30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one year would:
be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
b) find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 72 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That reduction of the age limit from six years to eighteen months for patients eligible to receive cows’ milk substitutes as a Pharmaceutical benefit under the schedules of the National Health Act will cause serious financial hardship to many families;
That the Government’s action is responsible for a severe increase in the cost of cows’ milk substitutes which penalise parents of children aged eighteen months and over who have a medical need for these substitutes.
That there is an urgent, humane need to restore cows’ milk substitutes to children up to six years of age to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that cows’ milk substitutes be restored to the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Construction of Flats in Turner, A.C.T.
-I present the following petition from 227 residents of Forbes Street, Turner, Australian Capital Territory:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents of Forbes Street, Turner. Australian Capital Territory and their neighbours respectfully showeth that they object most strongly to the proposed development of between one hundred and one hundred and fifty family flats on the site between Condamine Court flats and Construction House.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should note that their main objections are:
the resultant traffic congestion and noise and the inadequate off-street parking which would be exacerbated by this action;
the air pollution already existing in the area would be greatly increased;
the crowding of approximately 400 to 500 persons on the small amount of land available would create an overcrowded situation in what has until now been a reasonable residential area; and would suggest that up to fifty townhouse units be constructed after the existing traffic and air pollution problems have been examined and solutions devised.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as of the 29th March 1976 opening hours of the Australian National Library have been reduced to the following times: Wednesday and Thursday, 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays, 9.30 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.; Sunday, 1 .30 p.m. to 4.45 p.m.
That the expenditure cutbacks and consequent reduction in the hours of opening of the Australian National Library have seriously disadvantaged part-time students who are able to devote only evening hours to study.
That because of the reduced hours of operation, students, particularly those in the Arts Faculties, have a very limited time available in which to consult primary source material held at the Australian National Library.
That the suspension of purchasing of books on an individual basis, and of university theses on micro-film will seriously disadvantage research students.
That the Australian National University Library and the Canberra College of Advanced Education have only limited collections, both requiring to be complemented by the Australian National Library collections.
That the lowering of educational standards as a consequence of the restrictions on educational facilities, would result in immeasurable non-economic cost to the community.
That the Senate be notified that a similar petition has been handed to the House of Representatives with 2140 signatures.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that the Australian National Library be accessible to readers 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. daily.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 47 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Planning Association and similar organisations throughout Australia contribute to the welfare and wellbeing of a great proportion of the Australian people both in family planning and in an advisory capacity on the prevention and control of social diseases.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, give urgent consideration to a favourable decision on the continuation of Federal Government finance to enable the activities of the Family Planning Associations and like organisations to proceed unimpaired throughout Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 3 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members of community organisations respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in tehnical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Government program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975-76
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government implement the June, 1975 Report of the Schools Commission so that:
1 ) The present level of Federal Government Education Expenditure is increased to the level recommended by the Schools Commission.
The role of the Schools Commission as an independent statutory authority free to make its own assessment of the needs of Australian Education is maintained.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 146 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any one year would-
be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from Sate to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
Require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I ask the Minister for Education or the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: Is it a fact that the Victorian Education Department plans to bring 100 British teachers to work in State schools from September? Is the Minister aware that there are unemployed teachers in Victoria and that many trainee teachers will find it difficult to obtain jobs when they complete their courses? Will the Minister, before granting entry visas to teachers from the United Kingdom or elsewhere, assure himself that Australian teachers will not be displaced or denied jobs because of this action?
– I am unaware of the circumstances which Senator Wriedt suggests. I shall inquire of the State Minister of Education whether this is a fact. I am aware of a background which has emerged in the last year, namely, that on the expectation that the triennial report which was tabled in mid- 1975 would come into effect and that money would flow for the States arising out of the report, a number of States set out to bring into Australia teachers from overseas to meet the constant pressure upon the States to fill teaching positions. Those commitments were made ahead of the knowledge that there would be a substantial cutback and a different system of financing as distinct from the triennium. Whether that relates to the present circumstances I am unable to say. I shall make inquiries and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to some recent Press reports concerning an alleged Japanese proposal for a scheme to recycle nuclear waste somewhere in Western Australia. I ask the Minister: Is it necessary to obtain the approval of the Commonwealth Government and presumably of himself before any such proposal can be implemented which would involve the importation of such nuclear waste from Japan? Has the Minister or the Government any knowledge of such a proposal?
– I respond to the honourable senator’s question on 2 bases. In the first place, I have seen a report in a Western Australian newspaper of a proposal- as I understand the report- that there should be this nuclear waste recycling in Western Australia. I have also seen reports attributed to officers of my Department which, if they are accurate, I deplore. I think that in this area there is no occasion for unjustifiable comments because such comments destroy the objectivity which ought always to be displayed in the assessment of any environmental question. Quite obviously, if any proposal for recycling nuclear waste were to be proposed anywhere in Australia I think it would raise the greatest concern in government and it would necessitate the most objective environmental study that could be obtained. For objective studies to be fully appreciated, the people conducting them must have that reputation which will enable their conclusions to be accepted.
In relation to the second aspect, I have had some discussions with the Minister for Conservation and the Environment in Western Australia, Mr Jones. He assures me that there is no such proposal. I understand that a Japanese mission is coming to Australia and that it wants to discuss certain matters with the Western Australian Government. From what Mr Jones has told me, the Western Australian Government does not have under consideration any proposal whatsoever. If any such proposal were to be mooted I say quite positively that it would require the consideration of a number of aspects, for a number of reasons, by the Commonwealth Government.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security why the administration of some 59 projects for children’s services totalling, I believe, about $1.2m, was removed from the Victorian office of the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission which had the expertise and the confidence of groups in Victoria to deal with such projects. Why was the administration removed to the State Health Department which I believe has limited administrative structures and no experience in these services? Is it expected that the Health Department will be able to complete processing the applications and allocate the funds by the end of this financial year? If no such assurances can be given, will the Minister consider returning the administration of these projects to the Children’s Commission so that the money can be spent in the way in which it was intended?
– The question that has been directed to me shows a misunderstanding of the arrangements with regard to the funding of projects from the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission. Some projects that total something like the $1.2m mentioned by the honourable senator have been dealt with as Victorian projects. They were recommended by the Victorian advisory committee and the administration of them has not been transferred to the Health Department, but to facilitate the early arrangements for these projects the Health Department will be working closely with the community groups. Much money that was provided out of the $ 1.2m were for projects for which funds were urgently required to enable buildings to be purchased and other matters to be dealt with. It was to facilitate matters that the Victorian Health Department was to work actively with the community groups concerned. The Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission in Melbourne together with the office in Canberra, has the same responsibility for these projects as it always has had. There has been no transfer or removal of responsibility to the Health Department.
– I ask a supplementary question, please, Mr President. I ask the Minister to look further into this matter because organisations concerned were notified some 2 months ago that they would have to deal with the Victorian State Department of Health in the matter of their applications. It is now 2 months later and only 6 weeks before the end of the financial year and they have received no correspondence from the State Department of Health and they have had no guidelines from the Department of Health. I believe that there may be some misunderstanding between the organisations, the Interim Committee and the State Department of Health. But the financial year is coming to an end and these people are concerned. I ask the Minister to look into the matter.
– I will look into any difficulties that have arisen. Obviously some misunderstanding has occurred. The responsibility for and final approval of projects still rest with the Interim Committee for the Children’s Commission. To facilitate arrangements and the purchase and approval of buildings in accordance with the State Department of Health requirements a close relationship between the State Department of Health and the community bodies was established. We understood that that would be to the advantage of the community bodies who wished to have access to the funds and to get early approval of buildings in accordance with State government requirements. But if there is any misunderstanding I should be pleased to hear about it. I think the community groups concerned have an active and constant communication with the Interim Committee of the Children’s Commission in Melbourne.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the headlines in the Tasmanian newspaper Mercury declaring that drastic cuts in health and welfare spending and a reduction in taxation would be part of a mini-Budget considered this weekend at a special meeting of the Cabinet Economic Committee? Can the Minister inform the chamber of the accuracy of this statement?
– The statement is quite inaccurate. This Government is doing what one would expect it to do: It is continuously monitoring expenditure and revenues. It is watching these very carefully. It is trying to tidy up the Australian mess that was left by the previous Government. It is trying to stabilise the economy to bring Australia back to a situation of growth and prosperity. This requires the exercise of inspection, discipline and care and that is what is going on. There are no prospects for or consideration of anything like a mini-Budget.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Does the Australian Fire Board have responsibility, amongst other things, to inspect Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory and to report upon their satisfactory nature or otherwise so far as fire is concerned? Is the Minister aware that there are about 20 to 25 Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory? Will the Minister ascertain why to date only Bagot welfare settlement and Oenpelli mission settlement have been inspected and reported upon by the Fire Board? Will he ask the Board to undertake an inspection and to report upon all the other settlements in the Northern Territory?
-I assume that what Senator Douglas McClelland said in the first 3 parts of his question is correct. As to the fourth part, I will certainly pass it on to the Board. If the Board is unable to undertake the inspection of its own volition I will let the honourable senator know and I will consider what steps may be necessary to bring it about.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry is consequent upon the reply I received last week regarding the management of king prawn fisheries in waters adjacent to South Australia. Is the Minister aware that a case has been set down for hearing in the Supreme Court of South Australia on 24 May to restrain the South Australian Government in the future from confiscating prawns caught in Commonwealth waters adjacent to the South Australian coastline? Will this case, and others due for hearing in the near future which have a bearing on the control of fishing operations carried out in disputed waters, affect the stated intention to submit a draft agreement to the Fisheries Council South Eastern Fisheries Advisory Committee at the next meeting of that body? Will any recommendation made by the Committee need ratification by a conference of Commonwealth and State Fisheries Ministers or will some other procedure be adopted?
– It will come as a great surprise to honourable senators that I happen to have information bearing on this matter. The
Government is aware that that court case is proceeding. In answer to the second part of the question, the charges presently before the court will not affect the submission of a proposal for management of the prawn fisheries in waters adjacent to South Australia for consideration at the next meeting of the South Eastern Fisheries Advisory Committee. The Australian Fisheries Council has resolved that the various regional committees must present recommendations concerning the management of Australian fisheries through the Standing Committee on Fisheries to the Council for its approval. That can be done by correspondence and the Council’s decision need not be delayed until its next meeting.
– I direct a question to Senator Greenwood in his triple ministerial capacity. Has the East Hills migrant hostel been closed recently at very short notice? Has the Minister received complaints from local voluntary welfare agencies concerning a flood of applications for housing assistance? Did the Department do anything about rehousing migrants who were displaced at short notice?
– I thank Senator Mulvihill for his acknowledgment of the many responsibilities comprised within the portfolio. As the Minister responsible for Commonwealth Hostels Limited, I can say that a decision has been taken that the East Hills migrant centre should be closed and placed upon a care and maintenance basis. That decision was made, a month’s notice was given, and the hostel was closed on 1 May this year. The decision was taken because the hostel has an occupancy capacity of 1300 beds and the occupancy had dropped to, I think, only 157. Closure of the hostel is saving the Commonwealth at least $1 1,000 per week. Following the announcement of the closure, some 79 residents moved to private accommodation and the remainder were transferred to the Westbridge hostel near Villawood, where all of them had been offered accommodation. I must say that I have received no complaints from voluntary welfare agencies.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development which in some respects is related to the question just asked. My question concerns reports that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd proposes to close Lawley House, one of its hostels in the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the question because of the concern that has been expressed by many residents of Lawley House about this possibility. If consideration is being given to this matter, will he indicate the reasons for which closure of Lawley House is being considered? I further ask: Will the Minister ensure that careful consideration is given not only to the economic or financial aspects of the question but also to the interests of the residents of Lawley House, particularly long-term residents, and to the employees currently working at Lawley House?
-Lawley House also falls within the responsibility of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. I inform the honourable senator that consideration is currently being given to the closing of Lawley House. As a result of representations made by Senator Knight and by Mr Haslem I have deferred making a decision to enable- this is what I hope will happen- those people who have approached the local members to make any representations to me that they may wish to make. But the case for the closing of Lawley House is a very substantial one. There is room for approximately 340 people and currently occupancy is approximately 140 people. There are also 350 vacancies in the other Canberra guest houses. The sensible course would appear to be to close down Lawley House and to ensure that accommodation is available in the other guest houses for the people who currently are living at Lawley House.
I appreciate that there will be some compassionate cases which will require consideration, and I shall ensure that as far as I am able compassion will be shown. However, I think the economics of the situation are such that a government ought not to allow these hostels to continue to operate when they are less than halffull and when other hostels are operating which could accommodate these people. There is an obvious saving and economy which ought to be able to be effected and which, I am sure, can be effected. However, I inform the honourable senator and any other honourable senators who receive any representations from people that the ultimate decision will be deferred pending any representations which people from the hostel may wish to make.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it a fact that only one project from the third list of projects for the area improvement program for Australia as a whole has been approved and that that project involves the Baulkham Hills Shire Council? Is it a fact that the needs of all other councils were ignored in reaching that decision and that it was made without reference to the existing regional organisation of councils concerned? I ask the Minister: What are the special circumstances that permitted that council to be specifically favoured? Is it a fact that the president of that shire is a leading member of the New South Liberal Party? Is the Government’s decision in this case an example of the political pork-barrelling decision-making process that we can now expect?
– It is rather difficult to get into the expertise of the 3 categories within the area improvement program. My recollectionif I am incorrect I assure the honourable senator that I will clarify the position for his benefit- is that all projects within the third program did not proceed because of the economic restraints which the Government announced at the commencement of this year. The Baulkham Hills Shire Council did receive a grant and, from recollection, it was an amount of almost $250,000 for a project which it had, but that was part of what I understand is the second group of projects, and it was one in relation to which material was presented to me after the mayor of the city, I think it was, or the president of the shire had come to me and related to me conversations which he had had with Mr Uren and conversations which he had had with Sir Charles Cutler.
Action which involved a commitment by the Council of more than $lm had been assumed, and it was quite obvious to me that that commitment had been made as a result of assurances received from those 2 Ministers. The project was therefore included within the second category, and I understand that the money has been paid. I must say that I am completely unaware of the political affiliations or connections of any of the people who saw me.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Has the Government completed its consideration of the Nimmo report proposals regarding Tasmanian freight charges? In view of the urgency and importance of this matter in regard to the economic life of Tasmania- and that relates to industries already established and industries which might be contemplating establishing there- can the Minister give any firm commitment as to when legislation might be introduced to ease the freight burden on Tasmanians?
-I am acutely aware of the importance of transport and freight costs to the viability of the Tasmanian economy. I cannot give specific details in response to the questions asked by Senator Devitt. I will refer them to my colleague and get an answer for him.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the Minister know whether there has been a request to the Federal Government from the International Red Cross in Geneva for skim milk powder? If so, what quantity was requested? Can it be supplied under our aid program?
-I will have to seek that information from the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. By way of preface I point out that recently in Tasmania a certain amount of consternation was created by allegations that mercenaries were being recruited in Tasmania for service in Rhodesia, South Africa and other foreign countries. I ask the Minister whether the Press report is correct that an officer of the Australian Army served as a mercenary in another country when he was still a member of the Australian Army. If so, what were the circumstances of this mercenary service? Could the Minister ascertain whether the officer took an oath of loyalty to another power while being under oath to serve Australia? In view of the lack of protection for Australians serving in overseas countries, as evidenced by the assassination of journalists in East Timor, will the Minister inform the Senate of what specific guidelines apply to mercenary soldiers being recruited in or leaving this country and serving a foreign power?
-I do not see why the taxpayers should be put to the expense of having an inquiry made into an allegation which the honourable senator says arises out of a Press report. If he cares to come along with some evidence and not an allegation arising out of a newspaper report, the Government will be prepared to look at that evidence. I suppose that if there were a newspaper strike we would not have a question asked in this place for a week. Most of the questions seem to arise because honourable senators read allegations in newspapers and then rush into this place expecting taxpayers’ money to be spent on inquiring into that Press speculation. If the honourable senator cares to give details of who the person is, when he was recruited, where he served and under whom he served, none of which I know because I have not read any Press report about this matter- as honourable senators know, I do not read Press reports- or if the honourable senator cares to write to me or to the Minister for Defence and put down his allegations, I am quite certain that they will be investigated.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen a report in this morning ‘s A ustralian that Mr John Valder -
Opposition senators- Oh, a newspaper report.
– I am sorry about that. Has the Minister seen a report in this morning’s Australian that Mr John Valder, the Chairman of the Sydney Stock Exchange, is urging a removal or modification of section 26AAA and section 26 (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act which not only tax profits made within 12 months but also create vagueness and doubts as to the assessability of profits made over periods beyond 12 months? Is this doubt not a serious disincentive to investment which may affect detrimentally the economic recovery that is now at an early stage? Will the Government investigate this matter which a view to the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act to clarify those doubts?
-While I was lying in bed on this autumn morning, I was reading a newspaper- one of the very rare occasions on which I do so- and I saw Mr Valder’s comment. I thought that I had better get something from the Treasury on this because it is a straight proposal by a chap who has been Chairman of the Sydney Stock Exchange for some time. As far as I am able to be informed, there is nothing particularly novel in what Mr Valder is saying. Section 26 (a) or its counterpart has been a feature of the income tax law for some 40 years and its presence, to judge by results, cannot seriously be said to have stifled Australia’s development. Section 26AAA, of more recent origin, covers property sold within 12 months of purchase. Rapid turnover of assets must be seen as indicative of more than mere changes of taste or fashion. There is as well- we should equally admit it to ourselves- in these sorts of areas quite a lot of special pleading about the operation of section 26 (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. People, strange to relate, do not like paying income tax. The pretension of the provision is perfectly clear and usually it should be sufficiently clear to the taxpayer concerned whether he acquired an asset, notably shares, with the primary aim of reselling at a profit or as a source of investment income. It is a matter which is encountered often. The view that the Taxation Office has is that the trader pays tax on his trading profit. If people are in the business of buying and selling to make a profit, that profit is a trading profit. Mr Valder took up the matter with the Treasurer who undertook to put it under review, which he is currently doing.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of the fact that it is now some weeks since he gave to the Senate any information about his negotiations with the motor car firms with whom he is consulting about the manufacture of an Australian 4-cyclinder motor car engine- I inform him that I have seen his fairly brief Press statement on the matter- is he in any position to tell the Senate whether it is likely that settlement or compromise might be reached in the near future? Does he see the position as being one in which, if there is no early solution, the manufacturers may go it alone if they desire to do so? Is that the situation at the present time? Can he give the Senate any additional information other than what is appearing in the Press?
– I cannot give a great deal of information at the moment. I think that honourable senators are aware that I have been engaged in discussions with all the manufacturers. It is equally true that I have been told by them that this is the first occasion upon which they have sat down together to talk about a common problem. I hope that this will be a continuing exercise between us. We had a very useful meeting on Monday which took the matter quite a stage further. At my request, they agreed to meet today in Canberra with a view to finalising the whole position so that I could announce as soon as possible the final determination.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, also refers to newspaper articles. A front page article in a Perth newspaper last Sunday inferred that the Government had decided to reduce the matching grant on aged persons’ homes from $4 for every $ 1 raised to $2 for every $ 1 raised. Can the Minister comment on the accuracy of this article?
– I cannot comment on the accuracy of that particular article because I have not seen that Perth newspaper. But I have seen other newspaper articles which speculate on the program of support for aged persons’ homes. At the present time, no decision has been made by the Government with regard to the future program because a working party is still to present its report to me. But I can say this: The Government has been concerned that under the previous program organisations were required to pay some 39 per cent of the cost of aged persons’ homes and hostels. Any program which we have for the forthcoming year will ensure that organisations do not have to meet a cost as high as 39 per cent for the home or hostel when we work in conjunction with them under the program as it existed in the past. It seems to us that the aged persons’ homes and hostels programs are very important in providing comfortable housing for aged persons. What we would want to see are some programs that eliminate the $300m or more in backlog applications which are at present awaiting funds and make sure that organisations do not have to meet the very high proportion of costs that was the case under the previous program.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Does the Government intend to transfer to the States responsibility for rehabilitation matters? In particular, does it intend to transfer responsibility for matters covered by the Sheltered Employment Assistance Act 1974?
-No decision has been made with regard to the transfer of responsibilities to the States in matters of rehabilitation. A committee headed by Sir Henry Bland has been looking at a number of administrative matters in my Department and in all other departments of the Government. Questioning by that committee may have aroused some interest in the transfer of matters to the States. No decision has been taken in my Department or by the Government to transfer matters of rehabilitation or sheltered workshop employment to State governments.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware that the Department of Social Security has no funds with which to assist people who are unemployed, sick or in special need of assistance before regular benefits are due to be paid? In answer to a question on special benefits last week the Minister indicated that there were emergency funds in the Department of Social Security. Will the Minister make some of those funds available to her officers so that people can be assisted in times of special need?
– I will examine the matter to determine whether there are ways in which officers of my Department can give emergency assistance in the terms that have been mentioned by the honourable senator. On previous occasions I have referred to the fact that a special benefit may be paid, subject to the approval of the Director-General, to persons awaiting a determination of a program to which they have some access. I think that in the past emergency assistance of the type that has been mentioned has been dealt with by voluntary organisations and by State governments. The Government has considered it important that voluntary organisations which do provide immediate emergency assistance should have some level of support from government to enable them to recoup those funds for their own future use. That matter is the subject of consideration by the Government. I will examine whether there are ways in which my officers can give the immediate assistance to which the honourable senator has referred.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen a Press report that there will be a meeting early next week of the parties involved to discuss the Aurukun mining project? Should the meeting, which is between representatives of the Federal and State governments, the Aboriginal community involved and the mission, which is controlled by the Presbyterian Church, reach amicable agreement will the Government ask its representatives to seek an assurance from those concerned that they will support the agreement in the interests of the Aboriginal community concerned and the people of north Queensland, thereby ensuring that this great project will not be torpedoed by publicity seekers, so-called Aboriginal supporters and conservationists who have little knowledge of the area or the interests of north Queenslanders?
-I must confess that I have not seen the Press report. I did not even know that such a meeting was to occur. As this question was directed to me in my capacity as representing the Prime Minister, who is in charge of Commonwealth-State relations, I will direct it to him. If it is not within his bailiwick the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may be looking after it. I will also seek his advice. I will pass on the honourable senator’s comments to them and they will make their own judgment as to the attitude to be adopted at that meeting.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can the Minister offer an explanation of why the number of persons applying for retraining under the NEAT scheme has dropped by approximately 4 per cent from February 1976 to March 1976? Can he also offer an explanation of why the decline in the number of applicants in April will be even sharper? Does not the answer lie in the Government’s reduction in trainee allowances paid to those people enrolled in NEAT programs? Where are the 3000 additional NEAT trainees anticipated by the Minister’s statement of 27 February 1976?
– I suspect from the way in which the honourable senator has attempted to answer his own question that the question is posed for argumentative rather than informative reasons. I would have thought that if an allowance payable is less that it was last year, then a number of people who were simply interested in getting the allowance and enjoying themselves in being trained for another job would find it not worth their while. As I have said, and as the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has said repeatedly, the Government’s proposals with regard to the National Employment and Training scheme have been designed to ensure that the scheme’s facilities are available for the genuinely unemployed people who are prepared to take advantage of an allowance of something more than the unemployment benefit to enable them to retrain for another job. As to the more specific details which the honourable senator mentioned in his question, I will convey them to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for such further answer as he chooses to give.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of a recent program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission regarding a Dr Feingold and the diet treatment that he has formulated for hyperactive children? Is the Minister aware that the ABC was deluged with requests from the public, mostly from parents of hyperactive children, for copies of this diet? Would the Minister agree that this response indicates that there is an urgent need for medical research into the problem of hyperactive children? Can the Minister inform the chamber whether the Government, through its funding of appropriate research bodies, will facilitate research into the diagnosis and treatment of hyperactive children?
– I have no knowledge of the subject to which the question is related but I agree with the honourable senator that research into the matter of dietary or other treatment for hyperactive children would be desirable. I am unaware whether any research is being conducted in this area, but I am aware of the difficulties that parents have in dealing with the question of education and the other matters which relate to children suffering from this condition. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Health, endeavour to obtain further information and put forward the recommendation that has been made in the question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 3 May 1976 in which the vice-president of the South Coast Trades and Labour Council confirmed that his Council would place a black ban on the construction of a 60-bed private hospital in Wollongong? Can the Minister indicate whether the people of Wollongong and the Illawarra region are likely to be the main losers from any action of this kind? Is there known to be any labour dispute in the area, or does this seem to be a political decision based on an ideological objection to the provision of choice for consumers of medical care?
– This matter concerns my colleague the Minister for Health. I have no information with regard to any labour dispute in the area but if the matters as they have been stated are correct, I think it is an instance where the difficulties of public hospitals and the demand that has been placed upon those hospitals by the provisions of the Medibank scheme have led people to obtain private insurance and to seek private hospital accommodation. In answer to the question, the people who will lose in the area of Wollongong, if there is a black ban, are the people who will be requiring public hospital accommodation, for which there is excessive demand. For these reasons, I hope that a black ban of that nature will not be perpetrated by the South Coast Trades and Labour Council. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Health to see whether he has any information about the points raised in the question.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he is aware of the difficulties being experienced by public libraries in obtaining government documents and statistics. Is he aware of the difficulties that this creates, particularly in provincial areas, for trade unionists, lawyers and others who rely on government documents, to a certain extent, and on statistics and who have no access to Australian Government publication services? Will the Minister undertake to make an investigation as to why these documents and statistics are not freely available to public libraries?
-I am prepared to make such an investigation. If the honourable senator were able to supply me with more specific details as to the public libraries in question, their locations and the actual statistics and publications which they are not receiving, that would also be of value.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I preface it by reminding the Government of its tight-fisted monetary policy which has resulted in the abolition of committees, some of which incurred expenses of less than $100,000 per annum. In the light of this, how can the Minister justify his Government’s proposed legislation for control by the Australian Electoral Office of secret ballots in unions and employer organisations, which will cost in excess of $ 1 .5m a year?
-Put in its simplest terms, there are considerations other than economic restraint. If the Government were concerned simply to cut out all expenditure of money, there is over $4,000m which could be saved overnight. Quite obviously, it is a matter of making an assessment of priorities. The Government places the very highest priority on bringing some long overdue representative democracy into the trade union movement. There are some trade unions which demonstrate and have demonstrated over many years that basic representation of the rank and file worker, but no one can say that where there is a union membership of something like 170 000 people and only -2000 of them vote the people elected by those 2000 in any way represent the 170 000. The Government believes that, by introducing a system which will apply uniformly to employee and employer organisations and under which a ballot will be conducted by the Electoral Office so that every unionist will have the opportunity to vote, there will be the opportunity for representative democracy in union affairs. To that end the Government believes that the expenditure of money is well justified.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to the continuing reports in the Press that the Government is considering imposing a levy to finance Medibank and reimposing radio and television licence fees as part of what the Press calls the Government’s cost-cutting program. Does the Minister believe that proposals of this nature should be classified as expenditure cuts, or would they be classified more accurately as tax increases?
-That is a fascinating question. It is based upon a series of Press observations to which the honourable senator, being as careful as he is, does not give any credence but which he suggests ought to be answered. The whole area is one of policy; it is one of conjecture. It is a non-answerable question.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I point out to Senator Cotton that I was not asking for a comment on Government policy; I was not asking him to foreshadow Government policy. The question dealt with the matter of classification. I asked whether the imposition of radio and television licences and a levy to fund Medibank ought to be regarded conceptually as a reduction of expenditure or an increase in taxation.
– It is a good question for the honourable senator himself to answer.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the concern being expressed by the South Australian Council of Social Service Incorporated about recent newspaper articles, especially the article in the Australian of 1 May, regarding the rumoured proposed abolition of the Australian Assistance Plan? Can the Minister dispel this expressed concern of this and other similar bodies by stating categorically that the Australian Assistance Plan will not be abolished?
– I answered at some length yesterday a question on the Australian Assistance Plan. I referred to the conference which was held during the past weekend and which I and some of my colleagues attended. I think the honourable senator would understand, if he referred to that answer, that that was one of the conferences that were held to evaluate the Plan. I said that the Plan was a 3-year plan and that evaluation at the end of that period was to be undertaken by the Government before any consideration was given to its renewal or to any changes that might be made to it. Other conferences have been held at local government and State government officer level. I have a meeting with State Ministers on 21 May at which this Plan will further be discussed. Until I have the meeting with State Ministers I am unable to make any statement with regard to the future of the Plan. This was understood by all the people who attended the conference on Sunday. I think that if the South Australian social services group were given a report from the conference on Sunday it would understand that I gave an assurance that as early as possible after the meeting with State Ministers I would make a statement with regard to the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the report of the Minister’s recent visit to Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island published in the Nation Review on 30 April 1976. I ask: During the course of his discussions on Christmas Island did the Chinese community leader Chen Ghang urge the Minister to give him a yes/no answer on a requested guarantee of free access to the Australian mainland for the Islanders? Is the Nation Review report correct in stating that the Minister’s reply to this request was: ‘If you propositioned a girl like that, you’d never get anywhere. ‘? Is the report also correct in stating that the Minister told a reporter that he was totally unaware of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four? Finally, are reports correct that the Minister has agreed to abdicate his responsibilities for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands negotiations to a Minister better equipped in knowledge and diplomacy to handle the delicate Cocos (Keeling) Islands situation?
-In view of the last part of the question, I have no intention of answering any of it.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. For a long while the situation of the Principality of Hutt has intrigued me. Perhaps we can get some clarification of it today. In the total Australian context, what is the status of the Principality of Hutt in Western Australia? Are any taxes collected from this area? What credibility is given to the administrative arrangements which I assume exist in the Principality of Hutt?
– I am not very strong on Hutt, but I shall do my best. I understand that the self-designated Prince has appointed a series of envoys extraordinary in various capital cities of Australia. I cannot say whether he has nominated anybody from the island State of Tasmania. If he has not, that might have appropriate significance for anybody who might like to claim the opportunity. I understand that he also has some proposals to sell stamps. I find myself quite fascinated by this extraordinary position. I might take the matter further and see what is the relevance of the position. I should imagine it has some tourist significance. Beyond that I really cannot go. This is a highly relevant question because it might well be that Australia could fly into fragments if this sort of thing succeeded.
– What about taxation?
-I will put that matter to the Treasurer.
-My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is similar to the question previously asked by Senator Mcintosh. Has the Minister seen an article in the Adelaide Advertiser of 24 April of this year giving detailed proposals by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations concerning Government policy to control secret ballots for unions? The report alleges that the Minister forecast that the cost of the scheme could be considerably in excess of $ 1.5m per annum and also that the proposal may not be the best system for union elections. In view of these and other problems referred to in the report I ask: Will the Minister agree that when Mr Fraser put forward his policy on union elections in an attempt to win votes, he was unaware of the major difficulties involved? Will the Minister ask the Government to reconsider its irrational and ill-prepared attempt at union bashing?
– I welcome the opportunity to reiterate what I said to Senator Mcintosh. I also wonder why it is that members of the Australian Labor Party are so concerned about the efforts of the present Government to give an industrial representative democracy to members of trade unions. I cannot understand this persistent belittling of the Government’s scheme, which has been shown by gallup polls and by virtually every representative sample of opinion that can be obtained to be favoured by the overwhelming majority of people in Australia. What is wrong with providing every unionist with a secret postal ballot, conducted by the independent statutory officer who conducts the nation’s ballots, so that every unionist will have the opportunity periodically of determining who will be his officials? We believe that this particular project has been shown by experience to be warranted. Whilst I cannot say what the cost of the project will be- I imagine that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations himself could give only an estimate- it is a proposal to which the Government is committed. It is hoped that legislation to give effect to this proposal will be presented in due course. The Minister is having discussions- as I think he told the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that he would have discussions- about methods of implementation and details of the proposal. I anticipate that he will have his legislation ready in the near future.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, with 2 remarks. First, I realise that under the Standing Orders we are not permitted to ask questions that ask for a legal opinion and I shall not do so, or I presume that I shall not be doing so. Secondly, I recently received a complaint from a constituent that she was not permitted to enter a State Government hospital in Brisbane to visit her husband who was a patient in that hospital because, being blind, she was obliged to be accompanied by her guide dog. Could the Minister advise whether there is any Commonwealth law to ensure freedom of movement of blind persons with guide dogs? If so, does this law extend to movement within State Government hospitals?
– As you said, Senator Colston, honourable senators are not permitted to ask for an expression of legal opinion. I think that your question does border very closely on seeking an interpretation of the law, which is seeking a legal opinion.
– Forgive me, Mr President, for pursuing the question of the Principality of Hutt, but perhaps I could obtain a little further clarification. I wonder if I could ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Is it generally required that citizens resident in Australia are obliged to observe Australian laws? How far would these laws be required to be observed in this so-called Principality?
-The honourable senator is very tempting. He should recall that 3 or 4 years ago I endeavoured to persuade him and all of his colleagues in the Labor Party who were then in this place that it was desirable that every person in Australia should respect and obey the law. I know that a lot of people within the Labor Party expressed a view then that there were certain special cases in which people did not have to obey the law. I am quite sure the Government’s view is as I expressed it in 1972, that is, that the law of the land applies to everybody who lives in the land.
– I ask a short question of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. What has happened to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority? Has any progress been made?
-The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has not been fully constituted. The nominee I have recommended to the Premier of Queensland is currently overseas and is expected back shortly. I imagine that when he returns the steps which have already been taken, not only to establish the Authority but also to establish the consultative authority, will be consummated.
– I seek your indulgence, Mr President, to ask a further question regarding guide dogs. Would I be in order if I asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development whether there is provision in Commonwealth law for freedom of movement for guide dogs in Australia?
– Yes. You are asking whether that is a fact. I call Senator Greenwood.
– I do not recall any Commonwealth law which guarantees freedom of movement to guide dogs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of his earlier answers on the desirability of secret ballots for electing union officials, can he name those unions in Australia which currently do not elect their officials by either a secret ballot or the collegiate voting system, which I understand the Government intends to provide in its proposed legislation?
