28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance
Program and any National Health Scheme; That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bonnett, Mr Donald
Cameron, Mr Cooke, Mr Corbett, Mr Jtarman, Mr Katter, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Birrell, Mr Drury, Mr Fairbairn and Mr Hansen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘Free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr J arm an and Mr Olley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That only a professional librarian will be able to carry out the duties of executive head of the National Library of Australia in the best interests of the Parliament and people of Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a professional librarian be appointed to this position.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled:
The humble petition of residents of Australia respectfully shows:
The red kangaroo, largest marsupial in the world, has through shooting for commerce become extinct or rare in many areas where it was once prolific. All scientific evidence points to this decimation of numbers, which is clear evidence that State Governments are unable to control commercial shooting within their boundaries.
The people of Australia do not wish to subsidise the kangaroo industry, through taxation, in paying for the control measures which it calls for. We find the industry repugnant, unnecessary, and benefits but a few people in this country, whereas live kangaroos in their natural habitat, through their value as tourist attractions are economically far more profitable to our economy and to us aesthetically.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hurt ord.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants which are directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that the Prime Minister told this House on 20 November that the Government may advise overseas students that it is their duty to go back to the country which gave them their basic education but that it does not deport those students and that if students choose to remain in Australia they will be permitted to stay? I ask the Minister whether this is an accurate statement of Government policy. Is the choice of the student, as the Prime Minister says, all that matters? If the policy is to respect the choice of the student, why is the Minister still causing heartbreak to some students by telling them that they must leave the country by a certain date, without at any stage advising them that they are free to remain in Australia if they choose? Now that the Prime Minister has made the policy clear, will the Minister revoke his order to depart made to Mr Danny Chu?
– The position is not as the honourable member has put it. The situation at the present time is that there is a nondiscriminatory policy under which people can apply to come to this country and settle here if they meet the criteria which have been laid down and accepted. It has been made quite plain that we would not discriminate against anyone who happened to have completed his studies here, if he was economically viable and was otherwise eligible to stay under the criteria applying to everyone else. That is the exact situation at the present moment. There is no intention to discriminate in any way against anyone or in favour of anyone. As far as students are concerned I want to make it quite plain that the policy has been discussed with the countries in our own region and there has been agreement on what drill should be followed. Private students coming to Australia do so on the basis that they will study here and on completion of their studies will be expected to return home. They are interviewed on that basis when they first approach our missions. It is made plain at the outset that they are coming here to study with a view to getting a qualification and are then to return home.
When they arrive here things may happen in the hearts of young men or young women and it may well be that they enter into a sincere and enduring relationship. We do not interfere with love and romance and applications for residence on that basis are considered compassionately. But at the same time whenever an application is made on the basis that they fit the criteria - I stress that again - they are counselled in accordance with the arrangements made with our neighbouring countries, that is, that they had originally undertaken to come to Australia to study and then to return home. They are reminded of the original counsel and of that undertaking. In fact we go further. We put them in touch with their own High Commissions or Embassies to ensure that they understand their responsibility. So I want to say to the honourable member that there is no confusion about the policy and there is no confusion about the drill. Every case is considered on its merits. The honourable member has raised a specific case with me. If he cares to discuss it with me on a personal basis, we can go over the ground in full detail for himself and for the person in whom he is interested.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the situation which has developed at the Templestowe private hospital in my electorate where notice of termination of employment has been given to the nursing and other staff? What is the position regarding the patients? Is the Minister in a position to assist? .
– Yes, I am aware of the situation in relation to the Templestowe private nursing home. The proprietor of the home, Mr Goldberg, has sought as an initial move to have a number of the beds of that, I think, 53-bed nursing home approved as acute hospital beds. Approval has been provided by the State authorities in Victoria. However, consistent with practices of previous governments, which are well justified, on this occasion - it is a rare occasion - I have decided that we should not provide the dual authority for this institution to operate as a nursing home and as an acute bed hospital.
There are sound reasons for this. It is very difficult to police a situation where geriatric patients are being transferred into acute hospital beds. Considerably more cost is involved in providing acute hospital beds, and if the case involved is a geriatric case not requiring such treatment there is considerably more cost to be borne by the rest of the community including private hospital funds. The fact is that there is opportunity under the National Health Act for the private hospital funds to pay hospital and medical benefits for designated acute hospital cases in situations such as this. This is a practice that is followed in at least 23 homes which are registered for this purpose in Victoria - where there is an acute patient certified as such. But the fact is, however, that private hospital funds in Victoria have refused to accept that the condition of patients in so-called acute beds justifies recognition for hospital benefit purposes. In short, they believe that they are geriatric cases and not acute hospital cases.
Mr Goldberg’s behaviour is quite reprehensible, to say the least. He is endeavouring to blame the Government for the situation that has arisen. I repeat that we are following the practices of past governments. An article headed ‘Out in the Cold go 59 Old’ appeared in the Doncaster-East Yarra ‘News’ of 10 July 1973. It stated:
Fifty-nine elderly and acutely ill patients in the Templestowe Private Hospital have to leave by the end of this month.
Authorities see no alternative accommodation for them.
On July 31, the institution becomes a surgical hospital - Commonwealth health authorities approve.
In either case, the 59 patients will have to vacate.
The manager and director of the hospital, Mr C. Goldberg, said yesterday: ‘The patients will have to find beds somewhere else or go home’.
The situation is that Mr Goldberg has made a decision - there is more money in providing acute hospital services than there is in providing nursing home services. The range of his nursing home charges is between $11 and $16 a day. His proposed charge for acute hospital services is between $23 and $38 a day. In pursuit of that extra money he is prepared to empty old people into the streets of Melbourne. We are in close consultation with the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission. We will take whatever steps we can to provide alternative accommodation for anyone who may be ejected as a result of Mr Goldberg’s behaviour. But I make it clear - as I understand the position, anyway - that the Victorian hospital authorities are concerned about this gentleman’s behaviour. As far as I am concerned, if he empties old people into the street because he is more interested in money than in these people who have sought and obtained services from him in the past at a cost to themselves and to the Government, I will recommend that he, on no occasion in the future, be allowed to operate nursing home services where Commonwealth bed day subsidy is provided.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Robert Hawke, been an embarrassment to this country in presuming to undertake discussions between Israel and the Soviet Union as a sort of roving, self-appointed diplomat? Has not this embarrassment been greater because of the Government’s even-handed policy in this dispute? Can the Prime Minister assure this House that Mr Hawke has not compromised Australia’s diplomacy by his known sympathies?
- Mr Hawke has recently and in earlier years visited both Israel and the Soviet Union and had conversations with both the Prime Minister of Israel, Mrs Golda Meir, and with the trade union leader in the Soviet Union, Mr Shelepin. I believe that any contacts which can be established between Israel and the Soviet Union are valuable. I would hope that Israel and the Soviet Union can restore diplomatic relations as Egypt and the United States have re-established diplomatic relations. In matters concerning the hostilities in the Middle East, Mr Hawke has been at pains to emphasise that he is expressing personal views. It might help if I were to quote the resolution on this question passed at the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference at Surfer’s Paradise last July. It states:
The situation in the Middle East remains the greatest threat to the peace of the. world. There can be no peace until the Arab States respect and recognise Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist. Equally, there can be no peace until Israeli forces have been withdrawn from occupied territories to secure and recognised boundaries and a just settlement of the refugee problem is achieved.
I myself moved the resolution. It was carried overwhelmingly. The wording is a summary of the United Nations Security Council resolution No. 242 which was passed unanimously in 1967. That resolution has commanded the support of the Gorton Government, the McMahon Government and the present Government. On these matters Australian governments traditionally have been bipartisan in their approach. I will do all I can to see that that bipartisan approach to this area is maintained. It is only if we all try to have an end to hostilites that any of the other things can be achieved; that is, the sovereignty of Israel, the rectification of the borders and the rights of the Palestinians.
– Has the Minister for Social Security seen a statement by the Liberal Party spokesman on health that upon the implementation of the Government’s health insurance scheme, there will be an immediate shortage of 900 beds in Melboure alone? Does this mean that there will be an enormous outbreak of illness the day the scheme is introduced, or alternatively that there are many thousands of people who cannot receive adequate hospital accommodation at the moment under the present scheme?
– I am not certain why the figure of 900 would have been chosen by the honourable member for Hotham. It may be that it is a nice round figure and not quite as outrageous as 1,000, but there is certainly no substance in his assertion. On the one hand I have had the assurance of the Minister for Health in Victoria, Mr Scanlan, that there are adequate beds for hospital needs in that State; everyone who requires hospital bed treatment receives it. This means that there cannot be any shortage of hospital beds after the changeover date. There may be - and we expect there will be - some change in the pattern of demand for hospital bed services. That is, given a choice that does not exist now because of a stringent means test, people will be able to elect to have public ward treatment from public hospital services. As a result of this we expect, I repeat, that there will be an increase in the demand for this kind of bed day service. On the other hand, given the assurance of the Minister for Health in Victoria that there are adequate beds in that State to meet all hospital requirements, this must mean that there will be a reduction in the demand for private or non-public hospital ward bed services. This includes private hospitals. Accordingly there will be a change in the patterns of demand for these services and we will take appropriate steps to see that adequate beds are available for those people seeking public ward type treatment.
We have proposals that we put to the private hospitals and which they can accept or reject; it is a matter of voluntarism on their part. We are quite sure that they will find these proposals attractive. I am sure the private hospitals will not want to persevere with empty beds and the attendant costs and losses which this would represent. I repeat that the figure of 900 beds to which the ‘honourable member referred as the shortage is a nice round figure and does not sound so outrageous and unbelievable as 1,000 beds. But believe me it is equally outrageous and unbelievable. I do not think he would assert that there are people in the State of Victoria who are being deprived of hospital bed treatment at the present time, in conflict with the statement of the Victorian Health Minister to me; and on the other hand I do not believe he will assert that, when the new health scheme comes in, people will rush to hospitals to have hysterectomies, tonsillectomies and other services provided on the discounted for bulk service basis.
– My question is supplementary to that of the honourable member for Parramatta. I ask the Prime Minister: Who is conducting Australia’s foreign policy? Will the Prime Minister make it clear beyond doubt to the Australian people and the world that the policies of the Government are those stated and carried out by the Government, and not by the political head of the Government Party- that is, the President of the ALP? Does the Prime Minister agree that there is damaging confusion both inside and outside Australia as a result of Mr Hawke’s intrusion in the Middle East situation? Will the Prime Minister make certain that Mr Hawke’s statements are not taken as an expression of Government policy?
– Mr Hawke has been at pains to state that his views are his personal views. The foreign policy of the Government, of course, is conducted by the Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee, in consultation with his colleagues in the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. I preface my question by referring to the fact that the Medical Fees Tribunal recommended new fees for general practitioners and the appropriate higher benefits for patients, and that the Government accepted the Tribunal’s recommendations in full, the new benefits to be paid from 12 November. Is the Minister aware that in Tasmania the Medical Benefits Fund is keeping the fund benefit for general practitioner consultations at the 1 September rate, meaning that the patient has to find $1 instead of 80c for standard consultations and up to $9.80 for some long general practitioner consultations? Are the Fund’s reported claims correct, that it would be illegal for it to pay a higher benefit and that it is being hamstrung by the Government? What new game are the private health insurance funds up to now? Would this sort of mess arise under the new universal health insurance program?
– I make no apologies for the clumsy, inefficient system of health insurance that presently operates in this country. I will not try to defend it in any way at all. The fact is that the problems that are now confronting the community and upon which the health insurance funds are reporting in such a way as to try to gain advantage are inherent in this system of private health insurance. Every time there is an adjustment in benefit rates there must be an adjustment in contribution rates. Each fund - there are over 90 of them - must have its system of operation carefully considered. The processes which are followed are exactly the same processes as were followed under the last Government, and they are followed by the same department which fulfilled those functions under the last Government. If there is any inefficiency in that department it was bred into the department under the practices of the last Government. This Government has not interfered with them in any way. It has given instructions to the department to move as expeditiously as it can to make whatever adjustments are necessary. I firmly believe that the department is a very efficient department. It does the best it can, but it has a shocking system to administer. Anyone who has the opportunity of viewing it can witness that clearly.
– It is the best health scheme in the world. You do not know what you are talking about.
– The honourable member interjected and said that it is the best scheme in the world, yet more than 1 million people are not covered by it. The suggestion to extend the cover to low income earners and pensioners is a $300m bandaid job. That is the sort of remedy that is proposed by honourable members opposite who had 20 years to rectify the defects of this scheme. The defects are here today, 20 years after they introduced the scheme and after 20 years of administration of the scheme. Why did they not clean up the defects while they had the opportunity for 2 decades?
In the recent adjustments the cost of the increases will be over $8m for medical benefits plus $6m for pensioner medical services - a total approaching $15m. The Government will be meeting roughly $8m of that amount - that is, it will be meeting about half of it. The patient gap, or the amount of moiety the patient has to pay, will be a little less than $2m, leaving only a little over $4m for the funds to pick up. Goodness gracious, this is not the Santa Claus season for the funds, although that season is approaching. The Government cannot keep pouring the taxpayers’ money into this inequitable, inefficient system of health insurance to keep it going.
– I rise to order.
-Order! A point of order.
– This is further discrediting
-Order! When the Chair addresses the Minister he will adhere to the ruling of the Chair.
– The fact that the Minister has now sat down does not impair my opportunity to take a point of order. The Minister has offended in this respect time and again in this House. Standing order 144 provides:
The following general rules shall apply to questions:
Questions cannot be debated.
The Minister has constantly debated this question of the national health scheme ostensibly in answer to questions. There is a good reason why this rule exists. The reason is that if the Minister debates a matter at question time this leaves the Opposition no opportunity of debating it also. It is for that reason that he has been grossly offending against the Standing Orders. Furthermore, what he has been saying offends against the rule prohibiting anticipation of debate.
– I rise to take a point of order.
– There is a matter on the business paper now - I refer to order of the day No. 18, National Health Bill (No. 2) 1973–
– A point of order!
– Mr Speaker, a point of order cannot be taken on a point of order. I am taking a point of order and I have a right to be heard.
– Mr Speaker-
Opposition members - Sit down!
– A point of order is before the Chair now.
– Why doesn’t the Speaker call him to order?
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. (Honourable members interjecting) -
– Order! The honourable member foi Bradfield will come to his point of order.
– Also, I point out that the rule against anticipation prevents debate, as has been engaged in by the Minister for Social Security who has just sat down-
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The Minister will remain quiet.
– Further to my point of order, order of the day No. 18-
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to make his point of order. He has been warned on several occasions about making a speech when taking a point of order. Do not exacerbate the position. Bring your point of order to light if you intend to. No point of order is involved in regard to the answer that the Minister has given to the question. The honourable member has been here long enough to know that.
– I know a lot, Mr Speaker.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to clarify an assertion made by the honourable member who has just resumed his seat-
– Come to your point of order.
-Order! Mr Hayden - I claim to have been misrepresented. Order of the day No. 18-
– Well, do it after question time.
-Order! If the Minister claims that he has been misrepresented, he may make that claim after question time.
– A point of order.
– Why waste question time?
– I cannot make my point of order if there are interjections and I am prepared to wait until there are none. I point out that, appropriately enough, order of the day No. 18 relates to hearing aids, not to the health insurance scheme.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security a question, and I will give him the opportunity either to mislead the House or not mislead the House as he misled a television audience on Sunday night-
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
– . . . when he stated the untruth that this House had had stacks of opportunity to debate the White Paper-
– A point of order!
– My point of order is that the honourable member is not directing a question; he is directing abuse at the Minister for Social Security.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Hotham that the idea of a question is ask for information or to press for action. I now call the honourable member for Hotham.
– Well, I am pressing for action and I am pressing for honesty. As a premise to my question, may I remind the Minister with ultimate respect that it is a much more serious offence to mislead this House than to mislead a television audience. I ask him simply: Will he deny that his advisers have informed private hospital proprietors and managements in metropolitan Melbourne that, on the implementation of the Hayden health scheme, there will be an immediate demand for an additional 900 beds at standard ward level? To that question, I want a simple yes or no.
– The honourable member asks a lot. First of all, there was no misleading of a television audience on Sunday night when I said that there had been stacks of opportunity to debate our health program in this House. I would suggest that members of the Opposition should have activated themselves earlier and got corns on their minds apart from other parts of their persons, because there have been stacks of opportunity in this House. The only initiative taken here has come from a back bencher on the Opposition side who moved for a debate on our national health program. That action took 12 months. Let us be clear about the demand for hospital bed days. There is a distinction between saying that there will be an additional demand of 900 hospital bed days above the total demand at the present time and that there will be a change in the pattern of demand or that tks same total pattern will apply. I think the honourable member for Hotham, who has just asked a question about this matter, ought to clear up that confusion in his own mind.
– What did your advisers say?
– I would not know whether they said it was 900 or 200. But the fact is that roughly the same total number of bed days as is demanded under the present system will apply under the new scheme. The change will be that people will be given an opportunity as a matter of choice, which they do not have at the present time, to select public ward or standard ward treatment. At present the means test precludes them from doing that. I said earlier and I repeat that we expect that there will be an increase in the demand for this sort of ‘bed day treatment because people will exercise this choice, which they are currently deprived of. With any increase in this sort of demand there will be a concomitant reduction in the demand for nonpublic ward treatment. That is a simple statement of the position. Whether it is 200 or 900 bed days is not the significant factor. The significant factor is that the pattern changes but the total number of bed days does not. The private hospitals are not going to keep beds empty just to stick by the principle of being private. They will want to enter into agreements with us. They will be generous agreements. They will be entered into voluntarily. In spite of the misrepresentation of people like ‘the honourable member for Hotham, who is trying to exaggerate the situation and misrepresent it completely, the people of Australia understand what we are saying. I shall repeat that. The honourable member for Hotham does not seem to understand the situation.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have already pointed out that the Minister is not entitled to debate this matter.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is he aware that the University of Melbourne has for 6 years or more been conducting research at the Royal Melbourne Hospital into a rare hereditary brain disease, Huntington’s Chorea, which is reported to affect one in 12,000 Australians? The research project is the only one of its kind in Australia and is one of the largest in the world. Since 1967 the group conducting this research has been receiving an annual grant of $13,000 through the National Health and Medical Research Council. The group has been told recently that the grant has been withdrawn. The doctor in charge of the group has stated that the research project is grinding to a halt because of a lack of funds. In view of the fact that the Department of Health has budgeted for an expenditure of approximately $600m this financial year, will the Minister explain why such a miserly amount of $13,000 cannot continue to be paid for this very important research project?
– There has been a record allocation of money this year for medical research through the National Health and Medical Research Council. That research has been directed to a number of new areas. We have not only followed the traditional pattern of funding the individual research projects presented to the Council for approval but also have indicated areas of special concern for public policy and have made special appeals for people to follow those lines of research. In relation to the particular case about which the honourable member has asked me a question, I point out that committees of experts look into the funding of all of these projects. The experts chosen have particular knowledge in the area of each project. I have not asked them for their reasons for arriving at such a decision, but I have no doubt that the doctors engaged in the research have been warned from time to time that the approval is only from year to year and that they will have to establish the viability of their project and whether it appears to offer a chance of benefit to the community.
Huntington’s Chorea is a disease which is totally inherited. I have no knowledge of any research anywhere in the world which offers any hope of changing the structure of the genes which produce inherited disease. I would think that it is highly unlikely that any research anywhere in the world offers any hope in the foreseeable future of changing the structure of the units of inheritance in humans or in any other species. I think therefore that it is reasonable to give greater priority to other projects which have a greater hope of success. I sympathise with the people who may be affected by this decision. It no doubt deprives them of a slender ray of hope which they have all had and cherished over the years but if that hope is a vain one I think it is a correct and responsible decision to divert the funds to something where there is greater hope of obtaining positive results.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development been drawn to reports of statements made in the Victorian Parliament by the Minister for Local Governments, Mr Hunt, that Victoria would reject the Commonwealth loan for State sewerage programs because ‘the interest rates were the worst ever proposed for the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works’? Can the Minister advise the House whether that statement is true and can he also advise whether a further report indicates that Victoria has changed its mind in regard to its acceptance of the $9m sewerage loan?
– There was a discussion with the relevant 6 State Ministers in Canberra last week. Several of the Ministers were unhappy with the conditions of this year’s agreement with the Australian Government in regard to their sewerage programs. The terms of the agreement were that $30m was to be made available to all the States, repayable over 30 years at the long term Commonwealth bond interest rate. The best terms that were available under the previous Government to local government and sewerage authorities was the local government interest rate which is one-half per cent higher than the long term Commonwealth bond interest rate and normally the repayment of the loan was over the much shorter period, generally about 20 years. We examined the requests of the respective States and we have accepted the proposal of the Victorian Government that there be a foncier proposal in regard to the repayments. This of course would lower the repayments in the early years. The Australian Government has also acceded to the request of the States that the repayment of the loan be extended to a period of 40 years instead of 30 years. This proposal now is acceptable to the Victorian Government and other State governments have intimated that they wish to accept it.
I stress that the sewerage program agreement is only for the term of this year. The problem has been that we have inherited one of the most serious social and environ mental problems in our urban affairs - the sewerage problem. We find that at least SO per cent of the people in Perth live in homes which are unsewered and that in Sydney and Melbourne approximately one out of every 6 families live in unsewered homes. When we examined the situation this year, we found that if we were to meet the backlog of sewerage requirements this year we would have had to make available something like $89m to the States. Cabinet examined the situation of the shortage of resources, both manpower and materials, and we thought that the most realistic figure to be provided in view of the inflationary pressures existing should be $30m. But I have stressed to the States that these proposals will apply only for this year’s agreement, that it will relate only to the backlog. In future years there will be a long term sewerage program entered into with the States which will deal not only with loan moneys but also with interest-free grants. In future years, instead of dealing only with the questions of the sewerage backlog, we will also be opening up new areas, to try to reduce the cost of land, to provide sewerage and to improve the treatment of sewage under these programs. As is known in New South Wales the sewage discharged off Sydney beaches in many cases is untreated and, in fact, is creating grave environmental problems. The Australian Government will work with the State governments to try to overcome the sewerage works backlog in a new program as promised by the Prime Minister in his policy statement.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that under the proposed national health insurance scheme many people who prefer private hospitalisation, and now are insured for private hospitalisation in private hospitals and nursing homes, may be unable to afford the extra cost involved under the proposed plan and therefore will have no alternative but to accept public ward accommodation when it can be made available? Would such people be deprived of their existing right to choose their hospital, their doctor and their time of hospitalisation in the case of elective treatment?
– The answer is no, not at all. In fact the additional cost of non-public ward treatment - that is, intermediate ward and private ward treatment in a public hospital and private hospital treatment - will be a tax deductible item. For the great number of people in Australia the 1.3S per cent levy on taxable income in total will be less or up to the break even point. There will be a reversal. There will be more expense for some people. They will be people who get particularly high incomes - people such as members of this Parliament. Presently we pay less than modest and middle income earners do for their insurance. For instance, a man with a wife and 2 children in New South Wales receiving $400 a week pays about only $53 a year after his taxation concession for private ward and medical insurance. But if he were earning only $70 a week, for a public ward cover, which is a much cheaper form of treatment, and medical insurance he would be paying, I think, about $76 a year for that form of insurance after his taxation concession. That is inequitable and we will turn that around. I repeat that there will not be the sort of problem that the right honourable member suggested.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a reported statement by the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, that it was good to see some members of the Commonwealth’s proposed regional groupings deciding to have nothing to do with the proposals? Was he also reported as saying that the Australian Government’s regional proposal would destroy local government? Is it a major function of the regional groupings to facilitate applications for direct grants through the Grants Commission? If so, what would the consequences be for councils refusing to join? What possible detriment to councils could arise from their membership of regional groupings and, in particular, could the Minister indicate how direct assistance from the Grants Commission could possibly destroy local government?
– In the earlier session of this Parliament we introduced an amending Bill relating to the Grants Commission. It was to bring about the equalisation of regions, as is the case with the Grants Commission dealing with the claimant States. There are some 900 local government authorities in Australia. One of the reasons for drawing them together into some 68 regions for the purpose of making applications for assistance was the enormous work force that would otherwise be created. As honourable members know, the debt of local government authorities created by the previous Government is enormous. The servicing debt of the previous Australian Government increased by about only 50 per cent during its 23 years in office, but during that time local government debt increased by something like 2,000 per cent and the debt of semi-government authorities by 2,800 per cent. So that local government authorities might get assistance we are asking them to come together as regional groups, to make applications to the Australian Government so that there can be a topping up process and an equalisation of regions within Australia.
Sir Charles Court has made some comments about the centralism of the Australian Government. I stress that the policy of the Australian Government is to build up and strengthen local government bodies. It is not seeking centralised power. Regionalisation is not centralisation. Our policy is unlike that of Sir Charles Court when he was Deputy Premier in Western Australia and that of some of the other States. Can anybody deny that in fact 70 per cent of the population of Western Australia lives in Perth and that centralisation has been created in that State or that centralisation has occurred in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane? Could we have any more centralisation than has occurred under State governments in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland? We seek to strengthen the base of local government, and ons of the steps we are taking to strengthen local government is to allow local government authorities to make application to the Australian Government for aid through the Grants Commission.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to clear up points raised by the honourable member for Hunter and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party at question time yesterday. I undertook, in answers to both honourable gentlemen, to make urgent inquiries about Mr Alexander Barton, and I have done so. Mr Barton was issued with an Australian passport on 12 May 1969. The passport is valid for 5 years. No request has been received from the New South Wales Government for any action in relation to the passport or for Mr Barton’s extradition. My inquiries indicate that the Barton group of companies was under investigation by the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales. It is not clear whether that investigation is continuing, but I am trying to establish that point. If a subsequent request is made by the New South Wales Government or its agencies in relation to the passport, I promise honourable members prompt action in the public interest. Mr Barton’s passport in any case will come up for review in May next year.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrespresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented by the very excitable Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). He stated this morning that I had exaggerated certain figures. I have been informed that his advisers have informed private hospital managements in metropolitan Melbourne that an additional 900 beds would be required on the implementation of Labor’s health scheme. I have challenged the Minister, in this House and in an article in the ‘Sunday Times’, to deny that. In response to those 2 challenges, the Minister received a guided question this morning - I put it no higher than that - from the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) asking whether these allegations were true.
– I take a point of order. Up to date the honourable member for Hotham has in no way stated in what manner he has been misrepresented. I suggest that the alleged misrepresentation should be the sole context of his statement.
– Order! The honourable member for Hotham will make his personal explanation.
– In case the honourable member for Banks did not hear, the Minister said this morning I had exaggerated figures. On that basis I claim to have been misrepresented. The facts are that I have been informed that his advisers have stated to private hospital managements in Melbourne the matters I have alleged. In response to the honourable member for Scullin the Minister said: ‘I do not know where he got the figure from. Nine hundred seems a round figure; it is better than one thousand. In any event, he is exaggerating.’ I immediately asked the Minister: ‘Will he confirm or deny that this figure was given to private hospitals by his advisers?’ He then went into an explanation - which I do not understand - about bed days. But then when I interjected and asked What figure did your advisers give?’ he said: I don’t know’. How can a Minister claim that I have exaggerated figures when he has not even bothered to check with his own advisers as to whether they had said that or not?
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented and I would like to clarify the situation. I will state again that it seems a silly and endless sort of debate. The total demand for bed days - and that will be supplied by existing beds - will be the same under our scheme as now. There may be a change in the distribution of beds as between public ward services and non-public ward services. If the honourable gentleman for Hotham (Mr Chipp) accepts unquestioningly an assertion, which he does not seem to understand, that an additional 900 beds are required over the total number of beds available in Victoria then he is asserting bluntly that there is a very serious shortage of bed services in public hospitals in Victoria. I ask the question: ‘Why did not his Government do something about this when it had the opportunity to do so?’ He is misunderstanding the explanation.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. In today’s Australian’ there is an article headed:
Whitlam hires TV man-
Referring to a Mr Colin Bednall and, I add, as well as Mr Mick Young - to advise on media.
He will be a media consultant to the Prime Minister’s Department. The article goes on to state:
Mr Bednall will be employed on a similar basis to an adviser to the previous Government, Mr K. Sinclair, who is still under contract but has had little work since Labor came to power.
The fact is that Mr K. Sinclair was not on my personal staff or on the staff of the previous Government. He was on the staff of the Department of the Prime Minister as a consultant to that Department but with no political commitment. Mr Sinclair, whom I greatly respect, was of course available to me, as were other officers of that Department, for discussions and for the drafting of speeches. He was not used by me as a media adviser in any capacity whatsoever. I make this explanation against the background that I had only 4 male advisers on my -personal staff employed under Public Service conditions. The remainder - mainly females - were on my personal staff in an administrative capacity. They included stenographer-typists and others employed on similar types of work. I did take Dr Coombs overseas with me on one occasion and used his services on an irregular basis on several other occasions particularly in relation to Aborigines.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has only to explain where he has been misrepresented.
– I have already explained that, thank you, Sir.
– I ask for leave to speak.
-Is leave granted?
– What about?
– On the same matter.
– Well, say so.
– Leave has been granted.
– I thank the honourable gentlemen for their courtesy. Mr Bednall is being employed in exactly the same way as Mr Sinclair was and is employed.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report by Mr T. C. Winter on Power Over Prices and Incomes.
THIRD PARTY INSURANCE PREMIUMS Mr BRYANT (Wills- Minister for the Capital Territory) - For the information of honourable members, I present the report by the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee on the level of premium rates recommended for the Australian Capital Territory.
I make it clear that it is a recommendation and it has not been adopted as yet.
Bill present by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act 1972 until 31 December 1974. The Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act 1972 came into force on 9 November 1972. The Act was introduced following an announcement by the former Prime Minister of the introduction of a scheme for the control of foreign takeovers effected by means of acquisitions of shares or assets, including mineral rights. The Act was an interim measure which related to share acquisitions only and which included a provision under which it would cease to have effect on 31 December 1973.
The fact that the existing Act was introduced as an interim measure is itself an illustration of the magnitude of the problem of developing a comprehensive and effective law for the control of foreign takeovers. Some of the policy and legal drafting problems involved have been greatly clarified by experience in the operation of the existing legislation. At the same time, new problems and difficulties have surfaced. We are now in a position to identify essential requirements of reasonably effective legislation and work is in progress with a view to the introduction of new legislation into the House. This new legislation will be brought before the House in due course. In the meantime, it is desirable that the existing legislation be kept in operation and for this purpose I have introduced the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1973 to extend the operation of the legislation to 31 December 1974. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend various sections of the Public Service Act which cover 5 different areas. The proposed amendments: Remove certain provisions relating to the employment of women; make certain changes in the provisions relating to long service leave; modify the current blanket prohibition on officers accepting directorships; remove the requirement for officers to take oaths or make affirmations; and change the title of the Service. Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the Bill repeal certain provisions of the Public Service Act which could be regarded as discriminative.
Sections 43 (b) and 46 (2) (c) (iv) enable the Public Service Board to specify that only males or only females are to be appointed to particular offices or that males or females are to be appointed in particular proportions. Section 54a contains special provisions relating to married women. The repeal of these sections is one of the results of a review of aspects of employment of women in the Australian Public Service conducted by the Public Service Board. The attitude of the Australian community and of women themselves to their role in society are changing. Increasingly it is being accepted that women will assume a more important economic role and will combine marriage with a career which will extend throughout their adult lives.
On 29 August the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that the Parliamentary Labor Party had considered the results of the Public Service Board’s review. Honourable members will recall that barriers against the permanent appointment of women to the Third Division were removed in 1949, and restrictions against the permanent appointment of married woman to the service were removed in 1966. It was announced in August that as a result of the Board’s review, all positions in the Australian Public Service are to be open equally to men and women applicants who can perform the full range of duties required. A number of measures which could and have been taken and which did not require legislation were announced. The Prime Minister indicated that the Government had agreed to repeal these provisions in the Public Service Act which could be said to discriminate against women, but which had become redundant.
The Government has emphasised that it has a role and responsibility as Australia’s largest employer in promoting the status of women. This amendment is one of the steps taken by the Government since coming to office in its endeavour to eliminate possibilities of discrimination and promote opportunity for those women wishing to contribute to the economic prosperity of Australia as members of the work force.
Clauses 10 and 11 of the Bill relate to long service leave. Under existing legislation the basic qualifying period for long service leave within the Australian Public Service is 15 years. Clauses 10 and 11 cf the Bill amend sections 73 and 74 of the Public Service Act to reduce the qualifying period for long service leave purposes from 15 to 10 years and to remove all long service leave penalties associated with misconduct or unsatisfactory service. Other provisions in the Act regulate conduct and therefore the inclusion of a good conduct requirement in the long service leave provisions simply means that public servants may be subjected to penalties twice for one disciplinary offence.
Existing section 74 (3a) of the Public Service Act provides for a payment on resignation after 10 years’ service where the resignation is justified by domestic or other pressing necessity and the officer is not eligible for a payment in lieu of long service leave. Reduction of the basic qualifying period to 10 years will render the section redundant. Officers will become eligible for payment in lieu on resignation for any reason after 10 years. Provision has been made, therefore, for the repeal of section 74 (3a). The associated Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill is designed to effect corresponding amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act which provides for long service leave for temporary employees under the Public Service Act and for persons employed by Australian Government authorities. As indicated earlier this year, these amendments will be effective from 1 January 1973.
The platform of the Australian Labor Party, on the basis of which this Government attained office, made clear that Labor’s industrial policy places human rights and values first and provides for the development of full human dignity in the industrial sphere, lt emphasises the right of full employment; real economic justice; freedom and security; the right to work in just and favourable conditions; freedom from unemployment and freedom to choose employment. Our objective is to promote the interests of all Australian workers. Thus, besides improvements for Commonwealth employees, the policy envisages, inter alia, long service leave for casuals and part time employees generally and portability of benefits.
Discussions at the meeting of Australian and State Ministers for Labour in August 1973 presented a unique opportunity to explore the possibility of giving effect to these policy intentions, Ministers requested their Permanent Heads to report as a matter of urgency on the desirability and feasibility of the uniform long service leave scheme in Australia. It was emphasised, however, that if projected legislation in the Australian and several State areas were to proceed, the adoption of a uniform scheme could be seriously prejudiced. Accordingly Ministers concerned agreed to recommend to their governments deferral action pending the Permanent Heads’ examination and further consideration by Ministers. The Government agreed to this recommendation of our Minister for Labour.
The Ministers for Labour had a further discussion on the possible development of a uniform long service leave scheme at the end of last month. They expressed particular concern about those working in industries the nature of whose employment precluded the accrual of entitlement to long service leave. Ministers agreed that extension of benefits to these workers should receive priority, though they recognised that there were very considerable practical problems that would have to be overcome. Ministers discussed the possibility of achieving a greater degree of uniformity of long service leave provisions throughout Australia. Long service leave for Government employees is generally provided on a more favourable basis than for workers generally but even without these different groups the provisions in some States are more favourable than those in other areas. Ministers accepted that existing differences in provisions should be extended. The proposal in the Bill is in keeping with this. The basic qualifying period for furlough in almost all State Public Services is already 10 years.
Finally, the Ministers for Labour considered the adequacy of existing concepts of long service leave and whether there could be portability of service between employers and industries, in the interests of job mobility on the one hand and social justice for the individual employer on the other. The Ministers will be giving the whole matter further consideration at their next meeting early in the new year - 1974. The proposed amendments in this Bill only implement some of the reforms relating to long service leave within the Australian Public Service which were referred to in April last. Australian Government employees may anticipate further action regarding long service leave provisions just as soon as there is clarification of the wider issues of long service leave or it becomes evident that the achievement of a wider scheme is not feasible. As already announced, the Government intends that new arrangements will be effective from 1 January 1973.
