have chosen instead to make grants to non-government schools alone and on the basis of enrolments alone. There is not lc in the Budget for government schools which cater for the needs of 3 out of every 4 Australian school children.
Two days later the Prime Minister corrected the Leader of the Opposition and pointed out that direct payments to the States for these areas total about $40m. Despite having been informed of the true situation, the Leader of the Opposition repeated his false allegation last Sunday. I quote from an official handout which was received by my office from his office. He said:
Not lc was made available in their last Budget to government schools which cater for the needs of 3 out of every 4 Australian school children. The Liberals have allocated their entire Budget appropriation for schools to non-government schools.
That allegation is entirely false. I state again that in the Budget, if it can be understood by the Leader of the Opposition, we provided funds for science laboratories, for technical training facilities, for libraries and for teacher training, which is vital to the task of improving the quality of teaching in schools. In these areas alone we are providing about $40m in this Budget year. It is well understood why the Leader of the Opposition repeated his false allegation and I am quite certain that the people of Australia are coming to understand that he is making a habit of this.
But I would like to add one or two points. In 1963-64 the State governments provided $300m a year for school expenditure and for teacher training. In 1968-69 they provided $500m a year for school expenditure. It will be appreciated that this is by no means the total of their expenditure on education. About half of these funds come from Commonwealth sources, on the basis that we provide nearly half the State funds, excluding income from business undertakings. The States from their sources have provided 25% of their State revenues for 77% of the school children. They are providing less than I % of their State revenues for the 23% in independent schools. What we are now doing for independent schools will bring that to a sum equivalent to 2% of State revenues. I find it difficult to understand why the Leader of the Opposition continually attacks what we have done, implying thereby that we are either doing too much or implying quite falsely on the other hand that we are ignoring the government sector. Neither allegation is true. Both are equally false and both are characteristic of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the Government is considering proposals for the establishment of a naval base at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia or in some similar position? Is it further a fact that serious proposals have been put from official quarters and other places in this country and in the United States of America that this naval base should be made available to Soviet vessels for servicing, the argument being that this would encourage the Soviet Union to contribute to stability in South East Asia by discouraging or suppressing insurrection by national liberation movements that might otherwise occur?
– lt is well known to the House and to the country that the Government has been considering proposals put forward by a firm of consultants as to what is involved or what would be involved in the establishment of a naval refitting base in Cockburn Sound in Western Australia. This has been stated in this House a number of times. Only recently I answered a question from, I think, the Leader of the Opposition, though it may well have been one of his followers, indicating that that report had gone to the Navy, and from the Navy had gone to the Department of Defence and it is now being considered by the Government. In response to the second part of the honourable member’s question, no suggestion whatsoever has ever been put forward that a base, if and when it is constructed, would be made available to Soviet vessels. I could imagine such suggestion coming from no other source than that of the honourable member and perhaps some sections of his Party.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. 1 preface my question by pointing out that during last year 3,382 persons were killed and 82,210 were injured on Australian roads. I ask the Prime Minister: Is he aware that expert opinion believes alcohol to be a factor in approximately 50% of all serious road accidents and in approximately 80% of serious road accidents in which only one vehicle is involved? Does he agree that the Government should do everything in its power to reduce this appalling road toll? If the answer to my last question is yes, will the honourable gentleman take whatever action is necessary to prevent the sale in Australia of any preparation, whether manufactured in Australia or overseas, which has been produced in order to defeat the breathalyser legislation?
– I understand that it is without question the view of the Australian Road Safety Council that driving after one has taken alcohol does greatly increase the likelihood of accidents and that there are clear indications that, when individual cars are involved in accidents, not with other cars but by driving off the road, or skidding, or hitting trees or whatever it may be, the use of alcohol beforehand contributes very greatly to the number of accidents which so occur.
I do not know what powers the Australian Government would have to cope with the prohibition of the sale of any particular concoction to which the honourable member may be referring. I am quite sure that the Australian Road Safety Council would be concerned if there was something which could inhibit the effect of breathalyser tests. I am sure that it would be approaching both us and the State governments on this matter and jointly we would seek to do whatever we could do to see that the use made of breathalyser tests was not vitiated by any such substance.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories: Has his attention been drawn to the ban on reporters from a Port Moresby newspaper which reports the proceedings of the House of Assembly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Is the Minister able to report of any circumstances leading up to the ban?
– There are very deep circumstances in regard to this situation. First, I think the people of Papua and New Guinea are concerned for the goodwill of the Australian community. After all, the massive support given by the Australian Government is very important. In this Budget, $11 8m goes to the people of Papua and New Guinea as a grant. There are no strings to this situation. This is pretty nearly equal to $60 per capita, that is, for every man, woman and child in the Territory. I believe that the House of Assembly - the House is made up of the elected representatives of the people of Papua and New Guinea - is concerned with its image. The action under question by the honourable member was brought about by an article in the ‘Post Courier’ of Port Moresby. The House was extremely concerned. It should be realised thai the people of the Territory, who probably are not as sophisticated as the Australian community, have a great respect for the written word. After all, we have this lofty ideal of the freedom of the Press whereby, in general terms, the community has the right to express opinions and receive information on matters of public importance gathered and disseminated by the Press without restraint or control by the Government. This is something which exists only in truly democratic countries. I think the House of Assembly asked itself whether the Press measured up to these lofty principles and the answer was no.
People have come to this country from Papua and New Guinea recently and have been built up in the Press as spokesmen for the people of Papua and New Guinea. One such person was a defeated candidate at the last election for the House of Assembly. This person recently visited Australia at the invitation of a group of unions in Victoria and has now been sponsored by the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia as a delegate to the World Federation of Trade Unions, which I believe is a Communist dominated organisation. I mention this to show the sort of bedfellows these people have who have been written up as spokesmen for the people of Papua and New Guinea.
Yesterday an article appeared in the ‘Australian’ giving the opinion of a local person from the Gazelle Peninsula in Papua and New Guinea. That person was reported as saying that eventually the people of Papua and New Guinea would expropriate the property of expatriates in that country. This is completely contrary to the attitude of the people of Papua and New Guinea. This article was a report on a seminar at which two well known members of the Australian National University were present. I refer to Professor Arndt and Mr Fisk, two noted economists. They were only mentioned in passing; their views were not given. The Ministerial Member for Posts and Telegraphs, Mr Sinaki Giregire, was very incensed when he read this report of what these people said. He asked us to arrange a Press conference for him. I believe that most newspapers in Australia, at least the ones I have seen, have reported the view of Mr Sinaki Giregire, but the ‘Australian’ did not report one word of what he said. Fortunately the Australian Broadcasting Commission gave a very good coverage of this operation, and I would like to say that without the coverage by the ABC of items from Papua and New Guinea the situation would be very grim indeed. 1 believe that the action by the members of the House of Assembly was in no way intended to suppress the freedom of the Press, but this was the only method of protest it had in this regard. I have very great sympathy for the action it has taken. Finally, I would point out that an authoritarian society has great difficulty in suppressing the truth, but in our democratic society we have great difficulty in seeing that the truth is reported.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry, lt has been reported that the Victorian Oatgrowers Pool and Marketing Co. Ltd, through its General Manager, had arranged to dispose of a large quantity of wheat in a denatured form but has been refused permission to do so by the Australian Wheat Board. 1 ask the Minister whether he can inform the House of the facts of the situation and the reasons why the Australian Wheat Board rejected the request.
– 1 know something of this matter. Mr Cooper, the Managing Director of the Victorian Oatgrowers Pool and Marketing Co. Ltd, telephoned me the other day and sought to see me about a proposal that he explained to me on the phone. The proposal was that he could sell a substantial quantity of denatured wheat - 20 million bushels was mentioned - if the Wheat Board would agree to sell it at $1.01 a bushel’. I pointed out two things to him. lt was not my province to tell the Wheat Board what sales it should make and at what prices it should make sales, but Mr Cooper seemed to be under the impression that I did not comprehend that denatured wheat could be sold outside the minimum prices of the International Grains Arrangement. I also pointed out to Mr Cooper that I was completely familiar with this aspect right from the point when this proviso was negotiated into the International Grains Arrangement. When I questioned him about how he intended to denature the wheat he told me that he intended to do this by mixing oats and wheat. I pointed out to him that in my opinion this would be challenged all around the world as a valid means of denaturing wheat. Anybody would merely need to run the mixture through a screen - and this would be a cheap process - for the wheat and oats to be separated out again. I said that I thought that this would never be accepted.
One thing that Australia has to do, as every other wheat exporter has to do in the existing very difficult international circumstances of wheat marketing, is never to leave any doubt concerning its good faith in what it is doing. 1 pointed this out to Mr Cooper when he pressed to see me. I said: You go and see the Wheat Board. They are the people who are responsible for selling the wheat. I had taken the precaution some weeks before of ensuring that the members of the Australian Wheat Board knew that there was a provision within the International Grains Arrangement under which wheat could be sold outside the minimum prices if it were denatured. My understanding is that denaturing would involve not less than staining the wheat in such a manner that it could never be converted to a condition in which it would be acceptable for human consumption. The Wheat Board is fully aware of this situation. The Wheat Board is fully aware that if it is prepared to sell wheat at a price that makes it competitive with other feed grains no doubt it can find a market for such wheat. But as to a proposal that wheat should be sold to Mr Cooper at $1.01 a bushel when the growers organisations are proposing that it should be sold for feed purposes for local consumption at $1.45, this would produce a situation quite difficult to justify. I think that this is what the Wheat Board has in its mind.
The highly competitive atmosphere in which wheat is being sold today is such that we would be very ill advised to rock the boat internationally. We were close to the point where the International Grains Arrangement was really destroyed. The position has been recovered. The situation was that certain terms of the Arrangement relating freight to selling prices turned out to put Australia in a particularly favourable position and we were, indeed, selling more wheat to Europe than we had customarily been selling and the United States of America and Canada were finding it extremely difficult to sell. I know, because 1 went to the Wheat Board before 1 went to Washington, that the Wheat Board knows that if we tried to sustain that situation the only thing that we would achieve would be the breakdown of the International Grains Arrangement. The General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board has been in Washington reaching an Understanding on prices that will ensure the agreed objective, that is that the great sellers within the Arrangement each receive a fair share of the existing market. At the present time selling under the International Grains Arrangement is settling down very well. Canada and the United States have found it necessary to make very substantial reductions in their prices. I cannot speak with exact precision but I would think that the average selling price of Australian wheat since the Washington agreement under which we have been getting our share of the market is about 5c below the Arrangement minimum. I would not like to be held with precision to that figure; I am merely saying that it is not 20c or 15c below the Arrangement price. The Arrangement is standing up pretty well and I do not think we should engage in any transaction that would seriously rock the boat.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is he aware that in Sydney men are being retrenched in the rolling stock industry? Is it a fact that Hamersley Iron Ltd has called tenders for 96 rolling stock wagons? Is he aware that the contract for the previous 120 wagons for Hamersley was given to Japanese companies? Is he also aware that the Australian companies claim that wagons cost more to produce in Japan and land in Australia than to produce in Australia? I ask the Minister to make a thorough investigation of the employment position in the rolling stock industry in Australia. If the facts are as I have stated will he take action to protect the Australian rolling stock industry?
– The facts which the honourable member mentions have not been brought to my attention - to my knowledge anyway. I am not saying that a letter may not have been sent but simply that I have not been made aware of these facts. On the basis of the honourable member’s question I would be glad to interest myself in this matter. The rolling stock industry is protected under a substantial tariff protection. If I may venture to draw on a memory that must be 3 or 4 years old, I think the tariff rate is 47i%. If I am wrong I will come back into the House and say so. That is the basic protection and subject to that tariff people are entitled to import rolling stock. But if importation is going on to the point of seriously weakening this very important Australian industry then I do not think the Government would be content to see that continue. I will study the matter immediately.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Education and Science. Has he seen reports in today’s Press of an address by the Vice-Chancellor of Monash University in which attention was drawn to the proportionately greater increases in Federal funds directed to colleges of advanced education for the next triennium than in the funds for universities, and in which the Vice-Chancellor predicted that colleges of advanced education and universities would be identical by the end of the 1970s? If so, will the Minister say whether or not he shares this interpretation of recent developments in tertiary education?
– My attention was drawn to the statement by the Vice-Chancellor of the Monash University. It is, of course, true that the proportionate increase in funds going to colleges of advanced education over the next triennium is much greater than in those going to universities. This is because these programmes were begun only a relatively short time ago. We are coming to the beginning of the second full triennium programme for the colleges. There was a great leeway to make up over the past 10 years or so. Normal resources of over $l,300m have been devoted to university development, progress and expansion, and it is only lately that a partnership has been commenced between the Commonwealth and States in the other area. I think many countries would probably believe that they need a larger number of students in what we call colleges of advanced education than in universities. I would not be surprised if eventually Australia reaches that situation. But because the greater part of the finance went to universities in the past, we have many more students now in universities than in colleges. I do not believe that at the end of the seventies the two organisations will be identical. Universities are very diverse in their structure but the colleges are developing closer and intimate relationships with industry and commerce - using that in its broadest context - and I think they have a clear purpose which they will want to fulfill. 1 might add that one of the reasons for maintaining two advisory bodies in relation to higher education is that I believe this will assist in maintaining the separate identity of universities and colleges, thus allowing a broad spectrum of facilities and organisations to develop. If we had had the present Government’s decisions made in a forum in which there was merely one advisory committee offering advice to the Commonwealth, 1 believe that the universities would have made charges of partisanship that the body was biased in favour of the colleges. Since there are two bodies, one speaking with a clear voice for universities whose report we have accepted, and the other speaking with a clear voice for colleges whose report also we have accepted, it cannot be said that the reports are partisan in one way or another. Each set of organisations has its own body to report to and advise the Commonwealth and in this case we have accepted both reports.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Is the Minister aware that the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, passed in the autumn session, and now out of its swaddling clothes, has aroused the anger of local government authorities, especially in Tasmania? Is he aware that the Tasmanian Liberal Minister for Local Government recently informed Tasmanian local councils that they cannot expect more and some indeed can expect less revenue for roads this year than was received last year? Is it not a fact that the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill reduced Tasmania’s total share of Federal Government moneys from 5% to 4£%?
Will the Government review the legislation in the light of the unfavourable impact of it?
– 1 am aware that the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement is out of its swaddling clothes. T am also aware that it is going to make a notable contribution to the improvement of the Australian road system. As to the other suggestions, I inform the honourable member that these have not been brought to my knowledge. I am not aware of any concern felt by local authorities in Tasmania as to the level of funds that they will receive under the next 5-year allocations. However the honourable member will be aware, as we all are aware, that Tasmania received a 50% increase in its allocation over the 5 years of this Agreement by comparison with the 5 years of the earlier Agreement. He will also be aware that for all the local authorities which under the old Act received a 40% allocation there is provision within the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement for an increase of 5% above the amount that was allocated for roads in the last year of the previous 5-year Commonwealth Aid Roads period.
This 5% per annum compounded increase of funds should ensure that all of those roads that were previously designated as roads other than highways, main roads and trunk roads, will receive an increased allocation, and consequently should ensure that in Tasmania and every other State of the Commonwealth there will be an enhanced road construction programme for the ensuing period. Certainly there should be no reduction.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question which concerns the value of cow dung as a fertiliser. The Minister will know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is currently carrying out research on dung beetles and that the present results strongly suggest that the beetles will raise available nutriment in many soils and result in increased pasture yields. I think that my colleague the honourable member for Corangamite mentioned this recently. Is it a fact that the Australian Meat Board is providing funds for this research? Does he know that beetles are being introduced which are suitable for northern Australia and Queensland only although I understand that beetles suitable for the southern States are available? As Victoria, according to the figures, has become the largest meat producing State in the Commonwealth, are there any plans for the introduction of dung beetles in the States which have cooler climates?
– I hope there is no sawdust in the reply. All I want to say is that this research could be going on and it could be through moneys from the Australian Meat Board. There is a research fund constituted of moneys collected by the industry and contributed to by the Government. There also is a committee which allocates priorities in research. If that committee thought that there was a need for research into the disposal of dung it would make a recommendation to some research institute to do this work. I think - I am not sure - that the committee has made a recommendation to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to do experimental work with a beetle. 1 can see that the Minister for Education and Science, who is in charge of the CSIRO, is nodding his head to indicate that the CSIRO is actually doing work on the disposal of dung. This will help to disperse of one of the problems in the community.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. I refer the honourable gentleman to his answer last week to my question about the purchase of 38-foot cruisers. He will recall the severe criticisms of the Auditor-General about the purchase. I ask: Was the officer responsible for selecting and purchasing these vessels a senior naval officer and a member of the Naval Board? If so, is this why a full scale inquiry was not made into the circumstances of the purchase?
– As far as I know, the officer who made the recommendation was not a member of the Naval Board. The decision was a departmental decision in which many people would have been concerned. Certainly there was no reticence about having an inquiry. Even if the decision had been made by a member of the Naval Board this fact would not have influenced the holding of an inquiry. There was no need for an inquiry. I am quite certain of this. I have examined the case, as I said last week, with very great care. There are areas of doubt which the AuditorGeneral brought forward and which were mentioned by the Public Accounts Committee but I am quite confident that the right steps have been taken since the purchase was made. There is certainly no need for an inquiry of any kind.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. The Treasurer will know that people who understand economics give to him and the Government credit for the spectacular rise in the gross national product in Australia over the last few years.
– You will get on.
– I am glad the Opposition agrees with me. Can the right honourable gentleman say whether living standards in Australia have also been rising at the same time?
– One of my colleagues says: ‘Of course they have risen’. The statistics give unqualified support to the opinion the honourable member has just expressed. The first set of figures one should look at in making up one’s mind about whether living standards are rising is those which relate to average weekly earnings. Before I refer to the actual figure I think I should stress that one should not look at one year in isolation but should take the trend. Secondly one ought to form one’s opinion against the background that we did have a very substantial increase in defence expenditure of from $400m to $1,1 00m over a period of 7 or 8 years. The fact is that average weekly earnings over the 10-year period rose by 70% and the consumer price index rose by 27%. This means, in statistical language, that the rise in the average weekly earnings over a 10-year period in real terms was 34%. That is 3.2% per annum. But last year the rise was of the order of 4%, and that is a very substantial rise.
If we look at a different set of figures - those for disposable income - we find that over the last 5 years disposable income has risen by 11%. This is an increase of about 2.1% per annum. Last year, subject to the same sort of qualifications I have mentioned, the rise was 5%. This is a very substantial rise and one which any other country would be proud to stress. Then if we look at the final set of figures, those for consumption expenditure, again we find that over the 10 year period there was a rise of 25% in real terms - not in money terms, I say for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition. Last year the rise was substantial, though not in accordance with the trend. This was due largely to the fact that in the September quarter there was a difficult figure to reconcile with the normal trend.
If we make a comparison between the June quarters of last year and the year before it will be seen that the rise was of the order of 1.8%. So it does not matter which set of indications we care to look at, we must come to the conclusion that disposable income per head is rising and consumption expenditure per head is rising. We want this to continue. We can say that in the year in which we live - and most people are thinking of their immediate future - it is probable that the figures will be better. In other words, average weekly earnings and consumption expenditure are likely to rise substantially this year.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman will have noted that last Friday the Minister for National Development told me that the projected legislation to protect the non-living resources of the Great Barrier Reef did not directly concern his Department. The right honourable gentleman may remember that 5 months ago he heard the Minister for Primary Industry tell me that the Bill was a matter for the Minister for National Development, who subsequently told me of the difficulties he was having with it. I now ask the Prime Minister: Which Minister in fact has the conduct of this legislation which was promised well over a year ago? Has Cabinet discussed it?
– What is perfectly clear is that the protection of the non-living resources of the Great Barrier Reef is a matter which is of great concern to this Government. The actual legal complications of this are matters which would be better known to the Attorney-General than to me. It may well be that there would be aspects of it reflecting the interests of both departments. But that is of no consequence really when the matter is of concern to the Government and the Government intends to protect these resources.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister for Social Services and MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. Some weeks ago he promised the House that he would make a statement about housing for Aboriginals, with some new proposals. Will anything come of this? If so, when?
– The honourable member is quite right in his recollection. I did so promise. I am hopeful that before we rise this week I will be in a position to make a statement, with the concurrence of the House, on the matter to which he has referred. There are some proposals at present before my Department which I hope I will be in a position to present to the House in the next couple of days.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Has the Government agreed to make a special loan of $12m available to New South Wales to establish a wool village at Yennora near Sydney? If this scheme goes ahead, with or without a Federal loan, what effect will it have on the wool selling centres of Goulburn and Newcastle and on the port of Newcastle, from which 265,000 bales of wool were shipped overseas last year? Is centralisation of wool selling at Yennora part of the Minister’s policy of decentralisation?
– As this is more in my bailiwick, I may be able to give the honourable member for Newcastle some information. It is my understanding that the Australian Wool Board has been having negotiations with wool brokers in Sydney and the New South Wales Department of Railways about forming a wool village at Yennora. That is all I can say. There has been no consultation with or recommendation to the Commonwealth. I would assume that when these discussions have concluded and some recommendations are made we will hear about the proposal, if it involves the Commonwealth.
– by leave - Last Friday the Leader of the Opposition asked me a question without notice, and without my having any previous warning, on three aspects of legislation. I believed that he said the third one related to living resources. It was not until I checked Hansard afterwards that I discovered he referred to nonliving resources. In the circumstances my answer was incorrect. My Department is responsible for minerals off-shore and for minerals throughout Australia, from the Federal point of view. Therefore, I was incorrect. I can inform the Leader of the Opposition that I have had some discussions with State Ministers on this matter and that in fact next Friday they will bc visiting Canberra to have further discussions with me.
– I present the following paper:
Audit Act - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1968-69.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Honourable members will recall my statement of 29th August in which I announced that the Australian and New Zealand governments had decided to pursue common objectives in providing logistic support for their armed forces. For the information of honourable members and as near as possible concurrently with ils presentation in New Zealand, I now table the formal memorandum of understanding between the two governments covering these arrangements.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the report relating to the following proposed works:
Divisional Store, Department of Health, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr Speaker, as Chairman, I present the One Hundred and Eleventh and One Hundred and Twelfth Reports of the Public Accounts Committee. I seek leave to make a short statement.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr Speaker, The One Hundred and Eleventh Report concerns the Treasury Minute arising from your Committee’s One Hundred and Third Report which relates to financial regulations. Your Committee would invite attention to its observations contained in Chapter 3 of the One hundred and Eleventh Report in which it has expressed the view that Ministerial approval should be obtained by instructing departments for all proposed amendments to regulations involving a change of policy, irrespective of the significance of that change, before drafting instructions are submitted to the Parliamentary Draftsman. The One Hundred and Twelfth Report relates to Commonwealth advertising and. iti particular, to the Commonwealth Advertising Division of the Department of the Treasury.
Arising from that inquiry your Committee believes that the Department of the Treasury should examine carefully a claim made in evidence that there is no danger of largescale advertising agencies represented on the Commonwealth Advertising Council gaining the bulk of Commonwealth advertising business. The evidence shows that the arrangements existing between the Commonwealth Advertising Division and advertising media for the placing of Commonwealth advertising contracts or orders exceeding $1,000 in value are invalid in terms of the requirements of Treasury Regulation 52. However, before developing proposals to amend that regulation so as to validate the present arrangments, your Committee believes that tenders should be invited for advertising contracts exceeding the value referred to and the results assessed carefully. In this regard, your Committee believes that competitive tendering should ensure that certain benefits currently enjoyed by agencies from Commonwealth advertising contracts are obtained only by those agencies that are demonstrably the most efficient.
The evidence also shows that ail departments should maintain specific records of their expenditure incurred on advertising placed through the Commonwealth Advertising Division. In addition it appears that, contrary to the requirements of Treasury Direction, 31/41, some departments have placed advertising material direct with media but have failed to notify the Commonwealth Advertising Division. This practice should cease. It also appears to your Committee that, having regard to the requirements of Treasury . Regulation 52 and a recent relevant legal opinion, the basis of engagement of advertising agencies in Australia by the Department of Trade and Industry should be reviewed. Moreover, proposals put forward by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to remove a lack of continuity in its relationships with advertising agencies should be considered by the Department of the Treasury in relation to the needs of all departments and also in relation to your Committee’s conclusions regarding the basis of engagement of such agents. Finally, your Committee believes that in view of the affinity of functions and probable similarity in staffing skills existing between the Commonwealth Advertising Division and the Australian News and Information Bureau, the Public Service Board could, with advantage, examine carefully the desirability of amalgamating these two organisations and assess the economies of administration that might be achieved. I I commend the reports to honourable members.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The proposals by the Opposition relating to a Health Scheme which, if implemented, would destroy the free hospital system in Queensland.
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)
- Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whirl am) has scarcely established for himself in this Parliament or in the country a reputation for frankness. Nothing that the honourable gentleman has done in the course of explaining his Party’s health proposals would suggest that he is seeking to redeem himself. I have watched with growing apprehension and disturbance the failure of the honourable gentleman who leads Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament to put with precision and particularity his Party’s health proposals. In particular, I have watched with concern the fact that he has failed to show to the people of Queensland precisely what impact his Party’s proposals would have upon them and their existence. I have no wish to engage in any display of creaking provincialism, but this is a federation and when one unit in a federation is to be exposed to attack I think it is befitting and entirely proper that that unit should be defended.
I start with my thesis, which is this: The proposals of the Australian Labor Party relating to health and hospitalisation, if implemented, will destroy the free hospital system which exists in Queensland today. By the time I sit down I will have justified every syllable of that charge. Let me begin by taking this proposition. It is basic to the whole of the Labor Party’s policy that there shall be a1¼% surcharge on taxable income. The Leader of the Opposition describes it as a surcharge. He may use any word he likes to describe it; in the ultimate, it amounts to a tax. He may call it a surcharge, if that sweeps him into some field of Elysian ecstasy. But it remains a tax. Our Constitution provides for one fundamental thing in the exercise of any taxation power by this Parliament. This Parliament has power to tax, but the taxation is not to discriminate between the States or parts of the States.
The Leader of the Opposition will nol gainsay the fact that if by some quirk of electoral behaviour his Party comes to power on 25th October he will impose a U% compulsory lax on taxable income. Let us put euphemism to one side. Let us deal with the word as it is. lt is a tax, and none of the honourable gentleman’s slickness or any resort to subterfuge or any attempt to gloss over will deny the fact that it remains a tax. I do not know what the honourable gentleman’s knowledge of Jaw ever was, but let me remind him of the fact that section 51 (ii) of the Constitution provides that taxation throughout Australia should be uniform. What the honourable gentleman and bis Party propose is that there shall be a 1£% tax on taxable income in Queensland. 1 think that it is up to him to look at bis proposition in relation to the realities. lt is a matter of history that there has been a free hospital system in Queensland for years. I do not want to make the honourable gentleman blush, but let mc remind him that the free hospital field was pioneered in Queensland by the Labor Parly. Let me say this to this Parliament and to the people outside it: The honourable gentleman who now leads the Opposition in this Parliament is the would-be destroyer of the free hospital scheme in Queensland. Over 53% of the people of Queensland are not covered for hospital benefits. Why is that so? The answer is plain. It is because they can go into a public ward and receive treatment free. This position was originally created, pioneered, by Labor governments and has been maintained by governments on my side of politics, that is, by the Country Party and the Liberal Party. We have maintained it. It ill becomes the honourable gentleman to talk to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about centralist tendencies. 1 say to the honourable gentleman that his policy absolutely shrieks of centralism. This is shrieking Socialism, in short. Here is the honourable gentleman who is prepared to say to a unit in a federal system - and mark well these words of the honourable gentleman: ‘As far as I am concerned your powers to run your hospitals in the way you want to run them no longer exists. I propose to filch them from you’. That is what he is saying: ‘I will filch them from you’. He will take them by chicane, by stealth, by subterfuge or by some slick plan. He will try to take from the people of Queensland and from the Parliament of Queensland their powers to run their own hospitals in their own right. This is a clear, plain expression of sheer centralism. It is a matter of notoriety with the honourable gentleman who leads the Opposition that delusion is often his refuge.
Let me tell him this: It is not going to become a weapon in his hands, because the great majority of the people of Australia will see to that, and when he comes to Queensland I challenge the honourable gentleman to go into the electorate of Herbert, ably represented as it is, into the electorate of Griffith, again represented ably, and into the electorate of Lilley, and say to the electors there: ‘I have come up here for one purpose. 1 have come here to destroy your free hospital scheme.’ There is the acid test. This is the crunch, and none of the smoothness and none of the slickness of the honourable gentleman is going to rescue him from that dilemma. The basic platform of the Australian Labor Party in this campaign is this: ‘We propose a minimum of an 8% increase in personal taxation.’ In order to get to the 11-% compulsory levy - and this is another freedom, another liberty which the Labor Party is pressing to destroy - the Leader of the Opposition is saying: ‘For a start, there will be a 10% increase in taxation.’ What will be the effect of that? Throughout Australia, of course, it must have a general effect. In the first instance hospital insurance will no longer be a deduction for income tax purposes. Consider this proposition: A person who wants to insure himself or his family for intermediate or private ward care will have to pay more - the maximum is $100 - but this will give only public ward accommodation. So what the honourable gentleman is saying to the people of Australia is: T can tax you up to $100 but that will only cover you for public ward accommodation. If you want anything further, then you will have to pay for it. And this will not be a deduction for income tax purposes.’ He is going to say to the people of Queensland who already have a free hospital system: ‘To have the dubious pleasure of my scheme I will tax you for a start and then that will only put you into a public ward.’
Let me say this to the honourable gentleman: In the Royal Women’s Hospital in Queensland there is a preponderance of intermediate beds for a host of intelligible reasons. Those beds are well supported by the fact that women want to go there for their confinements. Under the present scheme of things in Queensland they can go into the Royal Women’s Hospital and be completely covered for the birth of their babies at a cost of $50 to $60. Under the honourable gentleman’s proposal that will go by the board. That will only put them into a public ward. If their husbands, as thousands of them want to do, seek to put them into an intermediate ward to give them that little bit of extra comfort - and surely to goodness we have not reached the stage where we are prepared to deny people the opportunity of making a choice about these things - the honourable gentleman will say: ‘Oh, no, it will cost you more and it will not be a deduction for income tax purposes.’
Outside the Royal Women’s Hospital is a statue of a Labor leader, the late E. M. Hanlon. He was Premier of Queensland when frankness was almost an article of faith with the Labor Party. He led a Labor Party when it had integrity, character and purpose. He did not lead an alliance of malcontents. He went to the people of Queensland and pioneered the development in this particular field in the light of Queensland’s economy. What is to be put alongside that? Some device to mark the man who now seeks to destroy that system in Queensland? I challenge the honourable gentleman to go to the women of Brisbane and say to them: ‘As far as your confinements are concerned, from now on you are only covered for public ward accommodation’. I challenge the honourable gentleman to go to that magnificent organisation, the Mater Mothers organisation, and say to them: ‘No longer do you have the right to have private wards here for the arrival of babies. From now on our proposal is to be this one sweeping scheme of egalitarianism.’ I say this to the honourable gentleman: He will not be supported on this ground and he will find that he will founder if he persists in it.
But there are other aspects to this. Some, I have not the slightest doubt, will be explained by my distinguished colleague, the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs), who has had years of searching and profound experience. He is one of Queensland’s most brilliant surgeons. He has worked in this field and he will tell the honourable gentleman some of the old home truths. He will tell the honourable gentleman of some of his own experiences. It is all very well for the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) to try to smile away these things, but he cannot smile away these errors. If the Leader of the Opposition is going to try to excuse himself on the basis of saying: ‘Well, I ignored Queensland; I made something of an error’ I think it is a fair question to put this to him: In what other field has he made an error? In what other fields has he made a mistake? If he says that no error has been made let him get up and say so in the plainest of terms possible. If no mistake has been made, let us hear from him. I will not eat him, even though the temptation may be there, but I should like to hear from the honourable gentleman precisely how he proposes to extricate himself from this dilemma. I say to him that no plan, no scheme and no subterfuge will extricate him from this dilemma. The people of Queensland are not in the mood for a thoroughgoing centralist who seeks to destroy their privileges, their rights, their powers and their responsibilities to make their own choices and their own judgments.