– I think there are said to be something in excess of 300 unions in this country. Surely the honourable senator does not expect me to possess the knowledge as to which unions conduct secret ballots, which unions have ballots authorised and conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, and which unions do not, and be able to specify which unions they are. The fact is that there are some significant unions in this country which do not have a postal secret ballot and which purport to have a secret ballot in accordance with rules and in accordance with legislation. But what sort of secret ballot? The real point which the Government desires to establish is that, without attending a meeting place, every unionist shall receive a postal ballot paper so that he can choose whom he will elect as his union official. Again I repeat that surely that is an objective which ought to have the support, not the opposition, of the Australian Labor Party.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Gietzelt: 5 May 1976
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64 I give notice that this day I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The situation in East Timor and in particular
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I move:
During the 1950s the Parliament spent a great deal of its time debating important issues relating to events that were taking place in the Asian region. I refer to the period of the Korean war. Similarly, during the 1960s there was a great deal of public debate and debate in this place about events in South East Asia in Vietnam. I think it is a matter of regret that on the question of East Timor, which is one of the closest countries to Australia, we have not debated or publicly aired the views that each of us may have on the developments and the tragic events that have taken place there over the last few months. I would imagine that the Senate would have some compassion for and understanding of the plight of the people who live in that country and that the Senate would uphold the rights of the people of East Timor to determine their own affairs. Somebody in this country has to stand up and speak for the Timorese for never in modern history have an indigenous people been treated so brutally and found themselves outside the normal channels of assistance which is available to most other peoples and countries.
Just 2 years ago, on 25 April 1974, the Portuguese people overthrew the fascist regime in their country and set in train an independence movement in East Timor. In the subsequent period of approximately 15 months the Portuguese authorities in East Timor began a process of decolonisation. Subsequently, however, those events unfortunately were set aside by steps which were taken by the Portuguese authorities because of divisions within their own country. I think it is rather ironic that just 21 years ago to the month a conference took place in Bandung in Indonesia, with Indonesia acting as the host country. It is probably worth looking at what President Sukarno, the then President of Indonesia, had to say on that occasion. He said:
This is the first intercontinental conference of the so-called coloured peoples in the history of mankind.
That was the forerunner of the non-aligned bloc of nations which occupies an important role in international affairs today. President Sukarno went on to observe that the nations participating, however, were united by more important things than their superficial divisions- he was talking of colour and race- and notably the common detestation of colonisation. There is a very unusual parallel in that region, because in August 1969 the Indonesian generals marched in and took over the country which was described at that stage as West Irian. It is interesting to read of the events of that time; one sees the parallel with the present situation, and one sees the excuse given by the Indonesian Government in taking what was in its eyes that justifiable action to annex that part of the world to Indonesia. It said that it would take it over because of the communist influence in West Irian. It is to be regretted that the Australian Government turned a blind eye to those events. Of course, we are now confronted with the same sort of situation developing in East Timor. I say without any fear of contradiction that aggression begets aggression, that violence begets violence, that lies beget violence.
If we examine the activities during this century of the powers which are militarily inclined I think we can see that there are some dangers associated with the events that have taken place in East Timor. I cite the presence of Japan in Manchuria in 193 1, Italy going into Abyssinia in 1934, the invasion of Austria by Germany a year or two later, the invasion in 1938 of Czechoslovakia, all of which led to the greatest war ever to be faced by mankind. Yet we, the closest neighbour to East Timor, have remained relatively uninterested in the plight of those people. Certainly it is a small country of 650 000 people. Certainly it is only emerging from the stage of being a primitive society. It is a matter of regret that the Australian Government took a stand-off attitude to the divisions within Portuguese Timor. Here I make no distinction between the Australian Government which was in office in 1975 and the Australian Government which is in office in 1976. The fact is that aggression, wherever it raises its head, needs to be condemned. I condemn it whether it is in Asia, Europe or any other part of the world. Information that is reaching us indicates that approximately 60 000 people either have been killed or have suffered during this invasion by Indonesia over the last 6 months. This would represent, in terms of our population, about one million people. Yet, we have remained passive and uninterested in the events.
I referred to the Bandung conference because it was the forerunner of a campaign to eradicate colonialism from the world. It seems ironic that that very country, Indonesia, should be the one that is now being accused of doing what is being done in East Timor. In October 1974, only 6 months after the people of Timor had been given the opportunity to be involved in the process of decolonisation, the Indonesian Security Council decided to set about the process of undermining and subverting the nationalist and independence movement. Yet, all of us have been handed a statement from the Embassy of Indonesia, dated 25 February 1975, in which the Indonesian Foreign Office states:
Indonesia has no territorial ambitions and categorically denied foreign newsagency reports that Indonesia is planning a military invasion of Portuguese Timor in the near future.
Indonesia has repeatedly stressed that she has no territorial ambitions, let alone on invading Portuguese Timor by force.
Yet the evidence coming out now clearly is that 2 generals in particular in Indonesia, General Murtopo and Lieutenant-General Murdani set about, in the process of subversion, to undermine the independence movement. The propaganda that has emanated from Jakarta and Kupang has tried to present to the world at large, to the people of this country and to the 2 governments which have been in office here a position suggesting that there was some possibility of communist subversion in East Timor.
I think that reference ought to be made to the fact that in April and May of last year the leaders of the UDT movement, who hitherto had supported the independence movement, came to Australia, visited Canberra, spoke to officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence and to others, then went to Jakarta, subsequently broke the coalition and, a few short months after that in July of that year took steps to wage a coup in Dili. We are entitled to ask: What were they doing in Australia? We are entitled to ask also: What did they do with Lieutenant-General Murdani and General Murtopo in Jakarta? Yet, despite all that has been said at the United Nations and in Australia, in newspapers, by political organisations and by Ministers in the previous Government as well as the present Government, and despite the condemnation that has been made of the Indonesian military intervention in Timor, we have on record a statement made on 9 April, less than a month ago, by Mr Malik, the Indonesian Foreign
Minister- he was on the public record, together with his President, as saying that they had no territorial ambitions in East Timor- that there was an apparent change in Australia ‘s view about the way Indonesia had handled the Portuguese Timor problem. I hope that there is no change in the attitude of the Australian public to Indonesia ‘s intervention in East Timor.
I make it clear that I am not anti-Indonesian. In point of fact, I participated in a somewhat minor role, after my discharge following the last war, in the famous Margaret Street demonstration which had as its aim the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch who were then the colonial power. But I am concerned, and I think rightly so, about the pussy-footing attitude that has been taken in Australia and the manner in which we have dealt with the incursions that took place in September last year on the IndonesianTimorese border and the subsequent invasion that took place on 7 December. I am disturbed, as I hope the Parliament and the Australian people should be disturbed, at the attitude that has been taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs. I know that it will be argued that we should not attack people who act in anonymity and that we do not know the people in the Department of Foreign Affairs who gave advice both to the Whitlam Government and to the Fraser Government. But without any doubt there exists within the Department of Foreign Affairs a pro-Indonesian lobby. There is no doubt that wrong advice was given to the previous Government, as I hope I will show the Senate wrong advice has been given to this Government. If any odium is associated with the responsibilities of the Labor Government in regard to the events of Timor, it most surely will flow on to this Government. This is because the same officers and officials who remain unnamed and unknown have been advising the Government in matters relating to Indonesia and Timor.
I remind the Senate that on 7 October 1975, as a result of a request by Mr Fry and myself, Mr Renouf, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is interesting to note that he admitted before that Committee that the Department would have to reassess its policy in respect to Timor and in respect to Indonesia. I do not suggest that Mr Renouf is one of those guilty persons in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– Well, name them.
– It is interesting to note that when Senator Sir Magnus Cormack recently had this matter on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee he asked the witnesses what desk in the Department dealt with Timor. He was informed by the officer concerned that it came under the Indonesian desk. This is not accidental. In fact, it follows the pattern which has been synonomous with the attitude taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs and perhaps within sections of the Department of Defence over the last year or so. Let this Government tell us who are the pro-Indonesian officials within the Department of Foreign Affairs. Let it tell us so that we may know who is advising Ministers from time to time.
As late as 8 April this year, Mr Peacock, the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, signed a letter prepared by the Department denying that it had been:
The letter goes on to talk of the anti-Fretilin forces taking part in the assault on Balibo, but not to the Indonesian soldiers, airmen or naval forces. Yet, there is abundant evidence now provided by soldiers of the Indonesian forces who were there and soldiers of the Timorese forces who were there that, in fact, no anti-Fretilin forces were involved at the time. It was the Indonesian forces who were involved at Balibo. Mr Martins’ visit to Australia provides a further confirmation of the stories and reports which emanated last year. Of course, they have been confirmed- I will refer to them later- by Roger East, an Australian journalist who it appears was killed in Dili the day of the invasion. The fact is that at one stage Mr Roger East was a full time employee of the National Party in Queensland. In fact, he ran against Dr Patterson in the 1 974 election which seems to me to indicate that there is some objectivity in the reports that are freely available to us.
I want to refer to the allegations I made in the adjournment debate on 7 April 1976 and to the reports which subsequently appeared in the Australian Press. It might be said: ‘How do we know that those reports appear there?’. The fact is that we have no other way of knowing what is reported, allegedly, from departmental sources. An article in the Australian of 9 April states:
The Department of Foreign Affairs would not comment on Senator Gietzelt ‘s allegations in the Senate and referred all inquiries to the Department of Defence.
A Defence Department spokesman said last night that to the best of his knowledge, there was no truth in Senator Gietzelt ‘s allegations.
What were my substantial allegations? One of them was that information was received by the intelligence forces in Australia that the Australian journalists at Balibo had been shot in cold blood on 16 October and that this was heard in a radio message picked up in Australia. Yet, we get no comment from any of the departments which satisfies me or satisfies a wide section of the Australian people. One is entitled to say, on the basis of the information that is available to us, that there is something wrong with the information which is reaching the Australian Government.
There was another report in the Press which suggested that the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Service- one of the intelligence organisations- had been sacked because of his failure to keep the previous Government informed. That report appeared, I think, in the Melbourne Age about October last year. We have a situation in which there are contradictions in the public statements being made by governments and in the public propaganda statements being made by the Indonesians. I do not believe that we should accept the sacrificial expedient method that has been evident in our ‘hands off attitude so far as Timor is concerned. I think that is pragmatism at its worst. I would hope that the Senate would at least express an opinion that we are concerned about the Indonesian position. Indonesia has now on 2 occasions refused to withdraw its troops despite a request to do so by the United Nations.
We are concerned initially with the problem associated with the Australian journalists. What did the Indonesian Government say about the death of these journalists? It said that they were killed as a result of mortar and artillery fire hitting a house in which they were sheltering in Balibo on 16 or 17 October. Mr da Cruz, the leader of the UDT, confirmed on Indonesian radio on 21 October that that is the way they were killed, according to his information. Yet, when Bob Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party, went to Indonesia only a few weeks ago he was able to establish without any fear of contradiction that there was no substance in the allegations which had described the death of the 5 journalists. What did Mr Hawke say? He said that pictures of the house where the journalists are said to have died and their remains which were forwarded to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta were inconsistent with the story that the men had been incinerated in the house.
The Leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions said he had pursued Australian trade union calls for troop withdrawals and said he had rejected suggestions that the Indonesian troops in East Timor were volunteers. He drew attention to the fact that the personal effects and the passports of the Australian journalists were returned to Australia intact. If there had been a fire and a house had been destroyed it stands to reason that their personal effects would not be intact. The Indonesians said that the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. Mr Martins said that the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. The Fretilin soldiers who were there and who escaped said in their first report that no such fire took place and that in fact the journalists were shot in the open. That has now been confirmed by Mr Martins. It is interesting that the journalists went there to report the events. I salute those brave men who were prepared to go to the front line, as indeed many journalists are prepared to go to the front line in order to tell the rest of the world what is happening. They went there and they were killed because they were there. They were shot because they were filming the invasion of Balibo and Batugade by the Indonesians.
It is interesting that Roger East, the gentleman who was killed in Dili according to the information available to us, in a report to the Sydney Morning Herald indicated that the reports made by the Fretilin forces were substantially true. He indicated also that the International Red Cross had made last minute attempts in December last year to gain recognition for its neutral status from the UDT and from Apodeti through Jakarta, but such recognition was not forthcoming. One is entitled to draw the conclusion that Indonesia did not want anybody in Timor to know what was taking place. The Red Cross was denied official status. We had no consular representative there. In fact, the then Senator Willesee, asked the Indonesians to permit a representative from our embassy in Jakarta to go to Balibo and Batugade. That request was denied. The journalists were killed, and we have no doubt that genuine endeavours were made by people who wanted to know the facts but they were prevented access to those facts.
When we were in Timor last year we did speak to the representatives of the Chinese community. I am reliably informed that the Taiwanese consul who has now returned to his country has confirmed that when the paratroops landed in Dili on 7 December last, the Chinese community came out en masse to welcome the Indonesian troops. They expressed to us that they gave no support to the Fretilin movement. They believed that they were going to be delivered from the Fretilin movement as a result of the invasion by Indonesia. The Taiwanese consul has informed his Government, so I am reliably informed, that when the Chinese people came on to the streets to welcome the Indonesian troops they were shot down in cold blood. This is a further example of the racism that has characterised events in Indonesia since the coup of 1965. Mr Martins has given a very full report to the various departments. (Quorum formed) I was referring to the fact that the Australian Government has something to answer. I am not differentiating between governments. The latest issue of the National Times states:
The Federal Government should be in possession of information from its own security sources that Indonesian troops were involved in the killing of five Australian newsmen at Balibo in East Timor, last year.
The Joint Intelligence Organisation informed the Department of Foreign Affairs of Indonesian involvement two days after the men died on October 16.
The JIO was in possession of messages that confirmed that Indonesia knew exactly how the five men died- although Jakarta authorities have continued to deny any involvement or little knowledge.
I think that somebody has to be called to explain to us and to the Australian people why it is that we were kept uninformed, that information was kept from the Australian Parliament, because members of all political parties asked questions in the House of Representatives and in the Senate last year and this year about the death of the Australian journalists. Let us discount any illusions about Indonesian participation in East Timor. In an article in the Melbourne Herald last year this statement appeared:
In Jakarta the Government has never openly admitted to giving more than moral and humanitarian support to forces pressing for the colony’s incorporation into Indonesia.
Western journalists reported last week having seen planes and ships which could only have been Indonesian attacking the town of Atabae, which fell later to pro-Indonesian troops.
The deputy head of the State intelligence body (General Ali Murtopo)
I have already referred to him - has been quoted on a number of occasions as having said Indonesia could take Timor within hours if it were determined to do so.
In the last few days I have received a letter from a religious source in Indonesia which gives us some indication of the events which have taken place from the Indonesian point of view. Part of the letter reads:
During the December 7 invasion in Dili, I heard there were already 10 battalions- about 10 000 people- Indonesian soldiers in Timor from the Navy, Air Force. Army, and even from the Police (Mobile Brigade).
Now I ‘ve heard that there are already 35 000 troops there. A big portion from all the elite/commando troops have been sent to Timor like the red berets (RPK.AD), orange berets (Kopasgat), violet berets (Morps Marinir / KKo), plus troops from Java . . .
It is interesting to note that in the Fretilin account they identified the troops who murdered the Australian journalists as being the very same coloured-beret troops from Indonesia. The letter goes on to say:
Actually, it is no secret any more in Indonesia. Especially in Jakarta, where the Army hospital (RS Gatot Subroto) and the Air Force hospital at Halim airbase is overflooded with war victims. And what makes it more tragic is that the families -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy President, pursuant to standing order 364 1 move:
That the documents that were quoted from by Senator Geitzelt be tabled.
- Mr Deputy President, I understand that during the course of his contribution Senator Gietzelt did not seek leave to table the documents. I appreciate that it is a matter for you, Mr Deputy President, strictly to interpret the standing order, but I think it is only fair that Senator Geitzelt ought to be asked whether he wishes the documents to be tabled, or whether he has an objection to tabling them. I assume that if he had wished them to be tabled he would have sought leave to table them during the course of his speech.
– As I understand the situation, it is not necessarily a question of asking the honourable senator who is speaking whether he wishes to table a document. It is the right of any honourable senator in this place to move that any document which is being quoted from be tabled. That is the thrust of Senator Harradine ‘s proposal. The Government agrees with that proposal.
– I think that the wording of standing order 364 is quite clear and that there is no substance in the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). That standing order reads:
A Document quoted from by a Senator may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
There is cerainly nothing there which suggests that the will of the honourable senator concerned has anything to do with the question.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Senator Harradine is in order in moving his motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (4.15)- Mr Deputy President, may I in the very first sentence that I utter reply to an observation made by Senator Gietzelt? By way of an interjection I said that there was an Indonesian desk in the Department of Foreign Affairs. At the time I made the interjection I was using the old nomenclature. In fact, I checked it out afterwards and found that that area in the Department of Foreign Affairs is known as the South East Asia area or sector. Therefore, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I had, by interjection, misin- formed the Senate. That is the area to which any further reference by any honourable senator should be made.
I must make my position perfectly clear at this juncture. It would be impossible to traverse all the various elements that have been raised by Senator Gietzelt. I must deal, in rebuttal, in my own way with the matters that have been raised in this matter of urgency. The main thrust of Senator Gietzelt ‘s argument is that Australia must intervene in East Timor. How is it to intervene? The horse is brought out by Mr Halfpenny, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union- he has the support of other unions- who stated that they have collected money, that they have chartered a ship and that they intend to float the ship into East Timor. At the same time they have asked the Australian Government to give the ship covering protection. As far as I can see, that will not in any way help the alarming situation that exists in East Timor at present because the reality of the matter is that if these stores are required- I assume that they are required- the proper international body to use to get them to East Timor is the International Red Cross. I have not found out from any observation by Mr Halfpenny or anybody else whether in fact overtures have been made to the International Red Cross to see whether it can obtain the support and the influence necessary to get this ship into East Timor.
How did the present situation in East Timor arise? The situation in that country is now attracting the attention of a great number of members of the Australian Labor Party both in another place and in this place. Here I think that I have to embark upon a resume of how the present situation in East Timor arose. The position before this situation arose was quite clear. (Quorum formed) I was about to mention to honourable senators the position which led clearly and remorselessly to the situation in East Timor. There was a revolution in Portugal. The main thrust of that revolution was that the
Communist Party there took over the direction of the armed forces in that country.
– That is a great simplification.
-Senator Button would not deny to me that the leader of the general staff in Lisbon was a member of the Communist Party. So, I will stick to the categorical statement that the armed forces of Portugal, particularly the air force, were taken over and control was exerted over them by the Communist Party in Portugal. Arising from that, by direction manifestly and obviously arms began to flow from Angola and Mozambique into East Timor. That is the second matter. It is quite clear to me that to a substantial degree the armed forces, such as they were, in East Timor, had been infiltrated by the Communist Party in Portugal at that time. That is the mess in which this area of the world finds itself at present.
I would be doing less than justice to the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, if I did not direct the attention of the Senate to the anticipatory situation which was revealed when he went to Jakarta and had a discussion with President Suharto. Subsequently they had another conference in Townsville. The subject matter of those conferences in Jakarta and Townsville was the rising situation or the stormy clouds that were beginning to rise in East Timor. However, we have never had any explanation of why those conferences took place or of what took place at them. That led me quite remorselessly one day to ask in the Senate whether the papers relating to those 2 conferences, the memoranda of conversation, would be tabled. Last week the Leader of the Opposition in another place ( Mr E. G. Whitlam) addressed a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on the subject of East Timor. I think it is proper for the fuller information of honourable senators, that I read from page 1736 of Hansard the reply given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Mr Whitlam. Mr Peacock said:
I understand that you did write a letter on 7 November in connection with the then Government’s inquiries relating to newsmen. You had at that stage met a fair degree of obstruction in the matter and you decided to take some action. It is interesting to note that, apart from your tacit approval in September 1974 regarding any impending invasion of Timor, I think this is the first action you actually took. The first occasion on which you raised aspects relating to Timor and Indonesia was in September 1974- and whether it was done tacitly or avowedly I do not know because I do not break conventions and go through the records of your Government in office. But my recollection is that it was well known amongst your Government, amongst your colleagues and amongst some who have worked for you and who are now writing for journals, that what I am saying is correct. So in the time frame of September 1974, when as I have said, either tacitly or avowedly you gave support to a degree of
Indonesian expansionism, you then wrote on 7 November 1975 regarding the missing journalists.
Unless the Minister for Foreign Affairs breaks the conventions that relate to correspondence and documents of previous governments, it is not possible to draw any conclusion other than the conclusion which I draw. The conclusion which I draw not only from the observations of the Minister for Foreign Affairs but also from an article written by Mr Gregory Clark, an ex-member of the Department of Foreign Affairs attached to Mr Whitlam’s staff, is that the Prime Minister of that day gave tacit approval to the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian Government.
From that anticipatory situation, as I have described it, we then came to what I describe as the gathering of forces, the gathering storm. Remorselessly these events, which had been set in train by both the communist revolution and takeover of the armed forces in Portugal and the flow of arms into East Timor by the then revolutionary government in East Timor, led to a situation where there seemed to be no possibility of their being halted by the Australian Government at the time. Then, on 1 1 November the Governor-General imposed on the caretaker Government the responsibility of maintaining the policies of the Government which it had replaced- an undertaking that was fulfilled. I assume that, whatever arrangements had been made by the previous Government, it was not within the capacity of the caretaker Government to halt those arrangements in any way. That is an observation which I make in passing.
What is clear is that in February this year, and after the election when the incoming Government could take charge of events, action began to flow from the present Government- the Fraser Government- and, in the case of the foreign affairs matters, under the aegis of Mr Peacock. Then came Mr Peacock’s journey to Jakarta, where he had conferences with Adam Malik, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Indonesia followed by his incursion into the United Nations. The General Assembly of the United Nations met to look at this problem and carried a resolution stating that the matter should go to the Security Council. It is interesting to read who voted for that resolution and who abstained, but the more interesting thing is that the nations in the area were opposed to the intervention of the United Nations and the subsequent intervention of the Security Council.
However, the matter went to the Security Council which involved itself in those delicate matters that seem to activate in a semantic way the business of the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Security Council met on 22 December 1975. After the verbiage such as’having noted’, ‘having heard’, ‘recognising’, ‘being gravely concerned’, ‘deploring’ and ‘regretting’ -all of which is the method by which the United Nations comes to an inconclusive answer- the Security Council made the vast decision that it would remain seized of the situation.
– To get out of it.
-To get out of it, to get out of any responsibility. The voting on that resolution was rather interesting. The members of the Security Council were China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Tanzania, Guyana, Iraq, Mauritania, the Republic of the Cameroons, Byelorussia and Costa Rica. The voting on the resolution was ten to two to remain seized of the position.
– The majority of the Security Council.
-To remain seized of the situation. What can be done? If the United Nations refuses to do anything and if the Security Council refuses to do anything, what is Australia supposed to do? Are we supposed to regard the situation in East Timor as a casus belli between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia? In other words, what are the sanctions that Australia can impose on Indonesia?
– The same as we did in 1945.
-In 1945, as I recollect, the trade unions took over the control of the foreign policy of this country in defiance of Dr Evatt who was then the Foreign Minister of Australia. That seems to be the last powerful force open to this country and at the disposal of Senator Gietzelt and Senator O’Byrne.
– They had to get rid of the fascist Dutch.
-In the 20 years I have known Senator O’Byrne I thought he had grown up and got rid of the ideological and mob garbage with which he used to assault our ears in the early 1950s, but as the years go on he seems to be going back to the foreign affairs rubbish with which he was born. There is no sanction left for the Australian Government, except to use the civilised persuasions that are available to it. Those civilised persuasions are, firstly, that it do the best it can to persuade Indonesia to withdraw its troops. In the Security Council a great wrangle took place as to the phraseology of the motion. The original motion was that Indonesia should withdraw its troops. The Indonesian delegate at the Security Council said that Indonesia was withdrawing its troops. The representative of the Japanese Government moved a motion that the original motion be varied to state that further withdrawals of Indonesian troops should take place. But that motion was rejected eventually with some abstentions but with the Africans and Russians supporting the motion that Indonesia should withdraw its troops. That was the resolution. The Security Council remained seized of the situation.
But what is to be done if Indonesia refuses to withdraw all its troops? That is the problem. How is that withdrawal to be obtained? Surely it can only be obtained by rational discussion either in the United Nations or between this Government and the Government of Indonesia. Nothing that Senator Gietzelt has said indicates in any way at all how this situation is to be resolved if we cannot resolve it by, firstly, persuading the Government of Indonesia to withdraw its troops or, secondly, by persuading the United Nations to apply sanctions. It is very interesting when sanctions are applied. They were applied unilaterally by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in south west Africa when it airlifted Cuban troops from Cuba into south western Africa. Is an implicit invitation being extended to the Australian Government at the present moment that, for example, the USSR should proceed to airlift Cuban troops or some equivalent forces into East Timor? Is that what is being tacitly suggested? Are we being tacitly invited to put armed Australian forces into East Timor? Mr Halfpenny is half inviting us to do that by creating the conditions of casus belli between Indonesia and Australia in demanding that an Australian covering force be provided to protect the ship which, unilaterally, the trade unions in Victoria and other parts of Australia are loading with supplies.
There is no answer to the situation except that Australia must use to the maximum its good offices. It is very surprising to discover that the Western European nations and the North and South American nations regard East Timor as an irritant from which they can avert their eyes and pay no attention. It is extraordinarily interesting to look at the declarations make in the General Assembly and in the Security Council by representatives of nations who live in that area such as Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia who will not have any intervention in any way at all by the United Nations. In other words, there are 2 great forces in the world. There is the western society of Europe, with the exception of Sweden which is a professional neutralist, which does not want anything to do with East Timor. The nations in the area do not want to have anything to do with East Timor.
I say again that all that is left is that Australia, through its Government and Minister for Foreign Affairs, should maintain to the maximum the capacity to get a peaceful resolution of the situation that exists in East Timor. That will be done by dealing with either Indonesia, as I have mentioned, or by persuading the Security Council that it has to exert some further moral pressure on Indonesia. The attitude of the Fraser Government is clear and unequivocal, namely, that the problem must be solved by peaceful processes. The inflammatory statements which are being made by the Australian Labor Party at the present moment add in no way at all to the peaceful solution of the problem. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, this problem has its genesis in the behaviour, the conduct and the policies of the member in another place who leads the Opposition and who gave, I say categorically, tacit approval to the Indonesians to take over East Timor.
-The Senate is debating a matter of urgency in relation to the situation in East Timor. The 4 points in the motion to which I wish to refer are:
Principally, I address myself to the last 2 paragraphs because there are certain assumptions in the speech of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack which suggest that he feels that the Australian Government has in fact done all it might have done in this difficult situation. Before I do that I make one or two comments about what seems to me to be the tragedy of the situation. Here we are in May 1 976 with an island on Australia ‘s doorstep where a war is going on. In the war there has been substantial evidence of civilian casualties of a high number, evidence of substantial starvation among the Timorese people and half a million people in a situation where there is not one doctor. There are no proper hospital facilities. The situation can be described in numerous ways in terms of detail but it is tragic in any human circumstance.
The concern behind this motion stems from one simple fact and that is that throughout this situation which has been going on since 7 December last year the Australian Parliament has remained silent. It seems extraordinary to me that the Australian Parliament has remained silent because it is the Parliament of the people who have prided themselves over many years on the assistance which they have given in Bangladesh, Biafra, and in any place where there has been a humanitarian problem with which people of goodwill might be concerned. This is also true of Vietnam but, of course, in a different way. The same sort of situation is happening in East Timor. As I say, there has been this silence. There seems to me to be 2 reasons for the silence. Perhaps it stems from the quiet hope that the situation in East Timor will just disappear. Of course, the unfortunate fact is that it will not disappear. It will not be swept under the carpet. The 4 months of experience with the war which has been going on indicates that that is but a pious hope. The success of that pious wish that the situation in East Timor would go away depended very much on the immediate success without publicity of the Indonesian military operation in East Timor. Of course that has not happened.
The second reason why the Parliament has been silent about the situation in East Timor is simply that from the beginning there has been a tendency to see it as an issue for political point scoring, particularly by extremists of the Left and the Right. I do not want to canvass this issue at the present time but it may be said that the Australian Labor Party Government in 1975 misinterpreted the situation in East Timor. Perhaps on the basis of a completely different set of facts, when compared with the ones which have existed since 7 December last year, the Government of the time made incorrect judgments. But be that as it may, what we are concerned about is May 1976 and the question of what the Parliament is now doing and what its deliberations are upon the situation which now exists.
I referred to the political extremists who have spoken on this issue. I think it was in September last year that the now Deputy Prime Minister of this country (Mr Anthony) attempted to wish the whole thing away and to dismiss the East Timor problem on the basis that Fretilin was a communist organisation. People on the extreme left have put views about the situation in East Timor which seem to me to be extraordinarily inflammatory and not directed to the welfare of the East Timorese people. An article written by that professional exorcist of evil political spirits, Mr B. A. Santamaria, appeared in the Australian this week, in which he dealt with the East Timor problem on the same basis on which he has dealt with every problem in international affairs for some decade or so, and that is by saying simply that the whole matter can be divided into black and white, into goodies and baddies, and that there is no need to try to analyse in more detailed terms the exact situation with which we are confronted.
One thing I should say about the attitude of the present Government is that it is no good trying to make political points out of any criticisms it might have of the conduct of the Australian Labor Party when in government in relation to this matter. The assumptions on which the present Government came to power and the circumstances in which it came to power in November 1975 carried with them the implicit promise that it would do better than the Labor Government did in respect of all these things. That promise in relation to Timor and in relation to many other matters has not, of course, been fulfilled. On the question of Timor there is, of course, a real politik view in international affairs. Grand design strategies are played by the dice men of international relations and the argument goes something like this: It is desirable in an area such as South East Asia that there not be small nation states; it is desirable from the point of view of Australia that we should be able to deal with our immediate neighbour, Indonesia, without the embarrassment of an independent state anywhere in between; it is desirable from the point of view of the whole region, having regard to a genuine desire, which I think is shared by all parties, for stability in the area, that there should not be any area in which any form of instability is allowed to arise.
If I might say so, the real politik view- the view which I have just put, the grand design view- in relation to East Timor does run into certain other real difficulties. The real difficulties which that view runs into are the reality of the anticipations and the feeling and concern in the world-wide community for the principle of selfdetermination. No act of self-determinantion has been possible in East Timor, except of course during the period in which the Fretilin forces were in control following a civil war. We cannot make judgments about that civil war; we do not know enough about it, perhaps. But no act of self-determination has been allowed to take place. That is the reality and it is something which qualifies any other judgments which we might seek to make.
The motion which is before us contains 4 points and I want briefly to address remarks to each of those points. The first concerns the matter of military action by Indonesia, which really amounts to a son of admirable form of gunboat diplomacy. I use the expression ‘admirable’ because it used to be regarded as admirable in colonial days. But the present situation in East Timor is not really distinguishable from the gunboat diplomacy of days gone by; Indonesia seeks a military solution to a difficult problem. Twice the United Nations has called for the withdrawal of Indonesian military forces in East Timor and twice that call has not been responded to. That is the second point that concerns us in the motion which is before us. I believe that we must as an Australian Parliament be diligent to try to maintain good relations with Indonesia, but this cannot be done at any price, and we must surely continually put pressure on Indonesia to observe the sort of international standards that we should like to see observed.
I believe that the present Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock), in speeches made in Jakarta during his recent visit, has shown on the face of it every sign of trying to indicate very strongly to Indonesia his view that the Australian people do not have any favourable view of what has happened in East Timor following military intervention by Indonesia. But one wonders what really is going on behind the rhetoric of the present Minister for Foreign Affairs. One wonders and thinks about the expression that ‘a wink is as good as a nod’ and wonders how many winks have been given. That leads me to the third and fourth points in the motion which is before us. The behaviour of the Australian Government just does not match up with the speeches which the Foreign Minister made in Jakarta. It is not as though people in this Parliament have not been concerned about this issue for some time. Senator Gietzelt and I have asked a number of questions about it in the Senate. I refer the Senate to two of those questions. On 24 February 1976 I asked the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate whether the Government supported the sending of a United Nations mission to East Timor. I asked further:
Will it co-operate with the sending of such a mission to East Timor? Further, has the Government made any positive attempts to send either medical or food supplies to people in the unoccupied areas of East Timor?
Senator Withers replied:
I thought the record of the Government and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this matter was quite clear. As I understand it my colleague in the other place, the Honourable Andrew Peacock, has said a number of times that we support the intervention of the United Nations in an attempt to bring this situation to a peaceful settlement.
I then stated:
The question relates to what he has done, not to what he has said.
Senator Withers went on:
It is all very well for the honourable senator to interject, but at least the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been doing things and not just talking about them. I do not think anybody in this Parliament would accuse the present Minister for Foreign Affairs of not working. At least he has stayed in Australia and worked and has not gone gallivanting around the world, week in, week out, like his predecessor in the previous Government.
So the answer continues. Of course that may be a smart political point but it is no answer to a question which was raised in this Parliament on 24 February. Again, on 26 February, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question about the seizure on 24 January of a radio in Darwin which was in communication with East Timor. The answer given again had that smart quality which we are used to hearing in answers given by the Leader of the Government in this place. The latter part of the answer went as follows:
The honourable senator also inquires about an application for a licence to receive messages from East Timor . . that matter falls within the purview of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, to whom the question has been referred.
In May 1976 I have received no answer to that question. These 2 questions to which I have referred are dealt with in the final part of the motion which is before us. I mention those 2 questions because Mr Winspeare Guicciardi, when he was on a fact-finding mission here some weeks ago, concluded his report with these words:
As a first step, it might be possible to build on the slender common assumption that the people of East Timor should be consulted on the future status of the Territory.
The point I want to make is simply this: There is no question of the people of East Timor being consulted on the future of East Timor without a United Nations presence or intervention in East Timor. My criticism of the present Australian Government on this score is quite simple. It relates to the seizure of the radio. But the fact is that Mr Winspeare Guicciardi was in Jakarta and came to Australia in January 1976. On 25 January the radio in Darwin was seized. Since that time there has been no communication with East Timor; there has been a blackout.
– That is not true.
-There have been leaks of information and there has been communication from East Timor, but there is no means of radio communication with East Timor. The fact of the matter is that on that date the Government connived to black out East Timor in the interests of the Indonesians who were there.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter of urgency that is before the Senate. Any matter that concerns a state of war or revolution, wherever it may be in the world, is certainly a matter of real urgency. I look at the points contained in the matter of urgency put forward by the Opposition and I read of the military action of Indonesia and its consequent effects upon the Timorese people; I read of the need for Indonesia to respond to decisions of the United Nations; I read of the denial of selfdetermination to the people of East Timor; and then I read the accusation of failure by the Australian Government in matters of communication and of providing humanitarian aid. It seems to me that those four points identify basically the Australian Government’s attitude to the Timor situation. They are in fact the very areas in which this Government has sought to take real and active measures. They are areas that have been neglected over the past 2 years or more to the denigration of Australia in its relations with Timor.