Clause 12 of this Bill deals with public servants and directorships. Currently section 91 of the Public Service Act includes a blanket prohibition against public servants holding directorships in companies or incorporated societies unless they are co-operative societies. The Government believes that any possibility of conflict or any appearance of conflict between the official interests and the private interests of public servants must be avoided. In proposing some relaxation of the existing blanket prohibition with strict safeguards which I shall describe, the Bill includes a specific prohibition against such situations. But in relation to companies in which the Australian Government has an interest, such as Qantas Airways Limited and Commonwealth Hostels Limited, officers are required to be directors as part of their official duties. The Bill makes specific provision for this circumstance.
The existing legislation prohibits public servants holding directorships in companies and incorporated societies, such as building societies formed for the purpose of providing home finance for public servants or those formed to facilitate ownership of home units or community organisations or sporting, cultural and educational institutions, unless they are co-operative societies. This amendment removes unnecessary restrictions on Public Service staff organisations which in the past have been hampered in their efforts to operate their own finance companies for the benefit of their members. It also allows public servants to play a full role in community activities. The current restrictions are being replaced by new provisions which will enable the Public Service Board to grant permission to an officer to act as a director of a company or incorporated society. The Board may grant permission only where there is no conflict of interest involved and in circumstances and subject to conditions, to be prescribed in the regulations. Thus the section as amended will be sufficiently flexible to cover a variety of situations but the general circumstances in which approval may be given by the Board will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. No approvals can be given under the new subsection (4) until regulations have been made detailing the cases and circumstances in which, and the conditions under which, approval may be given. It is therefore provided in sub-clause (2) of clause 2 of the Bill, that the amendments to section 91 are to come into operation on a date to be proclaimed and in sub-clause (2) of clause 12 of the Bill that the necessary regulations may be made, but shall not have effect before that date.
Existing provisions in the Public Service Act require officers to take an oath or to make an affirmation prior to appointment to the Service and also prior to appointment to a promotions appeal committee or an appeal board. These provisions have no practical effect since officers are required by other sections to carry out their duties in a competent and loyal fashion. Furthermore, there is no requirement for an oath of allegiance in State Public Services or in the British Civil Service. Citizens of some countries and some citizens with dual nationality, risk losing their foreign nationality by taking the oath or affirmation of allegiance. For some migrants the requirement therefore represents a barrier to employment in the Public Service. Even the prospect of temporary employment under the Public Service Act is closed to such persons unless they are individually exempted from the requirement by the Governor-General. Therefore the existing provisions mean that a group of prospective employees is lost to the Public Service. Amendments to remove these provisions are included in the Schedule and a consequential amendment is being made to omit section 55(l)(g) which makes it an offence to do anything in violation of an oath or affirmation.
Finally, in keeping with the general policy on the title of Australian Government bodies, and as the Prime Minister announced on 20 July 1973, the Bill formally changes the title of the nation’s Public Service to ‘Australian Public Service’. The opportunity is also being taken to make a number of formal amendments to the Act in accordance with current drafting practice. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read -a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to reduce the qualifying period for long service leave from 15 years to 10 years and to remove all long service leave penalties associated with misconduct or unsatisfactory service for temporary employees under the Public Service Act and for employees of Australian Government authorities. These amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act are being made in conjunction with Public Service Bill (No. 4) 1973. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from15 November (vide page 3406), on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition wishes this legislation a speedy passage. I think that any Minister for Education would be proud to introduce a Bill of this kind. I am not saying that, if the Opposition had been drawing the Bill, it would have been drawn in precisely the same terms or in the same way as it has been presented by the Government. In 2 respects at least it would not have been so drawn.
Firstly, we would not have detailed, to the extent that this Bill details, the way in which the States must spend their funds. Secondly, we would not have excluded some schools entirely from all payments as the Government has sought to do.
Those 2 matters aside, the Government has introduced measures which cover a broad spectrum of education and which will advance the cause of education quite widely throughout Australia. For that purpose, the Opposition wishes the Government well in relation to this particular matter.
I think we need to emphasise that there is a large area of non-partisan approach to education. There are many programs which the Opposition, when its members were in government, introduced or said in a policy speech - which admittedly was not accepted - it would introduce which are similar to the sorts of programs which the Government has in mind. Other programs which were introduced earlier last year are now coming to fruition. One of these, of course, was the decision to establish the Cohen committee, as a sub-committee of the Commission on Advanced Education, to examine the needs of teacher training throughout Australia, especially the needs of teacher training as it affects handicapped children. The recommendations of that committee, of course, have been incorporated in legislation that the Government has introduced concerning colleges of advanced education. That measure is one which should do a great deal to ensure that more well-qualified teachers are available in Australian schools and especially that more well-qualified teachers are appointed who will have the capacity to understand any remedial problems that might be involved with particular school children and be able to meet the difficulties imposed by children with special learning difficulties. That also is a significant advance. I am glad that the Government has adopted the Cohen committee’s recommendations in full.
I said earlier that any Minister would be proud to introduce this legislation. I regret that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is not well and is unable to be here to steer the legislation through the House. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) who is the Acting Minister for Education to convey those remarks to the Minister for Education. The honourable member for Fremantle is a man who has, for many years, devoted con siderable attention to education. He has won respect, I believe, for much of what he has done and would want to do. I know that he would have wanted very much to be here on this occasion.
Areas where I think the Opposition has a similar approach to the Government include pre-schools, attitudes to technical education, remedies for the sorts of problems that are faced by isolated children, and the special programs that are being introduced to meet the needs of handicapped children of all kinds. Any person who has examined this problem in any depth must know and believe that more needs to be done in that area. The extension to primary schools of the library program, which has been highly successful for a number of years in secondary schools, is a measure which all political Parties support. The implementation of the teacher training proposals of the report of the Special Committee on Teacher Education - the Cohen Committee - are matters, as I have already mentioned, on which all members of this House will agree.
The Bill before the House seeks to make very considerable capital funds available for spending in a 2-year period. I hope that the funds can be spent, and spent to advantage, in that period. But I believe that there will be an obligation on the Commonwealth Minister and all State Ministers to ensure that this heavy influx of capital funds does not unduly add to an escalation of the cost of school construction. I think more needs to be done in this area. Perhaps there should be an expansion or an improvement of the central building unit which has been established in the Victorian Department of Education and which is operating as a service to all Departments of Education. The capital costs of building schools differ very widely from one State to another. Where one State might spend $1.5m on building a school another might spend $4. 5m. There have been such differences in the past. I think it is extremely doubtful whether the States which are spending $4. 5m on a school - I have in mind, in particular, Tasmania - are necessarily providing better education than the States which are spending SI. 5m on a school of an equivalent size. So I think more attention needs to be given to the problem of getting the best value from the capital funds that are now to be made available, at the primary level and at the secondary level, for special schools and disadvantaged schools. We should make sure that the Australian taxpayer gets maximum value for the funds spent.
I have indicated that there is a wide area of agreement between the Government and the Opposition Parties in this field. I was therefore disappointed to see on page 17 of the roneoed copy of the Minister’s second reading speech a comparison of expenditure figures which, I am afraid, is an invidious, unreasonable and, I think, quite unfair comparison. In the comparison he made when he introduced this legislation the Minister compared the present Government’s programs basically with the kind of expenditure which was involved in the programs that the Opposition Parties had initiated as a government last year and for which legislation already has been passed. He did not add to it any of the programs that would have been encompassed throughout the autumn and the spring of this year as a result of policy speech commitments had we been returned to government. So to get a valid comparison between what the present Government is doing this year or is intending to do next year and what the Opposition Parties would have done or would have been doing if they were in office one would basically have to add to the Opposition Parties’ earlier commitments the sorts of commitments that they undertook at the time of the last election and which they have not had an opportunity to put into effect. I think that that passage in the Minister’s speech marred the presentation of this proposal.
There has been a good deal of criticism over the last week or two about the Opposition’s attitude to another Bill which is not unrelated to this measure - the Schools Commission Bill. I want to emphasise that the Opposition has had 3 things in mind. It is not objecting to the Government’s establishment of a Schools Commission, but it wants to ensure that the Schools Commission is formed in the best possible manner. We accept that the Government has a right and the authority to establish such a Commission. At the same time we believe that our amendments will make the Commission work better and within the philosophy of what the Government has itself said. So we are not going against anything that the Government has in mind or anything that the Government has stated as being in its mind in moving the amendments that we foreshadow. We are concerned about the composition of the Commission. Since it will be dealing with State and independent schools, we do not believe that the Commonwealth Minister should be the sole arbiter of who should be on the Commission but that the Commonwealth, State and independent school authorities should have some prerogatives in that area. We want to make sure that the powers of the Commission spell out the necessity for the Commonwealth to be concerned with all school children and not with giving paramount importance to one group of children at the expense of another group. Therefore, amendments were moved to the powers of the Schools Commission itself. Also, we moved amendments which we believed would make sure - this is what I think the Minister for Education has said he wants to do, even if sometimes there is an appearance to the contrary - that due note was taken of the wishes, intentions and plans of other education authorities and which would remove the perhaps somewhat arbitrary powers that we believed the Bill in its initial form gave to the Commonwealth Minister to do precisely what he liked.
I should like to come to one or two points in the States Grants (Schools) Bill which it might well be possible to answer. On the first page of the Bill in clause 3 there is a definition of a board for Catholic systemic schools which will be established in accordance with the regulations. The Minister either in his second reading speech or in a supplementary statement spelt out how those boards would be established in different States. I think that the way in which this is spelt out in his statement is satisfactory. It ought to be satisfactory to the school systems concerned but that is only a statement and it could be changed in changing times by altering regulations from time to time. I should like to see a commitment from the Acting Minister for Education, the Postmaster-General, that the kind of structure which is envisaged in the Minister’s statement is the kind of structure that will be continued into the future in relation to the board for Catholic systemic schools.
There is another point on which the Acting Minister might be able to offer some clarification. In looking at page 3 of the Bill which relates to the definition of a handicapped child, and, I think, at page 5 relating to the definition of special education teacher training courses and the definition of special schools, I would have some doubt as to whether children experiencing special learning difficulties would be covered in the ambit of this legislation. While this legislation does make provision for assistance to be given to disadvantaged schools - the special schools looking after handicapped children in the traditional sense of the use of the word ‘handicapped’, which does not include children with SPELD problems - there is doubt about whether it is the Government’s intention to include children ..with special learning difficulties under the general definition of ‘handicapped child’ and ‘special school’ in which case they are being lumped in with all other handicapped children. Basically, that is not something which parents of children in this category or experts in this area would like or want. In any case, I should be grateful to the Acting Minister if he could explain the impact of this Bill on this problem which does cover quite a significant number of Australian school children with special learning difficulties in all schools. If the Bill does not touch this problem, what is the Government’s intention in this area?
The Bill makes provision for building grants for general school purposes, for science grants and for recurrent expenditure for Government and independent schools. It makes provision for library grants, for librarian training courses and for the replacement of teachers. I think that this is a useful innovation and I am glad to see that it has been adopted. Especially in the smaller schools, it is sometimes difficult when a teacher for a special training course is lost. But this raises another point. I know that teachers would argue that they need all the holiday periods they can get and all the holiday periods that are available to school children. But I believe that that is a debatable question and I would have thought that the facilities in colleges of advanced education and in universities, which are not fully utilised, especially in the long vacation periods, could be used for a number of these special courses, whether it is for training librarians or for some other purpose. I see no reason why this should not be done during the long vacations in institutions that have already been established. The expenditure would be a good deal less. Of course, this also would apply to the general proposals for in-service training. I do not know whether costs have escalated as much as might appear from the figures. But if my memory is correct, the figure placed on in-service training would seem to be a good deal greater than that which I had previously been advised by the Department would be adequate for a reasonable in-service program. May be costs have escalated. May be the Government’s ambitions are significantly greater, but I would like further explanation of these points if I can get it and I would like an explanation on whether the librarian or in-service training is to be done merely by taking the teacher out of school or whether a real effort will be made to use government funds economically and have the training done in the long vacation, which is when, for the most part, I believe it ought to be done.
Capital and recurrent funds are provided for disadvantaged schools under this legislation. They are provided for Catholic systemic schools alone; not for other independent schools. I can understand how somebody might make an assumption that the only disadvantaged independent schools are the Catholic systemic schools, but I would have thought that that is not really a valid assumption, not necessarily a realistic assumption, and that there ought to be provision in the legislation itself to provide special assistance to other disadvantaged schools that might qualify and that might appear. Certainly, with the haste that necessarily accompanied the Karmel report, there could be no guarantee that there are not some other disadvantaged schools that should be entitled to benefit from the special assistance available to disadvantaged schools in the government area and in the Catholic systemic area. I think it would be reasonable for this House to ask the Acting Minister for Education to examine that point to see whether he might not move an amendment to broaden the scope of the definition of independent schools that could be advantaged by the special provisions for disadvantaged schools. If subsequently it is demonstrated that there are no schools in the area that qualify no harm is done. No money would be allocated for that purpose. But I think it would be unreasonable to exclude a school merely because of the manner in which the Bill is drawn up and merely because of the manner of the Karmel recommendations in that particular area.
The Bill also involves grants for handicapped children, capital and recurrent grants for government schools, recurrent grants for nongovernment schools, but not capital grants for non-government schools, because I understand that there might have been a belief that the non-government schools in that area would want to come within the ambit of government supervision and authority. That may be so, but I think that is an area again where the Government might need to review its decisions.
The Opposition approves the provisions for special education, teacher training, replacement teachers and vacation training. These measures ought to advance the cause of education. The teacher education centres should assist in a move towards a greater degree of professionalism within the teaching profession. While they are being established on a reasonably experimental basis to start with, I make the point that I think that such centres might well be needed more in municipal areas and country towns where there are some disadvantages compared with a great city. In Melbourne and Sydney it is possible for teachers to gain a wider variety of contacts than in a country town of 10,000 people. In a country town of 10,000 people there might well be a greater real need for this kind of development than in the city areas. So while these centres are being established largely, as I understand it, on an experimental basis, I would again ask the Acting Minister to see that at least part of the experiment covers the requirements of decentralised country towns. I know that he has expressed views in another capacity throughout the course of this year about what happens in country areas. I hope that those views will not be allowed to determine his judgment on this particular issue. There are projects for special education. These ought to encourage experimentation, and I imagine that they would be a useful adjunct to the work of the Partridge Committee and its proposals.
The Opposition has amendments that I would like to foreshadow, because it is not possible to tell what will happen during the Committee stage of this debate or any other debate during this Government’s period of office. This is because the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) so often comes in with the guillotine in his hand and we do not really know if there is to be a Committee stage debate or not.
– That is spoiling a good speech.
– What I have said is an impartial statement. It is a fact of life. We just do not know. If the Minister is prepared to give me an absolute guarantee that there will be an adequate Committee stage on the three or four points that we want to make-
– There should be a Committee debate. It depends on how long you take.
– You see, we cannot be given an absolute guarantee. So I think it is necessary to give an indication of the sort of amendments that we have in mind. There are only a few amendments because, as I have said, we support this legislation. We wish it a speedy passage. I will be moving to the motion that the Bill be read a second time an amendment in these terms:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:
in recognising the need for substantial additional funds for schools, notes (a) the haste with which the Interim Schools Commission conducted its inquiries-
That carries no criticism because the haste was necessarily so-
the fact that requirements differ between different States, and (c) that the States are the best judge of their own needs and priorities, and
I understand that the Standing Orders do not allow us to move amendments to the committee stage to this extent because they would alter the direction to which the funds would go and that is beyond the Standing Orders, or so I am advised. This amendment is drawn having in mind the fact that the Government is really asking for a very considerable sum of money to be spent in a 2-year time scale and that it might well be possible, especially in the field of capital expenditure, for sums to be spent in one particular manner whereas for various reasons - maybe planning problems, drafting problems or problems with construction - they canont be spent in another. To enable maximum advantage to be taken of the funds that this Parliament will be making available I think this kind of flexibility could usefully be built into the scheme. Whilst we propose the words ‘on the initiative of the States’, I do not think anyone would quibble with tine view that it should be on the initiative of the States but with the approval of the Commonwealth Minister. I think that would be a reasonable modification of our approach. This amendment will be moved as a second reading amendment at the appropriate time in a few minutes.
The first series of amendments is merely a formality. If the advice that the Opposition has been given is correct, all they do is make plain the meaning that is already intended to be in the Bill. Clause 14 (1) (a) of the Bill says, in part: the State will, without undue delay, pay to each school authority for Catholic systemic schools in the State such proportion of the amount of the payment to the State as the Minister, on the advice of the Board for Catholic Systemic Schools for the’ State, determines, …
The plain English of this is that the Minister gets advice and then he makes his determination. I am told that in draftsman’s language the words in the Bill mean that the Minister would have to accept the advice and would have to make allocations as the Board for Catholic systemic schools advises. If that is so the Government ought to have no objection to the words which we propose to insert in order to make the meaning quite plain. We propose to substitute in place of ‘on the advice of the Board for Catholic Systemic Schools’ the words in accordance with the advice of the Board for Catholic Systemic Schools’. Throughout this Bill is a series of amendments which for the purpose of consistency would need to be adopted if that amendment is acceptable, and I hope that it will be.
The other amendment that I would also hope would be acceptable - and I would ask the Minister to look at it closely - refers to sub-clauses (1), (2) and (3) of clause IS which really do give to the Minister for Education quite arbitrary powers. However closely those powers are followed on the advice of his Department, the powers in terms of the legislation are arbitrary, without appeal, and stand for a time scale of 2 years. Therefore we have drafted a series of amendments that have a common purpose. That common purpose is to enable schools to appeal for a review of the Minister’s decision - not only his immediate decision but also towards the end of the first year to appeal for the re-categorisation of a particular school for the second year of operation of this legislation. We also believe that there ought to be an impartial tribunal to which appeals against the Minister’s decision could be made. If the Minister does not like having a tribunal standing over his own decision, it could be a departmental decision subject to appeal to an impartial tribunal. I would. have thought that if there were such an impartial tribunal the Minister would be very considerably helped and he would avoid the embarrassment of facing the kind of situation which occurred earlier this year when, as a result of appeals from a job that has plainly been hastily done, the number of category A schools was reduced from 105 to just over 50.
There were 200 appeals, of which 140 were successful. There are still some outstanding for which no answer has yet been given. I do not know how long it will be before answers are given. But that kind of situation indicates a fairly hasty beginning to this measure. In the interests of justice, and I would have thought in the interests of protection for the Minister, some appeals system would be well worth while and could be fairly introduced. We are suggesting, of course, that the appeal body should be established by regulation. That leaves its form in the hands of the Minister. But also, we are saying in the amendments that the Minister should, by regulation, establish the criteria on which the original categorisation of schools is made by himself and against which the appeals tribunal would judge future reviews of that decision.
There is only one other point to which I would like to draw attention. It concerns clause 66 of the legislation in which the Minister is proposing the repeal of earlier legislation. The Opposition parties will be opposing the repeal of that earlier legislation. It is necessary to do this for 2 reasons: Not only because it is our conviction that it ought not to be repealed, but also because we want to make honest men out of the Government. Therefore, it is very much in the Government’s interests that we ought to refuse to repeal that legislation. Some documentation of that point is needed. On 20 November last year the present Minister for Education was asked: ls it the intention of the Federal Labor Party to continue per capita aid to independent schools for 1974 and following years?
The answer that he gave in a letter dated 24 November 1972 was a very simple ‘Yes’. He said the same sort of thing in public on 20 November 1972. On 20 June 1972, after these proposals had been announced by the former Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister stated:
The ALP has never voted against any Bill proposing Commonwealth aid for education and it will support any forms of benefit already existing.
We would not want the Prime Minister to find that that pledge was not kept. In front of 3,000 or 4,000 people at the Festival Hall in Melbourne the Prime Minister also said:
We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which has already been paid. We will confirm any which are there already.
– What was the date of that statement?
– That statement was made in May 1972, which was before the new proposals were announced by the former Prime Minister. But the statement which I read first was dated 20 June, some 6 weeks after the Prime Minister had made that commitment on 1 1 May.
– Parliament would not have been in session.
– Not on 20 June, but it was in session when the Prime Minister made this commitment because it was contained in a statement made in the Parliament. I quoted from a speech by the Prime Minister - I am sure that he has copies of it in his office - to the Catholic Luncheon Club of Melbourne on Tuesday, 20 June 1972. I have the full text of the statement. So the present Prime Minister had made that kind of statement both before and after the statements of the former Prime Minister in relation to those new policy proposals. In addition, letters written to Mr Dixon on 13 December would have indicated that the same approach was to be adopted. For all these reasons I think that there is a considerable weight of evidence which would indicate that the Government did make a commitment, and if it did make that commitment it ought not to propose the repeal of our legislation, as it does in clause 66 which we will oppose. The other point, which I do not really want to go into, concerns whether or not the Karmel Committee was given a direction. I remind the Minister that there is a question on notice to the Prime Minister which has not yet been answered.
A great deal of money is being spent under this legislation. After that, educationists will need to concern themselves more with the philosophy of education and the approach that ought to be adopted in schools. We are or will be doing much in physical terms to provide equal opportunity for all children, but we will need to do a good deal more to make sure that what happens in schools old and new is of the highest possible quality. The teacher training proposals ought to help in these particular matters. There can be no certainty that some of the present or modern methods of teaching will advance the cause of education and the cause of children. It needs to be remembered in this area that when experimentation takes place it is not like experimentation in a chemistry laboratory. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the Minister. I shall take only one or two minutes more. There is a very great difference between experimentation in the physics or chemistry laboratory and experimentation in a school. Any person who experiments in a school is dealing with people. Teachers therefore need to be much more cautious in their approach to experimentation when dealing with school children than a chemist or physicist might have to be in a laboratory.
I sometimes wonder whether that care and concern has been present in all the experimentation that has been undertaken in the classroom. It is certainly not a job for politicians. It may be something the Partridge Committee can look at more closely. What happens within the classroom itself is of paramount importance to the future of individuals and the future of Australia, and I am not at all sure that enough attention has been given to that aspect of the problem in the past. I move:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:
in recognising the need for substantial additional funds for schools, notes (a) the haste with which the Interim Schools Commission conducted its inquiries, (b) the fact that requirements differ between different States, and (c) that the States are the best judge of their own needs and priorities, and
is of the opinion that the Government should allow an accountable flexibility between different categories of expenditure on the initiative of the States, who would be accountable to Australia for any such changes, enabling the maximum advantage to education in Australia to be achieved.’
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– Like other honourable members on this side of the House, I thought for the first two-thirds of the speech delivered by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the honourable member had undergone a transformation like Saul on the road to Damascus. The honourable member led us all very neatly up the garden path during the first part of his remarks. When he purported to support the legislation before the House and to commit his Party to such support, he encouraged us to believe that the leopard can indeed change its spots. Science is vindicated: The leopard remains unchanged. In the last few words of his speech the honourable member for Wannon demonstrated that the Opposition remains committed, as it was committed in government, to the system of per capita grants which has so long underpinned and perpetuated the inequalities of education in this country.
– If the honourable gentleman who spoke and the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) who now interjects are in any doubt about that proposition I refer them to the remark made by the Karmel Committee on this very point. Students, teachers and parents who are looking forward with great eagerness to the transformation of Australian schools along the lines recommended by Professor Karmel and the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission have been left in doubt today about the intentions of the Opposition. They do not know whether the Opposition will in fact use its majority in another place to deny Australian schools the benefits that the Karmel Committee has proposed for them.
– We are supporting the legislation. We are supporting the second reading.
– The honourable member for Wannon interjects and says that he is supporting the legislation. The honourable member has already put the House on “notice that he will be opposing a crucial part of the legislation. The House is entitled to know how far he and his Party intend to press this opposition. Very many people around this country will be waiting on the answer to that question because so much revolves on it.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, would it be out of order to ask for leave to give the answer now to the question which the honourable member raises?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Yes. I think that the honourable member for Wannon has been in this House long enough to know that it would be out of order.
– The answer can be given as soon as the honourable member for Casey sits down.
– The honourable member for Casey would be happy to yield, in the best traditions of the House of Commons, to the request made by the honourable member for Wannon.
– Carry on.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Order! In keeping with the Standing Orders, leave would have to be granted to the honourable member for Wannon.
– The Minister would prefer it if I gave the answer after the honourable member has spoken,
– I think it is true to say that, never since Sir Robert Menzies first involved the national Government of Australia in the affairs of the schools of Australia, has a measure of such fundamental importance come before this House. This Bill confers very great benefits on the vast majority of Australian schools. It ensures that groups which have hitherto missed out on proper access to education through handicaps - whether of an economic, mental, physical, social or geographic kind - will now for the first time be able to enjoy such an access. In his speech the honourable member for Wannon traversed the various purposes for which grants are to be made available to schools of various types. I want to confine my remarks this morning to 2 categories of schools in particular - the schools in the inner and western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne at which an overwhelming majority of the least privileged children in our community endeavour to receive an education; and the schools, and the special services associated with them, which should be coping with the needs of children who are victims of mental and physical handicaps, including the specific learning difficulties to which the honourable members for Wannon referred, and which have to date been totally unable to cope with that responsibility.
The present Bill breaks new grounds in Australia by recognising, as a category for educational assistance, the disadvantaged school. This category, of course, was recognised first in the report of the Plowden committee of inquiry in the United Kingdom. In establishing disadvantaged schools in Australia as a category for assistance we are following practice well explored and well laid down by the Inner London Education Authority. The results which have been obtained, particularly in primary schools in the United Kingdom since the Plowden committee first recommended that disadvantaged schools in the socio-economic sense should be recipients of special assistance, have been very great indeed.
Bodies associated with teachers’ unions and with parent organisations in Australia have established that the difficulties experienced by schools in the inner and western suburbs of our 2 principal State capitals are not in any way less than those for which the Plowden assistance was devised. Surveys conducted by the Inner Suburban Education Committee in Melbourne have shown how a comparatively small number of schools which include Melbourne’s oldest, least well equipped and least generously staffed schools, have been obliged to bear the brunt not only of the influx of children who speak little or no English, but also of the children from low income families and broken families who are attracted to the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney by the availabilaity of low cost housing commission accommodation. Both these groups pose special problems for teachers and for the various ancillary education workers, such as psychology and guidance staff of the education departments.
It was interesting to note that the Migrant Task Force for Victoria, established by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), gave emphasis in its report to the fact that no more than 20 per cent of nonEnglish speaking migrant children in Melbourne were receiving the special sort of language assistance that they needed if they were to take proper advantage of the educational opportunities available to them or, failing taking proper advantage of those opportunities, merely functioned on an even level with the children around them who had no language disability. It is interesting that the Inner Suburban Education Committee identified, among the enrolments of these schools, a great proportion of large families and a great proportion of families in which only one parent or the other was present.
The legislation that we are discussing today will make provision for the first time for enriched staff, supplementary equipment, improved accommodation and increased open space which all these schools until now have conspicuously lacked. The honourable member for Wannon asserts in his amendment that the States are the best judges of their own needs and priorities. I believe that it is the record of the State governments in relation to disadvantaged schools and schools for handicapped children which raises the gravest doubts about this proposition. It has been very clear from what has happened in past years that the children who, by reason of special disadvantages, stood in greatest need of educational assistance were at the same time the children least likely to receive that assistance while the initiative was left to the States. I do not think it unreasonable that we as a national government should set and implement national priorities in these matters.
– Why do the States not care for the needy?
– The State governments have shown a perhaps understandable predisposition to place educational facilities and to meet educational demands on the basis of where the votes lie. It has been very noticeable that, in the case of Victoria, the overwhelming preponderance of educational expenditure has been directed to the middle distance suburbs on which the present State Government relies - indeed has relied since 1955 - for its parliamentary majority. That Government has rewarded its supporters and punished its opponents. At a national level we are, thankfully, to some extent distant from these sorts of problems and we can, I hope, take a broader view. I believe it is only when a broader view is taken at a national level that the sorts of assistance which are required will be forthcoming.
I do not believe that the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) would deny that very great neglect has gone on over the years of the educational interests of the various disadvantaged groups to which I have referred. I should emphasise that although I have today addressed myself to the special needs of the socioeconomic disadvantaged groups in the inner and western suburban areas of the State capitals, such groups are not confined to the inner and western suburbs. There are pockets of disadvantaged groups throughout the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. I suspect that the Interim Committee, as it may continue to be, or the Schools Commission, as we hope it will turn out to be, will be exercising a very close scrutiny of the mechanisms through which the State governments allocate the aid which has been made available to them for the disadvantaged schools and observe whether those mechanisms are sufficiently sensitive to pick up disadvantage where it actually occurs and not merely in those areas where conventional wisdom locates it.
The second category of schools to which I want to address myself today is those schools which cater for mentally and physically handicapped children and the special services which enable mentally and physically handicapped children to receive assistance in conventional schools. Both fields of endeavour have suffered very greatly in recent years from the overall shortage of funds for education. The Psychology and Guidance Branch of the Victorian Department of Education, like psychology and guidance branches in other States, has notoriously found it impossible to compete for expert staff with the demand of industry for industrial psychologists and personnel staff and with the attraction of private practice for qualified psychologists. The speech therapy branch of the Victorian Education Department, like speech therapy services elsewhere, has found it impossible to cope with a rising demand for die services it is meant to provide. Its waiting list has grown longer year by year until we find ourselves in a situation now in which the child whose speech defect is identified in grade 2 is unlikley to receive treatment for that defect until he reaches grade 5 or even grade 6.
In the case of speech defects, as in the case of specific learning difficulties, it is of the utmost importance that the defect or the disability should receive attention at the earliest possible date. Eighty per cent of the defects identified and treated in grade 2 or before grade 2 are overcome. Fewer than 10 per cent of those that wait until the end of primary education or the beginning of secondary education to be treated are overcome. In these circumstances, the shortage of remedial teachers, of psychology and guidance staff and of speech therapists has been a tragedy for an enormous number of Australian children and for the parents who feel for them. It is of the utmost encouragement to these parents to see that their long fight - the fight waged in particular by SPELD, the organisation of parents of children with specific learning difficulties - has paid off and that long and arduous public agitation has at last won recognition for the special needs of these children and guaranteed that their disabilities will be overcome. It is a source of great satisfaction to the Government that the Opposition has indicated its intention to go so far with the present legislation. We hope that the Opposition will be able to swallow its history and take the last step.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, there was a point of order raised during the previous speech. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) indicated that there was some doubt about the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill. I just want to make it quite plain, as I sought to do in my second reading speech, that we are supporting the expenditure of every cent in this legislation. We are supporting it and we want the legislation to have a speedy passage. I hope that no honourable members on the Government side will try to suggest that that is not our wish.
– The States Grants (Schools) Bill with which we are now dealing provides an enormous amount of money for education. As the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, the Opposition does not begrudge the expenditure of money on education but as he pointed out also it is time that the quality of teaching in our schools in Australia ought to be subjected to some critical analysis. Education has become somewhat of a sacred cow in Australia these days. If one suggests any criticism of the education system as it exists or of those involved in that process one brings down the wrath of the banshee on one’s head. If we are to proceed to a better quality of the end product, that is the children who are graduating from our schools, it is necessary that we attack some of these sacred cows in education. We should attack them in a critical and fair minded way and with a view to having open discussion about this subject.
This Bill contains many programs but I am disappointed to find that there are no provisions in it for the financing of remedial teacher education. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) mentioned the necessity for early diagnosis of children with specific learning difficulties and I agree with that proposition. I think that something like 15 per cent of the children in our schools are suffering from some learning difficulty but only about 5 per cent of those have hard core problems. It is essential that these children be diagnosed at a very early stage and I suggest that the first year of primary school education is the best time for them to be diagnosed and picked out of the class. They ought not be picked out of the class in the sense of being put into special classes but they do need to be diagnosed so that their difficulties can be attended to by remedial teachers. Because of the nature of what remedial teachers try to do for the children they must have very small groups. There is no such thing as a remedial class in the ordinary sense of the word. It is impossible, I suggest, for them to come under the provisions of this Bill which deal with handicapped children and special schools.
In the Bill special schools are defined in a way which, I suggest, excludes the setting up of remedial classes in the sense that I have referred to. To be effective the remedial teacher must diagnose the children early and then proceed with them in small groups and tackle the problem which each of them has. A start has been made in Queensland to remedy this defect. In my own electorate there are a number of remedial teachers seconded from the State Education Department who travel around from school to school. Of course there is not sufficient of them at this stage. Only recently has training in these techniques become at all widespread, so it is understandable that there would be some time lag before sufficient teachers are available in the remedial field. I mention the splendid work that the Schonell Centre at the University of Queensland has done in this regard. I think the staff of that centre were the pioneers in Australia of this type of work, and quite a number of teachers in Queensland and New South Wales schools have been trained at that centre. So it is with some concern that I view this Bill, as it makes no provision for education of teachers in this remedial area.
If the Government is serious about making educational opportunities available to all, surely the place to start is at the primary level to make sure that children with specific learning difficulties, such as with reading or doing sums, have their difficulties remedied quickly so that they can take advantage of later years of education without feeling left behind. Primary education is most important, because if one does not get the grounding in the primary school all else that one may be taught in the secondary school is meaningless. We are building on shifting sands unless the primary education has been sound.
I move to another subject - the question of local participation in the policy making of schools. I think there is a general recognition in Australia today that more community use needs to be made of the facilities provided at schools. Swimming pools, tennis courts, ovals and libraries are all facilities provided at schools at great expense, but they are used for only a very small part of the year, if one takes into account night time and weekends as well. If the governing bodies of schools were somewhat smaller than they are now and if there were more localised regional governing bodies, I believe it would be possible for the community to be much more directly involved in the schools, and the facilities provided at the schools could be made available for wider use. In the United Kingdom, for example, education is a responsibility of local government. The local school board is responsible for the staffing and the educational program applied in the schools. In Australia we have become accustomed to a monolithic State education department staffing and organising the curriculum of schools within a State. In Queensland there has been some breaking down of this large scale administration. Smaller regional administrative areas have been established, and I think this has worked towards the betterment of education in Queensland. It provides a greater opportunity for teachers themselves to be involved in curriculum planning and also gives them a greater flexibility in the way in which the school programs are to be arranged.
But if we were to go even further than what has been done now and involve the local community directly in the schools, several advantages would flow from it. First of all, I believe that there would be greater stability of staff in the schools, because if the educational area is smaller the schools generally will be staffed by persons who live in the region and who would have a vested interest in remaining at a school in that local area. This would be of great advantage to the pupils of the schools, because frequent turnover of staff is one of the big complaints that parents have about education today. It is impossible for children to receive a proper education when, as has happened in schools in my electorate on occasions, a teacher change is made 3 times in the course of one term. If the administrative area is much more localised, I believe that there will be greater opportunities for innovation by the staff and for teaching techniques to be used, because a lot of the red tape would be cut away. Instead of having to go through many channels to persuade the headquarters of the administrative body that something one wanted to do was good, one would go through fewer channels in order to persuade the local governing body that a particular project was worth trying.
I welcome the opportunity under the present Bill for pilot schemes to try out some of these methods. Special project grants could be provided for smaller administrative areas of this sort to be set up to try to innovate in terms of technique and curriculum. It is significant, I think, that some of the advanced techniques in education in the United Kingdom were tried and tested in the smaller educational authorities. Once they had been tested there they spread to the broader fields. I would believe and I would hope that pilot projects financed under this Bill would lead to much the same innovation and broadening in future years.
