30th Parliament · 2nd 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 59 citizens of Australia in relation to Slovene and Croatian minorities in Austria:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Government of Austria has breached article 7 of the State Treaty of May 19SS re-establishing an independent and democratic Austria by its denial of civil liberties to its Slovene and Croatian minorities.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should have the Australian representatives at the UN themselves identify with any resolution aimed at restoring civil liberties to Slovene and Croatian minorities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 26 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affiairs and Defence has said:
International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa … It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . .’
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years and Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25,000 are dominating nearby Angola, and posses modern missiles etc.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under Communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe natural justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Rhodesian Parliament to Australia, to do what they have been deprived of doing previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and deference alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr President, since this petition exceeds 250 words in length, I do not propose to ask that it be read.
– I present the following petition from 48 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate, assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue harship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel you petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make sure that subsidies paid to Private Nursing Homes are such that each pensioner holding a Pensioners Health Benefit Card will pay the Private Nursing Home no more than the statutory minimum patient contribution, which will allow six dollars per week to be retained by the pensioner patient for their personal use.
That a pensioner holding a Pensioner Health Benefit Card shall have a telephone installed free of charge, or at a very nominal charge.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on, shall receive a subsidy to assist them. The subsidy to be governed by a Means Test.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 70 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers, and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of non-State tertiary institutions in the main, business colleges, is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government technical education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to an unnecessary worsening of the current employment situation for school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 10 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled, the humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal Estate Duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-I present the following petition from 30 citizens of Australia:
To the Right Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: the humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 14 citizens of Australia:
To the right honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Whereas there is mounting evidence that some 60,000, perhaps as many as 100,000 East Timorese may have been killed since the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian forces; and
Whereas a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 December 197S, stated that it strongly deplores the military intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in Portuguese Timor’ and ‘calls upon the Government of Indonesia to desist from further violation of the territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor and to withdraw without delay its armed forces from the Territory in order to enable the people of the Territory freely to exercise their right to self-determination and independence’; and
Whereas Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, in a statement to the House of Representatives on 4 March 1976, described Australia’s policy on East Timor as ‘clear’ and calling for ‘the withdrawal of Indonesian troops’, ‘a cessation of hostilities’, ‘the implementation oran act of selfdetermination as a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross’;
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should:
ensure that the Australian Government’s policy on East Timor is re-stated publicly and unequivocally; and
pursue the implementation of the said policy as strongly as possible; and
call for the immediate discontinuance of all military aid to Indonesia, including the training of Indonesian troops on Australian soil; and
demand that the broadcasting acts be no longer applied selectively to prevent communication with the Democratic Republic of East Timor; and
seek a full and open inquiry into the invasion of East Timor and the deaths of six Australian journalists; and
urge the Australian Government and its instrumentalities not to prevent the shipping of humanitarian aid to East Timor.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Since this petition exceeds 250 words in length, I do not propose to ask that it be read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of private nursing homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act providing for the extension of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 to the external Territories and for purposes connected therewith.
Mrs JOAN KIRNER
Notice of Motion
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That Standing Order 76 be suspended to enable Senator Missen to present to the Senate the following petition received by him and signed by seven citizens of Australia, namely:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the actions of a member of the Schools Commission, Mrs Joan Kirner, have been a cause of grave concern to many members of the community in that Mrs Kirner has on a number of occasions made use of the public media-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I am aware, as I am sure all honourable senators are aware, that a petition of this nature was presented to the House of Representatives last week. Senator Missen is giving notice of a motion in respect of the same matter. I ask you to rule whether you consider it to be appropriate for the actions of an individual to be singled out in this manner for consideration by either House of Parliament. To my knowledge it is setting a precedent. A precedent certainly was set in respect of the presentation of the petition. If this is to be the practice, I presume that on future occasions similar personal attacks against individuals will become subject to this method.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I have considered the precedent which the late Senator Greenwood set when he moved a motion such as this in respect of a petition which did not bear the signature of the Clerk. I consider that there is undoubtedly power to give such a notice of motion and to move such a motion. The fact of the matter is that this petition represents a protest signed by certain citizens of Australia. Their protest is based upon the actions of a certain individual. It is impossible for them to make their protest without referring to the name of the individual and to the allegations which they make about the remarks that the individual has made. I do not seek to take the matter any further than that at this stage. I am merely giving notice of a motion in respect of which a point of order has been taken. Certain citizens of Australia want to register some sort of protest. It has nothing to do with my views. It is a matter of those citizens wanting to register a protest. I submit that the only way in which I can proceed is to give notice of a motion and to proceed with such notice of motion.
– I also wish to speak to the point of order, Mr President. As I understand it, the honourable senator is but giving a notice of motion. As I understand the Standing Orders, he must give his notice of motion in sufficient particularity for the Senate to know what he intends to move. That takes the matter no further. All he is doing is giving notice that on the next day of sitting he intends to move in those terms. It would be then a matter for the Senate, he having moved in that way, to decide whether it agrees with the motion or rejects it.
– But the motion will be debated.
– Why ought it not to be debated? It strikes me as funny that honourable senators opposite should be so sensitive before the notice of motion is actually read. I have heard many attacks in this place, during adjournment debates and debates on the motion for the first reading of Bills against many people, both within and outside Australia. But I do not think that that has anything to do with the question before you, Mr President. The question that you have to decide- I must submit that you ought to decide in favour of Senator Missen- is whether any honourable senator has the right to put down a notice of motion, providing that notice of motion is not blasphemous, indecent or otherwise unacceptable. I know of nothing in the Standing Orders which prevents an honourable senator giving notice of a motion, providing it is couched in adequate and proper parliamentary language. I also believe that the notice of motion ought to be given in sufficient particularity so that the Senate is aware of what an honourable senator is giving notice.
– I want to say a few words on this matter, Mr President. I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate has oversimplified what is involved in the matter. What is involved in the notice of motion is the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the lodging of a petition that does not comply with standing order No. 76, which provides that a petition must have the Clerk’s certificate that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders. I do not know what the petition is about, but I think the stage has been reached where the Clerk has decided not to certify the petition because he does not consider it to be in conformity with the Standing Orders. But whether or not the Clerk signs the petition does not make any difference. We will hear the petition despite the fact that it does not comply with Standing Orders. That is the purpose of the notice of motion. Should we permit petitions to be read to this Parliament that do not comply with Standing Orders? The Standing Orders are for the purpose of denying the reading to Parliament of those things that we do not think should be read to Parliament. There is nothing to stop the petitioners from writing their petition in a way that will comply with Standing Orders. When a petition which complies with Standing Orders is presented it is read, recorded in Hansard and possibly forgotten.
What Senator Missen seeks to do is ensurebecause the petition does not comply with Standing Orders he cannot get the Clerk s signature on it- that he gets publicity by way of broadcast today by reading a petition which slanders some individual who is named. He is seeking to have the Notice of Motion placed on the Notice Paper. It may or may not come up for consideration. If it does not, it is published in a public document until such time as the Parliament is prorogued. It is unfair to take this advantage. If we accept this notice any senator who supports a petition would be very foolish to present it to the Clerk for his signature; he could always seek to present it in the way Senator Missen has today to gain extra publicity. We could be establishing a precedent that would be dangerous, a precedent which the Senate must be very hesitant before setting.
- Senator Missen is in order to give notice of a motion in respect of the matter that he wishes to bring before the Senate. It is then within the province of the Senate to determine whether suspension of Standing Orders will be granted.
-Thank you, Mr President. I will read the petition which I started to read. It states:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the actions of a member of the Schools Commission, Mrs Joan Kirner, have been a cause of grave concern to many members of the community in that Mrs Kirner has on a number of occasions made use of the public media to direct criticism of an objectionable kind (including the allegation of being ‘deceitful’) against a Minister of the Crown, Senator John Carrick, Federal Minister for Education.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take such action as is necessary to ensure that such regrettable conduct does not continue.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I would like to quote to him what was said by a member of a statutory authority. Is the Minister aware of a speech by Sir John Crawford last week in which Sir John spoke of the ‘rather sad but understandable fact that short term political necessities as seen by our leaders have a habit of getting in the way of sensible and necessary longer term programs’? In view of the Prime Minister’s recent attack on the Industries Assistance Commission and its recommendations, could it be interpreted that Sir John’s comments were in fact directed at the Prime Minister?
-No, it could not be so interpreted. I have the full text of Sir John’s speech. He is an old friend of mine. He was good enough to send it to me before he delivered it. I can make it available to Senator Wriedt to read if he would like me to do so. The honourable senator will find when the Government has determined its position in regard to the Industries Assistance Commission- that should be given to the Senate tomorrow or even perhaps todaythat he is not very much at odds with what the
Government proposes to do. He will find the proposals rather consistent with the policy of his own party when in government.
-I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he has received an invitation from Mr Peter Bowers, Press columnist, relating to a private showing of a film, The Wargame, on an invitation card headed ‘Australian Institute of Current Affairs’. Has the Minister any information as to what the Australian Institute of Current Affairs represents? Does the Minister know who Mr Bowers is?
-I have received an invitation as described by the honourable senator and so I understand have a number of other honourable senators. As would be known to most honourable senators, Mr Peter Bowers is a very distinguished political correspondent in the Press Gallery here for the Sydney Morning Herald. Whilst I do not always agree with what he writes, nobody has ever accused him of bias.
Opposition senators- You don’t read it.
-Just because I do not read that newspaper, it does not mean that I do not know. Having received the invitation, it rather was my intention to go because I do respect Mr Bowers very much. I just happened to mention to him that I was sending him a note of apology saying that I could not accept his invitation to see this film.
– It was denied that he is the host.
-I am coining to that. Mr Bowers said to me: ‘Well, that’s news to me’. I said: ‘Well, I have an invitation with your name on it’.
– We had two Mr Flynns yesterday.
-It just shows you what a bunch of crooks and scoundrels this Australian Institute of Current Affairs is. That is what I am corning to.
- Mr President, I take a point of order.
-Under what Standing Order is the honourable senator taking his point of order?
– It would save time if I just gave my point of order. My point of order is that the language being used by the Leader of the Government in the Senate is unparliamentary. If
I were to use that son of language, I would be ruled out of order. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has just said that the members of the Australian Institute of Current Affairs are a bunch of crooks. If that is not unparliamentary language, I ask you what is.
– Order! I call Senator Withers.
- Mr President, I do not think it is unparliamentary language. As a result I said to Mr Bowers: ‘Well, I am surprised’. He then wrote to me in the following terms which I think it is important that all honourable senators should know:
I understand you, among others, have received an invitation to view a film called the Wargame. According to the invitation card I am to host the evening. I am concerned that the invitation was sent without my knowledge or approval and the Australian Institute of Current Affairs had no authority to use my name to publicise the showing of this film.
I interpose to say that Senator Georges objects to what I called them. Mr Bowers continued:
My only connection with this film or organisation was a phone call I received about a week ago from a Mr Kelvin Thomson asking if I would chair a public discussion group on the uranium question. I said I would do so provided I was satisfied the sponsors and the occasion were non-political and non-partisan and asked that I be sent a letter and any promotional material so that I could make appropriate inquiries. I have heard nothing subsequently and I have not been able to reach Mr Thomson at the number he gave me. Consequently I will have nothing to do with the showing of this film and would be obliged if you would make this known at every opportunity.
Honourable senators may have read the National Times article of 8 August in which one of the organisers of the Australian Institute of Current Affairs, Mr Jonathan King, openly boasted about the luring of people to this particular film. Mr King was quoted as saying that he had ‘unashamedly used the tactics of bluff and snob world values’. The National Times article also pointed out that The Wargame had been banned from television showing by the British Broadcasting Commission. I have no objection to people showing films on anything they like, but I do think it is disgraceful for any organisation to use the names of prominent people in an unauthorised way to give their activities a veneer of respectability.
– After having heard the reply by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, I am prompted to ask the Minister whether he is aware that the
Prime Minister is reported as having said on 16 July 1976:
Any changes that may be made- if any-are ones that will not prejudice in any sense the independence and strength of the Industries Assistance Commission. That’s a categoric and absolute statement.
Again, the Prime Minister, when addressing the New South Wales branch of the Chamber of Manufactures on 26 August 1977, stated:
In the current economic circumstances, we have decided not to send to the IAC the Ave remaining references on metal products under the IAC ‘s tariff review program.
I now ask: Are the Prime Minister’s views of 1976 consistent with those expressed in August 1977? If not, which statement represents government policy?
-The real short answer to the honourable senator’s question is that he should wait; he will find out fairly soon. He has interpreted as inconsistent two sets of observations by the Prime Minister. I do not think he really understands what this is all about. The Government has the responsibility first of all to refer to the Industries Assistance Commission any matters that concern it regarding assistance and transfer activities from one section to another. It also has a great responsibility, when it receives advice, to see that it is thoroughly checked out and inspected. That is what this Government does with any IAC reports. They go to advisory councils of the Department of Industry and Commerce. They are open to public comment. People can comment against the reports if they wish to do so. When that is concluded, it is the Government’s job to make a policy decision. It makes decisions on policy with regard to output and input. If the Australian Government is concerned about the effects of unemployment and decides in its wisdom to try to protect the employment of the Austraiian people, I should have thought that the Opposition would have some sympathy for that aim.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to a newspaper report to the effect that several Government members presented a letter and a petition to the United States Ambassador addressed to President Carter concerning Indonesia’s refusal to grant them- the Government members- visas to enter Timor. I ask the Minister Will the Government make it clear to the Indonesian Government that its dissociates itself from the immature antics of these Government members which are unnecessarily harmful to Australian-Indonesian relations
– Do you?
– Yes, I do dissociate myself from them.
-This is a matter which I do not think I should answer on the run in the Senate.
– Why not? You answer everything else on the run.
-I always have you fellows on the run for a number of reasons. You are all rabbits. I will pass on the honourable senator’s question to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs for a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He will recall that I have asked several questions in recent times about the Industries Asssistance Commission. My question flows somewhat from the answer that he gave to Senator McAuliffe a few moments ago. I ask the Minister: Did Mr Howard, the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, write to the Industries Assistance Commission early in the life of this Government to ensure that the IAC gave due consideration to the employment effects of its recommendations, including their effects on employment in decentralised locations and the capacity of the economy to absorb any changes which the IAC might recommend? As the Commission’s charter, as spelt out in section 22 of the Act, requires the Commission to observe all these factors, is the Government still of the opinion that the Commission is not observing the provisions of the Act? If that is the case, in what way is it possible for the Act to be amended without destroying the basis for the Commission’s existence?
-Once again, I will have to say: ‘ Wait for it, Senator; it is close to you ‘.
– Wait for what?
-I tried very hard earlier to indicate the position. I am very fond of Senator Georges. I tried to make it clear when I said earlier that a statement will be made on this matter possibly today but, if not today, certainly tomorrow. That will make all things clear for the most confused people opposite. Senator Gietzelt was talking about the Industries Assistance Commission. He said that Mr Howard wrote to the IAC, commenting on the guidelines to which it should have regard and attempting to ensure that it would do so. That did not really happen. Mr Howard asked the IAC to have regard to those guidelines. If we look at some of the recent reports, a clear conclusion can be reached that insufficient regard had been had to the consequences to Australian employment. The Government has directed the attention of the IAC to the importance of that factor. Once again, I would have thought that the Labor Party would have some regard to the employment of the Australian people.
Senator Wheeldon- Diego Garcia
-The issue of transportation seems to have been revived in recent years or in recent months. I seem to remember that Mr Speaker was threatening to exercise transportation in respect of one of the members of the House of Representatives who offended some sensibilities recently. After that question from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I am beginning to think that I would be happy if someone transported him somewhere away from my immediate concern. I think that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is referring to some remarks made recently by an English judge. I am not familiar with the details of the case, although I understand that the suggestion was perhaps misunderstood. I do not think that the judge really was trying to revive laws that were available 150 or more years ago. I do not think that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack expects me to write to the Lord Chancellor about this matter. Indeed, my counterpart is the Attorney-General, not the Lord Chancellor. However, in view of the lengthly nature of the question and the details involved I will give further consideration to it in a more leisurely atmosphere.
-I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of a delegation from the Swedish Parliament ‘s Constitutional Committee led by the Chairman, Mr Karl Boo. We extend to the delegation a very warm welcome to this chamber of the Commonwealth Parliament and wish them well for the remainder of their visit to Australia.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– And we apologise for our performance.
– Order! I call Senator Wriedt.
- Mr President, let us hope Senator Georges is speaking for himself.
-My question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce follows answers he has just given in respect of the role of the Industries Assistance Commission and in which he spoke of the Government’s desire to protect employment in Australia. I ask the Minister Does he recall this statement in the Prime Minister’s address, referred to earlier, to the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures? It reads:
The Government has continued the policy it first adopted in 1976 for preserving a minimum market share for local manufacturers, which is sufficient to maintain a satisfactory level of activity and employment
In view of the fact that manufacturing industry in Australia is running at only 78 per cent of capacity- the motor vehicle industry at 72 per cent of capacity- and the fact that thousands of employees have been laid off in the manufacturing sector, is this the Government’s interpretation of ‘a satisfactory level of activity and employment’?
-I was not at the dinner when the Prime Minister spoke but I have read the speech. I think the Prime Minister observed that amongst the measures designed to try to maintain employment and activity in manufacturing industry we would have to use various methods- market sharing, quotas, tariffs where possible and many other such devices. This is what we have done and are intending to do. I also recall the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut by the Labor Party that brought manufacturing industry to its knees; and who voted against that in the Caucus and Ministry?
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. Is it a fact that there is a general phasing out of the bonding system in teacher training throughout Australia? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the progress that has been achieved in this direction?
- Senator Lajovic has asked me whether in fact throughout Australia there is a tendency now to move away from what was called the bonding system for recruiting and training teacher trainees in teacher training colleges. He has also asked what progress has been made. My understanding is that five of the six States are moving to terminate bonding. I think it is true, though this is subject to correction, that Tasmania as yet has not done so. There is a general belief that the bonding system or the studentship system was not a good one for the selection of teacher trainees. May I say that the system has had one interesting effect that is worth noting- as studentships are phased out so the teacher trainees pass from being supported by State Government finances to Commonwealth Government finances under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. The effect is that some 1 1,000 of the students will be coming on to teach this year and that will involve something like $ 14m of extra expenditure by the Federal Government. It is worth noting that this will provide very substantial relief for State governments and will allow them to devote the money that they save to other education purposes.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security, and I am sure she will be surprised to know that it relates to the Auditor-General’s report, which was tabled yesterday. The report refers to estimated overpayments of $40m in unemployment benefits and some $ 1 8m in pensions in the last year. Does the Minister agree with the Auditor-General’s estimates? If she does agree, to what does she attribute this high level of overpayment and what does the Government intend to do about it?
– This is a question that does require a fairly lengthy answer if I am to deal with the matter as I am sure Senator Grimes intends. The reference by the Auditor-General to the amount of $40m states:
Based on a random sample review my office estimates the potential overpayments in this category could be of the order of $40m per annum.
So the Auditor-General estimates a potential overpayment ‘of the order of $40m per annum. As far as a more accurate estimate of the overpayment is concerned, I have asked the Department to investigate the report. In respect of the Auditor-General’s report, it is a little unclear as to how he based some of his contentions. With regard to the overpayment of unemployment benefits to which he has referred, I remind the Senate that early in 1975, by a decision of the previous Government payment of unemployment benefit was changed from being made one week in arrears to one week in advance. The stated reason at that time for the change was that it was considered unreasonable to make applicants wait approximately 17 days for the first payment of benefit.
At that time the Act was changed to provide that the beneficiary could receive a final instalment of benefit in full even though he may have resumed employment during the week. After we took office, in the course of looking at some of the matters for which we had responsibility, and due to the large increase in unemployment benefit claims at that time, we took action in March 1976 to provide for unemployment benefits to be paid fortnightly in advance. It will be understood that, as I have said, where portion of an instalment is paid in advance and the person has resumed employment, under section 1 32a of the Act there is no attempt to recover that payment. I am therefore at a loss to understand some of the Auditor-General’s comments, such as those he made on page 237 when he said:
No action appeared to be taken to recover overpayments in respect of the payment made in advance for the days in the benefit period during which the beneficiary was employed.
Under that section, which was altered by the former Government, it was intended that no action should be taken. However, putting aside those matters to which I have referred, I do want to say that in the course of preparing the Budget this year the Government decided that in the future unemployment benefit would be paid fortnightly in arrears, which will overcome the difficulty that has occurred and which has been referred to by the Auditor-General. Overpayment of unemployment benefit caused through payments in advance will be arrested by the new policy, which will be introduced later this year, to pay in arrears.
As to the other matters raised by the AuditorGeneral, there are comments that I could make on all of the other pensions and benefits which he mentioned. I do not know whether this would be the place to do that or whether the Estimates Committee hearings might be more appropriate. Some action has been taken in sections which have been referred to in the report which show that the Department has the matter in hand. The matter of calling for reviews of circumstances of pensioners and beneficiaries is one that is to be reinstituted, having been abandoned in 1974 when growth in the work of the Department necessitated that.
The only other thing I should say in answer to the question is that we have consistently been drawing to the attention of the Public Service Board the staffing needs in our own Department. We have also drawn attention to the need for training of staff and the recruitment of staff who have the experience and capacity to make determinations and to do the work required. It is not simply a matter of adding to numbers, although we have been able to do that throughout the year. I instance the figure at the beginning of the year as being 8,837 employees. That is the total ceiling, including temporary penetrations. At 30 June this year that figure had risen to 9,675 employees. I think that honourable senators and others are aware of the difficulties that have arisen throughout the year in many of the Department’s offices. We believe that with the review which is being undertaken in the Department, the payment of unemployment benefit in arrears and other matters that have been put in hand, the problems that have been mentioned by the Auditor-General will be eliminated in the future.
