28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the Chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 Citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme.
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that contingent on a message being received from the House of Representatives transmitting the Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) Bill for concurrence I shall move that standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Bill to be passed without a call of the Senate.
-Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs explain in some detail the exact meaning of the expression used by the Prime Minister that ‘Australia’s new aspiration is symbolised more in our relations with China than with any other country’?
-It is a strange sort of question, asking me to give an English lesson on what words mean.
-You are the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-I am the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Why do you not take something from Shakespeare and ask me to explain that to you?
– My question is directed to the special Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Might I say by way of preface that I am intrigued to observe that there has been a return in recent days to the use of the name Cape Canaveral’, which was the original name given to the United States base which later became Cape Kennedy to honour the name of that great United States President whose passing the world still mourns. Is this the base originally known as Cape Canaveral and does the Minister know the circumstances which led to the second change of name in recent days?
– I understand that it is the original Cape Canaveral. I do not know why the United States authorities decided to restore the name.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Did the South Vietnam War College request the Australian Government to receive a delegation to Australia from the War College? Are these visits normal procedure between friendly countries? Has the South Vietnam War College recently sent visitors to Indonesia, Japan and Israel? Did the Australian Government reject the request made to it by the South Vietnamese? If so, why did it do so?
-I will get the details and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister invited the Government of the People’s Republic of China to play a more active role in South East Asia? If so, did the Prime Minister discuss the implications of such an invitation with the countries of South East Asia before issuing the invitation? If so, what was the response of the various countries concerned?
– Not to my knowledge did the Prime Minister ask the People’s Republic of China to play a greater role in South East Asia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that the Radio Australia staff have been operating from old, dilapidated, unhealthy and cramped premises that previously served as a biscuit factory in Melbourne? Because of the obvious interest the
Minister has generated in the activities of Radio Australia and in the working conditions of all the staff in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will he take action to see that Radio Australia officers are quartered in more suitable premises?
– It is true, as Senator Poyser has suggested, that for some years Radio Australia has been working out of what used to be a biscuit factory in Melbourne. I understand that before that it was a hat factory. When this matter was brought to my attention shortly after my assuming ministerial office I discussed the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and arrangements have now been made as a result of the Government’s making additional finance available to the Commission this financial year for the officers of Radio Australia to be relocated in a modern building known as Marland House in Bourke Street, which is occupied by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I understand that in the first week in December officers of Radio Australia will be commencing to move into that building. Of course, it will take some time before new studio facilities and equipment can be installed, but at least a move is being made in that direction and to provide Radio Australia with more modern and up to date premises. It is hoped there will be a continuing improvement in the output and standards of Radio Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Did the Prime Minister state or suggest at his news conference on 8 November that peace in the Pacific depended on Japan’s maintaining its new course? Has the Prime Minister or the Government considered the serious possibility that the People’s Republic of China, and not Japan, may abandon its new course?
– In the field of foreign affairs one is for ever trying to think as far ahead as one can and analysing the impact on one country of something which may happen in another country. In that regard one is looking as far as one can see into the future not only in relation to the People’s Republic of China and Japan but also in relation to every other country that is of interest to Australia.
– I would like to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health. As this chamber is quite aware, on many occasions I have spoken on the bureaucratic control of the drug Intal. At last a glimmer of light has filtered through. As from 1 January that drug will be taken from the national health prescribed list of drugs requiring a special authority. Why can it not be taken from the list now? I do not want to go into the reasons why that cannot be done now. Also, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health, if he has to get the information from the Minister, why we have to suffer any special purpose authorities?
-As all honourable senators will appreciate, Senator Turnbull has been raising this matter from time to time. I think that during the course of the debate on the National Health Bill in 1970, when this Party was in opposition, I expressed the same sort of views as those that Senator Turnbull has been expressing. However, I am sure that the honourable senator will very much appreciate that at last someone has done something about the matter. He says that as he understands the position the special authority for Intal will no longer be required as from 1 January next year. He asks that the date be brought forward. I do not know whether it is possible but I will certainly discuss that matter with my colleague, the Minister for Health. I understand from previous discussions that I have had with officers of the Department of Health- I think Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson might be able to confirm this because previously he was a Minister for Health- that many of these special authorities were insisted upon because there was a fear not only of over-prescribing but also of overindulgence on the part of the patients using the drug concerned. However, I will refer the second portion of the honourable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Health, to see whether he can provide the honourable senator with additional information.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. As it is the Labor Government’s policy and the policy of the Minister’s Department to ensure not only a greater number of Australian film productions but also to secure an improvement in the quality of television programs, will he give consideration to establishing a research section to survey in depth what type of programs people want to watch and to what extent people are enjoying what they watch?
-A research section has been established within the Department of the Media and arrangements are being made by it to conduct a seminar early next month in association with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the universities and independent commercial researchers to discuss this overall matter of program quality improvement. I can also tell the honourable senator that I am given to understand that a private survey was recently conducted by a private research organisation into people’s attitudes to programs. I understand that the results of that private survey indicate that there has been an increasing appreciation on the part of the public of programs produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I suggest that this could well be because the Government this financial year has made available an additional $10m to the Commission, the great bulk of which is being used for programming purposes.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, I refer to a statement made by the Minister appearing at page 3219 of the House of Representatives Hansard in which he said that for three out of four families, including those in which there is a working wife, the proposed national health plan would be cheaper than the present system. Does that statement take into account the extra tax to be paid if a levy of 1.3S per cent is itself not deductable as present medical benefit subscriptions are? Will the Minister table for the information of honourable senators the basis for his statement and the statistical information supplied to him by his advisers that prompted the conclusions stated?
-This is a matter purely for my colleague the Minister for Social Security. I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
-Since the standards set by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board limit the percentage of foreign language radio and television programs, what action does the Minister for the Media contemplate to assist such stations which service large migrant communities and which desire to provide programs at the instigation of such ethnic groups?
-My colleague, Senator Mulvihill, has been raising this matter not only with me as Minister for the Media, but also with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and, I understand, prior to our assuming office, with Ministers of the previous
Government. I have had discussions with my colleague the Minister for Immigration about this matter. The Government now takes the view that it is helpful to newly arrived migrants to maintain contact with their various communities as they move into the Australian community. I can tell the honourable senator that in the light of this new policy the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has now acted to remove the limits applying to the amount of foreign language programs transmitted by commercial broadcasting and television stations and to make less exacting the requirements for the translation into English of foreign language material. I am not saying that this is all that can be done in this area. Officers of the Board and of the Department of Immigration are looking at the matter to see what sort of public access can be given to these migrant groups. I can certainly tell the honourable senator that a circular has been issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to commercial television and broadcasting stations. If the honourable senator would like a copy of it I shall make it available to him.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that Mr Pai as Chinese Minister of Overseas Trade conducted trade negotiations with the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr Cairns? Did he visit Australia as the guest of Dr Cairns? Has he since been purged?
-The honourable senator asks whether trade negotiations were conducted with Dr Cairns. I think that if our Minister for Overseas Trade went overseas he would deal with the trade Minister in the other country concerned. So I assume the answer to that question is yes. I do not remember whether Mr Pai came to Australia and I do not know whether he has been purged.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in response to his non-answer to Senator Withers. Is it a correct interpretation of the Prime Minister’s statement that Australia’s aspirations are being symbolised more with China than any other nation and that the Australian Government desires to have the closest identification between Australia’s policies and China’s policies? If not, will the Minister himself give his interpretation of what the Prime Minister meant?
-I would say no. It is always very dangerous to take 2 countries of any sort and claim that the policies of one are similar to those of the other. The honourable senator does not say whether he is referring to internal, fiscal, developmental, mineral or natural resources policies. It is a pretty wide question to answer. The honourable senator wants me to give an interpretation of what the Prime Minister meant. I have already declined to do that.
-Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General able to confirm that the number of money orders issued and the number of articles registered has fallen markedly since the rates were increased in the last Budget? Do these high costs not prevent many low income people from using these PMG facilities? Has not the point of diminished return now been reached where less money is coming to the Postmaster-General’s Department at least from money orders and registered articles?
– I am not aware of the answer to the first portion of the honourable senator’s question and because the answers to the other portions of this question are dependent upon the answer to the first portion of the question I suggest that the honourable senator place the question on the notice paper. Incidentally, I might mention that this year is the fiftieth anniversary of broadcasting in Australia and I understand that a stamp commemorating this event has been issued today by the PostmasterGeneral.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is he aware of the grave hardship caused by the reduction of Arab oil supplies to many countries including Great Britain and the United States of America. Is he aware that the Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister, Sheik Yamani, said yesterday that countries would be exempt from oil reductions in return for certain assistance to Arab nations? Does the Minister not now believe that the Australian Government should advise Egypt, in respect of its recent decision to supply Egypt with $ 1 39m worth of wheat on credit over the next 12 months, that this would be contingent upon oil supplies being maintained to Australia without reduction by the Arab nations?
-I am aware of the Arab oil situation. As I said yesterday, our special envoy is now back in Australia and we will be receiving his report. I understand from what has been said by the Minister for Minerals and Energy that there is no danger of Australia being denied oil in the foreseeable future. So I do not think the last part of the honourable senator’s question calls for an answer.
-My question, which I address to the Minister for Customs and Excise, refers to a statement on the export of kangaroo products which was made by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation yesterday in the House of Representatives. Arising from that statement I ask: Is it a fact that, despite the lawful destruction of certain species of kangaroo under the Vermin Act of Western Australia and a strictly controlled harvesting program, kangaroos have reached plague proportions in some areas of Western Australia? Does the harvesting program have the support and commendation of the Western Australian Government and, in particular, of the State Department of Fisheries and Fauna? Has that Department submitted a management program which the Minister for the Environment and Conservation considers does not meet the requirements laid down by the working party set up by the Commonwealth? If this is so, how is Western Australia to solve a serious problem that it knows how to tackle successfully but cannot tackle successfully because of Commonwealth control?
– A statement on the export of kangaroo products was made in the House of Representatives yesterday, and I would hope to be able to present the same statement to the Senate today. The statement deals with the report of the working party which was set up after the meeting of Australian and State Ministers. The working party evolved a program for the implementation of conservation measures which included the culling, where necessary, of kangaroos. It would be expected that those who set up the working party would be prepared to conform with the decisions which were taken. But it seems that that is not so. Western Australia has conformed with the recommendations of the working party in many respects, but not entirely. I suggest that what ought to be done by Western Australia is to conform with the recommendations of the working party and to induce the other States which are not conforming to conform also.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social
Security. I refer to the recent decision by the Government to pay a special benefit of up to $23 a week to pregnant unmarried girls under 16 years of age. Can the Minister give me an estimate of the number of girls who would be in this category each year and the anticipated annual cost involved in paying this benefit? Is this an open-ended handout? If so, as this undoubtedly will encourage promiscuity among young girls, will the Minister ask his colleague in another place to give consideration to restricting this benefit to one such pregnancy?
– I am unable to anticipate the number of unmarried girls under 16 years of age who will be pregnant in the next financial year, or the cost of paying a benefit. I doubt whether any other senator is able to do that. This policy, as enunciated by my colleague the Minister for Social Security, is in line with the humane policy that has been adopted by this Government of protecting and assisting those who, through unfortunate circumstances, are the victims of society. We have set out to adopt a humane policy right across the board in regard to social security arrangements. This generally is a policy that is admired and respected by the Australian community.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say in what States the Commonwealth Deputy Crown Solicitors have received directions to brief on behalf of the Commonwealth only those counsel who are members of the Australian Labor Party? Why have those directions been given?
-As to the States in which directions have been received to brief only members of the Australian Labor Party, I would think the answer would be none. The second part of the question therefore does not arise. From my own knowledge of the matter not only has no such direction been given but also I think the contrary in a sense applies in fact and the practice is quite inconsistent with what is alleged. If the honourable senator would like me to do so I think I could reel off the names of a number of members of the Liberal Party who have been briefed and who are being briefed. I could even mention one very distinguished member of the Liberal Party who has been prominently in the news and who I trust will be briefed not only for the remainder of this Parliament but also for the lengthy time until there is a change of government and he perhaps becomes the next Liberal Attorney-General.
– I did not hear the question and answer in another place this morning referred to by the honourable senator. Also I assure the honourable senator that I was not a fly on the wall at the conference to which he has alluded. Therefore, I am unaware of the evidence-in-chief which the honourable senator has given in his question.
– I am sure that you do not doubt it, do you?
– In response to Senator Greenwood ‘s question, 1 will look at page 24 of the report of the DirectorGeneral of Health to see whether the details supplied by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson are correct. I well recall as a member of the Senate
Standing Committee on Health and Welfare when it was inquiring into health and hospital costs generally, in evidence the Pharmacy Guild of Australia complained that the previous Government- admittedly this was before April 1 972- for seven or eight years had not increased the amount of fee payable by the Government to chemists for prescriptive purposes.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, arises out of reports on the findings of the Victorian Consumer Affairs Council which has stated, among other things, that buying a motor vehicle is a physical, mental and health hazard. Will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, examine the report and initiate steps to see whether the claims made are correct? If they are, because public and personal safety are involved and because such claims seriously involve the worlds of advertising and insurance, will the Government refer these matters to the appropriate authorities for research and action?
-Certainly I will adopt the first suggestion contained in the honourable senator’s question. Certainly I would adopt his second suggestion about referring the matters to the appropriate authorities, if only the honourable senator would assist me in the passage of the Trade Practices Bill which would provide for consumer product standards, which would deal with advertising matters and which would set up appropriate authorities to investigate and to deal with the precise situation which is quite properly disturbing the honourable senator.
– 1 ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of an accusation by the Prime Minister that a man who is said to be a sober member of Parliament was drunk, can the Leader advise me of the redress which I would have in the Senate if, after the next parliamentary function, the Prime Minister in Parliament accused me of being drunk, despite the fact that I never go beyond drinking pineapple juice, lemonade or orangeade?
– Order! The honourable senator knows the Standing Orders. So does Senator Murphy.
– I am afraid that any such statement would have to be characterised as fiction. Anybody who could imagine that the honourable senator would be intoxicated would be well on the way, if not to winning a Nobel Prize for fiction, at least to getting payment for his efforts in fantasy equivalent to the sum paid for the painting ‘ Blue Poles ‘.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that an air traffic controller has been stationed at Whitemark on Flinders Island for many years to ensure the safety of commercial, charter and private aircraft which use that airport? Is it a fact that the week before last he was withdrawn and not replaced? Is it a fact that last week a Friendship aircraft carrying a load of passengers and a Service aircraft nearly collided? Is it also a fact that radio contact between aircraft on the ground at Whitemark and the air traffic controller at Launceston airport is difficult, if not impossible? Is it a fact that pilots must now try to ensure that flight conditions are safe, without the aid of local weather reports and even without information as to local aircraft movements? In the interests of safety, will the Minister take steps to have his colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation immediately restore the air traffic controller to Whitemark?
– All parts of the question were prefaced with the phrase ‘is it a fact?’ I know nothing of the incidents. I will refer the question to the Minister for his consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the disclosure yesterday to the’ Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that prefabricated cottages supplied for a $400,000 Aboriginal self-help housing scheme had failed to meet specifications, I ask what action the Minister intends to take to protect the public revenue in that matter and in similar matters?
– No proof was forthcoming to support statements made before the Public Accounts Committee. These things happened so long ago that I do not know what action can be taken now. The timber framed houses were simply dumped on the ground at Roper River. When the dry season came it was found that they were riddled with white ants. This is something that happened during the period of office of the previous Government. I think it shows very lax control by the Minister concerned that nothing was done about such a wanton waste in that Department.
– My question is addressed either to the Minister who administers the Australian Government Publicity Office or the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Government Publicity Office. Can the Senate be informed now or in the near future why the dossier of ministerial statements dated 15 to 1 8 November and containing a verbatim report of a speech by the Prime Minister in Hobart on Sunday, 18 November, does not contain any statement or answers understood to have been given by the Prime Minister at a Press luncheon in Hobart that day? Is it that the Prime Minister does not want some of the things he is supposed to have said at that conference to appear in print?
– It was only in the last week that the functions of the Australian Government Publicity Office were transferred from the Department of the Special Minister of State to my Department and arrangements are now being made to fit this organisation into the structure of my Department. I am not aware of any of the details to which the honourable senator has referred. I will make inquiries and advise him accordingly. So far as the last part of his question is concerned, we believe in a policy of open government and I do not think the Prime Minister would have any objection whatever to having printed what he has said in public at any time.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Having regard to the extreme economic cuts announced in Royal Australian Air Force operations, can the Government explain why it has underwritten extremely costly actions to assist gliding contests and operations to be held in Australia? Will the Government inform us of the full extent of RAAF assistance ordered and the estimated cost?
– When the first request was received from the Gliding Federation of Australia for assistance from the RAAF in the form of some towing by Air Force aircraft, the Government at the time, on the advice of the RAAF, decided that the necessary alterations or modifications to Winjeel aircraft would be too expensive. But representations were made by large numbers of members of Parliament and by organisations, pointing out that the contests were international. Reconsideration was given to the matter and some alterations, which I cannot specify, were made; nor can I, at this stage, indicate what costs are involved. While the costs of the program about which we are talking may be fairly expensive I do not think they are relevant to the cut-backs in the Air Force. In relation to the amount involved, I will obtain the information and give it to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether it is a fact that the Federal and State Ministers for Transport have met recently in regard to the renegotiation of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. I believe that the current quinquennial arrangements expire at the end of this financial year. Is the Minister aware that State governments are anxious to obtain an early renewal of the Agreement so that they will know as soon as possible what moneys will be available in the next financial year? How soon will the Commonwealth indicate the contributions it will be making under the next quinquennial agreement?
– I believe that the Agreement is the subject of discussion between the Ministers at the present time. It is true that it expires at the end of the year. It is true, as I said in answer to a question recently, that there will be another agreement under which it is hoped the Commonwealth will have more participation in how the money is spent by State authorities. I think it would be improper for me to announce the details or the amount before agreement has been reached with the States. As soon as agreement is reached, this will be announced.
– May I ask a supplementary question?
-I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport how soon the Commonwealth Government would announce its decision in this matter. I did not ask for the details. I would like to have that indication.
-That information will be available as soon as a decision is made by the Government. I cannot give the exact date. I shall see whether I can obtain further information.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Media been drawn to an article in the ‘Sunday Mirror’ of 11 November which suggests that because rating surveys will not be conducted between November this year and February next year we can expect only bad or mediocre television programming? ls the Minister aware that there is grave concern among members of my union that first release Australian drama probably will be removed from television during the months of November, December and January and replaced by replays of old episodes? Does the Minister concur in this gloomy prediction?
-Since this Government came to office and principally as a result of the introduction of the points system there has been a substantial increase in the employment opportunities available to Australian writers, technicians, musicians, actors and performers. Indeed, there has been a 75 per cent increase in the amount of Australian professional variety programs being played over television. I have referred already to the introduction of the points system. That has been introduced for a trial period of 6 months. Further improvements will be brought about as a result of having a look at the system some time in February. My Department considered conducting surveys over the period to which the honourable senator has referred, but we are given to understand that at least one commercial television station is conducting its own rating system. As the honourable senator knows, stations will have to comply with the minimum number of points which are required of them under the points system. I believe that the system needs looking at again, as, indeed, the Control Board is doing. Nonetheless, I am sure that the honourable senator will agree that substantial employment opportunities have been made available in the television industry as a result of the policies pursued by this Government.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Am 1 correct in understanding that the declared policy of the Labor Party relating to financial assistance to industry is that in future no subsidies or financial assistance of any sort will be paid to industries before a full investigation has been made by an independent commission? The Minister will be aware of the great consternation that this has caused not only in rural areas but in many other areas owing to the fact that instances of decisions beyond the control of the producer or the manufacturer can greatly harm those individuals. I refer to such matters as variations in the rate of currency and economic conditions which are beyond the control of the individual, even weather conditions.
– Order! The honourable senator is allowed to elaborate to the extent that it makes the question plain.
-Thank you, Mr President. I ask the Minister: ls this policy which the Labor Party has espoused intended to be brought into being by the Industries Assistance Commission Bill? Am I correct in understanding that yesterday the Prime Minister promised that subsidy assistance would be paid as protection for the manufacture in Australia of selected electronic components? Does this appear to the average person as a double standard?
– The honourable senator is asking me to give, in effect, a statement of Government policy in answer to a question. That cannot be done. I can tell him that the Industries Assistance Commission Bill is an indication of Government policy and is one matter on which the Opposition will have a chance to express an opinion and to have a full debate. It is No.7 in the Orders of the Day on the notice paper. The honourable senator should not expect me to give an exposition of the purposes and effect of that Bill now. He knows well that the Government has taken other measures which have been of assistance such as the 25 per cent tariff cut, currency revaluations and a whole series of other measures which have been of assistance to industry throughout Australia; so much so that the rural area is booming, there is full employment, there is prosperity over the country and with that prosperity come, as always, some attendant problems which are being dealt with by the Treasurer in his usual prudent and wise manner.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has he noticed in the Australian National Line’s annual report which was circulated to us yesterday that the Line made a loss of $955,000 for the year on its coastal trading? Has he noticed that increased wages and cost of conditions for the year amounted to $829,000, almost- not quitethe amount of the loss? Has any decision been made to increase freight rates to overtake that loss and the increased cost of $3. 5m adumbrated by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission? Is any increase in freight rates intended by the Government?
-The question of meeting increased costs is one for decision by the Australian National Line with the permission of the Government. I noticed that the Line made a profit of some $3m, I believe, although there was a loss on coastal trading. I do not know whether the honourable senator’s suggestion is that there should be an increase in the cost of cargoes for coastal trading. That matter has not been given consideration by the Minister for Transport at this stage. Why the matter of the increase in wages during the year came into the question, I do not know, because although it may have some relevance, I do not think it follows that because there was an increase in wages naturally the losses of the Line must increase. I know of no decision to increase freight rates.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports suggesting that the Prices Justification Tribunal is receiving applications for price increases from companies which are insisting that their applications be dealt with on a confidential basis? Is this in accordance with the provisions of the legislation? If not, what action can the Parliament take to ensure that all such applications are open to public examination so that companies can justify their applications for price increases?
-I think it would be better if I gave the honourable senator a considered answer after referring to the legislation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Will the Government conduct, if it has not already done so, an exhaustive investigation into the contention of at least one scientist that hydrogen gas can be developed to become an alternative to petroleum? Can the Minister say whether the Department of Minerals and Energy has the competent personnel necessary to conduct such an investigation?
– I will take up the question with the Minister and ask him whether he has commenced such an investigation. The honourable senator asked whether the necessary personnel are available in the Department of Minerals and Energy to conduct such an investigation. This may well be a question for the Minister for Science. But I assure the honourable senator that if the need arises for such an investigation to be conducted the necessary staff could be employed or some agency could be employed on such an investigation. The matter will not be neglected because of a lack of expertise in the Department.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation follows the question asked by
Senator Rae relating to the Flinders Island aerodrome at Whitemark. This matter has been the subject of discussion in Tasmania. I ask the Minister whether he will ask his colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, to give the people of Flinders Island an assurance that there will be no difference in the services provided at the aerodrome. Will he ask his colleague to assure the people that weather reports, very high frequency communications, and safety and maintenance services will be maintained, that the radio navigation group will remain there, and that last week when the incident referred to by Senator Rae took place the Department of Civil Aviation aerodrome control officer was present at Whitemark to phase in the new system which will operate in the future?
– The question asks whether I will ask the Minister to give certain assurances. I will certainly ask him whether he will. I do not have any knowledge of this matter and I think I must get the information from the Minister. However, I assure the honourable senator that wherever aeroplanes are flying under Department of Civil Aviation control, there is no danger to safety.
– Is the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence aware that Japan’s Parliament recently authorised significant increases in the size and scope of that country’s self defence forces? Is not this decision another example of the emphasis placed by Asian and South East Asian nations on the need for stronger defence capabilities? Does not the latest erosion of Australia’s defence capabilitiesa fact which was not hidden in the Minister’s statement delivered yesterday- further add to the deterioration in Service morale and effectiveness and place this country hopelessly out of step with its neighbours?
– I have seen the newspaper reference to the new defence targets set by the Japanese Government. I think that any comment about that aspect might well come from Senator Willesee. But, in respect of the general question of whether our defence advisers, in giving their advice to the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, and the Government, have been wrong in their assessment, I suggest that this is a matter which, as I said yesterday, has to be debated by the members of the Parliament. The Government is confident about the advice that it has received from its defence advisers. It is acting on that advice in the same way as previous governments did. On the basis of that advice, the defence planning of the Government has been shaped. Because of that, there is no thought in the mind of the Government that there is any reason to believe that our Services are not as adequate as they might be.
I challenge the honourable senator’s statement in respect of morale. As I have said previously, this Labor Government has done more for servicemen in the short time it has been in office than was done during several periods of government -
– Who introduced the -
– As the honourable senator well knows, we have spent massive amounts on salary increases, for example. We have spent $60m on salary increases alone. We have spent large amounts on the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. We also have made sure that for the first time servicemen are able, untrammelled, to have representational rights to their Government, to Ministers and to members of the Parliament Also, as the honourable senator well knows, the Government is on the eve of appointing an ombudsman for the Services. So, in respect of morale, it is clear that this Government has done more in the few short months it has been in office than was done during the years of office of the previous Government.
Of course, it is clear that the Services want the best equipment they can obtain. But the fact is this: As in any situation, the Government has to decide how much is to be spent on hardware. It is rather unusual to hear all these complaints from honourable senators opposite who also say ‘You have to cut back Government expenditure’, or You have to obtain effectiveness in the defence Services’. When we set about doing that, honourable senators opposite are apt to become very critical. The Government is mindful of what has been said by the honourable senator. Our advisers have given us advice which we think is proper, and the Government regards its policy as constructive and logical.
– I direct to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question which follows upon a question asked earlier today about an amount of $400,000 that was paid by the previous Government for prefabricated cottages under the Aboriginal self-help housing scheme, which houses failed to meet specifications. Can the Minister assure the Senate that the present Australian Government will take more care in safeguarding not only the welfare of the Aboriginal community in regard to its housing needs but also the public purse?
– Since Senator Laucke raised this question, some briefing notes on the matter have been supplied. As stated in the Press today, it involved the supply of some 34 houses, I believe in 1970, to provide housing for Aborigines in the Northern Territory under the then Minister for the Interior. The scheme involved the provision of houses at Roper River, Hooker Creek and Bamyili. They were to be erected on site, with 20 hours of voluntary labour to be given each week to each project. When the houses arrived the labour was not available. Whilst there was a contract for the transport of the houses, they were dumped because there was no notification of the time of arrival. The houses were simply left on the ground. The unsatisfactory features of the management of the then Northern Territory Administration, which is now part of the Department of the Northern Territory, were mentioned by the Auditor-General to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The report in today’s Press is based on the evidence given to the Committee. Of the houses at Bamyili five are virtually completed and four are 80 per cent completed. At Hookers Creek 5 houses are 80 per cent completed and 5 houses are 10 per cent completed. At Roper River 15 houses are 20 per cent completed. They are now being completed by the Aboriginal housing associations. What happened under the previous administration of the Northern Territory will not happen today because of the formation of the Aboriginal housing co-operative societies which we fund. We get the Aborigines to erect the houses when the materials arrive at the site.
For the information of honourable senators I present the Tenth Quinquennial Investigation of the Superannuation Fund as at 30 June 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I present details of breaches of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s advertising time standards by broadcasting and television stations for the period June to October 1973. Bearing in mind the answer that I gave earlier to Senator Mulvihill I now table for the information of honourable senators a circular issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on 12 November 1973 relating to foreign language programs.
– Yesterday Dr Cass, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, tabled a statement in another place on the export of kangaroo products. I table that statement in this House for the information of honourable senators.
– I move:
This means that for the remainder of this sessional period we will be sitting, in addition to the present times, from 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and we will be commencing at 10.15 a.m. instead of 1 1 a.m. on Thursdays. An extra 4.25 hours sitting time will be involved. It is hoped that we will get the advantage of General Business on Thursday nights if we move each Thursday to do so. It is not included in the motion but I give an intimation now that on the remaining Thursdays of the present sittings I will be moving that General Business be postponed.
– Can the honourable senator give any indication of when the Senate is likely to rise?
-Some time after 6 December. I am not sure whether any formal intimation has been given in the other place. I shall do the best I can without accepting any commitment. I understand that there is an endeavour in the other place to rise on 6 December. That may not be possible. But if it is this would mean that the Senate would get up at the usual time- whatever that may be- after then, taking into account the way in which we are dealing with our business and all of the other relevant circumstances.
The intention of this motion is to increase the time of the sittings for the Senate. There may be some individual differences among honourable senators in regard to the terms of the motion but I understand that it is generally acceptable that we should alter the times so that we can get more sitting time.
– At what time would we finish on Thursdays?