What would the honourable gentleman say in the case of a working couple - a husband and wife? Under his proposals both must contribute compulsorily H% of their taxable income. Under the present arrangement the whole family unit is covered, but under the Labor Party’s proposal that situation will be destroyed. The honourable gentleman is on the threshold of seeking to destroy the friendly societies in Queensland - the friendly societies which, over the years, have been on the side of the weak, the underprivileged and the poor. 1 say that the man who leads the Labor
Party, who leads the Opposition in this country, has turned his back on the weak, on the poor and on the underprivileged. I say this to the honourable gentleman: The more he explains his policy relating to health and to hospitals in Queensland the more he will find that there will be an abandonment of support for the Australian Labor Party. There may be some of us who would look with some anxiety at removing some of the defects that may exist under the present hospitals scheme, but they are not going to be removed simply by embarking upon a thoroughgoing policy of Socialism. What the honourable gentleman wants to do is to set fire to the house in order to get the cat out into the garden. I say this to the honourable gentleman: He will find on 25th October this year that Labor will be rejected, and rejected for thoroughgoing good reasons.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) speaking for a period not exceeding 15 minutes.
– This is a refreshing occasion. We have just heard the first speech by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) on the subject of health in the 14 years he has been a member of this House. We are just about to hear the first speech that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has made on health for 6 months and only the second he has made in 12 months. It was refreshing too to hear this support for free hospitalisation coming from a member of a party which in 1952 succeeded in destroying in the other five Australian States the system of free hospitalisation which the Chifley Government had established 5 years before.
I want to be quite precise on this, lt is true that the honourable member for Moreton in his first years in this House did ask several questions on health. He asked nine in his first 5 years. His interest culminated in May 1960 with a question to Dr Cameron, the Minister for Health four times removed, in which he referred to the brilliantly successful Australian scheme. Thereafter the honourable member’s qualms were completely laid to rest and he did not raise the subject again until 4 years ago when he asked a question about heroin, of all things. The only other health subject in which he has been interested in the 1960s is fluoridation.
I am not so much concerned with the honourable member’s hypochondria or even his hypocrisy but what does concern me is that in his 14 years in this House he has never raised the fact that the Federal Liberal Government pays Commonwealth hospital benefit of S2 a day to the great majority of patients in the other five Australian States and only 80c a day to the great majority of patients in his own State of Queensland. He has remained mute while the Government of which he is a member has filched not less than $14m from the pockets of Queensland taxpayers and Queensland hospitals. Queensland hospitals are getting the 1948 Commonwealth contribution to their hospitals beds. The honourable member is now criticising proposals put by the Labor Party which will mean not less than an additional $22m a year for Queensland hospitals.
Queensland hospitals are a matter of very great concern to the Liberal Party in that State. One of the most well publicised maiden speeches in Queensland that any of us can remember was that of Dr Crawford, the new Liberal member for Wavell in the State Parliament, and a specialist of 25 years experience. 1 need not quote what he had to say about Queensland hospitals. What he said is recorded in Hansard and is available in the Parliamentary Library for any honourable member to read. The Minister for Health in Queensland. Mr Tooth, who, like our Minister for Health, is not a qualified practitioner, of course resented the attack made by Dr Crawford. M.L.A.. but a former member of this House and now the Liberal member for Clayfield. Mr John Murray, took Mr Tooth to task. He said. You are making a fool of yourself. You are a pompous fool.’
– He trained him.
– That is. Mr Tooth trained the honourable member for Moreton. The ‘Courier Mail’ then said that one of the results of the debate would be to make the administration of the Health
Department and the task of the Liberal leader, Mr Chalk, to maintain Liberal Party harmony more difficult.
In this Parliament we are well aware of the position of Queensland hospitals. In the Senate a committee was set up to consider health costs. The Manager of the Metropolitan Redcliffe Hospital Board gave evidence before the Committee on 12th March last. He said that the Commonwealth benefit paid to public hospitals had not increased from 80c since 1948, although the daily average cost per patient had risen from $2.94 to $12.54 over a 20-year period. The following day evidence was given about the conditions for nurses in Queensland hospitals. Senator Dr Turnbull asked why they did not go on strike over the conditions, which were so much worse than those applying in any other hospitals in other Australian States. The Chairman of that Committee, Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, a member of the Liberal Party, said: ‘Nurses in Queensland were suffering a disadvantage in excess of other States. There is room for improvement’. It is true that there was a time when Queensland hospitals were much better than those in any other State. At the time when a Liberal Federal Government destroyed free hospitalisation in the other five States, Queensland was spending on its hospitals 85s 2d per head of population as against the Australian average of 64s 4d. At the time when the Country Party-Liberal coalition took over in Queensland that State was still spending much more than the other States on hospitals. That was after 5 years of Commonwealth discriminination against Queensland hospitals. Queensland was spending 97s 2d per head as against the Australian average of 81s 8d; it was much ahead of any other State. We find from the latest report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that in fact Queensland now is only third. It spends $16.3 per head as against $22.32 for Western Australia and $17.9 for Tasmania. It is barely above the Australian average of $15.38. There has been a marked decline in Queensland’s expenditure, albeit expenditure unaided by the Commonwealth on hospitals during a period of 12 or 13 years of County PartyLiberal Government in Queensland. The consequence is that Queensland is less attractive to doctors than any other State.
The latest figures of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics show that
Queensland has an average of 1.04 doctors per thousand of population as against, for instance, New South Wales which has 1.28 and the Australian Capital Territory with 1.41 per thousand. Queensland has fewer doctors per thousand of population than any of the Australian States. Queensland hospital conditions are not only realised by doctors. They are realised by patients too. Twenty-eight per cent of Queensland’s hospital insurance contributors feel it necessary to insure for private hospital cover. In Western Australia the proportion is only 14.7%, in New South Wales 9.2% and in South Australia only .3 of 1%. Forty-seven per cent of Queensland’s population is enrolled for hospital benefits although in fact it would be necessary for none of them to be enrolled if their public hospitals were adequate. The Commonwealth’s neglect of Queensland hospitals at least had had this effect: It has meant that Queensland has had less to spend on, for instance, education, in which field its expenditure is less than that of any other Australian State.
I now come to the report of the Nimmo Committee. That was a Committee which the Government set up after the Labor Party had the Senate health costs committee set up. The Nimmo Committee established that in Queensland the State Government was obliged in 1966-67 to meet 73.2% of all hospital costs, as compared with 61.2% met by the State Government in Tasmania and 48.9% in New South Wales. Between 1965 and 1967 the proportion of hospital costs met by the State governments fell in every State except Queensland where it rose by 1.4%. Queensland is being increasingly victimised by the Federal Liberal Government’s refusal to support free hospitalisation in Queensland. Six months ago the Nimmo Committee recommended thus:
The Queensland Government’s policy gives full effect to the Commonwealth objective of affording the community adequate financial .protection against the cost of hosiptal treatment. While the policy continues it is our view that the Commonwealth should pay its full benefit (at present S2 a day) to Queensland hospitals in respect of all public ward patients.
There were forty-two recommendations. The very one concerning Queensland is overlooked by the honourable member for Moreton. What will the Minister for Health, who is to follow me in this debate, say about the very thing which his Committee recommended for Queensland hospitals? The Nimmo Committee exposed the fraudulent and unjustified character of the arrangements under which the Commonwealth since 19S2 has denied most Queenslanders the hospital benefits which it pays on behalf of most other Australians. Commonwealth hospital benefits have not been increased since 1948 and the Nimmo Committee exposed a situation in which hospitals which happen to be situated in Queensland have received from the Commonwealth since 1952 $14m less than hosiptals of similar capacity in any other State.
A Labor government will establish a system of universal health insurance administered by a Commonwealth health insurance commission and paid for from a Commonwealth health insurance fund. Representatives of the commission, the Federal Government, and the Australian Medical Association will negotiate a schedule of recommended fees for medical services based on established most common fees. The commission will refund a patient 85% of scheduled fees paid to doctors. Alternatively doctors will be able to forward accounts directly to the commission and accept 85% of the fee as settlement in full thus enjoying the advantage which they get from cooperating with the Repatriation Department and obviating bad debts, slow payments and administrative expenses. The commission will provide public hospital accommodation without charge in single bed wards or multi bed wards according to medical need and not financial capacity. It will make a pro rata contribution towards the cost of private hospital accommodation. Medical care iti public hospitals will be provided by staff doctors without charge or by the patients’ own doctors under the normal arrangements I have just described. Private hospital fees and any other health care costs not covered by benefits will remain tax deductible as at present. Hospital benefits provided through the commission would have cost on 1 965-66 figures $140m whereas benefits distributed through the funds in fact cost SI 44.6m. Families with taxable incomes of less than $1,600 will receive their health insurance free.
Australians want a health scheme which will provide proper services at a cost that the community can afford to pay. They want a scheme which meets the needs of the entire community, regardless of age and income. They want a scheme which can cope with the demands of all forms of illness, injury and incapacity regardless of their type, origin or duration. They want a scheme which will promote efficient use of the resources of the health industry while allowing practitioners, doctors, nurses and hospital staffs satisfactory rewards, incentives and conditions of work.
The Australian Labor Party has advocated the establishment of just such a scheme. Australian economists have shown how the Party’s proposals can be put into effect at a cost lower than that of the inefficient, ineffectual and inequitable Liberal insurance scheme. In Queensland in particular, Labor’s proposals will mean not only free hospitalisation as the State already has, but better hospitals. Most importantly, our proposals will relieve staff and facilities at the free hospitals and enable them to concentrate on their real job. At present, Queenslanders who cannot afford to join the existing medical scheme - the Liberal one - are obliged to apply to hospitals for treatment which would better toe provided by doctors in their own surgeries or at the patients’ own homes. The Labor scheme will enable such persons to obtain their free treatment from the doctor of their choice, at the time of their choice and greatest need. As [ have already pointed out. our national health programme would mean improved services in other directions by reducing the burdens on the State budget.
We are most grateful to the honourable member for Moreton. We have stirred him to make a maiden speech. We have smoked out the Minister for Health at last to make a speech on health. AH the statements which are reported from him are in answer to those mute backbenchers in the Liberal Party to whom he distributes questions at the onset of question time. We are grateful for the unprecedented expression of confidence about our success in the elections - a discussion of a matter of urgency from the government of the day in the last week of the sittings purporting to describe what will happen after a Labor government is elected. In particular, we are grateful for the chance to lay this canard once and for all, before the campaign, here in the Parliament itself. We are grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate to Queenslanders that far from the free hospital system established by Labor in that State being harmed, no State stands more to lose from the continuation of the Liberal scheme or more to gain from the implementation of Labor’s. In short, we invite Queenslanders to end a situation which annually robs their free hospitals of $2m and to substitute Labor’s proposal which will give them an extra $22m a year.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do hope that the people of Australia will read the argument that we have just heard adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whittorn). They will see then how empty it is and how characteristic it is. About one-third of the honourable member’s speech was simply gossip circle stuff. The remainder of it was shot through with slick argument and absolute misrepresentation. A lot of the honourable member’s speech does not warrant argument or bear consideration. But I would point out the fact that this honourable gentleman spoke about others who perhaps have not spoken on health very often in this House. How often has the Leader of the Opposition spoken on health? Yet, he is the arch priest of Labor’s scheme. No-one else can get a look in as far as he is concerned. His shadow Minister for Health was not even enabled to speak on the health estimates. Also, his predecessor as shadow Minister for Health has lost his endorsement as a senator for Queensland. This is a very strange set of circumstances.
There are one or two points in the honourable member’s speech that should be cleared up. The Leader of the Opposition made much of Queensland being drained financially because of its wonderful free health scheme. But if we look at the real figures we see that perhaps things are not as people might -think them to be. Docs Queensland receive the lowest Commonwealth hospital1 benefits on a per capita basis? We would imagine so after hearing what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. But no, in fact Queensland is the second highest in Australia. The per capita payment made by the Commonwealth to Queensland is $3.07 annually. Western Australia leads the field with S3. 14 while New South Wales receives $3.02 and Victoria receives $2.14. So, we see that the position has not been represented too accurately. One would think that this entirely free scheme - to hear the honourable member - is starving Queensland for funds. We would imagine that the State Government assistance to this scheme would be miles above the rest of Australia. But when we look at the facts - a thing that the Leader of the Opposition sometimes neglects to do - we see that Queensland admittedly does pay more per capita than the other States. But this is only marginally more. Queensland pays $15.86. Tasmania is a very close second with $15.70. Then we have Western Australia with $15.51. So, we see that the disparity is not as great as the honourable member would lead us to believe. In fact, it is only marginally different.
So, this in one swoop disposes of the Leader of the Opposition’s very sophisticated argument. Of course, the honourable member is a great expert at sophisticated argument in a complex field which can easily be used to mislead the people. But here are the facts. The Commonwealth pays more per capita to Queensland patients than most other States - almost every other State. The Queensland Government’s contribution is only marginally more than other States. The Socialists have not heard of one word - a very vital word which is the core of the whole matter. They do not know the meaning of the word ‘efficiency’. It is because of this efficiency that the Queensland free health scheme is practicable, and it has even been possible to improve its standard. Queensland has a first-class world standard open heart surgery service. Also, it has organ transplant services operating at present. It has a magnificent and unique flying surgeon service which goes out to every country centre and provides that first-class service to people. What would happen to the flying surgeon service, I might ask, if the scheme of the Leader of the Opposition ever became airborne? In addition to this, there is a magnificent radio therapy centre - a very expensive one. The services of this centre are provided free. It is virtually unique in Australia. Of course, we have another first. Recently a man’s foot was severed and it was replaced successfully.
This indicates the standard of health service in Queensland, which is amongst the best in the world. There is no mistaking this. One of the other sophisticated arguments of the Leader of the Opposition was that there were fewer doctors in Queensland because of the free hospital scheme. That is patent rubbish. The number of doctors in the State is not governed by the hospital system at all. [Quorum formed.] We have just been given a fine example of the Labor Party’s method of argument and restriction of argument. The Opposition has taken away some of my very scant debating time by calling for a quorum, the Labor Party itself having only four honourable members present. I must go on-
– Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I just heard an honourable member remark that it is a lie to say that there are only four Labor members present.
-Order! The honourable member said nothing of the sort. The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat.
– 1 have had a very personal association at a considerable number of levels with Queensland’s free hospital scheme. I can speak from personal experience.
– Are you a doctor of medicine?
– I am. I am a surgeon. ] have seen the response of people of modest means to the Queensland scheme. I know how it has freed them of fear and worry in the event of illness striking. A considerable number of cases spring readily to my mind. For example I remember one lady, a clerk in late middle age, who was supporting a sister who had not yet qualified for a pension. She fell down the stairs of her home, fracturing her leg very badly. She took advantage of Queensland’s hospital system but she was insured for hospital benefits and this provided her with an income during her stay in hospital. This lady expressed to me her deep appreciation of the fact and said she did not know what she would have done if she had not been insured and had not received the insurance money. The insurance money helped to tide her over a very long illness. She was receiving practically no sickness benefit at all, certainly not enough to look after two people.
There is also the case of a working widow. There is a benefit in two ways. If such a person has to go to hospital because of a very long illness and is insured, the medical benefit that she receives helps the children and pays for a housekeeper. This working widow of whom I speak, a person of very modest means, could not possibly have coped with things if there had not been a free hospital system to which she could take her children whenever they became ill. This system is a tremendous relief to people if they cannot afford a private doctor. They should have this free scheme whereby they can take their children straight to hospital.
Many other cases spring to mind. I have been deprived of most of my time because the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) called for a quorum. We have to remember that the free hospital scheme in Queensland is based on two elements. One relates to inpatients and the other to outpatients. It is a comprehensive service. What would happen to the outpatient service under the Whitlam change daily scheme? I put it to the House that a free service would have to go by the board; that charges would have to be made for outpatients because the scheme must be a universal one.
One must remember that this scheme would evolve. It cannot be a static thing. It would not result in a simple alteration of payments but would evolve into a more socialised scheme.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The free beds provided in public hospitals in Queensland without the application of a means test form the basis of a scheme which is unique to Queensland. It is so popular that the present Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland could not achieve power after many years of Australian Labor Party rule until it adopted as its electoral policy the preservation of the free hospital system which it still vigorously defends, lt is a scheme which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has defended with words but not in the way in which he votes in this House. The honourable member told us that the system was introduced by a Labor Government but neglected to add that it was bitterly opposed and criticised by the predecessors of the present Queensland Minister for Health who belongs to the same party as does the honourable member. It was likewise stoutly and steadfastly opposed by their Country Party colleagues, who now dominate the Liberals in Queensland, at every election for years until finally they dropped this fruitless opposition.
Now we are seeing an extraordinary turnabout. In panic, taking advantage of the dissension and disorder in the parties that form the Federal Government and the way that chances have swung against them in the recent State election, the honourable member for Moreton has evidently sought refuge in trying to discredit his own Party’s Federal policy in relation to this matter, a policy which remains the same as it was at the State level when his party, at the State level, was opposed to free hospitals. I have heard of the tail stinging a scorpion’s head when it was wounded and panicky and felt cut off from the central control. I did not think that this was very likely until 1 saw this extraordinary demonstration of what is happening with the Liberal Party and the Country Party and what is happening in the Queensland State Government today in relation to hospital policy and the free hospital system.
Lest anyone be deceived by this desperate throw let me quote some of the figures provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health relating to the bushranging attitude of the Commonwealth towards Queensland’s hospital policy. The Liberal Government refuses to pay the $2 a day bed subsidy for each uninsured patient in Queensland. Most Queenslanders are not insured because they do not have to pay hospital fees if they can get a public bed. Thus the majority of Queenslanders are restricted to a 80c a day subsidy. This deprives Queensland of $750,000 a year, according to figures supplied by the Commonwealth Department of Health to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Research Service earlier this month at my request. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table showing hospital benefits provided to Queensland.
The total receivable from the Commonwealth was $12,698,600. This does not include a period in 1962 for which no estimate was given. It means that a total of about $14m has been filched from Queensland. Some officials from the Commonwealth Department of Health told the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs some months earlier that the yearly loss to Queensland was about $2m, so even the Commonwealth department is not sure just how much daylight robbery goes on.
It is Federal Labor Party’s policy, as it has been consistently since before the last Labor Government in Queensland was defeated, that no means test should apply in public hospitals and that patients who are not insured should receive the same Commonwealth benefit as those who are insured. Queensland would at once benefit by $750,000 or $2m a year if a Labor government was administering the existing uneven health insurance scheme.
But this would not be the total benefit to Queensland from a change of government. Under the Deeble and Scotton proposals - this is one of their many excellent proposals which we have adopted - Queensland would get $6.40 additional to the $2 for each bed per day, corresponding to the average revenue which other States get for public bed charges tor the patient. In proposing to save Queensland from being forced by this Government’s policy to charge people $6.40 a day we are said to be robbing Queensland of its free hospital scheme. I ask the electors and the people who will read the speeches of the honourable member for Moreton and other honourable members participating in this debate to judge who is trying to force Queensland out of its free hospital scheme. So far from destroying this system a Labor government will restore to Queensland the $22m a year that it now forgoes in preserving its free and means test free public bed system or by the deliberate squeeze placed on Queensland because fewer Queenslanders have hospital insurance.
I have placed on notice a question to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) inviting him to make good part of this deliberate robbery of $14m of Queensland’s funds over some 18 years by making a grant of $1m annually to Queensland for at least 3 years to help that State make up some of the leeway. If the Minister is so concerned let him not delay in agreeing to my proposition. Otherwise let him stand condemned forever for his hypocrisy in taking pari in this debate today to save Queensland’s free hospitals. It is no secret in Queensland that the public hospital system has been allowed to run down. Every day the newspapers refer to it.
– Order! I draw the honourable member’s attention to his use of the word ‘hypocrisy’. That is unparliamentary language. The word was used earlier in the debate but unfortunatelyI did not hear it.I ask the honourable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it and instead refer to the Minister’s misrepresentation. Queensland’s hospital system is run down. Dr Crawford, an experienced medical administrator and a Liberal Party member of the Queensland Parliament, dealt extensively with this subject on 7th August. Today’s ‘Courier-Mail’ carries this report:
Nurses’ quarters at Julia Creek Hospital would do more to deter prospective staff than the town’s isolation, lack of coastal city amenities or present drought restrictions could ever achieve.
Wind whistles through floor boards and walls and the rooms are cramped - one is about 8 ft x 8 ft.
Boards on verandahs and passageways have lifted and one has to be careful not to put too much weight on some sections for fear of falling through.
One room which was gutted by fire about 2 years ago is in the same condition as the day after the fire.
I invite honourable members to read the rest of that report, which I do not have time to read out in full. The situation at Julia Creek is not exceptional. It is happening in my electorate, just as it has happened at Julia Creek, which is in the electorate of a member of the Country Party - the Party which is not represented in this debate. This situation occurs throughout Queensland.
The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) made much of the fact that Queensland spends on health only marginally more per head than other States. What he did not mention was the enormously higher contribution which the State makes compared with the Commonwealth’s contribution. Queensland’s contribution has increased from 71.3% in 1964-65 to 73.2% in 1966-67, while the figures for the other States have gone down from 55% to 54.1%. So while Queensland’s commitment is increasing, in other States it is the Commonwealth’s contribution that is increasing. The figures for the other States cannot compare with Queensland’s.
– I claim to have been misrepresented and wish to make a personal explanation. I have been accused of not mentioning the assistance given by the Queensland Government. I did mention it.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to make a speech. He may only explain how he has been misrepresented.
– The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) may have misunderstood me. I hope this is the case. I said that the Commonwealth’s hospital contributions to Queensland were well up with those to other States, Queensland being third of all the States, but that the State Government’s assistance to the scheme was only marginally more than that of the other States.
– Despite the verbiage, the statistics and the attempt to throw a haze of words and figures over this debate the Opposition has not denied the essential proposition of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) that at present those in Queensland who choose to obtain free hospitalisation and out-patient treatment may get it for nothing. The honourable member’s proposition also is that were the Labor Party’s scheme to be introduced, those people would have to pay for their treatment. No attempt has been made to deny those propositions. What honourable gentlemen opposite intend to do - they have not denied this - is impose on Queenslanders the same compulsory scheme as they propose to impose on the rest of Australia. The Opposition has attempted to persuade members of the public - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has done this on many occasions - that under the Deeble and Scotton proposals, as amended by Whitlam and various other people when it suits them, they will get a free comprehensive health scheme for a contribution of 1£% of tax. On many occasions the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to convey the impression that this is M% of a person’s tax. In fact, all of the elements of the Labor Party’s scheme are incorrect. It is not free. It is not comprehensive. Nor will the charge be li% of tax. What Labor is proposing to charge is H% of taxable income, which is not 1±% of tax but 8% of tax. But, because health costs in Australia have risen faster than incomes, in the 2 or 3 years since Deeble and Scotton enunciated their scheme that figure of H% has risen to 1£%. So the charge will be not li% of tax on incomes but i% of tax on incomes. I guess next year or the year after it will be H% or 2%.
The system that Labor intends to impose on all Australians and not only on Queenslanders will affect individuals in the following way: Single persons with a taxable income of more than $52 a week will pay more than they do under the existing system. Married couples with taxable incomes of more than $104 a week will pay more. All people will lose their taxation deductions. All people who look forward each year to that nest-egg, the accumulation of money in their hands in the tax refund cheque, will lose it under Labor’s proposal, because Labor proposes to partly finance its scheme by wiping out the taxation deductions. The level! covered, as the honourable member for Moreton said, is only public ward treatment. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to suggest that there is something reprehensible in somebody wanting to go into an intermediate or a private ward. This was the clear inference to be drawn from his remarks about the Queensland system. He said that if the public ward treatment were better people would not have to insure to meet the cost of admission to intermediate and private wards. Behind that is Labor’s whole philosophy, its whole approach. People who want something a little bit better for themselves will be thrown out on their own and will have to get it for themselves because this is not approved in the Socialist and Labor Party philosophy. To that extent Labor’s proposal is not as comprehensive as the existing scheme is. Working wives will have to pay a contribution; at present they are covered by their husband’s contribution. All this will be imposed on the rest of the people of Australia as well as on Queenslanders.
The Leader of the Opposition has tried to suggest that Labor’s scheme is a free scheme, after the payment of contributions. He has said recently that 85% of a doctor’s bill will be paid under the scheme. This is not a free scheme. Whatever the doctor’s bill may be, the patient will have to pay at least 15% of the amount that the doctor charges. This can be very substantial, especially for an expensive operation. But the 85% will be met only if the medical profession is willing to accept a fixed schedule of fees, and the profession has said that it is not willing to do so. It is opposed in principle to a fixed schedule of fees. As I said earlier, even then Labor’s scheme covers only public ward treatment. Those people who wish to have the extra comforts and the extra privacy of an intermediate ward or a private ward will not be covered by Labor’s scheme. The honourable member for Moreton mentioned the Royal Women’s Hospital in Brisbane where some people seek admission to an intermediate or a private ward so that they may have the extra privacy that they need at this trying time of their lives. People who want to be admitted to an intermediate or a private ward will either have to pay the additional charge out of their own pockets or will have to contribute an additional amount for this level of coverage without any help from Labor.
I have mentioned before that the Australian Labor Party has attempted to suggest that its scheme is a comprehensive scheme. I have already shown that it is not as comprehensive as the present scheme is, because it does not cover accommodation in intermediate and private wards. But in addition, Labor, following its conference, has clearly attempted to convey to the Australian people that its scheme will cover not only hospital and medical costs but also paramedical services, such as physiotherapy, dental attention, as well as free pharmaceutical benefits.
– That is a long term proposal.
– That is so. The Leader of the Opposition in his many amendments - in his change daily scheme, as my friend from Angus (Mr Giles) has termed it - has now conveyed to us that this is a long range proposal. However, I am sure that people believe that all these matters are included in Labor’s scheme now. What else is a comprehensive health scheme? I have mentioned these matters because it is important for the people of Queensland to understand that what Labor would seek to impose on the rest of Australia it would also seek to impose on Queensland. But for Queenslanders, as my colleagues from Moreton and Bowman has pointed out, the impact would be doubly severe. The Opposition has not denied that the scheme I have just described would be imposed on Queensland. Queenslanders will be deprived of their free hospital system, because a system under which they are required to contribute li% of taxable income, or the 1 3 % that it would have to be if the costings are to stand up, is not a free system. The proposition put by my colleagues that the free hospital system in Queensland would be destroyed under Labor’s proposal is valid.
Traditionally hospital and health services have been the responsibility of the States. They have been moulded to suit the needs and attitudes of the States individually. They all differ in some degree. Not only in Queensland but also in most of the other States differences can be found in the type of approach to the medical and hospital schemes that have been produced. The present benefit scheme, the one introduced by this Government, was designed to accommodate these differences and to preserve the right of the States to run their hospital and health systems in their own way. This is what we attempted to do; this is why we devised our scheme. Labor would seek to destroy all this by its proposal to impose compulsory uniformity from the centre. It would impose on all Australians, wherever they lived, a system that is quite different from the system that has been developed in a decentralised way in their own States. What a stupid, senseless sacrifice on the altar of Socialist dogma this is at a time when all round the world states with centralised health systems are seeking to decentralise them in the name of the economy, humanity and efficiency.
In Canada the Prime Minister has said that in 5 years the Canadian Government will hand the conduct of its health scheme back to the provinces. In the United States of America President Nixon has pointed to the vast inefficiency and insensitivity of the centralised bureaucratic system that has grown up there and has said that the objective of his Administration is to hand the health and welfare services back to the states, where they belong. This is being done in the name of economy, humanity and efficiency. In Great Britain, where we see the greatest example of a centralised health scheme in the world, there are constant searchings to find a way to decentralise to regions the decision making process. Again this is being done in the name of economy, humanity and efficiency. Yet at a time when this is going on in other countries that have experienced the evils of a centralised health system, the Australian Labor Party comes forward with a proposal to impose uniformly on all Australians wherever they may be - particularly in Queensland, but also in Tasmania, Western Australia and the other States - a scheme that will vitiate the schemes they have developed themselves. The Australian Labor Party has not denied that, if by mischance it has the opportunity of implementing its proposals, it will impose on the people of Queensland a payment of at least li% which in terms of taxable income increases taxation payments by 8%. It will impose this additional burden on the people of Queensland who, at the present time, if they choose to do so, are not required to pay one penny to enter a public ward or to attend an outpatients department. If that is not true, let members of the Opposition get up and deny it.
– Strange things have come to pass this afternoon. Suddenly we find three normally happy conservatives unconvincingly endeavouring to masquerade as three radical Socialists. Never before did I think that I would see the day when three such arrant conservatives as are the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), the well-entrenched conservative, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the equally well-entrenched apprentice of his, the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) defend so stoutly, with tears pouring down their cheeks, a Socialist enterprise in Queensland - free hospitalisation.
Now, I am a member representing an electorate in that State. I was born and bred in Queensland. I have spent all of my life in that State. I can remember - if the honourable member for Moreton, the honourable member for Bowman or the Minister for Health want documented evidence of this, I can produce it - the widespread vituperative opposition - I have a clear recollection of it - from members of the Liberal Party in the Queensland Parliament opposing this shocking concept of free hospitalisation. They said that it would be the ruin of the lower classes. Suddenly the honourable member for Moreton and his colleagues come into this House this afternoon to defend this system.
What have they dealt with? Where have they dealt at any stage with the grave deficiencies of the free hospital scheme in Queensland? I would say something about this. Where have they handled adequately the way in which their Government has penalised, not last year, not the year before, but continuously since this system of socalled voluntary health insurance was introduced Queensland’s fine hospitals? When did they discuss the expenditure concerning, and try to justify a continued practice of penalisation against, free hospitalisation in Queensland in the way in which their Government distributes its funds?
In this House this afternoon, we are discussing national matters. We are considering a most important national matter - health. Health is fundamental to the happiness, prosperity and indeed the health of society. It is refreshing to note that the Minister for Health in fact has come out of retreat to speak to us briefly. But what a disappointment to have this man, holding the position he does, come into this House for the first time in several months and at a time when he has had in his possession for more than 6 months the report of the Nimmo Committee on health insurance funds - the Minister has not referred to that report once - and try to justify the present health insurance scheme. I point out that the Nimmo Committee brought down forty-two recommendations, only one of which was referred to, and then only vaguely, in the last Budget. What is the Minister for Health trying to do this afternoon? What sort of case is he trying to present. More Importantly and more pertinently, where does his Government stand in relation to the situation in Queensland with regard to the eroding standard in public health?
It is true that the honourable member for Moreton gave us a lecture on constitutional law. I believe that this lecture will be published soon as the first part of ‘Killen’s Lexicon of Modern Constitutional Law’. I suspect that it will have the same fate as the memoirs of Andrew Jones. Within 6 months, it will be remaindered at Se a copy or a free copy will be thrown in for anyone who buys a book for more than 50c.
In any case, the honourable member for Moreton raised a point. I want to deal with it as quickly as I can. The Minister for Health also raised this point. It was this: Working wives will have to pay. Oh, how sad. We were told that working wives will have to contribute towards the scheme proposed by the Labor Party as well as towards their hospitalisation. First of all, I point out that a maximum limit of $100 will be imposed and that the combined incomes of a husband and wife will need to exceed $8,000 per year for this requirement to arise.