The provisions of the Bill dealing with in-service teacher training are, I think, to be welcomed. With rapid changes in the way in which educational material is presented to students it is important that teachers keep abreast of it. Modern aids and modern techniques used in schools today are far different from those which were used when most members of this House were going through the educational process. We cannot really understand the way in which some mathematics are taught in the schools these days or in fact the way in which reading is taught, but these techniques are necessary if we are to progress and improve the quality of education which is offered in Australian schools. It is necessary also, I believe, that these modern techniques should be constantly evaluated and tested to make sure that they are not just following a pattern that has been set abroad - a pattern which sometimes may have been found to be wanting many years before the ideas trickled into the educational system in Australia. So I think we have to be constantly upgrading our techniques and constantly evaluating the methods which are already being used.
If I may I will just mention the grants available for teacher education centres. These are something of an innovation. I welcome the innovation. I can see that good will come from them. I envisage that a teacher education centre, as indicated in this Bill, would be a place where teachers in a small localised area would be able to go and see the latest books which are available on their particular subject, where they could see the latest audio-visual aids which are available and where someone from the Department of Education would be available at all times to explain to the teachers the various techniques which are available at present. These centres would provide also a good opportunity for teachers to get together in their spare time, after school hours perhaps or at weekends, when they could exchange views, because very often teachers become somewhat inbred, depending on the school to which they are attached. I would hope that these teacher education centres would be open also for teachers at non-government schools.
– It says so in the Bill.
– Thank you. I am indebted for that interjection. I had overlooked that. This will provide an opportunity for government and non-government teachers to get together in a somewhat less formal atmosphere where matters of mutual concern in education can be discussed, I am sure to the advantage of both.
I deal briefly now with the criticisms that I have of the Bill. The program mentioned in the Bill is limited to a 2-year period. While one can understand that the Government wants to fix the financial commitment to a 2-year period it does, I think, impose some problems in regard to building approvals and forward planning because the provisions of this Bill make it quite clear that a building has to be approved and built within this 2-year period. You cannot have a situation where a building may be approved but not gone on with in the 2-year period. I think this means that pressure will be put on the schools, both government and non-government, to bring forward their building programs in the 2-year period, although they will not know once the 2-year period has gone by what their future prospects will be.
The second criticism I would offer of the Bill deals with the recurrent expenditure grants. These are required by the Bill to be allocated between schools, both government and non-government, on the basis of need. The Bill has no definition of what constitutes relevant need for this purpose. In that respect I think the concept is vague. It leaves to the Minister an enormous discretion which I think ought not to be allowed in a Bill of this sort. The concept of need, to which the Karmel Committee addressed itself, when it is applied to recurrent expenditure can create difficulty. It is very easy to make an assessment of a school’s needs in terms of permanent building projects. It is very easy to say that a school needs a library, a swimming pool or extra classrooms. They are questions in respect of which need can be quite clearly established. But when one talks of recurrent expenditure, in my submission it is unworkable to talk in terms of need.
The third criticism I would offer of this Bill is the limitation that it places on building grants, firstly, to government schools for the upgrading of old buildings. The money provided under this Bill has to be used exclusively for that purpose. It is not being provided for the building of new schools. I think that this unduly hampers the freedom of the State educational authorities. I think it would be fair to say that in Queensland the pressure for schools comes from the growing suburbs where the child population is very high. In areas in my own electorate where the infant population is very high, new schools have to be provided quickly and existing schools have to be expanded very quickly in order to keep up with the increase in the number of children. The limitation placed on the money which is to be made available under this Bill would be unduly restrictive, I think, on State government buildings.
As far as non-government schools are concerned, the Bill requires that 50 per cent of the money made available under this Bill should be used for upgrading old buildings. Only 50 per cent is to be made available for increasing enrolments. I think once again that this is restrictive. Under the previous legislation 70 per cent of the money granted could be used for increasing the enrolment of private schools, and 30 per cent was required to be used for upgrading purposes. I think that those, proportions are more reasonable in the circumstances. The reduction to 50 per cent under, this Bill could mean that some non-government schools will be restricted in their expansion programs.
The fourth criticism that I would offer of this Bill, in brief, relates to clause 15, which gives the Minister power to place nongovernment, non-systemic schools into categories. The Minister’s discretion in this regard is absolute. No guidelines are laid down in the Bill against which any school could test whether the Minister had been fair in putting it in a particular category. Also, no opportunity is provided in the legislation for the Minister to review the categorisation of schools once his initial determination has been made. I will support the amendment on this point which has been foreshadowed by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I think it only proper that the Minister should have some system of review so that schools which are dissatisfied with categories in which the Minister has put them can take some steps to have themselves reclassified. It would be wrong for the Minister to make one determination for a whole 2-year period because the Karmel Committee report itself seems to envisage that as schools upgrade their facilities they may fall in category. This thinking is not translated into clause 15 of this Bill.
The last point of criticism that I would make about the Bill relates to the gathering of statistical and other information. I do not know what other information the Minister could properly require. One would have thought that it is only statistical material which could properly be sought. We will have to wait for the regulations in order to decide whether the other material which is sought is proper and what our attitude should be at that time. But I simply issue this note of warning: This requirement could provide the Government with an avenue for drawing controls tighter and tighter over the schools system in Australia. In view of what I have said about community participation in schools, I would regard any tightening of control in Canberra as a retrograde step on the educational scene. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The Schools Commission is empowered to obtain statistical and other information on which it can judge the improvement in quality resulting from these grants.
If that is the purpose of the information then I would regard it as a legitimate purpose because, as I said when I commenced this speech, we should be concerned with the quality of education provided in schools. We should be constantly evaluating to make sure that the money provided for education in this and other Bills is properly put to the purpose and that the quality of the product, the end result, is worth the money being spent.
– I was encouraged to hear the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) say that the Opposition is in general agreement with this Bill and proposes to give it a speedy passage. However, in relation to the honourable member for Wannon, I feel that the sting was in the tail of his speech when he spoke of the removal of clause 66. I would stress that one of the basic concepts running through this Bill, and indeed all education legislation we have passed, has been the concept of need. We have been opposed to across the board per capita grants being given to non-government schools.
In relation to the honourable member for Petrie, today I have found myself much more in agreement with what he had to say than I have been on previous occasions. I agree very much with what he had to say about the quality of teaching and the need to look constantly for ways to upgrade teaching. I believe that that is incorporated in this Bill. I believe that there is misunderstanding in relation to the provision for the training of remedial teachers. Although this is not mentioned specifically in relation to the special schools sphere I would have seen this as coming in 2 areas - firstly in the training that is given to primary teachers, in most States involving a 3-year diploma course, and secondly in the extent to which this training equips teachers to pick pupils with problems. Teachers of the past who were trained about the time I was trained would need special training to bring them up to date. This seems to me to be what this in-service training is all about. It is to update teachers and bring them right into a relationship with the latest methods that have been found as a result of research.
I agree entirely with what the honourable member said about local participation in decision making. Again I think provision for this is incorporated in the Bill where it refers to the devolution of responsibility. The honourable member said that the categorisation of schools is entirely in the hands of the Minister. As I see it, in the first place this work was done by the Interim Committee and in future will be done by the Commission. Certainly it comes back to the Minister for the final decision.
I believe that this legislation marks the turning point of a new deal for Australian school children. It provides the injection of funds so desperately needed. I think I should remind the House of the existing Commonwealth commitments to education at the school level. Money has been directed to States for specific purposes including building science facilities and secondary school libraries. Of course, these grants have gone to both the government sector and the non-government sector. Also per capita grants have been made to non-government schools to the extent of $62 per head for primary school children and $104 per head for secondary school children. I suggest to honourable members that the amount of money that was given by the previous Government to education reflects the low priority that that Government gave to education. After 23 years little more than a trickle of funds was coming through directly to assist schools at the primary or secondary level.
I have been fascinated in the last 2 debates - the debate last night on the 5 cognate Bills relating to tertiary education and the debate today - to hear honourable members on the opposite side claiming credit for the momentous legislation that is being passed by this Government in the field of education. It is true that some small, halting steps had been taken by the previous Government. It is equally true to say that what is happening today in relation to the massive amounts being put into education would not have happened if a Liberal-Country Party government had been returned. I submit that this Government has done more in a little over 11 months in the field of education than the previous Government did in 23 years. When this Government came to office it was faced with a situation of crisis proportions in Australian schools.
The seriousness of the situation in Australian schools was set out clearly in the findings of the Karmel Committee. Let me summarise them. Firstly, most schools lack sufficient resources, both human and material, to provide appropriate educational opportunities for the young in a modern industrial world, in a world of change. Secondly, there is evidence of gross inequalities existing in our schools. I agree with the honourable member for Wannon that these inequalities are not restricted to the Catholic sector. There are great inequalities within government schools. There are inequalities between schools in the nongovernment sector and also between government and non-government schools. Thirdly, the quality of education leaves much to be desired. Teachers are inadequately trained and the provision for their professional development is meagre. My experience of 25 years of teaching in Victorian schools testifies to the accuracy of this assessment by the Karmel Committee.
To place the Bill into some sort of perspective I think it is important to stress some of the grave shortcomings that exist in our schools. Let us think for a moment of schools in disadvantaged areas. I have frequently had the experience of going into some of these schools. They can be described only as grim fortresses. Many of them were built over 50 years ago. They have few windows. They are built on a couple of acres of land and there is not a blade of grass to be seen because the ground has been covered with asphalt. One finds that the sick room is not a room at all. The child who is unfortunate enough to be sick is placed on a bed under the stairs where every pupil passes by. In the staff rooms one sees utter shambles and facilities that would not be tolerated in private enterprise. The tragic thing is that frequently these schools are placed in areas of deprivation and frequently they have the added problem of a high migrant population.
Another thing that we need to bear in mind as a backdrop to this legislation is the method that has been used, in Victoria at least, in commencing new schools. A number of years ago the standard procedure was that one knew that a new school was to be opened and then one proceeded to look for church halls, public halls and the like so that the school could get under way. Now we have moved forward a stage and we find that on a paddock we have a whole heap of portable class rooms and that is the school for three or four years. Then we have a pathetic shortage of specialist teachers. For the handicapped, the slow learner, the migrant or the child with speech defects or emotional problems there is no specialist staff to back up the teacher in the classroom. Of course all of this results in inequality of opportunity for the students. The result is that whether one looks to retention rates or to the students who are able to proceed to a tertiary education, one finds that children who come from lower socio-economic status families are in no way proportionate to their numbers in the overall population. Many Australian studies would bear testimony to this fact. One study I would quote from briefly was done by Anderson and Western. It related to students entering 4 professions in 6 universities. In a summary of their findings in schools in Australia it is stated:
Nearly half the entering students were the children of professional and managerial fathers, who constituted 17.S per cent of the population in the age group likely to be their fathers; industrial workers were nearly 60 per cent of the population but their children accounted for only 22.6 per cent of students entering the 4 faculties.
These are the conditions that provide the backdrop to this Bill. This was acknowledged, of course, in 1969 in the views expressed by the Australian Educational Council in its nationwide survey of educational needs. I believe that this Bill needs to be seen - I agree here with the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) - both in terms of its quantity and it quality. But let us not forget the quantity - the funds that are appropriated here. In 1974 and 1975 some $695m will be granted to all schools of the States. Of this amount, $466m is to go to State schools, $198m to non-government schools and a further $30m to joint programs in both government and non-government schools. It is interesting to note that the net cost of the interim committee’s recommendation was $468.5m. I submit that these funds constitute a dramatic increase.
It needs to be stressed that the Karmel funds are additional to the amounts which the States will spend from their own resources. The States are expected to continue to spend a similar proportion of their Budgets on education. I question whether in fact, this is being done by the Victorian Government. It is disturbing to read in the editorial of the most recent issue of the Victorian Teachers Union Journal’ the following statement:
Not only has the finance formerly used for tertiary education been directed entirely away from education, but in Victoria this financial year the State is spending a lesser percentage of its total Budget on education, even after writing off that tertiary money and looking only at the sub-tertiary level.
In fact there is $72m missing.’ That is the amount by which Victoria’s education budget should have been greater had the previous rate of education spending been maintained.
I stress that we on the Government side are looking for co-operation from the States. Having said that there is a massive input of funds, if this was all and if there was no underpinning educational philosophy, it could be a great waste of money. I agree with the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he stressed the need for this underpinning or underlying philosophy of education.
To appreciate the quality aspects we need to examine the values which informed the Karmel Committee in its deliberations. I would paraphrase these as the pursuit of equality, the attainment of minimum standards of competence for life, the concept of schooling as a part of life as well as a preparation for life, the notion of education as a lifelong experience, diversity among schools, the devolution of the making of decisions of those working in or with the schools - that is, the teachers, pupils, parents and members of the local community - and the involvement of the community in school affairs. This is not a materialist concept.
We, as a Government, believe that buildings, equipment and the like are important, but we believe that it is more important to spend money in such a way that we can achieve the values that have been set down. I believe that if we look at the major parts of this Bill we will see that this is being done. Provision is made for building grants and recurrent expenditure. We then move into the area of library grants, disadvantaged schools, special schools for handicapped children, teacher development and special projects. I stress that there is a centrality of the concept of needs running through this Bill.
In the brief time that is left to me in this debate I wish to touch on several of the important aspects of this Bill, not because I believe they are the most important aspects but because they are innovatory steps which are, again, evidence that this Government is breaking new ground in the field of education. I commend the fact that in this Bill provision is made for grants to school libraries, particularly this time for primary school libraries. I commend the fact that an extra $20m will be spent on secondary school libraries. But I think the most significant step forward is the grant of $20m for primary school libraries.
The importance of the library in the school is well established now. In fact, we should think of it more as a resource centre than just a library. A library is, in a sense, the very centre of school life. What has amazed me is that we have had to wait for so long for the Government to recognise the importance of school libraries. I agree with the honourable member for Petrie that these sorts of innovations should take place first at the primary level because it is there that the patterns of learning are formed. In this connection I am very pleased also to see the emphasis which is being placed on the training of teacher librarians. The clear need for trained teacher librarians is evident when one visits schools, finds rather beautiful, excellently equipped libraries there, but is told that they cannot be used at this stage because there are no trained teacher librarians.
I turn now to the part of the Bill that deals with teacher development. Again, it is of crucial importance that opportunities be provided for teachers and administrators to upgrade their ideas and their competence. Today, with the speed of change in educational methods, this is of the utmost importance. I would be the first to subscribe to the view that teachers get in a rut. With the effluxion of time we find that the principals of schools are out of touch with the latest ideas and methods. We then have the sort of school in which very little is taking place in line with latest developments. So, clashes occur between staff who are out of touch with the pupils and who are out of touch also with the newly trained teachers. Therefore, I am encouraged by the fact that $7m is being provided for in-service training for teachers. It is to be a joint approach with the teachers from the State schools, non-systemic schools and Catholic schools taking part. Again, I think it is a good thing that this action should be taken jointly. I want to say a few words about the education centres. Not a large amount of money - some $2m plus $200,000 in operating expenses - has been allocated, but it will upgrade the professionalism of teachers. Of course, in many cases education centres already have been established. I agree with the honourable member for Wannon when he says that these should, in the main, go to the country areas because that is where the need is the greatest. The teachers in those schools should have much greater opportunities.
Finally, I wish to mention the special projects fund which is to be established. Again it represents not a large amount - some $6m in the 2-year period - in terms of the total amount to be provided by this Bill. The aim is to raise the quality of schooling by fostering change and diversity. It is refreshing to see encouragement being given to innovation. In a sense this is a guarantee for the future. We must have people and schools setting the pace in the field of education.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Firstly I wish to say that the Australian Country Party supports the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Before devoting myself to the provisions of the Bill I wish to refer to a comment made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) in response to an interjection by me during his speech. I questioned him as to why the States were not able to consider the needy. His hypothesis that the Australian Government is closer to the needs of the people living in the States is one which assumes that the State Governments are unable because of political considerations to administer education within their boundaries for the benefit of the children of needy people. I do not agree with that hypothesis. I do not agree with that assumption. But I do understand that the States have had some difficulty in providing for the education needs within their boundaries because of the unavailability of funds that they have experienced over the years owing to the inadequacy of the revenue grants that they have been receiving from the Commonwealth Government. I say that quite fairly. New South Wales, for instance, has devoted over 50 per cent of its total Budget to the needs of education. So it is very dangerous to assume from that that a Canberra based government can minister to the needs of the people more adequately than a government based in Perth, Sydney or Melbourne or that a Canberra-based government can minister more adequately to the needs of the children of Moree than the general administrative structure in Sydney of the New South Wales Department of Education. So, if there is to be any criticism, let it be quite fairly laid at the feet of former Commonwealth governments which have not made adequate revenue grants to the States to enable them to minister or to tend to the needs of young people.
From the outset one must acknowledge that this Bill is the product of the 1973 recommendations of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission and a nationwide survey into the needs of education in Australia that was conducted by the Australian Education Council in 1969. Most of the Interim Committee’s recommendations have been incorporated in this Bill. Some have been varied by the Government for one reason or another. I commend Professor Karmel and his Committee for the outstanding contribution made by them in the survey of education needs in Australia. The Interim Committee was given a near impossible charter because of the haste in which it had to conduct its inquiries. That is, of course, one of the main considerations in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon. There has been some severe criticism of the way in which the non-systemic, non-government schools have been categorised and of the way in which the per capita grants to non-government schools have been abandoned. But this blame should not be directed at the Karmel Committee. The blame should be cast in the direction of the Whitlam Government. The Interim Committee had to operate within the terms of reference which were laid down and, indeed, a directive from the Government that the Committee should make its recommendations on the basis of relative needs and priorities without a pre-determined basic level of support to all non-government schools. In other words, non-government schools were to be penalised according to their degrees of excellence. The better the resources of a school, the higher the teacher-pupil ratio and the greater the contribution made by a school, its parents and friends, the smaller would be the Australian Government aid to that school. It appears to me to be part of a general socialist philosophy which must undermine any incentive amongst those associated with private schools to improve from their own resources the excellence of education in those schools.
This decision by the Government was taken in spite of the undertaking of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) prior to the election that any new forms of aid to independent schools should be given in addition to existing programs of aid. It was a monstrous deception and a mean act by the Whitlam Labor Government. The Government has paid and will pay the price for its deceit, its sleight of hand and its prejudice because its callous deception has marred a generally good approach to the needs of education in Australia. Although the Prime Minister and his Government have broken a pre-election promise, one retains respect for and extends sympathy to the Minister for
Education (Mr Beazley) who sought to do the right thing but was let down by his embittered colleagues whose prejudice against nongovernment schools was deep and vicious.
Unfortunately, as the amendment points out, the Karmel Committee had inadequate time to assess the effects of this category system on non-systemic independent schools but at least recommended that aid to category schools be phased out rather than it be abruptly stopped as from next year. This action will result in heavy increases in fees to be paid by parents sending 33,000 children to category A schools next year, all for the sake of $2m in 1974 and $lm in 1975. Yet any one of these 33,000 children will now have the right to enter universities, colleges of advanced education and other tertiary colleges without payment of fees. What is the crazy logic behind this decision? The abolition of these fees will cost the taxpayers $30m. The abolition of the fees will take place without a means test or a needs test.
I have already supported this concept in the House but I cannot see the logic behind a decision costing about $30m in the first 6 months of its operation and the abrupt withdrawal from category A schools of $2m in this year and $lm in the following year. It is an act of discrimination and prejudice. I believe it to be an act of doctrinaire socialists who have overridden their Minister who insisted that there would be no reduction of aid to any non-government school under a Labor government. This decision could have some deep and divisive consequences in our society. I certainly hope it does not happen, but there are indications that there is some resentment building up because a great number of schools that have been placed into this category happen to be non-Catholic schools.
One of the other serious consequences is that it is now unlikely that parents, staff and councils of independent schools will work hard to raise the standards of their schools for fear that they would automatically be lifted to a higher category and so lose state aid. Nobody could truthfully say that the overriding financial considerations have denied category A schools of State aid. The Australian Country Party and, indeed, the entire Opposition, supports the policy of applying per capita grants to independent schols tied to a percentage of state school recurrent costs to help these schools with their recurrent expenditure.
Such a policy ensures the right of each child to an equitable share of education funding. These per capita grants should be adjusted each year so that they maintain a relationship with state school costs and respond to the inflationary pressures in the economy. It is clear that the 20 per cent formula is insufficient and that a higher percentage of the State school costs should be extended across the board to all independent schools. The needy schools should receive additional supplementary grants for the acquisition of land for school purposes, the provision of new school buildings and the replacement of old schools and other capital facilities where these are inadequate and below acceptable standards. The category system could well be used for the capital grants based on priority needs but certainly not for recurrent expenditures.
It is clear that any Australian government has enormous responsibility to assist the States to meet the heavy costs of education. It is clear that such policies, while assisting substantially needy schools, should not discriminate against parents who choose to send their children to schools of their choice. Having pointed again to that dark cloud that casts its shadow over the better aspects of this Bill, I want to express my general support for the long strides that the Government has taken to assist the handicapped children, the funding of libraries in primary schools, the general building grants program, the provision of funds to the States for the housing of teaching and other staff in country areas, the disadvantaged schools program, the teacher development program for assistance to in-service teacher training and the special projects program. All these are worthy projects within the total program. I also welcome the assurance in the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) that the States will retain responsibility for their own construction program for their own State schools and the schools for handicapped children. lt is essential, however, that there be flexibility for the States in the administration of funds allocated within the various schedules of this Bill. Unless this is so it will impose rigid and impossible administrative burdens on the various State administrations. In the interests of common sense and the education of our children the desire for centralised control of education must be cast aside.
I return now to the education of handicapped children. The Government is to be congratulated for making substantial funds available for the 33,000 handicapped children throughout Australia - $20m for a building project for government schools, $14. 16m for the recurrent expenditures in government and non-government special schools, and $8.25m for special education training courses and related teacher replacement in special schools. The total appropriation over the next 2 years is $43. 5m. There is additionally the $2 for every $1 now available for building projects at non-government special schools under the handicapped children’s assistance Act. This also will complement, assist and supplement programs already in force. It does constitute a long overdue and massive attack on the problem. Before the debate concludes I hope that the Postmaster-General will give a clear indication to this House that those children with specific learning difficulties as distinct from handicapped children will be taken into account with respect to remedial teacher training. There is a great need in this respect. I know that the honourable member for Casey raised this .point and supported this concept. SPELD has been advocating assistance in this direction for two or three years and I hope that the Postmaster-General will give an assurance that children suffering from specific learning difficulties will be covered under the terms of this Bill.
Although it is not my intention to rubbish the Government for increasing the allocation of funds to assist education I wish to clarify the actual degree to which the Government is increasing expenditure in this field. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) referred to what he termed the short halting steps of the former Government in the field of education. That is not fair and is not true. There has been a continuing and evolving program of assistance, particularly in the field of tertiary education. It was not a flatering and halting sort of approach to the problem at all. It is true that the States complained that they were not getting sufficient revenue grants to provide sufficient funds from their own resources for the total problems of education. It has been said that the Whitlam Government has increased expenditure on education to the extent of $404m, or 92 per cent more than last year. The net additional expenditure is very much less than $400m. Of this figure, $ 144.6m is a direct transfer payment from the States to the Commonwealth and represents expenditure for the last 6 months of this financial year when the Commonwealth will take over all tertiary education. The Commonwealth no longer will be making this $144m available to the States by way of special grants for university education. This is merely a transfer of funds from the States to the Commonwealth for education purposes. It is a matter of appropriation.
A further amount of $90m in the total sum of $400m was approved in principle for teacher training by the former Minister for Education. I suppose that a more accurate figure of additional expenditure in the field of education would be something of the order of $150m. The great increase in the total expenditure for education in the Budget has been in the area of university and tertiary education, including, as I said earlier, what were the States’ grants for advanced colleges of education, for universities and tertiary education. I do not argue against what has been done by the Government in this respect but I believe that we should get the facts right. The Commonwealth has taken over responsibility for tertiary education on the understanding that the cost will be deducted from the financial assistance grants to the States. Indeed, when one examines the overall total government and private consumption expenditures on education in 1973-74 one finds that it will be over $2,000m compared with $ 1,743m in the previous year - an increase of 14 per cent. When one finds that 80 per cent of final consumption expenditures on education are devoted to payments for salaries and wages one recognises that substantial salary increases will account for most of the expenditure. With inflation raging at a rate in excess of 10 per cent, the increase in real terms could well be marginal. I seek leave to incorporate 3 tables in Hansard. I discussed these earlier with the Postmaster-General.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
– Table 1 is headed ‘Australian Government Outlays on Education by Level of Educational Institution, 1972-73 and Estimate 1973-74’. The second is headed ‘Australian Government Outlays on Education by Economic Type; 1972-73 and Estimate 1973-74’. The third table, showing the expenditure on education in Australia, shows the annual percentage increase and the implicit price deflator, which is the measure of inflation as far as education services are concerned. Let us not hear again the inaccurate boast that Labor has increased expenditure by 92 per cent over and above the amount that was set aside by the former McMahon Government. It is misleading and inaccurate, and the Australian public should be alerted to the facts. I support the amendment to the Bill as moved by the honourable member for Wannon.
– I rise to suport the Bill. It is a bit hard to know where the Opposition stands. Not very long ago in this debate I heard the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) refer to the enormous amount of money that the Government was proposing in this Bill to spend on education. We have all listened to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) saying that it is a relatively insignificant amount, that it is much less than is claimed. So what do we believe from the Opposition? The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who is held in the highest respect in this Parliament and indeed throughout this country, and who unfortunately is ill in hospital, exhausted by his efforts to produce this Bill and this program for the years ahead, has categorically denied what the honourable member for Gwydir has just said.
The Minister - his words were repeated by the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen), who read the second reading speech in the Minister’s absence - said that in 1974-75 a total of $694m will be available for all schools in the States. That $694m includes funds that were proposed by the previous Government. The $694m is Commonwealth money. In addition we stipulated that the States were to keep up the amount of expenditure that they had been making over recent years. They were to keep up not only the amount but also the proportion of their budgets spent on education. So the $694m is not the total. Of the $694m which the Australian Government will spend in 1974-75 on primary and secondary education, not to talk about the other segments of education, $468.5m will be spent directly as a result of the Karmel Committee’s report - not $190m-odd, as the former Minister, the honourable member for Gwydir, said. An amount of $468.5m will be spent by the Australian Government over and above what the Government of which he was a member proposed to spend before it went out of office.
The honourable member also returned to the old bogy of the A category schools. I thought that the earlier speakers had given that story away. I had been led to believe by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Opposition spokesman in this House on education, that the Opposition was in a more conciliatory mood. The honourable member for Wannon had been rather conciliatory except right at the end of his speech, when he returned to the old bogy of per capita grants. These were voted out by the Australian people on 2 December 1972, but he keeps coming back to them. The honourable member for Gwydir reinforced that by referring to category A schools. What do the category A schools represent? They represent 10 per cent of all students in nonsystemic private schools, not counting the vast number of private school children who go to parish schools. They represent the elite, if you like. Those category A schools represent 6 per cent of all private schools.
This is the burden of the honourable member’s story. He is talking about 6 per cent of the schools. He is talking about 5.5 per cent of all children who attend non-government schools - not 5.5 per cent of all children in Australia, lt is this same 5.5 per cent of non-government school children whose parents are able to claim $400 a year for each child in taxation rebates. It is these same children who over the years have been winning nearly all the scholarships at the higher secondary level. It is these same children who have been winning most of the tertiary scholarships and going on to universities, colleges of advanced education and institutes of technology. They have had those privileges, and this is the preoccupation still of the Country Party at least, despite all the evidence of the legacy we have received.
– They do not get $400.
– They do not get $400. Parents are allowed to deduct $400 from their taxable income for each child. The amount that all parents who are able to claim $150 or more get back in taxation rebates is $55m a year. So do not let them cry that they have been denied by this Government. The rumour went around that we were to cancel out the rebate. We did not. We still allow it. Maybe we ought to be criticised by some people for it, but we did not discontinue the allowance; we kept to it. In the future the same category of children will probably go on winning a disproportionately higher number of secondary scholarships and a disproportionately higher number of tertiary scholarships that will give them free education under the Labor Party program. Every child who gets into a tertiary institution as from 1 January next year will get a free education. If children are eligible for it under the means test they will get a living allowance to boot. The elite group will get $55m in tax rebates. This Bill provides an extra $50m for disadvantaged children. So let us get things in perspective. That is what the honourable member for Wannon is inviting us to do.
The other criticism that came from the honourable member for Wannon was about the composition of the Australian Schools Commission. He suggested that it ought to be a representative Commission. At one stage we entertained that thought ourselves. It is not an open and shut case; I will grant him that. But we came down in the long run in favour of a selected commission for much the same reasons as those which the Karmel Committee report gave far having a selected commission rather than having nominees. Paragraph 13.6 of the Karmel Committee’s report, which is contained in the book called ‘Schools in Australia’, states:
In submissions to and discussions with the Committee, the Australian Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of State School Organisations argued strongly for the right to nominate representatives as members of the Commission. The Committee-
That means the Karmel Committee - feels that the Commission should be able to conduct its proceedings on the merits of the business before it, with its members not bound to any particular point of view on specific questions. This does not mean that the Commission should be insensitive to widely held views in the community nor that the membership should not display a range of experience and attitudes, but it does mean that individual members-
I ask honourable members to note that - should be free from the responsibilities of representing constituent bodies. Moreover, the number of organisations that might claim representation is large, so that a Commission based on the principle of direct representation would become unwieldy and inhibited in its capacity to make decisions. If teacher and parent organisations, as such, are to be involved in the work of the Commission, an appropriate place might be rather at the Regional Board level.
That is exactly what the Government decided to do. When we were trying to form our own policy before we set up the Karmel Committee, we looked at what other bodies would claim rightful representation on the representative Commission. I think we ended up with at least 45 people being on that commission. Can anyone imagine a commission of that size being able to get down to work? It would be just impracticable. I will not reply to the honourable member for Wannon, who is seeking to interject, because my time is extremely limited and I have much to say.
It has been stated that the report was made in haste. It had to be made in haste, and in a minute I will tell the House why. It was not made quite as hastily as it appears because the Interim Committee already had available to it as did the former Minister, the honourable member for Wannon, the findings of the Australian Education Council in its Nation Wide Survey of Educational Needs for Australian Schools. The Committee had all that information. It had the information about handicapped children that was provided by a special Senate committee, which information lay idle for 1*8 months and about which the former Liberal-Country Party Government did nothing.
What is the legacy that we inherited? I will quote what the Minister had to say, in part, in regard to the background of what we inherited before we set up the Interim Committee. He said:
There were disadvantaged schools, especially in inner areas of great cities. Teacher education left much to be desired. The education of handicapped children was characterised by omissions to meet need which bordered upon the callous. Migrant education was profoundly unsatisfactory. Some States had no schemes for the assistance of isolated children worthy of the name of assistance. Primary school libraries were characterised by general neglect.
I interpolate there to say that they received nothing. Every primary school I visited in my electorate and in other electorates hammered me with the question: ‘Why is it that the Government in Canberra gives grants for secondary school libraries but gives nothing for primary school libraries?’. Every teacher worth his salt and every informed parent knows that library habits are first established in the primary school. That is where they are developed. The Minister went on to say:
Buildings, playground space, physical education facilities and the capacity to employ teachers were generally defective. Clerical and ancillary assistance in schools were woefully inadequate. A scheme existed through the Australian Department of Social Security to assist the education of handicapped children by private charities, but not in State schools. Knowledge of _ the medical, psychological and physical characteristics of young children, and their home environments, was a closed book to the first teachers enrolling them at school. Disadvantaged children and handicapped children suffered greatly in this situation.
This is the education legacy that we inherited when we became the Government in late 1972.
This Bill is not the culmination of an education study. It is significant as it is the mere beginning of a new deal in education. This Bill provides not for the end product but rather some of the means by which education can be changed markedly in quality, quantity and distribution. All our talk of millions of extra dollars should not be allowed to hide the fact that what we are really aiming at is a cultural, social and economic revolution in our society with a new respect for the rights of every individual, not just an elite, to have the opportunity of living a personally satisfying life as a member of a genuinely democratic community. The implications of such a generalised statement are many and they are either explicitly stated or clearly implied in the Bill, which itself reflects so faithfully much of what is contained in the Karmel report.
Some of these implications and assumptions are: Firstly, the need for continuing research not just for today, tomorrow, this year, this period of 6 months or this period of 2 years - for the values, attitudes, abilities, appreciations and tastes that might deserve to be cultivated in our education systems. I emphasise the word systems’. These in turn form part of the agencies that mould the continually changing society in which we live. We are reminded - and I want to remind the House - that the school is not the only agency in the community that helps to educate our children. Think of the media and the opportunities it has, and think of the opportunities that it foregoes.
The second assumption I would refer to is that both this research and the ongoing educational programs that flow from it should invoke the views and activities of as many interested persons as possible; hence the various advisory committees which will be established to help the Commission and the Government in its program. Diversity of approach, experimentation and creativeness rather than uniformity and deadening conformity should, we believe, inspire our educational efforts. The Bill strongly subsidises this approach at all levels. I will not go through all the statistics that have been mentioned because everybody can see the way in which we are going to help the education program in Australia. It needs to be more emphatically recognised - I really want to drive this home if I can - that children are born into a wide range of environmental circumstances. Socially, culturally, economically, intellectually, physically and in terms of motivation their inheritance is different.
The assumptions in the Bill are that all children, and indeed all persons, should have the opportunity to develop their own particular socially desirable talents to their fullest capacity. For far too long far too many have been condemned to live out their lives according to the accidental limitations of their own birthright. For too long society has lavished its rewards on those who were born lucky. This Bill puts new emphasis on society’s obligation to provide compensation for the very great many who were born not so lucky. In addition to the greatly increased capital, recurrent and library grants which will apply to almost all students, there will be extra millions of dollars in each of these and other aspects of education for those in disadvantaged schools - children of lower income families, many migrants with low incomes and language and social adjustment problems, Aborigines and children living in isolated areas.
Likewise, the Bill will give high priority to redressing one of our most shameful legacies of almost a quarter of a century of conservative government - the wholesale neglect of those who are physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped and the great many, often undetected until it is almost too late, who have other kinds of special learning difficulties which interfere with their educational progress, for example, special reading difficulties which were referred to earlier. The Bill sets out to help all these people Instead of their being disadvantaged they will be over-compensated under a Labor government. If that is socialism, I accept the label.
Having said that, one has also to recognise how very much the advancement of society in all its aspects is dependent on the comparatively few very bright people in the community. The geniuses who advance the quality of our living by their wonderful inventions, their outstanding cultural talents and their other distinctive creative skills are indede comparatively few in number. It is not only in their personal interest but to society’s benefit that they, too, be identified and given special opportunities in their early years of schooling, and this enlightened Bill aims to do just that.