-Mr President, I wish to seek some clarification on the matter by way of a supplementary question. It seems that the Minister for Social Security has agreed with the Auditor-General that, in fact, there is considerable overpayment of unemployment benefit at least. The Minister in her answer seemed to attribute this largely to the system of payments in advance and stated that this will be overcome by the system of payments in arrears. However, I point out that in the report of the AuditorGeneral last year it was stated that the total estimated overpayment of pensions and benefits was only $ 1 1 .6m. At that time there was a system of payment in advance. Would it not be more accurate to say that the difficulty this year is due to the last factor that the Minister mentioned in her answer, that is, a shortage of staff and particularly a shortage of skilled staff? Also, the Minister pointed out that her Department has asked the Public Service Board for increased staff and increased training to overcome this problem. Is it not a fact that one week ago the Public Service Board criticised the Government for applying unreasonable ceilings, particularly to the Department of Social Security, which have resulted m difficulties like this? Should it not be the Government which is approached about the difficulty concerning staff rather than the Public Service Board?
- Senator Grimes has referred to comments in the Auditor-General’s report of last year. I suggest to him that one reason for the figures that were cited in the report last year was that perhaps the Auditor-General did not make the random sample last year and come to the conclusions that he came to this year with regard to the system that was used for the payment of unemployment benefit. I do not know whether the Auditor-General sampled the unemployment benefit payments made last year in the way that he has done this year or whether we ought to be looking at this as a first exercise that he has done on that particular procedure. I said that we have made repeated representations to the Public Service Board throughout the year. This is a fact and has resulted in increases in staff. But we have not always been able to have the staff to do the work which is reflected in the increase in numbers of all pensions and benefits handled in our Department.
It would also be recognised that work bans were applied throughout the year in some areas of work which placed strains on the Department itself. Throughout the year we believe that we have been overcoming the difficulties that have arisen, and with the review of the Department that is now to take effect we believe that we will be able to obtain the staff that is required to give an effective and efficient service. That is the aim of the Department and of the Director-General. Representations are certainly being made to ensure that this will occur. We also hope that with improved computerisation and automation in the Department, we may be able to release staff to perform other duties such as the review of the eligibility of people to continue to receive the benefits which they presently receive.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory and refer to proposals by Mr Kerry Packer to hold a series of international cricket matches in various cities of Australia. Can the Minister say whether a request has been received for the use of facilities in Canberra for the Packer cricket series?
-The Minister for the Capital Territory has informed me that his Department has received a request from the World Series Cricket seeking to use the Manuka Oval on 16, 17 and 18 December of this year and on 6 and 7 February next year. The Department has replied indicating that the oval is available for hire on those dates.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. The AuditorGeneral in his report refers to the fact that the advice given to State offices of the Department of Social Security to investigate and recover overpayments for the period of 12 months only prior to the date of receipt of advice of changes in income or property and to ignore overpayments of less than $104 per annum might not be in accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act and Finance Regulations. Had legal advice been sought on these points before such instructions were issued to State offices?
– The procedure of reviewing the eligibility and circumstances of pensioners was abandoned in 1974 because of staff strains in the Department and the growth in numbers. It did not operate for the next two years. During the past year the introduction of the income test has enabled the procedure to be reinstated and the circumstances of approximately 250,000 pensioners to be investigated. A pensioner is required to advise the Department of Social Security of changes in circumtances. Many pensioners do this when their income increases or their status changes. The regular review of the circumstances of pensioners and other social welfare beneficiaries which was abandoned for those two years has now been reinstated.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will have seen the report of the speech of Mr Bob Hawke on Monday last, when he opened the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress, in which he referred to the reduction in man hours lost because of strikes. Does the Minister agree that the loss of man hours is only one of several factors to be taken into account in assessing disruption to industry and commerce and to the community generally because of strikes and other industrial action? Can he say whether any statistics are available on the economic loss caused to the nation by guerrilla tactics, particularly in the building trade, and the economic consequences to the community generally of strikes in the transport and power industries which are occurring with increasing frequency in Victoria? If continuing statistics are not kept, will he ascertain whether some action can be taken to record these figures so that a complete picture of disruption and inconvenience to the nation caused by strikes and unauthorised stoppages will be available?
– My attention has been drawn to the reference by Mr Hawke to the reduction in man hours lost through strikes. It is a matter of great satisfaction to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations that in fact the official statistics show that in the first five months of this year we had the lowest level of industrial disputes and working days lost this decade.
- Mr Hawke has done that.
– I think that in a question addressed to me recently Senator Button challenged the record of my colleague in these matters. It is very nice now to have the Minister’s record understood and to hear public comment on it by no less a person than Mr Hawke.
I agree with Senator Tehan that the statistics dealing with actual man days lost certainly are not the only factor to be taken into account in these matters. In fact, much of the most harmful industrial action- the sorts of guerrilla tactics that are becoming only too familiar- does not show up in such official statistics. For instance, some of” the disputes this year- I refer particularly to the petrol strike in Victoria and the air traffic controllers strike- added little to the statistics as to man days lost; but, of course, as we all know, they caused the most serious disruption in the community. Statistics on the economic cost of man hours lost are not published. However, it is quite evident that the costs of the current guerrilla campaign by unions in the building industry are significant. I understand- it has been referred to by other colleagues of mine, including the Prime Minister- that projects with a total value of $470m have been seriously affected over the period of this campaign. As to the honourable senator’s specific question about whether such statistics can be collected, I will certainly refer the matter to the Minister whom I represent and see whether something further can be ascertained. Perhaps it should also be referred to the Treasurer.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I take it that she agrees with the Auditor-General’s report, which indicates that a serious staff shortage has occurred within her Department. Can she make the position clear? She stated that the Department ad made application to the Public Service Board for increased staff yet the Public Service Board said in its report last week that these difficulties have arisen because of the staff ceilings imposed. Am I to understand that the Minister has succeeded at last in convincing someone that the staff ceilings, as far as her Department is concerned, should be removed? If the staff ceilings have not been removed, how does she expect the Public Service Board to take any attitude other than that which it has taken to date?
– Perhaps we should be clear on what the Auditor-General did say in his report with regard to staff ceilings. He quoted replies which were received from certain State officers of the Department which referred to remedial action taken because of the continuing existence of deficiencies in procedures. These replies went on to say that the unsatisfactory aspects were attributed to inadequate staff resources, an increase in the work load due to a rise in the volume of unemployment benefit claims and the problems associated with untrained and inexperienced staff. Increased training and supervision are proposed by the Department to improve the level of efficiency. I do not believe that the simple statement that the Auditor-General attributed the difficulties to staff shortages is quite an accurate statement of fact. I believe he also referred to procedures in the Department quite separate from the ceilings on staff numbers. I wanted to clarify that point before commenting on what the honourable senator has raised with me.
As I have said repeatedly during the past year, the Government has said that flexibility is to be exercised with regard to staff ceilings for the Commonwealth Employment Service and for my own Department. With that in mind we have consistently asked the Public Service Board for the staff that we know is required to deal with the increasing number of pensions and benefits. We did not always receive the numbers that we sought, but it is fair to say that we have received an increase of more than 8 per cent throughout the year. We do believe that the review that is now to be undertaken in the Department of our procedures and systems will result in a real recognition of the needs of the Department. I have also said that we are looking closely at decentralisation of the activities of the Department to see how this can give a better service and one that is more efficient in many ways.
I believe that with the work that is now being done- the review in which the Public Service Board and officers of my Department are involvedthere will be a real recognition of the work that needs to be done to give an effective and efficient service in this Department. Whether we are talking about ceilings or about being able to recruit the number that we believe is necessary is not a matter of great concern. It is a matter of knowing, as we recognise the need and identify the numbers that are required, that we will be able to proceed to recruit them and recruit them in the categories and with the skills that we know will give strength to the Department. I think that those things were recognised by the Government prior to the issuing of the Auditor-General’s report. I agree with the honourable senator. I think that at last we have been able to have an investigation of our Department’s activities in a way that will result in it having the strength of staff that it will require in the future.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications by commenting that in the early hours of this morning many thousands of Australians would have been listening to an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast of reports on the America’s Cup yacht race. During that broadcast there was a talk-back program with calls to Sydney from all over Australia, many from Perth. The program disclosed a rare feeling of togetherness between the people on the west and east coasts of Australia. We were almost as one as a nation except that the people ringing the ABC from metropolitan Sydney were paying a flat local call fee of 9c and all others were paying varying subscriber trunk dialling rates, many at the rate of1c per second of the call. Will the Minister explain to Telecom that Australia is now one nation, that Perth and Sydney have been linked by telephone for more than 40 years and that it is about time the charges for all calls in Australia were based on time, not distance?
-I have been acutely aware that Senator Lewis has a real and serious interest in achieving a uniform telephone charge throughout Australia. I was not aware of his nocturnal habits regarding the America’s Cup until this afternoon. I had been aware that Australia was one nation, but I notice that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was really seeking to challenge New South Wales’ sole claim that our ancestors were chosen by the best judges in England. There was some element of jealousy, I think, in that regard. Seriously, I understand that Telecom Australia has provided some figures of what would be the cost of a single unit call if it was standardised throughout Australia. From memory I think this would mean that all people would pay some 35c. I ask the Senate not to hold me to that. I think it was of the order of that magnitude. I think that that basically has been a major reason for steadying down the people, whether they live in Perth or Sydney, from having a standard call. Nevertheless, knowing the honourable senator’s interest in the matter, I will refer the question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister explain to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that that standard call fee was based on an unlimited call time and that what I am talking about is a time charge, whereby all calls will be routed through the STD system and charged at the same rate?
-I will add that comment to the question when I direct it to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of statements made by Dr John Ryan of the University of New South Wales on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s public affairs program Four Corners on 10 September 1977 in which he suggested that income tax evasion by oil companies importing oil into Australia was the area of greatest abuse of the nation’s tax laws? Is the Minister further aware that Dr Ryan suggested that by registering as companies in the Bahamas, an area where no income tax is payable, oil companies are able completely to evade paying taxes to the Australian Government? In the light of such statements, will the Treasurer investigate this area? If it can be demonstrated that taxes are being evaded, will steps be taken to close the obvious loophole in our tax laws?
-I have not read the remarks of Dr Ryan but I would be pleased either to get them from the honourable senator if he can let me have them or to obtain elsewhere a copy of what it is he said. It has been of concern to all government’s, the preceding Government as well as this Government, that attempts are made, sometimes most successfully, to evade tax by various methods including what is known as registering in off-shore tax havens of various kinds, shapes and sizes. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech referred to the Government’s determination to try to clean up some of these things. Anybody here who can assist in that process by adding to the knowledge of what is happening would be doing us all a service. I cannot really see that it helps anybody very much for us all to pay more tax for some people to pay a great deal less tax unjustly.
– Has the Minister for Science seen an article in the form of a letter from Sir Macfarlane Burnet in which he suggests that a large proportion of the royalties the Government will demand and receive for uranium mining should be used for research and development in the field of alternative energy resources, particularly solar energy? Is he aware that a number of suggestions have been made as to what ought to happen with the royalties from uranium mining and that Senator Cavanagh has a question on notice on this subject in relation to Aborigines? Is the Minister also aware of what royalties are likely to come to the Government from uranium mining and the potential capacity of the scientific establishments to utilise a major part at least of those royalties for research into alternative energy means, particularly solar energy?
– As to Senator Martin’s question about what royalties may be collected, I am unable to say what the limits might be. However, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have stated that as resources flow from the further development of uranium additional funds will be provided to increase substantially our national effort on solar energy. That, I understand, is a firm statement of the Government’s intention and I am sure that it will be welcomed by very many Australians. It is far too early for the Government to make a decision as to how additional funding for solar energy will be implemented. Indeed several committees, one of which is NEAC- the National Energy Advisory Committee- and ASTEC- the Australian Science and Technology Council which is an advisory body to the Government- have these matters for reference and advice to the Government. Government income from further development of uranium is not, I understand, expected to increase for some time. Of course that would have a bearing on when substantially increased funds will be available for solar energy.
As I understand it, the main thrust of the honourable senator’s question was how increased funding might be utilised in solar energy if such funding were available. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia’s largest research organisation and a pioneer in solar energy research in this country, would, I believe, direct its further research into a number of areas. One of the three most significant areas would be the industrial application of solar energy for processed water heating, particularly in food industries. This would mainly involve the installation of demonstration units in strategic factories. CSIRO is attempting to do this at the present time. There are also biological energy production systems which include the production of methane and liquid fuels from cellulose, algae and organic waste materials.
– What about the Derrieus Rotor? Are you not doing any research on that?
– We have that brilliant interference by the Leader of the Opposition. He could not even spell the jolly word correctly the other day when he put it in Hansard. If he went back and did a little bit of research it would help him greatly. Further money is required for research into the heating and cooling of houses and the low energy house project. A study of the energy systems, with particular reference to the integration of solar energy in the total energy picture in this country, is particularly necessary.
One matter which is vitally important is additional staffing, which again is a cost. Additional staff as well as increased funding would be required to enable CSIRO to expand its research in these fields. There is little doubt that funds on a large scale could, within a short time, be put to very useful research. It is very obvious that there are other research groups capable of utilising additional funds at this particular time. Several university researchers have given notice that they are about to make breakthroughs. I imagine they could use further funds. I believe these groups require encouragement. Universities and colleges, indeed even people in private industry, could all use more funds to enable them to make a contribution in the solar energy field. It has been suggested that at the present time the United States is investing some $200m per year in solar energy research. If we equate that to the requirements of this nation, it is quite obvious that for a country such as Australia the requirement for funds goes well beyond the likelihood of the availability of finance for that work.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Can he tell the Senate why the former Attorney-General resigned from the Cabinet when Cabinet prevented him from pursuing a prosecution of four former Ministers against whom, according to the former AttorneyGeneral, a prima facie case existed, when the same Attorney-General refused to pursue what the Court found to be a prima facie case against the honourable member for Curtin for breaches of the Electoral Act after the honourable member for Curtin paid $100, literally out of his own pocket, to an ostensible political opponent for services anticipated?
-I suggest that Senator Walsh is confused about the reasons for the resignation of my predecessor and also entirely confused about the so-called Garland case. With regard to my predecessor’s resignation, I suggest that Senator Walsh should read carefully and study what Mr Ellicott said. He will find that the assumptions he is making in his question are not correct. As far as Mr Garland is concerned, the fact is that there was found to be no case for him to answer.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Am I correct in recollecting that in 1964 this Parliament in its unwisdom allowed the Commissioner of Taxation full discretion to prescribe what was reasonable as to the amount of superannuation that received a taxation benefit? What information is available to the public as to the rules that the Commissioner of Taxation uses for the purpose of quantifying what is reasonable? Am I correct in understanding that some executives are receiving superannuation payments of the order of $200,000 to $300,000 with that tax benefit? Am I also correct in understanding that there is a differentiation between employee directors and self-employed persons, the limits for the latter class being $122,000? Lastly, to point my interest, did the Treasurer notice that in relation to a recently deceased member of the Queensland Parliament, $220,000 was mentioned as the lump sum in issue? I wish the Minister to understand my probing interest in this new area of exploitive privilege.
-I can recall, as a very new senator in this place, joining with Senator Wright and, I think, Senator Webster and certainly the late former Senator Thomas Bull in working over a very long weekend- I think it was a Friday, Saturday and Sunday- to investigate a number of matters dealing with taxation law and the Taxation Act with the then Commissioners. It was most interesting and very illuminating. I remember Senator Wright then being concerned about this area. If my memory is correct, the upper limit at that time for the sorts of exemptions that Senator Wright mentioned was about $100,000. I regard Senator Wright’s series of questions as extremely important. I think it may well be that the whole matter needs some fairly solid examination. If there are such rules, it would seem to me that they ought to be able to be seen. Therefore, I will direct this question to the Treasurer with my own recommendation that as far as possible we should have a fairly serious look at this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it not a fact, as reported in recent news reports, that the Commonwealth Employment Service now has the sole responsibility for determining eligibility for receipt of unemployment benefits? If the reports are correct and it is the case that the Department of Social Security can no longer make its ownjudgments regarding eligibility, can the Minister inform the Senate under what criteria unemployed persons may now appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal against decisions taken by the Commonwealth Employment Service with respect to unemployment benefit?
– For some years the Commonwealth Employment Service has had the responsibility of work testing claimants for unemployment benefit. The work testing has been done by the Commonweath Employment Service and the income testing has been done by the Department of Social Security. Recently, it was reaffirmed by the Government, following some recommendations that were made in the
Norgard report, that the Commonwealth Employment Service would continue to do the work testing for unemployment benefit. The social security appeals tribunals will continue to hear appeals on unemployment benefit claims. If it is a matter that relates to the work testing of a claimant, the Commonwealth Employment Service will be required to provide the information and evidence relating to that part of the claim. So, the situation really is that the Commonwealth Employment Service deals with the work testing and the finding of employment where that is possible, and the Department of Social Security deals with the income testing, as it always has done.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. What is the present position of planning for a future major airport outside metropolitan Adelaide? In investigations for such a site has consideration been given to the possibility of locating civil air operations at Edinburgh, in conj unction with Royal Australian Air Force usage?
-I do not have the particular details relating to the honourable senator’s question. I will direct the question to the attention of my colleague in another place and seek information from him.
-I direct a question without knowledge to the Minister for Administrative Services. It relates to his responsibility for the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that all divisional returning officers, particularly in New South Wales, will be adequately briefed to the effect that all Commonwealth nationals are eligible for voting rights in Australia after they have resided here for six months? In particular, will the Minister inquire to see whether it is true that a spot check carried out yesterday in Sydney revealed that only the electoral officers for Wentworth and St George gave the answer which I am contending in my question?
-I hope to be able to give an answer with some knowledge. I can give an assurance that such persons need have no fears about the divisional returning officers, not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia, in relation to enrolment. Any person from any of the 35 countries specified in section 7 of the Australian Citizenship Act who has the status of a
British subject under the Act and who is otherwise qualified for enrolment under the Commonwealth Electoral Act is eligible to enrol. Persons who have Australian citizenship, whether acquired by birth in Australia, by descent from an Australian parent, or by grant, have the status of British subjects. I suggest that anybody who is in any doubt as to his citizenship should ascertain the position from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, which administers the Australian Citizenship Act-not the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I am disappointed to hear the results of the honourable senator’s survey because I had asked the Australian Electoral Office this question and I had been told that I could give that assurance. It appears, as a result of Senator Mulvihill ‘s survey, that I should not give that assurance. I shall now ask the Chief Australian Electoral Officer to have this matter investigated in all State electoral offices and to confirm that officers at all levels right down to divisional returning officers are carrying out the assurance that the Australian Electoral Office suggested I give to the honourable senator.
-I should like to ask a supplementary question in order to help the Minister. The complaints have come from the Cypriot community. The Minister mentioned 35 countries. It is members of the Cypriot community who claim that they have been misinformed.
-That is as I understand the situation. As the honourable senator did not mention that fact in his question, I did not refer to it. I will chase up the points he has mentioned.
- Mr President, yesterday Senator Primmer again asked me a question about a helicopter crash in Irian Jaya. On 18 August 1977 Senator Primmer asked me the following questions as the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I think I should quote each question so that the answers are intelligible. Senator Primmer asked:
Firstly, did the Australian Iroquois helicopter which came to grief in the Wamera area of west Irian on 29 July accidentally crash or was it shot down?
The answer to that question is: A Royal Australian Air Force helicopter engaged on survey activities in Irian Jaya crashed near Wamera on 29 July 1977. There was one Indonesian survey officer on board. A RAAF Court of Inquiry has established that the accident resulted from cloud closing in unexpectedly on the aircraft, necessitating a rapid manoeuvre in order to maintain visual flight. Because of the high altitude at which the aircraft was operating, there was insufficient performance to enable hovering flight and insufficient ground clearance remained to allow acceleration to a safe speed. The honourable senator also asked:
Secondly, is not this area of West Irian one where indigenous people are in armed conflict with Indonesian troops?
The answer to that question is: Internal security in Irian Jaya is a matter for the Indonesian Government. In arranging survey activities throughout the whole of Irian Jaya, both governments have been concerned to avoid Australian involvement in any matters outside the direct concerns of the survey operations. The concern of the Australian forces has been to conduct a demanding technical operation in the physically, and meteorologically hazardous environment which eventually claimed the RAAF helicopter. The honourable senator then asked:
Thirdly, if so, why was an Australian helicopter in the area?
The answer to that question is: The survey and mapping of Irian Jaya- Operation Cenderawasih is a continuation of a co-operative mapping program with Indonesia which was begun in 1970 and has continued since then. The program provided extensive coverage of Kalimantan in 1970 and Sumatra in 1971-76 before commencing in Irian Jaya in 1976. Its objective is to contribute to Indonesian planning for national development. The honourable senator also asked:
Fourthly, if the answer to the third question is that it was there for mapping purposes, should Australia be involved in such an exercise in an area under dispute and would not the results of the mapping survey be available to the Indonesian Army?
The answer to that question is: The terms of reference for the project were written by the Indonesian National Co-ordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping and reflect priorities of that country’s Department of Mines, Directorate General of Transmigration and Department of Public Works. The results of the survey will undoubtedly be made available to any Indonesian or Australian Government organisation having an interest. The honourable senator then asked:
Fifthly, if so, does this not mean that Australian defence forces are taking part on one side of an armed conflict at a time when no state of war exists between this nation and any other, as happened in Vietnam?
The answer to that is: No. The very careful arrangements made for the conduct of the survey operation preclude any reasonable inference that the Australian forces concerned were involved in any activities beyond those of survey alone. My colleague in the other place, Mr Killen, further adds that the Australian Government has most warmly appreciated the unstinted co-operation of the Indonesian authorities in the search and rescue operation following the helicopter crash and generally in assisting Australian survey personnel in carrying out their task in an extremely difficult physical environment.
