27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That while the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies from the Australian social service system a major inadequacy still remains in that a migrant who has been a member of the Australian workforce for many years, has paid taxes and acquired Australian citizenship, and seeks to live the last years of his life in his native land or, if an invalid, wishes to see his relatives in Europe, is denied pensioner transferability. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray -
That the Senate, in Parliament assembled, seek to have Australia adopt the principle followed by Britain, Italy, Greece, Malta, The Netherlands. France, Germany, Turkey, Canada and the United States of America, who already transfer the social entitlement of their citizens wherever they may choose to live.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. .The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Parents have the right to choose their children’s education and as taxpayers they are entitled to ask that public funds to which their taxes have contributed should be shared justly and equitably for the education of all children.
The Commonwealth Parliament has accepted the principle of an independent school system in Australia and has also accepted the principle that those schools should be assisted from public funds.
The very existence of a large number of independent schools is now threatened due to the changes in economic circumstances and due to the increased demands on the resources of these schools.
The reduction of the number of independent schools in Australia will effectively deprive many taxpaying parents of their rights to choose an alternative type of education tor their children.
The closure of a number of independent schools will result in serious overcrowding in and further deterioration in the standard of government schools.
lt is in the interests of all school pupils whether in government or independent schools that the independent school system should survive and function efficiently and effectively.
The absence of any increase in capitation grants by (he Commonwealth since 1969. notwithstanding the great increase in costs since then, has created serious problems for independent schools.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
An emergency increase in capitation giants for independent schools to enable them to survive without increasing fees beyond the capacity of parents to pay.
A just and equitable means of increased support for all schools both Government and independent to the intent that such support should be integrated into the economic and financial planning of Australia and thai the question of proper support of both independent and government schools should cease to be a matter of political debate and expediency.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration received any progress reports on 2 research projects, one a population study and the other Professor Wilson’s costbenefit study, and will he make public the contents of these reports?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question from my own knowledge. I suggest he pui his question on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. When will the Government take action to bring about a substantial reduction in the extraordinarily high interest rates which apply to home mortgages, loans and hire purchase transactions and which are a powerful factor in boosting inflation and destroying the standard of living of the ordinary citizen?
I am almost getting to the point of having to say every other day that the question of interest rates is a matter of Government fiscal policy. I am sure everybody understands that and also that the issues involved are not as simple as the question would imply. I suggest that any honourable senator could go into the Parliamentary Library and read a treatise on the question of variations of interest rates as a matter of fiscal policy. All f can say is that this is a matter of policy which it is not appropriate to respond to at question time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. ls it a fact that the left wing majority on the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been strongly attacked as a result of the postponement of the hearing of the 1971 national wage case? Is the Minister aware that (he newspaper the ‘Unionist’, said to be the organ of the right wing opinion of the ACTU, made such an attack stating in its current issue that the whole position was verging on a scandal? ls this a matter of concern to all Australian wage and salary earners?
– As the honourable senator referred to a publication attributed to the ‘Unionist’ it is within his knowledge that that story was run this morning by several newspapers, lt reports criticism on the part of the ‘Unionist’ of the manage.men of an application to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the ACTU in respect of the national wage case and the minimum wage case. The postponement that is complained of. arising out of the ACTU advocate asking for a deferment of the basic wage case until a later date, may be a matter of fundamental prudence on the pari of the ACTU. It may bc that the postponed date will provide a more propitious opportunity for success than there would be if the case came for decision in the present circumstances. I simply say that lo the honourable senator to put the controversy into perspective.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the increase of 4c a bushel for wheat will lift the taxpayer’s contribution to the growers and also stimulate inflationary pressures because of possible price rises in bread and cereals? ls it true that the taxpayer could be faced with payments to the wheat industry of between $34m and $44 m whereas in the last. 2 Budgets wheat subsidy allocations amounted to only §29m and $27. 2m respectively? As the Australian Wheal Board delegation recently returned empty handed front China, does the Government yet recognise that improved diplomatic relations with Peking could go a long way towards restoring China as a major market and obviate the need for injections of public money into the wheat industry?
– Apparently the honourable senator believes that most people should have increases in their incomes when they believe that they are due but that when it conies to the primary industries increased costs are- not to be incorporated in the wheat stabilisation plan.
– I did not say that.
– That is what the honourable senator is indicating. He will understand that under the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act at the- beginning of each wheat season the Cost Index Committee, made up of the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, a representative from the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and a representative of the Slates, looks at the increases that have taken place in the costs of the wheat industry over the past 12 months. The Committee l’-en suggests to the Government that an increase be made in the home consumption price of wheat and that portion of the wheat crop - 200 million bushels - in respect of which the Government guarantees the cost of production. This is something that has happened year after year since the introduction of the stabilisation scheme. Yet when the rural community is going through its toughest period ihe honourable senator questions whether allowances for these increased costs should be passed on to the wheat growers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry whether, because importations of grass seed amounting to a claimed S200m a year could play havoc with the Australian industry, the Government will take action to see that the existing tariff protection is enforced. If it is not being enforced now. and because the time of the year when Australian importers order quantities of grass seed from overseas is approaching, will the Government treat this matter as urgent? Will the Government investigate the effect of imports from New Zealand on the Australian industry with a view to taking the action provided under article 10?
– The honourable senator will recall that on 2 previous occasions. 1 think, he asked me questions about this matter. On the last occasion I had obtained specific information from the Department of Trade and Industry which I thought would have fully clarified the situation. However, if a state of urgency has come about since then, I would acknowledge the problem and refer the question to the Department of: Trade and Industry at the close of question time this afternoon to see whether there is anything it can do in furtherance of what he requested me to do within the general area of that Department’s ability to protect the situation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Does the Minister for Education and Science propose to convene a very early meeting of State Ministers responsible for the conservation of wildlife to consider the implementation of recommendation No. 6 of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation which advocated financial assistance to the States to expand their existing wildlife reserves and to overcome the exiting lack of liaison between State wildlife authorities and the River Murray Commission, which lack of liaison has been extremely detrimental as regards the wet land habitat of ibises and other bird life?
– It is always a matter of stimulated enthusiasm to find Senator Mulvihill pursuing anything in regard to wildlife.
– He is the wild colonial boy.
– I do not think he considers that I am entirely wildlife. The interim report of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation was laid on the table of the other place as recently as 23rd November. It contains 8 recommendations and 27 conclusions and deserves detailed consideration which, of necessity, will have to take place as between a number of Commonwealth departments and Ministers before the Government can make a decision. Therefore, it is not possible for me to say that at this stage the Minister for Education and Science is in a position to make a decision as to whether he will convene the proposed conference. No doubt that matter will be considered.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that the small amount of money made available by the Federal Government for medical research in this country leaves university research departments and teaching hospitals with a perpetual feeling of uncertainty about where their finances are coming from and that the heads of these departments have difficulty in recruiting and retaining talented senior staff? fs he aware that Australia’s approximately 67 research centres feel that the present grant requires to be doubled? Will the Minister say whether the Government intends to increase the medical research grant to stop the medical brain drain of 40 to 50 experts a year, whose training costs this country approximately Si. 5m?
I have had the advantage of seeing articles in one of the Melbourne journals. Naturally when my attention was drawn to them I set about getting some background information. I will have processed certain particular aspects of the honourable senator’s question, but I respond to the generality of the point that he made, particularly the reference to the brain drain story. 1 have seen the letter to the ‘Age’ by the members of the Australian Society for Medical Research. The main point contained in the articles is a contention that relatively large numbers of medical research workers are leaving the country. I would dispute this contention. Of course accurate statistics at this point are not available, but I must stress that information which has come to my Department over the past few years clearly indicates that rather than a brain drain occurring there has been what might be described as a brain gain to Australia in the field of medical research.
Scientific research is an international affair and the movements of personnel such as medical research workers must be seen in that light. Indeed the National Health and Medical Research Council awards fellowships known as the C. J. Martin Travelling Fellowships specifically for overseas study.It is interesting to note that of the 40 such fellowships awarded to date only 4 of the research workers involved have not yet returned to Australia to continue their academic studies in Australia. But considering this matter on a broader basis, one has only to look at the academic staff appointments in our universities to see that an influx of qualified personnel from overseas is occurring. A large proportion of these university appointments is filled by highly qualified personnel who in fact have chosen to come to Australia to work in the scientific environment which is undoubtedly here. These include numerous appointees to medical research fields.
Reference has been made again today both in this question and in the Press to Commonwealth financial support for the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra. In reply to this point I can only say that the John Curtin School is of international standing in medical research and, as an integral part of the Australian National University, is quite naturally supported by Commonwealth finance. Finally, I must stress that the National Health and Medical Research Council, through which Commonwealth expenditure on medical research is channelled, has always allocated the bulk of these funds to projects by individuals or groups of researchers rather than to projects of a capital expenditure nature. This approach is intended specifically to foster the development of career medical research workers in Ausralia. It is my conviction and that of the Government that the continuous development of medical research in Australia is essential, and honourable senators can be assured that this policy will be continued.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that until the increase in New South Wales hospital fees last August the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd was refunding up to $4.20 on private outpatient theatre fees in respect of doctors using a theatre for a minor operation which could not be done in a surgery but which did not need inpatient admission, and that some refunds were made by the Medical Benefits Fund on this score between 1st August and 8th November? Will the Minister ascertain whether it is a fact that as from 8th November there is now no entitlement to a refund at all for this type of medical treatment? With hospitals charging up to $13 for the use of a theatre, will the Minister agree that in the present circumstances the patient would be better off financially if admitted as an inpatient? Will the Minister investigate the situaton and take steps that will ensure the payment of a refund for this type of medical service?
Yes, I am aware of some of the ingredients in the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland. I think he would agree that there are complexities in this matter. I think it would be far more appropriate if I gave him, and in fact the Senate, a considered statement on the particular situation to which he alludes. I would have to give 2 replies if I gave him an interim reply now, because I think he is entitled and we all are entitled to know the full facts associated with what is happening in this regard in New South Wales.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that following the 4c rise in the price of wheat the price of flour has been increased by some $6 per short ton? As the rise in the price of wheat accounts for only about $1.50 of the $6, have there been any protests from the Press or the honourable senators of the Opposition about the flour milling industry recovering increased costs in its price structure, or is it only the wheat growers who must absorb costs and smile?
– I think what the honourable senator says is very true.
– If it it true and obvious, why do you not do something about it?
– I do not know what the honourable senator is trying to ask. I have no detailed information of any action that has been taken by honourable senators or other people in protesting against the increased price of flour. However, I did note this morning that someone is reported to have said that the price of bread will have to be increased by lc a loaf. To warrant that increase the price of wheat would have had to be increased by at least 34c a bushel.
– .1 direct my question to the Attorney-General. When preparing legislation to control the operations of insurance companies will he ensure that, in the drafting, provisions are inserted to deal with those firms which attracted such unfavourable comment in the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner’s latest report? 1 am referring to unregistered firms currently selling contracts resembling life insurance policies in Sydney and Perth.
– Although the honourable senator’s question was directed to me, insurance is not within my area of responsibility. The matter is appropriate for the attention of the Treasurer.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission intends to provide viewers in the eastern States with an opportunity to see the programme Today Tonight’ shown in Perth on 23rd November in which Mr Hawke became very angry and threatened to walk out, until pacified bv the interviewer, when confronted by a prominent member of the Liberal Party, Mr Ian Viner, the endorsed candidate for the electorate of Stirling?
– J am unaware of the details of the particular interview conducted by the Australian .Broadcasting Commission in Perth, although the implications of the honourable senator’s question intrigue me greatly as undoubtedly they will intrigue many members of the Opposition. lt is very unusual for a person being interviewed to threaten to walk out when the programme is on air. I would have thought it an even more unusual event when the person concerned is a prominent figure. The degree of unusualness, I would think, is accentuated when the person concerned occupies a responsible position and is well known throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
I am unable to say why the Australian Broadcasting Commission limited the showing of that particularly interesting and unusual event to viewers in Western Australia, but as 1 have said in the Senate before on behalf of the Postmaster-General, the AfiC is responsible for its own programmes and is not amenable to instructions from anybody else except in the circumstances expressly laid down by the Broadcasting and Television Act. However, as J have said on other occasions, I will refer the matter to the Postmaster-General for his attention.
– -Is the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration aware that during the recent building boom in Australia hundreds pf migrant tradesmen were brought into Australia, particularly Western Australia, to relieve the shortage prevalent at that time? Does the Minister acknowledge (hat the building, bonin is now over and that as a result many imported tradesmen are unemployed and receiving social service benefits? Does the Minister consider that the increasing numbers of unemployed in Australia warrant a very close look at our immigation policy, perhaps with the object of suspending all immigration until such time as the numbers of unemployed are considerably reduced? Has the Minister advised intending migrants of the job situation in Australia at this time? Is it considered that the present unemployment situation is due to a large extent to too many migrants too soon and that as a result our social service funds are being used to a large extent for migrants?
– I can say only that I regret that the honourable senator’s question contains so many sub-questions because it prevents an opportunity to give attention to any one of the questions which, in their own way, would have warranted a proper answer. It appears to me that the general tenor of the honourable senator’s question is that the immigration programme is too large and ought to be reduced. This is a matter to which the Government has given close attention over the years and recent announcements indicate that the projected immigration intake for this year is approximately 30,000 fewer than the intake of other years. But it should never be forgotten that the development and growth of Australia and the material standards in which all Australians have shared have been made possible over the last two or three decades by an immigration programme in which all parties have participated and shared. We cannot, in times of temporary difficulty, question what in fact has been Australia’s success in the past.
I am not aware that the building boom, as the honourable senator put it, is over. Certain statistics would suggest that approvals for both residential and non-residential building are not slackening at all. But the honourable senator can be assured that the Government does pay attention to the needs of particular areas in the administration of its immigration programme and is conscious of the need to be able to maintain a proper immigration programme for what appears to be Australia’s likely growth in the future.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer again to the case of Ian Garth Yates. Is it a fact that 2 Commonwealth police visited Mr Yates’ mother late yesterday afternoon, endeavouring to ascertain whether the signature on the national service registration card for Mr Yates was false? Did the police have with them the registration card that the Minis er refused to table in this chamber? Does this sudden frantic activity by the Commonwealth police indicate that the Minister realises that the signature on Mr Yates’ registration card may be false and that his unwillingness to table this card in the Senate is designed to avoid the embarrassment of having this falsity proved to the Parliament?
– I am unaware whether 2 Commonwealth policemen visited Mrs Yates yesterday, although I know that the police have been making some investigations in’.o this matter. I have not, contrary to what the honourable senator has said, refused to table any document in the Senate. I also suggest that there is no ‘frantic activity’ on the part of -the Commonwealth police and that those aspects of the honourable senator’s question are not based on fact. I am, however, very conscious that the circumstances in which the honourable senator has referred to the case of Mr Yates are that Mr Yates along with some others, claimed that the Commonwealth Government was not enforcing the law. I have indicated that the reason why there was no action of any description to enforce the law against Mr Yates was that a registration form had been received from Ian Garth Yates and he had been balloted out. lt is only within the last-
– That is not true.
– Order! You cannot make a statement like that, Senator Poyser.
– It is only within the last three or four days– after 1 brought out the facts - ‘that any question has been raised to the effect that Mr Yates in fact may have had someone put in a false registration form on his behalf. I do not know - certainly the Department of Labour and National Service does not know - that any false form has been put in. All the Department received was a form signed by Ian Garth Yates and showing a birth date of 31st October 1950. The birth date of Mr Ian Garth Yates, who swore a statutory declaration yesterday, is 31st October 1950. In those circumstances it is quite unreasonable to suggest that there is any desire on anybody’s part to avoid a full investigation. If Mr Yates feels that he has been wrongly balloted out I hope he will provide the police with full information, firstly, to enable them to ascertain whether any false information has been given and, secondly, to enable him to be prosecuted on his own admission for not having registered for national service.
– May I ask the Attorney-General a supplementary question?
– ls it a fact that the first registration card received by the Department of Labour and National Service was rejected because it was signed by a person other than Mr Yates and that a subsequent registration card was submitted which was accepted without further question?
– My recollection is that I informed the Senate last Thursday in answer to a question from Senator Poyser rhat a registration form had been received from Mr Yates’s mother and that it had been returned because she could not sign a registration form on behalf of her son. A registration form signed by Mr Yates, or purporting to be signed by Mr Yates, which is a reservation I make only in the light of allegations recently made, was received and. as I have indicated already, on the face of it it was a perfectly proper, valid and honest registration by a person who was required to register. There was nothing on it to suggest that there was anything improper. In those circumstances I reiterate what I said earlier, that the Department of Labour and National Service had no reason to regard that particular registration as an invalid registration.
– Mv question to the Minister for Civil Aviation relates to his statement about plans by Qantas Airways Ltd for new cut rale fares. In the event that agreement within the International Air Transport Association for the new cut rate fares < not reached, is it certain that bilateral arrangements with Britain and European countries will proceed unimpeded, thus allowing the commencement of early 1972 flights at reduced rates? Have the negotiations with Britain and European countries in relation to landing rights arising from the formation of Oantair been completed? Can the Minister say to what extent the negotiations have been successful and whether these will necessarily be completed before the proposals for the new fares will be possible in early 1972?
– I think the statement that was issued yesterday covers the matter fairly accurately. I shall see that the honourable senator has a copy of the statement if he does not have one already. The negotiations are proceeding quite satisfactorily. The statement would not have been issued had we not been clear in our minds that early next year we would be able to do what we propose to do and which is outlined in the statement.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, also relates to the Qantas Airways Ltd fare structure. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the comparison between the existing fare from such centres as Perth to Townsville within Australia with the proposed fare from Perth to Loudon? Has the Minister made an examination of the fare structure within Australia similar to that reported for international flights? If not, can he arrange for such an examination to provide circumstances which will enable travel between distant points within Australia at a rea».onable cost?
– This is an extremely sensible question to which the answer is yes, we have been looking at this for quite some time. It has been quite apparent to the Department and to me that if wc succeeded as we have succeeded in breaking through in the low fare operation overseas to the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe, as has been announced, this would undoubtedly show a comparison between such fares and the fares for long distances in Australia. This has already been drawn to the attention of the airlines and we in the Department are working wilh them on this matter, lt is a quite appropriate matter for us to examine. I thank the honourable senator for raising this with me.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, ls any delay occurring through lack of finance in the implementation of the recommendations of the Nation-wide Survey of Educational Needs? ls the Government prepared to make the finance available for the full implementation of such recommendations and, if so, when can the initial allocation be expected?
– The honourable senator’s question refers to a nation-wide survey which was made in each State by the respective State Ministers for Education as to the needs and the subsequent surveys and examination of those needs. The question obviously relates to a matter of Government policy. When the Government makes a decision on that matter it will follow the usual course of announcing any policy through the appropriate Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the serious problems facing the apple and pear industry as a result of the severe increase in freight rates for the 1972 export season and the difficulties being experienced in negotiating adequate shipping space for that crop? Will the Minister consider further assistance for the industry in the event of it suffering crippling losses in the coming season?
– 1 am well aware of the position of the apple and pear industry and particularly the matter of freights. Some time ago the Minister for Primary Industry visited. Hobart where he had discussions with the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania, growers, exporters and Ministers for Agriculture from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania in relation to this matter. Later on the Australian Apple and Pear Board had a special meeting and sent a deputation to London to try to negotiate a freight rate lower than that proposed by the shippers. On another occasion the Board considered a special request from Western Australia which put forward 3 proposals in relation to freight rates. All these matters are being investigated very carefully by the Minister and by the Apple and Pear Board. At this time I cannot say what the outcome will be. I shall give the honourable senator more information as soon as I find out anything further.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that more than 70 per cent of general practitioner services at Mackay, more than 72 per cent of such services at Townsville, more than 81 per cent at Cairns and more than 60 per cent at Southport, are charged for at above the common fee rate? Is the Minister satisfied that medical services in Queensland, especially north Queensland, should be charged for so extensively above the common fee? If so, what steps does the Minister propose to increase benefits for members of voluntary health insurance groups in those areas so that the common fee will have some realistic meaning for them? If he is not satisfied with this situation what steps does he propose to take to encourage adherance to the common fee?
In a sense the honourable senator asks me to reflect on matters of policy. He quotes certain percentages in relation to cities or towns in Queensland. He says that there is a 70 per cent non-application of the common fee in an area of Queensland. I would be delighted to have access to the figures which he has and the basis of his calculations. If he would like to discuss the matter with me subsequently 1 will be happy to have access to his figures. The common fee concept is an integral part of a health scheme which is incorporated by an Act of Parliament. Tt is implicit in the scheme that there be insurance and Commonwealth participation at the expense of the taxpayer. In relation to the New South Wales figures there is a margin which provides, in broad terms, 80c for a surgery visit, $1.20 for a home visit and $5 for a service other than those. I have released - this is’ documented - the figures for the application of the common fee in Australia from State to State. In due course when figures to 30th September are available they will- be released in their totality so that they can be looked at properly.
We will then be in a position to look at the figures in relation to the various States. Off the cuff and without any reference to notes I say that my understanding from the latest release of figures for Queensland as a whole puts applications of the common fee at between 75 per cent and 80 per cent of the total - not against it. However, I would be happy to get the information that is available in relation to particular areas and give it to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that although in aggregate numbers and in proportion to population Australia is producing a high level of medical graduates, those going into and remaining in general practice are a declining proportion to population, and, on the basis of a recent Victorian survey, general practitioners are as <t group showing significant ageing? ls he also aware that many medical practitioners feel that general practice has lost its professional status and community standing in recent years, and that this, according to many doctors, is largely the reason for this drift away from the ageing within general practice? Has his Government any proposals in mind to reverse this drift, or does it regard the role and future of the personal physician as unimportant?
I had the unhappy experience of having my character taken away, as it were, in relation to what I was reported to have said about the general practitioner. J always remember a little story I was told as a little boy by my mother. It was thai sticks and stones cun break your bones but names can never hurt you. Therefore I chase to ignore what was said about me.
– Are you including Senator Primmer?
No, I am not including him. On the contrary, I think that the honourable senator’s question is obviously linked to something he has read. But the fact of thu matter is that I have on record my firm recognition of the role of the general practitioner. Honourable senators will find in Hansard instances where I have made it abundantly clear that as far as I am concerned the general practitioner is the salt of the earth. He is more than a medical adviser: very often he goes far deeper in the performance of his role in community life. In fact, the purpose of the referral system by which a patient is referred by a general practitioner to a specialist is to preserve the situation of the general practitioner in any national health scheme. I am sure that we all recognise that there must always be a role for the general practitioner. Any action by the Government will always recognise the principle of the role of the general pracitioner
It was a very unhappy experience for me to read something which I was reported to have said but which was converted to suggest that I have some feelings agaInst the general practitioners. Good heavens. I have lived with them all my life. I know them and I respect them. I have worked V’!1 general practitioners in hospital administration as have some other honourable senators. They are an essential pan of our health scheme. The Act which provides a national health scheme is so drafted, mid has been given approval by this Government, to protect general practitioners and ensure that they remain essential ib the health and welfare of the people of Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls the Government aware that thousands of young university students who usually work during the university vacation to assist finance their education are unable to gain employment due to the current economic difficulties? Does the Minister agree that these students will consequently suffer severe hardship in 1972. particularly as university fees are rising alarmingly? Would the Minister discuss with the . Prime Minister (he possibility of making grants to local and semi-government authorities, as the Government is doing in some rural areas, so that these young people can be gainfully employed over the next few months?