-At 7 p.m. The program that I have put forward means that each of the 3 days will be fairly long ones. It should be rememberedbecause sometimes this is not considered by people outside this place- that even when the Senate concludes at 7 p.m. honourable senators may still have to attend committee meetings. For example, the suggestion is that we should start at 10.15 a.m. on Thursdays because the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances normally meets on Thursday mornings. Other committees also have to meet. For all of us the start of the day here will be at or before 9 a.m. The motion deals only with formal meetings of the whole Senate which take place in this chamber.
– I rise swiftly and hasten to say, lest the Government should change its mind once again on Senate sitting hours, that the Opposition is delighted with the Government’s acceptance of our invitation to put some sanity back into the sitting hours of this chamber. We welcomed the notice of motion which Senator Murphy put down yesterday. It seems that at last the Government has acknowledged that the Senate does have a legislative role to play in the governing of this country. Although grudgingly, it has also acknowledged the Senate’s inalienable right to have time to discuss legislation.
Taking into account the weekend media reports of Opposition filibustering in the Senate, I cannot resist taking this opportunity to point out a few facts to honourable senators opposite and particularly to the gentlemen of the Press. Firstly I want to acquaint everyone of the fact that it is the Government that controls the order of business in this chamber. It is the Government that decides when a particular Government measure will be called on for debate in this chamber. It is the Government that decides the order of priorities and it was the Government that decided to shorten the sitting hours of the Senate despite the alleged massive work load. Even those honourable senators with the shortest memories will recall that the Liberal Party supported Senator Murphy on 22 August this year when he moved for the extension of Senate sitting hours. Honourable senators will also recall that on 17 October when Senator Murphy had a reversal of thought, we of the Liberal and Country Party Opposition vehemently opposed the curtailing of sitting hours. Senator Murphy’s seesaw has swung again, and now he wants to extend the sitting hours. I am very pleased that he does want to do this because, after all, we of the Opposition suggested this by way of notice of motion which we put down on 6 November.
One could assume that the Government did not do anything about that notice of motion because the Government wanted it to appear that the initiative came from the Government- after all, how could it claim that the Opposition was filibustering if it either opposed my motion or acknowledged that the move for extended hours had come from the Opposition? But be that as it may. Since the time when Senator Murphy lopped Senate sitting hours by 3.75 hours a week we have consistently pointed out that more Government business could have been dealt with if the sitting hours had not been shortened. By shortening the hours when it did the Government lost 1 5 hours which may otherwise have been devoted to Government business.
I have said on numerous occasions, and I say again quite unashamedly, that Government claims that the Opposition in the Senate is purposely frustrating, filibustering and not dealing with Government legislation are arrant nonsense, for the Government has the power to bring legislation into this chamber when and how it pleases. Lest I be charged with wasting the Senate’s time too much I will now put forward some facts as succinctly as I can. I have repeatedly said that where we in the Opposition are not opposed to Government legislation we will give it a speedy passage but where we are opposed to Government legislation we will debate it, seek to amend it if need be and, if we feel it necessary, attempt to defeat it. In the autumn session of this Parliament the Senate dealt with 108 Bills. Of those Bills 92 were passed, three were deferred, five were amended and four were defeated. Four were still awaiting consideration at the end of that period of sittings. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out Bills introduced into’ the Senate this Budget session and when they were dealt with by the Senate. This incorporation is subject to your ruling, Mr President, that it is quite proper for matter to be incorporated in’ Hansard which is purely statistical matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The details of the table incorporated cover the period up to and including yesterday. I remind the Senate again, particularly honourable senators opposite, that it is not the Opposition’s responsibility to arrange Government business in the Senate. The Opposition has not sought to change the order of Government business. In fact, when a Bill has been brought on by the Government we have either debated it or, as has happened on a few occasions, asked for the normal courtesy to be extended to us, and that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has done by meeting our wishes.
– As with the Trade Practices Bill.
-I will come to that later. When we have done this we believe we have done so in the interests of the Australian people and so that important legislation may be given proper consideration by the Senate, as it is supposed to do by the powers vested in it by the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the Senate to make sure that legislation which will have great ramifications for the Australian people is given just and proper consideration- consideration, I might say, it is not often given in the other House because the present Government there continually guillotines matters which are of national importance in order to prevent further discussion on them.
– I rise to order. The honourable senator is in order in dealing with what happens in here but is not in order in dealing with procedures in the other House. This is contrary to the long standing rule that we should not concern ourselves with the procedural affairs of the other House.
– I do not think the point of order is a valid one.
-I will pass over it, anyhow.
– I think it is as well for me to cogitate upon it. References can be made to what is happening in the other place provided they are not to a debate in another place but are in order to elaborate or make clear arguments adduced by an honourable senator on his feet.
However, Senator Withers has acknowledged that he has gone far enough on this occasion.
-I return now to the Senate. Let me take a few examples of what has been alleged about this place. Firstly, in relation to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, during his television appearance on Federal File’ on Sunday last the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr Cairns, said, following his remarks about the actions of the Opposition in the Senate being unreasonable and unjustified:
The Senate I understand rejected more Bills and amended more Bills last year than they’ve done this year.
He then went on to say that there were one or two Bills of particular importance to him, the first being the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. This Bill was introduced into the Senate on 23 October. It has not been brought on for debate by the Government. Last Thursday it was still No. 13 on the notice paper and today it is still only No. 5 on the notice paper. If this Bill is of such importance to the Minister for Overseas Trade, I suggest that he encourage his colleagues in this chamber to ensure that the Bill is brought on for debate and stop aimlessly berating the Opposition in the Senate which does not decide the order of Government Business in this place and which, to date, has not had an opportunity of debating this Bill.
The next Bill is the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1973. This Bill was deferred on 5 June 1 973 by the Senate until the first day of sitting after 1 September 1973. Many weeks have passed since 1 September, but the Government has still not sought to bring on this piece of legislation which so many of its union supporters berate the Opposition parties for delaying or frustrating. On 1 5 November, this Bill was still No. 19 on the Notice Paper. Only this week, yesterday, did it even make the top ten, as No. 1 0, but today it is back at No. 1 1 .
Another example is the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973; a matter of great importance, says the Government. The Senate deferred this Bill when it was first introduced into the Senate so that the matter could receive further consideration and to give dme to enable the Premiers and the Prime Minister to resolve their differences, if possible. The Government took this delay as a failure to pass, and re-introduced the Bill. The Bill came into the Senate on 25 September, nearly 2 months ago. The Government has not brought this Bill on for debate in total. This crucial Bill, as alleged by the Government, has been debated in dribs and drabs, bits and pieces. That is not the Opposition’s fault. We claim that that is the Government’s fault. Who is frustrating whom?
Another example of our good faith in wanting to help the Government keep its legislative program moving is the fact that in this Budget Session alone, the Opposition parties have given up General Business on 4 Thursdays so that Government Business may be discussed. I ask: Is that frustrating the Government’s legislative program? Surely that is making time available so that the Government may bring forward its legislation for discussion, but this Government does not have the administrative ability to organise its legislative program so that even Bills which it claims are of the utmost importance reach the debating stage in the Senate. I repeat that the Opposition parties in the Senate do not wish to have the power, and would certainly not try to usurp the power, to arrange the order of Government Business in the Senate. The Bills which are brought on for discussion, when they are brought on for discussion and how they are brought on are entirely the Government’s responsibility to initiate. If its important legislation is not being debated in the Senate, it is the Government’s fault, and the remedy lies in its hands and in its hands alone.
The only sin of frustration that the Opposition in the Senate could claim to be guilty of is the sin of wanting to give full consideration to legislative material and in not agreeing with everything that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Government want done. No doubt the Prime Minister, who does not want his actions scrutinised, sees this as frustrating. I believe that the Australian people are grateful for that and I agree with one point made by Dr J. F. Cairns on Sunday, that is, that if there was an election the Government would not win. The Senate has the same constraints placed upon it as the House of Representatives and the Government have, that is, the constraint of the wishes of the Australian people who are our masters. We have not offended them as this Government has done.
If the Prime Minister and his Ministers persist in their claims that the Senate is frustrating, obstructing, filibustering and delaying their vital legislation, there is only one honourable path for the Government to tread, that is, the path to an election. The Prime Minister has had the power to call for a half Senate election since 1 July 1973. He has been entitled to request the GovernorGeneral to grant him a double dissolution since the Senate rejected the Electoral Bill for a second time on 29 August 1973. He has not gone to the people because he knows he is filibustering when he talks about Senate frustration. He knows that his legislation is not being debated because of his Government’s administrative inability. He knows that his much vaunted mandate is today nothing more than a ghost. It was rebutted in the Victorian State election, knocked down in the Balcatta by-election in Western Australia, jumped on in the Greensborough byelection in Victoria, kicked in the head in the Parramatta by-election and finally buried last Saturday in the New South Wales election. As far as we are concerned, the Prime Minister and his Government should put up or shut up. They should stop whinging and whining and either go to the people or force their senior Ministers to take courses in administration so they can get down to the business of governing this country and stop their pettyfogging.
– Who wrote your script?
-I ought to have on my glasses. That is the simple reason for my hesitation over the word.
The Opposition welcomes these extended hours. We welcome them because with more time surely Government senators will be able to organise themselves to bring on their urgent measures for discussion, a task which is their responsibility and theirs alone. If they can manage this, the Opposition will no longer have to put up with false and malicious charges of frustration and filibustering. Then the Government can cease its slanderous campaign against the Opposition in the Senate, a campaign which it has been waging to cover up its broken promises, its double dealings, its administrative inefficiency, its extravagant spending and its total inability to govern this country.
-The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) has used very extravagant language, but I believe that the people of Australia and the Senate would be grateful if the truth were presented. Senator Withers said that Senator Murphy had lopped off 3 hours 45 minutes sitting time per week. I have before me the sitting times of committees. I remind Senator Withers that a total of 63 hours in the last 2 months has been spent on committee work. There has been a departure from the traditional way of handling the Estimates. They were normally debated in the Committee of the Whole. Now the various Estimates Committees sit in different rooms on this side of Parliament House. I point out that Estimates Committee A sat for 15 hours 1 1 minutes, mostly on Mondays and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. That time should be added to the sitting hours of the Senate. When Senator
Withers said that we lopped off 3 hours 45 minutes per week he was actually giving false and maliciously misleading information because the proceedings are being broadcast. We have used up time that normally is devoted to the sitting of the Senate, but in a slightly different form- that is, in the sittings of the committees.
I have the figures for Estimates Committee B. It sat 5 hours on a Tuesday night after the Senate rose at its normal time. Estimates Committee C sat on Tuesday and Thursday nights on 4 occasions, and sat 13 hours 55 minutes. Estimates Committee D sat on 2 occasions, and sat 6 hours 7 minutes. Estimates Committee E sat 10 hours 8 minutes. Estimates Committee F sat 11 hours 49 minutes up until last night when a special Committee meeting was held. It lasted for about 2 hours. It was brought about by filibustering and steamrolling by members of the Committee who asked repetitive questions to a nauseating extent.
– Order ! Senator O ‘Byrne, were you a member of that Committee?
– You have no right to refer to the Committee in approbrious terms.
– I was in the chamber, and I heard the nauseating repetition for the purpose of keeping important officers of the Public Service here and for the purpose of trying to score political points off the Government.
I think that the hours referred to in the motion are reasonable hours for us to sit. We are extending the hours. If necessary, we have the flexibility to sit on Mondays and Fridays in the next 3 weeks. A lot of honourable senators have commitments in their home cities and their home States. Many of them even like to see their families occasionally during the parliamentary sittings. If we can get on with the business and if Senator Withers thinks he can prove that he is not talking double talk, we will put him to the test and see whether we can get through some of the non-controversial parts of the legislative program and then perhaps spend extra time on the controversial issues.
I appeal to the Senate to look at the situation as it exists. The people of this country have given us a mandate to introduce legislation. That mandate may have ended, in the minds of honourable senators opposite, but it remains as between the Government and the people. The Senate has its function, but it certainly has no right to frustrate the mandate that the people gave the Government. In due course the Opposition will be brought to book. It will have to give an account of its stewardship. The people of Australia will make their decision. In the meantime it is our job to try to adjust this country to the needs of our time. It has been asleep, dormant and retrogressive for 23 years. It is about time we received some co-operation from Opposition senators in the implementation of our progressive policies. I support this motion to extend the sitting hours. I think the hours are sensible and I hope we can get on with the job of implementing our very important policies for the advancement and betterment of Australia.
– I think that Senator O ‘Byrne was completely unjustified in saying that the Government has not received cooperation from the Opposition parties. The statement made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, pointed out that the Government has received co-operation. When one considers the work load of this sessional period as compared with that of others, one realises that the Government must have received the co-operation of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has asked the Senate to agree to an extension of the sitting time of the Senate by 4 hours 1 5 minutes each week for the remainder of this sessional period. This is the fourth occasion on which the Senate is to sit at different times during this sessional period which commenced with the introduction of the Budget. The original times were those which the Senate normally sat over the years. Then the times were changed to provide for longer sittings. Then there was a change which meant that the Senate adjourned at 7 o’clock on 2 nights a week. Now the Leader of the Government has asked for a further change. My party wholeheartedly supports this change because we believe that if we are to end this sessional period at a reasonable time before Christmas we have to sit extra hours.
I contest the statement by Senator 0 ‘Byrne that this sessional period is being made longer because Senate committees have been sitting. This practice is not new. I recall that in years gone by we have had committees examining the Estimates.
– Those committees sat at night. We adjourned and came back afterwards.
– The sitting of the Senate was suspended. ‘
– I accept that point. The point I want to make is that I recall well what happened after those Estimates committee meetings, when we came back into the Senate. Because some honourable senators on the Government side, who at that time were in Opposition, did not support the policy of attending Estimates committee meetings, we had to go through the whole of the Estimates again in this place. That practice delayed the Senate for great periods and that time could have been used to deal with Government business. What Senator O ‘Byrne said was not quite factual.
I repeat that I support the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. The Press and people in this Parliament do not recognise, or do not want to recognise, how much time the Senate is sitting, the work that it is doing and the cooperation that is being given by the Opposition parties. My Party is a small one, as is the Democratic Labor Party. On occasions when we believe that the Government’s legislation is worth supporting we let the main Opposition party speak on behalf of our 2 parties. Our senators do not rise to speak. That does not mean that we do not take part in those debates because we cannot speak for ourselves or because we do not want to speak. We do not believe that after the Opposition spokesman has spoken we should rise and say that we support the legislation and continue the debate. I say to the Leader of the Government that he has our fullest co-operation at all times and I hope that the Government will co-operate with us. I support the motion.
-The only thing I have in mind in regard to the proposed sitting hours concerns the proposal to start at 10.15 a.m. on Thursdays. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) said, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee meets on that day and I wonder whether there will be sufficient time for the Committee regularly to complete its deliberations. It seems to me that the timing is a little tight. In those circumstances I would like to see the Senate meet a little later on Thursdays.
In view of the debate which has taken place I think that so far as the Senate is concerned honourable senators should make a stand to rebut the stupid stuff which is being put in the Press and which no doubt is slanted with a determination to show that the Senate is not doing its job. I think that the Senate has done a very good job since the Budget was delivered. The fact that certain legislation has been delayed indicates the amount of work which is coming forward. I have looked at the statistics for the period from and including 1966. There has been only one year, 1968, in which more Bills have been put through than have been put through this year up to this moment. In that year 157 Bills were passed. This year we already have reached 140 Bills. It is quite apparent that this year the Senate will pass more legislation than in any other year since 1966. This indicates to me that the Senate is doing the job.
I can quite understand that the Government would like to get certain legislation through more quickly, but the Senate has a duty to perform. Whilst, by the use of a majority, legislation might be guillotined through more quickly in another chamber than here, from the pure point of democratic process it is the right of the people to have this chamber engage in deliberate debate and give consideration to each piece of legislation that comes before it. A Government senator said that we members of the Opposition will have to give an accounting of ourselves when we go before the people. As far as I am concerned, as a senator and one who stands up for the Senate, I do not think we will have anything to worry about on that score. I think that many people are grateful that they have a Senate which is prepared to do the job properly as far as legislation is concerned. I make no apology for our performance to date.
As was pointed out by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Senator DrakeBrockman), the Estimates Committees have been functioning for several years now. Establishing those committees was a very important development in the work of the Senate. I think that the Senate today is functioning in a manner that puts it far above what it was some years ago. The Senate today is fulfilling, to a far greater degree than ever before, the objective for which it was created. Therefore, apart from the point I raised about the suggested times, despite the vaporings of certain pressmen- special feature writers whom we rarely see in this chamber- the Senate is carrying out its work properly and is doing its work at a pretty fast rate.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the motion. This is one more example of the degree to which we are prepared to cooperate in facilitating the passage of legislation after it has been properly examined and dealt with. I have noticed statements in sections of the Press which appeared to me not to have very much consistency. On one day we read that the Senate is frustrating the Government and holding up legislation. The next day we read claims by the Labor Government that Parliament has passed a record number of Bills. Both statements cannot be right. We cannot be creating records in the passage of legislation while at the same time not co-operating in getting legislation through. I regret to say that there is a certain testiness about some of the Government’s comments. I would not mind the Government’s saying that it objects to the arguments which we have put forward in regard to the necessity for fuller examination of certain Bills but I object to the statement that we have no right to take adequate time to examine these Bills. Of course we have the right.
I do not think anybody will be high-pressured by testy statements that we ought not to be doing this or that in relation to a particular Bill. We look at what is happening in another place and see Bills which can have a very serious effect upon the economic life of this country, having the guillotine placed upon them. A Bill which might have 162 clauses, many of them of considerable importance, is hurried through the House of Representatives which is told: ‘It will go through in a couple of hours whether you like it or not’. There is an urgent need for the Senate, when such a Bill has not been properly examined in the other place, to see that it is properly examined by this chamber or by the instrumentalities which are available to this chamber.
I am glad that we are retaining the system whereby we close at 7 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays, even though we open a couple of hours earlier. The system of closing at 7 o clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays will certainly extend the lives of many honourable senators who are sitting here today. It is more normal to do business during the day and complete it at a time of night which gives honourable senators an opportunity for some rest even though, in some cases, they have to sit on committees or to examine Bills which have been placed before Parliament. I have never seen such a flood of legislation come before a Parliament as we have had.
I have made 2 Press statements that we were suffering from legislative indigestion, suggesting that it was unfair to be pouring all this legislation onto the Senate. I made these 2 Press statements and I had hardly a word published. I was interested to note that last Saturday the Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) in the other place made statements which were practically repetitions of what I tried to say on 2 occasions which the Press ignored. It gave wide coverage to what the 2 right honourable members had to say. I do think that we might have got a place in the sun- I do not mean the ‘Sun’ newspaper, but a place in the sun generally- when we made 2 statements. Apparently our statements were ignored but those by other people were given wide publicity. I ask honourable senators to look at the nature of some of these Bills. We have gone to a good deal of trouble to examine Bills. We do not want to throw them out without a proper examination. I had 32 deputations in relation to the Schools Commission Bill. I saw all sorts of people. In relation to the Bill dealing with the Australian Industry Development Corporation even Dr J. F. Cairns has paid tribute to the fact that we have seen members of his Department and obtained information in relation to the Bill.
– He said that we are holding it up but it has not been brought on.
-I know. We are accused of holding up many Bills and they have not been brought before us. We have not even seen them. Let us take as an example the Bill in regard to the AIDC. The other day I read in the newspaper that Dr J. F. Cairns had suggested that the Government might not persist with one of the proposals in relation to money being made available on forced loans from insurance companies. We have not even received the Bill. We read in the Press that the Bill will probably be altered. Then we are attacked in the Press by people who say that we are holding up the Bill. But apparently the Government has not even yet decided what will be in the Bill.
My Party has only 5 members in this chamber and there is a tremendous amount of legislation. I understand that we will get Bills on divorce and Bills on human rights. Honourable senators can imagine the effect that a Bill covering human rights will have and the amount of examination that will be necessary. I do not know how a Party with 5 members can be expected to cope with all this. I only say that I agree with the statement attributed to Mr Clyde Cameron when, the other day, in addressing a meeting he said that he felt that it might be wiser if the Government concentrated on three or four major Bills each year. I think that there is a bit of commonsense in that.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (3.41)- I want to speak only very briefly. I will support the motion but there are a number of caveats which I want to issue. When I spoke on the occasion of Senator Murphy’s previous motion I indicated that generally I was in support of the shorter sitting times. I certainly support the concept that we should not be sitting late at night. Traditionally down through the years- this is my own experience- when we come to the end of a period of sittings there is a need to extend the sitting hours in an attempt to accomplish the Government’s legislative program. That has always happened and, in the generality, the Opposition has always supported this principle with an exception which I will refer to in a moment and which seems significant. Equally, I believe that when we come to the end of a sitting Government business should take precedence. There is an attitude of mind which we in the Opposition acknowledge in relation to this as we have already shown during some of the sittings in the present Budget session. So I am in support of the motion with the caveats which I issue.
I think that 7 o’clock is an impossible hour to finish. I go along with the concept that we might even start earlier and not continue until 7 o ‘clock to get the end result which the Government wants. To me 7 o’clock is in between heaven and earth because of the normal times for meals, our association with the other place, and so on. If we have an adjournment debate at 7 o’clock it might easily be half past seven before we adjourn. Of course this ruins the concept of any work in the evening. That is the sort of caveat which I issue in relation to this matter. I just add one or two other points. I agree with Senator Withers, Senator McManus and Senator Drake-Brockman about misleading, and what I would like to call inspired, reporting in relation to the conduct of this Senate. Reference has been made to the fact that Bills which were not even before us have been said to be delayed by the Opposition. I am sure that Senator Murphy will appreciate this. By way of interjection he referred to the delay and deferment caused by this side of the chamber in relation to the Trade Practices Bill.
In the context of the motion which we are debating I think I need to remind the Senate and Senator Murphy, in relation to the problem of the buildup of Bills now that we are coming towards the end of the session of a motion dated 1 June 1972. 1 remember this well because I was sitting in the chair in which he is sitting now. It was under Order of Business at page 2474. Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition as he then was, moved by leave:
That Government business after order of the day No. 10 be postponed to the first day of the next sittings.
So I with a somewhat inquisitive mind went to look at the Orders of the Day for that day, 1 June 1 972; and I put a line under item No. 10. 1 notice that the business paper went on to item No. 25. Senator Murphy, of course, had moved that all items after No. 10 be postponed until the next session which would have been the Budget session, because this was . in June when we were finishing the autumn session. I feel bound to say to Senator McManus that as I understand the division, the Democratic Labor Party supported the then Opposition, and the motion was carried. lt is a matter of different times, different situations. But the point is that on that occasion the then Opposition deferred until the next session something like 15 items on the notice paper. Certainly there were a lot of motions there to take note of papers. But there were in fact 5 Bills, on two of which Senator Douglas McClelland had taken the adjournment of the debate. However, there were 4 Government Bills including the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1972, the Industrial Research and Development Grants Bill 1972 and the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill- I am sure that we will all remember the last mentioned, Senator Murphy, because that Bill was very hurtful to some people. Then followed a whole series of other items.
The point about it is that there is an element of need and justification for these proposed hours of sitting, because we are coming towards the end of the session, and ever since Federation there has always been an effort made to lengthen our sitting times to meet it. I go along with it. I have some reservations about the rearrangement of the sitting times. I am in favour of the concept of not sitting so late at night. I just want to repeat in conclusion that I believe that we are rather putting the cart before the horse in this matter. I would think that the whole set of proceedings of the Parliament in the contemporary world in which we live and in the situation of the last decade where the pressures of the 3-tier system of government in Australia are such that we have to start looking at the parliamentary sessions and start cutting out some of the things- they are of the Westminster concept, I know- that we always practice. I believe we must look at them. Consider divisions alone. If we had here a computerised or electronic division counting system, then if we were in a situation of a heated debate or a succession of divisions we could save 1.5 or 2 hours in any single day in terms of time that we spend on divisions.
There are other matters that I could discuss. Honourable senators have heard me on them and I do not need to canvass them again. However, what I do believe and what I say to you, Mr President, and to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is that I think that one of our committees- whether it should be the Senate Standing Orders Committee, I do not knowshould be looking at whether we as Parliamentarians should not, because of the pressures of parliamentary life in this country, because we are in the big league, if you like and because ours is a country which has tremendous legislative and administrative problems to solve, be looking at our procedures to see if we cannot shorten some of them so that we can give our attention to the main responsibility and the main purpose of government rather than waste the time, which I believe we sometimes do, on these matters.
– I want to make a very short contribution to this debate and that is to say that if the vast mass of listeners to whom Senator Withers directed his propagandist remarks could see as well as hear what goes on in this chamber they would laugh at the hypocrisy of a Leader of the Opposition who chides the Senate for not sitting long enough hours and for not getting through enough business when he himself spends less time in the chamber and takes less part in the debate than almost any other senator. I am well aware that the duties of the Leader of the Opposition require him to spend time outside the chamber. But I would contrast his performance with that of Senator Murphy when he was Leader of the Opposition; with that of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate; and with the performance of his opposite number in the other place, Mr Snedden. I would suggest, with respect, that if there is one senator who is not pulling his weight here it is Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition. (Opposition senators interjecting.)
– Order, Senator Young! There seems to be a problem in South Australia. I do not know what it is.
Senator Young- It is in this Senate. (Government Senators interjecting.)
– Order, Senator McLaren! I do not want to hear any more interjections. I want to get this matter out of the way.
– In conclusion I would say to the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Withers, that he should remind himself of the old adage of people who live in glass houses.
– I rise only because of the intemperate, unnecessary and completely untruthful remarks which have been made by Senator James McClelland.
One has the impression that when members of the Government in this House- and, I sense, in the other House- are in trouble they resort to personalities. They put the boots in. The remarks made by Senator James McClelland about Senator Withers were gratuitous and not provoked by anything Senator Withers said today, nor were they deserved. Senator Withers stated plain facts today- and they needed to be stated because they put the record straight. Apparently the straightness of that record is disconcerting to Senator James McClelland and I can only believe that because he found them so disconcerting he decided to resort to the traditional Labor tactic of sniping at and smearing an individual who had hit home where it hurts. We on the Opposition believe that in Senator Withers we have a person who, far from what Senator James McClelland has alleged, has led in many debates in this chamber, who is constantly present in this chamber and who gives the utmost satisfaction to the Opposition. Maybe it is the fact that he has been so effective that has caused Senator James McClelland to resort to the tactic in which he has engaged. I support the motion, as Senator Withers indicated. I rise only because I want to give notice to every member of the Labor Party in this chamber that if they start to resort to the tactics to which their colleagues in another place are resorting they can expect resistance and rebuttal from every senator on this side. I give them due notice of it.
– Order! I think this debate has gone far enough. I call Senator Murphy.
– I was going to say that there is a time problem in this so why should honourable senators not resolve it by keeping silent from now on?
– I think so. I call Senator Murphy.
– This is a simple motion to extend the hours of sitting in the Senate. I am pleased to understand that it has general support. I have taken into account what has been said by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson about the sitting hours at the end of the day. It might be sensible to fix them for 6 o’clock rather than 7 o’clock. We should endeavour to do that. I think we could at least consider it for next year. For myself I adhere firmly to the view that we ought to eliminate the night sitting of the Senate and sit all day and, if necessary, on more days. If we have to sit here for more days in the week and more weeks in the year, let us do so. But it is absurd to sit from 9 o’clock until close to midnightand that is what has been happening. As for the suggestion of co-operation I regret that this debate had to be used as a vehicle to enter into those matters. It was not really necessary when the motion was not opposed.
- Senator O ‘Byrne started it.
– He did so because it was opened up unnecessarily by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in regard to a simple motion which was not being opposed by anyone in the chamber. We hear all the talk of co-operation by the Opposition senators, and they say ‘Well, such and such a Bill has not been brought on’. How on earth can Bills be brought on when debate is taking place on other Bills and delays occur? True, there is a great legislative program- there is no doubt about that- and the utmost co-operation is expected. It is true that a great deal of business has been completed. It is also true that there has been a lot of unnecessary talk. Some talk has been necessary, but everyone here knows that there has been some stretching out of debate and, on some occasions, quite unnecessary debate. I do not think we need to go into that.
There has been talk of co-operation. Just look at what has happened. It is said that the Opposition has co-operated to the full extent. I will name 8 Bills- they are of importance to the Government and the people, and some of them vitally affect the democratic process- which have not even been given a second reading, let alone been dealt with in Committee. The 8 Bills to which I refer are: The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2), the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill, the Representation Bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, the Lands Acquisition (Australian Capital Territory) Bill, the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill (No. 2) and the Representation Bill (No. 2). These Bills were not even given the courtesy of a second reading by the Opposition. In each case the Opposition defeated the motion for the second reading before the Bill could be considered in Committee.