Another assumption contained in the Bill that flows directly from what I have said is that teaching is to be encouraged to reach an increasingly higher professional status. This will be reflected, not only in generally higher initial training qualifications but also in far greater access to in-service training courses provided by employing authorities in some cases, by other outside bodies in other instances such as universities, colleges of advanced education and the like and, very importantly, by the teachers’ own professional organisations in other circumstances. Notably, the Commonwealth is prepared to help finance the professional teaching organisations to establish and maintain their own voluntary in-service professional growth. I cannot spell out all of the implications of this Bill. I have not relied on statistics. I can only say that this is a monumental educational effort. The Minister, the committee that has helped him and all the other bodies in the community which made submissions to that committee, deserve their proper recognition at this time.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), who has just resumed his seat, told this House that he found it hard to know where the Opposition stood regarding this Bill. This thought was echoed by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), who spoke earlier in the debate, although he seemed to have some certainty about the matter because he said that the Opposition spokesman on education in this House, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), had led us up the garden path. If he led us up the garden path he gave us a good time when we got to the end of it; contrary to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who has led us up the garden path of expectation in some areas of education, as indeed in many other areas, and has left us bereft when we reached the end of the path.
The Opposition, however, has no doubt that this Bill provides a very great deal that is good in Australian education, and it is in no way objecting to the fundamental provisions of this Bill. It is not seeking to withdraw or withhold any of the extra funds which are being directed to Australian education through this Bill. The honourable member for Barton, as have other Government supporters, talked about the old bogy of state aid. This old bogy of state aid is a matter about which the Deputy Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission is not nearly so certain. She said:
I am doubtful if anyone ever really thought about what the end result of a ‘needs’ approach to state aid would be.
She went on to say:
I really think that people will have to sit up and start thinking hard about what will have to be done In 1979.
She also said:
If anyone thinks about it, division is the inevitable result of taking a needs approach to state aid.
So it is clear that the Deputy Chairman and, as I would understand it, the Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission are seriously exercising their minds about the consequences of a policy which rejects some form of basic per capita provision for every pupil in Australian schools. The invitation has gone out to those working in Australian schools to come forward with suggestions about how moneys might be allocated on a recurrent basis for the future of Australian education. This is more or less what we on this side of the House are suggesting; not that grants should be made only on a per capita basis, but also that there should be some form of basic provision for all students, to which would be added special provision for those in some form of need or other. Of course, the need is many and varied. This concept, oddly enough, has some support in the media. The ‘Australian’ does not see our approach as an old bogy, as does the honourable member opposite. Indeed, on 8 August this year the ‘Australian’ said:
The best way to cope with the problem would be to retain the per capita grants for all schools and give extra assistance to the poorer establishments which genuinely need it
– Intelligent thinking.
– That is intelligent thinking indeed from the ‘Australian’. As I have said, there is much that is good in this Bill. We all applaud the provision for teacher training and in-service training and the imaginative approach to teacher education centres. There is much in this Bill which goes towards meeting the problem of education of the underprivileged. There is aid for disadvantaged schools. One of the problems of migrant education which has been highlighted by some people recently is that the children of migrants, and of recently arrived migrants are involved in an environment at school which is in so many respects foreign to that which they have left behind in the old country. It seems to me that an approach to their education which stresses the values and traditions of their own cultures would be at least as important as constantly harping on the importance of their becoming proficient in English, as most of them will do, anyway. I am referring not necessarily to the older generation, but the young generation will learn English.
Let us talk more about the need for the school to understand the culture from which these children have come. The main languages of the cultures from which they have come should actually be taught in the schools in which they are learning. This obviously would be a novel approach to their integration in the
Australian community. In this whole area of disadvantage, I make the point that disadvantage can strike in any school, and the worst disadvantage of all which a student can face is the disadvantage of having parents who do not understand or appreciate what education is all about. Again the Deputy Chairman of the Interim Schools Commission, Mrs Blackburn, in South Australia on 13 July this year said:
There is no reason to believe that any amount of money poured into the school will make any difference to the outcome for the child.
As we are expending these very great amounts of money, I think, that we have to pause before we are certain that we are always expending the money in the best possible direction. We must simply not expect too much for our expenditure in many of these areas. For that reason I applaud the provision of resources for experimental projects in this Bill. It is so much better to do some research with a trial group in a small and restricted area to see how some new concept evolves than, in the name of experimentation, to force change on a community where that change might have only dire results. An obvious illustration from overseas experience is that of abusing which was conceived as a mode of overcoming problems of very deep disadvantage in urban America. The busing procedures are falling into ruin all over the United States of America as a quite inappropriate way of solving the problem regarding race and disadvantage in American education.
– It has been counterproductive.
– Indeed, as the honourable member says, it has been counterproductive because the good education which is being received by many students is being destroyed and the position of others who are receiving a poorer education is not being bettered. Another area of this Bill provides assistance for special education for handicapped children. The Bill contains a good broad definition of special schools’. It states:
Special school’ means a school in a State . . . at which special education is provided for handicapped children, or if education other than such special education is provided at that school, that school in so far as it provides such special education;
This is good because it enables the integration of special education within the ordinary education system. But what is not good is that this applies only to government special schools as far as building projects are concerned. In government special schools future building projects are being encouraged and provision is being made for recurrent expenditure. But there is a nasty little note in the Bill for it discriminates against non-government special schools, as it provides for only recurrent expenditure. This is most unfortunate because it severely limits the future of non-government special schools. If this policy were to be continued there would simply not be another building put up without immense effort, strain and hardship on the part of parents in the non-government sector. It would hit at parents who wished to make additional provision for their handicapped children. It would hit at parents who wanted their handicapped children to receive an education with a particular religious or philosophic bent. It would do nothing to aid the integration of children needing special education with normal children in ordinary school situations.
The deaf unit at a school called the Yarra Valley Church of England school in Ringwood, Victoria, is precisely the type of school of which I am thinking. It has been working extremely well. It has a small unit set up for deaf children and provides them with highly specialised training in the broader context of an ordinary, normal, day to day school environment. I should have thought that we would all agree that wherever possible that is precisely the way we should be educating handicapped children. However, this Bill provides that that sort of thing can go on only in the government sector. It discriminates against future capital projects in the non-government sector and therefore against the worthy aim of integration of handicapped pupils with other pupils.
One of the amendments proposed by the Opposition provides for a tribunal to review categorisation decisions. Unfortunately the categorisation philosophy was conceived in hatred and executed in haste. I do not blame the Schools Commission for this; it had its riding instructions from the Government. For instance, schools were given only 3 weeks in which to complete the first questionnaire. Later those schools which felt aggrieved about the category in which they were placed were not even sent a letter by the Committee on which they could base an appeal. They were advised only by newspaper advertisements that appeals could be made to the Government on categorisation decisions. The limitations of the categorisation criteria demand that they be looked at again for the future and that there be a review tribunal procedure. Schools simply must know where they stand. It is awful, of course, to think that knowing where they stand they will make deliberate decisions to withdraw from some new projects which could only add excellence to their schools. Nevertheless, it is important that they should know where they stand.
The categorisation questions which the Committee asked the schools concerned the number of staff, both teaching and ancilliary, their salaries and wages, the school’s operational expenditure and expenditure of durable teaching equipment. Many questions might be asked about these matters. For example, what amount has been included for staff superannuation? In independent schools that figure is most significant. Another question could be: What allowance was made for the higher average age of staff in most independent schools? The average age of staff in independent schools might well be 10 or IS years older than the average age of staff in state-run schools. Simply because of this factor salary costs to independent schools would be much higher indeed than to government schools, on a pro rata basis. Further, there can be no simple direct relationship between resources used in the particular year 1972 and either the recurrent needs of a school or the resources available to a school.
The formula used takes no account, or at any rate insufficient account, of deliberate educational policy choices of a school authority over such matters as quality as opposed to quantity, whether the school is a boarding school or a day school, whether it is small or large and whether it is located in the city or the country. The formula takes no account of academic programs, though a school may offer specialised courses to meet a particular need in the community such as a technical course at an independent school in the city or a Chinese language course at another school. Another relevant factor is class size. This can be determined not by educational policy but by enrolment procedures and problems. The school with small classes often is the school in most need and is not a school that is flush with funds. Another problem in categorisation was that a certain average salary level was taken as representing the salaries of senior people in the Catholic school sector. This average salary in no way relates to the sort of salary paid to senior administrators in other non-government and government schools.
Further, in relation to teachers in religious orders costs with respect to things such as superannuation, long service leave and so on are much lower than in respect to other teachers. As the Opposition has said before and will say again, very few visits were made by members of the Interim Schools Commission either to Catholic or non-Catholic independent schools in Australia. One could go on but I should like to finish on this note: There is in the report an admirable emphasis on the need to encourage community involvement and diversity in education. Yet the outpourings and the ultimate upshot of the report is that it strikes a cruel blow against countless parents who have given so much beyond their tax towards educating their children.
In our decision not to vote for clause 66 which repeals the across-the-board approach, the Opposition is in fact helping the Government to keep its own promises. There is no doubt that last year the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition went among the Australian community and convinced people that nothing would be taken away from the independent schools, their pupils or parents, but that things would simply be added onto in accordance with a needs basis. That is where the arguments of Government supporters are so facile and futile. On 2 May 1972 at Festival Hall, Melbourne, the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, said:
We will not repeal or reduce any educational benefit which is already being paid. We will confirm any which are there already.
In an address to the Catholic Luncheon Club of Melbourne on Tuesday, 20 June 1972, the Prime Minister said:
The ALP has never voted against any Bill proposing Commonwealth aid for education and it will support any form of benefit already existing.
Constantly we hear honourable members who sit on the Government side of the House talk about their mandate. In Labor’s policy speech for the 1972 election the Prime Minister said that a Federal Labor government would allocate the increased grants for 1974 and subsequent years on the basis of recommendations prepared and published by the Schools Commission. I stress the word ‘increased’. Clarifying this, the present Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) indicated to a delegation of the Australian Parents’ Council in Canberra on 10 January 1973 that the ‘base rate or “floor” of aid would be that applying in 1973 ($62 primary and $104 secondary) and that commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions would be made at a higher level than those applying in 1973’. It is said that there is some lack of clarity about the position of honourable members on this side of the House. On the contrary, there is a complete departure from promises made by honourable members on the Government side in this small but significant area.
– Two recent investigations of Australian schools have exposed serious deficiencies in our education system. Some years ago, after a nationwide needs survey, the States sought action by the national Government to redress the deficiencies that produced inequitable attainment in education. Primary school libraries were generally poor, inadequate or non-existent. The handicapped, migrant children and isolated children received little or no help to overcome their impossible burdens. Teachers lost thousands of man hours because they were forced to spend time on clerical and ancillary tasks. Playgrounds, sporting facilities and gymnasium equipment were as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. All this and more was confirmed by the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. But this time the study went further than the needs of government schools, and included nongovernment schools.
The Karmel Committee concluded that at many schools teaching resources were below standard for an adequate education; lack of facilities demonstrated an indifference towards and conditions, attitudes and organisation had equality of opportunity to access to education; undermined and constricted the potential relationships between pupils and teachers, parents and the staff, and between school and the community.
This Bill will put into effect the recommendations of the Karmel Committee so that we can start eliminating the deficiencies, equalising the equality of access to education for all children and compensating for handicaps suffered by children because of physical, social, mental, sexual or geographic factors.
The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) said that only a few schools had been sampled. Throughout my speech I will refer to yet another recent survey to illustrate the Government’s aims and the present deficiencies existing - a study carried out by 2 survey groups, under my supervision, in my electorate of La Trobe. I make no apologies for being parochial. I am sure that the situation could be repeated in any other electorate represented by a member of this House. Questionnaires were sent to primary, secondary, government and non-government principals seeking information on current resources enjoyed, expected increases in enrolments and government grants, and their estimated needs if they were to provide an adequate education. The survey was carried out in February and March this year, and detailed replies were received from 35 primary government and non-government schools and 1 1 secondary schools, both government and non-government. A promise of confidentiality prevents me from naming the schools.
Undoubtedly more replies would have been received, but our efforts were somewhat frustrated by the State Liberal member for Scoresby, Mr Geoff Hayes, who wrote a letter to the Advisory Councils and principals encouraging schools in his electorate not to participate in the survey. This was at the time of a pre-election campaign. I found that sort of action typical of what is happening in this House today. We have heard the disguised opposition from honourable members opposite who wish to gloss over the inefficiencies and the deficiencies that they have upheld over the years. Despite the assurances of their general support - except for their attitude to clause 66 - I suspect their motives. They wish to hide their mistakes. They wish to sweep under the carpet the injustices they have created over the last 23 years. They wish to ‘perpetuate inequality in education. Their amendments are nothing more than a face-saving device. For this Government the die is cast. It has accepted the findings of the Karmel Committee with one minor exception. It has the backing of the Australian people and it will correct the deficiencies in the present education system.
All schools in La Trobe will receive increased grants and more assistance over the next 2 years than they would have received before. If this Bill is frustrated or delayed here or in another place, the Opposition will earn the wrath of over 75,000 electors in La Trobe. All parents will be expecting a better deal for their children next year, and they must not be disappointed. In 1974-75 a total of $694m will be available to all schools, including $466m for government schools and almost $200m for the non-government sector. All of this is in addition to what the States will spend from their own resources.
Let us consider what the people will receive for their tax money. For the first time, grants will be available for libraries in primary schools, and extra funds will be available for secondary school libraries. Of the 30 primary schools in the La Trobe survey, only 6 had libraries, 17 did not, and 7 failed to indicate. None of the non-government primary schools has a library. One government secondary school does not have a library nor do 2 out of the 3 non-government secondary schools. The schools without libraries also lack science blocks, whereas all other schools mentioned have them. The provision of library facilities is, as the Karmel report indicated, one of the most effective means of improving the quality of education by encouraging an individual approach to learning. We are spending over $40m to achieve this aim. Bricks and mortar, print and bindings, are only half the story. Of those library-equipped secondary schools, 6 out of 8 claim to have insufficient trained library staff, 4 claim that their libraries are not to Commonwealth standard and only one claims to have sufficient books and equipment. The amount of $3.8m will be appropriated to provide for training of teacher librarians.
General building grants are to be provided in addition to the sums flowing from the 1972
Act. The additional grants for government schools will be for replacing and upgrading the quality of existing school buildings. The La Trobe survey showed that most government secondary schools had many classes with over 30 to 35 pupils in the first 4 years and with a slightly lesser number in the final 2 years. This was due to lack of teachers and classrooms, although one school avoided this by prudent juggling and internal re-organisation. Most were using a number of unsuitable but essential temporary portable classrooms that have become noted for their permanent siting. Every non-government school indicated oversize classes and an inadequate number of classrooms. Grants in this Bill will also be used for the replacement and upgrading of buildings, but up to 50 per cent may be provided for new pupil placings in non-government schools. Our general building grants will total $ 117.7m.
I refer now to the human element in schoolingteachers and students. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from the La Trobe survey showing the situation of teaching staff in the secondary schools.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– Schools complained that effective teaching time was lost due to reduction in the quality of teaching, inevitable when relying on part time and temporary teachers, and imposing ancillary duties on the teaching staff. Because of teacher shortages students were often denied the usual range of subject options. In 2 schools the school week was reduced to 4 days for lower forms. Turnover in government schools was high due to the promotion system and transfers, dissatisfaction with conditions, onerous non-teaching duties, demand for further study and lack of inservice training. The turnover of staff in nongovernment schools was far less. I put that down to sheer dedication.
Funds flowing from the Cohen report and this Bill will provide opportunities for teachers and administrators to upgrade their competence and to enjoy the fulfilment that should be the reward of any profession or craft. There are many impacts in this great and important document - the Karmel report. Chapters 9 and 10 deserve a special mention. They explain the concept of disadvantaged schools and speciallist education. The report establishes beyond doubt the appalling variations in opportunities available to Australian children. All electorates will contain examples of disadvantaged schools and disadvantaged individuals. La Trobe is certainly no exception. Many children of migrants have special problems requiring specialist teaching. None of the secondary schools in the La Trobe survey had class space or specialist teachers to provide special education for migrant children. Each of the secondary schools had about 30 children who required individual specialist coaching in English. One rural primary school of 50 children - all of whom needed special migrant English lessons - did not have one specialist teacher. In another similar school 20 per cent of the children were in need of specialist English teaching.
All secondary schools stated that the provision of remedial teaching and psychiatric or specialist attention was inadequate. Remedial teaching requirements ranged from 50 to 150 in large government schools with an enrolment figure of around 900, but were much higher in government technical schools - up to half the students requiring remedial teaching, in the opinion of one principal. Only 3 of the 30 government primary schools stated that they had adequate remedial teaching. Two primary schools claimed that half their pupils needed remedial teaching and most had 35 or 70 pupils requiring such treatment. All the schools indicated that about 4 or 5 in every 100 students needed psychiatric or specialist attention. There was a wide range in the number of students who required counselling on a range of matters. There were 150 out of 900 in one high school, and ,100 out of 225 in a non-government secondary school. One government secondary school stated simply that all children required counselling as part of their secondary education. However, most stated that about 50 students in an average school population of 700 required this counselling.
There will never be equality in education as long as there is no compensatory education and counselling for children in disadvantaged circumstances. The disadvantages need to be identified as early as possible to prevent the compounding of the handicap. It is comforting, therefore, to see in this Bill the injection of money into disadvantaged schools and for special education.
For the first time in Australia the Australian Parliament will make direct grants towards the recurrent expenditure of government schools instead of non-government schools only, as at present. We intend to do it for all schools, with grants determined on the basis of relative need. In round figures we will be appropriating over the next 2 years $176m for government schools, $65m for Catholic systemic schools and $70m for other nongovernment schools. This procedure is right and proper.
This Government realises, as all responsible national governments should, that it must be its primary obligation to provide and maintain a free and adequate education of the highest standards through the government school system, open to all who choose it. At the same time, this Government recognises the right of choice of a parent to send a child to any school. We not only preserve that right to choose but also go further and make such a choice available to a greater number of parents. This choice is that the school selected should offer adequate education for those who attend it and not be available merely to those who have their choice facilitated by a capacity to pay for that education. It is important to realise that the recurrent expenditures on resources are those that I have outlined as most deficient in the La Trobe survey. At page 56 of the report the Committee has set out the index of resources used to allocate funds on a needs basis to non-government and non-systemic schools. The index is in the following terms:
The recurrent resources used within a school have been taken to comprise the services of teachers, administrators, and support staff (both professional and ancillary), consumables, equipment, and, in the case of schools forming part of a system, resources such as itinerant specialist teachers, guidance and counselling personnel and curriculum advisers, provided at system level for use by individual schools.
One might well ask why parents send their children to non-government schools. Parents who send their children to schools outside the State system have usually done so for 3 reasons. One reason is that the parents have been dissatisfied with the State system. The Karmel report aims to overcome inadequacies in both government and private systems by providing enough money and by developing an educational philosophy befitting our enlightened community. The second reason is that parents have wanted to provide their children with a particular religious background in their education - mainly those going to Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Adventist and similar schools - or they may do so for diversity, an experimental or unique education. Third, there is a small group who do so for social reasons, family associations or business connections. I have nothing to say on this third reason, but if it were possible to identify this group I believe that they should pay the lot.
I turn to the words of an old friend who told me that the common denominator of religious faiths was the belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind and that those professing religious affiliations cannot show a better attitude to others than by application of brotherly love in positive discrimination on a needs basis to children who must overcome financial, social and even family background problems, among their own, other religions and non-believers. For those who seek diversity and up to now, because of our impoverished government school system, have found it in the non-government system I say this: Diversity should not be the prerogative of those at nongovernment schools but should be available to all school systems both government and nongovernment. Of course the adequate quality of education should also be a feature of all schools. Four out of five primary school pupils and three out of four secondary school pupils attend government schools. Of the remainder at non-government primary schools, the Catholic systemic schools provide for 78 per cent. The Karmel Committee found a wide disparity among standards in schools. Using an average base of 100 units for government schools, non-government schools offered teaching resources from as low as 40 to as high as 270 units.
In its discussion of per capita grants for independent schools, the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission kept in view its main objective, which was to achieve acceptable standards for all schools by 1979. Having regard to the overall assessment of needs and priorities the Committee felt that the payment of recurrent grants on a per capita basis could not be justified. Hence we have inserted and emphatically support clause 66. However, the Interim Committee recommended that the phasing out of such grants to schools with recurrent resources higher than the 1979 standards should take place over 2 years to avoid placing the schools in difficulties. We have made this minor change in case the difficulties are too much for those who have the least resources. It was judged however, and I quote:
Given the limited funds available and the wide differences existing among non-government schools, uniform per capita grants would be an expensive way of bringing about acceptable standards in all schools and would unduly delay their attainment.
We cannot delay it any longer. To give per capita grants across the board would not result in equality of opportunity to all students. This is the kernel of this debate. Clause 66 of this Bill will terminate at the end of this year the across-the-board per capita grants. But all nongovernment schools will continue to receive per capita grants from the continuing efforts of the States.
The arguments against per capita grants are irrefutable. It should be remembered that the Commonwealth per capita system has applied only to pupils at independent schools and not to state school children. The per capita system disregards needs and gives the same grant to the children of poor parents as to the children of wealthy parents. It therefore increases rather than diminishes inequalities and increases rather than diminishes freedom of choice of school. The per capita system enables large wealthy schools indirectly to improve their facilities, for example, by providing indoor heated swimming pools, while smaller poor schools are struggling to maintain themselves. This must not be allowed to continue and schools and school systems will be accountable on their spending. The state school system is free and available to all. Parents who wish to educate their children outside the system should be free to do so, but their choice should not be subsidised beyond that needed to provide adequate education. Finally - and this has been pointed out constantly in this debate - the per capita system has been tried and has been shown to be inadequate. One need look no further than at the condition of the Catholic systemic schools revealed by the Karmel Committee. I hope that the examples I have referred to arising from the La Trobe survey will make it even more indelible on the minds of the Opposition.
In conclusion, the Karmel report does not aim to reduce all our schools to mediocrity. It encourages diversity and a broadening of education experience as well as equality of opportunity. It recognises and discusses in depth the role in education of the teacher, the parent and the community. This Bill will put that report into effect. The great majority of parents and teachers are united in their acceptance of the report. Never before has a Federal government tackled the huge problem of education with such enthusiasm and with so much concern for all children as has been exhibited by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). This Bill puts into effect the Karmel Committee’s recommendations designed to provide a general upgrading of facilities, special consideration for the needs of disadvantaged children and improvements in the quality of education. It has implemented a decentralised system of education, public accountability by non-government schools receiving assistance, and provision for evaluation of the assistance programs.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I can go no further than to repeat what I have said and to exhort the Opposition to drop its sham amendments, to realise that per capita grants will never mean equality of access to education and that the report of the experts who formed the Interim Committee and the legislation that has been carefully and thoroughly drafted around that to put it into effect is the only way we can uplift the standard of all school children to a high level by the end of this decade. I commend the Bill to the House.
– 1 was very interested to hear the concluding remarks of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb). He stated quite unequivocally that this Bill was the be all and end all of the way to ensure equal education opportunities for all. I do not think that it is given to any honourable member in this place to put forward such a proposition and honestly expect everybody to agree with it. Certainly there is much disagreement with many of the aspects of the Karmel Committee report, excellent though many facets of that report were. I am surprised that the honourable member for La Trobe should have taken that unequivocal stand, although I can understand that he was a little carried away in his eloquence on this occasion.
I was interested also in remarks made by previous speakers on the Government side. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) revealed in a Freudian slip the thinking behind the present Government’s attitude towards funding education when he said that the State governments did not look after disadvantaged schools because they were not capable of doing this as their educational expenditure was largely directed to the furthering of political ends. I cannot speak for other States, but I can speak for my own State of New South Wales when I say that I refute absolutely and completely the suggestion made by the honourable member for Casey. I know of no evidence - if the honourable member for Casey knows of any I should like him to bring it forward - to indicate that the New South Wales Government has spent money on education for political purposes. I once again completely refute that suggestion.
The honourable member for La Trobe, who has now left the chamber, revealed some aspects of the Government’s attitude towards any opposition, by us or others, to suggestions that it makes when he said: ‘If you do not pass this Bill and if you persist with what I regard as trivial amendments, you will have to face the consequences’. Honourable members will agree that this is an example of the old blackmail statement: ‘If you do not agree with us, you are wrong’. I again refute that statement. I would hope that members on both sides of the House would honestly and diligently consider any amendments put forward by any honourable member or any political Party in this Parliament to ascertain whether any amendment of this legislation, which covers the expenditure of a tremendous amount of public money, should be accepted because it would upgrade the standard of the Bill. I would hope that all honourable members, no matter on which side of the House they sit, would take that attitude.
I, in common with other honourable members, welcome the increase in expenditure on education which is provided for in this Bill. Some honourable members on the Government side believe, and would like the Australian population to believe, that the improvements in education are all this Government’s doing in terms of concern for education and of investigation of the needs of education. The Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen), in his second reading speech, pointed to the fact that this greater concern for education commenced really when a survey was undertaken in 1969. Once again I point out, for the record, that this was in the time of the previous Government. So, whilst I think that the present Government is to be commended for many of the aspects of this Bill, honourable members should not lose sight of the fact that the previous Government was also concerned with the needs of education. If one examines the increasing expenditure on education undertaken by succeeding Liberal-Country Party coalition governments at the Federal level from 1962 onwards, one can see that not only the present Government but also previous governments reflected an increasing concern by the Australian people in the upgrading of education, no matter where in Australia it was taking place.
I should like to speak on many aspects of the current Bill. I am particularly pleased to see the emphasis which has been placed upon educational provisions for disadvantaged children. I point out that we should not look at the contents of this Bill as providing all the answers for disadvantaged children, regardless of what type of disadvantage is encompassed. There have always been disadvantaged children. There are disadvantaged children at the moment and there always will be disadvantaged children. Whilst this Bill does go a long way in helping in many areas of disadvantage, let us not for a moment imagine that all the cases of disadvantage will be covered by the provisions in this Bill. A continuing effort must be made by the Government to see that the needs of these children who for whatever reason are disadvantaged, are assessed and that provision is made to help overcome the disadvantages they face.
I have noticed that tremendous emphasis has been placed on the amount of expenditure contained in this Bill, as though expenditure alone was the panacea and that if one allocates hundreds of millions of dollars all the problems will be overcome. I suggest that the sheer amount of expenditure could bring problems itself. I find it very easy to imagine in the present economic circumstances in Australia, when we have difficulties in obtaining builders and building materials, just to name 2 areas, the enormous difficulties which Education Departments and school systems will have in expending the money allocated to them. In fact, this factor could have a serious effect in driving up costs, particularly building costs, in the next couple of years as schools and school systems compete with each other for scarce resources, be those resources men or materials.
I add the warning that we cannot expect sheer money alone to overcome the problems which at present exist in the Australian educational systems and which will continue to exist as far as one can foresee the future. I was pleased to note in the general building grants that provision is made for government and nongovernment schools to upgrade existing school buildings. The Acting Minister for Education, in his second reading speech, stated:
The grants for non-government schools may also be used for replacing and upgrading of buildings, but it is also intended that up to SO per cent of the total for these schools may be applied to new pupil places.
The legislation introduced by the previous Government, as I remember it, provided that up to 70 per cent of the total grants could be applied for new pupil places. I wonder what is the reasoning behind the Government’s reduction of that figure from 70 per cent to 50 per cent.
In relation to the provision of school libraries I agree almost completely with the stress and emphasis placed on the need for libraries as contained in the Karmel Committee report and also in the second reading speech of the Acting Minister. I believe that both primary and secondary school libraries should be upgraded as quickly and as effectively as possible. I am pleased to see that an allocation was made in this area. I turn again to the second reading speech of the Minister in which he stated: the individual non-government school to receive a grant will be expected, in the light of its financial circumstances, to make a realistic contribution to the total cost of the new facilities.
I should like the Acting Minister for Education to elucidate who will assess the financial circumstances of the individual non-government schools and determine what is a realistic contribution.
Other honourable members who have spoken before me in this debate referred to teacher development and the need for the maximum effort possible to be expended to upgrade the standard of teaching. Certainly it is the teacher, probably more than any other factor who determines the outcome of the pupil’s work in any educational institution. It is the teacher who can inspire the pupil. It is the teacher who can depress the pupil. We should be aiming at the appointment of most highly trained teachers. We also should be aiming at attracting the proper kind of people to the teaching profession. It is fairly difficult to define who are the proper kind of people, but I am sure that anyone who has been associated with the field of education knows the born teacher type. We must aim at providing conditions within the schools and within the school systems which will attract those people who have a distinct flair for teaching. There are individuals in the community who do have a flair for teaching. It is not simply a question of remuneration. It is not simply a question of conditions. It is a question of the whole approach to the teaching profession. I would like to see developed within all school systems an attitude to and appreciation of the teaching profession as one of the most highly commendable professions to which anybody can aspire.
I join with those honourable members who have praised the allocation of moneys for special projects of an innovatory nature. That is extremely good. Again it accentuates the Opposition’s desire to maintain an effective and viable independent school system. Whilst we must and do have special projects of an innovatory nature being carried out within the government school system. I think most people will agree with me when I say that the independent school system provides an atmosphere and an opportunity for experimental educational innovations and the involvement in them to a much greater extent of individual parents. I think that is yet another reason why we should resist as strongly as we can any move which seeks to destroy the independent school system. If the independent school system is destroyed not only will schools of great history and tradition go out of business but also very necessary innovation and experimentation will be severely curtailed. I join with the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) in his query about disadvantaged schools and special schools. Why are there no independent disadvantaged schools? I am quite certain that if one sought diligently to do so one could find examples of independent disadvantaged schools. I should like an assurance from the Acting Minister for Education, who is at the table, that if examples of independent disadvantaged schools are brought up their situations will be treated with the utmost sympathy.
The next section of the Bill deals with special education. The honourable member for Chisholm has dealt with this matter at some length. Again I point to the fact that there is no provision for capital grants to non-government special schools. I think that is a deficiency within the Bill. I hope that the Acting Minister and his advisers will look closely at what I regard to be a deficiency in this respect. I am sure that we have all been impressed with the activities of the SPELD organisation. I certainly have been. I have assisted as much as I can the development and promulgation of SPELD activities. We all know of children who come within the definition of disadvantaged children, if one can use that phrase, because they have learning difficulties although those learning difficulties are not perhaps serious enough to warrant their being classed as disadvantaged children. I cannot see within the Bill - at least it has not been made plain within the Bill - how SPELD type children, if I can use that phrase, are to be assisted by the provisions of the Bill. Of particular worry to me in this area are the teachers. I regard them as being of the utmost importance. I am very concerned about ensuring that teachers at schools not classified as special schools or disadvantaged schools have an opportunity for in-service training so that they are equipped to detect and assist children who need remedial treatment just as soon as those children appear within the school system.
I move on to that section of the Acting Minister’s second reading speech which deals with recurrent grants. There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the recurrent grants. In this respect I cannot agree at all with the thesis of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) that per capita grants can never lead to equality of opportunity. I draw the attention of the House to the table on projected expenditure that was included in the second reading speech of the Acting Minister. In his second reading speech the Acting Minister said:
For the purpose of comparison let us assume that the cost of operating the government schools, on which the 20 per cent calculation is based, would rise by 10 per cent in each year, with the projected student numbers spread between systemic and nonsystemic schools as in 1972.
I believe that that is totally misleading to the Australian public. Let us have a look at just one example of an increase in State expenditure. Let us take New South Wales as an example. I understand that the expenditure on primary schools in New South Wales in 1972- 73 was $152.3 8m and that it has budgeted to spend $li&1.69m in 1973-74. I also understand that the expenditure on secondary schools in New South Wales in 1972-73 was some $149m and that it has budgeted for an expenditure of $181. lm in 1973-74. Both are as near as anything to an increase of 20 per cent. So on those figures alone the basis of this table is completely erroneous and the table would give a very false impression to anybody reading the figures. I notice also that the amount quoted for non-systemic schools in the previous Government’s allocation is $3 1.8m for 1974 and $35.3m for 1975. That is different from the Karmel Committee’s estimates for non-systemic schools under the previous Gov.ernment’c program. It quoted the amounts of $34m and $3 8m respectively.
Why are those figures different from the figures in the Karmel Committee’s report? What is the basis for them. Do they presuppose a big drop in non-systemic school enrolments? That may be the answer. If it is, I wish the Acting Minister would make the basis for the calculations specifically available to us because on the figures before us it is very hard to understand how the conclusions are arrived at. That is one of the reasons why the whole argument surrounding the allocation of recurrent grants to independent schools has been so traumatic. Not only have previous statements by both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) appeared to have been dishonoured but also the figures put forward are confusing, misleading and capable of many interpretations. So I hope the Minister will make clear the basis of the figures as outlined in his second reading speech. 1 am disturbed about that section of the Acting Minister’s second reading speech in which he said:
Clearly the Catholic systemic schools will benefit greatly under our approach.
That seems to me to be an extremely devisive statement. I hope that the Acting Minister will reconsider it. I would not like to think that the present Government is trying to set one Catholic school system against another and to turn friend against friend - in other words, to divide and conquer. I think it is a divisive statement that is not worthy of the Government.
I would like to conclude my speech by quoting from the editorial from which the honourable member for Chisholm also quoted and which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 8 August 1973. It reads:
If there is to be any intelligent reallocation of resources it ought to be done on the basis of a much deeper, more realistic appraisal of respective needs.
Even then the equity and wisdom of a scheme which reduces government aid to a certain type of school while increasing it to others could be questioned. The argument for supporting Catholic schools rests on the fact that Catholic parents are taxpayers and are entitled to share in the benefits of the education spending their taxes support.
Other parents with children at private schools are equally taxpayers. If it is fair to subsidise a parent who is giving his child a private education for religious reasons it is hardly reasonable to discriminate against those doing the same thing for other reasons, which may be no less admirable.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)_
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-When one reads the amendment moved by the Opposition to the States Grants (Schools) Bill one notes that it states:
It was a promise by the then Leader of the Opposition the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) prior to the election that the Interim Schools Commission would be commenced at the earliest time. It was established before last Christmas and I have heard little opposition to it expressed by educationists, teachers, parents and friends. I have heard most educationists in Australia express only congratulations for the thorough report which has been presented by the Interim Schools Commission. The amendment continues:
The amendment also suggests that the Government should allow an accountable flexibility between different categories of expenditure. This is not a trivial amendment, as previous speakers have claimed. This amendment has been moved to torpedo and destroy the entire report of the Interim Schools Commission.
The amendment proposes to give the money to the States for the States themselves to break up. Under this proposal, we would hand back to the political parties and to the Ministers of the various States the power to feather their own nests, as they have done in the past. As the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) said earlier, the proposal would allow politicians to nominate where this money will go. The Government’s idea is that educationists - the Schools Commission - should nominate where money is to be spent. It is taxpayers’ money which will be spent and the Government believes that it is the educationists - the people who will form the Commission - who should nominate where in the education system this money should go.
It will be a wonderful Commission - a wonderful system - if it can be started. The Australian Government has a mandate to establish a schools commission along the lines proposed in the Schools Commission Bill. The amendment which has been moved to the Schools Commission Bill to provide funds in the form of States grants would make the Commission unworkable. Most importantly, the Commission can easily be disbanded and the Australian Government does not want this to happen. We have promised the people a permanent schools commission and the people have the right to expect permanency, regardless of what government is in power. The amendment could mean that Australian government funds for non-government schools would not be available for the beginning of the next school year. The Bill we are debating today is most important and the amendments which have been moved by the Opposition are not acceptable to our Government.
Before I continue, I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who is now indisposed, for the amount of work he has put into bringing this Bill before the chamber. Prior to the election, the now Minister for Education spelt out Labor’s proposal in no uncertain words. He came to my electorate of Evans and spelt out what the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, would do if it were elected to office. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his pre-election speeches also spelt out what was anticipated and what is now coming to fruition in this Bill which provides for an amount of money to be spent on a schools commission. I should like to congratulate the Postmaster-General and Acting Minister for
Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) on his handling of this Bill.