It is within my general knowledge, and I think it is within he general knowledge of all honourable senators, that students ;it the tertiary level seek casual employment during the vacation period to help their financial situation, and particularly to help them in their future education and studies al university. Accepting tha as the basis of the question. I am not aware of the extent of their inability to obtain the casual employment to which the honourable senator referred. I am not aware of this in the sense in which he posed the question. I think I should refer that aspect of his question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I will see that that is done today.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts aware that an atempt to ask questions about the living conditions of Aborigines employed by the Hooker Corporation at Victoria River Downs Station was rejected at the annual meeting yesterday of Hooker Corporation Ltd? ls it a fact that Mr Hooker, whose company acquired the station from the Commonwealth Government on a 50-year lease, allowed prepared answers to questions to be read out but refused to allow the meeting “o discuss the matters? How does the Government view the fact that when Pastor Frank Roberts, representing the Aborigines, asked for more detail in the answers, he was abruptly silenced by Mr Hooker who old him that the meeting would not be turned into a debating forum on the rights of Aborigines? Would the Government consider this kind of behaviour by a wealthy land tycoon to be of any assistance in maintaining good relations wi h the Aborigines, especially in connection with their claims to land rights?
– 1 am unable to say whether the catalogue of facts or purported facts to which the honourable senator referred occurred. There was some comment in the newspapers but 1 am unable to say to what extent the newspaper reports were complete or accurate. In any event, surely the position is that what happens at a company meeting is not a matter in which the Government should intervene or where it does intervene. The concern of the Government is we)) expressed by the many steps which it has taken to improve the position of the Aboriginal population and to enable Aborigines, in accordance with Government policy, to have opportunities for development in our country.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. In view of his statement this afternoon that the price of wheat would have to increase by 36c a bushel to warrant an increase of lc per loaf of bread, I ask: Will the Minister take immediate action to ensure that the price of bread does not increase by more than one-ninth of a cent per loaf as a result of the proposed increase of 4c a bushel of wheat?
– I said that to justify a rise of lc per loaf of bread would require an increase of 34c a bushel in the home consumption price of wheat. That is so. In regard to the rest of the question, I think this comes within the responsibility of the States and has nothing to do with the Commonwealth. If the honourable senator wants me, through the Minister for Primary Industry, to write to his. State Premier, I will see what we can do about it.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, follows on from questions asked by Senator Prowse and Senator McLaren. Is the Minister aware that the price of flour in South Australia is determined by the Prices Commissioner in that State and that it has been so determined for the last 20 years? In respect of the increased home consumption price of wheat, operative from today, is the Minister aware that no determination has yet been made in regard to a flour price increase in that State arising from this increase in the price of wheat and other cost increases incurred since the last adjustment?
– I think the facts are as slated by the honourable senator, and as I have answered 3 questions on this subject I have no further information to add.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and is supplementary to the question I asked him in relation to the new arrangements for cutrate fares by Qantas Airways Ltd. It also refers to the Minister’s failure ‘o make a statement either in this place or. through some other Minister in another place, on a matter which has been strongly debated and which is of great concern to employees of Qantas who have been retrenched. Does the Minister consider that the statement he made to the Press yesterday is not of sufficient importance to be made in this chamber or in another place by one of his colleagues? Does he intend to make the procedure he adopted yesterday the normal practice in respect of Qantas matters and not allow Parliament the chance to note his statement or any honourable senator or honourable member of another place to have the carriage of the debate on such a statement?
– It is a nice question whether the Australian people in their own right are entitled to be told something through the media or whether it should in the first place go through the processes of the Parliament. This was a case where the negotiations had reached a very distinct stage and I thought that quite properly this statement should be made. It was a statement in plain and uncomplicated terms. As I read it through before issuing it I felt that it was not necessary to make this statement in Parliament. I did not think so then and 1 do not think so now.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise advise whether the use of labrador dogs as drug smuggling detectors has been discontinued? If the answer is In the affirmative, does the Department of Customs and Excise inter experimenting further with cross-bred dogs imported from the United States which have an excellent record in this field of drug detection?
-I remember the honourable senator asking a question of the Minister for Health in this place about that matter andI was tempted to rise then but for the stricture you, Mr President, had placed on me not to volunteer information. I recall the discussions and the questions of the honourable senator in the Estimates Committee that I attended about the problem of these dogs. I had some apprehension that the honourable senator was about to denigrate labrador dogs and I was ready to spring to their defence because I am a great lover of these dogs. I understood the honourable senator’s questions in the Estimates Committee, to the Minister for Health and to me today. I believe the situation, from information I sought from the Department of Customs and Excise, to be that up to the present time in the area of drug detection the dogs that it proposed to use had not achieved the measure of success that it was originally hoped they would. However, in the United States of America they have apparently been most successful. For the time being it is not the intention of the Department to abandon the use of the dogs but it is proposed to review training and selection procedures. During the recent conference, which honourable senators will probably recall being held in Canberra, discussions took place between people from our Department of Customs and Excise and people from overseas about dog training and it was proposed to seek their assistance on training methods. Senator Mulvihill will remember that I directed his question in the Estimates Committee to the departmental representative because he then suggested that perhaps the use of a cross-breeding technique or some Australian dog influence might be worth considering.
Mr President,I seek the indulgence of the Senate at this stage of question time which has now gone for an hour so that we might be able soon to move on to the business on the notice paper.
– I was proposing to call Senator McAuliffe and then ask for the indulgence of the Senate that you now seek.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he is aware that the Queensland branch of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society has claimed that that lodge is now virtually a government department operating under a type of nationalised control and that the fund is now no longer voluntary in the true sense of the word. As these criticisms come from a prominent organisation closely associated with the present system of health insurance and as they strike at the very heart of the Government’s alleged philosophy behind its health insurance scheme, will the Minister explain why the Government has dropped the concept of voluntary insurance? Is it determined to convert the insurance funds into government departments?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the last question is no, no, no.
– In other words you are rejecting the Nimmo Committee’s recommendations.
– I am talking about the Government’s policy. The health and hospital insurance funds are voluntary organisations. If people do not wish to remain in the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society or any other registered society, or if they do or do not wish to join that fund, that is something about which they have a free and unqualified choice.I hope that that is a conclusive answer to the question.
(Question No. 1519)
askedthe Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
The Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has providedthe following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question . No. 1566)
asked the Minister representing the Minister For Labour and National Service, upon notice: (1)Is the number of unemployed expected to exceed 130,000 by February 1972.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1598)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Will the Postmaster-General investigate the possibility of having the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast the regular news and news feature sessions one hour later each evening until the end of the period set down for daylight saving?
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The ABC is currently undertaking research into the effects of daylight saving, if any, on its radio and television audience. Changes will be made in the times of its news bulletins and other regular programmes, if the research indicates they are warranted.
(Question No. 1644)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has a date been fixed for the installation of an Instrument Landing System at Townsville Airport?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
At this time no date has been set for the installation of anInstrument Landing System (ILS) at Townsville. The high cost of ILS limits the rate at which these facilities can be provided and at this time there are several other locations at which ILS must be installed before Townsville.
(Question No. 1645)
asked the Minister or Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1699)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many persons are known by the Department of Labour and National Service to be in breach of the National Service Act for (a) failure to register at the proper time, (b) failure to attend for medical examination, and (c) failure to obey a call-up notice?
– Out of courtesy to Senator Cavanagh I have just sent him a copy of the answer to this question so that he can more conveniently follow it as I read it. The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Information relevant to the honourable senator’s question is set out below. Reference has been made to policies followed in respect of each offence so that the reply may be more meaningful.
Failure to Register
My Department carries out more than 10,000 checks each year of the liability of persons who appear not to have registered for national service. The fact that it docs so often gives rise, quite incorrectly, to a claim that this number of persons were liable to register and have not done so. For reasons explained in my reply to Question No. 870 (Senate Hansard, 7th April 1971, page 805), frequently no default is found.
Following detection by my Department a great majority of men who are liable to register do so. Other men may register late on their own initiative and some refuse.
Men who fail to register at the proper lime lose the benefit of the ballot, that is, they are considered for call-up irrespective of the result of the ballot. Particularly where they have registered only after being detected by my Department or have refused to register at all they could also expect to be prosecuted for their offence.
In 1970-71, 1,924 men who registered during that year were denied the benefit of the ballot and 192 men were also prosecuted
In the period from the 1st July to 24th November 1971, 706 men who registered in that period were denied the benefit of the ballot and 172 men prosecuted. The cases of 854 men who have registered and 70 men who have refused to register were outstanding at the latter date.
Failure to Attend Medical Examination
Where men fail to attend for medical examination, it is the policy of my Department to give a second and, in some cases, even a third chance to men to attend. In view of the reasons which may cause men not to attend as required this is no more than reasonable. As at 24th November, 300 cases involving failure to attend for medical examination were under investigation.
If men persist in their refusal to attend for examination or if they endeavour to evade attending, they are considered for prosecution. In the year 1970-71 19 men were prosecuted. Since 30th June 1971, 29 men have been prosecuted and prosecution action is in train in respect of a further 29
Failure toobey a call-up notice
Some men do not attend on the dale set down for their call-up because, for example, of illness, family death or other unavoidable cause’s; in these cases arrangements are made for their enlistment at a later date. Other men at the last minute apply for recognition as conscientious objectors and arc subsequently granted exemption or are enlisted. Men who had previously refused to undergo a medical examination to determine their fitness for service may following their failure to report for service decide to attend. Others change their minds and enlist. Thus of 19 cases of men who had failed to obey a call-up notice which were finalised in 1970-71 only 2 went to jail the others ended their non-compliance in one way or the other. Since the end of June last 14 more such cases have been finalised. Seven of these men chose to go into the Army when given that chance either before or during a court hearing andonly 1 man has persisted to the stage of being sentenced to imprisonment.
At the 24th November 1971 the cases of 100 men who had refused to report for service were outstanding. Prosecution action is already in train in 2 cases including 6 where warrants forthe apprehension of the men have been issued by the courts.
(Question No. 1603)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development upon notice:
Who comprised the Australian delegation announced in the Minister’s press release of3rd November 1971, which held talks in Washington with the United States Government on the sharing of information concerning gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment technology.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
(Question No. 1638)
askedthe Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Will the Minister consider lowering the age of eligibility for an age pension to 60 years for fanners who at this age have to leave their farms because of economic circumstances.
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has already approved record assistance for the purposes of alleviating the position of farmers and others affected by the current market for certain rural products. In general measures of an economic rather than a welfare kind are likely to make the most effective contribution to resolving the very real problems facing many rural industries. The Senator may be assured that the Government is giving the most sympathetic consideration to the problems of farmers who are in the circumstances which he mentions.
(Question No. 1382)
asked the Minister representingthe Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Threats were received by myself and cameraman Morrie Pilens. The day after the first of our two reports on Golden Products went to air. I received a telephone call from a woman shopkeeperwho said thatshe had just spoken with a customer who was connected with Golden Products. This person had told her that the whole programme (Dateline) was a tissue of lies, and that the funny thing about the whole affair was ‘what was going to happen to Barry McQueen’. The caller would not give her name.
During the filming of a sequence outside Golden Products rented premises at 320 Toorak Road, cameraman Morrie Pilens was told by Golden Products co-ordinator for Victoria. Mr David Hubbard,you’d better tell Barry McQueen to pull his head in . . . or else! And the same goes for you’.
Pilens was harrassed and impeded in his filming, which was all being done openly and on a public thoroughfare.
– On 9th
November 1971 Senator Poyser asked me a question without notice relating to the alleged tapping of telephones in Western Australia andI undertook to provide the honourable senator with an answer. I have now made inquiries into this matter and can assure the honourable senator that the procedures required by the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act I960 are being faithfully observed. There is, therefore, no such practice as the honourable senator indicated might exist.
(Question No. 1637)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1164)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The N.H & M.R.C. through its expert Committees has set standards and made recommendations concerning the following:
The Council keeps these matters under continual review. Its recommendations have no legal standing unless incorporated into appropriate Stale and Commonwealth legislation.
That the Minister request the Prime Minister to writeto Slate Premiers urging the adoption of uniform poisons legislation. The Council through its various Committees, has now evolvedand recommended for adoption throu ghout the Commonwealth a code of uniform and generally acceptable poisons scheduled. The Council should emphasise that the State of Queensland has in good faith, already adopted these schedulesin the interests of uniformity, thus imposing some obligationupon the otherStates to conform without undue delay.
In September 1959 the Prime Minister wrote to the Slate Premiers in accordance with the Council’s recommendation.
The present position is that all Stales, withthe exception of Tasmania have substantially adopted the Council’s eight uniform poisons schedules in their legislation. In Tasmania ‘the Council’s recommendations have been accepted in principle. Information received from the Tasmanian Department of Health Services indicates that the Bill giving effect to these recommendations may be introduced into the Tasmanian Parliament in the near future.
In the Australian Capital Territory the existing legislation substantially gives effect to the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The revision of this legislation to relateit more closely in form to the actual schedules recommended by the Council is complex but is approaching completion. When the form of that legislation is settled, it will be used as a basis for similar legislation in the Northern Territory.
(Question No. 1512)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer:
June 1974. The amount available to the States over the three years will be $36m which is $6m morethan was provided in the previous triennium.
It should also be noted that as a result of the Commonwealth’s increased general financial assistance to the States, they are now in a position to devote substantially increased funds to all levels of education. It is of course for each State government to determine the proportion of funds which it will devote to any particular sector of its own education system.
(Question No. 1572)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
What isthe percentage of total personal incomes for the years 1963-64 to 1970-71 of wages and salaries in Australia.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
The information set out below has been supplied by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. It is calculated from figures shown in the Budget PaperNational Income and Expenditure 1970-71 and for years prior to 1966-67 from ‘Australian National Accounts, National Income and expenditure196970’.
Estimates of wages salaries and supplements include pay and allowances of members of the defence forces. Supplements to wages and salaries consist of employers’ contributions to pension and superannuation funds employers’ direct payments of pensions and retiring allowances, and amounts paid as workers’ compensation for injuries. Total personal income includes cash benefits from public authoritiesand imputed income from owneroccupied dwellings.
– I refer to the fol lowing question without notice asked by Senator Gietzelt on 26th October 1971:
Is it a fact, as reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 22nd October 1971, that the Government recently brought pressure to bear on the Metal Trades Industry Association to resist moves to have collective bargaining agreements wilh unions? If so, is such an action a contribution to industrial peace or an unwarranted interference wilh the rights of employers and unions to negotiate freely in the spirit of conciliation for the fixation of just wage rales?
In reply Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson undertook to refer the question to the relevant Minister. The Minister for Labour and National Service has now provided the following reply to the honourable senators question:
The Government has nol attempted to influence the Metal Trades Industry Association to resist any tendency towards collective bargaining agreements with unions.
– On 5th October, Senator Young addressed to me the following question without notice:
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether any discussions have been held with university authorities in relation to the expulsion or cancellation of the scholarships of students, such as those al Melbourne University, who openly defy the law and assist others to do the same by barricading university buildings and preventing the police from carrying out their duties? Has the Minister seen comments that such radical minorities are using university campuses for the purpose of underground operations in defiance and disruption of law and order instead of study? If no such discussions with the authorities have taken place will the Minister lake all necessary steps to arrange them wilh the aim of enabling universities and students to operate for the purpose for which students attend the universities and for which the taxpayer pays?
The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question: 1 have taken a close interest in the difficult situation which hits arisen on university campuses because of the disruptive activities of radical minority groups. However, I have had no discussions with university authorities on the matters raised by the honourable Senator. Discipline in the universities is the responsibility of the university authorities themselves.
The honourable Senator has referred to an incident in which some draft resisters took refuge in ihe union building at the University of Melbourne. I spoke on this mailer in the House on 5th October, when I explained that this was an instance where responsibility for maintaining order lay with the university authorities. I also pointed out that the course of action taken by the board of directors of the university union was the correct one in the light of the circumstances and the powers available to it.
There have been circumstances which have led the universities to suspend individual students in accordance with the disciplinary powers available to them. For example, towards the end of 1970
Monash University expelled a number of students who had taken part in a demonstration. This year, LaTrobe University suspended 8 of its students following another incident. More recently, this same University again imposed penalties, involving the expulsion of 5 students and the fining of 18 others, on account of a student occupation of university buildings at the end of September this year.
If ihe matter is beyond the competence of a university to handle, then ihe responsibility lies with the normal law enforcement agencies, both Commonwealth and Stale, and it would be tha duty of the university to call upon ihe police to deal with the situation. The police have shown that they are quite capable of dealing wilh offenders and they have also brought prosecutions in appropriate cases. In so far as Commonwealth territories and premises are concerned. Parliament passed an Act this year redefining the responsibilities of demonstrators and the powers available to the police in order to give greater protection to people’s rights and property during demonstrations.
The honourable senator has raised the question of cancelling scholarship benefits. It needs to be remembered thai relatively few of ihe students disciplined by the universities to date have been holding scholarships when Ihe offences occurred. For example, of the 13 students expelled from LaTrobe University this year only one was in receipt of scholarship benefits at the time of the incidents which led to their being disciplined. The normal operation of the Commonwealth scholarship schemes provides for the suspension or withdrawal of benefits if students fail to make satisfactory academic progress. Where the penalties imposed by university authorities result in the exclusion of a Commonwealth scholarship holder from his course this would affect the tenure of his award. If, as a result of disciplinary action imposed by the universities he cannot maintain the rate of academic progress required of scholarship holders under the normal conditions of ihe scheme, then he would lose his award. This has happened. Three of the Monash students to whom 1 have referred held Commonwealth University scholarships which were either withdrawn or suspended. The Sit me action has been taken in the case of a scholarship holder from the University of Queensland.
– On 1 2th October, Senator Guilfoyle asked the following question without notice:
I address a question to Ihe Minister representing the Minister for Education, and Science. I refer to the Ministerial statement which outlines the Commonwealth education programme for 1971-72. The Minister stated that Ihe Canberra College of. Advanced Education will not only be training teachers to meet the needs of the Commonwealth Territories but also will be accepting students for teacher training without regard to the school system in which they will eventually teach. 1 ask the Minister whether this statement relates only to government schools throughout Australia or whether teachers for the independent school system will be accepted for training.
The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer:
The College authorities have always intended that the Teacher education courses at the College would he available for trainees destined for both government, and independent schools. A spokesman lor the independent school system was a member of the advisory committee which planned details of the courses.
– Wilh the concurrence of the Senate I would like to explain the placing of business today.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The Senate will deal first with Orders of the Day 1, 2, 3 and 4, following the receipt of messages. Then we will take the 2 Appropriation Bills. I point out to the Senate that we have already debated the Appropriation Bills at the second reading level on the basis of having taken note of the proposed expenditures. After the second reading of the 2 Appropriation Bills we will go into the Committee of the Whole, there to deal first with the report of Estimates Committee B.
– Pursuant to section 13 of the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968, I present the third annual report by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs on the administration and operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
Debate resumed from 30 November (vide page 2194), on motion by Senator Rae:
That the report be printed.
(3.46) - When the report of Estimates Committee B was presented in the Senate yesterday a motion was moved for the printing of the report and the debate was adjourned because of a point that was raised. I gather that that has been sorted out. Therefore, the motion for the printing of the report can now be put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill Con mo’ ion bv Senator Wright) read a first time.
– J move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the proposal which was announced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the Budget Speech, to increase the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme from $8,000 to $9,000. The war service homes scheme is the Commonwealth’s own housing scheme. The scheme is part of a comprehensive range of repatriation benefits for Australian ex-service men and women and their dependants. Its aim is to assist eligible persons to secure homes of their own by providing them with low interest long term housing loans. ] need hardly remind honourable senators that a war service homes loan is a very valuable repatriation benefit. Loans, which are available without any waiting period, carry interest at only 3i per cent per annum and are repayable over terms up to 45 years, or 50 years in the case of certain eligible widows. The present maximum loan of §8,000 came into operation in November 1968 and the increase in the maximum loan to $9,000 is designed to assist eligible persons to meet increases since 1968 in the costs of acquiring a home, lt will directly benefit eligible persons by reducing the amount thev would otherwise have to provide from their own funds or from supplementary borrowings. Indirectly, it will benefit the whole community by enabling more persons to obtain a home of their own.
The primary purpose of increasing the maximum loan is to give eligible persons who have not previously received assistance under the scheme a more favourable opportunity to obtain a home. However, when the legislation is assented to, applications will be accepted in conformity with existing policy and within the new loan limit from existing purchasers and borrowers for additional loans to provide essential extra accommodation and certain approved utility services, such as sewerage. The Bill also provides for a widening of the definition of ‘holding’ in the War Service Homes Act, which will enable certain interests in land, not presently provided for in the Act, to be accepted as a security for a war service homes loan. The definition of holding’ in general covers only freehold land, perpetual leases, leases for 99 years from the Commonwealth and certain leases from the Commonwealth or a State under which the applicant, upon fulfilment of thf terms, conditions and covenants of the lease, is entitled to a grant in fee simple of the land. The Bill makes provision for an extension of the definition of ‘holding’ to include a lease for a term of not less than 99 years from a State or from a local governing body, a conditional purchase under the Crown Lands Consolidation Act 1913 of the State of New South Wales and a unit defined in a units plan registered in accordance with a law of the Australian Capital Territory relating to unit titles, being a unit of which the applicant or borrower is a lessee under a lease from the Commonwealth. These interests in land represent new tenures or tenures which until recently were not in common use and which are now generally accepted as marketable interests in land and which would provide a satisfactory security for a war service homes loan.
The Bill also includes a number of other amendments which are designed to facilitate the administration of the Act. Clause 3 amends the definitions of ‘purchaser’ and borrower’ for the purposes of sections 30a, 31 and 36 of the Act. Sections 30a, 31 and 36 of the Act empower the Director to exercise certain remedies should a purchaser or borrower fail to comply with the terms and conditions of his contract of sale or mortgage. The Act defines a ‘purchaser’ to mean a person v/ho has purchased from the Director a dwelling-house and land; and a ‘borrower’ as a person who has received an advance, or executed a mortgage or other security to the Director. These definitions do not specifically include the transferees of the original purchaser or borrower or other persons deriving title through the original purchaser or borrower. For the effective administration of the Act, it is necessary that the Director should be empowered to exercise the remedies under sections 30a. 31 and 36, against all successors in title to the original purchaser or borrower to the same extent that he may have exercised those powers against that purchaser or borrower. The proposed amendments to the definitions of purchaser’ and ‘borrower’ provide accordingly.