The resumption of the second reading debate was deferred in relation to 4 Bills, including the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill and the Seas and Submerged Lands (Royalties on Minerals) Bill. That legislation was deferred from the previous sessional period until this sessional period. Those Bills had to take their place with the other items of our legislative program. Also the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill was deferred. The Opposition would not even debate that Bill during the first sitting days of this sessional period. The Trade Practices Bill was introduced into this chamber, but the Opposition would not even show the courtesy of having a second reading debate on that Bill and then going into Committee. The second reading debate on that Bill was deferred until next year. That Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and it was passed. It has now been reintroduced into this chamber, and I am glad to see that some of the Opposition senators may be coming to some sense of public responsibility in relation to it.
I regret that this debate had to be used as a vehicle for a discussion of such matters. There is not the slightest doubt that, notwithstanding the enormous legislative program- I will agree that a good deal of legislation has been passed- the Opposition has shown that it is determined to defeat major matters in the Government’s legislative program which was endorsed by the people in December 1972. The Leader of the Opposition has said that when the Senate holds up the Government’s legislative program the right course for the Government to follow is to go to the people, to have a double dissolution. Under the existing system of the Senate election and the House of Representatives election being held separately and not synchronised, that situation would face any government at all that did not have a majority in the Senate. If a new government came in, whatever may be its political colour, should the Senate Opposition be able to say: ‘We will knock out your major measures and then your only recourse is to abandon your legislative program which has been endorsed by the people and have another election’? That is not our democratic process.
No government which has been elected by the people to carry out a legislative program should be confronted by an Opposition which has not gone to that election but which happens to have a majority. Although the situation in the Senate has not changed, the Opposition can set about defeating the Government’s program and can say to the Government: ‘Your only recourse is to abandon what you are doing, break off your legislative program, and have another election’. That is the attitude of the Opposition parties in the Senate, particularly the Liberal Party and the Country Party. This attitude is bringing very much discredit upon the Senate. It is said that there is a feeling developing amongst the people outside that there is an attitude of obstructionism in the Senate. That feeling is exactly right. The Opposition is obstructing the Government. It is determined to oppose the Government in its legislative program, and its answer is completely insufficient for the people of Australia. The Opposition says to the Government: ‘Abandon your legislative program and have another election’. It was saying that almost as soon as this Government came into office. That is all it says to the people in relation to the obstruction and the frustration which it is practising daily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The object of this Bill is to give recognition in legislation of the Australian Parliament to basic human rights and freedoms and to provide remedies for their enforcement. On 10 December 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. It is easy to be cynical about the failure of many members of the United Nations to ensure to their own citizens the rights embodied in the Universal Declaration. I am not one of those who believe this justifies the absence in Australia of constitutional and statutory guarantees of those rights.
Australia assented to the Universal Declaration. It is commonly regarded as a country where freedom and individuality are allowed to flourish. The Australian people are commonly believed to be jealous of their freedoms and to be strongly opposed to government interference in their lives. It is said that this commitment to freedom is the best safeguard against encroachments on that freedom. It is said to be more effective in ensuring freedom than a Bill of Rights. Yet one might well ask whether this is really so, whether actual experience bears it out.
In 1966 the United Nations adopted two other great instruments defining the rights that individuals should enjoy. These are the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. One of the first acts of this Government last December was to sign those 2 covenants, and we propose to take action to ratify them by 10 December this year. It is known that other countries which have not already done so are also considering ratification. We hope that the interest in human rights engendered by the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will prompt these countries to ratify the covenants, and that the 2 covenants will shortly come into force.
This Government has made plain its attitude to the denial of human rights in other countries. I do not intend to recite the melancholy catalogue of what is happening elsewhere. Far better that we should turn our attention to our own situation, and examine the state of liberty in our own country. Despite our supposed commitment to freedom, we cannot be self-satisfied about what is happening in Australia. No matter what the law may provide, those who are poor, who are socially disadvantaged, are denied the basic human rights of a full and satisfying life. There are too many in our community who fall into these categories for us to be complacent about the state of liberty in Australia. The aged, the chronically ill, the migrant groups and the Aborigines do not enjoy the full measure of human rights and dignity. The programs of social security and social assistance which this Government is undertaking are fundamental to the promotion of human rights in Australia.
The main concern of the present Bill is to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the case of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, progressive implementation of its terms is required of a party to it. Its terms are not so apt for direct legislative enactment as those of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is a much more direct obligation on a party to that latter Covenant to implement its terms forthwith. It is therefore to that Covenant that we have turned our attention first in legislation.
The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets out a familiar catalogue of rights. I will not go through them all; they are concerned with such matters as freedom of movement, freedom of expression, the protection of individual privacy, the rights of a person charged with a criminal offence, and so on. Although we believe these rights to be basic to our democratic society, they now receive remarkably little legal protection in Australia. What protection is given by the Australian Constitution is minimal and does not touch the most significant of these rights. The common law is powerless to protect them against the written laws and regulations made by Parliament, by Executive Government under delegated legislative authority, and by local government and other local authorities. The common law rights exist only in the interstices of statutory regulation.
Thus freedom of expression is what remains after one takes account of the laws relating to defamation, contempt of court, censorship, obscenity, offensive behaviour, sedition, official secrecy and the like. Freedom of assembly is restricted by the scarcity of places in which people who wish to express a particular point of view can assemble without official permission from some authority or other. The protection of the Habeas Corpus Act is whittled away by the extensive powers of arrest given to police and the powers to detain those who are thought to be mentally ill. The democratic concept that each person shall be entitled to a free and equal vote is denied by the operation of our electoral distribution laws. That a person is to be presumed innocent of a criminal offence until he is proved guilty is overshadowed by the inequities of our criminal justice system, and especially by the inadequacy of legal aid in Australia. The Press is supposed to be a guardian of our liberties. It is often muzzled by the laws that circumscribe freedom of expression or by its ownership being concentrated in the hands of vested interests.
I do not want to overstate the case. Many restrictions on individual freedom are necessary to protect the rights of others, or to prevent a crowded society from falling into chaos. But many restrictions have been imposed without sufficient care being taken to ensure they do not go further than necessary, or because the acts they regulate or forbid might provide inconvenience to those in authority. What is needed is a yardstick against which can be measured proposals to place restrictions or, as in the case of the protection of privacy, the failure to legislate and to provide the means whereby effective action may be taken in the courts to enforce rights.
Ideally, in my view, a Bill of Rights should be written into the Australian Constitution and I proposed at the Constitutional Convention in Sydney that this be done. But in the absence of a constitutionally entrenched Bill of Rights, it is proposed that those rights should be set out in legislation of this Parliament, so far as it is within the powers of the Parliament to do so. The legislation will be binding on Australian, State and local officials and on State parliaments. Only this Parliament will be able to abrogate the rights thus established and I would hope this Parliament would not lightly subtract from rights guaranteed by this legislation. Moreover, I believe that a statutory Bill of Rights will have a very great educational value. It will serve to make people more aware of their rights. By identifying rights, it will be easier to know when they are being denied.
It would be futile, however, to grant these rights unless there is machinery to enforce them. The legislation will provide this machinery. First, legal remedies will be provided for infringements of rights and an aggrieved person will have recourse to the courts to enforce his rights. Second, the legislation will establish an Australian Human Rights Commissioner who will have power to investigate infringements of rights, either on his own initiative or where a complaint is made to him. The Commissioner will have also power to take legal proceedings on behalf of an aggrieved person. In establishing this machinery, Australia will be taking a lead that will put it to the forefront in the protection of human rights. The legislation will also establish an Australian Human Rights Council that will advise the Attorney-General and the Commissioner on the implementation of international instruments relating to human rights.
I now turn to a brief description of the broad framework of the Bill. The Bill is divided into 7 Parts, the first dealing with preliminary matters, the second with fundamental rights and freedoms, the third with the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, the fourth with the enforcement of rights, the fifth with the Australian Human Rights Council, the sixth dealing with administrative provisions and the seventh with miscellaneous matters.
Part I contains provisions dealing with the commencement of the legislation and will enable the legislation to be brought into force immediately in the Territories and on Commonwealth places and in relation to a law of Australia or a Territory. Part I also provides, in relation to the application of the legislation, that the Act is to bind Australia and each State and is to extend to every external Territory, except Papua New Guinea. The view has been taken that, in view of the steps being taken by Papua New Guinea towards independence, it will properly be a matter for that country to make a decision on accession to the Covenant.
Part II of the Bill will establish in legislation of the Australian Parliament fundamental rights and freedoms in a number of extremely important areas which are not at present covered by formal legislation. A basic provision of the legislation is to provide that everyone is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the legislation, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Bill also provides that everyone is entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. Part II of the Bill then proceeds to deal with a number of important rights, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to hold opinions without interference, the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of association, the right, without unreasonable restrictions, to take part in the conduct of public affairs, vote at elections held by universal and equal suffrage and to hold public office, the right to liberty of movement, and the right to privacy. In the provisions relating to freedom of religion, expression, assembly, association and movement, the legislation provides that these rights may be restricted in certain circumstances, such as where restriction is reasonably necessary to protect public safety or public health or constitute reasonable regulations, as to time, place and manner, of the right.
The Bill also deals, in clause 15 (2) with the right of women to hold public office on equal terms with men, without discrimination. The enactment of this provision will enable Australia to ratify the Convention on the Political Rights of Women which has been in force since 1954. Part II of the Bill goes on to provide a number of protections that are of importance in the field of the administration of justice. An important function of the legislation will be to provide protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The Bill deals with the right of a person not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention and will provide that everyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. The Bill provides that anyone arrested on a criminal charge shall not be detained in custody unless the detention is reasonably necessary in the circumstances of the case. A person in custody is to be afforded adequate time and facilities to communicate with his lawyer and shall not be compelled to incriminate himself. He is to be informed of these rights. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. In the determination of a criminal charge, everyone is to be entitled to a number of guarantees, such as the right to have legal aid where the interests of justice so require and where he does not have sufficient means to pay for it, and the right not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.
The Bill provides that a person is not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and all persons deprived of their liberty are to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. The Bill will also contain provisions relating to the segregation of accused persons and juvenile offenders.
Part III provides that there shall be an Australian Human Rights Commissioner. It will be the function of the Commissioner to investigate an alleged infringement of the Act, either on his own initiative or where a complaint is made to him. The Commissioner will have a discretion not to investigate a matter in certain circumstances, such as where in his opinion a complaint is frivolous or not made in good faith. The Commissioner may also take action when he is of opinion that an unlawful act is about to be committed. The Commissioner is to endeavour to secure an assurance against the doing of, or the repetition of, an unlawful act and to secure a settlement and he may warn the person concerned not to do, or not to repeat, the act.
Part IV of the Bill deals with enforcement. It provides that, where the Commissioner is unable to secure a settlement, he may commence civil proceedings in the Australian Industrial Court. Where the court is satisfied than an infringement of the Act has occurred, it is to make a declaration to that effect and it may grant, as appropriate, a number of remedies including an injunction, an order cancelling a contract, orders setting aside a judgment, quashing a conviction or directing a new trial and damages in respect of the loss suffered by an aggrieved person and the loss of dignity, humiliation and injury to the feelings of an aggrieved person. Any damages so recovered are to be paid by the Commissioner to the aggrieved person. An aggrieved person may also commence proceedings for a remedy under the Act independently of the Commissioner. Part IV also provides that proceedings are to be taken in the Superior Court of Australia when that Court is established.
An Australian Human Rights Council is established in Part V of the Bill. It will be the function of the Council to make recommendations to the Attorney-General and the Commissioner on matters relating to the observance and implementation of international instruments relating to human rights, the promotion of educational programs with respect to human rights and other related matters.
Part VI of the Bill deals with the administrative provisions and provides for the appointment of an Australian Human Rights Commissioner and his staff. The Commissioner is to be a corporation sole. As it will be a function of the Commissioner to take action against infringements of the Act by Australian or State officials, the Bill provides for the appointment of staff that will be independent of the Australian Public Service. Part VI also provides that the Australian Human Rights Council is to consist of 10 members who shall be appointed by the Attorney-General.
Mr President, I believe that the enactment of this legislation will be a significant milestone in the political maturity of Australia. It will help to make Australian society more free and more just. It will provide the legal framework within which our social programs can assist people to realise their fuller potential. In conclusion, I would emphasise that the purpose of the Bill is to carry out the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A great deal of work has been done in the preparation of the Bill but it has not been possible to discuss it with all interested groups. The Government will welcome any proposals and comments on the Bill, whether from inside or outside either House of Parliament and during the Committee stage. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– The Opposition does not oppose the motion but I take the opportunity which the motion affords me to invite the Attorney-General to indicate whether he will facilitate the debate when it occurs by presenting the views which have been obtained or are in the process of being obtained from the various State governments. I understand that a draft of this Bill was submitted to the States a week or two ago. Some States have not had the. opportunity to express views which they would like to express, but I would hope that when they are expressed that material will be available for the Senate’s consideration. I say that because I would think it is highly relevant to the assessment of many of these provisions.
I notice that in his second reading speech the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) stated that the legislation will be binding on Australian, State and local government officials and on State parliaments. That is a concept, I think, quite new in law in Australia apart from the provisions of the Constitution itself. Likewise I notice from what the Attorney-General said that a Human Rights Commissioner may apply to the Industrial Court and that Court may set aside a judgment which I assume means a judgment of the State courts. That again is a concept which is new in this country. They are matters upon which unquestionably many views will be expressed but I think it would be vital for a proper consideration to have the views of the various State governments and conceivably even the views of the State parliaments available for the ensuing debate.
– What about the staff who are beyond the Public Service?
– I have not appreciated sufficient of the content of the Bill to be able to respond to the comment which Senator Webster made. I invite the Attorney-General to give consideration to what I have suggested. I am sure it will in due course facilitate consideration which must be given to the matter.
– in reply- In answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) I say that I will give consideration to what he said. Of course States may say anything they wish publicly. Some views may be communicated confidentially but it would be better that I gave consideration to the question that he has raised. As to the other matter about the legislation being binding on the States -
– State parliaments.
-Well, I think that is a way of expressing what we all know is the position: That by reason of the provisions of section 109, of our Constitution any valid law passed by this Parliament operates to cut across any laws of the State Parliament. If any such law is inconsistent then the Constitution operates to cut it down. It can be expressed in many ways. In a sense it can be said that all laws of this Parliament are binding on all the people of Australia. I think the position is expressed rather neatly in the covering clauses of the Constitution. If I remember correctly, the laws made by this Parliament, are binding on the courts, the judges and the people of every State and of course one would say, in that sense, on the parliaments. It can be expressed in different ways. Section 5 of the covering clauses of the Constitution states:
This Act, and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the courts, judges, and people of every State and of every pan of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of any State. . . .
What is being said is not in any way novel. However one expresses it it may sound a little novel, but there is no doubt that any law properly made by this Parliament binds all the people, all the courts and judges and in that sense all the parliaments of the States. I think there is nothing novel at all in that approach to the matter. I think it is just a matter of spelling out that this is something which is intended to cut across any contrary law of a State and it is intended to be, in a sense, a barrier which means that the State parliaments could not legislate validly if their legislation were inconsistent with Commonwealth law. I trust that clarifies the matter and I ask the Senate to agree to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
This Bill proposes that racial discrimination should be made unlawful in Australia. It proclaims the equality and essential dignity of all human beings which is the foundation of all instruments relating to human rights. The Bill is the first of a number of measures the Government proposes to introduce to guarantee those rights in Australia. The Charter of the United Nations is based upon these classic principles and it has been one of the great achievements of the United Nations that these concepts have been developed in a series of comprehensive international instruments.
The first and perhaps the greatest of these international instruments was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is in a spirit of commemoration of the 25th anniversary of this Declaration, which will occur on 10 December 1973, that this legislation is being brought forward. The Universal Declaration proclaims in its first Article that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and Article 2 provides that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind, including discrimination on grounds of race, colour or national origin.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted by the United Nations in 1965. This Convention recognises that any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and without any justification. Seventy-five countries have become parties to the Convention and this Bill will give approval to the ratification by Australia of the Convention.
The United Nations has placed high priority on the advancement of measures for the elimination of racial discrimination in its human rights program. A good deal of attention was given to various aspects of discrimination at the 1968 Teheran Conference on Human Rights held during the International Year for Human Rights. The Proclamation of Teheran observed that the implementation of the principle of nondiscrimination, embodied in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration and other international instruments, constituted a most urgent task of mankind. Subsequently, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a program for the observance of 1 97 1 as the International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. The vigorous action initiated by the United Nations in 1971 was followed up in November 1972 by a resolution of the General Assembly in which it was decided to launch a Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and to inaugurate these activities on 10 December 1973.
Initiative was taken in 1971 by the United Nations Association of Australia which set up a Committee to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. This Committee and its constituent member organisations conducted an extensive program, including the holding of seminars, the issue of pamphlets and other publications and the sponsorship with the United Nations Association of a 3 volume collection of studies, under the editorship of Mr F. S. Stevens entitled Racism- The Australian Experience’. The Committee also made representations to the Australian and State governments for the establishment of Race Relations Boards to administer legislation which would prohibit discrimination on grounds of race in respect of the provision or sale of goods, facilities or services, employment and conditions of employment, membership of trade unions and similar organisations, the purchase, sale or rental of housing accommodation, and the availability of business premises. The enactment of the Bill which is now presented to Parliament will fulfil these ideals.
The volumes edited by Mr F. S. Stevens constitute a valuable contribution to the study of racial discrimination in Australia. In his introduction to the second volume, Mr Stevens asserts that from the broadest construction of the term ‘racist’, down to the inter-personal relationships between Aboriginals and Europeans in Australian society, it is difficult to deny that prejudice exists and that this prejudice, over the years, has been erected into a functional system. He observes that the external manifestations of prejudice might be witnessed daily through the country. He also observes that the relative situation and standing of the indigenous community also demonstrates that Australians of European origin are prepared to employ a different standard of social, political, economic and legal behaviour which applies to individuals of different genetic origin from that which they would apply to people ‘of their own kind’.
The volumes on Australian racism disclose various aspects of discrimination in Australia. Discrimination has had its effects on migrant groups in our community and there has been evidence of support in Australia for white racist regimes of South Africa. Perhaps the most blatant example of racial discrimination in Australia is that which affects Aboriginals. Discrimation has existed in respect of Aboriginals over a wide field. There are still remnants of legislative provisions of the paternalistic type based implicitly on the alleged superiority of the white race in which it is assumed that Aboriginals are unable to manage their own personal affairs and property. Discrimination affects Aborigines so far as it concerns the administration of the criminal law and the enjoyment of civil, political, social and economic rights.
The fact that proportionately more Aborigines than whites are sentenced to imprisonment or denied bail in Australia has been amply demonstrated in the writings of Dr Elizabeth Eggleston. Aborigines are the poorest of the poor in our community. It is clear that past wrongs must be put right so far as the Aboriginal population is concerned and that special measures must be provided.
The view is sometimes put that equality is an overriding value and all discrimination, whether for or against a group is necessarily bad. In evidence before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in August 1972, Professor Wootten, now Mr Justice Wootten, provided a forceful answer to this concept. He said:
This argument seeks to perpetuate the effects of past handicaps to the advantage of those who did not suffer them. For the past 180 years Aboriginals have suffered enormous handicaps in Australian society by comparison with whites, commencing with violent dispossession from their land and destruction of their social fabric, and continuing through various forms of legal, social and economic discrimination. It would be the height of hypocrisy for white Australians now to say to Aborigines that from here on the race must be on equal terms, without taking into account the 180 years start which white Australians have given themselves. This is particularly unfair when one considers how much power, prestige, affluence and education in the white community has been built on the exploitation of land from which whites ousted blacks’.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination does, in fact, recognise the need to take special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development of certain racial groups for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the Bill gives recognition to this need.
The basic scheme of the Bill is to condemn racial discrimination as being unlawful and to provide machinery for investigation and conciliation as well as legal sanctions. The proscribing of acts of racial discrimination will have an important persuasive and educative effect. The fact that racial discrimination is unlawful will make it easier for people to resist social pressures that result in discrimination.
The concept of conciliation in the settlement of differences between racial groups is one that has wide acceptance. It has gained acceptance in the race relations legislation of the United Kingdom and New Zealand and it is also widely recognised in North America. An agreement between the parties to a dispute can often have advantages not available in a judicial decree in that it can deal more comprehensively with future relationships. Moreover, positive and lasting solutions to the problems created by racial tensions are often best achieved by the conciliation process.
I now turn to a brief description of the broad framework of the Bill. The Bill is divided into 7 parts, the first dealing with preliminary matters, the second with the prohibition of racial discrimination, the third with investigations and civil proceedings, the fourth with offences, the fifth with the Race Relations Council, the sixth dealing with administrative provisions and the seventh with miscellaneous matters.
Part I provides, in relation to the application of the legislation, that the Act is to bind Australia and each State and is to extend to every external Territory, except Papua New Guinea. Again the view has been taken that, in view of the steps being taken by Papua New Guinea towards independence, it will probably be a matter for that country to make a decision on accession to the Convention.
Part II of the Bill deals with the prohibition of racial discrimination. Clause 8 makes it unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or perference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or other field of public life. This provision follows closely the definition ‘racial discrimination’ in the Convention. The purpose of clause 9 is to guarantee equality before the law without discrimination as to race in the enjoyment of rights and this clause will supersede laws of Australia or of the States that discriminate on grounds of race in relation to the enjoyment of rights.
Clauses 10 to 15 deal in greater detail with discrimination in the enjoyment of rights. Clause 10 deals with discrimination so far as it concerns access to places and facilities, clause 1 1 with discrimination in the provision of land, housing and other accommodation and clause 12 with discrimination in the provision of goods and services. The purpose of clause 13 is to make invalid the provisions of the rules of a trade union that prevent a person from joining the union by reason of his race, and the clause also makes it unlawful to prevent a person from joining a trade union because of his race. Clause 14 deals with the important aspect of discrimination in employment and clause 15 deals with the display of advertisements that indicate an intention to do an act that is unlawful by reason of the legislation.
A sub-clause is contained in clause 9 the purpose of which is to supersede the provisions of Queensland laws that authorise the management of the property, including personal earnings, of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander without his consent and which prevent an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander from terminating the management of his property. This provision gives effect to an undertaking that has been made by the Government that these provisions will be superseded by legislation of the Australian Parliament.
I should point out that there are a number of other features of the Queensland legislation relating to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders that are not in terms discriminatory on grounds of race or that form part of legislation intended to be beneficial but which are nevertheless unsatisfactory from a civil liberties viewpoint. I have arranged for discussions to be held with the relevant authorities so that the nature of appropriate alternative provisions can be determined.
As I have already indicated, the Bill provides that the Act does not apply to special measures, including laws, that confer rights and benefits on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. This is achieved in clause 7. Clause 7 also exempts from the operation of the Act charitable instruments conferring benefits on the persons of a particular race. There are also exemptions in clause 8 in respect of employment on work involving national security and employment on a foreign ship or aircraft where this is arranged outside Australia.
Clause 16 makes provision for the vicarious liability of principals and employers and clause 17 ensures that the Bill will apply in situations where an act is done by reason of race, notwithstanding that this was not the dominant reason.
Part III provides that there shall be an Australian Race Relations Commissioner. It will be the function of the Commissioner to investigate an alleged infringement of the Act, either on his own initiative or where a complaint is made to him. The Commissioner will have a discretion not to investigate in certain circumstances such as where in his opinion a complaint is frivolous or not made in good faith.
The Commissioner is to use his best endeavours to seek an assurance against a repetition of an unlawful act and to secure a settlement. Where he is unable to secure a settlement, the Commissioner may commence civil proceedings in the Australian Industrial Court. Where a court is satisfied that an infringement of the Act has occurred, it is to make a declaration to that effect and it may grant a number of remedies including an injunction, an order cancelling a contract and damages in respect of the loss suffered by an aggrieved person and the loss of dignity, humiliation and injury to the feelings of an aggrieved person. Any damages so recovered are to be paid by the Commissioner to the aggrieved person.
An aggrieved person may also commence proceedings for a remedy under the Act independently of the Commissioner, but the Commissioner will have power to apply to the court for a stay of proceedings if he considers that such proceedings would adversely effect the performance of his functions. The Act also makes provision for the establishment of Conciliation Committees which will have power to achieve a settlement between the parties to a dispute.
Part IV of the Bill creates a number of offences. It will be an offence to refuse a person access to places and facilities on grounds of race. There are also offences relating to incitement of racial disharmony, the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred with intent to promote hostility or ill will and the incitement of acts of racial discrimination. In addition, an act of violence to a person of a different race will be an offence under the Act.
A Race Relations Council is established in Part V of the Bill. It will be the function of the Council to make recommendations to the AttorneyGeneral and the Commissioner on matters relating to the observance and implementation of the Convention.
Part VI of the Bill deals with the administrative provisions and provides for the appointment of an Australian Race Relations Commissioner and his staff. The Commissioner is to be a corporation sole. As it will be a function of the Commissioner to take action against infringements of the Act by Australian or State officials, the Bill provides for the appointment of staff that will be independent of the Australian Public Service. Part VI also provides that the Race Relations Council is to consist of such members, not being less than ten or more than twenty, as the AttorneyGeneral appoints.
Part VII deals with miscellaneous matters. Clause 57 deals with the burden of proof in civil proceedings under the Act. It provides that, if in civil proceedings under the Act it is established that an act was done by the defendant, the burden lies on the defendant of proving that the act was not done for discriminatory reasons. This provision is included as it applies in circumstances where the reason for the doing of a discriminatory act alleged to have been done on grounds of race lies peculiarly within the knowledge of the defendant. Part VII also provides that proceedings are to be taken in the Superior Court of Australia when that Court is established.
This Bill is a first, but essential, step in providing measures for the elimination of racial discrimination in Australia and for the guarantee of rights without discrimination on grounds of race. To be effective, however, anti-discrimination laws cannot operate in a vacuum. They must be accompanied by positive governmental programs designed to bridge the gaps that result in racial tensions. They must also be accompanied by the support of the community. I hope that this Bill will not only provide the machinery to deal with acts of discrimination but also will promote public awareness of this problem which will be so important in achieving the objectives of this legislation. Honourable senators may notice that there are a number of provisions in this Bill which are identical with those in the Human Rights Bill 1973 which has been introduced. Depending on the fate of these measures it may be convenient if at some stage the administrative machinery of the two were merged.
In conclusion I would emphasise that the purpose of the Bill is to carry out the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. A great deal of work has been done in the preparation-of the Bill but it has not been possible to discuss it with all interested groups. The Government will welcome any proposals and comments on the Bill, whether from inside or outside either House of Parliament and during the Committee stages. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 20 November (vide page 1943).
– Yesterday the Committee postponed further consideration of clause 3 as amended and of clause 4 and the amendment moved thereto by Senator Rae to enable it to consider amendments to insert new clauses 4a and 4b. Is it the wish of the Committee to return now to clause 3 as amended? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– I move:
The purpose of this amendment is to give, in the definitions clause of the Bill, a clear meaning of the term ‘Australian Education Council ‘ which is used in the new clause 4a which was inserted by the Committee yesterday. Everyone has always understood that the Australian Education Council means what the definition in the amendment states, but the amendment puts the matter beyond doubt.
– As was previously agreed by the Committee, this clause was dependent on whether clause 4 was amended. Whilst Senator Rae’s amendment to clause 4 was not adopted by the Committee yesterday, Senator McManus’s amendment was. Senator Rae’s present amendment is consequential upon Senator McManus’s amendment to clause 4 which was adopted yesterday. The Government objects to Senator
Rae’s present amendment. The Government opposes it. Because Senator McManus’s amendment was carried yesterday, I do not intend, on behalf of the Government, to divide the Committee on this amendment. I suggest that the vote be taken on the voices. The amendment is a consequential one. Because, in the Government’s view, the Bill was emasculated to the extent that it was yesterday, we oppose this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Establishment of Commission).
– At the moment clause 4 reads:
Consequential upon the amendment which was carried yesterday and which increases the total number of members of the Commission to 1 5- a Chairman and 14 other members- I now move:
Leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2), insert the following paragraph:
fourteen other members selected or appointed as hereinafter provided. ‘.
Again this amendment is a direct consequence of the carriage yesterday of the amendment moved by Senator McManus. I make this brief additional comment to the comments which were made yesterday in relation to the overall question. I take this opportunity, while the proceedings of the Committee are being broadcast, to refute again the completely untrue reporting of the Opposition’s attitude to the Schools Commission Bill. I take this opportunity to state- and I hope that this time it will be taken up on a fair basis- that the Opposition does not wish, to use the words used by one newspaper in its headline today, to ‘kill the Schools Commission’. The Opposition is anxious to ensure that the Schools Commission is realistically constructed and that it operates with the powers and functions which were suggested for it by the then Opposition, now the Government, prior to the election and for which the Government claims that it has a mandate to legislate, if it has a mandate at all, and which were promised so very clearly by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when speaking on the general subject on 20 June 1 972 in an address to the Catholic Luncheon Club of Melbourne. Referring to the Commission, he said:
The Commission will include representatives of the State departments, non-government school authorities, parent organisations and the teaching profession.
