29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House of the death on 1 1 April of Mr Arthur Lewis, who was a member of this House for the division of Corio from 1929 to 1931. On behalf of the House, I have forwarded a message of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased, and as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased I invite honourable members to rise in their places. (Honourable members stood in their places.)
-Thank you, gentlemen.
– 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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray.
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connor, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Stewart, Mr Lynch, Mr Gorton, Mr McMahon, Mr Bonnet!, Dr Edwards, Mr Ellicott, Mr Fulton, Mr Giles, Mr Graham, Mr Hodges, Mr Howard, Mr Hunt, Mr Jarman, Mr Katter, Mr Kelly, Mr Keogh, Mr King, Mr McVeigh, Mr Macphee, Mr Millar, Mr Peacock, Mr Viner and Mr Willis.
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 marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1974 be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Whitlam, Mr Anthony, Mr Howard, Mr Jarman and Mr MacKellar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson, Mr Gorton, Mr Peacock and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years as follows:-
Your Petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable break-down, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:-
Your Petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Great Britain in 1 973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable breakdown, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. byMrBonnett.
To the Honourable The Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year ‘s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup polls indicate 75% of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia and members of Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and Roman Catholic Churches respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned persons believe that the Family Law Bill, currently being debated before Parliament, strikes at the very foundation of Society- the Family unit. If this legislation is passed by the Parliament, it will have the most profound consequences for the future of Australia.
We believe it imperative that the legislation should be defeated unless all obnoxious provisions directed at the destruction of the Family unit are removed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members in the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth condemnation of the apparently deliberate procrastination indulged in by Messrs Lewis and Healey, respectively the Premier and the Minister for Health of N.S.W. and the N.S.W. government regarding their acceptance of the Australian government’s Hospital (Medibank) scheme. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament show leadership and the Opposition show compassion by calling upon the government of N.S.W. to cease this political game and expedite acceptance of the Hospital (Medibank) scheme so that the citizens of N.S.W. may not be disadvantaged, vis-a-vis other states, regarding hospital care.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
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 increased price of the Hansard subscription will place it beyond the financial reach of most people;
That it is basic in a Parliamentary democracy that electors have easy access to records of the debates in their Parliament;
That making Hansard available only to an elite who can afford it is at odds with the concept of open government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce the cost of the Hansard subscription so that it is still available at a moderate price to any interested citizens.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrDrury.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. How does the Minister account for the fact that his Department’s unemployment figures for February are over 54 000 higher than those of the Bureau of Statistics for the same month, when the number of applicants for part-time work, excluded from the Department’s figures, has also been deducted from those of the Bureau? Does this huge discrepancy, far higher than normal, indicate that there are thousands of multiple registrations or that there has been a failure to clear the rolls by removing the names of people who have in fact been placed in jobs, or is the Minister inflating current unemployment figures above their true level so that, if he sees an election in the offing, he will be able to claim a substantial but fictitious reduction in unemployment?
– I am disappointed to hear the tone of the question from the honourable gentleman, who until now has been looked upon as a fair-minded, reasonable person who judged other people by his own standards and tended always to regard people as being honest, as until now I felt he was. Of course I am not inflating the figures in order that I might deflate them later when there is an election, because we know from what the Leader of the Opposition has said that there will not be an election. So it is quite pointless for the honourable member to make that rather miserable point in asking did I inflate the figures. For the information of the House, let me say that I do not prepare the figures. I have nothing whatever to do with the figures. My only knowledge of them is when the final figures come out at the end of the month. It is quite unfair, quite ungallant, and I think quite irresponsible for the honourable gentleman to suggest that they are my figures and that I prepare them.
The first part of the question asks whether this discrepancy for the first time ever- and that is correct; never before have the Commonwealth Employment Service figures shown a higher level of unemployment than is shown by the Bureau of Statistics figures- indicates multiple registration. The reason for the higher level of CES figures lies partly in the two reasons that he suggested might be responsible. It is true that there are multiple registrations in the sense that people already working do register for employment in the hope that they will either get a better job or they will get back a second job which they might have lost. It is true that there are a large number of people registering for employment who already have work, and therefore they are looking for a second job or looking for a job in lieu of the one that they have. That is happening. That cannot be stopped. It is not illegal for a person to register for employment when he already has a job. He is entitled to register for employment if he wants to get a better job, and when he registers it follows that if he claims to be unemployed; his registration will be included in the total. It is only at the point where he uses his registration for employment as the basis of an application for unemployment benefit that it becomes illegal to register for employment when in fact already in employment. As to the suggestion that there are inactive files that have not been culled, again it is true that there are some inactive files, and this was true at the time when the
Opposition was making so much noise about the high level of unemployment two or three months ago. It did not suit the political purposes of the Opposition then to draw attention to the two facts which the honourable member has seen fit to mention now.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Has his attention been drawn to a report alleging that 50 Australian pilots killed prisoners from an American gaol with poison gas bombs in a wartime experiment on an island off Cairns in 1944? Has the Minister investigated these allegations and, if so, what are the results?
– I have seen the allegations that volunteers, including prisoners, were used during mustard gas trials on a small island off the Queensland coast during the Second World War and that deaths resulted. The incident referred to is similar to one that is mentioned in the Australian official war history which was published in 1958 and concerns Brook Island which, as the honourable gentleman will know, is only 20 miles off the Australian coast and is located between Townsville and Cairns. The island referred to in the allegations is said to be 200 miles off the coast. Secondly, in the exercise to which I have just referred, Beaufort bombers were used and not B42 Liberators, as suggested in the allegations. I quote from the official war history concerning the exercise at Brook Island:
Over four tons of mustard gas were dropped from Beaufort aircraft on a small tropical rain-forest island off the north Queensland coast. The island had been prepared with gas defences, sampling apparatus to measure gas vapour concentrations and animals for physiological investigations. Volunteers clad in various kinds of British, American and Japanese and experimental impregnated and impervious clothing were landed immediately; jungle-trained Australian troops with the minimum of protection carried out manoeuvres for several hours over the contaminated territory.
The accounts of the Brook Island trials differ in several important details from the allegations that have been made. First, there is no mention of substantial American participation: No personnel were on the island when the bombs were dropped. The volunteers were drawn from scientific staff and Australian troops. Although severe injuries are acknowledged, no indication is given of deaths resulting from the trials, and the mustard gas used was not expected to cause death.
A search of the official Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force histories, and of Royal Australian Air Force operational records, as well as questioning of the scientific staff present during Brook Island trials, do not confirm the allegations that Australia was involved in a trial in which prisoners from American gaols were subjected to mustard gas bombing. May I say, in relation to the exercise on Brook Island, that the same situation would apply as to the one raised with me some time ago in relation to the gas trials at Proserpine in north Queensland. If any volunteer who participated in the exercise involving Brook Island is suffering from the after-effects of mustard gas, he would have a clear case to have that disability accepted as a war-caused disability under the Repatriation Act, and it should be referred immediately to my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Finally, I have asked that additional inquiries be made through the United States authorities to determine whether any information available from that source would either confirm or refute the allegations that have been made.
-Was the Minister for Environment and Conservation informed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy 4 days before the Environmental Impact Bill became law that the Minister for Minerals and Energy had sanctioned the export of mineral sands from Fraser Island?
– I cannot recall the exact dates. However, I was told that the Minister was contemplating granting permission to the company to enter contracts to supply mineral sands. As I recall, that is as far as the specific information goes.
-I ask the Special Minister of State a question. Has his attention been drawn to a report that New South Wales State Ministers have accused the Australian Government of welshing on a promise to. provide a year’s free pre-school education to all children throughout Australia?
-I did see the newspaper report and, if it is correct, it is completely incomprehensible. I do not understand how the Australian Government could be accused of welshing. The program announced last Friday gives about $22,500,000 to New South Wales although the New South Wales Government gives practically nothing to preschool education. Indeed, of the whole 6 State governments it runs a miserable last in this field, giving a pitiful 26c a head to child care. The other States, which are perhaps not as advantaged as New South Wales, are paying as much as $3 and $4 a head. The Government announced a new program which clearly indicates that from 1 January next it will pay 75 per cent of all salary and aid costs in pre-schools. This will give substantial benefits to those States that are making a contribution. Of course, New South Wales will now find itself having to make a small contribution. I notice from its Budget, that its allocation to pre-school education- miserable as it was- has been reduced from the one previously made. It is therefore a hopeless situation for the people of New South Wales if they expect to rely on the New South Wales State Government. The program announced, of course, is community orientated and community based. It seems that in New South Wales we would be better advantaged giving the money to the community because we would get a much better result than we would by making it available through the State Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is still the Government’s policy, as expounded by the Prime Minister in the Sir Robert Garran Memorial Oration in 1973, ‘to maintain the fundamental tradition of a nonpolitical Public Service in the true sense’ and as stated at a later point, on page 17 of the speech, ‘to retain proper observance of the conventions that public servants do not justify or propagandise policies’. Will the Prime Minister tell this House whether he still supports those important principles of a non-partisan, apolitical Public Service? In his answer will he make it clear to public servants where they stand if they emulate the Permanent Head who last week assumed the role of a Minister in defending his Department and simultaneously engaged directly and publicly in political debate? I know the Prime Minister will know that I am asking this question not in the context of the subject matter of last week’s debate but in the context of the proper behaviour of and relationship between Permanent Heads and Ministers.
-The answer to the first question is ‘yes’ and to the second ‘I do’. Honourable members will know that my Government promised to repeal and did repeal Public Service Regulation 34 (b) and similar regulations concerning individual authorities which restricted the comment which public servants could make upon public matters. The Public Service Board last June issued guidelines on this matter with the endorsement of the Government. The honourable gentleman invites me to comment on the exchange of views which took place between the head of the Foreign Affairs Department and himself at the end of last week. I knew nothing about this matter until I read a prominent story last Friday in the Melbourne ‘Age’. I must confess that I would be concerned if some of the words in the ‘Age’ report were accurate. The heading states: ‘Top PS Man Raps Liberals’. The story states:
Mr Renouf made his attack when speaking at a Legacy luncheon in Newcastle. He repeated them at a Press conference.
It also states:
Mr Renouf indicated that he believed Opposition spokesman
It is spelt as singular, but I assume that it should! be plural - had taken a 1 950-style attitude to foreign affairs.
I have read a copy of Mr Renouf’s speech. He delivered it at a Legacy luncheon in Newcastle last Thursday. He had been asked to give an address some months before. I believe that the text of his speech cannot be criticised in any respect. I hasten to assure honourable members that one cannot find in the speech any basis for the embellishments that he made an attack, that he rapped Liberals or that he believed Opposition spokesmen had taken a 1950-style attitude. These are embellishments by the reporter. Mr Renouf did not give a Press conference. He was asked by 2 reporters from the same newspaper after the conclusion of his speech about a passage in the speech in which he was refuting the allegation that what had been done by Australia in IndoChina by way of relief and rehabilitation was too little too late. He was also asked by the same reporters another question- the only other question he was asked- about Australia having precipitately evacuated her embassy in Phnom Penh. He answered those questions. I should reassure honourable members that the story in last Friday’s ‘Age’ bears very little relationship to the tone of Mr Renouf’s speech.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen recent comments about the honours system and about the announcement of procedures for making awards inserted in newspapers by the Council of the Order of Australia. Does he consider that this method of inviting nominations, which I understand follows the Canadian precedent, will be effective?
-The honourable gentleman is correct that what has been done by the Council of the Order follows the example set by Canada in her centennial year when she inaugurated the Order of Canada. I am sure that the publicity that the Council is giving to the new honours system will be effective. I have seen the Council ‘s announcement in the Press to which the honourable gentleman refers and I can say that it admirably emphasises the difference between the old system of honours and the new. Under the old system nominations to the Queen for honours were made by governments and usually only by the head of the government. Now they will be made to the Queen by the Chancellor of the Order of Australia- that is, her Viceroy, the Governor-General- advised by the Council of the Order and in the case of bravery awards by the Decorations Advisory Committee.
The new honours system belongs to the Australian people. Awards under the Order of Australia, which will be far fewer than those made under the old British honours system availed of by some State governments, will be for outstanding and distinguished service to Australia. It is important that the new procedures for submitting nominations be widely known and that nominations come forward from all parts of the country and in respect of service in all avenues of Australian life. The Council of the Order, which the Governor-General has appointed, is a body of very distinguished Australians. Incidentally, it includes nominees of five of the Premiers- 2 Labor Premiers, 2 Liberal Premiers, the National Party Premier- and from the other State there is a former Premier of the same political party as the present Premier of that State.
The Council will consider and sift all the nominations for awards that are received. The Chairman of the Council, the Chief Justice of Australia, and his colleagues on the Council will undertake their task, I am sure, with diligence and discretion. I am sure that those of mature judgment will fully support the Council in what is, at this formative stage, its quite difficult task.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister, who will recall addressing a meeting in Parliament House on 22 October 1 974 convened by the Murray Valley Development League and attended by Federal members from electorates taking in the River Murray system. In that address he supported my concern at the lack of progress by established River Murray working parties and stated that he would call a further meeting of State Premiers to accelerate investigations if results were still unsatisfactory by March 1975. 1 ask: Have the working parties made further reports? If so, what steps are being taken to implement their findings? If not, what moves has the Prime Minister taken in the light of his commitment to this urgent problem?
Mr WHITLAM I did make the speech. I gave the undertaking to which the honourable gentleman refers 6 months ago. I am not sure if there have been further reports from the working parties. I should ask my colleague the Minister for Environment and Conservation on that matter. I have discussed another meeting with the Premier of South Australia who is at present overseas. I expect to hear from him within the next couple of weeks whether he would like me again to invite the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and himself to confer.
As the honourable gentleman will realise, it is purely for historical reasons that the Australian Government can participate at all in the River Murray Waters Agreement. The Constitution gives this Parliament authority with respect to navigation between the States. Before the First World War there was navigation on the River Murray between the States and in those circumstances the Australian Government made an agreement, I think in 1915, with the 3 riparian States to make the waters of the Murray more navigable. It was under that system that the weirs were built. No navigation takes place on the River Murray now, and certainly not interstate. Of course, the water of the River Murray is now used totally for consumption by crops, animals, humans and industries. The quality of the water from the river gives more cause for concern now than the quantity of water. Constitutionally the Australian Government has very little authority over the waters of the Murray, but because it is a party to the agreement it does have some options in asking the heads of the 3 State governments concerned to confer from time to time. I would expect to hear within a couple of weeks from the Premier of South Australia, whose State suffers more than the other States from the poor quality of the Murray water, whether he would wish me again to invite the 3 Premiers to confer in terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement. I last did so in February or March 1973. 1 will be happy to do so again if Mr Dunstan or either of the other Premiers wishes me to invite them to a 4-way conference.
-Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a court case before Mr Justice Nagle in Parramatta, New South Wales, in March of this year in which 3 men were convicted of murdering Dieter Bergmann on 20 September 1974 at Liverpool, New South Wales? Has he noted the evidence that Bergmann was a member of an organisation formed to overthrow the Government of Australia and was killed by three of his fellow members because he was considered to be a security risk to this organisation? Does he have any details as to the organisation referred to?
– I thank the honourable member for the question. My attention has been drawn to the report. In fact, it was the honourable member who drew my attention to it. I have had inquiries made because one always views reports of this nature with considerable concern. In this case I am happy to say that there is no substance in the report I do not know whether it is appropriate to say that, but that is the fact. My inquiries and the advice I have received indicate that there is no truth in the allegation that the 3 men who have now been convicted of the murder of Bergmann belonged to an organisation formed to overthrow the Government of Australia. I am advised that each of them is of a fairly low level of intelligence and that to a certain extent they live in a world of fantasy. I might mention in addition that the alleged leader of the group, McConnell, is currently receiving treatment at Morisset Mental Hospital.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I give the Government credit for knowing just how desperate and in how serious a position some sections of the rural community are. Have there been any recent developments in the Government’s attitude to the beef industry, after making available $20m at 12% per cent interest for beef producers? Are there thoughts of enlarging the charter of the Rural Reconstruction Authority or has more thought been given to providing unemployment relief for those in very dire need?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry will answer this question.
-As the honourable member would well know, there are a large number of proposals before the Government, including proposals by the Australian National Cattlemen’s Council. All these proposals are under active consideration by the Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, deals with the Australian
Government superannuation scheme. Can he inform the House as to progress of the proposed superannuation scheme for Australian Government employees? When will the legislation be ready for introduction into the House and when will the scheme be in operation? Is he aware that the scheme is anxiously awaited by more than 250 000 Australian public servants? Does he believe that the scheme will serve as a useful model for private sector employees, their union organisations and their employers?
– It was announced on 4 December that a Bill to amend superannuation provisions for Commonwealth public servants would be introduced during the first session of 1975. That Bill will be introduced, probably in the first week of the sittings in May. There is no change whatever in the commitment of the Government on this matter. The superannuation improvements will date from 1 July 1975. The proposed scheme is, in fact, a major improvement in superannuation for Australian Government employees. At the same time, the cost of the scheme will rise by about 14 per cent. Superannuation is considered by the Government as a right of all employees. The level of superannuation at the end of a person’s working life should be related to the kind of standard he or she has been able to establish during his or her working life. In Australia so far we have never achieved this standard. It is true that the present scheme is anxiously awaited by 250 000 government employees and that it will act as a model for superannuation in Australia as a whole for employees in private employment and for trade unions in their superannuation proposals. Of course the Bill will cover a limited number of people although the total of government employees is high. It will be some time before the model, desirable as it is, secures application to the community as a whole.
-Can the Treasurer confirm that the Government has decided to enter the insurance field with its own insurance office? Does the Treasurer recall his announcement of 4 April of the establishment of 2 insurance consultative committees to advise the Government on legislation and to keep the Government informed on industry’s views? What advice has been sought from these committees on the Government’s plans, or has the Government’s decision been made without any consultation with these committees?
– The Government has decided to set up an Australian Government insurance office and the necessary legislation will be introduced by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon. Two committees have been appointed to advise the Government generally about the state of the insurance industry, as it is called. In all these matters I have stated that consultations with the industry, not necessarily with those committees alone, would be carried out. Senator Wheeldon has had consultations. He found in a number of cases, however, that it was not the intention of the industry representatives with whom he consulted to make any constructive proposals about an Australian Government insurance office but to state their forthright opposition to it. It seemed quite unproductive to expect that any constructive exchanges could take place and that there could be any real consultations with persons who took that attitude. I think, partly as a result of that, that Senator Wheeldon decided that the broad lines of the legislation should now be worked on. The Bill is not completed. There will be still some time before it is ready for presentation and the views of all those who are prepared to make constructive proposals in relation to the matter, rather than announce their national campaign to resist it, will be given full weight.
-Has the attention of the Minister for the Northern Territory been drawn to reports that unemployment in Darwin is growing and has now reached 430 persons? In view of the tremendous amount of reconstruction work in Darwin and the fact that Australian Army members are still in Darwin heavily engaged in cleaning up smashed houses, why can these unemployed people not be employed in gainful work?
– I must admit that when I first saw those figures I was somewhat concerned. It is a fact that there is a desperate employment situation in Darwin in the sense that there are far more job vacancies than there are applicants. These figures state the position in a situation in which people who complete a job then register for another job. In Darwin a large number of employees are finishing jobs and then going on to other jobs. So the actual number of people employed changes from day to day. However, the salient point is that there are no people in Darwin receiving unemployment benefits- I think that is the crucial thing- although there is a large turnover of jobs. It would appear from the figures that have been made public that there is much unemployment in Darwin. The fact is that there is no unemployment in Darwin; there are no unemployment benefits being paid in Darwin.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Last week the Treasurer told us about his policy of using deficit financing to lower the present level of unemployment. How is his solution of burying the unemployment problem under a mountain of money actually working out? If printing money is a good solution to the unemployment problem why not print more of the stuff and get rid of the unemployment problem altogether?
– We might do precisely that. There are still about 250 000 persons unemployed in Australia. I assure the honourable member and every other honourable member that if by government expenditure I can ensure that any one of those men is put to work productively I will make sure that he is, and he will not be allowed to remain in unemployment because of a shortage of money. As long as by government expenditure we can employ people productively or assist in their employment in the private sector productively so that they produce as much as the expenditure is worth, there is no contribution to inflation. I will continue to ensure that unemployment does not remain in this country if anything the Government can do can remove it. The people of Australia understand that that is what the Party which I represent in this Parliament- the Government I represent in this Parliament- has stood for for over a quarter of a century. We have not moved one inch from that position nor do we intend to do so.
– Will the Minister for Social Security clarify the role of Medibank in respect of people who use medical and hospital services away from their home State?
-With the advent of Medibank from 1 July people in agreement States who have to draw on hospital services in non-agreement States can rest assured that even though public ward treatment in the non-agreement States will not be free and in fact will be restricted by a means test, if they are forced to use intermediate ward services we will meet the cost of the intermediate ward services. Furthermore, everyone in Australia will be covered by the medical benefits from 1 July, and wherever a person is in Australia he will be covered for the cost of his or her medical services.
-The Treasurer will be aware of transport difficulties between Western Australia and the eastern States during the past month due to a washaway on the TransAustralian Railway. Is he aware that stocks of certain new motor vehicles in Western Australia are depleted and that stocks may not be sufficiently replenished to enable Western Australians to take advantage of the sales tax reductions applying until the end of April 1975? Is the Treasurer able or willing to make special provisions to enable Western Australians to avail themselves fully of these sales tax reductions on new vehicles?
-I am aware of the washaway. I understand that it has been repaired. I have been informed that there is some serious delay in the delivery of motor cars. That I have just learned. I will make sure that the matter is investigated and see whether it is possible to do anything about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports of a contraction in the world demand for oil and a downward trend in oil prices? Do those reports have any substance? If so, how do they compare with the Australian Government’s policy on oil prices? Finally, how do they compare with demands by spokesmen in this nation for a major increase in oil prices in Australia?
-Today there is in the world no topic on which there are more rumours, more speculation, more argument and more misrepresentation than the subject of crude oil pricing. Our position in Australia is very clear. The price that is being paid to the producers of Australian crude from Bass Strait and Barrow Island, after deducting taxation, is very generous and compares favourably with that which is being charged in the Middle East. Nevertheless the Middle East price, because of the imposition of very high taxation by the producing countries, is being seized upon by the friends of certain major companies in Australia as a specious argument for justifying an increase in the crude oil price. For the future the answer is a very simple one. A very substantial profit is being made today by the major producer of crude oil in Australia. An increase in the price will have very little effect upon stimulating exploration. Already, at present prices, we have quite a substantial number of major exploration companies which are prepared to enter into activities on the northwest shelf and which will be prepared to do so in the event of certain judicial proceedings being terminated successfully. I would suggest to the advocates of oil price increases and particularly to those in the Australian Country Party who seem to have more than the normal vested interest in it- I stress the words ‘more than the normal vested interest’- that they might well take discretion as being the better part of valour as, for the future, we will see that the people of Australia, who need motor transport more urgently and more consistently than any other people in the world, have it at a proper price and on proper terms and conditions.
- Mr Speaker, I wonder whether I could ask a question without notice of the Prime Minister? It is in relation to a reply given to my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir last week when the Prime Minister indicated that no diplomatic initiatives had been taken over the last 2 months to try to bring to a conclusion the present conflict in either Cambodia or Vietnam. I wonder whether he would reconcile that answer with the statement made by the Permanent Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Renouf, in a speech at Newcastle when he was reported to say:
I can assure you that the influence and access we do have on both sides in Vietnam has been and is being used to urge an end to the fighting and an acceptance of those political guarantees under which armed conflict can cease.
-Mr Speaker, certainly the honourable gentleman can ask me a question. I had the opportunity a week ago of stating some of the initiatives that my Government has taken- that our representatives have taken- in each of the capitals in Indo-China. Since then, I am happy to say, the Foreign Minister has also endorsed the initiative which has been taken by President Giscard d ‘Estaing.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Has the Minister noted the increase of Australian shareholdings in the Utah Development Coal Mining Company of a magnificent 0.8 per cent? What is its significance?
-The significance is this: It is conscience money- ‘conscience’ with a very small V indeed. It represents an increase from 10 per cent to 10.8 per cent of the Australian holding in the major company, which recently declared a profit of $47m and which still has under the terms of its original agreement with the Queensland Government- and today at world parity prices- the right to extract another 160 million tonnes of first-class coking coal from the northern end of the Bowen basin depositsjust a little matter, I might add, of US$8 billion gross value. To intensify the nature of our grievance, it is in fact seeking not merely to exploit Australia to the extent of that 160 million tonnes of coal but also it is seeking 1600 million tonnes and it wants $80 billion worth of coal. I never knew of any company to have so much gall or so little sense of public relations. It is a standing disgrace to Australia, it is a standing disgrace to Queensland, and it is something that must be corrected.
-For the information of honourable members I present a paper prepared by the Australian Development Assistance Agency entitled: ‘Australian Aid to Developing Countries’.
-I seek leave to make a statement on the document just tabled.
-Leave is not granted.
– For the information of honourable members I present a statement on uranium exploration in the Northern Territory.
– Pursuant to the provisions of section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, I present a copy of the report with maps showing the boundaries of each proposed division by the Distribution Commissioners of South Australia together with copies of the suggestions, comments or objections lodged with the Commissioners.
Ordered that the report and maps be printed.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947-1973, 1 present the twenty-seventh annual report of the Australian Egg Board on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present a second planning report on the future Darwin prepared on behalf of the Department of the Northern Territory for the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, entitled: ‘Darwin planning guide lines ‘.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs)For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Committee on Computerisation of Criminal Data.
-His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has presented to me a commission authorising me to administer to members of the House the oath or affirmation of allegiance. I now lay the commission on the table.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Morris to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Berinson.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The inflationary consequences of the Government’s policy of printing money to pay for its excessive spending programs.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-The Opposition has brought this debate forward to express its strong public concern about the Government’s present monetary strategy. The Whitlam Administration has demonstrated an appalling inability to understand the inevitable results of rapid changes in the volume and velocity of money. Its first actions set the pattern. A 20 per cent-plus growth in liquidity was recorded during the first three-quarters of 1973- caused primarily by the Government’s own financial transactions. The Government’s decision to place an almost exclusive reliance on monetary policy, initiated in September 1973, to control demand led inevitably to the present period of stagflation. Even a cursory examination of the Reserve Bank’s statistical bulletin shows monetary fluctuations from growth rates approximating 30 per cent to those which are negative. But the Government has not been prepared to learn from its past mistakes. It apparently cannot understand that excessive monetary growth leads directly to inflation, and excessive monetary restraint leads to recession and consequent unemployment. The Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns), now at the table, ought to understand that lesson well. After all, it is this Government, with the assistance of the present Treasurer, which has caused the present problems of inflation and unemployment in this country. It is this Government which has failed to appreciate the need for a balance between fiscal and monetary policy. If that lesson were understood the Government would not now be expanding the volume of money at an annual rate in excess of 20 per cent.
A principal contributor to monetary expansion has been the deficit created by excess Government spending. The deficit recorded for the 9 months to March this year was a record $3.3 billion. In simple terms, the Government spent $3.3 billion more than it raised by taxation. To balance the books it has simply printed money. To judge from what the Treasurer said today in response to a question in this House, that pattern of policy apparently will be pursued during the period ahead. The one factory in this country which has the lights going day and night is the Government Mint. In other words, this Government is spending what it is not prepared to earn by way of taxation. It is no response for the Treasurer to argue that increased receipts in the June quarter will reduce the overall deficit to around $2.5 billion or the domestic deficit to around $1.9 billion. Nor is it a defence to argue that deficit financing of the present order is justified as a stimulus to the private sector. Economic management is not a question of devising policies for the next month or the next quarter. It is essentially a matter of achieving long-run stability so that the Australian economy can operate at high rates of real output and high levels of employment. We cannot continue with one policy for today and another for tomorrow.
An underlying requirement for long-run stability is a steady growth of the money supply at rates consistent with the overall real expansion of economic output. The monetary explosion evident in this country since October 1 974 is, I believe, a classic prescription for a renewed bout of inflation. The only question to be answered is when a new inflation take-off will occur. Quite clearly, the unprecedented growth in real wages and the decline in company profits which took place in 1974 will impose a substantial lag. The economy has experienced its most serious recession since the war time period. As a result, a substantial lift in the rate of inflation is unlikely to occur this year. Neverthless, if present monetary policies are pursued, Australia faces hyperinflation at some time around mid- 1976. Concern about the future effects of large-scale deficit financing is not expressed exclusively by the Opposition Parties. Indeed, I hope that the views of Professor Milton Friedman on the problem of deficit financing of this dimension have not been lost on the Treasurer. The Government’s own economic consultants, Professor Fred Gruen and Mr Brian Brogan, made their personal views clear in an interview published in ‘Syntec’ on 7 April. Professor Gruen had this to say:
Obviously, you can use monetary policy as an offset to fiscal policy on a mild scale; but I don’t think a very large deficit can be undone by tough monetary policy. I would have thought that that was one of the lessons of Australia’s economic history in 1 974. If we are going to be concerned about the deficit, we have to get the deficit down. We may have to raise some other taxes, or we may have to reduce expenditure somewhere . . . I think that if it is politically difficult to control the deficit, then we ‘re in trouble.