Clause 7 provides for the insertion of a new section in the Act (section 30b), which will empower the Director, when he enters into possession of a property in pursuance of a warrant issued under section 30a of the principal Act, to remove goods found in the dwelling-house and store them in a safe place and to sell or otherwise dispose of the goods upon the expiration of a period of 3 months after a notice of the removal of the goods has been published.
Clause 10 provides for the insertion of a new section in the Aci (section 48n), which will empower the Director to advance money on mortgage to an ineligible person for the purpose of effecting a sale when exercising the powers of sale conferred by section 36’, section 48 and section 48c of the Act. While the usual practice of the Director is to sell properties under the powers conferred in these sections to eligible persons, it is sometimes necessary to effect a sale to an ineligible person, Where, for example, the properly is no longer suitable for sale to an eligible person, or where an eligible person is not available to purchase the property. Under the existing provisions of the Act, the Director’s power to lend on mortgage is generally limited to eligible persons. The fact that the Director does not have power, where it is necessary to effect a sale to an ineligible person, to receive part of the purchase price in cash and leave part out on mortgage has created some very real administrative difficulties and sometimes’ results in a loss of moneys to the Commonwealth.
Honourable senators will appreciate, from the brief summary 1 have given, that this Bill embraces a wide range of matters, the majority of which are of a beneficial nature, effecting a number of desirable improvements in the war service homes scheme. Since this scheme commenced in 1919, approximately 322,000 eligible persons have been assisted to become home owners and, at the present time, there are approximately 188,000 homes throughout the Commonwealth subject to loans under the scheme. This is approximately equivalent to the total number of homes in the Perth metropolitan area. From these facts and figures there can be no doubt that the war service homes scheme, since it commenced in 1919, has played a significant role in the development of our nation. The improvements provided for in this Bill will enable the scheme to continue making an important contribution to the national welfare by assisting eligible persons and their families in all parts of the Commonwealth to obtain homes, and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill 1971 seeks authority for Ihe provision of S30m, for the 3 calendar years 1972 to 1974 inclusive, to continue the Commonwealth programme of grants for the construction, equipping and stocking of libraries in secondary schools. An amount of $27m was provided for these purposes over 3 years which began on 1st January 1969, under the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968. Our decision to increase the amount avail-able over ihe next 3 years to S30m reflects the importance the Government attaches to this programme which aims to lift the quality of libraries in secondary schools, government and non-government. to acceptable standards. Experience gained to date,, as the Commonwealth libraries programme has gathered momentum, indicates that the programme has been widely welcomed, and is already having a sound educational impact.
Many secondary schools, both government and non-government, have received grants under the Commonwealth libraries programme. The need for the continuation of the programme has been demonstrated by information made available by the States with regard to government schools, and by returns from individual nongovernment schools, and detailed reports which have been prepared by members of the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee, which advises the Minister in relation to these schools.
Until now, available funds have been distributed on the basis of a formula related to secondary enrolments and State populations. We are changing this’ method of allocation to take advantage of the experience we have gained in both the science facilities programme and the first 3 years of the libraries programme. The amount available will be divided overall between the government and nongovernment schools in Australia in proportion to the secondary enrolments in those sectors. The amount to become available in this way to government schools will be $22.576m. This $22.576m will be divided between the States in proportion to their secondary enrolments and not, as now, on the basis of population’. As at present, the States will determine how this money will be distributed between individual government schools, within broad general programmes which the Minister approves.
I turn now to the non-government schools. These will receive the balance of $7.423m, which is in direct proportion to their secondary enrolments. The aim of the libraries programme has been to raise the standard of library provision in all secondary schools to acceptable levels, and what is required to do this will be the criterion applied in determining how much money will be paid to a particular nongovernment school. Honourable senators will probably know that the standards the Commonwealth regards as acceptable have been determined on the advice of the Committee - ihe Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee - made up of experts in the provision of libraries in the schools. These standards have been widely disseminated, and are set out in the publication ‘Standards for Secondary School Libraries’, which I would be happy to make available to any honourable senator requesting it.
Because the amount to be paid to a non-government school reflects an objective assessment of what is the reasonable cost of raising its existing facilities to an acceptable standard, and because there is a wide variation in Ihe standards of existing facilities, there is also a wide variation in the entitlement of individual schools. From information made available from nongovernment schools, and from the reports from visits by members of the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee to the vast majority of these schools, it has been possible to ascertain with a fair degree of accuracy what will be required to raise all non-government schools to acceptable standards or, to pui it another way, what will be the eventual entitlements of non-government schools under the programme.
It is the Government’s view, that the most equitable and effective way of distribution is to take advantage of the information available and to allocate funds among non-government schools in such a way as to make the same relative impact during the triennium on the requirements of each sector, both’ Roman Catholic and other than Roman Catholic in each State. The sum of $7.423m will be divided between the Roman Catholic and other than Roman Catholic non-government schools in each State so as to reflect the proportionate entitlement of each sector. Each sector will receive that proportion of the available sum which would enable them all to progress at the same rate towards the achieving of acceptable standards in all non-government schools. To illustrate, if what is required to raise a particular sector of the non-government schools to acceptable standards is 10 per cent of what is required to raise all nongovernment schools in Australia to those standards, that sector will receive in the next triennium 10 per cent of the $7.423m.
The Minister will continue to rely on advice from the various State Advisory Committee’s, of which there is one for each sector in each State, as to the timing and distribution of grants to those nongovernment schools. The decision as to the present proportionate entitlements of the sectors of non-government schools, is not rigid. We realise that, as the programme continues, developments in individual schools will change the entitlements of these schools. At the end of the next 3- year period, the overall position will again be assessed carefully, and there is provision in the Bill for variations to be made during the 3 years to the amounts, allocated to the various sectors.
The proposed distribution of the §30m available from 1st January 1972 to 3.1st December 1974 is set out in the Schedule to (he Bill. I seek leave to incorporate a table which sets out the distribution of funds for each category of school in each State, if the funds were evenly divided on an annual basis.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being do objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– As I just mentioned, this Bill varies from the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968 in that it gives the Governor-General authority to make regulations varying the amount payable to the States each year in respect of non-government secondary schools, by transferring funds from one category of non-government school to another and from one State to another. It also presents in its Schedule considerably more detailed information as to how available funds are being distributed. The Bill ensures that the Minister will continue to present each year to Parliament a full report on the programme’s progress during the preceding year. 1 take this opportunity on the Minister’s behalf to thank State governments, which have given their willing co-operation to the successful administration of the programme, the State advisory committees and the members of the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee whose efforts have been unflagging. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $4m for war service land settlement in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during the 1.971-72 financial year. As honourable senators are aware the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital moneys required for the scheme in those 3 States. It is anticipated the money will be made available in the following approximate amounts: South Australia $ 1,683,000; Western Australia$1,600.000; Tasmania $717,000.
As has been stated in previous years when similar Bills were introduced to Parliament, the greater proportion of this money is required to make advances to settlers to cover current working expenses and the purchase of stock and replacement plant. Most settlers under the war service land settlement scheme started on their holdings with little or no capital of their own. Adverse seasonal conditions have, from time to time, affected income in various areas where settlement has taken place. Some have experienced, and are still experiencing a cost price squeeze. It will be appreciated these various factors have operated against a proportion of settlers, particularly those on the later allotments, being able to build up sufficient financial reserves and working capital to enable them to carry on without further borrowing. Consequently, under prevailing economic conditions in the rural sector generally, the demand for financial assistance from settlers affected is expected to be not less than in the previous year. Access to the credit arrangements of the scheme is a great . advantage, particularly the concessional rate of interest applying to advances.
Expenditure on development is mainly on continuing work on block drainage for irrigated horticultural holdings in the Upper Murray region of South Australia and on the irrigation headworks, including channels and pipelines, which supply water to settlers on holdings at Loxton in South Australia. Some drainage work is also to be carried out in Tasmania. Developmental work on farms in Western Australia has been completed. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debute (on motion by Senator Drury) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30 November (vide page 2167), on motion by Senator Wright:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I suggest, in accordance with the indications which were given a little earlier, that the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) might be debated together with the next 3 Bills shown on the Orders of the Day, the Australian Universities Commission Bill States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill, Australian Commission on Advanced Education Bill, and the Bill which was introduced a little earlier, the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill. There will be several amendments to the motions for the second readings. I suggest that, in accordance with the usual practice, at the end of the debate the Bills be taken in proper order and that the Committee stages be taken separately.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– Five Bills are now before the Senate. The Government and the Opposition have agreed to debate them concurrently relating as they do to clearly cognate matters - education. Although the 5 Bills which are now before us may seem to be very different they relate to the policy and performance of the Government and bear on the policy of the Australian Labor Parly in the field of education. To put the debate in order at this stage I shall move the amendment which the Opposition proposes to this Bill and indicate that amendments will be moved in respect of another two. To assist the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I point out in passing that the Opposition does not intend to oppose two of the Bills, namely, the Australian Universities Commission Bill and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Bill. The Opposition will be supporting those 2 Bills. Amendments will be proposed to the 3 other Bills. In relation to the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) I move:
– Honourable senators do not have copies of the amendments.
– I understood the copies had been distributed. Does the Minister have copies?
– Yes, 1 have one of each of the amendments.
– I am sorry but I understood that copies of the amendments had been distributed. In relation to the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1971 I shall move an amendment to the motion that this Bill be now read a second time in the following terms:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that (1) the policy of matching grants should be examined to ascertain whether it permits of an adequate system of advanced education; and (2) sufficient funds should be made available to the States in the form of recurrent grants to permit the abolition of fees in Colleges of Advanced Education’.
In relation to the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Bill 1971 I shall move as an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
Leave out all words alter ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the Commonwealth establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in Government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the Slates to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities, and in making recommendations for such grants to the States, the Commission shall have regard to-
the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children;
the numbers of students enrolled in Ihe various schools;
the need to bring all schools up to acceptable standards; and
the need to ensure optimum use »f resources in the establishment, maintenance and extension of schools’.
Those are the Labor Party’s amendments. One might have hoped, when having simultaneously from the Government 5 Bills relating to education, that one could detect in them some constant theme, some philosophy of education, a necessary interest of any civilised society. If one looks at these 5 Bills one sees that although they relate to somewhat different matters they are all related to the education of young Australians. One finds that these Bills are disparate. Each has little in common with the others and they show no overall philosophy of education, unless one can say that this philosophy of education is one of neglecting the education of Australian students; undess one can say there is an overall philosophy which consists of the evading of responsibility.
I should like to deal with the Bills in some sort of order. The Opposition does not wish to oppose 2 of them. I refer to the Australian Universities Commission Bill 1971 and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Bill 1971. These are Bills of a somewhat technical nature dealing with the -requirements of these commissions. The Australian Labor Party is in favour of the appointment of these commissions and there is very little that can be said on the matter other than to indicate that the Opposition does not intend to dispute at this stage anything that was said by the Minister in his second reading speech. However, when we turn to the other 3 Bills which are before us we come to the substance of the Government’s education policy and we see quite clearly the issues which divide the conservative parties in Australia from the Australian Labor Party on the question of education.
The first of the Bills, the States Grants (Universities) Bill 1971, makes provision for grants by the Commonwealth to the States in order to make certain provisions for universities.
– Senator, did I not read that your Party suggested that you would hand over State schools to church organisations and church schools?
– The honourable senator asked me whether he did not read that ihe Australian Labor Party believes that State schools should be handed over to some church school organisations. I wish to say in answer to the honourable senator that I categorically reject that proposition. This is certainly not the policy of the Australian Labor Party. If this was said by anyone it was a complete misrepresentation of Australian Labor Party policy. Our policy does not remotely resemble any such statement that we should hand over State schools to church school organisations. Our policy is perfectly clear. However, the proposition outlined by the honourable senator may be misrepresented by opponents’ as Australian Labor Party policy. The Australian Labor Party policy is set out very clearly in the amendment which I have moved to the S’ata Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Bill which is at present before the Senate.
– That proposal would be completely contrary to our policy.
– The proposal is totally contrary to our policy. It has no resemblance to our policy and is repudiated by the Australian Labor Party and has been successively repudiated at federal conferences of the Party. I can assure the honourable senator that I am not here to advocate that policy and indeed as a member of the Australian Labor Party I could not advocate such a policy because it is totally contrary to our policy.
The amendment which I have moved to the motion that the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) 1971 be now read a second time is as follows:
Al end of motion add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill should provide for assumption by the Commonwealth of responsibility for financing university education.’
This Bill provides for the granting by the Commonwealth to the States of moneys in order to maintain existing State universities. It is our opinion that this grant is being made on a piecemeal basis and that the situation at present is cumbersome and unwieldy. Although the universities in the various States are in most instances constituted by the States themselves - I say in most instances because the Australian National University is an exception - it is the Commonwealth which is called upon to fulfil the financial obligations of maintaining the universities. Apart from funds made available by the States and from certain private benefactors the Commonwealth has the main obligation in this field. If it were not for the Commonwealth the universities would not be awe to carry on. In fact, this Bill makes recognition of this. Tt provides for the additional expenditure which the universities have had to incur because of rises in the salaries of nonacademic staff employed by the universities.
The Australian Labor Party believes that the question of tertiary education, and in particular university education, is so important that it should not be handled on the basis whereby it is administered by such a great number of bodies. For instance, the Australian Universities Commission and various commissions in different States are concerned with State universities. In my own State of Western Australia there is a Tertiary Education Commission. Before anything can be done, before any innovations can be made or before there can be any change or any development within the universities consultation has to take place between all of these bodies. The States are unable to develop their own universities along their own lines, as they would have done before Federation and have done until a rela tively few years ago. Therefore there can be no argument that there is any advantage in the autonomy which exists in the States because it is a spurious autonomy only; it is an autonomy which creates a separation between the universities and the Commonwealth, which provides the bulk of their funds, and which at the same time inhibits the Commonwealth from exercising adequate control over the universities and from engaging in proper development of the universities.
We believe that an end should be put to this. We believe that full responsibility for financing university education should be assumed by the Commonwealth. We believe also that- this is in accordance with our policy that university education should be provided free to all those capable of benefiting from it. This is the case in a great many countries. It is the case in many of the States in the United States of America, lt is the case in not only both Western Europe and Eastern Europe but in many parts of Asia. One of the reasons why Australia - I do not suggest it is the major reason - is now becoming so dependent upon Japan is the fact that th’e young people of Japan have much greater opportunities of being trained not only in the older disciplines of universities but in the newer disciplines - studies of the techniques, the methodology of modern science - than do their counterparts in Australia
We believe this is something which can be dealt with only by a national plan and that national plan can be carried out only if the Commonwealth assumes complete responsibility for financing university education.
The- second amendment I shall move relates to the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill. As the Minister very correctly pointed out in his second reading speech, one of the interesting developments in education in Australia over past years has been the development of colleges of advanced education. I do not think any of us really could predict the ultimate status of colleges of advanced education, particularly as they are introducing the awarding of degrees to their graduates. Obviously there is something which distinguishes colleges of advanced education from universi-ties, although often what it is is not quite clear. It is by no means the case that, for example, if somebody studies architecture at the University of Western Australia he is more intelligent or more capable than somebody who studies architecture at the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Nor indeed would anyone be able to say that someone is a better architect because he went to the University rather than to the Institute. It seems that there is more emphasis - insofar as one can emphasise practical matters in any theoretical institution - on practical matters in colleges of advanced education than in universities; that perhaps there is more abstract theory involved in universities. Whatever the differences are, there are differences. 1 think everyone would agree that the future role and status of institutes of advanced education have not yet been settled. It is certainly true that they are playing an important role in the education of Australians and that many excellent graduates from colleges of advanced education have been able lo play their part in not only, the economic life of Australia but elsewhere in the life of this country and that they are making a considerable contribution to Australia.
However, the Labor Party proposition is that more should be done in this field. We believe that the proposition that colleges of advanced education ought to be maintained on a system of matching grants by the Commonwealth should be re-examined. Our approach to this - and this shows the consistency of the Australian Labor Party approach to education - is that there should not be any more of a piecemeal approach to colleges of advanced education than to universities. If in a particular State, for some reason or other, funds are not available in the same quantity as they are in another State, it does not follow that it is in the national interest that there should be fewer opportunities for education within a college of advanced education in that State, which appears to be impecunious or reluctant to make funds available, than (here are in the other State. We believe this is something which calls also for a national plan because the needs of education are national needs. Our population geographically is very mobile. In some respects, although perhaps decreasingly so, it is socially and economically mobile. The problems of education in Tasmania can be important to the people of Queensland, and the problems which may be facing educators and those who wish to be educated in Western Australia can affect the people of New South Wales and Victoria.
For that reason we ask, first, that the policy of matching grants be reconsidered. We are not being adamant on this matter but we are asking for an examination of the whole system of matching grants to see whether it permits an adequate system of advanced education. We also say about the colleges of advanced education, just as we say about pre-school education, primary and secondary education and university education, that education within the colleges of advanced education should be free. The second part of the amendment to the Slates Grants (Advanced Education) Bill which I shall move provides that:
Sufficient funds should be made available to the States in the form of recurrent grants to permit the abolition of fees in Colleges of Advanced Education.
We do not believe that a person should be deprived of the opportunity of benefiting from the education which these colleges provide because he does not have enough money to attend a college, or his parents or his family have not enough to send him to a college. We do not believe that Australia should be deprived of the contribution that this person would be capable of making as a result of that education because, of the poverty of his family, his parents or himself.
I now turn to the third Bill which the Australian Labor Party proposes to amend, the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Bill. This is a somewhat remarkable Bill because for the first time to my knowledge specific provision is made within a Bill itself for the terms under which the grants are to be made to private nonCatholic schools and private Catholic schools. We believe that this is not a correct approach. The Australian Labor Party acknowledges in its policy that the non-State schools have needs and that the needs should be mei, but they should be met in a specified way and according to a specified order of priorities. No argument was presented by the Minister in his second reading speech as to how the figures relating lo the requirements of the various groups of schools dealt with in the schedule to the
Bill were arrived at. No argument was presented by the Minister as to the needs of the various schools involved in this Bill. All we know is that certain moneys are to be made available to State schools, certain money is to be made available to nonCatholic private schools and certain money is to be made available to Catholic private schools. Apparently the amounts are to be assessed on the basis of the number of pupils attending those schools.
– Did we not say that the amount to be provided to each individual school was the amount assessed to bring its library up to a certain standard?
– Yes, that is so. In the second reading speech it was stated that an assessment would be made in each individual school to determine what was needed to bring its library up to an adequate standard - whatever that may mean.
– But what about-
– I listened to the Minister. I point out to him that 1 have to deal with 5 Bills. We will have an opportunity to discuss this matter in the Committee stage. It is rather difficult for me to engage in a dialogue, enjoyable though it may be in other circumstances, with the Minister at this time.
– What are these circumstances?
- Senator Douglas McClelland has asked me what those circumstances would be. I cannot quite think of them at the moment but I am sure there must be some. A number of very important philosophical questions are raised by this proposition. There has not been any discussion in this country, nor any serious discussion in this Parliament, in the same way as there has been in the United States of America, for example, where there has recently been a decision of the United States Supreme Court on this matter. The question is whether section 116 of the Constitution which provides for the separation of Church and State is being infringed by allocations of this kind. This seems to me to warrant some sort of discussion because if section 116 is not being infringed by a Bill of this nature one can only wonder what one would have to do in order to breach section 116 of the
Constitution. Certainly an almost identical provision in the United States Constitution was held by the United States Supreme Court to prohibit grants of this kind being made in that country and one would have thought that at least when this rather unique proposition was presented to the Senate the Minister, if only in passing, would have touched on this very important mater relating to our Constitution and the philosophy which, I have understood, for many years has been one of the hallmarks of our society.
The Opposition says a number of things in its amendment and the answers to some of the questions asked earlier by Senator Wood about the Australian Labor Party’s policy may be found in the amendment. We say, first of all, that the primary obligation of governments is to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard and open to all children, ft is only when those needs have been met that anything else may be done by the Government. Certainly nobody, not even the most enthusiastic advocate of the Government, could say that we have a situation in Australia where this primary obligation has been fulfilled and that we are providing and maintaining a government school system of the highest standard and open to all children. We are certainly not providing a government school system remotely resembling one of the highest standard. I do not know precisely what ‘the highest standard’ is but ours is certainly a lower standard than is to be found in many other countries. I do not need to elaborate on that because all honourable senators are aware of that fact.
Our system is not even open to all children. There are many who find it necessary to leave school at the minimum permissible age. Many of these children wish to continue their education, would be capable of benefiting from their education and would be capable of benefiting their fellow mcn by having a higher education. But they are incapable of carrying on because of their financial position. That is what the Opposition means when it says that the schools should be open to all children. They are now open to all children in the same way as the Ritz Hotel is open to everybody; they arc only open to those who are able to pay for it.
The Opposition says that this is the first priority but this priority has not been met by the Government. Having said that it then considers that .to determine the needs of all schools we should establish an Australian schools commission - this is outlined in our policy - similar in many respects to the existing Australian Universities Commission, it would consider the needs of all the different bodies engaging in education and of the schools within the different systems of education, bearing in mind that the first responsibility is to the children in the government schools.
Having fully met that responsibility to the children in government schools it would then look at the numbers enrolled in the various schools and the need to bring all schools up to acceptable standards. The Minister referred to this and reminded me of it while 1 have been speaking. The purpose of this amendment is to raise libraries to acceptable standards. But we are not given any criteria to determine what constitutes acceptable standards. What are they? There is no suggestion whatsoever as to what is an acceptable standard for a library. What is acceptable to the Government, I would suggest, would certainly nol be acceptable to the enlightened countries on this globe, of which this country, in regard to education is certainly not one. The Opposition then goes on to say that in assessing the needs of the schools and in making grants, a schools commission would have to take into account the need to ensure optimum use of resources in the establishment, maintenance and extension of schools. The Opposition does not believe that this is being done now. lt believes that many of the schools are not making the optimum use of resources. We talk about the expense of conducting an education system and the needs of particular schools but we find sometimes 2 schools - a poverty stricken State school and a poverty stricken Catholic parochial school - side by side. This is economically inefficient, lt is not making the best use of resources. These are the matters which should be considered by the schools commission we are seeking to establish.