That is a quotation from page 9 of the transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech at the time. I add that quotation to the quotations which were given yesterday, and re-assert that what we have done is held the Government to the promise which it made to the people about the structure of the Schools Commission. The Government has attempted -
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order. Senator Rae is speaking to an amendment which deals only with the number of members of the Schools Commission. I challenge him to produce anything in the Prime Minister’s policy speech which committed the Government to any numbers on the Schools Commission. The fact that today’s proceedings are being broadcast, I submit, should not give Senator Rae a chance to regurgitate everything which he said yesterday and to drag irrelevancies into the debate. We are speaking only of the numbers on the Commission. There is nothing in the policy speech which has anything to do with the numbers on the Commission.
- Senator Rae, I ask you to keep to the actual amendment.
– I remind the Committee that the amendment seeks to increase the number of other members to 14; that is 15 in all- the Chairman and 14 other members. I am giving the reason why it is necessary to increase the number to that total of 15. The reason why we are moving that the number be increased to a total of 1 5 is that we wish to see the Government kept to its promise on representation.
– Where in the Prime Minister’s policy speech is there a promise about 14 other members?
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I indicate to you that I do not intend to respond to inane interjections. I shall stop whenever there are any interjections, wait for order in the chamber and then continue.
- Senator Rae, you do not have to answer any interjections. You ought to know that. You address the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. That is what I wish to do. The reason why the Opposition yesterday sought to increase the total number to 1 5 was partly to enable there to be drawn from the various areas of interest in Australia in relation to the development of what might be called a grand design for education in Australia persons from the areas of State education, non-government school authorities, parent organisations and the teaching profession, and we would add that it is desirable that someone from the research area and someone from the special education of the handicapped area be appointed. I simply take the opportunity to re-assert that the Opposition does not wish to kill this Bill. We wish to see a Schools Commission created, and we have done nothing which would prevent the Government from proceeding with the creation of a Schools Commission.
– I think it is right that I should make it clear that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Opposition on these consequential amendments. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has indicated that he will not ask that the Committee divide on them. That saves time, and we are very grateful to him. But I think it is only fair that we should make it clear where we stand and that the Opposition has the numbers. This amendment provides for representation on the Schools Commission. I take strong exception to a statement made at 7.45 a.m. today on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news to the effect that a major amendment to the Government’s Schools Commission Bill made in the Senate extends the Commission’s size from 12 to 15 and provides for representation from Roman Catholic and other independent schools. The amendment provided for representation from State education officers, from State school teachers, from State school parents and from a wide variety of people, only one of whom happened to represent Roman Catholic schools. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission made that statement this morning it was an example of either incompetence or bias.
– In reply to what Senator McManus just said about the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I did not hear the broadcast and therefore I make no comment other than to say that generally speaking in my opinion the Commission gives the most objective views of the proceedings of this Parliament of any news services.
Realising again that these amendments are consequential upon the decision of the Committee yesterday, I merely reiterate the Government’s belief that by the decision yesterday the
Bill has been emasculated. We continue our opposition to these consequential amendments and express our strong opposition to them. Realising, however, that we do not have the numbers in this place to effect any other amendment we do not intend to divide the House.
I should mention, in replying shortly to Senator Rae- I do so only because he took advantage of the fact that our proceedings are being broadcast to re-open this matter, and I hope that my remarks will not re-open the whole debate that we had yesterday- that in the early part of the Committee stage of the debate on this Bill, he and Senator Carrick, and more particularly Senator McManus, had a lot to say about the acceptance of the need for a Schools Commission and their intention that it should be an effective organ in meeting the situation in Australian schools. I suggest that their approach now is completely different from the attitude they adopted during the election campaign last year when this matter became one of the major planks, if not the major plank, of the platform for election of a Labor Government. I believe that the Senate would be interested to know, and certainly the Government would be interested to know, whether the Opposition parties intend to support the States Grants (Schools) Bill when it comes before the Senate. I say that because that Bill gives effect to the program of assistance recommended by the Interim Schools Committee and will be the real test for those who now claim their endorsement of the Government’s policy of using that representative group of experts to make recommendations on the financial needs of schools and the appropriate means of providing for those needs. I merely mention that matter because Senator Rae’s proposal suggests that 14 members of the Commission should be appointed. As I have said, we in the Government believe that the decision of the Committee yesterday emasculated the Bill. We now lodge our objection and our opposition to the amendment but knowing that the Country Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Liberal Party will combine to vote against us I do not intend to divide the House.
– At the invitation of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) I respond to the question he raised and indicate that the Opposition has stated repeatedly, through me and through other people, that we do not oppose the recommendations of the Karmel Committee in relation to the provision, whether it be through a Schools Commission or otherwise, or a committee, of vastly increased funds for education. Our criticism has been that in relation to some areas of education in fact there has not been an increase. In regard to the States Grants (Schools) Bill I indicate that the Opposition will not be doing anything to prevent the extra funds being made available to education next year. It may be that after further consideration of some of the provisions of that Bill there may be some suggestions for improvement but there will not be from the Opposition any attempt to reduce the funds for education. I take this opportunity to respond in that way to the Minister’s invitation. .
Amendment agreed to.
– Clause 4 contains the provisions which I have referred to already. It also contains this provision as drafted at the moment:
The Chairman and each other full-time member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding seven years, and each pantime member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years.
In relation to this matter there were some comments by the Karmel Committee in its report. The Committee referred to the desirability of a regular turnover of membership. In chapter 13.5 the Karmel Committee reported as follows:
The Committee believes that the part-time membership of the Commission, its Committees and Regional Boards should be drawn from as wide a cross-section of the community as possible and should have regard to both age and sex. Provision should be made for a regular turnover of membership: a threeyear term of office, renewable for one further term might be appropriate and arrangements should be made to ensure staggered terms.
The Opposition agrees with the Karmel Committee’s recommendation in relation to the Schools Commission membership terms and believes it would be desirable to provide for at least the opportunity for an even greater degree of turnover than has been proposed by the Government. Accordingly I move:
This will not prevent any member being reappointed because the next sub-clause, which it is not intended to be altered in any way, provides:
A member is eligible for re-appointment.
All we are doing is enabling a turnover both of the full-time members and of the part-time members- full-time members every 5 years, if thought desirable, and part-time members every 3 years. I realise that the extract I quoted from the Karmel Committee’s report related to parttime members but we believe that the same principle applies to all members of the Commission, that is, that there should be an opportunity for a turnover at least every 5 years for full-time members and 3 years for part-time members.
– The Democratic Labor Party will support the amendment.
– The action of Senator Rae in calling in aid the Karmel Committee report on the proposition of regular turnover of membership of the Australian Schools Commission is, on his own admission, confined to the part-time members. If the Karmel Committee had been of the opinion that this should apply also to fulltime members surely it would have said so. The view of the Government is that people who are prepared to commit their lives at a vital stage of their careers to a job like this one of full-time member of the Commission should have a reasonably lengthy term of office. It may seem that there is not much difference between 5 years and 7 years but let us look at a specific example. The Chairman of the present Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission is Dr Kenneth McKinnon. He was Director of Education in Papua New Guinea from 1960 to 1973 and has held various other highly responsible jobs. He is 42 years of age. I think that everybody would agree that this is a vital stage in the career of a distinguished academic like Dr McKinnon. The Government is fortunate to have his services and we feel that he should not be subjected to the insecurity of a term as short as 5 years. If we are to continue to get the best people we should offer them a term of at least 7 years.
– The amendment moved by Senator Rae is not accepted by the Government. I take it that the remarks made earlier by Senator McManus in relation to the other amendment apply equally to this amendment. I see that the honourable senator nods his head in affirmation. That being so and realising that the numbers are not with the Government in the Senate on this consequential amendment it is not my intention to divide the Committee. Again I merely say that we oppose the amendment. The proposed amendment limits the period of appointment of the chairman or full time members to 5 years as compared with the 7 years proposed by the Government.
The 7-year term as set out in the Bill is the usual maximum term provided for in Commonwealth legislation establishing various statutory authorities. This term applies to both the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. I know that within my own Department it also applies to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. There may be circumstances in which a 7-year term is desirable to attract a suitable candidate. Therefore the Government opposes the amendment which has been moved by Senator Rae. But realising that this is merely a consequential amendment and bearing in mind the decision of the Committee yesterday on the major amendment which we say has emasculated the Bill I do not intend dividing the Committee on this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– This is amendment No. 6 in the circulated list of amendments. In relation to clause 5 we propose an amendment which is again partially consequential upon the previous amendments which I have moved in this debate. Clause 5 deals with the position of full time members. It provides that the Chairman shall be a full time member of the Commission and also that the GovernorGeneral, which really means the Minister, may appoint any other member to be a full time member of the Commission. This clause also states:
I take this opportunity to mention that the Opposition would not have any objection if the Government believed, after consideration, that there should be more full time members than the three plus one; in other words, perhaps four plus the one who is the Chairman as was recommended by the Karmel Committee or perhaps even one more than that. We would not have any objection if the Minister indicated that in order to go on with the Commission the Government wanted to have another one or two full time members. That is something which would receive the approval or support of the Opposition, But we do not wish to push that proposal ourselves. We wish to ensure that of the full time members of the Commission one shall be drawn from the non-government school area giving this section a guarantee of one full time member. It is anticipated that the others will be drawn from the other areas making up the Commission. Our amendment proposes to add at the end of the paragraph which provides that the number of full time members other than the Chairman shall not at any time exceed three, the words: of whom at least one shall be a member selected and appointed pursuant to paragraph 4a (c).
Sub-paragraph (c) deals with the 3 members of the Commission who are drawn from the area of non-government school education. The reason for this is simply to ensure that all sectors of the education administration areas are likely to be included on full time membership of the Schools Commission. This is a role which we see as being of vital importance to the whole of the development of education in Australia. We believe it is desirable that full time members should be able to draw on the experience, knowledge, ideas and developments which are taking place in the various administrative areas of education in Australia. I do not want to be taken as saying that any individual full time member must be an administrator. But we think it is desirable that he should have some liaison with the various areas of administration. For that reason I move:
– I desire to indicate support for the amendment. It appears to me to be only common sense that if there are to be a number of full time members of the Schools Commission one should be experienced in an important area of education. Otherwise the Commission might be handicapped by not having a full time member whose services would be available for advice and activity in that area. Therefore, because I think it would contribute to the efficiency of the Commission I support the amendment.
– The Government regards this proposed amendment as yet another restriction being imposed by the Opposition on the Minister and therefore objects to it. Perhaps it is not consequential upon the amendment successfully moved by Senator McManus yesterday; nonetheless the proposal now put by Senator Rae is related to that amendment. Again it is not my intention, Senator McManus having indicated his support for Senator Rae’s amendment, to divide the Committee. However, the Government says that this amendment will limit the Minister’s discretion in choosing full time members by requiring that one of the maximum of 3 members will be drawn from persons nominated by particular non-government school authorities.
Presumably those authorities in nominating the 3 members proposed under clause 4a (c) would have to consider whether the persons concerned were likely to be available full time. Such a restriction adds a further difficulty, as the Government sees it, in the establishment of an effective Schools Commission. The appointment of up to 3 full time members in addition to the Chairman is one of the measures proposed to take account of the greater complexity of operations in respect of schools as compared with universities. The considerations which determine the selection of a full time member are often quite different from those applying to a part time member. The Minister needs greater flexibility than this amendment will give him. For those reasons the Government opposes the proposal. However, as I have indicated, we realise that the weight of numbers in this chamber on this aspect is against us. While expressing our opposition, it is not my intention to divide the Committee.
– This proposed amendment illustrates as well as any others the hamstringing effect this pattern of amendment will have on the Government’s plan for setting up a Schools Commission. The effect of the proposed amendment is that one of the 3 full time members of the Schools Commission will be a person who is appointed upon the recommendation of the Education Executive of the Episcopal Conference of Australia, the National Council of Independent Schools, or the Australian Parents’ Council. I do not suggest that there may not be among those bodies a person competent to fill the role of a full time member of the Schools Commission. However, one hopes that this highly important body will have as its full time members- that is the Chairman and three others- the very best people in education in Australia. I submit that the Government should not be limited, hamstrung or hindered in any way in its task of seeking out for those 4 important positionsthe Chairman and the 3 other full time members- the very best qualified persons in Australia. But, if it is to be compelled, in advance, to make one of those full time members a person who comes from these restricted spheres, I suggest that we are, or he may be, impairing the excellence of the full time section of this Commission by imposing such inflexible rules on the Government in its choice of full time members.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 1 1 -by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
5 ) At a meeting of the Commission-
For the purposes of sub-section (5), the membership of the Commission shall be deemed not to exceed seven at any time if the number of members, in addition to the Chairman, prescribed for the purposes of sub-section 4 (2) at that time does not exceed six.
– In relation to clause 12 certain consequential amendments result from the increase of the size of the Commission from 12 members to 15 members. Clause 12 deals with the meetings of the Commission. It provides:
It then goes on, in sub-clauses 5 and 6, 2 provisions with which we wish to concern ourselves. Sub-clause (5 ) provides:
At a meeting of the Commission-
If the membership of the Commission does not exceed seven- a quorum is constituted by not less than three members; or
if the membership of the Commission exceeds seven but does not exceed nine- a quorum is constituted by not less than four members; or
in any other case- a quorum is constituted by not less than five members.
As the Commission will now comprise 15 members, these provisions become redundant. In a moment I shall formally move for the omission of sub-clause 5 relating to the variables depending on the size of the Commission. Sub-clause (6) provides:
For the purposes of sub-section (5), the membership of the Commission shall be deemed not to exceed seven at any time if the number of members, in addition to the Chairman, prescribed for the purposes of sub-section 4(2) at that time does not exceed six.
Again, this is a matter which is relevant if one is not sure how many members there will be on the
Commission. As we now know how many members there will be- that is, 15- we wish to delete both these sub-clauses and to insert a subclause which will provide specifically for the quorum. I therefore move:
Leave out sub-clauses (5) and (6), insert the following subclause:
At a meeting of the Commission a quorum is constituted by not less than eight members. ‘.
There being 1 5 members of the Commission, 8 members- just over half of the Commissionwill constitute a quorum. This is a reasonably normal proportion for most such bodies.
– As this is consequential to the amendment which was moved by my Party, naturally we will support it.
– The Government opposes the amendment. I agree with Senator McManus that it is merely a consequential amendment as a result of a decision of the Committee yesterday. However, Senator Rae seemed to assume that the Government automatically would accept that there would be a Commission of 15 members as proposed yesterday in the amendment. I do not want the honourable senator to think that the Government will accept automatically the Committee’s decision of yesterday. This being a consequential amendment, I again indicate the Government’s opposition to it; but, knowing that the combined Opposition in this chamber will vote against us, it is not my intention to call for a division on this amendment. I have indicated to both Senator Rae and Senator McManus that it is my intention to call for a division on the next amendment to be moved by Senator Rae.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
( 1 ) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:-
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to-
the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children;
For the purpose of the performance of its functions, the Commission-
shall consult with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting non-government schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary; and
-The first amendment which I propose to move to this clause will take a little longer to explain. The clause with which we are now concerned deals with the functions of the Commission. It is of some interest to note that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said, as reported at page 1636 of the House of Representatives Hansard:
I draw the attention of honourable members to a number of the functions with which the Commission is charged because they indicate matters which are important in the field of education.
I emphasise the words ‘because they indicate matters which are important in the field of education ‘. That is a statement with which the Opposition certainly agrees. The functions of the Commission do indicate matters of considerable importance- very great importance- in the field of education. Accordingly, we wish to pay some attention to the exact drafting of the functions of the Commission. Clause 13 provides:
I pause there to remind honourable senators that the function of the Commission is not administrative. It has been stated by the Minister for Education in his second reading speech and by the Karmel Committee that the function of the Schools Commission is to be not administrative but advisory, of necessity involving what might be regarded as an investigatory aspect and apparently also involving the gathering of statistics. But, other than in those respects, its function is stated, and has been stated repeatedly, to be not administrative. The first function set out in the Bill reads as follows:
In the Karmel Committee report, at pages 135 and 136, the question of consultation was dealt with. I quote the following from the Karmel Committee report because I think it sets out some pertinent comments:
The Committee believes that widespread consultation will be vital to the successful work of the Commission, especially with education authorities and parent and teacher organisations. In addition to those persons and organisations with whom the Commission’s field officers, Committees and Regional Boards will consult, the Commission itself will need to develop a close liaison with the other educational, social and cultural Commissions and agencies of the Commonwealth and State Governments and with those authorities concerned with community and individual welfare, including the appropriate Commonwealth and State bodies.
One finds it hard to think of that in any restricted sense. It is quite obvious that in making its recommendations to the Government the Karmel Committee saw the need for consultation as being a very wide need indeed. We believe, therefore, as the Minister himself said- and recognising that the functions as set out in the Bill indicate matters which are important in the field of education and recognising the stress which was placed by the Karmel Committee on the importance of consultation- that the consultation should in fact be spelt out in much more detail than is the case in the draft Bill. Accordingly I move:
We believe that that as a wording of the first function of the Commission is more desirable, more comprehensive and more in accord with both the recommendations of the Karmel Committee and the desires of the Australian people and of the State governments- which are, as we have mentioned already, directly concerned with the administration of so much of the education in Australia- than is the provision drafted by the Government. I draw attention to several small aspects of change. The first is this: .The Government’s Bill provides for the establishing of acceptable standards. One immediately asks: ‘Acceptable to whom? Acceptable to the people in relation to whose administrative area the recommendation is being made?’ Is it to be acceptable to the government schools, the State Education Departments, the non-government schools, and those who have done research in relation to it? Because of the use of the word ‘acceptable’ one does run across the problem of definition. So we would see it as being desirable to change that definition to ‘desirable standards’. In other words, it is something which is wholly for the advisory body- the Schools Commission- to decide after consultation, lt will be able to say: ‘We believe these are the desirable standards which should be achieved’.
The second point to which I draw attention is the inclusion of the reference to the various education authorities, that is, the State Education Departments, the Commonwealth education authorities in the Territories, the responsible authorities in relation to non-government schools. Parent and teacher organisations are mentioned specifically in the amendment. The amendment provides for the widest possible consultation with these various authorities. The Commission will have consultation with such other organisations and persons as the Commission may deem appropriate. The Government’s Bill has omitted reference to some things which most people concerned with education would feel were desirable to mention. The Government’s Bill, as drafted, simply says:
We would see it as desirable to word it as follows: . . standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities at government and nongovernment primary and secondary schools in Australia, and the means and provision necessary for attaining and maintaining those standards;
In its Bill the Government simply says: . and means of attaining and maintaining those standards;
That makes no reference to what provision would be made by the Government to maintain those standards. So this is not an amendment which is in any way trying to cut across or to restrict I could use any of the other terms which have been suggested- anything which the Government may have in.- mind. Rather it is to make more comprehensive what is clearly an important- perhaps the most important- single function of the Commission. I would just note that the Australian Education Council, that is, the meeting of the State Education Ministers with the Commonwealth Education Minister, issued a Press release’ on 14 June 1973 which stated:
We note and support the Federal Government’s decision to consider further Chapter 13 of the report of the Committee. In this regard, the Council requests the Federal Government to afford the States the maximum flexibility in application of the funds to be made available within the programs there outlined, consistent with overall balance in these programs.
So the Council made quite clear at that time how important it regarded that the Commonwealth should give the maximum of flexibility in the application of funds. We simply take that up to say that it is important that there should be the maximum of consultation and co-operation, because if the Commonwealth is to do a successful job in relation to the improvement of the standards of education in Australia obviously it will need consultation and co-operation with those who actually do the work, that is, the State or the non-government schools, in relation to all school children other than those in the Territories.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party has given much thought to this clause, and we think that the amendment moved by Senator Rae adequately reflects our view upon this matter. We think that he has made a very strong case. He has pointed to a number of authorities. We will therefore be voting for his amendment.
– The choice of epithets is, of course, a matter of taste. Senator Rae had made some play out of the proposition that he wants our word ‘acceptable’ replaced by the word ‘desirable’. I do not think we should make too much of this. There does not seem to be such an awful gap between the 2 epithets. I suppose that when a man finds a wife acceptable it would be assumed that he also finds her desirable. I think we should not get bogged down in an argument about these words. I would think that in practice what was desirable would also be acceptable, and vice versa.
But a more serious criticism that I have to make in relation to this amendment is that it is totally unnecessary. One can only assume that the Opposition has not even read the Bill because everything, or almost everything, that it contends for in this amendment is already to be found in the Bill. What the amendment proposes to add is a stress on the need for consultation by the Schools Commission in carrying out its functions. I do not know whether the Opposition wants it to go out to the world that the Opposition alone is insisting that the Schools Commission should consult with the relevant authorities in the States and the Territories. But it is significant that the Opposition has not suggested the elimination of that portion of the Bill which already provides for that very thing. I refer to clause 13 (4) (a) which in clear and mandatory terms casts upon the Commission an obligation to do almost exactly what Senator Rae is suggesting. Just in case Opposition members have not read clause 13 (4) (a), I propose to read it to them.
– You may assume that we have read it with a great deal of detail.
-Why does not the honourable senator propose to eliminate it now? It is surplusage, is it not?
– It is not surplusage. What I referred to was the fact that the Minister stressed that the functions as outlined are those matters of importance in education. It is not included in the functions so far as the Bill is concerned. We wish to see it included in the functions.
– I can only assume once more that Senator Rae has not read the subclause concerned, which I still propose to read.
– That is not under the functions, is it?
– It is under the functions.
– Read it, then.
-Let me read it. Let me make clear to the honourable senator what he does not seem to be able to understand.
Clause 13 (1) reads
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:-
We then proceed to paragraph (a) which is the part of the clause that Senator Rae proposes to amend by including an obligation on the Commission in carrying out its functions to consult with certain people. But if we turn to clause 1 3 (4) we find that it reads as follows:
For the purpose of the performance of its functions -
What could be clearer than that? the Commission-
Not ‘may’- consult with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting nongovernment schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary;
I repeat that if that paragraph is to remain in the Bill it will be surplusage because it covers the same ground as what is proposed to be added to clause 13 (1) (a) by Senator Rae’s amendment. I just do not understand the plain meaning of words if that is not what is involved in this amendment. If Senator Rae has not read subclause (4) (a) -
– Do not be so stupidly offensive.
– Why is it not eliminated? Why does the honourable senator want to have both subclauses? Why does he want to say one thing in clause 13 ( 1 ) (a) and the same thing in clause 13 (4) (a)? No matter how he may protest I can assume only that this is a mistake that is made through carelessness. But the position created by the Opposition is even worse than that. In a further amendment it is proposing to eliminate another clause- the whole of clause 16- which in my submission gives even further guarantees of consultation as it stands. In speaking to this clause, I am not departing from the general requirement that consideration of Bills at the Committee stage we consider one clause at a time. It is necessary to understand the point that I am putting for me to refer to the other provisions in this Bill which cover this same general idea of consultation. Clause 16 provides that in addition to the consultation which is made mandatory by clause 13 (4) (a) which I have just read, for the purpose of assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions the Commission may, in relation to each State and Territory, establish a board or boards to be known as the Schools Commission Advisory Board to give advice to the Commission and to have represented on it the various groups and tendencies for which the Opposition expresses such a tender regard.
I am open to explanation from Senator Rae, but I cannot understand why he wants an amendment to clause 13(1) (a) unless at the same time he proposes the deletion of clause 13 (4) (a). I can assume only that the reason is not regard for the proper functioning of this
Commission but a purely propagandist aim to have the Bill go out to the world to show that the Opposition and the Opposition alone is concerned with having this Commission consult with various groups and tendencies in the community.
– The clause that is being debated and which is sought to be amended contains substantially the same functions as are contained in the clause which the Opposition seeks to insert by its amendment, with the addition that the Opposition’s amendment seeks to add a preface regarding consultation with the States and various authorities concerned with parent and teacher bodies. The Opposition regards this as important. If there is to be any repetition, overlapping or redundancy the Government will be faced with the interesting situation that Senator James McClelland has said that what we are proposing in the amendment to clause 13 ( 1 ) (a) is precisely in line with Government policy. He then must struggle, of course, to find the means by which he would therefore reject it.
– Because it is unnecessary.
-Senator James McClelland grows more and more prickly. It is a good rule of debate that when you are weak on facts and law all you do is pound the blooming table. He has given a pretty good example of that today. The logic of this debate is not measured by the decibel count of voice levels that Senator James McClelland has used to try to out-shout consistent argument. The fact is that the Government that he supports says and has said many times that what it proposes to do in this Bill is to carry out the principles as spelt out by the Karmel Committee. Nothing could be more in line with the principles of the Karmel Committee than the preface that the Opposition proposes to add to this amendment. Nothing could be more in line with the constitutional situation of the Commonwealth Parliament and the States than the proposed preface. Nothing could be more in line with the realities of education in Australia today and the desires of the parent and teacher bodies and the people of Australia to keep a decentralised system. I believe that it is quite important that the Senate should look to the Karmel Committee report and particularly to 2 sections of it which spell out quite clearly the recognition of a constitutional situation that education is and should remain a primary function of the States and also that there is an overriding virtue in decentralisation and devolution. I refer to paragraphs 4 and 5 under chapter 2 of the Karmel Committee report which is headed
Devolution of Responsibility’ and which reads as follows:
The Committee favours less- rather’ than more centralised control over the operation of schools. Responsibility should be devolved as far as possible upon the people involved in the actual task of schooling, in consultation with the parents of the pupils whom they teach and, at senior levels, with the students themselves. Its belief in this grass-roots approach to the control of the schools reflects a conviction that responsibility will be most effectively discharged where the people entrusted with making decisions are also the people responsible for carrying them out, with an obligation to justify them, and in a position to profit from their experience.
Many consequences follow from this basic position. In the first place, a national bureaucracy, being further removed from the schools than are State ones, should not presume to interfere with the details of their operations. Secondly, the need for overall planning of the scale and distribution of resources becomes more necessary than ever if the devolution of authority is not to result in gross inequalities of provision between regions, whether they be States or smaller areas. The role of the Australian Government in this operation is supplementary to that of the States, but its national responsibility may become increasingly important in ensuring an adequate level of resources and their equitable spread.
In quite clear terms the Karmel Committee spells out precisely the principle that is proposed to be written into the functions. The Committee goes on further than that in chapter 13 under the heading ‘Administration and Accountability’. This is the chapter which precedes the setting out of the functions of the Schools Commission and spells out some points that I want to read out. I should add that if they are taken in conjunction with the functions of the Schools Commission that the Karmel Committee spells out, we have in fact the spirit of our amendment. The Committee states:
The Constitutional responsibility for the provision of public education rests primarily with the States, as at present does the major financial commitment. The Committee believes that the Commission’s influence should be of a general kind and that it should not intervene in or interfere with the management of schools or school systems. As has been emphasised in Chapter 2, the Committee places great value on the encouragement of grass-roots developments in education, as local knowledge and initiative are more likely to produce effective educational experiences than fiats imposed from remote sources. Moreover the Committee’s attachment to diversity is an argument against a centralist approach to educational matters. On the other hand, the planning of the strategic development of education on a national scale, as distinct from its centralised administration, may yield many benefits in meeting the requirements of the twenty-first century. In the light of these considerations , the Committee has formed the opinion that the Commission should concern itself more with providing incentives for the schools to move in one direction or another, than with delineating a particular model of precise development.
If those quotations and many others from the Karmel Committee report are allied with the constitutional realities of the day we are describing precisely the amendment which the Opposition proposes.
– And what is already there.
-If indeed the Government argues that the . amendment is already partly or wholly contained in another section of the Bill how much more important is it that the heading of the section which refers to the functions of the Commission as such should it be spelt out. If that is so the Government clearly can have no particular argument with this amendment. Senator James McClelland says, in fact, that this amendment expresses precisely the Government’s intention. Therefore he can have no possible objection to the amendment and the logical place for it to be inserted is under the heading Functions of Schools Commission’. If he then thinks that there is a tautological error in this - that there is a redundancy- let him rise and move for deletion when the subsequent clause is being considered.
– Why should I?
– Because this is primarily a function as admitted by the honourable senator and as seen by the Opposition, so the logical place for the words contained in Senator Rae’s amendment is where he seeks to put them. I commend the amendment.
– The first thing to be said about Senator Rae ‘s amendment is that it is to be inserted in the correct place in the Bill. The amendment relating to this part of clause 13 spells out the functions of the Commission. We face the situation where for the first time in the Bill the functions of the Commission are delineated and here at this point, more than any other, is the correct and operable place for such a clause to be . inserted. The difference between the clause and the amendment is that these definitions as outlined in the clause are to be made in consultation. It is at this point of the Bill that this emphasis on consultation needs to be referred to the consultation with State departments and a number of other authorities listed in Senator Rae’s amendment which has been read out by the honourable senator.