The simple fact is that this Government is not prepared to control the size of the deficit because it lacks the political courage to respond to the economic advice that it has received. The Reserve Bank has expressed similar public concern. The Governor of the Bank, Sir John Phillips, spoke to the Australian Association of Permanent Building Societies on 24 March in the following terms:
We should be looking,I think, to try to achieve some slowing in the rate of growth of the monetary aggregates This suggests a pattern for the monetary aggregates in which the rate of growth declines over the coming months from its current level of an annual rate of 20 per cent or more down beyond our recent rate of inflation and towards a figure more nearly in step with the possible real growth in the economy.
I submit today that these comments from the Governor of the Reserve Bank are in sharp contradistinction to the comments made by the Treasurer during question time. The Reserve Bank’s views have not only been put in the public forum; they have also been made directly to the Treasurer in letters from the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Although the Treasurer’s answer to the question I asked of him in question time last week gave the impression that this was not the case, he has subsequently informed me by letter that it was. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the exchange of letters, dealing with the comments made by Sir John Phillips, between myself and the Treasurer which took place last week.
-Is leave granted?
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Deputy Leader of the Opposition,
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600. 10 April 1975.
My dear Treasurer,
I refer to my Question Without Notice to you today concerning differences between the Government and the Reserve Bank.
As I understand your answer, you maintain that there is no disagreement between the Government and the Bank on monetary policy and that no communication has been received by you expressing such a disagreement. While I am, of course, prepared to accept your assurances given to me in the Parliament, I feel I should tell you frankly that I have been reliably informed that you did receive a letter from the Bank which could in no way be described as an endorsement of the Government’s present monetary strategy. On the public record, Sir John Phillips has stated, inter alia, that: “But we should soon be looking, I think, to try to achieve some slowing in the rate of growth of the monetary aggregates . . .
This suggests a pattern for the monetary aggregates in which the rate of growth declines over coming months from its current level of an annual rate of 20 per cent or more, down beyond our recent rate of inflation and towards a figure more nearly in step with the possible real growth in the economy. “
I am sure you would agree that statements of this nature are quite inconsistent with Government monetary policy as stated by you.
The Opposition intends to pursue this matter further. Before doing so I would like to be sure that your Parliamentary answer today accurately states the position as you see it.
Should there be any misunderstanding as to whether or not you have received a letter from the Reserve Bank, I would like to have it clarified before taking any further action.
I would be grateful for your advice on this matter today. If you are not able to communicate with me directly, I would request you to ask a member of your staff to respond directly to my Private Secretary.
Yours sincerely, (PHILLIP LYNCH)
The Hon. J. F. Cairns, M.P., Treasurer, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T.2600
Mr P. R. Lynch, M.P., Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, CANBERRA. A.C.T. 2600.
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of today’s date dealing with your Question Without Notice to me today. 1 have not received any letter or statement from the Governor of the Reserve Bank expressing disagreement with the Government’s policy.
I have received several letters from the Governor describing the state of the economy and referring to the wellknown serious state of inflation and unemployment, and the effect such things as wage and price increases, Government expenditure and the money supply may have upon both inflation and unemployment.
I received a letter dated April 4, 1975, from Sir John Phillips which discusses these matters, but does not include any statement similar to the one quoted in your letter which apparently was made publicly by him.
Yours sincerely, (J. F. CAIRNS)
– I thank the House. I also take this opportunity of challenging the Treasurer to table the correspondence that he has received from the Governor of the Reserve Bank, because there is a sense of mounting disquiet throughout the Australian community that this Government should be prepared to pursue a course of action that is obviously in such sharp conflict with that of its principal monetary advisers. In spite of the advice which the Treasurer and his colleagues have received, the Treasurer apparently intends to continue to expand this country’s money supply at a rate in excess of 20 per cent. He is apparently prepared to stand aside while government expenditure surges ahead to higher and higher levels.
Spending on education is to be doubled during the next triennium. The new health insurance, compensation and superannuation programs are to proceed at an annual cost, estimated by Professor Downing on 1973 money terms, of $4,900m or about 10 per cent of the gross domestic product. The Government must understand that it cannot spend what the economy cannot create in terms of real resources. It is a highly dangerous policy to attempt to finance the shortfall by the apparently simple process of printing money. The Government’s present plans are essentially a prescription for national bankruptcy in the period ahead.
There are 4 methods of slowing the money supply growth during the period ahead: Increased taxation, increased Government borrowing, revaluation and capital inflow controls, or limitations in. Government spending. The Opposition is not prepared to endorse any of the first 3 options. The only acceptable alternativethe only one which would not create greater employment difficulties or much higher interest rates- is to limit Government spending. We believe that Government spending must be limited and that the 1975-76 Budget must be a Budget of overall restraint. We will be having more to say about this in the debate on the Supply and Appropriation Bills later this week.
A responsible Budget this year in terms of expenditure will permit essential reductions in taxation. All Australians, individuals and companies, are being pilloried by the heavy burden of taxation. Those who work hard to earn money should be permitted to spend it without having to hand over an increasing proportion to the Government in Canberra. The Labor Party in government has exploited inflation. It has used inflation as a silent and iniquitous tax to appropriate funds from the private sector by Government taxation and Government borrowing. The Australian electorate has not voted for the huge tax increases which have occurred; neither has the Government had any courage or capacity to legislate for them. Inflation is robbing the private sector of real resources and handing money to the Government on a plate. Because the revenue demands of the present Government continue to be dangerously excessive, it is apparent that very serious consideration must be given to the indexation of personal taxation and to the basis of company taxation. In regard to companies, the recent inflation has highlighted the advantages which would arise from adjusting both stock and asset values for price increases. Notwithstanding the work of the Matthews Committee, the Opposition Parties are conducting a detailed examination of both these policies. The Government’s refusal to act of its own accord to limit spending, taxation and deficit financing means, in effect, that new initiatives such as tax indexation are clearly desirable.
The Opposition has brought this debate forward to emphasise the need for a basic change in the Government’s monetary strategy. The Treasurer, I submit, will not add to the standard of economic debate in this House if he adopts his usual Pavlovian response of accusing the Opposition Parties of advocating unemployment. A rational approach to monetary management is the only way in which high levels of employment can be achieved and maintained in the period ahead. A new monetary strategy must, of course, be accompanied by specific measures to restore business profitability and private investment if genuine full employment is to be restored. The present 10 per cent share of the gross domestic product held by corporate profits must be increased and this cannot be achieved by productivity increases alone. Either prices will have to be run ahead of money wages or company taxation, preferably by changing the basis of taxation, will have to be lowered. A combination of both elements may have to occur. A slower rate of monetary growth is not inconsistent with an investment recovery or with a return to full employment. As Sir John Phillips put it in his recent speech:
We should seek to continue to exercise policy in such a way that, while the basic immediate needs of the economy for finance are being met, finance is not available for all the needs arising out of inflation.
Unless the Government adopts the kind of strategy which we will outline during this debate, and which has been the basis of the Opposition’s approach for some time, the recovery which does occur will be a consumption boom. It is essential that any recovery of economic activity be based on investment rather than consumption spending.
The Treasurer has some important questions to answer during the course of this debate. Why has he not responded to the advice from the Reserve Bank, Professor Gruen and Mr Brian Brogan about the consequences of excessive monetary expansion? For how long is the Government going to continue to finance its spending programs by massive deficit budgeting? Will the Government ensure substantial reductions in the growth rates of spending and taxation in the forthcoming Budget? What measures will he implement to restore business confidence, profits and investment?
These are the questions to which the Treasurer should respond during the course of this debate. For too long this Government has failed to answer the basic questions as to how and when it will control inflation and unemployment. If inflation and unemployment are to be brought under control and maintained at tolerable levels, it is self-evident to the Government’s advisers, the
Governor of the Reserve Bank and all the economists who have looked at this question throughout the Australian community that a basic change in Government policy is essential and long overdue.
– If we are to understand the economic problems of today we must understand that inflation and unemployment do not always originate from the same causes. Sometimes inflation is mainly the result of excess demand, sometimes mainly the result of excess costs. Inflation in Australia rarely results from purely Australian conditions. It almost always originates from external conditions. The present inflation is no exception. It originated from external conditions. These conditions were the large increase in money demand for exports in 1972-73- an increase of over $2,000m- and the large increase in capital inflow in the mineral and land boom- an increase of about $3,000m. On this basis- an inflow of money demand from overseasthe banks were allowed to increase lending at rates never before equalled in Australia.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), the shadow Treasurer, has been talking about using the printing presses today. Reserve Bank figures show that in 1972 the money supply increased at annual rates of 22 per cent in the September quarter and 26 per cent in the December quarter- the highest rates ever. The increased expenditure in Australia in 1972 was probably 20 per cent of existing expenditure. An increase like this is far beyond the capacity of the economy to increase production in Australia and far beyond its capacity to import goods. Indeed, imports did not rise much in 1972 or 1973.
So inflation originated in 1972, and it originated with the vast increase in money spent on exports, in the capital inflow and in the money supplied by the banks. While it is obvious that action should have been taken by the McMahon Government in 1972 to appreciate the dollar, to regulate capital inflow and to modify the money supply, in fact no action was taken. This necessary action was not taken until the Labor Government was elected. The dollar was then appreciated, tariffs were reduced to encourage imports of goods so more would be available to meet the inflated demand, capital inflow was regulated by the variable deposit requirement and the money supply was moderated.
The June quarter of 1973, however, showed an increase of 27 per cent as the trading banks went on feeding the boom, the September quarter 23 per cent, December 12 per cent. The figure for the March 1974 quarter was 12 per cent, for the June quarter 9 per cent, and for the September quarter minus 7 per cent. Because of the increase in the cost of living in 1 973, about 10 per cent, much of which was caused by an increase in goods subject to export- mainly meat and other foods- wage and salary demands began to become much larger. It could not be expected that wage and salary earners would meekly accept a cost of living increase less than this, and so they demanded and won substantial wage increases. Average minimum weekly wage rates increased by 15.3 per cent by the end of 1973, in 1974 the increase was over 20 per cent, and by the end of the year 1974 it was 33 per cent. Other wage rates, especially female wage rates, showed a greater increase.
Two things must be said about these wage rates. First, they were throughout 1973 and 1974 increasing at a much faster rate than the cost of living. Wage and salary earners do not need wage increases in 1975 to catch up with the increases in the cost of living that occurred in 1973 and 1974. They have been well ahead of it in 1973 and throughout 1974.
The second thing that has to be said about wage rates is that it is obvious that wage increases of 20 per cent or 30 per cent must be well ahead of productivity, production and available supplies of goods. The supply of goods, including vastly increased imports which in fact did take place, cannot increase at anything like 20 per cent or 30 per cent a year. Therefore general wage increases of 20 per cent or 30 per cent must contribute substantially to inflation. Hence wage increases in 1974 became a substantial but secondary cause of inflation in 1974 and 1975.
It is also true that Government expenditure increased in 1973 and 1974. But much of this increase, like that on pensions and social welfare and education- much more than half of the total- was essential if the poorer members of the community were to be kept up with inflationinflation, I remind honourable members, with which the present Government had nothing to do- and if real standards in education were to be maintained, let alone advanced. Much of that expenditure was for re-employment, much of it to cause industrial recovery, much of it to assist primary producers like the $350m that has been provided for the purchase of wool by the Wool Corporation. More than two-thirds of the increased expenditure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is complaining about was for the purpose of providing re-employment, assistanceto secondary industry and assistance to primary industry. Would the honourable gentleman have refused to accede to those requirements? It is all very well to talk about cutting Government expenditure but nowhere have we had any suggestions from honourable members on the other side of the House that have lasted beyond one or two speeches about where they would cut Government expenditure. Would they do it in any of the items I have just mentioned? Would they not provide assistance to the beef industry? Would they not provide assistance to the wool industry to the extent of $3 50m? Would they not provide re-employment through the States- $240m was provided to the State Premiers only a few weeks ago? Would they not have done that? Where would they cut Government expenditure? It is all very well to make the kind of speeches we have just heard with not one fact as to what course would be taken.
I point out that no Labor government at any rate would be worth support if in times of inflation it allowed the real standards of pensioners, of public and basic health and of education to fall. We will not allow those things to fall. This would not have been the result under a LiberalCountry Party government. If they were to cut expenditure I can guess where it would be. The reasons why that guess would be accurate are precisely the reasons why speakers on the other side of the House will not give any real indication. But at any rate Government expenditure, like wage and salary increases, did become one of the secondary contributors to inflation in 1975. But inflation, whatever its cause, began to have an effect in causing unemployment.
Most of our employment is in the private sector where it depends on profits. Mainly because of increased costs, caused largely by increased wages, and in some cases poor management, profits began to fall absolutely as a share of income. As profits fell and as employers faced big wage increases, they could cut costs only by retrenchments, and so unemployment began to rise significantly. In July 1 974 the decision had to be made: Would we cut the money supply further? Its growth had already been cut too much to a minus 7 per cent in the September quarter of 1974. Would we adopt a Draconian budget for 1974? These were the questions and I am glad to say that we did not impose a continued tight money policy and a Draconian budget. If we had done so there would have been thousands of bankruptcies. There would have been lower output everywhere and unemployment would have been much higher, perhaps well over 500 000. That was a choice this Government would not make. The Opposition has never faced whether it would have made that choice that way or in any other way.
The Australian community must tell us what it thinks. Did it support us in our efforts to achieve recovery in growth or did it want us to squeeze the economy still further? I am satisfied that the commonsense of the citizen, whether he be worker or industrial manager, wanted recovery and growth, not restriction and recession. But the question now is: Do we keep the recovery that has been moving ahead or do we impose a check upon it? This is the question. The Opposition has tried to make out that there is disagreement between the Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia on this vital point. It may be good policy for the Opposition to assert, and for some newspapers to help it to assert, that there is disagreement between the Government and the Reserve Bank. But it is not good for the economy or for the nation to assert this false claim. There is no disagreement between the Government and the Reserve Bank about monetary policy or about any other matter of policy.
The Reserve Bank has told the trading banks that lending policy should not envisage further expansion in aggregate provision of new finance by trading banks beyond levels recently recorded. The Government agrees with this. But the Governor of the Reserve Bank specifically informed the Government’s Economic Council yesterday that he does not want any supplementary restraint on the banking system by raising the statutory reserve deposit ratio or in any other way. The Government agrees with this. But the Government says to the trading banks in addition: We want you to have regard as best you can, when you lend money, to being satisfied that resources- men, machines and land- are available or not available. We want you to decide whether your loans will result in increased production or not. We want you to lend money when you are satisfied that men, machines and land are available to increase production, but not to lend money when they are not. We want you to take part in the fight against inflation by providing the money to increase production, but we do not want you to provide money to bid up the prices of land, buildings and other things, which contribute little or nothing to production.
Recently a famed American economist, Milton Friedman, mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has been used in Australia to damage the policy of the Australian Government by advocating cuts in Government expenditure and in the money supply. I want to quote another famed American economist- Paul A. Samuelson, a Nobel Prize winner and perhaps more famed than Friedman- to show that there is another economic opinion as there is in this country and in every other. Samuelson does not assert that government expenditures should be cut or money supply should be restricted. As early as September 1974 Samuelson was against the restrictionist policy Friedman and others had helped to impose first upon Nixon and then upon Ford and which has now given the United States 8.7 per cent of unemployment and rising.
Samuelson said his advice to President Ford stresses 3 important points. Firstly, do not encourage the overly tight policies of the Federal Reserve Bank which have been killing the housing market and gradually increasing the gravity of the stagnation. Secondly, do not think that some puritanical budget cutting will suffice to stop inflation. Thirdly, do not listen to your advisers who claim that bringing unemployment up to 6 per cent- and, as I said, it is now over 8 per cent in the United States- and holding it there for a couple of years will restore the economy for the rest of the 1 970s to a reasonable rate of inflation.
Samuelson turned from these ‘don’ts’ to recommend some positive action which assumed that growth would be sluggish and unemployment would rise without the government doing anything to cause those results, or to contribute to them or to aggravate them, and advised that the best the President could ever hope for was to see inflation cut by no more than 2 per cent a year until it reached, he said ‘with luck’, 4 per cent a year. American conditions are not identical with those of Australia, but Samuelson ‘s advice is the opposite to that of Friedman- it was in the United States and it is here in Australiaand it means that growth should not be cut to deal with inflation. I have no intention, while I am Treasurer of this country, to agree to cut growth to deal with inflation. I would say that nine out of ten Australian citizens, if they faced that question, would not agree to cut growth by restricting the money supply or by any other course of action in order to deal with inflation. I am quite sure that every member of the Country Party who sees the situation in the country today and who is constantly clamouring for assistance for various sections of primary industry will not advocate any cut in the money supply.
I would challenge the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who is to follow me in this debate, to say whether or not he will support a cut in the money supply if that is the cost, and if that is not to be the cost, how will he accommodate it? Inflation is now built into the economic system because of the monopolistic nature of the private sector and because of the strength and militancy of organised workers. This has brought about a new phase in the economic history of the countries of which we are a part. These factors have changed some of the basic conditions of the system. We must learn fast enough to adjust to them and to acquire the means necessary to ensure economic growth despite inflation.
The Government will continue to see the economy is adequately supplied with the amount of money it needs to function properly. As we approach the Budget in 1975 we will see that not one cent is spent that it is not essential to spend, that is not essential for the needs of the people in the situation in which they find themselves and which is not essential for the purpose of providing employment where the resources are available for that purpose. A proper balance will be maintained. We will not endeavour unduly to restrict the economy in some forlorn hope that we can suddenly stop inflation. The economy can become restricted even from some of the most minor adjustments unless great care is used in them. No risk will be taken.
– Those people who listened to the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) must be gravely concerned at the attitude of the Government to inflation and to the printing of money to try to get this country out of the frightful economic mess that it is getting into. The Treasurer has endeavoured to confuse and cloud the issues of the day. Unemployment today is relatively serious in this country. Unlike the position we have known for decades, unemployment today is running at 4.6 per cent of the workforce. But if those employed under the Regional Employment Development scheme and other unemployment relief schemes were added, the unemployment rate would be over 5 per cent. Yet, during the time when the Liberal and Country Parties had the responsibility for the economic management of this country, the unemployment rate seldom went over 2 per cent.
Today inflation is approaching a rate of 20 per cent per annum. This is a frightening level of inflation in the circumstances of today’s world in which most other countries are restraining inflation or bringing it under control. Australia leads the developed countries of the world in the rate of increase of costs and prices. Yet we have a Government which is hell bent on just pouring more and more money into the community and using the most unsatisfactory- the worst- device for doing it, namely, the printing press. The use of the printing press represents an admission of economic mismanagement, defeat and inability to cope with the situation. People of great stature and importance in the community are expressing grave concern. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia is concerned. This is obvious from his public statements and reports that there has been correspondence between the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the Treasurer. It has been admitted now in a reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) that there have been several letters.
Other eminent people have expressed concern. Mr Prowse of the Bankers Association of Australia has expressed great concern about the volume of money being increased and the inflationary impact which may result. Surely nobody in the banking world really wants to see the money supply restricted. Responsible people know that if the money supply is increased to an abnormal extent increasing costs and prices will result. They must stand up and state their point of view. Professor Hogan of the Sydney University today has expressed his concern also about the volume of money. Of course, we have had Professor Milton Friedman in the country saying that it is just lunacy to increase the rate of money supply by 20 per cent per annum and that to do so is only fanning the fires of inflation. It is all right for the Treasurer to quote Professor Samuelson of the United States of America, but was he in Australia when he was making his remarks? Was he making them about the Australian situation? Of course he was not.
What concerns me is that the Governor of our Reserve Bank has acted in a responsible manner to try to warn the Government of the impact of its policies on the economy, the seriousness of just increasing the supply of money and how it will push up costs and prices. Yet the Treasurer has done everything possible to downgrade this correspondence between the Governor and himself. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked the Treasurer a question on this subject last week. The Treasurer said that there had been no conflict. He wrote and pointed out that apparently there had been correspondence. In his reply to Mr Lynch he said:
I have received several letters from the Governor describing the state of the economy and referring to the well known serious state of inflation and unemployment and the effects such things as wages and price increases, Government expenditure and money supply have upon inflation and unemployment.
The Treasurer has glossed over the situation. I say that if there has been correspondence between the Governor and the Treasurer, that is abnormal. There are plenty of ways and means of communication between the Government and the Reserve Bank without going to the formal position of actually writing a letter. The Secretary of the Treasury sits as a member on the Board of the Reserve Bank. Why can he not communicate back and forth? Even the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party sits as a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank. If he had some concern of a minor nature, why could he not relate it to the Government? Ministers meet with the members of the Reserve Bank. There are many ways in which the staff of the Treasury and the Reserve Bank communicate and have discussions. But no, the Governor decided that he had to write a letter. Having written a letter, there is prescribed in the Reserve Bank Act special provision that any such information relating to a conflict is a matter for both Houses of the Parliament- the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is written into section 1 1 of the Reserve Bank Act that the Reserve Bank is responsible to Parliament- not to the Treasurer. If there is such a conflict the Treasurer and the Government have a responsibility to table correspondence between them in both Houses of the Parliament. Yet we have found that the Treasurer is trying to dodge the issue. He has confused and clouded the issue because he does not want it said that not even the Reserve Bank has confidence in the Government’s management of the economy and that the Governor of the Bank is worried about the increased supply of money.
The Treasurer has been trying to say: ‘OK, we will increase our deficit, but the money made available by that deficit is going to the private sector’. That is not the issue. One does not measure the top part of the Budget or the bottom part of the Budget. It is the total presentation and its impact on the economy that are important. The impact of the Budget is to increase money supply by 20 per cent. We are told that there will be deficit financing. All right; there are various means of deficit financing. But when deficit financing come to printing money, this nation is headed on a dangerous course. The massive printing of money should be a worry to every responsible member of this Parliament. Other Reserve Banks around the world have to notify their governments of what they think. Recently, Governor Eppler of the Reich Bank in Germany wrote to the German Finance Minister and pointed out that the Government’s policies were inflationary. Germany has a rate of inflation of only 6 or 7 per cent per annum, compared with Australia where the rate of inflation is over 20 per cent per annum. At least Germany has learnt a lesson about what the printing of money means on inflationary budgets. This was the downfall of Germany.
But this Government does not seem to care. We know already, on projected figures, that the deficit next year will be almost double that for this year. This year, it is $2,300m. It appears that about $2,000m of this amount will have to be made up by Treasury notes, which will include the printing of money to meet the Government ‘s obligations. The Government is determined to buy itself out of trouble. It will try to reduce unemployment by creating more money, but that in turn will produce more inflation. If we are to have more inflation, ultimately we must have more unemployment. Inflation attacks ‘the private sector of the economy. If it is the design of this Government to bring about a wrecked private sector, there is no better way of doing it than by a policy of inflation which, by increased costs and prices, will cripple that sector’s operations. This is what is happening now. It seems as though this is part of a socialist policy. The Treasurer, who has a history of economics, must know that the printing of money is the most dangerous course on which a nation can head. It brought about the downfall of Germany. We saw it in the case of Argentina only a decade or two ago. Argentina, a country of similar nature and size to Australia, has been in social upheaval ever since that program was started upon.
Yet today there were no apologies or excuses. In fact the Government is trying to convince the Australian people that it is good to have deficit financing, that it is good to have expanded social services, compensation schemes and all these things. The Government is breeding the mentality that one can get things for nothing. One cannot get things for nothing. If the Government is going to do these things by printing money Australia is headed towards national bankruptcy. That is what we are concerned about and we are alarmed that the Treasurer should take such a complacent attitude to the printing of more money to try to get himself out of his own economic problems.
– The approach of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) at this stage is rather interesting. He objects to the Governor of the Reserve Bank communicating directly with the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). I would have thought that an eminently proper procedure. But he protested against that and he said that a more acceptable approach, from his point of view, would have been for the Treasury representative on the Reserve Bank or the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions,
Mr Hawke, to have whispered in the Treasurer’s ear the decisions of the Reserve Bank Board. Rather than a direct approach he would prefer the devious approach. He prefers the Country Party way of doing things through leaks.
It is interesting that the Opposition has suddenly found a new slogan. The ‘deficit’ will be the horror for the next few months. Several months ago the Opposition’s slogan was that we should have a ‘circuit breaker’. I remind honourable members and listeners of the similarity of certain points of the Opposition’s so-called economic policies and of the extreme conflict which is represented by the 2 propositions and the confused thoughts that are behind them. Today members of the Opposition are proposing that the deficit should be substantially shorn back. Several months ago when they were talking about their circuit breaker they stressed the central role of substantial cuts in government expenditure. The conflict here, which demonstrates their confused thinking, comes from this simple fact: Several months ago when they were talking about their circuit breaker and the need for substantial cuts in government expenditure, the economy was fully stretched and resources were over-taxed. Today the situation is completely reversed. Today resources are under-utilised. There is too much slack. There is a need to restore the momentum at which the economy is operating.
The Treasurer has made clear in this House his economic strategy on the deficit. He has pointed out on more than one occasion at question time, and he has stated more fully today in this debate, that in his view there is a need to restore the confidence of the private sector. There is a need therefore to increase consumer demand. There is a need to get more money into circulation within the overall economy so that the stimulation which is necessary can take place. Accordingly, he has settled on a policy of deficit budgeting at this point. What is appropriate at this time was not appropriate 18 months ago or even less, when the economy was at a stage of over-taxed resources. I feel that what is appropriate now in the Treasurer’s view will not necessarily be appropriate in 6 months time or 8 months time. But right now it is undeniable that the action that has been taken is largely responsible for the improvement in economic activity that is now occurring- the pickup in the utilisation of resources in the economy that has taken place.
Let us kill a couple of the furphies which have been thrown up by the Opposition in the course of this debate. One was that an avalanche of printed money will go on to the market in a similar situation to that which caused the collapse of the economy in Germany in the late 1920s. A lot of money will be required in the market quite soon. Company taxation will have to be paid. At least $ 1,000m- a quick estimate- will be taken out of circulation. I ask honourable members to look at the LGS ratios in the banking system at present and to note the healthy high level at which they stand, for one sound reason, so that the banks have enough liquidity in reserve to carry the economy through a seasonally tight liquidity situation which will arise from now on. . These things have to be weighed up. As the Treasurer pointed out before, the level of deficit which was reflected earlier this year- the latest figures we have are some months late- will not be the level which will be shown at the end of the financial year. He expects the level then to be considerably lower. I repeat the key point that I made a few seconds ago because there is awfully woolly thinking going on in the minds of the socalled economic specialists of the Opposition; a deficit of the level which the Treasurer now puts forward as his economic strategy for conditions that exist at present would be totally irresponsible if it had been the policy followed 18 months, 12 months or even less time ago when the Australian economy was severely over-taxed and resources were being bid up by rapid inflationary pressures. I also stress that the preparation of the forthcoming Budget will be a crucial exercise. What has been appropriate in the Treasurer’s view in the way in which this financial year’s Budget has been put together progressively will certainly riot be the sort of economics strategy that he will be thinking of when the Budget is prepared for the next financial year. The circumstances will be different by then. It is clear from the pickup which has been taking place that the Treasurer can say that what he has done has been consciously directed to cause that pickup and that improvement and he must now reconsider his economic strategy in the light of the rate of improvement which is taking place.
But I ask members of the Opposition: What is their economic policy? The so-called economic spokesman for the Opposition the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Lynch)- at the present time anyway- said that the strategy of the Opposition would be divulged in the course of the debate today. Neither he nor the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have given us a scintilla of evidence that they understand what is needed in Australia at present except to harp on the issue of the need for a cut in government expenditure. I challenge them to state where they would cut, when they would cut and the level of the cut. That sort of policy at this stage could be totally devastating. It is undeniable that the private sector is only slowly picking up again in what has been a very difficult exercise.