In our approach to the Bills which are now before the Senate the fundamental differences between the Government and its supporters and the Australian Labor Party are indicated. I am sure that it is highly unlikely that we will convert any honourable senator by the debates that are taking place today. But the Australian Labor Party wishes to use this opportunity to say to the people of Australia that its policy is that every student who is capable of benefiting from an education, whether it is a primary or secondary school education or a teritiary education, should be able to do so under the best possible conditions; that the resources of the community should be mobilised so that they are shared in such a way that the best use is made of those resources; to ensure that we are not wasting those resources on the unnecessary proliferation of schools and systems of schools; and that the needs of the Australian people are taken into account. We are debating now probably one of the most important matters which can be considered by this Parliament, the matter of education.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the Bills on education which are now before the Senate. My Party has always been education minded. It has always supported the provision of adequate finance by the Commonwealth to assist education which is under the control of the States. My Party has always stood for adequate Commonwealth finance for all types of schools, whether they are run by the States or are in private hands. It makes no distinction between a child who attends a state school and a child who attends a private school. All parents are taxpayers and the children of all parents should be entitled to equal treatment from funds which are under control of the Government. I am particularly interested in education because before entering politics I was a teacher in government schools for nearly 20 years. I have appreciated the very considerable advances which have taken place in education in my lifetime. Because I have been interested in education 1 have always been an advocate of the provision of adequate finance.
At this stage I think I should revert to something that 1 said 12 months ago when dealing with a similar Bill. In looking at the immense sums that are called for, sums of the nature of $ 1,400m over the next 5 years, it is necessary for us at times to sit down and ask ourselves: ‘Are we getting value?’ I think that is a very important point for consideration by the taxpayers at a time of severe economic stress.
I regret that there appears to be a kind of assumption in the community that we should push for these astronomical sums for education and that more and more academic education is necessary for every young person. A second assumption is that whatever is wrong with education can be cured by making available large sums of money. I have come to the conclusion that both those assumptions are wrong. J believe that not every child benefits or would benefit by having university or other tertiary education. I am quite sure that to cure anything that is wrong in education today we need a good deal more inquiry and less of the assumption that all that is needed is to make available more money. Today we have a very inflationary situation. At present the Government is being called upon to provide huge sums for defence, health and transport - you name it, more money is wanted for it. Obviously, if the Government is to provide astronomical sums for education, something else has to go short. That may be necessary, but I want it proved to me that by expending these huge sums we will get value. I say that as one who believes in education and who has voted for every educational advance proposed during my period as a senator.
I am not the only one who is asking these questions. They are being asked by people in the academic field. I have noticed that within recent weeks Professor Stewart, the Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Newcastle, has had something to say on this subject. He has asked, as have others, whether there is any evidence at all on which to base the assumption that it benefits every child to have formal education until the age of 18 or so. I know that that view is contrary to the view that many people are trying to propagate and as a result of which, I am satisfied, hundreds of young people who are attending universities and advanced colleges are not fitted for them, will not be happy in them and would be much happier in a vocation or in some other form of education. I regret to say that today many people are at universities not because they wanted to go there and not because they should have gone there but because the children of neighbours are going there and dad or mum said: ‘I have to send my child to university otherwise I wilt be downgraded in the eyes of the neighbours’. I think, we have to have a much closer look at what is happening in education and decide what proportion of students shall go to universities and what proportion of them are entitled to be financed in this way.
Why do I say that? What are the facts? At present in this country one out of every three persons who begin a university course never finishes it. Recently at a meeting of a committee with which 1 am associated, and which has to do with a number of tertiary educational institutions, I asked an administrative officer the position. He said that in his view at a number of these institutions 50 per cent of those who enter certain faculties and undertake certain courses will never complete the courses. Therefore 1 would say that when universities come to the Government and say that they require these huge sums of money, we are entitled to say to them: ‘Is not a large proportion of that money being’ wasted?’ If a proportion of the students, ranging from 33 per cent to 50 per cent in some cases, either leave university or fail to complete their degree courses, are we not entitled to say to the universities: ‘Something is wrong, and before you ask for more money so that every child, whether fitted or not, can go to university, you should put your houses in order’? I notice that no less a person than Sir Philip Baxter, who has wide experience in university education, some time ago asked what the universities were doing to ensure that this appallingly large failure rate did not continue.
We are told that a considerable number of young people who obtain their degrees are now finding it difficult and in some cases impossible to get a position. I refer particularly to women in the Arts faculties. The same applies also to certain men. Therefore it would appear that the work of universities in giving genuine culture in order to fit people for an adequate future either is not being carried out or is being diverted in the wrong directions. If we are being asked to provide these huge sums - I have always voted for them and I will vote for them on this occasion - 1 feel that I have the right, as other, honourable senators have the right, to say: ‘If you ask for this amount, and more in the future, you should put your house in order; show us that the students who are going to universities are not going to fail and that when students go to universities they will be adequately trained for their future life and will not undertake courses which will offer them no future’.
I believe that one of the reasons why there seems to be an increase in neuroses and mental breakdowns among university students today is that many of them entered a field they should never have entered. Many are being forced by parental pride to go to universities when they do not want to. When they get there they are induced to take courses which in many cases they do not want to take. They take a course because father thinks that it would be nicer for them to do this course than to do that course. The result is that they find the strain of the whole situation is too much for them.
I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of what is being done abroad. In many countries at present there is a system under which the top 10 per cent, the most brilliant students, automatically go to university. The other 90 per cent were told that they should go into industry, that they should take a job for 2 years, and when they have matured and proved themselves adequate to undertake a university course then they may undertake that course. In some of the largest countries abroad that is the situation today. Those countries realise the difficulties experienced by immature young people who go straight from school to university. These countries insist on the young people spending a 2- year period in industry and in adjusting themselves to the facts of life before they undertake their university courses.
To those people who say that we can cure all the problems of education by giving more money, I suggest that we look at the situation in the United States of America. Australia spends about 4 per cent of its national income on education. That is more than we spend on defence. If all we needed to do was to build a lot more universities and make it possible for every youngster who wants to go to a university to go there free of charge, the experience of the United States should indicate that that is what we have to do. But while we pay 4 per cent of our national income on education, the United States spends 7 per cent of ils national income on education. I would like honourable senators to consider what we are told about the results in the United States as far as its youth is concerned. There may be factors other than the ones we are told about in relation to what is happening to the youth of the United States, but it would appear that spending more and more money on education and making it easier for people to go to tertiary institutions free of charge has not produced in the United States the kind of community that we would want here.
I have been to a university and I believe that many of our young Australians have difficulties at university. They fail; they have to get out. They develop neuroses because they go to university too young in life. When I was a teenager the accepted thing with most young people was to study for 2 years in the matriculation class. Over the last 25 or 30 years there has grown up a habit of forcing youngsters to the university after one year matriculating.
– Do you not think that their families are at fault sometimes?
– They are at fault. Proud parents say: ‘My child is qualified now. He is just the bare age to go to university, and that shows how brilliant he is. Let us send him there at once’. But they do not realise that that child is at a very immature stage. I can only say to parents who may be listening that in my view they would be doing their child a favour by keeping the child at school for an extra year at matriculation level because when he went to the university he would be infinitely more mature and infinitely better equipped to cope with a university education and get the best from it.
The points that I have made in questioning whether we are getting value are points that a lot of other people have made. I have mentioned Sir Philip Baxter. I have mentioned another eminent university professor. Some time ago I heard Senator Turnbull raise the point that while huge sums were being demanded for research in our universities, in bts view a lot of that research was ill directed and was being used by people who want to get doctorates of philosophy for the purpose of taking jobs that are better paid in other countries. I found that a rather alarming statement and hard to believe, but 1 have since questioned a number of academics, some of them very prominent, and they suggest to me that there is a great deal or truth in it, that a good deal of our research in universities is ill directed, that it does nothing except qualify the particular person doing the research to get a good job in an American, British or some other university. So far as this country is concerned, the research pays off nothing.
But even so we are getting the situation today - I have seen it mentioned in the Australian Presse - where there are too many Ph.Ds in Australia. We have spent large sums of money on the education of people who have achieved doctorates of philosophy and today they cannot get a job in this country. As I have said, a large number of people in the Faculty of Arts and other faculties find that today they cannot get jobs in this country. This is another indication that there is some ill direction in the field of our university education. lt is time that those who are running the universities sat down and worked out what ought to be done rather than adopting the usual attitude of going to the Commonwealth and saying: ‘The solution is to build more universities. Give us more money’. I want to be satisfied that the money that they are getting at present is well spent before we are told that we have to give them astronomically large sums again in the future.
As one who has always voted and will continue to vote for adequate sums of money for university education, I would like to see a little more authority and discipline exercised from the top in the universities of this country. I think that a lot of the troubles that have occurred in our universities have occurred because of the failure of those at the top to exercise even moderate discipline. I believe that we need at the lop in our universities people not only who are trained academically but also people who are trained in administration. We need people who know how to run institutions such as these. I have read about yahoos bailing up the council of a university, smashing windows, knocking down members of the various faculties and knocking down members of the council, and then these people appear to be treated in some cases as though they have done something admirable. They are featured in the news media and on television, and when the university authorities get down to dealing with them we find that they back and fill and in the result these young people come to the conclusion that they can get away with anything they like. We need, as I said before, a few more administrators in our universities and perhaps a few less academics in positions that really should be reserved for administrators.
People in the age groups such as are represented in this Senate would sometimes appreciate from the young people at our universities a little gratitude for what has been done for them, instead of attacking those who are older than they are and suggesting that they have legitimate grievances because they do not get everything they want. I went to a university at a time when 40 scholarships to universities were given each year. 1 remember it well because I gol: one of them. Today thousands of scholarships are awarded. When I got my scholarship I did not receive an allowance to keep me. My parents or my own efforts had to look after me. We in our age group can say that we have produced a situation today where these young people, many of whom would never have got to university in our’ day, can now go to university, have their fees paid if they obtain a scholarship and can receive a maintenance allowance while they are there. So we have not done too badly by them. I suggest a little more gratitude and a little less moaning and complaining about their alleged grievances would be appreciated by the community in general.
As I said earlier, my Party believes that in the field of secondary education all children, whether they go to a State school or a private school, should bc treated in the same way. All parents pay taxes; the children of all parents are entitled to a share of those taxes. Senator Wheeldon said that his Party has supported the system whereby assistance is given to both types of schools although it did not agree with the system of giving assistance to private schools at the present time. But Senator Wheeldon flew a kite. He almost hinted that he thought it would be a good idea to test the present position constitutionally. He said that he thought that if it went before the courts the courts probably would find against the private schools.
– I was not as optimistic as that.
– Senator Wheeldon says that he is not as optimistic as that. But he flew a kite. Tt seemed to be a strange sort of kite for him to fly when he claims to belong to a party which is in favour, of assistance for private schools. 1 am sorry that he raised that issue. This constitutional question has been raised in this community before and a lot of people have threatened to get legal advice. 1 presume that they have gol legal advice and they have never gone any further. It seems to me that they discovered that the legal advice was in favour of what the Commonwealth is doing at the present time. I conclude by saying that whether there are some people who want to have the position tested and whether there are some people who do not think that it ought to be done in a particular way. there is no doubt about where my Party stands on the issue. The altitude of my Party is that they are all good Australian children irrespective of whether they attend a State school or a private school. Being all good Australian children wc do not draw any distinctions between them. We say that they are all entitled to an equal share of the money raised by taxation and used for educational purposes in this country.
– I wish to speak in support of the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Bill 1971. As the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents in the Senate the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has explained, the purpose of this Bill is to extend the highly successful Commonwealth school library programme for a further 3 calendar years. This is to he done at an estimated cost of $30m. When this legislation is passed and the programme is completed in 1974 the Commonwealth Government will have provided in a 6-year period S57m for school libraries. Surely this is a most significant achievement by the Government. By 1974 S57m worth of capital buildings, books and specialist equipment will have been provided in schools by this Government.
To me the most important and most pleasing aspect of the programme set out in this Bill is that it applies equally to government schools and non-government schools. I make no apology to the Senate for saying that 1 strongly believe that all sections of our education system must be assisted with such essential aids as libraries. As honourable senators know, our education system is based on the existence of government and non-government schools. Therefore I believe that it is the responsibility of the Government to assist all schools, irrespective of whether they are government or non-government schools.
Naturally ! realise that the bulk of government funds for education must be devoted to schools operated by the Government, but at the same time this Government has recognised that: there is a need to assist other schools, particularly in the provision of facilities such as libraries and science blocks. This Bill seeks to assist all sections of our education system us previous legislation of this type did when it came into force in 1969. Surely evidence of the success of the school libraries scheme lies in the fact that it is now to be extended and the total funds available to the States are to bc increased. This should not. come as a shock or surprise to the Parliament. As we all know, tremendous changes have occurred in education in Australia in recent years. One of the areas in which change has taken place is school libraries. Not many years ago school libraries were considered to be luxuries and not essentials.
When I went to school - and I can assure honourable senators that I did not spend very many years at school - the school library was unheard of, but today it is regarded as an essential part of our education system. 1 believe that the Government has acted very effectively to meet the needs of schools in the sphere of libraries and science blocks. The Government has also acted to meet needs that have arisen to provide many other educational facilities. 1 have had an opportunity to move around my home State of Queensland over the last few years. I have visited many of our secondary schools and have been able to see the results achieved and what they have meant to students, particularly to children of my race. I believe that they have gained great advantage from the provision of school libraries since this system came into being. However, I am a little concerned about how much of this expenditure will be used in the far western areas of Queensland. I appreciate that much is being done in the field of education in the cities and large towns, but in the outlying areas children do not have the same opportunities as those in the cities and more settled areas where television and many other amenities are provided. I believe that whatever can be done for children in the outback must be done. I am proud to support the Bill and I commend it to the Senate.
– in reply - I am grateful to honourable senators who have contributed to the debate on the 5 Bills we are considering together. 1 remind honourable senators that the first Bill provides that the Government will make available an increased appropriation to meet the salaries of non-academic staff in universities. The amount involved in that appropriation over the period covered by the Bill, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is $5. 443m. The States will make an additional appropriation of $ 10.067m. The Australian Labor Party has submitted an amendment and has advanced the opinion that the Commonwealth should take over the responsibility of financing university education. It is indicative of the complete irresponsibility of the Opposition in advancing that proposition that it has not given the slightest indication of the moneys involved. The amendment does not even refer to the amount involved in the Labor Party’s proposal.
In fact, the total expenditure involved for State universities, excluding Commonwealth universities, for the triennium 1970- 72 is about $640m, of which the States provide $400m and the Commonwealth provides $240m. The Senate has heard advanced blithely by one member of the Labor Opposition an amendment to the Bill which would require the Commonwealth to provide an additional $400m out of its Budget to finance State universities. That financial consideration alone is sufficient to make the proposition grotesque. If accepted, it would involve a complete alteration of the basis of Federal and State constitutional responsibilities, an important unit of which for the States is that they retain the predominant responsibility and therefore authority with regard to State universities. The approach of members of the Australian Labor Party is shown in the fact that, without any consultation or preceding conference, they advance that proposition, which involves such a transition of power from the States to the Commonwealth, as an amendment to a Bill that simply provides for a small feature, namely, increasing the provision for non-academic salaries by a mere $5m over the next triennium.
We have heard nothing with regard to the Australian Universities Commission Bill. Therefore I merely mention it as 1 sum up the debate and remind the Senate that it provides for a deputy chairman as an additional member of the Australian Universities Commission because the complexity and extent of the responsibility of that Commission have grown to such a degree that the chairman requires the assistance of a deputy chairman in the administration of his functions. The next Bill is the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill which, J remind the Senate, provides for an additional amount of Commonwealth expenditure to provide, in this case, for academic salaries. The amount involved in the additional appropriation under this Bill is $3m. That will mean that in the triennium 1970-72 the Commonwealth will be providing approximately SI 00m for colleges of advanced education and the State contribution to those colleges during the same period will be approximately $142m.
In respect of this Bill members of the Australian Labor Party have made a still more curious approach. This time they do not advance the proposition that the Commonwealth should take over responsibility for the whole expenditure but they put forward the proposition that the policy of making matching grants should be examined to see whether it permits of an adequate system of advanced education - whatever that may mean. I do not know what it means. I suppose they find that the governments, which have responsibility for appropriating taxpayers’ money, show some concern and care when requests are made for increasing amounts of money, ami I suppose it is implicit in this proposition that if all the responsibility were to pas-i to the Australian Labor Party it would hand out money in response to every request without the States having to consider matching grants and there being a balanced responsibility for the decision.
When members of the Opposition come to the second part of their proposition the mystery of this meandering stream of thought: becomes even more remarkable. They dp not say that the Commonwealth should take over the whole of the responsibility for financing colleges of advanced education, which would involve, as 1 pointed out. the provision by the Commonwealth of an additional $142m - not that I would expect Senator Wheeldon, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, to be baulked by figures of such insignificance. 1 am sure that after gulping down the additional S400m in respect of the States Grants (“Universities) Bill he would digest with ease a mere $!42m for colleges of advanced education.
He consciously has not advanced that proposition for our consideration but has proposed that the Commonwealth advance sufficient funds, in the form of recurrent grants - he does not consider the capital grants in relation to this proposition: he confines it lo the recurrent grants - to permit the abolition of fees at colleges of advanced education, which would require a mere S3m. On what principle it is supposed to be based we have not been enlightened at all. It is almost a matter of mystery why Senator Wheeldon, after advancing a proposition for the provision of S400m for universities, would take even the 21 minutes that he did take to advance his proposition on the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill for the provision of a mere crumb of a sum of $3. 4m. That is the amount which would be needed to abolish the fees of colleges of advanced education.
That brings me to the third Bill, which is the one to constitute a commission for the colleges of advanced education. That Bill has received no reference in the debate, except insofar as Senator McManus’s observations apply to it and other agencies for education in the country, lt is pointed out in the second reading speech that colleges of advanced education, after a short period of 6 years, now number no fewer than forty-eight. That shows the degree to which, in cooperation, the States and the Commonwealth have been able to establish this policy and get the concept of colleges of advanced education under way. There remains the solution of the problem of defining what will distinguish a college of advanced education from a university. Insofar as the Parliament has accepted the principle that we should have a commission, which will be in lieu of ihe previous very helpful advisory committee that operated so magnificently under Sir Ian Wark and which will be parallel to the Australian Universities Commission, the Bill requires the 2 of them to consult with each other in putting forward their recommendations in these twin fields of tertiary education.
That brings me to the final Bill, which is the one in which the Commonwealth puts forward for approval by the Parliament its Budget proposal to appropriate $30m in the next triennium for secondary school library grants. We have had in respect of that Bill a reference by Senator Bonner who made a quite striking point which I should like to emphasise and renew for the consideration of the Senate, namely, that there are many people in country areas where libraries and perhaps even fullstandard schools are not available and where secondary schools are available at great distances only. Having regard to the economy of country areas and the distances that it is necessary for students to travel in these areas for secondary and tertiary education, Senator Bonner’s remarks in relation to libraries will be taken on board. I have no doubt that at the proper time they will be given significant consideration in relation to living away from home allowances for holders of scholarships, which would be an appropriate means, if money were available, to adjust to the economy of those isolated areas the particular circumstances of rural children needing secondary and tertiary education. 1 express my indebtedness to Senator Bonner for having brought that matter to our attention under the heading of libraries.
Before I refer to the Labor Party’s amendment to this Bill I wish to acknowledge Senator McManus’ general observations under this heading with regard to education. The honourable senator makes the point with unquestioned cogency when he says that having regard to the huge appropriations which the youth of the country are now receiving from State and Federal governments, it is imperative that those responsible for institutions dispensing education and the students receiving the benefit of that education should be alive to the fact that they must justify the moneys that are appropriated and that those moneys should be reproduced in value of educational material as a result of that expenditure. Referring to the Commonwealth contribution only, 10 years ago we were applying $55m as direct expenditure on education. In 1971-72, 10 years later, the Commonwealth contribution has advanced to S346m. To show that that is not fantastically put forward simply on the basis of increased cost or value in terms of dollars. 10 years ago the expenditure to which 1 referred represented 1.9 per cent of total Commonwealth expenditure whereas this year the educational expenditure made directly by the Commonwealth - $346m - represents 4.4 per cent of total Commonwealth expenditure. That is an indication of the added responsibility which accrues to us as members of Parliament and which is transmitted to the governments of educational institutions and students. I think we must accept completely the proposition advanced by Senator McManus and ensure that we get value for that money.
I am not competent to comment on the soundness of his propositions with regard to the availability of education to everyone. Senator McManus is a man of established experience in the field of education and I listened to his proposition with considerable respect. However, I cannot fail to express a lurking misgiving within me because I have seen many a student start with no particular promise at the initial stages of his educational career and come out with complete brilliance, and by the same token I have seen others win bursaries at the top of the State list and fade away under the pressure of educational processes, indicating that the intellect has not been equal to the challenge. It is for that reason that 1 confess to a lurking predilection for the idea that every child who is prepared to devote his energies to any one of the educational stages - primary, secondary or tertiary - is entitled to the opportunity to do so.
That brings me to the amendment to this Bill moved by the Australian Labor Party. The Opposition has taken this Bill as the vehicle with which to advance its well-worn theme to establish in respect of all grades of education, government and non-government alike, primary, secondary and technical, an Australian schools commission. I am not prepared to debate such a proposition upon this Bill which is simply a measure to make a vote available for secondary school libraries over the next triennium. The only point about Senator Wheeldon’s remarks in support of this amendment to which I shall refer is this fatastic notion that there is any question reasonably to be raised under section 1 16 of the Constitution. When Senator Wood interjected during the debate, imputing to the Labor Party some proposition for transferring responsibility for education to church schools, or something of that sort-
– lt is on page 2215 of the House of Representatives Hansard.
– I shall take the opportunity later to look at that. When Senator Wood made that interjection we noted the alarcrity with which Senator Wheeldon disclaimed it. This is an indication that he still grudgingly grants any Government money for non-Government schools - especially church schools.
– That’s right.
– Then I need not argue the proposition any longer because it is only because of that grudging agreement to the now express policy of the Australian Labor Party to give some financial support to independent schools that it occurred to Senator Wheeldon to waft in this fantastic feathery notion that any constitutional doubt is raised by reference to section 1 16 of the Constitution. I ask the Senate to accept the 5 Bills and reject the 3 amendments.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wheeldon’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 30 November (vide page 2171), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 30 November (vide page 2168), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Wheeldon) put:
At end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that (1) the policy of matching grants should be examined to ascertain whether it permits of an adequate system of advanced education; and (2) sufficient funds shouldbe made available to the States in the form of recurrent grants to permit the abolition of fees in Colleges of Advanced Education.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse) Ayes . . . . 22
Majority . . . . 6
Question resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 30 November (vide page 2170), on motion by Senator Wright-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 2236), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move that the motion that the Bill be now read a second time be amended as follows:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert “the Bill bc withdrawn and redrafted 1o provide that the Commonwealth establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs o! students in Government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grant.* which the Commonwealth should make to the Slates to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities, and in making recommendations for such grants to the States, the Commission shall hav« regard to:
the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children;
the numbers of students enrolled in the various schools:
the need to bring all schools up to acceptable standards: and
the need to ensure optimum use of resources in the establishment, maintenance and extension of schools.’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– I am very interested in this debate. In view of what was said here today in reply to an interjection 1 passed I would like to know just where the Australian Labor Party, stands on this issue.