The other important point to emphasise is that early in the Karmel Committee report the same emphasis on distribution of responsibility and authority is made. As already stressed in the Committee debate today, the Karmel Committee made it perfectly clear that, it favoured less rather than more centralised control over the operation of schools. The report goes on to emphasise the fact that responsibility should devolve as far as possible upon the people involved in the actual task of schooling. This is reflected in the amendment which contains the words: . . State Departments of Education, the authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory responsible for primary or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with authorities responsible for or connected with non-government schools in Australia, parent and teacher organisations and such other organisations and persons as it may deem appropriate.
Here indeed is the reflection of the Karmel Committee’s very early reference to responsibility and authority.
As far as the Karmel Committee report is concerned, our amendment refers very early in its terminology to the emphasis on consultation. Here again the Karmel Committee surely in one of its most important chapters of its report relating to the Commission has expressed the view very firmly that the Committee believes that widespread consultation will be vital to the successful work of the Commission, especially with education authorities and with parent and teacher organisations. Senator Rae’s amendment calls for this consultation with the organisations to which I have referred. The departments and organisations to which he has referred are highly organised. They are large and growing and they have a high diversification in their establishment. They are already in touch with parents, teacher and community groups and officers of the organisations work daily with the groups. These officers are people who are experts in design, programming or requirements but more importantly of course in organisation and development for the future. Plenty of people and authorities are already working in the education field. It is important that in this early clause of the Bill in which the functions of the Commission are delineated these details should be set out quite plainly and quite unmistakeably.
I also draw attention to the words contained in the amendment ‘as it may deem appropriate’. This provides not only flexibility of movement but also calls for responsibility on behalf of the Commission. This we know it will exercise. The amendment also gives the Commission the opportunity to have a better chance to make up its own mind after it has had consultation with authorities that are already in existence in the education sphere. Therefore it will not be subject to any situation in which it feels that it may have to take certain advice simply because it may have been given to the Commission by a body established by the Government or established under the Act. Where the Commission moves, as it will move, freely under this amendment it will have the opportunity with a greater degree of freedom to make its own decisions. I support the amendment.
– I have already indicated on behalf of the Government that I intend dividing the Committee on this amendment proposed by Senator Rae because this is the first of the amendments moved by Senator Rae that relates to the functions of the Commission. The previous amendments that he has moved have been related to the composition of the Commission. We debated the principal amendment that he moved and which Senator McManus moved in that regard at length yesterday. The amendment that was moved by Senator McManus was in fact carried by the Committee. The other amendments which have been put by the Opposition today in the main were of a consequential nature to Senator McManus’ amendment yesterday. However, this is the first amendment that has been moved by the Opposition relating to the proposed functions of the Commission and if it is not a further emasculation of the Government’s Bill certainly we would regard it as a mauling of the Bill.
– That is not what Senator McClelland says.
– Well, if it is not what Senator James McClelland says it is what this Senator McClelland says. It is a mauling of the Bill.
– Will the honourable senator give his reasons?
-Dear me, I have been on my feet a minute and a half and I have 13.5 minutes left to speak. I hope I will give the reasons.
First of all Senator Rae and, I think, Senator Carrick referred to a section of the Karmel Committee ‘s report at page 135 under the heading of Consultation’.
– I did too.
– I think Senator Davidson likewise referred to it. But I suggest that they look at paragraph 13.3 of the Karmel Committee’s report which sets out the functions of the Schools Commission. Subparagraph (a) states that one of the suggested functions of the Schools Commission should be: to determine acceptable standards for primary and secondary schools …
Clause 1 3 ( 1 ) of our Bill states:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:
the establishing of acceptable standards . . .
Therefore clause 13 (1) (a) of our Bill allocates to the Commission as its first function the establishing of acceptable standards at government and non-government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia together with a means of attaining and maintaining those standards.
– What do the 2 paragraphs of the Karmel Committee report which appear before paragraph 13.3 say, Mr Minister? Are they not exactly in line with what is put forward by the Opposition amendment?
-The honourable senator has read to the Committee paragraph 1 3.2 which appears under the heading ‘Administration and Accountability’. I have just read to the honourable senator what the Karmel Committee suggested should be the first function of the Schools Commission. The Government in its Bill has said that the very first function of the Schools Commission should be that which is recommended by the Karmel Committee. All the tautology in the world will not convince the Government otherwise. The suggestions of the Karmel Committee that the Schools Commission should determine acceptable standards is spelt out in black and white in paragraph 13.3 under the heading ‘Functions of Schools Commission’ of its report. Virtually all we have done has been to replace the words ‘To determine ‘ with the words ‘The establishing of.
The very first thing that the Schools Commission has to do if it is to operate successfully in the determination and assessment of needs is to determine what are the standards. The amendment moved by Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition limits the role of the Commission in that it requires the Commission to give the definition of desirable standards. The amendment also adds a further qualification in that this action should be carried out in consultation and co-operation with government and nongovernment school authorities and so on. Although the amendment emphasises the need for consultation it ignores the fact, as was pointed out by Senator James McClelland, that clause 13 (4) (a) of the Bill makes a specific requirement for consultation. Clause 13(4) states:
For the purpose of the performance of its functions, the Commission-
shall consult with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the
Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting nongovernment schools in Australia, and -
I interpolate here to say that this is the answer to the point made by Senator Davidson- may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission -
Not as the Minister or anyone else- thinks necessary; and
The clause then goes on to say that the Commission may undertake and cause to be undertaken research and matters of that nature. So here in this Bill, as the Karmel Committee has set out what the functions of the Schools Commission should be, we too set out those functions.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting there had been a debate on the amendment moved by Senator Rae, on behalf of the Opposition, to clause 13 which deals with the functions of the Schools Commission. In replying on behalf of the Government, I had put the argument that the amendment moved by Senator Rae sets out to limit the role of the Commission to the definition of desirable standards whereas the Bill provides for the establishing of acceptabe standards. True it is that Senator Rae’s amendment adds the further requirement that the action be taken in consultation and co-operation with government and non-government authorities; but the second point about consultation seems to ignore the fact that already in clause 13.(4) (a) there is a specific requirement for consultation. I also alluded to that matter before dinner.
In short, the words used in the Bill have been chosen to demonstrate the Government’s intention to appoint an independent expert advisory body to assist the Australian Government in developing a national program for improving the quality of the education system and to recommend to the Government the nature and extent of the financial assistance it ought to make available to the States for both government and nongovernment schools. In the Australian Labor Party speech for the last election we said that we would embark upon the establishment of a Schools Commission along the same lines as the conservative governments had embarked upon the establishment of the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. By referring to the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Act 1971, particularly section 13 dealing with the functions of the Commission and section 14 dealing with the performance of the functions of the Commission, it will be seen that we have set out in this Bill to enact somewhat similar legislative requirements.
As I said earlier, we say that this is yet another attempt by the Opposition to water down- I think I used the term ‘maul’ earlier- the national initiative of the Government in improving education throughout Australia which certainly was put to the electorate by the Labor Leader, Mr Whitlam, during the course of the last election campaign and which certainly was endorsed by the electorate last December. The Government does not accept- indeed, it vehemently opposes- the amendment moved by Senator Rae. Because this is the first of his amendments which deal specifically with the functions of the Commission and because the Australian Democratic Labor Party has indicated that it supports the Opposition on this amendment, it is my intention to call for a division on this amendment.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Rae’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Rae’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– As a further amendment to clause 13, 1 move:
Leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph:
The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs and to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia;
Clause 13 relates to the functions of the Schools Commission. I remind the Committee that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), in his second reading speech, said that the functions of the Commission ‘indicate matters which are important in the field of education’. I shall draw attention to the Government’s proposals in this Bill and to the Karmel Committee’s recommendations, and then I shall state our proposal. Clause 13(1) states:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:
The needs of such schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities, and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs.
This paragraph is a marked example of the Government’s failure to refer to the interests of students. The Government refers to the needs of schools, not the needs of students. It refers to a much overrated political slogan, in my submission, this question of needs. Of course we are all concerned with needs, but we are concerned with what is needed to make education of the greatest value, of the greatest availability and of the highest standard for students in Australia. We should not look to the needs of schools as such. I draw attention to chapter 1 3.3 of the Karmel Committee report, which states:
The Committee suggests that the Schools Commission should have the following functions:
to inform the Minister, either at his request or on its own initiative, on the needs of primary and secondary schools throughout the nation.
I assume that the Karmel Committee, in the haste with which it prepared the report, omitted to give some thought to the interests of students as opposed to the interests of schools. The Government, perhaps equally in the haste with which it prepared the legislation, forgot to give consideration to the needs of students as opposed to the needs of schools. So the Opposition, having had the time that it has had to consider this matter, has come to the conclusion that it is certainly necessary to make specific reference to the needs of the students. Our amendment seeks to insert the following paragraph:
The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs and to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia.
Our suggestion is that the paragraph does not change the meaning of the Government’s wishes but makes it far clearer that the paragraph extends to students and to the needs of students. I refute entirely the scurrilous allegation which has been made against the Opposition, not by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) but by some sections of the Press and by some interested people, that the Opposition is in some way intending to kill the consideration of the needs of pupils in Australia. We are quite happy to improve the provision. We draw attention to the needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of ‘buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities and teaching aids’, the last mentioned matter being omitted by the Government. Apparently it is not concerned about teaching aids or in its haste it overlooked them. We would have thought that teaching aids would be an important matter for the permanent Schools Commission to consider. We think it important that it also have regard to the quality of education so that not only will it have regard to the needs in physical form but also to the needs of students in relation to the quality of education. We therefore wish to write into the Bill the words requiring that the Commission’s functions shall have regard to the improvement of the quality of education available for primary and secondary school students in Australia, perhaps a striking omission on the part of the Government. Apparently it did not think to include this matter. 1 would not for a moment think that the Government would not agree that it is the needs of students about which it is concerned and I cannot for a moment think that it is not interested in improving the quality of education in Australia. I simply submit to the Committee that our amendment is clearly designed to improve the Bill. In no way does it reduce the Commission’s functions or inhibit the Government’s actions or likely actions as a result of any advice. It is simply designed to help the interests of education in Australia.
– Again tonight we have heard Senator Rae saying on behalf of his Party some tilings about the Government and the allegations that the Government has made about members of the Opposition in regard to this Bill. I think it is important that we place on record some of the things that have been said. I suggest that this amendment does nothing to improve the structure of the Bill. When we hear Senator Rae say that no members of the Opposition have ever said one word about this Bill, it is rather nauseating to read what they have said. I want to refer, if I may, to some of those things. I refer to what was said on this matter by Mr Giles, the honourable member for Angas in the other place. On page 934 of Hansard he reported as having said, straight out: 1 warn to say right from the word go that I am against the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission for very many reasons. The first reason I put forward to the House is the problem of centralised control. I do not think it is in the best interests of education as such to have this device which purports to produce priorities of expenditure within the schooling systems in Australia, centralised in Canberra.
In other words, he bitterly opposed this legislation and the establishment of the Schools Commission.
– What page are you reading from?
– I will go a little further. At page 935 Mr Giles is reported as having said:
I say that in contradistinction to the centralised view of an Australian Schools Commission. I think it would be a move in the wrong direction.
That was what Mr Giles said and he is a fairly important member of the Liberal Party.
– I rise to take a point of order. I asked from what page of Hansard the honourable senator was quoting. I believe that if quotations are to be given they should be specified clearly.
– I thought I did so. I referred to page 934 and page 935 of the debate in the other place on 21 March 1972. 1 will be quite happy, Mr Chairman, to table the reference if requested to do so. Let us consider what was said by Mr Nigel Drury. I use the christian name, Mr Chairman, for identification purposes. At page 929 of Hansard he was reported as having said:
Each State government has the right to determine its own priorities and it is clear from the records that most State governments give education a high priority. That is fortunate.
Whether this would continue under a centralised system of education such as that advocated by the Australian Labor Party amendment in terms of setting up an Australian Schools Commission is, I believe, extremely doubtful.
– What is the relevance of that to this particular amendment?
– It is not relevant at all! That is right. Let me refer to what was said by Senator Carrick.
-Order! Senator Milliner, I want to draw your attention to standing order 416 which requires that any allusion to a debate in the House of Representatives must be relevant to the debate. In this case we are having a debate in Committee and that relevance is narrowed to the clause we are discussing. I trust that you will bear that in mind.
– I will, Mr Chairman. I will bow to any ruling you make but, with respect, Senator Rae in introducing this amendment referred to some of these issues and, in relation to government attitudes.
– I trust you will not canvass my ruling.
-Certainly not, Mr Chairman. With regard to Senator Carrick, I refer to the debate on 23 March 1 972 in which he is reported as having said:
Against the 2 intentions of these Bills the Australian Labor Party seeks to intervene an amendment which is of massive significance and massive intention by way of alteration of the whole concept of education as it exists today in the Commonwealth and in the States.
– I rise to take a point of order. We have had the second reading debate. My point of order is that the honourable senator is canvassing matters which may well have been relevant to the second reading debate. They may have been relevant to questions associated with the composition of the Commission. But we have gone far past that stage and are now talking about the functions of the Commission. It is my submission that Senator Milliner is taking us back with a degree of irrelevancy that can only prolong this matter very substantially. It will certainly draw forth a very strong response from this side of the chamber, bearing in mind the total misrepresentation as to date and statements clearly made by me on a number of occasions that the Opposition accepts that the Government has a mandate to introduce legislation, notwithstanding the fact that until such time as it obtained that mandate there was opposition by the Liberal Party and the Country Party to the creation of an Australian Schools Commission. We no longer oppose it. We simply say that there is a mandate.
– Order! I think that the honourable senator has gone beyond his point of order.
– Certainly. I am simply saying that this has been stated and that Senator Milliner is introducing irrelevancies.
– I have ruled already on this matter. The Standing Orders are very clear. Senator Milliner may not refer to matters debated in the House of Representatives unless they fall within the limits of the clause. Senator Milliner, I must ask you not to persist in a general debate rather than a Committee debate.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman.
– He can waste the time of his Government if he wants to.
– Does Senator Little want me to comment on him? Mr Chairman, I bow entirely to your decision and conclude by saying that members of the Opposition opposed the establishment of the Schools Commission before the election. They opposed it in the House last year. They are setting out to destroy the concept which they now say they believe in.
– I think that there is more clarity in the amendment moved by Senator Rae. lt commends itself to me because in my view it gives a clearer and more comprehensive statement of what should be done. The other reason that it commends itself to me is that I think that there is a point behind this matter. We suggest that the Commonwealth should give justice to students rather than to schools. The overwhelming majority of the Australian people support justice for independent schools but there is a small minority who do not and that minority has threatened action in the High Court to seek a ban on justice for independent schools. It has made it clear that it thinks that it has a much better chance of succeeding if the Bill provides for assistance to schools rather than for assistance to students. For the reason that the overwhelming majority of Australians regard it as an act of justice to assist Australian children, whatever school they may go to, I think that this amendment is more comprehensive and clearer. The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support it.
– The key word and the word which should be emphasised in the amendment which is proposed by Senator Rae is the word ‘needs’. Of course it is also the key word in the Bill which is put forward by the Government. It is important to draw the distinction between Senator Rae’s proposal and the Government’s clause, which states:
The needs of such schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities . . .
The emphasis in Senator Rae’s amendment points out with great clarity and right at the beginning:
The needs of primary and secondary school students in respect of . . .
– In respect of.
– I remind the honourable senator that Senator Rae has referred to the needs of students. In the Government’s Bill the clause applies to the needs of schools in respect of buildings, equipment, facilities, etc. I take this opportunity to make a point because I believe that Senator Rae’s amendment in this area reflects what the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said during the debate on the second reading and, as he will recall, I referred to it in my speech on the second reading. The Minister placed great emphasis on what he called the quality of education. It is true that buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities make a valuable contribution towards the quality of education but I take leave to point out that when emphasis is placed on needs as the amendment points out, the needs of students in respect of these things- then the contribution made to the quality of education is much greater, more comprehensive, more easily understood and has a greater ongoing quality. That is why I think Senator Rae’s amendment is very important and why it deserves to be adopted.
– This amendment is a fine piece of hair splitting. It is hard to see how a government can devote itself to the needs of schools without conferring benefits on the students who attend them.
– Is that a serious remark?
– It is a serious remark and I will develop it.
– I am glad the honourable senator made it because it reveals the extent of the approach.
– Could I be allowed to develop my argument so that the honourable senator may attempt to understand? Senator Rae spoke constantly of the needs of students as opposed to the needs of schools. If he can explain in some supplementary observation how there is an opposition between the needs of schools and the needs of students attending them I will be delighted to concede that he is a superlogician. But up to now I am afraid I cannot comprehend the opposition which he attempts to draw between them. In any event our case is even stronger than that because if Senator Rae had bothered to study closely the rest of clause 13 he would have found that clause 13(3) paragraphs (b) and (c) states:
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to-
So the suggestion that our legislation ignores the interests of students which are in some way in opposition to the needs of schools does not even stand up on a cursory examination of the wording of the Bill. The Commission’s recommendations for assistance to schools in the States will result in grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Benefits which the Australian Government wishes to pay to students can be and will be made as direct Commonwealth grants under section 51, placitum (xx iiiA.) of the Constitution. As Senator Rae will be aware this provides under the amendment which was carried in 1946 that the Australian Government is able to make provision for benefits to students and family allowances. So what we are dealing with here is a division of powers under different sections of the Constitution. What we are dealing with in this Bill is a special purpose grant under section 96 to schools. Incidentally, in this Bill we also take cognisance of the special interest of students. But there is another section of the Constitution which enables us to confer benefits such as scholarships and allowances, which will be improved in legislation which will come before this Parliament and which will satisfy any demands which Senator Rae may see fit to serve on this Government to have regard to the needs of students as well as to the needs of schools- interests which, in his view, are opposed interests.
There is one other piece of hair splitting in which Senator Rae has indulged. He said, evidentally per incuriam, that the Government had failed to notice that attention should also be given to the matter of teaching aids. I draw his attention to the clause which he is attempting to amend and which contains these words:
The needs of such schools in respect to buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities . . .
Does Senator Rae seriously claim, in the light of the existence of those words in sub-clause (b), that this Government has overlooked the need to provide teaching aids? If he does he is going in for an almost Talmudic construction of the words of our Bill.
– The Government does not accept the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Rae. I indicated during the course of debate on the previous amendment that if it were carried we would express our opposition to these additional amendments relating to functions. But knowing that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has joined the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party so that if the Opposition amendment were put to a vote it would be successful, I merely lodge my objection on behalf of the Government to the amendment proposed by Senator Rae. I do not intend to divide the Committee. My colleague, Senator James McClelland, has already drawn the attention of the Committee to clause 13 (3), paragraphs (b) and (c). I also draw the attention of the Committee to clause 13 (3), paragraphs (a) and (f) which state:
I emphasise these words - in particular, shall have regard to-
That means all students - (0 The desirability of providing special educational opportunities for students who have demonstrated their ability in a particular field of studies, including scientific, literary, artistic or musical studies-
– Would the honourable senator agree that they are not in the functions provision of clause 1 3 but rather in a further portion of that clause which deals with what consideration shall be applied in relation to functions?
-With great respect to Senator Rae’s interjection I feel that he is being rather pedantic about the matter because as I read the words they are:
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters . . .
Therefore very much to the point in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the needs not only of schools but also of students.
– It is part of clause 13.
-That is so. If one refers to the Labor Party’s policies at the last Federal election one finds that we referred not only to the needs of schools but also to the needs of students and that concept. As enunciated by the Labor leader at the last election, which probably was the main part of the Labor Party’s platform at the last election, which was certainly highlighted and certainly opposed by the Opposition at that election, the Government now endeavours to implement in this legislation which the Opposition seeks to amend and has amended or emasculated or mauled. Mr Whitlam said at the last election:
We establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and nongovernment primary, secondary and technical schools.
All of that is written in to the legislation which we now have before the Committee. Naturally the Commission in the exercise of its functions shall have regard to particular matters affecting students.
The Commission’s recommendations for assistance to schools in the States will result in grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Benefits which the Australian Government wishes to pay to students can be made as a direct Commonwealth grant under section 51 of the Constitution. Therefore I suggest that nobody who has read the Government’s policy statements, especially the policy statement of the Prime Minister at the last election, in association with the report of the Interim Schools Committeethe Karmel Committee report- can suggest for one moment that the action which the Government is taking to assist schools will not be of direct benefit to students. Having said that, I say that the Government strongly opposes the proposition put forward by Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition; but, again, bearing in mind the vote that was taken on the last amendment and what is indicated as the attitude being adopted by the Democratic Labor Party we will not unnecessarily take up the time of the Committee by dividing.
Amendment agreed to.
-A further amendment is to be moved to clause 13. Again, by way of illustration I refer to the fact that clause 13 deals with the functions of the Schools Commission and that it sets out: 13.(1) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:
We have dealt with 2 of them, we now come to the third which is:
As the Bill is presented to the Committee for consideration, the Government is adverting to matters in connection with the grant by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to the States in respect of schools and school systems both in the States and also the application of money to schools in the Territories. It also includes matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance and the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted.
What is made quite clear in the last mentioned part is that it is contemplated that they should always be subject to conditions- rather an unfortunate situation, I would have thought, if that is to be implied on every occasion. Then comes the reference to the amount and allocation of any such financial assistance. Again, in the spirit of endeavouring to make the Schools Commission legislation workable and in the endeavour by the Opposition to make the Schools Commission a body which can and will contribute to the development of education and the interests of the students of Australia, we suggest that this paragraph should be re-drawn. I move:
In relation to this I would again draw upon the Karmel Committee report which in a great number of places relied on and gave great emphasis to the importance, as the Committee saw it, of the considerations of constitutional responsibility. This is what it said in chapter 13.2:
The constitutional responsibility for the provision of public education rests primarily with the States, as at present does the major financial commitment. The Committee believes that the Commission’s influence should be of a general kind and that it should not intervene in or interfere with the management of schools or school systems.
The Committee went on to say:
Moreover, the Committee’s attachment to diversity is an argument against a centralist approach to educational matters.
It went on to say later: the Commission should concern itself more with providing incentives for the schools to move in one direction or another, than with delineating a particular model of precise development.
It is my suggestion to the Committee that our amendment is far more in accord with the thoughts and concepts of the Karmel Committee than is the somewhat abbreviated version put forward by the Government in its Bill. We had regard to what was frequently referred to by the Karmel Committee, the need for flexibility and diversity. As I have mentioned, the rights and responsibilities of the States and of individual school authorities were referred to by the Karmel Committee. What, therefore, is contemplated is that the Schools Commission should be inquiring into and advising the Minister about the granting of financial assistance, which bears in mind these principles which were put forward so strongly by the Karmel Committee in its report and which I think are in accordance with what the Minister said on a number of occasions in his second reading speech. I would refer very briefly to two of them. He said:
The objectives of ensuring sound basic standards in all schools . . . Our approach is to establish commissions of expert, advisers rather than a vast centralised administrative machine . . . Diversity and innovation in education at the school level are desirable.
He said also:
The States will retain responsibility for administering their own educational programs.
He also made further elaborate remarks on the general concept which I think is far more clearly stated in our amendment than in the original draft.
– Again the Government opposes the amendment which has been moved by Senator Rae. Senator Rae has summarised portions of the Karmel Committee’s report, but the Karmel Committee’s report is basically on the range of attitudes to be adopted, and it certainly explains the need to develop and to expand the program that it contemplates. In addition to a further reference to students, this amendment now moved by Senator Rae on behalf of the Opposition also introduces the words ‘whilst recognising the desirability of maximum flexibility and diversity and the right and responsibility of the State and individual school authorities to determine the specific allocation of such financial assistance’, and so on. I suggest that this type of proposal embodied in the amendment is a matter more appropriate for consideration within the context of a States Grants Bill covering specific programs and proposals than in an Act laying down the charter for the establishment of a commission such as the Schools Commission. I am wondering, for instance- I ask it rhetoricallywhether this sort of provision is contained in the Universities Commission Act which was introduced by a conservative government or whether it is contained in the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1971 which was introduced by a conservative government. I hark back to the policy speech of the Labour Party at the last election, which states:
The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education . . .
We believe and we say that under section 96 of the Constitution the Australian Parliament is entitled to attach conditions to its grants. The proposals from the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission which have now been incorporated in the States Grants (Schools)
Bill, which has been introduced in another place, emphasise the need for flexibility and freedom of choice for government and non-government school authorities. Again, having stated the Government’s case on this aspect, I emphasise that we strongly oppose the further milking of our legislation to establish a Schools Commission. However, because obviously sheer weight of numbers is against us in this place, it is not my intention to divide the House. We have already divided and tested the Committee on the related issues earlier this evening. We oppose the amendment put forward by the Opposition.
– Once again the words which the Opposition seeks to import into this sub-clause of clause 13 illustrate its true feelings about the establishment of the Schools Commission which, in defiance of its history, it now pretends not to oppose. The gravamen of the amendment is contained in the words which have been read to the Senate by Senator Douglas McClelland, namely, ‘the right and responsibility of the State and individual school authorities to determine the specific allocation of such financial assistance . . .’ This, in my opinion, is an attempt to break down the clear power conferred on the Australian Government by section 96 of the Constitution, which is a power to grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. There is a series of High Court interpretations of this action which makes it clear beyond peradventure that the Australian Government is entitled to attach whatever conditions it thinks fit to grants under section 96. Indeed previous governments- Liberal-Country Party governments- have attached such conditions to its grants and they have insisted that those conditions be adhered to. I would like to ask Senator Rae whether he has in contemplation by the insertion of these words- that is, if they are to mean anything other than a pious wish- that the Schools Commission could make a grant to a particular school specifying that it should be used for a new classroom but presumably it would be permissible for that school to spend the money on a swimming pool. If the words which he proposes to insert in that subclause mean anything, that is what would be possible. For that reason we reject this amendment.
– Here we have really a conflict as to which form of words is better and is more in keeping with our aspirations to assist education in this country. The amendment which has been moved by Senator Rae is fuller in its content than the relevant sub-clause of the Bill. I believe it is clearer also. I think it does more to indicate the desire of Parliament to assist the cause of education in relation to these matters. I do not agree with the suggestion just made by Senator James McClelland when he said that there is a clear constitutional power for the Government to do the things it wants to do and that this legislation would break down that power. Senator James McClelland, of course, knows that legislation cannot break down the power of the Constitution. Legislation is governed by the Constitution, and if the Constitution says that the Commonwealth can do a certain thing legislation cannot prevent the Commonwealth from doing that. So I am not impressed by that argument. However, I do not want to delay the House. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has indicated that he feels that the decision has to be made. I will simply say that it is just a conflict as to whether one form of words is superior to the other. I think the rather fuller form of words proposed by Senator Rae is more desirable.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
By way of brief introduction so that people can be reminded of where we stand, I point out that we are dealing with clause 13 which provides that the functions of the Commission are to inquire into and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to the matters which are set out in that clause. We have just given some consideration and made some amendments in relation to those functions. Subclause (3) of clause 13 reads:
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to -
For the purpose of explaining the words which I propose to move by way of amendment, I shall summarise the position. Having set out in this clause what the functions of the Commission are, the Bill goes on to say that in the exercise of those functions the Commission shall have regard in particular to certain things, and those things are set out in paragraphs (a) to (g) in sub-clause (3). We wish to suggest some improvements in relation to the matters to which the Commission shall have regard. The first of those proposes that the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and, in particular, the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. I would seek from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) an indication of whether this part of the amendment will be opposed in view of the fact that in the debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives on 11 October 1973- this appears on page 1987 of Hansard- one of the speakers for the Government said:
Let me say at once that the Government gladly accepts the inclusion in this Bill of the extract from the Declaration of Human Rights from which the former Minister for Education and Science, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has quoted, embodying, as it does very thoroughly, the philosophy and statement of faith on which the legislation before the House rests.
He went on to say:
Although it accepts that amendment from the Opposition, the Government rejects the remainder of the Opposition’s amendments-
– Who said that?
- Mr Mathews, the honourable member for Casey in another place. I can send over the Hansard copy to the Minister if he would like to see it. I inquire whether I need elaborate on this amendment. I think that the need for it is clear. It is taken straight from Article 26, paragraph 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights. In view of the further fact that the Attorney-General and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) this afternoon introduced into the chamber a Bill for the total incorporation of the Declaration of Human Rights into the statute law of Australia, I cannot imagine for a moment that the Government has any intention to oppose this amendment. I will take it that unless the Minister says something to the contrary, I need not elaborate further-
– I think the honourable senator should take it that he should elaborate further.
– I will take the position as such notwithstanding the matters to which I have referred.
– I assume that on the honourable senator’s argument he will support Senator Murphy ‘s Bill.