Report of Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations
– I present a progress report from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
Ordered that the report be printed. Senator RAE-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the report
The purpose of this report is to inform the Senate of the operations of the Committee and its progress to date on the various matters under consideration. We acknowledge the responsibility placed on the Committee by the Senate to enhance the scrutiny of public expenditure, including the expenditure of statutory bodies whose budgets make up a large part of the Commonwealth’s total expenditure. In this context, the Committee sees its main role in following up the work of the Estimates Committees and maintaining a total and continuing examination of Commonwealth Government funded, owned or controlled bodies. The Committee also sees the need for some parliamentary scrutiny of special appropriations. On 5 May 1977 the Senate referred to this Committee the following matter: government funding of, and expenditure of public moneys by, Commonwealth statutory authorities and corporations, particularly those which present annual reports to the Parliament.
In accordance with that reference, preliminary investigations have been made into various aspects of the affairs of statutory bodies, including contracts, purchase, lease and ownership of Commonwealth property, the timeliness and content of annual reports, the proliferation of statutory bodies, their staffing, financial and audit provisions, and their accountability to the Parliament. The Committee has made a random check on contracts over $50,000 let by a number of statutory authorities and intends to investigate further, particularly in the area of cleaning contracts regulated by the Department of Administrative Services, in most cases. The Committee has also made inquiries into the procedures for property management within the network of government operations and is concerned at the limitations on the co-ordinating role available to the Department of Administrative Services in this respect. The Committee is also concerned that various statutory authorities are exempt from the provisions of section 66a of the Lands Acquisition Act.
With regard to annual reports, the Committee has been concerned to discover that there is no comprehensive list of statutory bodies which are required to report to the Parliament and that those which do report are sometimes very tardy in this respect, being up to several years late, as we have noticed in recent times. We are proceeding to prepare such a list and to check the reporting processes. The Committee has also become concerned about accountability provisions in general with regard to statutory authorities. It has become clear to the Committee that there is a lack of uniformity in the staffing and financial provisions of the numerous statutory authorities, rising to the level of disputes with the AuditorGeneral over the appropriate form for annual financial statements presented to him. The Committee will investigate these matters further.
It can be seen from what I have outlined that the Committee is particularly concerned about the adequacy of accountability provisions in legislation relating to the creation of statutory authorities and is concerned to see guidelines developed which provide and adequate measure of accountability to the Parliament from Commonwealth statutory authorities and other bodies which the Commonwealth owns or controls. The Committee believes that responsible government involves the ultimate authority of the Parliament over all government activities, regardless of their statutory form, and for that reason suggests the revision of the terms of reference of 5 May 1977 to enable the Committee more adequately to fulfil its role. The current terms of reference concentrate on financial provisions and expenditure of public funds on an annual basis. The Committee believes that the operations of government-owned public companies should be accessible to parliamentary scrutiny, irrespective of any annual public funding, and accordingly suggests that the terms of reference be altered clearly to include accountability provisions and to give the Committee appropriate powers in that respect. The proposed terms of reference are set out in the report. I commend that report to the Senate and seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
I advise honourable senators that by arrangement between and with the agreement of both the Government and the Opposition Whips, the same procedures will apply in the Senate tomorrow as applied last Thursday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 September on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second dme.
- Mr President, the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill currently before the Senate implements the recommendations contained in the 1977 special report on financial assistance for local government presented by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The background to that report was the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the last Tasmanian State election that he would get the Grants Commission to review the needs of local government following complaints by the Tasmanian Premier that his State was being disadvantaged. Subsequently, the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission which reviewed the percentages of funds for local government going to each State and made certain recommendations based on that review. One of the consequences of that review was that Tasmania’s share of local government funds would be increased from 2.86 per cent to 3.2 per cent.
The recommendations of the Commission have been accepted by the Commonwealth and, in fact, all the States. As such, the Opposition will not oppose the legislation. But the passage of this legislation gives us an opportunity to review the method of distributing funds to local government which at the moment we believe is quite unsatisfactory. The first thing we should observe about the Bill is that it represents a further step in the implementation of what can only be described as the Government’s now disastrous new federalism policy. Over the past 1 8 months, we have seen the gradual collapse of the socalled new federalism to the point at which even the tax sharing arrangements under stage 1 are in tatters. The Senate will recall that during 1976-77, Senator Carrick, in his capacity as Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, kept telling us of the virtues of the new tax sharing arrangements whereby the States would get 33.6 per cent of the current personal income tax collections. On many occasions, Senator Carrick invited the Senate to believe that this would yield approximately $90m more than the formula which applied under the previous Government. The sorry truth was disclosed at the last Premiers Conference when the Prime Minister informed the States that five of them would have to rely on the guarantee arrangements which had been entered into to bring their grants up to the level which would have applied under the previous formula. In other words, the $90m had evaporated.
Indeed, the States were horrified to learn that they had been overpaid and that deductions would have to be made from next year’s grants to recompense the Commonwealth. In other words, the States would have to give back money. Because this looked like the end of federalism there and then, the Prime Minister made an offer to the Premiers that they could take a certain guaranteed amount this year which, when considered as a percentage of last year’s personal income tax collections, would be the new formula. Based on financial figures for last year for net personal income tax collections, the new formula would have become 39.9 per cent of the previous year’s collections. Between the time of the Premiers Conference and the present, it appears that the Prime Minister has finally woken up to the fact that his offer is allegedly fairly generous and he is now trying to back off that offer. If this is the case, I should imagine he can look forward to a pretty hot Premiers Conference on 2 1 October which, I understand, is the date of the next Premiers Conference.
On top of that, the Prime Minister still has a problem of point 9 (b) of the points of understanding which were originally agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States. Because of the Prime Minister’s new tax changes, the Commonwealth is obliged to participate in a further review of those arrangements. The upshot of all this is that no one has the slightest idea what the current federalism formula is. The Premiers Conference next month will be the sixth in just over a year and a half. The Prime Minister was right when he said some time last year that he would end the annual financial wrangling between the Commonwealth and the States. In fact he has turned it into a quarterly wrangle. I believe it is finally becoming apparent, even to the Prime Minister himself, that the federalism policy is doing absolutely nothing to help the management of the economy. The policy itself results in the Commonwealth gradually losing control over economic management. This is most clearly demonstrated by the current threat by the States to force lower interest rates on the Commonwealth in the October loan.
I wish to make some remarks specifically in regard to local government, using those comments that I have just made as background. We believe that the general policy being adopted by the Government is not beneficial to local government, as is claimed. I will site the figures given in the Budget Papers. During the financial year 1975- 76, total payments for local government, excluding for roads, amounted to $275m. That was the last year of the Labor Government. In the first year of the new federalism that is, 1976- 77- those payments to local governments dropped to $192m. The total payments are due to rise slightly this year to $204m. When the $204m to be paid this year is compared with the $180m paid to local governments in 1974-75, it can be seen just how big a reduction there has been in real terms in the payments made in those three years. Also, when we compare that amount with the funds paid to local government in 1975-76, we can see that local government this year is getting $71m less in real money terms than it did in 1975-76. All these figures are set out on page 1 13 of the Budget Paper which deals with payments to or for the States and local government authorities. These figures clearly demonstrate just how badly local government is being treated under the new federalism policy.
On top of the matters to which I have referred, there are difficulties in the local government legislation brought down by the Government. To explain this more clearly, I want to refer back briefly to the history of this legislation. The Labor Government expanded the role of the Commonweatlth Grants Commission by empowering it to make recommendations concerning financial assistance to States for local government bodies in those States. The Act made it clear that the Grants Commission was to apply equalisation principles to work towards a position where all local governing bodies were able to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other local governing bodies. In pursuit of that objective, the Commonwealth
Grants Commission sought and obtained extensive data on local government on which it based its recommendations. It is true that the Grants Commission was having difficulties in reconciling the competing schemes of over 900 local governing bodies throughout the Commonwealth. But it was equally clear that the Grants Commission would develop techniques to deal with the situation had it had sufficient time.
One of the first acts of this Govenment was to break the nexus between the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the local government. It did so by confining the role of the Grants Commission to inquiring into financial assistance to States for local government purposes but transferring the power to inquire into and collect data about local government areas back to the States. After the changes to the Grants Commission role, all reference to equalisation was removed. Thus, the Grants Commission was left with no guiding principle as to the basis of any of its recommendations on local government. Under the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976, the Government went further. It required the States to establish their own grants commissions and has given guidelines to the States about how funds to local governments should be allocated. Amongst these guidelines was an insistence that 30 per cent of the funds going to local government should be distributed among local government bodies on a per capita basis. Mr President, you will recall l egislation on that matter coming before the Senate earlier.
In part, this injunction was related to a recommendation by the Grants Commission contained in its special report on local government in 1976. Based on guidelines given to it by the Government, the Commission recommended that 30 per cent of funds for local government be distributed on a population basis. The significant difference between that recommendation and the provisions of the Act is that the Act permits the States to allocate all of the money for local government on a population basis. In other words, once the funds are allocated to a particular State, the method of distributing those funds is left largely in the hands of the State. It is clear already that many of the States have quite differing attitudes to the method of that distribution.
Given that structure, it is a quite hopeless proposition to invite the Commonwealth Grants Commission to recommend how the funds for local government should be distributed as between the States. The reason is that whatever method is adopted by the Grants Commission for the distribution can be got away from by quite different attitudes being adopted by any or all of the State governments. The 1977 report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission indicates that the Commission maintains its view that equalisation principles are appropriate for determining any State relativities. Given the existing structure, how does the Commonwealth Grants Commission apply these principles? It no longer has the authority to collect up-to-date detailed data on local government. It is in an extremely difficult position in dealing with financially weak councils in financially strong States and financially strong councils in financially weak States. On top of that, the time constraints imposed by the Government on the Commission’s most recent report did not allow the Commission to give any of these difficult matters any real consideration. It is clear from the submissions made to the Commonwealth Grants Commission that the States have no idea how to deal with this intractable problem.
The fact is that there is a fundamental flaw in the legislation. The Commission cannot make appropriate recommendations about the distribution of funds to local government unless it has some influence over the distribution of those funds in the States. The assertion in the Minister’s second reading speech that the Government is thinking about laying down guidelines for the Grants Commission will be of little use if those guidelines do not tie in with the activities of the tate grants commissions. We in the Opposition believe that there is an urgent need to reconsider the whole of the legislation dealing with local government. Any such consideration should be based on a detailed analysis of the situation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commission could be invited to give detailed consideration to a proper technique of handling the distribution of Federal funds to local government. If this is done, the Commission should be given sufficient time to consider these matters carefully rather than the usual demand to produce a report within severe time constraints.
In conclusion, although we are opposed to the federalism policy as such and have reservations about the Bill, we will not vote against it. However, we hope that the Government will note the criticism which is made of the existing legislation and make some adjustment to it in the future to ensure that it works effectively. When the Australian Labor Party is returned to government, it will make substantial adjustments to all of this legislation; but, in consultation with the States, it will restore to the Grants Commission a more appropriate range of tasks, to ensure that it fulfils the role that originally it was intended to perform.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) was on very poor ground in trying to mount an attack on this piece of legislation. Probably local government would have most to fear from his concluding remark that the Australian Labor Party in office in the future would make substantial changes to this legislation. As this legislation increases the amount going to local government across Australia this year by 1 8 per cent, we can only assume that Labor in office would deprive some councils for the benefit of others in making those alterations or would better the 18 per cent increase given this year. Its record does not show that the latter could be expected from Labor in office. As Senator Georges would know from studying the history of this matter, the Labor Government in its first Budget provided $56.3m for local government around Australia and in its second and last Budget it appropriated $79.9m. The figures which the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) has produced show that last year the present Government provided $140m. Disregarding any inflationary effects on the money going to local government, the record of Labor in this matter in no way matches the performance of this Government. Therefore, as I said quite deliberately, the greatest threat to local government is contained m the concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition could not attack the detail of this measure. What he did was present some Labor ideology. He attacked the federalism policy in general and deplored the fact that the Commonwealth Government does not have sufficient control over local government. Today a remarkably well attended meeting, dealing with the controls that Labor exerts in the community, was held in the Adelaide Town Hall. Mr David Tonkin, the Leader of the Opposition for the moment in South Australia, led a protest by the South Australian community about compulsory unionism as it is applied in South Australia. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate deplored the fact that the Federal Government would not have as much control over Liberal policy in regard to local government in Australia as the Federal Labor Government previously had. Of course, that is as it ought to
The Leader of the Opposition did not recognise in any way the proper relationship between local government and State government. As he would know upon reflection, on the statute book of every State there is a very important Act called the Local Government Act. That creates local government in each State. The relationship between local government and State government which the Fraser Government has established is a very proper one. The Government asks the Commonwealth Grants Commission to fix the shares of income tax that the States will get. It then hands to the State, with the very wide guideline that 30 per cent of the money be distributed on a population basis, the responsibility for the allocations to individual councils. In fact, the State Parliament is the parent of local government in each State. This is the proper devolution of authority in this matter. For the Leader of the Opposition to deplore the lack of control is a direct insult to the State governments and to local government, which is dependent on them for the authority to exist.
The Leader of the Opposition put his own set of figures in front of the Senate. However, he did not indicate how the individual parts of the figures were made up. In giving figures which suggested that the Labor Government gave more to local government, he did not tell the Senate that those figures included unemployment relief schemes. He did not tell the Senate that they had nothing to do with the principle involved in this Bill, which, as we have noted already in the debate, is the provision of a subvention of income tax revenue for sharing through the wider State by State allocations of the State grants commissions. It was quite false for the Leader of the Opposition to include unemployment relief schemes in this principle in this Bill. It was a diversion and it shows how shabby is his argument related to Labor’s performance in office, as Senator Georges knows.
This Liberal Government’s policy properly recognises the proper chain of authority between the three tiers of government in this country. It is true that there were some minor transitional difficulties in the change from the implementation of the policy of the Labor Government to the implementation of the Liberal policy. But that change has been vitally necessary because the Labor Party in office made the subvention to local government direct from this Parliament simply to short-circuit the system of electoral reviews and to obtain party political support by that subvention. It was deliberately designed to give political advantage to the Labor Party by this Parliament being directly involved in the housekeeping assessments of local government across Australia. It was not fair in a sense to this Parliament and it certainly was not fair to State government or local government. But those minor matters should be judged here in this administration in the context of the existence and continuation of local government in Australia.
The facts are that the allocation this year, which the Minister said in his second reading speech is expected to amount to, I think, $16Sm and which representees the Minister has said, an increase of 1 8 per cent on the very generous allocation last year of $ 140m, comparing more than favourably with anything that has gone before, represents a sum which will more than counter the effects of inflation and will mean a real increase in the capacity of local government to meet the difficulties it has in this communityand local government does have difficulties. Anyone who has studied his own local government area will know what demand is made on local government for increased services at a time when its specific operation perhaps pays a higher penalty for the rate of inflation in the community than that of any other organisation. The costs of services and the costs of mechanical operations are so directly affected by the rate of inflation in the community.
Especially in country areas, local government is finding it enormously difficult to maintain for some that which is only a skeleton service because of the challenge that inflation presents and the challenge of lowering rural incomes. I know that my own local governing area has consolidated its operation at a figure of something like two-thirds of the outside work force and has had to raise its rates this financial year to a very significant level. The subvention it has received this year, through the local grants commission and directly attributable to this Government, has been of great use indeed in enabling it to maintain the local organisation which I know so well and which other honourable senators know so well in relation to their own areas. I commend the Government for insisting on the 30 per cent allocation on a per capita basis. It seems to me that it is a wide guideline. It is not at all restrictive in the general sense that 70 per cent is left to development under the equalisation system, as I think the Grants Commission refers to it. That is a wide ambit to judge between the needs of local government areas. But the 30 per cent will ensure, and does ensure, that every citizen will in some way benefit from this allocation. I do not see it as a disability, as does the Leader of the Opposition. I see it as an advantage to the particular legislation and its operation.
I am pleased to be able to support this legislation. I believe that it truly recognises that grand service which is given so freely by people in local government. It is service, in the sense of city or council service, which is given for nothing at that level and which is given on a dedicated basis by paid and executive staff. It is a service which in many ways is a very humbling experience for members of Parliament- who, although they are not overpaid, as we all know, are operating in a paid atmosphere in the service of the public- to attend and observe the work of those many thousands of people who give their services for nothing in local government. I am particularly pleased that this legislation and the principle involved in it recognises the need of those people to get the support of the community for the services that they provide so well. I especially support it for the fact that it recognises the proper connection between local government, State government and the Commonwealth Government.
– I do not intend to speak for very long about this Bill. The Bill itself, as previous speakers have outlined, is concerned only with changing the relativities between the States for the distribution of federal funds to local government, but it also opens up the broader question of the whole Federal Government policy towards financial assistance to the States and local government and its new federalism policy. Next to the conspicuous failure of this Government to control and reduce inflation- and its even worse record in the area of unemployment, where the number of unemployed is 66,000 higher than it was a year ago and, according to the Government’s Budget forecast, will be some 70,000 higher on average next financial year compared with this year- the. new federalism policy would be the next most important failure of the Fraser Government. The policy which Senator Carrick assured the Senate on more than one occasion would guarantee increases in real terms in payments to the States of more than 58 per cent in three years has, of course, failed to maintain in real terms the payments to the States, after almost two years in office by the Fraser Government. Obviously there will have to be a massive increase in the payments to the States next year if Senator Carrick ‘s repeated assurances to the Senate are to be honoured. Of course, Senator Carrick ‘s assurances to the Senate on this matter will not be honoured, any more than his repeated assurances that the funding for education would be increased by two per cent in real terms was honoured when the Government’s education policy was finally released a few months ago. I notice that Senator Carrick hides his face- and well he might.
Given that this Government was a government ostensibly committed to the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy, one of its more notable contradictions can also be found in its policy towards local government. It says that it is dedicated to the elimination of superfluous bureaucracies and then amends the legislation of the former Labor Government providing assistance for local government in a way that compels all the States to establish bureaucracies which duplicate that already provided by the Federal Government, which compels all the States to set up State grants commissions. Instead of having one federal bureaucracy to administer this scheme we now have one federal bureaucracy and not less than six State bureaucracies. Presumably the Government believes that that can be reconciled with its professed commitment to the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracies.
The Minister for Education said in his second reading speech last night that the level of general purpose assistance provided to local government in any year is known with certainty early in that year. That statement just simply is not true. Like so many statements which the Minister has made on this subject and on his other area of responsibility, namely, education, his statement simply is not true. It might be known with certainty fairly early in the year what will be the Federal Government’s financial contribution to local government. What is not known, thanks to the changes introduced by the Fraser Government in the name of its new federalism policy, is the degree to which that 30 per cent of the total Commonwealth funds which may be distributed at the discretion of the States will be distributed between particular local government authorities. So, while the aggregate level of federal assistance is known early in the year, no individual local government authority knows what will be the aggregate of its federal directed funds and State discretionary funds. Of course, that is the only place at which it really matters. If the individual local authorities do not know what their total receipts will be, it just becomes a nonissue whether anyone knows at all.
I point out to demonstrate this point, given that the States have a certain amount of discretion in the distribution of funds between varying local authorities within a State, that there is no consistency from year to year, at least in my State, in the way these funds are distributed. If we look at the funds provided for the various shires in Western Australia this year compared with last year we find that in 44 shires- this is out of a total of just over 140- funds increased by 18 per cent or more. So even after allowing for cost increases, those shires were slightly better off in direct grants from this program. In 90 shires the figure varied between 13 per cent and 17 per cent. So funds in real terms to those 90 shires remained about the same. In 9 shires the grants increased by less than 13 per cent and in some instances, such as in the Shire of Bruce Rock, by as little as 7.4 per cent; and in the Shire of Boulder by as little as 9.4 per cent. Some shires had their grants increased by 7 per cent from one year to the next and some others by more than 20 per cent. A shire cannot assess from previous experience what it is likely to get. They know no more under this new program about the level of funding than they did previously, despite the Minister’s incorrect statement when he delivered his second reading speech.
On the broader question of the general level of federal funding for local government the Minister frequently boasts- I guess it is not surprising he does this; he does not have very much to boast about these days- that there has been an increase in funds under this program more than commensurate with the rate of inflation. That is correct. It is slightly more than commensurate with the rate of inflation. What he neglects to mention is of course when he boasts of that increase from $80m, I think it was in 197S, to $140m in 1976 is that although funds under this program may have been increased other funds which are ultimately destined for local government in road works, sewerage works and so on in real terms have been massively reduced by this Government. Therefore, indirectly of course, funding for local government has been reduced. The magnitude of that reduction is not offset by the quite small increase in real terms which the Government has provided with this program.
Regional Employment Development schemes were pursued under the policies of the former Labor Government. For a long time we were told that unemployment was really less severe under this Government than it had been previously because the RED scheme had been phased out and that the RED scheme was in fact suppressing the true level of unemployment and artificially reducing the statistics. Although the statistics showed that unemployment has been higher under this Government from the fifth month after it came into office than it had been in any previous period since the 1930s, Ministers in this Government frequently said that that was only because the unemployment figures had been artificially suppressed before the Regional Employment Development scheme. That does not work any more. The gap is now so wide. Some 66,000 more people are unemployed now than were unemployed a year ago. At no stage did the RED scheme employ half that number. Even after the figures have been adjusted or, I suppose as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) who believes in using rubbery statistics would say, stretched- unemployment is significantly higher than it was when this Government came into office. It will be, according to its own forecasts, 70,000 higher again in this financial year on average than it was in the previous financial year.