– The honourable senator knows where we stand; he- never knows where he stands or where his colleagues stand.
– Righto, Senator Milliner. I want to refer to something which was said by the learned honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who is apparently the Labor Party’s spokesman on education. These remarks, which I found to be very illuminating, are recorded at page 2215 of Hansard. I just want to know where the Labor Party stands with its education policy. The honourable member for Fremantle spoke of private schools and church schools and then went on to say: lt seems to me that realistically, if the increasing hurden of education is to be carried on by such private bodies-
That is the private schools - they will have to come to accept what was once offered, I’ understand, by a former director of education in Western Australia.
He said that he thinks they will have to come to accept this. He went on to say what was said by the former director of education in Western Australia. The honourable member said:
He said: ‘If you cannot carry the burden of teaching because you no longer have enough people in the orders to staff the schools-
That is the private schools, the church schools - why not assume control of certain State schools, which we will allow you to do? We will appoint only Catholic teachers from the State schools service to those staffs additional to whatever from your orders you are prepared to put there.’
Further on in his speech the honourable member said:
Does this mean that the Australian Labor Party believes in abolishing the State education systems, or what does it mean? This was something which was rather startling and illuminating in the Budget debate in the House of Representatives on 12th October.
– I would not otherwise have intervened in this debate butI will answer what has been put by Senator Wood in this way: The policy of the Australian Labor Party is crystal clear. The policy is as stated in the amendment moved by Senator Wheeldon and which is about to be voted on by the Senate. That policy sets out that there should be an Australian schools commission to examine the needs of students in government and non-government schools and to make recommendations for grants to the States on the basis of needs and priorities. In making those recommendations the commission shall have regard to:
That means government schools first. It was so stated by me some 3 or 4 years ago when the policy was first adopted by the Australian Labor Parly and it was confirmed in this chamber by the then shadow Minister for Education, the late Senator Cohen. The policy then refers to other priorities mentioned in Senator Wheeldon’s motion, as follows:
The policy otherwise is that we believe - I would not think it could possibly be suggested otherwise and it is set out in the platform of the Party - that it is the obligation of the State to provide a universal free compulsory secular system of education open to all citizens. That clearly is our policy. It is undeniably our policy. That aspect of our policy was confirmed in 1969 when the Party determined and settled it at its conference in Melbourne. Some part of it already had been settled; the Parly in 1969 arrived at what might be described as a settled policy on this question.
There is no doubt whatever that the suggestion ventilated here by Senator Wood is not part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party. Our policy is exactly as stated in relation to government schools and non-government schools. As for gov ernment schools, that is clearly dealt with in the platform where it refers to the obligation of the States.It would be unthinkable that any other policy would be suggested in Australia. I do not know how it has come about but I assure ; he Senate that it is not part of the Australian Labor Party’s policy to have the State school system run by some religious organisation, whatever it might be, by any church or private body of any kind, apart altogether from the consideration in section 116 of the Constitution. This country traditionally has been one in which there has been no establishment of religion andI would have thought that that doctrine was generally accepted throughout.
– There always has been a dual system of education.
– The question whether there is a dual system is of a different character. My understanding is that the suggestion was made that some part of the state school system should be handed over and be operated by a religious organisation - the religion is immaterial - and that it be staffed by teachers selected on a religious basis. This could not be countenanced and is no part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party. Our policy is as I have stated. It is open for anyone to purchase a copy of that policy and a copy of it will be made freely available to any honourable senator who wants it. The policy of the Australian Labor Party is as I have stated.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– Priorto the suspension of the silting we were debating an amendment moved by Senator Wheeldon to the States Grants (Secondary School Libraries) Bill. The schools included in the Bill are both government and non-government schools. Senator Wheeldon’s amendment says in effect that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to set up an Australian schools commission to examine and determine the needs of students in all kinds of schools and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States. He. also suggests in his amendment that this commission would have regard to a number of matters, the first of which is the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard open to all children.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party is not. prepared to support the amendment. lt believes that the questions of whether these grants should be agreed to and whether there should be a Commonwealth commission for Australian schools should be debated separately. After all there are a large number of schools which have needs in the coming financial period. I presume that if the Senate passes Senator Wheeldon’s amendment it means that we block those grants for the time being and that we have to wait then until a commission has been set up, has made an exhaustive inquiry and has recommended a new lot of grants. I imagine that this procedure would block grants under this Bill for some considerable time. The Democratic Labor Party considers that the correct procedure for the Australian Labor Party to have adopted in the circumstances would have been to move a motion calling foi the establishment of an Australian schools commission separately from this debate. The Democratic Labor Party is not prepared to hold up grants for school libraries in government and non-government schools and wait until such a commission, which would take a long time to be set up and to investigate these matters, had made decisions.
The second reason why the Democratic Labor Party would not vote for the amendment is because the amendment refers to the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain the governmental school systems. Prior to the adjournment when stating his view of the Australian Labor Party policy in order to explain away a suggestion which had been made by a member of his Party in another place. Mr Beazley, Senator Murphy made it perfectly clear to me that he felt that governments should look after government schools first and that if there was anything left over the private schools might get something but if there was nothing left over they would get nothing. If I am interpreting his view of his Party’s policy wrongly I would be glad if somebody would let me know. If the Senate were to agree to such a principle it is quite easy to see that this could be made a vehicle to deny any aid to non-government schools. All that would need to happen would be for an Australian Labor Party Treasurer to say: T have so much money this year for schools and I think it will all be used on government schools. 1 am very sorry but there will be nothing for the nongovernment schools.’ That part of the amendment, although on the surface it looks perfectly innocent, could be an obvious vehicle to deny any assistance to nongovernment schools.
– I think you are reading too much into it.
– If 1 am reading too much into it I would like an honourable senator from the Opposition side with authority to say definitely that the Opposition did not have that idea in mind. I thought Senator Murphy was very definite that if the Australian Labor Party came to power it would look after government schools first and then the non-government schools would get what was left over.
– Do you think the Opposition is capable of explaining its policy?
– I would not like to say that. We have had a statement on Australian Labor Party policy by Senator Murphy who has endeavoured to clear up the matter. I have a lot of sympathy for him because he had to clear up the version given by Mr Beazley. He put what he said was the Federal policy of the Australian Labor Party but in Victoria the President of the Party, Mr George Crawford, and the former secretary, Mr Hartley, give entirely different interpretations of the policy. Nobody could be more violently opposed to assistance for non-government schools than those 2 gentlemen are and nobody could be more vocal on the subject. If Senator Murphy says that his version is the Party’s policy naturally we will accept it. I would like him to explain the policy if my interpretation is not correct - that is, that an Australian Labor Party government would give all the money it felt it could to government schools and if there was nothing left over for the private schools they would get nothing.
– Senator Wheeldon in an interjection earlier in the debate said they would only be giving grudgingly to nongo vern ment schools.
– If Senator Wheeldon said that it represents another point of view and increases my sympathy for Senator Murphy who is trying to elucidate the mysterious policies of his Party on this question. For the reasons that we consider we should not hold up the present grants, that if the question of an Australian schools commission is to be raised it should be debated under a separate heading and because we feel that all Australian children should be treated alike, the Democratic Labor Party cannot support the amendment. We do not want to divide our children into 2 sections, those who get preferences and those who do not. Our view is that we should treat them all alike and give them equal preferences. Every parent pays taxes and every parent is entitled to have his children share those taxes.
– I would like to point out that the Western Australian Government is in dire need of money for school construction. I would emphasise that it is most important that we ensure that all available money for education goes towards the construction of schools, particularly government schools because they are the main ones. They are the schools which the majority of children attend perhaps because their parents cannot afford to send them to one of the private schools. In Western Australia our classrooms are overcrowded.
– They would be more overcrowded if there were no independent schools.
– I admit that they would be, but the primary reason for the setting up of independent schools was that the schools felt they might be able to make something out of it. The government schools make nothing out of it and are there for the children of parents who cannot afford to send them to private schools.
– What profits do private schools make?
– I cannot answer that question. All I can say is that at the present time it is my opinion that this money should be put towards the construction of schools. If I have read the purposes of the Bill correctly, it is. to provide an amount of money for secondary school libraries over 3 years. I consider that libraries are secondary to schools. First of all we must have schools to accommodate the children;
– Do you know how libraries are used these days?
-I have a pretty fair idea.
– They are an integral part of the whole education programme. They are used as part of the school.
– I have a pretty fair idea of how the whole education system works. The majority of children who come out of schools today cannot spell. How they can use a library I would not know. If the Government has this money to spare it should direct it firstly towards the construction of schools, with preference to the construction of government schools. I feel that the ALP is on to a fairly good point. I do not agree entirely with it; 1 would be very sorry to think that no money would be provided under the Bill as a result of the amendment being carried.
– What policy do you believe that the Labor Party expounds on this point?
– I am not interestd in its policy. I am interested in my policy.
– You said that you thought the ALP was on to a good point. To what point were you referring?
– I am referring particularly to the first part of the amendment, which states:
That is the part in which I am most interested. I refer now to the fourth part of the amendment, which states:
I think the part which readsmaintenance and extension of schools’ should read maintenance and extension of government schools’.
– The Labor Party may be prepared to alter its amendment if you ask its members.
– I think it may be. My point is that if the Government has this money to spare I would prefer to see the children of Australia accommodated in schools so that they can be educated. I would like to see that before the Government allocates this money for libraries. At this stage I am a little uncertain whether I should support the Bill because, if it is passed, the money will go towards helping schools in any case, or whether 1 should support the amendment because I feel that the Australian Labor Party is on the right track.
– Are you opposed to any financial aid for independent schools?
– No, 1 am not opposed to any financial aid, but I do feel that the first preference should be to the govern men I -opera led schools.
– Do you believe in the right of parents to select a school for their children?
– 1 believe in that right. I also believe that if parents select a private school it is probably because they can afford lo send their children to that private school. I have listened carefully to what has been said. I feel that the Government should re-examine the situation and see whether it is doing the right thing by advancing the money for libraries in preference to schools. I am doubtful whether I will support the Bill or the amendment. I do feel at this stage that the Labor Party is on the right track.
– The Senate is discussing the Bill and the amendment moved to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. Having read the amendment fairly recently, it seems to me that it is probably what 1 might call a dragnet amendment designed to accommodate the various education hobby horses of the Australian Labor Party and to join them together so that members of that Party cau have a general punch-up on it. 1 suggest that although 1 am a Minister I am entitled to make my observations about my beliefs. I do this quietly. All my life I have believed in the dual system of education. I believe in the right of parents to make a choice and to send their children to schools of their own choosing. My parents made great sacrifices to do that for my brothers, my sisters and myself, lt meant a great deal to them to do that. I believe that in so doing parents like mine and many others lifted from the community a burden which it otherwise would have had to support by way of a taxation levy to finance the schools. I have always felt that it was right and proper to have a dual system of education, for the community to allow that facility and for the community to support those who provided those resources. I have no problem in this sense, none whatsoever.
– The Government is only commencing to do those things now. lt has had no regard for the capital outlay on property and buildings.
– 1 understand what Senator Gair is saying because of my experience which I recounted earlier. As honourable senators realise, I came to the custodianship of this debate at a very late stage. I have no wish to exacerbate peoples feelings or to upset people, but to me the line of responsibility and of public morality is quite clear. I think we should pursue this course of a dual system through our society because 1 think it is only fair and just. As I listened to the debate there seemed to be some confusion between the attitude of Labor senators and Labor members of the House of Representatives as to what they believe. That is understandable. Many people hold very divergent views on this subject, and they hold them quite strongly. This is not necessarily totally contained within one political party. Within my Party it is very much so contained in the belief that I have expressed as my belief.
The Bill is purely and simply about library grants. It is not about general education; it is about library grants. They have been most successful. It is about the renewal of those grants in a modified form that takes into account the experience of the past 3 years. Those who have been involved in private schools - and I am one who has had the benefit of these library grants - will speak volumes for what the grants have done for the schools. I think it is a very worthwhile scheme in which to have engaged. If honourable senators read the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) they will discover that there has been a high level of Commonwealth-State co-operation. The education authorities have worked very well together. There does not appear to be any problem in working out this scheme. It appears to be structured in a fair way and in a way which will give everybody equal opportunity to lift some standards which are below other standards to slightly higher levels. The Bill is essentially a library supply Bill - S30m over 3 years, which is an increase from $27m for the previous 3 years. Over the previous 3 years the measure has proved a good measure.
I make a few comments that flow out of the remarks made by various senators. There are standards for secondary school libraries. If honourable senators wish to inform themselves further about this matter they might care to read an article in a Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee publication, lt deals with the role of the library in the school, which point seemed to arise at an earlier stage of the debate. 1 quote this article for the information of my colleagues, particularly Senator Negus:
The school is thus concerned with providing a much greater variety of materials and more flexible grouping, including large group instructions, small group discussions and individual study. Such an emphasis changes the view of the role of the library. Under this view the library becomes the centre of the school’s learning programme. It provides access to the whole range of resource materials such as books, periodicals, tapes, records, slides and films. It provides specialist staff to organise these materials in the best way suited to the school educational programme and to guide students and teachers in their use of the wide range of materials. It provides facilities for a wide range of activities involving the use of library materials.
I think Senator Negus would agree that we are seeing a new phase of and a new development in education. I think this is what he would expect for the world which he hopes to pass on to his family and to his descendants. It will be a better world than when he was young. Opportunities will be greater. The library system is about that. The situation of schools is changing. The form is changing. The method of doing things is changing. Increasingly the library is the heart of a modern school.
It has been said that if the amendment is carried and if the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill is not passed this session there will be no funds available to continue the programme of assistance for libraries in the second triennium from
May 1972 to May 1974. I think many honourable senators here would have helped non-government schools by being on school councils and by advising those schools. Many of those schools are quite heavily in debt as a result of their programme of school development and library development. They are paying interest charges on money borrowed to construct library buildings. Those buildings have been constructed. The schools plan to expand and to develop those libraries. They are relying on the provision of funds as a result of the passage of the 1971 Bill. We could look at the matter in a broad way. If these funds were denied to the Australian people - if the Bill were not passed by the Senate or if the Labor Party amendment were carried, which would result in the Bill not being passed - the community and the whole education process would suffer. 1 think that would be quite serious.
One honourable senator made the point that government schools were not being considered. If we look at the second reading speech we notice that of the total amount to be allocated - S30m in 3 years - $22.576m will be allocated to government schools. Three times the amount made available to non-government schools will be made available to government schools. I think this is essentially fair and bears a relationship to the community’s situation with respect to government and non-government schools. I think I have quoted to Senator Negus that part of the publication to which I referred which relates to the essential qualities of a modern library in a modern school in a modern education system. I do not think really that I can add any more to the debate. It is a straightforward matter, as T said when I began my speech. This is the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill which provides for the allocation of $30m over 3 years. The amendment moved by Senator Wheeldon is a separate matter really. Its effect is to canvass the whole area of education and what happens in it. If the amendment is passed we will have to face the fact that the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill will die for the time being. So with that thought I leave the matter in the hands of the honourable senators.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wheeldon’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise a point, in relation to clauses 5 and 8 of the Bill, which has been occupying my mind for some time. In order to explain my point, I point out that this Bill provides for payments to the States for some period of years.I draw the attention of honourable senators to the Schedule printed at the back of the Bill. We find in the first column the names of the States to which the allocation will be made- New South Wales, Victoria, etc. The second column shows the maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools conducted by a State and it then shows the allocation to each State. The third column refers to the maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools not conducted by a State being Roman Catholic secondary schools. So the second column shows the amount allocated to state secondary schools and the third column shows us the amount allocated to Roman Catholic secondary schools.
The fourth column refers to the maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools not conducted by a State, other than Roman Catholic secondary schools. The fifth column shows the totals of maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools not conducted by a State. The sixth column gives the totals of maximum grants payable in respect of all secondary schools. So we find in the Schedule which we are asked to agree to tonight the amounts to be allocated 10 state schools, Catholic schools, and nonstate schools other than Catholic schools. Clause 8, which is a formal provision, reads:
The Governor-General may make regulations for the purposes of section 5 of this Act, including regulations repealing or amending regulations previously made under this section.
Therefore the Governor-General’s powers are related only to section 5 of the Act. He can make a regulation only under section 5. Clause 5 of the Bill reads:
At any time during the period to which this Act applies, provision may be made by the regulations that this Act shall have effect as if the amounts specified in the third or fourth column, or both of those columns, and the amounts specified in the fifth and sixth columns, of the Schedule to this Act opposite to the names of any States were varied in accordance with the regulations, but not so as to vary the total of the amounts specified in the fifth column, or the total of the amounts specified in the sixth column, of that Schedule.
Although we may approve tonight of the allocation of this money, the Minister can by regulation alter our decision and thereby alter the third and fourth columns. Parliament may agree to give a certain amount to Catholic schools but the Minister may say: ‘I do not agree to give that much. We will alter it and give this amount to Protestant schools.’ Although Parliament may decide to give a certain amount to secondary schools not conducted by the state, the Minister may by regulation override Parliament’s decision and alter the Schedule to the Act. He may alter the whole basis and say: ‘So much will not go to schools that are not conducted by the state. We will give more to the schools conducted by the state.’
I am concerned firstly by the political implications of legislation which applies over an election period. The voting in an electorate could well depend upon the Government’s generosity to a particular denomination or particular school. The Minister may override a decision made tonight by Parliament. He can put into operation a regulation that could bring favour to himself and his Party in this particular period. This is one of the dangers I see in such a provision.
A second danger is that we are proposing to give .away the rights of the elected representatives of the people to Executive control. When a Minister makes a regulation, it is possibly on the advice of his department, and a regulation made by the Governor-General could well be on the advice of the Executive, acting on the recommendation of a Minister who would be advised by his department, lt is not Parliament making the decision as to where that particular money will be allocated. The point is that a Minister has the right to override Parliament after it has made its decision.
– With what clause are you dealing?
– Clause 5. This type of provision is creeping into a lot of legislation which comes before the Senate. When the Committee of the Whole considers the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department I will have more to say on this matter which has such an impact on the value of the Parliament. Parliament is not really making the decision. It is handing it over to somebody else. We are agreeing to Executive control of Australia and not parliamentary control. I strongly oppose the inclusion of clause 5 in the measure.
– Senator Cavanagh directed his attention to clause 5 and then through that to clause 8. Clause 5 provides:
At any time during the period to which this Act applies, provision may be made by the regulations that this Act shall have effect as if the amounts specified in the third or fourth column, or both of those columns, and the amounts specified is the fifth and sixth columns, of the
Schedule to this Act opposite to the names of any States were varied in accordance with the regulations, but not so as to vary the total of the amounts specified in the fifth column, or the total of the amounts specified in the sixth column, of that Schedule.
Senator Cavanagh drew an inference as to what could happen in an election period, as he described it. I think the general explanation is the proper one and I trust that the honourable’ senator will find himself capable of accepting it. It may not be possible for individual non-government schools to accept offers of assistance made to them, or variations may occur in respect of the entitlement of particular nongovernment schools. Clause 5 allows the variation by regulation of the amounts payable fo the States each year in respect of nongovernment secondary schools by the transferring of funds from one sector of non-government schools to the other sector in the same State, and from one State to another. This is an arrangement to make perfectly sure that if one school cannot pick up ils entitlement it will nol be lost to the whole school system. It can be picked up by another school. This is a new provision. It was not included in the 1968 school libraries legislation. Its purpose is solely to allow the movement of funds between non-government school sectors and the States.
– The regulation is subject to disallowance.
– That is so. I do not think one is entitled properly to draw the inference that Senator Cavanagh has drawn. The honourable senator will note from clause 6 that the Minister has to lay before the House of Parliament as soon as practicable after the end of each year a statement of what has been involved, what the disbursements have been. The Minister cannot authorise such transfers of funds as Senator Cavanagh has stated. It is not very likely that sufficient funds to be used as he suggests would become available because the history of the fund has been that a realistic assessment is made and people who are entitled to pick up funds for the benefit of their school library systems do so.
– I think I must take the matter a little further because the Minister’s reply was not satisfactory. I did not refer to clause 5 and through it to clause 8, as the Minister suggested. 1 referred to the Schedule to show the allocation of funds. I referred to clause 8 to show that the Governor-General has power to make regulations under clause 5. The meat of my argument was in respect of clause 5 which gives the Minister power to act.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood you. I am clear that you referred to clause 5 and clause 8 together.
– Possibly 1 did, in my preamble, in my opening remarks. I do not take umbrage at what the Minister has said. In attempting to justify the position the Minister said that it may be found by a school that it is not possible to accept the funds. I do not know why that would be. but I can imagine circumstances in which a school should not accept. The Minister said that because a school cannot accept it is given to a school of another denomination. Surely Parliament should provide that if circumstances arise in which a school cannot accept a grant, it should be given to another school. But it is not that at all. The grant can be transferred on the desire of a Minister simply by a regulation. The Parliament Jo«s not set up criteria upon which the Minister is to act. 1 am not opposed to power being granted to someone if circumstances alter between the time legislation is passed and the time of payment, but Parliament is not laying down any circumstances. The Minister is not limited to an occasion when a school cannot accept. In political jargon I suppose a Minister could say that he was acting in the national interest. An uncouth Opposition might suggest that he was acting out of political interest in transferring favours from one school to another. The only safeguard is that a regulation must be submitted to the Parliament. A senator may move within 15 days for the disallowance of a regulation. But when Parliament goes into recess a regulation can be made which is legally enforceable for 3 months before Parliament will have a chance to say whether it agrees or not. The regulation can be legal for 3 months before Parliament has a chance to say whether it approves of the payments made under that regulation. In those circumstances there is no safeguard in the fact that the action has to be taken by regulation.
Whilst we decide tonight on the amount that should be paid to each individual State and how that amount should be allocated among Catholic schools, non-Catholic independent schools and government schools we give the Minister - and that means his Department - the overriding power to veto everything we do tonight as long as-
– He cannot vary the amount allocated to State schools; he can only vary the amounts as between independent schools.
– That may be so.
– He can only vary amounts within a category. He cannot move them from category to category because he cannot vary the total amount in the fifth column up or down.
– Clause 5 reads:
At any time during the period to which this Act applies, provision may be made by the regulations that this Act shall have effect as if the amounts specified in the third or fourth column, or both of those columns, and the amounts specified in the fifth and sixth columns, of the Schedule to this Act opposite to (he names of any Simes were varied in accordance with the regulations. . . .
The third column relates to secondary schools not conducted by a State being Roman Catholic secondary schools. The fourth column relates to secondary schools not conducted by a State other than Roman Catholic secondary schools. The fifth column gives totals of maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools not conducted by a State.
– Independent schools.
– Yes. The sixth column gives totals of maximum grants payable in respect of all secondary schools.