– I have not as yet seen Senator Murphy’s Bill in detail. Therefore, I cannot comment. But I do know that it provides for the incorporation of the Declaration of Human Rights into Australian law. Further, I point out that the Declaration of Human Rights in this respect embodies a principle which I think has been accepted as an important principle, namely to avoid the possibility that there could develop in a country- one hopes that it should never be a fear in Australia- political indoctrination and the opportunity for the political education of children, where steps are taken which would mean that children were not obtaining the type of education which they or their parents might wish them to have. I was interested in a statement by the 3 federations in New South Wales which are a powerful group of people interested in education in Australia. The 3 federations consist of the New South Wales Federation of Infants School Clubs, the New South Wales Federation of Parents and Citizens Association and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. They made the following remarks in a joint policy statement:
While recognising the democratic right of people to educate their children in any system we believe that non-government schools should not be established or maintained by the use of public funds.
It is not the latter part, which I quote only for the sake of completeness, but the earlier part which is relevant to this amendment. So it is quite clear that those 3 powerful groups in New South Wales would all support the right to have included in the consideration of education in Australia that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children. We believe it is important to have as one of the matters to which the Commission should have regard the right available to every parent and every child in Australia not to be directed as to the form of education which they are to receive. This is a principle which we regard as fundamentally important.
Although I have put together in my amendment No. 10 the proposed new paragraphs (a), (aa), (ab), (ac) and (ad) it seems to me that perhaps we may make better progress if a debate were to take place on these amendments one after another. I will pause at this stage and rise later to refer to the others.
– I do not understand what the honourable senator means.
– I propose to the Temporary Chairman that having referred to this question of the Declaration of Human Rights- the amendment to insert a new paragraph (a) into clause 13-1 should later deal with the other proposed new paragraphs one by one.
– I would say that we take them together. After all, they are all interwoven into one clause and the honourable senator has not set them out as separate amendments.
– No, I have not. I mentioned that when I made this suggestion to the Temporary Chairman. I am quite prepared to do as the Minister suggests.
– If the Minister would prefer to follow this course, we may as well do so.
– I am quite happy to proceed on that basis. The next amendment suggested is the insertion of a proposed paragraph (aa) which would be additional to the paragraph that I have already sought to have included. It is sought to have this proposed paragraph inserted in place of the present paragraph (a) which reads: the primary obligation, in relation to education for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children;
I acknowledge that this is basically a statement of Labor Party philosophy and policy in relation to education. It is a matter on which I think there has probably been a difference of opinion between the various groups interested both in education and politics in Australia. I am not necessarily saying that the two are entirely divisible, either. But we would suggest that it is an improvement to state it in the following way: the obligation for governments to provide or assist in the provision and maintenance of educational opportunities for all children which are of the highest standard and which recognise the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and where provided and maintained by or on behalf of a government ensure that these opportunities are open without fees or religious tests to all children;
I recognise immediately and believe that I should point out to the Senate that the principal change there is the deletion of the word ‘primary’ in relation to the obligation. The Bill as drafted draws attention to the belief that there should be a primary obligation to provide government schools. It is our very firm belief as an Opposition that the obligation of governments which, amongst other things, require all children with a very limited number of special exceptions to undergo education, is an obligation of that government to ensure that educational facilities of the highest standards are available. It is not a matter of the government’s ensuring that all children attend government schools. I do not think that anyone goes that far. But once you go beyond that point, the question is how best do you describe it. Do you say that government has a primary obligation to provide for government schools? Do you say that government has an obligation to ensure that its assistance is available to provide the best standard of education, be it within a government school, be it within a nongovernment school which is related to a particular religious belief of the people who conduct it, be it related to a non-government school conducted by people who have particular views in relation to progressive education or be it a nongovernment school where people simply find it convenient, because of the absence of a government school, to group together to form a school which is of acceptable standard to the education department of the State which licences schools, as the Minister said in his second reading speech.
We believe it is a fair and appropriate way to describe the obligation of government to say that it is directed towards the provision of educational facilities. This does not say anything about what is the obligation in relation to funding them. What it says is that the obligation is for governments to provide or assist in the provision ‘ and maintenance of educational opportunities. The maintaining may simply be seen to be maintaining without necessarily taking over all or part of the funding.
The third amendment which we would suggest is that regard should be had to the rights and powers pursuant to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of the State governments in relation to education. As I have pointed out the Minister himself repeatedly said in his second reading speech and the Karmel Committee said at page 132 of its report that the constitutional responsibility does lie primarily with the States as does the present commitment. The members of the Committee did say that they were against a centralist approach in educaiton. We are simply saying that what they have accepted should be written into the matters to which the Commission shall have regard. I again draw attention to the fact that the Minister at pages 1635 and 1636 of Hansard of 27 September 1973 is reported as having made particular reference to this aspect.
I pass now to the next question which concerns the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunities in Australia. I was somewhat disappointed to find that research seemed to rate a fairly low level of appreciation by the draftsman of the Bill. This matter is dealt with in clause 13 (4) (b) which states, concerning the Commission:
But that is a different question. We believe the Commission should have regard, in the recommendations that it makes, to the importance of carrying out the functions which it has. It should have regard to the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunities in Australia. This we believe is important in the overall development of the grand design which it may be possible to produce for the improvement of education in Australia. The Commission simply cannot have that limited function which is referred to in clause 13 (4) (b) which states that the Commission may undertake, or cause to be undertaken, such research as it thinks necessary. It has to design research so that it can play a part in the whole of the structuring of education in Australia so that the recommendations which the Commission makes can be carried out at particular schools within systems in the various ways in which it is desirable.
The next and final point in this sub-clause which we regard as important is the maintenance of the improvement of the quality of education available to all the students attending primary and secondary schools. It may be that it is unnecessary to emphasise that, but it does not appear in any of the lists in which the Government has set out seriatim the matters to which particular regard should be had. We would have thought that this would have probably been one of the important considerations. The Government’s Bill does refer to the need to encourage diversity and innovation in education. It refers to the need to stimulate and encourage public and private interest. We totally support those proposals but for some strange reason the Government seems to have omitted the important item of the general improvement and quality of education. In relation to that, one can have regard to the importance of the standard of teaching, for instance.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support the remarks of Senator Rae. I think that this particular amendment is one that is crucial to the whole Bill. We have been told by the Government that its outlook is one of seeking to improve the general quality of education throughout the community but in the Government’s Bill we find that the children of this country are to be divided into 2 classes. The Government says that the primary obligation in relation to education is to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open without fees or religious test to all children. I was educated in independent schools but I taught for 19.5 years in State government schools. I have never been able to recognise any distinction between the children of this country on the basis of what school they attend. I disagree with the Government’s statement that there is a primary obligation to one section of our children. My attitude is that there is an obligation to all of the children of this country.
The Government is under an obligation, in my view, to see that every child in this country receives a fair go. For that reason I prefer what Senator Rae supports which is, in effect, that we regard all the children of this country as having equal rights and we give each of them justice. I am a bit surprised. I understood that the Australian Labor Party had decided to adopt that principle at its Federal Conference some years ago. Some members of the Labor Party have assured me that they believe in equal justice for all our children and that the only difference is, perhaps, in the ways in which the justice shall be dispensed. I think that the Labor Party is going back to 1957- in the days when it did not agree with justice for independent schools- when it states in this clause, in effect, that it will divide the children of the country. Those who go to one school will have prior rights and the Government will have a primary obligation to look after them while those who go to other schools will come second and receive what is left over. I do not think that that is what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) campaigned for at the last general election. I attended a lot of meetings and I heard him say that he was for justice for all the children of this country. I think therefore that Senator Rae has done the right thing in moving this amendment and I think it shows the spirit that animates the people of this country today. The gallup polls show that the people believe that all the children should be given an equal chance. The results of elections show that people who have campaigned on the basis of this kind of division have received a contemptuous vote.
They are the people who have tried to divide the children of this country into those who go to one type of school and those who attend another.
My final point is that the United Nations Charter of Human Rights states, as Senator Rae has pointed out, that the parent has the right to decide the school his child will attend. Senator Murphy introduced a Bill this afternoon which provides that that Charter will be incorporated in the legislation of this country. How can a charter of that nature be incorporated in the legislation of this country when the Government has a provision in its education legislation which contradicts the Charter on Human Rights? My feeling is that the overwhelming majority of the Labor Party approves the decision of a few years ago that the Labor Party will stand for justice in education. I believe that the Labor Party has made a grave mistake in once again putting forward this proposition that some children in the community have prior rights to others. Let us give them all equal treatment.
– Most of this debate has been conducted in fairly temperate vein but when Senator McManus referred to equality he reminded me that I am one of those who argues on the basis of the needs concept. Senator McManus referred to the experiences of his own lifetime. I have never questioned this idea of the needs concept. Without going into the question of the independent schools versus the State schools and similar fruitless discussions, I am reminded of the experience of a lot of people such as myself who ended their schooling between 1934 and 1937. In those days those who attended schools such as the Christian Brothers College and the De La Salle College in largely working class areas such as Burwood and Ashfield came from families the income of which was far below those of families with pupils attending independent schools such as the Riverview College where the famous Father Jordan has had so much to say on this present controversy.
After all, the long range objective of the present Government was to lift up all the needy schools, whether it be a public school at Erskinville Sydney, or the Christian Brothers College at Smithfield. I am instancing areas in which there are glaring inequalities. The Opposition is saying that the efficiency of schools such as Riverview College and Santa Sabina will be impaired after a period of 5 years in which the Labor Party seeks to upgrade all schools on to an equal plane. I do not accept that argument. I believe that the Opposition should acknowledge all the other schools that will be lifted up by their boot straps.
The Opposition talks about sacrifice. I defy anyone here to say that the incomes received by the parents of pupils who went to Riverview College, Barker College or Sydney Grammar School in the 1 930s were not far in excess of the incomes received by the gas workers and railway men who provided money for the Burwood and Ashfield Catholic schools which their children attended. As a socialist, I do not care what religion a person is; I believe in the needs concept. I repeat that the independent schools have accumulated a lot of economic fat. I am deliberately referring to schools such as Riverview College. I am not having a shot at members of the Australian Country Party when I say that some of the wealthy old boys of these private schools who had big estates in the western districts of New South Wales have made bequests to those schools; but I do not know of any gas worker or railway man who could or ever did make a bequest to schools such as Burwood Christian Brothers or Ashfield De La Salle. This is the problem that we have to face.
Senator McManus in his heart of hearts knows that the Catholic schools in the inner Melbourne area are far inferior to some of the schools that are attended by the children of high middle class or wealthier people. I do not scorn anybody, no matter what his religious beliefs may be, for being able to send his children to those schools. But let us be realistic about this. If a parent receives a high income, then let him pay for that education. After all, my father, as a gas worker and many other people did not get the opportunity to be company directors. I am indebted to my father for the little education that I got. But let us not blandly say that those people have to put the hand out again. That is absolute stupidity. I know that members of the Opposition have a different opinion and that they see this matter in a different light. But, whether they went to a state school or an independent school, I believe that they should see that the time is long overdue to redress the imbalance.
It sometimes happens that the incomes of the fathers of children who attend wealthy independent schools become such that they have to go to other schools which do not have the same amenities. This happened to many people in the late 1930s, and it probably has happened during other periods. I indict Father Jordan for making what I thought was an ill-judged comment in regard to this matter. I say good luck to those children whose parents are wealthy enough to send them to independent schools which have lovely grounds and other amenities. But they should not put their hands out and adopt a narrow and uncharitable attitude when we are trying to bring up to standard those schools which are underprivileged. If anybody went along with me to the All Hallows Convent at Haberfield in the Evans electorate he would find not only that that school is attended by children from low income families but also that the problem is compounded by migrant children. State schools in the Lowe electorate, such as those at Homebush and Concord, have some very difficult problems. These schools are attended by the children of Turkish migrants and others who have real problems.
Is the Opposition blandly trying to tell me that we should make available a massive sum of money, divide it by the number of schools and give all of these schools equal grants? This is just not on. I believe that all of the battling schools should be lifted up to an acceptable standard within the next 5 years. I can assure everyone here that, like Senator McManus, I have received letters about the very matter I am mentioning tonight. I fired my argument back to the schools concerned, whether they were Anglican schools, Catholic schools or schools in a high income bracket. I said to them that I knew what sacrifice was in the 1 930s and that it is time they tightened up their belts, if they have to, while the Government lifts up the underprivileged schools, whether they are private, independent or state schools.
– In addressing myself to this amendment, let me say that I think the points which Senator Mulvihill has brought forward are well understood. Many of us went through school at about the same time as he did, or perhaps a little earlier in the depression years, and we know something of the problems not only of sacrifice but also of schools in inner areas of cities. Therefore, it is altogether fitting that a piece of legislation such as this should give effect to the Declaration of Human Rights, which spells out in principle the very things that Senator Mulvihill was underlining with some effect. It is not without significance that in the second reading debate on this measure in the other place the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) said:
Let me say at once that the Government gladly accepts the inclusion in this Bill of the extract from the Declaration of Human Rights.
The honourable member then went on to elaborate on the proposed amendment. Those were his opening words. There is no mistaking the conviction with which he put them forward. Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is a worthy series of 3 paragraphs. It states:
I point out to you, Mr Temporary Chairman, and to Senator Mulvihill that in those lines there is the very essence of the kind of thing that Senator Mulvihill was putting forward in a manner which I understood and appreciated. Therefore, I say to the Committee tonight that it is basic to the establishment of a Commission of this kind that there be written into the Bill setting up the Commission something which provides its guidelines and directions and something which provides information and assistance as to the way it shall perform its task and carry out its responsibilities.
So, I give my support to this amendment which writes into the legislation article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights. If the Commission has any ideas of working towards the full development of human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, then surely we are all united in the belief that this Article should be included. Of course, when we talk about that particular measure, as well as subclause (a) of this amendment, we open up this matter of the prior right to choose the kind of education that any parent wants to give his child. So we talk about the freedom of choice. But when we talk about this we want to emphasise the right of choice. It is one thing to say that there is a right of choice, but we always have to be watchful that circumstances do not develop, in terms of either expenses or fees or things of this nature, so that this right no longer exists or is priced out of existence or seriously impeded.
Looking further to the amendment I take the opportunity to refer to the need for research into education standards, quality, variety and opportunity in Australia. Surely it must be acceptable to the Government, reflecting on what I believe to be its own views in relation to the United Nations Charter which has already been referred to in the Senate this afternoon, that there needs to be an emphasis on the need for research into variety and opportunities- ‘opportunities’ is the key word here- of education in Australia. If we look at the Bill we find the reference to research much further on than Senator Rae’s amendment provides for. Therefore I put it to the Minister that there is another reason whey he should accept the terms of this amendment, namely, the importance it will give to and the flexibility, direction and autonomy it will provide for the Commission. I hope that the Committee and the Government will look very favourably on this most important amendment put forward by Senator Rae.
-I wish to respond to a matter raised by Senator Mulvihill not in order to continue the debate but in order to make an explanation. Perhaps Senator Mulvihill ‘s implication was made through misunderstanding because he has not heard me say it enough so I will say it again. The Liberal Party of Australia for which I speak in relation to education does not assert that there is not a proper case for the provision of extra funds to overcome the disadvantages about which Senator Mulvihill was speaking. I simply want to make that quite clear to Senator Mulvihill and the Committee. Whilst there may be discussion and debate about across-the-board per capita grants or whatever else it may be there is no question so far as we are concerned that there is not a need in Australia for the provision of extra funds to identifiable areas of what the Australian Labor Party likes to call need as defined by its needs policy. I may use different terms but the concepts are similar.
– The Government does not accept the amendment that has been moved by Senator Rae. When you put the question, Mr Temporary Chairman, you will be proposing that the words proposed to be left out be left out. If the Government were to adopt that proposition it would plainly be denying the policy and platform of the Labor movement, this portion of which was first written into the Australian Labor Party’s policy in 1967, confirmed by the Party in 1969, confirmed again in 1971 and confirmed again in 1973. The ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ of the Australian Labor Party under the heading Australian Schools Commission’ states:
The Australian Government will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools and recommend grants which the Australian Government should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school-age children on the basis of needs and priorities.
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;
To ask me or any other member of the Labor Party to leave out of legislation that we introduce what is written into the platform of our Party frankly is asking too much.
Let me now refer to the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before the last Federal election in relation to schools. This section of the Bill is in complete conformity with that policy statement made by the Prime Minister. Under the heading ‘Schools’ the following appears:
The most rapidly growing sector of public spending under a Labor Government will be education. Education should be the great instrument for the promotion of equality. Under the Liberals it has become a weapon for perpetuating inequality and promoting privilege. For example, the pupils of State and Catholic schools have had less than half as good an opportunity as the pupils of non-Catholic independent schools to gain Commonwealth secondary scholarships, and very much less than half the opportunity of completing their secondary education.
The Labor Party is determined that every child who embarks on secondary education in 1973 shall, irrespective of school or location, have as good an opportunity as any other child of completing his secondary education and continuing his education further. The Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should give most assistance to those schools, primary and secondary, whose pupils need most assistance.
I am hoping- and I say this in all earnestnessthat Senator McManus in his remark was not attempting to whip up the old fires of secretarianism. This debate has been conducted on a very high plane and I am sure that Senator McManus will agree that in the Bill which the Government has presented to the Parliament for endorsement the Government has set out deliberately by proposing the establishment of a Schools Commission to provide for equality of opportunity in education for all children irrespective of school or religious denomination.
Clause 13. (3) states, and I repeat it for the benefit of Senator McManus in particular
In the exercise of its functions, the commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia . . .
Then we set out with particularity all the matters, seven or eight of them, that the Commission should take into account in ensuring that there is an improvement in primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia with a view to providing increases and equal opportunities in government and non-government schools. The Government believes that the purpose of these amendments is to water down the needs concept which is basic to the Government’s approach that was enunciated by the Prime Minister before the last Federal election and which was endorsed by the electorate. Specifically the Opposition sets out to deny the primary obligation of governments to provide government schools of high standard which are open without fees or religious tests to all children. It is, of course, a plank of the Labor Party policy that there is a primary obligation on governments to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standards open to all children. We do not deny that there should be an opportunity, as there is, for parents to nominate the school to which their child will go but surely no one can object to the basic cardinal principle that there is an obligation to ensure that an educational system is maintained at the highest level in schools of the highest standard, open without fee and without religious test to all children.
The various elements referred to in clause 13. (3) of the Bill which the Commission should take into consideration in the exercise of its functions carry a heavy emphasis on innovation, investigation and research. Senator Rae referred to the fact that research appears under clause 13. (4) (b) of the Bill and suggested that that provision could be widened. In the recommendations of the Karmel Committee under the heading ‘Functions of Schools Commission’ on page 133 the Committee suggests that the Schools Commission should have the following functions:
The Government has said in clause 13. (4) (b) that for the purpose of the performance of those functions the Commission, amongst other things: may undertake, and cause to be undertaken, such research as it thinks necessary into matters that relate to the functions of the Commission.
We cannot agree that the words proposed to be left out should be left out. They certainly are in conformity with the platform and policy of the Labor movement and this amendment is another watering down, another emasculation, of our genuine attempt to establish an Australian Schools Commission. We object to the amendment moved by Senator Rae. Despite knowing the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia and recognising that the Government does not have the numbers in this place, we cannot accept the amendment. Because there has already been a test by way of a division on an earlier amendment to this clause which relates to the functions of the Commission I will not ask the Committee to divide on this amendment.
– I ask the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) to respond to the considerable emphasis which was placed, during the discussion on this amendment, on Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as it relates to education. It was put forward strongly by Senator Rae, supported as I recall by Senator McManus and heavily underlined by myself in the quotation from the Declaration and in the quotation from the debate in the other place. I may be wrong, but as I recall it the Minister did not refer to this matter. Surely the Declaration of Human Rights as it relates to education contains points of view which are not only worth writing into legislation but also are worth a reply. I would be appreciative if the Minister would give reasons, particularly in relation to today’s events in this chamber and to the extract which I quoted from the debate in the other place.
– I feel that I should refer to one remark which was made by the Minister for the Media (Senator Senator Douglas McClelland). He said that he would not suggest I was trying to impart sectarianism into the debate, and I am glad that he said that. I point out that my statement was based on the fact that this clause says that the Schools Commission shall have regard to ‘the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems’. I said that the primary obligation upon the Government should be to provide adequate education for all children in the community. There is certainly nothing sectarian in the suggestion that we treat the children as a whole and not divide them into 2 sections according to the school which they attend.
Senator Mulvihill spoke about the needs question. I do not think that his speech was entirely germane to the clause. I mention to him what happened at a meeting at Festival Hall in Melbourne at which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) attended. It was made clear that not every child who goes to a government school has parents who are poor or in need. This question was posed to Mr Whitlam: ‘Let us take the case of 2 parents, each receiving the same income and each equally well off’. In Melbourne there are government schools such as Melbourne Boys High School, University High School and MacRobertson Girls High School which are magnificently equipped and are staffed by the best teachers in the State. Any child who goes to those schools will get an education equal to anything which can be obtained in the top class independent schools. The questioner said to Mr Whitlam: ‘Two parents receive the same income. One sends his child to the top class government school, and one sends his child to the top class independent school. Why should the parent who sends his child to the top class independent school have to pay hugh fees, and the parent who is in the same wage bracket but who sends his child to the top class government school not have to pay fees?’ Mr Whitlam ‘s answer was illuminating. He said: ‘I cannot answer that question’.
– In response to Senator Davidson’s question, I merely emphasise that Senator Rae’s amendment reads:
Leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3) . . .
As I have mentioned, that paragraph is a cardinal plank in the platform of the Australian Labor Party. The amendment continues:
By this amendment he is seeking the deletion of a paragraph and the insertion of other paragraphs. It is not so much the insertion of the other paragraphs to which I, on behalf of the Government, primarily object as it is the deletion of the paragraph from the clause. I am certain that no one on this side of the Parliament would deny people the right to adopt Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Rather than take in isolation that section of Article 26 which Senator Davidson read out, surely it must be accepted that the whole of that article relates basically to countries in which there is probably no education or very little education. Australia is blessed with a system in which education is compulsory. We believe that the deletion of the words proposed to be deleted by Senator Rae would not be in the best interests of this legislation. For those reasons we do not accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
In paragraph (a) of sub-clause (4), leave out ‘conducting’, insert ‘responsible for or connected with’.
This amendment again relates to the clause which refers to the functions of the Schools Commission. At present sub-clause (4) states:
For the purpose of the performance of its functions, the Commission -
shall consult with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the
Northern Territory responsible for primary education or secondary education in either or both of those Territories and with persons, bodies and authorities conducting non-government schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary.
We believe that the wording could be improved. We suggest that, because of the huge variety of non-government schools and because of the variety of administrative structures which conduct those schools, rather than use the term ‘conducting’ in relation to non-government schools, it would be better to use more general terminology to widen the opportunities of the Schools Commission rather than to keep them in the narrow form in which they are at the moment. Therefore we suggest that instead of the word ‘conducting’ the words ‘responsible for or connected with’ should be inserted before the words ‘nongovernment schools’. The clause would then read:
That makes it mandatory- . . with representatives of the States, with authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory . . . and with persons, bodies and authorities responsible for or connected with non-government schools in Australia, and may consult with such other persons, bodies and authorities as the Commission thinks necessary.
I give that brief outline. I imagine that if the Government continues to adopt the attitude that any alteration to the Bill is something to which it takes exception, the amendment will not need any further elaboration of our reasons. We think it is an improvement in the spirit of the Bill and in the spirit of making the Schools Commission work.
– This amendment merely relates to a difference of view as to which is the better choice of words. The question is whether the word ‘conducting’ should be used or whether the words suggested by Senator Rae, ‘responsible for or connected with’, should be inserted in lieu thereof.
– It was regarded as a matter of some moment by some of the people concerned who made representations to me.
– I assume that the Opposition regards it as important because it has moved the amendment. The Bill proposes that the Commission shall consult with authorites actually conducting nongovernment schools. The intention of the amendment appears to be to provide for consultation with persons having a less direct responsibility for those schools. If the intention is that the Commission’s consultations in respect of Roman Catholic schools are to be with the hierarchy rather than with the school authorities, the Government must reject the concept. The words in clause 13(4) (a) of the Bill permit consultation with other bodies and persons but require consultation with those who actually conduct the non-government schools. I am reminded that in legislation brought down by the previous Government, namely, the States Grants (Schools) Act of 1972, a number of definitions were inserted and the definition of school authority in that Act in relation to a non-government school means the person or body conducting the school. There is likewise somewhere in that legislation a definition so far as public schools are concerned. But certainly the word ‘conducting’ was used in the definitive section of that legislation introduced by the previous Government. We have adopted that attitude in this case. We believe therefore that this amendment relates to a mere choice of words. We believe that the word conducting’ is much more suitable than the words Senator Rae proposed. I suppose it is a matter of choice. However, bearing in mind that this matter comes within the overall functions of the Commission, we do not accept the proposition and intend to record our vote by way of voices against it.
– It seems relevant, in view of the fact that the Ministe for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) referred to other legislation, that I should indicate the value of a Committee debate such as that which has taken place in this chamber in relation to this Bill. Perhaps the Act introduced by the previous Government and which was referred to by the Minister could have been improved by this sort of discussion. I find it curious, on looking at clause 16 of this Bill that the words contained in the amendment I just moved are the words used by the Government in the drafting of clause 16. That clause relates to State Advisory Boards and refers to having consultation with ‘persons, authorities and associations responsible for, or connected with, primary or secondary education’, and what have you. The matter simply bears repetition and I direct attention to that fact. I think this proves the value of Committee consideration in which we are able to have the interchange of thought which is involved in the preparation of these amendments. As I indicated to the Minister by way of interjection, this suggestion was rather strongly put by a number of the organisations whose representatives called to see me to discuss this Bill. The Opposition accepted their representations that it was far more appropriate to use the words used by the Government in drawing clause 16 when they were applied in relation to clause 13 (4) (a).
– All I need say in reply to Senator Rae is that he will appreciate that clause 16 relates to the proposed responsibilities of the State and Territory Schools Commission Advisory Boards which have the overall responsibility of tendering advice not only in connection with government schools that might receive assistance but also non-government schools. It is a very wide and all-embracing term relating to a body which is an advisory board of a general overall nature. In the case of the amendment we are dealing with now, we are talking about authorities which, in particular, conduct non-government schools. We say that the two do not relate one with the other. In any event, I remind Senator Rae that subsequently he will be moving for the deletion of clause 1 6 of the Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
( 1 ) The Commission shall, at such times and in respect of such periods as the Minister directs, furnish to the Minister reports containing recommendations with respect to the matters referred to in paragraph 1 J ( 1 ) (c).
-Clause 14 deals with the question of reports. Sub-clause ( 1 ) refers to the question of financial assistance to the States in respect of schools and school children. Sub-clause (2) clearly states that the Minister for Education shall cause each report in relation to matters connected with grants of financial assistance to be presented to the Parliament. Sub-clause (3) means that the Commission may give any report to the Minister that it thinks fit and that it must give to him any report which he requires. However there is no provision in relation to the general operation of the Commission for it to report to the Parliament. The only such provision is in relation to the very limited area of its advice on the granting of financial assistance. The responsibility of this type of statutory commission to report annually to the Parliament has been well debated in the past in this chamber. There is a clear requirement, observed by the Senate many times, that such commissions have a duty to report to the Parliament and that the Parliament should ensure that those reports are made. The amounts of money on which the Schools Commission will be giving advice and the amounts of money which will be involved in the administration of the Schools Commission will be substantial. Questions may arise in relation to the administration of the Commission about which it would be appropriate that it should give an annual report to the Parliament so that the Parliament knows what is happening overall. I draw attention to the recommendation of the Karmel Committee. I read from paragraph 13.3 (j), which states that the Commission is: to report annually to the Minister on its operations, the progress of its programs, and the condition of the schools and to issue from time to time such other reports as the Minister or the Commission may judge desirable.
The Committee recommended a full annual report to the Minister. Perhaps its inexperience of the ways of Parliament led it to fail to refer to the fact that the report also should be tabled in the Parliament. I do not imagine for a moment that the Government would attempt to limit the right of the Parliament to receive such reports. As to the form of the wording, we propose that sub-clauses (4) and (5) be added. I move:
In relation to proposed sub-clause (4) I add for the interest of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), that this sub-clause, as I recall, was taken from the Broadcasting and Television Act and is in the general form in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is required to report. Proposed sub-clause (5) is regarded as most important by the Opposition because it is an expression of the right to dissent. We believe that where reports are being furnished to the Minister- some of which will be made public by the Minister and some of which will be required to be made public by their tabling in Parliamentany member who does not agree with the majority report should have the right to make known his views and his reasons for his dissenting from the majority view. The form of that clause is taken from standing order 3 1 1 of this chamber. I presume that it is in a form that is acceptable to this chamber.
- Senator Rae has referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission which comes within my immediate ministerial responsibility. He states that he has lifted, as it were, from the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act a provision which requires the Australian Broadcasting Commission to tender an annual report to the Minister who, of course, will tender the report to Parliament. But I point out to Senator Rae- I am sure that he will be the first to acknowledge this - that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, like so many other authorities, is a statutory authority established by Act of Parliament and the commissioners are appointed by the GovernorGeneralinCouncil upon the recommendation of the Minister. But here we are dealing with an advisory committee on education, not with a statutory corporation conducting an activity on behalf of the Government for which it is appropriate to require an annual report.