The Timorese have a number of things in common with us in Australia, and one of those things is that numerically they are a very small people. There are some 750 000 Timorese, and we must not forget that numerically Australia is but a small nation. In terms of the major nations in the region in which we live, we are numerically small. We have that situation in common with the Timorese. Australia owes a very considerable debt to Timor and a close association with it dating back to the days of World War II when their people and ours fought in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Of course, in terms of defence there is a measure of commonality. For the Timorese a tiny island has the problem defencewise of restriction of room to move. On the other hand Australia, being vast, has the problem defencewise of extreme distance, with all the problems that brings in the defence of our continent. I highlight those areas of identity between us because there is every reason why we should have, and inded do have, a real measure of concern for our near neighbours who are some 300 miles from our northern shore.
I want to make it perfectly clear that the position of the Government has been constant. It was constant when we were in Opposition and it has remained virtually unchanged. On the other hand, there seems to have been a change in the stance of the present Opposition since it has moved from government to opposition. It seems to me that the Opposition now is conscious of the things that we have been conscious of all along. Yet during its term of government it seemed to spend all of its time totally ignoring the circumstances of the Timorese and the Indonesian situation, which is so close to our northern shore. In fairness, one should say that Senator Willesee, when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs, took a different view of the Timorese situation. It was unfortunate for him, it was unfortunate for the then Government and it was unfortunate for Australia that Mr Whitlam, the then Prime Minister, apparently saw fit to override the considerations and attitudes of his Foreign Minister.
The Portuguese were unable, and perhaps unwilling, to carry on their attempted government of this part of a small island from about September 1974, and Indonesian initiatives in regard to the island seemed to have been clearly established from that time. But in spite of the clarity of Indonesia’s initiatives and objectives, no action was taken at that time by Mr Whitlam, the leader of the Australian Government. No effort was made to seek a moderation in the attitude of Indonesia towards the eastern portion of East Timor. As I understand it, the grounds for that lack of effort are rather interesting. It was the view of the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, that East Timor, being a tiny area with a relatively tiny community, was not an economically viable centre and, because of that, apparently it had no right to self-determination. There are innumerable island communities around the world which by general yardsticks could be adjudged to be economically non- viable. Yet surely those communities have a right to selfdetermination, and it is that right which concerns us today in the Senate.
It has been suggested that the Government is hoping something will turn up. It is doing far more than that, but may I say that the previous Government, under the leadership of Mr Whitlam, stood aside from the realities that confronted us in East Timor in those days and just hoped that something would happen. Let me refer briefly to the attitude and actions of this Government since it came to power in December 1975. It has quite clearly and quite adamantly outlined its attitude to this extremely important area and to this extremely dangerous situation to our north. The Government has outlined 4 major points. It has insisted that in the first instance there should be a cessation of hostilities, for nothing concrete can occur until hostilities cease. The Government has insisted that there be a resumption of international humanitarian aid in Timor, and that too is of absolute necessity if we are not only to help the Timorese with their material problems but also to establish a clear picture of the circumstances existing in this distraught island. In the third place, the Government has insisted as a matter of urgent policy that there should be a withdrawal of Indonesian forces from the island of Timor and that circumstances should be established whereby a real measure of self-determination for the people of the island can be brought about. I can see no way in which that situation could be established effectively except through the intervention of the United Nations.
I believe that those are clear and strong indications of the Australian Government’s attitude to the Timor situation. Indeed, in that attitude we are not totally and absolutely supported by some of the people around the world whom one would assume would support that position which we have taken. Our position has been made abundantly clear at the United Nations, for we played a leading role in formulating the resolution that was put before and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1975. That particular resolution called, in the first place, for the withdrawal of Indonesian forces and, in the second place, for the restoration of the ceasefire to allow the Timorese an opportunity to determine their future. So those indications which, naturally, are similar to the guidelines that are observed by this Government were strongly promoted in the United Nations General Assembly by Australia last December. Again in April 1976 the Australian position was emphasised in the United Nations, that time to the Security Council, although at this time in history we are not a member of that Council.
However, Australia did emphasise once again the necessity to have Mr Winspeare investigate the circumstances in East Timor. That would perhaps be the best form of communication that we could establish, namely, to have a man of his standing and of his connections move into the country and give to the rest of the world a real commentary on the circumstances, the problems and hopefully the solutions that would apply. The resolution of 14 April 1976 once again called for the withdrawal of troops and, indeed, a genuine act of self-determination. All of these matters, which were promoted by the Australian Government again, were incorporated in the Security Council resolution. So it is fairly farcical for anyone to say that we have not taken a strong, determined and clear-cut attitude in regard to the problems of Timor. We took a strong diplomatic position in Jakarta on 20 March this year when the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) spoke with his Indonesian counterpart and urged- and urged strongly- that the Indonesian forces should be withdrawn. He received what appeared to be a reasonable undertaking on the part of the Indonesians that they would withdraw those forces from the island.
Australia has indeed contributed to the communication with Timor. It has made contributions of aid to the Timor circumstance, both to the refugees in Indonesian Timor and to Timorese refugees in Australia; so it should, and so it has done, and so it will do. There can be no advantage to the Timorese or to the Australians if there is a continuing deterioration in the relationships between Indonesia and Australia. In what sense that could help the people of Timor I fail to see. Certainly I can see no way in which that sort of circumstance- action that would lead to continuing and severe deterioration in our relations with Indonesia- could contribute to the solution of the problem in Timor. That, of course, is something which must be avoided in all circumstances- certainly in all foreseeable circumstancesbecause it is also worthy of note that in the context of the region in which we find ourselves Australia stands alone. It may well be that that is to our credit, but we do, nevertheless, stand alone in failing to support the Indonesian stance, the Indonesian story. In the region of the world in which we have to live and find our security and trade, which includes many significant nations such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and so on, we alone seem to be taking the utmost steps to bring about at least some moderation in Indonesia’s approach to an immense, a dreadful problem which we highlight in this chamber this afternoon.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I think there is much with which any reasonable person would have to agree in what Senator Scott has just said. Certainly as he said in his opening remarks it is a matter of urgency when we find that armed force is being used so close to the shores of Australia. I would, however, not take quite so sanguine a view as Senator Scott does of the actions of his own Government. I do not believe that it has taken as much and as energetic action as it should have taken in support of the principles of self-determination for the Timorese people, and in particular- this is the only instance to which I would refer in any detail- I believe that it has not behaved correctly with regard to the provision of the radio transmitter which apparently was being used for contact with the Fretilin forces in Timor.
When it is being argued by many- I think by all of us- that the United Nations should exercise some surveillance over what is occurring in Timor and that Mr Winspeare Guicciardi, the United Nations representative, should visit Timor, it does seem to be somewhat unreasonable to destroy the only effective communication that there was with the Fretilin forces from outside Timor by closing down the radio transmitter in the Northern Territory. I know that it could be argued that there are all sorts of requirements under the Wireless Telegraphy Act with regard to the licensing of transmitters, but it would seem to be taking a most extraordinarily legalistic point to say that in these circumstances the one link with the forces other than the Indonesian forces in Timor should be broken in the way in which it was broken. If that is done- and it was done- it makes it all the more difficult, I believe, to sustain the point that we are endeavouring to see that there is a legitimate act of selfdetermination by the Timorese people, when the link with the Fretilin, which I think everybody would have to concede must represent a substantial number of Timorese people- whether it is a majority, I suppose, it is difficult to speculate from this distance, but certainly no one could deny that it represents a very substantial number of Timorese people- is broken and the only remaining link is a link through the Indonesians and those people in Timor who are supporting Indonesia.
I believe that if we are going to look at the present position in Timor it is necessary to avoid hysteria; it is necessary to avoid an excessive use of emotive prose, because we find at the present time that there has been armed intervention by a power in the internal affairs of another piece of territory. I think that is beyond dispute; there has been armed intervention by Indonesia. To a large degree, I think it has to be said without being unduly provocative towards them, the manner in which the Indonesian Government has sought to justify its intervention in Indonesia has been specious in the extreme. To say that they were only volunteers taking part is the most palpable nonsense. That is no excuse whatsoever. Whether they were volunteers, conscripts or national servicemen does not seem to me to make the slightest difference. They were, in fact, members of the Indonesian armed forces, apparently carrying out the orders of Indonesian officers and in no way acting in defiance of their own authorities. Certainly no suggestion has been made that they are going to be charged with mutiny or insubordination because of the actions that they took.
Further, they were using Indonesian armed forces equipment and Indonesian arms, which were not volunteers. The submarines, if there were submarines there, the warships and the planes were not volunteers; they were provided by the Indonesian Government. So whether those troops were volunteers or whether they were not volunteers, the fact remains that the Indonesian Government directly intervened in the affairs of Timor. The suggestion that they were volunteers is the sort of argument which has been advanced in the past. The Germans used it in 1936 when they said that the Condor Legion they sent to Spain was comprised of volunteers. That argument had as much substance as this argument. Whether or not they were volunteers, they wore the German uniform and bore German arms in the same way as these people wore the Indonesian uniform and bore Indonesian arms. But the problem in Timor is one which, I believe, goes back to the many hundreds of years- some 400 years- of Portuguese rule in Timor. In many respects, their was a benign rule. The Portuguese, of all the great European colonial powers, were certainly the least racist. There were no laws and certainly there was very little practice against what is described so euphemistically in South Africa as miscegenation. There was no Immorality Act in Portuguese Timor.
– It was a very backward country.
– It was a very backward regime. But there were certain positive aspects of it. There are many negative aspects which I intend to mention; but there were at the same time some positive aspects of the Portuguese regime. I was in Portuguese Timor in 1966. It was under Portuguese rule. I remember that at the time when I was there the Chief Judge of Portuguese Timor was in fact an African from Angola. One did see cars in Dili- there were not a great many cars there- in which on occasions a white Portuguese private was driving a person of non-European origin, some sort of official or functionary of the Portuguese Government, as a passenger. I remember a rather prominent Portuguese official, the President of the Portuguese National Union which in fact was the Portuguese Fascist Party, describing somebody to me. He went through a long description. He told me that this person was a bald headed man, with horn rimmed glasses, aged about 60, and rather fat; but he neglected to tell me that he was a totally black man from Sao Tome, who was a political deportee living in Timor but engaging in some sort of scholarly work which was a little too esoteric for me.
Despite the fact that the Portuguese did regard legally all of the Timorese people as being Portuguese citizens, there were negative aspects of this also. There was absolute neglect, and more than neglect, of any indigenous Timorese languages. The only language which was recognised in Portuguese Timor was Portuguese. All official documents, such as they were, were in Portuguese. Education was carried on in Portuguese. Although, as I have mentioned earlier, this did have its positive aspects- it meant that a certain small number of the more outstanding students of Timor were able to go to Portugal and study at universities and institutions of higher learning there- the fact was that Timorese culture itself was completely neglected and, as far as the educated people in Timor were concerned, became largely non-existent. No preparation was made for any form of self-government.
I doubt that the Timorese people were any more oppressed than were the people in metropolitan Portugal. But the fact remains that there was no scope whatsoever for the formation of indigenous Timorese political parties, trade unions or the other movements which one found in the colonies of Britain, France or even, for that matter, the Netherlands, such as the Netherlands East Indies. lt is not to be wondered at that when Portugal ultimately removed the fascist regime- I use the word ‘fascist’ not as a term of abuse, but as a word which the Portuguese authorities used to describe themselves- and independence was given to Timor there was a state of general confusion. I know that one can be critical of the Portuguese perhaps for the way in which they handed over so quickly and so abruptly. But I think that 2 points must be made. The first is that they had their own very severe problems at home, problems that they are only now, I hope, beginning to surmount. Apart from that, it seems to me to be very difficult to know what one is supposed to do if one is a colonial power. If one does stay on, one is accused of hanging around and being a colonialist; but, if one goes to quickly, that is no good either. It seems to me that in the circumstances the Portuguese probably acted quite reasonably in saying: ‘We do not want to be colonialists. We do not want to be imperialists. We are leaving’. And they left.
My own view, for as much as it is worth- it is a view which I expressed in an article which I wrote for an Australian journal after I had been to Portuguese Timor in 1966- is that the best solution would have been, had the Timorese people wanted it, for Timor to retain some association with Portugal, similar to the association which New Caledonia and La Reunion have with France, whereby it could have had some sort of departmental status within metropolitan Portugal itself; that is, provided that Portugal was a democratic country and provided that it did much more for the Timorese people than it had done over the 400 years that it had been there. This apparently was not wanted by a majority of the Timorese people and it was not wanted by the Government of Portugal.
The Indonesian Government, for whatever reason, has decided to incorporate Timor inside its own boundaries. In doing this it has behaved in a way which has been completely contrary to its own principles which it has expounded in the past. The principles which the Government, the people and all political parties in Indonesia expounded after the end of the Second World War, when the original conflict arose with the Netherlands, were that the Republic of Indonesia should hold sovereign authority over all of the former territory of the Netherlands East Indies. That was their position. That was their argument for the incorporation of West Irian into the Netherlands East Indies. They maintained that, as a result of the treaty which the Provisional Government of the Republic of Indonesia entered into with the Government of the Netherlands shortly after the war, legally they were entitled to all of the former Netherlands East Indies including West Irian. Their claims were made not on the basis of race or culture but on juridical grounds about the integrity of the Netherland East Indies which had acquired its independence. They are arguments with which I agreed at the time, and with which I agree now. I believe that quite properly, whatever the regime may be in Indonesia, West Irian was incorporated in Indonesia. I believe that it is and should be part of Indonesia, as in fact it now is.
No such argument can be used about Portuguese Timor. It never was part of the Netherlands East Indies. For people to argue, as some do, that the people there are ethnically similar to the people of Indonesia is completely unhelpful to the Indonesian case. It is not an argument which the Indonesians have ever used. If they did, it would cause them to be able to make claims to a large part of Malaysia and all or, if not all, a very large part of the Philippines. It is a claim which, however, they have never made. In any event, if they did make it, it is not a claim which could be maintained to the extent which those who advocate this point of view would like to see it maintained. Timor is a multi-ethnic community. On the one occasion on which I was in Portuguese Timor, in 1966, an anthropological mission from the Musée de I’Homme in Paris under the leadership of Louis Berthe- probably one of the leading anthropologists in the worldwas there. I met Louis Berthe and other members of that anthropological mission. One of the reasons why there was such a large and high powered anthropological mission studying the situation in Portuguese Timor at that time was the ethnic complexity of Portuguese Timor. Certainly there are people of the Malay ethnic group to which the bulk of the people of Indonesia belong. But there are other people there. There are people, particularly in the Dili area, who are regarded by many anthropologists as having very strong similarities to some Australian Aborigines. There are other people apparently of Melanesian and Negrito stock. I do not know what the ultimate result of the investigations of the Louis Berthe mission were; but certainly it cannot be argued that all Timorese are ethnically the same as the preponderantly Malay population of Indonesia.
Indeed, through the fact that there was this 400 years or more of Portuguese rule and through the fact that the Portuguese insisted that Timor was an integral part of Portugalalthough they did not engage in much propaganda, such propaganda as they did engage in throughout Timor consisted of signs saying ‘Portugal is here’, ‘Portugal is a multi-continental country’ and slogans to that effect- a very large number of the Timorese people became much more aligned with the Portuguese culture and tradition than they did with any indigenous culture and traditions of their own part of the world. Certainly the means of communication of the people who could be regarded as educated or partly educated was the Portuguese language. Most, if not all, of them have Portuguese names. Many of them are partly of Portuguese ancestry.
I believe that in those circumstances the Indonesians can justify no claim whatsoever, apart from some claim that if a little country near one’s border gets its independence one is entitled to take it over. I think that we all ought to be very alarmed at any widespread adoption of that point of view. There are a number of little countries near the borders of very big countries. To argue that this should be the case with regard to East Timor could well mean that we would have to support a number of examples of aggression throughout the world, some of which are only too familiar to us.
I would say in closing, as Senator Scott and other honourable senators have said, that what has occurred in East Timor has been armed intervention against a small group of people. I am not arguing that troops should be sent to Timor; nobody in the Australian Labor Party is. We do not want another Vietnam. But what we do say is that there are means, without provoking conflict with Indonesia, whereby Australia can make its position clear to Indonesia; that is, that we support self-determination for the Timorese people. Thereby, we could do something for the people of this small country and also for peace in our part of the world.
– I have to express my puzzlement at the nature of the urgency motion moved by the Opposition. It would seem in some respects to be an attempt to adopt a bi-partisan approach in respect to the tragic situation in East Timor and, in a sense, no doubt to assist members of the Opposition in salving their consciences because of the inaction of the government of which they were a part. I do not think that anyone would decry an effort to establish a bi-partisan approach to be expressed by this Parliament, that the fighting and conflict in East Timor should end, that the bloodshed suffered by the people of East Timor should end and that the undeserved, unwarranted and extreme suffering of the people of East Timor should end. But I am puzzled even more by the fact that Senator Gietzelt should suggest that the present Government has remained passive. If that were the case, one could only ask how he would describe the attitude taken by the previous Government.
When Senator Wheeldon says that there are avenues open and that there is action that can be taken even beyond the action that has been taken through the United Nations and in blunt talking to Indonesian officials and leaders privately and publicly by this Government- this was not done by the former Government- I ask-. What other action can be taken? What does he propose? He says that he is not in favour of armed intervention. Of course, he is not. No one here would be. But we have taken action through the United Nations. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) visited Indonesia. The statements, in private and public, as Senator Button conceded, have been forthright and, as I have said already, blunt as to our attitude about what the Indonesians ought to do. We have said that they should withdraw, let the International Red Cross teams enter the country, let more humanitarian aid into the country and bring an end to the suffering of the Timorese people. We have stated that Indonesia should allow a proper act of free self-determination to take place. We have done all this. What more does Senator Wheeldon suggest? What more does Senator Gietzelt suggest? What more does Senator Button suggest? We are open to suggestions. At least we have spoken up publicly and privately.
I am puzzled also by the approach taken by Senator Button when he says that the Parliament has not discussed this issue sufficiently. Even during the period of this Government it has been raised dozens of times. It has been raised in the form of questions. It has been referred to at length in a statement on foreign policy issued by the Foreign Minister. I might add also that it was first raised formally in the Parliament by the present Foreign Minister when he was the shadow Foreign Minister, on 25 February 1975, at a time when the then Labor Government had failed to take any action to prevent what was clearly a chance of invasion by Indonesian forces. I remind honourable senators of the terms of the matter of public importance raised by the then Opposition in another place. It was raised on the basis of the then Labor Government’s equivocal attitude towards the future of East Timor and its failure to take urgent action to ensure a solution in accordance with the wishes of the East Timorese people and in the interests of the region’. So honourable senators can see that this issue was first raised in the Parliament by the Parties which are now the Government. We raised it because of the failure of the then Labor Government to take any action not to end but to prevent suffering of the East Timorese people. I well remember in -
– The radio was confiscated.
– I will deal with that later. I remember in 1974 when Ramos Horta first visited Australia and the Labor Government’s Foreign Minister refused to see him. I saw him on that occasion as did the shadow Foreign Minister. But the Labor Foreign Minister of Australia did not see him. On that occasion Ramos Horta represented Fretilin. We saw him because we wanted to hear his views and at least find out what was happening in East Timor. He warned then- in July 1974-1 think I have that date correctthat an Indonesian invasion of East Timor was likely. Indeed, he feared at that time- even in 1974- that it was imminent.
– He did speak to our Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I understand he spoke to the Committee and on a subsequent visit to the Foreign Minister, I think. But he did not speak to him on the first occasion. I refer also to a letter by Mr Jim Dunn, a man who knows East Timor and who represented Australia there. It was published in December 1975. Mr Dunn refers to the invasion of East Timor and says:
It should be noted, however, that the invasion of East Timor did not begin with Saturday’s attack.
That is in the first week of December 1975.
For more than 2 months the so-called civil war in East Timor has been largely a conflict between Indonesian troops engaged in a covert limited operation and the forces of Fretilin.
If we are to refer to intelligence information available to governments, one must surely suspect that the Labor Government in the 2 months before that time was well aware of what was happening in East Timor. But nothing was done about it. Nothing was said about it. On that basis, let us look at the origins of the Indonesian invasion. In 1974, the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, held talks with President Suharto- as I recall, on 2 occasions. Out of those talks have come stories, never denied, that Mr Whitlam indicated to President Suharto that East Timor could properly form a pan of Indonesia. I refer to an article by Mr Peter Hastings which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 3 December 1975. The author referred to talks held on 30 September 1974 in which he says Mr Whitlam told President Suharto at a meeting in central Java:
I understand that statement was made in a briefing by an official to journalists. Senator Button refers to the realpolitik approach of governments- that is, the attitude that small states are not viable and that they create difficulties for larger states. One can only ask whether the attitude that East Timor would be unviable and that therefore it ought properly to be part of Indonesia is not the ultimate realpolitik approach. I will read on from this article:
The Press briefing officer added that: *. . . the Prime Minister is, nevertheless, thought to have made it clear that the people of the colony should have the ultimate decision on their future’.
It would be cynical to assert that Mr Whitlam gave mere lip-service to the notion of self-determination, but it came close to it. How could he have believed in self-determination processes as being viable for Portuguese Timor when he had already given the game away as revealed in a Foreign Affairs background press paper for September 11, 1974 (25 days before he addressed the General Assembly) which read in pan: . . accordingly Australia appreciates Indonesia’s concern over the future of the territory and shares its belief that voluntary union of Portuguese Timor (with Indonesia) on the basis of an internationally accepted act of selfdetermination would seem to serve the objective of decolonisation and at the same time the interest of stability in the region?’
I will quote also from a statement in the Nation Review journal which cannot be accused of being an outspoken supporter of the Government. The Nation Review of 1 9 September 1 974 stated:
Portuguese Timor may well be part of Indonesia within a few years, if not sooner. Last week’s amicable talks between Mr Whitlam and President Suharto in Jogjakarta set the stage for the merger of the Portuguese colony with its huge Indonesian neighbour.
– What year was that?
– 1974. 1 applaud many of the sentiments expressed today by honourable senators opposite but one can only ask where they were in 1974 and 1975. Where was Mr Fry and where was Mr Hawke when all of this began and when the tragedy occurred? Where were they then? We well know that they are prepared to give lip service to democratic institutions, to freedom and to self-determination. Senator Gietzelt this afternoon asserted that aggression should be condemned wherever it occurs. What attitude did members of the previous Government take to the Baltic States- an end to freedom; an end to democracy; an end to selfdetermination. They accepted that. It would seem that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was prepared to accept that attitude in relation also to East Timor.
I would like to refer to some of the actions taken by the present Government since coming to power. Shortly after coming to power and when the major invasion by Indonesian troops occurred, on 1 1 December, Australia supported a United Nations Trusteeship Committee resolution which called on Indonesia to withdraw from Portuguese Timor immediately. If one is to question the independence of this Government in foreign policy, one might point out that on that occasion Australia was not on the same side as the United States of America and New Zealand. We knew where we stood and we were prepared to make it clear to everybody, including the Indonesians. On the following day, the General Assembly- in a resolution passed by 72 votes to 10 votes, with Australia voting for the resolution -called on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor to enable the people to decide their own future. That resolution condemned Indonesian intervention. What could be clearer than that as to the stand of this Government? I understand that the Indonesians were surprised. After the attitude of the previous Government, it is possible to understand why they were surprised that a government in Australia should take that action because previously their actions had effectively been condoned.
This Government has called repeatedly in the United Nations, in talks with the Indonesians and publicly here in Australia for the readmission of the International Red Cross to East Timor. We know that the Indonesian Red Cross is working there. We applaud their efforts. But the International Red Cross must be permitted to go back into East Timor with a full-scale operation. Humanitarian aid, which we stand ready to provide, also must be permitted into East Timor. We have taken action to assist the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to visit East Timor.
The question has been raised about the Government’s action concerning a transmitter in Darwin. Senator Wheeldon pointed out that it was an illegal transmitter. The question was raised whether the information being passed by it was in fact entirely civilian and whether, if it were not, Australia might be involved indirectly in the conflict. In those circumstances the Government felt, rightly, that that transmitter ought to be closed. At the same time we were prepared to provide facilities to assist the United Nations Secretary-General’s representative to visit Timor. We undertook negotiations with the Portuguese and with the Indonesians to that end. We assisted in the use of Telecom Australia through Darwin.
I point out that the question of communications played no part in the problems which occurred with that visit by the envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to East Timor. It was a fact that the Fretilin forces did not control areas which he wished to visit and were unable to arrange for him to visit areas which he had hoped to visit. It was not a matter of communications. In fact, as I understand it, Telecom Australia is still receiving messages from East Timor and is passing them on to addressees.
I believe that this Government’s action is bearing fruit. There are signs of movement on the part of the Indonesians. There is some suggestion that they may begin to withdraw troops. There is a suggestion also that they may allow the International Red Cross back into East Timor to conduct effective operations. Questions are raised, as I mentioned earlier, by people who claim that more must be done. I believe that everything that can effectively be done has been done. As circumstances change, further action will be possible. This Government will take the necessary action. Senator Gietzelt accused the Government of a ‘hands off’ attitude. I think the evidence refutes that.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on this motion because I believe that Australians can have no cause for joy about the events that have occurred in East Timor in the past year, in particular. Any pretence we have of mateship with the Timorese or of giving them a fair go has long since evaporated. Quite frankly, we will be seen as a nation of dingoes when the chips are down. We used East Timor and its people 30 years ago when we, as a nation, believed ourselves to be in imminent danger of invasion. Now when our former allies have been invaded by a superior power we turn our backs and let them be. Worse than that, by some of the actions this nation has taken since 7 Decemberthe cancelling of the right to operate a radio and other matters- we have, in effect, stuck the slipper in while our mates were down.
At a time such as this I do not have great pride in being an Australian. I then ask myself: Am I being fair to the populace at large? Am I being fair to the great majority of people in this nation when I said that we might be seen as a nation of dingoes? I wonder whether the people of Australia too were not misled by the propaganda which has poured out of Indonesia in the last 12 months. I wonder whether the citizens of this country have had the wool pulled over their eyes, just as certain individuals in our community and in the Indonesian community tried to pull the wool over the eyes of members of Parliament. Would I have been blinded to the facts of the situation had I not listened to the first hand information Senator Bonner, Senator Gietzelt, Mr Fry and other members of this Parliament were able to bring back from East Timor for those of us who were interested.
It is rather interesting to look back now and to realise that last spring the Labor Caucus Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, having some interest and concern about the developing situation in East Timor, asked the Indonesian Ambassador to address it one evening about the matter. The consensus of all present as we left that room was that the man was seeking to pull the wool over our eyes and that, in fact, he had distorted the truth and tried to hide the facts from us. I reminded the same gentleman of that fact after the coup in Australia on 1 1 November when I sent him a telegram some time between 11 November and the end of November 1975. The telegram I sent to His Excellency, Ambassador for Indonesia, reads thus:
Reports in today’s media confirm my suspicions that Indonesian forces are involved in East Timor. Such action will alienate Australian friendship with Indonesia as was suggested to you by the Labor Party Caucus Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee some weeks ago. I trust Indonesian forces will be withdrawn and the Timorese people allowed to develop their own future free from interference.
I have not received either an acknowledgment or a reply to that telegram. Perhaps the most disturbing factor about the information concerning the problem in East Timor as it affected myself and other members of this Parliament whom 1 know was the part played by the Department of Foreign Affairs. On 7 October last year the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence invited the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs to address us. When Mr Renouf came he informed us that he did not wish to speak on any subject but suggested that we throw the meeting open and ask him questions. There were 3 or 4 questions asked of him about the situation in the Middle East and then the questioning immediately got around to Timor. It was patently obvious to me and to one or two others, from the answers to questions that we received, that the Department of Foreign Affairs could be charged only with gross incompetence or, as I suspect, a cover-up in this matter.
I asked myself whether it was possible for the Department of Foreign Affairs, with men who have served for years in various posts in ports of call around the globe and who surely have built up some expertise in information gathering, to be misinformed about a situation which is occurring only 600 miles from our backdoor, or front door, which is the term that I am sure my colleague, Senator Robertson from Darwin would demand that I use. Whichever door it be, this situation is occurring 600 miles from our shores, and our own Department of Foreign Affairs could not give the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence any information of a factual nature. In fact, I am told that prior to leaving the meeting Mr Renouf admitted to at least one member of the Committee that it was patently obvious that the department would have to update its information on East Timor.
This is a shocking example of bureaucratic cover-up. If this is the attitude of the bureaucrats in the Department of Foreign Affairs, it is no wonder that Australia became involved in Vietnam 10 or 11 years ago. When any government in this country, regardless of its political colour, can receive the deceptive information that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence received on that morning in October, it is little wonder that this country has gone to war mistakenly many times. I think it is to the eternal shame of the Department of Foreign Affairs- in fact, the department should be tipped upside down and a lot of heads should roll- that politicians cannot get from a department factual information about a developing situation so close to our own shores.
I spoke about this matter during my speech in the Address-in-Reply debate. I mentioned then that I believed that quite a number of Australians can be held responsible for or were partakers in some of the mischievous deeds which have been done in East Timor over recent months. I mentioned also the possibility that people with a vested interest in the future of oil in that country- Timor Oil and the Oceanic Exploration Company of America- may also have been involved. Allegations have been made and no attempt has been made to disprove them. As I have said, the confiscation of the Fretilin radio on a technicality was a case of sticking the slipper in when our mates were down.
Of course, while we talk here the war in East Timor goes on. I was assured again today, from personal contact with a gentleman in this Parliament, that the strong reports that are coming out of East Timor about heavy casualties being inflicted on the Indonesian forces are correct. The reports indicate that the Fretilin forces have admirably adapted the guerilla tactic adopted by the Vietnamese, the tactic of hit by surprise, take what you want from your enemy and fade away. The Fretilin are proving with great success, by utilising the weapons captured from their invaders, that they will equal the Vietnamese in guerilla tactics in a war that will go on for many years to come. So far, unfortunately, the only people who seem to have taken a great deal of interest in the human question of providing aid to the Timorese people have been that group of trade unionists and aid people who are currently fitting out and loading a ship in Cairns, I understand, to take supplies of food and humanitarian aid to the people of East Timor. They are the only people who have taken any practical steps to try to do something to alleviate the suffering of the people of East Timor. I think they are to be congratulated. I hope that the present Australian Government will give some form of moral support at least to these people for the courage, and the heart that they have shown when the rest of the nation, by and large, has let the people of East Timor down cold.
– It is clear from the speeches which have already been made in the Senate that there are substantial areas of agreement within the Senate and between the parties in the Senate on the question of East Timor. I refer to the speeches made today in this chamber which show, I think, substantial areas of agreement. I refer to the speeches made outside this chamber and on other occasions in the chamber by senators such as yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President, and others. I know that Senator Missen and Senator Harradine are anxious also to make a contribution to this debate. However, the matter of urgency is critical of the stance which has been adopted by the present Government. I think it is clear that there has been ample demonstration of the fact that it was the previous Labor Government which showed the cynicism and neglect which really set the policy on East Timor off on the wrong foot. Government senators do not accept the implication contained in this matter of urgency.
We assert that the present Government has paid proper regard to the people of East Timor and that it has expressed to Indonesia and to the world a proper view on matters such as self determination. For that reason, the Government does not support the matter of urgency as it is worded. Although I make that statement, I ask honourable senators to recall the substantial areas of agreement in connection with this matter. To vote against this matter of urgency should not be interpreted as a complete rejection of many of the matters raised in it. I commend to anyone who is anxious to know the attitude of Australian parliamentarians a study of the releases which have been made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the speeches which have been made in this chamber and in the other chamber. The Senate is aware that the Government wishes to proceed with debate on legislation after the suspension of the sitting for dinner. That being the case, I move:
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I oppose the question that the question be now put. I appreciate that -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- I am sorry Senator, the question has to be put The question is: That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the second progress report on the Bilingual Education Program in Schools in the Northern Territory. I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This program, established early in 1973, aims, through the incorporation of Aboriginal languages and other aspects of Aboriginal culture in the school program, to develop in the students literacy in their own language and in English, and competence in both cultures. In May 1975 the then Minister for Education tabled in Parliament a first progress report on the development of the program. It was originally proposed that the second report, which I am now tabling, should also be presented to Parliament in 1975. Honourable senators will understand that the disruptions and staff shortages that followed Cyclone Tracy have brought about an unavoidable delay in the presentation of the second report.
The program has been kept under review throughout its development. The first and second annual progress reports were supplemented by a consultant’s report commissioned from Dr Geoff O ‘Grady of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and Dr Ken Hale of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr O ‘Grady and Dr Hale, both world authorities on bilingual education, visited the Northern Territory to observe the bilingual program in action. At the conclusion of their visit they made the following evaluation:
In all, we feel that the bilingual program is very successful academically, and, equally important, that it is destined to bring about a productive integration of the education system into the communities it serves.
In addition to these reports, a film on the program, Not to Lose You, My Language, was produced for the Department of Education by Film Australia in 1975. This film, intended to make the general public more aware of an important development in Northern Territory education, was considered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be sufficiently interesting to be shown as an episode on its A Big Country documentary series. Since 1974, the year covered in the second report, there has been a period of consolidation of individual school programs. Curriculum materials in 12 different Aboriginal languages, including primers, teacher guides, supplementary readers, and general stories, have been produced. Although staff difficulties have restricted the resources that can be devoted to this important aspect of the program, the progress to date represents a considerable achievement.
The problem of obtaining and retaining suitable non-Aboriginal staff, covered in the first and second reports, remains pressing. NonAboriginal staff seem reluctant to remain in remote areas for extended periods, and the staff who do accept such appointments tend to be inexperienced. Where local Aboriginal staff are available, a similar problem does not exist and the provision of an increased number of trained Aboriginal teachers and teaching assistants seems the best way to stabilise the staffing situation.
A majority of schools in Aboriginal communities now incorporate in their programs the teaching of aspects of Aboriginal culture and the use of teaching assistants who can use the local language or dialect for communication with children and the local community. The number of schools involved in a formal bilingual program, teaching literacy in 2 languages, tends to fluctuate somewhat as a result of staff shortages and other factors. At the present moment some 19 schools have a formal program. Four of these are now in their fourth year of bilingual studies, four in their third, and six in their second. Because some Aboriginal communities are multilingual, and in others the language is not viable for school use, it is thought unlikely that the total number of schools which can implement a bilingual program will exceed 25. In conclusion, it can be said, in the light of progress achieved, that the bilingual program is firmly established in the Northern Territory, and has gained the acceptance of both schools and Aboriginal communities. I present the following paper.
Second progress report on the Bilingual Education Program in Schools in the Northern Territory- Ministerial
Statement-5 May 1976.
– I seek leave to propose a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
As has been indicated by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) the bilingual program in the Northern Territory is in its infancy. The Minister mentioned the work of Doctors O ‘Grady and Hale who were invited to the Northern Territory to investigate the program in 1974. After they had visited the Territory they made this point:
It is of course just a beginning and has a long and difficult road ahead of it.