I take up a point that was mentioned by the Treasurer when he criticised the Opposition as being responsible for many of the major inflationary influences and de-stabling economic influences that work in Australia today. I would not expect the Opposition to take seriously any point I made but I remind members of the Opposition what the ‘Australian Financial Review’ printed in its editorial on 10 October last year. It stated:
The McMahon Government … for electoral reasons, promoted a rate of monetary expansion which was totally unjustifiable in its rapidity and which, with the accompanying rate of capital inflow, was mainly responsible for the demand inflation of 1972-73 and the inevitable consequence of the current cost inflation.
Professor Friedman, quoted so approvingly by spokesmen from the Opposition, spoke in many places in the last week during which he has been in Australia. I was at one function at which he spoke. One of the causes of inflation in Australia which he identified was the irresponsibility of the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1971-72 when it allowed an enormous accumulation of money in reserves through our external account- through the very healthy demand we were experiencing for our exports because of the world commodity boom at that stage. He pointed out the rapid and enormous accumulation of money in reserves. The complete spinelessness of the then Government to revalue our currency meant that that accumulation of reserves was being met through the Reserve Bank by printing money. These are the people who now condemn the practice of printing money. They were doing it at a time when a heightening boom was coming into full momentum. It is undeniable that this country cannot divorce itself, nor can any consideration of this country’s economic situation be divorced, from international economic forces. The report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, ‘Economic Outlook’, published in December 1 974 said this:
OECD countries are currently suffering from the aftereffects of the excessive demand that they allowed to build up in 1973, and from the external shock of the sudden and sharp rise of oil prices. These 2 factors combined are putting the economies of Member countries to a test which is probably unprecedented outside of war.
The report went on to illustrate how in so many sectors there was a complete similarity amongst the advanced countries of the world in terms of the economic problems which they are facing at the present time. I think it is more than a little ironical, if not monumentally hypocritical, for members of the Opposition to speak in this House about the need for cutting expenditures after their former Leader announced in March on the television program ‘Federal File’ a long list of increased expenditure commitments by the Opposition if it became the government. To the extent that we have been able to cost those increased expenditure commitments at least $350m would be involved; but more than half could not be costed. More recently we had -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) made a more rational endeavour than did the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) to explain away the Government’s economic policies. The Minister said, and the Opposition fully agrees, that the Budget next August will be crucial in determining the future of this problem. But it is not the Opposition which is on trial here today; it is very much the Government’s policies that are under censure. When we return to government we most certainly will reduce public spending and we will indicate there and then, most properly, where we would do so. The present Treasurer is on record as saying, and I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) also has said, that Government spending must be reduced. It is up to the Government to indicate the ways in which it will do so.
In his speech today the Treasurer indicated that Government expenditure had risen sharply just as wages had risen sharply, and that they had risen at a rate faster than prices and costs had risen. The Government most clearly has the responsibility to indicate where it will reduce public spending and how it will bear the odium of the unfulfilled expectations which it has created. Let me refer briefly to the remarks of the Treasurer. He has again spoken about inflation being primarily imported. Every time we have a debate on anything resembling inflation, investment, recession or unemployment the Treasurer talks about imported inflation. If the Treasurer is serious about this then the view which is commonly held in the community, that the Treasurer is quite dangerous for the well-being of the economy of this country, seems to be a very justified view. If the Treasurer really believes that the principal causes of the current rate of inflation in
Australia are imported then he is the victim of serious delusions. For one thing, imports into Australia account for only 15 per cent of our gross domestic product. Therefore the Government cannot argue that increases in the price of imported goods boost inflation. Moreover, Australia’s rate of inflation increase has been well in excess of those of most other world economies.
Today the Treasurer said that Professor Friedman had been used to attack the Government of Australia. That is an insult to an internationally respected economist. He has not been used. His views just happen to be in agreement with the views of the Opposition and at variance with the Government’s views. The Government does not like some of the telling points he has made. There would not be one person in Australia who would not welcome a situation in which Professor Friedman had been advising the Government and we had a rate of inflation of 8.7 per cent, which is the rate in the United States of America today. We would have deplored that rate in 1 972. We would rejoice at it in the light of the inflation rate in Australia today. The Treasurer said that he would not support a cut in growth in order to solve inflation. Growth has been cut to the bone already. We have a very serious situation in which there is no further growth in the private sector. Indeed, the Treasurer has said in this House over the last few months that there has been a contraction of the private sector. The Government has ignored the fine tuning that is required to pick the balance between too much money, causing inflation, and too little money, leading to a recession.
Treasury advice has been ignored and all other advice- including advice from the Opposition and well published policies of the Oppositionhas been diluted. Those parts which the Government has found palatable have been accepted and the rest have been rejected as though they were in some way severable policies. I forecast that by the time this important Budget is brought down average weekly earnings will be running at a ludicrous rate and 50 per cent of average weekly earnings will be payable in personal income taxation. When August comes let us see how close we are to that situation. A little while ago a milestone was reached when average weekly earnings reached $100 a week. If the present monetary policies continue it will not be very long before average weekly earnings will reach $200, and $100 will be paid in personal income taxation unless the Government recognises that, if it is to restore growth in this country, it certainly must reduce taxation and reduce
Government expenditure because, as Professor Friedman has been saying, a government can go on increasing its public expenditure for as long as the taxation burden is bearable. It is evident that saturation point has been reached in individual income tax and corporate income tax, and they are no longer bearable.
Apparently there is to be no relief from the increases in Government spending. It was affirmed again today that there will be an Australian Government Insurance Office, with all the public expenditure that it will entail. Unless there is a real reversal of the monetary policies of the Government along the lines suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) but avoided by the Treasurer, we will find ourselves in a situation in which unemployment, interest rates and inflation will rise to hyperproportions as if that were not the situation now. There is a huge deficit, and the deficit must be reduced. It will be interesting to compare the words of the Minister for Social Security with the Budget when the Budget is before us. There must be a cut in public expenditure, and the cut must be faced up to by the Government, in order to generate resources in the Australian community. As the former Treasurer said on so many occasions, we now have a situation of a total wages bill. The total wages bill will be broken into each time there are wage increases, and each time there are wage increases fewer job opportunities will be available. There will be more unemployment.
The present Treasurer has acknowledged that wage increases are rising rapidly and they will continue to rise. It is evident in the metal trades industry at the moment, as a result of the pace setting policies of the Australian Government in respect of its Public Service, that there will be further wages increases. When there are wage increases and when inflation in continuing to run as it is running now, how can any government expect to contain wage demands other than by a reduction in taxation? On 18 February we had a debate in this House on private sector investment. The record of that debate appears in Hansard at about page 368. 1 recall speaking on that occasion and using statistics to which I shall not refer specifically now except to reassert some conclusions drawn from those statistics. Since the Australian Labor Party has come to office there has been a real decline in capital expenditure of private business in Australia. Capital expenditure is not expanding in private business but of course public sector expansion is quite evident. It is far greater than any part of the private sector and the private sector as a whole is contracting.
The monetary policies of the present Government are nothing short of being crazy. Taxation has reached saturation point.
There is a failure to understand the role of the private sector and the role of profits in providing employment. We heard the Treasurer today using pre-Terrigal phrases such as private sector monopolies. We have a Labor Government which has regarded private industry as a means of an endless supply of revenue through which the Government can spend public moneys as though there would be no repercussions. The repercussions have certainly arrived. The chickens have come home to roost. The Government is determined to distort the private sector. Each time that happens there are ramifications which, if they are foreseen, are foreseen and ignored.
The Treasurer said today during question time that he was prepared to go on spending public money indefinitely to find jobs for the unemployed; yet, as the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) pointed out, each time he spends more public money in the present environment he lessens job opportunities and guarantees that he will need to spend more and more moneys in order to try to bolster up jobs. The latest figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which were released on 27 March of this year, confirm that the trends evident in September have continued and that the December quarter of 1973 compared with the December quarter of 1974 showed a movement in 1974 by 1 3 per cent in private capital spending and 1 2 per cent in public spending. Industry is doing well today if it manages to keep up with inflation. It is doing well if it is even spending at a comparable rate to the public sector. The Government certainly will have to review the whole of its monetary policies. Until there is a strike at the Mint or a reversal of Government policy we will continue to have the printing of money, which will lead to a real diminution in the value of the dollar.
-As I understand this debate on this matter of public importance the Opposition is claiming that the Government is doing the country a grave disservice by increasing the money supply at a rate in excess of 20 per cent per annum. This has come about strangely. Indeed, one is almost amazed by the sheer gall of the members of the Opposition in claiming that when in the last 6 months in which they were in government in this country, the money supply increased at the rate of 17 per cent, which represents an annual rate of increase of 34 per cent. I ask the House to contemplate this fact: We have a matter of public importance being debated in which we are being berated for increasing the money supply at a rate in excess of 20 per cent when in the last 6 months of its term of office the previous Liberal-Country Party Government raised the money supply at an annual rate of 34 per cent. Surely that indicates some large degree of hypocrisy on the part of the Opposition in this debate. The fact is that in 1 972 as well the level of unemployment was not as high as it is at the moment and therefore there was possibly less reason for having such a substantial increase in the money supply at that time.
Another feature of this debate has been the fact that members of the Opposition have been embracing quite firmly the theories of Professor Friedman, an American economist who is visiting this country at the moment and who is getting some degree of notoriety. I think that perhaps they have not thought through exactly what Professor Friedman is all about because Professor Friedman said as recently as last night in the television program ‘Monday Conference’ that Australia’s inflation problems stem from the previous Government’s refusal to revalue the Australian dollar in 1971. 1 wish to quote a short excerpt from the transcript of that program. It shows Professor Friedman as saying:
If you go back a few years in Australia it was the unwillingness of the Government to permit the exchange rate to alter that forced the first of your major inflationary episodes in 1971 and 1972 when, the Australian dollar being undervalued, you had a large foreign income and it was very difficult, almost impossible, for your monetary authorities to control the money supply . . .
Here we have the same Professor Friedman as is so beloved by the members of the Opposition who have taken part in this debate saying that in fact the previous Government was at fault for allowing the money supply to increase rapidly because it refused to devalue the Australian dollar in 1971, which was the basic cause of the increase in inflation at that time and which has been since. Another factor which is a part of Professor Friedman’s theories is that if one allows the increase in the money supply to accelerate it will be inflationary but there is a time lag and that time lag is quite long. In fact, in an article he produced entitled ‘Monetary Corrections’, which was printed as Occasional Paper 4 1 of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, he said that thai time delay was between 18 months and 2 years. So those members of the Opposition who have been so concerned to embrace the theories of Professor Friedman are in fact saying that a substantial amount of the inflation that has flowed through in the last 2 years since the rapid increase in the expansion of the money supply in the last 6 months of 1972 has been largely because of that rapid increase in the money supply. That is what he says. He says that a rapid increase in the money supply is followed by inflation and it takes up to 2 years to have its real effect. So those members of the Opposition who are embracing the theories of Professor Friedman can sit back and accept all the blame for the inflation that has occurred over the last 2 years. I wonder whether they really want to do that.
Perhaps the Opposition has not quite thought Professor Friedman right through. I suggest that it should contemplate some of the other things he has had to say. 1 wonder whether the Opposition accepts Professor Friedman’s embracing of the idea that wages should be indexed. I have heard a number of Opposition speakers- not the least being the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon)- suggest in this House that the indexation of wages would be disastrous. A basic tenet of Professor Friedman’s thesis is that wages should be indexed. He says that that would not be inflationary. Is that the Opposition’s policy? Professor Friedman says that Government bonds and interest rates should be indexed. I have not heard any of the Opposition spokesmen on this subject, but perhaps it is the Opposition ‘s policy. If so, it seems to sit strangely with the Opposition’s idea that interest rates should be reduced. Perhaps it is the Opposition’s policy. We will wait and see about that. I wonder whether the Opposition agrees with Professor Friedman’s view that tariffs, subsidies and price support schemes should be abolished? I wonder whether the Australian Country Party would like to embrace that part of Professor Friedman’s theories? I suggest that the Opposition, in embracing Professor Friedman’s comments, has not really thought about the issue too much and that it has a lot more homework to do before it expounds him as its basic philosopher in the future.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch ) has again trotted out in this debate the hoary old one about the Labor Government using inflation to tax by stealth by forcing taxpayers to seek wages increases that will move them up the tax scale into higher and higher tax brackets and therefore effectively increase the taxes imposed on them. Yes, this has happened. In the 1 973-74 period there was certainly a substantial increase in the tax burden on people. Since then, of course, there has been a substantial reduction in taxation and there will be no such increase in the tax burden in 1974-75. But again one is amazed at the hypocrisy of the Opposition because in almost every year from 1949, which is when the previous Labor Government went out of office, until 1972 the burden of income tax and taxation on wage earners in fact increased. In 1949-50 the tax paid by a worker in receipt of the average weekly earnings who had a wife and 2 children to keep was about 2.9 per cent of his total income. By 1972 that had gone up to about 15.5 per cent by, as I have said, almost annual increases brought about by the same process as the one we are now being berated for allowing to occur. Of course, it is not occurring at the moment.
Of course we need a deficit at the moment. The alternative is to let the level of unemployment increase even further than it is at present and to let the unemployment situation remain longer. Is that what the Opposition really wants? In other debates on matters of public importance the Opposition has berated the Government for the level of unemployment and for allowing unemployment to exist. It is now attacking the Government for taking measures which are designed to offset the increase in the level of unemployment and to reduce it quickly. That is what the deficit is all about. By opposing an increase in the deficit the Opposition is in fact saying that the Government should allow unemployment to continue and should just ride out the recession. Maybe that is the Opposition’s policy. Indeed Professor Friedman would agree with it on that. But if that is the Opposition’s policy it should tell the people that it believes that the Government should allow the unemployment situation to continue and perhaps get worse and not do anything effective about it in this way. Of course, when honourable members opposite were in government and the unemployment rate increased substantially they would eventually, for electoral reasons if for no other reason, resort to deficit financing in order to expand output and employment opportunities and to get back out of a recession. That is what the Government is doing at this time. The adoption of any other policy would mean that we would not be trying to stimulate output, that we would not be trying to stimulate employment and that we would be allowing the unemployment situation to continue. That is not the policy of the Government. Therefore we have a substantial deficit- indeed, a quite high deficit- at this time in an attempt to overcome the unemployment problem.
Perhaps 1 should say just quickly that the unemployment factor may be somewhat overstated by the Commonwealth Employment Service’s statistics as another set of statistics has now been published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which shows that the level of unemployment in
February of people seeking full time work was something like 54 000 less than is shown by the Commonwealth Employment Service’s figures. This is something which needs examining but there is no time to do so in this debate. The Government does not intend that this deficit would remain forever. Of course, this is not a policy which we are adopting to continue year after year. It is a policy which is appropriate to the times, times in which there is substantial unemployment which we are trying to eradicate. As both the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said, we must be flexible and adopt appropriate measures for the times, and in the rather volatile world we live in we need to be very flexible. At the moment we have adopted a substantial Government deficit. This is not something that the Government can allow to continue forever. It would be substantially inflationary if we were operating somewhere near full employment, but because we are not doing that this policy is quite appropriate to the times.
The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
On 19 September 1974 I tabled in this House a statement in which I announced the Government’s decision to establish a Children’s Commission. A Budget allocation of some $75m has been set aside in 1974-75 for expenditure on childhood services. Shortly after, I announced the appointment of an interim committee which would work towards the planning, development and implementation of a comprehensive program and which would continue in office until the enabling legislation to establish the permanent Commission was introduced. The interim committee approached its task with enthusiasm and vigour and honourable members will be aware of the significant grants I have announced since the committee’s first meeting on 3 1 October 1 974. 1 should like to express my appreciation of the work done by the interim committee.
The Government’s firm intention is to provide an imaginative and comprehensive range of services so that all children in Australia will have access .to services that are designed to promote their well-being, to enhance the quality of life and to promote equality of opportunity for them and their parents. To do this I expect that the Children’s Commission will work in cooperation with appropriate government and community organisations and will call upon the expertise and involvement of all relevant sections of the Australian community.
In moving to establish the Children’s Commission the Australian Government has recognised that changing social patterns have put considerable pressures on families with infant and school-age children. These changes include a growing number of families where both parents work, and of single parent families, as well as a frequently increasing sense of isolation affecting women looking after children at home. Through the Children’s Commission the Australian Government will provide assistance to a variety of organisations, groups and individuals for programs including full day care, family day care, pre-school education, emergency care, occasional care, before and after school and vacation care, playgroups and any other child care activities in accordance with demand.
The first emphasis of our childhood services program will be in areas of particular need, with priority going to provide services for children of working, single, sick or other parents who are unable to care for their children during the day. Priority will also be given to families in economic or other distress, and to groups with particular needs such as Aborigines, migrants, handicapped children and isolated children. The program aims to provide services where the community sees a need for them, and to support nonprofit services already operating. Where a service is sponsored by a Government body, representatives of the community, and of the parents whose children use the service, should be actively encouraged to participate in planning, managing and conducting it. Special attention needs to be devoted to the extension and integration of existing forms of service. Many of the existing facilities are seriously under-utilised either in relation to occupancy or in the nature of the service they currently provide. There are many options available which would enable many more children to participate in services in those facilities.
The Government does not want to see a proliferation of centres which can be used for one purpose only. We must get away from the idea that bricks and mortar can provide the answer to caring for children. The answer in many cases is a fuller use of existing facilities- schools, halls, houses. And the answer is in people who know how to look after children. The Australian
Government expects to see people integrating and extending existing services, and using existing buildings, so that the best possible use is made of our resources. Where no existing facilities are available, and a need exists, the Australian Government would like to see proposals put forward taking a multi-purpose approach. We must not be one-eyed when we consider the differing requirements for looking after children. This is a human need, and we must take a flexible human approach to it.
I turn now to the principal features of the Bill. It is a straightforward piece of machinery legislation. It is an expression of the Government’s intentions which have been outlined on a number of occasions by the Prime Minister and which I described in some detail in the statement I tabled on 19 September 1974. It will permit those intentions to be translated even further into action and it will be yet another example, and a major one at that, of the recognition by this Government of the rights of women in Australian society. It is with conviction that we are taking steps to introduce this legislation during International Women’s Year.
The functions of the Commission set out in clause 5 of the Bill embody the philosophy of providing comprehensive, co-ordinated and integrated services for children and include the concept of providing priority to those in greatest need, special needs of particular groups- and flexibility in the provision of services. They enable the Australian Government to fund directly appropriate organisations providing care. This, of course, is consistent with the provisions of the Child Care Act 1972 which was introduced by the McMahon Government just prior to the December 1972 elections. That Act, however, suffers from the severe limitations it imposes on the range of eligible services. The Bill will ensure that what we are already doing in the provision of services for children will be the subject of continuing parliamentary scrutiny. There is provision in the Bill for an annual report and it contains other provisions that will ensure proper control of public funds in this new area of growing Government expenditure.
Section 31 enables consultative machinery to be set up within each State and Territory to advise the Commission. This will enable State and local government and community representatives to put forward their points of view in relation to services to be provided in the particular State or Territory. The establishment of similar consultative arrangements was a significant factor in obtaining the co-operation of State governments during the early days of the interim committee of the Commission.
I believe the community will benefit from what this Bill proposes. It has been carefully drafted to meet the needs of Australian children and their parents. I am sure honourable members will wish to see the Children’s Commission established to continue the work started by the interim committee and to develop programs which will make Australia a forerunner in the provision of an extensive network of integrated and meaningful services for our children. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 March on motion by Mr Beazley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The aim of this Bill is to establish the Curriculum Development Centre as a statutory authority. The decision to create such a centre was announced by the Government in June 1 973. Its functions include a responsibility to devise and develop, and to pro? mote and assist in the devising and development of, school curricula and school educational materials. Then there is a wide range of other related objectives. The standard of curriculum options available to our schools is a significant determinant of the quality of education, but it is not only the standard of curriculum; it is also its relevance which is vitally important. The curriculum may be of a high technical standard, but it may have little relationship to the needs of children living in a rapidly changing world.
The continuing need for development of curricula which are both of high quality and of contemporary relevance has been increasingly recognised. Despite the pleading of those who have for some time recognised the need for a greater effort in curriculum development, the extent of the development achieved has been limited by a lack of appreciation of the need not only to improve but also to adapt curricula, by a shortage of resources and by some unnecessary duplication of effort. The introduction of this Bill does not mark the first occasion on which the Commonwealth has been involved in curriculum development. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), in his second reading speech, paid proper tribute to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the pan he played as Minister for Education in the sequence of events which have culminated in the establishment of this Centre. It was he who first involved the Commonwealth in the provision of financial support for curriculum projects. Projects supported by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government included the Australian Education Project, the program to stimulate the teaching of Asian languages and the establishment of the National Committee on Social Science Teaching. Support for these specific programs has led logically to the proposal for the establishment of a permanent statutory Curriculum Development Centre. When the decision to establish such a centre was announced, the Minister formed an Interim Council. This Council drafted guidelines for the initiation of the Centre’s functions, held a representative conference, considered the views expressed and presented a statement of its conclusions as to the functions and mode of operation of the Curriculum Development Centre.
It is interesting to note that the Interim Council defined its fundamental aim as being ‘to foster curriculum and materials development from preschool to post secondary level’. This definition refers to pre-school and post-secondary levels. Neither the Interim Council nor the Minister apparently contemplates the Centre as being concerned with curriculum development at these levels, as no further reference is made to these levels of education either in the discussion paper or in the Bill. Based on the aim as outlined by the Interim Council, its views as to how the Centre should function were set out. It very clearly enunciated the guidelines which it considered the Centre should follow. Though the Minister paid tribute to the Chairman of the Interim Council, Professor G. T. Evans, and his fellow councillors for pursuing their task ‘with vigour and imagination’, he did not indicate that he adopted the views they expressed in their statement. Unless he does disclose his attitude to the statement it can only be assumed that he will adopt only so many of their recommendations as he wishes. This means that all those who are interested in the future development of the Curriculum Development Centre have little idea of whether the Government wishes it to function in the manner suggested or in some other way. Will the Council to be set up under the Bill follow the guidelines proposed by the Interim Council or will it adopt an entirely different approach to its role? Will the Curriculum Development Centre, once established, accept the broad concept of curriculum as including the totality of experience which a child undergoes during his schooling?
Will it see its task as being concerned with such areas as resources, sequencing of learning activities, teacher-pupil interaction, organisation of the learning situation and the teachers’ general approach to children and teaching? If it does, it will be accepting the proposals of the Interim Council. But will it distinguish, as the Interim Council did, between development of prototypes and demonstration of possibilities on the one hand and taking decisions on curriculum policy on the other? If so, will it also agree that the former task is one for the Curriculum Development Centre while the latter is one for State departments of education, the Schools Commission and schools themselves? In other words, will it act as an advisory body or will it tell State departments and schools what to do?
In view of the Minister’s silence on the statement of the Interim Council, will the Council of the Curriculum Development Centre acknowledge that it should not seek to replace or discourage but rather to expand and encourage the curriculum work that is being carried out and can be carried out by other agencies? The work now being carried out by the State departments of education, tertiary institutions, subject teaching associations and other interested groups and individuals should not be stifled in any way. Though the curriculum development facilities of State departments may be fully stretched, as the Minister suggests, it is to be hoped that the Curriculum Development Centre will assist them to expand their activities. There will be a continuing need to produce material with particular reference to individual States, and the development of such material should not be discouraged. Where that material might have a wider application the Curriculum Development Centre should play a significant role in ensuring that these sorts of development programs are adequately funded. If it seeks to encourage curriculum development by other agencies, the Council of the Centre will also look beyond the departments of education. It will be concerned to encourage the development of strong professional initiatives at the school level. Until its policy is known we can only speculate as to whether it will recognise the key role of the teacher or make an exclusive commitment to the idea of developing what some would describe as teacher-proof curricula. Although there has been no permanent facility for the exchange of information and ideas, increasing amounts have in fact been exchanged. The establishment of the Centre should facilitate exchange within Australia and also should make it easier for education authorities to have access to overseas developments. But there will be exchange within Australia only if curriculum development is being carried out by more than one authority. This can occur only if other authorities have the financial means and, importantly, are free of other constraints which prohibit the carrying out of curriculum development programs. The Opposition hopes that there will be no such constraints. The information and ideas available for exchange would then be assured of including development achieved by the expert designers of educational material, by education administrators, by teachers and by combined efforts.
It must be said that Orwellian fears have sometimes been expressed about Federal involvement in curriculum development. The manner in which past programs have been carried out was effective in allaying what had been described as the nightmare prospect of all texts being produced in Canberra for regimented assignment. These fears could be revived unless there is an early commitment, if not by both the Minister and the new Council, at least by the new Council, to the approach outlined by the Interim Council. The Interim Council stressed the continuing need to communicate with and involve in the process of curriculum development not only persons with special skills but also teachers, pupils and even parents.
At the same time as we hear talk of community involvement in education and greater autonomy for the school community, we find some apprehension that as the teacher has fewer and fewer responsibilities in the curriculum process he has less and less control over the classroom program. So much depends on one’s approach to curriculum development. Is it what may be described as a practical one which sees curriculum development as being so bound up with the education system that it is a matter for education administrators? Or is it based on a more theoretical approach and hence seen to be the exclusive preserve of academic educationists? Or is it a combination of these 2 approaches, combined with the recognition of the significant role to be played by the classroom teacher? In a real world there must be co-operation between education administrators, specialist curriculum research and development workers and classroom teachers. To achieve the optimum level of co-operation involves finding a balance, with the inevitable tension between the divergent approaches. The Interim Council appears to have accepted the necessity of those tensions if the best results are to be achieved. It is to be hoped that the council to be set up under this Bill will do the same.
Unless the Curriculum Development Centre performs the role outlined for it by the Interim Council there is a danger that it could become the preserve of a Canberra-based education bureaucracy. This could happen if those who see education as essentially a branch of social policy seek to over-centralise the whole of Australia’s education system. But the danger for the school child and for the community at large is that those responsible for curriculum development might adopt an attitude that there is only one way of proceeding. The more centralised curriculum development becomes the more likely it is that the administrator’s view will dominate that of the research worker and the classroom teacher. Then it will not be long before the education administrator acts in response to political policy determination in fields previously the preserve of the educator. If the approach advocated by the interim council is adopted by the Council, this will not happen. We in the Opposition do not want to see a single uniform national curriculum imposed on schools by a politically directed or motivated education bureaucracy whether it is based in Canberra or in Albury-Wodonga.
The curriculum development centre should aim at achieving a system of curriculum provision of greater variety- variety within education systems and not merely between them. It should aim to provide greater diversity and a wider variety of high-quality curriculum options so that they are available not only to education systems but also to schools, parents and students. In this way, the classroom teacher could be assured of a degree of responsibility in curriculum determination. It should, in any way it can, help those concerned with curriculum development to avoid expenditure of scarce resources on parallel developments. While diversity and variety are most desirable, we also want curriculum development to make it easier for those parents who move from one State to another. The increasing mobility between States results in more and more children suffering from what can be described as curriculum shock. Many children are seriously affected by the impact of such change. Without the dangers and disadvantages of a single uniform curriculum, we should aim to achieve a degree of commonality between education systems so as to minimise the difficulties created in the educational development of children in an increasingly mobile society.
In highlighting what he regarded as the main provisions of the Bill, the Minister placed emphasis on the centre’s intended business operations. It is these operations which, according to the Minister, are the primary reason for making the Centre a statutory corporation. The need to hold copyright- the desirability of buying and even selling teaching materials in its role as a developer of curricula- is not disputed. However, reservations are expressed about the proposed intention to have the Centre engaged in production and sale. It is intended that the Centre become a major manufacturer and supplier of school resource material? Upon what basis would it trade? Is it to derive an income? It is clear from the Minister’s second reading explanation that this is the case. It is apparently intended that it will increase its funds by earning an income from the sale of products and the provision of services.
– You realise that the Australian Science Education Project of your own Government produced certain material and sold it, but that the copyright was held in Victoria?
– I appreciate that and acknowledge the importance of the Curriculum Development Centre holding the copyright. However, I merely raise the question as to the basis upon which the material is made available.
– This is really identical with ASEP except that it covers a much greater range of subjects than science.
-We acknowledge the importance of covering that wide range, but we ask what directions the Minister will give pursuant to clause 46. Will he authorise it to be selective in the charges it makes according to the circumstances of the customer, or will he determine a policy of uniform charges to all for like materials and services? Or will the charges be imposed on education authorities as inter-governmental transactions in the case of State education departments? The fact that it is entering a business operation must necessarily raise these questions. So that these transactions can be kept under public scrutiny, the Opposition expresses the hope that the council, in maintaining proper accounts, will keep those for its trading operations distinct from those relating purely to curriculum development. It is also hoped that the council in its reports will make available details of its pricing policy.