If we want to do any adjustments we should bear in mind that it is reliably imputed from statistics on the growth of the work force and the known demographic pyramids that in fact about 40,000 so-called hidden unemployed are available now. These people in previous times when there was some chance of their obtaining work would have registered for employment. Because they now know that there is a negligible chance of obtaining work as long as this Government continues to follow its existing disastrous economic policies they do not bother to register. The real situation is that unemployment is probably, according to the standards with which it has been conventionally measured, about 100,000 higher now than it was one year ago and some 120,000 or 130,000 higher than it was two years ago. The Government’s own forecasts are that the figure will be 70,000 higher this financial year than it was in the last financial year. That forecast appears in Statement No. 2 contained in Budget Paper No. 1. In spite of that, there is still no sign of any initiative from this Government that it will direct any additional funds other than those already provided under this legislation. It will provide a little more in this program but will quite savagely cut back in real terms funds for roads, sewerage programs and so on. There is no sign whatsoever of any initiative being taken to channel additional finance to local government for employment schemes at the local government level.
I guess, given the manifest obsession of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), that it is extremely unlikely that the situation will change. The outlook for the unemployed of this country and for the local government authorities which are in a very good position to assist the unemployed given the co-operation of the Government in Canberra is bleak as long as this Government remains in office, or until the back benchers in the Liberal Party in this Government have the gumption to get rid of the fellow who is the present Prime Minister and who is leading them rapidly into the political wilderness and Australia deeper and deeper into economic depression.
-Mr Deputy President- ( Quorum formed). Mr Deputy President, I suppose that I ought to thank Senator Georges, who drew your attention to the state of the House, for resurrecting an audience to listen to what I have to say. It is always a pleasure to follow Senator Walsh in a debate in the chamber on a Bill such as this which is obviously Government policy. It is a Bill that should not take a great deal of time, but Senator Walsh has the delightful habit of drawing red herrings across the trail and accusing the Government of all sorts of things that are simply not true. I would like to draw attention to Senator Walsh’s opening remarks that the new federalism policy of our Government and its workings were on a par with the failure of our Government to reduce and control inflation. I would have thought that no one in Australia today would dispute the proposition that one thing our Government has done since coming to office has been to reduce the rate of inflation, which was running at about 17 per cent, to a figure of the order of 10 percent.
This is an important piece of legislation. It serves to highlight the difference between the philosophies of the Government and the Opposition in relation to the place of the States and local government in the structure of the Australian nation. We of course recognise the three tier or three sphere form of government- the complementary rights of Federal, State and local government. In contradistinction to that, our friends on the other side of the chamber stand for a centralist form of government. I suppose one of the best illustrations that come to mind in this regard is the difference in approach to the very important question of the Federal funding of local government. It is perhaps opportune today to look at the question after we have had a whole year’s experience of the operation of this policy, which was regarded in local government circles throughout Australia with some sense of alarm, or fear, or trepidation because the Government was departing from the philosophy and ideas of the previous Government under which public servants in Canberra, to a certain extent, determined how a few dollars were to be spent in remote Australian municipalities, to note that our policy gives to the municipalities autonomy in spending the moneys we make available. I think that is a very important aspect of Australian democracy because, after all, local government or the third tier of government, is at the grass roots level of the people.
I have a tremendous admiration for those Australians who serve on shire, town and municipal councils throughout Australia. They receive no payment, no remuneration or reward, but they spend long hours in the interests of their local community. Surely if anyone knows how the money ought to be spent within the confines of the municipality, it is those good men and true who are elected by the ratepayers of the municipality to serve their interests and to decide how the money will be spent.
– Who is arguing with that?
- Senator Georges, your Government told the municipalities how to spend their money.
– When and how did it do that?
– It did that through the authorities. You know that as well as I do. Local government had very little say in the spending of the Federal grants that were made available. Now they have complete say.
– Who pioneered the concept of grants to local government?
– At the first Premiers conference this year all State Premiers agreed to the distribution between the States as recommended by the Grants Commission. This Bill enables those payments to be made. Of course a proper inquiry will be undertaken by the Grants Commission before any change is made. I remind Senator Georges and his colleagues who were interjecting that as recently as last week various announcements were made. I, and I am certain other senators on this side of the chamber, have had tremendously favourable comments from the municipalities regarding the actions of the Government last year. This is particularly so in relation to my own State of Victoria which this year will receive $6.7m more than it received last year- an increase of almost 1 9 per cent- because of the generosity of the Government in making additional funds available.
– On what, though?
-I know you do not like it, Senator, but these are the facts. These funds are available. The municipalities themselves are very happy with the Government’s action in this regard. It is true that, like most people who are lobbying for government money, local government authorities put a case that the allocation be increased by up to 2 per cent That may happen in the years ahead. But it is very true to say that the reaction of municipalities from my own State has been most favourable, not only in relation to the grants of the previous year, but also in respect of those which were announced by the Government last week. As I say, a sum of $42. 1 m has been made available in Federal funds to Victoria from the total allocation of $ 165.3m made available by the Commonwealth Government to local government throughout Australia this year. There is an old saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I remind honourable senators opposite that the reaction of local government is probably the best test that can be applied in relation to government policy in this regard. The thing they are delighted about is their autonomy in spending. They are also delighted about the increased allocation of almost 1 9 per cent.
The only other thing I want to say in supporting the Bill is that it is another initiative of our federalism policy. As I say, it has been well accepted by the municipalities and by the States. I remind the Senate that all State Premiers agreed to the recommendation of the Grants Commission. The Ministers who made the announcements emphasised that the grants would be completely untied- free of any strings whatsoeverand that the way in which grants were to be utilised would be a matter for each municipality to determine. This approach is in line with the policy of this Government to upgrade the status and autonomy of local government. I completely support that principle. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– Let me put the record straight. The Opposition is not opposing the legislation; what it is saying is that the proposals which the Government is asking the Senate to approve do not meet the needs of local government. This Government did not meet their needs in the Budget of 1976 and it does not meet their needs in the Budget of 1 977. We do not oppose the principle that a fixed proportion of personal income tax should be allocated for local government. We have never opposed that principle. In point of fact, for the past 25 years the Labor Party has been in the vanguard of support of that general principle.
What seems to have been forgotten by Government supporters in the other place and here is that it was the Whitlam Government in 1974 that introduced for the first time since Federation the principle that local government should receive national revenue to dispense. The Opposition takes issue with the inability of this Government to match the amount of money that was allocated to local government, principally in the two major Budgets of the Whitlam Administration in 1974-75 and 1975-76. What comes out of the debate is the failure of Government supporters to understand the way in which local government operates. There is an abysmal ignorance of the way in which local government budgets are planned. Whilst there would be a measure of disagreement about whether they should be untied grants, specific grants or both, the fact is that in money terms and percentage terms of income tax payments to local government, the ratio is down in the 1977-78 Budget of the Liberal-National Country Party Government.
I find it a great tragedy that people like Senator Steele Hall, who was a Premier of the State of South Australia and who during the period when the Labor Party was in government m Canberra made some of his finest contributions in this chamber, would seek to belittle the Labor Party’s approach to aid to local government and give no recognition to the very important breakthrough that took place when the Labor Government introduced the principle of direct payments to local government in 1974. It is one of the myths that this Government has created that local government is better off as a result of the legislation. That is just not true. I do not know whether Senator Carrick has misled or lied to the Parliament or whether he wants to confuse the Parliament and, for that matter, the community generally. If we look at the Budget documents presented to the Parliament- I refer to page 1 13 of Budget Paper No. 7- the facts are there. In real terms, leaving aside inflation, the actual allocation of funds to local government in this Budget is less than in the 1975-76 Budget and the 1976-77 Budget.
Senator Tehan, who made his contribution by blasting the innovative measures that were taken by the Whitlam Government, seeing everything negative that was done and refusing to pay any tribute to the changes that were made, tried to present the case that local government is happy because it can now spend the money as it likes. He does not even read his own Government’s Budget Papers. The facts are there to see on page 1 1 3 of Budget Paper No. 7. As he was speaking, I noted down- if I may make some brief reference to it- that general purpose assistance for local government in the 1975-76 Budget was $79,908,000, which is near enough to $80m in direct grants to local government to spend as it wished. An amount of $25m was made available in the same year to local government for sewerage schemes, again to be spent as it wished. Of course, a variety of emphasis can be said to exist from State to State but the way in which that money is spent is determined by either local government or semi-government. It is not directed by the national Government. If we include the amount of $93 m which was made available for the Regional Employment Development scheme, it accounts, in round figures for $200m of the $275m that was allocated in the Budget to local government in Australia. The honourable senator has the audacity-perhaps its just lack of knowledge; I will give him that credit- to make that assertion. Is he disagreeing with the additional proposals introduced by the Labor Government in 1973-74, that is, the Area Improvement Program and the Australian Assistance Plan under which local communities, not just local government, coming together as concerned citizens and grass roots organisations, were given assistance to provide community facilities? In that Budget nearly $15m was given to the Area Improvement Program.
I know of no criticism- I have never heard it referred to in any debates and it has never been brought to my attention in the media or by anybody in local government- about the way in which the grass roots organisations spent that $ 15m in that year or in the subsequent year. The amount was provided to supplement the activities of local authorities and to provide facilities that would perhaps have been provided by the local authority in another generation. I remember last year visiting a small country town in Western Australia on a tour of the rural areas where there was a public protest meeting and where the citizens of that town said: “This hall was provided by the Federal Government out of the Area Improvement Program. We could not provide it out of our own resources because of the general state of the rural economy. Our council is unable to collect rates because of the general downturn of the rural sector and we formed an area improvement committee. We made application to the Australian Government and we were given the funds to provide this hall. ‘ The hall was not lined. Senator Chaney will appreciate that in parts of Western Australia in the middle of winter it can be very cold. These people said: ‘We hope that next year the Australian Government will provide us with the wherewithal to line the hall so that you will not sit here and shiver should you visit us again. ‘
When we come to work out the budgets at the local government level- I think honourable senators would give me credit for being able to say that I have had some experience in this area- it does not matter to the council, whether it be a shire, municipal or city council, where the funds come from. In New South Wales, for example, the State Government allocates money for the road program. A certain sum of money is collected by the Department of Main Roads by way of a levy and this is then channelled back to the local authority. I can assure honourable senators that the receipt of that money on many occasions helps to balance the budget in respect of a particular council’s annual budgetary considerations. If a council here, there or anywhere, receives a specific grant of $50,000 to provide a sportsfield or a public toilet or some leisure facility within its region, it does not matter whether the money comes in the form of a direct grant for that purpose in terms of the Budget income and expenditure or whether it is just given for a general purpose. This is shown in the Budget Papers under the heading ‘Capital Assistance for Leisure Facilities’ for an amount of $5m. Funds given for leisure purposes on the basis of a communication from a council or from a local group of citizens through the Area Improvement Pro- gram are still being used to provide a community f acility.
In the early 1960s, when I became President of a very big shire in New South Wales, having been convinced of the need for local government to be given a fixed share of the federal revenue I campaigned in those days for 10 per cent of national revenue to be given to local government. I called conferences and participated in conferences called by the Local Government Association to establish this very important principle. I was pleased to be elevated from local government to the national Parliament and to participate in 1974 when the principle of direct grants to local government was established. It is not relevant to take the view that, because in the period of the Labor Administration specific sums were made available for use in the budget considerations of local government, that was a bad thing. In point of fact, that is the way budget formulations take place. I am sure that my colleague opposite, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), who was in local government for many years, will agree that it does not matter where the funds come from as long as they are available.
If honourable senators opposite examined the Budget Papers and the specific areas which were provided for in the period of the Labor Administration, would any of them suggest that it was wrong to make money available to local government for nursing homes, aged or disabled persons homes, delivered meals subsidies- called by different names from State to State- pre-schools and child care, home care services, senior citizen centres, and so on? These were the specific areas which were provided for in the period in which we were in government. In answer to questions, particularly from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), Senator Walsh and me in the last year or two-since the so-called new federalism became one of the myths of this GovernmentSenator Carrick on numerous occasions has suggested that the States and local governments are immensely better off than they were under ‘ Whitlam ‘s centralism’, which is the terminology that he uses.
What are the facts? The facts are clearly stated. Excluding roads, there was a high peak in 1975-76 in direct and specific grants to local government. In 1975-76, $275m was allocated. Last year, the figure dropped to $192m and this year it has increased to $203m, excluding roads. It does not matter very much whether grants for roads or the specific grants are lumped together in the form of direct grants or in a nominated form. The fact is that when one is working out a budget one needs to know that a certain sum of money will be made available to provide the local people with goods and services. But what has happened? In a period of inflation, when I was president of my shire council- I am sure no one will contest this viewpoint- I found that, the more work the council did, the more services it provided, the more roads it sealed, the more ovals it opened, the more beaches it opened and die more community facilities such as libraries it opened, the greater was the increase in the rates in order to maintain those facilities.
At the moment we have a Liberal president of the shire. He is endeavouring to fool the people of the shire by saying that he has been able to contain the rates and not increase them. He has been able to do that because of the innovative activities of the Whitlam Government in bringing in direct and other forms of assistance to local government. So, of course, that is an easy way to peg the rates. It is very easy not to provide a wider range of activities, although one of the principal facets of local government is, as Senator Tehan who has just spoken in this debate said, to provide a range of activities in line with the needs of the community at the grass roots level. The stage can be reached, of course, where the rates are halved. This can be done by cutting out half the community facilities. That is an objective that could be accepted quite easily by a group in a particular local authority; but would hardly be a popular objective. However, because the amount of money, in real terms, that is available to local government in fact has dropped, that is what many councils are doing. They are maintaining rates at the minimum and using Commonwealth revenue to supplement thenincome in order to peg rates.
Perhaps, that is a desirable objective. That de- pends upon the philosophy of those who run the local council. I do not quarrel with the right of those people to make that decision. However, we are concerned with unemployment. We are concerned with the fact that in rural areas the unemployment ratio is twice as high as it is in urban Australia. It may be the judgment of a local authority in a rural area that because of the general economic conditions it has to maintain the rates and, therefore, all Federal funds do is maintain the status quo. They are not contributing towards the resurgence, the stimulation and the regeneration of the economy in rural centres or, for that matter, in urban centres. Of course, a great deal of criticism has been made of the Regional Employment Development scheme. Do not honourable senators opposite know the way in which the RED scheme operated in terms of local government? Do they seriously suggest that the works that were carried out by localgovernment, under the general umbrella of the RED scheme, were not jobs that were nominated by the local authority and approved by the Australian Government?
– Did not the Labor Government discontinue the RED scheme?
– Of course; because we were under tremendous pressure to reduce government expenditure, and this Government is continuing to do that. This Government now has 90,000 more people out of work. It has the economy in a worse state today than it was in when the Government came in allegedly to clear it up in three years. It has only a year to go and the economic situation is worse than it ever was. Do not talk to me about the Labor Government discontinuing a scheme when the pack- that includes all members of the Liberal and National Country parties and those who attempt to determine public opinion in this country- suggest that all the ills of the economy and all the ills of Western society could be solved if only government expenditure were reduced.
Under that pressure, we did reduce government expenditure, but we did not reduce allocations to local government. That is the important point. This Government reduced allocations to local government in 1976 and it is doing it in 1977. This is why I find it difficult to comprehend Senator Steele Hall’s contribution to the debate. In real terms, in our 1975-76 Budget we paid to local government 3 per cent of personal income tax collections. This piece of legislation reduces that to 1.6 per cent. If that is to be the Government’s objective, or if that is to be the low point in the legislation and the Government aims to increase that percentage, then many local government authorities say- I have checked it out- that they were better off under the old scheme than they are under this scheme. Sure, they now know how much they will get- I give credit for the fact that at least they know what the considerations will be when they frame their budgets- but they are worse off financially. The result is that there is a downturn in activity in the local government sector. That contributes to a worsening of the employment position. For every person out of work this Government reduces the capacity of this country to get the economy back on a more even keel.
Local government is an organisation- I am sure honourable senators will agree with mewhich spends almost all its income on providing services and, therefore, employment. But if in fact there were not a reduction in real termsthere is a reduction in real terms under this legislation because there is a drop in funds- and if the 1975-76 ratio were maintained, local government under this Budget would receive $345m, not the $203m that is provided. The strategy of the 1930s to provide employment opportunities was to use the local government apparatus and works staff to provide community facilities. I do not think we can possibly accept as valid all the criticisms of the Area Improvement Program, the Australian Assistance Plan or the Regional Employment Development scheme. By all means let us have a better RED scheme. I am not suggesting that everything that was done by the Labor Government was perfect. I am not suggesting that I did not have my criticisms in the Parliament and in the party room about them but we did set about a better allocation of resources. We did try to rectify 30-odd years of neglect of local government in terms of community facilities. We did recognise that fact. As I have said here before when we have been discussing matters associated with local government, the Liberal Party and the Country Party refused even to consider any suggestion of a fixed share of income tax or even an ex gratia payment in terms of local government authorities as a principle.
OK, we now have a tax sharing arrangement but one could speak at length about that and the trepidation that exists in the minds of Premiers Court, Hamer, Dunstan and Wran about the changes in the arrangements and the ratio of funding to the States under the so-called new federalism proposal and whether stage 2 will be a successful ploy or not. We think that these are legitimate questions that ought to be raised in the Parliament. We disagree fundamentally with the premise that it is proper for Western societies to reduce public expenditure. I have just returned from a trip to Japan where I found this Government ‘s representatives implementing the Labor Party policy of selected public sector activity in order to get some development in the private sector. To the degree that there is a cut back in spending in the public sector, then in the long run this will maintain the downturn in the Australian economy.
I think this legislation should be supported and that is why we are not moving any amendments or in any way opposing the proposition, but what we are saying is that this Government has taken no account of inflation and no account of the need to index the effects of inflation on local government budgeting. The result is a standstill position, generally speaking, in local government because Government funds are being used for the specific purpose of maintaining the status quo, and I seriously put it to the Government that that is not what is required at this time. What is required is to stimulate public instrumentalities, whether they be water board authorities, public works authorities in the various States or the local government authorities by the reintroduction of a better RED scheme. We have learned from our mistakes of the previous scheme. That sort of stimulatory activity is going to be essential, and sooner or later this Government or another government will take up the cudgels in that respect. Sooner or later those countries that rely entirely upon private sector activity will be forced to change their orthodox thinking in these respects and go back to selective spending in the public sector in order to absorb unemployment, in order to overcome the social problems that come from that, and in order to provide communities with the wide range of public facilities which they need. There would not be an area anywhere in Australia, whether it be in Seven Hills or Mount Druitt- the new areas of Sydney in the western suburbs- or in Ku-rin-gai which is one of the more salubrious suburbs of Sydney, as some might put it, where some community facilities are not needed, and there are still employment opportunities that can be provided in those areas given the wherewithal. If those who subscribe to the theory that rates should be kept at a low level having regard to the general strategy of maintaining costs, then all the more reason why the national Government should go further than providing, in round figures, 1.6 per cent of personal income tax revenue to local government.
- Senator Gietzelt ‘s closing comments obscure one of the basic problems, I think, in the proposition that he has been putting forward. He conceded in his concluding sentences that it might be a very sensible thing to keep rates down. He used that as an argument for increasing the amount of aid which ought to be given to local government by the central Government. It seems to me that that sort of statement completely overlooks that any money which is spent by local government, whether it is raised by rates or by the payment or repayment of tax moneys to local authorities, still is money which has to be raised by means of taxation. We have to get into a situation where the national Government is prepared to say that there is a certain specified limit as to the amount of taxation which is going to be raised and that limit is going to have a very close relationship to the amount of expenditure which is going to take place in the community, whether it is expenditure by State government, local government or the Commonwealth Government. There is no magical way of raising money for expenditure by local government or by State government. It all has to come ultimately out of taxes, and to argue that rates should be kept down and that the money should come from elsewhere is simply to indulge, in my view, in a confidence trick because if rates are kept down and the money is found from the Commonwealth, that simply means that income tax or some other form of tax has to be raised which, just like rates, is an impost on the community and something which the community may not wish to bear.
The Senate has been debating for an hour and a quarter a Bill on which in a sense there is unanimity. The Opposition is not opposing the Bill. It is simply indicating why it regards the overall provisions relating to local government as inadequate. I think the debate has been of some value because it does underline the different approach between the Opposition and the Government in this area and indeed in wider areas. Senator Gietzelt conceded in his speech the right of local people to decide whether they wanted to have more or less activity in their local government area, and the right to decide therefore whether they wanted to have higher or lower rates, and I agree with him. That is a right which I think the democratically elected local governing authority ought to have. Surely that is the essence of local government- that people will locally make that decision for themselves. They will make a choice. It seems to me again it is something less than fair or less than honest to say that that is a choice that they will make if we maintain a situation in which the central government stands ready, while they maintain their low rates, to provide any auxiliary assistance that they wish to have on some mysterious needs basis. If the Opposition really believes that the community ought to be making conscious and sensible choices about levels of taxation and levels of expenditure, and if the Opposition really believes that people ought to be balancing what they want out of government-be it Commonwealth, State or local government- with what they are prepared to pay in taxes, then I think honourable senators will agree with the philosophy that this Government has brought to bear in this area rather than the philosophy which was brought to bear by the previous Government.
There has been an attempt to suggest that the provision of funds under this Bill amounts to some reduction in assistance for local government when in fact the general purpose assistance grants for local government have been increased from less than $80m in the last year of the Labor Government in the 1975-76 Budget, to in excess of $ 165m this financial year. Quite clearly that is a doubling of that category of grant-the general purpose grant- and it would require some extraordinary stretch of imagination to suggest there has been a reduction. What a number of Labor speakers, including Senator Wriedt and Senator Gietzelt, have gone on to do has been to refer to the multiplicity of special purpose grants which have flowed through to local authorities over a 5-year period and to say that the total grants to local government have declined since 1975-76. They have failed notably to draw attention to the fact that in 1975-76, out of the total of $275m which table 98 at page 113 of Budget document No. 7 shows as the total amount going to local government, fully $93,994,000 was for payments to local government under the RED scheme. Obviously the deduction of that quite massive figure makes an enormous difference.