No doubt the report which has been tabled tonight indicates some of the achievements and some of the problems which we see in the program. I suggest we look at what we mean by ‘bilingual education’. In the United States of America when an Act was being prepared on bilingual education the drafters of the Act used this definition:
Bilingual education is the use of 2 languages, one of which is English, as mediums of instruction, for the same pupil population, in a well-organised program which encompasses part or all of the curriculum and includes the study of the history and culture associated with the mother tongue. A complete program develops and maintains the children’s selfesteem and legitimate pride in both cultures.
How will this be done? What steps must be taken to develop this sort of program? I suggest that the first step will be that the people who are involved in the education program must learn to recognise and to respect the language and culture of the community. Honourable senators will know that this was not always so. It is not many years ago that children were punished for using their own language in the school and in the playground. Schools at that time were very much foreign institutions. No Aboriginal culture was included and the idea seemed to be that the children should be made as much like Europeans as possible. In fact, a commentator writing generally of this period stated:
From the 1950s to the early 1970s government involvement in Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory was guided by the premise that the disabilities suffered by Aboriginals would be overcome if they could somehow be moulded into facsimiles of white urban and rural Australians. They had to have the same standard and type of clothing, housing, education, food, etc., as white Australians and even the same attitudes.
I suggest that this attitude is still with us at this time. Many well meaning people say that the Aboriginal must be given the same chance, the same facilities, not realising what this implies. There have been some dramatic and drastic changes in the past few years. In the first place, Aboriginal culture was introduced into the schools. Instead of having prints from overseas, barks were hung on the school walls, artifacts were used to decorate libraries and so on. Aboriginal artists were paid to teach the children dancing and singing in their own language and their own culture. Aboriginal artists were also paid to come in to teach the crafts of the Aboriginal people. It was most important for them to develop the skills of their fathers. There was a use of Aboriginal names instead of European names. This caused difficulties only for the teachers who had to try to say them.
There was a suggestion that the vernacular should be used for the establishing of literary skills. It is educationally sound that the child’s first language should be the one used to teach literacy skills for the very simple reason that he is fluent in that language. The problems faced by teachers in the early Aboriginal schools were that they tried to teach oral English and, at the same time, they tried to teach literacy in English. They failed. The child was not fluent in English. As a matter of fact, it is amazing how few teachers realised how little English a child needed to appreciate what the teacher was trying to say. The child learnt to recognise signals rather than listening to the language of the teacher. I think it is generally accepted that man needs at least language and land to establish his identity. Of course this was the reason for the two-pronged attack used by Labor over the last 3 years- language through the bilingual program plus use of both languages on the settlements, in the churches, in discussions, in decision-making and so on; also the Woodward report, leading to the Lands Commission and land rights for Aborigines. This led one commentator to speak of the great need of Aboriginals to return to the land that supports the whole basis of their personal and communal psyche’. Unless man establishes his identity he floats in a vacuum between the 2 cultures. He is without pride and without purposea straw in the wind- and he is prey to the pressures and temptations which surround him.
The second step in this process is to develop literacy skills in the vernacular; in other words, to teach the child to read in his own language- to give him that complex set of skills that we call reading. Step 3 is a movement from literacy in the vernacular, or his own language, to literacy in English. Sarah Gudchinsky, who is a world authority on these matters, has demonstrated this to be the most effective method of teaching literacy and of moving into literacy in English. I think that in Australia we have some advantage in the fact that the Aboriginal had no written language before and so there is not the problem with orthography that there is in some places. So the program might be said to be not only bilingual but also bicultural. The other skills needed within the schools would be an ability to teach both in English and in the vernacular, as appropriate. Watts, McGrath and Tandy reported: the Aboriginal language would remain as the appropriate language for arts in that language and for Aboriginal studies (conducted sometimes by Aboriginal members of the teaching team and sometimes by Aboriginal adults from the community.)
Of course in practice English is introduced gradually in the schools-very little in the first year, leading through to a good deal in the last years of primary schooling. The question might be raised by some: Why bother to teach English at all? Why give literacy in English? It is only fair to say that for secondary schooling and for later studies- either university or other types of tertiary education- books are available only in English for use by the Aboriginal people. There are a few problems on which I should like to draw very quickly before making some suggestions. O ‘Grady and Hale again said:
A thread which will run through our recommendations, though not formulised in a single statement, has to do with the principle that the success of any educational program depends upon the extent to which the school is an integral part of the community which it serves.
But as we know, some communities are not involved in education, although programs are introduced only when they are asked for. The people of the community are too busy with other matters. They are busy with land rights, mineral rights and so on. I think that they do not get involved because they do not fully understand the program. Perhaps the community is not as committed to education as the upper middle class of which we hear so much in our own communities. Parents, if asked whether they want education, will say they do but they do not really understand the time factor involved. They are not, perhaps, future oriented. One is reminded of the joke about the boy who went to pre-school for the first day and when he came home his mother said: ‘Did you learn anything?’ He said: ‘No, not much. I have to go back again tomorrow. ‘ Certainly many of the Aboriginal people feel that if they attend a short course in bricklayingperhaps for 2 weeks- they are then accomplished bricklayers. If they attend a course in carpentry for 3 weeks they feel that they should be accomplished carpenters. They do not understand the problems. We must appreciate, I think, that some of the Aboriginal people have different priorities.
A few other problems that I must mention are the problems facing those who are intimately involved in this area. I make these suggestions to the Minister for his consideration. There is a problem of finance. The Director of Education in the Northern Territory, Dr Eedle, has said that finance is not always the problem, and of course it is not always the problem. But in this case it is. Money is needed to pay those Aboriginal people who write the stories which are the basis of the program. Unless we have this reading material the program cannot go forward. In fact, I am prepared to say that unless this material is produced the program will collapse. It is as simple as that. Unless we find the money to get people to produce the readers and the primers needed in the program the program will collapse.
The Minister in his statement mentioned the turnover in European staff. I shall mention an additional problem that he did not draw attention to and that is the fact that in many cases 60 per cent of the teachers who go out to the schools come straight from college, and understandably, when they go into the bilingual situation, they take fright at the immensity of the task which is in front of them. The remedy is pretty straightforward although again it involves finance. We must have further training in English as a second language, anthropology, linguistics, teaching techniques and so on for these people, preferably at the Darwin Community College. But we need money for this further training. The consultative committee must remain, not just as a name but as a group of people who are to set the guidelines, to monitor the program and to write reports which could be sent overseas, where we have gained some reputation for such reports. Aboriginal teacher training is a most important aspect. Aboriginal teachers are probably the most stable element of the program. The Minister has drawn attention to this. We must have facilities for training. We must have the right sort of training. I make the plug once again, if the Minister is listening, that we should have Frances Creek developed as a teacher training institution.
The bilingual program is a great step forward and I can say very sincerely is a breakthrough in Aboriginal education. It has attracted attention from all over the world and we in Australia have reason to be proud of this. Its influence is felt not only in the schools which it serves but also in the community schools. Not long ago a European lad won the bark painting competition at his local show. European children are taking part in the non-sacred corroborees- the play corroborees and even our balandas are learning to play the didgeridoo. I suppose this is reasonable- one does not have to be a Scotsman to be able to play the bagpipes. I congratulate those responsible for the program and urge the Government in the strongest possible terms to continue support of the program, despite the Government’s austerity measures.
– I rise to congratulate the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on his presentation of this, the second progress report on the bilingual education program in schools in the Northern Territory. To me, and I am sure to many people of my race, this is perhaps one of the most exciting and most important measures ever taken with regard to the education of Aboriginal children. I say this because for far too long the Aboriginal children in the urban and rural areas unfortunately have lost their own tongue. In their own environment they do not speak their own language but speak a kind of lingo that is spoken quite frequently amongst their own people. They have great difficulty when they go into schools which are conducted under the white man’s educational system. But this difficulty must be doubled or trebled for the Aboriginal children who live in a tribal or semi-tribal state and who speak or who have learned to speak nothing other than their own tongue.
One could appreciate surely the confusion in the minds of these infants who go to school and have to learn a foreign language which is entirely different from their own and have to try to be educated to the standard that we all surely would like to see the children being educated to. So I say again that this is one of the most exciting and most important things to have happened in the Aboriginal community. I should like to remark on one part of the report in which the Minister has said:
The problems of obtaining and retaining suitable nonAboriginal staff covered in the first and second reports remains pressing. Non-Aboriginal staff seem reluctant to remain in remote areas for extended periods and the staff who do accept such appointments tend to be inexperienced.
I think that this issue is very important because it is something that I have advocated within the Aboriginal community for a long time, not only in the field of education but also in respect of many other aspects of Aboriginal advancement. The Minister goes on to say that where local Aboriginal staff are available a similar problem does not exist and the provision of an increased number of trained Aboriginal teachers and teaching assistants seemed the best way to stabilise the staffing situation. I hope that the Government, and particularly the Minister, will take special note of that and will endeavour as much as they can to ensure that Aboriginal people within the Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory- not only in the Northern Territory but also in the far northern parts of Queensland, in the Kimberleys of Western Australia and perhaps even in the remote parts of South Australiawill be educated under this same system. To return to the point that I was making, although Aboriginal people may not have the academic qualifications necessary to become teachers in the true sense or in normal schools, surely because of their ability to communicate with their own people and to teach things in their own tongue they would be of great advantage to the Aboriginal community and would help the advancement of the Aboriginal people. Mr President, in view of the time and the pressing matters before the Senate, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– On behalf of the Minister for Transport, for the information of honourable senators I present Part A of a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘Consumer Preferences in Urban Buses and Bus Services’. Due to the limited number available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library together with copies of Parts B and C of this report which contain supporting technical data.
– On behalf of the Minister for Transport, pursuant to section 30 of the Australian National Railways Act 1975. I present the annual report of the operations of Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General relating to those statements.
– On behalf of the Minister for Transport, for the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads on a northsouth highway connecting Darwin to Melbourne via Mount Isa and Broken Hill. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of the Misrepresentation Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. I seek leave to move a motion to postpone this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Wood) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 be postponed to 5 sittings days after today.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 2 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of the Manufacturers Warranties Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. I seek leave to move a motion to postpone this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Wood) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 2 be postponed to S sitting days after today.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 3 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of portion of the Flammable Liquids Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This notice of motion relates to provisions in the Flammable Liquids Ordinance 1976 of the Australian Capital Territory which empower an inspector to destroy or render harmless flammable liquids or dangerous goods where he considers it in the public interest to do so. The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances considers that there ought to be some opportunity for a person aggrieved by the inspector’s use of his powers to seek redress against the wrongful use of those powers. After correspondence with the Committee, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) has agreed to amend the provisions in question so that an inspector may take such action only when he believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary to do so. This will make the use of his powers subject to review by the courts. In view of the undertaking given by the Minister, I withdraw Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 3.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 4 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of certain Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations and Military Financial Regulations formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator WOOD (Queensland)-This notice of motion relates to 2 sets of regulations which provide for the payment of allowances to members of the defence force and which are retrospective for more than 2 years. In accordance with the undertaking given to the Senate in its 25th report, the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances required the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to give detailed explanations of the reasons for the retrospectivity. The Minister has conceded that unsatisfactory delays have occurred in the making of the regulations and has assured the Committee that this will be drawn to the attention of those concerned. The Minister has also explained that the retrospectivity of the regulations was due partly to the change of government on 1 1 November 1975. The Committee has accepted the Minister’s explanation and assurance, and accordingly I withdraw Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 4.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 5 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of part of the Australian Rifle Club Regulations formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. I seek leave to move a motion to postpone this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Wood) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 5 be postponed to 5 sitting days after today.
– Order! Is Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 6 standing in the name of Senator Wright and relating to the disallowance of certain amendments to the Air Navigation Regulations formal or not formal?
– Not formal, Mr President. On behalf of Senator Wright and at his request, I seek leave to move a motion to postpone this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Wood) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 6 be postponed to 5 sitting days after today.
– Order! I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) requesting that Senator Gietzelt be discharged from service on the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment and nominating Senator Colston to be a member in his place.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Gietzelt be discharged from attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment and that Senator Colston be appointed a member of the Committee.
Consideration resumed from 4 May.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 May on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate was debating the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976 last night. I return to the debate tonight refurbished by an excellent dinner and in a mood to pay a tribute to my hostess this evening, who is a great creator of meringues. I think that in the course of this debate I should mention that the meringue is an art form which is much unappreciated in this country and which should receive further attention.
Last night we were concerning ourselves, as I recall, with the provisions of the States Grants (Schools) Bill which provides for the payment of the sum of $431 m to the States for expenditure on education in respect of government and nongovernment schools for the year 1976.I must say at the outset that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech fairly pointed out that what is encompassed by this legislation is largely the product of the Whitlam Labor Government. It carries forward for the year 1976 the revolution in attitudes to education at both primary and secondary level implemented by the Labor Government in 1 972.
I remind the Senate that the work from which this Bill flows is in a sense the work of the Australian Schools Commission which was established by legislation of the Labor Government in 1973. When that legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives it was bitterly opposed by the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party, for whom the spokesman at that time was Mr Malcolm Fraser, threatened to use its numbers in the Senate- a House of review, as I am reminded from time to time- to defeat that legislation. It was the National Country Party, the members of which are situated over here on my left, strangely enough, which saw the significance and importance of the Schools Commission legislation and which supported that legislation when it was introduced by the Labor Government. To that extent, perhaps for the first and the last time in my life, I congratulate and applaud the attitude of the National Country Party, which I would normally embrace with the enthusiasm one reserves for a cobra.
On the occasion of the introduction of that legislation the National Country Party played a significant and important role. I suspect that that may have been because, as Senator Tehan said last night, it realised the importance of that legislation to disadvantaged schools in Australia and particularly disadvantaged schools in rural areas. So I pay en passant, as the French would say, a tribute to the National Country Party for its role in the passage of that Schools Commission legislation.
When speaking of the Schools Commission legislation and the 1973 legislation of the Labor Government I said that it had brought about a revolution in education in Australia. If I were to define in more explicit terms what I meant by that expression I would seek to do it in simple terms in these ways: The 1973 legislation of the Labor Government recognised the right of every Australian child to the best possible educational opportunity which a wealthy society such as ours is capable of providing. That is the first thing that the 1973 legislation of the Labor Government meant. The second thing it meant was the abolition of the socially divisive argument about State aid which racked this country for decades. Thirdly, it meant the ending of federal funding of per capita grants which made pocket money for the wealthy in Australia and statistics of the children of the poor. It meant the end of that system of per capita grants and it meant the beginning of the end of educational ghettoes in a country as wealthy as Australia. Further, it meant a striving towards decent, basic minimum standards for Australian children, whatever their origins and wherever they might happen to live. It meant in essence an emphasis, if one can put it in sloganeering terms as we now tend to do, on the fulfilment of needs in education rather than a totally different allocation of priorities.
Of course, it is not a perfect system. As any system devised by man must be imperfect in some ways, so is the education system which stems from the Schools Commission legislation and this legislation which is now before the Senate. Honourable senators have to recall only the visits of parents and teachers and other people to the Houses of Parliament last week to understand the raised level of anticipations and hopes and aspirations of thousands of people throughout this community who are involved in education and who were involved in that visit last week. Every honourable senator has received correspondence about which he or she has to make judgments- correspondence from quite wealthy government schools in terms of the socioeconomic groups which they serve- insisting that their needs are still quite considerable in relation to additional equipment and so on. Every honourable senator has heard claims and representations from schools which serve lower socio-economic groups and which still require basic school amenities which were never required in this country previously. Those claims are things about which we have to make judgments. However, my concern in this debate is to see that we make the judgments according to certain criteria which I believe are fundamental to the importance of education in this country.
This Bill does carry forward for 1976 that program to which I have referred in outline and which was enunciated by the Labor Government in 1973. The important point to remember, I think, is that the $43 lm which is made available by this Bill is based on the Schools Commission ‘s recommendations as to need in Australian society. Senator Tehan put it so simply last night when he expressed it, I think, in terms that it is important that the view of an expert body such as the Schools Commission should be taken into account in priority to the views of all sorts of other ad hoc experts and interest groups and so on in the community, because the Schools Commission is required to act in accordance with certain criteria.
As honourable senators will know, in this place I have been not uncritical of the educational lobby- I call it that advisedly- in regard to post-secondary school education. I am much less critical of the educational lobby that exists in relation to school children. By the same token, I am not unmindful that in the area of education, as in every other area, governments have to make decisions in the broad, relating to questions of priority in spending. Whether it be in the field of tertiary education, primary or secondary education, defence or elsewhere, governments have to make decisions about priorities. I put it to the Government and to the Senate that, in making those decisions about priorities, it is most important to consider the criteria according to which those decisions will be made.
Insofar as the Government is concerned, it is very important to live up to the tortuous rhetoric of the speechwriter for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he tries to define a contemporary philosophy for a conservative party in Australia in the 1970s, with the heavy emphasis on the role and significance or importance of the individual in Australian society. In educational terms, as I understand it, this means only one thing. It does not mean selected individuals or a fortunate few in Australian society; it means every individual in Australian society. The development of individual initiative, the development of individual personality, and all the other glib cliches of political rhetoric depend on the equality of opportunity for individuals to develop those qualities in schools. It is for this reason that we regard this legislation as so important.
Last night I was provoked into saying certain things by certain passages in the second reading speech Of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Reading the Minister’s second reading speech, one suspects- I personally suspect- that the Minister recognises the strength of the position which I have just put; but at the same time his ear is consistently cocked, listening to a choir of ideological hymn singers on his right. So, the second reading speech, full of very important statements on education, in some degree is qualified by comments such as:
The Bill does however reflect our intention to depart from the recent trend towards centralism in the administration of schools.
It goes on to say that the Schools Commission will be required to consult with the States. I would like to know what the Schools Commission has been doing since it was established, since its very beginning, if it has not been consulting with the States. I hope to refer later to some comments from State educational authorities which reflect that very fact; but there is an implicit suggestion in the Minister’s speech that somehow, for the first time, the Schools Commission will be required to consult with the
States. As I say, it is regrettable that these sorts of ideological hang-ups exist in a discussion and an important contribution which the Minister himself has made to the question of education in Australia.
There is one area which I wish to mention because I think it is very important and which perhaps illustrates in a sense the role of the needs concept in education, the role of the Schools Commission, and the importance which the last Government and this Minister by his answers to questions in this place have attached to the priority which has been given to education in the last few years. I refer to the position of the Catholic systemic schools. I think that during this week or last week most honourable senators will have received a letter from Father Martin, the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria. In his letter of 30 April to me, which I assume is the same as other senators received, Father Martin states:
The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) has directed me to request you to consider the following points in any discussions which you might have in connection with the decisions of both Australian and State Governments on education issues in the near future:
The CECV wishes to record its gratitude for what Governments have done over the past decade for Catholic and indeed all schools.
It believes that the needs of all children in all schools should be considered in a total pattern as has been attempted in recent years, particularly through the Schools Commission.
The benefits of a total operation of this kind extend far beyond the obvious material benefits which additional expenditure on education has provided.
While economy is necessary in a period of economic instability and all sectors must accept a share in such economies, the CECV would be most anxious if the strategies of the Schools Commission programs were altered in any major way.
Father Martin goes on to make a number of other points with which other senators will be familiar. There I have quoted a voice from outside the government school system which pays a very significant tribute to the principles which the Schools Commission has enunciated and the principles upon which the Schools Commission is founded. It is a tribute which should be ignored only with the greatest of care. In other paragraphs of his letter, Father Martin makes the same point. He speaks on behalf of an education system in which the percentage of religious persons in the teaching vocation has decreased from 48 per cent to 20 per cent in the last decade; that is to say, in Catholic schools the one time great vocation of teaching has become the profession of teaching in the last decade. This creates all sorts of problems for that system, including problems of needs, just as the government school system is faced with tremendous problems of needs.
Let me say to the Minister in passing that, in judging the claims of the Catholic school system based on needs, the Minister should be hesitant to accept, as he might be disposed to do as a New South Welshman, the views of the Independent Parents Association of New South Wales because that body does not speak for the systemic school system in Australia. It speaks for the interests of wealthy private schools, whether they be Catholic or Protestant. Nobody should be deluded into thinking that the voice of that body is the voice of the Catholic school system in Australia. The genuine voice of the Catholic school system in Australia is the same as the genuine voice of the government school system in Australia. It is based on an understanding of the importance of needs for every child and every school in this community.
I wish to make one or two minor criticisms of this Bill. I hope that those criticisms will be regarded as constructive. The first comment that I make goes to the question of accountability by the States for the very considerable sums of money which are made available to them by this legislation and by all Commonwealth legislation funding school projects. I refer the Senate to the Schools Commission report of 1975. In paragraph 19.27 the following recommendation is made by the Schools Commission:
It is recommended that the Australian Government make a condition of the 1976-78 programs that State and Catholic authorities ensure an adequate flow of information to the Commission and to the public on the intended and actual use of Australian Government grants.
That recommendation follows paragraph 19.26 in the Schools Commission report, in which attention is drawn to the difficulties which the Commission and indeed the then Minister for Education encountered as a result of the failure of State governments to account for the money that they were receiving. I appreciate very strongly the need for information which a body such as the Schools Commission must have and the need for information which a responsible Federal Minister should have about the way in which taxpayers’ money is being spent by the States. I say only that this has been a source of constant difficulty during the last 3 years. I believe that the Government has failed in not carrying forward the recommendation of the Schools Commission to which I have just referred. With all the pious talk we hear in the Senate about good housekeeping- talk which makes Malcolm Fraser appear to be a sort of economic equivalent of Mrs Beaton and her cookery book- surely in the educational context Federal money which is spent on education should be accounted for in a proper way. I do not believe that this Bill reflects adequately the principle of accountability which the Schools Commission seeks in its report of June 1975. I think that the present legislation perhaps is not up to the standard of previous legislation in its requirements for accountability. I regard that as a failing and I make the point only in the spirit of constructive criticism because I do not expect Liberal Ministers or Liberal governments to be perfect in the things they do, just as I hope they do not expect this of us.
I next want to make some criticism of clause 7 of the Bill. As I read the clause, it gives a State Minister, after money has been allocated to a State for education and expenditure, the power in the last analysis to determine whether that money shall be spent on capital expenditure or recurrent expenditure. All the State Minister has to do to make a change in the allocation of the funds is to have a discussion with the Federal Minister about the matter. I do not know whether this is another sop in relation to State rights or something of that kind. But I would have thought that with the prospect of a third State Labor Government being elected next week and a fourth State Labor Government being elected next year also, the present Federal Government might have been alert to make sure that this did not happen and that the States would have to account properly for the way that the money was spent. I had a look at the 1972 Act introduced by a Liberal government. There was no doubt about the position under that Act. Money was provided for capital expenditure and money was provided for recurrent expenditure. There was no question of chopping from one to the other.
As I read clause 7 of the Bill, it means that once there is an identification of need by the Schools Commission- a need perhaps for recurrent expenditure or perhaps for capital expenditureit is open for a State Minister to say: ‘We do not think that that is an appropriate assessment of need in our case. We feel that perhaps rather than spending the money on a particular program, the money would be best spent on school libraries’. We had a unique situation in 1973 in my State of Victoria when the then Minister for Education, suspecting what might be in the Karmel report but without actually knowing, went around Victoria promising that every school would have a library if the Liberal Government was returned to power in the State election. That promise has not yet been fulfilled because that was not a priority need which the Karmel Commission actually recommended. So I am most anxious that that sort of situation should be clarified and that we are not left in a position in which a State Minister, having received an allocation in respect of education, should be able to indulge in the exercise of determining needs on a different basis from the needs as determined by the Schools Commission. I refer -
– But the discretion is still with the Federal Minister here in Canberra. The clause states that the Commonwealth Education Minister has the discretion.
-I understand that, Senator Tehan. You, as an appreciator of the work of the Schools Commission, should understand what I am saying also. I am saying that it really seems insufficient that Lindsay Thompson, the State Minister for Education in Victoria, should telephone Senator Carrick, the Federal Minister in Canberra, have a chat with him about what he thinks he should do with his money and that be the end of it. What we ask for in our amendment is that the question of re-allocation of any funds under clause 7 should be done by the Minister after discussion with the Schools Commission and report to the Parliament. We regard that as an appropriate democratic safeguard and an appropriate criterion in terms of priorities in expenditure. I would have thought that Senator Tehan would have appreciated that view and perhaps if he had -
– I do appreciate it. All I am saying is that the Federal Minister still has the final say. I think it is reasonable that in this sort of legislation he should.
-Perhaps if the honourable senator has not absorbed my point tonight he can look in Hansard tomorrow at what I have said. The next question to which I refer is that of school base funding. The Minister made some reference to the matter in his second reading speech, albeit oblique. I say that he was oblique in his second reading speech, but on other occasions he has been much more specific about it when answering questions on the matter in the Senate. All I can say about it is that we applaud the Minister’s approach to the question. We recognise that in a sense it is a tentative experimental area; something which has to be looked at as it goes along. Although the Schools Commission did not make any formal recommendation on this question in its 1975 report, it in fact suggested that 5 per cent may be considered an appropriate percentage for school base funding. I do not think that that was a formal recommendation in any sense. But I am very glad that the Government has acted on the suggestion. Surprising as it may be to Senator Carrick who has sort of painted us into an iniquitous, centralist corner over the years, we do believe in diversity of decision-making and in devolution of decision-making. We believe that it is very important that parents and teacher be involved in their school community and make decisions about many of the projects with which the school is concerned at a local level. We are glad that the Minister has seen fit to include this provision in general terms and referred to it in the way that he did in his second reading speech.
The next matter which is mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech to which I wish to refer is the innovations program. The Minister, in his second reading speech when dealing with the special projects program, as reported on page 1248 of Senate Hansard of 27 April 1976 said:
As part of the review of expenditure undertaken by the Government earlier this year, it was decided that because of the late start to the special projects program for 1976, it was doubtful whether all of the funds would be spent. Accordingly, the sum available was reduced from$5.2m to$3.6m.
Senator Carrick, I do not desire to put you on a hook on this issue. But you know the position. When he was in Adelaide 3 weeks ago he addressed parents and citizens associations there. Parents came forward one after another with examples of innovations programs which had been ready to go and which he stated in his second reading speech and elsewhere were not ready. The Minister stated that because of that the funds available were reduced from $5.2m -
– I did not say that. The Schools Commission said they were not ready.
– I do not doubt the Minister’s word but I do doubt the accuracy of his report. The fact of the matter is that the Minister’s experience in Adelaide reflects the reality of the situation. I understand that the Government wants to make cuts in various areas of expenditure. All I am suggesting is that in making expenditure cuts in the special grants program only a sort of glib Public Service look was taken at the whole thing. The conclusion reached was: Let us slash a bit off that. I am sorry that that happened. But I do not think it is really correct to say that the special projects program was not ready to go ahead. It is a source of regret that the Government, which had to make expenditure cuts perhaps in various areas, should have chosen this area in which to make a cut of that kind.
Finally, I state, as I have indicated throughout my speech, that the Opposition approves of this legislation. After all, in essence it was our legislation as a Labor government. The important thing, of course, is that under this Bill, which will become an Act and which relates to 1976, the principles enunciated in the Schools Commission Act and the states grants schools legislation of 1973 have been carried forward for this year. I know the Minister has accused us of being defensive about the Schools Commission. It is a most accurate allegation. I am terribly defensive about the Schools Commission. The Minister has accused us of that. But what I am concerned about- I referred to it earlier- is that perhaps the Minister listens to strange voices which may try to divert him from what I believe is a very sincere purpose, namely, to see that the program which we introduced and which is concerned with the rights, individuality and freedom of expression of every Australian child is carried forward and to insist upon and fight for the development of a program which will help to widen the horizons of every child in this country and which will help to enhance and enrich our greatest resource.
It is about these matters, of course, that we are most concerned. I regret if I have made carping criticisms about details in the States Grants Schools Bill 1976. 1 hope I make them in a constructive spirit. I would hope that when the Minister is considering legislation, perhaps for the next triennium-if it be a triennium- that attention will be paid to the points to which I have referred when speaking to this legislation.
Our utmost concern as an Opposition- we believe we reflect the opinion of the vast mass of parents and teachers in government schools and in the Catholic systemic system- is that the criteria which were established in 1973 should be carried forward. We understand that cuts may have to be made in the context of the Budget. We understand that we may come here screaming about what the Government has done to welfare payments, to defence or to something else. That is the way Oppositions in this country perform. What I am saying is that whatever cuts are made, we rank the question of education and educational priorities in Australia very highly. If cuts have to be made in education, we hope that in making those cuts the Government will be diligent to ensure that the cuts are so made as to protect the most needy in Australia; that they protect the most needy children; that they protect the most needy schools; that they protect the most disadvantaged. It is only with that sort of approach, even if the Government is pretty stingy in the Budget, can the Government hope- it is a pious hope indeed to build Malcolm Fraser ‘s new Jerusalem in Australia- to fulfil those pious platitudes that we hear about the rights, the dignity and individuality of every Australian citizen. That can only be done, in the last resort, through the educational system in this country. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– During his speech Senator Button referred to a document which he said was a letter from a Father Martin, I think it was, which he presumed had been sent to other honourable senators. I, for one, have not received that document so, presumably, it has been set out selectively. Pursuant to standing order 364, 1 ask that Senator Button table the document.
– I seek leave to table the document.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I should like to commence my speech by agreeing with the remarks of Senator Button relating to the meringues. I happened to be at the same dinner party and I also compliment the cook on that commodity. I referred to this matter in a conversation with Senator Townley. When Senator Button made some reference to clasping the Country Party to his bosom, Senator Townley said: ‘He seems to be behaving like a meringueutang’.
I turn now to the Bill. This is one of a number of Bills that have been introduced by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) during the last few weeks which represent the allocation of many millions of dollars to the States for educational purposes. Senator Button referred to the educational lobby. During recent weeks considerable interest has been shown in education because we are leading up to the Budget session. It occurs to me that there have been some misrepresentations- I do not think deliberate misrepresentations- but most of the representations I have had from various parent bodies and school teacher bodies seem to suggest that the Minister intends reducing money for educational purposes. It was quite obvious last week during question time that many representations had been made to honourable senators about cuts in education expenditure. The Minister came under a barrage of questions on this subject. I asked the Minister, as a result of a circular I had received from the Primary Teachers Association of South Australia, whether he had seen this document which, in pan, stated:
Although the Fraser Government has not committed itself to cutting educational expenditure in the next financial year it is logical, in the light of recent Government pronouncements concerning general curtailment of expenditure, to assume that this may be the case.
That is an assumption which I believe is quite inaccurate. The Minister, I thought, pointed that out clearly in his answer when he said that the Government will maintain for education the highest possible priority with the aim of maintaining and raising standards. He also went on to point out, quite properly, that the Labor Government made what amounted to a 6 per cent cut in real value to education in Australia. The Minister, in part, said:
So the cutting of education was set by the previous Government. It will be our aim, consistent with returning Australia to economic stability, to full employment and to abated inflation, to maintain education to the highest possible standards.
During question time on the same day, Senator Colston asked the Minister
In other words, has the Government an objective of raising the quality of education in government and nongovernment schools?
Senator Carrick replied:
This, of course, is consistent with the policy document that has been promoted by the Liberal and National Country Parties to which Senator Button chose to refer in rather sarcastic terms. We do believe that education is a prime means of promoting individual self-development and the pursuit of excellence. We believe the individual can benefit most from the educational process if there is freedom of choice in schooling. We believe encouragement of freedom of selfdevelopment and striving for excellence in education is the foundation for a truly pluralistic society and an enterprising nation. We also believe and recognise very clearly that among other policy areas education is suffering and has suffered because of inflation. This is pointed out in the Liberal and National Country Parties ‘ document on educational policy. It states:
The greatest danger to educational development in Australia today is inflation. We are dismayed that the present inflationary trends have resulted in the abandonment of triennial funding in education.
This is precisely what the present Government is trying to do. After 3 years of bad housekeeping by the former Government, this Government is reintroducing responsible management with respect to the public sector in particular. Because we propose to abandon the practice of indulging in extravagances in many other areas, it does not mean that we are not placing a high priority on education. That fact has been borne out repeatedly by the Minister for Education. Senator Button, also again rather cynically, referred to clause 7 of the Bill. We believe that this is a very reasonable provision to insert into a Bill of this nature. It gives State Education Ministers some flexibility with respect to the measure, and it gives the Commonwealth Minister a capacity to take notice of requests from State Education Ministers. That is why the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, has quite correctly included clause 7 in the Bill. Sub-clause (2) of clause 7 provides: the Commonwealth Education Minister may, at the request of the State Education Ministers for 2 or more States, direct that-
This is a proper provision. We believe that it gives the State Education Ministers the capacity to consult with the Commonwealth Education Minister from time to time on matters relating to this Bill. The Bill provides finance to the States for building and equipment projects and recurrent expenditure for government schools. That is set out in Schedule 1 of the Bill. I note that under this Schedule South Australia will benefit to the extent of $22.2 lm. Attention is being given to migrant education. South Australia will receive $ 1.85m for migrant education for both government and non-government schools. Disadvantaged schools in South Australia- again government and non-government schools- will receive $1.5 3 m. Special schools in South Australia will receive $985,000. Attention also is being given to special education teacher training. In my opinion this demonstrates that the present Governmentadmittedly following the pattern that was laid down by the previous Government, as Senator Button has said- is continuing to place a high priority on educational matters. It is my firm belief that in the forthcoming Budget, consistent with what the Minister for Education has said, education will continue to receive the highest possible priority. I, together with my colleagues on this side of the chamber have demonstrated in the past our interest in this matter, and we will continue to support the Minister in his efforts to achieve the aim of giving the highest possible priority to education. I support the Bill.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to speak in support of the Bill because it gives effect to many of the recommendations made in the Schools Commission triennial report for 1976-1978 and also in the special annual report drawn up by the Schools Commission in 1976. In my introductory remarks I would like to address some attention to the sentiment quite often expressed of late by some government supporters, that money does not buy a good education, that a lot of the money allocated through the Schools Commission programs has been wasted and that we must look to other means to improve the educational standards of our children. I say in rebuttal to this that money can improve the educational opportunities of children. In fact, money provided by way of Schools Commission grants has improved the educational opportunities of many children throughout Australia.
The success of many of the Schools Commission programs, in particular the disadvantaged schools program, has been documented. Of course, the programs are in their infancy, but nonetheless there is evidence to show that these specific programs which have been formulated by experts consulting with all interested parties have led to the development of better educational opportunities for children and have demonstrated that where more money, particularly more federal money, is available benefits can be achieved. I direct the Senate’s attention for a moment to the sorts of things that go on in schools and to the sorts of things that schools need so that perhaps there will be no repetition of the rather slick remark that money does not buy education. Money certainly buys school buildings, and those have been desperately needed in many parts of Australia. Money is required to buy school materials, textbooks, equipment and things of that nature. Perhaps most importantly, money can lead to smaller class sizes; that is, money can buy more teachers and better trained teachers. Money can be used to provide for in-service training of teachers so that they are constantly improving their skills and thus constantly improving the quality of the education that they are imparting to the students in their care.