– This is a provision for private schools. You are seeking to write in a discrimination that the Bill does not write in. There is no discrimination between Catholic and non-Catholic schools, exceptin the quantification of the grants.
– There is discrimination.
– No. The Bill says that it is a total amount provided for nongovernment schools and that the money may be moved around within that figure.
– The Bill says more than that. It refers to: . . the amounts specified in . the fifth and sixth columns of the Schedule to this Act opposite to the names of any States . . .
– The Minister cannot vary those.
– He can vary them.
– You want to write in a discrimination that the Bill does not write in.
– -Order! Senator Cavanagh has the call.
– If my advisers have finished, let me say that I believe lhat the Bill is very clear. It gives the Minister the opportunity to vary the amounts in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth columns. Although we lay down the amounts in each column, the Minister can vary them. It we lay down in the third column the amount payable , to Catholic schools in New South Wales, under clause 5 he has the power to vary that and give it to another school. My point is that these amounts could well be changed to give electoral advantage to a particular section at a particular time. The Parliament having decided on the amount to be granted and the area to which it is to be granted, that decision has no validity if the Minister has the power to change it at any time during the currency of the legislation. This takes away completely the rights of this Parliament, lt is not justified and it should be disallowed.
– Senator Cavanagh really is examining clause 5 and consequently directing his attention to the Schedule. Clause 5 states:
At any time during the period to which this Act applies, provision may be made by the regulations that this Act shall have effect as If the amounts specified in the third or fourth column, or both of those columns, and the amounts specified in the fifth and sixth columns, of the Schedule to this Act opposite to the names of any States were varied in accordance with the regulations, but not so as to vary the total of the amounts specified in the fifth column, or the total of the amounts specified in the sixth column, of that Schedule.
I repeat the words: but not so as to vary the total of the amounts specified in the fifth column, or the total of the amounts specified in the sixth column . . .
What does the fifth column cover? lt is a combination of the third and fourth columns. What do they cover? The third column sets out the amounts allocated for schools that are, as specified in the schedule: . . secondary schools not conducted by a State being Roman Catholic secondary schools.
The fourth column sets out the amounts allocated for: . . secondary schools not conducted by a State other than Roman Catholic secondary schools.
Those 2 columns are combined to make the fifth column. That is a column that cannot be varied; neither can the sixth column be varied. So, I do not think that Senator Cavanagh, in making his comments, has been quite fair. He says that, if a school does not accept a grant offered, the Minister can authorise a transfer to another school. What ought to be pointed out, particularly with reference to Senator Cavanagh’s remark about ‘the desire of a Minister’ - which, to say the least, really ought not to have been made - is that the Minister operates on recommendations of advisory committees. These are referred, as a result of the Minister’s invitation, to the appropriate Roman Catholic and Anglican authorities through the 2 advisory committees functioning in each State - one representing Roman Catholic independent schools and the other representing nonRoman Catholic independent schools. These advisory committees allocate priorities amongst the schools which they represent and they make recommendations to the Minister. These committees have available to them the assessment of needs made by the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Library Committee.
Under clause 5, to which I have referred earlier, the funds can be transferred, as far as non-government schools are concerned, only between the Roman Catholic and other than Roman Catholic sectors within a State and between States. The total available to the non-government schools in the 3 years cannot be varied; nor can the total of $30m be varied. This seems to me to be fairly clear. It seems to me that it should not really cause any complaints. I have referred to the need for the Minister to table a statement in the Parliament. By interjection, some of my senatorial colleagues have referred to the fact that the regulations can be set aside. I do not think one can do a great deal more to protect the rights of the Parliament than already has been done.
– 1 am sorry to be dragging this out. 1 know that the Minister is relying on assistance given to him. But I believe that we should get a clear definition if we can. I appeal to Senators Withers and Byrne, who have capabilities of interpretation. It is not some fantasy that I am putting forward; it is a reality. The Bill specifies-
– One would think that they were 2 different kinds of children; that they were not all Australians.
– I do not expect Senator Little to understand, but he could give way to his superior in capabilities in his Party, namely, Senator Byrne. I do not think Senator Cotton will deny that there is an opportunity for the Minister to alter the amounts specified in the third or fourth column or both of those columns and the amounts specified in the fifth and sixth columns of the Schedule*. Up to that point in the clause, the Minister can alter any of those amounts. But then the clause contains a proviso or restriction, namely: . . but not so as to vary the total of the amounts specified in the fifth column, or the total of the amounts specified in the sixth column, of that Schedule.
The fifth column is headed:
Totals of maximum grants payable in respect of secondary schools not conducted by a Slate.
The sixth column is headed:
Totals of maximum grants payable in respect of all secondary schools. 1 might have been wrong in my first statement on this. The Minister cannot alter the amounts in the sixth column that would be payable to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia as the amounts payable to those States are laid down by totals shown in that column: the Minister would be unable to discriminate by transferring a sum shown in the fifth column from a non-government school to a government school, or vice versa; but he could transfer an amount shown in the third or fourth columns from a Catholic school to a non-Catholic school at any time he wished to do so.
– Or vice versa.
– Or vice versa. I am suggesting that although we are allocating the amount which we think should go to Catholic schools, which are nongovernment schools, and to non-Catholic nongovernment schools, the Minister would have power to veto the allocation upon which the Parliament had agreed. The other sinister suggestion that T place before the Committee-
– This is not the amount that we think should be given; it is the maximum amount beyond which we think it should riot go, is it not?
– I do not think so.
– Yes, the maximum grant, the amount beyond which it should not go. which is a different matter.
– You go back to clause
– I still say that although the Parliament may express an opinion as to where it thinks the money should go, the Minister could act contrary to that opinion. I am not saying that this would happen, but the possibility is there, and anything that is possible should be regarded by us as being probable. 1 invite honourable senators to consider what would happen if we had an unscrupulous Minister who would use this provision for political purposes. Supposing that in a doubtful seat which could be won by a few hundred votes-
– The DLP would win that.
– The DLP might have great influence in that scat which could be controlled predominantly by one denomination or another.
– Can you name one?
– A dozen. If the situation should arise - this is a trip into fantasy; I am not so cynical as my colleagues - that a doubtful seat was controlled largely by the adherents to one denomination who were not particularly favourable to the Minister’s candidate for that electorate, and if their agitation for aid for a particular school was not successful because the Minister acted on the advice of the advisory committee, although the allocation had been made there could be a temptation for a Minister, if we could find one low and unscrupulous enough, to issue a regulation to change that allocation. Although 3 months after the election we would have the right to veto that regulation, the election would have been won and the money paid. In that event the choice of the Australian people would be kept on the Opposition benches for another 3 years. Many mysterious things happen al election time, things which are hard to explain. In this measure we. as members of the responsible Parliament, are putting in the hands of a Minister a possibility of being able to do that. I take the matter no farther than that. I think we now have an understanding of what th: clause means. 1 say simply that I do not support the clause.
– Senator Cavanagh’s argument, as I see it, is that the Minister can vary or. to use more colourful language, play political ducks and drakes with a decision of the Parliament relating to the schedule of allocations laid down in the Bill. The fallacy of that argument is that the Parliament does not lay down any rigid classifications, except as to the government sector and the non-government sector, lt lays down 2 things, lt gives the Minister power to allocate S30m over a period of 3 years, but it restricts that to an allocation of $1Om each year. Also it distinguishes between ihe 2 categories of government and nongovernment. It says that the Minister may not give to the non-government sector more than §7,423,662 or to the government sector more than $22,576,338 over this period of 3 years. A proportion of allocations is made in each of the 3 years. That is the only rigid classification laid down by the Parliament in this Bill. So there is not some will of the Parliament which can be set aside at the whim of a Minister. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this chamber, explains quite clearly in his second reading speech the reason for this when he says:
The decision as to the present proportionate entitlements of the sectors of non-government schools is not rigid. We realise that, as the programme continues, developments in individual schools. lt will change also the relativity between the 2 sectors in the non-government area which are being assisted by this Bill. Later he said:
As I just mentioned, this Bill varies from the Stales Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968 in that it gives the Governor-General authority to make regulations varying the amount payable to the States each y,ear in respect of nongovernment secondary schools by transferring funds from one category of non-government school to another and from one State to another.
It is quite clear (hat clause 5 provides for exactly the intention which is clearly expressed in the Minister’s speech.
– As the Minister decides.
– As Ihe Minister decides, subject to disallowance of the regulation by either of the Houses of Parliament.
– Three months later.
– If Senator Cavanagh thinks that a Minister can approve an allocation or vary it, and within 3 months can have a school library erected so that the will of Parliament can be frustrated, he has much greater confidence in the building industry in Australia than I can imagine. The other point made by the honourable senator was that the Minister could make these variations for political reasons. A Minister of. that character could make an allocation or grant under the second column which provides S22,576,338 for libraries in government schools. He could, for political purposes, pick a school here or there in that sector or in any other sector. Consequently, I cannot follow the argument that there may be political machinations in respect of money to be allocated from these 2 columns rather than political machinations, if such were going to occur, in respect of the second column.
– Where does it say that a variation can be made by the Minister? It says that regulations may vary amounts, but it does not say that the Minister may vary amounts.
– I am saying ‘subject to the regulations’. The Minister can make the regulations which vary the amounts.
– Yes, but they are subject to disallowance by this Senate.
– Of course they are. But the amounts which are going to be approved by the Minister under the second column of the Schedule - $22m - are the amounts as approved of by the Minister under clause 4. They are not subject to regulations. I am simply pointing out the complete inconsistency in the concern expressed by Senator Cavanagh
– in reply - I do not think there is much point in reading out for the fifth time the explanation of this matter which seems to satisfy most people. T must say that 1 listened with fascination to Senator Cavanagh drawing on his imagination and describing events which might happen in a kind of postulated political situation of which only he would be aware. The powers under clause 5 - they are very slender indeed - would be exercised only to ensure that relatively small amounts of money would not lie idle. It is very unlikely, to say the least, that the Roman Catholic setter or any other sector in a particular State would not be able to absorb an amount of money not used by one of its own schools This thinking is drawing upon we realms of fantasy to a level which I do not think is really appropriate. I do not think that I can help any more in this matter. The fact seems to be clear to most people; it is clear to me. I do not want to become involved in a dialectical debate on the issue because I think the facts have been established. I think the protections are there. The library programme has served this country extremely well. It has already been working for 3 years. The dire forebodings of Senator Cavanagh have not manifested themselves in the last 3 years. Why would they? Why should we suspect everybody of improper motives? I do not.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 November (vide page 2212), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– Appropriation Bill (No. 1) is now before the Senate. I understand that in the first instance the estimates of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department will be considered. I am concerned that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) is not present at the moment. I wonder whether he will be here. I see that he has now arrived. I shall place a few remarks on record in relation (o the Estimates Committees as they have been operating. I am concerned at the fact that again this Senate will not be able to debate properly the Estimates which are going to carry the burden of meeting the financial problems of the Commonwealth over the next 12 months. Again we have seen discussions taking place at a committee level over a long period of weeks. The public has no real access to the areas in which the committees sit. The Press has taken very little notice of the committee sittings.
Now we are in a position that if the schedule of this Parliament is carried out we have less than one full week of 5 days to complete the business of the Parliament. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) promised that we would have as much time to debate the Estimates in the Senate as we had previously. But again the situation will be that we will miss out. !f one listens and observes at the Estimates Committee’s hearings one finds that there is no real debate. It is purely a method of continuously questioning the Ministers and officers of the departments.
– That is what the Estimates Committees should do.
– It should also be an opportunity for members of this Senate to express their views one way or the other in debate as to how the money will be spent. It is not purely a matter of questioning how many dollars are going to be spent. One should be able to bring in political questions - if honourable senators want a true expression of it - on matters of importance and matters of policy in relation to the Department of Health, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department Or any department. Honourable senators should not be confined to the type of questioning used in the committees. Listening to the questioning that went on during the hearings of the Estimates Committees one could observe that in many cases very unsatisfactory answers were given.
– I do not remember any chairman preventing an honourable senator from making that type of contribution during the Estimates Committee’s hearings.
– Honourable senators were very conspicuous by their absence. 1 shall repeat what I have said in the past. 1 believe firmly that the Estimates committee system is not helping this Parliament. I stand firmly behind the standing committees and any committees which are established for special purposes such as select committees. I think that they are excellent and that they can serve a good purpose. But I am still of the opinion that the Estimates committee system is not in the best interests of democratic government, lt does not give the stimulus which was given previously when the Estimates were debated by the Committee of the Whole. I would not mind in the least if the original undertaking were kept and if in fact we received time to debate these matters equal to what was available prior to the new system being introduced. T think this would be a complete duplication of the work of the Senate, but it would at least establish the fact that the undertakings which were given were being carried out.
The strongest objection I have to this matter is that with the position as it is now. with 2 committees meeting at the one time, as no person can be in 2 places at once this means that if an honourable senator is interested in housing and in health and the Estimates Committees dealing with those matters are meeting at the same time, he is denied the opportunity of attending one of the committees. He is denied the open discussion to which he is entitled. I believe that while this system continues many honourable senators will be disgruntled with the operation of the committees. Indeed, already some honourable senators who in the initial stages supported the establishment of the Estimates committees are now having second thoughts. I believe that the Government has to examine the present position closely with a view to bringing the Estimates back into this chamber for discussion, as was done prior to the establishment of the committees, so that there will be completely open and frank discussions and all honourable senators will be able to be present if they so desire, lt is for those reasons that I have briefly addressed myself to the second reading of this Bill.
– 1 shall add to the remarks which Senator Poyser has made. I am one of the senators who strongly supported the establishment of the Estimates Committees and the method of bringing directly to the Committee concerned members of various departments to enable them to answer personally any questions which honourable senators sought to raise. I have found extreme difficulty in coping with the work of the committees. Because of the practice whereby 2 committees meet at the one time it is practically impossible for anyone to co-ordinate the many aspects of his work in this place when other committees are meeting that engage his attention. I refer to parly committees, policy committees of parties which meet at the same time and all the constituent duties to be carried out. Because of all those functions it is practically impossible for one to coordinate one’s approaches to the Estimates and maintain sufficient, intelligent application to the various sections of the Estimates.
I do not go as far as Senator Poyser. I do not say that we ought to bring the Estimates back into the Committee of the Whole. I merely say that we ought to consider strongly the advisability of committees meeting one at a time. I know that this would mean that we would have to give extra time to them but we ought to follow the precedent that was established when Committee B met at 10.30 on Tuesday morning and progressed for 3 hours quite satisfactorily. I advocate that one committee only should meet at a time so tha! each senator will be able to attend its proceedings. Therefore I make the point that we ought to look carefully at the possibility of having only one committee meeting at a time. I find that when 2 commitees meet at the same time a senator is placed in a very awkward position. The result is that his work, his approach to and his examination of the Estimates are very disjointed. One approaches the table not properly prepared and endeavouring to catch up with the pace that the Chairman established in order to get through the estimates.
Senator Po>ser made the very important point that ou! of the Estimates investigation by senators answers are given which lead a senator to seek information which may encroach upon a policy area. Most senators refrain from pursuing that line of questioning, but it is necessary and only fair to the senator asking a question tha’ he should be enabled to follow out his line of questioning in the Committee of the Whole. If senators are not to be permitted sufficient time to engage in a full debate o.r areas of depth in the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole - making allowances for the detailed investigation of the Estimates that has already been carried out - then 1 feel, like Senator Poyser, that in spite of the advantages of the direct approach to officers of the various departments, we ought to revert to the old system. 1 do not wish to add to those remarks, but I am puzzled as to what procedure will be followed and I trust that the Chairman of Estimates Committee B will outline more clearly tonight the reasons for what is set out in section 4 of that Committee’s report. This report is very critical of certain departments and instrumentalities, in particular the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission which apparently is not aware of its accountability to Parliament. Perhaps we will get an opportunity tonight, or an opportunity will present itself to the Chairman of this Committee, to explain fully just how these limitations arose and what ac’.ion is to be taken to see that this situation does not arise again.
– I am impelled to speak very briefly in defence of our new Estimates Committees system and rebut what has been said particularly by Senator Poyser and to a lesser degree by Senator Georges whose main complain’, f thought, was that one committee only should meet at a time and that this arrangement would meet the purposes of the whole Senate much better than having 2 committees sitting simultaneously. I would like to refer to a few remarks that were made by Senator Poyser. He said that the Estimates Committees do not function in the best interests of the consideration of the Estimates. In my experience we have never had a closer examination of departmental expenditures than we have had since the inauguration of this system. In my opinion departmental responsibility has been spurred in such a way or to such an extent that has never happened before.
Under the present system, we have a personal and intimate responsibility revealed by the various Ministers and their highest departmental officers. We have direct questioning of those gentlemen. Through that direct questioning we have been able to elicit more information than has been possible for many, many years in this place through ministerial advisings in a hush and whisper across a little aisle.
In every respect I feel that under our system national outlays these days are being examined in a way which is healthy, which is good and which deserves the utmost encouragement, co-operation and assistance of all senators. 1 feel - and I shall not speak for very long on this matter - that we have a situation as has never applied before in a close examination of expenditure of moneys provided by the taxpayers. I completely endorse the ideal of Estimates Committees. In my opinion they have been successful and I believe that, given a bit more time, we can achieve that which was sought by the originators of this system to the benefit of every citizen of Australia.
– I just want to make a few remarks in order to put the record straight. As honourable senators will recall, the formation of the Estimates Committees was opposed by the Opposition. The Opposition proposed the establishment of certain standing committees and the Government proposed, as an alternative, the Estimates Committees. The Australian Democratic Labor Party had another plan. It wanted another group of committees the nature of which I cannot recall now. When a vote was taken the DLP proposal was opposed by the Government and the official OPPOsition. The Labor proposal for the appointment of standing committees was supported by the official Opposition and the DLP. The Senate-
– That is a misrepresentation of what happened.
– I hope that the honourable senator will put me right. This is my recollection of what happened. When the question of the establishment of Estimates Committees was put to the Senate, the DLP and the Government voted in favour of the motion. Despite all this, the Opposition agreed that it would go along with the new system and try to make a success of the Estimates Committees.
I have explained my position. I said that I thought that rather than be a member of one of the Estimates Committees I could do a better job by having a roving commission and going from one committee to another. But when I went to the door of the room in which the committee I was most interested in was meeting I was refused entry.
– That is not true. You know it was a private meeting and that it had nothing to do with the estimates themselves. We had heard you say this before.
– You are running in the same old groove.
– Honourable senators on the Government side may hear much more of it in the future. The fact that they have heard previously what I now have to say does not detract from its truth. It was unfortunate; I do not think it would have happened except for the fact that Senator Davidson was chairman of that committee.
– You know it was a private meeting and you were not excluded.
– I would not agree with Senator Davidson; I definitely was not included. It was a private meeting.
– The committee was discussing procedure.
– It was a private meeting.
– It was a private meeting to discuss procedure.
– All right.
– Order! This is water under the bridge.
– Government supporters are getting heated over a matter on which we are close to agreement. I agree that it was a private meeting and that it was held to discuss procedure. But the assurance was given that every honourable senator had the right to attend every meeting of the Estimates Committees. There are no private meetings so far as senators are concerned although they might be private in the sense that the public is excluded. We had a peculiar chairman at this committee meeting and it happened to bc the meeting I elected to attend. I am sorry that Senator Davidson was criticised somewhat for his action on that occasion. However, as I have some loyalty so far as State representation is concerned I will take the matter no further with him.
– Other chairmen did the same thing on the same day. I hope, in fairness to him, that you will add that point.
– If Senator Rae wishes to lessen the guilt of his seat mate by trying to implicate others, let him go ahead and do so. But that action was in breach of the assurance given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). Despite what happened members of the Opposition were prepared to go along to meetings of the estimates committees but my attitude was that I would not attend. On this occasion this year I was not opposed to them although there was a move in the Australian Labor Party for us to withdraw representation from the Estimates Committees. One reason was the fact that among the promises given to us was that there would be a second examination of the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole and that we would then have full fight to criticise the Estimates. Last year in the Budget session we found that full rights were not granted in the debate on the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. The gag was applied on every occasion. I forgave the Government for this because I think there was an intention on the part of the Leader of the Government to protect a new Minister who was in charge of a corrupt department which had been criticised by the Auditor-General. I recall also the ruthlessness of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who moved that the question be put as soon as he came into a meeting. I opposed the move at the meeting of my Party that we should not elect representatives to attend meetings of the Estimates Committees. Although I never took part in them I listened to some of the committee meetings and I was surprised at the number of occasions on which replies to questions could not be given. The Minister concerned, in this normal courteous manner - in fact most Ministers did this - agreed that the departmental officials would furnish the information to the senator or to the committee concerned at some subsequent time. More promises to supply information were given than actual information.
– That was so. This did nol happen in the Committee of the Whole. If the Minister concerned was unable to supply the information sought he had to take criticism for being unable to do so. The Estimates Committees seem to be satisfied if the Minister’ says that the departmental officers will do their best to supply the information. As a result of their experience this year the feeling of members of the Opposition who took part in the Estimates Committees is stronger than ever inclined to the view that we should not participate in them. I am inclined to approve of the Estimates Committees because their sittings this year gave mc a clear fortnight in which to do some work in my office. I am not implicated in them and so T favour their continuation so long as my rights are not restricted in the Committee of the Whole. The feeling on the part of members of the Opposition about withdrawing from the Estimates Committees will not be curbed if there is any restriction on open debate on the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole on this occasion. What happened 12 months ago had better not happen on this occasion or the result will be the death knell of the estimates committees. I do not know how they could function if the Opposition were not represented on them. I entered this debate to put the view that exists in the minds of members of the Opposition at this time.
– The importance of the contributions made to this debate by Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh is the need to report on meetings of the Estimates Committees to the Committee of the Whole - that is the Senate - so that we can then discuss what information has been obtained from the investigations of the specialist committees. I agree that there is some difference of opinion among senators representing the Australian Labor Party. Some honourable senators on this side of the chamber feel that the committees have failed to do what was expected of them. While the Estimates Committees extract a great deal of special information and details of expenditure which ordinarily would not be available from ordinary debates in the Committee of the Whole, the fact is that the information obtained is nol reported to the Committee of the Whole.
Senator Cant, Senator Wriedt and I attended all the discussions held by Estimates Committee D. The Committee gathered 40 pages of information of special significance relating to details of staff establishments, redundancies and the sort of people employed. For example, we gathered a lot of information about the cost of Commonwealth offices in Adelaide and found out that $1.5m was being spent on private accommodation. The chances are that as the Estimates Committees report to the Committee of the Whole this information will noi be available to the Senate. In order to remedy this matter I suggest that the committees should report to the Senate sitting as the Committee of (he Whole because unless the information is given to each honourable senator there will be a duplication of questions. Otherwise special information obtained in the committees will not be given to all honourable senators and whatever they want to say about expenditure contained in the Estimates will not be properly considered. That is one of the failures in the system which we want to point out.