We would not want a situation where a mediocre curriculum was forced upon Australian schools by the Centre’s pricing policies any more than we would want the Centre to make a charge for its materials and services so that education authorities and/or parents pay more than would have been the case had the materials and services been made available through the ordinary market. I hope the Minister in his response will tell us more of what he has in mind in this regard.
In supporting the overall concept of the Bill, the Opposition does have a contrary view regarding the composition of the council as proposed by the Government. Many State education departments have their own curriculum development units. State education departments will be the major users of any curricula developed by the centre. If this centre is intended not to monopolise curriculum development but to establish liaison and working relations with bodies interested in curriculum development, it is in the Opposition’s view desirable that the council contain a nominee of each State Education Minister. The Opposition therefore intends at the appropriate stage to move an amendment to achieve this. I point out, however, at this time that we do not see these nominees as playing the role of delegate or representative. We seek merely to give those who must necessarily be involved in the development of curricula for schools- the State education departments and their Ministers- the opportunity to select the highly competent people that we know the Minister would want to select in filling the vacancies that it will be his responsibility to 611.
We think that the establishment of this centre has the potential to make a significant contribution to the improvement of the education offered Australian children, and we hope that the potential will be realised. We support the Bill but will, in the Committee stages, move the amendment to which I have referred.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. I offer congratulations to the Interim Curriculum Council under Professor Evans for the quality of the report that it has made. In responding to the speech of the honourable member for Stun ( Mr Wilson), may I say that I think the fears he has expressed are without basis. Equally, we on this side of the House would be horrified at the thought of all texts being produced in Canberra. I would agree with him that I do not want to see any type of national curricula being developed for all schools in Australia.
This Bill has to be seen in the context of the total education program of the Whitlam Government, which has had such spectacular success in the past 2½ years. The Government has provided initiatives throughout the whole spectrum of education; from pre-school education through to adult education. True, the major thrust has been made through the Schools Commission at the school level. Again, in this Bill the emphasis is on the needs basis. Here, a serious attempt is being made to increase resource facilities in our schools.
The fundamental aim of the proposed centre was stated precisely and succinctly by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) when he said that it was to foster curriculum and material development from pre-school to post-secondary levels. The word ‘needs’ means more than providing the greatest immediate financial aid to those schools in deprived areas. It certainly means more equipment and more of the tools to do the job. This is the quantitative aspect of the needs concept. In addition there is a qualitative aspect, and it means to undertake curriculum development, which means promoting and developing new teaching methods, syllabuses and new learning materials.
All the programs that have been initiated by this Government are symptoms of the great revolution that is taking place in educational philosophy. In essence they are aiming at an education which promotes the total development of the individual. Fortunately we are moving away from terms like ‘primary’, ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ when we speak of education. More and more we see it as a continuing process from birth to death- a life-long gaining of knowledge and wisdom. What is at the heart of all these programs is the type of learning experience people have and its relevance to their lives- in fact, one might say a curriculum for living. On this point I think I am in agreement with the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) when he spoke of the relevance to life around the people.
Anyone who has been closely associated with schools, as J have, cannot but be aware of the revolution taking place in curriculum development. Individual States have done a great deal of research in this direction. Since 1 have been a member of this Parliament 1 have taken the opportunity of personally inspecting educa tion systems in most of the States. What strikes one most forcibly is the tremendous diversity of curricula and methods. These range from open class-room situations to the old serried rows of desks, from the totally integrated programs through to the most traditional subject-orientated, exam-based methods, and from pupil involvement to teacher dominated lessons.
I have never regarded myself as one who has ever seen any particular method or body of fact as being the only approach to education. It is the teacher and the school in conjunction with the parents and students who should be working out the curriculum best suited for pupils in the school. Honourable members will recall that it was in the Karmel report that the term ‘devolution of responsibility’ was used. There is no contradiction here between the concept of devolution of responsibility and the setting up of a national body which would provide the material from which people could draw wherever they may be, whether on a school council, in a group of teachers or within a State education system.
When one looks across the full educational spectrum there is evidence that this devolution of responsibility is beginning to happen. There are, however, very few schools which have been able to achieve this ideal. Indeed, it would seem that some schools are far from this ideal. We have heard a great deal recently of students, some of whom have completed their secondary education, who are classified as functionally illiterate. They have an inability to read, and hence a severe limitation on their ability to communicate. There are no easy answers to a problem like this, but we must ask ourselves whether our present teaching practices are at fault. The answer, or at least some of the answer, might well be there. One decisive advantage in having a national body to investigate and initiate research into the whole range of learning experience is that we will come closer to finding answers to this and other problems. Let me emphasise again the need for diversity of approach, adaptability both in method and use of aids in teaching, and- of paramount importance - the individual differences between the students, which should always be the determining factor.
This Bill setting up a Curriculum Development Centre as a statutory body is another milestone and again demonstrates the involvement of the Whitlam Government in all the needs of schools. One might ask: Why can all this not be done through existing State education systems where groups are already involved in this work? I believe the answer is simple. It is essential to have a national body which has this over-arching role between the States so that it can facilitate the exchange of ideas. One only has to realise the difficulties of a student moving from one State to another to see the need for co-ordination and the need for a central bank of inspiration and innovation which can be passed from one State to another according to their needs. This Centre will also be better placed to obtain and disseminate the best and latest educational research from overseas. The proposed Centre is not a duplication of what is already in existence. It is not in competition. It will be a complementary body, and in this context it is significant to note that all State Education Ministers have given this proposal their full support. Of course, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Sturt, it is well to remember that previous governments gave support to national curriculum programs. These included the national science education project, the program to stimulate the teaching of Asian languages and cultures in our schools at a cost of $1.5m, and the national committee on social science teaching. This Bill takes all this one step further. It will formalise all efforts into one statutory body. I would like to draw honourable member’s attention to clause 47 of this Bill, which gives the Centre wide powers of consultation and co-operation with appropriate authorities in all States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This applies to authorities responsible for pre-school, primary and secondary education in government and non-government schools. I would hasten to reassure the honourable member for Sturt that this body will be looking for co-operation. I believe that the important point here is that very close co-operation will take place between this body, the various State educational authorities and also the Schools Commission. I would underline the imperative nature of the close link that must be maintained between this statutory body that is being appointed and the Schools Commission.
I draw to the attention of the House a Press release by the Minister for Education in Victoria, Mr Thomson, on 8 April. He announced then that he was preparing legislation to establish a Victorian institute of secondary education as a statutory body to carry out curriculum research and to encourage experimentation and the modernisation of secondary education. He also announced the formation of an advisory committee on this matter. I bring this matter to the attention of honourable members because I must express some surprise at the timing of this announcement. I recall that it was when we were talking about pre-schools, the work that was going on in that field, and the Fry report, that the Victorian Government suddenly started to take an interest. As one who taught in the Victorian system for 25 years, I am well aware of the need for such a body, but again I would express surprise that the Victorian Government should have chosen to announce it just at the time when this Bill was coming forward. I hope that such a body, when it comes into existence, will cooperate to the full with the Curriculum Development Centre.
In conclusion, I believe it is absolutely imperative that the link, liaison and consultation between the Curriculum Development Centre and the Schools Commission should be strong, constant and continuing. If this is achieved, the Curriculum Development Centre will play an essential role in ensuring a meaningful, stimulating learning experience in our schools for all students.
-The Australian people for some years have been aware of the need for a higher standard of education for their children. This is something we expect in a civilised community in a developed world. At the same time, however, it is important to recall that over the years the percentage of gross domestic product which has been put aside for education, for government schools in particular, has been growing quite substantially. Expenditure is now over 5.6 per cent of gross domestic product and presumably it is only fair to say that it is going to increase even further because education is undoubtedly one of Australia ‘s greatest growth industries.
Apart from the fact that many Australians are therefore seriously concerned and are wondering whether in fact they are getting the value from education expenditure which they would expect, the Opposition sees the need to establish an environment in which Australian children receive equal opportunity in education irrespective of whether they come from the cities or remote parts of the continent and regardless of the economic or social position of their parents. Within this context, therefore, the Curriculum Development Centre has a very real part to play and it is for that reason that the Opposition has already made clear, as enunciated by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), that we support the Bill. We see the Curriculum Development Centre as being a tool to enable the administrative authorities at both the Federal and State levels to achieve the equality of opportunity which is essential if all Australian children are to be given the real opportunities they, so rightly deserve.
The functions of the Curriculum Development Centre are set out in clause 5 of the Bill. They are to devise and develop, and to promote and assist in the developing of school curricula and school educational materials; to undertake, promote and assist in research into matters related to school curricula and school education materials; and to collect, assess and disseminate information relevant within this context. The important point to remember, however, is that we want to see that all schools, regardless of whether they are government or private, and whether they are State or Federal schools in terms of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, are given every opportunity to draw on the work which will be done by the Curriculum Development Centre.
Many Australians are dissatisfied with the substance of the education being given to their children. I hear from many of my own parents and citizens associations and others the constant question: What is the relationship between the work our children are being expected to do at school and their future lives and the environment in which they anticipate living in the future? This is a very major problem. I think for too long there has been a tendency for governments to fail to appreciate the acceleration of change in technology, in the family structure, in marriage and divorce patterns, in mobility rates and the division of labour, in urbanisation, in ethnic and sub-culture conflict and above all in international relations. In other words, we are facing the swift arrival of a future that is radically different from the present. Yet most schools and universities- and certainly their curricula- base their teaching on a tacit belief that tomorrow’s world will be basically similar to our own. Consequently curricula must include the totality of normal life experiences as well as try to bring children into an environment where they will be trained and able to face the very real changes which quite obviously will be part of their lives.
For example, I put to the House a series of questions which children do ask today and which unfortunately existing curricula do not adequately cover. Secondary students are not being taught their rights under hire purchase agreements; how to buy a house; how to complete a tax return or what to claim as deductions; what rights they have if they are arrested by the police; the pros and cons of health insurance and life insurance. In the field of finance, banks are making immense profits because secondary students have not been educated to think in terms of fixed term deposits, building societies, debentures and the stock exchange. H undreds of teenage women fall pregnant because of the inadequacy of existing sex education. Many community services are under-utilised in the fields of law, consumer protection, public service and social welfare simply because of ignorance by individuals who have to use this machinery to enable them to get the best out of the society of which they must form a part.
I think we should see the Curriculum Development Centre also in terms of the recommendations of the Karmel Committee which indicated in its report some of the future directions that one would expect to anticipate in terms of education. For example, there would be less rather than more centralised control over schools and a responsibility would evolve on teachers, parents and students, the people entrusted with making the decisions, who would also be the people expected to carry them out. It appears to be implicit in this piece of legislation that we are going to be directed towards uniform curricula in all Australian schools. I can see a distinct contradiction between that and the supposition contained in the Karmel Committee report. I do not see the logic in dictating that a child in Bourke, for example, must do exactly the same course or course of subjects as one would find a student doing in, say, Sydney or Melbourne. I think the tendency has been for far too long that the recommendations of the curricula development committees of the various States have been based on the assumption that those who go to secondary school at some stage are going to find themselves in a tertiary education environment, probably universities. It is quite obvious that the percentage of students who ultimately go to universities does not justify this presumption and for that reason I would earnestly suggest to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that there is a real need to try not only to relate curricula development to the vertical developmentnamely, from the time children first go to preschool right through to the time they finish school- but also to try to relate standards between States to the actual opportunities which are being offered to students and standards of educational attainment in terms of specific subjects.
The Karmel Committee also mentioned in its report the unequal out-of-school situations which must be compensated for in schools. For example, a child’s overall condition of upbringing would be as free of restriction owing to the circumstances of his family as public action through the school could make it. I am sure all parties would support that as a very desirable objective. The Karmel Committee also suggests that there be more diverse forms of schooling and more experimentation with different approaches. New schools would be established which would be radically different in sponsorship and educational approach. There would also be diversity in school community relationships and in the timing of educational experiences. With increased Government aid for nongovernment schools- something which we are still waiting to see- a changed relationship between the 2 educational sectors should result and they would probably be drawn closer together and this would be based, hopefully, on the greater interdependence of government schools and not on the loss of independence of nongovernment schools.
There would be above all a reappraisal of the relationship of the school to the wider society with increasing inadequacy of education in formal institutions separated from both the home and the working environment. I think these propositions put forward by the Karmel Committee are all well deserving of serious examination. In the development of the Curriculum Development Centre these concepts must be taken in mind. There is, as I mentioned earlier, a very real danger in Australia of over centralisation of a national curriculum. We have States which are responsible for education. They also have their own education development organisation. Although the Minister has pointed out that the States have agreed to the development of this Federal body, I am reliably informed that the States have also- certainly in the case of New South Wales- put forward certain reservations, one of these being that the bodies within the Curriculum Development Centre- the Council for example- do not take into account the need for the States to be specifically represented. The honourable member for Sturt made this point and I merely wish to enunciate it further.
Turning now to the question of teaching materials, for many years Australia has been in some senses the victim of the Anglo-American book agreement. Since we are one of the world ‘s greatest consumers of English literature and English books, I think there is a very real need for the development here of Australian texts prepared by Australians for our own educational environment. Within this context I am rather surprised to notice in the Bill that there is provision that the statutory authority will not be expected to pay tax. If it is to enter the market place both as an initiator for the writing of books and, presumably, their distribution and sale, competing therefore with existing book producers, I fail to see the logic of why it should be given special privileges in this field.
– Do you realise that like the Australian science education project, the proposed statutory body will produce material tentatively for schools to use experimentally. Some of the schools become very interested in the material and use it experimentally. So there is a long process of perfecting something for a school that a book publisher does not have.
-I thank the Minister for his interjection. I still would like him to explain to us at the conclusion of this debate for example, to what point this Curriculum Development Centre will leave the field of production to private publishers to disseminate the work which, we hope, it may so produce.
We must remember in relation to the Curriculum Development Centre the importance of increasing the scope for individual opportunity for both students and teachers. In recent times there has been some experimentation with the concept of flexible syllabi. I suspect that what this has done is to make poorer teachers feel that they must follow a more rigid syllabus whereas good teachers, due to the training they have received and because as individuals they may have more imagination, are able to apply a much more flexible approach to their teaching. Again, we have this link between the Curriculum Development Centre, the quality of teachers, the courses they will teach, the standard which they attain, the quality of our remedial teachers and matters of this nature which are absolutely vital.
Mention was made earlier of the very high rate of illiteracy which’ we have in our schools. Recently I visited some schools out in the Green Valley and Mt Druitt areas and spoke to some teachers. To my horror the situation was substantially worse than I had expected. Most of the teachers were prepared to say that no more than 10 per cent of their students at the junior secondary level were fully literate in terms of the standards one would expect of somebody capable of participating fully in the community. That we have to admit in this day that 90 per cent of some children at that level have not achieved this standard is a shocking indictment of the education system that we have applied for far too long. The position has to be improved. In this context when we talk about curricula, are we just considering formal studies or are we to relate the environment in which children are expected to live in the future to what they learn at school? A teacher gave me 2 most interesting examples of this. For example, it is very difficult to teach children, even in places like Liverpool, about animals, fish, the sea and so forth when some of them have not even seen the sea. I would have expected this of students from the far west but I would not have thought that this was the case at Liverpool. Apparently it is.
Another example drawn to my attention was that when children are taken into the city to see the zoo or the museum teachers cannot get them out of the Central Railway Station because the children are playing on the escalators which they have never seen before. This type of problem is fundamental to the quality of life and to education. It is no good teaching children in an environment which is in complete isolation from the environment in which they are expected to live. I am sure that the Curriculum Development Centre will help to achieve much in this specific field. But above all I hope that the people who will be involved in the development of curricula will be practising teachers who know what they are talking about and that they will not be merely academics trying to apply theories to situations which vary so much throughout this very large continent. As I have mentioned, the need to increase individual opportunity for every child is very real. It is not just a vague term. It is something which can be and must be achieved.
-The Curriculum Development Centre Bill is a progressive Bill which in a broad way seeks to enable curricula to keep pace with social change. I think that we all agree on that for a start. It is the responsibility of the educationists to prepare a child for present and later life. In my view, some people make the mistake of preparing a child for later life without concentrating also on the fact that the child is a living soul in the present. Apart from that preparation for the present and later life, there is a preparation for a changing kind of society. I would like to make a few remarks about some of the matters that have been raised by members of the Opposition. Both speakers from the Opposition who have so far spoken in this debate seemed to have misgivings which I have heard before about centralisation in Canberra. I heard all this in the debate on the Schools Commission Bill when the Government was promoting its idea of that Commission. I remember people saying that what the Canberra socialists wanted to do was to have control over . every single teacher right throughout the country and to be able to place every teacher just where Canberra wanted him or her to be placed. There is nothing of that mentioned either in the Karmel report or in this Bill with which we are dealing. One of the essential things about both of these measures and other measures this Government has introduced in the educational arena has been the concentration on diversity, innovation, freshness of ideas and cross-fertilisation of ideas. This Bill follows up the same trend.
My friend the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) referred to his recent visit to Green Valley and the illiteracy among the children out there. It could be said that this is one good reason why all the available trained teachers that are not being employed in New South Wales ought to be employed at the present time. Testimony was received by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties which is inquiring into this matter. It was discovered that one of the reasons why these children are illiterate is because, except for kindergarten teachers, hardly any other kind of teacher at the primary or secondary level is taught how to teach children to read. These were some of the facts of the situation. I do not want to go too far on that. I agree that the essential thing that the honourable member for Bradfield stressed is that the curricula ought to be relevant. I think we all agree upon that, whatever relevance it may have to each of us. Of course, this was linked again with the misgiving that what was taught in Bourke would be the same as what is taught at Erskineville in Sydney, at Lindfield or perhaps what might be taught in some Melbourne suburb. Of course, that is not the intention of this Curriculum Development Centre. The idea of it is not only to engage in research into new forms of curricula but also to commission other independent bodies- universities, colleges of advanced education, private institutions and the Australian Council for Educational Research- to do so also. All these bodies can be commissioned to engage in pieces of research at the request of the Curriculum Development Centre. We can go on and extend what we are already doing as a result of the Karmel committee’s excellent recommendation about innovation grants. I think the Minister would more than agree with me on this point. Approximately $6m has been spent on innovation grants.
– It has reached $7.2m now.
-Apparently the amount spent is up to $7.2m now. These grants are given to individual teachers, groups of teachers and in some cases to a whole system- that is, a regional group of teachers- to carry out research.
Of course, one of the things we have to get over is the legacy of the past, the external examination ridden system of education we have had in this country whereby a child in Bourke has to sit for the same terminal examination as does the child in Sydney, Goulburn, Taree or wherever it may be in New South Wales. The same applied in each of the other States. We had an inspectorial system that reinforced this same kind of centralism. We did not have to build Canberra to get centralisation. The most centralised form of education, as in many other spheres of our activity, is within the States. Not even the creation of educational areas did away with centralisation. Not much authority was devolved on the regional or local groups of schools for the children who attended them.
I agree there is a need for relevance and relevance must be local in many respects. As the honourable member for Stun (Mr Wilson) reminded us, we also live in a society that is becoming increasingly mobile not only between States of Australia but between countries. So young people have not only to know how to estimate but also what to estimate. I remember my father challenging me, when I was in fifth year of high school as it was then, to estimate the volume of a haystack. I could not do it but I could do all sons of other mathematical tricks for examinations. I could not do the real thing that was required in that locality. There has to be a local relevance and also a social relevance that enables people to be mobile. People are not only citizens of their locality and of their nation, but also citizens of the world. Therefore a research laboratory does not have to be centred on Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne or even some centralised place for a group of countries; it has to reach out and co-operate with various other organisations. I do not want to talk about the functions of the Curriculum Development Centre. They were enumerated briefly by the honourable member for Bradfield. I thought they would have suggested to him and his colleagues that this Centre has as its very strong objective to consult with other people, for teachers to consult with each other and to develop teacher initiated research centres, again sponsored by the Commonwealth Government or subsidised by the Commonwealth Government.
Two provisions of the Bill are worth noting. Firstly, the fact that the Centre will be a statutory body will ensure that the body has adequate powers to perform its set functions. On the other hand, while the body will be comprised of people with certain expertise it will in no way be confined to an ivory tower. There is provisionindeed it is seen as being quite necessary- that teachers be involved as much as possible in any inquiry into present needs, in the formulation of tentative solutions and in the ensuing development if the resulting materials and teaching approaches are to have maximum effect in classrooms. The trouble with much of our thinking is that we think that curricula means the same as syllabuses when in fact it means all the sorts of things that go on inside the classroom and on the school campus. Curricula not only involves subject content but also how lessons are taught, the inter-relationship between students, the interrelationship between teachers, and the interrelationship between teachers and students. All these things are part and parcel. The whole life that goes on in the school and on the school surroundings is part of what we are referring to as being curricula, not just syllabuses.
Unfortunately even in the matter of syllabuses, in the past syllabuses in Australia have tended to be static and indeed much the same. As a matter of fact as with many of our, say, church practices, it is only in recent times that many of our churches have changed a good deal of their practices. The same has happened in schools. Thank goodness it has happened. The authority of the past has dictated what has gone on and what has been taught in schools. It has been thought that what has been good enough in the past would be good enough for the present. Once something gets into a text book and that text book gets into a school it is awfully difficult to replace it with something new or something that differs from it. We have relied on outmoded methods of teaching. We have relied on teaching theories about mental discipline and logical thinking. For instance, it was thought that Latin was a good subject to be learned and to be taught because it involved some kind of organised thinking and so did grammar generally. Mathematics was another subject that was justified on the basis of logical thinking. Trigonometry and geometry have been taught. Whether those subjects had relevance or were seen to have relevance to the lives of young people was immaterial. But these subjects were supposed to be inherently logical in their content and presumably in their presentation. Therefore they found their way into the curricula and they received emphasis. It was believed that a corollary of the teaching of these subjects was the transfer of training- that if one absorbed the logic that was involved in the learning of mathematics that made one a logical thinker in other spheres of life. This has not been seen to be so unless the principles of logical thinking were drawn out. Of course then there was some benefit.
People talk about wastage. The honourable member for Bradfield talked about the things that are not taught in schools. He talked about the common things that lots of people need to know- about how to make things that might be conducive to a happy married life later on and how to fill in taxation returns. Such things should be taught but I also think there is wastage not only in what is not taught in schools but also in what is taught in schools. So many students never see the relevance of some of the things they are taught. For many of them they are never of relevance. Much of what I learned in school- I presume this applies to everyone listening to me- did not seem to have relevance to me then and has never been seen to have relevance to me since. Yet I spent many an hour in day time and in burning midnight oil on such subjects in order to pass examinations. That was the relevance of such learning. It might come in useful some day. This points up the very real need for reviewing the place of examinations by research.
I agree with those critics who have said that research should not be centralised in one body, the Curriculum Development Centre, but should be reticulated among all other kinds of bodies. The Government is doing just this. I have already referred to the innovation grants that have been made. They have been very useful so far. This Bill provides not only for the carrying out of research into curricula. I emphasise again that curricula means more than subject content or syllabuses but all the other activities that go along with schooling. It is also important that the worthwhile findings of this research be reticulated to all other people who may not have been involved in the research. That is one of the difficult things. The practitioner in medicine finds difficulty in trying to keep up with modern research in medicine. We in Parliament have our difficulties in trying to keep up with reading in our relevant fields of inquiry. The teacher also has the same problem. Those people who think that a teacher’s daily working life begins at 9 o’clock in the morning and continues to half past three in the afternoon have not had much to do with good teaching. A lot of work must be done after school hours and during the so-called lengthy vacation periods. Therefore the results of the research carried out by this body and by other bodies that it will support must also get out into a much wider field and enrich the whole educational spectrum.
One could talk about a number of things but I will not delay the House. I have tried to make the point and re-emphasise the point of relevance. This Bill is not concerned with centralising control in Canberra. Above ail, it is not concerned with producing a Canberra-based text book which will be on issue all over Australia. Rather its purpose is to give encouragement- financial encouragement and advisory encouragement- to other bodies so that they may engage in research; to support individual teachers; and then to make sure that their findings and research reach other people, and that those people in turn have opportunities in their teaching careers to peruse and study the findings of the research and have the chance and the professional freedom to try out those ideas in their class-rooms.
That will not be done if a teacher has 28 or 30 teaching periods a week. It will not be done if teachers are overloaded with too many lessons to teach and classes that are too large. If their time is taken up after school hours having to read through 40, 50 or maybe 100 compositions they will not have very much time to absorb all these sorts of things. So when professional teacher bodies make a plea for more effective teacherclass ratios, for opportunities to engage in vacational study, for opportunities to visit other places and other States, for opportunities of exchange between teachers in other States and between teachers in other school systems such as between private and public school systems- a lot more could be done about that in Australia- all these things should be facilitated. When these sorts of things are done teaching and learningeducation will start to mean a lot more than it means today. I hope that this Bill, along with other measures that this Government and its predecessors initiated, will go on to do those sorts of things and that young children will not feel that ‘education ‘ is a slavish activity or a distasteful activity but rather something refreshing, relevant to their needs, and something which will not only be helpful to them to earn a living or to pass an examination but will also be a rich living experience. I commend the Bill.
-The development of new curricula and teaching methods is as important as and probably more important than the provision of educational facilities. This fact in itself emphasises the importance of this Bill to establish a Curriculum Development Centre as a statutory authority, with an expenditure of some $2m to $3m when it is in full operation. Previous governments have seen fit to give support and financial aid to national projects. I think two of them particularly are worth mentioning as they have been valuable. One is the Australian Science Education Project for which previous governments gave $940,000 over 5 years. Another is a program to stimulate Asian languages and cultures, for which $1.5m was given over a 5-year period.
I believe that a factual criticism of this Government in many areas is that it should give more consideration to improving communication through its departments, back to the grass roots level. Because of this communication problem I will quote from the Bill the functions of the proposed Curriculum Development Centre. They are:
To undertake curriculum development tasks and to develop tasks and to develop teaching and learning materials for use in schools,
To commission and support curriculum and materials development,
To display equipment and materials,
To publish assessments and information about equipment and materials,
To provide advisory services relating to curriculum and materials development, and
To arrange the printing and marketing of materials.
As mentioned by previous speakers for the Opposition, we support this legislation in principle and its general content, but as I have already stated we will be proposing amendments. We believe that these will bring the States into even closer consultation and co-operation. It is vitally important, not only for reasons of co-operation but also for reasons of economy, that this should occur.
It is not my intention to delay this House as the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) did in giving us a lecture on the hourly duties of the teaching profession, but I believe that I should express my general support. In view of the comments that have already been made in this debate I do not intend to canvass the contents of the Bill, its functions or the mode of operation of the Curriculum Development Centre. However, for a few moments I would like to discuss the value of such a Curriculum Development Centre and its application to the schools. Undoubtedly the last 15 years or so have produced innovation and productivity in curricula and teaching methods. New ideas have not always been accepted, and it is possible that this difficulty is due partly to the acceptance of overseas ideas that often are being discarded overseas as outmoded or unsuitable even before they reach the class-rooms here. In saying that I must admit, however, that we have also gained much from some overseas ideas. The value of this Centre will be decided ultimately by the ‘pay-off’ at the grass roots level. This makes it important that the development of curriculum as a decision-making process should closely involve the teacher, and in the final analysis the pupils in the class-room. There are signs that this is happening and teachers in Australia are becoming more involved in curriculum development either individually or as members of trial panels in conjunction with development projects.
The Victorian Secondary Social Science project is involving teachers in this way but their valuable work is negated by a lack of funds- in fact a lack of any budget at all. A seeding grant from the Myer Foundation originally started this project in Victoria. The salaries are paid by the Education Department but it is here that assistance stops. It has great difficulty in disseminating its results to the schools. It has no money to publish satisfactorily the valuable journal entitled ‘A Study of Society’. This project has developed a tremendous amount of material. It covers not only our secondary schools but also our technical schools. As I mentioned it has no opportunity and no possibility to disseminate the material. It is vitally important that teachers develop materials for their own use. Great care should be taken to preserve and expand this principle. Another bureaucracy must not be allowed to develop that runs parallel to and results in any duplication of projects. I do not believe that the Bill clearly defines this issue, yet it is probably the most important issue for the effective operation of the Curriculum Development Centre.