– That was included in thenbudgets for that year. That was part of the general expenditure.
-Senator Gietzelt interjects that that was included in the local authorities’ budgets, and that is not a matter that I am contesting. The point is, of course, that that scheme is one which the Labor Government itself discontinued, and it discontinued the scheme in the face of massive protests from the Australian community about the waste and inefficiency involved in it. As I move around the areas of Western Australia and see some of the extraordinary works which were undertaken by the local governments under the RED scheme I better understand the protests which I received through 1974, 1975 and 1976 about the waste involved in that program. I believe that the present Government has very sensibly maintained Labor’s decision to give away the RED scheme. That sort of unproductive work is essentially of a band-aid nature and will make no long term contribution to the welfare of either the work force, the economy or the community. Therefore to suggest, as Senator Gietzelt has, that if payments are maintained at the level set by the last Labor Government local government would be receiving in excess of $300m is quite specious, in my view.
I am glad to hear from Senator Gietzelt that he has visited Western Australia and that he has visited some local authorities. I hope that he would have heard, as I have heard so often from persons active in local government in Western Australia, the objection they had to many of the schemes put forward by the Labor Party during its few years in office. One of the things which most struck me when I was a candidate to enter this place and when I first entered it while Labor was in government was the extent of the dissatisfaction in local government with the requirements that the Commonwealth Government imposed upon it in return for the funds it received. I do not believe that local government wishes to go back to the Labor system. Rather, my impression from the local authorities I visit in Western Australia is that they are delighted to receive the greater financial independence that the present system offers them and that they wish it to continue.
This Bill provides for no more than an adjustment in the percentage shares between the various States of the 1.52 per cent of income tax revenues that are to be received by local government. It is notable that after one year of operating on the share basis established by last year’s Act the States went along with the complaint from Tasmania that it was not receiving an adequate share and there was support for reference back to the Grants Commission of the division of funds. This Bill provides for the revision of shares, which involves a reduction for some States, principally New South Wales, although other States including my own suffer small percentage reductions. It says a lot for the reputation of the Grants Commission that the Bill comes before us without any great objection from any State about the amendment which has been made. I for one am pleased that the Grants Commission has been able to satisfy the States as well as it apparently has.
The Bill does raise the issue which has been canvassed this afternoon during the last hour and a half, namely, the philosophy to be brought to the whole question of government and the decentralisation of government by those of us who govern from Canberra. From that point of view, the debate is therefore a cameo of the differences which separate honourable senators on this side of the House from honourable senators on the other side. I am thoroughly in support of the Government in its proposal to make local governments more independent, both of Canberra and indeed of State governments, by ensuring that they receive adequate funds to carry out their own functions and are able to make their own decisions about how they will use those funds. But I do not believe that it is a function of this Government to proceed on the basis of a whole lot of airy fairy schemes which are based on some totally subjective concept of needs and which remove from local government, or indeed from State governments when they apply to State government programs, any need to assess priorities. I believe it is fundamental that both local governments and State governments should have amounts of money which they determine they will spend according to their priorities.
If we adopt the approach that was advocated, I am sure in the best possible faith, by Senator Gietzelt and in less detail by Senator Wriedt, if we adopt the approach that both State and local governments will simply trot up to the Commonwealth with a shopping list of what they see as their needs, and then proceed to beg, cajole or force money from the central government, we will wind up in Australia with a situation where government expenditure will remain wildly out of control. Unless we have a situation where the three tiers of government are forced to determine their own priorities within their own budgets, I do not believe we will have a proper government at all in Australia. I think that that is quite fundamental to good government, and I hope that the Government in its implementation of the federalism policy will insist that to the greatest possible extent there will be a reliance on funds which are raised by the body which is spending them. To the extent that those funds are to be augmented by taxes raised federally, I hope that those taxes will be provided free of conditions to whatever tier of government is concerned, but on the basis that that government will then set about governing its people in accordance with priorities it is prepared to defend at the polls.
-In following my colleague the Government Whip I want to make a few brief comments. I think it is absolutely necessary to introduce into the record a table I have which will bring the debate into some sort of order. Government speakers have insisted on considering only the general purpose assistance grants to the States and have excluded from the discussion direct payments as well as other payments through the States. If we include those other payments the argument the Opposition has put forward is quite valid. In 1974-75 the total as a share of personal income provided to the States was 2.34 per cent, in 1975-76 it was 2.98 per cent, in 1976-77 it was 1.76 per cent, and in 1 977-78 it was 1 .6 1 per cent. That is a considerable reduction, and it is quite dishonest and deceptive for government senators to separate out one funding of local authorities and not include in the argument the other two sections of funding. They cannot get away from what this table presents. The amount has dropped from 2.34 per cent in 1974-75 to 1.61 per cent in 1977-78, which is a considerable reduction. I seek leave to incorporate this table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS TO OR FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES (EXCLUDING ROADS) (a)
Their exclusion should not alter the general thrust of the argument as increases in total road grants have declined by 12 per cent in real terms in the 1976-77 Budget and 2 per cent in the 1977-78 Budget. This decline has only been partially offset by an increased share for local government in 1977-78.
-Those who read the record will arrive at their own conclusions. It has been said by government senators that the States and the local authorities are satisfied with what the Government is doing. I wish to read into the record a letter which I received from the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Frank Sleeman, who is now chairman of the Moreton Regional
Co-ordination Council. The letter is selfexplanatory and contradicts what Senator Chaney said about the States and the local authorities being satisfied. It is obvious from this letter that a large and very important section of local government in Queensland is not satisfied. The letter reads as follows:
I write to advise that, at the request of several members of the recently disbanded Moreton Regional Co-ordination Council, I convened a meeting on Friday, 3 June 1977, to discuss the fate of the Moreton Regional Organisation.
Without exception, those representatives who attended the meeting expressed concern that the Federal Government has ended Area Impovement Program funding and that the State Government now intends to terminate the existing Regions. However, it was unanimously decided that, although these events destroyed the main purpose for which the Organisation was originally established, a similar body to promote the efficient carrying out of Local Government in the Moreton Region could fill a worthwhile role.
Consequently, it was resolved: ‘That a body of Local Authorities to be called The Moreton Regional Organisation, comprising those Cities and Shires previously defined for the purposes of forming the Moreton Regional Coordination Council, be established ‘. By a later resolution, I was appointed Chairman of this newly formed body.
The members of the Organisation then discussed, and viewed with alarm, a report that the Commonwealth Grants Commission had recommended a reduction in the proportion of Commonwealth Funds to be made available to Local Government in Queensland in 1977-78. Since then, I have been supplied with a copy of the State Treasurer’s letter of 8 June 1977, to the Local Government Association of Queensland in which the Treasurer indicates that this reduction could be around about $750,000.
Mr President, there are two more paragraphs to the letter and I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The Treasurer indicated also in his letter that the changed proportion of funds to be made available to Queensland nas arisen because the Commonwealth Grants Commission had adopted a new methodology which, fortunately, is still subject to examination and comment. However, irrespective of the formula used by the Commission, the Moreton Region Organisation contends that, if those States which gain from the review have shown a special need for additional funds, this special need should be met from an increase in the total Commonwealth Grant and not by an off-setting reduction in the Grant to the other States.
It is understood that amending legislation will be required to implement the changes recommended by the Commission. In view of this, it is earnestly requested that you take all steps within your power to ensure that any Amendment BUI which will disadvantage the State of Queensland is defeated.
Lord Mayor of Brisbane Chairman
The Moreton Regional Organisation
-For the benefit of the Senate I indicate that the last few lines read as follows:
In view of this, it is earnestly requested that you take all steps within your power to ensure that any Amendment Bill which will disadvantage the State of Queensland is defeated.
That statement is in direct contrast to what Government senators have been saying. There was a general acceptance of what the Labor Government was endeavouring to do. The Labor Government had set up regions. Those regions were to receive funds in the normal way. But those regions, on their own behalf, could make direct approach to the Australian Government and receive assistance in return according to the needs and the cases they put forward. In Queensland, there has been a dismantling by the State government of what was the accepted system, a dismantling of what was a series of regions set up in order to properly finance and fund local authority programs. The LiberalNational Party in Queensland led by Mr BjelkePetersen has been assisted in this dismantling by the Federal Government. They have done this in a very deceptive way, as previous speakers in the debate have indicated. I say to the Government that what the Opposition has supported in the past when it was in government and what it supports now is valid. It is important to local government. It is important to the type of government the grass roots government- which deals with the immediate needs of the people.
In spite of what has been said, the figures show that local government will be seriously disadvantaged and the community will suffer. If there is to be, as there will need to be in the future, some injection into the community of moneys to relieve unemployment, the most reasonable organisations to carry out this sort of work, in spite of what Senator Chaney has said, will be local authorities. I agree with what Senator Chaney has said about the Regional Employment Development scheme which we provided for the express purpose of relieving unemployment. It was ripped off by many local authorities under the control of the parties which he represents in this place. There is no doubt that there was a grave abuse of this scheme. But the abuse of the scheme is not a proper argument to apply against the proper use of the scheme. Eventually it will be necessary for the Government to accept that some initiatives must be taken directly through local government and not through the States. Some State governments have been patently dishonest in their distribution of funds provided by the Commonwealth. They have under-spent, under-allocated and they have also misdirected funds according to thenown political philosophies. In Queensland it is patently obvious that this has happened in a variety of areas. There are a series of questions on the Notice Paper which search out information about moneys provided by the Australian Government which were not spent properly. In this area of local government, the assistance which the Australian Government seeks to provide to local authorities is placed in the hands of State governments which are very biased in their application of the funds.
It is necessary, because of the program, that we should pass this legislation before the sittings of the Senate is suspended for dinner. So I wish to say this in conclusion: I have, as Senator Tehan has, a strong regard for local government authorities throughout all the States of the Commonwealth but in Queensland in particular. In that State, small groups of men and women in their own time take on a massive responsibility to meet a program of needs for their communities with very little funds indeed. Vast areas of land come under their supervision. Their ability to raise funds is extremely limited. Their ability to provide to those isolated areas the amenities which we take for granted in the cities is very difficult indeed. I give them credit for this. But I again indicate to you, Mr President, just how biased the State Government of Queensland is in its approach to local authorities. The work of local aldermen and alderwomen is unpaid work which they have to do in their spare time. But because of an action of the State Government in Queensland it is impossible for many men and women who seek to be represented on local authorities to do so. By an Act of the State Government in Queensland, initiated by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, it is impossible for a State public servant to obtain leave of absence to attend a council meeting. Such meetings are generally held during the day. In fact, they are nearly always held during the day. By that Act and that Act alone, he has prevented people such as teachers, railway workers and other State Government employees from serving in what I consider to be one of the most important areas of government. He has denied them their democratic right by refusing them leave to attend these meetings during working hours. He has deprived them of their ability to serve on these local authorities. It seems to me that we are rapidly reaching a stage at which we need to provide funds to these local authorities in order to pay the aldermen and alderwomen to carry out their activities so that any person who wishes to nominate, stand and achieve election should be able to carry out the work of local authority representation. I make these remarks because I believe nothing should be done which will limit by bias, prejudice or lack of funds the work of local authorities, especially in the larger States.
– in reply- The subject matter of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1977 which the Senate has been debating is very simple. Its aim is to bring down a revised schedule of the percentage break-up of the Commonwealth funds provided to local government, that schedule being a revision by the Commonwealth Grants Commission done at the request of the Premiers Conference. To that extent, both sides of the Parliament are in agreement that this Bill should go through, and go through quickly, to enable payments to be made to the States. I point out, Mr President, that perhaps the next Premiers Conference will consider amendments to the Grants Commission Act to provide terms of reference for the Grants Commission when it reviews allocation to the States. I commend the States for accepting this Bill as an interim measure. I acknowledge that the Premier of Queensland in particular accepted it, even though it was to the disadvantage of his State. I believe that it was in the very spirit of federalism that this should be done.
– He did not know what he was doing at the time.
-One thing is absolutely certain. The Premier of Queensland always knows what he is doing. What he does is to the great good and benefit of Queensland, as was the recent uplift in his share of income tax collections. I think he received an additional $ 1 9m.
Today the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), used the debate to move away from the substance of this Bill and to get to the actual doctrinaire or ideological substance of the whole question of the Labor Party’s stand for uniform taxation and control of local government from the centre and opposing and rejecting federalism. This is not the time to debate that. However, it is the time to identify the fact that, after three years of disastrous centralism with Labor in office, the Labor Party has not learnt and has restated its philosophy that it is centralist and that it wants to take over and control local government from Canberra. One should remind oneself that it was Labor Party policy to destroy the States and to force regional amalgamations of local government authorities, reducing their number from the 900 that existed to 60 or 70. Of course this has coloured the matter.
I cannot let Senator Wriedt get away with his statements. He said that in fact federalism had failed and that the Premiers found themselves in a shambles. Either he completely misunderstood or he misrepresented what went on at the Premiers Conference. The Premiers have come back to accepting what was the original invitation of the Commonwealth Government concerning a tax sharing formula. I remind the Senate that this year the States will receive $4,336m-some $600m-odd more than last year and some $90m or $100m more than under the Whitlam formula. The test of whether federalism is working is in the tasting. At the conclusion of the financial year ended 30 June all States, for the first time in a long while, were financially solvent, balancing their budgets after cutting taxes and increasing their programs. Every State- I have a list hereinstituted massive tax cuts. Let us look at some examples. In New South Wales there was a cut in stamp duty on conveyancing of $6m, a cut in death duties of up to $30m in a full year, cuts in payroll tax, racing tax, poker machine tax and liquor licence fees, and a 20 per cent reduction in passenger fares on public transport. New South Wales still balanced its Budget. This shows that in fact it had a surplus of money that it could have used for other policies had it wanted to do so.
The highlights of the Victorian situation were $12m relief in death duties, payroll tax relief, land tax relief and improved workers compensation. Every State did the same and every State managed to move into this year with a surplus. The State Budgets, as they are being brought down now, show the same pattern. They show an ability on the part of the States to transfer their surpluses and to balance their Budgets this year- in fact to increase their funds very substantially.
– To the disadvantage of local authorities.
-Senator Georges is interjecting simply to expose the bad arguments of his own leader, Senator Wriedt. He is acknowledging that the States have achieved a very fluid and highly successful situation. I remind the Senate, as I did at Question Time today, that in the first year of federalism the States were so fluid in their funds that they were able to increase the education allocation from 28.4 per cent to 29.4 per cent of the total Budget. This was an addition of $75m over ordinary maintenance- a huge volume of extra funds. This is indicative of all levels.
An endeavour was made by various Labor speakers to suggest that local government was not happy with this scheme. I tell the Senate and the community that at every State or Federal meeting of local government associations to which I am invited there is total and unqualified commendation of this scheme for local government. There is a recognition that for the first time the Fraser Federal Government has given local government a chance to have funds of its own to supplement rates and, in fact, to control the upsurge of rates and the upsurge of inflation caused by the previous Government. There is a chance for local government to sit at the table of the Council for Inter-government Relations on equal terms with the States and the Commonwealth Government. This is a principle that is totally accepted by local government. In fact it was a policy shared by local government. What was said today by the Opposition is simply not true. Many statements made by the Opposition today were completely irrelevant to this scheme. Whether there is an area improvement fund, a regional employment development scheme or some additional scheme is irrelevant to this scheme. Senator Gietzelt said something that is important. He said, for the first time I think, that the Labor Party was not opposed to this scheme of providing a percentage share of personal income tax for local government. I was not aware of that, but presumably he envisages the sharing being done by a Commonwealth grants commission and not by State grants commissions.
Incidentally, some Labor senators went particularly close to the bone in implying that State grants commissions would not be objective in their decisions. I remind honourable senators that the privilege of objectivity does notlie wholly with the Commonwealth. In fact, State grants commissions originated in my State of New South Wales. The Commonwealth has no patent right in this respect. The fact is that what we want to do is to give to the States through their grants commissions their right to make decisions locally. The Labor Party loathes the idea that decisions should be made by the local community. It thinks that the responsibility for decisions should be left in the hot little hands in Canberra. Of course, we totally oppose that. Whether there are RED schemes- Labor abolished the RED scheme, but today it wishes to claim credit for it- or area improvement schemes does not matter. A valuable new reform, a major reform, in local government financing has been brought in. It gives to local government the chance to predict its revenue in the future with great precision, therefore enabling it to control its rates.
– And to find out that it has less.
– The Labor Party in its last year of office provided $79.9m. We increased that to $140m in our first year of office and to $165.3m this year, well exceeding inflation and giving the local government authorities considerably more money with which to go about their business. I simply say that this scheme has been a total success. It has been an outstanding success in that it has allowed local government in Australia to grow up. Local government in Australia occupies a smaller share of the public spectrum than local government in almost any other country. I want to say, because it is important, that under the federalism system there is now a balance between the three segments of government. Today the State governments and l ocal government together command and control 52 per cent of all public finance in Australia. The Federal Government’s share is 48 per cent. The idea that the State and local governments are now mendicants and are now poor with small budgets must be rejected. They have grown up. They have the capacity, and they have demonstrated it in their budgets, to make decisions themselves. They are now responsible for their actions. They cannot now use the alibi that Canberra is not giving them the money because the flow of money is there. No government can substantially cut its taxes and continue to cut its taxes without saying to the world that it has had the choice between cutting taxes and introducing new policies. I think it is something to be proud of that the federalism policies have proceeded as they have. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would have wished to have taken part in the debate today on the motion for the second reading of this Bill because I regard it as being a very important Bill so far as the future relationships between the Federal Government, the State governments and local government is concerned. A number of statements were made by the Minister for Education and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) in replying to the second reading debate that I feel should be taken up. Firstly, the Minister said that the Australian Labor Party is a centralist party, that it wants to take over the States and that is does not believe in the system of a proper distribution of funds from a federal government to local government. Nothing is further from the truth. I remind the Senate that it was not until the advent of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972 and as a result of legislation that it introduced in 1 973 that for the first time the Federal Parliament decided to make grants directly to local government on the recommendation of and after investigation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That is the pure history of the matter.
Apart from those matters- I know the hour is getting late- the Minister did say that in its last year of office the Labor Government made an amount of $79.9m available to local government. I must emphasise that that amount was made available by the Government on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission after the Commonwealth Grants Commission had conducted an inquiry on a needs basis into all areas of local government throughout Australia. That, of course, removed completely any political decisions that were involved in that determination. That judicial or quasi-judicial determination was made by the Grants Commission as a result of the 1973 legislation of the Labor Government and after it had conducted an independent and judicial inquiry into the whole needs of local government. I think there were some 880 local government organisations throughout the whole of Australia. The present Government then came into office and determined that some $140m should be made available. The Federal Government made the political decision of determining that $140m should be made available and then asked the Grants Commission to make recommendations as to how that amount should be made available to the States. The States in turn, through their local government grants commission, were then to make a determination as to how the percentage distribution recommended by the Grants Commission of that $140m should be split up among the various local government organisations throughout those States.
The Minister said in the last few lines of his remarks in his reply to the second reading debate that in the last year of the Labor Government $79.9m was made available by it to local government throughout Australia. I emphasise that that amount was made available by the Labor Government directly to local government, without any conditions on local government as to how the money should be spent, on the recommendation of and after inquiry and investigation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The amount of $ 140m to which the Minister referred as being made available by this Government to local government was made after a political decision by the Government and the Government, having determined that amount, then asked the Commonwealth Grants Commission to make a recommendation as to how that amount should be distributed amongst the States. By just quoting those amounts the Minister wants to make it appear that that was all that was made available to local government. Certainly in 1975-76 the Labor Government made available $79.9m to local governments throughout Australia for general purpose assistance. Certainly in 1976-77 the present Government determined that $140m should be made available for general purpose assistance for local government throughout Australia. But if one refers to the table at page 113 of Budget Paper No. 7, which is headed Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities’, one will see that in the 1975-76 financial year, which was the year in which the last Budget was presented by the Labor Government, a grand total of $275,046,000 was made available for local government purposes, excluding roads, compared with the appropriation of $203,967,000 this financial year by the present Government. I seek leave to have the table on that page of that document incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I suggest that that table, when read by the Australian community, will undo the remarks of the Minister in his reply to the second reading debate.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria-Minister for
Science)- For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a statement made today in the House of Representatives by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) relating to Northern Territory selfgovernment. I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 8 August on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill was explained to some degree by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech. It can be simply stated as a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to act as a guarantor for loans raised by nongovernment schools in the States to finance building projects which have been approved by the Schools Commission. I mention the States because a similar arrangement has operated in the territories for a much longer period. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill in its specific purposes which I have just described briefly. The Bill will, one hopes, encourage initiative in the construction of non-government school buildings. We hope that in the course of time it will do something to stimulate the building industry in this country, a stimulation which the Government clearly is not prepared to give in any other context but which it may of course indirectly give by this measure in a small degree. We regard it as important that buildings erected by nongovernment schools are to be considered in the light of the Schools Commission priorities; that is to say, that the Bill will ensure a rational allocation of Commonwealth Government funds which will in a sense be supervised by the Schools Commission.
The Opposition trusts and hopes that the Minister will not direct the Schools Commission as to which projects should receive priority. If he were to do so it would once again be tangible, visible bricks and mortar proof of this Government’s sneaky addiction to the cause of category one and two private schools, the wealthy private schools, the cause of which has been debated in this Parliament back and forth for a number of years now and which we on this side of the House are quite firm about in the context of priorities.