Money also can buy things like ancillary staff, a long neglected need of most Australian schools. In the past, before the implementation of the Schools Commission programs, school teachers were constantly distracted from their professional duties, from the job that they had been trained at great public expense to do, by the necessity to perform secretarial skills which they had not been trained to do. Any of us who have taught in schools or have spent time in schools are familiar with the sight of harassed teachers, rushing to get to a large class, standing in a long queue waiting to get at the photo-copying machine to run off essential school materials.
Roneoing material for classes on a photocopying machine is the sort of task that an ancillary staff person can very adequately and very economically perform. By the employment of ancillary staff for such purposes teachers are relieved of such duties and are able to spend their time doing the job which they have been trained to do and indeed which they wish to do. But of course, the provision of ancillary staff requires money, and again we are back to my first contention, that if we are to improve the standard of education available to Australian children we must be prepared to spend money on it.
Some things have been said in this debate which have led me to believe that some government senators are under a misapprehension as to the relationship of the Schools Commission to State education departments and to the actual functions of the Schools Commission. I think that my colleague Senator Button has clarified the situation, but I would like to add a few comments. The Schools Commission is not an education department. It was never meant to be, and it does not perform the functions of an education department. It does not interfere with the functions of education departments or attempt to take them over.
What the Schools Commission was set up to do and what it has done admirably to date can be divided into 2 main areas. First of all, it consults with all interested parties in the education process in all States and Territories in Australia. Secondly, it draws up, for the benefit of the Australian Government, recommendations as to what funds should be made available to schools and school systems throughout the country in order to ensure the development of acceptable standards for Australian education. This is not a function which State education departments are geared to do. Clearly, State education departments are fully occupied in administering education resources in their own States. No one State education department or territorial authority is in a position to make this national survey of needs or to provide this comprehensive advice to an Australian government. So, clearly in the first important function of the Schools Commissionthe provision of advice regarding educational standards and needs to Australian governmentsthere is a specific role for the Schools Commission and it is a role which cannot be performed by departments of education.
The second important function of the Schools Commission is to inquire into and report on any aspect of primary and secondary schooling. Again this is a function that is peculiarly suitable to a national expert body with no political ties, a body of people appointed for their expertise in educational matters and not because of their relationship to the government of the day. There was in 1972 and, of course, there still is, to a lesser degree, a great need for such inquiries into various aspects. I am aware that the Senate has a committee which has conducted such national inquiries and is continuing to conduct one into the provision of educational services for isolated children. Nevertheless, this function of the Schools Commission is one which is most necessary in a country with the geographical peculiarities which Australia possesses. We have States that are very unevenly populated, with major centres separated by vast distances, thus prohibiting easy liaison and exchange of personnel, ideas and resources. Consequently, certain national needs that emerge would not be perceived by any one State and Australian governments, until the Labor Government set up the Schools Commission, really had no access to information on a national basis.
In passing I would like to mention the kinds of national inquiries that the Schools Commission has undertaken to date. One in which I had a particular interest was its inquiry into the educational situation of girls in Australian school systems. The result of this inquiry- a report called Girls, Schools and Society- was completed last November and is available. This was the first national inquiry of its kind. It worked from a national perspective. It collected data from all States and from all school systems. It looked at related areas such as vocational guidance, training schemes and tertiary education. It looked at the particular needs of girls in rural areas with limited job opportunities, who therefore require particular assistance in their school days. It looked at the particular difficulties of girls in city schools facing the pressures of city life. It took into account other environmental and social aspects such as the influence of commercial advertising on the preoccupations of school girls. This is the kind of inquiry which is done most properly and effectively only by a national body such as the Schools Commission.
A similar study group has been set up by the Commission to look at the community and its schools. This study group has examined ways of making the very expensive educational facilities provided by Federal and State governments more accessible to the community. It has come up with a number of innovative and practical suggestions on how school facilities can be community facilities and how community resources can become school resources. This is a national issue and has national application. It is done most appropriately by a national body. Perhaps the most important and most innovative study group set up by the Schools Commission is one concerned with Aboriginal education. It is still investigating the needs of the Aboriginal people. It is comprised solely of Aboriginal people who have had experience in this field and who will contribute a great deal to the Australian Government’s knowledge of the needs of Aboriginal people in education. This again is an inquiry most appropriately done by a national body.
I pass now to the basic concept that ran through the original Karmel Report published in 1973, a concept which was extended and reinforced in the triennial report for 1976-78. This was the responsibility of the Australian Government to fund education according to needs. We have heard a lot about this, so much so that the word ‘needs’ has become something of a cliche. Nonetheless, it is still a very important and desirable objective in any funding program for education. The concept of funding according to needs requires a specific strategy. If we are to put the most money where there is the most disadvantage in order to decrease the disadvantage, then we need to have a strategy. The strategy formulated by the Schools Commission was that of having resource targets. With expert and professional advice and the vast range of information available to them, the original Karmel Committee and later the Schools Commission formulated resource targets- that is, desirable levels for things such as teachers, facilities such as libraries, sporting equipment, other equipment, and standards of buildings towards which the school system should be working- so that at a certain date in the future schools would have increased their resources in a way that was measurable and clearly able to be evaluated.
This movement towards resource targets has been successful. In the most recent Schools Commission report the Commission reported that all States had achieved an improvement in relation to their resource targets of one-third; that is, they were one-third of the way towards having all their schools at the desirable standard. Again I suggest that this investigation of needs and setting of resource targets so that all schools move towards desirable standards is a function that can be performed only by a national body, a body of experts and a body removed from the party political process. I find it very difficult to see, therefore, how the Government’s new federalism policy takes account of this strategy of needs-based funding in working towards resource targets. If the federalism policy is to be interpreted to mean that we are back to a situation where each State sets its own targets, then we will continue to have the inequalities between States and Territories which we had- they have been thoroughly documented- prior to 1973 and prior to the establishment of the Schools Commission.
This setting of national targets is a function which individual States obviously are not in a position to perform. It does not involve in any way the Schools Commission encroaching on the traditional role of the State departments of education. The Schools Commission is not a department of education. The State departments continue to administer their schools and to make decisions about the very large recurrent and capital grants they receive; but it is the Schools Commission which takes an overall look and says ‘These schools need more buildings; these schools need more teachers; these schools need specially trained migrant teachers’ and so on. If we accept what has been stated in the Schools Commission report as desirable, we must accept that we need a national body to develop and carry out the strategies.
Another important, in fact, key concept in the Schools Commission philosophy has been the pursuit of equality of opportunity in education. Again it sounds almost like a cliche, but is something which is still far off for most Australian children. The pursuit of the objective of equality of opportunity in education does necessitate a needs-based approach. I was somewhat confused to hear the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) say in the Senate last Thursday that his Government has the objective of continuing to improve all standards of education and of continuing to provide improved educational resources overall. Perhaps I misinterpreted the Minister, but that was the interpretation which I put upon his words. It seems to me that if one has the objective of improving resources in all schools, then all one will do is to continue a system whereby there are huge gaps between the systems and between schools. If one has the objective of equality of opportunity- that is of closing the gap- between the disadvantaged schools and the well equipped schools, then one does not have the strategy of giving equal amounts of money or similar kinds of increases to all school systems and to all schools. In fact, one gives more money where the need is greatest and cuts down on government resources where needs are not very great or where all needs appear to be met by the current level of resources in that school.
I am concerned about the pursuit of this objective of equality of opportunity in education. I think that in this concern is reflected the concern of many parents and teachers throughout Australia. I hope that the Minister for Education in speaking to this Bill will clarify the position of his Government with regard to the pursuit of the objective of equality of opportunity in education and, specifically, that he will clarify whether his Government intends to pursue a funding strategy of closing gaps between the poor schools and the well provided for schools. I will not say rich schools because I think that introduces a red herring. I do not think there are such things as rich schools. However, there are schools which are very well equipped with teachers, facilities, parental support, level of trainee teachers and so on. I would like to hear from the Minister some commitment to the idea of bringing the poor schools in Australia up to the level of those wellequipped schools. I would also like to hear from the Minister a commitment on behalf of his Government to maintain the basic thrust of the Karmel report and of the Schools Commission report with respect to needs based funding.
Although many questions have been directed to the Minister in this chamber and, I believe, by delegations of parents and teachers, about the Government’s intentions in regard to the Schools Commission, there is still some uncertainty in the minds of those concerned with education as to the kinds of modifications the Government intends to make to the functions and composition of the Schools Commission. I hope the Government does not intend to carry out an earlier suggestion and reconstitute the Schools Commission in such a way to include all State ministers for education. I say this with no intention to detract from the excellent work done by State ministers for education. I think that if we are to pursue this idea of a national strategy for education with recommendations to a national government based on investigation into national needs, we need a body which does not involve itself in the problems of States competing for resources and things of that kind. If we had a Schools Commission composed of State ministers for education, inevitably this kind of competitiveness betweeen the States- perhaps it is a competitiveness which they must have in order to perform their duties to their State constituentswould militate against the idea of an objective and professional assessment of needs. I would be grateful if the Minister at his earliest convenience would clarify the intentions of his Government with regard to the function and composition of the Schools Commission.
Mr Viner, in the other chamber, spoke of the intention of his Government to depart from the recent trend towards centralism in the administration of funding of education. I have considered this statement for some time and I still do not know what the Minister means by the ‘trend towards centralism’. I have been a close observer of and, to some extent, a participant in the work of the Schools Commission. What I have observed is quite the contrary to a trend towards centralism. I have observed a marked and deliberate trend towards community involvement- that is towards decentralisation of decision making in education. I cite, for example, the Schools Commission innovations program.
This program permits and encourages groups of teachers or parents to formulate education projects which they would like to see in their local schools. They make an application to the innovations program for funds. If their project is approved they receive those funds directly and for the first time they have the ability to actually fund and carry out local school programs. I think this was a most characteristic aspect of the innovations program. Perhaps more characteristic than was anticipated was the development of entirely new and innovatory techniques in education. I do not think many entirely new and innovatory techniques in education emerged through the innovations program. What emerged was the other kind of innovation- an important innovation- which was the desire and ability of parents and teachers at local school level to develop a program and to get funds to put that program into practice. There is no tendency to centralism in that.
Similarly, the disadvantaged program achieved a very high degree of local decision making. Again, I think this was an exercise in decentralisation. I shall speak a little more about that later. At this stage I speak about amendments which the Opposition will move to the Bill. As I said when I began to speak, we do not oppose this Bill. Basically, it follows upon Labor’s educational program. However, the Bill does have some inadequacies and I draw the attention of the Government to them.
The first amendment which will be moved by the Opposition regards clause 7 of the Bill. Specifically, this is the provision in the Bill which permits State ministers for education to transfer funds received from the Schools Commission from capital to recurrent expenditure or from recurrent to capital expenditure with no reference to the Schools Commission. We will move an amendment to this clause because we seriously believe that such a provision will endanger the strategy of achieving resource targets. If the Schools Commission in consultation with the States- I think my colleague Senator Button has emphasised that a great deal of consultation with the States goes on and nothing about a State department is decided without consultation and agreement with that State- has judged that there is a need in a State for a level of resource in recurrent funding and it recommends that resource to the Australian Government which funds it, then we could have a situation under the legislation as it now stands where a State Minister responding perhaps to political pressures or to other kinds of pressures in his State could remove some of that recurrent expenditure and decide to build new schools with it. I am not saying that State Ministers act irresponsibly in this way but they have pressures to which they respond. It is quite possible that that could happen. That would be a serious interference with the national strategy for education. It would mean that the Australian Government via the Schools Commission would be pouring money in to bring up standards but the money could be taken from that and put into another area where the need was not greatest. With that sort of process there would be no logical development towards resource targets. The resources in recurrent education could remain very low and new schools which were not needed in that part of the State could be built.
Our amendment does not set out to impose an inflexible and rigid condition of funding on the States. It sets out merely to ensure that if a State, after having conferred with the Schools Commission, finds that it has a genuine new need to transfer some of those funds from one category to another it can do so, but that decision to transfer funds from one category to another must be taken in consultation with the Schools Commissionin consultation with the national body which has as its aim the bringing up of all schools to desirable standards. I think that it is a very reasonable amendment and I hope that the Government will be able to accept it.
I should like to clarify something which may have been understood, and that is that the bulk of Australian Government allocations for expenditure in the States on education is not tied in any way. Far and away the bulk of recurrent funds goes to the States for the States to administer according to their own decisions. It is only in these particular areas of need, where national strategies have been developed- such as a disadvantaged program- that funds are given for specific purposes. A lot was said last year, when attacks were being made on the Labor Government for the dramatically increased funding of education, about the undesirability of having a Schools Commission telling the States what to do with their education funds. The Schools Commission has never told the States what to do with their funds for education and it was never intended that it should do so. The bulk of educational funds goes to the States for use at their discretion and according to their needs. But where the Schools Commission is pursuing the objective of bringing specific areas of need up to standardsay, bringing libraries up to standard or bringing the poorer schools up to standard- then I think there is a very strong justification for giving funds to the States for specific allocation. Of course this represents a small part of the funds that the States receive, as I have said.
Also in support of our amendment I point out that clause 7 applies only to government schools. It is only to State schools that the legislation seems to be eager to give this totally open-ended provision allowing exchange of funds from one category to another. So far as the funding of nongovernment schools is concerned, the present Government seems quite happy- indeed I think the non-government school sector is quite happy also- for non-government schools to receive specific purpose grants. So I suggest that if the non-government school sector is happy to receive specific purpose grants- and this sector has made tremendous progress in the improvement of its schools by this method of funding- there seems to be no reason for our putting into the legislation this dangerously open-ended provision in relation to the allocation of funds to State schools.
The second amendment to be moved by the Opposition concerns clause 11. We shall move an amendment providing that a small percentage of the schools’ total recurrent allocation should be made available for use by the schools at their own discretion. This is an exercise in local decision-making. Such a provision, if included in the legislation, would give effect to the whole philosophy of the Schools Commission reports with respect to school based decision making. It would give effect specifically to the provision contained in the 1976 special report of the Schools Commission which endorsed the idea of a small percentage of the recurrent funds being allocated to a school for use at its discretion. I hope that the Government will see fit to accept this amendment. As we know, that special report of the Schools Commission was endorsed by Senator Guilfoyle when she was spokesperson on education during the 1975 general election campaign. I believe that the Government’s response to this amendment will be a test of how serious it is about its federalism policy and what its federalism policy actually means.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-We are addressing ourselves to the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976 and, if I may say so, we have heard a couple of very interesting contributions to the debate. I should like to comment on a couple of things that Senator Ryan said. I think she made a very worthwhile contribution to the debate. We are aware that she has some background in education. But I suggest to Senator Ryan that she needs to be a little more objective in her approach to debates on education, and that a debate on education should not be devoted to protecting the Schools Commission and the previous roles of this person and that person and different governments.
Senator Ryan put to us at great length and very forcefully the proposition that only a federal body is necessarily responsive to needs in certain areas of education. I say to Senator Ryan that that is demonstrably not so. There is plenty of evidence that federal bodies have not been as responsive as they should be. The honourable senator did mention the case of isolated children. I illustrate my claim with the following example. Last year I put to the previous Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, personally and in a debate on educational matters in the Senate that there were particular needs in the area of education of isolated children of which and to which the Government was ignorant and unresponsive. The situation is simply that some children in very isolated areas of Australia can conduct their studies only by correspondence. Through a series of actions of the previous Government, both by increasing costs for people who run air services and concurrently reducing subsidies for delivery of mail, the cost of delivering correspondence lessons in a large area of Australia became prohibitive. So a number of isolated children could not get their correspondence lessons because their parents could not afford to pay $27 a week for the privilege of a once-a-week mail service. We have heard much about buildings that are too crowded, buildings that are too cold or too hot, too many children per teacher and so on, but what of the student who has no education at all?
That is the problem faced by many isolated children. That would seem to me to be an urgent and obvious area of need. This problem was pointed out but there was absolutely no response. As Senator Ryan said, a Senate committee is looking at the matter and I hope that eventually it will come up with some response. Nevertheless, there is never any guarantee of action by a federal government.
This does not take away from many of the things that the Schools Commission did and was attempting to do when the Government last year, because of economic problems brought on by its own mismanagement, chose to abandon the Schools Commission report. However, I point out to Senator Ryan, as a particuarly strong defender of the Schools Commission, that in the Commission’s report on the triennium 1976-78 there is a special section reporting the problems of education of isolated children. It did not mention the problem that I have just mentioned but certainly it talked about other problems that apply in those areas. It mentioned the problems relating to attracting and keeping teachers but it did not touch on the area I have just mentioned. So federal bodies, even very good federal bodies like the Schools Commission, are not infallible. There is need for comment and contribution from other areas. I shall come back to this matter.
One good thing that has happened recently in debates in the Senate on these subjects- and indeed it is happening this evening- is that there has been constructive debate on the subject of education. As an ex-educationist, I grew increasingly frustrated during the last Parliament to hear debates on education couched in the Senate solely in terms of money spent. This brings me to another concept which was developed by Senator Ryan. There seems to be an idea in our community that money spent on education is necessarily money well spent. I do not mean to do Senator Ryan an injustice by misrepresenting this aspect of her speech- she spoke at length on this, and there are some other things that I want to say as briefly and as fairly as I can. Senator Ryan said that money can improve education and that money has improved education. I do not dispute either of those claims. Nevertheless I ask two questions: To what end and, how absolute is that improvement? It is not enough to say that money can improve education. Nobody will dispute that. It is not enough to say that money has improved education in Australia in recent years. Nobody would dispute that. But many people would dispute that the money has necessarily been well spent; that the needs have necessarily been well identified; that there has been a weighing up against other areas of need of the sorts of problems that I mentioned in relation to isolated children who have no education available to them at all, let alone sufficient education.
Money buys a lot of things. It buys school buildings certainly and there have been pressures from areas where it has been necessary to have more school buildings, but the results of spending more money on school buildings has sometimes been not good but bad. I recently visited a Queensland school which has just been re-built on a new site. The whole school had been built on an open plan system. The building was occupied only this year; the planning and approval was fairly recent. I am told that open planning has fallen into some disrepute. Nevertheless, here is a brand new school, built in 1975 for occupation in 1976, and somebody has to take the responsibility for the end result. The whole school is open plan. It happens to be situated in a quite affluent area. However, it also happens to be in an area with particular social problems. The headmaster has informed me that between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the students at that school come from single parent families, from broken homes. The children come to the school with particular problems as a result of that and are affected by the open plan school. Because of the social problems that the headmaster was encountering within the school, he started conducting surveys. Obviously the surveys are still fairly new at this stage, but the preliminary results show that in reaction to a total open plan system, given this group of children, the children did not identify with anybody in the school. The headmaster believes that there is a potential in the school for turning out hundreds, if not thousands ultimately, of individuals who are unable to relate to anybody. Given a personally and socially deprived background, but not a financially deprived background, given a particular sort of deprivation of relationship to teachers in the classroom these children, these potential future citizens, are going to carry with them a liability which, for all we know, they may never be able to overcome. Open plan buildings are good up to a certain point, but whose advice do we accept?
Frankly, as an ex-educationist, I have been concerned for a long time about the sort of advice that people with responsibility for decisions seek and accept. I think that more people who are involved in different areas of education are now realising that they too ought to be a little more concerned, that they ought to ask more questions about the advice they are given. I have been to schools- I think that probably all honourable senators have had a similar experience- where a large amount of money has been spent on certain equipment. Some years ago there was a vogue for language laboratories in high schools as a means of advancing the teaching of foreign languages. Language laboratories are now pretty largely discredited as being very significant in the process of teaching languages. An enormous amount of money is now tied up in a resource which cannot be converted to anything else and with a very limited use but which was installed through a program of propaganda and persuasion, both verbally and by the media, which claimed that language laboratories were marvellous things and something which every school which proposed to teach languages ought to have.
I have been to schools which have the most elaborate audio visual equipment but, because they are old schools, they do not have enough power points to plug in the equipment. In fact, in some of the older schools there just is not an electrical system which could support the equipment. That is one criticism of old school buildings, but in each case the teachers in those schools told me that they were less concerned about that than about the fact that there were students at the school whose parent or parents were so poorly off that the children did not have pencils and paper. If the children were to have those sorts of basic educational equipment then the teachers had to buy them out of their own pockets. I am not apportioning blame for one minute to the Schools Commission or to the previous Government. I am simply saying that in the past the whole attitude towards education has been so simple but essentially so muddled, that the consequence is many examples of wastage where there was need which had not been met.
– That is an argument for better decision making.
– I agree with Senator Ryan. That brings me to the subject of community participation which, as chance would have it, is the very next thing I had listed on my paper. Certainly there is a very good argument for devolution of authority and responsibility. I suggest to anybody who wants to talk about devolution of responsibility that they should not mix up those two terms but that they should realise that one cannot go without the other. If authority is handed down to somebody to make certain decisions and to have certain discretions, then with it must go the responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. That is not an argument against participation; that is not an argument against devolution. I am just saying that should be the basis of any consideration. Many people who are interested in that aspect of educational change certainly are responsible people and accept that responsibility, but there are others who have not thought the matter through. There are others who have a knee-jerk reaction: Our children will be better off because we will be able to say that this is more necessary than that. Our children will be better off because we are going to be able to participate in the running of schools, and we do not like everything that is going on in the schools’. With that authority must go the responsibility and, as I have said, we should not confuse the two.
Essentially, what I am trying to draw fairly quickly is a thesis that we have a responsibility to look at who should be advising on education and who should be criticising, and whether they should be the same people. If there are shortcomings in education, that is, if there are particular needs, one would expect that as long as there is available a sufficient body of people who are interested, then that will lead to public criticism. This essentially has been the process. One hopes that public criticism will lead to action. But by whom? Senator Ryan has said that a Federal body is the only body which would be necessarily responsive. I suggest that is not necessarily so. A lot of muddled thinking on the matter of who ought to be responsive and who ought to have responsibility and authority in the whole area of government, but specifically in the area of education, has led us into some error. It has led to our reacting at various levels to the wrong ideas or reacting to the right ideas for the wrong reasons.
Some time ago there was a very strong argument abroad- it is now rather more limited because much more money has since been spent on education- which virtually based the whole educational argument on the substance of staffstudent ratios. Certainly as long as we had in our schools a staff-student ratio of 50 : 1 , 40 : 1 or perhaps 30 : 1 those of us who were involved in education knew that there was a problem. The group most involved in promoting the need for some action in that area of course was the teachers. I suggest that there is a limit to how effective the continual reduction of staff-student ratios that can be. The Minister has mentioned this matter previously. We have to be careful about how far we are going to go in reacting to it. Certainly if we had a 1 : 1 ratio then we would expect that we would have better educated students. But parents however are aware that an enormously increased amount of money, not just in the last 3 years but comparatively over the last 10 or 20 years, has been spent on education. They are aware that a larger amount of the public resource has gone into the area of primary, secondary and tertiary education, and in latter years into pre-school education. They are aware that therefore they have paid a higher amount of tax than if this process had not taken place and was not continuing to take place. They are also aware that more and more students who are illiterate are being produced from high schools. In some areas it is difficult to argue which is chicken and which is egg on this question. Some remedial teachers will argue that general teachers are a little more aware of the problem and therefore they pick it up more quickly, or are more likely to be tolerant and look for some cause for illiteracy other than assuming that Johnny or Mary is stupid and dull and lazy. But there are matriculating into our universities people who cannot compose or comprehend English. Remedial English classes have been set up in universities in this country. That did not happen before, and there has not been any substantial increase in the pass rate in universities, extended entrance quotas notwithstanding. There has definitely been a development along those lines. As a consequence parents ask themselves some fairly simple questions, but I do not know that they always get the right answers. Of course, an educational backlash is going on and there is a very real risk that we might throw out the baby with the bath water in this area. As a result of pressures for literacy rates to be improved, we might undertake some retrograde steps in the area of education. We have to be very careful of that reaction, and the only real defence that those of us who care about education are going to have against it is if we have properly thought out, debated and researched the area.
That brings me back to the point: Who should be advising on direction and who should be criticising? I suggest that State education departments do have a role to play, but they are probably not the only ones involved. In the past we have depended very heavily on educationists and other academic students of the subject of education but who have no responsibility in the field, or on researchers. They are professionals, people having a very particular expertise. But I suggest that we have bent our education departments and have reacted to them far too much in the past. They have come up with some ideas which any teacher can look at and laugh at because they are absolutely ludicrous. Time does not permit me to go into the detail, but a great deal of money is going into the academic area for the purpose of producing theories which are absolutely useless at the ‘coal face’ in the classroom situation. We can look to the consumers; we can ask the students what they want. So long as they are capable of objective analysis, they can probably suggest something of worth. We must look to society because society must want education for it to exist, if it is going to continue to contribute this massive resource. As I said, until just recently the attitude has been that the assumption was to be that education was a good thing and that therefore money spent on education was money well spent. That proposition no longer can be accepted. Governments must play a role in advising and criticising because to some extent the people in Government and in Opposition are those who have the role of reading what society wants and interpreting that into actual action.
Commissions also have a role to play. The Schools Commission, as it happens, has a very particular composition which is a very interesting one and, I think, a very worthwhile one. I would not say that it is necessarily immutable for all time. It may be necessary that as one commissioner retires somebody from a different field will be appointed to take his or her place. It is not meant to be representative of different fields, but it has been possible nevertheless to draw together a body of people with expertise in a very wide range of educational fields to advise the Government. However, there is nothing holy or sacred about the Schools Commission. I think it has an on-going role and that the Federal Government has an on-going national responsibility.
I believe that the Federal Government has a very definite on-going role, but I do not accept the thesis that State education departments are necessarily more rigid than the Federal Education Department, that State education departments are necessarily less responsive.
Senator Ryan said, I think I am quoting her correctly, that no State education department is in a position to provide for research. That is nonsense. Various State education departments are carrying on substantial research from which a worthwhile reading of the effect ‘at the coal face’, which is very important, can be fed back to those who are making decisions. The State departments are aware of special needs in particular areas of education and of particualr diversities within their own States. On the particular aspect of the education of isolated children that I mentioned earlier, I say again to Senator Ryan that it is possible that one of the reasons that the Commonwealth Government was not aware of that problem is that it occurs in just a couple of far-flung areas of Australia- north-west Queensland and northern Western Australia in particular. That sort of information, that sort of knowledge, had to be available and it is more readily available to State education departments.
We have been indulging in some discussion on the subject of federalism. I hope that under our federalism policy it will be no longer good enough for a State government to say: ‘We cannot do the things that you the public would like us to do in the area of education because the Federal Government has all the money.’ State governments have had some money for some time. Indeed, they have spent very large sums of money over periods of time, but it has been too easy to pass the buck to the Federal Government. It has been too easy to condition people to think in terms of looking to Canberra.
There are many inbuilt historic factors affecting education. We have a very special inbuilt historic lag in Queensland. I am not pursuing just cheap party politics, but it is worth pointing out because it is a subject which is raised continually in my State. Up until 1957 when Queensland had a State Labor Government, there were, apart from the domestic science and the technical State high schools, 3 State high schools in the city of Brisbane, a city of approximately half a million people at that time. When the State Labor Government lost office there was a tremendous expansion in the number of high schools, in particular, built throughout Queensland. However, there were problems in other areas of the State and while proportionately a large amount of the State’s resources went to schools at that time there were problems to be met in other areas.
– You are questioning the administration of former Premier and former Senator Vincent Gair.
– Yes, and other people like Mr Duggan, Premier Theodore and Premier Hanlon too. They all had their hand in it over a very long period of time. Indeed, I could also include former State Secretary Keeffe of the Labor Party. The fact is that there was an inbuilt historic lag in many areas of public concern in Queensland, and some provision had also to be made in areas other than education to ensure that those immediate problems were met in the short term. It becomes too easy to build that historic lag into the system. It may be necessary to have continued involvement by Federal governments in areas of particular educational need, but I would not like to see arise a situation in which a State government would know that it could allow its education system to lag a little behind because ultimately it would be the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide even more money to that State to make up that gap. It is terribly important that State governments justify the priorities they put on education as against other areas when they make their own decisions in relation to their own State Budgets. Therefore I would welcome devolution of that sort of authority and responsibility.
I do not intend to make any comment at this stage on the opposition’s foreshadowed amendments. I would prefer to reserve my comments on them until the Committee stage. I can only commend the Minister for the very real attempt that he is making to get the educational system to respond in areas where there is still need. I suggest that the needs have not been ultimately denned or met by the Schools Commission, although I must commend it for having gone so far towards doing so in certain areas.
– Because the Government desires to pass the States Grants (Schools) Bill tonight and to get the money flowing, time will not permit me to debate the whole question of education. I shall have to do that on another occasion. I simply want to refer tonight to just one thing that Senator Martin who preceded me in the debate has said, and that is that the Schools Commission should not be free from criticism where criticism is due. It should not be regarded as some sort of god which can do no wrong. In fact this Bill, which I understand is the result of the recommendations of the Schools Commission, is quite inadequate in its provisions so far as the State of Tasmania is concerned. The payments recommended in this Bill for the State of Tasmania do not even bear relationship to the population of Tasmania as a percentage of Australia’s population. I for one will stand in my place here and criticise the Schools Commission for not providing to government schools in the building and equipment projects and recurrent expenditure section an amount of money which is consistent with the rights of the people of the States to their fair share of expenditure.
In addition the recommendation of the Schools Commission in relation to nongovernment schools falls $250,000 short. The reason for that is the way in which the Schools Commission has worked out the grants for the non-government schools. If the moneys payable to non-government schools fall $250,000 short, that lowers the general standard of education in the State of Tasmania. Let me analyse what I have said and prove the point that the Bill before the Senate falls $250,000 short in that respect. In Tasmania 15.1 per cent of the State’s school population goes to non-government schools. Many of those students going to nongovernment schools are from working class families in which the breadwinners make money sacrifices in order to send their kids to those particular schools. Because of the small State Government per capita payments- the smallest in Australia- and the inter-relationship of these payments with what is known as the SRRI- the Schools Recurrent Resources Index- the parents of children at non-government schools in Tasmania will receive under the provisions of this Bill approximately a quarter of a million dollars less than they should receive.
Back in March of this year, the headmasters conference of the non-government schools in Australia distributed a Press statement to all the Tasmanian media and sent copies of that statement to all Tasmanian parliamentarians. The Press statement quoted the grants given by all State governments in Australia. It said: the people of Tasmania are sadly disadvantaged by a depressed level of State Government’s contribution. Parents are doubly disadvantaged by this because schools must increase fees to offset the loss from State Government contributions, and this in turn changes the school ‘s SRRI rating, thus causing the benefits from the Federal Government to drop.
I have since discussed this matter with nongovernment school authorities in my State. Additionally, I have asked the education and welfare group in the Parliamentary Library to prepare for me some material which would explain the operation of the Schools Commission, the SRR index and its inter-relationship with the level of assistance provided by State governments. After studying this material, I am convinced that the headmasters are correct. I have known headmasters to be incorrect- particularly the one I had, as he always told me that I was not correct. But on this occasion I am convinced that the headmasters are correct and that parents of children at independent schools in Tasmania are doubly disadvantaged principally because of the low level of State Government assistance in Tasmania. I refer honourable senators to table 4.22 in the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1976-78. 1 ask for leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The table read as follows)-
Direct Recurrent Grants by State Governments to NonGovernment Schools, rates per Student, 1975-
Special grants paid in proportion of per capita grants, amount to an additional $ 1 5.82 per primary student, $22 per junior secondary and $35 per senior secondary student.
Source: Schools Commission Report for the Triennium 1976-78.
– I thank the Senate. That table demonstrates that the 1 975 per pupil grants by the Tasmanian Government for nongovernment schools- even including the special grants- were significantly lower than corresponding grants made by other State governments. Because the non-government schools in Tasmania receive the lowest State government per capita assistance of any State in Australia, they have had to increase their fees to offset this loss of assistance. Of course, the parents have been burdened with the result. These increases in fees will affect and have affected the SRRI rating and, consequently, the amount of assistance from the Commonwealth Government is lower because the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976 is based on the recommendations made by the Schools Commission in its 1976 interim year report. Those recommendations are based in turn on the same general principles and priorities outlined in the Schools Commission report for the 1976-78 triennium.
I am aware that the Association of Independent Schools of Tasmania has written to the Commonwealth Minister for Education about this problem. That Association has calculated that the low State per capita grant has reduced Federal aid to Tasmanian non-government schools by a figure ‘not less than $225,000’ for this period. That is the amount of approximately a quarter of a million dollars to which I referred previously. This Senate is presented with a Bill, the provisions of which are recommended by the Schools Commission and which when passed will disadvantage the independent school system in Tasmania by about a quarter of a million dollars and disadvantage government schools in Tasmania by a much greater amount. This is outlined on page 56 of the Bill in Schedule 1 . The reason why I say that is that, even granted Tasmania’s population, the amount set out in Schedule 1 should be far greater than it is. As I read it, it is only 2.6 per cent of the total amount to be disbursed. If that is thought to be a fair deal for Tasmania and if that is the sort of recommendation which the Schools Commission dishes up, I believe that it is about time we had a look at the Schools Commission. For one thing, the cost of educating a child in the government school system in Tasmania is, because of the size of that State, greater than the cost in any other State. That is axiomatic. Yet, here we have a recommendation that will disadvantage government schools and non-government schools in my State.
In respect of non-government schools, there are 2 ways in which the problem to which I referred previously can be overcome. The SRRI- the Schools Recurrent Resources Indexcould be altered, or the State Government could increase its per pupil grant. I am wondering what this Government will do about that anomalous position. I am wondering whether discussions will be held with the Tasmanian Government to ensure that it plays its part by raising its per pupil grant and whether the Schools Commission will act realistically in this current instance. I would have thought that because the Tasmanian Government failed to raise the per pupil grant to the appropriate level this Bill might have contained some extra funding to make up the difference; but it is not there. Not only is the amount of loss that is accumulated not there, but the quarter of a million dollars which is the short fall for this year is not there either. I am most concerned that this Bill does not provide to Tasmania its fair share of expenditure for education. I am concerned about this aspect not only for the needs of education within Tasmania but also for the workers of that State, many of whom would have been employed in building and equipment programs had an appropriate and proper disbursement of funds been provided for in this Bill.
I am sorry to have taken the time of the Senate to raise this matter. I realise that the Government wants to get this Bill through and to get the money flowing. But I feel that this matter had to be raised in the interests of fairness to our State and in the interests of getting something done, and done quickly, before the non-government schools are forced out of existence and before the government schools feel the pinch as a result of the provisions of this Bill.