Curriculum development appears to have been hamstrung to a degree in the past when dominant personalities in the process are theorists. We must have a balance of representation upon the statutory authority. Academics, research workers and teachers who will be involved not only in the development of curricula but also in the practical applications in the class room are all important, but one group should not be dominant. Curriculum development projects must be viewed and adapted to social reality. It is no longer valid in Australia to assume that our society has a single set of broadly homogeneous values shared by all ethnic sub-groups and classes in it. It has been suggested by many authors on this subject that, the greater the degree of internal structural and cultural differentiation of a society, the less likely it is that educational institutions will promote all ethnic groups’ values equivalently. As an established empirical generalisation, it seems that in modern societies some groups’ values and skills predominate over those of other groups. These groups, which have a consequent advantage at school, are those which have an economic and power advantage in modern society. In any pluralist society’s education system, one form of dominant group can be that which plays the major role in curriculum development. That must be avoided at all costs if the formation of a national Curriculum Development Centre is to fulfil its important purpose. As curriculum projects are set up they must be allowed autonomy in the styles they adopt. The retention of regional differences and contrasting social and ethnic differences is important. A close relationship with the schools is imperative. I believe that this can best be achieved by using ad hoc committees on projects, particularly by the inclusion of seconded teachers who are sensitive to the needs of students and who are from different schools and areas. This will provide a broad consensus of opinion and experience. I see this Bill as being a most important and valuable initiative. Its success, naturally, will depend upon the apparent results and its impact upon the classroom being commensurate with the expenditure of money and the time and effort that will undoubtedly go into it.
– I hesitate to break the non-partisan nature of this debate in any way, but I would like to take up 2 points made by 2 different speakers for the Government. Firstly the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow), in the introduction to his speech on this Bill, said that the Government has had spectacular success over the last 2 years. I could not let that go by without comment. The Government certainly has had spectacular success over the last 2 years. It has had spectacular success in that the rate of inflation is the highest we have ever had and it has had spectacular success in that the rate of unemployment is the highest we have ever had. That is important because if we had not had such a spectacular rate of inflation we would have been able to do a whole lot more with the money which has been expended in such areas as education. For instance, a great amount of the extra money being spent on education is in fact being spent on covering the increased costs which have come about simply because of the enormous rate of inflation which Australia has been experiencing since the present Government came into office.
The honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) said that the most centralised education systems were to be found in the States. I cannot speak of the situation in any State other than my own State of New South Wales, but I would agree with him on that. In fact, the highly centralised, bureaucratised education system in New South Wales is the direct result of over 20 years of Labor government in that State. So we should keep that in mind. I would be the first to admit that the breaking down of the centralisation of the education system in New South Wales is proving to be a very difficult process. It is being resisted strongly by some groups which I hope will not continue their opposition to the process of breaking down the centralisation of the educational system there.
Having said that, let us look at the Curriculum Development Centre. When one considers it I think that one should look very quickly at the functions of the Curriculum Development Centre. As outlined they are, firstly, to undertake curriculum development tasks and to develop teaching and learning materials for use in schools and, secondly, to commission and support curriculum and materials development. Another function is to provide advisory services relating to curriculum and materials development. I have taken only a few of the functions because they are the ones upon which I wish to comment. In his second reading speech the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said:
In the word ‘curriculum’ educators refer to the whole range of learning experience which a child undergoes during his schooling. An aim of curriculum development is to relate education to the needs of the individual.
I agree with that 100 per cent. In the latter stages of his speech the Minister said:
If maximum benefit is to be gained from these expenditures, and if the innate talents of our children are to be developed to meet the calls of society in the present and in the future, then proper arrangements for the continuous review and development of the materials and methods of teaching and learning in schools are essential.
I agree totally with those statements -by the Minister. I would like to refer in particular at this stage to the position of disadvantaged groups of children within our community. We can all think of various groups of disadvantaged children in our community for whom particular regard must be taken. Handicapped children and isolated children are just 2 groups that spring readily to mind. The section I would like to bring forward today for some degree of emphasis relates to migrant children or the children of migrants in Australia. I was thinking originally of seeing whether an amendment could be moved to the Bill that would lay particular emphasis on the needs of the disadvantaged groups, but, having looked at the composition of the Bill and the framing of the Bill, I felt that it was not appropriate to do so.
– It does not really deal with migrant education.
– No, it does not really deal with migrant education or disadvantaged groups as a whole. What I wish to do at this stage is to highlight briefly some of the areas at which I believe the Curriculum Development Centre should be looking.
– This will depend upon people showing the initiative and putting projects to it and its approving of the projects.
– I agree with that, but I want to highlight some of those areas so that people will be encouraged to do just what the
Minister has suggested. When one looks at the problems being experienced by migrant children or the children of migrants- they are not necessarily the same thing- one is impressed by the immensity of the situation in terms of the total number involved and the immensity of the situation in terms of the spread of disadvantages within that particular group. I believe that people throughout Australia- the educators in particular- must develop an appreciation of the size of this problem, which affects literally thousands of young Australians. As the Minister has said, if these people are to develop and to take part in and contribute to the society of Australia in the future their particular problems must be taken into account and curricula designed to overcome their disadvantages must be brought forward.
I would like briefly to instance some of the areas in which I would like to see the Curriculum Development Centre operating with some degree of specificity. I refer firstly to language training. The teaching of the English language to nonEnglish speaking children is an absolute must. I am sure that we are not doing it well enough at the moment. I believe that a great deal of attention should be given to not only the teaching of the English language but also the teaching of other languages to not only Australian born children but also overseas born children. What we are seeing happen in many instances is the development of inter-cultural differences between parents and their children because the children are being taught in Australian schools under Australian conditions and Australian curricula with very little attention being paid to the ethnic and cultural backgrounds of themselves and their parents. So I would like to see the Centre looking at such things as the inclusion of ethnic cultures within the curricula which is available to children throughout Australia and the particular ways in which the richness of the various ethnic cultures at present represented in Australia can be brought home not only to the children who have some ancestry relating to those cultures but also to the Australian born children or the children of Australian parents, whose own culture would be immensely enriched by some knowledge of various other cultures.
Another area is the area of bilingual teaching in specific schools. Subjects could be taught in 2 languages and books and lessons could be available in 2 languages so that children who are not as proficient as their class mates in the language in which the subject is being taught- and that, at this stage, is of course English- may have the opportunity of keeping up with the levels of attainment of their classmates who are more proficient in the language. The development of teaching materials specifically related to particular groups is an immense area of research and development to which I confidently hope the Curriculum Development Centre will give a great stimulation. I believe that there is an enormous area here in which existing teaching materials can be used far more effectively and new teaching materials developed to allow the assimilation of extra knowledge in a much more advantageous way than has been the case in the past. I would like also to see investigated by the Curriculum Development Centre the suggestion that a resources centre and a research centre for ethnic groups be available to both the teachers and the public so that we can get a ready availability of resource material relating to the multiplicity of ethnic groups which now exists in Australia. Of course, we need a decent program of research into the learning problems of ethnic groups and in-service training, as has been mentioned by other speakers, and the basic training of teachers in coping with the problems of those disadvantaged sectors within our society. Again I instance the fact that many migrant children or children of migrant parents fall into the category of being disadvantaged children simply because in most cases they do not have the knowledge of the language that will enable them to integrate, keep up and go forward at the same rate as their school mates.
I wish to make one final plea, if I may. Because of the immensity of this problem and because of the range of problems which affect the teaching of migrant children, could we give some close consideration to the appointment of people who have a degree of knowledge, a degree of commitment relating to migrant education? In other words, I would like to see people of an ethnic background appointed to advisory committees or supervisory committees, people who have an intimate knowledge, who themselves were migrants or the children of migrants who really have a first-hand working knowledge of the problems which these people face. Of course, although this Curriculum Development Centre only applies, as I understand it, to teaching in schools- and, therefore would only apply to school children- this problem of education which faces migrants is not confined to children at all. It extends to their parents, to training, retraining and the whole range of educational enrichment.
We are dealing today with the Curriculum Development Centre, which relates to school children. I appeal to the Minister in his attitude and in his talks with his advisers and his officers to look at the inclusion of migrants on advisory or supervisory committees, and I urge that we keep very much in mind the problems being experienced by this very large group of Australians or soon-to-be Australians, the migrant children.
– in reply- It is not the function of the Curriculum Development Centre to lay down education policies. In relation to migrant education, I would draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that the Schools Commission is investigating the problems of migrant education. The Migrant Advisory Committee is doing likewise, and we have raised expenditure on migrant education to $20m. However, as a result of extremely able letters received from the migrant community, I wrote to the Schools Commission pointing out the complaints that they felt that a lot of the teaching in Australian schools was totally insensitive to their backgrounds and asking the Schools Commission to look at that.
I want to speak to the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), because I want to be quick. The crux of his proposal would be the addition to the Curriculum Development Centre Council of one member nominated by each State Minister who is a member of the Australian Education Councilclause 11(1). This is the general form of amendment that I was expecting him to bring forward. I draw his attention to the nature of the Australian Education Council. This comprises the Australian and State Ministers for Education. The Council meets approximately 3 times in every 2 years and is tending to meet more frequently. The 3 members appointed by the Australian Education Council will be virtually 3 members appointed by the State Ministers. Other parts of the honourable member’s proposal are simply amendments consequential on this main one. They relate to clauses 3 and 1 1 (2). One effect of the amendment would be to fix the size of the Council at 16 members. As it stands, the Bill permits any number from eleven to sixteen. As a general comment, I would say that the measure of support the establishment of this Centre has had from the States tends to answer the point that is implicit in the amendment. Further, in view of the provision already made for State representation on the Council, the amendment could be seen as unnecessary.
Clause 11 ( 1 ) (c) provides for 3 nominees of the Australian Education Council. These would be virtually State representatives. By agreement with and between the States, the three would represent all States that are happy with this arrangement. The honourable member for Sturt seems to have overlooked this. In fact, his amendment, which leaves paragraph (c) untouched, would result in 9 representatives of the 6 States. Formal representation of all 6 States under the member for Sturt ‘s proposal would result in the Council being denied a contribution by several expert groups who could be included under the existing paragraph (e), with its allowance of between four and nine unspecified members. This flexibility might be further reduced if representation of the 2 Territories would also be added within the total membership of sixteen. Only one unspecified place would then be left, and if all States were represented individually -
-Order! The Minister is referring to amendments that have not been moved as yet.
-Putting 6 State representatives on the Council was referred to in the second reading speech.
-The point is that the Minister is referring to the amendments. As I understand the procedures, passing reference may be made to amendments, but it seems to be proper to deal with them at the Committee stage.
-An alternative would be to increase the overall size of the Council to accommodate these additional members. I believe that this should be resisted, as it would result in a Council of unwieldy proportions. In any event, there appears to be a misconception of the role and nature of the Council. It is intended that the Council should be an expert body with a policy and management role to perform, and it would include in its membership people drawn from a range of educational interests. In this type of context, issues and debates on State lines calling for individual State representation would be inappropriate. None of the other Education Commissions has State representation, including those formed by honourable gentlemen opposite as the Government, and on the basis proposed by the member for Sturt it is even less appropriate in a body like this.
I would draw the attention of honourable gentlemen opposite, who seem to think this is an authority, to the nature of the proposals which have been put forward and which it has asked me to approve. It has approved 9 projects so far, and one of them emanates from within itself; eight of them emanate from outside. It has approved the social education materials project. This was proposed by the National Committee for Social Science Teaching, and it will receive $1,002,000 over 3 years. It has approved $30,000 for a proposal for physical science. This was put forward by the Victorian Universities and Schools Examinations Board. At the instance of the Australian Council for Educational Research, it is financing the evaluation of the Australian Science Education ProjectASEPcosting $40,000 over 2 years. It is financing an agricultural and environmental science project. This was proposed by the Victorian Universities and Schools Examinations Board, and it will receive $30,000 over a year. A commercial and legal studies project- this is where it may shade over into post secondary- was proposed by the Victorian Commercial Teachers’ Association and will receive $5,000 over a year. Aboriginal studies of a very special kind, proposed by the Queensland University Press, will receive $2,000 over a year.
An Australian Science Education Project implementation study- how actually to apply what was done previously by ASEP over the last few years- is proposed by the Education Faculty of Monash University. A social science curriculum project proposed by Mount St Mary’s College will receive $5,025 over a year, and an environmental education survey is put forward by the Curriculum Development Centre itself. People have asked, very surprisingly, about the taxation rights of this body and complained about exemption from taxation as if it were some greatly significant body in competition with commercial publishers. An objective would be to put teaching materials into schools as cheaply as possible, and teaching materials for the teacher do not alway include a great array of text books. They include materials that are not in competition with any private producer. Secondly, where appropriate, the Curriculum Development Centre expects to arrange for commercial publishers to handle distribution of materials developed with its assistance. Thirdly, schools normally do not pay sales tax on materials and equipment anyway, so I do not know what the point really is about the taxation on material that may be provided to schools for curriculum and experimental purposes. Presumably if it is produced by a commercial publisher who is publishing the material then he would face all the normal commercial hazards. In practice, I cannot see the point raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
-Mr Chairman, I should like to postpone this clause until clause 1 1 has been considered.
Clause 4 to 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Curriculum Development Centre Council shall consist of-
– I move:
Omit sub-clause ( 1 ), substitute the following sub-clause: ‘(1) The Curriculum Development Centre Council shall consist of-
1 member nominated by the Secretary to the Department of Education;
3 members nominated by the Australian Education Council;
1 member nominated by each State Minister who is a member of the Australian Education Council;
2 members nominated by the Schools Commission; and ( 0 such number of other members, not being more than 3, as is from time to time determined by the Governor-General by notice published in the Gazette.’.
I do not want to spend long in discussing this matter. I have referred to the point I made in my speech on behalf of the Opposition during the second reading debate. The Bill details in clause
I I the composition of the Council of the Centre. The Council is to include a member nominated by the Secretary of the Department of Education, 3 members nominated by the Australian Education Council, 2 members nominated by the Schools Commission and between four and nine other members. The Minister gave the explanation which the Opposition expected him to give. All I can say is that the Opposition would urge the Minister to examine again the arguments which support the view that those who operate the large education departments within the States should be given an opportunity to nominate members to the Council. It always appears to be acceptable to this Government that a secretary of a department here in Canbera can nominate, that a schools commission established in Canberra can nominate and that the Minister in Canberra can nominate, but give that power of nomination to anyone else and the Government is opposed to the idea.
The Minister made one or two points with regard to lack of flexibility. The Opposition feels sure that flexibility could be introduced into the concept if one looked at the numbers on the Council. Our principal point is to urge the Government again to look at this question and to see whether that wide range of Australian expertise could not be mobilised just as effectively, indeed more effectively, by allowing the Ministers of Education in the States to nominate experts whom they consider could serve well this Curriculum Development Centre. What special position are we placed in here in Canberra always to select the best group of people to form such a council? The Opposition urges the Minister not to see those people who would be nominated by the Ministers of Education in the States as being there as representatives or delegates. Such a method of promotion is a means of pooling the wide resources available in the community as it allows nomination by others who have a deep concern in the development of curriculum programs for use in the Australian education system.
– I have pointed out that the 6 Australian State Ministers, with myself, form the Australian Education Council and that that Education Council will choose 3 members of the Curriculum Development Centre Council. The State Ministers are happy about this. I cannot understand why, if the honourable gentleman wanted each of the 6 States to be represented, he did not eliminate the reference to the Australian Education Council. I do not see the point in the State Ministers getting representatives in 2 ways and getting 9 representatives on the Council.
– If the amendment would be acceptable to you in that way -
-Yes; I would much rather have the State Ministers collectively picking the experts whom they know to be the best rather than have each State Department of Education nominating its pea. If that were done, I do not think the same sort of quality would be achieved as would be achieved with the 6 State Ministers getting together to pick out the 3 men- after all, the Council is not big enough to justify morewhom they, as a consensus among themselves, regard as the top men in the country. I have had experience in State education departments and I know that the tendency would be for people who have come to the top of the machine to be nominated because it is the formal sense. If the State Ministers were giving their minds to quality, I would be much happier about it.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill, including postponed clause 3- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Beazley)- by leaveread a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5 March on motion by Mr Beazley.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill we are discussing is designed to establish a Technical and Further Education Commission. The Opposition will support the second reading of the Bill, as it believes that the Commission should be established. However, in the Committee stages of the Bill the Opposition will seek to amend clause 9, and I will refer in a moment to our reasons for so doing. In his second reading speech the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) told the House that the Commission to be established by the Bill would be the fourth and last of a series of commissions to be established to advise the Government on the needs and priorities in the various sectors of education.
It should be noted that the Universities Commission has been in existence for a period considerably longer than the present Government, as has the Commission on Advanced Education. The Schools Commission is, of course, of more recent origin. The existence of these 3 Commissions has made it increasingly urgent for the Government to promote legislation to establish some form of commission to deal with and have concern for technical and further education. To have failed to do so would have been to leave technical and further education as the Cinderella of education. Mr M. H. Bone, Director of Further Education in South Australia, has said:
We who have been the Cinderella of education have at last been invited to the ball, and I feel assured that, even when midnight comes, we will not return to the past.
It is public awareness of the role of technical and further education that will assure it of a permanent place in the education system. It is the establishment of this Commission which will provide a guarantee that it will remain on an equal footing with other areas of post-school education. Honourable members of this House would be aware that the establishment of a permanent commission was recommended by the Kangan Committee. The Commission to be established would have among its functions the responsibility of giving the Government advice on the general development of technical and further education. The Commission is to consist of a chairman, a deputy chairman and such other members not being fewer than five nor more than ten as are from time to time prescribed.
The Opposition wants to draw to the notice of the House what should be well known: That the States have a vital interest in technical and further education. In fact, most of the technical and further education in Australia is provided by State government institutes and institutions. If development of education in this field is to be as significant as it should be, the States must be fully involved. It is our view that this can best be achieved by ensuring that they have a direct role to play in the work of the Commission. This can be achieved by allowing each of the States to nominate a member of the Commission. Such nominee need not necessarily be an education administrator. Preferably, the nominees will be persons who have the most to contribute to the development of technical and further education.
At a later stage in the debate I will move an amendment to enable each State Minister to nominate a member of this Commission, and the Opposition urges the Government seriously to consider accepting that amendment. If it does, it will enable the States to play a real part in the development of technical and further education. We are aware of the Government’s previous attitude to this sort of proposal. We urge it to review its approach and call upon it to acknowledge the merits of the arguments in favour of including a nominee of each of the State Ministers of Education. There is no need for these nominees to act as delegates or representatives in any restricting or inhibiting way. The Minister will, I know, claim that he will appoint those with talent and experience to contribute most to technical and further education development. He will deny that his appointees will act merely as his agents or delegates. If he is correct- and I hope he isthere is no reason why the primary role of the nominees of the State Ministers should be any different from that of those he will appoint.
I do not intend on this occasion to discuss in detail the wide range of issues raised by the Kangan report, although there are some matters to which I will refer. First, it should be noted that some time has now elapsed since many of the recommendations in that report were implemented. This has enabled those working in the field to have an opportunity to comment constructively on the operation of those recommendations. Concern has been expressed at the necessary inflexibility of the grants for special projects. The Kangan Committee proposed that specific tied grants were to be available to States which are waiting to use them only for the purposes intended by the Committee’s recommendations. As a result, State authorities have no flexibility to develop programs that might be more relevant to their needs than those specified in the grants. It will be most unfortunate if a lack of flexibility and a lack of local discretion restrains the responsive growth of technical and further education opportunities that should be and are made available to the communities in each of the States. Secondly, it should be acknowledged that one of the greatest contributions to the development of technical and further education made by the Kangan Committee was that it underlined and reinforced the changing emphasis that has been apparent in technical and further education on the inclusion and expansion of a general content in courses that formerly were purely technical in content.
It is essential that, if technical education is to make an effective contribution in the educational field, this process of expanding the content to include both a general content and a technical content be continued. The serious disadvantages of technical education in the old sense in which training was interpreted are now increasingly understood. If technical education is confined to training in narrowly direct skills, those who take such courses may suffer loss of opportunity of employment of a vocational skill as a result of changing circumstances in the community. But the impact of a changing society on a tradesman with a redundant skill is far more serious if he concentrates on gaining a particular vocational skill with no general education. The result in these circumstances is that such a tradesman has no understanding of the nature of change in society and little or no capacity to adjust to that change.
Those who learn trade skills must also have the opportunity which will enable them better to adjust to changing circumstances. There is an urgent need for a change in the content of technical education so that it includes the optimum mix of vocational and general education. As a result of the general approach to technical and further education, the emphasis is now not merely on the attainment of skills but also on the development of the abilities of the student to his best advantage. Mr Bone, the Director of Further Education in South Australia, has described the change that has been occurring in this way:
The new concept of technical and further education is that it should offer more options for the individual than merely job opportunities. It should provide an opportunity for the development of character, judgment and adaptation to varying environments. It will help individuals and the community to welcome technological and social change rather than fear its consequences because they will be better equipped to cope with it.
The third matter to which I wish to refer relates to the training of apprentices. The House would be interested again in the view of Mr Bone on this matter. In an article which appeared in the February edition of the ‘Australian Technical Teacher’ he said:
Nowhere in technical and further education is discrimination in access more evident than in skilled training for apprentices. Access is restricted by age and adults are thus discouraged to learn or practise a trade skill. It is also restricted by the adherence to the belief that all trades require the same period of training for mastery. This is, of course, educationally insupportable and damns the whole clumsy system.
The Liberal and Country Parties recognise the importance of dedicated and highly skilled tradesmen. We want a full examination of apprentice and trade training schemes. We want these schemes to meet the needs of today’s society- a society whose needs are rapidly changing. It is our hope that the commission being set up under this Bill will accept the recommendations of the Kangan Committee on the desirability of skill training being made available to interested adults as well as to those who wish to enter apprenticeships on leaving school. In the past there have been many people who missed out in the normal process of education in training in a skill. When existing opportunities have passed them by these people have often sought training opportunities and found them unavailable. These people should be given a second chance. There are also many who, having trained in one discipline need, at a later age, to adapt that training to another skill. They too should be given every opportunity to do so.
Not only must skill training be made more widely available, so also must the content of these courses be adjusted to suit today’s society. The content of apprentice courses for school leavers as well as those for adults when available must take account of current needs. Today the school leaving age is higher than it was when the length of many apprenticeship courses was determined. School leavers now have a higher level of education. They have more highly developed learning skills. As a consequence they are able to attain an acceptable degree of competence after a shorter period of apprenticeship than was previously the case. Where this is shown to be the case the length of apprentice training should be reviewed. Where opportunities for skill training are made increasingly available to adults by way of original training or retraining the required length of training should take account of their experience and capacity to attain the required standards of competence in a shorter period than that traditionally necessary. Those with experience of adult life should be able to undertake apprenticeships that enable them to reach the required degree of skill without bonding them to a period of apprenticeship service more appropriate to the conditions of three or four decades ago.
The Liberal and Country Parties want to ensure that our work force is more adaptable. As a nation we in Australia could learn much in this regard from the experience of other countries such as Japan. If we fail to learn the lesson of adapting our attitude to skill training other nations which adjust to the changing needs of a technological age will gain a trading advantage and our tradesmen will find themselves skilled in redundant trades. There is an urgent need not only for more adequate promotion of adult apprenticeships and wider opportunities for retraining but also for the examination of the content and length of apprenticeship courses. Individuals should be able to seek better original training or retraining not only to further their changing interests and aspirations but also to seek better opportunities for themselves in a changing world. We recognise that in any development of adult apprenticeships there will be a need to safeguard the existing entry of young men and women into trades. In our view there is no doubt that only by an updated system of apprenticeships and improved training schemes for trainees of all ages will people be able to take maximum advantage of present and future employment opportunities whilst at the same time developing their talents to the full in a dynamic and changing society.
I mentioned earlier that the Minister had said in his second reading speech that this was the fourth and last of a series of commissions. An announcement made last week by the Minister makes me wonder whether this is so. The announcement related to the establishment by the Minister of a committee of post-secondary education in Tasmania. The committee is to review post-secondary education.
– This is at the request of the Tasmanian Government and 3 commissions are involved in it.
-It may have been at the request of the Tasmanian Government, but it is significant that the committee has been set up and that it is to include the Chairman of the Universities Commission, Professor Karmel; the Chairman of the Commission on Advanced Education, Mr T. B. Swanson; and the Chairman of the Committee on Technical and Further Education, Associate Professor E. Richardson.
– It is not a committee of postsecondary education. It is a committee to examine the needs of north and north-west Tasmania for post secondary education.
-The Minister interrupts. He is trying to narrow down the responsibility of the committee. According to his Press statement, the committee is to give particular attention to 5 matters. I think it is important that the House should understand the matters that the committee is looking at. Firstly, it is to look at possible changes in present institutions and the development of new types of institutions to meet educational and cultural needs.
– In Tasmania.
– There is no reference to Tasmania. Secondly, it is to look at the principles that should govern access to post-secondary education and the transfer of students between institutions. Thirdly, it is to look at the proper provisions of tertiary education for nonmetropolitan areas of the State. That is the first reference to Tasmania. Fourthly, it is to look at the possibility of sharing facilities and, fifthly, the means for future co-ordination and planning to ensure efficient and balanced development. One could well ask whether the committee, high powered as it is, is really examining a whole series of questions that effect the development of post-secondary education throughout the nation. When the committee through the mouth of the Minister invites written submissions from interested individuals -
– In Tasmania.
-One could well ask whether interested individuals on the mainland should express a view as to the development of possible changes in the present institutions, having in mind that this appears to be a general examination into the whole broad question of university education, advanced education, and technical and further education. The committee, made up of the chairmen of 3 important commissions, one of which is to be established by the Bill we are discussing tonight -
– Why do you not also mention the Director of Education in Tasmania and stop misrepresenting the body?
– I have no intention to misrepresent the composition of the body. It is true that the Director of Education in Tasmania is on the committee, but I still raise the question whether the issues to be examined by this committee are uniquely limited to the geographical, demographic and educational requirements of Tasmania.
– Yes, they are. They are the complaints of north Tasmania and west Tasmania.
– It is interesting to hear the Minister’s statement that the brief this committee has is uniquely limited to Tasmania. It was my point in raising the issue tonight to ascertain what the Minister had in mind, because if it was intended that the committee should examine the whole inter-relationship of university education, advanced education, and technical and further education, the committee should not start its activities in one State alone. There may be very good reason why the whole question of the integration and inter-relationship of education in the post-secondary area should be thoroughly examined to see whether there is adequate opportunity for transfer between -
– It is Mr Batt’s committee and the personnel are assigned at his request.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister discontinue his argument and allow the honourable member to make his speech, correctly or incorrectly.
– It is very interesting.
– Yes, it is very interesting, I think, to raise the question of the extent to which this committee is going to be looking at questions which have far wider implications than the Minister is now suggesting, or was implied by the occasional reference in his statement to the circumstances that have arisen in Tasmania. But there was no detailing of the circumstances of the problems so far as northern Tasmania is concerned.
Whilst one can now understand, because of the interjections of the Minister, how the establishment of this committee has come about, I think it is not unreasonable to ask whether we should not seek to review possible changes in present institutions in the 3 areas of postsecondary education on the mainland as well as in Tasmania and whether we should not look at the question of the principles that govern access to post-secondary education on the mainland as well as in Tasmania. The question I ask is: Will this committee be prepared to hear submissions from those who have a general interest in the question of changes in present institutions that provide post-secondary education and in identifying the principles that should govern access to those institutions? The Minister has indicated that he sees this committee as having very narrow responsibilities. I thank him for the interjections that he has made.
The Opposition supports the establishment of the Commission that is proposed in this Bill and . hopes that through the Commission the opportunities that arise for those who would seek to further their education in the technical and further education fields will be expanded as a result of the work of the Commission. The Opposition would urge that the Minister once again give serious consideration to an inclusion of the involvement of the States in the composition of the Commission.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) on his appointment as the Opposition spokesman on education in this House and I wish him many long and interesting years in that capacity. I think that much of what he has contributed on the Bill provides legitimate areas for nonpartisan discussion. What he had to say was quite useful commentary. There are 2 areas that he has raised with which I cannot agree. Firstly there is his amendment which shows the obsession that he has that the States should as of right have a representative on the Technical and Further Education Commission. This is a procedure that we have not followed with other commissions. It is a procedure which would open the way to all other sorts of interest groups demanding that their rights for representation should also be written into the legislation. I think that this would produce a situation of inflexibility and would lead to results which we would not desire. If the honourable member is worried about what will happen to the State systems of education, I suggest the recommendations and reports of this Commission and the States’ attitudes to them and, I am sure, acceptance of them, will be full answer that they will be satisfied with the way that it operates.
As to the honourable member’s suspicion of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) as being the last of the Tasmanian devils. I think that the Minister answered by interjection the argument that the honourable member put for a very specialised committee which would look into a very restricted area. One welcomes the fact that finally the legislation for the Technical and Further Education Commission has reached the House. The other related commissions- the Schools Commission, the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education- are all well and truly established and functioning as permanent bodies. Admittedly the Technical and Further Education Commission has been functioning in an interim manner. It is to be hoped that, although this is the last of the major educational commissions to attain permanent status, this fact will not mean that the Commission will be the least or the Cinderella of the group.