The honourable member for Casey has described the problems of disadvantaged schools in his electorate. His electorate is very similar to mine and his problems with disadvantaged children, migrant children and children from broken homes, high density living and low income families are similar to mine because I represent an inner western suburb of Sydney and the honourable member for Casey represents a suburb of Melbourne. Under this Bill, New South Wales government schools alone in the next 2 years will receive $140,320,000 while non-government schools will receive $62,238,000. This money which will be injected into education in New South Wales will increase the standard of education in that State. Two honourable members who spoke earlier criticised the amount of money to be poured into the education system. They said that the schools would not be able to expand at a sufficient rate in the year or two over which it is expected that this money will be provided to them. They said that the education system will not be able to cater for such expenditure. I should like to take these honourable members around my electorate and show them the requirements of an electorate in an inner western suburb of Sydney, where children are being taught in school corridors. I have seen the children of migrant families trying to teach other migrant children the English language. This is wrong. Bricks and mortar can be put up quickly, but educationists cannot be made instantly and this is where the slowing up period will begin. We may not be able to obtain the number of teachers required in the time that we envisage. But the Minister for Education has stated in this House that New South Wales is capable of carrying out such a program.
Some honourable members apposite who have spoken in this debate said that they were worried about additional swimming pools being provided. In my electorate people are not worried about the provision of additional swimming pools in the schools. They are worried about additional classrooms, teachers and facilities for education. There has been a marked increase in expenditure by the Australian Government on primary and secondary education for which this Government accepts direct responsibility. The Government is not only providing funds for secondary and tertiary education; it is also now directing money into primary education by the provision of libraries for primary schools. These were not provided by previous governments. The total existing grants for such purposes amounted to $38m but the proposed grant this year for New South Wales alone is $249m. This increase in expenditure will greatly affect New South Wales. The schools in my electorate will use this money. We will give these children, whether they be our own children or migrant children who are entering these schools, a decent education.
In conclusion, I mention that a member of the Opposition said that for only $2m in 1974 and Sim in 1975, the per capita grants could be continued. However, members of the Opposition daily stand and say that it is excess Government expenditure that is causing inflation. They say that it is Government spending that is causing inflation, yet they say it should spend another $2m next year and another $lm the year after. The per capita grants system is finished. The people of Australia said so on 2 December last year. I shall finish my speech where I started: If the amendments were carried the Schools Commission Bill would be finished and the Government’s proposal and what it was elected to do also would be finished. It would mean that for another 20 years there would be no advance in the education system in this country.
– I think I am referring to the right member of the House of Representatives when I refer to a comment made by my friend the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder) which appeared in the week-end Press. He asked that 5 civil servants go into his electorate and try to explain what the Government’s policy is - a most difficult task. Whilst I admire his attempt to drag the civil service screaming into the political arena, I find it very difficult to understand why he says that his colleagues should not be asked to help explain because they talk too much. I do not know that I would not find it a week of welcome relief if I lived in the Evans electorate, but perhaps I am just being satirical.
I rise purely to debate this rather vexed question of equality of opportunity which seems to me to be rather difficult to understand, after all the years in which we have listened to members of the present Government refer to what happened to children brought up in certain areas, in certain ways or by certain parents. Those honourable members have a type of deprivation mentality. It is said that certain children are disadvantaged in comparison with children brought up in other areas, in other ways and by other parents. I think one can perpetuate just as must injustice by an over-insistence that disadvantage is a fact of life today; as one can cause by an assertion that there is a very great variation between the homes in which children are brought up in one area as against another. I think, with respect, that honourable members on the Government side are trying to have the best of both worlds in presenting this argument.
Let us consider the attitude of the State Labor Government in South Australia which has been very insistent on this point. It says that it has made real progress over the years in equating any variation of opportunity. We on this side say that with our many years in government we did so in the Federal sphere. Both Mr Dunstan and Mr Hudson, on the one side, and the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), on the other side, as well as many other people, would agree that discrimination between children has got less and less and that the gap has been closed to a greater and greater extent. If we accept that improvement has been made, why are we suddenly going in the opposite direction? The Government, admittedly in relation to only one small part of this Bill, now aims to go to the opposite extreme. It says that children have been treated in an unfair way, that equality of opportunity is not present. I understand that the intention of the Government in regard to the awarding of scholarships is to go to the extent of saying that no child of tomorrow will be able to get up with head in the air and say: ‘Despite where I was born, despite the conditions I have been brought up under, I won a scholarship’. That child’s mates or sisters or bothers will not be able to get up and say: ‘Despite where I was born, my academic capacity was such that I won a government scholarship’.
The big problem that occurs to me at this stage in relation to this Bill is that a lot of the initiative and a lot of the enterprise is to be taken from the process which develops a pride in children, no matter what section of the spectrum they may have been brought up in. That element will disappear under this Bill. Although this argument might seem to be somewhat tenuous to some honourable members so far as per capita grants are concerned, I suggest to the House that there is a strong connection between these 2 points of view. Let us look at the basic variables in relation to the education of our children. Honourable members on both sides have seen brilliant children born of brilliant parents, where academic learning is a matter of great ease to them. These children are fortunate in that because of their genetics they have this capacity. We see the range of ability in children, depending on what their parents are. We know of brilliant parents who have children without much ability and people without much apparent ability who have brilliant children.
Another fact of life is the environmental aspect. I think we can forget the genetic aspect because frankly, the variation in people in every social group remains approximately the same. The argument develops when we come to environmental reasons which include such factors as ease of study, whether the child’s parents talk intelligently, and whether they keep up with contemporary matters and news. Other things include their attitude to work, to study and to the reading of books, whether the members of the family talk together at night and educate each other in this way. In the emotional area are included the location of the school, whether the parents’ association is active and whether it makes money and buys facilities for that school. All these things are included in the environmental area.
I think it is safe to assume that what the Government is saying to us at this stage is that the trend, in its opinion, is such that those people who are disadvantaged on environmental grounds should receive some inequality of treatment in order to bring them up to another standard. It is at this point that in all principle I must quarrel with the Government. As far as I can see it does not matter what sociological group honourable members want to look at because within those groups is a total variation. There will be some brilliant children, some dumb children - if that is not too unkind - and a hell of a lot in the middle of the range. That is the pattern in every social group that we care to look at. In every social group where we perceive and look at those matters it will be seen that people rise beyond their environment, or from the richest sociological group they sink below it. To mention what to some honourable members may seem to be a silly illustration, although I do not think it is, my field of expertise is dairy cattle and their genetics. I remember visiting the top experimental farm in the world at Beltsville in the United States of America many years ago. To illustrate how silly geneticists and breeders can be in trying always to go for the top quality breeding stock, at Beltsville, if on production grounds they had got rid of the bottom third of their friesian cows, within 10 years they would have lost 13 out of their 14 cows which exceeded 1,000 lb of butterfat production in one year. You get this regression to norm genetically, which is what I am discussing now. I am talking about regressions to norm from the brilliant areas and to others coming up.
I think honourable members can run away too strongly with the idea that after all these years we should now bias funds for education towards certain areas when the gap is certainly closing now in comparison with what was happening 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. At this point of time one would think that the Government would be saying quite plainly that it sees the time coming when the environmental grounds in which all children are brought up are so level in this country that all children will be able to have pride, no matter where they were born, in being able to get up and say: ‘I won a government scholarship’. In this way we get real initiatives and real sense into the problem of training children to a work pattern which will benefit them in later life. It depends exactly upon what people want.
I told the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I would talk for only 5 or 10 minutes, and my time has come to a halt. Purely on that one point, I find it difficult to understand the Minister in his insistence that the method of choosing one top quality scholar from another should not be based on the standard of that one person who may have worked flat out to achieve that standard during his career at school. Apart from that, I must say one more thing. Over the years I have battled hard against the principle of establishing a schools commission. I do not run away from that. At this stage of the piece, when I am in Opposition, I will sit back with a great deal of interest and watch to see whether the results the Government expects to get through the work of this Commission working on a needs basis reveal whether the principle is the right one or the wrong one. I think anyone can produce the money and hope to get the results. The problem is whether the right procedures have been adopted to achieve worthwhile results on behalf of the future children of this nation.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmithPostmasterGeneral) (4.57>- in reply - I thank all honourable members who have participated in the debate, particularly those who have dealt with the problems of education on an impartial and fair basis, because problems still exist and have existed for a great many years. Nevertheless a number of statements have been made which have been suggestive that the Government is not really tackling the problem properly. Let us look at the matter from the point of view of what this means in monetary terms - and that is the first criticism. It means in monetary terms that, accepting the point of view that money was made by a previous Government, we thought that that was insufficient. We thought that there should be a schools commission, and the interim committee for such a schools commission has now brought in a report which I suggest is the fairest way of dealing with any area of need in the monetary term.
The previous Government thought it was sufficient to allocate $225m, including $142m for non-government schools. To show how defective that analysis was, when the Karmel Committee introduced its report, which we are now implementing, we provided $694m, including $198m for non-government schools. This is the issue. It is not a question of the money; it is a question of the need being there, and you obviously require the additional resource of money to make up for the deficiency. You just cannot say that because millions of dollars are being spent you will get a result. We must bear in mind that this money is by way of State grant. It goes to those education authorities in the States no matter whether they are dealing with government or nongovernment areas, and they will allocate those resources into the classroom and amongst the children.
The criticism of previous governments has been that they never looked at this issue of need. They have assumed that everybody has been equal, and that has not been the case at all. It is interesting to note a speech that was made on 20 October 1963 in Waverley by the then Prime Minister. It was clear at that stage that the ‘Federal Government had not even had a chance to get into educational problems. It left education to the States. That speech by the then Prime Minister, Mr Robert Menzies, now Sir Robert Menzies, made it clear that he thought that with the tremendous burden of taxation which was then, as he thought, sufficient up to the 1963 period and following the end of the Second World War, it would not have been possible for nongovernment schools to survive. That was the philosophy of the Liberal Government; it was was not really one of taking an interest in education. The non-government sector was not expected to survive, and he was amazed in 1963 to find that it still survived, and then decided that something ought to be done about it.
This is the big problem. Not sufficient interest has been taken at the Commonwealth level in the problems of the States. It therefore became obvious in public opinion that with the high cost of living and the increased wages required for teachers something had to be done. Education just could not run on the shoestring budgets that States were providing. The State governments in turn were getting such a small amount under the reimbursement formula that they could not provide adequate resources to meet all educational needs. So we come to the real issue of what this is all about - an allocation to overcome the deficiencies, to satisfy those needs, partial as it may be today. At least a start has been made. So when the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, at the last election, went to the people one of the first issues he put to them in the policy speech was education. It was a primary function. He said:
We propose a new charter for the children of Australia.
There has to be that charter to overcome their inequality. He said:
Education is the key to equality of opportunity. Sure - we can have education on the cheap … but our children will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.
There was a mandate for something to be done about this situation. He went on to say this:
The most rapidly growing sector of public spending under a Labor Government will be education. Education should be the great instrument for the promotion of equality. Under the Liberals it has become a weapon for perpetuating inequality and promoting privilege. For example, the pupils of State and Catholic schools have had less than half as good an opportunity as the pupils of non-Catholic independent schools to gain Commonwealth secondary scholarships-
So there we see that mandate, that illustration of the situation. So it should not be thought that we were deceptive or misleading. When the Prime Minister made the speech on 20 June to which the honourable member for Wannon referred he said:
The ALP has never voted against any Bill proposing Commonwealth aid for education and it will support any forms of benefit already existing.
That was in June, and it was suggested that that meant it should continue for the rest of that year because a Bill was introduced in the Budget session of 1972. But if we look at the Hansard report we see that my colleague, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), leading for the then Opposition, is quoted as saying in relation to that States Grants Bill:
We take the attitude that in the forthcoming school year of 1973 this Bill must therefore be allowed to proceed. But we give a fair warning that if we are in power, while there will be an expenditure on nongovernment schools of no less than the sum total that will be appropriated in this Bill, the appropriation will be re-apportioned - it will be re-apportioned on the basis of need.
So there is no deception in the Government’s attitude. He concluded that speech by talking about the financial resources that would be required. He said:
It would be a folly impossible to justify to appropriate large sums of money to schools that receive in fees very high revenues and are not in need in respect of their recurring expenses or for that matter their capital expenditure.
It was for that reason he moved an amendment. So there is no deception in the approach of the Government in this situation, and it should not be thought that there has ever been any deception.
Let me deal with some of the specific matters that were raised by the various members in the course of their comments. The honourable member for Wannon has moved an amendment which states that we have virtually not taken notice of the needs of the States, the problems of the States. There has been a suggestion that the approach of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission was too hurried. But it is quite obvious that we do not say at this stage that everything is perfect in the final recommendations of the Committee, but it has been an excellent working foundation. It is the only way any parliamentary group can be handled. The Karmel Committee’s report will be a milestone in Commonwealth interest in education. It clearly indicates what can be done by Commonwealth intervention. We must put that into focus, because the States for many years have been saying that under the Constitution they have the sole and absolute right to control education. We do not deny that. Nevertheless it is interesting to note that in respect of monetary measures Opposition members are anxious to say: ‘Yes, that is what we need.’ The report of the Karmel Committee was applauded by all State leaders on that basis. There is no problem from the point of view of the States being able to use these financial resources in addition to what they already receive under the tax reimbursement formula. I must also say that it is interesting to note that within the States there are still many disparities. I come from New South Wales where the Liberal Government has been in power for quite some time and where there is a means test on secondary grants. Nobody says anything about it. Therefore the school section that is deemed to be non-government is discriminated against, if one wants to use the Opposition’s term, on the basis of means. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that we are doing anything wrong because it will be found that for many schools to which we are now providing money on the basis of categories the New South Wales Liberal Government is not providing any money on a per capita basis at all because of the means test. It is ridiculous to suggest that all States are equal in their treatment of students. It is far from true and that is the very reason why we have to try to fill up the gaps in the educational field.
The honourable member for Wannon was anxious that we should specifically overcome the problem of what he deemed to be the special learning difficulties. He wanted something said about that. Let us make it clear that the problem of special learning difficulties is certainly one that we wish to overcome. Such children are not deemed to be handicapped children within the meaning of the Act. We certainly mean that such a child is handicapped in the initial stages of education but by providing special resources that handicap can be erased. Honourable members will notice that, in paragraph 10.34 of the Karmel report, this matter is dealt with on the basis that there should be special funds made available for remedial teaching and it goes on to say:
There is an acknowledged need for increased specialist assistance to children in normal classes experiencing specific learning difficulties. Provision is included in the general recurrent grants. . . .
We recognise that there is a problem and it is being dealt with in the provision of recurrent grants.
It was said - and this is quite drastic from our point of view - that clause 66 of the Bill must not be carried into effect. If we adopted that suggestion we would not be able to terminate the existing arrangements. That would destroy the whole concept of this Bill. If we failed to terminate the existing arrangements we would be allowing to flow on another $1 14m in addition to the amount of money referred to in this Bill. No responsible Opposition would say ‘There is a lot of money here, you must account for it’ and then leave a previous piece of legislation which would mean, if one looks at paragraphs 6.45 and 6.55 of the Karmel report, an additional $114m to be applied without any test at all. It is quite wrong for an Opposition to be putting up that sort of proposition, and we reject it out of hand.
A number of the amendments are virtually incidental. They are on the basis that the word ‘on’ is not equivalent to the words ‘in accordance with’. I indicate now that I think there is no problem. We will accept that proposition. In our view the word ‘on’ is the same as the words ‘in accordance with’ and therefore there is no reason why we should reject those amendments. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) made a very constructive speech. He wanted an assurance in respect of capital work which had been commenced. His view was that it would have to be concluded before 31 December 1975. I am as sure that is not so. I give him that assurance. Provided it is clear that the contract was let before 31 December 1975 the payments will be made for the project.
Another matter raised in the course of comment was the question of the boards appointed by the Minister in relation to Catholic systemic schools. I am able to say that provisional boards have been set up in each State. This information is available. I hand it to the honourable member for Wannon. If he agrees perhaps that information could be incorporated in Hansard because it shows the Government’s bona fides in the development that has taken place in this area.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) was concerned that there had been deception. I feel that I have dealt with that. He was anxious to emphasise the fact that the Australian Country Party supported per capita grants. I wish he would tell it to his colleagues in New South Wales because that has not been the situation in that State. The means test has prevented it altogether. I remind him that in 1963 in the New South Wales Parliament when the then Labor Government introduced per capita grants it was opposed by the Country Party and the Liberal Party, and that is on record as the honourable member will see if he checks Hansard. It is not much use making a speech here without looking at the situation in his own State where he would have a lot of influence which he could use to correct the situation there.
-The Liberal Party in New South Wales was the first Party in that State to adopt the principle of State aid in 1961.
– It was not.
– We were.
– The 1963 Budget provided per capita grants of £21 for each child. Mr Cutler, as he then was, opposed it and so did Mr Hughes. I suggest that the honourable member check the Hansard report. The vote was put on that basis. There was a double standard.
– It is doing it now, is it not?
– The first time it was ever given it was opposed not only by your Party but also by Sir Robert Askin and that is the issue. It is on record.
– In what context though?
– In the context that the first time legislation making a grant available was introduced it was opposed. Let me put this on the record. In 1962 Sir Robert
Askin proposed in his policy speech to give some State aid but he took it out and the honourable member knows that a Mr Honner left the platform because he felt he had been betrayed. There was no policy recommendation in the 1962 policy speech. It may have been in the Country Party’s policy speech but that Party never contested enough seats to enable it to form a government. So how could it possibly have a policy when the Liberal policy was knocked out? To come back to what I was saying, the whole issue is on the score of what a good Bill this is; what it can do for education; what great work has been done by the Karmel Committee and what a splendid effort has been made by the Minister. I want to assure the House that he is very interested and he is coming along well now that he has had a rest. He will be back in a matter of 10 days. I am very anxious to report to him on how honourable members received this legislation today. While the amendments are of some interest we cannot accept them.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clause 1 to 14 - by leave - taken together.
– I have 4 amendments which refer to clauses 3 and 14. They read:
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ school authority “ means -
Schools for the State in which the school is situated, declares in writing to be the school authority for that school for the purposes of this Act; “ special school “ means a school in a State (whether or not it is a school or institution at which primary education or secondary education is provided) -
The financial assistance to a State constituted by a payment of moneys under section 13 in respect of recurrent expenditure of Catholic systemic schools in that State is granted on that conditions that -
In the definition ‘school authority’, omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
In paragraph (b) of the definition ‘special school’, omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
In sub-clause (1), paragraph (b) (i) (b), omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
– We accept the amendments because we have placed on record the fact that we deem the word ‘on’ to be equivalent to ‘in accordance with’. There is objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 to 14, as amended, agreed to.
– Mr Chairman, I ask leave to move amendments 5 to 7 together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
After sub-clause (1), insert the following subclause: - (1a) If, not later than 30 November 1974, the school authority of a non-systemic school requests the Minister to allot the school, as from 1 January 1975, to a category other than the category to which it was allotted under sub-section (IX the Minister shall, not later than 31 December 1974, consider the request and shall, if in his opinion it is appropriate so to do having regard to the need for assistance in respect of recurrent expenditure of the school in respect of the year commencing 1 January 1975, allot the school to another category for the purposes of financial assistance payable under paragraph (5)(b).
Omit sub-clause (2), substitute the following subclause: -
The Minister may from time to time vary the list referred to in sub-section (1) -
for the purpose of adding to it schools that come into existence, or the existence of which first becomes known to the Minister, after the list has been prepared;
for the purpose of correcting clerical errors in the list or making alterations of a formal kind;
for the purpose of including a school in a category to which the school has been allotted by the Minister under sub-section (1a); or
for the purpose of giving effect to a decision of the Review Tribunal referred to in subsection (6).’.
At the end of the clause add the following subclauses: -
Where the school authority of a non-systemic school is dissatisfied with a decision made by the Minister in relation to the school under sub-section (1) or (1a), the school authority may, in such manner and within such period as are prescribed, request the Review Tribunal established for the purposes of this section in accordance with the regulations to review the decision of the Minister, and the Tribunal shall, after due consideration of the matter, affirm the decision or set aside the decision and make a decision in substitution for the decision so set aside, and the Tribunal may, in considering the matter, disregard any opinion of the Minister in relation to the need for assistance in respect of recurrent expenditure of the school and give its decision based on the opinion of the Tribunal. <7) For the purposes of this section, the need for assistance in respect of recurrent expenditure of a non-systemic school shall be ascertained in accordance with such criteria as are prescribed.’.
These amendments are designed to establish an appeals tribunal and to give schools the right of appeal against the decisions which we are told have already been made concerning the categorisation of schools. We have already seen in this area that the original categorisation had many faults in it, and I would think that a number of faults remain, but I will come to them in a moment. I think it is quite wrong that what has so far happened should be the subject of an arbitrary and final decision by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) as a result of the legislation before us. Therefore, we are proposing that an appeals tribunal should be established and that any school that feels that it is in the wrong category should be able to appeal to that tribunal against the Minister’s decision.
Secondly, towards the end of the first year when circumstances for some schools could have changed there should be the opportunity for schools to ask the Minister to review their categories, and there would be the same provisions of appeal against that. We are also suggesting that a tribunal should be established by regulation - a later amendment will give the power for that to be done - and that the regulations should also prescribe the criteria against which schools have been categorised. I suspect that this amendment will not be accepted because the Government is quite unable to draft amendments which would indicate how schools have been categorised, what criteria have been used and what weight has been given to different factors. I regret that in the interests of fair and open government and in the interest of seeing that justice is done to all schools, the Government has indicated that it is not prepared to accept these thoroughly reasonable proposals.
A great many schools will be affected by semi-secret decision making process. The decision will become public, but the decision making process will at least be semi-secret. A great many parents and individual pupils will be involved and affected by that decision making process. In our sort of government such decisions ought not to be made by departments or by Ministers alone; they ought to be made clearly and openly in the full light of day. There ought to be an opportunity for appeal from such decisions and we will press our amendments.
As a result of information that apparently is to become public shortly, possibly today - at any rate the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) has told me that the document is public - one particular school of which I am aware has not had its appeal for reconsideration of its categorisation upheld. I refer to the Loretto Convent in Portland. I know the school, but I do not mention it only because it is in my electorate. It is utterly farcical that that school should be in category B. There is not a person in this Parliament who visited that school who would not know that that categorisation is utterly farcical. I do not know how it has occurred, but even though this categorisation is a result of the first review, there has been no change.
If this kind of situation is to be allowed to continue it will bring the whole system into complete and utter disrepute. The situation, as I understand it, in this school is that retired nuns and sisters live in the school and occasionally they do some teaching. I understand also that they have been given too much consideration in the assessment of the pupilteacher ratios, and therefore the school has been given a much higher pupil-teacher ratio than in fact it has. I know the circumstances of this school. Many of the nuns and sisters in the school are retired and they do very little, if any, teaching, and they should not have been counted in the assessment. I do not suggest that there is any wish to do the wrong thing. I believe that it has been a genuine and honest mistake. But it indicates how these matters can occur and how an utterly stupid and foolish result can flow from even one appeal. Therefore, there needs to be full and open review machinery which can hear the evidence in public and the decision can be made known. We need to know the criteria by regulation which determines the categorisation of schools. Therefore, the Opposition will press these amendments and vote on them.
Mi? LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmithPostmasterGeneral) (5.21)- The amendments are not acceptable. The position is quite clear. The Karmel Committee set out in chapter 6 of its report the method used to determine categorisation of schools. An appeal tribunal was established. Some 214 appeals were lodged and, except for a relatively few appeals, they have been dealt with. I have shown to the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a report that I now have had handed to me. It is dated 27 November, and it indicates the present position in respect of the schools that lodged appeals which have not yet been resolved, and other matters incidental to them. I ask leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
General Recurrent Grants to Non-Systemic NonGovernment Schools
The attached list shows the categories of schools for recurrent grants from The Australian Government for 1974 and 1975.
Appeals by the following schools are not yet resolved:
These schools are shown in their original category in the attached list and are marked (A).
Schools which commenced operating in 1973 have not yet been placed in categories. The schools are: Devonshire Street School, Chatswood, N.S.W. Elonera School, Gwynneville, N.S.W.
MacQuarie Fields Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, MacQuarie Fields, N.S.W.
Community School, North Fremantle, W.A
Helena School, Darlington, W.A
Montessori School, Wanneroo, W.A.*
Dominic College, Glenorchy, Tas
Seventh Day Adventist School, Darwin, N.T. oRecently re-constituted as a non-profit body.
Several schools have announced their intention of combining with others in 1974. If these amalgamations take place the category of the schools concerned will be reviewed. The schools are marked in the attached list (B).
Canberra 27 November 1973
– I thank the House. In addition, there is a list which shows the nonsystemic schools which have had the question relating to their categories resolved. I table that document for perusal. In relation to the other matters, let me make it clear that in chapter 6 of the Karmel Committee report there is a clear exposition of how the resources categorisation was established. Honourable members will notice also that the Committee found that the recurrent resources of non-government schools ranged from 40 per cent of the State school average to 270 per cent of it. The aim of the Interim Schools Committee was to raise all schools to a level of 140 per cent of that of the government schools.
The Committee has done all this work. The Government is basing its whole case on the immediate implementation of the Karmel Committee recommendations. This is a 2 year program. It is obvious that at the end of the 2 year period there will be a further program, and in the light of that program there may be new problems and new concepts which should be looked at. But this is a specific program for a certain period of time. All schools have had an opportunity to have their resources analysed and to make appeals. It has been on that basis that the Government has introduced this legislation.
– It has all been secret.
– There has been no secrecy to the extent that everybody-
– No evidence has been published in relation to any school.
– Evidence is published in chapter 6 of the Karmel report. It shows the resources. If there have been mistakes, as there have been in the past on a clerical basis, perhaps attributable to the school itself, they have been rectified. Honourable members will note that clause15 (2) provides that the Minister himself can deal with new schools coming into existence. The matter has been adequately canvassed in debate, and the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 65 - by leave - taken together.
– I seek leave to move amendments No. 8, 9 and 10 together.
– Is leave granted?
– Yes, they are formal amendments.
– The amendments refer to clauses 34 and 40 which read in part:
The financial assistance to a State constituted by a payment of moneys under section 33 in respect of recurrent expenditure of Catholic systemic disadvantaged schools in the State is granted on the conditions that -
The financial assistance to a State constituted by a payment of moneys under section 39 is granted on the conditions that -
In clause 34, sub-clause (1), paragraph (a), omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
In clause 34, sub-clause (1), paragraph (b) (i) (b), omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
In clause 40, sub-clause <1), paragraph (a), omit “ on “, substitute “ in accordance with “.
– These amendments to clause 34 and clause 40 are in accord with what we have already agreed and they are acceptable.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 66 (Year to which Part III applies).
– The Opposition is opposing clause 66. All this clause does is to limit legislation standing on the statute books. We would hope our attitude would be followed through with more likely effect in another place. We oppose the clause because of the indication of firm commitments given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on earlier occasions. In his second reading speech the Acting Minister for Education suggested that the Prime Minister was not making a commitment when on 20 June 1972 he made a speech at the Catholic Luncheon Club. However, this policy had been clearly enunciated, announced and publicised five or six weeks before that luncheon occasion. Certainly the Prime Minister was seeking to give the impression that this policy would be carried forward. If by some verbal quibble or trick the Prime Minister wants to claim that there is not a firm commitment in relation to this particular matter he is entitled to do so; certainly it would not be the first occasion. The Opposition took it as a commitment. It agrees with our view and our philosophy.
I emphasise that the Opposition has voted for the second reading and will vote for the third reading and the passage of every cent of funds allocated by this Government to further education. Though we should have preferred greater flexibility and more categories of expenditure we accept what the Government has done. The Opposition is supporting the Government’s measure. However, it is not supporting the repeal of a pre-existing obligation on the Government - an obligation that I should hope the Government would carry through. If there is legislation on the statute book that requires the Government to make payments the Government must take that into account. It cannot assume that legislation on the statute books will be repealed, especially as it does not have a majority at its command in another place. The Government must show a little foresight and common sense in some of these matters. On this particular matter the Government has a clear obligation under its own legislation, which I hope to see proclaimed as soon as possible, to make payments. It will have the continuing obligation from our past legislation. If the Government believed that, arising out of those 2 Acts, there was a situation to which it wanted to propose some alternative, I have no doubt that the Opposition would listen to it and would be very happy to negotiate.
– The Opposition’s proposal would place the whole Bill in jeopardy. The Opposition is asking the Government to provide an additional $1 14m. This is. treated as a mere bagatelle by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It has nothing to do with the needs concept. He spoke about a majority in the other place. Let me put it on record that the Government has a mandate for this legislation. It was put to the electors quite clearly. It was referred to-
– This was not.
– Yes. The Opposition was put on notice by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) when the legislation was introduced last September. It was made quite clear that there could be no deception and no misleading by words. It was said quite clearly that the 1973 position would be maintained but that, after that, funds would be reappropriated on the basis of need. There is no denial of that. It is on record and there is no deception. In paragraph 6.45 of the Karmel Committee report we see that .the grants recommended are intended to replace those provided under the States Grants (Schools) Act. The same wording is repeated in paragraph 6.54 - the grants recommended are intended to replace those recurrent grants provided under the States Grants (Schools) Act.
So here we have a situation of an Opposition, which is deemed to be responsible, denying what has been said in the Parliament, rejecting the Karmel Committee’s recommendations and saying: ‘We will accept what you are doing but you will have to provide another $114m’. Of course, that means the allocation would be on a per capita grant basis, which was the Opposition’s attitude all the way through. The Australian Labor Party made it quite clear in the Parliament, in its policy speech or wherever the Labor Party has had to stand up and answer for its education policy, that it would be on the basis of need. This amendment would destroy the whole concept of need. There would have been no reason for the Karmel Committee to consider this situation if a further $114m had to be added on to what was recommended and what this Bill will implement. For that reason the Government persists with the clause.
– There is a further piece of evidence - a letter written by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - of which I believe the House ought to be informed. On 13 December, after the election, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr Dixon who was then Chairman of the National Council of Independent Schools. In that letter the Prime Minister said that per capita grants would be continued in 1973. He indicated the figures. Then he went on to talk about 1974 and subsequent years. He said:
Commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of nongovernment schools will be determined on the basis of relative need.
There is only one plain meaning of that sentence, that is, that the per capita grants would continue, but that sums over and above those which we have provided would be made available on the basis of need. That is consistent with the Prime Minister’s earlier statements preceding the election. It was only after 13 December 1973 that the Prime Minister began to recant on his firm promise of the known policy on which the Australian Labor Party went to the electorate. There is no mandate for the repeal of this measure, in view of the statements that the Prime Minister has made, which are very clearly on record. The Acting Minister for Education, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen), has a job to do and I can sympathise with him. The Prime Minister is not here to answer these questions and the allegations about what he has said. He has been challenged to do so on a number of occasions. There is a question on the notice paper which was placed there at his request when he did not answer a question without notice. He has not answered it. I suspect that he cannot answer it. But it all comes to the same point: What has the Prime Minister done in these matters? The written word speaks for itself. I seek leave to incorporate that letter in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Canberra 13 December 1972
Dear Mr Dixon,
I write to inform you that I have set up an Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission and I attach a copy of the list of members of the Committee and of its Terms of Reference.
The Interim Committee is being asked to bring forward recommendations for additional Commonwealth expenditure over the years 1974 and 197S and to do so in time for the Government to consider those recommendations in its preparation of the 1973-74 Budget.
The Interim Committee will begin work immediately and I expect the Chairman or the Secretariat to be in touch with you and with other school authorities shortly.
It is the Government’s intention that existing Commonwealth programmes for specific purpose grants for the benefit of schools will run their course. Sir Ivan Dougherty’s Committee will be able to proceed with its task in respect of grants available for 1973-74, but we will need to review the arrangements for allocating the capital grants which are available under that program for the following four years.
Per capita grants to non-government schools for the year 1973 will be paid at the rates already approved for 1973 under the provisions of that Act, Le. $62 per primary pupil and $104 per secondary pupil. Commencing in 1974 additional Commonwealth contributions towards the running costs of nongovernment schools will be determined on the basis of relative need as assessed by the Interim Committee and subsequently by the Australian Schools Commission.
Mr J. Dixon, Chairman,
National Council of Independent Schools, P.O. Box 633, Geelong, Victoria 3220
– I thank the Minister for that. The Opposition will be pressing its point of view on this clause, as the Minister might well guess.
– The passing of the Opposition’s amendment - in other words, allowing the amount of money in the present Act to flow on - would have the very clear effect of making sure that this program cannot be properly implemented. We have heard a lot of things said in this House recently about the Government’s expenditure - what it is spending on this, what it is spending on that, that the Government ought to cut down its expenditure, and so on. It is quite clear from the statements that were made before the election and those made after the election that the Government is carrying out the wishes of the majority of Australians in presenting this Bill. If it is not passed, the Government will not be able to implement the sorts of things mentioned in the Bill.
The Government will not be able to implement properly the general building grants and the supplementary science laboratory building grants mentioned in clauses 4 to 10. It will not be able to implement properly the grants for recurrent expenditure mentioned in clauses 11 to 16. It will not be able to implement properly the library grants mentioned in clauses 17 to 25 or the grants for disadvantaged schools, the grants in respect of special schools for handicapped children, the grants in respect of teacher development or those applying to innovations which are referred to as special projects.
– Get your facts right.
– I hear honourable members opposite interjecting and saying that the Government will be able to do so. The fact is that a considerable amount of money, running into tens of millions of dollars, would need to be appropriated in order to carry out the intent of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I would like to support what the Acting Minister for Education, the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), said a little while ago. To my mind the situation is quite clear, and none of the words in the letter incorporated by the honourable member for Wannon alter my opinion in any way. As far as I am concerned, it was quite clear in that letter and in the statements that have been made - it has always been quite clear - that if a Labor government were elected it would make the allocations on the basis of need.
– Additional funds.
– The Government has made additional grants. A considerable amount of extra money has been made available to non-government schools in addition to the enormous amount of money made available to government schools. The Government has done what the people of Australia wish it to do. It is carrying out the policy put by the present Prime Minister and also by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) when he was the Opposition’s spokesman for education and in the time since he has been Minister for Education. This amendment is just a ploy on the part of the Opposition to make this Bill unworkable in the terms and needs as the Government sees them. As a private member of the Government Party, I have no hesitation in backing up what the Acting Minister has said. I am sure that he receives the absolute support of honourable members on this side, because what is contained in this Bill is absolutely fundamental to the policies that the Australian Labor Party put to the people. I believe that the Government has a mandate and it will carry that mandate through.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. <The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill- by leave–4aken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) - by leave - read a third time.
– No, it is not necessary to record it.
– You did not really support it.
– We were supporting it. Is there any way of having it recorded that all members supported it?
– No division was called for. So it means that the House is supporting it unanimously.