Will working wives have to pay? When did we ever hear the argument from the Government that working wives will not be required to contribute towards taxation so that they will be covered for unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, or indeed for their retirement benefits or any of the other social welfare coverages which are provided by the Government? Does the Minister for Health suggest for one minute that this is the concept behind his thinking? If indeed it is, why has he not spoken about it before? Why has he not tried to put it into practice in this House?
I have spoken about the point raised by the honourable member for Moreton. Let me speak now about the Australia-renowned expert on health systems, not only the health system in this country but also the health systems of the world, the honourable member for Bowman. I hope that he is listening.
– Oh, yes - intently.
– Before I quote the honourable member I remind him that I think it was Disraeli who said: ‘Oh that my enemy would write a book.’ I think that we could adapt that remark to the honourable member for Bowman who must be regretting that he ever made the speech I will quote this afternoon. Before I quote his remarks, I ask the House to keep in mind that we have before us the report of the Nimmo Committee which inquired into health insurance and which made forty-two recommendations only one of which has been dealt with so far by the Minister for Health and, which I re-emphasise, was referred to vaguely in the Budget.
But 1 suggest that forty-two recommendations would not have come from the Nimmo Committee unless something was gravely deficient in our health scheme. I remind the House that the Nimmo Committee was restricted in its findings. Its terms of reference required it to relate its findings to the present structure of health insurance. Still, that structure must be gravely deficient because it made forty-two recommendations. Let us keep that in mind.
The Government back bench expert on health, the honourable member for Bowman, speaking on 20th September 1966, as reported at page 1049 of Hansard, said:
The fundamental question at stake is: What is our health scheme like? Is it a good health scheme or not? There is only one possible answer. I say quite categorically, having made a considerable and continuing study of health schemes throughout the world, that the Australian national health scheme is undoubtedly the best.
– Who said that?
– It was said by the honourable member for Bowman. He added:
This should not be lost sight of.
– Three years ago- only three years ago.
The point that 1 made about the recommendations presented to this Parliament by the Nimmo Committee is worth reemphasising. It made forty-two recommendations about the grave deficiencies that it found. But the honourable member for Bowman says that it is the best scheme in Australia-
– In the world.
– Indeed, in the world. This is how good the scheme is:
In 1959-60 more than 97% of insured hospital days in Victoria were incurred by contributors . . insured for a rate of benefit equal to or higher than the current public ward fee. By comparison, the proportion had fallen to 49.8% in June 1967.
Clearly something is gravely wrong with this scheme when people are squeezed out of it because of its high cost and its narrow coverage. Pritchard of the Economics Department of Sydney said recently:
Not only is non-insurance highest in the lowest income groups, but under-insurance is likely to be concentrated among them too, for they have the most urgent calls on their available income.
The Minister for Health is speaking about the virtues of this scheme and his concern for the welfare of the modest income earner. The modest income earner is being discriminated against gravely under the present scheme.
The Minister for Health spoke about the costing of our scheme or the basis on which contributions will be made under our scheme and how people will miss out on tax deductible items. Might I remind the Minister and the medical benefit funds that the total cost for maximum coverage - this coverage is not completely comprehensive; the contributor still must meet a lot of costs himself - for many years has been $84 per year for medical and hospital treatment. If a taxpayer earns $2,000 per annum, because of his tax deduction item he pays $67 of this $84. If his income is $3,000 per annum he will pay $60. If his salary is $10,000 he will pay only $40. What is the Minister for Health supporting and defending here? He certainly is not supporting and defending the man on modest income about whom we are concerned.
Let me quote now another factor. I have used the 1965-66 income tax statistics on which to make my estimates. The income earner on $20,000 per annum claims $187.28 for medical expenses. His tax relief was $112.95 so he met $74.33 of that himself. The average income earner on $4,000 claimed $107.68. His tax relief amounted to $34.67. He met $73.01 himself. This means that the expenses of high income earners were 80% greater than those of low income earners. But the tax relief for the high income earner was 400% greater and his salary was five times greater compared with the chap on the low income.
What sort of social and economic justice is this? Where is the moral principle written into this?
The fundamental question that the Government has not answered is how it will meet the deficiencies in the State health scheme in Queensland. The honourable member for Moreton and the honourable member for Bowman obviously either are unable to read or clearly cannot understand what they read, because continually lately there have been articles in the newspapers such as the one headed ‘Waits up to 4 Hours for “Free” Medical Treatment’, or the one headed ‘Maltreatment and Delays in our Hospitals’ in the ‘Sunday Mail’ of 17th August 1968. Dr Crawford, MLA, has criticised the deficiencies of Queensland’s free hospital scheme. Each year the Commonwealth Government penalises Queensland to the extent of $2m because it pays that State only 80c a day instead of $2 for people in free hospital beds. How will it pay the extra money needed to improve this scheme? Will it deprive education of funds? Already Queensland spends 30% less per head of population on education than does the rest of Australia and education there is in a grave enough condition. Will it deprive the area of communications or road structure or any other areas that come within the functions of the States?
– Order! The lime allotted for the discussion has expired.
Assent to the following Bills reported: Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill 1969. Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1969. Tasmania Grant (Cressy-Longford Irrigation Works) Bill 1969.
– I move:
The proposal involves construction of all engineering services including roads, drainage, sewerage, water supply, electricity supply and lighting to provide approximately 600 residential lots together with sites for commercial development, schools, parks, and other suburban services. The estimated cost of the proposed works is $2m.
The Committee has recommended that the proposed works proceed and has drawn attention to the current shortage of serviced residential land in Darwin. The current shortage of serviced land is related to an unprecedented rapid increase in population and development generally in the Darwin region and a programme for accelerated development is being prepared. The Committee’s recommendations regarding the allocations of serviced lots for private housing construction and as to whether the Commonwealth is justified, in the present circumstances, in continuing as the sole developer of urban land will be taken into account. The Government has already approved private sub-divisions of agricultural land in the Darwin area which will provide some 600 allotments.
Arrangements will be made to proceed with development of design for both stages of the work under reference so that construction of stage 2 could be commenced in advance of the target date given in evidence to the Committee should this be decided after other priorities have been taken into account. The importance of the question of arterial roads raised by the Committee is fully recognised and proposals for a study of the requirements for arterial roads are under examination. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning of this work can proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1414), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. There are basic differences of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on education generally. For this reason the Opposition believes that it should point out the extent to which the proposition that we would adopt as a Labor Government and the proposition that the Government has adopted, differ. Because there are these essential differences on the subject of education, I move the following amendment on behalf of the Opposition:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House is of the opinion that the Bill is an inadequate contribution to education in Australia because it -
fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools;
ignores the needs of government schools, io which governments have a primary obligation, and
makes grants indiscriminantly to nongovernment schools without regard to needs and priorities.
Therefore the House resolves that the Bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for - 1 grants to government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to non-government schools under the Bill, and 2 the immediate establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities.’
This Bill will bring a substantial measure of relief to struggling independent schools. In particular, it will relieve part of the burden of the poorer Catholic parochial schools, which is by far the area of greatest need. The position of the Labor Party on assistance to these schools has been made perfectly clear by our leaders in recent years. In 1966 in his policy speech the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), who was then the Leader of the Opposition, undertook to provide a substantial measure of assistance to nongovernment schools. In recent months the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made it plain that a Labor government would provide emergency grants for recurrent expenses of nongovernment schools, giving particular attention to teaching costs. To the extent that this Bill implements this principle we welcome it, but it should be made clear that Labor policy is that Commonwealth assistance to both government schools and nongovernment schools should be based on needs and priorities.
The Opposition maintains that there are very clear inequities in the provision of educational facilities at all levels in Australia. A serious flaw in this legislation is that it can only intensify these inequities. It will add a further source of inequity. It is the clear policy of the Labor Party that emergency grants should be made available on the basis of needs and priorities to both government and non-government schools. The Leader of the Opposition has affirmed this. It has been reinforced by the Federal Conference of the Labor Party, which stated explicitly that assistance to government schools should be equivalent to the assistance to non-government schools. This legislation gives a measure of justice to the Catholic parochial schools and other non-government schools where urgent assistance is needed. It docs not give comparable treatment to non-government schools. 1 would like to examine how this legislation will apply to non-government schools. The most obvious aspect of the Bill is that it will give unilateral assistance to all nongovernment schools on a per capita basis. This is subject to certain conditions, but they are not rigorous ones. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated that these grants were designed to supplement grants by the States to independent schools. The Premier of Tasmania, for example, has even claimed that Commonwealth assistance is dependent on a high level of State grants to the nongovernment schools. Indeed, as I recall the statement which the Minister made to this House a short time ago, he said, when referring to the measure of assistance that would be provided to non-government schools, that one of the requirements for the continuation of this grant would be that the States continue to spend what is now being spent in the field of non-government schools in the States. This is a matter that the Minister could clarify for the Parliament. It has been asked that if a State decides to reduce the allocation that it is now providing for non-government schools in that State will that State receive less or will it be restricted as a result of the Government’s legislation. To put it another way: If a State reduces ils allocation to nongovernment schools will this mean that it will not receive a proportion of the $25m which is now being made available to private schools under the terms of this legislation? The Minister should make this matter perfectly clear.
The fact is that there is a great variety of Government assistance for running costs of independent schools. The whole system has grown up willy-nilly with no consistent or coherent pattern. For example, I instance the science blocks legislation and the grants which the Government pays to assist school libraries throughout the Commonwealth. In neither of these cases was the. question of needs and priorities determined by the Minister. They were merely ad hoc grants given to the States for the erection of science block facilities and for the provision of library facilities. The Minister will remember that when this legislation was before the Parliament the Opposition took the opportunity to point out that assistance for libraries would not be sufficient or have the desired effect unless the Government were to consider the necessity for librarians to staff them. In the same way when the science blocks legislation was before the Parliament we pointed out that while the blocks would prove to be of great benefit in all States they would not be adequate unless there were sufficient science teachers to man them. The Minister has chosen to ignore both of these matters.
I repeat that the Government has introduced legislation relating to education without considering needs and priorities. Each State has made grants according to the dictates of its budget or the political circumstances of the time. For instance, in New South Wales $30 is paid for each primary school student. This will increase to $36 from 1st July next year. This is the highest State grant for primary children. There is a graduated scale of assistance for secondary school students ranging from $34 to $42 per student. Victoria and South Australia have the lowest levels of State government grants which are set at SIO for primary pupils and $20 for all secondary pupils. Queensland has the highest rate of assistance for secondary students. This is made up of two grants, paid as separate amounts, ranging in total from §67 to $71. Significantly, Queensland’s provision for government schools is much lower than that in other States. The grants in Tasmania, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory fall somewhere in between. On this haphazard structure the new Commonwealth grants will be superimposed. It will distort even further the inequalities in assistance provided to the running costs of independent schools in the States.
If the Government had seriously intended to supplement these State grants it should have done so on a pattern which would have equalised direct contributions by governments to independent schools. This has not been done. It appears that the Government grants will augment the assisting grants rather than supplement them. This indicates how little thought has gone into this legislation which is, essentially, a piece of political improvisation. Within the structure of independent schools the pattern is distorted even further because the grants have been made on a unilateral basis. Not the remotest attention has been given to directing the flow of assistance to areas of greatest need. Broadly, I believe that the greatest need in the non-government system is for the Catholic parochial schools, particularly in the lower income and inner urban areas and in the country. Certainly these schools will be assisted by the legislation but they will be assisted to exactly the same extent as the affluent private schools. I make no criticism of these private schools. They have their role to play and if parents can afford them for their children that is their right. However, the basic question that should be asked is whether these schools have urgent areas of need. Further, it should be asked whether education standards and facilities will be improved by even one jot by the grant of this extra money. The answer to both of these questions must be an emphatic no.
I refer to ‘A Guide to Australia’s Top Private Schools’ published by the ‘Australian’ newspaper earlier this year. The guide includes location, waiting lists, sporting and academic achievements, facilities, social ratings, size and other aspects of these schools. It surveys sixty schools in all. I should like to draw a few random examples of the inequality of this Bill on the information set out in the survey. One school included in the guide is Rostrevor College, a Catholic college in Adelaide. From the account given this is a school catering for fairly wealthy middle class families with most of the parents engaged in commerce, business or on the land. Concerning its location the guide states that the immediate impression is of wide and expansive gardens beyond which are ovals bounding the school buildings on two sides. Four playing fields and another under construction are somehow lost between numerous trees and the deliberate and successful creation of a garden setting. The article goes on to list the facilities at the school, including, as well as the ovals, an open air swimming pool, six grass and three asphalt tennis courts and three handball courts together with senior dormitories with recreation rooms for television and reading. I emphasise that I use this school only as an example. By all accounts it is an excellent school, yet notwithstanding its comparative affluence and its well endowed facilities this school will receive a Commonwealth grant of at least $30,000 under this legislation. Can it honestly be claimed that a school of this calibre is an area of need and should be assisted by the Commonwealth? Is this the sort of school that the Minister for Education and Science has said will close its doors next year without Commonwealth assistance?
I come back again to the lack of priorities and the need to determine and establish the requirements of these schools. 1 have already referred to the Catholic parochial schools and the small schools in country areas. I think every honourable member will acknowledge - as, indeed, will people generally - that there is a need for assistance, but surely one cannot compare the Catholic parochial schools and the small Catholic schools in country areas with the school to which I have just referred. Surely the Minister is not prepared to argue that $30,000 should be made available under the terms of this legislation to one school when there is a far greater need among other independent schools in less remote parts of the Commonwealth. This is the intention of the Minister. This is the purpose of the legislation.
There are even more glaring examples. One is the Frensham College for Girls at Mittagong, New South Wales. According to the ‘Australian’ newspaper guide it is a school ideally situated in 300 acres of bushland. It has an amphitheatre and a new theatre hall. According to the Principal, two man-made islands in the creek are still the favourite places for lazing in the grass under the willow trees. The school has its own dairy, six hockey fields, nine tennis courts, basketball courts, a swimming pool and large areas of bushland for walking and horse riding. The teacher-pupil ratio is a luxurious one - one teacher for every ten pupils. Is there any Government school in any part of the Commonwealth excluding the Australian Capital Territory which could claim the kind of facilities to which I have just referred? We have made this point on other occasions. If the Government is prepared to recognise the standard that it has been able to achieve in the ACT in pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools, and it will’ accept that as a standard and bring the government schools in the other States up to this standard, then there would be no criticism from honourable members on this side of the House.
The legislation which we are now debating makes provision for a grant of $25m in the circumstances to which I have just referred, but completely ignores the standard of government schools in the States. I did not list those resources as a criticism of Frensham College. All honourable members on this side of the House would wish it and its pupils well. But what possible justification can there be for making a grant of at least $34,000 to a school so superbly situated and equipped? What justification can there be for giving about $54,000 a year to the rich Kings School in Sydney, or $54,000 to Geelong Grammar or $67,000 to Sydney Grammar? Will those schools with or without that extra money be better or worse? Yet these benefits have been given to magnificent schools while the great State high schools get nothing and the struggling Catholic parochial schools get an inadequate grant. This is .yet another example of the piecemeal and unequal approach of successive Liberal governments.
The terms of the traditional debate on Government assistance to independent schools have changed considerably in recent years. The question whether the Government should aid independent schools and in particular those on a religious basis has been resolved. There is a pretty general acceptance that aid to those schools should be given, but there remains the question of emphasis on how it should be given and what priorities should be adopted in allocating aid. We do not quarrel with the basic economic argument put forward by the Minister that the independent schools and in particular the Catholic schools relieve the Government school structure of a substantial burden. The Minister has estimated this burden to be about $130m a year. Some of this saving should be returned to the independent schools, but it is not simply a question of returning it on a unilateral basis with public funds flowing to schools which do not need it.
The old arguments on State aid have now become irrelevant. For a variety of historical and social reasons a structure of Government and non-Government schools has evolved in Australia. There has been no criticism of this development. If there was to be opposition to assistance to independent schools in this country then one would expect the people of Australia to make a decision fairly on whether there ought to be the two kinds of schools, government and non-government. The decision of the people of Australia has come down on the side of the two school system. Therefore if this is the situation what has to be determined - and this is what the Opposition is putting forward this afternoon as a reasonable proposition - are the needs relative to both sections, the government and non-government schools.
It is inevitable that a large number of non-government schools will continue to exist, even though some contraction is probabl’e. This has swung the whole tenor of the education debate to the adequacy of all schools, government and non-government. It has diverted the attention of education administrators and researchers from how inequalities and anomalies can be eliminated in the complex educational system which has evolved in Australia. Further, it has concentrated attention on how deterioration of standards in both government and nongovernment schools can be averted. State aid can no longer be justified by the simple argument that it is necessary to prevent one system of education from falling behind another. The basic problem now is to prevent sectors of both educational systems from falling behind. The sort of solution offered by this legislation does not even remotely approach the task of tackling this problem. Rather it will distort and intensify existing injustices and inequalities.
With the rapid growth of educational spending and changes in educational theory, the essential task of Government is to assure equality of opportunity at all educational levels in both systems of education. Governments in comparable countries have adopted varying approaches to this basic problem. In the Netherlands, private schools which have a minimum enrolment of at least fifty pupils and which can show reasonable chances of development can claim grants for both capital and recurrent expenses on an equal footing with government schools. This has produced a system where private schools strongly subsidised by the Government educate the majority of children. In England generous Government aid is offered to independent schools with the exception of some of the traditional private schools which get no direct aid. This is an example which should have been followed in this legislation. In England denominational schools get a lower level of assistance than schools which are multi-denominational and teach an agreed syllabus. In France independent schools have been given considerable Government aid. with the State paying the salaries of lay and private teachers, and authorising local authorities to contribute to the running costs of schools. To get this aid. private schools have to enter into a contract with the Government providing for supervision of non-religious teaching. The United States is prevented by the Constitution from giving direct aid to denominational schools, but indirect aid has been given.
These examples from other educational systems show how public policy has been used in conscious attempts to equalise educational opportunity. They point out the fundamental problem of all educational systems - to integrate independent schools into the overall structure while preserving equality of opportunity and assuring the balanced development of all schools. This leads to the role of the government schools which are of overwhelming significance in our educational pattern. The picture at the moment is an extremely unsatisfactory one. There are many sources of inequality in the government schools. Differences in the socio-economic status of parents are one source. Another is the difference in the quality of education between city and country schools. Within cities there are inequalities between schools in different suburbs. There are very marked differences also in spending and standards between the States.
Surveys by the Australian Council for Educational Research have thrown up differences in inequality between the sexes. Finally, there are obvious inequalities in the education of deprived groups such as the children of parents in the poverty group, Aboriginals and handicapped children. Admittedly the hierarchy of educational quality is not as pronounced as in the nongovernment school system. But there are very marked differences in standards and facilities over the range of government schools. Plainly, some government schools are better than others. Many government schools are lagging. There has been a marked decline in quality and of opportunity in many government schools. All the government schools rely to an increasing extent on funds raised by parents’ groups to provide facilities such as gymnasiums, swimming pools, halls, libraries and even in some cases septic tank systems. Where funds raised for these purposes are subsidised by State governments on a dollar for dollar basis, the main benefit goes to schools which can raise the most money.
Schools in middle income areas can raise more money than schools in lower income areas, particularly in inner city areas. However this income discrepancy is multiplied even further by the matching subsidy from the State government. An example of this has been revealed in a Victorian survey which shows that over 10 years, a high school at Beaumaris, a middle income suburb, received a total of $19,000 by way of subsidy. In the same period, a school at Fitzroy, which is a lower income inner suburb, received less than $1,000. This set of treatment must widen the gap between State schools which are theoretically on <n even footing and get the same treatment.
Tn summary, there are far too many schools in both the Catholic parochial system and the government schools system which are plainly inadequate. Many schools, particularly in the inner suburbs of capital cities and in rural areas, are too small, too over-crowded, and in many cases unsanitary. Even the better schools of both systems are dependent for basic facilities on the fund raising activities of parents. These are the areas of need where Commonwealth Government intervention is necessary; these are the areas where priorities should be applied. Unless Commonwealth aid is properly focussed, there is a very real danger of a sub-culture of deprived schools with deteriorating standards emerging within the overall education structure. This sub-culture would contain both government and non-government schools.
It is in this context that I want to put the policy of the Australian Labor Party. The Party does not approach either government or non-government schools in isolation. Rather, its approach is to look to an integrated system of education with Commonwealth assistance going where it is most needed. The present legislation is basically unfair. It is much too strongly weighted towards wealthy schools which will use public funds for the provision of mere frills. It will mean a little more cream on an already rich cake. We reject completely this approach of giving a blanket grant to all schools whether they need it or not. But because a substantial part of the assistance under this Bill will go to struggling and inadequate non-government schools, particularly the Catholic parochial schools to which I have already referred, we will not oppose it.
The Leader of the Opposition has stressed repeatedly that a Labor government would make immediate emergency grants for the pressing needs of both government and non-government schools. This legislation goes much of the way towards meeting Labor’s policy of emergency assistance to non-government schools. It goes none of the way towards fulfilling the corollary of Labor’s short term policy - the making of emergency grants to government schools on the same basis for their immediate urgent needs. The Government has adopted a policy of making Commonwealth grants to non-government schools in proportion to the number of their pupils. It should have extended this principle to government schools whose needs grow more pressing with another school year less than 4 months off. The Minister for Education and Science, in his statement on 13th August, referred with some complacency to the amount the Commonwealth was already giving to the States for education. This rather begs the question. It is for needs such as more teachers, better accommodation and equipment that the government schools need urgent grants. The Government chose, however, to allocate its entire budgetary appropriation for schools to nongovernment schools by a process weighted towards the splendidly housed, staffed and equipped private schools.
The urgent priority now is for emergency grants to government schools for the 1970 school year. With this priority in mind, a Labor government, if elected on 25th October, would take immediate action to make these grants. It would call together the Australian Education Council which comprises State Ministers for Education and the heads of Departments of Education. These senior policy makers and administrators would be asked to outline their immediate education needs before the 1970 school year begins. This would allow 3 months before the school year began for this urgent aid to government schools to be planned and funds allocated. It would not be possible to give a total for these emergency grants until the State programmes had been submitted and assessed. It is firm Labor policy that assistance of this sort should not be less per pupil than that given per pupil to non-government schools. Certainly, these emergency grants would be sufficient to tide over the lack of basic accommodation and equipment in government schools for the crucial 1970 school year. Once this task was accomplished, it would be the task of a Labor government to establish a firm basis for the channelling of Commonwealth assistance based on needs and priorities to both government and non-government schools.
Since the Martin Committee reported on universities in 1957 the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party has moved on fourteen occasions for a similar national inquiry into the needs of all schools. On almost every occasion since the Minister for Education and Science assumed this responsibility, he has voted against such a proposal. The Minister has argued that there has been no need for an inquiry. He has opposed the proposition put forward by the Opposition on the question of establishing priorities and determining the needs in both government and non-government schools. The Minister has never been able adequately to explain to honourable members on this side of the House nor has be been able adequately to explain to the Australian people why there is not a need for a committee of inquiry to examine these needs. The Minister for Education and Science presumably did not oppose the contention of a former Prime Minister, now Sir Robert Menzies, that a competent committee of inquiry was needed- - the Murray Committee of inquiry - to examine the needs of tertiary education in this country. This Committee adopted what all Australians would regard as a proper course. It determined the needs and the priorities in universities in this country. I would concede, being responsible for leading the Opposition in this debate, that as a result of the recommendations of the Martin Committee of Inquiry much good work has flowed to the tertiary level.
The Minister’s latest justification of the refusal to appoint a Commonwealth committee of inquiry to examine needs is that the States are making surveys of their educational needs. According to the Minister the Commonwealth will co-operate in this survey which is designed to determine priority needs. Independent schools would be invited to submit their needs. The Minister has described this process as the preparation of a national programme. It is absurd that a series of surveys and a series of submissions from independent schools should be amalgamated and dignified by the title of a national plan. Yet it appears that the only action that the Government intends to take in putting planning on a permanent and rational basis is to cooperate in a series of surveys. Even in these surveys the initiatives will be taken by the States.
The need for planning at a Commonwealth level is essential to the progress of primary, secondary and technical schools. This is why the Labor Party policy, after emergency grants have been allocated, is for the establishment of an Australian schools commission. This would be comparable to the Australian Universities Com mission which recommends Commonwealth grants on a basis of needs and priorities. The commission would make grants to schools, both government and nongovernment, on the basts of need. It would provide permanent and stable machinery for the allocation of grants designed to benefit all Australian children and to transform the existing education structure. This is how the Opposition has designed its policy to ensure the necessary direction of our educational effort. The magnitude of Commonwealth assistance needed may be gauged by the recommendations of the Australian Education Council. The Council has estimated that to bring government schools to a reasonable standard would need Commonwealth funds of $400m in the period from 1969-70 to 1972-73. This estimate was made some years ago and the figure now would be substantially higher, probably of the order of $600m over the 3-year period.
Sir, the policy of the Australian Labor Party is designed to ensure that funds flow to both government and nongovernment schools to bring all schools up to a proper standard. This is the Opposition’s attitude to the Bill. We believe it is a logical one. It is a democratic one; it is a fair one. I believe it will be accepted by the people of this country, whether their children attend a government or a nongovernment school. I do not believe - nor does any honourable member in the House - that parents of children who attend independent schools want to see their children with a better standard of education at the expense of the government schools. This has been the basis upon which the Australian Labor Party has approached this problem. We believe that the Bill does provide some benefits and therefore we have not opposed it. However, we believe it should be withdrawn; that there is a need for some improvements to be effected. For this reason the Opposition has moved the amendment which I read to honourable members at the commencement of my speech and I commend it to the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and I reserve my right to speak later.
– Over the last few months honourable members have found themselves deeply involved in discussions with both proponents and opponents of State aid for independent schools. I have been facing a barrage of questions and letters for a long time now. I believe that the Catholic population in working class areas, particularly on the fringe of the metropolitan area, are having a real struggle to keep their schools going. After much thought I must indicate my general support for the programme to spend $50 per head per annum of Commonwealth money on pupils in independent secondary schools and $35 per head per annum on primary pupils.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled against these proposals but it is true that many people in less affluent areas make great sacrifices to send their children to church schools because they genuinely feel that a religious education should be given to them. Many mothers go out to work not because they want to but because it is economically impossible to provide this type of education if they do not. It is true also that many of these schools, particularly parish schools - I do not mean the rich public schools - have fallen sadly behind the government schools in the equipment they are able to provide to educate children. -
What should a government do, Mr Deputy Speaker? Has the Government the right to deny financial assistance to children whose parents genuinely feel that it is their duty - their sacred duty - to have their children educated in private schools? I have interviewed many of these people. There is no doubt at all about their sincerity. These parents feel most passionately and sincerely that it is their duty and there is no doubt that they are making great sacrifices to see their children educated accordingly. It has been said that the Government’s decision to provide funds for independent schools to assist with running costs should be accompanied by a similar decision to assist government schools on the same basis. This is not necessarily so but it is true that we should look also at the needs of government schools to see what proportion of taxation funds they share, because one of the arguments used by independent school parents is that they are taxpayers and they do not get then- share of these funds for the education of their children. Government schools should provide for them but is it reasonable to expect them to send their children to government schools if religious education and environment is so important? This is a factor which I have had to consider most seriously in my assessment of the problem.
In 1968-69 about one-quarter of State revenue was used in meeting the running costs of government schools whereas State government assistance - I mean State assistance apart from that provided by the Commonwealth - amounted to about 1 % of those funds. Until recently the Commonwealth did not enter directly into this sphere except at university level. More recently the Commonwealth has joined with the States in assisting these schools and an estimate has been made that this financial year the joint assistance from the Commonwealth and States for running costs will1 be equal to about 2% of State revenue funds.
It is estimated that the Commonwealth will spend $ 1 6m on these grants of $35 and $50 for primary and secondary school pupils respectively. It should be remembered that vast Commonwealth funds are used through the States for education in government schools quite apart from the sums provided as grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Net expenditure by the States, much of it from Commonwealth sources, has increased from $325m in 1959-60 to an estimated $784m. This represents a rise from 23.4% to 28.9% of all State recurrent and capital expenditure. So government education is getting a larger slice of the family cake, despite the great demands on resources.
I have some interesting figures supplied by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). They show expenditure on primary and secondary schools, technical schools and teachers colleges. This is State expenditure for all Australian children, supported by Commonwealth funds through the amounts made available each year to the States. In 1963-64 the amount was $300m, equal to 22.1% of State running expenditure, exclusive of business undertakings. In 1964-65 the amount was $337m, equal to 22.9% of State running expenditure. In 1965-66 the amount was $3 66m, equal to 22.6% of State running expenditure. In 1966- 67 the amount was $406m, equal to 22.9% of State running expenditure. In 1967- 68 the amount was $454m, equal to 23.7% of State running expenditure. So despite what critics may say, obviously the percentage of State finances devoted to education has been rising. It is estimated that in 1968-69 the amount will have reached $500m, equal to 24.3% of State running expenditure. Transport costs are not included in these figures.
It is true that Commonwealth support for independent schools as well as State schools has been increasing in recent years, mainly through grants for science blocks and libraries. But direct Commonwealth grants for government schools also have increased. Let me give some interesting estimates of expenditure in this financial year for recognised government supported institutions. Universities will receive $68.8m; colleges of advanced education $26.9m; research grants $3.6m; science laboratories $7.2’m; libraries $6.7m; technical training facilities $12.4m; teachers colleges $13. 2m; pre-school teachers colleges Sl.lm; Aboriginal advancement $lm. So it is very hard for the critics to substantiate their claim that government schools have been neglected. The only direct assistance given in this field in 1963-64 was $33.9m for universities. The Commonwealth is advancing vast sums for State schools. An increase from $33,901 for government institutions in 1963-64 to $ 140.9m is equivalent to an increase of more than 400% . It is anticipated that these grants will continue to increase.
But there is no doubt that there has been a severe strain on families of children attending parish schools which receive relatively little help from government sources. I have a table which demonstrates that vast Commonwealth funds have been spent directly on government institutions. The table gives a comparison of direct Commonwealth spending on State schools and higher educational institutions with Commonwealth expenditure on independent schools. The figures show expenditure on such things as science laboratories, technical training facilities and teachers colleges. They show expenditure also on per capita grants to independent schools. Notwithstanding these per capita grants, it is estimated that in 1969-70 independent schools will receive only $23.6m compared with $40.4m re- ceived by government institutions. In the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, government institutions will receive $24.4m while independent schools receive SI. 7m. The Government will spend $1 01m on universities, colleges of advanced education, research grants and pre-school teachers colleges. Of course, the Government is not involved in any expenditure in these fields for independent schools. It should be borne in mind that about 77% of school children attend government schools and 23% attend independent schools. I have mentioned vast increases in the education programme. Commonwealth assistance has increased from $506m in 1959-60 to an estimated $l,145m in 1969-70.
It is true that there are some areas where I can see room for improvement on the education front. Sometimes moneys needed in the State sphere seem to find their way into lavish buildings in rich schools. I believe this is wrong. I can see great difficulties in applying a means test to some of the richer private schools but T believe that we should continue to see whether we can control this problem, otherwise there will continue to be widespread criticism. One factor we will need to take into consideration is that by no means do only children of welltodo families attend these schools. I am sure that after it is re-elected to office the Government will further examine this problem, bearing in mind that not only wealthy families send their children to independent schools.