Clause 14, the subject of discussion, provides that the Schools Commission shall make periodical reports at times directed by the Minister and, in addition, shall make occasional reports at the request of the Minister. Of course, on its own initiative the Commission can make other reports to the Minister. The periodical reports are to be tabled in the Parliament as soon as practicable. This proposal in clause 14 is similar to the arrangements under which the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education operate. I think that in matters of this nature we should bear in mind that we should compare like with like rather than like with unlike. The honourable senator will appreciate, when I remind him, what Mr Whitlam said on behalf of the Labor movement in the last election campaign. He stated:
The Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt the same methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education . . .
This, as I have said, is similar to the arrangements under which the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education operate. Each of those organisations presents a report to the Minister. These in turn are presented to the Parliament. In the present Bill or in the Acts covering the other commissions there is no requirement for an annual report because, in addition to the triennial reports, the Minister will be obliged, under the various States Grants Acts- one of which has been introduced in another place- to report annually to the Parliament on matters connected with the operations of those Acts in each year. Under this arrangement it is proposed that the Commission will report periodically- say, every 3 years. Its reports will be published as a result of the Government’s decisions on those reports. States grants legislation will be enacted and will provide for annual reports in respect of the administration of the programs authorised by that legislation.
I am advised by the departmental officers advising me here that proposed sub-clause (5) in fact serves no purpose. It goes without saying that a member of a committee or commission is entitled to present a minority report. Perhaps in adding this quite unnecessary provision the Opposition is contemplating dissention within the Schools Commission as a result of its intention to convert it into what might be termed a meeting of pressure groups. The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by Senator Rae. Because it is in line with the previous matters relating to the functions of the Commission, whilst offering our opposition to it, it is not my intention to call for a division on it.
– It might be appropriate if I very briefly point out that in clause 1 3 there is a provision that for the purpose of the performance of its functions the Commission may undertake and cause to be undertaken such research as it thinks necessary into matters that relate to the functions of the Commission’. The Commission could create a whole research body administering huge amounts of funds. There is no doubt at all that the cost of this Commission will run into many hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is no doubt at all that the amount of money with which it will be dealing in direct expenditure will be substantial. Also, there is no doubt that its total operations will be of great importance and that the way in which it is conducted should be known to the Parliament.
It is totally irrelevant to try to compare the Commission directly with the Australian Universities Commission or the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. In this chamber earlier in this debate the Minister himself said that those bodies were different from this Commission in that they were smaller and there was a recognition in the Government of the much wider task which the Schools Commission will have in carrying out the functions given to it. I can only suggest that there is a difference between 10 to 20 universities in Australia- as there have been in the past few years- and 10,000 schools in Australia. The task is very different. The amounts of money involved in administration will be very different. In any event, whatever may have been the mistakes in the past in failing to have commissions report to this Parliament, I have heard the view expressed strongly many times by many honourable senators that reports should be made by such statutory bodies. I certainly put that view strongly. It was a view held by Senate Estimates committees in the past and subscribed to by the whole of the Senate when it endorsed a report of one of the Estimate committees of which I was chairman. Statutory corporations such as this are directly answerable to the Parliament. I take the matter a stage further and say that they should report accordingly.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16. 16. (1 ) For the purpose of assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions by providing, in each State and in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, means by which suggestions, proposals and information relating to those functions can be communicated to the Commission by, and the Commission can consult with, persons, authorities and associations responsible for, or connected with, primary or secondary education in the State or Territory, including teachers, students and parents of students, the Minister may, in relation to each State and each Territory, establish a Board or Boards to be known as the Schools Commission Advisory Board, or the Schools Commission Advisory Boards, for the State or Territory.
Senator RAE (Tasmania) (l011The amendment to be moved by the Opposition in respect to clause 16 is the simplest of all the 15 amendments which we have moved and shall be moving; that is, to leave out the clause. We regard the clause as unnecessary and burdensome. In fact, we regard the provisions of the clause as more likely than anything else to be destructive of the operation of the Schools Commission because what they provide for is the creation of a hierarchy which will duplicate the existing systems within the States and which will mean that it will be unlikely that there can be the feed-in direct to the Commission, and that it will be unlikely there will be the speed of operation which can otherwise exist because of the blockages which will be created. We would go further and say that the provisions for the State Advisory Boards may have been put in with some sinister view of having an even greater task than just assisting the Commission in the performance of its functions of advising the Government. But I leave that aside. The structure planned by the Government provides for State Advisory Boards, made up of an unspecified number of persons drawn from an unspecified number of areas, which shall have ‘such functions as are from time to time determined by the Minister’.
What an incredible proposition! I can remember the occasion when members of the Government when in Opposition would have almost torn down the roof of this chamber on seeing such incredibly wide discretions given to a Minister. If there was no other amendment which I wished to make to this clause I would certainly want to make that one. That is a matter which has caused great concern to some State Ministers for Education, a matter as to which I have had considerable representations made to me. But the general thing is that most would agree that it is undesirable that there should be such advisory boards acting as a block between the Commission itself and the people with whom it is concerned. We suggest that there should be an avoiding of this duplication of a hierarchal structure. What we should have is the enlarged Commission which we have proposed- a commission of 1 5 members, large enough to inform itself, as it is empowered to do, into subcommittees, to visit and to make first hand contact with the people with whom it is concerned to consult; and to obtain for itself first hand information so that it may through its own members- not through some feed-in system of a filter such as an advisory board- know what is going on in education in Australia and what are the needs.
We believe that a most important aspect of the Commission is to have direct consultation. There are in the States already a number of bodies such as the States Priorities Committees which can do an excellent job and the preservation of which is provided for in the States Grants Bill which has been introduced into the House of Representatives and which will be dealt with in this chamber in due course. There are already existing within the States a very considerable number of bodies which can act as appropriate feed-in bodies to the Schools Commission. But if we are to have an hierarchal structure in which there is at State level State Advisory Boards, then coming to God himself- the Commission- and then to the perhaps almightier God- the Minister- we are going to slow down the process of development of education in Australia and the accuracy of input of information and make more likely an increase in the bureaucracy which most people would wish to avoid. Without elaborating further what I think are the clear views of the Opposition as to the undesirability of this, and with the proviso that should it prove necessary at a later date and should the Government be able to come to us and say, ‘It has been shown that the Commission cannot work without some other structure’, we would be interested to hear how and why. Perhaps one of the reports that we require the Commission to give could contain such information if is found that it cannot work.
After a lot of discussion with State Ministers, State Directors of Education or their representatives and the representatives of various other people interested in education, it is our belief that this will be a definite and clear improvement in the workings of the Schools Commission, bearing in mind that the Commission is now increased in size to 15 members, thereby being large enough to have sub-committees to do the work which might otherwise have been done by the State Advisory Boards. I move.
Leave out the clause.
-The Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment moved by Senator Rae and our opinion reflects that which he has just expressed.
-Order! For your information, senator, there is no amendment. Senator Rae is opposing the clause.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman, I have taken over for a few minutes in the absence of Senator McManus. I understand the position. Senator Rae opposes clause 16 of the Bill. We support Senator Rae in that proposition. There is an unfortunate tendency today to believe that the proliferation of boards and committees can achieve all possible successes and can resolve every problem. That of course is a very dangerous belief and one which experience has shown operates in the contrary direction. As Senator Rae has said, the newly constituted Commission with its new type of representation and the increase in its numerical strength will have an opportunity to make close and continuous contact with the areas, geographical and otherwise, of education which it is its province to investigate and which would be its matters of great concern. ‘
I cannot believe that boards of this kind operating in this context would necessarily prove effective. Senator Rae said that experience has shown and does show that if the Commission finds it difficult to keep that close contact which is necessary the matter may have to be reconsidered. But I should imagine that the effect of the interposition of a board such as this would be to make the Schools Commission even more remote, that is the real danger because undoubtedly where an intermediary is introduced, the remote body will undoubtedly rely upon the information which comes from the intermediate body and if it were to trespass upon that field it might find a local resentment that it is intruding in an area which this other body regards as its province. We could therefore imagine that the Schools Commission might finally emerge only as a repository of filtered information that came to it from the series of boards which operate in these geographic areas.
We acknowledge the concept has stemmed from good faith and an attempt to improve the position but it is our firm and unprejudiced belief that it might have the contrary effect. Senator Rae has indicated that he and his Party are opposed to it and that the Opposition is opposed to it. We of the Democratic Labor Party feel that in all circumstances opposition is warranted and therefore we support the stand which has been expressed by the honourable senator.
– The Government cannot accept the proposition put forward by Senator Rae and which obviously now has the support of the Democratic Labor Party because this proposal of the Government, and the opposition to it by Senator Rae, relate to the very structure of the Commission, a matter which we debated at length last week and again yesterday. We say that this is a deliberate attempt to emasculate the effective functioning of the Commission.
– You keep calling me a liar and eventually I must take exception to it because I have stated that that is not a deliberate intention.
-The honourable senator has stated it. We say that there is an attempt on behalf of the Opposition collectively to emasculate the effective working of the Commission. We believe that this is highlighted by this proposition that clause 16 be left out of the Bill. After all that the Karmel Committee has said on the subject, after the Government has proposed a commission to consist of 12 people- the Opposition has been satisfied to amend the number from 12 to 15- the Opposition then says that we should wipe out all advisory bodies- advisory bodies which the Karmel Committee has suggested should be located in each of the States. I shall refer in some detail to those bodies. Because we genuinely believe that these bodies are essential to the effective working of the Commission, it is my intention to divide the Committee on this proposal.
I think Senator Rae said that several State Ministers for Education had expressed concern to him that there should be included a suggestion that a board shall have such functions as are from time to time determined by the Minister. The advice tendered to me by the educational advisers to this Government is that only one State Minister has expressed concern to the Federal Minister for Education.
– What is his name?
-He was the Victorian Minister for Education. I am advised by my advisers that no other State Minister has lodged an objection with the Federal Minister for Education in relation to this clause.
– Would you like me to table my correspondence?
– If the honourable senator wants to he can do so. They may have complained to him, but the advice tendered to me is that they have not complained or lodged on objection to the Federal Minister for Education. I am further advised that the DirectorGeneral’s conference on education has endorsed this proposition. But now the Opposition proposes to delete clause 16. This clause, as I have said, establishes Schools Commission advisory bodies in each State and Territory to provide at that level a widely representative group of people who can assist the Commission in the development of its ideas. The boards are meant to provide 2-way consultation with the Commission and to facilitate consultation with various education authorities, professional associations, teachers, parents and students. As is spelt out in paragraphs 13.6 and 13.9 of the Karmel Committee’s report, this arrangement as now suggested in clause 16 is an alternative to attempting to provide for the representation of specific organisations and groups on the Commission itself. Paragraph 13.6 of the Karmel Committee ‘s report states in part:
If teacher and parent organisations, as such, are to be involved in the work of the Commission, an appropriate place might be rather at the Regional Board level.
Paragraph 13.7 states:
Clearly, a number of the programs recommended by the Committee requires administration at a local level. Also, it is desirable that there should be feedback to the Commission from bodies that are more closely identified with local conditions than the Commission itself can realistically hope to be. Moreover, there appear to be advantages in involving more people in the work of the Commission than can be achieved through direct membership of the Commission. For these reasons, the Committee suggests that the Commission should have Regional Boards through which it can operate. Initially, there might be one Board in each of the 6 States.
In paragraph 13.9 the Karmel Committee made suggestions as to what might comprise the regional boards to which we have chosen to refer as State and Territory advisory boards. This proposal of the Government provides for direct participation at the State level by many more people than can be brought in under the Opposition’s amended composition of the Schools Commission. I think its recommendation was that the Schools Commission be comprised of 15 people. If the Government’s proposition in relation to the establishment of advisory boards is accepted by the Senate, rather than restricting the advice to 15 people the advice available would be widened if the recommendation of the Karmel Committee that there be about 80 advisory people were adopted.
During the next session of Parliament I, as Minister for the Media, hope to bring down amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act. A large number of advisory committees to the Australian Broadcasting Commission have been established throughout the length and breadth of this country. I dare say that if I, in my capacity as Minister for the Media, suggested an amendment to that Act to deletethe structure of advisory boards to the Broadcasting Commission I would be accused of watering down the effectiveness of that Commission. I say the same argument arises in relation to this matter. The Government cannot accept the proposition that there be no advisory boards. Therefore we oppose the amendment and I intend to subject the Committee to a division on the matter.
That the clause stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Clause 17 deals with the question of committees of the Commission. For the reasons which I outlined in relation to the deletion of clause 16, we regard the question of committees, particularly committees of the Commission itself, as important. It is interesting to note that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), in his second reading speech as reported at page 1636 of the House of Representatives Hansard, said that it was proposed that it should be possible: to appoint such committees of the Commission as are necessary from time to time to enable it to perform its stated functions.
The words of the Minister himself were that it was proposed to appoint committees to enable the Commission to perform its stated functions. But when we look at the provision in the Bill, we find that, no doubt by error, it does not provide for the Minister to appoint committees for the purpose of carrying out the Commission’s stated functions. Rather, it provides:
The Minister may, at the request of the Commission, appoint a Committee to assist the Commission in relation to a matter specified in the request.
No limitation is provided in clause 1 7 of the Bill as submitted by the Government which would accord with the object stated by the Minister for Education in his second reading speech. Accordingly, because we believe that it is important that there should be a clear relationship between the functions of the Commission and the function for which a committee is appointed, we propose that there be an amendment by which a number of words would be added at the end of clause 17( 1 ) which I have just read out. The sub-clause would then read as follows:
The Minister may, at the request of the Commission, appoint a Committee to assist the Commission in relation to a matter specified in the request provided that such request shall be related to the matters referred to in section 13.
In other words, we wish to see that the powers of the Minister are limited to the extent that he appoints committees which are related to the functions as defined in clause 13 of the Bill. I do not think that it is necessary to elaborate in great detail. It is a principle which is well known to all honourable senators that such powers as are given to Ministers by Bills such as this should be limited in regard to what the Minister may do in the exercise of the power. We wish to make it quite clear what he may do. The Minister for Education said in his second reading speech delivered in the House of Representatives that this was the intention of the Bill. We are simply making quite sure that the Bill carries out the intention of the Minister. I move:
At the end of sub-clause ( 1 ) add: ‘provided that such request shall be related to the matters referred to in section 1 3 ‘.
– The Government says that the words that the Opposition seeks to add appear to be quite unnecessary. Honourable senators will appreciate that the Commission has no power to deal with matters beyond its functions as laid down in clause 13 of the Bill. Therefore, the Government -
– This is a ministerial power, not the Commission’s power.
Clause 17. (1) states:
The Minister may, at the request of the Commission, -
I emphasise the words ‘at the request of the Commission’- appoint a Committee to assist the Commission in relation to a matter specified in the request.
The Commission will make the request to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). The Commission has no power to deal with matters beyond its functions as laid down in clause 13. We say that the additional words appear to be quite unnecessary. Therefore, we cannot agree to the proposition put by Senator Rae. I assume that the Australian Democratic Labor Party intends to support the Liberal Party on this matter. If that Party so indicates, I will not put the Committee to a division. If it does not so indicate, then I will divide the Committee.
– We are supporting Senator Rae’s amendment.
-That being so, we lodge our opposition, but I do not intend to divide the Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1 8 agree to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas
McClelland) read a third time.
– I have received the following message No. 216 from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate a Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to facilitate alterations to the Constitution and to allow Electors in Territories, as well as Electors in the States, to vote at Referendums on Proposed Laws to alter the Constitution’, in which it desires the concurrence of the Senate.
James F. Cope SPEAKER
House of Representatives
Canberra, 2 1 November 1973
The expression ‘referendums’ sounds odd to me.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 128 of the Constitution, the provision in the Constitution which lays down the way in which the Constitution itself can be amended.
– It is a Bill for a referendum to amend the Constitution, not a Bill to amend the Constitution, is it not?
-The purpose of the Bill itself is to amend section 128 of the Constitution and that can only be done by passage through 2 Houses, normally, and the endorsement of the people at a referendum; or, exceptionally, by passage through one House together with the endorsement of the people. Nevertheless -
– It is to provide for the holding of a referendum. That is strictly the position.
– It involves, of course, more than the holding of a referendum. This is part of the operative process. The operative processes require not only the holding of a referendum but also passage of the measure through both Houses or, exceptionally, through one House. This is part of the process. It is not merely the holding of a referendum but the endorsement of both Houses. It was properly described as I described it a little earlier.
Two changes are proposed to section 128. By the first, we aim to facilitate alterations to the Constitution by amending the requirement that, in addition to a majority of electors voting, there needs to be a majority of States in a referendum to amend the Constitution. The amendment will change the requirement to consent by voters ‘in not less than one half of the States’. By the second, we aim to give a vote in referendums- I am a little with you, Mr President, in finding this a bit harsh on the ears but I think it is the way in which it has been chosen to refer to it in the Bill, although I have some regrets about it. As I was saying, by the second, we aim to give a vote in referendums to the people of our mainland territoriesthe Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, and the Northern Territory.
The real difficulty is that the Australian Constitution has proved in practice to be extremely difficult to amend. Although 26 proposals for amendment have been put to the people since 1901, only 5 of these have been passed. I remind honourable senators that there have been no less than 26 amendments to the Constitution of the United States, of which eleven have been since 1900. After exhaustive investigation, the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1958, and again in 1959, recognised the vital interest of the people in proposed Constitutional alterations. In its 1958 report, the Committee observed: . . If a clear majority of the electors who vote at a referendum are in favour of a proposed law, their will should not be frustrated because separate majorities of electors have not been obtained in a majority of the States. It is, in the Committee’s opinion, more in accord with democratic principle and the developments since Federation that it should be sufficient to obtain separate majorities in at least one half of the number of States.
The 1959 report of the Committee had this to say:
Something should be done, in the Committee’s opinion, to reduce the excessive rigidity which experience has shown that section 128 possesses and the committee proposes that it should be sufficient to obtain separate electoral majorities in at least one-half of the States instead of in a majority of States.
The Committee’s proposal would not disturb the Federal fabric of the Constitution, inherent in section 128, but its proposal would serve to lay more emphasis on Constitutional change by the democratic process of majority vote than there at present exists.
Section 128 of the Constitution says:
If, in a majority of the States, a majority of the electors voting approve the proposed law, and if a majority of all the electors voting also approve the proposed law, it shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent.
This provision, in respect of the requirement to have ‘a majority of the States’ as one of the conditions for the passing of a referendum, does not, in our view, put the right emphasis and value on a national vote and imposes an undesirable rigidity on the system. The emphasis should be on flexibility and on what a majority of the electors want, wherever they live, while retaining a proper position for the states.
We are one nation, we are one people, and on national issues it is desirable that the will of the nation should be determined more by the total vote of all the people entitled to vote than by State borders. The need to change the emphasis by amending section 128 of the Constitution has been felt for years; but like so much else, including the second proposal I will put in a moment, nothing- I say nothing- was done by our predecessors in office. By the new proposal, it will still be possible to obtain an amendment of the Constitution only if a majority of all the electors voting agree, but instead of requiring a majority of the States- which at present means 4 out of the 6 States, and thus a two-thirds majority- what we are proposing is that a majority of voters in not less than half of the States will be necessary, as well as an overall majority of voters.
The provision requiring a majority of States was put in to protect the interest of the smaller States. A reference to Quick and Garran indicates that the framers of the Constitution had in mind that new States would quite quickly be created- which would have made more relevant the provision requiring a majority of States. But the two-thirds majority is unreasonably high and, given that we have not gone beyond the original 6 States, means in the elegant words of the Constitution Review Committee that ‘for every State in which there is an adverse vote there must be a favourable vote in two states … a Constitutional change has to be supported not only by a majority of States but by two-thirds of the States. ‘
I believe that this change will bring the constitutional provisions more into accord with the spirit of the founders in 1901; more into accord with today’s mood of national awareness; and more into accord with democratic principles and processes. At the same time, in case any have a sense that this change will make amendment of the Constitution too easy, let me remind honourable senators that had the original Constitution requirement been for no less than one-half of the States, as we now propose, only two more of the 26 proposals put to the people would have been approved.
– Why alter it?
– Two more is a substantial advance. They were both submitted at the 1946 referendum. One was to give the National Parliament power to make laws with respect to the organised marketing of primary products unrestricted by section 92. The other dealt with the terms and conditions of industrial employment. Both secured an overall majority of total votes but a majority in only 3 States. They were therefore not carried.
As a matter of historical interest social service proposals of a wide-ranging nature which were submitted at the same time obtained a majority in all States and an overall majority. I come now to the second part of the proposal contained in this Bill. It is designed to remove the anomaly that Australian citizens in our mainland Territories have no voice or vote in constitutional referendums. There are 264,000 Australian citizens in the 2 Territories- the Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, and the Northern Territory- of whom 130,700 are voters. They have elected representatives to the House of Representatives; and they would also have representation in this House, if the Opposition had not blocked our legislation, which would have provided for this in accordance with the Australian Labor Party platform.
It is wrong that residents of the Territories should be denied a vote at referendums. They are citizens equal in every way to their compatriots who live in the States. They have asked for their rights often enough. As recently as 1 1 October this year the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory passed a resolution seeking voting rights in referendums on the same conditions as those enjoyed by citizens in the States. They conveyed to the Prime Minister their disquiet at the continued denial of this right. The Government shares that disquiet. The people of the Australian Capital Territory have sought no less. They, too, are entitled to the vote.
Between 1965 and 1967, before and after the last referendum- on the nexus with the Senate and also on Aborigines- the Australian Capital
Territory Advisory Council passed a series of resolutions seeking voting rights for Australian Capital Territory residents at referendums. They were refused. They were fobbed off with the promise of review. In 1970, I understand, the former Government considered the matter, but took no action. Like so much of the business of those days, I imagine it stood deferred. We are now doing a very simple and proper thing.
In this Bill we seek to delete from the Constitution that part of section 128 which limits voting at referendums to people qualified to vote ‘in each State’.
It is reasonable that electors of the Territories should have the same right as electors of the States to determine the subjects on which the Australian Parliament should have the authority to make laws for the whole nation. If this proposal is carried, electors in the Territories will have the right to vote in all subsequent referendums. The electors of the Territories may be thought to have an added claim to voting in national referendums on constitutional matters. As residents of the Territories, they are more immediately associated with laws on many subjects enacted by the Australian Parliament than are the people of the States. The electors of the Territories may in this sense be able to contribute their informed judgment on many of the matters likely to be the subject of constitutional referendums. They have been denied their rights for too long.
This Bill will join the 3 proposals for alteration of the Constitution at present before the Senatethe proposals for simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for democratic electorates, and for powers in relation to local government finances. These 4 proposals will be joined later by a further proposal foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 8 November 1973 and also in the week immediately following the Constitutional Convention. This relates to a mutual reference of powers between the national Parliament and the Parliaments of the States. Consultation is continuing with the States. I anticipate that a text agreed with the States will be ready for introduction early next year.
We believe that the 2 changes to section 128 of the Constitution contained in this Bill will put referendums on a more democratic basis and make it more possible for the Constitution to reflect more accurately, in contemporary terms, the spirit and the fact of Australia as one united nation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Motion ( by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take up some of the Senate’s time this evening to highlight some of the things which I believe to be completely wrong in regard to the establishment of the much vaunted National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I want to bring to the attention of the Senate how this Committee, which is being established at the moment, came about. I believe- I know- that it had its birth within the tentacles of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Initially this organisation did not know or even understand anything about Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders because it was conceived in Victoria under the leadership of Mr Gordon Bryant, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Of course, members of this organisation in that part of Australia would have known nothing about Torres Strait Islanders in particular, and very little about Aborigines.
The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders has been, and as I understand it still is, a radical organisation. Perhaps it may be right for that body to adopt a radical approach sometimes. When the former Minister took office last year he announced his intention of consulting with Aborigines. He formed, or set out to form what is today called the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This Committee, of course, was the brainchild of the previous Government. But even when the previous Government proposed this move I did not agree with the then Minister on the establishment of the Consultative Committee as it is now being formed.
I have travelled around a lot, particularly in my own State of Queensland and I am finding that Aborigines are confused and that they have been brainwashed into what I believe can be only termed living separately and being separate from the rest of the Australian community. This is a kind of auto-apartheid as I see it. The Aboriginal people have been told and have been brainwashed into believing that the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee will be a separate Aboriginal parliament. How ludicrous it is to suggest that there will be an Aboriginal parliament within Australia. I firmly believe that there is room and need for consultation with Aboriginal people. But I believe that to have a separate parliament and a separate electoral roll on which only Aboriginal people will be listed will divide the Aboriginal people not only among themselves but also from the rest of the Australian community. I give a warning here and now that this will cause a lot more trouble than people seem to realise at the moment.
I want to read from a letter that was written to me and which was sent also to quite a number of other people including the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It was written by an Aboriginal person who left the small Aboriginal community of Purgan which is outside Ipswich at a time when it was very difficult for an Aborigine to do many things for himself. This man worked hard, established himself and became one of the first Aboriginal licensed drainers in Australia. With the permission of the Senate I would like to read this letter which was sent also to many other responsible people. It states:
As an Aborigine I would like to protest about the formation of a National Aboriginal Consultative Committee for the following reasons:
No one asked Aboriginal people whether they wanted the formation of such a committee or not.
Even if Aboriginal people do want such a committee (and this has not been established) the time allocated for preparing this election is far too short- no State or Federal elections are run in such a short time with so little preparation.
White people have set up this committee and now white people are going to tell us who is an Aborigine and who is not- see Parliamentary Debates, 5 June 1 973.
I believe any council which has consultative powers only is useless- in fact Aborigines are still going to go begging and asking through a whole lot of red tape- they still can’t make any decisions and ‘their’ representatives don’t have the same powers as the Parliamentarians.
Consequently I feel that a formation of such a committee would be a step backwards, indicative of segregation and allocating second class citizenship to Aboriginal people.
I believe that a much more effective measure would be to make Aborigines more politically aware by means of education and publicity so that they enrol in State and Federal elections. They would then be in a position to set up their own party- as has been done by the pensioners etcetera -
Or even the DLP and other small groups- on the same level as another political party and nominate delegates to represent them on a platform they see as most important.
It was- signed by Mr Les Davidson of 825 Boonah Road, Churchill. That letter shows the interest of a man who has done a great deal of work amongst the Aboriginal people not only around Ipswich and Brisbane but also Cherbourg where he goes quite frequently and helps a lot of people. He knows the feelings of Aborigines in the same way as I do. When I think of the idea of putting into the minds of Aboriginal people that they are going to have a black Parliament what I see happening is something like what I read in an article entitled ‘Pete’s Week’ in the ‘Sunday Mail’ of 18 November 1973. I do not criticise the ‘Sunday Mail’ for this article but I think it has a bearing on what people are saying about an Aboriginal or black Parliament.
The article takes a look at the Aboriginal Parliament and shows the kind of denigration which will come out of this Consultative Committee. A cartoon depicts the Speaker of the Aboriginal Parliament saying: ‘If the honourable member continues in this vein, I’ll point the bone at him’. Just below that there is another cartoon supposedly depicting a member of the black Parliament saying: ‘And make it retrospective- to the day Captain Cook landed’. Further down there is another cartoon of an honourable gentleman from the Aboriginal Parliament standing up and saying: ‘I’m afraid the venerable member is still living in the dream time ‘. This is the kind of thing which is floating around Australia now about the concept of the black Parliament. There is so much confusion about it.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) in answer to a question I asked some weeks ago in this chamber has informed me that there are about 30,000 or 40,000 Aborigines enrolled out of a population of 162,000. Many Aborigines will not enrol on a separate Aboriginal roll. They do not want a separate Aboriginal Parliament. There are ways in which Aborigines can be consulted without electing or establishing what we might call an Aboriginal bureaucracy. Another well known Aborigine from Queensland was referred to in an article in the Australian’ on 19 November 1973 under the big headlines: ‘Aboriginals refuse to vote in their own poll’. I wish to quote some of the words of this very prominent Queensland- Aborigine. The article states:
Many Aboriginals have refusedto enrol to vote in the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee elections to be held on Saturday.
This is an article written by Mr L. McBride from Queensland. The article continues:
Only 1178 Aboriginals have enrolled in the electorate which takes in Brisbane and extends . . . north to Tin Can Bay and . . . west to Toowoomba.
Mr McBride said many Aboriginals did not want their names on the rolls.
Later on the article states:
Mr McBride said many candidates in Saturday’s elections were newcomers to Aboriginal politics.
That is true. The article then quotes Mr McBride as saying:
Some candidates have only felt the necessity to be involved since they found out there was a good job at the end-
He is referring here to the end of the elections- and pretty good pay and privileges.
– That is true in respect of politicians, you know.