In Committee Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ acting Chairman “ means an acting Chairman of the Commission appointed under sub-section
” acting member “ means an acting member of the Commission appointed under sub-section 6 (2), (3) or (4); “ Australian Capital Territory “ includes the Jervis Bay Territory;
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
In clause 3, after the definition of “Australian Capital Territory”, insert the following definition: “ ‘Australian Education Council’ means the Australian Minister for Education and every Minister for Education of the States of Australia meeting together.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
At end of clause 3 add the following sub-clause: “ (2) Any reference in a provision of this Act to schools shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be read as a reference both to government schools and to non-government schools.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3 -
In clause 4, leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2), insert the following paragraph: “ (b) fourteen other members selected or appointed as hereinafter provided.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 4 -
In clause 4, leave out sub-clause (4), insert the following sub-clause: “ (4) The Chairman and each other full-time member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding five years, and each part-time member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 5 -
After clause 4, insert the following new clauses: “4a. The members of the Commission shall be appointed as follows: -
the Chairman and three other members upon the recommendation of the Minister of whom one shall be a person involved in research in relation to education;
four other members upon the recommendation of the Australian Education Council of whom one shall be a person involved in special education of handicapped children or children with special learning difficulties;
three other members of whom one shall be appointed upon- the recommendation of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia, one shall be upon the recommendation of the National Council of Independent Schools and one shall be upon the recommendation of the Australian Parents’ Council;
two other members who shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Australian Teachers’ Federation; and
two other members who shall be appointed upon the recommendation of the Australian Council of State School Organizations.” “4b. A member shall not be responsible to the person, body or organization which recommended the member’s appointment.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 6 -
In clause 5, at end of sub-clause (2) add: “ of whom at least one shall be a member selected and appointed pursuant to paragraph 4A (c) “.
Senate’s amendment No. 7 -
In clause 12, leave out sub-clauses (5) and (6), insert the following sub-clause: “ (5) At a meeting of the Commission a quorum is constituted by not less than eight members.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 8 -
In clause 13, leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause (1), insert the following paragraph: “ (a) The definition, in consultation and cooperation with the State Departments of Education, the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with authorities responsible for or connected with non-government schools in Australia, parent and teacher organizations and such other organizations and persons as it may deem appropriate of desirable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities at government and non-government primary and secondary schools in Australia, and’ the means and provision necessary for attaining and maintaining those standards; “.
Senate’s amendment No. 9 -
In clause 13, leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause (1), insert the following paragraph: “ (b) The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs and to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia; “.
Senate’s amendment No. 10 -
In clause 13, leave out paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1), insert the following paragraph: “(c) Matters in connection with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of primary and secondary government and non-government school students, schools and school systems in Australia including the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and whilst recognising the desirability, of maximum flexibility and diversity and the right and responsibility of the State and individual school authorities to determine the specific allocation of such financial assistance the conditions, if any, upon which financial assistance should be granted and the total amount and total allocation of any financial assistance so granted; and “.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 1 -
In clause 13, leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3), insert the following paragraphs: “ (a) Article 26 of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and in particular the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children; “ (aa) the obligation for governments to provide or assist in the provision and maintenance of educational opportunities for all children which are of the highest standard and which recognise the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and where provided and maintained by or on behalf of a government ensure that these opportunities are open without fees or religious tests, to all children; “ (ab) the rights and powers pursuant to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of the State Governments in relation to education; “ (ac) the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunities in Australia; “ (ad) the importance of the improvement of the quality of education available to all students attending primary and secondary schools;”.
Senate’s amendment No. 12 -
In clause 13, paragraph (a) of sub-clause (4), leave out “conducting”, insert “responsible for or connected with “.
Senate’s amendment No. 13 -
Clause 14, at end of clause add the following sub-clauses: “ (4) The Commission shall, as soon as possible, but later than six months after the expiration of each financial year, prepare and forward to the Minister a report on the operations of the Commission during that year for presentation of both Houses of Parliament. “ (5) A member may add a protest or dissent to any report furnished to the Minister.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 14 -
Leave out clause 16.
Senate’s amendment No. 15 -
In clause 17, at end of sub-clause (1) add: “provided that such request shall be related to the matters referred to in section 13 “.
– I should like to indicate to the Committee that the Government proposes that amendment No. 2 be agreed to and that amendments Nos 1 and 3 to IS inclusive be disagreed to. May I suggest, therefore, that it may suit the convenience of the Committee to consider first amendment No. 2 and when that amendment has been disposed of to consider together amendments Nos 1 and 3 to IS inclusive.
– Is that procedure agreed to? There being no objection, that procedure is agreed to.
– I move:
That Senate’s amendment No. 2 be agreed to.
The purpose of the amendment, which the Government accepts, is to remove any possibility of doubt that the Government is concerned with all schools and all children whether they be in government or non-government schools. Accordingly the reference is in accordance with the Government’s thinking.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
That amendments Nos 1 and 3 to IS inclusive be disagreed to.
Honourable members will notice that the Senate’s amendments destroy the whole of the Government’s concept of what a schools commission should be. What the amendments propose is contrary to the Government’s thinking, to the Government’s mandate and to the Karmel Committee’s recommendation as to the type of commission that is required. I refer to paragraphs 13 (5) and 13 (6) of the report of that Committee. The proposal to specify particular institutions, authorities and groups of people which will have a right of nominating either persons or panels of names is not in accordance with the practice adopted by the Opposition when in government in establishing advisory bodies in education. Such an approach would limit flexibility of action in the future. It needs to be remembered that the Schools Commission will have a continuing existence and that, as measures to improve the quality of education in Australian schools take effect and as new priorities emerge, circumstances could require a change in membership. The Government believes that it must retain flexibility in the choice of persons to serve on the Commission.
Members of the Commission, whether fulltime or part-time, will be selected to serve as individuals who can apply their background of experience and knowledge and personal qualities to the Commission’s task. They are not intended to be delegates and there is a very real danger that if they are nominated in the way suggested by the Opposition they would become delegates. Even where it is proposed that the Minister for Education be able to choose a number of members from a panel containing a greater number of names his flexibility would be limited. The combination of the amendments, firstly, to limit the flexibility of the Minister in the choice of people to serve on the Commission and, secondly, to obtain the exclusion of the Schools Commission advisory boards, can only be intended to frustrate the Government’s intentions to create an expert advisory body in this most important area of education just as is already being done for universities and colleges of advanced education. A mandatory provision for the Australian Minister to accept a panel of names from the State Ministers of Education is a novel approach to the application of the prerogative of the Australian Parliament to make grants under section 96 of the Constitution. It is certainly not a proposition that the Opposition, when in government, would have accepted from us.
Th? purpose of the amendments to the functions of the Commission and the matters to be taken into account in the performance of those functions is to water down the needs concept which is basic to the Government’s approach as endorsed by the electorate. In the process the Opposition wants specifically to deny the primary obligation of governments to provide government schools of high standard open without fees or religious tests to all children. The Government’s intentions were put to the electorate in quite precise terms in the 1972 House of Representatives elections and it has a clear mandate to establish the Schools Commission on the basis it has proposed. Accordingly, the amendments are rejected by the Government.
– The Opposition has taken the position that the structure of the schools commission as outlined by the Bill does not meet the expressed intention and a professed principle of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). What the amendments serve to do is to enlarge the membership of the Commission from a maximum of 12 to 15 and to provide wider representation of the community which is affected by the Bill. Indeed, this amendment is in line with the written policy of the Australian Labor Party. In his policy speech last year, on the section dealing with ‘Schools’, the Prime Minister said:
A Federal Labor Government will: . . .
The words ‘representative of are the key to our position in regard to this amendment - the State departments, the Catholic system and the teaching profession.
But where in the Bill does the Government give legislative endorsement to this position? The extraordinary reaction of the Acting Minister for Education, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the Government which indicate that it cannot live with these amendments leads one to the conclusion that the Government does not want an independent commission representative of the State departments, the Catholic system and the teaching profession.
We have reason to believe that the Minister has already promised certain people that they will get a guernsey on the Commission. Undoubtedly this is true. But members of the Commission should be selected according to the criteria which are contained in the Opposition’s amendments. But unless these requirements are mandatory on future Ministers of Education, indeed on future governments, can we be sure that a schools commission will have the crosssectional community representation that is described in the Opposition’s amendments? At the moment the Minister or the government of the day appoints all commissions. How then can such a commission be called or deemed to be an independent body of the people? If people who are appointed depend entirely on the Minister for re-appointment and if they do not behave themselves and do not do what the Minister says, will they be independent in a real sense? In any event, governments tend to appoint to such positions people who are prepared ‘to play ball’.
The Opposition, in suggesting these Senate amendments, is seeking to ensure that the spirit of the Prime Minister’s statement is actually carried into effect. They will ensure that all future Ministers will be under mandatory obligation to appoint a chairman and 3 other members, one of whom will be involved in research into education. Four members will be appointed on the recommendation of the Australian Education Council - of which the Australian Minister for Education is in fact Chairman - one of whom will be involved with the education of handicapped children or children with specific learning difficulties. Three other members will be appointed as recommended by the Episcopal Conference of Australia, the National Council of Independent Schools and the Australian Parents’ Council. Two appointees will be those recommended by the Australian Teachers’ Federation. The Opposition writes this requirement into the Bill. The idea is to have it inscribed so that the Teachers’ Federation will have the mandatory right to ensure that it will have representation on the Schools Commission. Two representatives will be from the Australian Council of School Organisations. Such a commission would be independent, flexible and responsive to the community requirements.
I think it is completely irresponsible not to accept the sense contained in the Opposition’s amendment or even to threaten to drop this Bill. The amendments were moved in good faith to ensure that there is community representation on that Commission. These amendments write into the legislation that requirement to ensure that those organisations and those people involved in education have a mandatory right to be represented on the Commission. It has been said in another place that it would be sheer petulance and arrogance to drop this Bill because of these amendments. It would be a complete disregard for the students who would be served well by it. It has been said also that since the Government will not agree with these amendments it will not be able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education. What arrant nonsense. It can spend that money regardless. It can reappoint the Interim Commission. Is this true or false? There is no answer from the Acting Minister, so we assume that that is right. The question of legislation-
– What was that?
– What I am saying is that it has been said that if the Opposition takes this position the Government will not go along with the establishment of a schools commission and this will deny-
– You have destroyed it.
– No. That is arrant nonsense because you could still operate through the Interim Schools Commission.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member address the Chair and that honourable members should talk in turn and not together.
– The Opposition sticks very rigidly to the position that it is far better, in the long term interests of education, to require that the members of the schools commission - the principle of which the Opposition accepts - be appointed as a result of mandatory guidelines written into the legislation to ensure that the Commission includes representatives of the States school systems, education research, the independent school system and the Teachers Federation - indeed all of those interested groups that are in fact involved in education. I think it is rubbish to try to lead people to believe that the amendments would deny to education something like $400m or $500m. For years teachers have sought representation on education bodies and commissions. Here is their chance to appoint their own representatives. We seek to impose a mandatory obligation upon not necessarily the Government of today but governments of the future to have 2 teacher representatives upon the Schools Commission.
I am also of the opinion that there has been an attempt to blackmail the teaching profession and the people into believing that because the Opposition has decided to move for the structuring of the Schools Commission in this way education will fail to receive the funds that have been promised to it in the Budget. The Opposition will pursue these 3 amendments because it believes that it is in the best long term interests of education to ensure that the Schools Commission be structured in this way. I quote again from the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 20 June 1972 in an address to the Catholic Luncheon Club, Melbourne. Referring to the Commission, he said:
The Commission will include representatives of State departments, non-government school authorities, parents’ organisations and the teaching profession.
That is precisely what the Opposition is endeavouring to do. It is endeavouring to make it mandatory upon governments of today and the future to ensure that that represenation is in fact applied to the Schools Commission. The other amendments, of course, relate to the way in which the Schools Commission itself shall-
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, I join with the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) in opposing the propositions put forward by the Opposition. It is somewhat hypocritical of the Opposition to be trying to force these kinds of amendments on the Government. The Government is quite serious about its intention to have the membership of the Australian Schools Commission appointed in the way in which it has decided. The Minister for Education, on behalf of the Government, will be responsible for making the appointments to the Australian Schools Commission. Such a procedure is not unique, as members of the Opposition well know. They will recall that the membership of the Australian Universities Commission was appointed by the Minister. They know very well that the membership of the Colleges of Advanced Education Committee was also appointed and not selected. As a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Library did a little bit of research on this matter for me before it came on for debate. I quote from as far back as Parliamentary Paper No. 77 of 1969, which is entitled ‘Appendix A - Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and its Sub-committees Terms of Reference and Membership’. One of the paragraphs of that document states:
The Committee will consist of a full time chairman and not more than 7 part time members, al’ appointed initially for approximately 3 years. Executive and administrative support for the Committee will be provided within the Education division of the Prime Minister’s Department. Members will be appointed by the Minister.
That document related to the Advisory Committee on Advanced Education and its subcommittees. It went on to allow the Minister to appoint the sub-committees as well. Another example is the Comonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee, which has dealt with quite a number of schools. Another document I have with me reads:
The Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee was appointed by the Minister for Education and Science to advise him on the conditions and standards necessary for the effective development of the new program in relation to the independent schools.
Once again the personnel are in a sense representative, depending upon the way in which one defines the term ‘representative’, of interested people. They did not have to be actually nominated by various interested bodies. They were, in fact, people who were representative in the sense that they had contacts with a variety of the interests that were being served by the Committee. Another example - I warn honourable members opposite that this is only a very small selection - is the national steering committee for promotion of the training function in industry and commerce, which was set up back in, I think, 1970. Whilst it had on it representatives - in inverted commas - of national employer organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Commonwealth Department of Education, the State Department of Labour and State technical education authorities, which had been invited to nominate members to the Committee, the members were appointed as individuals and not as representatives. I could continue with similar illustrations.
In his speech a while ago the Acting Minister reminded us that the Australian Educational Council - I am quoting the Acting Minister now - was not consulted before its suggested role was incorporated into the relevant amendments moved by the Opposition Parties in the Senate and that a majority of the members of the Council did not wish it to make nominations to the Commission. Honourable members opposite are trying to push onto the Commission people who have indicated that they have no wish to nominate for it. The Government has spoken to the people who have been breathing down the necks of honourable members opposite over the last few weeks and who have forced them to take a much more conciliatory attitude to this Bill by threatening that dire political consequences will follow if they do not allow this Bill to be passed by this Parliament. I have in my hand a letter from the Executive Officer of the Australian Council of State School Organisations to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which reads:
The Australian Council of State School Organisations wishes to express to you our satisfaction with the inclusion in the reconstructed Committee of the Australian Schools Commission of both a State school parent and a teacher.
The Organisation did not go on to demand that it be permitted to nominate a person. The Government has talked to these people about this matter. Some of them have expressed a desire to be allowed to nominate a panel. In some cases the Government consulted them informally. One does not go around picking the names of these people out of the air. One has to take advice. But the Minister and the Government have to accept responsibility for what happens. I remind honourable members that at least once every 3 years the Minister and the Government have to face the people of Australia and be responsible to them for all of their activities, including the selection of the people who are going to guide them in their education policy.
There have been further eulogistic remarks in support of the Bill from the New South Wales Federation of Infants School Clubs, the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. I think the Australian Teachers Federation also has expressed its admiration for the Bill. It has not made any great hue and cry about the type of Commission the Government has decided to appoint. In fact, the President of the Australian Teachers Federation is one of the persons to be appointed by the Government as a member of the Commission. I can quote further from newspaper articles in support of the Government’s proposals. For instance, one entitled ‘Big Catholic Parent Group Backs Minister’ states:
Australia’s biggest Catholic parents’ organisation today publicly dissociated itself from criticism of the Karmel report made by some independent schools.
– Which one was that?
– Some of the spokesmen who honourable members opposite were quoting in this chamber as being very eminent authorities did not represent anything like a fraction of the Catholic schools.
– Which organisation?
– Order! If the honourable member for Mackellar cannot keep quiet, I suggest that he leave the chamber.
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Mackellar that he should rise in the normal manner if he wishes to debate the matter and not continually interject.
– I am the honourable member for Warringah.
– Order! I meant to say the honourable member for Warringah. I apologise for the mistake.
– I am ready to quote them.
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Barton that he should remain silent while the Chair is addressing the chamber.
– I am sorry. I apologise.
– Order! I repeat that if the honourable member for Warringah continues to interject I will have to deal with him.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– To continue my remarks in the few minutes available to me, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had been indicating my opposition to the amendment proposed by the Opposition parties. The Opposition has suggested that the Schools Commission should be a nominated body and that it should have on it direct representatives of various interest groups in the community, whereas the Bill provides that the Minister shall select the personnel of the Commission. In fact, the Minister has already done so, and a very eminent group of people they are. In the broad sense they are a very representative group of people, as was the Interim Committee - the so-called Karmel Committee - which carried out the inquiry leading up to this Bill. I had mentioned also that the reason why the Government had chosen the Commission rather than agreeing to have one nominated was that that was the recommendation of the Karmel Committee itself. For very good reasons, that Committee had suggested that the Schools Commission should be selected rather than nominated. I had just reached the point of saying that our action had been endorsed by various parent and teacher groups in the community. Included among them was the Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations. I further referred to the fact that the Australian Educational Council, representatives of which the Opposition would like to see nominated to the Commission, has given no such indication to the Government that it wanted to have representatives on the Commission. Certainly, the majority of the representatives on the Australian Education Council, which as we all know is made up of the Ministers of Education of the various States, have not expressed such a view. Nobody would challenge the Schools Commission we have selected. Nobody would ever challenge the Australian Universities Commission that has existed over the years and the expertise that it has brought to its job. Nobody would challenge the Australian Commission for Colleges of Advanced Education.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– One of the main reasons why the Opposition is so insistent on these amendments is that the general undertaking which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had given to those involved in education was that people representative of Catholic education and of the teachers would have representation on the Schools Commission. We simply seek to guarantee this. It is true that many of the commissions which have been implemented prior to this one have not included such a broadly based involvement of community groups, but that is no reason why we should not, if you like, learn from the mistakes of the past or try it a new way when the cry is for increased community participation and a sense of participatory democracy. I find it very odd that the Acting Minister for Education, the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), says that our amendments would destroy the whole of Government thinking as to what the Commission should be when in fact one of his ministerial colleagues in this House only a few weeks ago said that the Government had quite seriously considered having a nominated Schools Commission in the way which the Liberal and Country Parties now are suggesting. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) said that the Government had chosen not to appoint the Commission in the way we are suggesting because, fundamentally, the Government found it too difficult to involve all the representative groups in the Commission.
We are not perturbed by the fact that it is difficult to involve in the Schools Commission all interested communities in the education area. We are quite determined to find a way of doing this. I confess that it is a novel approach, but I would have thought that a new government might have been interested in novel approaches, particularly when there is such a widespread demand in the community for an involvement in the decision making process. I stress that this is not even, if you like, the ultimate decision making process. What we are talking about is a commission which advises the Government. We are not for a moment suggesting that this Commission should usurp the function of government. It is a commission which is appointed under an Act to advise the Government on all the important matters of education which are in its charge. The Government can pile up its experts shoulder high in its Department of Education or other relevant departments. We seek merely the adherence to this new principle of community involvement or participatory democracy, whatever one likes to call it. We believe quite sincerely that it is in accordance with the preferences and the general direction of the thinking of the Prime Minister as expressed before the election. As I say, we are not perturbed by the fact that it is difficult to find a way of doing this. We confess that some of the particularities of our proposal may have some awkward elements.
The point was made by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) who preceded me in this debate that the majority of the Australian Educational Council was not in full agreement with what we seek to do. However, the point remains that right across all those who are interested in education there have been calls for representation on this body and those calls have been echoed recently. In the 21 November issue of the New South Wales Teachers Federation journal called ‘Education’ there appears an article which relates the experiences of members of the teaching profession and parents who came to Canberra to discuss this matter. They point out in their article that one member of the Australian Labor Party said that he did not think there would be any insuperable opposition to the appointment to the Schools Commission of representatives of the Australian Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of State School Organisations. That is to say, a member of the Labor Party told those who were visiting Canberra, some of whom were looking for representation on the Schools Commission, that he did not think there would be any insuperable objection to such a proposal. We have had the Minister for the Capital Territory saying that the matter had been seriously considered. Why will these ‘honourable gentlemen not stand in this place and support the proposition which we have put in all good faith?
We find it quite extraordinary that honourable members opposite would seek to destroy the whole of the Schools Commission Bill for the sake of something which they tried but found too difficult. That is what it amounts to, for we are not for a moment - we have been grossly misrepresented on this point - suggesting that we do not want to see established a schools commission. We want to see a schools commission set up in such a way that the communities involved in education have their participation guaranteed by this Bill. The Ministry can ultimately make the decisions. The Caucus insists on making decisions in many cases for the Cabinet, so why can we not see a bit of sense on this matter from honourable members opposite? But what came through clearly in this article which was expressing the feelings of one person who had come with the delegation of teachers and parents was that these teachers would think it monstrous that the Schools Commission Bill would be sacrificed because members of the Labor Party wanted to cut off their noses to spite their faces. We would remind honourable members that all our suggestions are in accordance with the thinking which the Prime Minister advanced when he was Leader of the Opposition in relation to what his Government would seek to do. Admittedly, we have added the element of the parents. He did not talk about seeking to include parents’ representatives on the Schools Commission. We considered this seriously, conscious again of the difficulty of ensuring proper representation of parents’ groups. We nevertheless decided that we should seek to ensure that parents as well as teachers, as well as the Catholic system, and as well as the Education Departments, should have guaranteed representation upon this body. Not for a moment are we suggesting that they would be mere delegates. They would have to exercise a full and proper role as members of a Commission advising the Government.
We of the Opposition think it is very odd to hear members of the new Labor Government talking and harping about the role of experts when the community in this country, as are comparable communities all around the world, is crying out for a say in the decisions affecting the very lives of the people. There seems to be some sort of strange sneering approach implicit in some of the remarks of members of the Government - that there is something unworthy or improper about those who come here to represent their very broad and deep constituencies of interest, that there seems to be something improper about accommodating those who represent thousands of teachers, thousands and thousands of students, and thousands and thousands of parents.
We seek a Schools Commission which guarantees these absolutely basic features. We are not suggesting that this approach would apply in every field. It is hard to compare a Commission, involved with every school child in this country, with thousands and thousands of teachers all over the country, and with thousands and thousands of schools - a body like that which could so easily get away from the groups for which it seeks to speak, to make policy for and to represent - with many other commissions which governments would set up. We are not suggesting that this would be a precedent for all areas. We do think that in this particular area, where the cry is for community participation, only a government which has some set of strange ulterior type motives would desire to see our amendments defeated.
– Australians who have the interests of schools at heart will have been appalled to hear the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) affirm before dinner that the Opposition majority in another place will be used to reinstate amendments in the Schools Commission Bill which the Opposition knows are unacceptable to the Government and must lead to the Bill being dropped. They will have noted with dismay that the Opposition is destroying the Schools Commission as surely in this way as if it had used its Senate majority to vote down the Bill at the second reading stage. The honourable member for Gwydir made it clear that despite lip service paid today to the work of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission the Opposition remains as hostile as ever to the policy of allocating Australian Government assistance to schools on the basis of needs and priorities in accordance with the mandate that this Government received only a year ago.
Honourable members opposite spent a great deal of today’s debate praising the work of the Committee to which the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) originally appointed 10 notable Australians expert in particular aspects of education and broadly representative of interest groups involved in the administration of Australian schools. Yet tonight they are determined to see that Committee, in the form of a statutory commission, reconstituted on an entirely different basis. They claim to be satisfied, to be in support of the report, yet they are determined to radically transform the base from which that report arose. When the Schools Commission was debated originally in this House honourable members opposite advocated a set of amendments which would have effectively excluded from participation in the Commission representatives of teachers and of parents. Yet tonight they insist that such representatives must be included in the Commission even against the wishes of the organisations concerned - and those wishes have been made very clear indeed.
We do not have to look very far for the purpose behind these amendments. On the one hand, ideally, the Opposition wants to see dropped the Schools Commission, to which it has always been opposed and to which it remains opposed. Then if at any time in the future members opposite should find themselves once again on this side of the House they will not have to go to the trouble of repealing the Act. Equally, failing that device, the Opposition is anxious to see the whole concept of the Schools Commission, and the needs approach that it represents, discredited. The real purpose of the amendments is to rob the Commission of its independent, expert and impartial character - those very qualities that gave the Karmel Committee the standing it has enjoyed in the community - and to reproduce within the structure of the Commission all the rivalries and hostilities which bedevil education as we know it. The real purpose is to turn the Commission into a cockpit for disputes between government and non-government schools, between teachers and the authorities which employ teachers, and between the Australian Government and the States.
The Opposition believes, and with good reason, that such a quarrelsome body could not hope to command the same public respect as the Karmel Committee and that its failure to implement the needs policy in an acceptable manner would clear the way for a restoration of the across-the-board per capita grants approach to which the Opposition always has been committed.
Members of this House need to remember that the States Grants (Schools) Bill to which we have given consideration today is current only for the years 1974 and 1975. A Schools Commission, constituted on the lines of the original Karmel Committee, is the only body which can command the support and consensus in the community for an assessment of further needs in 1976 and subsequent years. We need to be cognisant of what would happen to the Australian education if the amendments currently before this House and which are to be moved shortly in another place are pressed. It would be a national tragedy for our schools if the advice tendered by the Karmel Committee itself about the composition of the Schools Commission - I refer to its recommendations in section 13.6 - were to be disregarded. It would be a national tragedy for our schools and the children who attend them if the work, the assessment of needs and the supervision of the program of assistance to schools to which we have given attention today had to be carried on by an interim committee with all the limitations that that involves.
– I was rather surprised at the nasty little speech made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). Does he honestly suggest that the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia, or the National Council of Independent Schools, or the Australian Parents Council, or the Australian Teachers Federation, or the Australian Council of State School Organisations do not have sufficient competence and do not have sufficient interest to nominate effective people to be placed upon this Schools Commission? If he does, let him say so. I was very surprised to hear the honourable member for Casey putting forward such arguments that the Opposition knows that these amendments are unacceptable to the Government and therefore we should meekly surrender them. I find this unacceptable myself. Let us look at some of the arguments advanced by people such as the honourable member for Casey. He says that members nominated by such bodies as I have enumerated will not be free and independent people. The new Clause 4b proposed by the amendments states:
A member shall not be responsible to the person, body or organisation which recommended the member’s appointment.
– How do you implement that proposal?
– This specifically states that the members nominated by these organisations shall be free and independent people. Is the honourable member for Casey suggesting that they would not be free and independent people?
– I am suggesting that this is meaningless noise unless machinery is attached to it.
– Order! When the honourable member for Casey was speaking I asked honourable members to hear him in silence. I would ask him to extend that courtesy to the honourable member for Warringah.
is the mandatory appointment of those people who should be represented on the Schools Commission. We do not seek to destroy the concept of the Schools Commission. We do not seek to destroy the flexibility of the Schools Commission. We do not seek to destroy the work of the Schools Commission. What we seek to do is to take away from the Minister - not the present Minister, but perhaps future Ministers - the sheer right, the personal right, of appointing lackeys to positions. I am not saying that the present Minister has appointed lackeys to positions. What I am saying is that we will remove any suggestion that in the future this could happen. I am surprised that honourable members such as the honourable member for Casey should argue with this concept.
Let us look at some of the other things that the Government is rejecting in terms of the amendments moved by the Opposition. The Government is objecting to amendment No. 11 to clause 13 and the concept of article 26 of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and in particular the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. It is rejecting that. It is rejecting the concept of an obligation for governments to provide or assist in the provision and maintenance of educational opportunities for al! children which are of the highest standard and which recognise the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and where provided and maintained by or on behalf of a government ensure that these opportunities are open without fees or religious tests to all children. This is the sort of amendment that the Government is rejecting.
Let us have no nonsense about limiting the flexibility of the Minister. Let us have no nonsense about the Opposition rejecting the needs test or the needs approach. What we are saying in the amendments is that not only should non-government schools and the organisations I have enumerated be granted the right to be represented on the Schools Commission but also that needs should be taken into account. Let us not misrepresent the position as outlined in the amendments by the Opposition. I completely disagree with the approach adopted by the honourable member for Casey and others on the Government side. I think it totally misrepresents the attitude - in my belief the responsible attitude - as outlined by the Opposition in putting forward reasonable amendments which are in no sense designed to disrupt the operation of the Schools Commission as provided for by the Government. What we are seeking to do is to protect the children of Australia and the organisations concerned with the education of children in Australia in the future.
– in reply - So there will be no misunderstanding, I remind honourable members that I will be speaking in reply and concluding the debate. The Government’s attitude in this matter is quite clear. I repeat that we say we have a mandate for this type of Commission. I refer again to the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It states:
The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education - through a Commission. We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools.
He then went on to say that a schools commission would be set up in the same way as Sir Robert Menzies set up the Australian Universities Commission, and it was done virtually that way. This would be the only commission which, because of some amendments carried in another place, would be bound by a provision that its members be delegates from certain organisations. The Australian Universities Commission does not have this inhibition. The Australian Commission on Advanced Education does not have this inhibition. No State government has such a commission. Yet the Opposition wants to put the Commonwealth Minister in a position which the Karmel report warned against. I refer to the position of having on the Commission people representing a delegation and people who had not even sought appointment.
The honourable member for Warringah talked about lackeys. That is very offensive. The whole problem of having on the Commission people who represent others is that the question arises about whether they are lackeys. Let us look at some of the organisations which the Opposition suggests are representative of others. For example, four of the six on the executive of the Australian Parents Council are not even delegates. It seems to be a group of people who have access to members of the Opposition at all times and who influence them no end.
– Do they not have access to you?
– Yes, on the basis that they represent others. I am not impressed by the argument that, because they are members of the Liberal Party and use the sham of representing a lot of others, that fact should not be highlighted.
– Are you sure they are members of the Liberal Party?
– Yes, and you know it. Let us look at the situation. I am aware now that in 1971 they went to see the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and he issued a Press release for them. The honourable member for Warringah talks about lackeys. I am aware that in 1971 they went to see the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and he encouraged them to make a statement on per capita grants. That statement did not have the endorsement of the other people affiliated with that body. It was issued by a few people.
– Do they represent any Catholic opinion?
– No, they do not, in the sense that you put it; they represent more your Liberal philosophy, and you are using them on that basis. The big group that represents the schools of Sydney are no longer affiliated with them. How does your argument stand now?
– Which big group?
– The parents and friends associations which represent 320 schools. They are no longer affiliated with them because of this attitude of a domination by a clique who went down to see your Senate colleague in Tasmania and suggested to him what amendments, such as the amendment referring to the United Nations Charter, might be made. This is on record. Members of the Opposition put themselves in the position now of saying they are unhibited. They went along and saw the honourable member for Farrer in 1971 and he offered to make a Press release for them. They saw the honourable member for Wannon and he offered to do something for them to encourage them to fight on the basis that they must maintain the per capita grants system. They are not interested in the needs policy.
– When was this?
– For example, minutes dated 27 lune 1971 clearly indicate that they had seen Mr Fairbairn and that he issued a Press statement. The honourable member knows who they are. We see them ostensibly as parents. But the big issue is that they do not represent the schools of Sydney any more, nor did they ever. They are supposed to be representing people when of their executives of six, four are not even delegates. That means someone can get in a room and say: I represent somebody and I have a letterhead and so I become somebody’. The Opposition is unwise enough to suggest in another place that that has all the force of representation. It has nothing of the sort, and honourable members opposite know it. Who is representing the 320 schools when they are not? This is the very issue. We believe that appointments to the Commission should be left to the discretion of the Minister, who can be attacked here in the Parliament about whom he has appointed, but let it be on the basis that education is the primary consideration and educationists are the primary people. By all means consider teachers and those who are experienced in education but do not limit membership to small pressure groups who are not interested in the policy of the Government anyway and who are virtually members of the Opposition parties masquerading under another name. That fact ought to be highlighted. So the honourable member for Warringah should not talk about lackeys.
– Is their political affiliation going to bar them?
– The political affiliation
– Do they have to be Labor supporters?
– They do not have to be Labor supporters. Many of them in the parents and friends associations are not.
– That is what you are suggesting.
– I am suggesting that your group is only interested in the per capita concept.
– Order! I suggest that the Minister address the Chair and I suggest that other honourable members remain silent.
– The big issue is that the name of the Australian Parents Council appears in the Senate amendments. So what influence do these people have? Do honourable members opposite suggest that it was accidental that this body was included in the amendments? I do not want to say any more about the matter, but it is atrocious that children are being used in a political concept in amendments of this nature. For that reason we reject not only amendment No. 1 but also amendments Nos 3 to15. I repeat that they should be disagreed to.
That the Senate amendments Nos 1 and 3 to16 be disagreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That Mr Daly, Mr Mathews and Mr Lionel Bowen be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to Senate amendments Nos 1 and 3 to15 inclusive.
– On behalf of the committee appointed to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to Senate amendments Nos 1 and 3 to15 inclusive I bring up such reasons which are being circulated to honourable members. I move:
That the committee’s reasons be adopted.
-Order! The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– The ayes have it.
– The noes have it.
– Division? The ayes have it. The Clerk.
– Order of the Day, No. 3, States Grants-
– Mr Speaker, I said the noes have it.
-Order! I do not doubt the intentions of the honourable member but when
I ask whether a division is required the honourable member should say yes. Ring the bells.
That the reasons be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 1 October (vide page 1975), on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose the passage of the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1973 through the House, but while agreeing with the principles involved, we hold grave reservations about how the large sum of money that is involved will be used to the best advantage for the benefit of our coloured people. The reservations we hold have been caused by the recent allegations of misuse of public funds set aside for the welfare of Aborigines and islanders and by the report of expenditure which was tabled on 11 October last by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Over the years during debates on the issue of Aboriginal affairs I have consistently directed my remarks to constructive criticism and never to destructive criticism of the Minister’s or Department’s management and planning programs. But at this time I have some specific queries to raise. In raising these questions I also refer to the previous Government’s administration. While I do not exempt that administration from blame for some lack of supervision of proposed projects and programs, I blame this present Government for allowing the lack of supervision and direction to continue.
In fact, the situation, according to the report tabled by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, appears to have deteriorated still further in regard to systematic project planning, programming and the control of finance. I base these assertions on items of expenditure in table 4 of the former Minister’s report which, in many instances, shows a surprising lack of detail. Because we are dealing with public moneys which are supposed to be expended for the benefit of our coloured people, this lack of detail is, I feel, a cause for grave concern to this Parliament and needs to be corrected as soon as possible.
To illustrate my concern, I shall mention a few of the items from the table to which I previously referred. It is noted that an Aboriginal legal service exists in all States, and various amounts are shown as operating expenses for the legal aid services. For instance, the amount is $110,000 in New South Wales, $118,000 in Victoria, $122,500 in Queensland, $127,000 in South Australia, and in Western Australia, under the heading ‘The New Era Aboriginal Fellowship Incorporated’, which I presume supplies legal aid, an amount of $110,000 is provided. An amount of $100,000 is shown for the Northern Territory, and under the heading ‘National organisations legal aid scheme, initial costs’ an amount of $7,479 is provided. An item which interests me greatly is the provision of $50,000 for the operating expenses of the Tasmanian legal aid services. I was under the impression that there were no Aborigines in Tasmania. But if there are, the number of Aboriginal residents in that State cannot be great, and I think this amount which has been spent on legal aid services needs to be accounted for. Overall, a total of $644,970 was spent on legal aid, and there is no mention of how this huge amount was spent. Again this emphasises the lack of necessary detail in the expenditure listed. I shall refer to a few extracts from the various State tables which, in my opinion, show the necessity for a detailed investigation into moneys allocated and the control and supervision of such expenditure.