I also see some waste of teacher manpower in country districts where there is a small registered private school competing for pupils with a small country high school or a small government primary school. I know of cases where all of the pupils in upper forms of private schools could be absorbed into a nearby school without any additional staff or the need of additional classrooms. I would like to see a trial of a combined government and church school - perhaps with Catholic nuns teaching alongside government teachers - integrated into the government system. I would like to see an approach made to some of the independent systems to see whether a pilot scheme along these lines could be put into operation. But I believe that people in an affluent country can afford a few luxuries, even in the field , of education. Certainly this is so for the sake of vital religious principles, which are adhered to particularly by the Catholic population so far as education of their children is concerned. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that he wants equality of opportunity throughout Australia. I believe there are still some problems to iron out if it is true, as claimed, that one school may have an assembly hall, a swimming pool, a language laboratory and a number of groundsmen while another school having a similar number of pupils has none of these amenities. If government funds are to be used for both systems there should be some levelling out of these facilities. It is true that some independent schools have very fine facilities and some State schools have the bare minimum. But this is true also in reverse: Some independent schools have the barest of essentials. We cannot generalise about independent schools and State schools.
Last week a class of pupils from a school in my electorate visited Canberra and was privileged to look in at one of Canberra’s high schools. Teachers and children alike were very envious of what is provided here for school children. Despite the claims of a prestige city, we must ensure that country children in particular have, by and large, the same opportunities as the school children in Canberra and in the big cities have. After all, they all are Australian children.
I do not want to buy too deeply into the row that occurred the other night between the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) and the Minister for Education and Science. However, I would like to point out that the honourable member for Bendigo claimed that he was misrepresented in an editorial that appeared in the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’, which is one of the leading provincial newspapers in Australia. As a result, he claimed that he was misrepresented by the Minister. I do not want to enter too deeply into this controversy, because either the honourable member for Bendigo or I will not be returning here after the election. It was rather strange that the effect of the leading article in the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ had not been recognised before the Minister pointed it out to the honourable member. A statement attributed to the honourable member for Bendigo was published in the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ on 11th September and the editorial appeared on 12th September, but it was not until the Minister raised the matter in the House on the morning of 18th September that the information used by the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ was challenged. Had I been in this situation I would immediately have said to the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’: ‘Your information is wrong’. I would have thought that if the information had been wrong it would have been challenged well before the Minister raised the matter. The ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ has always made a lot of space available to the Federal member for Bendigo and I am quite sure that he would have been given an opportunity to challenge the editorial, had he wished to do so, long before the Minister raised the matter.
Again I say that the criticism from the other side of the House always seems to me to be unduly pessimistic. The other day I referred to Opposition members as prophets of doom.
– That is not an original term.
– It is true, whether it is or is not an original term. It seems to me that all that the Opposition members can do is to criticise. Very rarely have they anything progressive or anything of much substance to contribute to a debate. Most of their comments are critical, and quite critical, of the Government’s policies. We want to hear details of the policies that the Opposition wants to follow. It should have progressive policies, such as those that the Government has been following so far for 20 years. The whole approach of the Opposition is in contrast to the optimism of those people who are interested in the future of our schools. Despite the criticism we hear, educational authorities everywhere are quite optimistic about the future of schools. Opposition members should check their information very carefully before they suggest that the future of schools is very dark and gloomy. They should fmd out what is happening before they make speeches. They should inform themselves particularly well before they criticise what the Government is trying to do not only for the independent schools but also for government schools throughout the Commonwealth.
– The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) seems to be living in an educational fairyland where everything is wonderful, where nothing has ever been better and where nothing is wrong. He referred to the Government’s policies and criticisms offered by the Opposition. But it seems to me to be difficult to find anything that the Government is doing which in the eyes of the general public is right. What did the honourable member do? He went back to the hoary old story we hear from the Government side of the House and that is that the Government is pouring vast sums of Commonwealth money into the State governments so that they can pour it back into the State education systems. This is just nonsense. I suppose the Commonwealth Government is pouring large sums somewhere. It is sending the money off to the Boltes and Askins of this world and they have an infinite capacity for mishandling the State education systems, which are a long way down on their list of priorities.
The honourable member for Lalor referred to the dispute that arose between the permanent member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy), as he will be, and the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recently. My understanding of it was that the honourable member for Bendigo issued a Press statement saying that in the light of developments throughout Australia, and especially in Victoria, it was possible that the Bendigo College of Advanced Education would introduce quotas at some time in its future history. In the light of events throughout Australia, it seems to me that that was a reasonable judgment. Anyone who says at the present juncture that it is highly improbable that any of these colleges of advanced education or any tertiary institutions will have quotas at some time would seem to be flying in the face of the facts.
I listened with some interest to the honourable member for Lalor. During the last 5 or 10 minutes of his speech, I thought he was coming over to this side of the House and would vote with us. He seemed to find some errors and some needs in the State education system. On the whole he spent his time talking about non-government schools. I wonder whether he has ever raised his voice in this House on behalf of the government schools in his electorate. Has he ever said anything about the Broadmeadows High School, for instance, or the schools around Altona and St Albans? They have big problems arising from the influx of migrants and the failure of the Victorian education system to do anything to teach English to newcomers to this country. Of course, the honourable member has not said anything about that. Honourable members opposite have spent their time in the last year or so working as hard as they can for their survival and worrying about the contents of the ballot box. They have not worried about what goes on in the schools. They have not cared about the types of buildings that the schools have.
This Bill is evidence of everything they have thought about or have not thought about in education. It does not meet any of the needs of the education system or systems, if we can call education in nongovernment schools a system. It does not make any approach to the problem of giving equity to every Australian school and every Australian child. It does not do anything to ensure parliamentary control over the expenditure of public funds, and I will have more to say about that later. It ignores the fact that most of the nongovernment schools, particularly the higher level church schools providing secondary education, have a means test. It is a different sort of means test from the one we want to abolish. Parents must have tremendous means if they want to get their children into many of them. Take for instance the St Peters school. The tuition fees in the senior school will be $183 a term and in the preparatory school $150 a term. The boarding fees will be $255 a term. It is very difficult to get into that school anyhow. Parents must submit a child’s name at birth. But the Government does not mention anything at all about such problems.
The Government intends to pour money into these schools without let or hindrance in the hope that it will get some return for the money in the ballot box. But the people of Australia are beginning to wake up to the opportunistic nature of the Government’s approach to education. It is 12 or 13 years since we first raised the subject of education in this Parliament. We have continued to raise the subject in debates on matters of definite public importance, during
Estimates debates and on other occasions and gradually the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party have been dragged reluctantly into the field of education. The Government has been pressed in the Parliament and outside until eventually it has acknowledge that no Commonwealth government can possibly ignore its responsibility to the schools throughout Australia. The tragedy of the present situation is that the Government has acknowledged its responsibility to one-quarter of the schools and has ignored its responsibility to the remainder.
Of course this afternoon, during the course of this debate, we hear a good deal about what I call the non-State school system or the private school system. There is a fundamental difference between the schools to which three-quarters of Australian children go and the schools that are conducted principally by church bodies in this country. First of all, there is a difference in the responsibility that these schools accept to the community of which they are a part. If a parent walked up to the door of the average non-State school and knocked on the door and said: ‘I have just moved into this district. Here are my five children. I would like to come in’, the reply would be, to take St Peters in Adelaide as an example: ‘We are sorry. You have to put your name down at the time of birth of the child to gain admission. I am sorry. You cannot come in. We are full, you see.’ Using the term not in the political sense or not with any derogatory thought behind it, these schools have not the responsibility to the community in anything like the same way as we see responsibility exercised under the State school system.
The State school system operates much differently on the whole. Although zoning does apply and a parent may be told that he must take his child to the school next door to his suburb or in his suburb, the facts are that when a parent knocks on the door of a State school that parent must bc allowed in under that system. As far as I am concerned, as a member of this Parliament and as a member of a publicly elected institution, that is where our responsibility begins. I am not saying that this is necessarily where it ends. There is such a fundamental difference between the responsi bilities accepted by the two types of institutions that they are a difference in kind altogether.
The question of accessibility should bc considered. Not only is there this question of whether a child will be admitted to a non-State school because of numbers but also is there the question of accessibility to such a school for all sorts of reasons. One school of which I know in Melbourne has a religious test governing entry to it. A child can only attend that school if it belongs to the denomination that runs that school. This is fair enough. The people who conduct that school have every right to have that requirement. But a barrier is imposed between children in the community and the expenditure of public moneys.
Then there is the general question of answerability. The average non-State school or non-government school is answerable to its own particular group of people. That is fair enough. Huge sums of money will be poured into these non-State schools. We see $30,000 to this school and $50,000 to the other school. None of these schools will be answerable regarding their expenditure of public funds or to public accounts in anything like the same way as the school of which I happen to be chairman is answerable for its expenditure of funds. I refer to Newlands High School at Coburg. Under the public system, a school is answerable for everything. Teachers are answerable for the conduct of their classes. Parents’ bodies are answerable for the expenditure of their funds. Administrators are answerable for the way in which they conduct their business.
In the proper political sense, answerability is non-existent as far as the nonState school system is concerned. But one area of advantage exists in respect of non-State schools. This is the parent participation in their management. Australia has not found a satisfactory answer to the question of community participation in and control of the public school system. To that extent, I respect the non-State school, the private school or the church school - call it what we will.
Let us look now at some of the terminology used in a debate such as this. It speaks about things being ‘diversified’. No great diversification is to be found regarding non-State schools. The non-State school is not terribly independent. One could hardly call a non-State school private. This Bill seeks to attend to the needs of 2,186 of the schools of Australia. I am taking these figures from the latest bulletin of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The needs of 7,694 Government schools are completely ignored.
At last count, there were 84,988 teachers in the State school system and 20,474 teachers, of whom 14,000 taught at Catholic schools, in the non-State school! system. So, 2 million of the children of Australia are being ignored by this Parliament by this legislation. But 600,000 of them will get some bounty or other benefit in varying degrees according to the means of each school. To some this will be a valuable contribution but a number of schools in my electorate including parish schools and one or two of the secondary schools will find what is provided by this Bill a substantial advantage. To others it will represent only an extra bounty for people who already are richly endowed.
On an occasion such as this, we ought to be looking at education in order to see what we ought to be doing about it. We ought to be doing many things about education in Australia. That is why the Opposition has moved that this Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to permit of a proper subvention to the State school systems of Australia and an approach to some of the problems of Australian education. One of these problems is the tremendous inequalities which lie throughout the whole field of education not only in respect of the non-State school system but also in respect of the State school system. In Queensland at present approximately $60 or $70 less per child is being spent under the State school system than is spent in New South Wales or Victoria. If that amount is compounded, as it were, over a few years, lt means that a substantial difference exists between the type of education or quality of school to which a child goes in Queensland as compared with the situation in New South Wales, Victoria and the other States. We, as members of this national Parliament, ought to be attempting to do something about that problem.
Inequalities run through the whole field of education. Country children receive less of a go than do city children. City children in an electorate such as mine are less richly endowed as far as their educational involvement is concerned than are those children attending schools south of the Yarra. The same remarks may be applied to various other areas of education whether they be applied to Aboriginal people or to people who are handicapped in some way or other. These are the areas to which this Parliament ought to be turning its attention.
We ought to be doing something about research. We ought to be doing something about obsolescence particularly the obsolete school buildings found in Australia. I refer especially to Australian State schools. Dozens - in fact I suppose it would probably run into hundreds - of schools in Australia ought to be pulled down. They are fit for the bulldozer only. Many of them are in cramped and crowded grounds which are unfit for the children who attend them. The school rooms themselves are dingy, dark and ill equipped. They are cold in winter and hot in summer. We ought to be doing something about them. We ought to be attempting to do something about the over-centralisation of the Australian school system.
I wish to say this about arguments from the opposition side about the gross national product. In recent times, the Minister for Education and Science has put his minions to work. They have produced a paper to show that Australia in fact is spending as much as any country relatively on education. Well, it is relatively. But it is not » bad exercise to apply oneself relatively to the educational advantages. Why is it that there are other countries in which students have greater access to universities than do Australian students? Why fs it that New Zealand, just across the way, can find a place at a university for every person who passes the university entrance examination and we cannot? Why is it that there are more young people in the 18 to 19 age group inside the school system in many other countries than there are in Australia? Why is it that the qualifications of our teachers do not measure up to those of teachers, for instance, in Toronto in Canada? Why is it that our buildings in large areas of Australia are a disgrace as compared with the buildings to be seen in Sweden, Switzerland and so on? We could take all the percentage arguments we like, but these percentages do not answer the questions that I have raised.
Government schools need new buildings. They need a new approach to architecture. In some areas in Victoria a new approach is taking place. A much more sensible approach with respect to equipment is needed. One has only to see the kind of equipment that is to be found in many of the richly endowed non-public schools to see what ought to.be done about this problem. In many areas of Australia, we should do something about school surroundings. In this regard, I pay a tribute to those who have been responsible for the development of schools in Canberra. I am not envious of these schools. I am glad that they are here. They are a credit to the people who have developed them. I think in at least one of the new high schools I have noticed new buildings going up. It will not be long before the grounds of that high school will be crowded out in much the same way as has happened throughout the rest of Australia. It is sad indeed. I hope that this development does not go any further.
We ought to be supplying this kind of educational environment to young people throughout the rest of Australia, particularly in the industrial areas of the great cities. It is people who come from the deprived and underprivileged homes who need the best schools. Of course, it is logical enough in the kind of society in which we live that the people who come from the better homes go to the better schools. Their parents can find more money. More space or more land was available when the school concerned was being built. I do not quite know how we can tackle the problem as it is found in the areas of Brunswick and Coburg, which I represent. Personally, I would like to take over some of the large open spaces on the edge of these suburbs and develop a corporate system of schools, particularly secondary schools, for those areas.
What are we doing about teachers? A great shortage of teachers exists in Australia. This morning I noticed figures in the Press showing that 10% - it may even have been more- of teachers in New South Wales are resigning each year. The status, salaries and working conditions of teachers must be approached in a completely new way. The average teacher is frustrated, not because he does not like his job but because many of the resources that ought to be at his disposal are not there. I recall that I was walking down the corridor here with my honourable friend from Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) at a time when I had not been a member of this Parliament very long. He said: ‘Well, how would you like to be back teaching again?’ Of course, a number of people around about have attempted at various times to accelerate that state. I said: ‘I would not mind if 1 had the resources of this place at my disposal.’ At that stage the Libary research system was not nearly as well developed as it has been since I became a member of the Library Committee a number of years ago. The kind of resources we have at our disposal are the resources that the average teacher ought to have at his disposal. We ought to ensure that if a teacher wants to teach about Papua and New Guinea he has at his disposal all the necessary resources such as we can locate here in our Library. This is part of the reason why teachers are leaving the services throughout Australia. It is part of the reason why the people from Toronto were actually deluged with applications when they reached Victoria. They were staggered at the number of people who came to see them and who applied for jobs in Canada. Again I say that we have to find some method - this is a completely non-political suggestion - of parent participation in the school system.
We want this Bill to be withdrawn so that we can have proper parliamentary responsibility for the control of public funds. It is estimated that this year the Commonwealth will make grants worth $16m to independent primary and secondary schools throughout Australia and that in a full year they will total $25m. What will the sum for the following year be? Of course the auction sale is on. Next year a Commonwealth payment of $50 per annum for each secondary pupil in independent schools will not be enough. The demand will be for $55 or $60 or parity. So the total grant will creep up and up from $25m to S75m to $150m. The bargain hunting and ballot chasing will go ahead. We have to accept the parliamentary responsibility to control public funds now. We have to have a national, universal and high aspirational look at education.
There are all sorts of alternative ways in which we could control public expenditure on private schools. We could say perhaps that we will build the buildings but they will belong to the community. I would not be much in favour of that proposition myself. Perhaps we could subsidise the parents. This again would subsidise the people who can afford to send their children to the great public schools to the same extent as those with more meagre means. We could subsidise students. At various times we have given consideration to this. My inclination is that if anything is to be done it ought to be done in the area of teachers’ salaries. If the Government were to pay teachers in independent schools those teachers would have to become public servants. It would be quite wrong to have one body of people accepting full responsibility as do public servants and for another body of people who receive their salaries from public funds not to accept the same responsibility. It is time we applied ourselves to how we are to spend public funds on nonpublic schools. France has a contract system. The more the school gets from the system the closer is the control of funds.
– Did the honourable member say France?
– Yes, in France the schools enter a contract system. The way the school enters the system is related to the amount of control. It is a very bureaucratic system as far as I can see, and I am not particularly advocating it. We have not looked at any of these things. All we are doing is putting money in the hands of people, some of whom do not need it, some of whom do need it, but none of whom have to answer for it in the same way as public servants in this community have to answer to the demands of the Public Accounts Committee. Then there is the English system, which is probably a bit befogged with contrariness and anomalies. Then there is the Scottish system under which the denominational schools came into the state system on the following terms:
It is time that we started to examine these questions. For the benefit of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who interjected a little earlier, I will stop soon so he may launch into his analysis of my contribution to this debate. I would not like him to worry all through dinner about it and have indigestion because he is unable to answer the arguments I have put forward.
A few years ago I saw in a Canadian newspaper an article to the effect that Catholic schools had entered into an agreement with one local! education authority whereby the teachers appointed to the schools were to be Catholics. I wrote to the authority whose name was in the paper, and he wrote back and explained the simplicity of the system. I say quite categorically that I do not quite know what the answer is in respect of the Australian system, but I am absolutely convinced that the approach we are adopting in this Bill is not the answer. It will give relief to some of those people who need relief, and to that extent we will not oppose it; but it will not answer any of the great problems of Australian education. It will only compound some of the errors and inequalities that are presently in the system. The House should vote for the amendment and start to turn its intelligence and intellectual resources, of which there are many on both sides of this House, to the problem of Australian education not with a view to the ballot box but with a view to helping the schools, the parents and the children.
– One could sense in his speech the abhorrence with which the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) regards the independent schools system. It crept into almost every intonation when he mentioned the private schools and those which were wealthy, but he seemed to show an almost total disregard of the role of the independent schools in the Australian education system. He also implied that no assistance was given to government school’s. This was a similar tack to that taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the past and which the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) adequately answered today when my colleague the honourable member, for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) posed a question to him.
The honourable member for Wills concluded on the note that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill but merely wants the Bill to be withdrawn. Although I would hate to see my opponent and friend, the honourable member for Wills, in a court of law, I would like to be appearing in a court and arguing that the withdrawal of a Bill implied opposition to the Bill. This sort of thing which is described as an amendment asks that the Bill be withdrawn. This is the last week of the Parliament. There would be no opportunity to re-present the Bill in the remaining few days to ensure that the money is made payable to the schools that need it - namely, those independent schools that have been faced with a crisis and that have caused the Minister to act as a catalyst to do something in a moment of dire need when many of them, not all, in some areas were facing a closing down period. Yet the honourable member for Wills wants the Bill to be withdrawn. After the Bill1 has been withdrawn he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who moved this amendment, want to establish an Australian schools commission. I want to read this part of the amendment into Hansard. Apart from the withdrawal and re-drafting, the amendment contains these words: the immediate establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities.
This is straight from what the Labor Party Conference, that clique of so-called faceless men who determine policy, had laid down for the Labor Party to move today. The Opposition was bound to move this amendment. This proposal for an Australian schools commission came in this demand that the Bill be withdrawn. It is important enough that this proposal was moved by a group outside the parliamentary party and was binding upon them, but what is more important is what it means. It means that this is the method by which the Australian Labor Party would control every school in Australia should it be elected to govern. This is the sort of thing that those in independent schools and those who look for decentralisation of education concentrate on.
The Opposition wants to control the whole of our educational system from Canberra through this Australian schools commission. Yet somewhere in his speech I heard the honourable member for Wills say that we should do something about the overcentralisation of education. Was that the usual double talk? I did not think that the honourable member for Wills engaged in it, but I know that the Leader of the Opposition does. Over-centralisation of education, I agree, is a problem, yet the Opposition wants to enhance that problem by the establishment of an Australian schools commission to try to centralise control of education in Australia. There is no doubt in the minds of Government supporters that this is the inherent approach of a Socialist government to all forms of legislation pertaining to education. The Opposition wants to control education from Canberra. It is another example of Socialism by stealth that the Opposition should describe it as an Australian schools commission. In the same speech in which he called for this commission the honourable member for Wills called for decentralisation in education. Honourable members opposite did not even make full reference to the commission that it wants to set up. The honourable member for Wills knows as well as I do that this is the method that would be used to implement the doctrinaire policies of nationalisation and Socialism to bring within it in a schools commission the absolute control of education in Australia. Heavens above, his call for a decentralisation of education is a call for what we are looking for. One of the reasons that the Minister gave for introducing this very Bill is that ‘we believe in the independent system, we believe in the people having a choice between the government schools and the independent schools and we believe in a strong federal system of government which will ensure the decentralisation of education. I can see that the honourable member for Wills is so upset with the manner in which I am replying that he has to leave the chamber at this stage. It is a pity that he did not become cognisant of the double talk which is inherent in this matter. At least there were more Labor Party members here to listen to his contribution than there were to listen to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. At one stage on the Opposition side only the honourable member for Wills and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) were in the House to listen to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition present the viewpoint of the alternative government so close to the election.
Honourable members will recall that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that his Party had made perfectly clear its stance on the matter of aid to independent schools. At the recent Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party state aid was damned, condemned and slated by members of that conference, lt is not surprising that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is not in the chamber. He slated state aid unequivocally at the Federal Conference and said that he would not have a bar of it. It is no wonder that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will not come in here and support the amendment and will not listen to the address of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or to the speech of the honourable member for Wills who, I detect, supports the sentiments put forward by the honourable member for Hindmarsh at the Federal conference. Had the honourable member for Wills been a delegate he would have supported the honourable member for Hindmarsh in this matter. There are divisions in the Australian Labor Party over this aspect of educational reform. The sort of reform that the Minister has been able to push ahead with a burning zeal is the sort of thing to which the philosophy of the honourable member for Wills is the very antithesis. The honourable member for Wills mentioned the French system. If it had not been for my interjecting and querying whether he was talking about France he would have gone on to describe it as the sort of system we should be examining even more closely and he would not have qualified that with the statement that perhaps it was too bureaucratic. He knows, as well as I do, that the French system of education is one of the most bureaucratic in the world. That is why he is attracted to looking at it.
He believes in an Australian schools commission which would centralise all educational authority in Canberra. He believes in a system akin to the French system which would repose more power in the hands, and I say this with respect, of the Public Service and bureaucrats. This is the sort of thing that does not stand up with the bland statement welded into his speech later when he said: *We believe we should do something about over-centralisation of education.’ If he were so concerned with overcentralisation he would not support an amendment of this nature, nor would ho even refer to the French educational system which is, with great respect to the French, one of the most over-bureaucratic forms and systems of education imposed on any European country or any country in the world.
I said that the Minister had been the catalyst who has been able to bring about a change and to really assist independent schools. 1 said that one of the reasons that he desired to do this was not only an educational reason but. also an economic reason. lt is an educational reason in the sense that he wants to see, as this Government wants to see, an opportunity for choice, an opportunity for experimentation, an opportunity for individual action. My own personal belief about education is that the more authority we repose in headmasters the better the system will be and the greater the chance for experimentation. How much more chance there is in a system that provides implicitly, or in an attitude that believes implicitly, in a dual system of education such as we are ensuring in this legislation, and in a federal system which reposes responsibility in the State governments for the forms of education that are undertaken within their borders. This is the sort of thing in which the Government believes. It is the form of decentralisation in education that most honourable members, if they put their minds to education, would be pursuing and supporting, and not bringing in an amendment such as the Opposition has moved today in an endeavour to deny the payment to the independent schools which so sorely need it.
This raises the second broad reason for the Government introducing this legislation. There is no doubt that many independent schools are in dire need of assistance. The
Minister’s statement on 13th August revealed that over (he last 3 years 100,000 students have enrolled at government primary schools. It could well be thought that during that period, if there were the normal commensurate number of enrolments in independent primary schools, there would be 25,000 to 30,000 independent school enrolments. But what, in fact, occurred was that despite the Increase of 100,000 enrolments in primary schools administered by governments there was a decrease of 1.600 in enrolments at independent schools. Quite obviously they could not take up the slack. There were areas that simply could not take any more pupils and they were having to direct parents to send their children to the State schools. This was the first weak link of the dual system. By the Minister’s introduction of this legislation, foreshadowed as it was in the Budget, we have been able to start to repair this and to ensure that people will be given the choice of schools, the choice that persons such as the honourable member for Wills are against them having. Honourable members opposite want to see a government monopoly of education, and that is implicit in the moving of an amendment such as this which calls for an Australian schools commission. As I say, honourable members opposite loathe the federal system of government. The Labor Party has in its platform the abolition of the States. Members opposite loathe the federal system, they loathe the independent schools and they do not want to see decentralisation in education.
– Centralism is the Labor Party’s policy.
– Of course it is. All that members opposite did at the last Federal Conference about this enormous desire to centralise control In Canberra was to amend their platform to delete nationalisation of broadcasting and television. They paid attention to the socialisation of industry, production and distribution and exchange and other nationalisation forms on the blueprint that is laid out on the platform. This move today for an Australian schools commission is in keeping with the centralist traditions of the Australian Labor Party and its well known attitude to the federal system of government. The honourable member for Wills talks-
– Under water all the time.
– I should imagine that he would find it difficult to cease speaking even under water. There can’ be no doubt that when the honourable member for Wills and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition describe the discrepancies in certain facilities that exist in some of the independent schools, what they want to do, if they cannot knock out state aid and aid to independent schools altogether, is to introduce a means test upon the schools. This would probably be an incentive for schools to reduce their fees. The means test, which they say they are opposed to philosophically, would have this result. They say that they want equality of opportunity. Indeed, they go further and say that one must have equality. Yet they will not provide a grant to independent schools that has a semblance ot equality in it at all. They want to impose a means test which would provide an incentive for certain schools to reduce fees and thus look to the Government for more assistance rather than trying to rectify their problems so far as they can within their own capacity. This is the sort of thing that has been prevailing and what honourable members opposite have been putting forward. It is a crying shame that they dismiss the independent school system as they do. It is no wonder that those who are interjecting share the beliefs of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It is not surprising that they interject, because they would have joined him in the sentiments that he expressed at the Federal Conference opposing the independent schools system.
Unquestionably the Australian schools commission that was proposed today was a deal with the left wing of the Labor Party. There is no doubt about that whatever. There is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition, who is continually compromising all the demands he makes, has compromised with the left wing which is so irrevocably opposed to aid to independent schools and has said: ‘Unless you introduce this amendment calling for an Australian schools commission we will vote against the Bill’. The only way they could get around it was not by voting against the Bill but by introducing an amendment to withdraw the Bill. Surely that is tantamount to voting against it. The only way that the Leader of the Opposition could get any support at all was to bring in this supercilious and nebulous amendment to withdraw and redraft on the basis of, firstly, grants to schools, and secondly, the establishment of the Australian schools commission. It is an appalling piece of double talk which is symptomatic of the approach of the Opposition on occasions such as this.
I have spoken of the impracticability of a means test on schools, not only on the question of the lowering of fees but also because there would be no incentive on the schools to improve facilities that they have at present. Some people have alleged - and the honourable member for Wills was one of them - that the Government is doing nothing for government schools. This is simply not so. The Commonwealth provides almost half of the recurrent revenues of the States. In other words, the Commonwealth has been finding almost one-half of the annual running costs of government schools. If that has not helped independent schools and if that has not helped government schools, with the aid programmes going on, then what has? If we were not prepared to assist independent schools in the manner indicated by the Minister in his second reading speech and by the introduction of this Bill1, we would have faced even greater problems in the field of education, and those who sit opposite and call for increased assistance to education should be applauding the move, not devising devious means whereby they may embarrass their Leader with these left wing machinations by coming into this House and supporting the Bill as it stood when it was introduced by the Minister.
The figures support the role the Commonwealth is playing. The Minister has mentioned them and they have been freely available. Over the 6 years from 1963 to 1969 the States increased their recurrent expenditure on education in schools and State teacher colleges from $300m to approximately $500m. Almost one-half of that increase came from Commonwealth sources. In 1963-64 the total Commonwealth expenditure on education was $68m. By 1968-69 it had risen to $192m, and in this financial year it will be $266m. This is very real evidence of the expansion of Commonwealth assistance to education and this evidence renders invalid the arguments put forward today by the honourable member for Wills. The arguments of the honourable member belong to the by-gone era. The arguments belong to the era which he described when speaking of walking down the corridor with the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and when the honourable member for Yarra asked: ‘Would you like to return to teaching?’. We do not know what answer he gave to that question 10 years ago but we do know that in 6 weeks time he will be able to make application to return to the teaching profession, irrespective of what his views were 10 years ago. The contributions to education that he seeks to make and that he has not been able to make in this Parliament he may be able to make more directly on his return to the teaching fold from which he came.
In 1963 the Commonwealth share of expenditure on education was 17%. In 1968 it was 30%. Naturally it will be even higher, based on the figures which I gave before, in this financial year. The Opposition has continually called for an inquiry into education. Again we know what the double talk has been on the inquiry. They have moved away from this inquiry into education. They have now called for the establishment of an Australian schools commission. They have ignored what the Minister has stated in this House will take place. That is, that there will be - and I refer to the Minister’s statement of 13th August:
He went on to say:
The States intend to prepare a national programme for their schools and for teacher education. Independent schools have been invited to conduct parallel surveys. On completion of the surveys the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science and the Australian Education Council, which is composed of the Ministers for Education in all the States, will consider proposals for joint action to promote the further development of education in schools.
That statement that there is to be a survey to determine the priority of needs in education means that the schools themselves will have the authority, the capacity and the means to determine what will be their priorities in the years ahead. Details of priorities will be forwarded to State Ministers for Education and to the Federal Government.
– The terms of reference of the surveys are common terms of reference.
– Common terms of reference - that is quite important. 1 thank the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) for his interjection. The point I want to make is that here is a survey through which, on common terms of reference, the schools can put forward their propositions to the education departments and the departments will relay them to the State Ministers. Contrast this with the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to dismiss this form of inquiry and to introduce an Australian schools commission which, as he said, would examine and determine the needs of students in government schools - the epitome of centralisation, the epitome of a system with all control emanating from Canberra. It follows the basic desire of any Labor government that assumes power to try to centralise control over such activities as education. It is a matter of great shame that the honourable member for Wills can talk about the need for State aid.
– State aid.
– State aid it would be. But it was implicit in the speech of the honourable member for Wills-
– They want to withdraw it.
– Opposition members want to withdraw the Bill, and to me that implies, ipso facto, that they are opposed to the aid that will be granted to the schools. They cannot stand there and talk about not opposing the Bill but only asking for it to be withdrawn if their real intention was not to try to prevent these payments being made on the date announced by the Minister. I urge honourable members to support the Bill and to throw out the amendment which implies so much of the underlying philosophy of a Socialist party. I think it is a shame that a man can stand in this Parliament and call for the need for decentralisation in education and yet support this amendment. If the honourable member for Wills was approaching this amendment with a clear mind he would not have said what he did, but of course he was supporting the left wing of his Party in an endeavour to have the Leader of the Opposition compromise with this amendment that was brought in. The only way in which the Leader of the Opposition could ensure that the Bill would not be voted against by the honourable members opposite was to call for its withdrawal, which, as I have said, is tantamount to the same thing.
Mr BRYANT (Wills)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Wills.
– During the course of his attack upon the State education systems of Australia the honourable member for Kooyong said that I advocated the French system for the control or development of State and non-State co-operation. I did nothing of the sort. I simply mentioned the French, the British and the Scottish systems, neither with approval nor with disapproval, but to draw them to the attention of honourable members for the purpose of further consideration .
– (Kooyong)- I would like to make a personal explanation. I claim to .have been misrepresented in the personal explanation of the honourable member for Wills.
-I call the honourable member for Kooyong.
– The preamble to the remarks of the honourable member for Wills stated that I attacked the government school system.
– So you did.
– I did not attack the government school system. I believe implicitly in the development of the government school system. I was attacking the honourable member for Wills. Nor did I say that he believed in the actual French system of education. What I said he believed in was the sort of thing which it connoted, namely, the over centralisation of an increased bureaucracy in education.