-The States Grants (Schools) Bill which is presently before the Senate has far reaching consequences not only for education in Australia but also for the future of Australia itself. I mention that at the outset because I think it is worth while noting that its significance- I say this with no disrespect to the 2 Press men in the Press Gallery- by way of Press coverage of the debate on the Bill seems to be minimal, even though, as I say, it will have far reaching consequences in Australia. I think that this is unfortunate. Some years ago any debate on education would have received a tremendous amount of coverage. But because of what has been done over the past few years in education, the subject seems to have become somewhat a non-issue. The 3 speakers from the Opposition side who preceded me in the debate have analysed the Bill in detail. They have made mention of various aspects of the Schools Commission. So I do not intend to speak in detail on any of these matters but on some more basic matters dealings with education in Australia. Of course, these matters upon which I will speak are related to the Bill before us because they concern primary schools, secondary schools and those other aspects which are covered by it.
In general, I want to speak about 3 areas in which there are problems in Australia’s educational system. Of course, I will be doing no more than scratching the surface of the problems in Australia’s educational system. In fact, the previous speaker, Senator Harradine, said that time would not permit him to debate the whole educational question. I believe that if we were to do that, we would be here for many hours. So in the short time available to me I would like to cover 3 aspects, some of which have been covered in passing by previous speakers. Last week we had a great show of strength in Canberra from people who are concerned with education throughout Australia. I commend those people for showing their concern, sometimes at great expense to themselves. I commend the people who came from my State- not only those people who came from Brisbane where I live but also those from the northern areas whose expenses to travel to Canberra would have been far greater- to speak to the members of the Parliament and to show them what they thought were some of the deficiencies in the educational system. I mention this because the 3 areas that I will speak of might not be areas mentioned by the people who came here last week as involving specific problems in their schools, whether those persons be teachers, parents or simply those who are concerned with education generally. In fact, the people who spoke to me and I think to most honourable senators probably outlined a myriad of problems which face them in their particular schools. Of course, these things are important to them. They see that the hopes for their children and for the people in their districts rest with the education received in the schools.
In mentioning the problems that I shall refer to in a moment, I should say at the outset that I do not think it is time in Australia to consider reductions in funds for education, despite what may have been said by some honourable senators and members in another place as well. The Government might have some reasons for making reductions in spending. But if we are to cut back in educational spending, I think that we will reduce much of the impetus that has been given to education over the last few years. The first problem I speak of is one which is allegedly evident in many schools in Australia. At least 2 previous speakers in the debate have mentioned this matter. I refer to teaching in the basic subjects. Children no longer go to school to learn the 3 Rs, as one honourable senator referred to them yesterday. In fact, when I began teaching some 19 years ago the emphasis was no longer on the 3 Rs; it was placed more on an educational program that would fit the child for a place in the then society. The educational system has moved in a better way over the last 19 years to equip the child to take his or her place in society and to live a happy and full life. To do this, we have had to front the child with a wide range of subjects. Of course, in continuing this process we must make sure that he or she still learns certain fundamental skills. But we must not forget that as well as learning those skills, there are other skills which the child must learn at school.
I believe that we are still not equipping the child for society. When students leave school, there are certain basic gaps in their education. I think that these can be seen quite readily by anyone who analyses the situation. For example, many of our children leave school with no tuition in consumer education. They do not know how they will husband their money and look after the funds they earn when they leave school. How many students who leave school nowadays have a satisfactory citizenship education, if one can call it that? I refer to an education which allows them to examine the workings of a place like the Parliament, to examine the various political arguments that are put before them and weigh them up properly? How many students who leave school now have an adequate sex education? Some people say that this is not necessarily the role of the school. But perhaps it is. These things aside, it is necessary that certain fundamentals be grasped so that the child is fit to take his or her place in society.
One of the skills to which I refer is the skill of literacy. This was mentioned by 2 previous speakers in the debate. Much criticism has been made lately of fundamentals in education, especially the skill of literacy. I should like to cite just a few examples of the sorts of things that one sees in journals and newspapers in which this criticism is made. One article is titled, ‘School’s back- turning out illiterates’. I read one small extract from it as follows:
We’re betraying kids on an immense scale in this country, .. . We have never had such numbers of functionallyilliterate pupils- at a time when English is being considered of less and less importance … If the present trend continues, the only literate pupils in the community will be those who learned semaphore in the Boy Scouts, provided they remember the alphabet.
The article from which I next quote is similar to those that we read in journals and newspapers today. Under the heading: ‘ 10 per cent of adults illiterate ‘it states:
One in seven adults cannot read well enough to cope with every day experiences according to a university study.
And almost four per cent of Australian or British born adults read so poorly that they cannot achieve a basic survival literacy.
The figures are revealed in the interim report of a study by Dr Judith Goyen, a lecturer in education at Macquarie University, Sydney.
The final article to which I refer has the heading: 10 per cent can’t tell the time at 14’. It states:
One in 10 Australian 14-year-olds can’t tell the time properly.
Sixteen per cent of them can’t handle simple multiplication, subtraction or division.
These things, of course, are important for us to look at even though they are the very basis of our educational system. I would like to put forward my hypothesis that I do not think things are getting worse, and in this respect I disagree with two of the previous speakers in this debate. Senator Martin said something like this: More and more children are being produced at high schools who are illiterate, the implication being that the problem is getting worse. Last night Senator Tehan said that he was somewhat concerned at the fall in the standard of some of the essentials of what he thinks are properly termed ‘ basic education ‘.
Unfortunately, there is no real concrete data in Australia to either prove my hypothesis or the hypothesis of those 2 other honourable senators. Any research that we look at that has been conducted on a continual basis overseas seems to suggest that there has been a slight improvement over the years in the basic subjects. We do not have that sort of survey that we can look at here in Australia although one is about to start. In 5 years time we might be able to look back to see what progress has been made. It is my thought that we are not going backwards in Australia; we are probably going a little forward. Nevertheless, a problem exists and we should not hide the problem even though some of us think we are not regressing because every one of those persons who cannot read and who cannot tell the time are experiencing a certain amount of frustration and unhappiness. They will not take a happy place in society. Therefore, we should make every effort possible to have research conducted in this area so that we can make sure where we are going and we can make sure that we are providing the best possible education for our pupils. On a broader theme, of course, every time we have a student who is not reaching his capabilities, we have under-utilisation of our human resources. This is not the sort of thing that we can readily accept in Australia.
Speaking of under-utilisation, I should like to refer now to the second problem that I think is evident in our schools, especially in our secondary schools. It deals with adequate or sometimes inadequate educational and vocational guidance. Inadequate guidance in our secondary schools leads to a tremendous amount of wastage. The word ‘wastage’ is bandied around a bit in educational jargon so I took the opportunity of checking the dictionary meaning of the word waste’. It said:
To expend to no purpose, or for inadequate results, to use extravagantly, or to squander.
This hits the nail right on the head. This is what is happening in some aspects of education. We have unacceptable waste in many areas of education. Too often students go into secondary schools and take courses which are not appropriate for them. They experience 2 or 3 years of frustration in these courses and at the end of it leave school with no skills and probably a hardened attitude towards education which will prevent them taking further steps to improve themselves in later years. We have the same sort of thing happening post secondary school, at university. This is probably the stage at which it is noticed most prominently. Students spend one, two or more years doing courses which are not proper for them and then they have to start over again.
From my experience in the educational field I believe that some of the worst wastage occurs in technical areas. I think that much of this wastage is due to inadequate guidance. There are other reasons why there might be wastage, for example, home facilities, work facilities themselves, sometimes a lack of ability and sometimes teaching facilities. In a great number of cases there is inadequate guidance. I think that there is inadequate guidance because of the fact that much of the guidance given to students who intend to enter technical fields comes from their secondary school teachers. Most of these secondary school teachers are university trained and have an academic bias- I do not say that in any derogatory manner- that has grown with them as they pass through secondary school and through university. They have taken this bias back into the secondary school. Many of them do not properly understand what pupils will be faced with when they go into a technical field.
Student counsellors themselves probably have the same problem, although hopefully they are trained a little further than the teachers themselves. Student counsellors often come from the teaching field. They too have gone through university and have this bias towards an academic type of education. I do not say this in any derogatory manner to secondary school teachers or school counsellors because I think it is a fact of life. It is a fact of life that must be faced by those who are going to try to guide the students into proper fields where they will not be hampered by having inadequate guidance.
I should like to relate to the Senate some figures as evidence to suggest that something is amiss in this technical field. While the Bill we are debating does not cover technical education, I mention this because I think that the root cause of what I am about to point out happens in the schools themselves where students were not given guidance before they went into an occupation. The figures I should like to present are apprenticeship figures relating to Queensland, the State I represent. For the year ended June 1975 a total of 20 275 apprentices were employed in Queensland. In that year 3328 completed their indentures. But while 3328 completed their indentures 1035 had their apprenticeships cancelled during that year. In other words, for every 3 apprentices who completed their indentures, one person had his indenture cancelled.
It is interesting to look at the reasons for the cancellation of the indentures. Of the 1035 apprentices, 40 1 cancelled their indentures because they lost interest and 98 apprentices had their indentures cancelled because they had training problems. These are 2 of the biggest categories of cancellation. It seems to me that if the apprentices themselves had adequate guidance while they were students- I do not say it is only inadequate guidance; selection problems could have been a factor also- we would have had a far lower rate of wastage. It is a tragedy for every one of those apprentices who had his indentures cancelled. He spent a certain amount of time in an occupation and has to start again in a new occupation. In that same year- remembering that there was an intake of about 3600 apprenticesthere was an additional total over and above those I have already mentioned of 694 apprentices who during their probationary period, which is usually of 3 months, decided not to continue. In other words, for every six who were taken in as apprentices that year, one dropped by the wayside in the first 3 months.
This is an area into which we will have to put more of our resources and more of the funds that have been flowing because of the Bills that have come before us and because of the commissions which have been set up.
The final theme that I wish to discuss concerns a problem that is most pertinent in the State in which I live. But it is not only pertinent in my State. Whilst the problem probably is the greatest in the State that I represent, it also is experienced in other States. I refer to the educational problems facing country children. I have an interest in this field because I taught in country areas for many years before I returned to the city. Also, I travel a great deal around my State and I see the problems in these areas. In Queensland the number of children receiving isolated allowances is higher than the numbers in any other State. A similar situation prevails with respect to the number of children receiving correspondence education. For instance, in Queensland in 1974- these are some of the latest figures available 5294 students were receiving isolated allowances. This was the highest number in any State. The next highest number was 4821 students in New South Wales. Although there is some overlapping, the figures for the number of students receiving correspondence education show the same trend. The number of children receiving correspondence education in Queensland was 5056. That was the highest figure in any State. The next highest number was 4517 students in New South Wales.
I should like to mention some of the broad difficulties that face country children. I refer firstly to 1 -teacher and 2-teacher schools. A number of people probably would be surprised to know the number of 1 -teacher and 2-teacher schools in Queensland. Out of a total of 953 schools with class sizes ranging from under 21 to 2000, 1 80 schools have fewer than 2 1 pupils. A further 131 schools have between 21 pupils and 35 pupils. A further 234 schools have between 36 pupils and 100 pupils. Teaching in a 1 -teacher school and being in a 1 -teacher school has certain advantages. Students receive much more individual attention. The school draws its strength from the community that it serves. But there are also unfavourable aspects to 1 -teacher schools. Often there are inexperienced teachers, there is a rapid turnover of staff, there are limited school facilities and there are restricted experiences for the children.
At secondary level the problems multiply. Those of us who have a knowledge of secondary schools in the country know that there are limited expectations for students in these schools in that the curriculum is very limited. In addition, students in country areas are faced with isolation. They lack access or have no access to cultural facilities, libraries and television. The range and level of local employment and the educational levels and incomes of families are all important matters. Teachers, too, in country areas face problems. I suppose that one of the biggest problems that they face is teacher housing, and I will mention shortly the question of providing funds for teacher housing.
I can remember vividly the first time that I went to a country school, and by a ‘country school’ I mean a 1 -teacher school. I was 20 years of age at the time. On arriving at the place I was told: ‘Well, that is where you are going to live’. I looked up on a hill and silhouetted against the evening skyline was this thing that looked like an outhouse. It looked small because it was that time of evening and it was silhouetted against the skyline. When I got to the building I found that it was not much bigger than an outhouse. It was 1 2 feet by 8 feet. I lived in that 12 feet by 8 feet structure during the 3 years that I taught in that area. Of course, that 12 feet by 8 feet structure did not have any cooking or lighting facilities. Hopefully, it is no longer there. But this is the sort of thing that was provided for teacher housing not 20 years ago. I believe that probably there is teacher housing in country areas which is still as poor. Perhaps there are listening to the broadcast of this debate people who are living in teacher housing like that.
If we look at the recommendations of the Schools Commission we see that the Commission originally suggested for the triennium that we are discussing that money should go into teacher housing and also to the States so that they can provide for pupils who are educationally disadvantaged by living in the country. These things are in the report of the Schools Commission. I have barely mentioned the tip of the iceberg in regard to some of the problems that are facing education in Australia. I make a plea to the
Government not to jeopardise the future of education in Australia by cutting or freezing expenditure in this vital area.
I recall that 19 years ago I was in my first and only year as a trainee teacher. After one year as a trainee, inadequately trained I was sent out into the educational world. I think that things are much better now. We have much better trained teachers and much better facilities. But things would want to be much better than they were in those days. There is no reason to suggest that we have reached our optimum level. In fact, the people who came to Canberra to see us last week would suggest that we have a long way to go. I think that the improvement that I have seen during the years that I have been associated with education has been, to a large extent, due to the fact that we have had professional bodies with experts who have looked at education and have been able to make recommendations to government on a non-political basis.
I am hopeful that this trend will continue, and that the Government will be able to do for education what has been done during the last few years in Australia. In the years to come I think that we will be able to face the question of education much better than we have faced it, say, in the last 20 years because demographic analyses seem to indicate that as far as school numbers are concerned, there will be a rapid deceleration in growth rates. There will still be a rate of growth, but that rate will be decelerated. Therefore, we will have a much better opportunity for facing the problems that I have mentioned and the other problems that we face in Australia. I make a final plea to the Government not to jeopardise the future of education by cutting or freezing expenditure in this vital area.
– in reply- Mr President, I thank all honourable senators for their contributions to this debate. The States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976 gives an opportunity for both a narrow debate in the terms of the Bill and a wider excursion into the whole philosophy and methodology of education. It is good to hear a wide-ranging debate. It is good, too, I think, to remind ourselves that the primary function of this Bill is to discharge an election promise of the Fraser Government. That promise was that it would fund the 1976 calendar year program for schools in terms of the Budget commitment of the previous Whitlam Government. In fact, that is what the Bill aims to do. The Bill has a number of other characteristics which I will mention in a moment.
It is as well for me to repeat, because the matter was raised in the debate, the circumstances surrounding the innovations programs. I have provided to the Senate and to honourable senators a great deal of information on this matter. I commend to honourable senators the answers I gave to questions upon notice asked particularly by Senator Melzer in which I went into great detail. In brief, the background to the innovations programs is this: The Federal Government of the day, the Whitlam Government, authorised the preparation of a triennial report for 1976-78 from the Schools Commission and there was an understanding that the recommendations for that triennium would be implemented. That Government then indicated that it would set aside the triennium and would impose certain rigid guidelines for a one year program. This caused the deferral of the innovations program and a very considerable amount of confusion. It was not for some months that there was an ability to set out to undertake the mechanics of initiating the innovations program for this year and, speaking from memory, it was not until the end of February this year that applications closed and the various authorities concerned could examine the applications and the applicants and make recommendations for the carrying out of the programs. It is easy to say that there were many hundreds of programs. I recollect that in answer to Senator Melzer ‘s question I was able to point out that the cost of implementing the innovations programs, if all applications were satisfied, would be in the order of $ 17m. Of course, this was beyond the capacity of governments of either philosophy to meet. The simple fact is that it was adjudged that it would not be practicable to implement the whole program for this calendar year and, therefore, in that undertaking alone a reduction was made. Nevertheless, innovations programs are now being implemented and are functioning widely.
In this debate a great deal of attention has been concentrated by the Opposition upon the Schools Commission. The characteristics of the debate are rather strange and well worth identifying. First of all, one would have thought from the arguments of the Opposition that it alone had invented a statutory authority to advise the Federal government of the day on education; that it had hit upon a model of an authority to advise, investigate and recommend. In fact, history shows that it was Liberal Federal governments of the 2 decades before which set up the models for Federal intervention in education and for intervention by advisory commissions. It is widely acknowledged by people of all political faiths that the initiatives taken, firstly, in setting up the Australian Universities Commission and, secondly, in setting up the Commission on Advanced Education provided new frontiers of progress in education on the Federal level. I also draw the attention of honourable senators to the intervention then of the government of the day in many aspects of post-secondary education, technical education, and secondary education, in respect of science blocks, libraries, scholarships and bursaries- a whole range of commitments. I think it is fair to establish, first of all, that no government has any monopoly of the idea that a statutory body designed to investigate and advise governments should be set up. I want to make that perfectly clear.
Another strange theme ran throughout the whole of the Opposition’s argument on this Bill, yet this theme is frustrated by the proposed amendments. The theme from virtually every Opposition speaker was that the recommendations of the Schools Commission must be implemented without alteration. They said that it would be wrong for any alteration to be made; that was fundamental. There was an attack upon the Government because it is seeking some flexibility in the spending of funds, a point to which I will direct myself later. Yet, quaintly, in the second proposed amendment to this Bill the Opposition is in total defiance of the Schools Commission. The Schools Commission said one fundamental thing, namely, that there should be no coercion by legislation of funding for community involvement. I will come to that later. We have the fascinating situation of the Opposition saying that there must be no alteration.
The argument goes one step further, and I want to put it in context. Strangely enough, here is an Opposition sitting in the economic rubble of the disaster that it caused to Australia in terms of unemployment, inflation and gross disemployment of school leavers. Never once did the Opposition relate the facts of education today to the circumstances of today. Never once did it indicate that it had said emphatically- it is recorded for all time- that in a situation of gross inflation it was necessary to cut back all programs and to cut back education decisively. It did that. Here tonight we have the plea by Senator Colston, the Opposition’s last speaker, which echoed the plea made by others: Do not cut back or freeze education. He speaks for an Opposition which has on its hands the action of doing exactly that in the August Budget last year. The Senate must be constantly reminded that the Treasurer in the Whitlam Government last year, confronted with an expenditure gap of $5,000m said in his Budget speech: sWe cannot have a deficit of $5,000m. We must cut back to half that because if we allow a $5,000m deficit we will create disaster.’ The words of the then Treasurer, against the background of a $5,000m deficit, should be repeated here constantly. He said:
In the context of an economy beginning to pick up, a deficit of the order initially projected would have been a prescription for accelerating inflation. Its acceptance would have been tantamount to abandoning concern with inflation, discarding our wages policies, condemning the corporate sector to an attack upon its profitability and threatening the future jobs of thousands of Australians . . .
So, last year the Labor Government said: ‘We cannot have a deficit of $5,000m. We must cut that in half and we must cut back programs, including education.’ It did that quite decisively. At this moment the Opposition looks at the situation in the glorious isolation in which only an Opposition can be. With not one word of what it did in the past, the Opposition has said that to cut education would be a mortal sin; but not one word has been said about the fact that it set aside the recommendations of the Schools Commission. It said that to disobey or to disregard the recommendations of the Schools Commission would be a sin. Yet, sitting amongst the rubble of the shattered economy the Opposition created when in government, has one member of the Opposition stood up and said: ‘I am sorry that we have 15 per cent of all school and college leavers last year without a job today as a result of our Government’? Was there one who said: ‘I am sorry that another 20 per cent of school and college leavers are shattered, are in disemployment, are in makeshift jobs and cannot get careers’? Did one point to the fact that thousands more have gone back to schools and colleges because they preferred that to the dole? Thank God for that attitude. Not one of them did that. Here was a debate conducted in monastic seclusion.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take the occasion of the adjournment debate tonight to refer to what I consider to be one of the most scandalous episodes in the political history of Australia, namely, the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, to defame a former colleague of mine and of other honourable senators on this side of the Senate who is now deceased and who was an honourable member of the Senate, of the highest integrity. I refer to the attack instituted by Mr Whitlam last Thursday in the House of Representatives and repeated in Queensland on Monday, according to the newspaper report which was published yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald. The gravamen of that allegation is that in the late 1950s-in 1958 or 1959- Senator Paltridge, then being the Minister for Civil Aviation, received a commission on one of 13 Electra aircraft for his good work in promoting the sale and importation of that aircraft. I was a member of the Senate during the whole time that Senator Paltridge was a senator and a Minister- for some 16 or 17 years. He was a man of exceptionally great strength of character and intellect and of complete and unquestioned integrity. His integrity was unquestioned by anybody except completely irresponsible scandalisers. It so happens, and this adds to the disgrace which comes upon this defamer by the name of E. G. Whitlam, that during the two or three years prior to 1960 there was an irresponsible, undischarged bankrupt of the same level of mental imbalance as the recent visitor from the United Kingdom by the name of Stonehouse and of a level comparable to E. G. Whitlam. This fellow Somerville Smith was circulating pamphlets -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I draw attention to the standing order which prevents this scurrilous, exaggerated, maniacal attack on another member in another place. I ask you to ask the honourable senator to desist.
– To what standing order is the honourable senator referring?
– It is standing order 418. Under standing order 418 no member of Parliament should speak of another and reflect on that person or speak offensively about him. Senator Wright, please continue.
- Mr President, with great respect and in response to that standing order I point out what is involved. There has been an attack on an honourable senator of a most scandalous order and nature. That honourable senator being dead, he is not able to defend himself. I suggest with great respect that that standing order is not applicable because it is the duty of honourable senators to protect a senator from a violent attack, not under parliamentary privilege but in a public place, by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. It is proper and right and a responsibility of the Senate in its collegial capacity to defend the honour and respect of an honourable senator. I think that in all the circumstances Senator Wright is entitled to do what he is seeking to do.
– On the point of order, I wish to add only that when I take the floor in defence of a deceased colleague who has been defamed, I am entitled to refer to the defamer in phrases not incommensurate with the language that he used against my colleague.
- Mr President, may I draw attention again, as you have, to standing order 418 which states:
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, or against any statute . . .
It must be clear, surely-
– What are the words to which you are objecting?
– Does the honourable senator mind if I state my case so that he can listen to it? Surely it must be clear that the standing order to which you referred, Mr President, is the one appropriate in the circumstances. The complaint which Senator Wright is now pursuing must stand on its own. I do not want to get into the argument about what Mr E. G. Whitlam has said about Sir Shane Paltridge. That surely must be a question which has to be analysed, commented upon and examined as a separate question. But in doing that Senator Wright has no right to say that because some other member of a House of the Parliament- as is mentioned in the standing order- said certain things, Senator Wright should be able to impute to him certain bad motives. The standing order should certainly apply in this case. The question of what was said about Sir Shane Paltridge has to be examined separately. I suggest, Mr President, that your ruling is the correct one in the circumstances.
- Mr President, may I address myself further to this point of order. The purpose of standing order 418 was to prevent, I suggest to you, anger and recrimination in the context of attitudes that might occur between 2 Houses. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in another place did not choose to make in the House of Representatives this scandalous allegation against the late Senator Sir Shane Paltridge, he chose a public place in which to make this allegation. Therefore, he is not protected by the privilege of Parliament. It seems to me he deliberately set out to put himself outside the protection of Parliament. Under the Standing Orders on which you are invited to rule, he has put himself beyond the protection that is normally accorded in relation to events that take place as between the 2 Houses. The Leader of the Opposition, I suggest to you Mr President, in total and clear terms either wilfully, by deliberation or by an accident of mind, put himself beyond the protection of the Parliament. Therefore he is fair prey, I suggest, to the observations made by Senator Wright.
– I have drawn the attention of honourable senators to standing order 418. 1 ask Senator Wright to continue his speech bearing that in mind.
- Mr President, I was saying that Somerville Smith at that time had circulated almost monthly for some two or three years a scandalous scandal sheet defaming members of this Parliament, their officers and those associated with them. At that time Sir Shane Paltridge singled himself out to have his honour tested by applying to the then Attorney-General to bring a criminal libel charge against Somerville Smith involving allegations of corruption in relation to aircraft in which Ansett Airlines of Australia was interested. The Lockheed Electras were Ansett ‘s choice. After a 3-day trial in which Sir Shane Paltridge gave evidence along with his co-prosecutors, Mr Dougherty, of the Australian Workers Union, and Mr Downing, the Attorney-General of New South Wales -
– The Labor AttorneyGeneral.
-The Labor AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, the jury found Somerville Smith guilty on 6 charges, they being that he uttered this criminal defamation knowing it to be false. So Shane Paltridge ‘s honour was established, not by an acquittal in which he was accused of bribery and then perhaps given the benefit of the doubt -
– Not like Garland ‘s case.
-You cad! His honour was established by the jury being convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Somerville Smith should be convicted of uttering a criminal libel, knowing it to be false. He was sent to gaol for 12 months on each of those 6 charges, the sentences to be served concurrently. So that was the political position in which September 1960 was left.
We are now told that Mr Whitlam was informed of this in 1 96 1 by a member of the Australian National Airlines Commission. Then 1 5 years after receiving the first information, 10 years after the death of Senator Paltridge and on the eve of an election- not a federal election, but on a day on which it was known the first allegations would be published, on the very day before the election, cowardly cutting out any proper opportunity of reply on the part of Paltridge and others before the election- we had one of the most cowardly and despicable episodes of defamation in the political history of this country.
I want to say, as a colleague who worked closely with Shane Paltridge- he was an ardent worker, an aspect of life which 1 admire- that of his character, fearlessness, courage and absolute integrity nobody of his acquaintance could have the slightest doubt. I want to say as a colleague that this is a despicable, false and scurrilous piece of scandal picked up after all this delay against a man now deceased for some 10 years. What dishonour comes to a man who spreads such scandal, even if he were an ordinary individual member of Parliament, but this comes from a man of some perspicacity who understands the proprieties of Parliament and a man who carries the responsibility of leading the Opposition. I have not the slightest doubt of Senator Shane Paltridge ‘s integrity.
I want to call the attention of the Senate for one or two minutes to public writing at the time, so far as I know by persons in no way politically associated with Paltridge or me. I refer to Stanley Brogden ‘s work published by the Melbourne University Press in 1968. He referred to the political issue at the time in which the question was whether in the two-airline policy Trans-Australia Airlines should be entitled to purchase their choice of French Caravelles or whether Ansett should be entitled to purchase his choice of 4 Lockheed Electras. The final choice of the Government came down in favour of Electras, but anybody who reads the history of that decision must be a fool if he contemplates that the Minister involved gave any encouragement or promotion to an importation or sales campaign for Electras. Let me say that this writer says that the Electras proved to be one of the greatest moneymakers in aviation history. He referred to them as being the most economic aviation machine flying at any time in Australia.
Let us examine the facts. According to this author, Trans-Australia Airlines’ application for Caravelles was rejected 3 times by the Government. At midnight on 27 March 1958 the Minister who was supposed to be promoting the Electras issued a statement concerning a Cabinet decision that was taken during an all-night sitting the previous night- in those days the Parliament used to sit throughout the night- and the statement read as follows:
Federal Cabinet has decided to refuse the application of Ansett-ANA for 4 Lockheed Electra Turbo-prop aircraft and of TAA for 2 Caravelles.
The author of this document said:
This shocked the industry perhaps less than the succeeding sentence.
The succeeding sentence reads:
Noting that the 800 series Viscount will carry a greater number of passengers than the 700 series now in service and will fly at speeds of up to 400 miles per hour, Cabinet indicated that it would be prepared to approve the extended purchase of these aircraft as replacements.
The Minister was criticised for rejecting the Electras and for going out and advocating the Viscounts. Mr Ansett then made his rejoinder. It is said in this document that he pressed his case by flying to Perth, where the Minister was living, and coming back dissatisfied. He is then said to have written a technical assessment of the Electras to re-present the history of the matter to the Minister. The Minister is then said to have replied that Ansett was not bound by his Lockheed contract for Electras because it was conditional on government approval and that the deposits ought to be returned and the contract cancelled. According to this document the Minister then wrote to Ansett. I forbear to quote further what he said. The document states:
While I in turn appreciate Ansett ‘s disappointment that the Government did not approve the Electra order, I am sure he will appreciate the complete impartiality of the decision, which involved also a rejection of the Caravelles.
The Caravelles had been applied for by Ansett ‘s competitor, TAA. Then Qantas Airways Ltd came into the scene and advocated the Electras. It was because of Qantas’ enormous importance in the market and its interest in Tasman Empire Airways Ltd that it was able to get the Minister to go to New Zealand and persuade the TEAL directors to purchase Electras, and it also persuaded the Minister to join in its order of a much greater number of Electras. The author of this document goes on to talk about the creditable reasons of the Minister and about the Electra proposals as being a great economic advantage to the aviation industry.
So we have the situation where the Minister rejected any application for Electras and then, having agreed to them, did not grant importation licences for four of them for Ansett but restricted Ansett to two, and where months later when Ansett was pressing for additional Electras he refused for quite a time to grant it a third. Those are the circumstances in which a scurrilous, disreputable, irresponsible member of this Parliament has taken up a scandal 1 5 years after the event and 10 years after the demise of the Minister and put to the country, without one tittle of evidence, an allegation that our former colleague, who is now deceased, was corrupt. Mr President, I am most obliged that this Parliament has provided a forum in which in measured terms, not in any degree exceeding the gravity of the terms of the defamer, I can defend as best I can one of the most honourable men ever to serve the Crown as a Minister or as a member of this chamber.
- Mr President, I ask that the documents from which Senator Wright has quoted be tabled.
-I seek leave to table the documents.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Having listened once again to one of Senator Wright’s melodramatic contributions to this Parliament and having heard part of the story relating to the events of those days - (Government senators interjecting)
– If Government senators would listen to the rest of the story they might have a different opinion.
– Tell us the facts.
– If the honourable senator will be quiet I will tell him. I am not on my feet to argue the case relating to Senator Paltridge ‘s authorisation of the purchase of the Electra aircraft, but matters were brought into Senator Wright’s contribution tonight which gave a picture different from the total picture. It is on that basis that I rise to answer him. During the course of his remarks Senator Wright spoke about the great advantage of the Electra aircraft over the Caravelle and the fact that it was Ansett ‘s choice at the time that the Electra be introduced into Australia as a replacement aircraft for the 700 series Viscount. That is correct. It was TransAustralia Airlines which wished to bring in the Caravelle. It was proved subsequently that the technical advice given at the time to both airlines was that the Electra was a better economic proposition for Australian operations, and that is the reason that eventually Electras came into this country. Senator Wright commented that this aircraft was a wonderful aircraft, which subsequently it proved to be, but he omitted the other significant part of the events of those days under the 2 airline policy, namely the transfer to Ansett of 3 Viscounts belonging to TAA in exchange for the 2 DC6s which Ansett gave to TAA with the approval of the then Minister. I am not suggesting that there was anything improper -
– Where is the pay-off in that?
-If the honourable senator will just wait I will tell him. I am not suggesting that there was anything improper in any legal or moral sense in what the then Minister permitted to be done, but the fact is that at that time the Viscount was proving to be an incomparably superior aircraft to the DC6. The Viscount choice had been made some years earlier by TAA, the Government operator, of its own volition, and it was Ansett-ANA which introduced the other type of aircraft into this country. TAA was compelled by the Government- I am not mentioning Senator Paltridge ‘s name here because I would believe it to be a decision of the Government of the day- to take the 2 DC6s, while Ansett-ANA would take the 3 Viscounts.
– On exchange leases.
– It is a matter of operation of the aircraft. That was the point.
– On exchange leases.
-Would the honourable senator just wait and listen to me? At that time the Viscount was getting a 98 per cent loading on the Western Australian run and the DC6 could not match it. Therefore TAA was getting a distinct commercial advantage in operating that type of aircraft as a result of its own decision to purchase that type of aircraft. It was the Government of the day which permitted that to be done. I add those comments to the debate so that we can put in perspective the decisions of the then Government. I am not entering into the controversy about Senator Paltridge because I have no evidence to support or to reject the things which have been said here tonight or which have been said elsewhere. It is important to understand that the Government of the day was not allowing the so-called free exchange of competition which was allegedly provided for in the legislation of that time. I would have hoped that Senator Wright, had he wished to be completely fair and to give a total picture, would have included those facts in the course of his speech.
– I had no intention of entering into this debate until the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) spoke. I think the first thing I ought to do is to congratulate him on his speech. It was a very good speech which in effect said nothing but got away from the substance of the matter raised by Senator Wright. I would have thought, in all my innocence in this place, that after Senator Wright had finished his speech the Leader of the Opposition in this place would have got up and defended Mr Whitlam for the remarks he had made. After all Senator Wright here tonight put the case for Senator Paltridge who is not able to be present in this place tonight. One would have thought that if any members of the Opposition supported in any way what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the other place had been saying, they would have got up and attacked what Senator Wright had said. But, Mr President, they sat silent. They sat as silent as they sat yesterday when I answered a question from Senator Chaney. 1 do not disagree with the tactic which the Leader of the Opposition has adopted in this place. It is a fair one to adopt. But why did he not get up and defend what Mr Whitlam said? I will tell honourable senators why he did not. He did not do so because he is ashamed of it, as is every other member of the Labor Party in this Parliament. He is ashamed of it as is the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley); as we are all ashamed of it. If anybody in this place wishes to get up and support what Mr Whitlam said in the last few days, let him get up and put his cards on the table. Let him stand up and defend that scurrilous carrier of garbage.
– I want to add one or two points from the document which has been tabled by Senator Wright. I support what Senator Wriedt has said and I do not embark -
– He did not say anything.
-Senator Wriedt has tried to bring some logic -
– He was trying to get away from Whitlam ‘s garbage.
– If you would listen and comment afterwards I would be well pleased. I am trying to bring some logic to the history that has been canvassed by Senator Wright.
– That is the truth.
– Would you mind listening? If you do not agree you can attack me afterwards. I support Senator Wriedt for bringing before the Senate what happened about the Caravelles and what happened about the Liberal
Government’s preference for Ansett airlines. As everybody knows- everybody talked about it- in those days it was clear that the Government supported the private airline and always tended to act against the advice which Trans-Australia Airlines gave it. I do not intend to talk about Senator Shane Paltridge. I was in this place when he was a Minister and I found him a competent but rather a rough Minister, and one who dealt in debate quite fairly. As I said when I raised a point of order earlier, I think the question about the Lockheeds has to stand aside and has to be examined separately. I do not know about it and I am quite sure Senator Wriedt does not know about it. It is a matter which has to be examined by the people who are interested in it.