In New South Wales, for instance, the Armidale Women’s Rugby League Football Club - purchase of sports equipment, $548. I should like to know: Who do they play? Next is the purchase of Glenairy and Sunnyside, $130,000. I presume that these are properties? What were they purchased for and how is the project progressing? Purchase of building for use as an Aboriginal club, $250,000, and towards operating costs for the 1972-73 financial year, $20,000. Where is this building and how is it progressing? Breakfast and preschool cultural program, $12,470. What is that? Is it for actual meals supplied or is it a radio program? In Victoria the Aboriginal Advancement League operating expenses, $11,632. How is this amount accounted for? Nindethana Theatre Company - cost of producing play and rent of theatre, $800. Working expenses in production of play, $4,660. Was the play a success? Were there any door receipts taken to offset these expenses?
In Queensland the provision of caravans and associated facilities for Redlynch Aboriginals $32,500. How many caravans? Are they to be used as permanent dwellings? Would it not have been a more responsible action to provide $32,500 worth of permanent housing? Special work project at Mornington Island, $15,455. Special work project at Aurukun, $15,128. What are these special work projects? Have they been successful? Born Free Club, Brisbane - purchase of capital equipment, working fund for club program and part payment of operating costs, $9,800. Was the spending of this money controlled and was it spent to the best advantage? A recent news report classed this club as a hovel of filth and a degrading place for Aboriginals to sleep in. Another item is salary for Pastor D. Brady for a period of 6 months, $4,800. I heard Pastor Brady had retired to live at Palm Island some months ago. If this is so, what work is Pastor Brady doing to warrant such a huge salary? Promotion of sports carnival at Mount Isa, $5,000. Were any gate receipts taken to offset this expense? To establish a bus service on Palm Island, $6,500. Knowing Palm Island as I do, I ask: Where does this bus service operate to and from on Palm Island? Are any bus fares charged to offset operating costs. Torres Strait, Wolfram Pty Ltd, manager’s salary and operating expenses, $20,000. Is this project productive? Have there been any financial returns from this project?
In South Australia, cost of running shearing and wool handling school at Point Pearce, $7,800. Has this project been successful? Who receives the training at this school? Aboriginal Cultural Centre of South Australia - operating costs, $13,000. Is this project worth while? Just what happens at the cultural centre? Is there any possibility of this centre yielding any return? Purchase of 7-ton truck and portable electric welder for water drilling project, $10,000. Who purchased this plant. Is it a successful and a profit making project? That is what Opposition members want to know and it is what the Parliament wants to know. Special work projects at Ernabella, $62,000. What are these projects? How are they progressing? Reafforestation project, $10,000. Equipment for irrigation, $5,000. Where is this project located? What types of timber are being cultivated? When did the project start? How big is the project? Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia - operating costs, $12,000. Just what does this council do to merit such expenditure?
In Western Australia, Aboriginal Advisory Council operating costs were $22,000. What does this council do to merit such expenditure? Expand social welfare program in the Kalgoorlie area, $17,600. What was actually done for this sum of money? How did the Aboriginal community benefit from this expansion. Esperance Carrying and Parcelling Company wages, transport costs and truck, $11,000. Who controls this company? Is there any financial return from this expenditure? Mirama Council, Kununurra - purchase of 2 vehicles for use by community, $13,000; purchase of garden equipment, fencing and vehicle, $6,500. Who maintains these vehicles? Just what are they used for? Development purposes, Panter Downs, $32,500. Does the Minister know what these development projects are? I would bet he does not know. Development of Yandeyarra, $110,000. What is the progress report on these enterprises? Western Australian Museum - cost of erection of 3 storehouses and maintenance of 9 others, $12,000. Storehouses for what and how does this benefit the Aboriginal people? Surely this is not too much to ask.
In the Northern Territory there are too many items of expenditure to be covered in the time available. For instance, to name just a few, $36,800 to purchase two bakeries. Who do they bake for? For the purchase or development of cattle properties, $1,893,977. Have these projects been investigated to ensure that they are viable propositions? I have not heard them referred to in this chamber. How about a progress report on these enterprises? That is not too much to ask. Institute of Aboriginal Development in the Northern Territory, $204,829. What function does this institute perform to warrant such expenditure? To the Tiwi Development Company, operational capital, $5,000, and to Tiwa Tours, $30,000. Just what return can be expected from these enterprises for the benefit of the Aborigines to warrant such expenditure?
For national organisations - to applied Ecology Proprietary Limited, $430,000. We are aware of this and we have been through” it in the Senate and in this place. Salary and expenses for credit union trainees, $22,000. Pilot project at Jigalong, $8,600. Are these projects viable and of value for the assistance and welfare of the coloured people? Who authorised the expenditure of $35,000 to hold a national seminar of Aboriginal arts, $23,500 to stage the 1973 national Aborigines Day celebration and $19,000 for the October football carnival? I have only touched on some items of expenditure in the various States? I have not mentioned grants to sporting clubs and the like which apparently are handed out quite liberally. But is there any supervision or control to ensure that such grants are used as intended?
I have mentioned before that the Government’s policy on Aboriginal welfare is a piecemeal affair, with no apparent direction or control and I think, the report tabled by the former Minister proves my contention. Public money has been used and should be accounted for. According to the report and what was said at the second reading stage of this debate direct responsibility for its use appears to be completely lacking. Does the Minister direct the expenditure of all public moneys paid out on behalf of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, or can a member or members of his Department authorise payments without discussion with the Minister? If this is the case it should be stopped immediately. Is the Minister completely in the picture in regard to all this expenditure? The Parliament is responsible for the expenditure of public moneys, and I request the Minister to acknowledge that this Parliament is entitled to know the full details of all projects, programs and requests for assistance.
If I knew, I would not be asking. In this way all the Parliament would be aware of what is happening and would be able to ensure that finance would be expended in the best interests of our coloured people. 1 think the Minister should be a lot happier under such an arrangement, for he would have the backing of all the Parliament for the various projects he desired to undertake on behalf of our coloured people.
In previous debates I have mentioned what I think is a definite need in the field of Aboriginal welfare. I refer to the planned establishment of community centres - something that I did not notice in the tabled report of the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Finance allocated for such purposes certainly would not be wasted. I know that in the building of these community centres there would be no lack of support from the coloured people who on many occasions have stressed to me the desire for such a set up. In fact, if my Party had continued in government after the last election I know that a community centre would have been established in Townsville by now. The establishment of these community centres where people, especially the Aboriginal women, could meet regularly would be a tremendous help to them. At the moment, no matter what town or city one visits - apart perhaps from the capital cities - where coloured people live one will find them gathering in parks because there are no premises available to them. I commend this idea to the Government as one which could be started immediately.
There is another very sensitive area in which the Government should clearly define its policies, that is, the area of housing. This is a particular problem which I hope the Minister can appreciate. In this instance I am not talking about the tribal Aborigines who wish to live in dwellings of their own design, but I am speaking about the fringe dwellers, as we call them, and those who rent premises in a town or city. Again I refer to the fact that our coloured people have a communal idea of living - an idea which we could not and would not tolerate but one which we must try to understand on their behalf. For instance, some State governments have the idea that by purchasing a home in a residential suburb in which the residents are white people, the integration of such living would overcome a lot of the characteristic problems between the coloured people and the white people. This is not so, and has proved to be a tremendous, failure in the centres of which I am speaking and of which I know. I am hoping that these governments will realise this before they purchase more homes in such circumstances.
In lots of instances the coloured people are embarrassed and their white neighbours are also embarrassed because mainly the white people do not understand the communal way of living of our coloured people. It is an accepted fact among them that if a couple occupies a house their friends and relatives are entitled to occupy the house also if need be. This may lead to overcrowding, which creates embarrassment for the landlord and the coloured tenants. Again where the tenants of a house are coloured, sometimes they have no idea of maintenance and this again leads to a problem between the landlord and the tenant which eventually leads to eviction orders and a certain amount of friction between the coloured people and the white population. They have stated to me often - I mix with them quite a lot and I see them every weekend - that they do not want to live like us but they will live with us. I think that this is a pretty fair assessent
In this area of housing problems for the coloured people in a white community I suggest that a suburb of neat, tidy dwellings with all the amenities and services be established solely for the coloured people, who would enjoy living together, would still be part of a community and would still play their part in the development of a city, town or area. Then they could indulge in their own ideas of recreation and relaxation in their own centres without any interference from the white population who have their ideas of relaxation and recreation according to what they themselves desire. This is a problem which, in my opinion, could easily be overcome by the establishment of a suburb specifically designed for our coloured people, with nouses, streets and all the amenities and facilities that go with suburban development. I would like to see it tried. I am sure that it would not be long before we would find that they would take pride in the appearance of their suburb, which would have its own community centre and community services. They could indulge in the specific way of living that they want, without hindrance to anybody else, and yet they would still be part and parcel of a community.
I commend this idea to the Minister as a starter. I commend the other ideas I have suggested for some time because I feel that policies directed toward something definite to assist the coloured people would mean a lot more to them than just the handing out of money in a fashion without system, rhyme or reason and which is starting to antagonise the white community. At the moment our coloured people do not know what they have got, where they are going or what they can expect. I am positive that everybody would appreciate and would put their whole support behind a definite, sensible policy which was strictly adhered to. (Quorum formed)
– I have listened with great interest to the speech made by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) who led for the Opposition in the debate on the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1973. I was tremendously interested when he went through a long list of organisations and projects that have been helped. Whilst they are mentioned in the table attached to the second reading speech, they are in no way part of the Bill. They were grants to voluntary organisations. In this Bill we are dealing with money which is paid by the Commonwealth to the States for Aboriginal advancement and which is the subject of certificates issued by the AuditorsGeneral of the respective States. If the honourable member was suggesting that the money spent through the States was in any way wasted or not properly accounted for, he should bring .the evidence before this Parliament or take it to the Auditor-General <5f the State concerned. The first range of matters which he raised were actually outside the ambit of the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2).
He raised a number of other questions. The first thing I would like to say is that the grants made to many of the organisations which he quoted were, from my own personal knowledge, approved by Mr Peter Howson, the former Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. The tables which the honourable member read to the House were for the expenditure for the year 1972-73, which was covered by the previous Government. He mentioned areas of need such as community centres and housing. We would all heartily agree with his suggestion. I was sorry to hear him refer to ‘handouts’. There is a great deal of talk about handouts to Aborigines. I think honourable members on both sides of this House are very much concerned about giving the taxpayer value for the money that is spent on Aboriginal advancement. I know that the honourable member made that point. However, I think he would agree with me that in this field of Aboriginal affairs there is a certain amount of risk capital and that many of the organisations shown in the schedule from which he read are sporting clubs which receive fairly small amounts by way of grants. They are small groups of people who are given a grant to encourage them to move on to better things.
Having said that, I would like to praise the Government and the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) who is sitting at the table, for the legislation now under consideration. It provides for Aboriginal advancement through the State governments the sum of $3 2.25m - an increase of 46.6 per cent over the amount provided in the previous year. This money is being allocated to the States. Western Australia receives the largest amount of more than $llm. Queensland receives almost $10m; New South Wales, $5.5m; South Australia, $4.5m; Victoria, almost Sim; and Tasmania, $154,000. The largest increases are in relation to Western Australia which receives more than $4m extra, South Australia which receives almost $3m extra, Queensland which receives more than $2m extra, and the other States which receive smaller amounts extra. An amount of $14. 5m is being allotted for housing. Queensland receives the major grant of almost $5m; Western Australia, i$4m; and New South Wales, $3m. An amount of $2,064,000 is being allocated for community amenities. Of that amount, Queensland receives $1,601,000. The total amount provided for health is more man $8m, and Western Australia receives approximately half of that amount. An amount of $4,600,000 is allocated for education, $708,000 for employment and $2,179,500 for community and regional projects.
I propose to deal with some of those individual areas. I express very great satisfaction not only with the increased amount of money made available by the Commonwealth to the various States but also with the very good cooperation which the Commonwealth is receiving from the States in determining these priorities and in giving effect to the programs. Queensland leads the field in the housing allocation for this year by receiving a grant of $4,820,000. Last year a lesser allocation resulted in the building of 91 houses on government settlements in Queensland, 150 houses elsewhere, and 15 houses in the Brisbane metropolitan area - making a total of 256 houses. The program for 1973-74 is for the construction of 304 houses. Whilst the needs are very great and I welcome the increased expenditure on housing, I believe that the money spent through the Queensland Government has been wisely spent. From looking recently at the way in which the New South Wales Housing Commission has spent its money on housing, I know that the money allocated to that State has been wisely spent.
I strongly believe that, to the maximum extent possible, housing for Aborigines should be built by authorities that build houses for the whole of the Australian community. I do not subscribe to the idea that we should have special authorities building houses for Aborigines, except in those very isolated or exceptional circumstances in which there seems to be no better solution. But, if Aboriginal people who choose to live in our communities wish to be housed, then I think it is very wise indeed if they are housed by construction authorities such as the New South Wales Housing Commission - to use that example again - in pleasant suburbs, in the same streets as non-Aboriginal Australians and in houses of the same standard. I can only say that when the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs went to Moree and to places on the south-east coast of New South Wales in recent times - I am sure that other members of that Committee will agree with this - we were all very much impressed with the quality of houses built through the New South Wales Housing Commission.
Of course, there are great needs in housing. I would like to see in the programs for succeeding years some provision for the training in the building industry of young Aborigines who show a capacity for this area of employment. They could be trained as bricklayers, carpenters and the like. I realise that many of these young men would not have the secondary school qualifications necessary to commence an apprenticeship. Indeed, many of them live in country towns in which the number of qualified tradesmen is fairly small and it would be difficult for them to enter upon apprenticeships. We probably need, on a regionalised basis, colleges operating in the field of the building industry to train young Aboriginal people to serve in this industry in which they will not only receive employment but also work to advantage their own people. Of course, when I talk about building through organisations such as housing commissions which cater for the needs of the whole community, I am not unmindful of the fact that Aborigines everywhere do not wish to live in housing commission type houses. There is a need to design special types of houses - I know that the word ‘transitional’ is a dirty word in relation to housing, but it need not be - to cater for the particular needs of Aborigines and to suit the degree of transition that they have made from their own traditional environment to living in the broader Australian community.
Under the second heading of community amenities, I am happy to see that Queensland is to receive $1,601,000, which represents 77 per cent of the program. One can see in this program - I shall refer to Queensland specifically- that $375,000 is provided for the Palm Island water supply, $200,000 for Palm
Island sewerage, $180,000 for Bamaga sewerage, $300,000 for Weipa South sewerage, and $236,000 for power supply in various settlements, making a total of $1,601,000. We are conscious of the fact that infant and child mortality from diseases such as gastroenteritis has been much too - (Quorum formed.) I am sorry that the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) is so touchy about hearing these details of the assistance that is being given to the Queensland Government for the purpose of Aboriginal advancement, because the seat he represents - how well he represents it one can judge for oneself - carries the name of a person who had a very honourable record in Aboriginal affairs for a great understanding of the Aboriginal people.
I was mentioning that this money is being made available and that it means not only that we are able to erode away the bad health record in some of these communities but also that we are able to provide employment at the same time. I was happy to learn in conversations with officers of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs recently that the contracts which are being let for sewerage and water supply in these communities require that preference in employment shall be given to the Aborigines and Islanders who live in these communities.
In the massive new program of assistance in relation to health, the substantial amount goes to Western Australia which is to receive more than $4m. Much of this amount goes into salaries and allowances for nursing staff and staff in training. Queensland is in second position again, with an allocation of $2,243,000. I think we would all agree that the solution of problems such as health lies not merely with the provision of money; it is a matter also of being able to employ the skilled staff who are willing to serve in country and isolated areas. I think this Government owes a great debt to the program of Aboriginal secondary school grants established by the previous Government when the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) was responsible for Aboriginal Affairs. The basis was laid on which in the future a greater number of young Aboriginal men and women would be able to take employment for which they were trained.
South Australia receives the lion’s share in respect of education and one notices for secondary schools there is an allocation of $300,000 in respect of art, craft and home services centres. For Aboriginal teachers in primary schools there is an allocation of $118,000. This is a recognition of the fact that the curriculum in the ordinary secondary schools is not well adapted to the needs of Aboriginal children. I am pleased that the Commonwealth is able to assist the Government of South Australia in this worthy enterprise. There are other important areas, of which employment is one. Also community and regional projects are important.
This legislation is a recognition by the Commonwealth of the continued value of the States in Aboriginal affairs. The States are being assisted to carry out their programs. Although we do not always agree with the States in all respects, we do acknowledge the value of the work that they are doing. I should like to put to the State Governments that they need to take advantage of the young Aboriginal people who now for the first time have educational qualifications and to provide employment for them as teachers, members of the police forces in the States, social workers and the like. There is a need to utilise these young people who are now receiving a secondary school education, which was not available to their predecessors, and to place them in meaningful and rewarding employment so that they may play their proper role in advancing their own people.
Having said that this is a recognition of the continued value of the work of the States in Aboriginal affairs I should like to emphasise the need for a Commonwealth regional presence throughout Australia to permit a coordination of the States’ programs. When those of us who are interested in Aboriginal affairs visit country towns or other centres we observe that a lot of good work is being done. Our hospitals have many dedicated doctors and nurses and our high schools have many dedicated teachers. But in order to coordinate housing programs, which are tied up with employment, and the particular educational programs needed for particular regions or areas - (Quorum formed.) I wish to emphasise the need for a continued Commonwealth regional presence to co-ordinate the role not only of the State departments that we are assisting through the provisions of this Bill but also the Commonwealth departments. I am sure we would all agree that excellent work is being done by the Commonwealth Employment Service and by the Commonwealth Department of Education. Notwithstanding the work being done by the States there is a very real need to have a Commonwealth regional presence in order to tie programs into an integrated whole and to assess better the assistance being given to organisations such as those spelled out by the honourable member for Herbert. May I say also that the Commonwealth accepts the principle of a positive program of discrimination in favour of the Aboriginal people in this generation in order that there might be equal opportunity in the next. I am sure all honourable members would agree that the Commonwealth has a lot more to do and that there is no room for complacency. On the other hand the Commonwealth is happy to assist the States by way of the measure before the House as well as by other legislation. The Commonwealth acknowledges the role played by the States and looks forward to fruitful cooperation with them in the future.
I feel some concern at the great deal of criticism that is made about wasteful expenditure in Aboriginal affairs. I know very little of this. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the House but I shall not trespass for long on the House’s indulgence. In recent times there has been a great deal of criticism about wasteful expenditure in Aboriginal affairs. I mentioned earlier that we would all appreciate that there is a need for some risk capital in this area. If a small group of people wants to start a football club in a country town, or some enterprise of this kind, and there seems to be some cohesion in this group and a need, surely a grant of $500 to provide the players with jerseys or equipment would be money well spent. Under the present Government there has been a tightening up of financial procedures. Whereas in the past in some cases grants were made on a yearly basis they are now made on a quarterly basis so that public money might be accounted for more properly. There have been some cases similar to that mentioned by the honourable member for Herbert who instanced the situation of an organisation in Brisbane where recently a prosecution took place at no expense to the Commonwealth because the bank concerned allowed a cheque to be paid into an account by people who were not actually officers of that organisation and for the account to be drawn on. Of course dishonest people will be found in all sections of the community and they will take advantage of an opportunity if it is available to them. In this and in other cases when money is not being wisely spent it is the experience of this Government that
Aboriginal people are quick to learn of what is occurring. In almost every case where money has been spent unwisely it has been drawn to the attention of the Department or the Minister by the Aboriginal people.
I should like to express my great confidence in the Aboriginal people of this country. I believe that programs such as the present one and other programs which are carried out through the States represent an earnest endeavour, not only by supporters of the Government but I feel sure by a majority of members of the Opposition, to ensure that in the immediate future we will be able to erode away many of the disabilities from which the Aboriginal people suffer at present. I welcome this legislation as being good legislation and I commend it to the House. I am sure it will be carried without dissent.
– I am sure that in this House there is complete unanimity in our goodwill toward the Aboriginal people and that honourable members on both sides of the House would wish that everything that can be done for them should be done. From time to time there may be differences of opinion as to whether or not this or that may be the correct thing. However, these are minor matters to my way of thinking when compared to the bipartisan goodwill that we have. I am sure that the remarks of the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) embody that goodwill and that the Opposition would attribute to him a full measure of goodwill in this matter and would not differ from him in respect of those sentiments.
In a way, this is a transition Bill. It relates to advances to the States for Aboriginal purposes but at the same time the Bill is brought in under circumstances where the Commonwealth’s relationship with the States in this field is changing because the Commonwealth is engaged in a process of taking over from the States all their responsibilities in Aboriginal affairs and relegating the Aboriginals, at most, to the status of Asians. I am not certain that this is a good thing but I certainly would not say it is bad. I think it is something which has to be worked out and we will see the results.
I am a little worried that there will be too much centralisation and that there will be too much of a tendency to regard all Aboriginal people as being the same. This, of course, is not so. This is the prime error made, I think. in approaching this problem. Not only are Aboriginal people different in that some are full bloods and some are not but also they are different in that some have tribal orientation and some have not. Even in different parts of Australia there are differences. Those Aboriginals fully tribalised in the Leopolds might be different from those fully tribalised in Arnhem Land and Cape York. Those in the centre of Australia might be more different still. We make an error if we try to impose on this situation a uniformity which is not in accordance with the facts.
This is a big program. I refer the House to the sixth statement which the Minister brought down. It shows that the Commonwealth alone, apart from the States, spent in 1971-72 $30m on this objective. In 1972-73, $61m was spent. The sum of $117m is proposed to be spent in 1973-74. This is a tremendous expansion. The amount doubled in one year and is doubling again. In this kind of explosive expansion it is inevitable that there should be some loose edges, some waste and some difficulties in administration. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is sitting at the table and I certainly have some sympathy for the difficulties which he faced. I know of his own personal goodwill in this matter and I do not think that the House or the country would want to be too hard on him for errors which are inevitable in this kind of program.
It is, as I have said, a big program. If we add on to the amount to be spent by the Commonwealth the amount which the States are spending the total expenditure is probably nearly $1,000 per year per head for every Aboriginal man, woman and child in Australia. In view of the fact that many Aboriginals do not participate in the program at all, the average for those who do participate would be much higher. I am not saying that this figure is too high because anything that can properly and reasonably be spent should be spent. I draw the attention of the House and of the country to the fact that this is almost certainly the most generous program that any country has ever given to its Aboriginal people.
I know there are people in our community who go around saying how terrible we all are and how we all should be ashamed. Well, I am ashamed of the past as every Australian should be ashamed of our Aboriginal past to some extent. But in the present Australia is doing for its Aboriginal people per head more than any country has ever done. If we are criticised as our enemies would criticise us outside Australia this is at least a reasonable reply. All help should be given that can profitably be given. I do not complain for one moment about the amount of money. I know that in this kind of situation there are difficuties of administration. As I have said, I was the Minister concerned when the program was very much smaller and when the difficulties were very much less and I would certainly sympathise with those difficulties faced by any Minister in this regard. But I believe there is reason to think that in some respects this program may be too lavish. It may be that it is too lavish for the proper advantage of the Aboriginal people, and that must be the only criteria. We have talked of the mentality of the handout. This is perhaps the most dangerous tendency - the greatest danger which faces our Aboriginal population. We want to help the Aboriginals but they must learn to help themselves because otherwise our proper help in the end will only harm them.
As honourable members have mentioned in the House today there can be some white backlash. We have seen it in the Northern Territory. We saw on television some people who have had first hand experience of the white backlash in Katherine. Nearer home, if one goes to the electorate which the Speaker represents which covers the suburb of Redfern in Sydney - not a wealthy area and an area which is predominantly Labor - he will find a white backlash against the Aborigines. I very much regret that this backlash exists. But I would be foolish if I did not admit that a white backlash existed in that area. It can be seen in the resolutions of the local council.
It is important that this large sum of money should not only be spent for the benefit of Aboriginals but also that as much as possible of it should be spent through Aboriginals to give them employment. I certainly support the special work projects which have been instituted and which are being now carried on by this Government. I certainly support anything which gives employment to Aboriginals in their own localities and does not force them to go out of their localities in order to find employment. It may be that we are not spending enough of this money through Aboriginals. It is difficult, of course, always to do this at the start, but I am sure that as the program develops that will more and more be its character.
Let me speak specifically about housing. A great deal of this money which we are now voting is to be directed towards Aboriginal housing. Housing is important. I think the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) had a point when he spoke of community housing. This is something which the Aboriginals should determine, I feel, for themselves, on their own preferences. Some Aboriginals do want this and for those it is best. Some do not and for those it is perhaps best to let them follow their bent and integrate either in single families or in small groups of families into the normal Australian community. I do not think that we should seek to impose our feelings and our faults on them in either direction. But in areas outside our cities I think that we should be spending more effort than we have in the design of housing and, in particular, we should be allowing Aboriginals to take control of the design and to build the type of accommodation that they require.
I spoke earlier today to the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) on this aspect. I feel that probably the views of the honourable member for Brisbane on this matter are the same as my own, or at any rate closely parallel. We should be giving to the Aboriginals more right to decide the kind of house that they wish to build. We should let them build their houses as much as possible by their own labour. Honourable members have referred in this debate to training Aboriginal building teams. I wonder perhaps whether we have been giving enough attention to this matter. In country districts, whether in the outback of New South Wales, the Northern Territory or Western Australia, a great need exists for Aboriginal housing and this could provide employment for Aboriginals in their own locality. I should not like to say that they should not leave their locality and come to the cities. Aboriginals, like every free Australian must have their choice. We should not be taking the effective choice away from them by saying: ‘You cannot get employment unless you come to the city’. For that reason, I think that the offering of jobs to Aboriginals in the construction of Aboriginal houses in their own locality might be one of the most important things that we could do for them, particularly, if this activity could be developed in conjunction with farming and community enterprises in their own districts. I am afraid that, very often, it is the ruin of Aboriginals to be brought to the city before they are ready. I do not think that we should endeavour to force that decision on them.
Let me briefly say something about, the health of Aborigines and mention 2 matters which may seem peripheral and trivial but which I think are important. I am disappointed that the work of Dr Kalokerinos has not been followed up more intensively. Honourable members will recall that Dr Kalokerinos working, I think, in Collarenebri, came up with the idea that much Aboriginal illhealth - particularly a great deal of Aboriginal infant mortality - was due to a deficiency in vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid. He put forward the theory that the Aboriginal, because of genetic factors, did not absorb this vitamin to the degree that other people do and that, as a result there was a chronic deficiency which led to illhealth. Dr Kalokerinos corrected this deficiency by administering quite massive doses of this vitamin to Aborigines.
Following his action, a dramatic improvement in Aboriginal health occurred and a reduction in Aboriginal infant mortality. I know that people may say that this was post hoc and not ergo propter hoc, that is, that this followed on but was not because of it. Perhaps that is the case. But at least all medical authorities are agreed that with vitamin C, unlike other vitamins, an excessive dose cannot do any harm to a human being because it is excreted most readily. Because of this, if he was wrong no harm would be done and if he was right great benefit would follow. Since the cost of administering vitamin C is negligible, why do we not do it? I know that medical authorities describe this as non-proven. They may be right; but, if so, so what? Why do we not do it?
Incidentally, if one goes to the area in western New South Wales where much of this vitamin deficiency is said to occur amongst the Aborigines, one finds, along the Darling River, the capacity to grow citrus fruits of the very highest quality. As citrus fruits are one of the best natural sources of vitamin C, why are citrus fruits not grown in this area? The Aboriginals could benefit, through their own work, in providing something for their own health. In the meantime an experiment could be carried out with respect to the administering of massive doses of vitamin C to see what results can be achieved. At any rate, it would not cost much. Medical authorities have agreed that no harm can be done, although some people think that no great benefit will follow.
I should like to raise another matter. I noticed in a newspaper article recently that Australia is exporting to the famine areas of Africa - as indeed we well might - some quantities of a protein-enriched biscuit. This is a matter which, when I was MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs, I regarded as important for Aboriginals. I have spoken of the possible inability of Aboriginals to absorb vitamin C. Many Aboriginals have a grave genetic difficulty in absorbing milk sugars. Therefore, protein-enriched biscuits, which are made in a special way and which do not contain milk sugars, would be of particular help to Aboriginal nutrition. It is another matter which, again, I think might be followed up. I said earlier that it is a small, peripheral and trivial matter in a way, yet I am not certain that it will not be of considerable consequence. I have tried to be practical in discussing one or two of these smaller matters. When honourable members examine the program which the Minister has to carry out it consists, in this field, of so many small and different tasks that one surely does not envy the Minister his task. He is bound to make errors. These cannot be helped. The honourable member for Brisbane referred to risk ventures and risk capital. He was, I think, right.
Finally, as the time available to me in this debate has nearly expired, I make 2 points again. Firstly, Aboriginals are not all the same. They are not all uniform. They deserve to be treated in accordance with their normal human differences. Secondly, we should be endeavouring, so far as possible, to transfer to them authority over their own life, whatever they choose it to be.
– On 2 December 1972, the Government established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs incorporating the former Office of Aboriginal Affairs with a large part of the Welfare Division of the Northern Territory Administration. Prior to this action, in 1967 the Holt Government set up the Council of Aboriginal Affairs as a result of a referendum held in May 1967. The Council for Aboriginal Affairs advised the government on all
Aboriginal matters. When the present Government came to office on 2 December 1972 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was formed with the Minister in charge being Mr Bryant, the present Minister for the Capital Territory, who is present in the chamber this evening. The Minister announced an intention to establish a consultative group of Aborigines from all parts of Australia which was to advise him on programs and policies for Aboriginal advancement.
As we all know, the interim National Aboriginal Consultative Committee held its inaugural meeting in Canberra between 21 and 23 February when it elected a steering committee to develop proposals for the consultative group’s structures and method of representation. The powers that the 1967 referendum had sought and obtained were really never exercised by the Holt, Gorton and McMahon Governments. All matters with regard to health, education and housing for Aborigines remained as they were. No alteration was made. In speaking to the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1973 on 25 September last I pointed out to the House that between 1967, being the year of the referendum, and 1973 a total of $170,478,000 was appropriated for Aboriginal affairs, excluding the amount that was appropriated in the Budget this year. This amount allocated by the Commonwealth to the States over the period 1968 to 1972 was such that one would have thought that considerable improvement would have been evident in the Aboriginal way of life and that health, education and housing over this period would have been greatly improved.
But when one considers this amount and discusses it with officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the State Ministers who control Aboriginal affairs and the various organisations that play a part with regard to Aborigines, one realises that $170,478,000 spent over the 5 years, in view of the requirements of the Aborigines and the outlandish places where they live - I refer to the farflung places - and the problems they had with the Government trying to better their conditions, was not all that much. I think it will be found that when everything is finalised there will not be very much left over out of the amount that has been appropriated for Aboriginal affairs this year if we are to do a good job and if we are to see that the Aboriginal way of life is improved. There has been evidence in recent years of an increasing consciousness of the right of Aboriginal Australians to a choice as to the type of future that Government policies are designing for them. Change from the assumption that our society is entitled to expect of Aborigines the supreme flattery of imitation has been very slow.
I return to what was said by John Gorton when he expressed the view that without destroying our Aboriginal culture we want to help our Aborigines to become an integral part of the rest of the Australian people. He said that we want the Aborigines themselves to have a voice in the pace at which this process occurs. Mr McMahon said ‘We believe that Aborigines must be helped to take an increasing part in the management of their own affairs.’ If this is the case, one cannot understand why those thoughts and intentions were not put into operation. The power to do so was in the hands of the Holt, Gorton and McMahon Governments respectively. They had the power as a result of the referendum. Right up to the change of government the Aborigines were involved only as passive recipients and at most were invited to endorse programs approved for them. If one reads the speech of the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), dealing with the estimates for the Department, one will see that there is incorporated in that, as has been mentioned tonight, approximately 19 pages listing organisations, works, etc. on national and State levels to which $170m has been appropriated in previous years. The amount appropriated this year to practically the same organisations is also shown.
It would seem that in many instances better use could have been made of the money allocated and that the functions of many of the State organisations seem to overlap. This is the first impression one obtains on studying these figures. Having regard to the problems confronting Aborigines - the vastness of the country, housing, health and education - we should ask ourselves whether we could have done the job any cheaper? I do not think we could have. I think that if we are to maintain the level of assistance to Aborigines the amount that has been appropriated this year will just about cover what we require to do. On a recent trip to Moree, Dubbo and Mungundi as a member of the House of Rep resentatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs I found that health and sanitation in these places were at their lowest ebb. Some years ago there was a flood at Moree. The Minister for Youth and Community Services in the New South Wales Government - I will not mention any names - went up there and decided that the Aborigines had to be shifted because they were in a flood area. He purchased about a dozen caravans with a promise)
– There were twenty.
– Apparently there were 20 caravans. The State government had much more money than the Federal government at that time. He purchased about 20 caravans. These Aborigines were settled in the 20 caravans with the promise that within 4 or 5 months or possibly a little longer houses would be built for them. The caravans are still there - what is left of them, together with the galvanised iron shacks that have been built around some of the caravans, and the rag tents that have followed the galvanised iron shacks. It is a disaster area. No effort has been made by the State to improve this situation in any shape or form. With the introduction of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which divides the Commonwealth into 41 electorates, we hope that many of the problems that now exist in regard to Aborigines will be overcome. At last the Aborigines will be able to submit their problems to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs as a result of complaints coming from the various areas. We have much more chance of meeting their requirements than under the old system under which we depended upon rumours and so forth coming in.
In addition to the many State and Federal organisations which have been set up for Aborigines, we now have coming into being such organisations as Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, Aboriginal and Island Products Pty Ltd and Aboriginal and Island Marketing Pty Ltd which, of course, have ventured into the field of turtle and crocodile farming mainly for the purpose of benefiting the Aboriginal by keeping him employed, while at the same time providing a product for export. I am sure that the public at large does not know the amount of work being done at the present time in relation to Aborigines by organisations and institutions set up by the Commonwealth Government and the States.
– And the previous Government.
– And the previous Government. These organisations include the Sacred Sites for Aborigines Committee and the Committee on Linguistic Studies. All of this work is very important to the Commonwealth because with the mining interests going into these areas of Australia, such .things as sacred sites and Aboriginal dialects will become a thing of the past. Australia today has to preserve the history of its own race. We feel that the NACC will play a major part in indicating what is best for the Aboriginal race and that it will keep the Minister advised in regard to health, education, housing and possible employment ventures. The cost of the introduction of the NACC is possibly a little high, but at least what previous Prime Ministers have spoken of - letting the Aboriginal decide his own life - will now come about and the Aboriginal will have a say in his own affairs.
The last point on which I would like to touch is that in 1952, following the discovery of minerals in the Arnhem Land Reserve, the Commonwealth Government decided that prospecting for and mining of minerals on reserves would be permitted as a matter of national interest. To compensate Aborigines for the loss of their exclusive use of reserve land and the disturbance of their way of life, a trust fund was established in the Northern Territory into which royalties from minerals mined on reserves were to be paid. This fund was set up under section 21 of the Northern Territories (Administration) Act and was originally called the Aboriginals (Benefits from Mining) Trust Fund. The Fund was and is a trust account for the purpose of Section 62A of the Audit Act. Considerable sums of money have been paid into this trust account as a result of mining activities. Once again it has become the responsibility of the Minister to ensure that these royalties are disposed of in such a way that the Aboriginal will benefit from the mining of his land. The Minister now has the power - the legislation has been amended - to decide how he wants this Fund dealt with. We feel sure that the royalties derived from these mining interests will add to the comfort of the Aboriginal and give him a lot of the things of which he has been deprived for many years.