The other failure was mentioned by Sena:or Poyser and Senator Cavanagh. I refer to the fact that committees meet at the same times. It is true that there is a mechanical difficulty involved in fixing times of meetings of the committees and that it may be necessary to have Estimates Committee D and Estimates Committee C meeting at the same time. But the fact is that honourable senators, whether from the Opposition side or from the Government side, have fairly varied interests and they have electoral commitments. Many people write to honourable senators and ask questions about health, civil aviation, defence, the Air Force and other matters and we are required to ask questions at meetings of the Estimates Committees. Under the system we have adopted it is not possible for us to attend every meeting of every committee because often they meet simultaneously. That is the defect outlined by Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh.
I entered the debate only to point out that these are some of the deficiencies in the system. Unless we can find a remedy for these deficiencies the value of the special research carried out by the Estimates Committees will not be transferred to the Committee of the Whole. The whole point of having Estimates Committees was to involve public servants more closely in the activities of the Parliament. They will supply information to honourable senators which they would not ordinarily get during the course of the debate on the Appropriation Bill. Probably that is a good thing. It is a good thing to have a committee which deals directly with the people who staff all the branches of the Commonwealth departments because we meet the people who deal with the various activities of the departments. They can give us more intimate details. Unless we get that information, which we would have in writing of course, and it is transferred into the debates of the Committee as a Whole, into the Senate and into the Parliament, it seems to me that there is a gap. I support the remarks made on these deficiencies by Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh. I suggest that what ought to be done is that the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) should consider the extent to which the system might be remedied in this respect.
I shall wind up by summarising my objections. There is a lot of information in each of the Committees’ reports. That information should be reported, in the same way as the reporting of seminars elsewhere, to the Parliament so that the information that has been obtained from the research is brought directly to the Parliament. We have a situation where every honourable senator, whether from the Government or the Opposition side, has been able to confront officers in the departments and gain important information, but unless this information is transferred in reports directly to the Senate it seems to me that much of this information will be- lost. There is only one other matter which I regard as important. There is substance in the arguments advanced by Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh that the Parliament should be able to debate in a general political sense the significance of the appropriations. There should not be any sort of reduction in the scope of the Parliament to do this. Without damning the committee system, there are gaps in it and I hope that when we meet next year there will be some consideration given to the points made in this debate,
– It is alarming to hear some of the comments which have been made . by honourable senators opposite this evening in relation to the operation of the Estimates Committee system. T believe this system has done more to involve this chamber in a full and proper consideration of the Estimates than anything that existed before the introduction of this system. There may be some deficiencies in the operation of the system. There may be improvements which could be made but I hope that the consideration of the future of the Estimates Committees will be on the constructive basis of how we can improve them, not how we can destroy them or how we can cut off our noses to spite our faces. We heard some remarks from Senator Cavanagh, who I am glad to see is returning to the chamber. He has been out for only a moment and I mention it in no other way than to say that I am glad he has returned because I want to make a remark about what he has said.
– I appreciate your recognition of my return.
– Thank you. What Senator Cavanagh said about the happenings on the first day of meeting of the first Estimates Committees is really dredging to find some reason for complaining about them. He made some remarks about his colleague from South Australia, Senator Davidson, which I regard as unfair and which I think should be placed in their proper perspective. On that day, not only Senator Davidson as chairman of one of those Committees but also other honourable senators as chairmen of other Committees adopted the same procedure. It was based on a belief and on advice that, during the time when the Committees met to elect their chairmen and to carry out any other formal business of a procedural nature which they had to carry out, they should do so as committees of individuals and not as committees carrying out an inquiry into the Estimates in which any member of the Senate could participate. It may be that that procedure should not have been adopted but to suggest either incompetence or mala fides or any other of the impressions which one could get from the remarks which Senator Cavanagh made about Senator Davidson or any of the other honourable senators who were chairmen of Committees on those days, is not only unfortunate but also does not do Senator Cavanagh the credit which I would hope his arguments do to the debates which take place in this chamber. I do not think there is any point in pursuing that matter any further. Let us just leave the record straight. It was not only Senator Davidson; it was not any particular chairman. lt was a matter of following what was believed to be appropriate procedure during the teething stages in the development of the Estimates Committee system. Nobody was cut out of participating in the consideration of the Estimates.
Proceeding from that matter we have asother criticism which was made by Senator Cavanagh. It was an extravagant criticism and a demonstrably unreal criticism. He said in relation to the supply of information during the consideration of the Estimates by the Committees that there were more promises than information. A quick look at the unanimous reports of 3 Committees which I have in front of me - I do not have the other 2 - will reveal the shallowness and hollowness of that criticism. The unanimous report of Estimates Committee D says:
In accordance with undertakings given by the Minister during the hearings, further information was supplied to the Committee in reply to questions raised during the proceedings. Copies of the documents containing this information are included as an Appendix to this Report.
The pages are not numbered so I am not able to say exactly how many there are but I estimate that there would be something like 50 or 60 pages. Estimates Committee C in its report said:
Subsequent to the hearing of evidence and in accordance with undertakings given by the Minister for Works during the hearings, additional information was forwarded to the Committee in reply to certain questions asked during the proceedings. Copies of these replies are attached as an Appendix to the Report.
There are perhaps 30 pages of replies. Estimates Committee B in its report said:
They were unaminous reports from the Committees. It is my belief that the Senate can be grateful not only to the Ministers concerned but also to the departments for one thing that they have tried to do. However inadequate some departments may have been, however inadequate any of the Ministers may have been, however inadequate anybody may think any of the answers of performance may have been - and that would be a matter of opinion although my opinion is that the performance by and large was most adequate - the one thing that is beyond doubt is that Senator Cavanagh’s point has no substance. By far the greater part of the information sought during the hearings of the Estimates Committees, has been supplied speedily and has involved a great deal of effort and work by the departments to ensure that it was made available speedily.
The next point that Senator Cavanagh made was that there was no opportunity to obtain information in cases where the answers were fobbed off. That was the impression that he gave. He implied that a Minister or departmental officer could say. ‘We will supply the information to you’, and that that would be the end of the matter; the information would never be made available. Mr reply to that is twofold. Firstly, most of the information, if not all of it, has already been supplied. Secondly, this debate provides honourable sena’.ors with an opportunity to obtain any information which they require and which has not been supplied, in exactly the same manner in which they could have obtained it prior to the introduction of the Estimates Committee system.
The situation which 1 found most unsatisfactory was the situation in which a senator wished to ask a question or raise a matter and, instead of having an opportunity to ask the officer concerned, get a reply from him and perhaps pursue it with him, the senator had to ask the Minister who got a hurriedly scribbled note from the officer advising him. The matter may well have been one about which the officer knew nothing. One can understand that a Minister representing 4 other Ministers could not possibly have at his disposal all information about all matters. The hurried note usually lacked real substance and real information. The net result was that we had what I believe was a most unsatisfactory system of consideration of the Estimates.
The introduction of the Estimates Com- “mittee system has given honourable senators an opportunity to really participate. There may be shortcomings and difficulties, but let us try to overcome them. tet us not just criticise the system. It can develop and, I believe, play an important part in the administration of this country. Every senator has an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way, if there are only 2 committees sitting, in the deliberations of at least one of them. The way in which consideration of the Estimates was conducted in the past was completely lacking, in my view, in any reality. It was not possible to obtain from the Minister any real answer which would satisfy a senator with a real, knowledge of the subject, having done his homework and being concerned about the matter into which he wished to inquire. This is not a criticism of the Minister but of the system which existed prior to the introduction of the present system. If honourable senators will apply themselves to the system, if they will join with it and help it grow, the system can, I believe, serve a most useful purpose not only for this chamber but also for this country. I hope that I do not hear people trying to knock it rather than trying to help it grow.
– I want to say something in support of the Estimates Committee system. What I have to say is not unqualified support of the system. The system was introduced last year. It was used for consideration of the 1970-71 Budget, for consideration of the little Budget which was introduced this year- and for the 1971-72 Budget which was introduced in August. We have made some very valuable gains as a result of the use of the system. I refer now to one of the most important gains. As a result of last year’s operations Estimates Committee E recommended that each department should submit its report for the information of the members sitting on the various committees. Last year one or two departments produced a report on the amount of money which it would spend. I think it is true to say that this year each department has produced such a report. This has been of great value in our investigation and in our criticism of the estimates presented to us. This most valuable gain came out of nothing other than the. Estimates Committee system. Another very important gain was that due perhaps to the courtesy of the Minister and certainly with the approval of the Chairman of the Committee we could obtain directly from departmental officers replies to our questions. This was a most valuable introduction of information, by comparison with the way in which we operated previously in the Committee of the Whole when, as has been said already this evening, . all information came by means of a scribbled note which had to.be. interpreted by the Minister and then given to the Committee. These are 2 valuable and important gains which have resulted from the Estimates Committee system.
On the opposite side of the scale we have the disability that the public is not aware of what is going On, to the extent that it was when the Estimates were discussed by the Committee of the Whole because under the previous system the public could sit in the gallery and hear the debates, the questions’ and’ the interest being taken by honourable senators in the Estimates. Another bad feature of the new system is that we find that it is not possible to attend meetings of 2 committees which are sitting simultaneously. Each may be examining departments in which we are
Interested. For example, I am very interested in primary production. Therefore I like to attend meetings of the committee which examines the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry. I am also very interested in the operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Having been a member of the planning section for 25 years. I know something of the way in which that Department operates. I like to attend meetings of the committee which examines the estimates of that Department. I could not attend the meetings of both committees because quite frequently they sat on the same day. Last Thursday I was able to attend the meeting of the committee that was dealing with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I sat in all afternoon, but it did not discuss that part of the estimates about which 1 wished to question departmental officers. The committee was dealing with the broadcasting side of the Department. I wanted to deal with the expenditure of funds of PMG operations apart from radio and television.
The system is still in the experimental stage, lt does occur to me that in this experimental period we should try to take into consideration some of the good features of the system and try to get over some of the bad features of the system. I wonder whether it would be possible to have only one committee operating at a time, all meetings to be held in this chamber. The public would know where the meetings were being held. Certain senators are allocated to a committee and it is their responsibility to be present at meetings of that committee, but other senators could be present also and could ask questions, through the Chairman, of the Minister and get replies from the departmental officers. I think that if we could do some of these things we could make the system operate much more efficiently than it does now. We could get the information that we require for a careful and thoughtful study of the Estimates. I think it would be of great value to the way in which we consider the Estimates each year.
– think that any system that cannot take and absorb some criticism without showing a vehement reaction to that criticism is doomed to failure. I think Senator
Wilkinson has tried to take a middle course in relation to the Estimates Committee system. I do not think there was any cause for the vehemence that was thrown back at Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh tonight while we are, as Senator Wilkinson said, still in the experimental stage of the system. The extra time that has been put into the system is time that the Parliament can ill afford. I think that the figure I looked at for last year showed that well over twice the time was being put into the examination of the Estimates than was the case previously. I do not think that in examining all the details of expenditure of the tremendously large Commonwealth departments we should worry about all the small amounts. I think the word is ‘nitpicking’. If we do this then I do not quite know the way in which we are looking at our Public Service. Surely we have to trust somebody somewhere. From the little I know about the Public Service, I think the mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceedingly small. If there is a bit of 5-rlnger exercise going on we can rest assured that one of the fingers will get jammed in the system eventually.
I do not think it is important for a body such as the Parliament to be looking so minutely at small things. I do not want to labour this point but it seems to me also that it is inhibiting for the public to have to come into the Committee rooms. People are jammed in everywhere, no seats are clearly delineated for the public and so on. It struck me that there should be some way, when looking at the Estimates, in which to get a consensus in relation to the small amounts involved. For instance, the Postmaster-General’s Department spends millions of dollars a year; yet we are worrying whether the cost of its furniture, its rubbers, its pencils or something else has gone up by a few dollars in the year. I do not think that is quite the job of this Parliament. But if we come to a situation where clearly there is some problem, maybe there is a way of looking at it in the Committee of the Whole and then referring it back to the type of Estimates Committee that we now have operating, so that the direct knowledge of the administrative officers would be available. If this is possible it seems to me to be the desirable thing lo do.
We have all thrown up all sorts of suggestions, and very obviously in a forum such as this we cannot make decisions on them. But I do not want to see a vehement rejection of the criticisms that have been raised. After all, every honourable senator is entitled to put his objections in the way that he thinks fit. I have detected some vehemence in the rejection of some of the suggestions. If the Government cannot accept criticism in the present developmental stage of the committee system, then the system is doomed to failure. The other night the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) when dealing with standing committees and special committees, but not Estimates Committees, said that he was tremendously worried about where the whole situation is leading. I know he still is worried because I have talked to him about it outside this chamber. We have to watch 2 things. One is that the Committees are not broken down by this massive detail, and the other - this does not apply to Estimates Committees for the moment - is that the quality of the work that results may not be challenged and may not be compared with anything similar in the world until something arises. Unless these reports which may gather some dust for a few years are brought out and matched against the technology and the results of examinations that have been made in other parts of the world, in other parts of Australia, by private people, by the technical sections of some of the Commonwealth departments, it will all be a waste of time. We are at an experimental stage. I am worried that the amount of time being put into this system will be disproportionate to the benefits obtained. Senator Murphy and I have been looking at the notice paper and trying to work out some sort of timetable so that some of the matters that have been there for as long as 18 months can be cleared. So the time element in relation to these Committees is a very difficult problem.
All I say to honourable senators is that they should not reject the criticisms they have heard tonight but should absorb them and examine them. If this system of committees is to proceed we have to try to train ourselves, the chairmen who have tremendous responsibilities, and the Ministers, some of whom can be a little wordy on these Committees. After all, they are not trying to prove some point. They are supposed to be looking at estimates of expenditure and whether the particular department has been handling them properly. I do not think the Parliament is in a situation to examine every minute expenditure that the great Commonwealth departments have incurred during the year or intend to incur in the following 12 months. We have to trust somebody somewhere. Commonwealth departments have been going now for 71 years and a lot of them had their beginnings in the States before that and they have not broken down yet. I repeat my plea that honourable senators absorb some of the criticisms. It is. no good just rejecting them, because if the criticisms are rejected and if some honourable senators are pushed outside the consideration of the Estimates very obviously the system will not work.
– I want to raise the question of the value of Estimates Committees. When they first started I had a quite high regard for them. I have found in my investigations of the departments that the Committees are pretty valueless. I say that after a pretty fair consideration of the Estimates in the 1970 Budget, the Supplementary Estimates in May of this year and again the Estimates of 1971-72. I find that even though there is a great value in being able to question the officers who are brought in by the various Ministers to advise them, nevertheless there is a lack of information within the officers who are brought before the Estimates Committees, particularly in relation to the departments that a Minister only represents. I have no criticism whatsoever of the departments for which the Ministers are directly responsible. Bus in relation to the departments for which he is a proxy, if I may put it that way, there is a very great weakness.
I find that when I question the officers who are sent up to give the information to the Parliament those officers - I might be excused if I use the expression - are incompetent to be able to answer the questions that are asked by honourable senators. I do not mean that in any disparaging way with respect to the officers, but the information is not available through the officers who are sent up to give the information. I say that as a member of an Estimates Committee that represents almost one-third of the departments controlled by the various Ministers - those departments for which Senator Cotton is responsible. I say it with a great appreciation of the efforts of Senator Cotton to bring out the information that the Committee required. But I find on various occasions that when a question is asked and the Minister in charge refers the question to the officers present the officers are unable to answer the question posed by an honourable senator. Then it is proposed that the question be answered by letter. This destroys the opportunity for honourable senators to cross-examine the witness. I refer in this case to the officer of the department as the witness. Dependent upon the answer that one receives is the follow-up question. Dependent upon the answer that one receives is the ability to be able to probe the particular line that one is pursuing. The answer that the departmental head or the departmental officer may give subsequently does not fulfil the question because one is unable to crossexamine the officer on the answer. I think that this exposes the weakness in the system which is operating at the present time. Unless the officers who are sent up to the Committees are competent to answer the questions that honourable senators ask, the whole system of Senate Estimates Committees is destroyed.
I find that the Senate and the Parliament . are ill equipped to attempt to assemble the proper information and to institute searching inquiries about the Estimates. The meetings of the Estimates Committees represent the opportunity that the Senate has to examine and to probe the financial policies of the Government. It is the only time during the year when an opportunity is offered to examine the policies and projects of the Government. Because of the lack of facilities available in this Parliament there is no proper opportunity for the exposure of the Government’s policies. When an Estimates Committee meets in this chamber there is an opportunity to expose the Government. However, when the Estimates Committees meet outside this chamber and questions are asked that are diametrically opposed to the policies of the Government there are no media representatives present to report them.
The Government has said that 2 Estimates Committees are to meet at the one time. One Committee meets in this chamber and the facilities provided arc just as they are today. If representatives of the media desire to attend or are willing to attend and listen to the questions asked by senators, there is an opportunity to expose the Government’s policies. But the other Estimates Committee must meet in room L17.
– With an open door.
– With an open door, but when the Minister concerned brings in 14 advisers from one department and 12 or 13 advisers from another department, not knowing how long it will take to deal with one department, it is rather crowded.
– Under the old system there would be 3 or 4 advisers from a department, so that means that the Estimates Committees must work far more effectively.
– I am talking about room L17, the second chamber for the meetings of Estimates Committees. By the time that 24 or 25 advisers are accommodated in that room there is not room for a member of the public or a representative of the media to put his bottom. When meetings of the Estimates Committees are held in that chamber it means that the Government is holding the’ Parliament in camera. If it wants to pursue that policy of holding the Parliament in camera, that is its business, but the Parliament of this nation is a public forum. The meetings of the Estimates Committees constitute the most important inquiry into the Government’s financial policies and relations between the Commonwealth and the States. Until adequate facilities for such an inquiry to be held in public are provided the Government should not be holding meetings of the Estimates Committees, as it were, in camera. That is what it is doing.
Certain inhibitions are imposed upon senators when the Estimates Committees meet in this chamber. I know that at present (here is certain heat within the community about the health aspects of cigarette smoking. I smoke like a chimney. Because this is the Senate chamber there are no facilities for Committee members to be able to have a smoke. Committee meetings are rather intensive inquiries. If a member of an Estimates Committee wants to inquire into a particular appropriation it is not safe for him to leave the table and have a smoke outside the chamber, because as soon as he leaves the table- Senator Douglas McClelland will support me on this matter - the appropriation that he is waiting to inquire into will go through without a question being asked about it. A Committee member may be called out of the - chamber to receive a telephone call and thus miss an opportunity to query an appropriation
During the 12 months that the Estimates Committees have been operating I have developed a great admiration for some members of the Public Service. T have been able to make friends with public servants I did not know existed and 1 have been able to talk to them on an equal scale. 1 have increased my knowledge of particular departments and I have been given an opportunity to understand the thinking of departmental officers that may differ from my thinking on particular projects. Because of the lack of facilities in this place to make proper inquiries I am inhibited. I say quite frankly that 1 have already notified my Leader tha* at the first opportunity I will move that the Labor Party no longer take part in the meetings of Estimates Committees. I do not know whether my colleagues will agree with me when T move a motion of that sort. I feel that the value of the Estimates Committees has been lost.
Later this evening, if. the Committee of the Whole discusses document A, 1 will expose what happens when one asks for information and the officers are unable to provide it. I do not blame the officers. A Minister representing a department may not even know whether the estimates of that department are before this Committee or another Committee, whether a particular appropriation is being dealt with by another Committee or by the Committee before which he is appearing. Until these problems can be overcome the Estimates Committee system should be discontinued because it is unsatisfactory. I spoke to certain people. I was accused of asking questions not to gather information but to obtain publicity.
– Was that right?
– No. How does one expose this Government other than by asking questions that the media will take up so that the public may be informed? If there is to be a distinction between asking questions for the purpose of obtaining publicity and asking questions for the purpose of gaining information, I point out that it is not I who wants the information. I want the information from the officers of the various departments so that it will be exposed to the public. There is only one medium that exposes it to the public, and that is the radio, television and newspapers. When we hold the proceedings of Estimates Committees in camera we are denying the right of the people to be given information. That cannot be defended in a democracy.
– Some criticism has been expressed around the chamber this evening of the operation of the Estimates Committees. Some of this criticism appears to be valid. There may be varying degrees of validity. In any event, honourable senators feel strongly about the matters raised. I indicate that 1 will take these matters up with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (.Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) with a view to seeing that some remedial action is taken. I think we all would like to see the investigation of the Estimates carried out in a thorough way. It is important to government that this be done. This chamber has had a long history of co-operative action in developing a thorough scrutiny of the Estimates, and we all would want to see that, continue.
– I want to say something about the remarks made by Senator Cant earlier in the debate in relation to what he called the ‘valueless’ nature of the Estimates Committees. 1 feel impelled to make some response to them. I believe that the Senate appreciates the comments that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has made. As a member of 2 of the Estimates Committees, 1 wish to say a word in defence of the officers. I am sorry that the word ‘incompetent’ was used. Maybe the honourable senator who used it did not receive all the answers he was seeking. But I remind him and the Senate of the vast quantity of material which the Ministers, who. were responsible for co-operating with the committees of the Senate, provided to honourable senators well ahead of the sittings of the committees. This great quantity of material set out detailed explanations not only of the expenditure but also of the reasons for it and the areas in which it was proposed to be made.
In the light of all the criticism and examination that has been made tonight, I believe that it is fair to point out that the committees system has provided a great deal of satisfaction to honourable senators. I say that in spite of what has been said in the last quarter of an hour or so. 1 think the best indication of that is that not only
Government senators but also . Opposition senators have been present at the meetings of one or more of the committees as often as they possibly could, have stayed for the duration of the meetings of the committees of which they have been members and have pressed the Ministers and officers for information, line by line.
As one who has been at committee meetings, along with my colleagues, I pay tribute to the response which the officers of the various departments have made. Everybody knows that they are placed in a certain position. Until we -had this committees system, we were never able to obtain intimate and detailed information on the various questions on which we were seeking it. Now we are able to obtain it from the officers of the departments over an extended period of time. I think an examination of the reports that are now before the Senate reveals that. There are tributes on the one hand; there are criticisms on the other. That suggests to me that the Senate Estimates committees system is functioning effectively and satisfactorily.
I express my concern that this year the meetings of the Estimates committees were drawn out rather longer than I would have liked. One committee of which I was a member was the last to finish. There was postponement after postponement. I hope that in the negotiations between the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) they will be able to arrange a timetable so that the meetings of : the Estimates committees will be more related to the presentation of the Budget and not drawn out so that the reports are not tabled until within a few days of the close of the session. I know that this is due to the parliamentary programme. The parliamentary programme can be arranged only with the co-operation of all parties. 1 hope that next year we will be able to have a more definite programme for the meetings of the Estimates committees so that they are more related to the presentation of the Budget and our discussions with the officers of the departments take on more meaning.