I refer now to the matters raised by Senator Wright and the history of the Caravelles, the Electras and all the other aircraft. I would like to quote from the document he has produced. Page 136 of the papers refers to an article in the magazine Airliner by the so-called Stanley Brogden and relates to the equipment struggle. It reads:
The first skirmish between the Ansett organisation and TAA provided the private enterprise firm and its Chairman Ansett in particular with a notable victory. The victory provided the Labor Party with ammunition it still uses in debate and disappointed many non-political observers of the airline scene. It also postponed a major step in the modernisation of the airline industry here by many years. Briefly, TAA wanted to introduce jet airliners into Australia while Ansett-ANA did not. The Government rejected TAA. The political enmities aroused or exacerbated by this incident have confused the entire affair in the public mind, yet the facts themselves are quite clear.
That is an extract from the document to which Senator Wright referred. That is the background to the many debates we have had in this chamber since I have been here when we used to say, as honourable senators opposite well know: The dogs are barking that the Liberal Government supports Ansett’. I am only filling in the background; I am not talking about Shane Paltridge. I am talking about something which arises from the debate, and that is why the Liberal Government - ( Government senators interjecting)-
– Honourable senators opposite do not want to hear about this. Senator Wright produced a paper and the paper which he produced supported TAA at the time that this matter was in dispute.
– We do not want to hear about it.
– I know honourable senators opposite do not want to hear about it because it supports the Labor Party and TAA. Page 1 37 of the document states -
– We do not want to hear about it. We want to know whether or not you support Mr Whitlam.
– The honourable senator does not want to hear about this. Of course he does not want to know that the Liberal governments supported Ansett over the years. Of course the honourable senator does not want to know whether Liberal governments always held back the nationalised industries. Page 137 of the paper which Senator Wright tabled refers to collapse and reconstruction and states:
Why has TAA selected the Caravelle in preference to the Electra which developed as one of the greatest moneymakers in all flying history? The main reason was that TAA knew that if ANA or Ansett organisations had chosen the prop jet the Caravelle would, without any doubt whatever, draw bigger load factors just because it was a jet.
I simply add those comments to a debate which commenced with Senator Wright condemning a statement made by Mr Whitlam.
– Do you condemn it?
-I told the honourable senator that the matter has got to stand alone.
– Do you support it or condemn it?
– The honourable senator should listen to me instead of interjecting as he usually does. The matter has got to be examined by the people who know most about it. I am adding to the debate. If Mr Whitlam knows about the content of the debate, it is up to Mr Whitlam to prove his proposition. If Senator Withers knows something to the contrary, it is up to him to raise it. Senator Wright has raised these matters, but he has also raised associated matters. I am saying that the question of the supply of aircraft to the aviation industry in those days was certainly -
– That is not the issue.
-It is a distorted thing. Senator Wright has included in the Senate record certain things and I am taking out of the document which he has tabled certain things which make the position clear, namely, that the recommendations of TAA were the correct recommendations of the time. That document proves that to be so.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (11.33)- I claim with your kindness and courtesy, Mr President, a priority in relation to this matter because, although there are a number of honourable senators who wish to enter into this adjournment debate in defence of the late Senator Sir Shane Paltridge, at least in common with Senator Wright, for example, and Senator
Wood I served in the Senate with Senator Paltridge. I want to say categorically and without any equivocation that he was one of the most able Ministers who ever sat in this Senate. That is the first thing I want to say. The second thing is that having served in this Senate with him, I knew him to be an honourable man.
In the context only of Senator Bishop’s intrusion into this debate in order to try to drag a false trail across the matter raised by Senator Wright and of getting into the techniques of what was involved in the cross chartering of aircraft -it was a cross-chartering operation- I would just like to deal with this matter for a minute or two. It was the policy of the Government which Senator Paltridge as Minister for Civil Aviation was bound to carry out. What he had to carry out was an equalisation of the 2 airlines to produce fair competition. It should be borne in mind that the Chifley Government had made money available to Trans-Australia Airlines, giving it an advantage over the private airline, Ansett-ANA, which had to try to raise money in the market place at much more disadvantageous rates than were available to the government airline. TransAustralia Airlines was able to raise money on the government’s reputation. With Coles, a recalcitrant Liberal, as its first Chairman and using government money it took advantage to establish a nationalised airline that was intended by the Chifley Government to drive the private airline out of business. Certainly it was capable of doing that because it had the backing of cheap government money.
The policy of the Government when Sir Shane Paltridge was Minister for Civil Aviation, a policy for which I do not apologise, was to set up a 2-airline policy under which the airlines operated competitively. To achieve this reasonable objective the then Minister for Civil Aviation was instructed by his Prime Minister and the Cabinet- we have Cabinet government in Australia- to equalise the air fleets of the 2 airlines. Senator Bishop, who attempted, as I said, to draw false trails across the matter, attempted to purport that Senator Paltridge was giving a concession to Ansett-ANA. It must be borne in mind by those people who care to forget that in fact Ansett was still financing the purchase of his own aircraft. There was a cross-charter. TAA did not have to give certain aircraft to Ansett-ANA. It was a cross-charter operation.
I have explained the background of what took place. Having done that, I now come back to the essential matter raised by Senator Wriedt, namely, that a man who once stood at the front of this Parliament House and described Mr
David Smith as Kerr’s cur last week in Townsville behaved as a cur himself. In the public gaze and without the privilege of Parliamenttherefore he is not entitled to the protection of Parliament- he defamed a man who is not able to defend himself and whose defence must be left to those who lived with him. By God, Senator Wright and I are prepared to defend him. There are very few people from his era left in this chamber to defend him, but Senator Wright and I are determined to defend him.
I do not know what in parliamentary practice can be done about this. It would be an interesting exercise if the Senate set its mind to work and said to you, Mr President; ‘In accordance with the Standing Orders of this Parliament, a prima facie case of a breach of privilege having been made out, we ask that the Senate Privileges Committee call the Leader of the Opposition before it.’ But the Senate has no capacity to do it because the honourable member in another place who made the charge against the late Senator Paltridge would rely on the protection of the House of Representatives and would not be bound to appear before the Senate Privileges Committee.
– That House might give him leave.
-It would be a very interesting exercise if it gave him leave to appear before the Senate Committee, but I do not believe it would happen. Therefore we cannot deal with the matter as a matter of privilege. I think it is reasonable to assume that if the accusation made by the Hon. Gough Whitlam in Townsville last week concerned a sitting senator rather than a former senator who has gone to his fathers, we could take all sorts of action. For example, by the decision of a majority in this place we could refuse to listen to Senator Wriedt. We could refuse to listen to Senator Bishop. We could use all sorts of parliamentary tactics to deal with people who were using the privilege of Parliament to attempt to defame a senator sitting in his place. But we are not involved in considering a problem concerning a senator sitting in his place. We are dealing with a former senator who is no longer able to defend himself.
So, we are confronted with 2 problems. First of all, we reject the defamation of the character and quality of a man whom many of us lived with and knew. Secondly, we are determined, I suggest, to give some aid and encouragement to his widow. We have now reached another stage. What can the Senate do? All it can do is to point out in the privacy and collegiality of the Senate that the man who stood on a platform in Townsville at the end of last week and defamed the late senator is a liar and a cheat.
- Mr President, in the interests of the decorum of this House, I think that we must follow proper procedures. I raise a point of order by referring again to standing order 418 which provides that offensive words must not be used against another -
– That was not offensive.
– It is the truth.
– The truth is not the issue on which you judge the matter on this occasion. I am seeking only a true interpretation of standing order 418 -
– You would not know what the truth was.
– No, but I do know what offensive words are. To call a member ‘ a liar and a cheat’ is to use offensive words. They would be offensive against any member. Also, the word liar’ is unparliamentary and offensive even to me as used against a member of my Party. I ask you, Mr President, to ask for a withdrawal.
-Mr President, may I save you the embarrassment of this matter? I mentioned earlier, when I was addressing myself to the subject matter of a point of order, that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place put himself outside the protection of this Parliament. However, although he did that, if you, Mr President, feel that I have offended the character and quality of the Senate and it is an embarrassment to the Opposition, of course, in anticipation of your ruling, I am quite willing to withdraw the words ‘a liar and a cheat’. May I go on?
-What I now go on to say is that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place took the terrible stride of making an accusation against a man who is not able to defend himself, therefore forcing us who sit on your right, Mr President, to defend that man. Let me say to Senator Cavanagh in your presence, Mr President, that something like this happened in New South Wales some 20 years ago. Allegations against a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales came into the public gaze both in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales and in the public sheets of New South Wales. What did the Labor Government of the day in New South Wales do? That is not a rhetorical question. What the
Government of the day in New South Wales did was to amend the relevant statute in New South Wales to prevent anyone from casting aspersions upon a former member of the New South Wales Parliament who was dead. That is what the New South Wales Government did.
Mr Whitlam was an active member of the New South Wales Labor Party in those days. He must have been privy, I suggest, to the action of the New South Wales Parliament of that time, which enacted a provision that former members who were dead were entitled to protection. I am not going to argue whether such people are entitled to protection. The fact is that the parent State from which this honourable man comes was governed by an element of the Australian Labor Party which changed the law of that State to prevent people from making declarations of defamation of the order and quality to which Mr Whitlam addressed himself in Townsville last week. There is no recourse left to people of my order and nature who sit on your right, Mr President, except to defend in the public gaze the character and quality of a man who once sat in this place- and who sat where Senator Withers is now sitting- a man whose capacity, honesty and integrity were beyond reproach. We are forced in these circumstances to defend him not against Senator Bishop, Senator O’Byrne or Senator Cavanagh or any of these people who are now sitting in this place but against the allegations and defamations of a man who sits in another place and relies on the privilege and protection of the Parliament that the House of Representatives can accord to him. I think his behaviour was despicable and dishonourable.
– I just want to make the observation at this time that a pattern has been set in this Senate recently. I refer to Senator Townley ‘s presentation before this Senate last Wednesday night of a document, unsubstantiated and without any supporting evidence at all, which had the very same intention as -
- Mr Whitlam is alive.
- Mr President, I would like interjections to cease for the moment.
-Order! Senator O’Byrne has the floor.
– I raise a point of order. I definitely heard Senator Townley say, ‘Mr Whitlam is still a liar’.
– Alive. He is still alive.
– I heard no remarks of that nature, Senator Colston.
– I take up at the point I was interrupted. I was drawing attention to this growing tendency over the last 12 months or so during which this Senate has been made a forum for this type of attack with outrageous charges being made inside and outside this Parliament against members of the Parliament without any evidence at all. During the whole of this 12-month period I have spoken of, we heard people like Dr Cairns vilified- insinuations, half truths, innuendoes of the worst sort directed against Dr Cairns to try to besmirch his character. We heard the same sort of thing in respect of Mr Rex Connor. We heard the same thing in respect of so many members of Parliament. We heard Senator Murphy vilified in this Parliament in the same way by the same people here.
For the sake of the record I want to bring this matter back into perspective. In the very document that Senator Wright tabled tonight is an article from the London Economist dated 20 February 1976 under the heading ‘Lockheed’s iceberg’. It reads:
There is a common thread in the current excitements about Lockheed Aircraft’s alleged bribes, Mr Jeremy Thorpe’s alleged morals and the death of British mercenaries … in Angola. That thread is the public’s instant enjoyment of snowballing scandal.
This is the whole thread of this Senate’s activities over the last 12 months and Senator Townley helped to snowball the scandal last Wednesday night. It is interesting to note that Government supporters are taking such umbrage here tonight about another part of the snowballing scandal. The article continues:
The reputations of nien in public life can be a long time in the making, but a short time in the breaking. In the privileged -
– This is a speech against Mr Whitlam.
– It is a speech against you too for taking part in the scandals of the last 12 months in this Senate. (Opposition senators interjecting)-
Senator O’BYRNE Mr President, I would like to be heard.
– Order! Each honourable senator is entitled to be heard in silence. Other honourable senators can make their speeches after Senator O’Byrne has concluded his. Senator O’Byrne has the floor at the moment. I ask honourable senators to cease interjecting. I call Senator O’Byrne.
– I continue to read from the document:
In the privileged surroundings of a court room or congressional committee-room -
Or, I can interpose, the floor of the Senate- it is effortlessly easy to ‘convey a libel in a frown, and wink a reputation down’. Holland’s Prince Bernhard has been the week’s most prominent victim. He is said to have accepted Sl.lm from Lockheed in return for his influence in securing contracts. He denies it. But anyway, just how wrong is commercial bribery? The cases admitted, or alleged, before the American Senate sub-committee on multinationals are only the tip of an iceberg that everyone knew was there but which nobody cared much about until the figures grew enormous and the names of the men said to have been bribed strayed from the Middle East to countries where such things are not supposed to happen.
In relation to the Middle East, honourable senators might remember what occurred in regard to Mr Khemlani. The document continues:
The Lockheed iceberg floats deep in the West to American politics … to the politics just not of Holland but of Germany, Japan and elsewhere . . .: and not least to the commercial future of Lockheed itself and thus of Britain’s Rolls-Royce which makes engines for the Lockheed Tristar.
Even in these Western countries there is a moral uncertainty. Not when a Minister or civil servant lets his decisions be influenced by gifts. Then things are clear- he and the giver have both broken the law, as indeed has any commercial buyer who, for instance takes a kickback from some other company ‘s salesman.
I interpolate again to state that we know of the money that has gone into the campaign funds of the Liberal Party of Australia. We know of the offices that have been set up across the length and breadth of Australia for the Liberal Party that have been fully staffed and manned in order to assist that Party. Yet, it could not even win the New South Wales Election conducted last weekend. I continue to read from the document:
The grey areas begin when the issue is not one of decision but of influence. The French General Stehlin who had declared that the Mirage was inferior to its American rivals as a replacement for the Starfighter, was totally discredited when it was revealed later that he was paid as a ‘consultant’ by Northrop. But would he have been so discredited in Paris if the payment had been from Dassault? The British Parliament is satisfied that all is well if an M.P. paid by outsiders declares his interest. But that rule does not satisfy all British voters. And what of the gift directed not to the man but, say. to his favourite charity? He may be just as much influenced in his decision; yet- as the Dutch public has shown in discussion of the alleged Lockheed payments to Prince Bernhard- he would be less severely damned by public opinion. And then where does collective bribery start? When is a firm that contributes to a political party taking a legitimate interest in politics and when is it trying to buy government (or indeed opposition) favours? There is no uniform answer in Western countries: But the Americans now put strict limits on corporate political contributions; the British are more lenient so long as presents are within reason and in public view; and the Italians find it quite normal, if not quite legal, that major companies operate vast slush funds hidden from the public, and the tax man too.
The revelations of the activities of the Lockheed Corporation in America are a worldwide scandal. They provide an indication of the lengths to which the capitalist system will go in order to bribe and suborn people to press its system of profit-making. I abhor the present situation that has arisen in which people can be libelled and defamed. I ask all honourable senators opposite to examine their consciences to see what they have done to honourable people from this side of the Parliament over the last 12 months.
– I rise to speak on this matter briefly because I had a very long association with the late Senator Sir Shane Paltridge long before he entered the Parliament and long before I entered it. My association with him goes back to 1948 or 1949. 1 have nothing but feelings of disgust at the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) upon the character and the integrity of this man, an attack made without one tittle of evidence to support it. I have been fascinated tonight by the tactics of members of the Opposition. They have attempted to draw red herrings across the path. Not one of them has been prepared to stand in this place and defend or support their Leader in another place, the Leader of the Opposition, because in their hearts they know that his attack was false. I cannot use the words which I would like to use. He made a false and scurrilous attack upon a dead man, a man who cannot defend himself. These are the tactics of a cowardly and despicable man, and his own words condemn him. I was interested to hear Senator O’Byrne talk about Prince Bernhard, the Lockheed company, the capitalist system, the scurrilous attacks upon Mr Connor and other people, about the Iraqi loan affair and the other loan affair. Those people were here to defend themselves if they could. Senator O’Byrne has a short memory. There is nothing like a reformed alcoholic to be pure. I remember when in this place he attacked a Democratic Labor Party senator from Tasmania over housing without one tittle of evidence to support the charge. He can be pure when it suits him to be pure.
– There was evidence in that case.
– If the honourable senator looks up the Hansard record he will find that there was not one tittle of evidence. I merely rose to defend the honour and integrity of a former colleague of mine, a fellow Western Australian, a man who served with great distinction in this Parliament. It is significant that not one member of the Opposition in the Senate is prepared to defend the Leader of the Opposition in another place. Not one of them is prepared to stand and say that he spoke the truth.
– Well, what are you complaining about?
– Why are they not prepared to do so? All they talk about is the two-airline policy, the Viscounts and DC6s of 15 or 20 years ago. That is all they can talk about. Why do they not defend their leader? They do not because they all know he is indefensible. He is a scurrilous, disgusting and despicable individual.
- Mr President, I raise the same point of order as before. It is becoming obvious. I let Senator Sim go until he referred to a particular politician.
– I withdraw. I want to say more so I withdraw. I do not want to embarrass you, Mr President. I have said it and I believe it.
– I used those words last week. There is nothing new about them.
– It is all right. I am not worried about what Senator Mulvihill thinks.
– You said it about Mr Whitiam, did you?
– You know what I said about you. You are a bastard like you always were.
– You keep quiet.
- Mr President, I do not wish to speak at any great length but I want to make my position quite clear. Mr Whitlam should put up or shut up. He either produces the evidence or shuts up and apologises. I do not think he has enough character to do either. Members of the Opposition in this place should either put up or shut up. They have the choice. They either defend Mr Whitlam and support what he said or, like us, they condemn him for what he said. The issue is clear. This man said in Townsville that a former Minister of this place, a man who has been dead for about 10 years, was a corrupt Minister. What a charge to make! Where was the evidence? There was no evidence to support this vile allegation. I think my colleagues on the Opposition side are decent and honourable men. I respect them. I do not think there is one of them who is prepared to get up tonight and echo the words of their Leader in another place, that a man who served in this Parliament, a man with whom many of them served and knew as I knew him, was a corrupt Minister. I leave it to honourable senators opposite to get up and produce the evidence. They should not just make accusations but should bring forward the evidence that Senator Paltridge was a corrupt Minister. Words such as T or ‘you’ are easy to say. It is easy to say: ‘I am corrupt’ or ‘You are corrupt’. They are easy words to use but what is not easy is to produce evidence.
– You will have me in tears.
– You can say what you like about me, Senator Cavanagh. If you accuse me of being corrupt, I will say to you: ‘Produce the evidence that I am corrupt’. I do not say that you are corrupt.
– It would be unparliamentary if I did say that.
– You can say it. I will not take exception to it. I will simply say to you: ‘Produce the evidence’. If you cannot produce it I will say to you: ‘You are a dishonest man’. I would not be worried. I would take no notice of it. Actually, I could not care less so long as my conscience is clear. I say to honourable senators opposite that their Leader in another place has made an allegation in public that a former Leader of the Government in this place, a former Minister of the Crown and colleague of some honourable senators in this place was a corrupt man.
I say again that it is easy to make accusations. But if honourable senators opposite are going to make accusations, let them produce the evidence. Do not say to us: ‘Write to Lockheed to get the information’. The Leader of the Opposition must have such evidence. Why does he not produce it? Why does he say that Senator Paltridge was corrupt but then say to the Minister for Foreign Affairs: ‘You write to Lockheed to get the evidence’. That is a funny story, is it not? The Leader of the Opposition must have the evidence. He quoted some fellow from Australian National Airways who is alleged to have made the accusation some 16 or 17 years ago. Why did the Leader of the Opposition wait all that time to make an accusation against Senator Paltridge? Who was the man who originally made the accusation? Why does the Leader of the Opposition not name him? We have not heard a word about him. He is some murky figure in the background. This is a simple challenge to honourable senators opposite. I do not believe any of them are prepared to get up and echo the words of their Leader in another place -
– You have said that 20 times. Get on with it.
– Keep quiet, Senator Cavanagh. I do not believe any honourable senators opposite will stand up and say that the late Senator Paltridge was a corrupt man. If they are not prepared to do so, they should tell their Leader to put up or shut up.
Generally speaking, I am sure that honourable senators opposite as well as honourable senators on this side of the chamber very deeply regret the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, in regard to the late Shane Paltridge. As one who, like Senator Wright, served with Senator Paltridge during the whole of his Senate career, I say that I found him to be, to the best of my knowledge, a very down to earth, practical parliamentarian. I believe he was a very honourable man. I would be amazed if any evidence could be produced to show that the late Shane Paltridge was anything but an honest man. I believe that he carried out his duties in this chamber in a very sincere and dedicated manner. He attempted to do what he believed was his best for this country.
In those circumstances, I very much regret that the former Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, should make this charge against a man who has been deceased for a number of years. It is a charge which will cause serious distress, I am sure, to people such as his widow. I think that we, at this time, should be thinking of her distress and the strain which she will be going through because of this very serious charge made by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to her late husband. Therefore, I am very sorry to know that the Leader of the Opposition has lowered himself to make those charges in public about a man who has passed on. I think, in the hearts and minds of us who are decent citizens, we do not like to see a man who has passed on being attacked. A deceased man does not have an opportunity to defend himself.
Another name has been mentioned in this controversy that is taking place as a result of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. I refer to John Somerville Smith. It has been inferred- I have heard this stated- that the information used by Mr Whitlam came to him from John Somerville Smith. I rang Mr Somerville Smith this evening and he completely denied that he has had anything to do with Mr Whitlam on this statement or that he has had any dealings with him.
I want to say this: As far as Mr John Somerville Smith is concerned, he paid the penalty for what he did on the occasion to which reference has been made. The courts of the State passed their sentence on him and he paid the penalty. Here again, we have a man who has a wife and family. I think that to drag up things for which a man has paid the penalty makes him re-live the murky past and causes distress to his wife and his relatives. Under these circumstances, I think that we are not justified in raking things up about this man who has already paid the penalty. I want to make it quite clear that Mr Somerville Smith has told me that under no circumstances did he give the information to Mr Whitlam which Mr Whitlam has put forward. I want to make this stand on his behalf. I think that in dealing with these things we have to be fair and we have to have regard not only to the participant but also to other people who might be very seriously hurt in these matters.
In conclusion I should like to say that I think the statement about the late Sir Shane Paltridge is a most regrettable one- a debasing one. I think the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, has lowered himself considerably in the eyes of the decent thinking people of Australia. I hope that when this incident is recalled, it will be remembered that the information did not come from Mr John Somerville Smith to Mr Whitlam, as some people say, but that Mr Whitlam must have obtained this information from some other source or must have generated it within his own mind.
- Mr President, as you know, I did indicate to Senator Carrick that I wanted to raise fairly briefly a matter about ethnic radio. But in fairness to Senator Sim, I think he should be made aware of the fact that the reason I interjected during his speech and that of Senator Withers was the broad remarks made by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack about the collective defence by this Senate. My remarks are made specifically to Senator Townley, Senator Webster and Senator Durack. With all deference to a man I never knew- I was not in the Senate at the time he was a Minister- I point out that 2 years ago at a Senate inquiry I was viciously assailed by an individual and to the discredit of this Senate and that Committee, nobody defended me. It was a physical assault, not a verbal assault. So if I felt rather savage it was because of a discreditable incident in Sydney. With all due respect to what has been said, Mr President, I hope that when you are looking at protection of the Senate you will look at physical threats. Those are the strong views I have held since I was viciously attacked and not one Liberal senator defended me.
I should like to turn now to the question of ethnic radio. I have in my possession a number of documents from the Polonia Club in Sydney comprising members of the Polish community and also a letter from a man who was program director, Brian White. Three letters deal with allegations that there is not openhandedness in regard to the Polish segment of ethnic radio in Sydney. I want to say at the outset that I have no quarrel with Senator Carrick on the matter. A month or so ago I wrote to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Eric Robinson, pointing out that the matter involved only a small request. I said that as with a lot of other innovations there had been teething problems in ethnic radio and that regrettably, had the national Ethnic Radio Committee not been disbanded or frozen, we could have solved the matter ourselves. Very briefly, the situation was this: One section of the Polish community- people who included the Polonia Soccer Club and another cultural group- contend that any releases of a sporting nature were being denied presentation on this particular program. To prove the bona fides of this case, I point out that this section of the Polish community had difficulties over matters relating to grounds. A bipartisan attitude was adopted to this matter by the then State government in New South Wales. The former Minister for Housing, Mr McGinty, the Hon. Clive Healey, M.L.C., and Mr Barnier, M.L.A., all members of the then Opposition, were involved in the matter. People from the Polish community went to see these members of Parliament wish a grievance over grounds. To the credit of Mr McGinty, he dealt with them in a very courteous manner. The message that I am trying to get across is that members of Parliament of all political parties were able to assist this club in settling this dispute, in the same way as they help other ethnic groups. Unfortunately, in the case of the inner group running the program presentation, these people find that they cannot get any reference to any sporting or cultural events broadcast over ethnic radio. If Spanish migrants here eulogised a prominent European soccer team, Real Madrid, they could be asked: ‘Well, the Franco Government and its successor is a government of the far right. Are you building up Franco?’ I think honourable senators would agree with me that that would be just stupid. Conversely, if I and other people ask that the Polonia Club should be given reasonable publicity about their sporting achievements, it does not mean that we are espousing the philosophy of Gierek, the leader of the Polish nation. This is the message that I am trying to get across.
Having regard to the lateness of the hour, I will read a paragraph from a letter by Brian White which, I think Senator Cormack would agree with me, sums up our joint aspirations as far as ethnic radio is concerned. By the way, this letter was addressed to the program co-ordinator who was in the squeeze plays. The letter reads:
It may help if I emphasise once again that the primary objective of ethnic radio is to inform and entertain Australians whose first language is one other than English. It is laid down in our guidelines that the programs cannot be used to fight old homeland battles. We have a duty to the Government to ensure that any dispute within the ethnic communities are not exacerbated by ethnic radio. Indeed, we see our role as a responsibility to allow all ethnic communities to adjust more quickly to living in Australia.
Mr White concluded on this point with which I think the Minister would again agree:
Ethnic radio is not a political prize to be fought over.
I think a certain honourable senator would agree with me that there were teething troubles with regard to the Yugoslav segment of the ethnic radio program. Many people were tempted to take an unduly militant attitude but they did not. I will seek leave later to incorporate in Hansard the Brian White letter and 2 letters written to me by the Polonia Club elaborating on this matter. I emphasise that it is not Senator Carrick but Mr Robinson who is responsible for this matter and I make these points in case he, in his wisdom, decides to shackle the national ethnic radio committee. Jim Bayutti of Italian-Australian origin, Senator Davidson, representatives of the Yugoslav, Greek and Spanish communities and I would have been an ideal jury to adjudicate on this dispute without my having to expound on it in the Senate at 12.15 this morning. But such are the rules of the game that that was not possible. I simply say in fairness to the Minister that to my knowledge he has not seen the letters which I will be seeking later to have incorporated in Hansard, but I will do so with the rider that the Minister for Education will ask Mr Robinson to intervene in this matter and advise the director of the program- I think that Mr White is no longer there- that because he gives a little bit of publicity to a particular section of an ethnic community and to its football club, it does not mean that it is an oration on politics, whether it be politics of the far left or the far right. Government money is involved in this ethnic radio station. It is money which the present Government and the previous Government have spent, and I do not cavil at that. But we are entitled to see that there is no such thing as playing favourites. There is no question about that. As a matter of fact, those who are trying to crowd out the other people are most arrogant. One gentleman harrassed my secretary. Another said that he wanted to see me. I said that he could do so on 4 days out of five in one particular week. He said that he had to see me on the fifth day. Of course, that was not on. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard 3 letters. One is an introductory letter to me. The second is a broader elaboration from the club and the third is Brian White ‘s response.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Polonia Soccer Club, 5 Torrington Ave, Sefton N.S.W. 2 162 Tel. 644-8 197 Date 30 April 1976
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Parliament House, Canberra A.C.T. 2600
We attach a copy of a letter we have just sent to Mr M. Mackellar, M.P., Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr E. Robinson, M.P., Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, The National Director of Ethnic Radio Australia and The Chairman of the National Committee of Radio Ethnic Australia.
We hope you can use your influence in Parliament to correct this flagrant transgression of the objects of Ethnic Radio so that the irresponsible people referred to in the letter do not continue to use Ethnic Radio as a political tool.
I remain, Yours faithfully, J. MOLSKI (Hon. Secretary)
Polonia Soccer Club, 5 Torrington Ave, Sefton N.S.W.2162
Tel 644-8 197
Date 30 April 1976
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Parliament House, Canberra A.C.T. 2600
The Polonia Soccer Club wishes to protest most strongly to you, because sporting news sent by us to the Polish program of 2EA has not been included in their recent broadcasts.
On further investigation we have found that this was because a political group, calling itself the Polish Association in N.S.W. through an ad hoc committee, has taken over censorship of the content of the Polish program.
Our club is an organisation formed solely for the purpose of promoting soccer in the state of N.S.W. We are registered with the N.S.W. Federation of Soccer Clubs and sponsored by the Polish sporting community in this State. We are not associated with any political organisation whatsoever nor do we intend to be. We strongly resent that you have allowed a particular political group to take control of Polish broadcasts and exclude sporting news which would interest the Polish community in general. In fact we believe that it is wrong for every political group, be it left, right or centre to control Ethnic Radio and use it as a political tool, let alone give that power to only one political faction. We think content should be representative of the desires of the whole Polish community in Sydney and not just a minority group.
As the above clique merely wants to use Polish broadcasts to fight old homeland battles and to arouse agitation in the Polish-Australian community, we would be very much obliged if you would endeavour to take the strongest possible action against these people.
I remain Yours faithfully,
Polonia Soccer Club Polish Social and Recreation Club Ltd 22 April 1976
Senator A. Mulvihill Australian Parliament Offices Chifley Square Sydney 2000.
Dear Senator Mulvihill,
I have been requested to write to you on behalf of the above Sporting Organisations to acquaint you with the unpleasant situations which do exist in our community, and believe you should be made aware of these unfortunate incidents. lt is a definite and known fact, that for the past few years the Polish Sport Organisations have been persecuted by some Polish political extremists and reactionist groups, and the Sport Organisations are under constant pressure and attack by these people.
The Polish newspaper (Wiadomosci Polskie) refuses to print any soccer reports or match results, simply because we do not support their ideals and flatly refuse to bring any politics into our sporting groups.
Our organisations consist mainly of Australians, either by birth or naturalisation, many of whom have Polish origin with a love for sport and culture, and are naturally proud of their heritage, but do not want to participate in any politics and do not agree to fighting old Homeland battles here in Australia.
We do adhere to the Memorandum and Articles of Association- Soccer Federation Rules. We would particularly emphasise and draw to your attention the article in the Association which states:
To endeavour and encourage a continuous voluntary association of residents of Doonside and those of neighbourhood either Australian Citizens by birth or naturalisation or citizens to be, and to promote thereby a realistic process of integration based upon pursuit of mutual interests, direct social relations without discrimination resulting from origin, race, religion or political beliefs. ‘
During the past month, for the first time, Mr Drewniak (Speaker and Co-ordinator for 2EA) reported and announced our sporting activities.
Since this broadcast Mr Drewniak has been ridiculed and put under tremendous pressure at two meetings, which were attended by a group calling themselves (Other Persons), this group because of their political implications made significant contributions to undermine the production of the Polish Ethnic radio programs. Mr Drewniak declined to accept any recommendations put forward by this group.
The ‘Other Persons’ group, together with the Polish Council of Organisations in Australia and supporters of the Polish Exiled Government in London stated at one of these meetings, that they would initiate their own radio program based on the pattern of ‘Free Europe’ which is entirely a political program. They even went as far as stating that they had already prepared tapes for this new concept.
Under no circumstances whatsoever would Mr Drewniak agree to this, as he is an independent body free of all political inclinations.
Should these groups be allowed to take over the Polish Ethnic radio editions, there will be no sport coverage at all, and this does cause our organisation great anxiety.
Prior to sending his letter to Mr B. White, Mr Strzelecki had not received his committee ‘s approval on this letter, and he was condemned at the meeting for his unorthodox method of procedure. A photostat copy of Mr Strzelecki ‘s accusations is attached.
One of these meetings was attended by Mr Chrabowski (President of Polonia Soccer Club) and Mrs Dropczynska (President of the Ladies Auxiliary and Dancing Group). Both these people were treated with disrespect and insulted, they left the meeting, half way through in disgust.
Further at these meetings the following took place:
Mr Drewniak was accused of being a communist, which is a definite defamation of character.
Mr Drewniak was also accused of spreading hidden communist progaganda through advertising the Polish-Australian Olympic Club’s Appeal and Polonia Soccer matches.
We ask- by what right or what proof these people have to substantiate these malicious and degrading statements.
Mr Krawicki told the meeting that Mr Brian White was a ‘nobody’ and would do as they told him.
He further stated that he had had a conversation with the Minister of Immigration, Mr Mackellar, who had advised him during this conversation that Mr White would be sacked within two days.
The Polish Sport Organisations, represented above, are of the unanimous opinion that extremists of this nature are not responsible people, and therefore quite incapable of controlling an Ethnic radio program. Furthermore, by forcing their political beliefs into sport they are destroying the Olympic spirit and the true meaning of sport.
Finally, we state that our Sporting Associations fully support Mr Drewniak and endorse our opinion that he has done an excellent job on the Ethnic radio, and we are confident that he will continue to fulfil his role as Speaker and Coordinator in an unbiased manner and thereby strengthen the ties of the Polish people with Australia. Also attached is our letter to Mr Drewniak dated 19 March which is self explanatory.
Public Relations Officer
End: Polonia News; Ethnic Radio Australia’s letter: Letter to J. Drewniak Mr Strzelecki ‘s accusations. c.c. M/s Brian White; Dr R. Klugman; E. Bedford; J. Drewniak J. L. Armitage. 26 March 1976.
Dear Mr Drewniak
This letter is to confirm that until further notice, you are Co-ordinator of the Polish Language program on radio station 2EA. Mr Andrzej Krawczynski is ‘shadow ‘ co-ordinator. 1 am aware of a meeting this week which you attended and which led to a vote purporting to depose you as co-ordinator. We cannot accept the decisions of this meeting. We were not given any notice of any intention to hold it; there has not been a single complaint either verbally or in writing against you; the meeting seems to have been under a misapprehension about the nature and purpose of ethnic radio.
It may help if I emphasise once again that the primary objective of ethnic radio is to inform and entertain Australians whose first language is one other than English. It is laid down in our guidelines that the programs cannot be used to fight old homeland battles. We have a duty to the Government to ensure that any disputes within the ethnic communities are not exacerbated by ethnic radio. Indeed, we see our role as a responsibility to allow all ethnic communities to adjust more quickly to living in Australia.