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong is now developing his personal explanation into a debate.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– During question time today I gave a figure in relation to a question and l would like to correct the figure if I may. In answering a question in respect to wheat I said that since the Washington meeting Australia had been getting her share of the wheat market by selling wheat at prices not more than 7c below the agreed minimum price under the International Grains Arrangement and that I would not like to be held with precision to that figure of 7c but that it was from my memory. I would now like to correct it and say that on further study the position is that Australia has been getting her share of the market selling at an average of not more than 5c below the minimum of the Arrangement. I would be glad to have my correction of that figure published in Hansard.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Fi l l AIRCRAFT
– by leave - This House will know that the Government recently sent a high level mission to the United States of America to discuss matters concerning Fill aircraft. That mission has now submitted its report to the Government and the Government has considered it. However, before detailing the matters discussed and the conclusions reached there is one matter which I believe should be made clear.
Because of the great publicity which has been given to any accident in which any Fill aircraft has. been involved there has grown up a feeling that the aircraft is itself unsafe. The record shows that this belief is simply not true. The United States Air Force fleet of Fill aircraft has now been flying for a total of more than 40,000 hours, including more than 25,000 hours in the operational command, and it now has an accident record better, for example, than the Super Sabre or the Phantom and better than any other F century series of aircraft. On the record the aircraft is not unsafe and this should be known.
The matters discussed by the mission related to the aircraft’s range, its weapons load, the assurance of a continuing supply of spare parts during its service life and the fatigue performance of the wing carry through box. Our military advisers are completely satisfied that the range and weapons load of the aircraft will meet the requirements of the Air Force, as set down when the decision to order the aircraft was made. It will do the job which the Air Force wanted an aircraft to do. Our military advisers are also completely satisfied that there will continue to be a full availability of spares, readily available, during the full period of service of this aircraft with the Royal Australian Air Force.
Furthermore, our advice is that the FI 1 1, both in practice and during operations, has demonstrated a capacity to deliver a bomb load in any weather conditions with unprecedented accuracy, whether the target can be seen or not. For this purpose it is the best aircraft in the world, and our military advisers after evaluating other possible aircraft types tell us that there is not in being or in prospect any aircraft that would approach the already demonstrated performance of the Fill as a strike aircraft of the kind the RAAF requires.
The Government believes that the RAAF must have an ultra modern bomber strike aircraft to replace the Canberras which are now the RAAF’s only strike force. The Government knows that the Canberras are approaching the limit of their service life, and the considerations which I have set out above all point to the FI 1 1 as the best aircraft to be this replacement, without exception.
But there remains the problem of the fatigue performance of the wing carry through box. This has been a matter of concern to us because it indicates that we would not get the length of service from the aircraft which we require, or anything approaching it; and our concern has been shared by the United States Air Force, although the United States already has over 1.20 Fill aircraft operating with the present wing box.
As a result of this concern two matters are in progress. Firstly, the wing box which gave an insufficiently long, life under test has been modified as a result of information gained and is to begin a new series of fatigue tests next month. Secondly, more far reaching activity has been undertaken to overcome the fatigue problems identified as limiting the service life of the aircraft. Action has been comprehensive and has included the participation of groups of technical experts from universities, industry and government, all participating in detailed reviews of the test results and the proposed actions to resolve those technical problems. These groups, Mr Speaker, have been assisted by Australian structural experts.
As a result of these investigations a new design of the wing carry through box is under way and it is intended that this new design will be fitted to FI 1 1 aircraft by 1972. But, of course, the new design box, which our mission has advised us it confidently expects to be successful, has not yet been proved in practice. The question posed now is whether we should accept our FI 1 ls with the modified wing box which is due to begin testing next month. If we do it is expected that this box will give our FI 1 ls a longer service life than the present wing box but not the length of service life we require. Modifications seen to be required would be made to the wing boxes already fitted to our aircraft without additional cost to the RAAF.
The Government has decided that, provided the modified wing box to be tested next month lives up to expectations, we should accept the aircraft. This, however, is conditional on an agreement which has already been reached that whatever is needed to finally overcome the wing box problem will be incorporated in our aircraft at the appropriate time and at no increase to the ceiling price under the formula applicable to the purchase of our aircraft. That is to say that unless the modified wing box we now propose to accept meets the endurance requirements for which it is designed, the United States Air Force will replace it with the new design box to be available in 1972 - again with no increase to the ceiling price under the formula applicable to the purchase of the aircraft.
A further safeguard is the agreement that should one or more of the wing boxes we now propose to accept become unserviceable due to a design deficiency before the new design wing box is ready for fitting then the United States will replace those boxes at no cost to us - and as often as may be necessary until the new wing box is available for fitting.
As a result of these agreements we have therefore decided to accept delivery of our Fills as soon as the fatigue tests to begin next month have proved successful. We believe that in so doing we will be greatly strengthening the defence capacity of Australia and that the remaining problems of the aircraft which is not one of safety but of service life will have been overcome by the arrangements to fit new boxes or to fit replacement boxes until the new boxes are ready.
I believe I should, in this statement, remind honourable members that the arrangements made with the United States Air Force for these aircraft were that the ceiling price was to be $US5.95m plus escalation of labour costs and materials after 1965, plus modifications requested by the RAAF and improvement modifications proposed by the USAF and accepted by the RAAF. The combined effect of this item will approximate $US1.5m per aircraft. I would also add that the USAF has decided to go to an RF111A version for the reconnaissance aircraft and that this decision now makes it possible for the RAAF to proceed to a reconnaissance version of the F111C, as originally contemplated, which will be common with the reconnaissance aircraft in the USAF inventory. Before, however, the Government makes a decision on this matter we would require far more information as to costs.
Sir, I hope the House and the country will agree that our Air Force needs a strike bomber most effective in operations. I hope they will accept the advice of our military experts that the Fill is far and away the best such bomber available, and I believe they will agree that our acceptance of the bomber subject to the conditions I have set out will be a powerful addition to our capacity to defend ourselves in time of need. May I add, Mr Speaker, that should the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) wish time to study this statement and to reply to it tomorrow, then that time will be accorded to him.
– Mr Speaker. I appreciate the consideration that the Prime Minister has given in this respect but I would prefer to follow immediately. Therefore I ask leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Speaker, the most significant part of the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is a disguised increase of 25% in the cost of each Fill aircraft. To the ceiling price of $5.95m which, according to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) could not be pierced has been added a hefty increase of $1.9m for escalation of labour costs after 1965. The ceiling of $5.95m has not been pierced; it has been shattered. It is now $7.4m. Apart from this rather coy revelation of another substantial price rise in the Fill, the Prime Minister’s statement does not get us any further. He has announced a qualified acceptance of delivery subject to further fatigue testing and a major modification of part of the aircraft. The Prime Minister has not altered the existing circumstances of the Fill aircraft. He has announced a programme of qualified acceptance. This has been the situation at least since September last year when the Minister for Defence symbolically accepted the aircraft and announced proudly that they would soon be winging their way westward in the path of Kingsford-Smith.
In the House last week the Prime Minister said that the Fill programme was not subject to the demands of the Australian electoral programme. This is a marked change since 1963 when the Fill programme was very much subject to the demands of an Australian election programme. However, many things have changed since 1963. The Prime Minister’s announcement puts us roughly back to where we were about the middle of last year. The right honourable gentleman has never been over-enthusiastic about the FI 1 1. Honourable members will recall how, shortly after his election, he brushed off questions about the plane by saying that it was too late to do anything about it. Earlier this year he seemed to have changed his mind. Certainly the way was cleared for possible cancellation of the aircraft.
This was the whole drift of informed stories leaked through authoritative sources which appeared in the Press over a period of months.
In this atmosphere a mission headed by Sir Henry Bland was sent to the United States of America. On the advice of the mission the decision has been taken to proceed with the purchase subject to satisfactory testing. After marking time for more than a year the FI 1 1 is back to square one. Of course, another crash of the plane during testing or discovery of further fatigue faults again could dramatically change the whole situation. This makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s pledge, made on a number of occasions, to announce a firm decision before the election. I am sure it always has been the understanding of honourable members of this House and of the public that we were getting the plane subject to satisfactory completion of the structural testing. All that the Prime Minister has done has been to reaffirm this position. This has been the end result of the Government’s tactical jockeying on this purchase. The reason for all the subterfuges and manoeuvres is not hard to find; the public has lost faith in the purchase and its relevance to Australian defences. This was plainly reflected in a recent gallup poll which showed that a substantial majority of the electorate favoured cancelling the Fill.
The Fill has been, perhaps, the most intensively debated subject in this Parliament over the last 6 years. There has been a great volume of printed comment about the plane and its purchase in the Press and in periodicals. I believe that through the whole of this period the Opposition has maintained a consistent and objective view of the Fill. We opposed the initial purchase, particularly the haste of the commitment and the flagrantly political context in which the deal was negotiated. In the years since, the Opposition has been particularly critical of the uncontrolled cost of the plane, of certain aspects of its performance, and of its implications and relevance for Australia’s defences. I believe that this criticism always has been fair and well substantiated. The excellence of the Fill concept and many of its fine features always have been conceded by the Opposition. We have conceded also the many problems facing the contractor in developing and building the plane. The Opposition always has sought to divorce these elements from its criticisms of the Fill deal. As this will be the last word on the FI 1 1 before the election, I would like to say that I personally found the contractors most helpful and co-operative, both here and in the United States.
The essence of the Opposition’s criticism has been that the Fill is too costly for Australia - the Prime Minister has confirmed this tonight; that it is not versatile enough for Australia’s needs; and that it is not relevant to the strategic situation in which Australia will find itself over the next 10 to 20 years. The present position is that $A183m has been outlaid on the Fill. A further payment of $15m is due by the end of this month and another $9m by the end of the year. A further quarterly payment will be due at the end of next March. This means that, even with the most optimistic assessment of delivery dates, about 80% of the cost of the Fill in Australian dollars will have been paid to the United States before we get a single plane. If there are further delays it is conceivable that payment will be completed before the plane arrives - a remarkable piece of merchandising.
This is by no means the whole of the cost story. Capital works and ground support equipment have absorbed about $A30m. About $2.3m has been spent on training in the United States. In addition there has been a staggering outlay of $1.1 83m on ferrying pilots and crew to and from the United States and maintaining them there. Even this is not the end of the potential outlay on the Fill. If the FI 1 1 is to be used with maximum effectiveness further heavy spending on tankers and escort aircraft will be needed. Throughout the whole 15 or 20-year lifespan of the Fill it must remain a heavy drain on resources and an important component of defence spending. An overall estimate of at least half a billion dollars will not be much short of the mark.
Against this background, and assuming that the Fill gets here, it is worth asking what we are getting for this heavy outlay. Essentially, what we are getting is a deep interdiction strategic bomber designed for nuclear weapons. The Fill may be a very fine plane in this role, but is it what Australia’s defences really need? In all other roles there are planes with performance superior to that of the Fill. There are planes whose overall configuration of fighter-bomber profiles is decidely superior. Perhaps some honourable members opposite who are trying to interject will be prepared to stand up and say why the United Kingdom is to purchase the Phantom aircraft; why Germany will be purchasing the Phantom aircraft; why Israel will be purchasing the Phantom aircraft; and why the Phantom aircraft is to be manufactured under licence in Japan
The Prime Minister has conceded that a direct threat is unlikely for at least 10 years. In this context the sorts of conflict Australia could become involved in are counterinsurgency operations or limited conventional warfare - under strict United Nations auspices if the Labor Party is directing policy. What is the relevance of a strategic bomber in these circumstances? The futility of strategic bombing, particularly in Asia, has been demonstrated resoundingly by the complete failure of the bombing of North Vietnam. Even as a strategic bomber there have been reservations about the Fill. Former United States Secretary of Defence McNamara regarded it as an inadequate replacement for the B52. As a tactical fighter bomber the Fill lacks the manoeuvrability to be as effective as other fighter bombers. In a close support role, the A7 Corsair has proved superior to the Fill on Vietnam experience. In the long range, alt-weather tactical interdiction role the British Buccaneer and the Grumman A6 have better performance. As a tactical strike bomber and as an interceptor fighter the Phantom F4 is much more effective. For the limited role likely for the Air Force in the 1970s, any of these aircraft would have been better buys. Perhaps the best buy would have been a fighter-bomber of proven versatility and performance, such as the Phantom or the Swedish Viggen. Any of these alternatives could have been bought for less than half the cost of the Fill. They could have been maintained much more cheaply.
If the Government proceeds to its logical conclusion, the Air Force will have a prestige super bomber with marked limitations in any other role. In summary, the Opposition believes the Fill to have been a disaster from the point of view of cost effectiveness, and if we needed any confirmation of this proposition, it has been given by the Prime Minister tonight. Subject to qualification and modification, it is the Government’s intention to go ahead with the purchase. I repeat what I have said outside the House- that if the Opposition is elected a government on 25th October, we will immediately try to renegotiate the purchase and get a cheaper plane more suited to the strategic and tactical roles we envisage for Australia’s defence forces in the years ahead.
Mr GORTON (Higgins - Prime Minister) - I present the following paper:
Fill aircraft - Ministerial Statement, 23 September 1969- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chaney) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1762).
– I rise to support the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I think that the amendment clearly sets out the reason why the Opposition has found lt necessary to take this course of action. The Bill before the House is a political Bill which has no relevance to the needs of education in the Commonwealth. It has been introduced by the Government without consideration being given to the real needs of Australian students or of Australian education. It would appear from the attitudes adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that they do not even consider that State education systems exist. The Bill provides some $ 1 6.2m for distribution, in the financial year 1969-70, to primary and secondary schools which are said to be independent in their operations. Assistance is also to be provided to some other schools, such as schools for handicapped children. The provisions of the Bill do not apply - and the title of the Bill specifies the exclusion - to State secondary or primary schools. This is the main objection which the Opposition is raising, and it is an objection of which every person in Australia should take note, and the exclusion objected to is something for which the Government should be roundly condemned.
There are areas of great need in independent schools. There are independent schools which, because of their financial positions, are unable to provide adequate education for the children who attend them. There is no doubt about this fact; no-one can argue about it. There are also many independent schools which are among the richest education institutions in Australia; institutions which are able to collect, for the attendance of children, fees which would equal the wages received by some parents who are sending children to other schools, even other independent schools. These schools will share equally under this Bill with the less fortunate schools. So it is not possible to say that the approach adopted in the Bill is a rational and honest approach to the needs of education. It is merely distributing money with no relevance being paid at all to education or to education needs. If needs were taken as a basis, then some consideration would have been given to what was required in independent schools; what level of assistance was required; and to what schools this assistance should be given. There is no guarantee that the schools in greatest need will receive their full share of the money. The Government should, and will, be condemned for its failure in this regard.
Because of the Government’s lack of consideration for needs, and because of its lack of appreciation of the fact that children should be given something like an equal chance in the education system, we have the situation where State schools and some independent schools still have not received the benefit of the legislation relating to science blocks which was passed some time ago. No State high school in Victoria has proceeded to the fourth stage. The Minister may well say that this is the fault of the Victorian Government, but his Party and his Government are providing assistance to schools that are far better equipped than are almost all the state schools in the education system. The Government has done this without giving any consideration at all to the real needs of th. schools.
If the purpose of this Bill were expanded to cover the state system, as is envisaged in the amendment, the additional cost in a full year would be about $75m. That is not a tremendous amount of money. It would represent about six of the Fill aeroplanes that we were discussing a short time ago, and we have been able to do without them for several years. It would represent, however, a tremendous step forward in the state school system. Each State has different standards - some good, some bad. Within the States the standards in the state schools, as in the independent schools, vary considerably, but not nearly as such as they do in the independent schools. The children in the lower income groups have the least prospect of going through the entire education system, and they are the children who can expect the least assistance from this Government. The Government has not one iota of interest in the children who have the ability but whose parents do not have economic capacity. These children are culturally deprived because of the lack of education of their parents, because of the economic circumstances of their parents and because of the lack of such facilities as libraries within their communities. These children need more assistance than do children in other areas where the parents are far better off. But not a thought is given to them.
The Government has $16m to spend this year and will spend $24m next year, if the amount is not increased. The easiest way to distribute it is to give the students in an independent school $50 each if they are at the secondary stage and $35 if they are at the primary stage. The Government can then forget about its responsibilities to the community and its responsibility to spend the taxpayers’ money in the best possible way. Such matters are unimportant. But the money does not belong to the Government; it belongs to the taxpayers. The Government does not worry about whether the end result will be a better education system, because that is not important either. Only the votes are important and most important of all are the second preference votes. The Government does not consider the realities of the education system. If the $24m is not to be spent on state schools, it would go a long way towards bringing the independent schools that are in need up to a desirable standard, if someone was willing to do a little bit of work to find out what was needed. Unfortunately we are just being asked to hand out money indiscriminately.
Because this money is being used on education, the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. I am not sure that we should not oppose it, but the fact is that we are not opposing it. However, we are asking the Government, even at this late hour, to give some consideration to the 75% of children in Australia who attend state schools. After all, these are the primary responsbility of governments. We are asking the Government to withdraw the Bill and to extend its purpose. If we believe what is being said outside the House but not inside it, despite the tenor of this year’s Budget part of which is implemented by this Bill, the Government has plenty of money available to it. It is providing $40m here, $10m there, $7m for something else and another $40m somewhere else. So apparently the Government has no worry about money, lt has money to use for political purposes, but it criticises anyone else who suggests how it should be spent.
The expenditure of $75m in a full year in the way that the Opposition has suggested in the amendment would give a tremendous fillip to the state school system. At the moment parents committees at most state schools provide the basic equipment that transforms the building into a place where decent education can be given and where teachers can work with the dedication that we hope they have. The parents committees raise the money to buy the equipment in various ways. But they receive no recognition at all from this Government. They receive no recognition at ali from the Liberal Government in Victoria. I cannot speak of the other States. The parents committees are the cogs that make the state school system work, just as the parents and friends associations are no doubt the cogs that make the Catholic education system work. It would be of immense value to give these people some encouragement in the work they are doing. I think it is true to say that the people who actually work in the education system are only a very small percentage of the people who have children at school. Any encouragement given to them would lift our entire education system. It would stimulate other people who would involve themselves.
What incentive is there for a parent to join a school committee, to work hard and to raise the funds that are needed to build up a school? The schools are the responsibility of the Government, but the parents do not receive one word of thanks or encouragement for the work they do. The Commonwealth Government goes out of its way to snub them. The Government makes it clear to these people that it does not care whether the state schools exist. For all it cares, the state schools can be closed. One wonders what would happen if the Commonwealth Government tried to adopt the same approach In Canberra, which is its own domain. I wonder whether the Public Service would stand for this treatment. In Canberra, the Commonwealth provides the material and equipment that parents must provide in the. States. I have inspected a number of the schools in Canberra and I believe that they are the pacemakers for Australian education. The standards available here should be the standards that are available in the state system. These are the standards that we should be aiming to achieve. Unfortunately, because of this Government’s lack of interest in the state education system and because of its total lack of interest in education, if we can judge by this Bill, we have a situation-
– You must look at the other Bills.
– What other Bills? A science block costing $100,000 is provided for Scotch College but nothing is provided for Norlane High School.
– This probably results from your poor representation.
– You were President of the Liberal Party in Victoria when the priorities were established.
– You have a list of the science laboratories and high schools in your electorate.
– That is right.
– The high schools in your electorate have done pretty well.
– Only one high school in my electorate has not received a grant for a science block and that is Norlane High School, which is in a Housing Commission area. I would suggest that that is where the assistance is most needed. It missed out on a grant because at the time the priorities were established it did not have sufficient fifth form students to qualify. When it did get sufficient fifth form students the priorities had been altered to assist rural schools, which were getting a poor deal under the first set of priorities. Most likely Norlane was just unlucky, but the fact is that it did not get a science block. I said in a previous speech that I did not blame the Minister for Education and Science for that.
– I know that.
– Thank you. This is an area where assistance is needed most. The parents in the area on an average are not educated as well as are the parents in the electorate that the Minister represents, for instance. This is just one of the facts of life. I am not criticising the people concerned. Because of their background their interest in education is most likely not as great as that of people in other areas. The children in these circumstances need more assistance because they start of at a disadvantage. They are not getting more assistance. The parents of the children who attend these schools, which are staffed by very dedicated teachers, get no encouragement from legislation of this kind, which discriminates against them. These schools to which I refer have produced some outstanding scholars. One of their scholars last year won every major prize presented by the Gordon Institute.
Those people who have had some association with State school committees will appreciate what an important difference it would make if they could be given a sum of money without strings attached, which they could use for improvements to their school. This would make a tremendous difference to their enthusiasm. It would reward them for the work they are doing and would lead to appreciable improvements to their schools. Unfortunately the present system operates for the schools with the most money available. To get a State subsidy you have to raise money for your school. If the parents do not raise the money, the school suffers. There are no compensating factors. Take the case of schools in Fitzroy and Beaumaris. The parents of children attending the State school at Beaumaris have a higher appreciation of the value of education and higher incomes from which to contribute towards the education of their children. They raise more money for their school and get a greater subsidy from the State government than is available to the school in Fitzroy. The schools which do not raise so much money do not get as much assistance from the State. In providing subsidies no consideration is given to need. Need is important. A child must have education if it is to have a reasonable chance in life. You might have got away with poor education in the 1930s and the 1940s. Even in the 1960s you might struggle along with an inferior education. But in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s anybody who does not have an adequate education will be very lucky to get anything like satisfactory employment
The Opposition’s amendment outlines the deficiencies of the Bill. We can only ask the Government to redraft the Bill, if the amendment is accepted and the Government is prepared to act on it, some encouragement will be given to the parents of children attending State schools. The problem will not be cured. To do this will take more than per capita grants. The problem requires thorough investigation. All proposals designed to end existing inadequacies in education must be considered. We can never completely eliminate inadequacies and inequality of opportunity, but we can do something about them. We can try. The Government is not trying. It is showing no interest in whether the money it is allocating is going where it is most needed. This is an important aspect because we are dealing with taxpayers’ money. We are handing out millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without considering how effectively it will be spent.
I hope that the money being provided under this Bill leads to improvements in education. A small minority of independent schools are most likely wealthy but some are having difficulty maintaining their standards. 1 hope that the money provided under this Bill helps those schools which, because of an influx of migrants in the area and for other reasons, have reached a stage where their educational standards are falling below those even of the underprivileged sections of the State school system. But I do not believe that the problem can be tackled at this level. I do not believe that problems can be solved merely by handing out money without due consideration to why or how it is being spent. Political motivation will not help the education system in any way. We must be prepared to tackle problems on a better basis than this Bill. As a national Parliament T think we should adopt a more lofty approach to education than we have up to date. I do not believe that this Bill is an important measure in education. It will relieve a lot of strain on some parent and teacher organisations, but it will contribute absolutely nothing to the State school system. Because of this I think the amendment should be adopted. This House should unanimously carry the amendment. If it wishes the Government can bring in a Bill more adequately to deal with education. It could introduce a Bill which will provide some measure of justice to the parents who are carrying the State education systems and to the teachers in many State schools who queue to sit at a desk to work because their common rooms do not have adequate facilities.
I hope that at some time in the future a government - it will have to be a Labor government - will set its sights on providing for children in State schools and underprivileged independent schools standards of education and facilities similar to those provided by the Government in its schools in Canberra. It is not possible to create education in buildings but it is possible to provide the facilities to enable teachers, who are the most important single factor in education, to work in congenial conditions with the encouragement necessary to do a good job. This Bill is an unfortunate mistake, lt is unfortunate for Australia that such a Bill should be presented to the Parliament. I sincerely hope that Government supporters will recognise the importance of government schools as well as independent schools. I am not opposing the Bill because I think there are areas of need in the system. I hope that Government supporters will appreciate that they are passing legislation which, while assisting some people, does not assist the overall education system, and will adopt the amendment so that government schools will at least share in the financial rewards now flowing from this Government.
– The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said that he will not oppose the Bill. He said also that this is not an important measure. Apparently he has very little understanding of the needs of the schools which this Bill is designed to assist, although he concedes that there is some need for the Bill. The honourable member said that the Bill is an unfortunate mistake. In making that remark he has demonstrated that he is not aware of the real needs of the schools which this Bill is designed to assist. The honourable member’s attitude is in line with the policy crf the Opposition. The Government, on the other hand, accepts the dual system in education and wishes to promote it. This dual system is accepted by all governments in Australia. So the honourable member for Corio is out of step with every government in the land. The Opposition is out of step with the Commonwealth and State governments.
The States have seen how the Commonwealth’s scheme of assistance to schools operates. Their only response has been to enlarge the scope of government assistance to schools. If our dual system of education is to survive the independent schools must get at least the assistance which this Bill is designed to provide. It is a fallacy to say that aid to independent schools is to the disadvantage of State schools. This is an argument that has been used and promoted. lt is quite wrong. On the contrary, it is of assistance to State schools. Some State schools have classes which, even now, are too large. These classes would be enlarged if independent schools, for which money is being allocated in this Bill with the aim of assisting them, were not available.
A need exists at the present time for more teachers in State schools. How would this gap be filled if independent schools were unable to carry on? It is of assistance to our State schools to have aid provided to independent schools. Our state schools will not be forced into catering for all the children and students who are being educated now at independent schools. No question arises about that fact. These problems would be aggravated if the Government had not taken the action that it is taking now to provide this financial assistance to independent schools. In addition to this, the dual system of education does serve in another field in promoting a better standard of education in our Commonwealth. This is the objective of the Government. It provides a healthy measure of competition both in the field of scholastic endeavours and in the field of sport. Perhaps it is in the field of sport that we see the benefits of this friendly, healthy competition. It is very evident there. We see it on the occasions when the schools get together and hold their sports days. We see it when the great public schools hold their competitions in the field of sport including their athletics carnivals.
I turn for a moment now to the needs of State schools. This is something which has been pronounced upon by some speakers on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. We in the Government are anxious to see that State schools do get the assistance they need, to promote, to improve and to carry on with the very excellent work that they are doing in furthering the education of Australian children and students. We certainly want to have that and in fact are doing it. The amount of money that is made available for these schools has been pointed out before.
Only today, the Minister for Education and Science replied to a question along these lines. The Opposition had claimed that not one cent was provided in the Budget this financial year for government schools. The Minister said:
That allegation is entirely false.
He went on to say that this money was being provided through such avenues as science laboratories, technical training facilities, libraries, teacher training and so on. He added a little more at the end of his answer to that question by stating:
The States from their sources have provided 25% of their State revenues for 77% of the schools children. They were providing less than 1% of their State revenues for the 23% of independent schools. What we are doing for independent schools will bring that to a sum equivalent to 2% of State revenue.
Surely that is. not too much.
I return to what the Government is doing for State schools. The fact is that large sums of money are being paid now by the Commonwealth to the benefit of children in Government schools. I think that the honourable member for Corio made this point. The Government is providing almost onehalf of the non-recurrent expenditure of these schools. I turn to another point. I think that this was made too, but I think that it is worth repeating. This is that on a per capita basis, for each person in the States, the total expenditure on schools and State teachers colleges represents an increase of $27.50 to $41.65 per head. Over the same period, the Commonwealth has provided large sums of money as direct payment for a wide and growing range of educational purposes.
I do not wish to go through the whole story of all the assistance the Commonwealth Government has given to our government schools. The honourable member for Corio in particular laid great stress on the need for a complete and thorough investigation of the needs of schools. This in fact is what is designed now. Does the honourable member think that because he has some ideas on this subject - I do not say that his ideas are wrong for that matter - that we should not wait until the results of the survey of educational needs, that the Australian Education Council has decided to undertake, are brought before this Government before a final decision is made on this matter? At a meeting of the Australian Education Council in March 1969, it was decided that each State should conduct a survey of its educational needs for a 5-year period according to the common terms of reference. I have here what those terms of reference are. I could give them to the House but I think that these may be known.
Independent schools are being invited to conduct their own survey on similar lines as a separate exercise while the Commonwealth will participate in respect of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory so that the survey will result in a full and complete coverage of the Australian situation. What more does the Opposition want than that? Is that not the type of thing that has been asked for? Is it not better to get these results and to do the job in line with the findings of this survey than to try to take up this particular problem at the moment on the say-so of the honourable member for Corio or some other member of the Opposition? That is what the honourable member for Corio suggested should be done. It is being done. It is hoped that a substantial report on the progress of this survey will be made at the next meeting of the Australian Education Council early in 1970. Surely, that is not too long to wait to get the results of a properly conducted survey so that the Government may take appropriate action in the light of that survey and its findings? The Minister has given an assurance that he will consult with the State Ministers responsible for education - these Ministers make up the Australian Education Council -about the proposals that will come about as a result of this survey. Surely this answers the claim for an investigation into the needs of State schools to allow the Government to make its contribution in the right way. For my own part, I very warmly welcome the decision that was made to hold this survey because I believe this is the right approach to the problem.
The Australian Labor Party traditionally has opposed assistance to independent schools. In this election year, members of the Labor Party have come together a bit on this matter. A thin veneer of unity has been spread over the Party as a result of the need to present a united front in the election. As a result of the success that has been achieved by those governments that have been assisting independent schools members of the Labor Party thought that they should jump on the bandwagon. But, as has been pointed out, anyone who saw the television reports of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party and noted the results of that Conference would have no doubt that a very strong body of opinion exists within the Labor Party today which would oppose aid to independent schools.
Who knows whether after the next election that body will not be in the majority. That easily could be the situation with the retirement of members who support some assistance in the form of State aid and perhaps the return of people who do not support that principle. No doubt exists in anybody’s mind at all that no change will take place in the attitude on the part of the
Government. This wm remain constant as it has done through the years. We have led very splendidly in this field. The Labor Party has tagged along. It has followed behind a long way too.
With regard to the justice of this claim of giving aid to independent schools, let me remind the House and the people of this country that the parents of these children who are attending independent schools pay their full share through taxation to the cost of education in Australia. If they get back something from the Government through these grants or other benefits in education surely- it is reasonable. I am sure that the very large majority, and an increasing majority, of the people throughout this country agree with that contention. I have mentioned the reply that the Minister gave. I should have said also that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had previously refuted this statement. Yet the Opposition still comes back with this argument that nothing has been provided in the Budget for the government schools.
It has been claimed that some independent schools are not in need of assistance. Be that as it may, I say it is a pity that there are not more boarding schools for the education of children throughout this grand country of ours. The position has been reached where parents are enrolling their children in some of these schools very soon after they are born or in fact on the day they are born. This applies to people who have to send their children away to boarding schools. Many people throughout my vast electorate do not have an opportunity of sending their children to any school except a boarding school. The boarding schools are not able to carry on the work that they have done in the past, and so these people are finding the greatest difficulty in sending their children away to boarding schools. The cost of doing so is a tremendous item in their budgets. People have had to bring their children home from schools because they could not afford the cost, but others are battling along and are paying the cost. Surely these schools deserve some assistance so that at least they might be able to carry on with the work they are doing. There is a great need for more boarding schools. It is in the interests of the Australian people as a whole that we should provide educational facilities for all our children and not only those who have the opportunity and advantage of being able to attend schools and go right through their education in the great capital cities.
– We are also concerned about those who do not have the opportunity.
– I am just as concerned as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is about those who do not have the opportunity. I am every bit as concerned as he is. He is not helping those who do not have the opportunity by denying the opportunity to those who will get it through the aid that will be given to these schools by this Bid. I am not opposed to giving aid to those schools that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about. I am 100% behind the investigations being made, and if it is shown that there is a need for further expenditure on our schools I will support any assistance given to these schools. As I pointed out before, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not help these independent schools by denying the assistance that is being provided for under this Bill. It is a fallacy to try to pretend. This is one thing the Labor Party is trying to do. It is trying to avoid giving assistance to these schools on the ground that other schools need help.