Honourable members will recall that the Interim Committee on Technical and Further Education was appointed by the present Australian Minister for Education on 26 April 1973. On 5 April 1974 this Committee, known as the Kangan Committee, presented its report. It is only proper at this stage that I should invite honourable members to reflect on the extent of that report. The Committee had had over 200 submissions from organisations and individuals covering a very wide scope. Trade unions, teacher organisations, employer organisations, government bodies, etc., felt it worth while to make submissions to that Committee. Underlying the submissions was a general concensus that in this field educational opportunities should be specific and meaningful. It was of the utmost importance that these educational opportunities should be accessible at whatever time or stage of life they would be of use.
Historically those in the technical field have always been the battlers of the education system. In Victoria there developed rather earlier than elsewhere a large technical system. One of the problems of this system was its too early streaming. One can note historically with some satisfaction the development of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology whose original function was delineated in its early name, the Workingmen’s College, then becoming the Melbourne Technical College, and finally becoming the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, a member of the Victorian Institute of Colleges. This institution played a magnificent role in bringing hundreds of thousands of full and part time students whom it trained into appropriate occupations and gave them further education generally. It represents one of the systems of development in this country.
Different systems have developed in different States and this sometimes leads to a misunderstanding of systems that are operating. The Commission proposed by this legislation may break down some of the existing conventional barriers. There are 4 factors that will lead to the increased use of technical and further education. There is the present youthfulness of the population of which some 46 per cent are under the age of 25 years. Secondly, there is the spreading concern that educational effort should be linked with the particular goal of securing satisfying occupations. Very noticeably there is the still growing participation of married women in the labour force. They offer a potential for increasing the proportion of the population with formal training.
The final factor was adverted to by the Minister. The rapid rate of technological change during, say, my lifetime has seen a growing need for a number in the work force to be retrained for other occupations. There has also been a growth of aspirations in those of mature age who seek greater intellectual satisfaction and job opportunity and satisfaction. It will be certain that a high proportion of those now entering the work force will need and indeed will seek retraining during their working life.
There is another factor that we should not overlook. If one examines the activities of bodies such as the Council for Adult Education in Victoria one sees that there is also a need among people for the opportunity to do some study just for study’s sake, for intellectual satisfaction. Greater flexibility in the field of technical and further education will mean that this field will carry the brunt of demand from the factors that I have listed. One has only to look at the functions proposed for the Commission which are set out in clause 6 of the Bill to realise just what possibilities there are in the functioning of this Commission to provide opportunities for the community.
There are a- couple of features in the educational field that disturb me. It seems to me that we are orientating the aspirations of our young people to seeing the possession of a piece of paper stating that they have a degree, diploma or certificate in some specific area as the ultimate end of the educational process. It will be difficult to reverse this attitude. The educational first phase should be to prepare a well adjusted individual with a developed community sense and an attainable job aspiration. This individual may not need to have any formal piece of paper. He may have gone through a series of disciplines or portions of disciplines. At the end of this phase there should be the opportunity to take education further in a particular area or series of areas. This could be done immediately or at any stage of life.
My other concern is that when this Bill is passed and four Commissions are set up, the Parliament should not just leave this as a static arrangement. The Commissions have considerable potential for innovation and ongoing reviews. I welcome this. However, their reports and their progress should be a matter of continuing examination by the Parliament. Ultimately Parliament must accept responsibility for educational change. It must not be afraid, with changing circumstances, to adjust the nature of the Commissions and the interplay of their functions. For example, technical teachers’ organisations have expressed some disappointment about this Commission, the Technical and Further Education Commission. This probably arises because, as I have said before, it is the last of the educational commissions to be ratified. As yet, the finance processes and recommendations of the Interim Commission have not become obvious.
Two of the criticisms are concerned with communicationthat is, knowing what is going on and what is expected of the organisations- and also the question of teacher participation in the programs. I think that this question of communication is probably one of the problems that most Government bodies have; that is, letting those interested in the field concerned know the intentions and what is going on. I do not speak only of teachers’ organisations in this regard because there are many other bodies concerned. Factors such as this are proper matters for us to consider in the future when we see the progress that is being made.
I warmly support the setting up of the Technical and Further Education Commission. We will watch with interest the make-up of the Commission and the programs it recommends for initiation. I am sure that the procedure laid down for reports to the Minister and for his presentation of those reports to the Parliament will allow members of the Parliament to examine these matters closely in the future. We wish the Technical and Further Education Commission well when this legislation is passed.
-The Technical and Further Education Commission was envisaged by the Kangan Committee. It will place the recipients of technical education and further education on an equal footing or near equal footing with the other arms of tertiary education. There are approximately 500 000 such students and in money terms they receive roughly one-fifth as much as a student at a college of advanced education. I am not suggesting that the value of education can be measured in money terms but merely adding a little emphasis to the oft made claim that this is a Cinderella group. The role of the Technical and Further Education Commission should be that of an advisory body and an encouraging body. I do not see its proper role as that of dictating in detail to the hopefully various diverse institutions that will provide this educational facility. It should be advisory to the Commonwealth, the States and the private institutions. It should deal in priorities in that it should define them and advise the States on what it believes would be proper priorities. But it should advise the States and it should not impose these priorities upon the States. It should set standards in that these are a useful discipline. They provide definition. They let various organisations know where they stand in relation to other organisations. But I state again that it should not impose standards. If it does so the community will be that much the poorer by the lack of diversity and opportunity for its individual members.
The Commission should assist in the transfer of pupils between States and between systems. It should make it possible or should provide advice to make it possible for there to be a sufficient common stream so that a student who transfers from one system to another will have the opportunity, and those who will teach him will have the opportunity, of matching what he has learnt to what he will learn. The Commission should be an encouraging body in that it will balance the lobbies that must inevitably compete for funds, teachers and facilities generally between the various arms of tertiary education. It should not attempt to deal in detail. The States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill clearly did deal in detail. Therefore, I have a suspicion that this Commission will inevitably deal in detail that will not benefit technical and further education in Australia. The States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill provided for minor building projects. It defined a minor building project as anything costing over $2,000 up to a major building project. It clearly envisaged the imposition of considerable detail- minute detail- upon the various State authorities. The Technical and Further Education Commission will be dealing in this detail so long as funds are provided in this detail. It is my firm belief that if it tries to impose that sort of detail we will get a common- not necessarily efficient- restrictive educational system.
The present situation envisages 6 different State systems, four of them under the umbrella of the State education departments and in New South Wales and South Australia systems that are not under the umbrella of the State education departments. The Commission will need to be flexible enough to deal with such diversity and to preserve that diversity as the States and the people in those States would wish to conduct their own affairs. In paragraph 5.1 on page 200 of its report the Kangan Committee speaks of the status of the Commission. It clearly sees a commission that is not unduly centralised. It states: 5.1 The constitutional responsibility for technical and further education in the States rests with the State Governments and so also does the financial commitment. The Committee considers that action to centralise further the control of TAFE would be unrealistic and should be avoided. The structure of the Commission should facilitate consultation with and among the States- we believe that this consultation will be made easier, more obvious and more rapid if those States are directly represented on the Commission; hence the amendments we have foreshadowed.
Clause 6 (1) (b) and (c) mentions standards and needs. It is not clear to me just what is meant by needs. I can see how the Commission would seek to set standards and that these would be arbitrary decisions made by the Commission that will be guidelines for people who deal with the Commission. But when the clause mentions needs I think we come to an area that has become completely meaningless. One cannot say that something is needed. One sanctifies a demand merely by using the word ‘need’. There is no end to what might be provided to improve education. We can set arbitrary standards and we should set arbitrary standards, but when we speak of them as needs we run the risk of denying ourselves the opportunity of looking at a project against the calls of other sections of the community. By using that word we sanctify the proposal so that the community will demand that it be serviced over and above all other wishes and desires of the community. In the end this leads to waste because we cannot look at any item of expenditure but in relation to other items of expenditure.
Finally, I urge those who will be dealing with technical and further education to be very careful not to do anything that might in any way damage the morale of the organisations we have now, for poor as they have been they have a morale that is not evident in all areas of education. If one visits an institution providing technical education one will find that those teaching and those learning are very enthusiastic about what they are doing. I have the fear that if we impose a centralistic control upon these people they will lose some of this enthusiasm and that pupils and the community will be the poorer for it.
– I do not often have the opportunity to speak on an education Bill but I have entered this debate for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is my great pleasure that going through this Australian Parliament is another measure which shows the Labor Government’s strong commitment to technical and further education. I say another measure because, as I shall show later, this Bill is just a further manifestation of the Government’s policy. Secondly, there is my awareness that this has been a relatively neglected field where there are enormous needs and where it is so clear that the expenditure of public funds will result in easily identified dividends- indeed, will result in benefits which are very clear and will be recognised by the community.
I am not impressed by the contributions from the Opposition so far in this debate. It seems to me-1 am sure I will be excused for feeling thisthat members of the Opposition have their usual hang-ups about State rights. We had so many years of a lack of action in a field where there is so much to be done, yet when we now have a government which is acting in this field we find a certain amount of nitpicking going on about what the States want and how they might be upset. 1 have no wonder that the right honourable member for Higgins, Mr Gorton, is still writing articles about how his Party is going wrong in this sphere of action, as is being exemplified by what is being done by the Australian Labor Government as opposed, I repeat, to the nitpicking that is going on about State rights on the other side of the chamber.
The third reason I am entering the debate is that I have had a number of years of involvement in adult education in South Australia on a voluntary basis working on the executive of the Workers Education Association of South Australia. Indeed, 1 have been fortunate to attain the positions of Chairman and President of that Association and I look forward to having something to say about the adult education aspect of the Bill later on. Remaining on this personal note, I add that time I have given voluntarily to adult education has been motivated in my case by the fact that I had received the greater part of my tertiary education as an adult part time student. As an aside I should like to take this opportunity of saying that I have a strong conviction that as a community we may perhaps allocate too many resources in an expensive way to full time education if indeed some of those resources could be allocated to part time education. I believe that mature students are not getting as fair a go in Australia at the moment as they should be, not because of any action of the Government but because of actions in universities in many cases, and in some of the institutions they are not being given the same opportunities to work on a part time basis to get their education.
That explains briefly why I have entered the debate to support the second reading of the Bill. I make it clear that this Bill is merely, as I said earlier, another stage in the development which the Australian Labor Government had already commenced. As has been said already by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), in establishing this Commission we are merely giving effect to the fact that already an interim committee has been working for some time in this sphere- in fact, for 2 years, since April 1973. The States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act of 1974 was passed to fund work in this sphere from last July to next December. So this Bill is merely a further stage in a splendid set of achievements. 1 take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who is at the table, on his achievements in this sphere.
Another point worth mentioning, of course, is that the Commission to be set up by this Bill is part of the Australian Labor Government’s range of such independent expert bodies assessing matters and advising the Government on the needs and priorities in the various sectors of education. Others in this family are the Schools Commission, mainly focusing on primary and secondary education; the Universities Commission, focusing on one section of tertiary education; and the Commission on Advanced Education, focusing on another sector of tertiary education. Indeed only today we heard the second reading speech on a Bill adding another important commission to the list. I refer to the Children’s Commission. It is not entirely an education commission. It is partially an education commission and partially concerned with health and welfare and family care for children at the pre-school stage.
But I return to the family of education commissions which are purely educational. The Technical and Further Education Commission to be set up by this Bill may be the last to be established but, as will have already been demonstrated, in my view it is far from being the least important. It will be concerned with the quality of education that is to be received by approximately half a million students in our community. Of course it will be concerned with that education in a long underdeveloped area of technical and further education. I believe that it will give the same assurance of skilled and impartial consideration of the needs in this sphere as the other commissions have given to their particular spheres of education. In referring to the technical and further education sphere as an underdeveloped field I do not have to draw attention only to the amount of public expenditure on technical and further education compared with other areas of public expenditure in the fields of education. These figures for earlier years are available in the Kangan report.
Let me also remind the House of what is now well known and of what the Minister for Education reminded us in his second reading speech, namely, that people who are now entering the work force may well need retraining several times during their working lives. We live in an economy which must be ever responsive to changes in tastes. In fact this is one of the main virtues of our mixed economy. Industries will come and industries will go. We must set up improved structures for the training of citizens for new skills. The Minister said that we must remove barriers discouraging adults from further education and we must have particular regard for the needs of women, of country students, of migrants and of handicapped persons. The establishment of this Commission makes all that possible. It makes possible the building on the work of the Interim Committee. The Commission will be charged with the task of developing these ideals and concepts, of putting into effect this philosophy. In particular the Commission must foster opportunities for recurrent education.
Whilst devoting my attention to this philosophy let me make a number of other points arising from my experience and interest in this field. I have a list of subjects which I hope the Commission will be examining. Many of them come from the Kangan report and other reports. My first subject is ‘Emphasis’. Although industrial requirements should still be kept uppermost in mind, the Technical and Further Education Commission must, in my view, pay greater regard to individual needs and development. The Minister mentioned this in his speech. Vocational education ought to be broadened and become more general so that people may rapidly adapt to quickening technological and social change. The next subject is ‘Learning’. Traditional teaching methods such as chalkandtalk, examination, rigid syllabi and tight classroom attendance and discipline have deterred many mature adults from undertaking technical and further education courses. Learning media and external courses need to be developed to assist people to direct their own learning experience. Moves towards interstate equivalence of courses and qualifications will be attempted by the Technical and Further Education Commission, I am sure.
The third subject is ‘Entry Requirements’. Any tendency towards more stringent entry prerequisites must be reversed to enable easier student access to this technical and further education. I mentioned earlier the value of mature citizens receiving such education. Apprenticeship courses ought to be made more available for adults, in both openness and content. Bridging courses to make good deficiencies in early schooling experience should be introduced for people, particularly those in the lower income groups. The next subject is ‘Women’. Access to technical and further education by women can be enhanced by providing more in the way of appropriate physical and child care facilities, by arranging flexible timetables and by eliminating prejudice against their entry into manual trades. At the same time there should be no pressuresin fact by taxation and other policies we should be reducing the pressures- which lead women to want to enter the work force when they have children to look after, particularly children under the age of five.
I have a long list of subjects which I would have liked to mention and to which I hope the Commission will be devoting its attention, but I promised the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that my contribution would be short. To summarise, we have in this Bill the means of promoting the balanced development of technical and further education in Australia. The overall aim is equal opportunity for all. I commend the Minister for introducing this Bill. I hope that it will have a speedy passage and will soon be leading to great benefits for the Australian community.
-On behalf of the Opposition I wish to speak briefly in support of the establishment of the Technical and Further Education Commission. Also I support the proposal and the amendments put forward by the honourable member for Stun (Mr Wilson). As pointed out, this Commission is to be concerned not only with technical education but also with adult education in technical colleges. A most important area of concern for the Commission will be the fostering of opportunities for recurrent education. The report of the Interim Committee on technical and further education in Australia takes an important step in the direction of lifelong education and of opportunities for reentry into education. As the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) pointed out in his second reading speech, it also recommends unrestricted access for adults to vocationally oriented education. This should remove barriers discouraging adults and it should have particular regard for the needs of women, country students, migrants and handicapped persons.
Today there is no valid reason why we should be denying to technical education anything less in status or in government support than that which is so apparent today in other forms of post-secondary education. Nor is there any justification for the differences applying to students in the technical and non-technical situations except in relation to curricula and perhaps basic entry requirements. In this regard the Kangan report has drawn attention to the fact that almost 70 per cent of men and over 80 per cent of women in the Australian work force have no formal educational qualifications for the trade or occupation in which they are engaged and that these people do not have anything approaching equality of access to vocational education with those who are preparing for a livelihood by attendance at a university or, in more recent times, at a college of advanced education.
The report also notes that whilst technical and further education is an integral component of the national resources that make for technological development, for a skilled and mobile labour force or in fact for personal work satisfaction and economic growth, nevertheless it does not yet appear to rank officially as an integral part of the nation’s economic system. The historic fact is that technical education, unlike other forms of post-secondary education, has always been separate from the mainstream of general education. Students desiring to enter a profession generally seek tertiary qualifications as a preparation for employment whereas just the opposite seems to apply in the case of students desiring to enter a trade or other sub-professional occupation where employment becomes a prerequisite to technical education. Beyond doubt there is a case for equality of status and financial assistance for technical education in the overall scheme of things.
Let me just for a moment consider the defined area of influence of the proposed Technical and
Further Education Commission. In a sense this involves a very wide ambit of a persons educational needs, related as it is to the all important factor of employment which more and more in the years to follow is likely to dictate priorities in government expenditures on education. I believe that it is most important that as governments expand educational opportunities they should not neglect- as is perhaps being done- the development of job opportunities. It is of little use for one to be fully qualified yet not find a job or a place of employment once one’s education has ceased. I look forward to the extent to which this Bill develops the concept of community colleges in country centres and introduces student residences. As a country member of Parliament I believe that this is one area in our education system that should be greatly upgraded. There should be residences not only for students who live in the outback of our nation but also for teachers. Teachers’ residences throughout some areas of my electorate in particular, I note, are very sadly lacking. If we are to attract not only married teachers but also single teachers to the rural areas it is absolutely vital that accommodation be one of the areas in which the Technical and Further Education Commission and other commissions should take a very real interest.
It has been mentioned that at the present time about 500 000 young people are in institutions of education not assisted by the universities, the colleges of advanced education or the Schools Commission. I believe that this Bill will go a long way towards assisting those half a million people to have their needs met in the same way as students involved in other forms of education throughout the country have their needs met. Of course, the most important aspect of this Bill is that it will cater also for the needs of recurrent education. That is something for which the whole population of Australia is looking at a time when technological developments have made more leisure time available. People are now looking to their future needs, and their future needs will best be served if they can re-enter the education process and develop those skills that they had neither the opportunity to develop in the past nor the financial means of doing. I add my support for this Bill. I believe that it is completely necessary that the States do not reduce their commitment to technical education because the Australian Government has a larger involvement in it. It is vital that both the State and Federal Governments co-operate in the field of technical education as in any other form of education. On behalf of the Australian Country Party, I support this Bill, qualifying my support for it by the acceptance by the Government of the amendments.
– 1 also have given an undertaking not to speak at length on this Bill because of the pressure of other business, but I would like to express my wholehearted support for it. As has been stated a number of times already, this Bill is yet another important contribution by the Whitlam Government to the development of educational opportunities for a very wide variety of people in Australia. It will create not only further opportunities but also continuing opportunities, or what is called recurrent education. The Bill will make it possible for people who might have missed out on the opportunity previously or who might not have felt the need for training previously to come back at some later stage in their life and take up either a technical college course or a course in some institute of further education.
I would like to emphasise a few points that have occurred to me. Firstly I want to comment on the hang-up, as it has been called, among members of the Opposition regarding centralisation in Canberra. I have nothing to add to what I said about this matter this afternoon when debating another Bill. We heard it said that the Schools Commission was going to be a highly centralised system in Canberra. It has turned out to be anything but that. As a matter of fact the Australian Government, by coming in with a national effort on behalf of education, has created more opportunities for diversity, innovation and improvisation than we ever knew before. There is more experimentation in education today than there has ever looked like being at any time in our history. Here we have another opportunity being provided in the field of education in terms of technical education. As one who has had some professional association with technical education I say that this Bill is well overdue.
If there is one area of the field of education in Australia that can be branded as the Cinderella of education it is in fact technical education. Many of the buildings in which technical education takes place resemble some of the dingy factories from which the apprentices come to do their part time training. The conditions under which training is conducted in technical colleges is in many cases to be absolutely deplored. I will grant that the newer technical colleges that have come into being are a vast improvement. They are a joy for any teacher to teach in and for students to learn in. But there are all too many technical education institutions that still have dingy, noisy, illventilated premises and obsolete machinery when in fact they should be giving the lead to industrial development in the community. They have all those disadvantages and they have gone on for quite a long time in that state. Is it any wonder that there has been the wastage that has occurred in the field of technical education. I think that the number of students who undertake technical education courses and who do not complete them easily exceeds the proportion in any other form of education in Australia; yet, as we have been reminded by other speakers, technical education caters for more students than any other form of education in Australia. Approximately half a million students attend technical education in one form or another. If one adds to that the other institutions conducting further education, one starts to appreciate how important is this Bill. 1 have spoken about the disabilities in terms of buildings, machinery and so on. There are also the disabilities so far as the teachers are concerned. I hope that the technical education teachers will not take offence when I say that they are probably less professionally prepared for their job than most other teachers. That is no fault of those teachers. In most cases in my own State of New South Wales a person is selected because of his skill in the content of his subject and is put before a class before he has had virtually any teacher training. Those people do their teacher training concurrently with their first and second years of teaching. There is then a wastage among many of those teachers who have to deal with the young adolescents who, with all their vim and freshness, can make it very difficult for a teacher who has had little training in the subject of teaching. So there is a fairly high turnover of teachers for that reason.
One of the other notable features of this Bill is that it does not look at technical and further education in the narrow sense of turning out people just to serve the needs of industry. It provides for the turning out of citizens who have had their education rounded off. Its provisions do not necessarily apply only to young citizens. I believe that there are people as old as 70 and 80 years of age who are today attending certain courses at technical colleges. The emphasis is being given to continuing on the general educational strand as well as the technical or vocational strand of education. I hope the House will forgive me if I concentrate my remarks mainly on technical rather than further education. Because of the pressure of time, I have no alternative but to do so.
Technical education teachers are now becoming better prepared for their task. A commission of inquiry is investigating that very matter at the present time. They can now attend not only to the vocational training of their students but also to their social development, to their intellectual development and to the development of their personalities. I hope that the teachers will give more attention to the physical development of their students as well. If there is one notable feature about a technical college campus it is the lack in many cases of opportunity for extra curricula activities to be indulged in. One may do so at a university, although some universities are deficient in that regard. One usually finds more generous sporting ovals, gymnasiums and so on at colleges of advanced education because by and large they happen to be new institutions. But technical education is by its very nature, because of the fact that in many cases persons attend such institutions on a part time basis and often at night after a day’s work, denied the kind of opportunity of social contact and the kind of social development that one would wish it to have.
I hope also that the community will adopt a different and more favourable attitude to technical education. It seems to be the last resort among parents. At the end of a child’s school career, whether it be terminated at fourth form, sixth form or some earlier stage, parents seem in many cases to look at everything else before they look at technical education and, if everything else fails, to say: ‘We had better try to see whether he can do a trade or some kind of certificate course’. Let us recognise that the economic and social fabric of this country is very dependent indeed upon technical education. Our society is becoming more industrialised every day. The people who attend technical colleges have to play their part as much as any other citizen in the social work of the community. Therefore it is so important that people get away from the idea of drawing distinctions between blue collar and white collar workers. Great respect should be shown to the people who, in many cases under conditions of hardship, go through a technical education course. As I have said, in many cases those courses are conducted on a part time basis at night after a day’s work. The need for technicians and technologists as well as tradesmen in our community is increasing all the time and, quite frankly, there are very remunerative opportunities for people who persist and who complete those courses. The Kangan report referred to some of the other deficiencies in technical education and further education. It was found that the needs of handicapped people were overlooked in terms of buildings, for instance. It is pretty nearly impossible for somebody with some kind of physical disability to be able to even move around in a technical college.
The courses were seen as unfair because of the age limits. We have had our phobia that only people under 1 8 or so can enter trades courses. I hope again our community attitudes are going to change. I hope trade unions’ attitudes will change, and I say that as a Labor man. I hope that employers will be given greater encouragement also to take on older people who may have missed out on the opportunity for a trades course in their earlier years and ended up being labourers. I hope that they get the chance to be released from industry and to go back. It would be not only in the interests of the individual; it would also be in the interests of the community itself. I am glad to see that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), along with the Minister for Education, is paying attention to that aspect as well. There are other disabilities. Women have great difficulty. There is a tradition in this country that women do not take on trades courses. They seem to be barred from them. Yet in the few cases that they have taken them on they have excelled. In some cases they have topped the engineering course and trade courses allied to it.
I have been given an indication that my speaking time has almost expired.There are so many things listed in the Kangan report that need attention that I hope it will be given diligent attention by the new Commission. I hope that the teachers who teach in technical education particularly will benefit by the inquiry that is coming near to finality now under the chairmanship of a very distinguished gentleman, Dr Sam Cohen, of Macquarie University who is also a member of the Commission on Advanced Education.
I hope that there will be benefit from the $250,000 that the Minister for Education has made available for research into all sorts of alternatives in technical and further education. These were only announced on 7 April, and there are some very interesting projects that people are undertaking. Not very much research has been done in any of our education but probably least of all in technical education. Technical education, which should give leadership to industry, often lags behind industry, and there is less respect by the apprentices who attend it because of that state of affairs. I hope this Bill will help rectify that state and give an impetus that technical education and further education deserve.
-in reply- I am sorry that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) is not present, because I think he has a fundamental misconception of this Bill. The Technical and Further Education Commission in this respect is not comparable to the Commission on Advanced Education or the Universities Commission but is comparable to the Schools Commission. In the cases of universities and colleges of advanced education, we are totally financing them from the Commonwealth. With the Schools Commission and the Technical and Further Commission, in the words of Mr Willis, the Minister for Education in New South Wales, we are only putting icing sugar on the cake. It is true that $780m for schools is pretty thick icing sugar and $1 15m for technical colleges is reasonably thick icing sugar, but I agree with Mr Willis, the basic cake is the States’, so all this talk of the honourable member for Moore about our controlling technical education in the States is quite absurd. It is Commonwealth grants on top of what the State is doing that we are talking about. That is the first aspect.
Secondly, we say to the States: ‘If you want to make technical colleges free, we grant the money for it’. They do not have to make technical colleges free. Their great freedom is not impaired. They can go on charging fees if they like. We say to the States: ‘Technical colleges have no residential colleges attached to them. If you want to build them, there is a certain amount of finance available to build them ‘. Some of them are not interested in building them and, therefore, will not be providing any residential colleges attached to technical colleges. The machinery in technical colleges, according to Kangan, is obsolete in many cases. If they want to modernise their machinery, the grant is for that purpose. In other words, a Commonwealth commission looked at certain needs- I am sorry if an honourable gentleman opposite objects to the wordthat were glaringly obvious. There is sheer physical danger to life and limb from fire hazards and from inability to have proper exits in certain of the technical colleges of Australia. This situation would not be tolerated in any industries. They were not making recommendations about the whole structure of technical education in the States but about certain obvious needs.
The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has spoken of a lack of flexibility. I do not know about the flexibility in actually appointing a commission, but I ask honourable members to consider the lack of flexibility with respect to the administration. For the purposes of section 15, the States may apply the money to any of the following purposes for recurrent grants:
Except for the certain things that were patently obvious needs, not on our assessment but on the evidence presented by the States themselves, for which money was granted- and they chose to make their technical colleges free- these alternative programs, and not their whole basic structure of technical education, are aspects that they may choose. Alternatively they may choose the lot.
Our predecessors in government made a grant of $36m to technical education over a triennium. We added $ 10m to that grant. Of that $46m in 3 years, 3 States could not spend the money. They could not spend $46m in 3 years. They now have on offer $115m in 2 years. I am not going to name the State, but its Director of Planning of Technical Education said to me: ‘Excepting where you have specified a particular course of action, we are not going to be able to spend your money because we have no plans’. That was his statement. We are not interfering with whatever they have to do. We are making recommendations for additional grants.
These are subventions from the Commonwealth Treasury to the States. I know that, like gramophone needles that are hitting the same crack the whole time, we hear cries of ‘centralisation’ and ‘bureaucracy’. I do not spend the money. The money is granted to the States. In all of our educational programs we are not spending the money. It is granted to universities, colleges of advanced education, and Catholic education authorities. There never was a more decentralised expenditure in history. And as for bureaucracy, a State Minister carries out his educational programs on the advice of his Director of Education, who is one of his employees. But these Commissioners, who come from all over this beautiful Commonwealth of ours, and virtually none of whom are my employees, make recommendations about subventions out of the Commonwealth Treasury for educational purposes. They are not beholden to me. Even when I pay his salary no one would suggest that Professor Karmel was beholden to me. They are totally independent statutory commissions and there is no bureaucracy involved in it.