– I realise that politicians get good pay, but we have different roles to play. Our function here is to make the decisions but the Consultative Committee will act only in an advisory capacity to the Minister. There is so much confusion. We are told that the Committee will hold meetings in Canberra 3 times a year. What will be the functions of the members of the Committee for the rest of the year? What will they be doing? Will they be going around talking to the Aboriginal people in their districts or will they be sitting in a big office and waiting for the Aborigines to come and tell them what they want? I do not think there will be many Aborigines coming into the big, plush offices that the members of the Committee will have because basically the Aborigines who need advice are the Aborigines who will not come to a big. plush office in any city. They want people to go out and talk to them and to point out to them what benefits are available to them in the fields of education, employment and many other aspects on which they need advice.
I have spoken on a number of occasions on this matter and I have condemned the idea of this National Aboriginal Consultative Committee for the reasons that I have endeavoured to outline on this place. Those reasons have been substantiated by another very prominent Aborigine and many other Aborigines in my own State of Queensland. I feel that the time has come when I, as the first Aboriginal to be elected as a parliamentarian, should make my thoughts known in this Parliament where decisions are made. I realise that it is too late to do anything before the elections which will take place next Saturday. But I do feel that the Aborigines will be brainwashed into a kind of auto-apartheid situation where they will be a separate section in the Australian community, and I do not want that to happen. 1 want to see Aborigines become part and parcel of the general Australian scene. I want to see Aborigines encouraged to take part in politics.
– How would you know what they want? You do not go out and ask them.
– Noises are coming from someone on the other side of the chamber who probably would not know an Aborigine if he fell over him. I happen to be an Aborigine and I have suffered some of the problems that are suffered by Aborigines today. I am very concerned at the double standards that we see today.
– Order! I ask Senator Poyser to restrain himself.
– He probably knows more about John Barleycorn.
-That could well be true but I would not know much about that. Let me quote from a letter I received from the same gentleman who wrote the first letter I referred to. He brought this matter to the attention of the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the reply he got was apparently pretty abrupt and gave no thought to what he was trying to get across. He wrote a second letter. I would like to quote from it. It reads:
You did not answer any of my questions concerning the NACC consequently I am sending you another copy of my letter! I cannot see my helping you in any way.
The formation of this council was one of the dirtiest tricks to play on the Aborigines. As a Minister you should be ashamed of your actions because you picked members of your own groups to back you up- people that most Aborigines in Queensland do not acknowledge as being capable of speaking for them.
Sir, your actions are just the same as those of the early settlers. They gave guns to some Aborigines to shoot and kill their own people. Now you are giving power and money to 41 Aborigines to undermine our way of living and thinking.
How can you as a Minister allow a small group of people to speak for 160,000 people without first consulting the Aboriginal population?
Are you trying to be a Big Number One boss, as most Aborigines I know are saying? I prefer the word Dictator. Whatever you say must be right!
He concludes with a statement by Mr E. G. Whitlam: . . that the government I lead will remove a stain from our National Honour and give justice and equality to the Aboriginal People.
– What is the date of that letter?
– He goes on to say:
The words: honour, justice and equality means a lot to mc and my fellow Aborigines. But I’ll say No to setting up the NACC which gives no honour, justice or equality.
– What is the date of the letter?
-The date of the letter is 1 1 October 1973. It is signed, again, by Mr Les Davidson.
– Is that the same fellow who wrote the last one you quoted?
-Yes. That is the same man who wrote the first letter. This is the letter which he followed with when he did not get a sensible reply from the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– What was the reply that the former Minister gave? Do you have it there?
-No. I have not got that reply. Mr Davidson has it. If you want to see it, go ask Mr Davidson. I have some other points that I wish to mention about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. It is constituted, as I understand, purely as a consultative body and not a statutory body, nor a financing avenue body to serve dispossessed Aborigines. Secondly, let us look at inequalities of representation as illustrated by the various State divisions. In Queensland, which has about one-third of the total Australian Aboriginal population, 9 divisions are proposed. The Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales have 8 divisions each. South Australia will have 4 divisions, Victoria 3 divisions, with one division in Tasmania. Queensland with twice as many Aborigines as any other State and one-third of the total Australian Aboriginal population is to have 9 divisions only.
– Is that not based on the principle of one vote one value?
– No, not according to these figures anyway. Another point that I make relates to the provision of separate Aboriginal electoral rolls for the purpose of National Aboriginal Consultative Committee elections. As I said earlier, I question the advisability of such action from the point of view of Aborigines, as a high percentage of Aborigines will be loath to enrol on this Aboriginal roll. Again, I agree with Mr Davidson that the period allowed for registration is an insult. We get 6 weeks to organise the whole process and for Aborigines to enrol when months and months are taken to organise the same procedure with respect to a Federal or State election. Even if I agreed with the establishment of the NACC, that action alone makes it a complete mockery. Another point is that the entire structure of the Committee is a means, perhaps not intentionally by the Government, to direct my race into a siding and not to encourage them to become part and parcel of the existing party system and enter politics in the same manner as any of us here have done.
Perhaps I have said enough to convince many of my colleagues here that the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is a complete farce and can serve no good purpose for the Aboriginal people. As a matter of fact, I feel that the NACC will be detrimental to the advancement of Aboriginal people. True consultation with Aborigines will not take place. There will be consultation with what I can only term as an Aboriginal bureaucracy which will be set up comprising a few well paid Aborigines who will not and can never truly represent Aboriginal people. If this Government is fair dinkum about wishing to consult with Aboriginal people, there is a better way to make sure of doing so. It is pointless in my opinion to think that a complete overall policy for Aboriginal people can be introduced.
– Why do you -
– Order! Senator Poyser, you are indulging in an arrogant superiority which I will not tolerate when the honourable senator from Queensland is on his feet.
-Thank you, Mr President. In my view there can be no overall policy for Aborigines because Aborigines today are in varying stages of development. What is right for an Aboriginal or an Aboriginal family living in Canberra is not necessarily right for an Aboriginal family living in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Bamaga, of some of the places way up in the far north of Queensland. My colleagues on the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment- Senator Little, Senator Keeffe, Senator Davidson and others- have seen the varying stages of development and the varying stages of contact of Aborigines with European society. If the Government is fair dinkum about consulting with Aborigines, the way to do is to go out and consult with them in their own areas and environments. In this way it can get to know what is wrong. To consult with one person from an area is absolutely useless because that one person will not be able to bring forward all the points and all the causes of the problems of the Aboriginal people in the area. If the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and his officers go into those areas and consult with the people they will get to know their problems. In that way the problems the Aborigines face can be brought to the attention of the Minister and his Department, and they may be able to help in solving them. To me, Mr President, the present idea is completely wrong. It is a waste not only of the time of the Aboriginal people but of a lot of the taxpayers money.
-I enter this debate with a lot of sadness. I cannot believe that what Senator Bonner has just said is what he really believes. I fear that it is a story which was given birth inside the Liberal Party in opposition to the advancement of Aborigines as put forward by the Government I support. I hope that on further reflection the honourable senator will withdraw many of the things he said. I think that we have to sort out a few of the statements in order to get a correct picture. There are now 2 people who have complained about the setting up of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The first of those was Mr Les Davidson, who wrote to me. Now tonight I have heard that Senator Bonner is opposed to it too. To get the picture in its proper perspective, I must point out that the Aboriginal and island people in this country have been asking for many years for their voice to be heard in the councils of government. This is the first real attempt by any government to hear the voice of the Aborigines. The NACC has been established in such a way that it will provide a voice for those who still live in the tribal state, for those who live in the fringe areas and for those who are completely integrated into the Euro-Australian community. I want to correct another point for Senator Bonner who said that NACC was established by the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. This is not true.
– How many members were at the conference?
-I would not know how many were at the conference but I do know that there were a lot of Aborigines there from every State in this country.
– Tame cats.
-You cannot call them tame cats now. You said a while ago that it was a radical left wing organisation. Please make up your mind. When you opened your remarks you described FCAATSI as a radical left wing organisation. Now you say that it is a tame cat organisation. Let us be factual about it. Aboriginal people came from every State in this country an ! from the Northern Territory. They got together in a spirit of goodwill, under the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this Government, in an effort to work out an organisation through which they could make their views known to the Parliament of Australia.
– The were hand picked by the Minister.
-They were not hand picked by the Minister at all. That is a furphy that has been dreamed up somewhere. I will not go back to the cartoons in last Sunday’s ‘Sunday Mail’, but if I were to believe that statement perhaps one of the captions in those cartoons would fit that statement. But I do not want to use it.
– Use what you like.
-No, I will not. Senator Bonner you will not provoke me. I am terribly sorry that you made your speech tonight.
– Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
– Yes, Mr President. It will not be an Aboriginal Parliament. The Australian Constitution does not allow the establishment of 2 national parliaments standing side by side. It will be an advisory committee and, if it works out successfully with the goodwill of white people and black people in this country, I hope that it eventually will become a statutory body with certain powers that will be vested in it as a statutory body. But, if it is to be knocked by influential people, of course it is doomed to destruction before it even gets off the ground.
While I am on the subject of FCAATSI, let me say that I am not barracking for one organisation or another. As people in this chamber and outside know, I have criticised the One People of Australia League at length over the years, but I see the current trends in OPAL as something good for Aboriginal people. So there are those who probably have noted that I have withdrawn much of my opposition in the last few months. But there are too many Aboriginal organisations. This has been the white man’s plan for years and years- to keep black people divided. In New South Wales there are about 70 multi-racial and black organisations. In Queensland at one time there were up to 40 of them, and God only knows how many exist in various other States. The big problem that Aborigines and Islanders have had to face is that they have not been able to unite and fight a common cause, because the white man has consistently kept them divided.
– Order! I wish honourable senators would abdicate these racist terms. Aboriginal people in Australia are citizens of Australia, just as everyone else is.
– What term are you objecting to, Mr President?
– I object to what I call racist terms and trying to divide Australian people between black people and white people. They are all Australian people.
– This has been done.
– All right. Just let honourable senators refrain from using these terms.
-Mr President, I object to that. I was not trying to do it. I am saying that it has happened in this country and that it should not have happened. By making that remark to me you are perpetuating it.
– I am not doing anything of the sort.
– I am terribly sorry about it.
– I just say that I do not refer to any Australian citizen other than as an Australian, and these are Australian people.
-Are you denying that Aborigines ought to be called Aborigines?
– I will not be involved in this. I just wish you would use constitutional terms.
– I am using constitutional terms.
– Why do you continue to use the word ‘black’ instead of ‘Aborigine’?
-Why can I not use the word ‘black’? Blacks describes themselves as blacks.
– It is an insulting word.
– I am sorry. I will not indulge in side arguments.
– Order! I will object to these terms from the President’s chair in the future. I will have Australian citizens addressed as Australian citizens. It has nothing to do with colour of skin, race or anything else. They are Australian citizens.
-Thank you, Mr President. I am amazed at this trend in the discussion tonight. I want to go back to the letter that has been written by Mr Davidson to Senator Bonner and two or three other people. In the first paragraph it states that the Aboriginal people of this country have called for a voice. I hope that the NACC will be that voice. The second complaint is that the time for organisation is far too short. Certainly it is a shorter period, but we ran a State election in New South Wales which terminated last Saturday, I think, after about a 3-week campaign.
– The Labor Party got done over.
- Senator Jessop will have an opportunity to talk later if he wants to. The third paragraph contains the complaint that white people had set up the Committee. Originally the Committee was not set up by white people at all. It is true that it was convened by a Minister of the Crown, but from there on Aboriginal and Island people themselves set up their own steering committee. They selected their own advisers. I will give honourable senators a little bit more of that in a moment.
– How many of them were Aborigines? Were they all Aborigines?
– All members of the steering committee were Aborigines or Islanders.
– Were there any negroes among them? What about naming them?
-Does the honourable senator think that there were negroes among them? Why is the honourable senator worrying about negroes?
– I am not worried about negroes.
– Are you drawing the colour bar again? It is like your argument today about 16-year-old girls.
– The honourable senator is talking about Aborigines.
– In paragraph 4 is a suggestion -
– I raise a point of order. The honourable senator mentioned something about 16-year-old girls. I would like him to withdraw that statement.
– Order! I do not know -
– You ought to know because you heard it.
– Order! Yes, I heard the words ‘16-year-old girls’ but I am not aware of the context. What was the context?
– I would like Senator Keeffe to qualify his statement when he talks to me like that.
– Order! I did not understand the context. Perhaps Senator Keeffe will explain to me.
- Senator Jessop asked a facetious question in this Parliament today during question time about the amount of money it would take to look after pregnant 16-year-old girls. At the time I thought that it was an insulting question. He is trying to be insulting now by referring to negroes as being non-black or something.
– I was not doing anything at all.
– I am sorry. On the spur of the moment I cast an aspersion. If the honourable senator is insulted by it I withdraw it.
– All right, we have solved that problem.
- Mr Davidson in paragraph 5 of his complaint said that he felt that the setting up of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee was a step backwards. It is not a step backwards. It is one of the most forwardlooking advances that has ever been made by any Parliament in this country. In paragraph 6 it is suggested that education and publicity should be established to get people on the roll. There are Aboriginal people in this country who are afraid to put their name on the general roll because -
– Look, Senator Bonner, let us be perfectly truthful about this matter. There are Aboriginal people who are frightened. They are intimidated by police and other people and they are not prepared to put their name on the roll. They have told me so. I have no doubt- 1 am sorry that you do not believe me- that they would supply a statutory declaration to this effect if required to do so. Of course the suggestion that they ought to be set up in little organisations like the Australian Democratic Labor Party and other small groups is quite ludicrous. The only chance they have to be elected to this chamber or to any other chamber is to join one of the 2 major political parties. That is the way they can do it. I agree with Senator Bonner that Pete ‘s Week cartoons in the ‘Sunday Mail’ were quite insulting. They should never have been published. It is unfortunate that this newspaper thinks that these cartoons have some humourous value. They have not. Some of the statements made by Senator Bonner are completely consistent with a campaign which is going on in this country and particularly in Queensland at the present time. The honourable senator is probably acquainted with the remarks of a rather old and imbecile Parliamentarian of the State House, a Mr Tom Aikens, who delivered one of his broadsides again under Parliamentary privilege.
– I raise a point of order. Reference had been made to a member of Parliament in another place in terms which are unparliamentary. I ask that Senator Keeffe withdraw.
– Who is Tom Aikens?
– It does not matter. It has been said that he is an imbecile member of Parliament.
– Order! Where?
– In Queensland.
– Order ! A reference to a member of the Queensland Parliament has nothing to do with me. There is no substance in the point of order. Nevertheless, Senator Keeffe, I suggest that you restrain your language.
– I am endeavouring to maintain a restrained attitude to this question which appears to be charged with emotionalism when it ought not to be so charged.
– I am afraid that I have to rise on a point of order. Surely nobody in this place can refer to another member of Parliamentwhoever he may be- as being an imbecile? I demand that that reference be withdrawn.
– Order! I must apologise to the Senate. The learned Clerk has reminded me that standing order 418 provides:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament . . .
Therefore, Senator Keeffe, I ask you to withdraw the expression. Senator Laucke, I apologise for overruling you.
-Thank you, Mr President. I am afraid that it is impossible for me to praise this particular gentleman who inside the Queensland Parliament has been conducting a campaign against black people over many years. I am sorry that it appears that Senator Bonner wants to make the same argument in this place. I do not want to argue with him.
– Just withdraw and get on with your argument.
– In any case you are too stupid to argue with. I withdraw that. These are the cold facts about the setting up of the steering committee.
- Mr President, I would like to know whether the honourable senator has withdrawn his statement.
– Yes, he withdrew it.
– I did.
– I am not sure of that.
– I clearly heard Senator Keeffe withdraw his reference to the State member of Parliament.
– I would like to hear him say that. I heard an interjection come from our side of the House and the honourable senator responded to that. I would like to get that -
– I was letting Senator Keeffe finish what he was saying. Senator Greenwood interjected and said: ‘Why does Senator Keeffe not withdraw?’ Senator Keeffe said: Then I withdraw the reflection.’ I allowed it to pass at that stage and I consider that the incident is now closed.
– I withdrew twice, Mr President. I suggest that the honourable senator on my far right over there, politically and otherwise, listen more closely.
– I would prefer to be far righter than you are.
-You will be. May I quote a few paragraphs associated with the setting up of the steering committee and the NACC. These are the facts. The steering committee met from 19 to 23 March in Canberra. It came together to discuss, mainly, the election of a truly representative, fully Aboriginal consultative council. A number of advisers were asked to attend. For the benefit of honourable senators let me say that these people were not members of the steering committee. They were: Mr Malcolm Mackerras, politics; Mr John Evans, independent solicitor; Mr Bourke, Commonwealth Electoral Office; Mr Rose and Mr Scott, Attorney-General’s Department; Dr Coombs and Mr Dexter, Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In conjunction with these advisers the steering committee resolved that certain proposals be put to the interim National Aboriginal Consultative Council for consideration. They were all adopted to a lesser or greater degree. The proposals were as follows:
That the respective States and Territories restrict their electorates to a ceiling number of six.
Senator Bonner knows that this was subsequently changed to suit areas in particular States -
That the number of electoral regions be as follows: Queensland, 9; Western Australia, 8; Northern Territory, 8; New South Wales, 8; South Australia, 4; Victoria, 3; Tasmania, 1; Australian Capital Territory incorporated in New South Wales.
Some minor changes were made to this. It was decided that the eligibility for voting be the minimum age of eighteen and that the Commonwealth definition of ‘an Aboriginal’ be utilised for eligibility. Of course, the Commonwealth definition is that anyone who claims to be an Aboriginal or Islander shall be accepted as such. The ballot papers were to be filled in on the first past the post system. This decision was taken by the Aboriginals themselves.
It was further resolved that members of the steering committee, with the assistance of the
Aboriginal and Island people and the Commonwealth Electoral Office, be responsible to compile and maintain the electoral rolls. The electoral boundaries were drawn up in conjunction with the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the Attorney-General’s Department, and followed fairly distinct lines. I might say here that the boundaries that were drawn up took into consideration community of interest, tribal ties and various other factors that were relative to the wishes of the Aboriginals. The method of voting was a combination of polling, postal, roving and absentee. There were some problems because of the unavailability of the ballot boxes in the first week but with the co-operation of Papua New Guinea and the electoral office there and State electoral offices sufficient ballot boxes have since been obtained. The balloting is now well under way. From memory, the timetable was changed twice in order to give the maximum amount of time for proper organisation. I will not go through all the propositions but I am quite convinced that if there are 40,000 people enrolled- I believe it is close to that number- this is a pretty fair representation under very difficult circumstances on this the first occasion.
It is public knowledge, I think, that the people who will be elected to these various districts will not be sitting down in big flash offices. I do not think that any member of this Commonwealth Parliament has a big flash office. If Senator Bonner has one, I certainly have not got one. It is considered that there ought to be an office or some central location where the headquarters for each representative can be situated. I hope that the rather damaging statements which were made here tonight by Senator Bonner be withdrawn at some future date. I hope that the NACC is successful; but to be successful it needs the co-operation, assistance and support of every member of the Australian community regardless of colour, race or anything else. If that is given then after 204 or 205 years the Aboriginal people of this country will at last have their voice heard.
– As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the one who will be responsible for the operations of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee I think I should make some remarks about it. Honourable senators will realise that the proposal for the NACC was considered before I became the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I had to decide whether to proceed with the proposal for the ballot or reject it. At that stage it had not reached a vote and had not received Cabinet approval. After discussion with Aboriginals I was of the opinion that the ballot should go ahead so that we could have the best possible representative council of Aboriginals. I think the first thing we have to realise- I have some difficulty about your ruling, Mr President- is that while we and you in your highest office may want recognition of all as Australians, the Aboriginals are a proud race. The word ‘proud’ convinces them that they are above Australians. They are a proud race. (Honourable senators interjecting).
-Now that that has finished I say that they do believe this, that they are proud of the fact they are Aboriginals, that they are proud of the fact that they are black. There is nothing discreditable in saying that. They believe that they have not been understood because they have not had any support in the past. They believe that the white man has achieved nothing for the black people of Australia because of the fact that they are not understood and that we do not recognise them as a proud race who need special handling. A campaign is now under way urging that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs should be controlled purely by Aboriginals, that no white man should be in the Department because white men do not understand Aborigines.
– Can you not use the term European ‘ or ‘Aboriginals ‘. Why do you have to use these racist terms? The world is bedevilled by racism based on colour and I wish to avoid this in this place.
– I take a point of order. I would like to know, Mr President, what is your definition of the word ‘Aboriginal’? Does it apply to colour at all?
– No. Senator Poyser, I am not going to be cross-examined by you on this. But I shall give you the definition. The definition of ‘Aboriginals’ is that they are the people who were the original inhabitants of this country. I now go on to say that over a period of 70 years rulings have been given by the Chair on words that are offensive to the Senate and to the Presiding Officer. This constant repetition of racist terms- the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is constantly objecting to them- is something that I can no longer tolerate inside this chamber and I would be grateful if people would not use those terms.
– I shall try not to offend against your wishes Mr President. But I remind you that every morning you ask me to answer the questions asked of me as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Perhaps I should take exception to that. My Department is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Its letterhead shows it to be the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
– Who is objecting to the use of the word ‘Aboriginal’? You are so blinded with racism that you cannot understand the point that has been made.
– I have no objection to the term* Aboriginal’.
-I point out that it is a proud name for a proud people. There has been recognition of the fact that they have been understood. They want their own committee for the purpose of liaising between the Aboriginal people and the Department. The only opposition we have had to this proposal, as Senator Keeffe said, has been from Mr Davidson and Senator Bonner. They have been supported by some ridicule in a Brisbane newspaper. A letter was received in my office from Mr Davidson on, I think, 17 September. I was then Minister for Works. It is the same as the letter he wrote to Senator Bonner. It is a typewritten letter signed in perfect handwriting. Obviously it had a good circulation. It had been stated that a further letter was written to me 2 days after I was appointed Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. At the same time extracts from the letter appeared in the ‘Australian’ newspaper. It is obvious that an inspired campaign has been conducted by a man, who is said to be an Aboriginal, against the holding of this ballot. But who is in support if it? Senator Bonner said that it was the brainchild of the Government of which he was a supporter- the previous Government. Obviously there will be no opposition to it from the previous Government it we are only following the brainchild of the previous Government. Throughout the whole of his speech tonight Senator Bonner referred to the great support for it as though it were a condemnation of his own people.
– How do you work that out?
– Because, firstly, it was said that they are people who are in varying stages of development. Obviously some are inferior. I do not know to whom the reference ‘in varying stages of development’ referred. It has been said that they should have a parliament like ours and also that they are not up to our standards. It is derogatory to these people to refer to varying standards. The Government has been asked: ‘What do you want to do- give them power and money?’ Is that a crime? Should we refuse to give these people power and money? That is the purpose of die whole exercise. We make no apology for that. Are we to be condemned for giving Senator Bonner’s race power and money? Should we give them revolvers, as the early white settlers of Australia did, to shoot down their fellow men? That is the implication to be derived from the slanderous attack which has been made tonight on the decision to give them a say in their own affairs. It is not a question of putting them in big plush offices. Senator Bonner thinks that they are going to sit in big plush offices in Canberra. They are to be the representatives of their people, the same as we are the representatives of our electors. Their job will be among the people they represent. They will liaise between their people and the Department. The purpose of this mission will be to voice the needs and aspirations of people who have not been heard before. I do not know whether it will be a success. It must be remembered that of the 120,000 Aborigines in Australia 36,700 have enrolled in the ballot and 193 nominations to contest the ballot have been received. That means more than a single isolated letter from Mr Davidson. There are 56 people in the State of Queensland who do not agree with Senator Bonner who has nominated for this election. At the present time a roving ballot is being conducted by an officer of the Electoral Office which will be finalised next Saturday. The purpose of this ballot is to give the Aboriginal people a voice in Australian government. It is true that it will not give increased power to the Aboriginal people. The people elected will not be the government of the Aboriginal people. They will act more in a consultative capacity. But never before has a government attempted to hear the voice of the Aboriginal people as has this Government on this occasion.
It may well be true that we will not get a proper representation of the people. This is the commencement of a scheme. It is the commencement of the education of these people. They will know all about elections. The people elected will have the opportunity to present their case to the Government. They will learn of their duties of representation. What is achieved as a result of this scheme will determine whether it is a success and whether it will be continued. It is a novelty. It is comparatively new and it allows Aborigines to follow new lines of thinking because it promises a recognition of the Aboriginal people and a chance that they will be listened to. I think we all agree that the failure or success of this venture will depend upon the support given to it. Rather than wreck the scheme when it is about to be put into operation, those people who have any consideration for this race of people should join with us in ensuring that the scheme does work.
We are not desirous of having an election for which the Labor Party takes all the credit. It is an opportunity for the Parliament and the Department to obtain the views of these people. We should all be behind it to ensure that it does succeed. I am ashamed that Senator Bonner, in my opinion, has deserted his people for the political party with which he is associated. Perhaps he has done so in order to obtain an advantage over an opposing political party. I say that the Government has nothing to hide and nothing to apologise for in relation to the election which is about to take place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
My authorisation of financial assistance in each instance was given subject to the following directions-
I also reserved the right to give additional directions from time to time.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the projected strength of the Australian Army, officers and other ranks, at:
31 December 1973.
30 June 1974.
31 December 1974.
30 June 1975 and
31 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Projected strengths are not available for officers and other ranks for the dates requested. The approved manpower strength set for the Australian Army for June 1 974 is 3 1 , 1 50.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the projected strength of the Royal Australian Air Force, officers and other ranks, at:
31 December 1973.
30 June 1974.
31 December 1974.
30 June 1975 and
31 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Projected strengths are not available Tor officers and other ranks for the dates requested. The approved manpower strength set for the Royal Australian Air Force for June 1 974 is 21,517.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the projected strength of the Royal Australian Navy, officers and other ranks at:
31 December 1973.
30 June 1974.
31 December 1974.
30 June 1975 and
31 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Projected strengths are not available for officers and other ranks for the dates requested. The approved manpower strengths set for the Royal Australian Navy for June 1974 is 16,384.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A study by the University of Alberta found that in the province the average annual rate of physician visits per insured person was not significantly changed as a result of the introduction of universal coverage. These are “hard facts” based on careful study as opposed to intuitive speculation.’ Dr LeClair supplied a copy of this letter to the Depanment of Social Security. As the honourable senator shows some interest in this topic he may also be interested in an article in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ of 31 May 1973 by Phillip E. Enterline, Ph.d., J. Corbett McDonald M.D., Alison D. McDonald, M.D., Lise Davignon, M.D., and Vera Salter, M.A. The article was headed Effects of “Free” Medical Care on Medical Practice- the Quebec Experience’. It was a report based on an analysis of interviews with random samples of practising physicians in Montreal before and after the introduction of an insurance plan. The article reported: ‘Patients thought by doctors to have sought medical advice without reasonable cause rose from 1.1 per cent of all patients seen to 1 .9 per cent, whereas those who physicians thought should have sought medical advice sooner fell from 2.6 to 1.8 percent.’
This son of evidence, and there are many more authorities who can be quoted, dispel the wrong conclusion that medical services free of charge or at minimal cost to the patient at the point of service leads to over-utilisation. What should be of most concern to all, honourable senator, is the fact that at present, over one million Australians have no insurance against the cost of health care either through private health insurance, Repatriation LMO services for Pensioner medical and hospital services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Australia. Australian industry engages in research and development programs to a limited extent and in comparison with overseas the employment opportunities for Ph.D’s in this area are relatively few. In addition there is a view amongst some employers that Ph.D’s are too narrowly specialised to fit into industry other than in research and development positions. However, opportunities in industry for Ph.D’s have been increasing and with changes in attitude on the part of both employers and graduates, should continue to increase.
In recent years there has been a levelling in the assistance offered by the Australian Government to students wishing to undertake Ph.D’s. A lowering of first enrolments for Ph.D degrees in 1 97 1 , even though there was an increase again in 1 972, may also be indicative of uncertainty amongst students about the employment expectations associated with the degree. In order to ensure that jobs are available to persons who are completing courses of study, the Government is pursuing a policy of providing comprehensive and up to date career information and career guidance so that students are more fully aware of employment prospects. The Department of Labour is working actively towards the provision of such services.
ABC News Service: Senator Georges’ Speech (Question No. 482)
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
An ABC reporter was in the Senate Press Galley when Senator Georges spoke in the adjournment debate on the evening of 9 October and he sent a report of the speech to the ABC’s Sydney News Office. As there was a heavy flow of overseas and Australian news on the morning of 10 October including reports on the Middle East War plus the train, airport and power disputes, the Sub-editor on duty decided not to include the item in the morning bulletin. However, reports on Senator Georges’ remarks were included in the ABC national radio news bulletin at 11 p.m. on 10 October and again in the national radio news bulletins at 6.45 a.m. 7.15 a.m., and 7.45 a.m. on 1 1 October.
In addition, Senator Georges was interviewed about this matter on ABC television in ‘This Day Tonight’ on 1 1 October together with the former Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, the Honourable P. Howson.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731121_senate_28_s58/>.