I mentioned the question of any action that the Minister might take in relation to this legislation. In a series of public utterances recently m which one suspects that he protests too much about the Government’s attitude to the question of educational needs the Minister really has been saying this: ‘We can put up an argument to say that schools in Australia generally are better off than they have been for many years. We can put up an argument which shows that the government schools of this country are getting more than they used to get a number of years ago. Because we can put up those sorts of arguments we can now indulge ourselves a little in our own private fantasy. We can indulge ourselves in our own cherished wish of giving a little more money for wealthy private schools. ‘ This was nowhere more explicitly and clearly stated by the Minister than in a PM program on 8 September this year. The transcript of the PM program shows that Senator Carrick said:
Because of course we can prove as the Schools Commission has shown in its report -
That is of course debatable- that we are giving much more additional funds to the government schools through the new federalism funding to which the States are responding, but more than that, the government schools, and I say thank goodness for this, are improving at a rate beyond the target of the modified Karmel projection. In other words, they are achieving their targets faster than was thought they would.
That seems to me to be quite an explicit statement by the Minister of an opportunity for indulgence by the Government in connection with wealthy private schools. That of course is what has been done. I mention the Minister’s attitude as expressed in that statement which seems to me to be typical of a number of statements which have been made recently since the guidelines were put down for the Schools Commission in June. They are, of course, quite fundamental to this whole question of educational expenditure which has been the subject of debate here for a long time. Of course, what the Minister says in that statement is correct. He says that more money is available. Later in the same interview he described with great charity the greater availability of money to schools as an ‘historical trend ‘. This ‘ historical trend ‘ is worth referring to again in the context of an education debate in September 1977.
In terms of what the Minister is talking about, the ‘historical trend’ began in 1972 and 1973 with a quite massive injection of funds by the then Labor Government which amounted to something like a 41 per cent increase in real terms on federal expenditure in education. It was on the basis of the development of the historical trend in those three years of government that the Minister is now able to make the statements which he has been making recently and which I described earlier as an indulgence which he is allowing himself at this time, an indulgence which we trust, as I say, he will not allow himself in relation to the present legislation. Perhaps we can get some better understanding of the legislation and its ramifications at the Committee stage of the debate.
The whole attitude on this question indicates a fundamental disagreement and departure from the sorts of developments of 1973. The appointment of the Karmel Committee and its report represent a fundamental disagreement on this question of priorities and the establishment of the needs principle for funding education in schools. It takes us back to the whole question of the functions of the Schools Commission, the first Karmel Report, the modifications which were admittedly made to it and the very rapid increase in the improvement of conditions of Australian government schools and Australian independent schools during the period of the Labor Government. What has happened since? We believe that it was the hope of the vast majority of people concerned with education in Australia that this Government would be prepared to accept just one thing, that it would be prepared to accept in a quite undiluted way the principle of needs which was established by the Karmel Committee and which was, of course, at the very basis of the Schools Commission legislation and the establishment of that Commission. What has happened since? When this Government came to power constant lip service was given in the early stages to the needs principle and the functions of the Schools Commission. Commonwealth aid to education in the first two years of this Government’s term of office, as distinct from the first part of the historical trend as the Minister called it, when there was a 41 per cent increase in education expenditure, dropped to an annual average increase of approximately one per cent. That continued until the introduction of the guidelines in June of this year.
I shall refer briefly to the guidelines because, as I say they are fundamental to the current discussion. They project in a dramatic and public way the clash between the principle of needs, as we thought it was established, in the interests of all Australian children and the views of the present Government. It was projected perhaps not in a dramatic way in terms of sums of money but in a dramatic way in terms of intent and priorities as the Government sees them and as the Schools Commission sees them. I refer to the Schools Commission report of August 1977 and the comments which the Schools Commission had to make about the guidelines and the responsibilities which the guidelines allegedly imposed. I refer first of all to the chapter dealing with the priority of particular guidelines. In paragraph 3. 1 3, the Commission had this to say:
I repeat that the Commission could not support the proposition that the extra $2m be found by reductions of allocations for government schools. It is a quite clear and explicit re-statement of the understanding of the needs principle and a quite specific rejection of the attitude of the Government towards that principle. In the next paragraph, dealing with the question of capital grants to non-government schools, the Commission had this to say:
Although it acknowledges the severe shortage of capital funds for both government and non-government schools and is aware of the pressure to make non-government schooling available in newly developing areas, the Commission does not believe that the situation in 1978 warrants the transfer of $3m out of other programs to make this possible.
The situation in 1978 to which the Commission is referring of course is that of minimal growth in education expenditure. It goes on to say:
The Commission has taken into account that the advance offer and loans guarantee provisions -
The legislation we are now debating- introduced in 1 977 will assist in meeting some of the demand for additional new places. In circumstances where increased non-government capital funds could have been met out of an expanding total of funds, the Commission would seriously have considered such a priority although it would not necessarily have specified that such additional funds should be exclusively for new places. The no-growth circumstances of 1978 lead to different conclusions since the increased allocation would require an unjustified reduction elsewhere.
In the summary of that section of the report the Commission came back to the question and said:
The Commission having considered various options, consistent with the guidelines, for obtaining the additional $ 13.8m required for non-government schools -
I emphasise that the additional $ 13.8m was required by the Government for nongovernment schools- decided that the Services and Development Program and the Special Projects Program should sustain $3. 5m of the cuts, non-government schools emergency assistance $0.3m, and the government schools general resources programs the remaining $ 10.0m.
The details were set out in a later chapter. In the second paragraph of the summary the Commission said:
In its analysis of relative priorities, however, the Commission was unable to justify in the present financial situation the requirements of the guidelines for an additional $2.0m for levels 1 and 2 schools or the additional $3.0m for capital for non-government schools in 1978 . . .
I referred to those passages in detail because it is the practice of this Government, having found in a variety of areas of governmental endeavour that it could not do the things it promised the people of Australia it would do- perhaps it could not even perform them as competently as the most mediocre government imaginable might have been able to do them- to find all sorts of reasons for those things not having happened. There is hardly a statutory body in this country, an instrumentality of the Commonwealth Government in Australia, which has not been blamed at some stage or other for some inadequacy of the present Government. One calls to mind the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Industries Assistance Commission, other organisations in the community such as trade unions, the consumers of Australia and all the people who have not responded as the Government had hoped they would. The Government believes that somehow those people obstructed it in its endeavours to fulfil its grandiose promises of 1975. Indeed it goes beyond Australia; it goes overseas to organisations like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which the Government has blamed. But the point which is clearly painful to Senator Martin -
– I am just waiting for you to get to it, Senator. It is a painful process.
-The point which is clearly painful to Senator Martin is quite different in the present context because what the Schools Commission has done has been quite clearly to make a stand on the principles upon which it was established- a stand on which it is in diametrical conflict with this Government which, as I said before, has indulged itself in the sorts of remarks which have been made consistently by the Minister for Education in recent weeks in defence of the Government’s position. That is important in the wider context, not only because of the level of funding of education in Australia but because of the philisophical assumptions which underlie both positions. The philosophical assumptions which underlay the establishment of the Karmel Committee and the establishment of the Schools Commission were the priorities of needs and the concern to get rid of the debate in Australia over the funding to non-government schools which had divided this society for years. If there is no other achievement of the period of Labor Government which can be pointed to, it is that of getting rid of those years of acrimonious and socially divisive debate over the question of aid to non-government schools. Once again, as I have said, as an indulgence this Government resurrects the issue in the context of aid to category 1 and category 2 schools which has been the subject of the dispute between the Commission and the Government in recent weeks.
Apart from that, as I indicated earlier, we do not object to the provisions of the present Bill. They are consistent with past practice in the Territories. They are desirable in overall terms from the point of view of the non-government sector. They are in a sense a neat way of providing Commonwealth Government financial support to the building endeavours of the private sector in education. On that basis the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I find it difficult to rise after that plethora of irrelevance from Senator Button. He started with the Schools Commission, wandered through the Industries Assistance Commission and ended up with the Orgainsation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Somewhere along the line he was supposed to be debating a guarantee of loans to non-government schools very little of which we heard from him. It is clear that the Opposition really wants to debate the Schools Commission report. I am quite sure that the Government would be very happy to debate the Schools Commission report but for the pur- pose of the Senate’s deliberations I remind honourable senators opposite that we are debating a Bill about which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) stated in his second reading speech:
The purpose of the Bill is to implement a scheme to enable the Commonwealth to act as guarantor for loans raised by non-government schools in the States to finance wholly or partially the construction of approved priority school facilities.
That is all this Bill is about but the Opposition grasped the opportunity to continue the debate on certain items raised in the Schools Commission report which was tabled in the Senate last week. As a supporter of the Government I welcome the opportunity to enter into that debate but I also welcome the opportunity to debate what the Bill is actually about.
Senator Button, apparently opening the debate for the Opposition in the absence of Senator Wriedt, chose to take certain parts of the Schools Commission report as selectively as one could imagine and to overlook the whole context of that report of funding of schools. He drew in the very predictable sorts of points that one expects from the Opposition at the moment with some rather unpredictable terminology. In fact, the
Opposition is trying to whip up a fury out of froth. The issue in the Schools Commission report is some $5m out of $571m. The issue, in money terms, is marginal. If one listens to the Opposition and certain other interest groups which have a very clear interest in this debate one would think that it was a major proportion of expenditure. I remind the Senate that the Minister very adequately dealt with this when he made a statement on the Schools Commission report last Thursday in which he explained that the position of schools now under the Government’s federalism policy is rather different from the position of schools when the Whitlam Government started giving direct grants and taking those grants out of State grants. The 41 per cent or whatever I do not care to debate because I think the States and the people in the States know well enough to give credit where it is due.
The Schools Commission did and still does bring down some valuable reports on needs in schools. But I query whether it is justified for the Schools Commission, the Opposition, the Australian Council of State Schools, the Australian Teachers Federation or anyone else to say that the Schools Commission has lost its independence because the Government spelled out some financial guidelines completely in line with a policy which the Government announced years ago in relation to the financing of schools. The fact that the Schools Commission could bring down the report that it did shows that it has not lost its independence. The report dwells at quite some length on that marginal $Sm. It is quite critical and it raises certain important issues which I think we ought to debate in this Parliament and which Senator Button touched on in a selective way this evening. It raises the issue of whether the Schools Commission’s independence has been in any way lessened because of the guidelines given to it by the Government.
I do not think anybody should be very surprised that the Government has indicated to the Schools Commission that the Government would like to pursue the Government’s policy in relation to schools, a policy long since announced and which, in fact, receives a lot of support in the Schools Commission report of 1976.
What did the Government do? It said to the Schools Commission: ‘We are going to pursue our policy that 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a government school will be applied to the cost of educating a child in a nongovernment school. We are going to do it this year. These are the figures that are available. This is what it means in relation to category 1 and category 2 schools so far as we, the Government, are concerned. The total amount of money which the Government will make available in the next financial year is $57 lm. Certain transfers will be necessary if we are not going to pursue exactly the same method of financing as was pursued in the previous financial year. We, the Government, make some suggestions as to where that money ought to come from’. That is what the guidelines are. Immediately there is a hue and cry and all sorts of extraordinary statements are made about the relevance of that marginal amount of money to the total development of education in Australia.
As I have said, the amount of money is marginal. If honourable senators look at the Schools Commission report they will find that the differences are very small indeed. Where the Government suggested that $4m ought to come from Special Projects, the Schools Commission, after much wringing of hands in its introductory section discovers that $3.5m can well come from that section. So, we are quibbling about $500,000 in that instance. Then the Schools Commission report says that it will not make some recommendations in relation to a further $5m out of $57 1 m. It is not very convincing when the Opposition uses that argument and tries to claim that the Government is therefore overturning a needs funding of education, overturning education policies in Australia. As I said before, the Minister has pointed out that the States are in a very much superior position under the Fraser Government than that during the term of the Whitlam Government with regard to making their own contribution and some determination of their own priorities in their spending on education in government schools.
Let us not forget that the first responsibility for the funding of primary and secondary government schools in Australia lies with the States. Most of the States have recognised that responsibility and most of them have been steadily lifting their percentage of expenditure on schools in both the recurrent and capital expenditure categories. There are some differences between the States and these are interesting because the State Labor governments do not come out of it very well when we look at a comparative rate of increase between the States. I divert, if I may, for a couple of minutes to point out that I grew up in a State under a Labor government which had been in office for years and which expected that it would be in office for the lifetime of all its members and, probably, of the children of all its members. But a split in the Labor Party settled that. Queensland had the worst education system in Australia under a Labor government which expected that it was never going to be turned out of power. We had three government high schools in the city of Brisbane with a population in excess of 500,000.
– Twenty-three years ago.
– I discount the domestic science high school and the technical high school, Senator Georges, because I did not see them as real choices. The change that took place in Queensland from 1957 onwards occurred because a State Liberal-Country Party government pursued a different policy. The Labor Party cannot claim that it is the Party of education. It cannot claim that at all. Certainly, under the Whitlam Government the Schools Commission was established and much progress was made.
Just recently I and some others conducted an exercise through a number of States after the Minister announced his guidelines and discussed with those who were interested in the parent, teacher and other areas what they thought of the Government’s guidelines. I should have thought, after the enormous outpouring of funds under the Whitlam Government and its continuation under the Fraser Government, that there might have been some improvement in the standards of schools in Australia. I sought to discuss just what sort of improvement the consumers and the practitioners thought had occurred. Whilst it was not denied that it was an improvement, there was some vague indication that because of this marginal $5m everything would be changed. I asked these people: ‘All right, we accept the needs principle; we accept that there is such a thing as a disadvantaged school. Would you care to define a disadvantaged school for me’? They did not care to define a disadvantaged school. I fear that we are being pushed, by an education establishment which is as broad as it is strong, into a situation in which any school which is not as well off in some terms or other- goodness knows which terms- as a category 1 school, is termed a disadvantaged school because it is disadvantaged in relation to the very best school. I ask Opposition senators whether they would like to put down the criteria of a disadvantaged school? I have my own ideas of what constitutes a disadvantaged school in Australia at the moment. I think there are areas of disadvantage; but I do not think that disadvantage calls for the same rate of increase of expenditure of funds at Federal and State level, as Opposition senators seem to indicate. Senator Georges shakes his head and groans. He does that on occasions. We are used to him doing that. There is no point, in present day Australia, in just talking about a never ending demand for funds for education, an open ended policy, and endless rate of increase, without some justification in terms of what is the standard of education in Australia today, what is the standard of our schools today and what effect that has on the standard of education.
Senator Button opened up this line of debate. He referred to the Schools Commission report. I reiterate that it is extraordinary that the Schools Commission could have gone to the lengths it did and used the strong words it did without attempting to reconcile those early opinionsopinions which have been taken up so gleefully by the Opposition-with the facts which the Schools Commission itself presents later in its report. I am intrigued by one statement in this report, and it is one that Senator Button chose to bring up. He was talking about our ‘sneaky addition’ to the cause of category 1 and category 2 schools. He went on from there to talk about our priorities and what we might be doing- as indeed the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) did last Thursday- about the relationship between government and nongovernment schools. I refer to the Schools Commission report and read a very intriguing statement. Paragraph 1. 10 states:
The Act requires the Commission when writing reports to undertake consultation with all interested parties. Prescriptive guidelines not only pre-empt the nature of the Commission’s advice but threaten the consultation and decisionmaking process by which competing needs and priorities, within and between government and non-government sectors, can be reconciled.
First of all, I would have thought that those who are interested in education are interested in education not in terms of the facilities of government and non-government schools but in terms of what is provided for children, whether they attend a government school or a nongovernment school. The Schools Commission itself in its report last year pointed out the growing disparity between the sources of funds for government and non-government schools. It indicated that some action would be necessary to redress the imbalance; that it would not come about naturally because the trends, as they were then established, were very much against the non-government schools and their resources and their standards, one presumes, must decline compared with government schools, given the previous situation. That surely would lead to a rather divisive debate.
Every member of this Parliament has been subjected to questions from members of the electorate. They have said: ‘As taxpayers we ask: Why cannot the Government establish some basic financing for all students, whether they go to government or non-government schools?’ Parents of children at non-government schools, in my experience, overwhelmingly accept that they must make a contribution towards the cost of their child’s education because they choose something different. But they do not accept that the independent schools system increasingly was becoming available only to the wealthy in our community, whereas previously it was available throughout our community and was available to serve a purpose to all members of our community. It was because of that disparity that the Schools Commission itself outlined that nonstate education was available only to the wealthy. The Schools Commission talks about divisive policies. I would have thought that that was far more divisive than a policy which established a base rate of payment per capita or per student for all students, whether they be at government or non-government schools.
Senator Button said that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) protests too much. He said that we want to indulge in a private fantasy of more money for wealthy private schools. That, I suggest, is a fantasy which the Opposition is attempting to foist on the Australian public. It is never the independent schools; it is never the private schools. It is always the wealthy private schools.
– That is right.
– The category A schools.
- Senator Georges chooses to interject over and over again. That is probably a little less forgiveable than Senator Walsh interjecting, because Senator Walsh does not realise the importance of the independent schools system in Queensland. Senator Georges ought to understand it. Senator Georges, as a senator from Queensland, ought to be aware that in the last three years 21 Catholic boarding schools in Queensland have had to close down because of lack of funds. They were boarding schools in country areas. Senator Georges ought to be aware of the importance of the non-government schools sector to the education of children in the many isolated areas of Queensland. He ought to be aware that the closure of 21 boarding schools in three years in Queensland is an educational catastrophe. No government, State or Federal, should stand by and watch that happen. If they choose to stand by and watch it happen, they know that they do it at the cost of an overwhelmingly larger injection of government funds into government schools to try to meet the imbalance that that sort of change in our educational patterns in Queensland must bring about. The imbalance must be met in the government sector. It is better that schools which are established with staff who are motivated and with parents who want to send their children to the nearest possible school be available to all students. It is indeed an Opposition fantasy that all private schools are wealthy, because all the evidence shows the contrary.
The Bill seeks to give independent schools, non-government schools, a guarantee of loan so that they can proceed with certain educational projects and certain expansionary projects. I would have thought that the Australian people accept- I believe that they do- the importance of the alternative system of education in Australia and also that there is a responsibility on government ‘s State and Federal, to provide a minimum level of funding, which is all the Government has sought to do. There is great difficulty in expansion in the private sector and there is great need as the patterns of population and trends of population in Australia vary so much. The whole schools system- government and nongovernmentought to be able to plan. The great difficulty of the non-government sector has been in establishing in new areas of need. I believe it is important that the non-government system have that opportunity of establishment if that is what it chooses. I point out in passing that the Minister did mention that not all independent schools are backed by a systemic system which enables them to draw funds from other sections of that system in order to establish new schools. The alternative system is important. It is important that we keep people who are motivated in a very particular way towards education. It is important that they be able to establish those systems with this very particular motivation in new areas, just as it is important that we maintain the old areas where the need still exists but where the system is falling apart for lack of government funding and support.
It is important to the government schools sector that it has a reasonable basis of competition in the education system. The independent schools system is not necessarily the most innovative. In fact, certain sections of the independent schools system are noted for being rather more traditional in their attitude towards education. But its attitude towards other thingsnot schoolroom education, but standards and citizenship training- is indeed different. As long as parents are chosing that alternative system of education in substantial numbers, it is clear that there is a substantial proportion of the Australian public which believes that competition is important for what it means in educational and personal terms. It provides also, of course, a supplementation of need. The Government has to establish schools in new areas. It can assist the establishment of non-government schools at a much lower cost than it can establish new government schools in areas of extreme need. In those areas where population is growing rapidly and where the pressure of new patterns of population- particularly of young families- is felt most strongly, certainly one ought to be thankful that the non-government schools sector wants to move in and thereby to assist in relieving some of that pressure. This is not its reason, but it is a fact that it wants to move in. The fact is that one of the results of it wanting to move in will be to relieve some of the pressure on the government system.
We ought to welcome also the true educational involvement of the community that comes from those schools. We have had debates in the Senate on parental and community involvement in schools. We get a good example of this in many of the non-government schools, although not all of them. Some of them are quite authoritarian but a number of them do very successfully involve the community, the parents and the students of the schools in the educational and community needs of their own areas.
The divisiveness of this debate is not because the Government has moved to support a necessary area of education. The divisiveness of the debate is not because the Government is guaranteeing loans by non-government schools. The divisiveness is brought on by those who for their own reasons, whether political or personal, want to attack the proposal to support the nongovernment schools sector, and many people involved in that debate do not want to see a nongovernment school sector. Some people, I believe, are genuinely concerned about the government schools sector and are a little ill-advised and uninformed on what pertains in the nongovernment sector because they see only that which is closest to them and that which they know best. They need to look at the overall picture. They need to recognise, as I believe the Australian community overwhelmingly does, that the non-government school sector plays a critical role in the educational and social development of our nation and as such it is surely not unreasonable that this Bill ought to provide guarantees for a maximum of $ 10m a year for non-government school expansion.
– The Senate is debating a Bill which authorises the giving of guarantees on behalf of the Commonwealth in respect of loans to nongovernment schools in the States. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill and does not oppose the measures in the Bill although the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, will be moving an amendment to one of the clauses later on. However, the Opposition does see fit to regard the debate on this Bill as an opportunity to express our very sincere concern about the destructive effect of Government policy on all sectors of education.