I leave that aside. Now we are told that although the Liberal-Country Party Government was far too sensible when it was in office to appoint to the Universities Commission or the Commission of Advanced Education, which could recommend grants of money from the Commonwealth Treasury, anybody who was said to be a representative of a State governmentalthough universities and colleges of advanced education are not strictly State institutions; they are supposed to be independent and autonomous once the Crown has established them through a State- here is a proposition that a body to make grants to the States, to give access to the Commonwealth Treasury, should be studded with representatives of State Governments. I do not know whether honourable members have an inkling of what sort of requests that States are making to the Commissions. If the States were to put all their members on this Commission to say: ‘Yes, yes, yes, the States can have it’, I should hate to see what would happen to the Commonwealth Treasury. It reminds me of a hymn of my childhood: ‘Oh happy band of pilgrims, look upward to the skies, where such a light affliction will win so great a prize’. Of course, that would be the position with State people giving the evidence on what they wanted from the Commonwealth and then jumping over to the other side and saying: ‘Yes, certainly you can have it. Here is the key to the Commonwealth Treasury’. I think the Government would have a very exciting time and that honourable gentlemen opposite would have quite a lot to say about it. All I can say is that when it was in office the present Opposition had too much common sense to put up the proposals that it is now putting in Opposition, and I warmly commend them in office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
) The Commission shall consist of-
Omit sub-clause ( 1 ), substitute the following sub-clause:
1 ) The Commission shall consist of-
a Deputy Chairman;
1 member from each State nominated by the Minister of the State concerned responsible for education; and
such number of other members, if any, not being more than 4, as is from time to time prescribed. ‘
I outlined the purpose of this amendment in my speech during the second reading debate. The amendment deals with the composition of the Commission and seeks to have the Commission composed of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman, one member from each State nominated by the Minister of the State concerned responsible for education, and such other members, if any, not being more than four, as are for the time being prescribed. I put the arguments in support of the amendment during the second reading debate and I not intend to detain the House in the Committee stage, except to reaffirm the Opposition’s view that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) always tends to misinterpret a proposal by presuming that it is the intention of the Opposition that those members appointed to a commission under an amendment such as this should necessarily be there as the delegates or representatives of those Ministers. That is not the intention of the proposal.
The proposal has in mind that Ministers of Education in the States also could make competent selections of highly skilled people who could make a real contribution to the development of technical and further education. Just as the Minister himself seeks to find, by looking around Australia, the most able people to make a real contribution, as he did in the case of the Kangan Committee, so it is the Opposition’s views that Ministers of Education in the States would approach this matter with a degree of responsibility. In this way, because of their deep and increasing involvement in this area of education, they would feel more involved by playing a part in the selection of members of this Commission. The Opposition urges the Minister to reconsider its views and does not propose to prolong the debate any further.
- Mr Chairman, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Government is never unmindful of State expertise, and on the Interim Committee there are three State Directors of Technical Education. Other members of the Committee are from the technical teachers’ organisation and some have an expertise in technical education in the universities. But this mandatory provision that the Opposition proposes would have six such people from the States appointed by the State Ministers, which would mean that the Committee would take on the character of a State body. The three State Directors of Education on the Interim Committee have expertise in the total funding of a State and can assess the gaps and weaknesses in the education system of another State. The process is very similar in Tasmania now. The honourable gentleman opposite has been accusing me virtually of being in some dire plot in Tasmania. As far as yours truly is concerned, I would have had the State Director of Technical Education from Western Australia and a number of other State people ask their State Governments to second them to investigate the problem in Tasmania, which is simply what I recounted previously. There is a widespread resentment in the north of Tasmania because it is felt that the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education do not meet the needs of people in the north, and perhaps there should be some form of outreaching colleges from those institutions to meet such a need. The investigating committee had on it Professor Karmel, and then Mr Swanson evinced a personal interest in it because it is an interesting question with the problem spreading through Tasmania. Professor Richardson also indicated an interest. I would not have thought of appointing so high-powered a committee, but it is an interesting problem, and with the appointment of Mr Gough, the committee is entirely geared to the Tasmanian situation.
My approach to this is that if there is a State problem we should try to get State experts to deal with it, and that is why three state Directors of Technical Education were appointed to the Interim Council. A body set up to assess grants to the States must have State members on it. To have them appointed as nominees of the State Governments is an entirely different thing and would give the committee an entirely different character. For those reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Beazley)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 5 March on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purposes of the Bill has been explained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) but can best be seen by looking at the Bill itself. The objects and functions of the proposed Road Safety and Standards Authority are: The promotion of road safety; the promotion of the means for the control and reduction of noise, fumes and other emissions from road vehicles; and the protection of the interests of persons who buy or otherwise acquire road vehicles in the design, construction, durability, performance, maintenance and repair of their vehicles, so far as those matters relate to matters with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws, etc.
The Bill goes on to provide that the functions of the Authority are to further the objects for which it is established by investigating and reporting to the Minister on matters relating to road safety and road vehicles; undertaking, or arranging for, research in relation to road safety and road vehicles; fostering the co-ordination of activities in Australia relating to road safety; advising the Minister in respect of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with road safety; formulating standards for highways and other roads and proposals in relation to traffic management, traffic laws, road signs and other matters and things relating to road safety; preparing reports for relevant departments and authorities of Australia on the road safety aspects of transport and urban development programs that are or are to be, directly or indirectly financed to a significant degree by Australia; collecting and disseminating, or arranging for the collection and dissemination of, statistics and other information relating to road safety; formulating standards for road vehicles; and testing, or arranging for the testing of, road vehicles for compliance with standards and certifying, or arranging for the certification of, compliance of road vehicles with those standards, including certification by means of marks affixed to road vehicles.
The history of this proposal goes back to the findings of an expert group on road safety which was set up in November 1970 and which reflected the concern of the Government of the day in this Parliament on the increasing number of road accidents. In March 1971 the expert group ran the first ever national symposium on road safety which was held over 3 days in the national capital. Approximately 70 papers were presented from experts within Australia and from overseas on every aspect of this great problem. After further detailed study and consultation, the expert group reported to the Parliament. I tabled that report in this Parliament in October 1972, and the Government of the day accepted the findings and announced, in November 1972, its decision to set up a national office on road safety. This Bill, Vh years later, puts the recommendations of the expert group into effect.
I pay a tribute to the members of and the work done by that expert group. Its members never sought or achieved much public acclaim for the work they did. However, the members of the group deserve recognition by this Parliament. I should like to recall their names. Under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Meares, the group comprised Mr J. A. Brabham, O.B.E., Brigadier E. F. Campbell, O.B.E., Mr P. J. Kenny, Mr P. G. Pak-Poy, Professor J. S. Robertson, Mr S. E. Solomon, O.B.E., and Mr M. F. Sweeny, D.F.C. As can be seen from the names, a great number of skills were brought to that expert committee by its members. Undoubtedly, this is a proud day for those men, when this Authority is now finally getting under way.
I am delighted that the Bill has the support of the Parliament and indeed, of the House of Representatives Select Committee, which reported in September 1973 on the need for an authority of this nature. That Select Committee has been very active in gathering evidence on the question of road safety around Australia for two or three years, and it is making a great contribution to the general question of road safety.
-All of them?
– Even the Chairman- and I say this in a non-partisan fashion- is doing a service to the Parliament on the matter of road safety.
The figures quoted by the Minister on road accidents present a very graphic picture. In 1973, 3679 people were killed, and in 1974, 3571 people were killed. In the 10 years ended December 1973, 34 000 good Australian citizens were killed and over 850 000 were injured in road accidents on Australian roads. It is quite clear that the dimensions of the probl em are horrific. Each of us in this House will have personal knowledge of tragedy that has come unexpectedly into a home because of road accidents. The personal hurt and sorrow is immense to those who are left behind after a death or to those who must care for the permanently maimed, once active but now scarred for life. Anything more that can be done to reduce this carnage on the roads should be done.
I was delighted to see in the Minister’s second reading explanation that there have been significant changes in accident levels. The Minister said that in the 3-year period from 1970 to 1973 vehicle occupant fatalities declined from 2693 in 1970 to 2463 in 1973, a drop of 9 per cent. Over the same period, total motor vehicles on the register had gone up from 4.8m to 5.6m, an increase of 17 per cent. This meant that the occupant fatality rate per 10 000 vehicles registered dropped from about 5.6 to 4.4. Those figures could be said to be the turning of the tide on the matter of road accidents. They are the result of much hard work over a number of years by many people.
There have been several distinct moves that deserve comment. I refer first to the introduction of safety design rules for motor vehicles. Over a period of years these safety design rules have transformed motor cars on Australian roads, and I doubt whether the motorist has even been aware of most of them. However, I recall as far back as 1968 attending Australian Transport Advisory Council meetings, comprising Commonwealth and State Ministers, that were approving design rules for numerous items relating to the safety of cars- internal features such as door latches, sun visors, and the like. Without the motorist even being aware, almost every significant part of the car now needs to meet certain basic tests for safety and reliability.
I should like to congratulate the Ministers of ATAC and their advisers who, down through the years, have plugged on with this program. The program of safety design rules has not been a headline-grabbing cure for the road accident problem. However, safer seats, interior fittings, window glass, brakes, tyres and bodies have played an important part in reducing the chance of death and serious accident. The most advanced approach on road safety in Australia has been in the State of Victoria, whose Government was the first to introduce legislation for the compulsory wearing of seat belts. Doubtless it was inspired by the low accident result achieved by the Snowy Mountains Authority which had fitted belts to all its vehicles working in the mountains. The Snowy Mountains Authority was probably the first body of its kind in the world to take such action. The results in, firstly, the Snowy Mountains and then in Victoria were inspiring, and other States and Territories soon followed.
Victoria has had a fairly comprehensive program for a number of years and has not been afraid to show new and separate initiatives in road safety. The reduction of the speed limit from 70 to 60 miles per hour has also produced telling statistics. The road safety effort has had the support of the major daily newspapers in Victoria, particularly the Melbourne ‘Sun’, which has run a continuous campaign on public awareness and education. Without doubt, the effort of the ‘Sun’ has been a most telling weapon in the battle to reduce the carnage on Victoria’s roads. Victoria’s figures on road deaths were a plateau until 1 970, and from then on have been reduced or held in check. Other States also have put up equally impressive performances in latter years.
This Bill is welcomed by the Opposition. It flows out of work that commenced under the last Liberal-Country Party Government. What we are concerned about is that the Bill should be properly based. I am unable to discover the head of power upon which the Bill is based. From a paper I have received from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library on this matter it appears that clause 4 of the Bill has been drafted in such a way as to deny any attempt to exceed the constitutional powers and to make the fullest use of constitutional powers without attempting a complete statement of them. Sub-clause (1) specifically mentions trade and commerce among the States and the Territories, and the use of vehicles by the Government or by statutory authorities. These constitutional sources of power are in effect stated by some but not necessarily all the relevant sources, and the incidental power is not expressly mentioned. The Library points out that this could be a wise drafting approach as in particular circumstances other sources of power, for example, the defence power, may become operative. Further it is possible that following some future High Court decision another source of power will be available or, strictly, will be held to have been available.
The Library points out that clearly the Australian Parliament has no express power to make laws on the subjects of road safety, control of nuisances by road vehicles or standards for road vehicles.
The point I wish to make is that clearly the objectives of the proposed functions of the Authority can only be achieved and reach their full promise if the Authority proceeds to secure the full support and co-operation of the States, which clearly have the power in many of the fields of activity proposed for study by the Road Safety and Standards Authority. Therefore I would make a plea to the Minister to ensure that this co-operation is sought by the Authority. For example, can the States be sure that there will be no cut in funds to the States for their own road safety programs? How can the Authority intrude into a State coroner’s inquiry into a road death? Yet I see under the functions of the Authority that all these things are relevant to its activities. There are a thousand questions of this nature that the Minister has not attempted to explain or answer. I hope that the Authority will take the example of the civil defence body based at Mount Macedon as its example. I believe that to be a perfect example of proper co-operative federalist approach between the Commonwealth and the States. The Opposition welcomes and supports the Bill.
-One of the pleasures of being a member of Parliament and, more particularly, a supporter of the Government is to see ideas and concepts one raised years ago come to fruition. Last week I participated in the debate on the Racial Discrimination Bill- a Bill I had wanted to see introduced long before I came to this place. Tonight it gives me immense pleasure to participate in the debate on the Road Safety and Standards Authority Bill 1975.
On 29 June 1971 I presented a report which had taken me 9 months to prepare. It was entitled ‘The Australian Way of Death’. It was my own survey of death and injury on Australian roads. In 1970 3798 Autralians were killed on the road and 91 557 were injured. At the conclusion of that report I made certain recommendations that ultimately became the Australian Labor Party’s policy. They were propounded at an ALP road safety seminar at the Florida Hotel at Terrigal, a place with which we are all now familiar, in November of that year. My first recommendation was for the setting up of a national highway safety bureau to carry out research into all aspects of the vehicle highway system, to recommend legislation on vehicle safety design, to test and evaluate industry compliance with vehicle safety regulations, to develop a uniform program of safety related standards, to collect and analyse accident data, and to watch over defective vehicles and recommend recall campaigns.
Later on in October 1972 the expert group to which the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) referred made a similar recommendation, as did the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety in its first report in May 1973. Not all the matters I mentioned in June 1971 will be fully covered by the Road Safety and Standards Authority, but most of them will be. The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Road Safety and Standards Authority as a statutory body responsible to the Minister for Transport. The present Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in his second reading speech said: . . . the objectives of the Authority are the promotion of road safety, promotion of means for the control of vehicle emissions and consumer protection in relation to motor vehicles. Working closely with the Department of Transport, the Authority will seek to do this through improvement programs, formulation of national standards and traffic codes, the certification of vehicles and components, research into all relevant factors, education and publicity campaigns and a comprehensive information service.
At long last the Australian people will have a national body taking a national view of this tragic problem which is still killing over 3500 Australians and injuring 95 000 each year.
The honourable member for Gippsland, who is the shadow Minister for Transport, mentioned earlier that each one of us has been involved in some way. Without mentioning any names, today I counted up that there are 6 members of this Parliament who have lost close relativessons or wives- in the last couple of years. In fact I believe one senator lost a son on the weekend. It shows the magnitude of the problem when a small group of 18 have lost so many people who are so near and dear to them.
Since 1970 there has been a very marked improvement in the road safety problem in Australia. The worst year on record was 1970. 1 mentioned before that in that year 3798 were killed. In 1974 the figure was 3571. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the number of persons killed in road accidents from 1960 to 1974.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– Australia has made a great breakthrough. We lead the world in the reduction of death and injury over the 4-year period from 1970 to 1974. 1 seek leave to incorporate a second table.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. This table shows that the number of fatalities per 10 000 vehicles dropped from 7.8 in 1970 to six in 1974. In anyone’s terms, that is a very substantial reduction. The number of fatalities per 100 000 population has dropped from 30.2 in 1970 to 26.8 in 1974. It is no accident and no happy coincidence that Australia has managed this quite significant breakthrough in road safety. It has been achieved because we- I use that word in the national sense, and I pay great tribute to the Victorian State Government for the work it has done in this field- have taken the scientific approach to the problem and got away from the emotional approach that preceded that major breakthrough in 1970.
Before 1970 we had a situation when anybody and everybody was an expert on road safety. When anybody spoke on the subject- unfortunately we still get this from a number of quartersthere was always a massive abuse against the driver, the ‘nut behind the wheel’ as he was affectionately called. Every time a major holiday period was imminent we would hear various State Ministers plead with people not to drive fast, get drunk, lose attention or be distracted lest they cause deaths. Of course, every Easter weekend 40, 50 or 60 people would be killed on the roads. At the end of the holiday period the Ministers would wring their hands and say: ‘What happened; what went wrong? How can we stop people from killing themselves?’ This was the fairly stupid sort of approach of so many people for so long and the result in lives saved was absolutely nil. The figures showed the inexorable climb in the number of people killed on the roads. They showed that an additional 200 to 300 Australians were being killed every year.
I cannot table some, of the graphs to which I want to refer because they cannot be printed in Hansard. But they show that not only have the number of road fatalities gone down but we have also stopped the climb that would have continued. The 200 to 300 lives by which we are now below the 1970 figures in fact represent a very small proportion of the lives that have been saved. As I have said, we have stopped looking at this matter from an emotional point of view and we have taken the scientific approach. Victoria, to its credit, started this trend by applying known scientific information in regard to seat belts. We started buckling up. The compulsory use of seat belts came in. The Australian Government at the time introduced proper vehicle safety standards. Instrument panels were padded. Collapsible steering wheels and columns and crushable panels at both the front and rear ends of vehicles were recommended as was the provision of door locks. One could go on and list the safety standards. We were a little slow and a little behind the Americans, but all these things- I refer particularly to seat belts because I believe that the greatest single breakthrough has been in this area- contributed to a reduction of about 1 5 per cent in the fatality rate on the roads. The graph to which I have referred shows that about 1700 lives have been saved in the period 1970-1974. The number of lives saved is far more than the raw figure shows because during this period there was an increase in population, an increase in motor vehicle ownership and an increase in miles driven. The actual number of lives saved would be far more. However, we have saved 1700 lives because we stopped looking at this problem emotionally and started to take a scientific approach.
The Road Safety and Standards Authority will continue the scientific approach instead of the emotional approach that unfortunately is still being propounded by too many people. I was staggered to hear at the last Easter weekend statements which were made by certain police chiefs and State Ministers who still believe that if they plead with motorists to do the right thing they will somehow or other get a magic result. I am not suggesting that the motorist is not involved. However, it is an easy cop out to blame the motorist. This approach diverts attention from our low quality roads, our appalling highways, the environment in which a vehicle moves and the motor vehicles themselves. It is not blame that we are trying to apportion in this tragic problem; we are trying to save lives. That is the fundamental gut issue in road safety- not to say who is to blame but to find out how we can save lives.
People should not drink, but we live in a drinking society. If we want to get at the problem of the drinking driver we have to stop drivers drinking. This may necessitate a change in social values. I am sure that we would not want prohibition. But if we mix a drinking society with a motorist society we will have accidents. But should a person die because he gets drunk? We can make vehicles safer. We can make roads better. We can make the system better. We should do so. It is a very severe penalty for someone to have to die because he is drunk. We should remember that only a small portion of the people who are drunk, or lose attention or drive too fast are the ones who die. The person who dies could be a passenger who may have been cold sober or a pedestrian who could have been cold sober. Children are also victims of accidents involving drunken drivers. Therefore I repeat that we have adopted the scientific approach and not the emotional approach.
I quote some comments from the report of the Road Safety and Standards Authority wherein it is stated:
Road accidents are rarely caused by a single factor. They represent failures in the operation of the interacting components of a large and complicated transport system involving the vehicle, the road environment, the road user and his social environment.
The behaviour of the road user is nearly always the final link in the chain of circumstances which leads to a road accident. Clearly there is a need to know more about the driving task and ways of inducing unproved road user behaviour but the attack on the road toll must comprehend all the factors involved and the inter-relationships between them.
Indeed, there is clear evidence that in the shorter term making the vehicle and/or the road safer is often cheaper and more effective in reducing both the incidence and severity of accidents than are attempts to modify human behaviour. Improved vehicle design, town planning oriented towards road safety, improved road design, sound traffic management and greater use of public transport services can all help to improve the overall safety and efficiency of the transport system.
Some time ago I made a speech in which I quoted the words of a man I regard as having done more in the field of road safety than any other human being. This man is Ralph Nader. I quote, as I did on that occasion, a passage from Ralph Nader’s book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed ‘. He said:
The plain fact is that it is faster, cheaper and more enduring to build operationally safe and crash-worthy automobiles that will prevent death and injury than to build a policy around the impossible goal of having drivers behave perfectly at all times, under all conditions, in the operation of a basically unsafe vehicle and often treacherous highway conditions. We can try ad infinitum to get all 95 million drivers to learn, and instantly act on this learning, that panic brake applications in certain emergency situations, particularly wet surfaces, are likely to lock the brakes and thereby cause loss of control of the vehicle. Or we can simply apply what is presently known and build automobiles with antilocking brake systems. A crash-worthy automobile is the last clear chance to prevent bloodshed; it is that final net that catches all the contributing factors in the collision sequence and cuts the sequence so that casualties are prevented or minimised.
I would like to go on but other speakers wish to take part in this debate tonight. I thank members of the Opposition for their support of this legislation. I also thank members of the Select Committee on Road Safety for their wonderful support of the recommendation which is the subject of this legislation. What we are doing is providing the machinery by which and the environment in which further scientific approach can be made to this very tragic problem.
– I rise to support this very important Bill. I regret that my time, too, will be somewhat diminished in order to meet the program this evening. I know that there are many honourable members like myself who have had the privilege of serving on the parliamentary Select Committee on Road Safety who wish to make comments and who wish to share in some small way the experience that they have had serving on that Committee and to acknowledge the benefit of many of the propositions and proposals that were put to them in carrying out their valuable task. I support this Bill because it will establish a formal relationship between the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and the experts that the Commonwealth has managed to obtain and to put that relationship into a statutory framework whereby their experience can be shared with those States that have a responsibility at this time- a prime constitutional responsibility- for administering matters relating to road safety. When one reads the Bill one is gratified to see clauses such as clause 4(3) which states:
In the performance of its functions, the Authority shall, where it considers it appropriate to do so, consult with the relevant authorities of Australia, the States and Territories, local governing bodies and other interested bodies.
This will be an important part of the activities of the Road Safety and Standards Authority when it is established. Mention has been made of the role of the expert group, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety, which made recommendations in its report of 25 September 1973 and which established essentially the bi-partisan approach that is being taken on this important Bill tonight. The sort of recommendations which came before us were supported by the Road Trauma Committee of the Royal College of Surgeons and essentially, so far as I can see, they have been supported by most of the other authorities and personnel who have had an opportunity to comment on the matter. I will not go into any further detail on those matters which I would have liked to discuss and which I believe are important.
The objectives of the Bill are set out in clause 4(1). That clause indicates that the Authority is to promote road safety, promote the means for the control and reduction of noise, fumes and other emissions from road vehicles and to protect the interests of persons who buy or otherwise acquire road vehicles in the design, construction, durability, performance, maintenance and repair of those vehicles so far as those matters come within the control of the Commonwealth. The clause sets out those matters in more detail than I recited them. I want to emphasise those functions of the Authority which I consider are the most important. They are set out in clause 4(2) and include:
More importantly, the clause goes on to state:
In essence, these were the prime reasons why the Select Committee made these recommendations and the reasons for its proposing that such an organisation ought to be established. The functions of the Authority are clearly to be those which were suggested. In clause 5 the Authority is given certain powers to make inquiries and to engage in making arrangements with other bodies to carry out research or planning, or to supply information and to make submissions to the Authority. In essence, those are the operative provisions of this Bill. They are important because they will enable this Authority to undertake the testing of motor vehicles which at the moment really comes to the responsible authorities in each State on guarantee from the laboratories that are established and registered under the organisation NATA, the National Association of Testing Authorities. These testing authorities or laboratories are within each of the major suppliers. Arrangements are made for manufacturers overseas to have their vehicles tested in laboratories which meet similar sorts of standards. But there are problems in relation to this and information on this was given to the Standing Committee. But we will now have an organisation which will have the opportunity in its own facilities to make these tests. As one of the Committee members who recently had to sit in deliberation and conduct interviews with some of the manufacturers in Australia I am pleased that there will be an independent statutory authority which will have the facilities for and the responsibility of making independent tests. I am not in any way questioning the veracity of those people who have been involved in testing in the various companies which manufacture motor vehicles in Australia or who bring their vehicles to Australia. But I believe that their emphasis, as put in words to the Committee, is in terms of the competition that they have to meet and the demands of the business of making and selling motor vehicles. They are quite proper tasks and ones that nobody would deny to them. But it becomes quite clear, when you ask for certain information and it is withheld because it may benefit competitors, that there is a certain reluctance when competition comes into the matter to consider safety matters if there is any real doubt as to whether the information sought might in some way help the Committee. For this reason I believe it is important that these independent facilities do exist.
I am abbreviating my remarks somewhat because of the shortage of time. I wish to digress now to refer to some of the reservations that I have about the Bill. I wish to raise a number of minor matters. They are not matters in relation to which one would normally expect amendments but they are matters I would ask the Minister for Transport to consider in relation to this Bill and other Bills. I ask the Minister why in clause 15, which deals with the disclosure of interests by members of the Authority, he has omitted part of a paragraph which is now appearing in other Bills which are coming before the House to establish separate commissions. I will read out the words that I note are included in a Bill presented to the House today which related to a Children’s Commission. The words are: and of which he is not a director
Putting those words in context in clause 1 5 which deals with the disclosure of interests of members, the clause would read:
A member who is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made by the Authority, otherwise than as a member of, and in common with other members of, an incorporated company consisting of not less than 25 persons -
This is where the operative words contained in other Bills would come in - and of which he is not a director shall, as soon as possible after the relevant facts have come to his knowledge, disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Authority.
The point I am making is that other Bills now contain provisions which require people to disclose that they have interests as directors in companies, notwithstanding the number of shareholders. It seems proper to me for that extension to be made. Yet it is not made in this Bill. When we have so much being put to us about the pecuniary interests of parliamentarians, I also ask for the second time in matters relating to the establishment of commissions and authorities such as this Authority why a Bill which establishes such an Authority contains clauses that are so weak and nebulous in relation to the pecuniary interests of members of such authorities. A constitutional provision precludes members of Parliament from any form of contractual arrangements which may in some way affect their veracity as members of Parliament. Yet people who are fulfilling a role on a statutory authority such as the one proposed to be established by this Bill have to disclose very little. In fact, all they have to do is to disclose an interest to the committee or authority and leave the committee or authority so that they play no further part in the deliberations. There is not even a method whereby the Minister could even ask, although I suppose he could, or require the minutes of such an organisation to be made available so that they could be made public or so that anybody could be aware that members of this authority would have any other pecuniary interest. If this Government is sincere about these matters of pecuniary interest I believe it is about time it started to look at ways and means by which those people who are being given great statutory powers in Bills such as this one ought to be required to meet the same sorts of standards that members of Parliament are being required at least to consider at this stage and which they already have imposed on them constitutionally.
The other matter I wish to raise is in relation to clause 13 (4) and clause 10 of the Bill. Clause 10 deals with remuneration and allowances. It states:
A member shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, but, if no determination of that remuneration by the Tribunal is in operation, he shall be paid such remuneration as is prescribed.
But in relation to the Chairman, clause 13 states:
The Minister may- determine the terms and conditions . . . including remuneration and allowances, of a person appointed to act as Chairman or as a mem ber;
I wonder why the Minister is given that sort of power in that clause and yet the remuneration and allowances of other members of the Authority, excluding the Chairman in this instance, it seems to me, are in fact fixed by the Tribunal. It seems to me that if one rule is good enough for members of this House and for members of the Authority the same son of provision ought to operate in relation to the Chairman. I raise those matters because I think they are somewhat important. I do not think they require an amendment to the Bill but I ask that the Minister look at them, particularly that matter relating to pecuniary interests. I think in an area of authority like this, dealing with so many manufacturers not only from within Australia but also from overseas, the members ought to be beyond reproach and be seen to be beyond reproach. I certainly do not think these provisions are adequate to give the public that sort of assurance.
-In supporting this legislation establishing a national Road Safety and Standards Authority I should like to emphasise that this will be an additional body to those which are established by the States. It can only enhance the amount of assistance that will be offered to the States and it will be a valuable centre of research for findings and theories arising in State committees and research centres. It will have the ability to fund those specialist projects of road safety and consumer research which are only dreamt of now. Thus it must be understood that this is one body in relation to which no State authority can utilise the challenge of centralisation of power for it is an additional source towards saving Australian lives.
Most of us have a morbid, unconscious attraction to death. Headlines centred on death are used to sell newspapers, hence our tendency to buy newspapers which describe an air crash, more particularly as this type of death so rarely happens in Australia. If someone is killed in a speedway accident it is reported in headlines. It is not that someone is killed on the road during a weekend but that so many are killed which stirs us, or perhaps that the circumstances are more horrible than usual, for we have come to accept the road toll as a part of the daily scene. Yet if deaths occurred on this scale in aircraft companies’ licences would be revoked and a major inquiry would be enforced in relation to each incident. In the case of speedways, if accidents with such injuries occurred with the same frequency the public would demand and obtain closure until an inquiry were held.
An interesting thought occurs in this matter: Why does this situation not occur in relation to road users? I feel it is because many people are actually making money out of road accidents. These leeches have a vested interest in seeing spare parts sold, vehicles demolished and vehicles repaired and resold, and I do not believe that money is lost in the insurance field. I charge that road accidents in Australia are a multimillion dollar industry and that many people in the industry pay only lip service to road safety while hoping all the time that nothing will happen to affect their profits. Design rules and safety factors are not first introduced in Australia; they mainly only follow the implementation in another country and very often they are delayed because of affecting the Australian manufacturers’ profit as a result of retooling for the change or some lack of agreement between the various State authorities on the desirability of their implementation and the subsequent lifesaving aspects.