I have nothing to add in relation to the charges Senator Cavanagh made earlier this evening. We have discussed this issue before, and his resurrection of it does not do him any credit. Explanations have been made. I conclude by paying a warm tribute not only to the Ministers but also to the officers of the departments who appeared before the Estimates committees.
– I rise in the hope that what T say will be the closure of this debate, although Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who will not be here, moved the motion for the second reading of this Bill and strictly he is the person who should close the debate. The motion that the Senate is debating is for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). When the Bill was debated in the House of Representatives it was the occasion for a wide ranging debate on the Budget and matters relating to the economy. The Senate already has undertaken that debate on a motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. That, debate occurred contemporaneously with, the debate in the House of Representatives.
This Bill and the succeeding Appropriation Bill (No. 2) come before the Senate at this time, after the Senate has devoted itself not only to the matters involved in the Budget but also to the matters of information that are required for the examination of the estimates of expenditure. I think the appreciation df that point is apparent from the speeches that have been made by honourable senators in this second reading debate. They have not been speeches directed to the Appropriation Bill; rather have they been speeches directed almost entirely to the operation of the Estimates committee procedures. I wish to speak very briefly about these committee procedures. 1 believe that some members of the Senate are following a line which, if it were to be pursued without some qualification, could destroy what is emerging as a very useful process.
Senator Rae indicated the procedures that governed the operation of the Senate’s consideration of the Estimates over a long period - I think since Federation. The problem with those procedures was that if senators wanted information there was a rather time-wasting exercise in which a senator rose in his place in this chamber and asked the Minister a question that was designed solely to ascertain facts - for example, a senator asked: ‘Why was the grant to the Surf Life Saving Association increased by $500 this year?’ - the Minister sought the information from the officers sitting alongside him and then gave the answer. It was time consuming, lt did not appear to be an efficient use of resources. The general consensus of the Senate 2 years ago was that a better system could be devised. We believe that we have a better system. The value of the Estimates committee is that it enables senators to become well informed. In committee surroundings there is the opportunity for senators to ask questions and to obtain information. There is no question but that if a senator feels that he is not getting the information to which he believes he is entitled, he has the support of the whole Committee and, if need be, of the whole Senate to support his right to that information.
If honourable senators have the information, debates can be conducted on a better informed basis and the contribution that honourable senators can make, not only in terms of their own personal contribution and their own idea of what their work should be, but also to the workings of the chamber, is so much enhanced. I feel that it would be a retrograde step to depart from that situation. Also we permit a greater time to be taken by the Senate in the examination of the Estimates. In 1969, which was the last occasion on which the Senate debated the Estimates in a Committee of the Whole, the time taken was 39 hours, but this year, when the Committees sat over a period of 9 days, 54 hours were taken by the Senate Committees in an examination of the Estimates. To that extent there was a greater ability to ascertain the facts of any particular matter which concerned honourable senators. I heard Senator Cant say - I regret that he said it - that these Committees sat in camera and that there was a denial to the people who have a responsibility to inform the public of an ability to report proceedings of the committees. 1 regret that he said that because it is not true.
The Senate Committees have sat 2 at a time on some days, but they have sat in 2 places in this building. One Committee has always sat in this chamber and the other Committee has sat in one of the Senate committee rooms. There is open entry to this chamber and to those committee rooms. I have observed, as I think every honourable senator has observed, representatives of the media present in those rooms. Accordingly it is misleading and creates a wrong impressing to say that these Committees sit in camera. They do not do so. Any assertion to the contrary cannot be sustained. I think it is important to recognise that for the Committees of the Senate to develop and be productive there should be a consensus that the working of the Committees is valuable. If we lose that consensus we will be engaged in possibly a controversial existence in which half the Senate will be attending the Committees and eulogising the work of the Committees and the other half will be denigrating the committees and seeking to maintain a right to speak in the chamber. Nothing could be more destructive of the standing of the Senate than if honourable senators were so petty as to take that view. I hope that the consensus which was developed initially by you, Mr President, with the co-operation of the Leader of the Government, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, and the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Kenneth Murphy-
– I think he will reject the title.
– I apologise that, carried away as I was by enthusiasm for Senator Murphy’s work in this Committee area, I should have given him a title which his colleagues would not like him to have but to which he may be entitled. But the point is that the consensus which was developed in this chamber on a bipartisan basis is a consensus which ought to be preserved. We know in the Senate that Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh adopted an attitude when these Committees were first mooted that they would have nothing to do with them. In this chamber individual senators have their right to their idiosyncracies and we recognise that right, but we feel that if they are not prepared to co-operate in the Committees and if they are not prepared, as they were not last year or this year, to attend any of the Committee meetings, they are not speaking from a very informed point of view in their criticism of the workings of these Committees. They will have put themselves outside the system. They wish to assert a right to speak in this chamber when the estimates debates are taking place and, unquestionably, that is their right, but I do not believe that they should use that standpoint to denigrate the working of the Committees, which do provide satisfaction to the vast majority of members of the Senate.
Although it is not my place on this occasion to suggest to the Australian Labor Party how it should conduct ils affairs, this is one occasion when I do wish that members of that Party would show some unity, get behind their leader in this place and support him in the initiatives which he has undertaken, because undoubtedly it would redound to the value of the Senate as a House of the Parliament and also to the work which these Estimate Committees can do. I think it is regrettable also that some examples were used of the inability of persons to attend Estimates Committees because they sit 2 at a time. I recall that last year Senator Poyser said in connection with these Committees that he hoped that there would be no more than 2 Committees sitting at any one time. Of course we did change the pattern from last year and we had this year no more than 2 Committees sitting. But it was suggested also that a person who had wanted to attend the Committee’s inquiry into the estimates on housing and the Committee’s inquiry into the estimates on health could not do so.
I have looked at the records of the committees and found that it was a bad example to choose because the day when the health estimates were being examined the Committee which was looking at housing was not sitting and there was undoubtedly ability for anyone who had an interest in those twin fields to attend the Committees. I suggest that in that sort of example there is a contriving of an argument against these Committees which will not be sustained. I believe that we must recognise that if the Senate is to endeavour to conduct its business on an informed basis one of the valuable and successful attributes of such activity is a means whereby, conveniently, the necessary information can be ascertained. The Committee system is an infinitely superior way of getting that information than a formal debate in this chamber. To my mind it is incredible that some senators could put forward that argument.
The final point on this is one which should be emphasised. When the Estimates Committees sit it is an occasion for senators to question the responsible Minister about the portfolios for which he carries responsibility. It is not an occasion for senators as of right to question members of the Public Service on the basis that they are there open to be questioned. They are in fact asked questions, but they are asked questions because the responsible Minister regards it as a convenient means by which the information which is being sought can bc given to the inquiring senator. But the Minister, of course, is always in control of those proceedings and it should always be that way, because we ought to recognise that we have a Public Service which must be impartial and which must maintain its independence to advise whoever happens to be the Minister, of whatever Party it might be from time to lime.
– I think you expressed it badly when you said that the Minister should always be in control of the proceedings.
– I might have expressed it badly if I omitted to state that the Minister should always be in charge of the proceedings, subject to the control which the Committee, being a Committee of senators, exercises. But the sense in which I was using it was that the Minister, in terms of answers to questions, should be in control of that area of the inquiry. The point I make is that we should recognise the value of not exposing officers to questions which they may not be equipped to answer because it is nol their particular area of operation. 1 think we should be very slow to pass judgment, on the basis of a fleeting sight and hearing of officers, that they are incompetent. To do so is not only an injustice to the officers but also it is an injustice to the senators who make those comments. I think we should recognise that what officers say at hearings by Senate Committees is said by virtue of the Minister’s request that they held the inquiring senator.
– There is sometimes more in what they do not say.
– 1 heard Senator Cant’s interjection about what they do not say. I believe thai if there is any judgment or criticism to be levelled in that area it ought to be levelled not at the officers but at the Minister - be he the Minister in this place or the Minister in the other place - whose obligation it is to convey the information directly to members of the Parliament. I am sorry that so much time has been taken in this general discussion of the committee system. If it means that we look at this matter in terms of how we can make the system work better it will have been a useful debate. But if it is going Io be regarded as an occasion where people take stances from which they will never depart notwithstanding what arguments or persuasion might be used, then I think that it will be a regrettable day in the evolution of a very informed Senate which we have been seeing in recent times.
Senator CANT (Western Australia) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim io have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At no time did I attempt to denigrate the members of the Public Service. What I said was that when officers come before the Estimates committees, whoever chose them - 1 do not know who chose them - chose officers who were unable lo satisfy the inquiries of honourable senators. This is not a denigration of the officers of the Public Service. I want to make quite clear that I have the greatest respect for the officers with whom I have come in contact on the Estimates committees. It is no fault of theirs that they are unable to answer the questions. It is no fault of theirs when the Minister appearing before the Committee claims that as something is a matter of policy a public servant should nol answer a question about it but that a Minister who happens to be in another place should answer the question - and that Minister is not before the committee as the responsible Minister. I want to make ii quite clear that at no time have I attempted in any way to denigrate the officers of the Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motions (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
Thai clauses I to 5 and the first Schedule be postponed until after consideration of the Second Schedule.
Thai the votes be considered in the same groupings as in the Estimates committees and thai unless otherwise ordered the order for consideration be the votes considered by Estimates Committee M, the votes considered by Estimates Committee D. the vo:es considered by Estimates Committee E. the voles considered by Estimates Committee A and- the voles considered by Estimates Committee C.
Proposed expenditure. 524.254,000.
– When the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department were before the Estimates Committee I raised the matter of legal aid. I made a request that as S208.700 was appropriated for the Legal Services Bureau, as S73.200 was appropriated for the payment of legal aid in special circumstances and as $466,400 was appropriated by way of grants to approved marriage guidance organisations would ihe Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) consider an extension of legal aid to cover pensioners and Aborigines. At the time it was pointed out that the legal aid which was under discussion applied only lo ex-servicemen and !heir relatives. I pressed the matter further and asked the Attorney-General whether there were any possibility of his Department giving some consideration to extending legal aid lo people in necessitous circumstances such as Aborigines and pensioners. The Attorney-
General replied that there was legislation in all the States in relation to this matter. Of course in the States there is usually a public solicitor or criminal defender who provides assistance for people involved in criminal cases, quite apart from civil cases for which the profession usually provides assistance.
At this stage I would like to tell the. Senate of an organisation that has been established in New South Wales. It is known as the Aboriginal Legal Service. The idea of the Aboriginal Legal Service developed in the latter half of 1970. The impetus for its foundation did not come from white people or from a desire to implement abstract principles but from a group of articulate young Aborigines reacting to the day to day pressures which they felt operated in their own lives and in the lives of other Aborigines. Essentially they felt a desire to fight back against what they experienced as an alien apparatus of law enforcement which bore oppressively on Aborigines and did not operate to protect them or accord them rights. This service was set up in New South Wales. It had as members of its Committee such illustrious people as Professor Wooten who is the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales. It had as its Vice-president Gary Williams, an Aboriginal student; as chairman, Ross McKenna, a senior tutor in French at the University of New South Wales and its Treasurer was Richard Chisholm, lecturer in the Faculty Of Law. I shall not bore the Senate by itemising or elaborating on the other personnel constituting this committee. The committee functioned as a special Aboriginal legal service. It had at its inquiry desk Aborigines so that Aborigines who were seeking legal aid approached other Aborigines who were considerate of their requests and forwarded them onto the committee of management. What I am trying to project at this time is that the Commonwealth Government gave $24,500 to the Aboriginal Legal Service in New South Wales in its first year of operation. Following my question to the Attorney-General at the Estimates Committee hearing I was pursuing the point that there should be an extension of the legal service for Aborigines in Queensland, which is the
State 1 represent, and also for pensioners and if possible an extension of the service to the other States.
I would like the Attorney-General and his Department to give consideration to the fact that if a similar Aboriginal legal service were established in Queensland as a genuine attempt to extend legal service to people in necessitous circumstances with personnel on the committee of management equal in status and in scholarship to those who occupy positions in New South Wales, would his Department consider giving a similar grant to such an Aboriginal legal service? Since the discussion in the Estimates Committee I have had long and serious talks with members of the Aboriginal community in Brisbane regarding the extension of this legal service to them. They explained that where they have to go along to the established legal aid set-up there is some embarrassment felt on their part because they are interviewed by whites and they would rather be interviewed by Aborigines. They pattern as a perfect example of something which would be workable and would be a progressive move among the Aboriginal community in Queensland an Aboriginal legal service which would be similar to the one set up in New South Wales. When the estimates were being discussed in the Estimates Committee I moved that the AttorneyGeneral should give consideration to the extension of Commonwealth legal aid to Aboriginals’ and pensioners who were in necessitous circumstances. My- request was replied to in the Press of Queensland by the State Treasurer, Sir Gordon Chalk, who said that no doubt the senator must have been speaking about Commonwealth legal aid because there was adequate provision in Queensland for legal aid to pensioners and Aboriginals. That is not so. I have done some research among people who are in this area and they say that when an Aboriginal seeks legal advice in Queensland he usually is fortunate if he can get the plumber or the carpenter from the Native Affairs Department to appear in court for him. They say that. if he can get such representation he is doing quite well.
So I earnestly and sincerely appeal to the Attorney-General and his Department to do what they can to see that an Aboriginal legal service is established in
Queensland as exists in New South Wales. The proposed committee should comprise people representative of the faculty of law at the university, the Aboriginal community and scholarly people in all walks of life who will be able to co-ordinate the procedures as between the committee and the legal profession. If Queensland were able to establish such a committee would the Ministers Department give serious consideration to granting to it an advance of S24.500. an amount equal to those given to the Kew South Wales committee?
– I remember the discussion which took place in the Estimates Committee when Senator McAuliffe raised these matters in a discussion on the Legal Service Bureau. Of course, the Legal Service Bureaux have their origin in the needs which were experienced in the immediate postwar period. They were set up in a sense - though it is not an entirely adequate description of them - as a government legal service for ex-servicemen and their dependants. The scope of their work has diminished enormously over the years and relatively contrasted.
– The New
South Wales one was set up in 1970.
– ] am talking of Legal Service Bureaux. They were set up in the late 1940s by, I think, the Chifley Government, In 1970 the volume of work, contrasted with the volume of work in the late 1940s, was very low indeed. But the point I make is that this is a quite distinctive service for a distinctive group of people which has its origins in the period immediately after the war.
Legal aid generally is a matter for the individual States of the Commonwealth and for the Commonwealth Government in respect of its Territories. I think it is fair to say that there have been enormous advances made in recent years by the States in the provision of comprehensive legal aid schemes. The schemes operating in the States are worked by the members of the legal profession who generally speaking take a reduced fee in addition to operating the service. The scope of operations of the various legal aid schemes in the States is that they are open to anybody who lacks the means to afford legal advice or legal aid to undertake any litigation or to lake advice as lo any litigation which they may be contemplating. These schemes may have a defect in the States and in the Territories in that people do not know of the availability of the service or do nol know where to go. If that be the defect then it is one which can be overcome with time and with publicity. But the fact is that any citizen has the right to avail himself of these services, and that applies to any Aboriginal in any State of the Commonwealth; it applies to any pensioner; it applies to anybody who lacks the means to employ and pay counsel or solicitor of his own choosing.
One would say - and I say this from the viewpoint of the Attorney-General’s Department - that this is the desirable way in which legal aid .schemes should be developed because it preserves the independence of the legal profession and enables members of the profession the better to render the services which over the centuries they have been rendering, and at the same time it gives to every citizen the opportunity of legal advice and legal aid.
Senator McAuliffe referred particularly to the establishment of a service in Queensland for Aboriginals. This is an area not within the Attorney-General’s Department but within the Department of the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts. I have been able to obtain advice from an officer of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs who is currently within the precincts of the chamber. From him I have ascertained that the amount that was set aside for New South Wales for legal service to which Senator McAuliffe referred was an amount provided by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. That amount of some $24,000 was provided early in 1971 expressly on a 12-mon:h basis. At the end of 12 months it would be examined with a view to seeing how it had operated. In those circumstances the future of any such scheme in New South Wales, and indeed any other State, must await decision.
The Office of Aboriginal Affairs, of course, would have reason for making the grant which it did. One can only regret in one sense that a need has arisen which is fulfilled in this way because one would surely hope that Aboriginals would find no inhibition in applying to a general legal aid scheme which is available for everyone. I would believe that is the ultimate to which we are striving. But if there is a need, because of an Aboriginal community reluctant to apply to a general legal aid scheme, and with a need for legal services to be provided for it specifically, then that is what the Office of Aboriginal Affairs is there for. It is a pity, I suppose, that there should be a feeling that there is, to use Senator McAuliffe’s expression, an alien legal apparatus. I for my part would certainly not have thought that there was any such apparatus in existence. But as .1 said, this is a matter within the purview of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and if Senator McAuliffe desires to pursue it further he might find that I shall have more information for him by the time we come to the estimates of that Department.
– 1 wish to refer to Division 139 - Legal Service Bureaux - which Senator McAuliffe discussed. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) replied to him. I was interested to hear that the main function of the Legal Service Bureaux was in respect of returned servicemen.
– And their dependants.
– Yes. I would take the Attorney-General to task on any assertion that the State legal aid bureaux assist all those persons who are in destitute circumstances which would justify State assistance in matters involving Commonwealth law. I do not know how much work the State bodies do in the field of Commonwealth law. But I recall a case which 1 brought to the attention of the Senate some time ago. A Mr Messer claimed that he had some legal rights in respect of a talking chair which was used by the Commonwealth at Expo ‘70. The then Attorney-General, who is now the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), was concerned with this matter. Mr Messer wanted to take his case to the High Court of Australia but he found it impossible because of lack of finance, to do so. It was a matter of great concern to the then Attorney-General that there was not at that time a legal aid service which would enable a person without the necessary financial resources to take a case to court when he felt that some injustice in law had been done. The then AttorneyGeneral said that the Department was looking at the question. I think that, for the purposes of Commonwealth law, some assistance should be afforded to that section of the community who find that they may be charged with being in breach of Commonwealth law and who do not have the necessary money to enable them to defend their case before a legal tribunal. This could apply particularly to Commonwealth Territories. I do not know what legal aid assistance is provided in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.
The other matter concerning me relates to Division 141 which deals wilh the Commonwealth Police Force. There is a great increase in estimated expenditure this year as compared with the appropriation last year. Last year about $100,000 in excess of the appropriation was spent but we find that the appropriation this year has increased by $4,730,000. I take it that some of this expenditure will result from increased salaries but it appears that there is a big increase in the operating cost of the Commonwealth Police Force. Is there some particular reason why this is necessary now or is it proposed in the future to increase the number in that force? If so, what is the reason? We have heard no complaints about its inability to carry out its activities with its present numbers. The Commonwealth Police even utilised 100 policemen to raid a building in Melbourne. This suggests that there was a surplus appropriation last year.
The next matter I wish to raise is dealt with in Division 141, subdivision 3, relating to the appropriation for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus of which the Australian police contingent is part. The appropriation for the Australian police unit is $378,900. In 1969, at the request of the Department of External Affairs, as it then was, I went to Cyprus to visit the Australian police unit there. While one had to admire the job that the police were doing and the high respect in which they were held in Cyprus, as well as the necessity then to keep peace between 2 warring factions of different nationalities, one wonders how long we are to be committed to maintaining a peacekeeping force there. Has there been no improvement in the feeling between the 2 elements in Cyprus, the Turks and the Greeks? As the amount appropriated this year is near enough to that appropriated last year, it suggests that our strength there will be the same. I would appreciate any information that the Attorney-General could give me on that matter.
– On the question of the operation of the legal aid schemes I think it is fair to say that the State legal aid schemes are not uniform in the type of assistance they provide in areas of matrimonial causes, lt is a matter for the States, of course, as to how far the schemes operating under State laws provide assistance. As I see it, and as the Commonwealth has seen it during the time that these State legal aid schemes have been developing, primarily the obligation rests with the States.
Referring now to the Commonwealth Police Force, I can only regret, Mr Chairman, that Senator Cavanagh did not attend the meetings of the Estimates Committees because the information he seeks was made available through my Department in the form of a booklet given to all members of the Estimates Committees, not only to those who attended the particular hearing. In that book was set out the reasons why there is an increase of just over $lm in the appropriation provided for the Commonwealth Police Force this financial year. This sort of information is basic to debate in this chamber and I hark back to what I said earlier: One of the values of the Estimates Committees is the fact that this information can bc obtained and people therefore are better informed for constructive debate on real issues when we come to the point we are at now.
However, I shall give Senator Cavanagh the information he seeks. The increased appropriation of $1,578,604 for the Commonwealth Police Force is due to the full year effect of the national wage and other salary determinations in 1970-71. This is broken up as follows: There was a determination for the administrative and clerical officers costing $4,800; determination No. 363 of 1970, the national wage increase, costing $149,500; the determination relating to typists and other keyboard operators costing $6,600; a determination relating to clerical assistants which is estimated to cost $10,000; and a determination in regard to members of the Commonwealth Police Force which will cost $914,000. In addition to those increases, which are wage increases alone and which total $1,084,000, there is provision for the incremental advancement of members and officers of the Public Service; there is provision for the fact that there is one extra pay day in the course of the period from 1st July 1971 to 30th June 1972; there is an increase in the payment of allowances; and there is an expected increase iri average employment this year over that of last year of 37 police members and 7 Public Service staff. That totals 31.5m which is the increased appropriations for the Commonwealth Police Force this financial year.
Turning now to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, this force has been in operation now, I think, for some 8 years. It has performed a service which is well recognised by the United Nations. Its function is to keep the peace, and it has kept the peace. So long as there is a need for the police force to remain and we are. able to maintain a force there, it will continue. I think that is all I can usefully say in reply to the honourable senator.
– I want to follow up the question asked by Senator Cavanagh about the Legal Service Bureaux. According to my information this service is offered to exservicemen particularly and it is very minimal. I notice that the appropriation this year is $197,600. I presume that this is its cost throughout Australia and obviously the staff involved is not great. Could the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) tell me what staff there is in South Australia? I understand that there is only one officer in that State. What service does he provide to ex-servicemen and the families of exservicemen on the matters which concern them? I notice that it is an advisory service only.
My second question to the AttorneyGeneral is this: To what extent is his Department related with the Department of Labour and National Service on reestablishment cases? How does his Department work in with the Department of
Labour and National Service when an exserviceman - a discharged national serviceman or a former member of the regular Army - finds that his old employment is not available to him? What sort of access does such a person have to legal assistance? Should he go to the Department of Labour and National Service in the first instance? Can he receive legal aid? Does he have to rely finally on the services of the Attorney-General’s Department in order to prosecute a case?
– I could answer in part some of the questions asked but I would welcome the opportunity now available to give Senator Bishop a full reply tomorrow morning. In view of the hour, Mr Chairman, I suggest that the Committee report progress.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711201_senate_27_s50/>.