If proper complaints are made against the programs, we will change them. If a co-ordinator plainly does not have the support of his community, he can be changed at a meeting properly constituted by me or Mrs Looman
But we cannot accept moves by one section of a community seeking to gain control of programs which are meant to serve all the people who speak the language concerned.
I am satisfied that you have followed the objectives and guidelines of ethnic radio and should remain co-ordinator until we are persuaded otherwise.
Ethnic radio is not a political prize to be fought over.
I should also point out that the Federal Government is about to decide on the whole future of ethnic broadcasting, and whatever the decision, disputes of this kind therefore have a somewhat academic touch about them.
Brian White National Director
Richard Strzelecki 246 Queen St Ashfield. 2131.
Mr Brian White
National Director of Ethnic Radio P.O. Box 471 N. Sydney. 31 March 1976.
Dear Mr White,
I am writing to you in order to acquaint you with certain facts of which you should be aware.
It has been brought to your attention, on several occasions, that there exists a great deal of anxiety and dissatisfaction among the Polish Community about the future of Ethnic Radio in general and the Polish segment of it in particular. For that reason I shall endeavour to present certain facts, as briefly as possible.
On 14 January 1976 a meeting was held at 182 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield, in order to elect a new co-ordinator of Polish Radio programme. The meeting was attended by members of the Committee consisting of Mr Drewniak Mr Rosiak, M r Durlak, Mr Jedra, Mr Hodkiewicz and myself. Miss Lucas was unable to attend. The meeting was also attended by other persons, those who have in the past made significant contributions to the production of programmes.
Hodkiewicz offered his resignation as the co-ordinator, for personal and other reasons, and the position was declared vacant.
There were three nominations for the position, Mr J. Moskala, Mr J. Drewniak and myself.
Mr Moskala declined to accept the nomination and so did I, while Mr Drewniak accepted it.
The meeting decided to impose certain conditions prior to making the appointment the major one being that it be for a period of only three months from that date during which time the Committee was to meet again to confirm or to make a new appointment. It was agreed to by all.
Mr Hodkiewicz was given the task of informing you of the decision and to seek your approval and confirmation. I believe it was done.
On his appointment and at Mr Drewniak ‘s suggestion, Mr Drewniak undertook to seek an immediate termination of appointment of Mr A. Krawczynski as the ‘Shadow Coordinator’.
Since then other matters have arisen demanding urgent action by Committee members. Many complaints were received, both verbaly and in writing regarding the standard of programmes and bias. A pattern has developed which seemed to fall into the following categories:
Political undertones not acceptable to the majority of listeners.
Certain type of broadcasts which were no longer purely informative but openly solicited funds for organisations of foreign origin based outside of this country.
Polish language was being mutilated both in grammar and pronounciation.
Editing of pre-recorded programmes was done without any consultation with its originators and script writers which presented a misleading point of view of the programmer and so indicated in writing.
Exclusion of materials submitted for broadcasting despite approval given by the Committee members, the matter being in no way contravertial.
The Co-ordinator’s attitude, unjustified insinuations and offensive remarks made towards members of the Committee and contributors as well general public, has alienated Polish Community towards him making co-operation extermely difficult.
All those matters were brought to the attention of Mr Drewniak who promptly ignored them or failed to correct them.
In view of the developing situation the Committee decided to call a special meeting inviting all contributors to attend it.
After a lengthy discussion a recommendation was made to call a General Meeting of all intersted parties, representatives of all registered Polish Organisations and Associations as well as the Public to attend the meeting at Polish House, 182 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield, on 23 March.
The motion was carried unanimously. The Council of Polish Organisations in N.S.W. was to notify all members while Mr Drewniak was requested to prepare a bulletin to be broadcast over radio 2EA.
The meeting was held as arranged. Mrs i. Looman was informed and asked to attend but she was unable to do so due to a prior engagement.
The meeting decided to elect a new co-ordinator, his assistant and twelve members of the Committee. Voting was by a secret, written ballot.
Mr J. Moskala was elected Co ordinator and Mr Drewniak his assistant.
Mr Drewniak promptly resigned his appointment and Mr A. Rosiak was then appointed to it.
The meeting also carried a motion that the new Coordinator takes up his duties as of IS April 1976, the date of expiry of previous term, subject to approval and decision of National Director of Ethnic Radio.
Twelve members of the Committee were also elected whose names are as follows:
Mrs M. Budzynowska; Mr J. Drewniak Mr E. Durlak Mr B. Jedra; Mr J. Moskala; Mr W. Ney; Mr A. Ostapowicz; Father Pajdak, chaplain; Mr A. Rosiak Mrs M. Rzoska; Mr S. Strugarok; Mr R. Strzelecki.
The Committee was given an authority to coordinate preparation of programmes, coopt writers and researchers, raise funds and generaly ensure that broadcasts were of good standard. Any contravertial matter was to be referred for final decision to the Co-ordinator who was to be the final arbitrer
The meeting of members of the Committee was arranged for 29 March and was held accordingly.
The meeting was attended by all members with the exception of Mrs Rzoska who was unable to come because of transport strike.
The meeting elected its Chairman for the duration of the meeting, Mr B. Jedra.
The Committee then proceeded to elect its oke bearers who were elected in a written ballot.
Chairman- Mr R. Strzelecki; Secretary (acting)- Mr A. Ostapowicz Treasurer- Mr S. Strugarek.
It further agreed to establish four main sections of the Committee which would undertake preparation of programmes to be submitted for broadcasting, and were as follows:
Technical - Mr A. Rosiak; Literary- Mrs M. Budzynowska Music- Mr S. Strugarek; Information- Mr R. Strzelecki.
Your letter, dated 26.3.76 addressed to Mr Drewniak was also read and discussed at the meeting.
Not knowing the substance of your discussion with Mr Drewniak the meeting was unable to reach any conclusions as to its purpose and why Mr Drewniak insisted on it being read at the meeting.
The decisions of the meeting in no way contradicted its contents but had in fact confirmed that you were the only person who can approve or deny the appointment of the Coordinator.
It merely wishes to convey to you their decisions it being a properly constituted body entitled to appoint its own representatives to the positions it choses.
Therefore the Committee urges you to acced to its wishes and to confirm Mr J. Moskala as the new Co-ordinator with Mr A. Rosiak as his assistant, from 1 5 April 1 976, the date of expiry of Mr Drewniak’s term.
This would be the main substance of the matters raised at the three meetings and I am authorised to present them to you.
Richard M. Strzelecki Chairman
Polish Ethnic Radio Committee
– I will be very brief in respect of the matter of the Polonia Soccer Club which was raised by Senator Mulvihill. As Senator Mulvihill will be aware, disputes regarding the program content, the presentation and broadcasting personnel frequently arise amongst ethnic communities. Similar disputes are going on in respect of the Slovenian and Macedonian programs in Sydney. So such a dispute is not unusual. The particular dispute to which Senator Mulvihill refers is the subject of ministerial correspondence including, I think, a telegram from Senator Mulvihill himself to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). I can say to the honourable senator that departmental officers are examining this material and that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will provide him with an answer within the next few days.
– First of all I should apologise for keeping the Senate at this hour. However, I am impelled to do so because of events that took place yesterday in respect of the rearranging of the business paper. I want to raise a matter tonight that I believe is important to the citrus growers of South Australia. I wanted to raise this matter on Wednesday on the first reading of a money Bill but I was prevented from doing so. When I found that the business paper was to be rearranged I put my name down to speak on the adjournment debate on Wednesday night. However, as a result of a chain of events somehow I was pushed down the list and now I find that I am probably the last or the second last speaker on the list. I am informed that there will be no opportunity given to me on Thursday to raise the matter that I want to raise. As the Parliament will be in recess next week I cannot afford to see that time go by without making some request to the Government this evening in respect of the situation as I see it.
The matter I want to raise is causing grave concern to all persons associated with the citrus industry in the riverland of South Australia. I refer to the large surplus of citrus juice and how the problem of the surplus has been aggravated by the import of citrus juice concentrates. I might add also that the South Australian Government is greatly concerned with the problem and has taken certain steps to assist the industry. I will outline those steps later. It is important that the cause of the present problem be put in its proper perspective. It is therefore necessary to refer to the events that have taken place and have led up to the situation which is being faced by the South Australian Government, the citrus growers and the people who are employed in the juice fruit industry in the riverland.
I want to give a brief background of the situation that has led up to his problem. The Citrus Organisation Committee in South Australia has reported that there is a surplus of about 12.5 thousand tons of valencia oranges this season and the riverland packing houses have arranged with the Beni Fruit Juices Co-operative Limited to process the fruit into juice. The plan was that this juice would be marketed, Berri Fruit Juices would recoup its processing charges and the remainder of the proceeds would be passed on to the packing houses to enable payments to be made to the growers at the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee’s prices. There is some mention in the report which was tabled in the Senate today of the way in which the prices were set.
Ample supplies of juice concentrates are available to juice distributors from overseas at cheaper prices than Australian juice. This, of course, is what is causing the problem. The Federal Government has attempted to overcome this part of the problem by establishing a Federal citrus juice panel. The panel comprises representatives of grower organisations and juice distributors and has an officer of the Department of Primary Industry as chairman. Its aim has been to establish a voluntary import quota system so that the whole of the Australian juice production can be absorbed. As I will point out later in my remarks, something seems to have gone wrong with that juice Panel because it is not doing the job which it was set up to do on a voluntary basis. Although the Panel has received undertakings from the juice distributors that orders would be placed with Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative, no orders have eventuated. Part of the reason for this is said to be that distributors believe that Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative will make profits at their expense. Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative is a juice distributor and whilst the fears of other distributors are probably unfounded, they are perhaps understandable.
The costs incurred by Berri Fruit Juice Cooperative in processing and storing the juice are about $225,000. This fact, together with the high inventory level available to the company, has caused the Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative to advise the Citrus Organisation Committee that the company is unwilling to carry the industry’s problems alone any longer and that if relief is not obtained before commencement of the navel orange season in June, its intake will be only about one-third of last year’s intake. Its Valencia intake for the next season also would be reduced, in this case to about half of last year’s intake. This would leave a surplus of about 14000 tonnes of navel oranges and 22 500 tonnes of Valencia oranges to be absorbed by other markets, principally the fresh fruit market, and would result in a chaotic situation for the industry throughout Australia. Growers would stand to lose sums of the order of $4m.
I want to re-emphasise that if this surplus is not taken care of by way of juicing, chaos could result in the industry throughout Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out in his statement that the situation is peculiar to an area of South Australia. That is not so. As there are approximately 3000 citrus growers in the Riverland area and approximately 500 people employed by the Berri Fruit Juice Cooperative it can be clearly seen that urgent action must be taken to safeguard the livelihood of both growers and employees. To this end the South Australian Government sought to assist the industry in the short term and the South Australian Treasurer asked for funds to enable the Citrus Organisation Committee to establish a pool to clear a surplus of Valencia oranges. Cabinet approved the making available of $500,000 for this purpose from State Treasury on 14 April 1976 and the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Chatterton, made a Press statement on that subject. I want to quote from that Press statement because it is most important to the argument I am putting forward tonight on behalf of the citrus growers in the Riverland in South Australia. The Press release is dated 27 April and is headed: ‘The Government Provides Emergency Assistance for the Citrus Industry’. It states:
The State Government is to provide the citrus industry with a loan of $Vim to establish an emergency pool to help clear surplus supplies of orange juice.
In releasing details of the scheme, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Brian Chatterton, said the loans would be provided through the State Bank to the South Australian Citrus Organisation Committee allowing them to:
Pay Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative for surplus juice already processed.
Make payment to citrus packing sheds in the Riverland so that they can make an advance to growers equivalent to $20 per tonne of fruit delivered.
Pay storage, distribution and other expenses involved with the distribution of the surplus juice.
Mr Chatterton said COC had reported a surplus of 12 500 tonnes of valencia oranges from this season’s harvest in the Riverland. This surplus was processed bv the Berri Fruit Juice Co-operative on the understanding that juice distributors throughout Australia would give these supplies preference over imported juice concentrate.
Despite the undertaking given by juice distributorsorders nave not eventuated,’ the Minister said. ‘I am concerned that fruit juice distributors are importing orange juice concentrate at prices below that being paid for the Australian product.’
The Federal Government attempted to overcome this by establishing a National Citrus Juice Panel. The aim was to impose voluntary quotas on imports until the Australian production was sold.
It is quite obvious that this voluntary agreement is not working’, the Minister said.
Although the problem will be referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority as a prelude to an IAC hearing, it will be some time before the results of these inquiries are known.
The navel harvest in the Riverland will commence in June and it is quite obvious the industry needs immediate assistance if the intake of fruit for juice is not to be severely reduced ‘, Mr Chatterton said.
Although aware of the situation the Federal Government had indicated that the provision of emergency aid was not its problem.
That is why I am speaking on this matter tonight. The Press statement continued:
Estimates of the COC indicate there could be a surplus of 14 000 tonnes of navel oranges and 22 500 tonnes of valencias from the coming harvest. If this occurs it would bring chaos in the industry throughout Australia, with growers losing about $4m.
Mr Chatterton said the State’s emergency assistance would give the industry time to adjust. ‘I have made it quite clear to COC that the loan is to cover the present emergency only. The ultimate solution to the problem lies with the Federal Government. It is their responsibility to regulate the imports of concentrated orange juice either by applying quotas or providing tariff protection. Any action the Federal Government takes must ensure that Australia’s citrus production is sold. ‘
The Australian Government was aware that the State Government was considering the provision of finance for the pool mentioned in the Minister’s Press statement. In a telex message to the Prime Minister on 26 March last, the Premier, Mr Dunstan, asked whether the Australian Government would share the cost of establishing the pool. In a reply dated 8 April the Prime Minister declined to assist on the grounds that ‘the problem affects only one sector of the citrus industry in South Australia and therefore it is more properly the responsibility of the State’. This response from the Prime Minister avoids consideration of the effect of a carry-over surplus from this season on the market prospects for fresh fruit throughout Australia during the coming navel orange season and the valencia season which follows. That brings me now to what I said earlier, that despite the fact that the Prime Minister said that the problem was peculiar to a certain area of South Australia, it is peculiar to all Australia. If South Australia is not able to process the coming crop and the fresh fruit has to be unloaded on the fresh fruit market, the people who are producing citrus in other States will feel the effect as much as the people in South Australia will feel it.
The Citrus Juice Panel, which I think all senators are aware was set up by the previous Labor
Government, through the agency of Senator Wriedt, meets on a voluntary basis to try to restrict the inflow of overseas juice concentrate. It met on 27 of last month and reneged on an agreement to take surplus Australian juice. The Panel was quoted as saying that it saw no purpose in further meetings. It stated that converters were unwilling to abide by voluntary agreement on the importation of concentrates and that they did not want a hearing by the Temporary Assistance Authority. The converters and the distributors are reported to be placing large orders for imported concentrates for the coming year. This is of great concern to me, to the growers, to the processors in South Australia and to the South Australian Government. In view of the fact that the Citrus Juice Panel has reneged on the voluntary agreement, I consider it is now incumbent upon the Australian Government to take the necessary steps to place stringent restrictions on the importation of juice concentrate.
My understanding is that representatives of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation saw Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Primary Industry, yesterday. I believe these people would have had discussions with him to press for immediate restrictions to be placed on the importation of fruit juice concentrates, pending a TAA hearing of the industry’s problems. I give my full support to the industry in its requests to the Minister. I am advised that Mr Chatterton, the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, has appealed to the Minister to take measures to restrict the importation of juice so as to ensure stability in the industry. I am concerned that the voluntary panel which was set up under the Australian Labor Party Government through the agency of Senator Wriedt, as I said earlier, is now reneging on the agreement which it made in with that Government. It may well be that the panel has been caught up in the philosophy of the present Government and in the hackneyed phrase that private enterprise is the solution to all problems. In other words, it is a case of the survival of the fittest and the weak going to the wall.
In conclusion I say that it is folly to import any commodity while we are producing more of that commodity- whatever it may be- than our population can consume. It is doubtful also that the Australian consumer is getting his fruit juice any more cheaply because processors are using cheaper imported concentrates. With the voluntary agreement now unworkable, I express to Senator Cotton the hope that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, will agree to the proposals put forward to him yesterday by the industry representatives and by the South Australian Minister.
– It has been interesting to listen to this debate and to have the problems illuminated. I was interested to hear something worth listening to when Senator McLaren observed at the end of the speech that he was totally in favour of import restrictions right across the board when anything came into the country which might challenge the Australian production. That was a new, illuminating and interesting proposition from an honourable senator who supported a government which flooded this country with imports in a most massive way and which put unemployment into record levels. Putting that to one side, I point out that the view which the honourable senator has given us this evening is the view which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) already has. Quite clearly, that view was given to him by the industry. I shall reinforce that with the view which was given tonight by Senator McLaren.
– At this hour of the night I feel that I must apologise for having to speak. This evening matters have been drawn out to quite an extent, particularly with the debate on the attack on Sir Shane Paltridge. My only feeling on that matter is that politics in Australia has reached a very low ebb when we see this type of action taken. I, and I think every other senator, feel that tonight our regrets surely must go to the widow of Sir Shane Paltridge in her retirement and to his family. In the last 2 days they must have gone through agony.
In the last few weeks in various sectors of the media- the Press, television and so on- various attacks have been made on various people in the Northern Territory, It is because these people in the Northern Territory do not have the ability to stand up and defend themselves that I, even at this late hour of the night and because the Senate is rising early tomorrow, must take some time to answer these charges. In answering these charges, I will trace as briefly and as quickly as I can Aboriginal land history in the Northern Territory. This is something which has been very dear to my heart. It is essential, when one looks at the Bulletin and other pubications in the last few weeks, that some explanation be given.
I go back to August 1964 when the Northern Territory Legislative Council appointed a sessional committee on Aboriginal integration. In the Legislative Council on that day in 1964 I moved that a sessional committee on integration be appointed to inquire into and from time to time to report and make recommendations concerning the operation and effectiveness of the Social Welfare Ordinance 1964 and related legislation in practice. This sessional committee which I had set up in those days- some 12 years ago now- was designed to ensure that all legislation in the Territory discriminatory towards Aborigines was removed. The actions that we took in those days were somewhat novel. Today many people in Australia are taking an interest in Aborigines and in land rights but 12 years ago the actions we took then on behalf of the Aborigines of the Northern Territory were somewhat novel inasmuch as not very much similar legislation was being enacted by the Australian Government and by the States. This Committee of Integration sat on numerous occasions during 1964 and 1965.
It is not my wish to take up much time but I wanted to give to the Senate the feelings and expressions of members in those days towards Aboriginals. The first and second reports were brief because of the short time that had elapsed since the social welfare legislation had come into effect and there was little time to gauge the actual workings of the legislation. The third report said that there appeared to be an increase in the number of Aborigines charged in the courts with offences associated with drinking. In the same report the Committee noted that no legislation had yet been introduced to make provision for the fixing of wage rates for Aborigines. It said:
The only possible bar to the application of other nondiscriminatory awards to Aboriginal employment is the Wards’ Employment Ordinance although it is doubtful whether that Ordinance can prevail over the terms of an award of the Commission. But in order that the matter be put beyond any doubt your Committee recommends that the Wards’ Employment Ordinance be amended to provide specifically that it has no application to persons employed in an industry with respect to which an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission applies where the award does not exempt the employment of Aborigines from its provisions.
The next clause of the report stated:
While the matters already referred to are receiving the attention of various authorities, this Committee has devoted particular attention to a system of land tenure of lands on reserves for Aborigines.
I would say that this was probably one of the first moves that had been taken in regard to land tenure for Aboriginal people.
– Who was on that Committee?
– I was the Chairman. There was a very good friend of mine, Mr Fred Drysdale, who was the member for Nightcliff in the Legislative Council, Mr Ron Withnall, who was then the Crown Law Officer, and 2 other members whose names escape me. The principles that were expressed in those days were set out in the report as follows:
The existence of reserves without provision made for the use and enjoyment of the land in any complete way is anomalous. It is no more than a setting aside of land without the grant of any benefit to any Aboriginal except the bare right to be upon the land. It emphasises the former view taken of the Aboriginal that he was no more than a nomadic hunter and should be permitted to remain as such. That this policy as to reserves should remain side by side with the more enlightened policy which is expressed in the Social Welfare legislation is, to say the least of it, incongruous.
Your Committee, in expressing these opinions, should not be taken as offering criticism of the Government in this field but your Committee is sensible that there had been laid on it the task of examining the legislation and recommending amending or supplementary legislation. It is in discharge of this task that this section of the report is made.
An Aboriginal, in common with all peoples, recognised that his only means of subsistence lay in the land and that particular rights to the use of land should be recognised and controlled.
It was largely agreed by witnesses before the Committee who had experience and knowledge in this field that although to the Aboriginal land as such had no significance each community or group had rights to the use of the animals and fruits which existed on certain ill-defined but actually bounded land. It would appear from the evidence that sometimes within the community individuals or groups had a relationship with particular land in respect of which they owed a responsibility towards the other members of the community.
The report continued:
The settlement of Australia by European people, in every case, represented intrusion upon this system whereby land and rights in land were parcelled out between communities and individuals. The depasturing of sheep and cattle, later agriculture, mining, the fencing of boundaries and the construction of roads all represented such a serious interference with the former rights in land which the Aboriginal had enjoyed that his livelihood was inevitably threatened; and quite often he was reduced to a beggarly subsistence depending upon the charity of the European which was derived from the very land from which he had been excluded. The Commonwealth Government is to be congratulated for its action in preventing this result at least in the substantial part of the Northern Territory represented by Aboriginal Reserves.
Reserves occupy one-fifth of the land area of the Northern Territory, about 100 000 square miles. The report continued:
But the longer term effects of the European annexation of land are more serious than the more obvious and immediate effect of the removal of means of subsistence; for a landless people are apt to lack direction and any economic impetus.
This was the feeling of members of the Legislative Council some 12 years ago. Following that report they then introduced into the Legislative Council an ordinance to make provision for the granting to Aborigines of leases of land which had been reserved for the use and benefit of
Aborigines and for purposes connected therewith. It is to be noted that on 9 August 1966 the Aboriginal Land Titles Bill was introduced into the Legislative Council and read a first time.
This was in the period when we had 6 nominated people, 8 elected people and 3 non-official people on the Council. The citizens of the Northern Territory had 1 1 people on the Council, with 6 nominated people. However, assent by the Government was necessary, and still is, in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. So the Crown Lands Bill, a Government Bill of 1967, was then introduced and passed with the assistance of my Committee and my fellow representatives on the Legislative Council. In amending the Crown Lands ordinance this Bill achieved a similar result to what we were trying to achieve, but when the Bill was finally passed with amendments in August 1968 it dealt with titles to land on reserves and on its passage and assent more than 40 titles were granted. This was the first time that Aboriginal people could make application for land in the Northern Territory. Though I have not the records before me, it is my understanding that in those days there were more than 100 applications for land and some 67 applications were successful.
In those days Aboriginal people were given land for cattle raising. I have seen a very successful co-operative between the Daly River and Port Keats. The Aboriginal people there are to be congratulated. It is a success. I have seen leases on reserves, Maningrida and others, that were available for business, housing and so on. At this time, to ensure that the Aboriginal people had a say in the allocation of their land within the Crown Lands Ordinance Part IV, I think it was, provided for the establishment of the Aboriginal Lands Board. The Aboriginal Lands Board included officials of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and other people who had particular interest in the Aboriginal people and in particular areas. Aboriginal people themselves were on the board to ensure that the representations, the applications and the evidence to the Board were properly evaluated and understood. So this was quite a successful period.
The next move was in 1967 when a referendum was held to test the views of the Australian electorate on counting Aboriginals in the census and on removing words from section 51 of the Constitution which were discriminatory against Aborigines. The referendum proposal was carried convincingly. Territorians, regardless of colour, could not vote and still cannot vote. From 1967, until the Whitlam Government came to power in late 1972, Aboriginal matters, including land matters, were administered by the Department of Territories and the Department of the Interior. An Office of Aboriginal Affairs was created in 1968. In December 1972 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was created by the Whitlam-Barnard ministry. Mr Dexter was appointed permanent head and Judge Woodward was appointed royal commissioner on land rights. The operation of Part 3a of our Crown Lands Ordinance- when I say ‘our’ I mean the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly- was administratively suspended by Labor. What that did at that time was to cut off all applications that were before the Aboriginal Lands Board for the granting of leases on Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory. From that time, 1973, when we were beginning to bring in a system of allocation of land to Aboriginal people, no land has been allocated despite the fact that the legislation that was enacted so many years ago is still on the books of the Legislative Assembly.
Late in 1975 Labor introduced the Aboriginal Lands (Northern Territory) Bill without any prior consultation with the Northern Territory community or the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and without copies of the Bill being made available in the Northern Territory for perusal, discussion and comment. However, what the Legislative Assembly did do thenmost people do not seem to know this- was to form a committee of the Legislative Assembly which went to as many Aboriginal settlements and areas in the Northern Territory as possible to discuss the matter with them. So there was consultation at that level.
I am cutting my speech short, Mr President, but the point that I am making tonight is that despite the allegations that have been made against the people of the Northern Territory that some of them are white stirrers set on spreading propaganda, that is far from the case. The people of the Northern Territory, particularly the members of the Legislative Assembly, have a real interest in the Aboriginal people. What the people of the Northern Territory want is for the people there, regardless of where they are, whether they are wielding a pen or preparing television programs to become members of a biracial community. In this bi-racial community there has to be room for co-existence. I say coexistence because the Aboriginal people are a proud people. Years ago, back in the early 1960s when I was a member of the Legislative Council, I used to use the term ‘integration’. Integration cannot and never will be. Integration implies that the white race is going to absorb the Aboriginal people and that is not going to be the case. The Northern Territory is going to be a bi-racial territory, eventually a State I hope, with people, regardless of colour, living alongside each other in a state of co-existence. The Aboriginal people have dignity and the people of the Northern Territory realise that.
I would like to refer very briefly in closing to a part of my speech in the debate on the AddressinReply to the Speech of the Governor-General. I said: . . in the implemention of Aboriginal policies we must be careful to distinguish between the more traditional Aborigines, whose self-identity has been culturally shaped and formed, and those Aborigines whose self-identity has been culturally shaped and formed, and those whose selfidentity has been largely formed on the basis of colour . . . The latter for political reasons, have tried to project the image that Aborigines are a homogeneous race- a fact which is vigorously disputed by the ‘cultural’ Aborigines. For them, an Aboriginal is one who knows the Aboriginal law. Thus for them aboriginality has nothing to do with colour. Both of these groups have needs and aspirations which differ and therefore policy initiatives aimed at helping them must also be differentiated.
Whilst it has been said of me in the Press in some places that I am returning to the old theme of land rights, radical racial minorities and all of those sorts of things, that is far from right. What I am saying here is that we must recognise that we have in the Northern Territory a different type of Aboriginal. The part-Aboriginal person is this person who is much more sophisticated and he has as much right as anybody else to be assisted in relation to his land rights and so on. But at the same time one must recognise the existence of the cultural Aboriginal. The cultural Aboriginal person must not be smothered. He is a dignified Aboriginal person. He is a person who will always remain in the Northern Territory. He is a person who is ultimately going to be heard, but he must be given time.
Since 1973 things have gone very amiss in the Northern Territory. In the fourth report of the Sessional Committee on Integration, which was tabled in November 1 967, it was stated:
Your Committee found that there were numbers of Aboriginals living in primitive and insanitary conditions in Alice Springs and Katherine and to a lesser extent in other centres of population. This is a problem which in the opinion of your Committee should be given urgent attention by the Government. Your Committee was disturbed at the lack of progress in the improvement of the social, moral and health standards existing in these communities of Aboriginal fringe dwellers.
Health standards have certainly improved now. It continues:
Your Committee has previously indicated its belief that some easily acquired form of land tenure on Aboriginal reserves will bring about the development of towns where the Aboriginal people will for some time be free to establish their own social organisations which will be strong enough to persist notwithstanding a later influx of Europeans. Instances of a present tendency in this direction amongst Aboriginals are to be found in the attitudes of the people of Goulburne Island, Wattie Creek and in the new settlement at Elliott.
In Katherine a fluctuating population sometimes reaching quite a significant number are camped on the banks of the Katherine River in conditions of abject squalor and the danger to the community from an outbreak of any of a number of contagious diseases must be high. It is socially and morally degrading to all sections of the community to have any groups living within its boundaries under such conditions.
This report was presented many years ago- in 1967. It is now 1976. 1 can assure you, Mr President, that very little has been done in the meantime. I put that down to several things. Firstly, I would think that it was because of the indifference of government to a degree in those days. Bureaucratic strangling certainly has continued to bring about this situation. So no land is being granted to the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory although the law exists to enable land to be granted to them. Very little has been done for the Aboriginal people who are fringe dwellers in the towns. As an example of that, in Alice Springs there has been general agreement between the community, the municipal council and all interested people, including the Aborigines, because consultation has taken place about areas of land to be put aside where the Aborigines can camp and for the development of their housing associations and cooperatives, but nothing has happened. This week I have been to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and to the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann). Mr Adermann has assured me that he will do his utmost with the Department of the Northern Territory and will take firm action to bring about some result.
I leave the debate at that point. It is 1 a.m. and I will take up the matter further at some later date. The purpose of this brief talk tonight has been to assure people that reports appearing in some of our southern newspapers are biased and incorrect. As I have said before, the Legislative Assembly and the people of the Northern Territory have much sympathy for the Aboriginal people. Much is going on now between the 2 races in the community. The media accuses us of stirring. If the media did less stirring and gave more assistance perhaps there would be a more settled situation and, with some Government assistance, we could overcome our problems.
- Senator Kilgariff brought forward tonight 2 matters for the attention of the Government. In relation to the problems in the Northern Territory, I will take his remarks on board and convey them to the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) and to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I think Senator Kilgariff can be assured that those of us who know him understand that he is the most experienced man in this Senate- probably in the Parliament- in the affairs of the Northern Territory and certainly in regard to Aboriginal affairs. His voice will be heard. I congratulate him for the remarks he has made. They will stand us in good stead for future reference.
He referred also to the matter of Senator Sir Shane Paltridge, and I wish only to associate myself with the words that have been spoken during this evening’s debate. When I entered this Parliament in 1964 Shane Paltridge was the Leader of the Government in this place. In the few years that I knew him. I learned to admire him and to hold him in the highest regard. The attack that has been made on him has been well dealt with this evening. I think that any person who makes a public attack on somebody who is deceased puts himself into the category of being a person whom no one regards with any respect whatsoever. A situation arose this evening which described clearly the way members of this Senate feel. During the 2 hours of debate on this matter not one member of the Opposition, not one member of the Labor Party, has seen fit to stand in this place and defend Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Labor Party, for his cowardly attack. I think that indicates the attitude of the Senate to the matter brought forward this evening by Senator Wright.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
What was not pursued however, was the availability of surgical supplies including agreed prostheses under the Medibank Hospitals Agreements with the States. These agreements provide that a patient of a recognised hospital (generally a public hospital) will be supplied with surgical appliances free of charge by the hospital in the ongoing treatment, care, rehabilitation, etc., of the patient by the hospital. This benefit applies to both inpatients and outpatients.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Provision had been made for further food aid in 1 975-76, but the Australian Government was advised that this would not be required, as sufficient food grain had been received from other sources to fulfil projected relief requirements. The Australian Development Assistance Agency is however keeping the situation under constant review, and will recommend further provision of food aid should this be considered necessary.
Australia contributes to the regular budgets of various international aid agencies which conduct welfare activities in Ethiopia. These include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). In addition, the World Bank and International Development Association both have development programs in Ethiopia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The most economical way to provide a terminal of the required size and functional layout, at the same time making best use of the existing aircraft aprons, car parks and roads, and enabling airline operations to continue throughout the construction period with minimum interruption, was to construct a new single-storey building in several stages. The work was best undertaken by constructing part of the new terminal at one end of the original building, transferring terminal activities to this part on its completion, followed by demolition of the original structure and its replacement with the remaining portion of the new terminal in a way to ensure the functional and architectural integration of the completed facility.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What promotions were either approved or effected in the Chatswood Office of the Health insurance Commission in the three weeks before and the three weeks after 1 1 November 1975.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The promotions either approved or effected in the Chatswood Office of the Health Insurance Commission in the three weeks before and the three weeks after 11 November 1975 were as follows: One Officer-promoted from: Claims Officer Grade 3, Chatswood ($6581-7054); to Administrative Officer Class 2, Chatswood ($768 1-87 17).
Two Officers- promoted from: Claims Officer Grade 4, Chatswood ($7211-7537) to Administrative Officer Class 2, Chatswood ($768 1-87 17).
One Officer- promoted from: Claims Officer Grade 3, Chatswood ($6581-7054) to Claims Officer Grade 4, State Headquarters, Sydney ($72 1 1-7537).
One Officer- promoted from: Data Processing Operator Grade 1, Chatswood ($2964-6316) to Data Processing Operator Grade 2, Chatswood ($6956).
Note: Salary rates quoted relate to salary levels existing for the period in question.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
2 ) How much printing was let out to:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
1971- 72 $9,131,106
1972- 73 $11,777,779
1973- 74 $17,552,482
1974- 75 $22,840,948
1975- 3 1.3.76 $16,041,577 Est.
The value of printing let out to State Government Printing offices and commercial printers in the same years was:
1971- 72 $481,337
1972- 73 $355,351
1973- 74 $295,564
1974- 75 $632,084
1975- 3 1.3.76 $248,067
1971- 72 $2,331,975
1972- 73 $4,528,613
1973- 74 $8,927,710
1974- 75 $10,493,601
1975- 31.3.76 $5,993,510
Regional Water Scheme in Tasmania
-On 24 March 1976 (Hansard page 723) Senator Archer asked Senator Cotton, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the Commonwealth Government’s position with regard to the North West Regional Water Scheme. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question.
There are at present a number of matters affecting Tasmania which are of special concern to the Commonwealth and which were the subject of discussions held recently between the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian Premier. Those discussions encompassed the question of future Commonwealth assistance to the North West Regional Water Scheme. The Premier indicated during the discussions that legislation would be introduced to compel participation in the Scheme by all municipalities involved, even though the ratepayers of the two most populous council areas, Burnie and Devonport, had expressed significant opposition to the Scheme. The Prime Minister indicated to the Premier that the Commonwealth could not be a party to that kind of compulsion and in those circumstances there would be a need for local agreement to the proposal before the Commonwealth could consider providing financial assistance to it.
A further point to be made is that the Commonwealth’s involvement in the project was on the basis of an original estimated cost of $ 10m. The new estimate of $ 17m would, in any event, have made necessary a review of the nature of the Commonwealth’s assistance to the project.
Use of Charter Aircraft by Members of Parliament (Question No. 171)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19760505_senate_30_s68/>.