Investigations are being undertaken to pinpoint exactly the needs of these schools, but the Opposition is trying to jump in with proposals before the reports come out and before we know the results of the surveys. It is trying to put up its own ideas on what should be done. Apparently the Opposition has no confidence in the ideas of all the State governments on what should be done. The States have given the matter consideration and they have decided that a survey of the educational needs should be made. Is the Opposition condemning the idea that they should make a survey? Is the Opposition suggesting that the Government should make firm proposals without the benefit of the information that will be obtained? Does it think that the Government should implement these proposals ahead of the results of the survey that is being made and perhaps cut across the recommendations that will be made? I say that the Government is taking the right approach, and I am sure that the Government feels it is taking the right approach. I am sure that the great majority of the people feel that way too.
I think that I have covered most of the points that I wanted to make, but let me say that the Australian people have a great reputation for fair-mindedness in their dealings. They have shown this in their acceptance of aid to independent schools. They have shown that they believe, as I believe, that this is a step forward in providing an improved standard of education for all Australian children. It is one step along the road that we want to take; it is one step along the road towards providing better education for all Australian children and students. I support the Bill.
[9.5.1 - The -Bill we are debating this evening is a Bill for an Act to grant financial assistance to the States in relation to independent schools. This is a Bill that the Opposition, by its amendment, wishes to withdraw. I think the House should be completely aware of the implications of this amendment and of the fact that the Opposition is proposing at this time to withdraw the Bill. Admittedly the Opposition says it wants to withdraw the Bill to have it redrafted for certain purposes which it has rather vaguely stated. But the point is that no-one who knows the kind of crisis situation that now exists and which would continue to exist without this Bill becoming an Act in the next calendar year could possibly responsibly propose such an amendment. This is a thoroughly irresponsible amendment and one which simply does not recognise the realities of the present situation in independent schools.
Let us turn for a moment to the other crisis which exists in spite of the great advances that have been made. I refer to the difficulties that are being experienced in the government schools in the States. They exist to a varying degree, depending on which State one is talking about. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his speech on the Budget said that there was not one single cent in the Budget for the States for their schools and for their educational costs. It cannot be repeated too often that he either did not read the Budget, which I cannot believe, or was prepared to make a statement which was completely untrue. In this year’s Budget provision is made for the payment of about $40m to the States specifically for education. There are a heck of a lot of cents in $40m, and there is a lot of sense in the Government’s proposals i.i the Budget.
The Opposition has proposed the establishment of a schools commission to duplicate the work being done by the Departments of Education in the States and to look into the education systems in the various States. The Government, on the other hand, as many honourable members on this side of the House have pointed out, is participating with the States in an inquiry which is Australia-wide. The States are conducting separate inquiries into their own education needs, and the Commonwealth is conducting an inquiry in respect of its own Territories. This follows on the Australian Education Council meeting in Adelaide in March this year. It is not the only inquiry that is being carried out, but it is an Australia-wide inquiry from which we can expect to get results and advice whereby the Commonwealth can increase its evolving interest in education.
It is particularly important in this debate to recognise that the Commonwealth’s involvement in education is an evolving one. So when people talk about that involvement increasing, particularly from the Opposition benches, they are in effect endorsing present Government policy. That policy is by no means static. Even the simplest glance at the Budget reveals that there has been a 38% increase in the Commonwealth’s education vote this financial year and 53% increase in the money appropriated to the States specifically for education. The Commonwealth will make available for education a total sum of about $265m this year, of which $165m will go to the States for their educational expenses. Included in that figure is the sum of $16m that is to go to independent schools in this financial year. This is what the Bill we are now debating is designed to implement
The Leader of the Opposition has stated that there is not lc in this year’s Budget for the States to meet expenses relating to their schools. He is wrong about that.
The Opposition has proposed a schools commission to spend money on a duplication of bureaucracy rather than to spend it where it is really needed - in the schools and on the teachers in the education system. Of course, it is wrong about that.
The Opposition, instead of proposing other measures or additional Bills, moves an amendment to withdraw this Bill at this stage when the money is needed for the next calendar year for the survival of a great many schools throughout Australia. Of course, it is wrong about that.
In its amendment, which would require a redrafting of the Bill, there is no provision to include grants to government schools based on sums that are not less per student than those made to non-government schools under the Bill. It is a very carelessly thought out amendment because it does not guarantee one cent for government schools. All it does is to provide that the Commonwealth should make money specifically available for government schools within the States without making any provision that would prevent an equivalent amount of money being retired from State votes for education. In itself the amendment would not necessarily help the schools at all although, of course, it must have been intended to do so. Obviously the Opposition has not thought through its provisions, or its policy, on education.
In the remaining time available to me I want to deal with a couple of other aspects and, first, I want to quote a couple of figures that bear repetition in relation to the Commonwealth Government’s evolving role and involvement in education. If we look at the entire Australian picture we see that matching this growth of Commonwealth interest 10 years ago some 22% of the 15 to 18 year old age group were in full time education whereas today the figure is 38%. It is rising and it can be expected to rise until, we hope, it reaches 100%. I point out also that 10 years ago 100,000 students remained at school beyond the compulsory minimum age but now over 300,000 remain. This indicates the rapidity with which this field is growing, and Commonwealth interest is matching this growth. Tn evolving this policy we have to be sure that we do it in co-operation with the States, from several points of view. Last Sunday evening a speaker in Goulburn - as I recollect he was the Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales Teachers Federa tion - referred to teacher training opportunities and said: ‘If you want to get a place in a college easily this year, do not try New South Wales which is short of places, go to Adelaide’. This emphasises the difference between a State which had, until a few years ago, a quarter of a century of Labor government and a State which had for that quarter of a century a Liberal government.
No-one on the Government benches is at all complacent about our progress or involvement in education. We need a greater emphasis on education right across the board in Australia. We need a better basis for finance and we need more finance, but as well as more finance we need better control of it. We need to look at education from a taxation viewpoint as a real investment, just as we look at other investments. We need to develop education loans so that people can borrow, get themselves an education and repay the loans. We need, in fact, to examine the entire field without any degree of complacency. There is a growing argument for the Commonwealth to take the necessary steps to ensure, without any retirement on the part of the States, a minimum level of expenditure and an adequately increasing expenditure on education. But it is equally important to ensure that the administration of education is as decentralised as possible, at least as much as it is at present, and to ensure that we do not spend money, as is advocated by the Opposition, simply on bureacracy. We must spend it effectively and that means on children, teachers and the realities of education.
– I want to refer to one or two matters that have been raised by the last two Government speakers. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) said that he does not oppose an investigation of needs and priorities in aid to Australian schools. In fact, he supports a 5-year survey of state and non-state schools to determine those priorities. This survey was decided on this year. What an about-face this is. How many times have I heard in this House - and I have not been here for 2 years yet - the ridicule of honourable members opposite of the Labor Party’s proposal to have an urgent and comprehensive survey of the calamitous crisis in education in Australia? How often have we said that this is a Commonwealth responsibility? And how often have we been told that this is not a Commonwealth matter? Yet the honourable member for Maranoa spoke against our amendment. He pointed out the meagre contribution of States to non-state schools and he used this as an argument for giving aid only to the non-state schools, and to all non-state schools, rich and poor, at the same rate, and nothing to state schools.
The honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Munro) reiterated the statements of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has claimed that there was nothing in the Budget for state schools and he proceeded to quote figures from the Estimates. The Budget Speech did not mention any help for State schools.
– Not much!
– I submit that the Budget has neglected state schools. No new amounts have been allocated to state schools. If the House agrees with the principles enunciated from both sides of the House it must see, in our amendment, a worthwhile approach to the subject and the only possible way in which it is open to the Opposition to give justice to state schools. It is not competent for us to move for an increased allocation of funds or to move any amendment to a Bill to increase Government expenditure. This amendment is the only possible means by which we can protest and we appeal to those members of the Government who believe that state schools have been shabbily neglected, are still being neglected and that priorities are being neglected within the non-state schools as well as in the state school system, to vote for the amendment.
– I am glad to see Opposition members supporting the Bill at the second reading stage but I find it a bit odd that although they support it they move an amendment that would inevitably make it quite impossible to reintroduce the Bill this week. They know that the House is rising this week and their amendment, if passed, would certainly cast a great deal of doubt and uncertainty into a great number of independent schools which are expecting these payments to be made from the beginning of next year. It might be very difficult, if not impossible in the circumstances that are before us, to give certainty to schools if the Opposition’s amendment were carried. So there seems to be a conflict in the Opposition in supporting the concept of the Bill and at the same time moving an amendment that would, in a large measure and certainly in the short term, defeat its purpose. The Opposition has moved an amendment and there is a preamble to that amendment. I should like to devote most of my remarks to the various parts of it.
The first part of the amendment suggests that the Bill fails to make a considered and comprehensive approach to the needs of all Australian schools. The Opposition seems to misunderstand that this is a Bill to give specific effect to one particular part of the Government’s overall and comprehensive approach to support for education in schools, government and independent. It would be quite as unreasonable to expect this Bill to provide an overall approach to education as it would be unreasonable to expect science and library Bills to provide an overall approach. We have Acts relating to the science programme, to the library programme, to support for teacher training and to technical training, and all these things taken together indicate a comprehensive approach to education on the part of the Government. It is nonsense to suggest that because one particular Bill related to one particular aspect of support for education does not mention the whole field the Government has not a comprehensive approach to these particular problems.
If I may I will indicate what the Government is and has been doing in various areas. In the last 3 and in the next 3 years we will provide $54m for 12,000 or more teacher training places in teacher colleges throughout Australia, an area which the States have all said is an important area of need and something which is central to the task of improving the quality of education. In addition, in co-operation with the States, we are helping to provide a further $14m to make provision for 1,700 teacher training places in colleges of advanced education. In total we are carrying out the major part of a programme which will involve $68m and 14,000 teacher training places. Never before in the history of Australia has there been a 6-year period in which so much will have been done for teacher training facilities in the States. We are in the middle of a period which will involve spending $70m on technical training facilities for certificate and trade training courses. We are in the middle or beyond the middle of a programme which will involve the spending of $80m in establishing science facilities in schools. We are in the beginning of a programme of $27m to establish libraries in secondary schools. Under these three programmes the Government has already spent or is committed to spend up to 1971 an amount of $177m. No-one can suggest that that is the end of the story so far as this Government is concerned.
The second section of the first half of the Opposition’s amendment suggests that the Government ignores the needs of the government schools to which governments have a primary obligation. We accept that governments have a primary obligation to government schools, but again that part of the amendment ignores the other programmes specifically directed to support in this area, such as the teacher training programme which I mentioned is central to the task of assisting government schools. It also ignores the methods of finance which have been accepted and developed over a long period for financing government schools as opposed to independent schools. By far the greater part of capital and recurrent funds for government schools comes, of course, from the States. But it is interesting to note that over the last year our support for science laboratories, libraries, technical training facilities and teacher training colleges has increased from about $22m to $40m between last year and the present year. Whereas in 1963 and 1964 we were providing about 12% of the capital expenditure in the areas of State education, in 1969-70 we will be providing about one-third of the capital expenditure. Again this indicates a significant growth in Commonwealth interest and Commonwealth involvement. It is a significant increase in Commonwealth support in these areas.
I have referred to capital expenditure. If one turns to recurrent expenditure we find that since 1963-64 and until the last financial year the States themselves increased their recurrent expenditure on schools and teacher training, as opposed to education in general, from S300m to $50Om That is an enormous increase in the per capita payments being made by every person in all the States of Australia. I wonder if honourable members know that in the relatively recent period since 1937 nearly 1,000 new schools have been established in Australia. A very-large number of those schools have been secondary schools. The actual number built is 979. The budgets recently presented in South Australia and Victoria show that expenditure on education in South Australia has increased by 11% and in Victoria by 14%. Not so long ago the Victorian Minister for Education gave some interesting information concerning progress in Victorian schools, and he said:
Students who in bygone years would have left school at the intermediate or sub-intermediate level are now staying to study matriculation. The number of matriculation students in State high schools has increased from a mere 932 in 19S4 to 10,280 - an elevenfold increase. In no other field of activity whether industrial, commercial or educational has there been an expansion of these dimensions …
He went on to say:
Only two high schools were built in Victoria in the whole of that period. He went on:
To help cater for the unparalleled demand for secondary education the number of high schools has been increased from 83 in 1955 to 240 this year-
These figures of course relate only to Victoria - and the number of technical schools has more than doubled from 48 to 103.
People suggest that there has not been progress in education! The same kind of story can be told for every State.
In terms of the number of teachers and pupil-teacher ratios the States have made progress. Even though the Martin Committee forecast that in 1968 some 49,500 teachers would be required in government schools there were in fact 51,600. That is for primary schools. For secondary schools the Martin Committee reporting in 1964 said that 33,000 teachers would be needed and there were in fact 39,800. The pupilteacher ratios achieved throughout Australia over this period improved at a faster rate than the Martin Committee believed possible. If I may I will again quote figures relating to my own State. In 1960 the pupilteacher ratio in Victorian secondary schools was 1 to 23. In 1969 that figure had improved to 1 to 16.7. Yet people suggest that there has been no improvement in education. Those who do make that suggestion do not know what they are talking about. In saying that, I do not mean to imply that further progress does not need to be made. I recognise, as does this Government, a need for further progress in these areas, as our massive support for teacher training indicates. But at the same time we need to recognise what has already been achieved. If we returned to the pupil-teacher ratios of 1960 in Victoria, every temporary teacher in the Victorian secondary service could be dispensed with overnight. That again is a mark of progress.
The third part of the first section of the amendment of the Opposition says that this Bill makes grants indiscriminately to nongovernment schools without regard to the need or priorities. When we make grants for capital purposes to non-government schools a judgment is made concerning the priorities and needs. There is a standards committee that assesses the teaching requirements of schools in relation to science laboratories and libraries. The information provided by that committee is then given to the various advisory committees composed of those responsible for independent systems in the different States, and within the limits of the funds available these committees give the Government advice on priorities. I suggest that the Opposition is unable to see the difference between the provision of capital facilities - where it is very easy to make an objective judgment, such as: ‘Is this science library needed?’, or: ‘Is this library needed in a school? - and recurrent expenditure, which is the purpose of this Bill and which is something of a quite different character. Indeed, the whole tenor of what the Opposition has said and implied is that a means test on schools should be established. Some schools would get support, some would get less and some would get nothing. This seems very much out of character with the Opposition’s general approach to the wish to abolish all fees in universities for the wealthy and for the poor and for its wish, however financially impractical it may be, to abolish the means test entirely in relation to pensioners. But be that as it may; it is quite clear that the Opposition wants to establish a means test in relation to this matter. If the Opposition were to have a means test, how would this be applied? Would the Opposition relate it to the fees charged in independent schools? Would it say that any school with fees above a certain level would not qualify? Of course, the Opposition has been silent on those points. But if the Opposition had that kind of provision quite clearly there would be a great stimulus to schools to reduce fees to bring them down to a level which would attract the maximum support. Is the Opposition to make a judgment that academic standards in independent schools are higher than they need be and because they are higher than they need be it would therefore not provide support? No-one I know would make a judgment that the academic standards of the best independent schools are better than the best high schools. Melbourne High, University High, Box Hill High, Sydney High, Fort Street High and equivalent schools in the other States have academic standards as high as, if not higher than, most of the independent schools of Australia. Quite clearly, in both systems, there are schools with high academic standards and there are others whose standards are not so good. But if independent schools are rejected on the ground of academic standard, the Opposition would be rejecting schools that had an academic performance no better than that of a number of high schools.
If we look at a different kind of test - the test of equity - would it be fair to establish a means test? In a great many cases the Opposition would be denying help to those who do the most to help themselves. Not all the people who provide support for independent schools are wealthy by any means. Some people make provision from the day a child is born because they just want that kind of education and throughout the period in which their children are growing up they are prepared to make very considerable sacrifices for them. The Opposition would seek to deny these people support under the kind of provisions they are introducing. Does the Opposition not realise that there are many people of modest means who, because of the place in which they live, or because of the nature of their job - they have to move all the time - seek to send their children to boarding school, believing that this is the only way they can give them a reasonable education? As 1 have said, people in these circumstances move around so much and they go to great lengths to give their children an education.
I am not denying for a moment that there are not wealthy people sending their children to independent schools. But I am making the point that there is a very large number of people who are not wealthy who take advantage of the facilities offered. There is another point here. In some of the independent schools up to 30% of the students are supported by scholarships provided by the schools themselves. These children are not completely supported, but they are supported in part. The schools do this because they know that the parents are not able to provide the fees. A number of the schools spend very large sums of money indeed in supporting children in them. This is a good thing because it would be wrong if governments took measures or made decisions which meant that independent schools - the allegedly wealthy schools - could only provide places for the very wealthy in Australia. It should be an objective of governments to see that there is a broad section of the population sending students to these schools. I believe that this is the objective of the schools themselves. It is one of the reasons why they support the fees of a significant number of students within their ranks. The wishes of the Opposition in these matters would make schools more selective. They would make it much harder for a number of people to send their children to independent schools. 1 now come to the substantive part of the Opposition’s amendment in which the Opposition suggests that the Bill should be redrafted in such a way that it would provide for government schools on the same basis as non-government schools. I find this part of the amendment a little difficult to understand because if the Opposition believes that government schools should be provided for on the same basis as is involved in this Bill it would be doing it on an across the board basis which the Government believes is the correct approach. Be that as it may, the Opposition then suggested that an Australian school’s commission should be established to make a judgment of the needs in different schools throughout Australia. The Opposition has suggested on previous occasions that there is an Australian Universities Commission looking into the requirements of fifteen universities and therefore it would bc an easy thing to have an Australian schools commission to look into the requirements of 10,000 primary and secondary government and independent schools throughout Australia. Of course, these are problems of a different order and of an entirely different quality. The Australian Labor Party’s approach in this matter would bypass the judgment of State departments and judgments of independent authorities. Such a commission could not be effective unless an enormous Canberra based bureaucracy were established to judge the needs of 10,000 schools around Australia. I believe that one of the reasons this proposition has been put forward in this way is that there is here a wish to gain control of all schools in Australia, government and independent, so that we would end up with one centralised monolithic system. This would certainly not be to the advantage of Australian education where there is now an increasing demand and an increasing need for decentralisation - an increasing need for greater influence by teachers and by parents on a local community level. In at least one State that I know of, very significant moves have been made to introduce this sort of local influence on the schools of a particular community. I believe that the Australian Labor Party proposal would run very much counter to that. lt might be worth noting that in the United Kingdom’s experience where there are aided schools - and of course, there are various categories of support for schools - some independent schools get no support at all and others get all their recurrent and capital expenses paid, as I understand it, by government authorities. But the schools that have the highest degree of government support - this is because of the way the system is organised in the United Kingdom - have local government representatives on their councils. I understand that the governing authorities appoint the teachers and that this is not done by the independent authorities concerned. I also understand that in some cases the authorities are inclined to say that a school must take students from this area or from that area. Indeed, I believe that moves have been made in the United Kingdom that would go a great way towards destroying the independence of the independent system. It is something that we would not want to see established in Australia.
This, again, is one of the reasons for rejecting the approach for an Australian schools commission. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition at one stage belittled the suggestion that the Australian Education Council would be able to co-ordinate and undertake a nationwide survey, each State acting for itself within common terms of reference. But I noticed that when it suited the honourable member he quoted figures from the Australian Education Council suggesting that those figures were valid concerning the needs of schools in different areas. The honourable member cannot have it both ways. Either the work of the Australian Education Council or the work on this nationwide survey which is designed to establish the needs in each State in a manner in which it would be possible to put the individual State needs together to form a statement of Australian needs is to be a valid survey or it is not. The honourable member cannot quote authorities of this kind and use them to support his argument and a moment later suggest that the survey they might undertake would be of no use. However, I am quite certain that the States themselves would .reject this kind of approach - if not reject it, they would do everything they could to resist the kind of approach - that was suggested by the Opposition in this debate. They want to maintain their own prerogative in these matters.
One of the reasons the States have adopted this approach to the survey of needs for all schools throughout Australia is that they want to remain the masters of their own house and their own educational systems. We have said that we will co-operate with the States once the results of these surveys are available. I refer honourable members again to a speech I made when introducing to this House the Government’s decisions concerning independent schools and teacher training. There I said:
On completion of the surveys the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science and the Australian Education Council, which is composed of the Ministers for Education in all the States, will consider proposals for joint action to promote the further development of education in schools.
That is a clear statement indicating that the Commonwealth will co-operate with the States when the results of these surveys are known. It is quite clear that we are concerned with many different levels of education. It is quite clear that we are also concerned with the needs of the government schools, as the statement I have just read indicates and as the action we have taken in other spheres - for science laboratories, libraries and, in particular, for teacher training - would indicate. I emphasise again that the Opposition’s suggestion that this Bill be withdrawn would only cause delay. It would give rise to a great deal of doubt and uncertainty in the minds of many independent schools. Elements which the Labor Party wishes to introduce - the means test which it wishes to establish undefined and not described - would leave a great deal of doubt and uncertainty in the minds of independent authorities and this would certainly run counter to the wish of the Government and of the Government parties. I am certain that the House will reject the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Barnard’s amendment) stand part of the question.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I refer to clause 7 which reads:
As soon as practicable after the end of each year, the Minister shall cause a statement to be laid before each House of the Parliament setting out -
the names of the schools in each State in respect of which payments to the State have been made under this Act in respect of the year and, in respect of each school the amount paid by reference to pupils receiving primary education and the amount paid by reference to pupils receiving secondary education; and
the totals of the amounts paid to each State under this Act in respect of that year by reference to pupils receiving primary education and by reference to pupils receiving secondary education, respectively.
This afternoon, during the second reading debate on this measure, I referred to the reasons why the Opposition believed that an Australian schools commission should be established to determine the needs and priorities in both government and nongovernment schools. I do not believe that at this stage it is necessary for me to reiterate what I said this afternoon. The Opposition believes that clause 7 would be improved by the addition of the words ‘and the needs’. We think it is necessary for the Minister not only to table a report which will list the names of the schools which have received financial assistance under the terms of this legislation, but also to give some information to the House concerning the needs and priorities of those schools.
I do not believe that any honourable member opposite would refute the proposition that not only is it necessary for the House to be given information concerning the circumstances under which the money has been spent and the schools which have received assistance as a result of the legislation, but it is equally important that we be informed on the needs that have determined the expenditure in those schools. The Minister will frankly admit that under the terms of the legislation, and as a result of clause 7 of the Bill, no information other than the number of schools which have received financial assistance and the amount which they have received will be available to this House. The purpose of the amendment which the Opposition moved this afternoon was to provide for the establishment of an Australian schools commission which would readily determine the needs and priorities in both government and non-government schools. Therefore I submit to the Committee that clause 7 would be improved by inserting the words ‘and the needs’. It would result in additional information being given to the House. The amendment should be accepted by the Government.
– Clause 7, as it stands, does not contribute very much to our knowledge of education systems - state or non-state. A simple piece of arithmetic and information concerning the numbers attending schools and the names of schools seem to be hardly worthy of a place in a piece of legislation. The fact is that the Government is attempting to deny that there are any particular needs to which attention ought to be given and that there ought to be any system of priorities. It is attempting to obscure from the public generally what it is doing with public funds. Honourable members opposite have voted against the proposal to give any assistance to the State school systems in their electorates. For instance, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) voted against the proposal to give any assistance to the Castlemaine High School or to the Castlemaine Technical College. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) himself ought to be doing something about the Hamilton High School. Of course, -he does not want the public or the House to know what the needs of these schools are.
If the Minister is to place a report before this House, then the report ought to be more than an exercise in arithmetic from the Department. Members of the Opposition believe that there should be a factual and full report on the situation in Australian schools, and that the only way we will1 get it is for the Government to accept the proposition that there is a need to examine priorities and the state of schools themselves. Then, I have no doubt, the conscience of honourable members opposite might well be touched at the wealth they are pouring into some of the richer areas in the community, and the fact that they are denying it to some of the poorer areas of the community ought to become known more substantially in the community.
– I do not want to speak at length, except to say that tonight honourable members opposite are fighting desperately with every weapon at their disposal to prevent any aid from being given to independent schools in Australia. I have no doubt that the Australian people will note this. Even though with lip service honourable members opposite say they have no objection to aid being given to independent schools, and that this aid should equal the amount of aid given to state schools, they have submitted today the idea that this whole question can be satisfied by the establishment of a commission of inquiry. The whole basis of the amendments which the Opposition has moved in the second reading debate and at the Committee stage is to prevent this legislation from coming into effect before the forthcoming Federal election; to prevent this assistance from being given to private schools in Australia.
We are not opposed to assistance being given to state schools, but I point out to the Opposition that education and the payment of the cost of state schools are matters for the respective State governments, and ample money is being provided by the Commonwealth for expenditure on state schools. The figures were given this afternoon. Expenditure increased from $68m in 1963-64 to $192m last year, and it will be $266m this year. If that is not giving aid to state schools I do not know what it is. Every move by the Opposition is an endeavour to prevent assistance from being given to independent schools in Australia. This is in conflict with what I understood the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to say at meetings throughout New South Wales which I have attended. He has promised the provision of assistance to independent schools. But now the Opposition is doing everything in its power to prevent this assistance from being given.
I sincerely hope that the Australian people will realise what the Opposition is doing.
– The highly skilled misleading of the Committee by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) does not alter the weakness that there is in this matter, if you regard it as aid for private schools. My second son attended Christ Church Grammar School, which is one of the private schools in Western Australia. From memory, the fees at Christ Church Grammar last year amounted to $510 a year for a day boy. In the eastern States there are schools whose fees amount to $1,000 a year for a day boy. In my electorate there are Catholic schools where the fees are $60 a year for the first son, $30 a year for a second son attending, and nothing at all for a third son attending a school. Those schools have not been able to qualify, because of their lack of funds, for various forms of Federal aid, -such as grants for science laboratories.
The honourable member for Bennelong cannot see that even in a structure of private education - if we are discussing this question as confining aid to private education - there is a difference in the needs of a greater public school and some parish school in an impoverished area. There are parish schools in impoverished areas where the fees are actually a minus quality, because extremely underprivileged children are given special assistance, in the way of food and so on, in various convent schools in Melbourne. There are vast differences within the structure of private education. I am an Anglican. The Church of England has never in all its existence tried to educate the poor child in Australia. It has established a structure of greater public schools for those who can pay very high fees, modified in a very slight measure by some scholarships.
– That is not the history.
– Anglicanism never attempted the mass education of the English people until the state started to buttress it. In the nineteenth century in England there was no public school education. There was no public school education until 1870. There was education for a minority. We can remember some of the honourable mem- ber’s radio and television appearances on this subject, and we can say that this is not a subject he should discuss so freely.
– You want to apply a means test.
– I do not want to apply a means test.
– That is what you are doing.
– Do not be so stupid. If you were a State Minister for Education, if you had a superlative high school and another that was a slum and if you gave money to reconstruct the slum high school instead of giving more money to the superlative high school, would you be fatheaded enough to say that that was applying a means test? Of course not. You would simply be directing public expenditure intelligently to the area of greatest need. Education is one of the fields where equality of opportunity is established and where some compensatory assistance is given. Fancy you, who supported legislation in this House to provide Commonwealth scholarships for universities with a whole inbuilt structure of means tests, sitting there and piously saying you do not believe in a means test in education when you have voted for it year after year in relation to university education.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth) - Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– Let us come back to a simple situation. When has the honourable member ever established the argument that when giving assistance in education needs are not taken into consideration? The fact that for 15 years the Liberal Government sat here giving no assistance whatever to private education at the secondary and primary levels and then suddenly decided to do so was justified by the former Prime Minister on the ground that there were needs. That was why the Commonwealth came into the field at all. To say piously that no-one has to put in the word ‘needs’ or to make an intelligent study of needs and then to twist this into some other interpretation of the attitude of the Australian Labor Party is complete humbug.
– It has been most interesting to listen to the passion with which the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) spoke on this subject and to note the way he attempted to turn this into a class situation. He tried to make the point that running through the Australian education system is a division that brings forth the passionate response that he has shown tonight. I believe that the contrary is the truth. There are certainly some well-to-do schools, but the vast majority of schools in the independent system, as in the State system, are anything but affluent. Would the honourable member for Fremantle say that all State schools have the some provision? If he does not know, let us take him through some of the State schools in Australia and show him the vast differences - inequalities, he might call them - in the provision that some parents in some suburbs are able to make for some schools compared with other schools.
When we come down to the point of policy, which is the over-arching concern of this Government in a consideration of the whole future of education, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), speaking for the Party as a whole and for the Government, has made the unequivocal and clear statement that we support the existence and the continuance of the two systems, the independent and the state systems, and that we will ensure that both are provided for so that they both can look forward to an adequate future. The only comment of the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) with which I disagree is that adequate provision is being made for either state or independent schools at the moment. This may have been a slip of his tongue. I do not think adequate provision is being made in a number of instances.
The per capita grant that will go to the independent schools will provide between 20% and 35% of what is currently being spent on the education of children in state schools, taking an average figure. This is only a fraction of what it would cost the taxpayer if these students were to continue the drift from independent to state schools, which is now so apparent. The whole point about the per capita grant is that it certainly goes across the board. I am not against future grants being made in terms of need. I think there is a good case for the Government to consider specific areas of need in the education system and that is precisely why the Government and the Minister at present are looking to such inquiries and surveys - call them what you will - as are being conducted by the Australian Education Council, by the Premiers and Ministers for Education in the several States and by other expert bodies that are advising the Minister.
The honourable member for Fremantle mentioned the per capita grant that is going to the so-called wealthy independent schools. I have a child attending the Presbyterian Ladies College at Croydon. I am also a member of the council of that school and I know what this per capita grant will mean to the school. It will mean that next year the school will receive about $30,000. But the school also has before it at the moment a log of claims for salary rises for teachers at the school. It would bring them near but not up to the standard of wages and salaries currently being paid to teachers in State schools and it would cost $35,000. This situation is found not only in the poor parish schools; it is found right across the board in the whole of the independent school system. The whole education system does require some kind of equality and some kind of movement towards that day which I devoutly hope will emerge when the child of every Australian taxpayer, regardless of his racial, religious or class background, will be able to count on the states making a basic provision for his adequate education. Once this is provided by the state, if the parents, the churches or anyone else want to add to it they may do so, provided that they do not in any way jeopardise what is considered to be good, sound education in terms of class numbers, the curriculum and the syllabus. Any such additions to the state structure should be provided at the expense of the parents, the churches or those who require it.
There is an elementary justice, in my opinion - it is shining through the statements of the Minister and the Government - and that is that every Australian child has as his birthright access to education that is provided by the nation. This is a matter of value to the entire nation. Whether it is a single person or a married person with ten children or with no children, I believe that every Australian benefits from the provision of a good, sound education system across the nation. The Government has committed itself to this course. It is plain commonsense to me that there should be a per capita grant to the independent schools so that they can meet the overwhelming expenses that face them in the future. Already heavy expenses have caused many church schools to close. Many more children are going to state schools now than were going there a few years ago. Schools such as the Presbyterian Ladies College at Armidale are in danger of closing. Others in my own denomination have already closed. Next year many more would have closed if this per capita grant had not been made available.
It is easy to point to one or two areas where there are anomalies. It is easy to point to one or two schools - they are relatively few in the whole spectrum of education - where there may be inequality in terms of the provision that is made and in terms of the capacity of the parents to provide. But I do not believe that the extreme statements we have heard tonight are in any way apposite in a criticism of a system which, in my judgment, provides fundamental justice to every Australian child.