Senator Martin chose to characterise the Opposition’s concern as two things- as a trivial and petty concern with technicalities of guidelines, and as a prejudiced and hostile onslaught on the private sector of education. It is understandable that Senator Martin and other supporters of the Government, including perhaps the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, himself should wish to characterise our concern with what is happening in education in these demeaning and distorted terms. However, the characterisation by Senator Martin simply will not bear up. The concern felt about the destructive effect of the Government’s most recent policies and actions in respect of education funding in all sectors is snared by all sectors of the community throughout Australia. It is not simply a preoccupation of members of the Opposition. It is not simply a preoccupation of those people who organise in support of the government school sector. It is shared by all sectors of education. It is not the case that we in the Opposition are hostile or opposed in any way to Government support of the non-government sector. That matter was resolved clearly and unambiguously during the period of the Whitlam Government. When Senator Martin tells the sad tale of 2 1 or 25 nongovernment boarding schools shutting down in Queensland she attempts to make the point that that is somehow the result of or somehow connected with hostility on the part of Labor governments to non-government schools. It is simply not the case that the Labor Party, in or out of office, has failed to exercise concern for non-government schools particularly those in need of special funding, particularly those with the fewest sources of income. I remind Senator Martin and all honourable senators in this chamber, and I would remind all those people who are interested in the education debate, that if it had not been for the greatly increased funding of the non-government sector under the Labor Government’s education program many more than the 25 non-government schools referred to by Senator Martin would have had to close. It is a well known fact to all of those who are concerned with education in the nongovernment sector that the parochial school system in all States was on the verge of collapse. It was on the verge of collapse because it had no money for buildings. It had no money for resources. It had inadequate money to pay for the lay teachers who now comprise the dominant teaching force. There is no doubt that if the Whitlam Government had not been elected with its pledge to fund education according to needs the parochial school system in most States would have collapsed.
As evidence of the claim that what we are concerned about now is the entire education sectionthe government school section and the non-government school section- I would point to the fact that the criticisms emanating from the most recent Schools Commission report are not the criticisms of one sector. The Commission, as the Minister for Education would know seeing that he has recently appointed people to that Commission, represents the entire cross-section of those concerned with education in Australia. It represents those in the government school sector, the parents and the teachers. It represents the parents and the teachers from the private school sector. It has representatives from the catholic school system. The Commission has on it representatives of those concerned with special education for the handicapped. It is that body which unanimously has brought down these criticisms of the Government’s action in regard to the funding of education that we cite in support of our case that there is indeed universal concern in this country about the detrimental effects of the Government ‘s education policy.
I repeat that it is not simply a matter that we on the Opposition side are going to engage in some technical quibble about guidelines. It is not simply that we are distressed to find money reallocated from the non-government schools- we have no opposition to that- but to the two top categories, the two wealthiest categories of schools in the non-government sector. It is not simply that we are concerned only with those issues, although we are concerned with them. It is that we have very wide-ranging concern with what is happening in education. Let us look at what is happening in education under the Fraser Government and under the administration of the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick. It is a fact that during the period of the Labor Government education averaged a real growth of 39 per cent in each of its three years
Labor was in office. That is a fact with which there can be no argument. What has happened now is that we have reverted to a no-growth situation and we are concerned about that nogrowth situation because of the implications. We are not simply pursuing a big spending argument that more money means better education.
We are concerned that no growth means in fact no growth towards equality- no growth on the part of disadvantaged schools in catching up with advantaged schools; no growth in terms of innovations which will bring about better teaching methods and better learning situations for the least advantaged children in the community. That is the basis of our concern. There is no growth to better education; no growth towards more equality. That is why we are concernednot with the amounts of money involved but with the fact that the objectives of the original Karmel Committee which were to bring all schools in Australia, to which all Australian children have access, up to a standard which would give roughly equal educational opportunity to all children in Australia. That is surely a very fundamental and indeed a very modest requirement for a democratic community, for a community and for a political system in which people like to talk in terms of equality of opportunity, of equal chances, of a fair go and all these things which we like to think are characteristic of the political ethos in Australia. If we like to think that those things are the case, then surely to aim at providing roughly equal opportunity in education for all Australian children is not an extravagant or unreasonable objective, but the progress towards that objective which was started so magnificently during the period of the Whitlam Government when Kim Beazley was Minister for Education has now been stopped, and that is the main basis of our concern.
There are other matters of serious concern. One is the fact that forward planning in education has been destroyed by the Minister’s failure to honour his promises- given many times within this chamber and outside- to maintain real growth in education and to maintain a rolling biennium funding system under which during this next financial year there would be a 2 per cent real growth in education. The Minister has not been able to secure adequate funds for the promise that he gave with respect to the rolling biennium. As a result, the rolling biennium concept has been completely discredited. No planning, other than hand-to-mouth annual ad hoc planning, is now available to the education institutions in this country. Again I remind honourable senators that the implications of that in terms of children’s education are very serious. Education is not something which can be turned on and off like a tap. It is not even a matter of stopping or starting a building. Education programs take years to develop, to trial, to evaluate, to modify in terms of changing needs, changing demands of employers, of post secondary institutions and so forth.
It is simply not possible to plan sound education on a yearly basis. It is not possible to train staff on a yearly basis. It is not possible to equip libraries in a rational, balanced way on a yearly basis. All planning in education, if it is to be sound and productive, must be long range planning. The Minister’s failure to secure funds to maintain the forward planning that he promised when he spoke about the rolling triennium is disastrous and will mean that there will be no constructive planning for education; therefore the education of many children in Australia will be fragmented and will stop and start.
The fact that the Minister, whether deliberately or otherwise, has misled teachers, parents and administrators in education with regard to future growth and planning is in itself a source of serious concern to all of us who wanted to see education removed from a party political haggle into a central area of social policy where ongoing adequate resources would be provided. It seems to the Opposition that one of the problems with regard to the Minister’s handling of his tasks is that he has two portfolios. He is Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and he is Minister for Education. It seems to us that there is a direct conflict in those two areas, a conflict which has not been resolved in the guidelines issued to education commissions by the Minister.
In defence of his failure to secure adequate funding for the rolling triennium, the Minister has said that the States can move in and make up the necessary funds for the government sector of schools. He has argued that the States have more resources and that it is part of their responsibility to move in and fund where the Federal Government is not going to do so. It seems to me that there is a very serious contradiction there. On the one hand we have the Minister for federalism saying: ‘We want to hand back to the States all sorts of autonomy and responsibility and decision-making powers. We do not want to be centralists, as the Labor Government was. We do not want to tell the States what to do. They can raise their own revenue and spend it as they wish’. On the one hand we have that sort of argument in favour ofthe States making autonomous decisions. On the other hand, the Minister in his role as Minister for Education has said: ‘Yes, there is a decreasing funding for the State with respect to government schools, but the States can assume that responsibility themselves’. In other words, there is a direction by the Federal Minister to the States as to what they should spend their money on. Even the Minister has not claimed that education standards should not be maintained, and if they are not going to be maintained by Federal funding clearly they have to be maintained by State funding.
The criticisms offered by the Schools Commission of the way in which the whole question of guidelines for funding has been handled are very serious criticisms. I should like to draw the attention of the Senate, in a fair and unbiased way, to some of the major points of significance made in the Schools Commission report as they relate to the subject we are discussing tonight. In paragraph 1.8 of its report the Schools Commission pointed out the full effects of the guidelines imposed on the Commission by the Minister. It stated first of all:
Then there is reference to the revised supplementation arrangements, which of course erode what funds are made available to schools because automatic indexation is no longer being observed. The Commission went on:
In the case of recurrent funds to non-government schools the Government wishes the Commission to include in its recommendations provision for the additional cost of the announced policy of automatically linking grants to nongovernment schools to per pupil expenditures in government schools;
The Government also wishes the Commission to make recommendations as a first step towards the implementation of the Government’s policy of providing a basic per pupil grant to non-government schools equal to 20 per cent of running costs per pupil in government schools. The Government envisages an amount of $2m being allocated in 1978 to schools in Levels 1 and 2 for this purpose;
The Government wishes the Commission to increase the capital program for non-government schools by $3m, specifically to assist building programs in newly expanding areas of population; the Government suggests that the Commission seeks to achieve savings of the order of $4m on the joint programs for Services and Development and for Special Projects;
The Government asked the Commission to plan on the basis that the real growth in funds for 1979 and 1980 would be one per cent each year.
The Commission went on to say in paragraph 1.9:
The Commission views very seriously the implications of such prescriptive guidelines . . . The 1977 situation is different in principle because most of the internal priorities have already been established by direction making it difficult for the Commission fully to exercise its responsibilities under the Act.
In paragraph 1 . 1 1 the Commission pointed out:
A feature of the Commission’s work since its inception has been its success in drawing together the diverse interests in government and non-government sectors. Traditional barriers between these sectors have been substantially reduced and individuals and groups within them have been encouraged to work together in the common interests of educating all Australian school children to the best possible standards. The operation of the Commission’s joint programs and the development of formal and informal planning relationships between government and non-government schools and systems are significant examples of the evolution of this consensus. This is a major outcome of the Commission’s work over the past four years and indeed may be one of the major achievements of the Commonwealth in its role in Australian education. The Commission views with great concern the implications of the guidelines for the maintenance of the situation.
So we have the unanimous report from the Schools Commission, a body which represents a full cross-section of education in Australia, voicing concerns that we in the Opposition can only endorse and reinforce. Contrary to what was suggested by Senator Martin, the Opposition is not interested in opening up sectarian disputes with regard to the funding of education. The whole purpose of the needs-based approach to the funding of education in Australia instituted under the Labor Government was to remove that sectarian division. The Commission has said, as I have just quoted, that that was an objective which was successfully achieved under the funding program of the Schools Commission until it was interfered with in this way, and it is an objective which is now endangered by the way in which the Minister has not only imposed restrictive guidelines that do not permit growth but also has actually directed this very unjust and very divisive redistribution of funds from the government sector to the two wealthiest categories of the private sector. It is that kind of direction to that kind of redistribution that we regard as divisive and as raising again the sectarian issue in the funding of education. The Opposition regrets this most sincerely. We are not seeking to make political capital out of it, but we feel that we must voice our concern that the Minister has behaved in this way and we are reinforced in that view, by the fact that the Commission has unanimously expressed its view.
However, I think we should remember that it is not the Schools Commission which should be the focus of our concern or the focus of any controversy surrounding the funding of education. After all, the Schools Commission is a statutory body of persons appointed by the Minister- by two Ministers now- to advise nationally on needs in education. The Schools Commission does not have funds available to it from any source other than the Government and it is ultimately, as Senator Carrick has pointed out, merely an advisory body to the Government. So any criticisms of and concern we feel about and any controversies arising out of what is happening in education must be properly directed at the Government. It is the policies of the Government which have impeded the Schools Commission in this way. It is the policies of the Government which will mean that there will be a no growth situation and, indeed, a deterioration in some of the more disadvantaged sectors of education. We must not allow the debate about education in Australia to focus on a statutory body when it is the Government’s policies and practice which are the central area of concern.
At this stage of the debate I would like to ask what exactly is the Government’s policy with respect to the funding of all sectors of education in Australia. I am aware, as no doubt all honourable senators are aware, of the contents of the official policy of the Liberal and National Country parties in respect of education. I am aware that those policies when read deal a lot with equality of opportunity, assistance to the disadvantaged and so forth. On paper, the policy probably does not look significantly different in some of its emphases from the policies of the Australian Labor Party with respect to education. But whatever the policy of the Liberal and National Country parties may be on paper, it is clear now that that policy is not being implemented by the present Government. There is no serious attempt to move towards equality of opportunity in education. There is no growth in the areas most in need of growth in education. The current redistribution of funding that the Schools Commission has been forced to carry out by the Minister is simply reinforcing existing inequalities in our community and in our education system. There is no planning which would allow the development of new and more constructive approaches to education. There will be no innovations. I remind the Senate that $4m was cut off an area of funding with which innovations are concerned.
Of course, no innovations do not mean only what some people think, namely, no new hardware or software in the classroom with which the teachers can experiment. No innovations mean that no money is being allocated for thinking and re-looking at the basis of education in order to make education more accessible to more children in our community. It is a well known phenomenon of education that those children who get the most out of traditional methods of education are those children who come from the most advantaged families. It is a well known phenomenon of education that children who are disadvantaged generally in socio-economic terms also find themselves disadvantaged when they go into our school system because the school system until now has been a traditional conservative system which did not take account of the special needs and the special difficulties of children from lower socio-economic groups or, in the case of Australia, children from particular ethnic groups or children from the Aboriginal community.
Innovation is essential not simply to improve the sort of traditional education which is available and suitable to middle class children in Australia; innovation is absolutely essential if teachers are to achieve some sort of breakthrough in the teaching, for example, of Aboriginal children, in the teaching of non-English speaking migrant children, in the teaching of handicapped children and so on. It is in those areas that the traditional education methods have been a complete failure and it is in those areas that innovation is needed. But $4m from that area of the Schools Commission’s funds has been taken away by the Minister.
I would like to refer to another area of need which has been raised in the debate tonight, the needs of children in isolated areas. Earlier this year the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts brought down a very far reaching report on the needs of children in isolated areas. Most of the children who are severely disadvantaged by living in isolated areas are children who would want these services provided by the government school sector. Children in isolated areas whose parents can afford to send them to boarding schools are children who are not particularly disadvantaged by isolation. There are some financial measures of assistance provided to the parents of those children. The children living in isolated areas who need and want access to government school servicesthat is, basically free services- are the children who are not getting them. If supporters of the Government are seriously concerned about the lack of education facilities for children in isolated areas, I suggest that they should be particularly concerned by the no-growth policy of the present Government. In the area of the education of isolated children, there is clearly and patently a need for an input of a significant amount of resources if those children are to achieve anything like equality of opportunity in education with children living in city areas who have access to good government and good nongovernment schools.
I would make this point finally: Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the loan assistance arrangements contained in the Bill we are debating tonight, it does oppose in general the approach taken by this Government to education because it is a retrograde step. It is an approach which will merely entrench inequalities, and it is an approach which runs the very dangerous possibility of opening up the sectarian issue of education funding again. We oppose the approach because it stops that very necessary progress towards the development of equality of opportunity for all Austraiian school children.
– I rise to support the Non-government Schools (Loans Guarantee) Bill 1977. Opposition senators who have spoken in the debate so far- Senator Button and Senator Ryan- have turned it into a debate on the Schools Commission report which was brought down in the Senate last week and in respect of which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) made his statement. I think that he was followed on that occasion by Senator Wriedt, the Opposition spokesman on education matters, who also had something to say about it. It is well at this stage if we get back to the subject of the debate. I will deal briefly with that and then, of course, I will be quite happy to join issue with the two speakers I nave mentioned in discussing the Schools Commission’s report and the matters which they have raised in relation to it.
This Bill arises out of a recommendation of the Schools Commission that a system of loan guarantees should be established. The purpose of the Bill is to implement the scheme which will enable the Government to act as guarantor for loans raised by non-government schools in the States to finance wholly or partially the construction of approved priority school facilities. The Bill was foreshadowed by the Minister in a statement he made in the Senate on 4 November last year. I think it is worth repeating two important things that the Minister said on that occasion. He said:
The Government has decided to introduce a scheme to enable non-government schools to plan and commence capital projects which have been approved for assistance under the Capital Grants Program in 1 978 and 1 979.
So much for Senator Ryan’s comment that we have abandoned triennium planning. The Minister went on to say:
This move will contribute significantly to the economic and orderly forward planning of building projects.
It ill-behoves Senator Ryan to talk about abandoning triennium planning because it was the
Labor Government that did this when it cut the total education vote by $105m in the 1975 Budget. This Government- I congratulate the Minister for Education on this move- has reintroduced triennium funding and planning. It is not true to say that there has been any retraction or abandonment by this Government of that attitude. The second thing the Minister said in his statement in November of last year was this:
An associated recommendation of the Schools Commission which the Government is adopting is that related to guarantees of loans raised by non-government schools to finance construction of approved building projects. lt is expected that the Government will introduce legislation into the Parliament in the Autumn Session of 1977 to give effect to the decision.
In the result, legislation has been introduced this session. I want to say a few words on the importance of this initiative to the non-government sector. Irrespective of which party has been in power, the non-government sector has been disadvantaged. This legislation is an important initiative which will enable forward planning and buildings to commence which otherwise could not have commenced, supported as they will be by the government guarantee. It is a worthwhile Bill, and of course it is supported by the Opposition.
Let me say something about the Schools Commission report. As the Minister said in his statement last week, guidelines are not new. The Whitlam Government first issued them in 1975, not only for the Schools Commission but for all the education commissions, when it set aside the reports of the four commissions for the 1976-78 triennium, suspended the triennial principle and directed the commissions to present recommendations for 1976 within stipulated financial limits. That is a plain statement of fact of what the Whitlam Government did. It is worth looking at what the present Government did for the 1 977 program year. Against a background of applying appreciable restraint to Commonwealth Goverment expenditure, the Government found it necessary to provide guidelines with financial limits and priority areas to the Schools Commission. However, the Government gave a two per cent real growth in funds for schools over the 1976 levels and in doing so provided for a real increase in expenditure for both government and non-government schools.
Let us look at the Government’s guidelines to the Schools Commission for the 1978 program year. Within the non-growth situation for direct grants for schools, the Government proposed that approximately $4m of the amount of about $14m needed to meet the specifications in respect of non-government schools should be found by reductions in the programs for services and development and for special projects, which apply to both government and non-government schools. We must look at the role of the Schools Commission in this context. Its essential role and responsibility, first of all, is to operate as an advisory body to the Government to assist it with measures of financial assistance for the benefit of schools and school systems in both the States and the Territories. Its obligation- it carries it out- to report on the needs of schools and of priorities within those needs cannot be discharged in isolation from the issue of financial resources likely to be available to the Commonwealth and to the States and the non-government school authorities.
Let us turn to the position of the States. A great number of things have been said about the very minimal reduction in the guidelines on grants for schools being a horrific situation or, to borrow Senator Ryan’s phrase, a destructive policy. Of the total funds which States spend on education, 85 per cent comes from the State governments themselves and only 15 per cent comes from the Commonwealth. When people are shouting calamity’, I remind the Senate that since the Budget was delivered, in my experience, there has not been much protest at ail against what was said in the Budget about education.
– You had better look at today’s Bulletin and see what the surveys show.
-Like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers), I do not always read the newspapers. As the Minister said in his statement, the Commission has ignored the very real capacity the States have to continue to maintain the level of resources in their own schools. They obtain funds for their schools from their own revenues and from general purpose grants from the Commonwealth, as well as from the specific purpose grants under the Schools Commission program.
A significant factor in the increased efforts the States have made in respect of their own schools in recent years has been the increasing general financial assistance grants from the Commonwealth. In this regard it is worth noting that since coming to office the Government, in pursuance of its federalism policy, has responded to the demands of the States by giving them increased resources and therefore a greater capacity to exercise their own discretion and determination of priorities under the revised income tax sharing arrangements. In the current financial year the Commonwealth will be making available to the
States $4,336m under the tax sharing arrangements. That is an increase of more than $600m over 1976-77 and, as the Minister pointed out, it is at least $l00m more than their estimated entitlement under the former uniform tax formula. It represents an increase of almost 17 per cent over the last financial year. Of course it is much larger than the expected rate of inflation.
Surely the figures I have given indicate a definite capacity on the part of the States to increase further their spending on schools if they so wish. A further $600m will be made available this financial year. If the $14m needed for nongovernment schools is divided among the six States, probably a figure of less than $6m will be applicable to New South Wales, the largest State. The Schools Commission report recognises some of these facts. Paragraph 3.15 on page 1 1 of the report states:
Now that resources in most government school systems are about to reach or have already reached the improvement targets set, a review of the adequacy of existing resources levels will need to be made.
It is simply not true that the guidelines set by the Government for the Schools Commission are unreasonable or that they will not be met by the States. I do not know whether Senator Button, my colleague from Victoria who led for the Opposition in the debate, has studied the Victorian State Budget which was delivered, I think, last week. I do not have the detailed figures before me, but I have been made aware of the figures. I am assured that the State Government in its education vote- I am speaking of Victoria only, because it is the only budget on which I have been given information- has more than picked up this tab which is such a worry to the Opposition.
– Where did the funds come from?
-They came from the flow-on from the income tax sharing arrangements. As I have said, an amount of $600 m is involved. Victoria received a very generous proportion of that. The Minister for Education may have the precise figure before him. If he has it, he may give it to us when he replies to the debate.
– It would have applied in South Australia, too, would it not?
– Yes. As we know, the extra $600m that I have been speaking about in this debate would have been divided amongst the States. So, taking my State of Victoria as an example, we find that the 85 per cent funding of schools which is dealt with by the Schools Commission, has more than covered this short-fall, if I can call it that, which has come about as a result of the guidelines of the Government to the Schools Commission. I think that effectively answers the arguments which have been posed by the Opposition in relation to the Schools Commission’s report. I hope to have something more to say about that report at a later stage when it is debated more fully. I was concerned tonight firstly with dealing with the Bill. I have commended the Bill to the Senate and to the people of Australia as an initiative that will assist the non-government schools, which certainly deserve assistance. There is no one in Australia who would be prepared to say that the primary and secondary sectors of the non-government schools do not need assistance. They are worthy of assistance. I then took issue with the Opposition on the Schools Commission’s report. I commend the Bill to the Senate as an excellent initiative by the Government in the education field.
- Senator Tehan closed his speech on the same theme as did Senator Martin when she spoke earlier. There was again the assertion that there appeared to be some people who did not even wish to see a non-government schools sector in Australia. That statement is directed at those persons who are criticising the Government over its present education policies. Of course, our criticism is based on the Schools Commission’s report. Before offering my comments in respect of that, I point out that Senator Tehan also said just before he sat down that he had put the record straight. One of the things that he said was that in the Hayden Budget of 1975 the Labor Government cut funding for education. Perhaps I should put the record straight for Senator Tehan. If the honourable senator looks at page 33 of the Budget Speech of 1976-77, a document the accuracy of which I am sure he would not question, he will find that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, pointed out that education funding in the last year of the Labor Government increased by $240m. If the honourable senator has an argument to put about that figure, I suggest that he have it with Mr Lynch. Let us put to rest once and for all the assertion that the Labor Government cut funding for education in the Hayden Budget.