Never when a life-saving device is introduced overseas is it immediately installed in Australia. People have to continue to die while agreement is reached and finally, we hope, implemented. It is to be hoped that when this Australian Authority is established the findings of the requirements for safety improvements will be immediately implemented by the manufacturers. My regret is that this cannot be ensured by making the manufacturer liable at law for manufacturing or selling what is often a lethal weapon in the wrong hands through bad design or quality control. If there were a way for the consumer or a relative of a deceased person to take legal action for damages against a manufacturer of a vehicle involved in a fatal or serious smash when it was thought reasonably that the vehicle contributed in some way to that smash, there would be a marked improvement in safety standards of vehicles sold if damages were granted against the company.
Never mind about always blaming the nut behind the wheel. Let the liability find its correct placing, that is, with those who manufacture substandard, so-called motor cars disposable over a period of 5 years or so. I repeat that if aircraft were involved in smashes as often as some makes or models of cars they would be grounded until the reason was found and the cause rectified. It is to our disgrace that we do not offer this protection to the Australian road user. It is to be hoped that this Road Safety and Standards Authority will offer some solution in the field of road safety. But are we as a nation to continue to accept blandly the fact that 10 people will be killed and 250 injured each day? That we knowingly allow this to continue is beyond comprehension. So I am pleased to see that no opposition is being offered to this Bill which will no doubt eventually help to diminish this senseless slaughter. In the meantime no doubt the deaths will continue, the accident damage will be repaired at a profit, cars will be replaced at a profit, cars will be insured at a profit even by the motorists’ associations, and no doubt there will be happiness in that area with the accident situation. But the pain and suffering, the human loss, that unbearable gap left by the loss of a loved one, will remain.
I often wonder as I travel Australia’s roads and see the various transport authorities checking heavy vehicles for overloading or road maintenance taxes, at the cost of this second police system, and wonder how much better it would be if these energies were devoted to maintaining and policing road safety. The gaoling of some offenders against transport regulations in Western Australia seems a terrible waste. The manpower and research which must go into such matters should be channelled into the more productive areas of establishing better road safetystatistics, speed control, safety warnings and the multitude of factors which are needed to bring about a desirable situation. I often wonder when
I see the speed traps established in my area whether they are there to control traffic or to gain revenue, particularly when I read of one motorist being gaoled because of incidents arising from his putting up a warning sign to motorists that there was a speed trap in the area. If the principle were to establish speed traps to slow down traffic, is it not reasonable to assume that his was a similar intention?
I raise these points to help explain the deep feeling of frustration one has when looking at legislation of this nature. I fully support the establishment of the Authority but I also make the strong point that unless all States and all people connected with the car industry apply the findings of the Authority and put further problems to the Authority, and unless consumer bodies also apply themselves to their needs the desired effects will be limited. This Bill sets out to tackle the problem in a quiet and logical way. In a methodical way it sets out to provide a framework which can be used incorporating several specialised laboratories, outdoor facilities, test track, skid pan and associated road networks. Some would say that the car industry must be an appalling failure if in 1975 the Government has to invest more than $ 10m because the products of that industry are not safe to use, even though a number of companies have been making cars for more than 50 years. I would agree with that indictment, but it is also a reflection on previous governments that this situation has been allowed to continue. I am thankful that steps are finally being taken in the matter, but it will bring no consolation to those who have lost loved ones, those who are permanently confined to wheel chairs or those who suffer some other disability. It will offer no consolation to those who will suffer from crashes in the near future. This is the regrettable side which we all see. I wonder why, with a road toll which is a greater disaster and costing more each year in death and injury than the Darwin cyclone- not a once only but a recurring cost of some 2 per cent of our gross national product, estimated by some at $ 1,000m each year- we remain unmoved. Perhaps it is because of our inability to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that this authority has been established as an advisory authority only- not as an enforcing authority that would make people who have been neglecting their obligation to the human race act in a more responsible manner.
I do not say that lightly, for newspaper reports about Darwin- as a nation we were all moved by the tragedy in Darwin- estimate that the repair costs there would equal between $800m and $ 1,000m or the equivalent of what the annual road toll is said by some to cost Australia. The death toll was said to be less than the road toll on one long weekend or on five average days. The nation quite rightly became moved and acted as one to reach a solution, yet we have a far greater annual, avoidable road catastrophe occurring daily and we remain unmoved. We have put the Darwin disaster under emergency control. We have established a code for building cyclone proof homes under rigid controls and planning. I would be far happier if we were to declare the car industry a disaster and enforce a rigid form of safety construction and code of ethics. If the automobile industry has failed in all these years -in some cases 60 years or more- it is obvious that the industry cannot be trusted to find a solution. The only solution will come from outside legislative bodies directing what will be safe, not in the distant future but immediately. If the manufacturers cannot make safe cars at an economic price they should be willing to be properly compensated for their plants by governments, and safer vehicles should be developed from those plants by public owned companies.
Let us face facts. The community is not paying for the value of a vehicle but for a false set of values arrived at by taxes, subsidies and tariffs applied by governments of various countries. It is ridiculous for companies to say they are free of government involvement when, to survive in the market place, they insist on government assist- iance to purvey unsafe vehicles. If the industry of Australia were sincere in its safety efforts it would have established a testing authority such as that envisaged by this legislation. I was appalled to find that one of the South Australian manufacturers did not possess a test track but used the back roads of South Australia. Nothing will convince me that in testing the manufacturers observe the speed limits of that State or respect the rights of the other road users. If they were concerned, all companies would have pooled their resorces and research for the safety and comfort of their clients, to come forward with a basic life-saving design. They will say that this is impossible. It would affect their profits.
But where they have failed and failed miserably, the Australian backyard hot rod enthusiasts have succeeded. They have designed cars which can be rolled, bashed and bent but the driver remains uninjured and in fact continues to race the same car the same day. It would be naive to say that, with its manufacturing resources and its advanced technology, the automobile industry could not do the same. I find it incredible that backyard amateurs can achieve what industry claims it cannot. I also find it hard to believe that amateur club committee authorities can set a standard of rules of safety and enforce them yet public licensing authorities are unable to do the same. Perhaps we should commission the backyard operators to offer guidance to both the licensing authorities and the industry.
One aspect to which I hope this authority will give early consideration and establish guidelines is in the testing of caravans and other trailing vehicles in respect of length and weight of the vehicles which are used to tow. One can go to the vast majority of car dealers to seek advice in this area and come away with a negative reply. One can then go and hire a van, never having towed one or never having been advised how to do it. Several honourable members wish to speak on this Bill and so I will conclude by saying that if the industry cannot manufacture a car in which one can travel in safety it should admit failure, surrender its manufacturing right and make it a government responsibility to manufacture such a car. As in any other business or in politics, if you fail, get out. Over half a century of killing is far too long. I commend the Bill in the hope that it will help to bring some solution to the problem.
-Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would like to direct my remarks to clause 4 of the Bill in particular. I think honourable members on both sides of the chamber support this Bill. I am a little disappointed in the emphasis of the debate. Clause 4 sets out the functions of the authority. Paragraph (e) of sub-clause 4(2) reads:
It appears to me that this is by far the most important part of the Bill and that the weight of the debate has been directed wrongfully, because what is really in question if we want to improve road safety is mainly what is in the court of governments rather than what is in the court of vehicle manufacturers. I refer particularly to the uniformity of traffic laws throughout Australia.
Many accidents occur because such things as giving way on the right are different in different parts of Australia. We know that confusion arises in Canberra from interstate motorists who come to Canberra and find a different code of highway laws in operation here. If we really want to reduce accidents the first thing to do is for the Government to hold a conference with the States so that we can have uniformity of traffic laws. I am not speaking about things like parking regulations but about uniformity of traffic laws throughout Australia because I believe that this is one of the things which would do most not just to reduce accidents but also to reduce those accidents which are serious or fatal. Those are the accidents which tend to occur at high speeds because of the conflicting traffic laws and practices in the various States.
The other point I would like to make, which again is in the government’s court, relates to the provision of freeways. We should be spending more of our effort on producing really first-class roads for those arteries where major traffic volumes are carried. We are still dissipating too much of our available resources in trying to improve too many roads to an unsatisfactory standard. It would be better and more conducive to road safety and to the reduction of accidents if in place of this we were to spend more upon producing freeways, which are relatively accidentfree roads- no road is completely accident free but freeways are relatively accident free- for those locations where there is a high volume of traffic. This is particularly true in the cities and in the outlets to the cities. These are the roads in Australia which carry the highest volume of traffic.
I speak of New South Wales. I am encouraged to see that the Government of New South Wales is putting more and more money into freeways of high quality. One instances, for example, the Hume Highway from Liverpool Crossroads into Campbelltown which is now being extended to Bargo. One thinks of the freeway to the north of Sydney from the Hawkesbury River Bridge. This is the kind of thing that should be encouraged. But at the same time one has to realise that the Federal Government seems set -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1.1 July 1974 I shall report progress.
– I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I will not detain the Committee for more than another minute or so. It does not seem to me that the Federal Government is wrong in its repugnance to all freeways which lead towards the centre of a city. I know that we should be putting more reliance on public transport. I am well aware of the arguments about the undesirable concentration of vehicles in a city. But if we are talking in terms of road safety we should get rid of the present attitude of the Federal Government, which seems to be against some of the most vital freeways which would be real accident producers.
– I address myself to clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill. In commencing I should like to remark on some of the things that were said by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). If the honourable member for Mackellar were to look at the second report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety, as it was then, he would see that there is a considerable section in that report relating to freeways and that the Committee has recommended to the House of Representatives and to the Government that certain steps be taken to ensure that freeways do not pass through inner suburban areas. It also posed various alternatives for the handling of the motor car. The Committee realised that while we have motor cars there is a need to transfer them from one part of a city to another. I take this opportunity of urging the Government and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to consider that report at the earliest opportunity.
That leads me to say something about the workings of that Committee in relation to these clauses. I believe that the work which has been done by that Committee is an example to this Parliament of the way in which an all-party committee can work. I am confident that, given the opportunity to continue with its deliberations in the sort of spirit which has been in evidence so far, a great deal of good will come out of it. The honourable member for Mackellar also spoke about getting people to conferences. That sort of approach has been adopted for a long while but, unfortunately, it has not achieved the sorts of objectives that the many of us who have an interest in road safety would have hoped that it would achieve.
The point I put to the Committee is that this Bill- in particular the 2 clauses I am now debatingdoes much more to establishthe sort of situation in which the national government, in co-operation with State bodies, local government bodies and other interested persons and bodies concerned with road safety, can really get on with solving the problem. If honourable members look at clauses 3 and 4 they will see therein listed a set of objects and functions which will enable the sort of situation to arise in which the national government, in co-operation with those other bodies, can make a very substantial contribution towards reducing the death toll.
Finally, I think that the Committee ought to realise that it is only possible to reduce the number of deaths on our roads by looking at the problem as a whole. During the debate earlier this evening on the motion for the second reading of the Bill honourable members stressed this point. I would like to underline it because I believe it is the only possible way of achieving the results we want to achieve. An emotional approach to the problem will not achieve those objectives. I give just one example to the Committee as far as this environmental approach is concerned because in a way it links up with what the honourable member for Mackellar had to say. For a long time people accepted all sorts of things as being inevitable. They accepted disease as being inevitable. They accepted railway accidents as being inevitable. Many other scourges of mankind were accepted as being inevitable. It was only when they looked at the problem as a whole and at the system that they were able to do something. I stress to the Committee and to the Minister that I believe this is the only approach. I hope that the authority that will be established under this Bill will, because of the functions which are outlined for it in clauses 3 and 4, be able to approach the problem in this way and achieve the desired objective.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones)-by leave- read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Charles Jones) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer briefly tonight to a matter that has been of some concern to me for some little time; that is, the sound level of commercial advertisements on television. I spoke about this matter on 26 November of last year in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I believe, although I have not seen it, that one newspaper in one capital city of Australia devoted one-eighth of an inch then to the topic. As a result of that report I have received more than 30 letters. So I imagine that my complaint has in fact struck a chord with the community. Following that I wrote to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). I did attempt to let his representative in this House know that I was going to talk on this subject tonight, but I believe he is unavailable. The Minister for the Media replied to my letter pointing out that he agreed with my suggestion that the matter should be referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I waited for some time for the answer in substance to come through from the Broadcasting Control Board to the Minister for the Media. It came through a little while ago. I will refer to that letter in a minute. But I must say that I am unhappy about the reply at this point in time. I will mention the reasons for that in a little while.
I think that the issues involved are quite plainly these: How many viewers, when watching an otherwise quiet and perhaps sedate program, such as a play or something like that, find that every now and again they have to get to their feet, go to their television set and turn down the volume because of the insufferable decibel din that intrudes into their ear drums, then go back to their seat and wait until the advertisement is over before returning to the television set and turning up the volume so that they can go on listening to the play or whatever it is? This situation should be a very simple matter to regulate. I hope that the Broadcasting Control Board will take some notice of my complaints in relation to this matter. I have noted out of interest that there is quite a variation in the situation from one area to another. For instance, one does not notice the difference in volume in Canberra that one does in, for instance, my home State of South Australia. Other honourable members also might be aware of the variation in volume from one area to, say, Canberra, which is where they also spend part of their time.
There are 2 aspects to the matter as I see it. Firstly, I think that the commercial channels themselves could do well to realise that there are many television viewers who are being virtually driven to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s channels to escape the dreadful din caused by these advertisements. Some of the advertisements themselves are excellent and some are very amusing, and I do not think very many members of the viewing public would take such a poor view of the advertisements themselves that they would for that reason turn to an ABC program. But I do think that a great many people change away from commercial stations for the reasons I have just given. The noise problem is unquestionably one of the curses of our time, and I repeat that this dreadful decibel din that assaults the eardrums on some occasions is quite insufferable.
The second aspect of the problem is this: If the commercial stations cannot regulate this small matter themselves, and if the recording companies have no intention of regulating the volume as they concoct the advertisements, and if the advertising companies themselves are stupidly unconcerned about this problem, then somebody has to seek to regulate it for the sake of the convenience of the viewing public. I think it is patently clear that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board does have powers to do this. In the letter I have received from the Minister on 1 February, he reports from the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and he says:
The Authority responsible for the technical standards of television stations has informed me that the apparent varying levels of loudness between advertising matter and program matter is a particularly difficult problem.
I could agree with that. The letter continues:
Although the normal technical facilities installed at the stations ensure the proper control of volume, the measurements obtained by such facilities do not always correspond with the subjective loudnesses heard by the human ear.
I can assure him that there are more than just I who think this is more than just an objective judgment. In fact, it is a hell of a din that takes a lot of stomaching, particularly if the film being viewed happens to be perhaps a bit old and the quality a bit low. The letter continues:
Devices have been developed on a limited scale overseas for the automatic control of loudness, but at this stage the Board is not satisfied that such devices represent the answer to the problem, which exists all over the world.
I would say that it is not so bad in Canberra. The letter continues:
The Chairman has indicated that the Board appreciates that it does seem that the sound component of some advertisements is processed to make them loud.
I could give him another clue. I know of quite a lot of people who turn the switch up when the advertisements come on, for the very good reason of giving good customers the chance to get maximum volume, so there is not particular news about that. The letter continues:
In this connection, the Board has no power to restrain recording companies -
That is not the stations - from processing their recordings and, indeed, some degree of processing quite apart from the control of volume is involved in the making of any recording. The problem lies in the interrelationship of hard-sell sounds, comprising some advertisements as opposed to the more normal range of sounds in general program matter.
All I think that the viewing public wants, quite frankly, is a description of that last phrase- ‘the more normal range of sounds’ as they hear them in the general program matter. That is all I want to refer to tonight. I will make sure that the Minister is made aware of these later remarks, but I stress the point that unquestionably at present the whole of this high decibel volume noise on commercial advertisements is an insufferable burden on a high proportion of the viewing public.
-The matter that I would like to refer to tonight is the result of a by-election in Victoria that had rather significant aspects to it, and I would like to point out to honourable members the implications of that decisive win in the Brunswick East by-election. It was significant and decisive. It was significant because of the fact that the Premier of the State (Mr Hamer), who has offered himself as the new Messiah, strutted around the electorate of Brunswick East, walking into hotels with not much money but pretending to shout for the bar. He had a picture of his head on a how-to-vote ticket, and one would have thought it would have been a great blow to his ego to see the result. There was a win, which puts paid to the hysterical rantings against the Australian Government’s policies, and in particular the Medibank scheme. The Brunswick by-election was fought and won on Government policy, with a great deal of stress placed on the Medibank issue.
The people of Brunswick have made it very clear that they want the Medibank scheme and that they reject the nit-picking obstructionism of ‘Rupert’ Hamer and his unprincipled cohortsthe Liberal Premier who blights the Australian eastern coastline. Medibank is a winner, and in saying this I in no way detract from the exceptionally able candidate in the Brunswick East byelection, Mr Ron McAlister. From the outset in the campaign, Mr McAlister and the Victorian State Labor Leader Clyde Holding issued the challenge to Hamer and his Minister for illhealth Scanlan- to debate this vital issue in a public debate. The challenge was reiterated last Saturday night, and at the present time neither Mr Holding nor Mr McAlister has received any reply to the challenge. But this is not the first time that Hamer and Scanlan have shown themselves unwilling to discuss the Medibank issue. It was pointed out to the electors of Brunswick that letters were sent to both Scanlan and Hamer in August 1974 from both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), requesting urgent discussions on the Medibank issue- urgent discussions, because Mr Hamer estimated it would require at least four and possibly six months hard work to gear the system for the introduction of Medibank by 1 July.
– The reluctant brides.
-That is right. Mr Hamer estimated it would take that long to prepare the Victorian health scheme so the people of Victoria could obtain the maximum possible benefit from the scheme. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) and the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) will not be here much longer, but whilst they are here they had better try to explain to the people of Victoria just how that came about. By March 1975 the Australian Government had received only a formal acknowledgment from Mr Hamer of the Prime Minister’s letter, and there was no recognition whatsoever of the letter from Mr Hayden to Mr Scanlan. Yet these two charlatans- Hamer and Scanlan- bleated throughout the Brunswick campaign that they had not had the time or the opportunity to consider the details of the scheme. The people of Brunswick East showed in no uncertain terms what they think of Mr Hamer ‘s obstructionism. They showed that at the polls last Saturday, and members on the other side of this House could expect the same result in whatever election was held, either now or in the future. The electors of Brunswick East were shocked to find that their State Government was bending over backwards to make them pay an additional $2 a week for a hospital cover that would be free if the Victorian State Government was prepared to enter the Medibank scheme. They were even more outraged to find that the State Government had failed to take up a federal offer to meet half the State’s hospital costs- 50 per cent of the bill, no matter how high it was. At this time- and we all know something about this- the nurses of Victoria are waging a totally justifiable campaign for decent wages and conditions, a campaign that I wholeheartedly support. In the face of this campaign, the Victorian Government is rejecting financial assistance that would give the nurses the conditions to which they are more than entitled. And why is the Victorian Government rejecting this federal assistance? For no other reason than their own petty parochial refusal to have anything to do with the forward-looking policies of the Australian Government. They do not care about the people of Victoria. They are more interested in playing politics and in having tricky Dicky parade himself around the Victorian scene, taking the Victorian people for a ride. But apparently time has worn the veil very thin. At last he has been exposed as the phoney that he is. As I have indicated, he is more interested in playing politics than in looking after the health of the Victorian electors. Well, the electors of Brunswick have shown what they think of Liberal obstructionism. They have seen an exhibition in this place the like of which has never been seen before and will never be seen again. I say now that the electors of Australia will return the same verdict at any time they are called to the polls.
I will not take up any more time of the House, except to say that the people of Australia have twice voted federally for Medibank. They voted again for it last Saturday. They want Medibank and they can be assured that the Australian Government is dedicated to giving it to them and that they will be the recipients of the benefits of Medibank in the very near future.
-I rise tonight to speak on the situation in Cambodia and Vietnam in general and in Phnom Penh in particular. We have heard the stories of human misery from the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), and I have also had occasion to hear reports from the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). Now that the Australian Embassy and the United States Embassy and all Western journalists have been evacuated from the city the curtains are drawn. We know that at this very moment rockets are raining on the beleaguered city, injuring indiscriminately both the young and the old. People are starving, women and children are dying. They are dying the worst deaths at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, who owe a dual allegience to the communist movement and the exiled Prince Sihanouk, a man who changes allegience to suit his own power base a n .-._d purpose. There is no more cruel aggressor than t h e communist guerrilla, who seems to invest himself with the divine right to inflict the most inhuman savagery on the enemy in order to achieve world liberation or world peace. Well, peace is falling and will fall upon thousands of people in IndoChina as communist aggression continues. Certainly people will be taken out of their villagesthose people whom the communists suspect have been fighting them and those people whom the communists may wish to bring down in any event.
Undoubtedly people will be taken out of the jungles and other places and destroyed. But what is the free world, the United Nations, indeed Australia, doing to ensure that tens of thousands of innocent people are not massacred in the wake of the communist advance in Indo-China? What is happening tonight to the innocent non- communist people in Hue and Da Nang and Phnom Penh? None of us knows. Who is there to ensure that justice is being done? Who is there to report upon events? And how many of us really care? What has happened to the United Nations? Why is the United Nations Security Council not sending people to these centres to ensure that if butchery is to be done on these people, if they are to be murdered and slaughtered, it is done in the glare of public light? This is one of the rotten things. So much happens in the world that the world can report and record; but not so in Hue, not so in Da Nang. And if Saigon falls I am sure that the curtain will fall until such time as the human reprisals have been executed.
– How do you know?
– Of course we do not know, but we have heard reports from others at other times in other parts of Vietnam- for instance, when the communists took Hue. The evidence is there. I want to quote from a book written by P. J. Honey, an author the honourable member would know something about, titled ‘Communism in North Vietnam’. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his speech, used I think, the words ‘land reform’. This is the sort of land reform that the people get meted out to them by the communist aggressors, and I quote from page 44 of that book where the author talks about land reform:
The agrarian reform campaign was carried out under the supervision of Chinese cadres familiar with the similar campaign in China, and Truong Chinh identified himself publicly with it. He thrust the campaign down people’s throats, using every available propagandist device, and it was carried out with a brutality and disregard for justice that shocked the Vietnamese peasants more than the war itself had done. Chinese patterns had to be followed even when they proved to be unworkable in the different conditions of Vietnam, and the number of casualties appalled the most battle-hardened soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of patently guiltless people were done to death in the most cruel fashion . . . until the breaking point was reached and outraged peasants, armed only with agricultural tools, rebelled against their new masters in many places throughout the country.
So one cannot help but think that, at this time, reprisals are being carried out against innocent people. I asked the Prime Minister in this House: ‘What diplomatic initiatives have you taken to try to bring about a cease fire in Vietnam? ‘
To my astonishment, the Prime Minister indicated that he had taken no initiatives. Not one. Yet we hear from the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Renouf, who is reported to have said: ‘Australia, before recognising North Vietnam, had little opportunity to engage in active diplomacy in Vietnam. Now, however, our influence and access on both sides has been and is being used to end the fighting, to pursue the acceptance of those political conditions under which armed fighting can cease.’ He makes the claim that, becuse of the recognition of Hanoi and China, Australia has been placed in a position where it can bring about, where it is bringing about a cease fire, or at least is attempting to do so. Yet only 2 days before, on Tuesday of last week, I asked the Prime Minister:
Has the Prime Minister initiated any diplomatic action to bring about a cease-fire in South Vietnam and Cambodia during the past 2 months? If so, in what way and through what channels?
The Prime Minister replied:
No, I have not. I have seen some suggestions in the newspapers that I or one of the neighbouring leaders who had discussions with me had some such thing in mind. There was no truth in those reports.
Mr Speaker, clearly there is a responsibility on Australia and on all countries in the region that have a sense of justice to try to bring about a cease fire. But having failed to do that, there is a responsibility on every decent person in this region to try to ensure that representatives of international agencies, representatives of the United Nations, representatives of governments of this area are in those towns that are being taken over by communist aggression to ensure that justice is being done to innocent people; not to soldiers, not to those who chose to- go out and fight on the battlefield, but to the women and children who are suffering the great consequences of this conflict in South Vietnam. Leave aside for the moment the political division, the political bigotry. Leave that to one side and think tonight about the people who are suffering.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
to (5) The Commonwealth Statistican has provided the attached statement on Local Government Finance in each State for each of the last five years for which this information is currently available. This information is provided subject to the following qualifications:
Details relating to the items in the statement may be obtained from the Bureau’s publication ‘Australian Municipal Information System ‘ ( Ref. 1 . 1 2. ).
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
All-day parking cannot be considered in isolation from other aspects of transport. With regard to Canberra, I have had discussions with both Mr Bryant and Mr Enderby and many others on this topic.
As a result, the NCDC and the Department of the Capital Territory are jointly developing a transport package for Canberra which will reduce the demand for commuter parking by progressively bringing it under firmer control and at the same time providing better public transport
Specific proposals and alternatives will be widely publicised and community participation will be actively sought at the proper time.
Canberra: All-day Parking (Question No. 378)
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The various stages in the process of land design and development in the A.C.T. up to the handing over of blocks to the Department of the Capital Territory, are:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Retail Establishments for the Year 1968-69 (Question No. 1006)
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
How many (a) male and (b) female civilian employees have there been in each month since November 1972, and what was the total figure in each of the same months.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table shows estimated numbers of civilian employees, classified by sex, at the end of each month from November 1972 to July 1974. These estimates exclude employees in agriculture and private domestic service.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
When may I expect an answer to question No. 484 which I placed on the Notice Paper in 1 7 July 1974.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable gentleman to my answer to H.O.R. Parliamentary Question No. 484.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since its establishment the Department has made annual grants available to the Australian Institute of Urban Studies and the Australian Council of National Trusts for the purpose of assisting them to maintain federal headquarters, in the same way as was done by previous Australian Governments. In 1974-75 base grants-in-aid of $50,000 and $55,000 will be made available to these two organisations respectively.
My Department has recently received requests for financial assistance from several regional Organisations of Councils for carrying out of research and inquiry. I am considering these requests in conjunction with my counterparts in the various States and may shortly be able to assist these organisations in this way under the Regional Organisation Assistance Program previously announced.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
1 ) What is the average traffic density on the portion of the Canberra/Bateman’s Bay Road that passes through the A.C.T. on
What proportion of the total traffic flow is accounted for by
What is the average traffic flow on the A.C.T. portion of the Federal Highway as it crosses the border of the A.C.T. and New South Wales on
How do these figures compare with traffic flows on similar highways in New South Wales?
Mr UREN- The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) (a) 1.05 vehicles per kilometre
(a) 3600 vehicles per day
figures for N.S.W. roads are:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development upon notice:
What is the average traffic flow passing through Hall on the Barton Highway on
Of the total traffic flow on the Barton Highway, what proportion of motor vehicles are registered in the A.C.T.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) 3600 vehicles per day
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Medibank Medical Insurance Plan covering everyone in Australia, and the Medibank Hospital Plan covering the agreement States of Tasmania, South Australia (and assuming also that an early agreement will be reached, with Queensland) would be an estimated $449 million. This would be reduced by about $50m if the Queensland Government decided against entering the hospital program from July l
Devaluation: Effect on Neighbouring Countries (Question No. 2007)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
When will the Minister answer my question No. 1229 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 3 October 1 974?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answer to question No. 1229 appeared in Hansard on 5 March 1975 (page 1132).
Canberra: All-day Parking Space (Question No. 2046)
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 249 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 16 July 1974?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable gentleman to my answer to House of Representatives Parliamentary Question No. 249.
Canberra: All-day Parking (Question No. 2049)
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 378 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 16 July 1 974?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable gentleman to my answer to House of Representatives Parliamentary Question No. 378.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Medibank Scheme: Cost (Question No. 19SS)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 101 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 0 July 1974?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
See my answer to question No. 101 on 8 April 1975 (Hansard page 1310).
asked the Minister for Police and’ Customs, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 556 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 24 July 1974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please refer to House of Representatives Hansard dated 8 April 1975, page 1311.
asked the Minister for Police and Customs, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 1548 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 3 November 1 974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please refer to House of Representatives Hansard dated 8 April, 1975, page 1320.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 1570 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 3 November 1 974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable member to my answer to question on notice No. 1570 (Hansard, 8 April 1975, page 1322).
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Within the range of 8.57 to 25.9 billion cubic metres, having been downgraded from the estimate given in reply to Question No. 908 on 17 October 1974 following a re-assessment of the Palm Valley structure.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750415_reps_29_hor94/>.