– I think we should get back to the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). Having listened to the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) I am sure that they have their heads in the sand. The Labor Party is trying to tell the people of Australia that there is a need for an inquiry into education. We of the Labor Party are well aware that many children in the community do not receive the education that is their right, mainly because of insufficient funds and a shortage of teachers. I do not think honourable members opposite are aware of the situation that exists. If the Commonwealth is to provide the States with money for education it is important that we know what is required. If we are to spend taxpayers’ money on education we must know how it is to be spent and what are the areas of great need. I remind honourable members opposite that what the Government now proposes to do was part of Labor’s policy for the 1966 election. Notwithstanding what the honourable member for Bennelong has said, this policy was offered by the Labor Party but it was rejected by the majority of the community. Whether the community will react in the same way on 25th October as it reacted in 1966 remains to be seen.
Honourable members opposite must realise that many people in the community are concerned because some children are not receiving an adequate education. I am not in favour of money going to big independent schools. I am not in favour of giving money to the kind of school to which the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) sends his children. I am not in favour of the Commonwealth providing subsidies for the education of his children in an independent school, particularly having regard to the adequate salary which he receives as a Minister of the Crown. But I am in favour of helping the kiddies in electorates like East Sydney, where the independent schools are not able to provide an adequate education for their pupils because they cannot afford to pay for teachers. I know of an independent school where one nun 80 years of age is trying to teach a class of 80 children. These are the schools which the Government should be helping. I think most honourable members on this side of the chamber, as well as probably 20% of Government supporters, agree with me that we should not be paying money to the big independent schools. But the Government has made a decision and honourable members opposite are following the party line.
For many years the honourable member for Bennelong was a Minister of the Crown but during those years the Commonwealth did not see fit to provide aid to independent schools. The honourable member should be aware that a State member for the New South Wales seat of Burwood lost his seat because he advocated state aid. The honourable member knows whom I am talking about if he knows anything about Liberal Party politics. Not long ago teachers in New South Wales went on strike over the crisis within the State education system. If you know teachers you know what they do. They do not work from 9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. only.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I direct the honourable member’s attention to the fact that in Committee we are discussing the provision of financial assistance to independent schools. During the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill the honourable member had the opportunity to canvass the whole matter of education. I think at this stage he should restrict himself to the matter of financial assistance to independent schools.
– I realise that] but I wanted to direct the attention of honourable members to the fact that teachers in New South Wales went on strike because they were not satisfied that the State was receiving sufficient money for its education system. Even the Premier of New South Wales has been outspoken on this matter. We know that he sought to obtain from the Commonwealth a loan to enable him to improve the State education system. He was unsuccessful. I do not recall any honourable member opposite supporting the Premier of New South Wales. I have never read of their supporting him in their party room. I make those remarks in passing.
While honourable members opposite talk of the aid that should be given to all independent schools, we of the Labor Party are concerned to see something done for those schools whose pupils are not receiving the adequate education to which they are entitled. Such schools are to be found in the main in working class areas. These schools are not able to pay the wages demanded by teachers in today’s society. As a result the children suffer. Three years ago the Labor Party said that it was prepared to provide money to secondary and primary schools so as to assist in the education of our children. Now the Government proposes to make these substantial grants. It is jumping on the bandwagon. It sees the trend. It knows how the people feel about this matter. It knows that our children are suffering and that something has to be done for the education system. Of course the Labor Party is concerned about education
– I rise to order. I submit that the honourable member is now making what is tantamount to a second reading speech. His remarks are not related to the clauses of the Bill.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I have drawn the attention of the honourable member to this. 1 ask him to restrict his remarks to the matter of financial assistance to independent schools. We have covered this subject very thoroughly in the second reading stage. Honourable members have been granted a fair amount of liberty in the Committee stage. I think the honourable member for East Sydney must now restrict his remarks to the matter before the Committee.
– I thought 1 was speaking about aid to independent schools. The Minister took his point of order because I was getting under his skin. He is trying to waste my time. The timing light is on and I cannot appeal against the light. The Labor Party has always been concerned about the education of children attending independent schools. Unfortunately up to date our policy has fallen on deaf ears. Now the Government is coining to the aid of independent schools. I hope that many of the schools in my electorate will benefit from the provisions of this Bill. With the money provided under this Bill the children who attend those schools may get a better chance in life. They will be able to go on to higher education. I sincerely hope that many of them will be able to go on to university.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, it is rather strange to appreciate that the Opposition has had to wait until the last clause of this Bill is before the Committee to introduce an amendment. It is known that it proposed an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill which would have had the effect, had it been passed, of stopping effectively the proposals to give assistance to certain types of schools. We know that the Opposition has made an argument which has been distorted deliberately. It has made the argument over some time that the last Budget introduced by the Government is incorrect merely because attention is paid to non-government schools. From that very fact, I think that we should deduce clearly that the Opposition has never been concerned with needs in respect of education and that its record of opposition to principles which are enshrined in this Bill has been so continuous and so persistent that it has relied upon the last clause of this Bill in order to seek to prevent the operation of the Bill.
Let me amplify the point in question. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has moved an amendment to the effect that the names and the needs of the schools in each State in respect of which payments to the State have been made under this Act should be included in an annual statement. He seeks to insert the words ‘and the needs’ after the word names’. That is the proposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition for years led for his own Party on the matter of social services in this Parliament. We find that, in respect of repatriation, in which the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) reminds me the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also led, aged persons homes, child endowment and a whole host of other matters, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition never discovered that he ought to oppose them merely because the principle of needs was not written into the Acts governing those matters in the manner proposed by this amendment. It was judged that there was a qualification for assistance by reason of certain types of service or by reason of the fact that families had children. The honourable member did not seek to oppose those measures. He did not oppose them by writing into those Acts that they shall be rejected unless the new principle of needs is enshrined in them.
I would suggest that, as in 1956, as in 1961 and as in 1963, he has discovered this new principle in order to prevent this Bill coming into operation. This is a simple thing that he has done. The honourable gentleman who would hope to follow me, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), probably will be so frank, if he has not changed his attitude in recent months, as to acknowledge that fact because he has acknowledged that principle in the past. One would hope that his conscience is not always determined merely by the deliberations of a certain number of men at the Federal Conference of his own
Party. So, the Opposition has determined a principle of needs which it has never done before in order to prevent the provisions of this Bill coming into operation. I hope that those people listening to these proceedings appreciate that fact. The Opposition knows it. It knows that from 1957 to the present day it always has opposed any measure to give assistance to nongovernment schools. It has not supported without moving an amendment any measure to give assistance in that sphere of education over the last 15 years.
It is to the acute discredit of the Opposition that one must make this kind of comment. But, far more serious than that, it is a misunderstanding of what social justice is. The Opposition does not understand that. It does not comprehend what social justice is about. Social justice is not concerned only with those who are living at or below the actual poverty line in the community. Poverty lines with respect to communities differ. They vary. A poverty line with respect to education in relation to this Bill would be applied differently in this country from the way in which it would be applied in, say, Vietnam. But the principles of social justice recognise that these facts must be recognised in relation to poverty lines. They are also to be recognised in relation to the burdens people place upon themselves to help to administer to themselves certain social services. One goes to hospital. We know that there are some rather poor hospitals. We know that there are some rather rich or well-to-do hospitals. In respect of the principle of needs, the Opposition has never suggested that medical benefits funds or capital assistance grants which are administered by the various States-
– I rise to a point of order. If it is competent for the Minister for Education and Science to point out that, in his opinion, an honourable member has deviated from the amendment that I have proposed, I think it ought to be drawn to your attention Mr Deputy Chairman, that the remarks the honourable member for Lilley is making now have no relationship to the amendment which I have moved to the clause under consideration.
– Speaking to the point of order, I submit that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is wrong. The honourable member for Lilley was pointing out the inconsistency of the attitude of the Opposition in relation to means tests and needs. He was pointing out how, in some areas which suit it, the Opposition seeks to operate without a means test while in other areas, because of its particular requirements, it seeks to impose tests.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The Chair is in a position to be able to make a decision on this matter. The honourable member for Lilley has been discussing the question of needs in relation to other matters but still has concentrated on the question of needs in regard to the amendment.
– Ob, you are biassed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- And apologise.
– I apologise, Sir.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Lilley.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, thank you for your ruling. I think the position to be stated very simply is this: In respect of hospitals, the principle of need is never used-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I wish to draw the attention of the honourable member for Lilley to the fact that, while I do not mind him discussing the question of needs, he must apply his remarks to the matter of independent schools. He may use comparable situations, but he must keep to the point.
– The statistics on schools, which have been distributed so amply by the Bureau of Census and Statistics since early 1960 and which have been so greatly expanded in their content since early 1969, have demonstrated that there are varying levels of education and that there are varying qualities of education within the education streams in Australia. The statistics on schools always have been adequate for those who would want to determine needs and where they apply in relation to education, and one has been able to calculate from these statistics needs in respect of school-teacher ratios, in terms of pupil-teacher ratios and so on. So, when the Opposition says that this Bill is to be effectively mutilated and makes it fairly clear - indeed quite clear - that needs are unable to be determined in terms of education in Australia, the Opposition does not appreciate what in fact has been published with increasing clarity since I960. The Opposition does not know the data that are available to it or has not looked at the past history in terms of schools or in terms of the needs in education.
It is quite clear, I think, to those on this side of the Committee and, I would suggest, to many of those outside this chamber that it is wrong for the Opposition to say that because needs are not explicitly written into legislation needs are not taken account of in the administration of social justice in relation to education. Social justice is to be interpreted in a broader way than the narrow one in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition attempts to interpret it from time to time for his own purposes. He did not interpret social justice in terms of needs when he expressed disquiet about child endowment amendments introduced in this House 2 years ago, but he has discovered an excuse in relation to every measure concerned with the Commonwealth’s widening areas of interest in education. The principle on which to base these measures, and the most sophisticated one which he has discovered in the latter part of 1969, is this: ‘I can oppose it now by posing as one who is concerned with education but basically concerned with the needs of education.’ We reject that principle as his own Labor Government in Tasmania rejected it for so many years.
- Mr Deputy Chairman-
– The honourable member for Wills spoke at the second reading stage, and he has already spoken at the Committee stage. I move:
That the question be now put
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the amendment (Mr Barnard’s) be agreed to.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) - by leave - proposed:
Thai the Bill be now read a third time.
– 1 arn a Socialist and 1 believe that Australia, like every other capitalist country, is a classridden society, and this Bill is intended to protect the interests of the privileged as against the interests of the masses. I represent an electorate which, when it is enlarged, will be of about 18 square miles. There is not one State school in that whole area that was not built earlier than 85 to 90 years ago. I want state aid for State schools. I want something for the underprivileged people in the community. It is all very well to follow the Aristotelian theory of educating some sections of the community to be leaders and others to serve. I think we should get over that and should try to help all members of the community to have the same opportunity for a secondary and a tertiary education. But the vast majority of the people whom I represent in this Parliament are fathers and mothers of children who will never get to universities. The professional classes of Australia have 75% of the positions in all of our universities. The underprivileged people are equally as important as the rest.
When we get an egalitarian system of society when we spend as much per capita of the gross national product as Canada does, around 8.4%, or Russia, 7.4%, and when we rise above the 4.3% that we are spending today, then we can have an educated community. I have said often that an educated democracy is a powerful democracy, but if this Government will not do justice to the state school system as well as doing justice to that private sector of the community which is getting most of the advantages under this Bill, then Australia will never be a geat nation. I am not opposed to people having access to the great public shools like Prince Alfred College in South Australia, Melbourne Grammar in Victoria or Scots College in Sydney.
– What about Christian Brothers?
– It is struggling to keep going like the State higher schools are struggling to keep going.
– It is being-
– Look, the honourable member for Bennelong represents the silvertails on the north shore of Sydney. All he is concerned with is pandering for votes. Those who are not really wealthy enough to give their children a better education than they are getting are at least struggling. I do not want to discriminate against them, but I do believe that other children in the community should not be sacrificed in order to promote their interests. If honourable members opposite want to promote the class society they should continue with legislation of this sort. If they do not want a class society they should try to give all children equal opportunities. Under this Bill all children have not got equal opportunity. 1 went to a Catholic school in 1903 - and that school was built in 1858. It is still being used as a kindergarten, and it is in an inner suburb of Melbourne. Why should the children of the workers have to suffer discrimination? It is all right to give science blocks to the other people. It is all right to give advantages to the very wealthy so that they can have more tutors - and they are good tutors - and pay them higher salaries so that they can educate people who will be the leaders in our society but that sort of thing should have gone out of existence in the eighteenth century. On both sides of the Atlantic in the eighteenth century there were people like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams on the American side and the two Pitts, Charles James Fox and others on the English side, and this society has been perpetuated down to today. As a matter of fact, the Labor Government in England would not exist today were it not for the Etonians who are in the Ministry. There are more Etonians in the Wilson Ministry than there were in the Eden, Macmillan or Douglas Home administrations.
– And the Wilson Ministry has made a mess of it.
– And if the honourable member’s Tory friends come back into office they will make a greater mess of it and then
England will be finished. 1 want to see the Commonwealth survive. I want to see Australia grow great. I want to see more money spent on education generally. For every penny this Government spends on state aid to denominational schools and privileged schools it should spend, on a pro rata basis, four times as much on the State school system. This is not being done.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the right honourable gentleman in a speech on the third reading of a Bill should introduce completely new matter and not make a second reading speech. I suggest that some of the matter that the right honourable gentleman has mentioned is new matter but it is not relevant to the Bill now before the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I think you are completely right. But 1 could not get in earlier because in the Committee stage the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) was gagged. I have now put my view and I will leave it at that.
– There are two things which the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) said that I cannot let go by. The right honourable gentleman said that Australia is a classridden society. I believe it is a move in the wrong direction for an Australian to begin talking about a class-ridden society because I believe we have the most class free society in the world. 1 would like to illustrate this. The right honourable gentleman said that he went to a church school. My father had intended sending me to a church school. He was an engineer and a Scot. He knew what it was to have in his country the whole of education taken care of, no matter how poor people were, with an interlarding of church and State education. He was an engineer who lost his job during the depression years. In order to prevent the family going on the dole my father started a little grocery shop so that at least he could get the groceries wholesale. My mother, a returned nurse from the First World War, worked as a nurse, turning our home into a nursing home to try to keep the family together.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Evans that the comments I made to the right honourable member for Melbourne also apply to the honourable member. I also point out that the honourable member did speak on this Bill earlier
– I will conclude in two sentences. I simply say that 1 have obtained three university degrees by part-time effort without the aid of church schools or independent schools or scholarships of any kind and I believe similar opportunity is open to all Australians who are prepared to work and who have the ability to profit by it.
-Order! 1 call the honourable member for Oxley. I remind the honourable member of the previous remarks I made to the right honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Evans.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) [10.541-1 rely on your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 believe that the remarks made by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) in relation to the class bias structure of Australian education are entirely justified.
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Oxley is now transgressing in speaking of something which is not relevant to the Bill, especially during the third reading debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1969. Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill 1969.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1678), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in regard to this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering that Bill, the Income Tax (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969 and the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1969, as they are complementary measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, permit the subject matter of the three Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
will put the Opposition’s case on this Bill, and I will support his contentions. The Opposition does not oppose this measure but we must contest that it is merely playing with the urgent human problems of the great bulk of graziers who suffer in times of drought, flood or fire. The ceiling of $50,000 on these investments is a pretty ample one. Any grazier who could invest that amount at the maximum allowed rate of 20% of his taxable income at equal rates over the 10 year period of the bonds must be investing $5,000 a year and earning $25,000 a year taxable income. Any grazier who can average that amount over 10 years is hardly in need of drought relief. However, it is not a very magnanimous measure since anyone can invest money at this princely rate of 3% interest. The only real help it gives to the non-disaster stricken is the tax relief obtainable by spreading 20% of income over a period of up to 10 years. The general taxpayer can have no other grouch at this Bill because he will lose nothing else and the struggling small grazier will have no money to lend anyway.
It would be more sensible for the Government in a long range scheme to look at the grazing industry markets and assess the likelihood of overproduction which may threaten the beef industry in the future when the effect of drought is finally overcome. The Government should start considering now, in preparation for that time, the setting of quotas of production to provide minimum living units. We have heard that the Japanese are now producing a ton a day of very high quality artificial beef from soya beans. The production obviously will not stay at 1 ton of beef a day. It is possible that the beef industry will have difficulties of overproduction, as nearly every other primary industry has had. If the Government is to plan on a long-range basis it must bear in mind that quotas may have to be set as has been done in the wheat and sugar industries. But it is much more urgent to give relief now to those affected at this time. There has been a stubborn ‘no’ to all suggestions that surplus wheat be freed for drought relief at stock feed prices.
There have been decades of neglect of national initiative for a water resources survey and for water conservation which could have prevented the need for most of the drought relief measures that have been found necessary and could have prevented a lot of the suffering which has resulted from this neglect. The whole matter has been passed off as one for the States, as something to be attended to by the States and something in which the Commonwealth should not take the initiative. Of course, to an extent, the Government has recognised the need for Commonwealth initiatives. It has recognised at long last the need for beef roads which it is still tackling in a pretty minor way. The Government has recognised the need for drought relief which it has tackled belatedly and in a piecemeal fashion and under pressure - continual and repeated pressure; - from the industry and from this Opposition. I therefore claim that this measure is one that will help most those who. need it least and will act as a diversion from the real needs of those who will be hardest hit by drought.
It is time that a full investigation of the industry - and all grazing industries - was made and that some of the shortcomings of this Federal Government compared with for example the Federal Government of the United States of America, were made good. In the United States - I have referred to this in a previous speech - many varieties of aid are given to farmers and graziers to protect them against the vagaries of seasons and against diseases and fluctuations in the markets. Incentives, direct subsidies and grants are given to help farmers to diversify their industry or transfer to a less overproduced industry. Assistance is also given so that farmers can make capital improvements. These are the areas in which the Australian Federal Government could really do something of use and be of help to the industry. Instead, we have this drought bonds Bill - a very minor measure and one that is tailored, as I say, to suit the richer grazier who needs it less.
– People who have lived in the arid areas of Queensland have accepted as a very clear and precise fact of life that from time to time they are going to be afflicted by drought This is inevitable, and it is accepted. Now, at long last, there appears to be some awareness of two facts, which are not only that we must deal with the drought when it occurs but also that some thought must be given to planning for the future. In the early 1920s the United States of America found itself in a rather difficult position financially. The war was over and there had been a tremendous demand on the financial resources of that country. Local government in particular had a great need of funds. The great economists of the United States were called together for consultation with the government to try to find some reservoir of funds which had not been tapped. As a result the system of tax free bonds was introduced in the United States most successfully. Suddenly many hundreds of millions of dollars were made available under certain conditions. I am not just familiar with the precise facts but the funds had to be applied to developmental projects. Of course, certain concessions were given. Then, a few years ago those who were aware of this system in the United States concocted the idea of drought bonds. Eventually, it was presented to the Australian Government and now we see it becoming a fact.
In order really to understand the cruel realities of the drought that is afflicting Queensland it is necessary to come into contact with the various aspects of it and with people who are at grips with it. I might mention that there is a group of us who are members of a special drought committee. The committee consists of honourable members drawn from the drought areas. We have made it our business to accept the responsibility of studying closely the intimate facts of this drought and bringing the urgency of it before the Government. We have achieved this, I suppose, with a good deal of success. The details of the drought bonds proposed in the Bill are well known to all members of the House. To be eligible to buy drought bonds a person must be a bona fide grazier associated with the grazing of sheep or cattle. The Bill provides that a grazier is permitted to buy bonds up to the value of $50,000, that the bonds mature in 10 years time and so on.
It is not solely the grazier - the man on the land - with whom we are completely concerned. The economic vitality and the existence of the grazier as a responsible economic identity in the arid areas of Queensland - and unfortunately this drought has extended far beyond what are traditionally known as the arid areas of Queen; land and has just about gripped the whole State - are inevitably tied up with the interests of the people of the small communities such as the small businessman, the shearer, the stationhand and the council employee. The destiny of all these little people in these traditional grazing and agricultural areas depends on the economic vitality of the man on the land. If he can secure his future he secures the future of this great inland of ours and the small communities which, unfortunately because of drought and other factors, are drifting into serious difficulty.
There are many unsung heroes associated with this drought. If the issue of drought bonds gives security to the man directly associated with grazing, and that is all it does, then we must pay a tribute to some of those unsung heroes. One particular group that has done a magnificent job during the drought comprises those associated with transport generally and particularly the railways of this State. They have been under tremendous pressures. By the way, my campaign director is an engine driver. I do not see him these days; he is so busy. Honourable members may say that he is earning overtime, and it is true that he is but this is at a cost. The railway employees are handling huge quantities of fodder, and keeping a permanent way open. If honourable members had experienced the climatic conditions of our areas they would realise that the work done by the men associated with transport is not easy. They are part of the general picture of the scourge of drought. I believe that a tribute should be paid to them.
There is the other individual whose future is associated with the security that we hope the drought bonds will give to the persons in the area to insure the future. I speak of those who do not want to leave the west. These are my people. These are the people who live in these areas because they want to do so. They could pack up and find other jobs on the coast beyond the Great Divide. They could go to more privileged areas. But they are essentially inlanders and back blockers and have no desire to go. They are hanging on in the hope that the rains will come and that once more their jobs will be secure. So, we hope that the drought bonds proposed by the Bill will help provide security.
Of course, it remains to be proven that the system of drought bonds will achieve this. When I think of drought bonds and the security which we hope they will bring I also think it is a great pity that most of our planning and representations in this House are associated with large water projects for our respective States. I have had the pleasure - the distinct privilege - of seeing a small irrigation system in the heart of one of the worst stricken drought areas in Queensland. This area is outside Winton. It was a system based on the very much criticised keyline irrigation system. All I can say is that all we want to see are results. On this particular property the owner has stored up to 10 million gallons of water although he has a rainfall of only 63 points. He has an oasis in the middle of the pebbled ridges in a completely drought stricken area. He feeds his water into pens and he is one who has beaten the drought.
I think that in the future we will have to give greater encouragement and financial assistance to those who are prepared to install or establish these small irrigation systems on their properties. They constitute one of the most material buffers against the effects of drought that could possibly be secured. I suppose we all say that droughts cannot last forever but the recurrence of droughts inevitably will go on forever. I hope that this system of drought bonds is only a beginning of affording assistance. I hope that the message gets through on this occasion and that some sort of standing committee is brought into existence. I do not propose to get down to details. We all know that this question is often asked: How can you have a permanent body to deal with and plan for droughts, because every drought has Ms own characteristics?
Every part of the country has different demands because of the various effects of drought.’ But there are certain fundamental issues associated with all droughts. There is the transport of stock and fodder and other such matters. I am not aware of any particular standing committee or any body established by local, State or Federal governments, or the industry itself, which goes intimately into the subject of drought - which costs this nation hundreds of millions of dollars - and plans for the future.
The President of the United Graziers Association, Mr Peter Bell, is coming to Canberra on Thursday. He proposes to place before the Government certain decisions made at a rally at Longreach on Wednesday last. It was the greatest assembly of graziers ever to take place in that part of the world; over 350 graziers attended. Mr Bell has certain submissions to place before the Government. They are of quite a revolutionary nature. No-one supposes that all the suggestions will be accepted but I think it would be wise if most of them were because the decisions made at that conference were made by men who have been in primary industry for up to three generations. They are bona fide men of the land.
As I have said before, one of the most critical issues at stake in regard to this particular drought in Queensland is the survival of our inland communities. We know of all the attractions of the coastal areas and the amenities that are offered. I listened in Brisbane on Monday to a most distinguished Indian speaking on the subject ‘The World of Cities’. He pointed out that this great enticement of the cities was now a worldwide infliction. Honourable members would know of the bush children’s health scheme by which children from the bush go to the coast, enjoy the sea water, undergo medical examinations and so on. This is an excellent scheme. However I think there is a much greater need for a city children’s health scheme under which we would be able to take underprivileged children to the inland to enjoy something of country life. Perhaps from such a scheme there may emerge again throughout Australia generally an appreciation of life in the inland, a life of earthy vitality, the true Australian way of life which is traditional to all of us but which probably never will be experienced by hundreds and thousands of children living in underprivileged areas. These are all things which I think are of fundamental importance to this nation. They are inevitably tied up with planning for the future and with such systems as this drought bonds scheme.
There is a great demand from many of the people in my electorate of Kennedy for this drought bonds scheme eventually to be available not only to those who raise sheep and cattle but to the grain growers - to people associated with agriculture as well as with grazing pursuits. This will become even more decisively necessary because the great glamour grain at the moment is sorghum. Many more people are going to diversify their crops. They will be looking for crops other than cotton. The future of some of these other crops is perhaps rather questionable. However it is felt that grain growers will turn to crops such as sorghum. In Japan a tremendous demand is developing for sorghum generally. The Japanese are protein eaters and have lived on fish for centuries. Now they are turning to chicken and to pork and the demand is becoming so great and is snowballing at such a rate that the demand for sorghum is ever increasing. Grain growers will become far more significant in our rural community than they are at the present time. When grain growers do become of greater significance the risk of great losses in times of drought also will increase. They will feel that they should be included amongst those who can voluntarily insure themselves against the droughts of the future.
I strongly support this Bill. It is the beginning of a system of insurance for the future. I conclude by again stressing the tremendous need for some permanent body to examine intimately and realistically the whole problem of these disastrous recurring droughts and to take some action to buffer their effects in the future.
– Tonight we are considering three Bills - the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill, the Income Tax (Drought Bonds) Bill and the Income Tax Assessment (No. 3) Bill. The Opposition docs not oppose any of them. As outlined by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the principal purpose of the decision by the Government was to establish a scheme of drought bonds for the benefit of graziers in arid areas. The first point I want to take up with the Government is the definition of an arid area. Upon reading clause 18 of the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill it is quite obvious that the Minister for Primary Industry can declare any area in Australia to be a drought area. In other words the definition is not confined to an arid area. I ask: What about the semiarid area? I do not know why the word arid’ is included. It is obvious that the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill is to apply to every area in Australia.
– I think it was stated that the reference to arid was to be deleted.
– I do not know whether it is to be deleted but the word arid’ is used in the Hansard report of the Treasurer’s second reading speech. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) referred in his speech to the present drought. It is just as severe - in terms of economic losses it is more severe - in the semi-arid areas as it is in the arid areas. lt is well known that in times of drought in Australia the greatest economic losses in terms of livestock occur in the higher carrying areas. This has been proved time and time again. However, that does not matter. The important thing is that this Bill should apply to all areas devastated by drought. What the Opposition cannot understand is why there is discrimination in this Bill. What is wrong with the dairy farmer? Why will he not have access to these drought bonds? Take an area in the electorate of the honourable member for Kennedy - an area which is presently devastated by drought. On one property there could be dairy cattle and on the next property there could be beef cattle. The beef cattle grazier could apply for drought bonds, but the dairy farmer on the next property will be denied this right. There are hundreds of instances. This is an obvious anomaly. Surely there should be no discrimination against these unfortunate people. After all, if someone is running an Illawarra Shorthorn and if someone else is running a Shorthorn, what is the difference in terms of economic losses? In fact, the economic loss to a dairy farmer, per cow and per acre, would be very much higher than the loss to a grazier.
The second point which J would like the Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Swartz) to explain concerns the definition of an eligible grazier. From a reading of the Bill it would seem that the maximum holding of bonds is limited to 850,000 for one person, but how many persons on each property can purchase these bonds? For example, to take the Australian Estates Co. Ltd, how many shareholders in the company can purchase drought bonds? According to the explanation given in the Minister’s second reading speech, and according to the Bill, it would seem that every parcel of bonds must be designated in one person. In most cases the owner of a property will purchase these bonds. But what is the position with large companies like Vesteys, Swifts, Borthwicks or Australian Estates? How many bonds can they purchase? One person can purchase $50,000 worth of drought bonds. But what is to stop 100 people from each purchasing $50,000 worth of drought bonds? 1 do not know what the answer is, because I cannot get it from the Bill. After all, it is obvious that if 100 people could each purchase $50,000 worth of bonds, to a degree this would defeat the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to allow for a considerable alleviation of the position, particularly of the owner-operator of a property who has difficulty in getting cash for the purchase of drought bonds. I ask the Minister to explain now, and I will ask him again at the Committee stage, if necessary, to what degree is the number of people who can purchase drought bonds limited in this Bill? It would seem that more than one person on a property can invest in drought bonds. Can a husband and a wife each invest $50,000, and can a husband, wife and six children each invest $50,000?
– On two properties?
– On the one property. Where do we stop? I am not suggesting that this is necessarily wrong, but 1 think that we have to know the answer in order to clarify the issue. Obviously the owner of a larger property should be entitled to purchase more bonds than the owner of a smaller property, but where does it stop7 The same point applies when bonds are redeemed. The honourable member for Kennedy dealt at some length with the drought in Queensland. Although he might be pleased with the Federal Government’s achievements in the drought situation up to date, I can tell him that I for one am not pleased, and the people in my electorate, in the Collinsville-Bowen area, and in the Belyando, Suttor, Burnett and North Burnett areas, coming into the MacKenzieIsaac. areas, are most certainly not happy about what is happening regarding this drought. It seems that the Government is incapable of understanding the seriousness of the drought in certain areas of Queensland.
I inform the Government that in May of this year I made the statement that this drought had all the earmarks - that is the term I used - of the worst drought in white man’s history. I made that statement simply on the basis of the rainfall that had occurred, the failure of the monsoons and the effect this had in the arid, semi-arid and high rainfall areas. There was simply very little protein left in the pastures after May. When rainfall completely fails in any monsoon area there is a smash coming by winter. With spring coming on, as it is - although I understand that the temperature has dropped in some of the areas - it is certain that unless it rains, the next 2 months will be the most crucial period in Queensland’s livestock history in a very long time. There is a combination of high temperatures and high evaporation. There are practically no perennial or annual pastures in many areas. Last week I was in an area where literally the ground would burn if anybody-
– You had better get back there.
– Cannot the honourable member for the Northern Territory take it? He can let members of his own Party speak without interruption for half an hour on the Bill, but when I speak about drought he wants to stop me.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Interjections are out of order.
– He cannot take it. Following on from what the honourable member for Kennedy had said, I was making the point concerning the seriousness of the drought in Queensland. I was in the Collinsville area 2 weeks ago, and the bulldust would literally burn if one put a match to it. This is something which anybody who has been in that type of country would know. One only has to see the way in which combustion works, with a fine grain of which this bulldust is composed, to see that this is possible, even though no pasture may be growing there. The point I want to make is that everybody who has anything to do with the drought in Queensland is working on the assumption that it will rain by late November or December. This is the pattern which should occur. But 1 believe that the Government ought to be working on the assumption that it will not rain and ought to be preparing for what could, and probably will, be the worst drought and economic smash that we have witnessed in many livestock areas. The thing to do is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
I believe it is essential to marshal, with some urgency, the rolling stock of the New South Wales railways in a far more coordinated fashion than is being done at the present time, because it is needed to move grain and fodder to Queensland as quickly and as efficiently as possible. It is incredible - and I hope that some honourable members who represent New South Wales electorates will take this matter up - that the New South Wales railways have now stopped moving fodder and grain to Queensland. I have received a letter from one of the biggest livestock companies in Australia. I will not mention the name of the company, but if any honourable member wants to see the letter he may see it. The letter states:
We have been advised that the New South Wales railways are instructed not to accept any more loadings of hay or grain destined for Queensland stations through Clapham or Wallangarra.
– I could show you six telegrams about that.