I support the Bill. I feel that the amount of money which has been appropriated is not too much. It is to go to a good cause. It will preserve our heritage. If we do not do these small things - they are small compared with the millions of dollars that we spend on other things - we will be sorry in years to come for not having preserved our heritage.
– First of all, I would like to say that this debate has been a good one. The 4 honourable members who have taken part in it so far have contributed constructive remarks. I have no doubt that those honourable members were sincere in what they said. It is obvious that they have to a greater or lesser degree taken a conscientious and meaningful interest in Aboriginal affairs. I would like to commence my contribution to this debate by paying a tribute to the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who is sitting opposite me at the table at the moment - that snowy-haired old rascal, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant). It is with a great deal of regret that I refer to him as the Minister for the Capital Territory. I do not know whether his move from the portfolio of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to that of Minister for the Capital Territory can be interpreted as some sort of political manoeuvre, but when he went out of office a tribute was paid to him by both sides of the House.
I would like to give my credentials as to my experience among Aboriginal people. I have spent a complete lifetime among them. I preface my remarks by saying that no one has to tell me about the thinking, the living, the desires or the hopes of genuine and sincere Aboriginal people. I found that when Gordon Bryant took office there was a feeling of confidence among Aboriginal people, not that there was any lack of confidence in the previous Minister or the Minister before him. It was well known that Billy Wentworth and his wife spent many long months among the Aboriginal people getting to know them and their way of life in order to make a realistic evaluation of what could be done and should be done for .these people. However, I believe that there was a feeling of great acceptance of Gordon Bryant when he became Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
But then came bewilderment. Let me stress that not for one moment would I reflect on the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). But the fact is that the Aborigines did not know the new Minister. They had a feeling of great bewilderment almost immediately that the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs went out of office.
They felt that suddenly someone who they had come to recognise as having a sincere and genuine interest in their affairs had been removed. This action was a blow to the genuine Aboriginal people. I regret to say that this bewilderment persists.
I support this Bill. The legislation provides finance which if used and applied’ correctly will bring tremendous benefit to each of the States involved. The State of Queensland which the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) and myself represent is the State, perhaps with the exception of the Northern Territory which is the responsibility of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), most involved in Aboriginal Affairs. Hence we have a real and very lively interest in what will happen to the finance that will be made available. I wish to read to the House the answer that was given by the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who was the previous Minister for the Interior, in a genuine desire to clear up a matter concerning turtle farming. I believe that the answer given by the previous Minister is relevant to this debate. The question put to the Minister was:
In layman’s language the question asked: What happened to the turtle farm?’ In his answer Mr Bryant made a genuine attempt to clarify the position. As far as I know and as far as we can see the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is pursuing this course. The reason why I am bringing up this matter is to express the hope that this question will be pursued and clarified and that the facts will be revealed to the Parliament and to the people of Australia. The answer from the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is as follows:
A firm of chartered accountants and not the Auditor-General was appointed by the directors as auditor, for the purposes of the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance 1962-73, of Applied Ecology Pty. and Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd. Consequently, it is not the Auditor-General’s responsibility to report on the conduct of these companies or to inspect and audit their accounts and records.
The Auditor-General’s responsibilities are limited under the Audit Act to ensuring that payments made to the companies from the Public Account have been approved by the competent authority. A similar situation exists with regard to his responsibilities under the Aboriginal Enterprises Assistance Act in respect of payments made to the companies from the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises.
The Minister goes on to say in his answer:
I might add that the Audit Act makes no provision for Ministers to request reports from the AuditorGeneral on particular matters. In accordance with that Act, the Auditor-General includes in his Report to the Parliament such information as he thinks desirable in relation to those examinations and inspections carried out by him in pursuance of the provisions of the Audit Act or any other Act.
Here was a general probe to ascertain just what were the powers of the Auditor-General. Apparently, they were not such that the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs could produce and reveal to the House the actual details of this whole operation. So the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), obviously with an equal desire to have the matter clarified, has promised that he will pursue the question. We would certainly hope that he does.
It is interesting to note that there was not a great deal of regard for the ecology in this matter. The name of the company includes the word ‘ecology’, but I am afraid that not a great deal of consideration was given to the environment when the whole operation began. From what I can learn, it appears that environmental consequences were not taken into consideration. I believe that the clams are eating the worms and the turtles are eating the clams, so if you want to have turtle soup you can have noodles at the same time. Hence, there has been a great imbalance and a complete maladjustment of the environment. It is fairly obvious that this conglomerate will not assist in the rather worthy project of raising 39,000 turtles. I rather think that we will have to go elsewhere if we want our turtles. However, this is only one particular project.
I notice that this Bill involves the expenditure of $32,250,000 and that of this, $14,422,000 will be allocated to housing. I think it was hoped that this money would be sufficient to build 1,100 houses. May I say with a great deal of pride that if the kind of operation that is happening in my home town of Cloncurry takes place throughout this nation, we will build at least twice that number of houses. A very worthy gentleman, the Reverend Alan Lanham, who I am sure is known to honourable members, has begun an operation which has been in existence for, I think, a year or two. Reverend Lanham is a
Methodist minister who has taken some time off from his ecclesiastical responsibilities. I might mention also that he is a master builder. With voluntary Aboriginal labour, he has made quite an achievement. We who have spent our whole natural life living, working and playing with Aboriginal people, know that they must do the sort of work to which they are adapted. A rather remarkable thing is happening in the town of Cloncurry where a stranger - a Methodist minister and master builder named Alan Lanham - I repeat his name for honourable members - came into the town. He has been able to encourage enough voluntary labour among the Aboriginals to build home after home - top quality houses - for perhaps one-third less than they woud normally cost. Perhaps the figure is even more favourable than that. There is a threefold advantage in this. Firstly, the taxpayer is seeing his money used to the best advantage. Secondly, there is an involvement - this is terribly important - among Aboriginal people. They feel that they belong and that they are part of the whole project of building these homes. Lastly, they are probably among the best homes in the town. One thing was observed. I pay tribute to a previous Premier of Queensland, Mr Pizzey, who laid down strict guidelines for Aboriginal housing. When he approved of funds for the construction of these homes in outback centres, he said that they must be built in various parts of the town; there was to be no such thing as segregation or the setting up of specific communities. I know that a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Wentworth, was acutely aware of this same provision. These houses are a splendid example of co-operation between the Aboriginal people and someone who was dedicated to their advancement, progress and decent housing. I assure the House that the allocation of $14,422,000 would be spent to the best advantage if the same principles were applied throughout Australia. If we could get the same type of person, as Alan Lanham there would be no difficulty in building homes for Aboriginal people.
There is an extremely important factor that no one would understand better than the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). If one is going to house Aboriginal people in the sort of housing that they want, somehow or other one must strike a compromise between a modern, well-built home and a dwelling that somehow suggests to them that they are still out in the open air. I am not an architect but we have gone close to it out there. We must not make the break too severe. Do not push them. I remember the honourable member for the Northern Territory, after 30 years experience of living among these people and winning their confidence, warning us many times in this House not to push them too far lest we break their hearts. It must be done without a great deal of fuss. However, we are achieving decent housing for Aborigines. It is a matter of how we do it.
There is an allocation of $ 10.3m for health. It is an achievement for an Aboriginal to reach adulthood and to enjoy continued good health. This means that there is a rather worrying degree of infant mortality. This is a source of worry to everyone who has lived among Aborigines and knows their history and what is happening to them. Sister Stacey is well known throughout Australia for her magnificent work for Aboriginals at Alice Springs Hospital, where her specific responsibility has been the training of Aboriginal mothers in maternal and child welfare. Through the good grace of the honourable member for the Northern Territory I had a long conversation with her. She told the story that Aboriginal mothers, being extra maternal if such a thing is possible, were quite wonderful when it came to learning the procedures and techniques of raising children according to modern standards. They would come in from primitive places such as tribal grounds, stay for a few weeks, and in no time learn to look after their babies with infinite care. They would go away fully qualified, probably with a rate of advancement better than that of European mothers. The great sadness was that in no time they would revert to their tribal customs. I have never checked this out, but I believe it.
The sort of Aboriginal with whom I have had a close association is somewhat different, which bears out what my colleague says, namely, that there are various categories of Aborigines. This is one of the clear indications that a uniform set of rules for Aborigines throughout Australia would not be satisfactory. It appears that with these people who move from tribal ground to tribal ground, or to various parts of their tribal ground, the custom is for the healthiest child to receive the major care. Hence the health of the very small and very delicate infants is very likely to decline and all the good work that takes place at the maternal and child welfare centres is lost. This is one of the great problems that everyone interested in the welfare of Aborigines is trying to solve. It is not just a medical problem; it is something that goes back into the very hearts and makeup of the Aboriginal people and is not easy to solve. When we think of their health we think more particularly of the health of the infants and small children.
May I say, with a good deal of feeling, that it did not help one iota when this Government dispensed with the free milk scheme. If anything contributed to the health of Aboriginal children it was the half pint of milk, or whatever the quantity was, that they received each day. Regrettably that concession was removed quite suddenly. I have appealed to the Treasurer (Mr Crean), and I do so again, to reconsider what was a pretty petty decision - the decision to take free milk away from the children, particularly the Aboriginal children of the outback.
I refer now to special works projects. Most of my experience of the activities of Aborigines and their more lucrative and more prolific types of activity was gained in the area where I have spent, and am still spending, my lifetime - the north west of Queensland. If I was to focus on one particular activity of the Aborigines I would look more specifically at Mornington Island. There I was able, with my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar, to sit down and confer, on a number of visits, with the Aboriginal Councils. They told us quite frankly that if they are doing the sort of work that they do not like they are not much good to anyone. However they said that if they are given something to do that they understand and know they will prove superb at it, although they were not the actual words used. I do not know whether salmon abound in the Gulf but their particular kettle of fish, their particular attribute, was their knowledge of those waters. Honourable members may not know this but they foreshadowed that the prawns would disappear for a particular period. There then came a great crisis in the prawn fishing industry because there were no prawns anywhere in the area for some months. The
Aborigines had foreshadowed this; they knew the waters. They appealed to be permitted to establish their own fisheries industry.
The point I am trying to make is that the Government - no doubt it is doing this in the best way it can - should gain local knowledge and let the Aborigines indulge in activities in which they are expert and then they will make a very profound contribution not only to their own advancement but to the advancement of the particular area in which they live.. I think of some of the mining communities that require food. I will not name any specific operation. The Aborigine is in his environment in, for example, raising cattle to supply the meat needs not only of a particular mining enterprise, such as that at Gove, but also that of the towns and the developing areas in that particular part of Australia. Aborigines should be given the opportunity of developing these enterprises.
Twenty minutes seems a fairly long time to talk but when one has spent a lifetime among people and one has so much to say, those 20 minutes seem to go by very quickly. I conclude by saying that the Aborigines of Australia differ. I would put them into 3 or 4 categories. There is a group of opportunists who, let us face it, are not genuine Aborigines and who will exploit genuine Aborigines who are part of the early and almost forgotten history of this nation. I pay full tribute to a second group - I do not like to hear people talk about the city slicker type of Aborigines - who live in the cities, who have come out of their natural environment and who have obtained university degrees. I had better not start naming people. These people are dedicated to the advancement of their race. They are dedicated in an academic sense.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to add my contribution to the debate on this <Bill. I know that it is not a controversial Bill and that it has the support of most members of this House. I add my support for it. A few things have been said tonight about what has happened in the past. There has been mention of the Torres Strait Islands and other matters. In some way there seemed to be a reflection upon the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant). If any criticism is to be levelled at the particular project undertaken there, we have to go back further than 2 December last year. Whilst this matter is at present the subject of an inquiry, I do not think that the previous Government is at all blameless. I hope that the whole thing can be straightened out. On occasions when money is being spread over a wide area, as it is in the case of the Aboriginal people, it is only natural that somewhere along the line something will go wrong. Possibly in the past there have been areas in which that has happened. But we on this side certainly hope that, with the lessons that have been learned from the past, we can use the money allocated to help the Aboriginal people in such a way that it will not be wasted but will be of the greatest benefit to them.
I certainly do not want to take up a great deal of the time of the House. Somebody else may want to speak tonight. But I want to make some comments about the allocation of $32.25m this year, compared with the allocation of $22m last year - an increase of 46 per cent - -and to refer to its effect on South Australia and on my electorate in particular. The figures available to us indicate the increases that have taken place this year. I appreciate that, although the total increase is large, the amount spent on Aborigines was growing year by year even under the previous Government. However, this year we certainly have tried to allocate sufficient money to come to grips with some of the problems that we have to face. South Australia has received an amount of $4.699m, compared with $il.740m last year. Of this year’s amount, $ 1.926m has been allocated for housing, compared with $690,000 last year; on community amenities $51,000 this year, compared with $86,000 last year - a small drop in that case; on health, an increase to $920,000 from $274,000 last year; and on education $1.3 15m this year, compared with $421,000 last year.
When we talk about education in South Australia, particularly in the area I represent, we are dealing probably with some of the last people to come in contact with European society. I refer to the area in the north-west corner of South Australia which is tied in with the south-west corner of the Northern Territory and the mid-eastern part of Western Australia. In this area the South Australian Government certainly has done a particularly good job. It is probably the most advanced in the use of the vernacular in the education field. The South Australian Government has been able to appoint full-time Aboriginal teachers to assist in this field of education.
One other matter that received a considerable increase was community and regional projects - an amount of $384,000 compared with $22,000 last year. This is a pretty big increase. Earlier I mentioned housing. In the Bill there is an allocation of an amount for the provision of 41 houses in South Australia. This may not seem a great number of houses, and it certainly would not be if they were the only houses to be provided for Aborigines. But the South Australian Housing Trust certainly fills a great part of the gap in this field, because whenever the Housing Trust builds homes in an area where Aborigines live an allocation of houses is made to Aborigines. In many of the larger towns a considerable number of Aborigines have been allocated houses and have moved into the town.
I should like to mention a few of the community and regional projects. I think the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) was highly critical of the way some of the amounts have been spent. He questioned quite a number of projects. One he questioned was the provision of legal aid. I think legal aid is an area in which Aborigines have been at a grave disadvantage in the past. Anyone who lives in towns where these people are knows that it is only in the last 4 or 5 years that any compassion has been shown towards them and any consideration has been given to their problems. They have possibly been the victims of persecution. They may have been picked up for various offences. Only on rare occasions have they had the right to be represented by any legal person. If a white person was picked up he would engage a lawyer and possibly get off the charge, but of course this did not apply to Aborigines. I know of many occasions when they have been raided because a party has been going on. About 30 have been picked up in one hit, taken to the police station and all charged with being drunk. It would be interesting to go through the crowd and find how many were drunk and how many were not. As everybody knows, in most cases, to save trouble the Aborigines plead guilty. I feel that the provision of money for legal aid is something that is worth while.
I can clearly remember about 18 months ago an Aborigine coming to see me when he was in strife. He bought a television set, but did not take out a licence. He apparently received a letter from the PostmasterGen.eral’s Department. He ignored the letter. The reason he ignored the letter was that he could not read. I remember being called down to the local gaol to speak to him because he had not paid the fine. He had not turned up at the court because he could not read, he was fined and the next thing he was in gaol. Here was a case where there was certainly need for legal assistance for this man. The provision of legal aid is one matter I do not think anyone should quibble about.
The honourable member for Herbert said that a few projects were wasteful. Let me mention a few projects within my electorate of which I have a little knowledge. I have seen some of the preliminary work that has been done. The money is certainly not being wasted. For example, there is an allocation of $25,000 for the construction of a new medical centre at Indulkana. Indulkana is in a pretty remote area of South Australia. The hospital used to be a 9 foot by 9 foot galvanised iron shed. I remember the nursing sister saying to me one day that she could be treating somebody for something on the bed and an Aboriginal woman would be having a child on the floor. Under this Bill $25,000 is allocated for the construction of a new medical centre. Provision is also made for the provision of family centres at the same place. These will assist the Aboriginal people and will also take them further along the way to being able to protect themselves in health matters.
At Ernabella a garage workshop is to be provided for adult education. In quite a number of the remote places - Ernabella is one - there are ti few motor cars that Aborigines have probably purchased in Alice Springs, Adelaide or elsewhere. In the past it has been a very big job to try to keep these vehicles on the road. Most Aborigines are now mobile with motor cars. They use them to go out hunting and so forth. It was found that with the facilities that were available, particularly at Ernabella, it was impossible for the garage that was part of the establishment to maintain these vehicles. This has been a pet project of mine for a while. These people should be instructed in the normal maintenance of a motor car so that when something goes wrong they have somewhere to go to get assistance and so that they will be in a position where they can possibly do the job themselves and keep their motor car running.
At Yalata further out on the west coast a craft block is to be built at the secondary school at a cost of $42,000. Again this is an area which is pretty isolated. It is about 180 miles along the Eyre Highway past Ceduna. Certainly that craft block will be put to a great amount of use. I see one further item: Highways Department training scheme*. I know that this was something which with the people of Indulkana we discussed with the Minister on a visit to the area quite recently.
The Stuart Highway runs north and south from Port Augusta to Alice Springs and it goes within 5 miles of Indulkana. This is a dirt road which gets a lot of knocking about. It has had a pretty rough time this year with all the rain and it has to be maintained. It was suggested that the Highways Department of South Australia take a number of Aborigines, train them in the operation of earthmoving equipment and let them have the contract for looking after the road. I certainly hope that something like this can be done. In this area, about which I have spoken before, no other work is available. The people are in an enclosed 12 square miles reserve with a fence around it. There is no employment for them. We feel that if the Aboriginal people could be given this task it would be something for them to do and something which would be well worth while. If we go through the list we find - I certainly do not intend to mention all the grants - that quite an amount of money has been given to local councils. These councils have done a good job, particularly with the rural unemployment relief scheme, in providing work for Aborigines. Quite a few of these councils are mentioned. Many of them are now receiving a grant which will enable them to carry on with Aboriginal projects.
One other item which is mentioned here, and on which I feel I should comment, concerns the establishment of an Aboriginal social club at Port Augusta. What happened in this particular case is that the Federal Government provided finance for the purchase of an old house. I know that when this house was purchased in the centre of the town I received a few complaints about what would happen. But to the credit of the people involved the whole project has been carried out by Aboriginal labour. They have been able to renovate this place. They have put decent fences around it and they hope to plant lawns and so forth. They have established television rooms for old people. They are trying to start a scheme to provide a hot meal daily for the children attending the local high school. This project is well worthy of commendation. It is something which we hope will keep going and which will grow. It is something which I certainly hope the Commonwealth Government will continue to support.
Also mentioned in the list of various projects are allocations to various housing societies. Much has been said tonight about housing for Aborigines. I mention Ernabella where there is a housing society. These housing societies are established in a number of places. But I know that at Ernabella the Aborigines themselves have been building under the supervision of a tradesman carpenter. Not only have they been able to build quite a number of houses but they have also played a fair part in building their new store, in making the bricks and so forth. They have actually played a big part in the whole turnout.
Another special project which gets a mention at Ernabella is the trickle feed irrigation project. As honourable members know Ernabella is in a very dry part of Australia. I think that its rainfall would be in the vicinity of 5 inches a year. At Ernabella a trickle feed irrigation scheme has been worked out. It is something which has received the support not only of this Government but also of the previous Government. Last time I was in that area it was quite pleasing to see the quantity of vegetables growing in an area which one would reckon would not grow a thing. All these are projects which I think are worthy of support. The previous speaker criticised a number of projects which are in this list. I am sure that all of those I have mentioned are worthy of support. I hope that in years to come further assistance will be given to these projects. That is all I wish to say. In closing I express my support for the provisions of the Bill.
– I hope that this debate will be allowed to continue because I feel that the 5 minutes remaining before the adjournment debate is due to come on is completely inadequate in which to cover this very important subject. In case the debate does not continue 1 have to decide in the next 5 minutes what I want to say. I will not mention the statistics set out in the tables which accompany the second reading speech. There are many things in the Bill which I could criticise and I will do so if I have time.
The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley-Brown) mentioned the Council for Aboriginal Affairs headed by Dr Coombs. I should like to refer to the resignation from the Council of Professor Strehlow, who was born in the Northern Territory. He is an expert on Aboriginal affairs. Obviously he resigned under pressure from the chairman of the Council. I think this is a great pity. I agree with the statement of Professor Strehlow that Dr Coombs has no practical knowledge of Aborigines. He espouses various theories. He may be called a banker but he could not by any such stretch of the imagination be called a man who knows anything about Aboriginal affairs. It is becoming more and more obvious that the people who can help Aborigines are those who have practical experience. Aborigines need practical assistance. I support wholeheartedly what Professor Strehlow said.
I should like to refer to Senator Bonner’s remarks concerning the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. There has been a good deal of publicity all over Australia about this Committee. I think its establishment is probably very good in theory. Senator Bonner said it will not work. He is not saying that because of wishful thinking and neither is Paul Albrecht. Paul Albrecht was born at Hermannsberg. He speaks the language and he knows more about Aborigines than anyone in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs today. Senator Bonner is an Aborigine. These 2 men say these things and so does anyone else who knows anything about Aborigines. I am putting forward an idea which has not been referred to a great deal. I say this with sincerity because I would like the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) or some of the experts on the back benches in this House who would know all about it-
– That is right.
– The honourable member would not know an Aborigine from a barramundi. I do not want to waste my time by replying to interjections. I warn the Minister and the people who are now running Aboriginal affairs that if they bring politics into
Aboriginal affairs they will be in for big trouble. Politics was not brought into the field of Aboriginal affairs prior to the Australian Labor Party coming to office. I say to the Minister: Do not bring politics in now. I know that the previous Minister in charge of this portfolio did not do so. He is sincere all along the line in trying to do something for the Aborigines. I would like to bring this point before the Government. We are now thinking about establishing an Aboriginal Parliament. We are calling on Aborigines from all over Australia. They are voting, or they are supposed to vote, or they were supposed to vote - I do not know what the actual-
– Order! It being 15 minutes to 11 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the Order of the House of 1 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to bring to the attention of the House tonight a matter of great concern to my colleagues in the Australian Country Party and, I believe, to the Opposition generally. I refer to a publication entitled ‘Meat Notes’ which is produced by the Department of Primary Industry in Canberra. This publication has traditionally existed as a medium through which the Department circulates information such as livestock auction prices and items directly affecting livestock, meat production and marketing. The article appearing on the back of this issue is written in political terms and has nothing whatever to do with the usual, traditional publication entitled ‘Meat Notes’ which is put out by the Department.
– Factual information.
– It contains factual information. It provides livestock auction prices and the prices of sheep meat at Newmarket, Victoria, of United States meat, of United Kingdom meat and so on. But when we look at this issue of 8 November we find a blatant use of this news sheet for political purposes. I refer to the statement which appears on the back of this issue and which is printed under the name of the Department of Primary Industry, Canberra. It reads:
In case onyone has forgotten, the export tax was never anything more than a recommendation by the
Parliamentary Prices Committee and not Government policy.
This however, did not prevent Country Party leader, Mr Anthony, from issuing a press release on 31 August predicting that a tax as high as 12c per lb will be applied initially to exports. He went on to say that when this did not work, the Government would keep on increasing the tax.
Other members of the Country Party and Liberal Opposition did their best to stir the pot, knowing full well that the imposition of an export tax was not being proposed by the Government. When I put a submission to Cabinet on 8 October opposing th, Committee’s export tax recommendation, it was readily accepted. This move was confirmed by a large majority at the Caucus meeting two days later.
The situation now is that I will report back to Cabinet on 12 November on the supply and price situation within the meat industry. On the basis of my report, it will be decided if there is any need to approach the meat industry about voluntary restraints on exports to ensure an adequate supply of meat for the domestic market I am hopeful that my report to Cabinet will show that the recent trend towards stabilised meat prices will still be evident.
Over recent weeks, hundreds of telegrams objecting to an export tax on beef arrived at my Canberra office. While this meant additional revenue for the post office, the telegrams had little impact on me. . . .
I took my stand despite extremely strong pressures on the Government from consumer groups and trade unionists concerned about the sharp rise in retail prices for all types of meat. They not only pointed out that high meat prices were hitting the low income earner, but that other countries had taken action to ensure greater supplies of basic foodstuffs for the domestic market.
My opposition to an export tax was based primarily on the grounds that the normal flow of meat to the market should not be interfered with and that the best way to stabilise meat prices was to allow the increase in production over recent years to continue.
The Labor Government has a lot of faith in the market place as the determining force as to what farmers produce. As we have begun to phase out the dairy subsidy which has been encouraging the production of unwanted butterfat, it would have been inconsistent for us to interfere with the unsubsidised meat industry which appears to have excellent prospects in the foreseeable future.
Another point is that it is valuable for Australia to retain its reputation as a reliable meat supplier to world markets. This will not only give us some market security if overseas demand slackens, but provides a bargaining point in overseas negotiations for the reduction of trade barriers against rural imports.
We have shown the United States, for example, that we are prepared to provide her with meat at some cost to our own citizens, thereby creating some goodwill.
This is blatant political propaganda obviously put out by the Government. The source is an article by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) which was published in the Queensland ‘Country Life’ on 18 October 1973. It is an absolute disgrace that political propaganda should be put out in a news leaflet circulated to the meat industry by the Department of Primary Industry. I have quite a few letters here, one from the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, which objects to this type of blatant political propaganda being circulated. I have also been approached by many other people in the meat trade, in the beef production industry in particular, to see whether this sort of blatant activity is to be allowed to be continued. If it is, God help the Government. This information was put out by the Meat Section of the Department of ‘Primary Industry. I should like to know under whose authority this article was placed in the meat industry newsletter. We would like to know that because we feel that the information is highly political and certainly should not have appeared in that journal. I trust that in future government money will not be used to put out political propaganda.
I should also like to refer to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who stated in this House recently that he was against a tax being placed on meat exports. He never mentioned that a meat tax should be put on exported beef. An interview on Federal File’ on 16 September between the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, who gave the answers, and the interviewer, Mr Schildberger, who asked the questions, went as follows:
What a lot of hooey.
– When was this?
– This was an interview with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro on Federal File’ on 16 September. I bring these facts forward for consideration. We are greatly concerned to think that the Department of Primary Industry would be an instrument for the issuing of blatant political propaganda on the back on its news sheet. As I said earlier, this newsletter is produced by the Meat Section of the Department of Primary Industry. We should like to know under whose authority this article was printed.
– This afternoon the Parliament involved itself in another very interesting debate on the welfare of Aborigines. I believe that the debate was conducted on a high plane and that very little Party politics was resorted to, as was mentioned by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). But I am somewhat disappointed-
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter must be made aware of the fact that during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House he cannot debate any matter that was discussed during this session. The honourable member has made a passing reference to such a matter, but he should deal with another subject now.
– Thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker. The matter on which I wish to speak is this: I do not think that honourable members on either side of the House realise the tragic plight of Aborigines generally in the Northern Territory as a result of the manner in which they are indulging in the use of alcoholic beverages. I would be very happy to see honourable members interest themselves more in this growing problem among Aborigines. Some of our news writers have interested themselves in the problem. In recent times several articles have been written referring to the Yirrkala Aboriginal people, large numbers of whom can be found lying under the trees outside the Walkabout Hotel at Gove after having spent practically the whole of their $30 or $40 a week or a fortnight, whatever it is that they receive, on alcohol, then going back to the missions and beating up their female partners. I think that honourable members must interest themselves in this problem before it becomes more acute.
I do not know the answer, but I would like to see the liquor interests prevailed upon to agree to persuade Aborigines who have had a fair quantity of alcohol to go home. I believe that if the liquor interests will not play ball with that request made by responsible authorities, action should be taken. Provision is made in a Northern Territory ordinance for the prosecution of liquor interests who serve a drunken person. There is a vast legal difference between an intoxicated person and a drunken person, as the lawyers in the House would know. From my humble learnings of the law - the little bit which I did - a drunken person is a person who is so affected by alcohol that he is incapable of properly controlling himself or his affairs. In other words, he is staggering about; he cannot walk straight; he is falling over. If the liquor interests continue to serve a person who gets to that stage, I believe that the law should be invoked, with all the severity which it provides. The liquor interests should incur a very savage penalty for the first offence of serving a drunken person. For the second offence a licensee should lose his licence.
I had only 5 minutes to speak on this matter tonight because the Parliament concludes its business for the day at 1 1 p.m. I hope that honourable members will interest themselves in this problem of over-indulgence in alcohol by Aborigines in the Northern Territory. None of us would suggest barring them from drinking, but we should prevail upon the liquor interests to desist from serving drunken Aborigines or otherwise incur a very severe penalty. I believe that something can and should be done, and it should be done immediately, in relation to this problem.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock the House stands adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at II p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science the following question, upon notice:
If so, what will be the:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As will be known, an Australian Institute of Marine Science is to be developed in North Queensland. Action by the Government to expedite development of this Institute was outlined in my statement to Parliament on 11 April 1973 (Hansard, House of Representatives, pp. 1314-15). Establishment of the Institute is an important step in developing and extending marine science in Australia. A national program in marine science properly balanced in respect of physical oceanography, marine biology, marine geology, etc., and between research in temperate and tropical waters, is sought. Consideration is being given to the desirable nature and timing of further steps towards that goal, including the provision of adequate resources for the purpose.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Specific capital expenditures incurred by primary producers are deductible in full in the year they are incurred. Of the items mentioned in the honourable member’s question, the cost of land clearing, dams, earth tanks, silos and haysheds for on-farm fodder storage, underground tanks, certain special-purpose fencing and piping for stock watering would generally be eligible for this outright deduction.
Primary production plant and structural improvements (other than structures to which the outright deduction applies) are, generally speaking, depreciated at 20 per cent per annum for taxation purposes. This means that the cost of such items is fully written off over 5 years.
Of the items mentioned in the honourable member’s question, woolsheds, other sheds, certain fencing, shearing machines, galvanised iron tanks, agricultural implements, trucks and tractors would normally be subject to the special 20 per cent depreciation Tate.
The capital cost of plant, equipment or structural improvements subject to depreciation that is not deductible either as an outright deduction in the year it is incurred or in 5 equal annual instalments, is deductible by way of annual depreciation allowances over the estimated life of the particular item. The rate of depreciation applied depends on the estimated life of the item and on whether the taxpayer chooses the prime cost or diminishing value method for taxation depreciation purposes.
The ordinary rates of depreciation for items subject to depreciation that are referred to in the honourable member’s question are set out below. As already mentioned, these rates are presently applied only where neither the special outright deduction nor the accelerated depreciation rate of 20 per cent per annum is available.
Under the amendments proposed in the Budget
Speech, deductions for the cost of primary production plant, equipment and depreciable structural improvements will, in future, be based on general rates of depreciation as in the above examples.
Capital expenditures that do not give rise to a depreciable item but which were previously covered by the outright deduction concession will be deductible to primary producers over 10 years by way of equal annual instalments. Land clearing, earth tanks and underground tanks will be in this category.
The proposed amendments will not affect expenditures incurred before 22 August 1973 or incurred after that date under pre-existing contracts made with the suppliers of materials or labour. Nor will the amendments apply to ordinary recurring business expenditures that are not of a capital nature (e.g. seasonal ploughing or seeding of pastures, or expenditure on work necessary to maintain cleared pastures free of weeds etc.) which will continue, as at present, to be deductible in full in the year they are incurred.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Were the Minister and his Department consulted in the two revaluation decisions announced by the Prime Minister; if not, why not?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the answer to the honourable member’s question:
It is a matter of Government policy as to how decisions on various matters will be reached. At the time of the revaluation decisions, the implications for rural producers were fully taken into account and announcements were made as to the forms of adjustment assistance that would be available to those adversely affected by the decisions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What quantity of wheat was (a) delivered to the Australian Wheat Board, (b) sold for consumption within Australia and (c) sold for export during each of the last 5 years.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Post Office Notice Boards (Question No. 1271)
asked the Postmaster-General, up notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, I have asked my Department to obtain details and background information from the New Zealand Post Office on the system.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Further to question No. 1089 and in light of the answer provided by him and that provided by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 7 November 1973, has the Prime Minister instructed him to provide a list of inter-departmental committees of which officers of his Department are members; if so, will he now provide me with such a list.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Question No. 1089 was answered prior to the further question asked by the right honourable gentleman on the 7th instant. I again refer the right honourable gentleman to that answer and in particular to standing order No. 142.
I invite the right honourable gentleman to indicate the nature of the matter or matters about which he is seeking information in respect of committees with which my Department is associated. When that information is received then an answer can be obtained.
Department of the Environment and Conservation: Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 1316)
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Further to question No. 1091 and in light of the answer provided by him and that provided by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 7 November 1973, has the Prime Minister instructed him to provide a list of interdepartmental committees of which officers of his Department are members; if so, will he now provide me with such a list.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable gentleman to the answer I gave on 7 November (Hansard, page 2975) and to the Prime Minister’s answer to his question without notice of 15 November ‘1973 (Hansard, pages 3373-4).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
With reference to the recent reports of the high death rate of wild donkeys being transported from Derby, Western Australia, to the eastern States for children’s pets and pet food, will he investigate the position of the protection by Western Australia of these animals and ascertain the need to confer with State authorities to ensure the humane treatment and protection of the donkeys.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Donkeys, like other domestic animals which have gone wild are not protected under the Fauna Conservation Act of Western Australia, and as they are not indigenous fauna I have no power to ensure their protection and safe treatment However I share the honourable member’s concern that all animals should be treated humanely and I am pleased to find that the South Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken action in the matter.
asked the Miinster representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Postmaster-General’s ‘Department: Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 1969)
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Following his answer to question No. 1089 and in the light of the Prime Minister’s guarantee in the House of 7 November 1973 that the information will be made available, will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees established since 2 December 1972 of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Question No. 1089 was answered prior to the further question asked by the right honourable gentleman on the 7th instant. I again refer the right honourable gentleman to that answer and in particular to standing order No. 142.
I invite the right honourable gentleman to indicate the nature of the matter or matters about which he is seeking information in respect of committees with which my Department is associated. When that information is received then an answer can be obtained.
Department of the Environment and Conservation: Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 1371)
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Following his answer to question No. 1091 and in the light of the Prime Mininter’s guarantee in the House on 7 November 1973 that the information would be made available, will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees established since 2 December 1972 of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable gentleman to the answer I gave to question No. 1316.
Pre-school Centres (Question No. 891)
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) A survey of children newly-enrolled in primary schools in the Australian Capital Territory in 1972 indicated that 84 per cent of these children had attended pre-school within the twelve months prior to their enrolment in primary school.
In the Australian Capital Territory, each Parent Association accepts specific responsibilities in the preschool system and, in providing educational equipment, fruit, and funds for cleaning of the school, approximately $35 per child per annum is spent. In order to meet this cost fees are charged for term attendance. The average fee charged for a half-day session is 25 cents.
In the Northern Territory, pre-schools in Aboriginal communities are fully subsidised by the Government. The Parent Committees of other Northern Territory pre-schools, in providing for cleaning, new equipment, insurance, petty cash and general supplies, spend approximately $50 per child per annum. To offset this expenditure a fee of approximately 20 cents per halfday session is charged.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Which Minister has jurisdiction and responsibility for the National Book Resources Development Committee.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable member to the answer to Question No. 947 (Hansard, 12 November 1973, page 3168) which also dealt with this matter, and where attention was directed to the aim of the Australian Labor Party and to its Platform. The right honourable member will be aware that in accordance with Standing Order 144, it would not be appropriate to announce Government policies in answer to a question on notice.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As no inter-departmental committee was established, no formal terms of reference exist and no report on its activities is required.
nnett asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731127_reps_28_hor87/>.