– I wish that the honourable member for Kennedy had mentioned this, because it is important. How are graziers in Queensland going to get fodder unless they can get it from New South Wales? It seems incredible that the New South Wales railways have now been instructed not to accept further loadings of grain and hay destined for Queensland. Bottlenecks, shortage of trucks, lack of tarpaulins and lack of ropes are stopping urgently needed grain and fodder from going to Queensland. Surely this difficulty can be overcome. The Queensland drought should be treated as a national emergency. I believe that if the drought worsens, if necessary, surplus Army vehicles and personnel ought to be brought into action to move this fodder, if we find that more bottlenecks are occurring in the New South Wales railways, at the junctions on the Queensland border and in trans-shipment to the narrower gauge railway. At present fodder and grains are very cheap in New South Wales and surplus wheat should be diverted to Queensland as a matter of Government policy. The Government’s procrastination about the price of wheat for stock feed is incredible. How much longer can this state of affairs last?
On the policy side what is needed for reconstruction in many of these areas and to enable people to carry on is long term finance at low interest rates. The industry has recognised for 20 years that it must have long term finance at low interest rates, but this Government is closely tied to the private banks which, as a matter of policy, oppose low interest rates. We all know that the private banks opposed the creation of the Commonwealth Development Bank because it competed with them in granting long term finance at low interest rates. A Labor government would not be bound by the policy of the private banks and would be in a position to provide long term finance at low interest rates through the Reserve Bank or, if necessary, through the Commonwealth Development Bank after its constitution was amended.
The drought bonds will be of little assistance to the small grazier who does not have any cash or, for that matter, to the large grazier who does not have any cash. The bonds will not be available to drought stricken dairy farmers. What will be the position of a drought stricken dairy farmer who goes into vealer production and runs some beef cattle on his property? He will not be able to avail himself of drought bonds because of the rigorous definition which requires that 90% of his income shall be derived from grazing sheep or beef cattle. If this is right, the main beneficiaries of this legislation will be the companies with large properties and with surplus cash. I also wish to mention the delay in introducing this legislation. It was mentioned not in the last Budget but in the Budget before that. Surely, in view of the tragic, devastating drought in Queensland, this legislation could have been introduced more quickly.
I mentioned before the situation with respect to the movement of fodder and grain from New South Wales into Queensland. This is almost a fiasco. The information I have here shows that some trucks cannot even be traced. Urgently needed fodder has been sent from New South Wales to Queensland, but the trucks carrying it cannot be traced. I have the numbers of trucks. The company I mentioned earlier said that the waiting time for trucks in New South Wales is 3 days to 3 weeks. Now trucks cannot be obtained. The time taken for the carriage of urgently needed fodder or grains from the Riverina to central or north Queensland, according to this company, averages a fortnight to 6 weeks. When the fodder reaches its destination itis often in poor condition and moisture has drastically affected the protein content of the grain.
I raise these matters in the hope that the Commonwealth Government will step in, give the New South Wales Government a bit of a nudge and help it to iron out the faults that I have mentioned. As I said before, Queensland is very fortunate at present for two reasons. Firstly, the seasons in New South Wales have been very good. The latest figures I have seen show that some 450,000 head of cattle have crossed the border from Queensland into New South Wales. It is a long time since I have looked at this aspect, but my recollection is that the average is about 250,000 head. The second reason is that fodder is very cheap in New South Wales at present. Oats cost less than $30 a ton, depending on quality. Barley costs about $35 a ton. The best quality lucerne hay costs $45 a ton and good meadow hay costs$25 to $30 a ton. If orders are placed for truck loads of urgently needed oats or barley, they should be given top priority and every effort should be made to get the fodder into the areas where it is desperately needed.
I do not know how many people have seen big mobs of cattle that have been so affected by drought that they cannot stand up and the owner going around driving a tomahawk into their brains to kill them as an act of mercy. I saw this happen last Sunday. Approximately twenty head of aged cows, which were very weak, arrived by road transport from Capella. Four of the beasts had gone down and the rest had trampled them. They had broken legs. Nineteen were knocked on the head. This is happening constantly. Until one sees lots of cattle die, it is pretty hard to realise how severe the drought is. In the next 2 months calves will start to drop and their situation will be serious, especially where they rely on artificial water. The honourable member for the Northern Territory knows this well. The situation has arisen in the Barkly Tableland. Where do the calves and the mothers get a drink? They have to walk 4 or 5 miles for fodder and then come back. This sometimes takes 2 days. In the summer they must come back every day to get a drink. The result is that the calves die. This is a very serious problem.
What is most needed now is action. We need action on the financial side to provide long term loans for graziers, for people who are in debt and in serious need of finance. The Government must work on the assumption that it will not rain in late November or December. There is absolutely no reason why it should rain. The mere fact that rainfall records show that it should rain in November, December and January does not mean that it will. During one year 71 years ago it did not rain. What will happen in Queensland if it does not rain in the monsoonal period this year? The Government should keep this possibility in the back of its mind and should prepare for it. The best thing that could happen is that it will rain. But the graziers, the grain people and the dairy people want to see some concrete plan prepared by the Government. Fundamental to all the plans that one could put forward is finance. These people do not want handouts of grants over short terms. They want to get carry on finance. They want to be able to reconstruct, to purchase fodder, to move stock, to sink wells by using boring rigs and to have enough finance to carry on. They do not want the threat of the bank, manager coming to them and saying: ‘You had better sell 100 head of steers. I want my money back.’ Everyone associated with cattle knows that this happens. It is happening today. Can you blame the banking system? I suppose the banks must have their finance. What is needed is a government sponsored system of long term finance under which people in the devastated areas will have recourse to assistance. Having said those words and posed the questions I have posed, I support the Bill.
– In his speech tonight the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) barely referred to drought bonds. He devoted his energies to knocking the legislation of principle. He obviously did not have the faintest idea what a drought bond was, how it could be used, and why it should be used. He called for another investigation - another Labor sponsored investigation. In contrast the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) supported the legislation. At least he was right in that regard. He dealt mostly with small points relating to the legislation, making virtually an election speech on the basis of the drought situation in Queensland. He spoke of many aspects of the drought situation which are already in hand. He said that this legislation would not assist the small man but only the big companies. This is incorrect. He said that people in semi-arid zones would probably be hit harder than those in arid zones.
Until very recently the price of stock from drought areas of Queensland was too high to interest southern buyers. So I would submit that the stock owners themselves are to some extent to blame for the position in which they find themselves. They could have got rid of their stock earlier, as did the men on the Barkly Tableland. As the honourable member knows, I was overseer on Brunette Downs for some years. They have been trucking fats off Brunette Downs this year. The management was wise enough to send 4,000 cattle to Anningie on agistment. That is the sort of thing that could have been done in Queensland. Queensland has road systems better than those in the Northern Territory. If stock owners in Queensland had not been so selfish in trying to hold their cattle and sheep all through the dry season they could have got rid of them earlier at lower prices, as any practical man would have done. But the honourable member for Dawson is a theoretical man and so he would not know about these things. Stock owners at Lake Ash and Brunette Downs have sold cattle forward when conditions have not been as low as they have been in Queensland.
On behalf of the people of central Australia I congratulate the Government on introducing this legislation. The people whom I represent appreciate what the Government is trying to do for them. They realise that these Bills represent a start. Some criticism may be levelled at some parts of the legislation, but let us pass the Bills and learn from experience, so that we may know how to adjust to circumstances. The property owners in arid zones will now be able to put aside $50,000 in a good season, to be used when the area is declared a drought area or when the property suffers from fire or flood. I can speak from first hand experience, which is probably more than the honourable member for Dawson can do. I have had practical experience in an arid zone. During drought in my area I have seen men engage in a battle for 2 or 3 days to clear drifting sand from a length of trough so that cattle may drink. If the owners of these private properties had put away $50,000 in a good season, they could draw on the money to help tide them over a period of drought. I know that today you could not buy many cows for $50,000, but this sum is better than nothing. So let us not knock the legislation before it is given a chance. Let us accept it and try to improve it later. On the same property where I saw the trough being filled with sand I saw a complete mitchell grass plain disappear in a flood. These are the kinds of thing that can happen to pastoralists. This legislation will enable them to obtain some assistance when these things happen.
I said earlier that the Barkly Tableland stations had sent cattle on agistment to the west. Cattle from the area are now running north of Alice Springs, west of Alice Springs and south of Alice Springs, where feed is excellent. I commend the provision that if a station is burnt out the drought bonds may be redeemed free of tax. Only last Saturday I saw a bush fire raging 200 miles west of Alice Springs. This is the country where some of the stock from the Barkly Tableland is on agistment. A wind shift could take all of the feed on a face. So let us accept the Bills. Let us not knock them simply on principle. This legislation can help many people. It will help many private owners in my electorate. The men to whom I spoke at the weekend said: ‘We will buy drought bonds. We can see that they will be of assistance to us.’ These are practical men. They are very pleased that the Government has introduced this legislation. I have spent 25 years in an arid zone. Those of us who live in the zone appreciate this first step by the Government. I know that criticism could be levied at the legislation, but it is a step forward. It will be of particular assistance to the small private owner. I am not talking about dairymen. I am talking about cattlemen and possibly sheepmen in a similar situation. This Bill is a good measure. It will assist pastoralists in arid areas. It certainly will assist the small man.
– In rising to support the introduction of drought bonds, I emphasise that I believe that the Bill in its present form is only a first step. The provision for the purchase of drought bonds as set out in this legislation falls short of what many of us would like to see. I think that the Department of the Treasury has managed fairly successfully to emasculate the purpose of the bonds in relation to the use to which they can be put by stressing, first, that the bonds should be for the benefit of graziers in arid areas and, secondly, by insisting that 90% of the income of the primary producer buying the bonds should be from grazing, particularly from sheep and beef cattle.
I think that a provision similar to that which applies to the man who stores fodder or oats should be introduced here. This is a total deduction. This man grows, conserves and puts away oats in a silo. The fact that he may feed it to his stock is not taken into account. The man in arid areas should be assisted by provision to allow him to put away drought bonds. As the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has said, drought bonds will be a tremendous help to people in arid areas. The whole purpose of introducing drought bonds is to make it possible to keep stock alive and to make lt economically attractive for primary producers to keep their stock alive through periods of drought.
Drought is quite a normal phenomenon in this country. Droughts occur from time to time. We know we will get droughts. We know that we can handle droughts, if we really set out to handle them, in many areas but perhaps not in some more remote areas. I believe that the only really successful way to use all the knowledge gained from reasearch done on drought relief and drought problems generally is to make the application of this knowledge economically attractive. This is very important indeed because the saving of livestock is vital to the prosperity of our nation and to the earning of export income which keeps the wheels of industry turning. . 1 ask honourable members to take the example of a property in my own electorate. This is a very good, very safe rainfall area where a major drought occurs once in 20 years and where some fodder is always put away for an occasional dry period. Fodder is conserved also to deal with dietary problems and that sort of thing as well as to provide a bit of dry feed if the grass available is too succulent and too green. But a time comes, once in 20 years, when we experience a very serious drought. Many properties in my area are of 2,000 acres and carry anything up to 10,000 sheep and even more. I know that this is right because more than that number is carried on our property, plus 300 or 400 head of cattle. The conservation of fodder worth $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 would be required to make that property drought proof. Fodder left standing in a shed or in a comer of a silo for 20 years will deteriorate. It is earning no income. Surely it is far better to take out drought bonds and to buy grain such as wheat from a grain elevators board or from the Australian Wheat Board in time of emergency.
If we were sure we could do this in these highly productive areas, we would stock to capacity with confidence knowing that we did not need to put aside large quantities of fodder, buy very expensive machinery, engage in expensive conservation programmes, build silos, hay sheds and all the rest of it. In drought time, we would be in a position to be able to cash our drought bonds and buy this fodder. This would be an investment for the Government, lt would not be a cost to the Government because properties in the safe areas would continue producing year after year and the Government would continue to collect its taxes. This is an area at which I think we must look. While I accept that drought bonds have been introduced in a trial form now, we must consider these matters very carefully because I believe that we could make it economically profitable for primary producers to put away a great deal of fodder.
I think that it is equally important that we should look at the proposition of getting stock out from many areas where drought has struck. I refer not to the far remote areas but to, for instance, many areas in Queensland today. With adequate finance available through drought bonds, stock could be transported out of a drought area such as Queensland to an area where there is a surplus of feed. In the area from Canberra west to my electorate, a tremendously good season is being enjoyed. A little over 18 months ago, we went through a disastrous drought. People sold off their stock. If they did not sell, they lost their stock. Most properties in that area today are understocked. Usually, they are understocked in a normal season. They are grossly understocked in a season like this one. It is possible now to bring stock down from Queensland in a very short time. Sheep have been brought from Dirrambandi to Harden in 16 hours to 18 hours travelling time. The stock travels from the drought areas down to the good fodder areas here. If this sort of thing is made possible, the man in Queensland could either send his stock on agistment or cash his stock. The man in this area could make up for the losses he had sustained in a drought year by purchasing this stock for his good seasons. The Government would continue to collect taxation. Transport would be on the road paying taxes. Stock would be saved. The whole nation would benefit.
Provision is made for drought bonds in respect of fire. This is very important indeed. I think that the poet who wrote of Australia as being a sunburnt country and a land of trees and sweeping plains might even have included bushfires in his verses.
Fires can be even more devastating than drought. I know that provision is made in this Bill for the use of drought bonds for relief in the event of fire. 1 do not wish to take any more time at this hour of the night. I have cut my remarks quite considerably. But I do wish to emphasise that we welcome, appreciate and support the introduction of drought bonds in the present form, provided this Bill is merely the first step in this direction and provided also that, as we put drought bonds into practice and as we continue their use, we will be aware of the tremendous possibilities of expanding the operation of drought bonds in the interests not only of primary producers who will use them but also of the nation.
– I wish to say a few words about drought bonds. I have been rather interested tonight to listen to the remarks coming from the Government side where there seems to be more talk about drought than there is about drought bonds. I do not know who wishes to acknowledge to being the parent of the drought bond concept. Like my friend who has just resumed his seat, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), I think this Bill is a good beginning. It is always a tragedy that we think of these things during a period of drought rather than, as ought to have been the case, at a time when no drought prevails. If these bonds had been available during previous years, they might have been of some use in assisting primary producers to overcome droughts when they occur.
I ask some of the members of the Country Party and the victims of drought - I for one regret that any drought occurs - how many people in the next year, in 2 years or in 3 years will be able to make much provision within the terms of this legislation? As I understand it, most people will find great difficulty in restocking their properties after a drought rather than having any flush of funds which they can invest in these drought bonds. In some respect in regard to the device of drought bonds we can say that a farmer, at the beginning of a normal run when things began to improve, could put some of his surplus cash into drought bonds rather than pay tax at that time. This would even out the ‘tax equation’ over a term of years in much the same way as the averaging provisions have done. When a scheme is introduced after a drought it is very optimistic to expect that it will achieve very spectacular results in the next few years.
– lt is a start.
– It is a start; I am not denying that. But the Government has had 20 years in which to start that sort of thing. It seems to be a Government of pretty slow recognition of particular circumstances, and when it makes a bel’ated beginning like this it wants to bang the drum as though it had done something very spectacular. I would be interested to hear some of the propositions as to how much it is expected will come into these funds in the next few years.
I am also a little intrigued by the suggestion - it was made by the honourable member for Dawson as much as by some other honourable members - that companies are likely to take advantage of this sort of scheme. Because of the capital cost of properties in Australia these days the nature of farming is changing. A capital value of perhaps half a million dollars is not large for some of the best properties in some areas. Problems arise in families and often properties are cut up when one member of the family dies. It seems to me that in some respects the essential nature of farming is changing. I am no expert in farming, although I do not take the view sometimes taken by some members of the Country Party that the only people who ought to talk about wheat are those who grow it. I think that sometimes those who eat it should have something to say. Of course, we do not eat it in quite the form in which it is produced on the farm; it has to go through a number of processes first.
Let me get back to the person who has large surpluses to invest in these bonds. As I understand it, if he invests in the bonds he will be limited to a 3% return. If we take into account a 3% return in conjunction with a tax saving that he might make as a consequence, would he not do better to invest the sum some other way? I think that at the moment most honourable members would prefer to put it into improvements on the farm. But if a scheme like this had been going for, say, the last SO or 60 years, that would be fair enough. It is not very different from the proposition put up by some honourable members on this side of the House that we should have a national disaster insurance scheme, although once disasters occur on a large enough scale and if they were anticipated the insurance premium that would have to be paid to insure against this sort of disaster would be excessive. All I would suggest is that one should not expect too much from the scheme now before us. It has been introduced at a time when a large number of the areas to which it applies have gone through such a disastrous experience that I would think, in prudence, it is not likely that there will be great results from it in the next year or two.
– What about Victoria?
– Most of Victoria would be excluded from the provision if it were applied only to sheep and beef cattle, as I understand it is to be applied. Most of Victoria these days is devoted to mixed farming.
– What about New South Wales?
– Now the honouable member has shifted to New South Wales. Parts of New South Wales that used to be devoted exclusively to sheep and beef cattle production have in recent times gone over to wheat production. I had the pleasure recently of visiting for the first time the town of Goondiwindi in the electorate of Maranoa. I happened to be there on the day of the annual show at which the principal speaker was the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. I found that he had so little faith in wool that he had gone into wheat. I am not sure that he had gone into it entirely with Australian capital, but it seemed to me to accentuate some of the problems of the wheat industry. This shows the difficulty of trying to sift out who is exclusively or even preponderantly a sheep or beef cattle man. We are not opposing this legislation but it seemed to me that tonight nobody was wildly enthusiastic about it. Honourable members mostly seemed to be using the debate as an opportunity to talk about the depredations of drought. I suppose Australia will be afflicted with drought for many years to come. This is one reason why 1 support my colleague who thinks that one of the biggest problems that we ought to be tackling is conserving the limited amount of water that we have. Most honourable members who represent the Australian Country Party are talking as dry farmers. It seems to me that this drought bond, at least to begin with, has limited application. I think it will have very limited results to start with.
I was pleased to hear my colleague suggest that this is the beginning and perhaps ultimately it might be extended to anybody who is a farmer, perhaps with different sorts of qualifications. Even in that part of the world where I was born, the great western district - the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) knows my background in that area - the great Grange Creek near Hamilton dried up in recent times although nobody had thought that it would. Irrespective of what sort of area one is in one cannot suggest that it will never have a drought. In the years that are good it is wise to prepare for the years that may be bad. We can go a long way back to what my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) describes as trying to build up the evernormal granary to provide in the years of fat for the years of lean. In some respects that is what the drought bond does on a purely economic level as against a material level. We commend the measure on that ground. I suggest one ought not to expect any very spectacular results in the first several years of its operation by reason of the limited field in which it is being applied and the dire circumstances at the moment of most who ultimately may benefit from it when farming gets into a more normal cycle in Queensland and in other parts over the next 5 or 10 years.
Wednesday, 24 September 1969
– in reply - The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) did clarify one position, that is, that this is a measure which deals with matters in the long term. I think we all understand the situation in Australia - that we do have continuous droughts. We have them State by State. We have a serious drought at the moment over two-thirds of the State of Queensland. A couple of years ago there was a serious drought in Victoria. So the situation changes State by State year by year. But this does not alter the fact that the scheme that is being introduced now will, in the long run, benefit a large number of people in all States and will apply not only to the State that at the moment is being adversely affected by drought. The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) said that this is designed to help most those who need it least. I would hesitate to refer this particular quotation to many of the graziers in his own area who would perhaps desire to take part in this particular scheme and who undoubtedly will take part in the future.
Many concessions have been granted over the years. They have been introduced by way of taxation concessions and assistance in the field of research to encourage the conservation of fodder and of water, but the very basis of this scheme is an attempt to bring some incentive and assistance to those people in areas which are classified as arid but which cannot be defined closely as such and who are not able to take advantage of the assistance and facilities that are already available through taxation concessions and in the field of research. When we refer to arid areas, this classification generally covers those that are grazing sheep and beef cattle. The broad interpretation of this scheme would cover most of the areas which would be classified as arid, but other fields are involved as well. When an area is to be classified as a drought area it is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Primary Industry to classify it as such. He, of course, to some degree would be guided by the advice of the States, but he has the authority to classify an area and there may be some differences in relation to the Commonwealth and State classifications. I think that clears the point that was raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).
Another point raised by the honourable member for Dawson was whether or not a number of people in a company could apply for the limit of $30,000 in relation to the allocation of the total amount of drought bonds. The position is that this is bound by the basis that is laid down in the Bills. Where a person derives 90% or more of the gross farm income from grazing sheep or beef cattle and he is classified as so doing he can apply for bonds, but where more than one member of a family is involved they would have to be actual partners in the business that is deriving income from the property before they could apply in their own right for these bonds. There could be a situation in an extreme case where some partners in the business of a grazing property could apply for drought bonds in their own right, but this would be rather unusual and the general position would be that there would be only one applicant for bonds. This was set out quite clearly in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the Loan (Drought Bonds) Bill 1969 when he said:
As I said, this is also qualified by the fact that if there is a partnership - to answer the query raised by the honourable member for Dawson - it would allow partners, in special circumstances, to apply for drought bonds.
There is just one other point to which 1 want to refer and that was the question raised by the honourable member for Dawson about whether or not this system of drought bonds should cover the dairying industry as well as the grazing industry. Generally speaking the classification of arid areas would cover most of the grazing areas and would not, in the broad, cover dairying areas. In the field of dairying, where drought areas are designated they come under another system of assistance, and particularly in Queensland where a number of dairying industries are affected seriously by the drought situation. They, of course, attract the drought assistance provided by the Commonwealth through the States in this area.
One other point that I should like to make in relation to this is that the basis of the $1 for Si contribution by the Commonwealth to the State is on the first $2m contributed by the State which, with the matching grant from the Commonwealth, would make $4m available to the State of Queensland. Beyond that a total of $8m has been allocated in the Budget this year for a
Commonwealth grant to the State to match, first of all, the $2m, and beyond that another $6m, if required. I do not doubt that if there is a requirement beyond this again and a case is put up by the State to the Commonwealth it will receive very sympathetic consideration. So the case of the dairy fanner in areas of that type would be covered by the special drought assistance grants which are being made by the Commonwealth to the States under the system that now exists.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I thank the Minister for his explanation regarding partnerships. Clause 12 states:
A parcel of stock to which this Act applies shall not be inscribed in the names of more than one person except where the stock is transmitted.
If there are working partners to the degree that they share 90% of the gross income they are entitled to take up inscribed stock to the limit. Often a very big company, such as Vesteys, would have a large number of properties in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, and in other cases there could be one property which is operated by a company which has perhaps 100 shareholders who legitimately share in the profits of that company. Can the Minister tell me whether in that instance the 100 shareholders would be entitled to take up stock to the value of $50,000? I refer next to something said by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) and suggest to the Minister that he should omit completely reference to the word ‘arid’ because I cannot find the word anywhere in the Bill and I do not see the relevance of the word.
Mir Swartz - I explained that.
Br PATTERSON- But the point is that although sheep and cattle graze mainly in what might be termed arid areas, there are more cattle within a 150-mile radius of Rockhampton than in the whole of the Northern Territory, the whole of Western Australia and the channel country. The Gulf
Country is not an arid area and the region mentioned by the honourable member for Hume is not an arid area. I suggest that it is a word that could be omitted, I think it would be to the advantage of the Government if it were omitted so that the measure would apply to all areas.
– All those classified as dry areas?
– The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has raised a point about arid areas. I refer him to the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in which he said:
The drought bond scheme should be of great value to those graziers in the more arid areas who, in the normal course of events, are unable to adopt other measures to overcome financial losses incurred as a result of drought, fire or flood.
I think the whole essence is that in the arid areas the provision for fodder conservation, because of the general low rainfall incidence, is not as great as it is in the higher rainfall areas. In the higher rainfall areas the graziers generally can reinvest their profits in fodder conservation and in pasture improvement, thereby getting a tax saving from the existing taxation concessions. But in the arid areas the pastoralists and graziers during the years of plenty have made very big incomes, and of course have paid very heavy taxes because it has not been to weir benefit to over-capitalise their properties with excessive improvements.
I think it is quite logical that the graziers generally in the more arid areas would avail themselves of the provisions of this Bill. I think that is the only reason why the Treasurer gives some emphasis to this. He does not say: This is the area to which the drought bond scheme shall apply’. It applies to no particular area, but it does apply to those who derive 90% of their income from either sheep or cattle. I think that point needs to be stressed here.
– There is nothing which the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) has said that I disagree with, except that he mentioned page 7, whereas my emphasis is on the first paragraph on page 1 where it states that the scheme of drought bonds was established for the benefit of graziers in arid areas. My suggestion is that it is of benefit to graziers throughout the whole of Australia.
– You would not like to call a division at this stage, would you?
– No, not at this stage.
– I just want to answer one question addressed to me by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). As to his reference to a company, there would be one entitlement only.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19th September (vide page 1679), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
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.
Consideration resumed from 19 September (vide page 1679), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
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.
Mouse adjourned at 12.25 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Do public hospitals in Queensland yet use, as those in other Slates already use, the International Classification of Diseases index prepared by the World Health Organisation and recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (Hansard, 28 November 1968. page 3513).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. 1 understand that the collection of data on hospital morbidity by public hospitals in Queensland is based on the International Classification of Diseases index prepared by the World Health Organisation and recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
asked the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)-(4) No.
Employment matters are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, with whose Department the Office of Aboriginal Affairs maintains close liaison. The Department of Labour and National Service is at present extending its services and facilities to the north and north-west of Western Australia and, as part of its action programme to encourage wider employment opportunities for Aborigines, is investigating the present pattern of employment in that area, and will go on to study wider employment possibilities for Aborigines. As well, my Office maintains close contact with other Commonwealth and State authorities on the employment situation in that area. In May-June this year, a Liaison Officer from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs visited Western Australia, and reported on the situation at Broome, Wyndham, Kununurra, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing, including employment matters.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What is the estimated additional annual cost of paying age pensions at the new rates proposed by the Treasurer in his ‘Budget Speech to ail persons who are qualified by residence and who are, respectively (a) 80 years and over, (b) 79 years, (c) 78 years, (d) 77 years, (e) 76 years, (f) 75 years, (g) 74 years, (h) 73 years, (i) 72 years, (j) 71 years, (k) 70 years, (I) 69 years, (m) 68 years, (n) 67 years, (o) 66 years and (p) 65 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For the ages specified the estimated additional annual costs of paying age pensions at the proposed new rates to all persons qualified by residence are:
80 years and over - $30m.
79 years and over - $36m.
78 years and over - $43m.
77 years and over -$52m.
76 years and over - $6lm.
75 years and over- $71m.
74 years and over -$83m.
73 years and over-$97m.
72 years and over- $1 13m.
71 years and over - $131m.
70 years and over- $ 149m.
69 years and over-$170m.
68 years and over- $ 191m.
67years and over -$216m.
66 years and over - $245m.
65 years and over - $281m.
The ‘tapered’ means test, for which provision is made in the Social Services Bill currently before the House, will result in some reduction to the above costs. It is too early to estimate the amount of this reduction for each of the ages specified.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What were the sale conditions of the Rathmines Air Base to the Lake Macquarie Shire Council.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The former Rathmines Air Base was sold in 1963 to the Lake Macquarie Shire Council for the sum of $200,000, on terms requiring a deposit of $10,000 (5%), with the balance payable by twenty equal consecutive annualinstalments of $9,500 plus interest at the then ruling rate of 6% per annum. The conditions of sale were framed to assist the Council in its projected development of the area and permitted the Council to negotiate sales of
Individual lots, with half of the proceeds being credited against the outstanding amount of principal. A number of such sales have been negotiated to date.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Do the pension increases in the Budget of $1.00 a week for single pensioners, and$1.50 for married couples, fail to maintain, or succeed in maintaining, or actually increase the value of the pension in real terms, that is in terms of constant prices.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The previous increase in the rate of age and invalid pension was first paid on 10 October 1968.
The June quarter 1968 was the last quarter for which the Consumer Price Index was issued prior to Cabinet’s decision to increase age and invalid pensions. An adjustment of the rates of pension in accordance with movements in this index between the June quarter of 1968 and the June quarter of 1969 would have given weekly rates of pension of $25.72 (married rale) and $14.40 (standard rate).
The increased weekly rates as announced in the Budget will be $26.50 (married rate) and $15.00 (standard rate). Thus the increases of $1.50 and $1.00 compare with the amounts of $0.72 and $0.40 required to maintain the real value of the pension as last determined.
Moreover, the rates proposed will be very substantially in excess of those required to maintain the real value of the pension payable in 1949 prior to the present Government taking office. Taking into account the additional fringe benefits made available since Labour was last in power, the real value of the pension has nearly (but not quite) doubled during the period.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Can he yet give the estimated additional annual cost of paying (a) 20%, (b) 40%, (c) 60% and (d) 80% of the age pension to all persons who are qualified by residenceto receive the pension but who for other reasons are receiving a smaller percentage of the pension or none (Hansard, 28 November 1968, page 3508).
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The estimated additional annual cost of paying 20% of the age pension, at the rates announced in the Budget, to persons of pensionable age and qualified by residence but not receiving a pension, would be $80m. The cost of paying a pension of 40%, 60% and 80% of the maximum rate to persons similarly qualified would be $160m, $240m and $320m respectively. The ‘tapered’ means test, for which provision is made in the
Social Services Bill currently before Parliament, will result in some reduction to the above costs. It is too early yet to estimate the amount by which each of the above quoted costs will be reduced.
Sufficient information is not currently available to estimate the additional cost involved in raising reduced rate pensions to the percentages indicated without an unreasonable amount of work. However, at 30 June 1969, 13.6% of age pensioners were in receipt of reduced rate pensions and it is estimated that the additional annual cost involved in raising these pensions to the maximum rate would approximate$27m.
Pensions: Reciprocal Arrangements between Britain and Australia (Question No. 1879)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
In what circumstances and to what extent under the reciprocal agreement between Britain and Australia can (a) a person who is disqualified by the means test from receiving an age pension in Australia receive a retirement pension if be goes to reside in Britain, and (b) a person who has received a retirement pension in Britain be disqualified by the means test from receiving an age pension if he goes to reside in Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Electoral: Enrolment in Electoral Divisions (Question No. 1880)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It would be inappropriate, therefore, to disclose to the public and to its competitors detailed results of individual operations. As is required by law, the report and financial statements of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for the year ending 30th June 1969 will be submitted to each House of the Parliament in accordance with Section 39(4) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-1969.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
What has been the expenditure by the Department of Supply over the past three financial years in each of the States.
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Expenditure incurred by the Department of Supply in each State and in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory in the financial years 1966-67, 1967-68 and 1968-69 relating to Appropriations and Trust Funds the responsibility of Department of Supply was as follows:
Caution should be exercised in drawing any conclusion from the above figures as they merely reflect expenditure incurred in each State, and do not take into account the value of supplies produced in one State but purchased in another.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
Will the Minister take steps to amend the Repatriation Act to provide for an increased subsidy of $7 per week to ex-servicemen who are obliged to enter a ‘C’ class hospital or nursing home when discharged from a repatriation hospital.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All ex-servicemen are eligible to receive institutional treatment at repatriation expense for any war-caused disabilities irrespective of whether hospital treatment or nursing home care is involved.
In view of this, I assume that the honourable member’s question is directed to certain more seriously incapacitated war pensioners and to service pensioners suffering from chronic disabilities which are not due to war service. These ex-servicemen are eligible to receive institutional treatment at the expense of the Repatriation Department during any acute or sub-acute phase of such chronic disabilities. However, once that phase has passed and they require long-term care and management rather than general hospital facilities then the provision of institutional care for them is part of the general community problem and primarily the responsibility of the State governments, augmented by specific Commonwealth aid available to all sections of the community, such as nursing home benefits.
The honourable member will be aware that the Commonwealth already pays $2.00 per day for persons in nursing homes, and from the beginning of this year, introduced additional nursing home benefits of $3 a day for patients requiring intensive nursing care, making the Commonwealth contribution $5 a day in all for the latter patients.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– 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:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690923_reps_26_hor65/>.