– What about the -
-I point out to his colleague also that if he cares to read that page he will find -
– The Minister said several times -
– If your Minister has a fight with Mr Lynch about education funding in 1975-76 it is not my worry. All I can do is go by the figures that are published by the Treasurer, which I am quoting to honourable senators opposite. Of course, it is a favourite tactic always to quote figures selectively in any of these areas. For example, I could quote the current Budget Paper entitled ‘Payments to or for the States’ in which Mr Lynch says that capital expenditure on universities in Australia in the first year of the Liberal-National Country Party Government was reduced from $48m to $35m and then reduced again this year to $32m. I could go to the figures for the colleges of advanced education and use the same argument. I could say that in the last year of the Labor Government capital expenditure was $86m and that it was reduced in the first year of a Liberal-National Country Party Government to $77m and reduced again this year to $73m. But if I were to do that, I would be making a falsity of the figures. That is the point that honourable senators opposite should understand. It is not a matter of being selective. What is important is to stand by the totality of the figures which are issued by their Treasurer, which obviously Senator Tehan is prepared to dispute. I suggest again to him that he and his colleagues have that fight out with Mr Lynch.
Senator Martin seemed to be critical of the fact that my colleague Senator Button directed his remarks to the Schools Commission’s report and not to the Bill. I did hear the broadcast of Senator Button’s speech and he did speak on the Bill, but naturally he directed his remarks to the Schools Commission’s report. Senator Martin then spent the whole of her speech on the Schools Commission’s report, as I think did each honourable senator who spoke in turn thereafter. That is understandable because the substance of the legislation itself is not something that we oppose. But to suggest that the recent Schools Commission’s report is not pertinent to this legislation and legitimately a matter that can be raised here tonight is an absurdity. Senator Tehan acknowledged that by himself referring to the Schools Commission’s report.
I want to restate a few brief points about this debate as I am the last speaker on the Opposition side. I have already indicated that some of the figures that have been quoted in the past and again tonight are figures which do not give the true picture. One other matter that I will come to later concerns the question of State finances. But initially our concern is with the attitude that this
Government has taken in respect of nongovernment schools. The non-government school sector in this country unquestionably got behind over the years because the Federal Government, until the creation of the Schools Commission, really was not interested in the non-government school sector. It was not until it became important in 1963, when the LiberalCountry Party Government had a one seat majority in the Parliament, that that Government found it necessary to buy a few votes by giving assistance to non-government schools. But even by that time the non-government school sector had got into very grave trouble, especially the Catholic education system, because those schools were mainly low resource schools.
As previous speakers on this side of the chamber- Senator Button and Senator Ryanhave pointed out, progress has been made with the creation of the Schools Commission in taking out of Australia the old State aid debate and the old divisions that had existed for so long. The Commission itself said that the Commission may prove to be one of the major achievements of the Commonwealth in its role in Australian education. That is the issue that is now the subject of intense debate in this country. It is an issue that has been created deliberately by this Government There is no question of that. It is claimed that the Liberal Party said some years ago that it wanted to see going to non-government schools, 20 per cent of the cost of a standard government school. That was possibly fine enough in its time, but that was before the Schools Commission was created. It is a different concept now. Either the Government rejects the concept of the Schools Commission or it abides by it. We have never argued that a government does not have the right to determine the totality of funding for education or any other sector. But it is a different proposition altogether when a government starts to interfere with the recommendations of a commission which has all the evidence placed before it as to where the needs lie. The Schools Commission has had that evidence placed before it. The Minister has not; the Government has not. There are 126 people working in the Schools Commission. It is their job to find out where the needs lie in Australian education. This Government, by a straight out act of political expediency, has chosen to throw the Commission’s recommendations overboard. What does the Commission say about this matter? It says on page 3 of its report:
The Commission views very seriously the implications of such prescriptive guidelines. In its July 1976 Report the Commission noted a distinction between reporting on needs without financial restrictions and the task of advising the
Government on the patterns and priorities for expenditure within given levels of funding.
At paragraph 1.11 the Commission goes on to say.
A feature ofthe Commission’s work since its inception has been its success in drawing together the diverse interests in government and non-government sectors. Traditional barriers between these sectors have been substantially reduced and individuals and groups within them have been encouraged to work together in the common interest of educating all Australian school children to the best possible standards. The operation of the Commission’s joint programs and the development of formal and informal planning relationships between government and non-government schools and systems are significant examples of the evolution of this consensus. This is a major outcome of the Commission’s work over the last four years and indeed may be one of the major achievements of the Commonwealth in its role in Australian education. The Commission views with great concern the implications ofthe guidelines for the maintenance ofthe situation.
Of course the Commission views with great concern the implications of the guidelines for the maintenance of the situation. It is not just one or two members who view it that way; it is all members of the Commission. Unanimously, they are concerned with what the Government is doing. I suppose it will be the Schools Commission that will next be blamed for the failure of the Government ‘s policies, like the Industries Assistance Commission, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Public Service Board or some other statutory bodies are being blamed, all of which are now coming out strongly condemning the actions of this Government. These are the Government’s own advisory bodies. Yet it seems to be the popular thing for the Prime Minister and his Government to blame these various bodies. We cannot blame the Schools Commission. The Opposition believes that its members are being fundamentally honest.
– The Government wants to buy the votes of the Catholics.
– That is not sectarian!
– Unfortunately years ago in 1963 there was no doubt, as I said earlier, that the Liberal Government of the day, desperate for votes, was prepared to use exactly that sectarian weapon and buy votes. That is why the Schools Commission was formed by the Labor Government. It was formed to ensure that we would see an end to that sectarianism. There is a deliberate effort by the Government to reintroduce it. There should be no argument about that. The Schools Commission can see through the intentions of this Government.
The last point I raise is on the related matter of the States capacity to take up the leeway in education. We were told here tonight during the course of the debate how much more able the States are to put funds into the government schools sector. The fact of course, as has been stated here before, is that during the time of the Labor Government the States got the best financial deal that they had ever had since Federation. In the first year of the Labor Government we increased our payments to the States by 2 1 per cent. In the second year we increased our payments by 53 per cent. In the third year we increased our payments by 29 per cent. All these increases in payments were made so that the State governments could provide extra schools, hospitals, roads and all those other things for which they have an obligation to their own citizens. We saw increases of 2 1 per cent, 53 per cent and 29 per cent in the three years of the Labor Government.
What happened when the Liberal Party came to power? In the first year of federalism it increased total payments to the States by 9.5 per cent. In the second year, that is this year, the estimate is that payments will increase by 9.2 per cent. We are told that the States are in a better financial position now to provide the services than they were under the Labor Government. Of course, again the selective argument is used. We are told quite rightly- I do not argue with thisthat in one sector of payments to the States this Government is maintaining the level that the Labor Government established, but in the other two vitally important sectors the States are being squeezed mercilessly. The problem arises not only in the inability of this Government to reactivate the economy but also in the Government’s expectation that the States will be able to provide the finance that this Government is gradually reducing. The Government is squeezing the States financially. No manner of argument will alter that fact. All the States are sick of the way that the Government has acted over the new federalism policy. The States were led to believe last year that they would not be disadvantaged. The States are being forced into a position where the Government hopes they will crack and introduce a State income tax. The objective of the Government is to impose a double income tax in this country so that from here on, no matter what party is in power, no federal government will again be able to implement national programs in this country. It will be self-defeating whether the government in power is Labor or Liberal.
I will be moving an amendment to one aspect of this Bill during the Committee stage. I close my remarks by saying that we are seeing a move away from justice and equality in education in this country. The payments which have been made into the high resource schools by a deliberate political decision of this Government were opposed by the Schools Commission. One can quote innumerable parts of the Commission’s report. In paragraphs 3.13 and 3.14 the Commission directly opposes the action taken by this Government in increasing payments to level 1 and 2 schools, that is, the schools at high income levels. We believe this is a disaster for education. It is a two-pronged weapon. As I said earlier, it is designed firstly to reactivate the divisive state aid issue in this country in the hope that there will be some short term political advantage to the Government and secondly to satisfy the Government’s friends and others who attend and are associated with these schools. Despite all those remarks we will not oppose the Bill itself, but we serve warning that we will continue to resist interference with the principles which have been established by the Schools Commission.
– in reply- I remind the Senate because it needs reminding that the Senate has been debating, or intended to debate, the Non-government Schools (Loans Guarantee) Bill 1977, a Bill under which the Government will act as guarantor for loans raised by non-government schools in the States to finance wholly or partially the construction of approved priority school facilities. The Bill itself provides for a maximum of $ 10m in any one year to be backed by Commonwealth Government guarantees. The Bill arises out of a recommendation of the Schools Commission. It is, I think, generally agreed that it is to be supported unanimously in this place and in another place. The Bill is totally supported. So that members of the Senate and others may understand what has been happening, let me say that the Opposition by choice decided not to debate this Bill but to debate a recent report of the Schools Commission. I welcome this opportunity. It is time that the people of Australia understood the complete falsity of the argument being put forward.
- Senator Carrick is known as Elsie the housemaid. He has emptied the chamber. Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
- Senator O’Byrne, you referred to an honourable senator as Elsie the housemaid.
– I drew your attention to the state of the House.
– That was an unparliamentary remark in anybody’s terms. I will count the House. (Quorum formed).
– For the record, I remind the Senate that when Senator O’Byrne called for a quorum he was one of only two Labor senators in this chamber. So the community will understand what I mean when I say: ‘Physician, heal thyself. It was a device to truncate my speech. It is a device that the community will understand because, in the absence of argument, all honourable senators opposite want to do is to thump the table.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. If the community is to be advised, it ought to be advised correctly. It is the Government’s responsibility to keep the House. That is what Senator Carrick ought to be doing.
– There is no point of order. I call the Minister.
-Mr President, Senator Georges is demonstrating the tactics of an Opposition that has no argument but wants to disrupt. I want to take factually and coldly each of the arguments put up and to demolish them. The basic aim of the Opposition is to suggest that the Government itself has cut the allocation for education for government schools and has increased the allocation for non-government schools. That is its argument. It says that not only is that wrong but that we have given the money to category 1 and category 2 schools- something which it never would have done. Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard Table B.8 of the Schools Commission report of 1 977. In so doing I wish to show that between the years 1975-76 and 1976-77, the first year of the Fraser Government and its federalism policy, all six States were capable, except some of the Labor States -
– Open the door, Richard.
– … of expanding the size of their Budget so that they were able to increase the percentage -
– You old fraud.
– . . . content of the Budget for education from 28.4 per cent -
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, did I hear you say ‘Old fraud ‘?
– I said ‘Open the door, Richard’.
– You did not. You made a statement and you will withdraw that statement, Senator O’Byrne. You accused the Minister of being a fraud. I require your withdrawal.
– Whom was I addressing?
– The Minister was speaking and you said ‘you’. I require your withdrawal, Senator O’Byrne.
– If you ask for it, Mr President, I withdraw.
– Thank you, Senator O’Byrne.
-In the first year of the Fraser Government it was possible for the States to increase for education the percentage content of their Budget from 28.4 per cent to 29.4 per cent and, apart from maintenance of effort, they in fact increased it by $75m. That was above maintenance of effort. I want the Senate and the community to understand that in the face of that total increase of $75m above maintenance of effort, what the Senate Opposition is arguing about is $5m for the non-government sector. All that of course has escaped honourable members opposite. Mr President, do I have leave to incorporate this table?
– Leave is not granted.
-Again the community will understand the deliberate attempt to frustrate -
– Seek leave again, Mr Minister.
-Mr President, because the Leader of the Opposition is a courteous man and I respect him, I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I then call upon the Schools Commission report to elicit certain other information. I have three tables which are extracted from the Schools Commission report, one of which is Table 3. 1 on page 9. Tables 1 and 2 show that the modified Karmel targets for governments schools have been achieved by four States in regard to primary schools and by three in regard to secondary schools. In other words, the target of the Karmel report, which was the aim for government schools, has so far been surpassed by three States- Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia- in the secondary field even though they have several years to go in which to reach that target. Tasmania has achieved it in the primary field. Here is the paradox of all paradoxes: Four States have achieved Level 2 for government schools but members of the Opposition are fighting like Kilkenny cats to stop us helping Level 2 schools in the nongovernment schools area. So the case is completely resolved. The indexed numbers in the table show that with the exception of New South Wales and Queensland secondary schools, the remaining systems are progressing towards target at rates faster than was planned. Here we are after two years of being in office and the targets for government schools are running faster than ever. Tables 1 and 2 also show that on average the rate of improvement in government schools from 1972 to 1976 and beyond has been faster than that of the non-government school sector.
There is another important point. It has been suggested that during the Whitlam Government’s term of office it improved significantly the non-government schools. I now draw attention to Table 3 which illustrates that the gap in the levels of resource usage between the two sectors has widened since 1972 and during the three years of the Whitiam Government. In 1976, immediately after we came to power, nongovernment primary schools were operating at a level that was 28 per cent below that of government schools. This represents a S per cent decline on the 1972 situation. So the Schools Commission was saying that in the time of the Whitlam Government there was a gross increase in the gap between the two. All the arguments, all these attempts to suggest that the government schools are lagging behind, that we have not been supplying them with funds and that the non-government schools are wealthy fall to nothing because the Schools Commission provides the answers to destroy them. It is interesting to remind ourselves that immediately before the 1972 general election the Labor Party promised the people of Australia that it would maintain the existing subsidies, that is, the direct per capita grants based on a 20 per cent principle that the McMahon Government had brought in. It broke its promise and failed to maintain the subsidies. But we heard tonight from the Labor Party that it is opposed to the idea of a 20 per cent direct per capita grant, that it is wrong to allocate the money without a means test, and that it is against the Schools Commission recommendations. Are they not the principles that the Opposition is putting forward?
During its term of office, the Whitlam Government maintained and developed a direct per capita grant of 20 per cent without means test in its two Territories- the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It accepted as a fundamental principle that this should be so. The six State governments accepted it as a fundamental principle. Why is it that what the Labor Party did in office it now opposes? Does it really say that the Schools Commission is opposed to the principle of direct per capita grants? I remind honourable senators that the Schools Commission in its 1976-78 report recommended a minimum per capita grant to non-government schools of 30 per cent of a standard running cost, including 20 per cent from the State Government, and that the Commonwealth should make up the shortfall in State contributions. The Schools Commission itself recommended the principle of a minimum basic per capita grant to be supported by a 20 per cent per capita grant by the States without a means test because five of the States do not have a means test. It went further and said that if a State fails to build this 20 per cent, the Commonwealth should make up the shortfall.
Where do we stand on this? Here is a party which is now emphatically opposed to the provision of $3m for growth of schools. It is as well that the Senate and the community should not forget what the Opposition is opposed to. It is opposed to providing a sum of $3m out of $5 7 1 m to be allocated by the State Planning and Finance Committee of the Schools Commission on a needs principle basis to the area of greatest need, the most needy non-government schools in growth areas. That is what the Labor Party is opposing tonight. It is opposing the allocation of 3m by the State Planning and Finance Committee on a needs principle basis to the area of greatest need. It is also opposing a policy on which the Fraser Government was elected, a policy established in 1972, that is, a policy of 20 per cent per capita grants without means test to be matched by the States. It is opposing a policy which is the linchpin of the proposal that the
States should provide 20 per cent, a policy which the Schools Commission in its 1976-78 report sees as fundamental for funding.
What is the Opposition opposing? Let us have a look and strip it down. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has the gall to say that in 1963 the Government’s predecessors on this side of politics for vote winning purposes provided help to the non-government schools and that the Labor Government put things right in 1972. What he is silent about is that in that period the Labor Party and its policies were implacably opposed, tooth and nail, to any assistance at all being given to non-government schools. The silence is the important thing. The Leader of the Opposition has completely forgotten the Labor Party’s election policies that it would maintain the subsidies. What has happened since the Labor Party elected to bring up this matter of ‘ the Schools Commission? There has been an allegation that the Government ought not to have earmarked this $Sm out of $57 lm because the state schools are in a nogrowth situation. In fact, the Schools Commission report shows that they are in not only a growth situation but also in an area of more rapid growth than the Karmel targets predicted; that the States themselves are exceeding their targets and that they are exceeding maintenance of effort.
The tables which I seek to incorporate in Hansard show that rather than a no-growth situation, there has been massive growth in government schools. That is No. 1 dolly knocked down. No. 2 dolly is: But this is wicked! You must not disobey the Schools Commission. My goodness, has any honourable senator looked at the list of times that the Whitlam Government disregarded the Schools Commission? It is worth listening to. The Opposition says that it is wrong to bring in categories 1 and 2 if the Schools Commission does not say so. The first interim report of the Karmel Committee recommended that category 1 schools should receive grants of $40 and $65 for primary and secondary school children respectively in 1974 and $25 and $35 respectively in 1975. The Whitlam Government did not accept this recommendation. There is a recommendation on categories 1 and 2 and the Leader of the Opposition says that it is naughty not to accept the independent advice. Of course, the Labor Government did not do so. The Opposition says that it is wrong to impose guidelines. What did the Whitlam Government do? It imposed total guidelines. It rejected the whole of the Schools Commission’s 1975 triennial report. It gave it a sum of money and said: ‘You will do this without any new initiatives at all.’ It laid down totally prescribed guidelines. The Opposition says that it is absolutely wrong and that it will not have a bar of direct funding where money is taken from government schools and given to independent schools, but in the 1975 debacle, in which funds were cut, the result of the Labor Government’s policies was that government funds for government schools were cut heavily and funds for non-government schools were increased. Now the Opposition is attacking the very things it did in government. I seek leave to have the tables incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr President, if I measured my merits on the performance or behaviour of honourable senators opposite I would not deserve to get leave.
– We are supposed to deal with legislation. You have been talking for 20 minutes.
– The Bill is unanimously supported. An attempt was made by the Opposition to use this debate as a means to discredit the Government’s stand on the Schools Commission. It has, in fact, been a contra-coup. It has bounced back on the Opposition. Everything Opposition speakers have said has been proven wrong. The people of Australia will reject their comments. The fact is that this Government is entirely even-handed with all students in Australia. It will try to get the best government schools and the best non-government schools. Finally, because I see Senator Wriedt smiling and because he queried Senator Tehan ‘s figures, it is a fact that in the calendar year funding for 1976 introduced by the Whitlam Government (Quorum formed). I sum up. I remind the Senate that in 1975 the Whitlam Government decided to cut expenditure on all education by all commissions by $105m. This resulted in funds for schools being cut by $43m. It resulted in very serious cuts to the state schools. Now the Labor Party wishes to deny this by using the trick of fiscal years in the hope of including part of the previous year. It is seeking to make mischief by trying to divide the Australian community. The best answer to the Opposition’s charge of division within the Government is this: The Government has been able tonight to totally demolish Opposition arguments. It has been able to prove that the state government school systems, through direct funding of the Schools Commission and through the Government’s federalism policies, are, by the Schools Commission’s own statements, receiving substantially increased funds growing at a rate in excess of the targets. The Government is delighted that this should be so. It is delighted to see the success of its policies.
We note that during the time of the Whitlam Government the gap between the government schools and the non-government schools widened vastly, to the detriment of the nongovernment schools. The Labor Party tonight is quarrelling about our trying to get a little social justice. It is failing to tell the Senate that the growth capital that it is trying to stop in fact will be distributed by the State Planning and Finance Committees of the Schools Commission and it will be distributed in the areas of greatest need. The Labor Party has its back to the wall and is arguing about $2m. It is arguing about its own policy- direct per capita grants to all schools. That was the Labor Party’s policy in the Territories. The hollowness of the Opposition’s attack, I think, has been totally demonstrated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-On behalf of the Opposition, I move the following amendment to clause 7:
In sub-clause (2), at end of sub-clause, add ‘, but, where such higher amount is prescribed, the Minister shall table details of same’.
This clause of the Bill refers to the maximum amount of guarantee that is permitted under this legislation. Clause 7(1) states:
Guarantees given after the commencement of this Act and not later than 31 December 1977 shall not guarantee the repayment of amounts exceeding in the aggregate $10,000,000.
Sub-clause (2) states:
Guarantees given in any year commencing after 31 December 1977 shall not guarantee the repayment of amounts exceeding in the aggregate $10,000,000 or such higher amount as is prescribed in respect of that year.
It is to that sub-clause that we move the amendment. It may be that we are unduly concerned. Perhaps the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) can reassure us; but we are concerned about the wording of that sub-clause, particularly the words ‘or such higher amount as is prescribed in respect of that year’.
I ask the Minister: Does that mean that the Minister would have the option to increase that $ 10m to $1 10m if the Government saw fit to do so? We realise, of course, that that could be done by regulation, as the Bill indicates. I suggest that, if such was the intention of the Government at some time in the future, it ought to be brought to the attention of the Parliament because that would be a major departure from the intention of this Bill. We recognise that there may be circumstances in which that amount might have to be increased- perhaps only marginally or by a small amount. We would be very concerned if it means that the Government is at liberty to increase that amount perhaps ten times over. It is for that reason that we believe the attention of the Parliament should be drawn to such action if the Government intends to take it. That is my point. Perhaps the Minister will respond to it and then we can see more clearly what the Government’s intentions really are.
– I hope to persuade the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) against the necessity for such an amendment. I share his concern that it should not be possible for governments to act without the knowledge of oppositions. Of course, that will not be so because the intention of this sub-clause is, of course, to allow governments to adjust for inflation or ibr some similar and relatively modest purpose. That is its primary intention. It can be done only by regulation. I remind the honourable senator of the Acts Interpretation Act which, in part, states:
If either House of the Parliament, in pursuance of a motion of which notice has been given within fifteen sitting days after regulations have laid before that House, passes a resolution disallowing any of those regulations, any regulation so disallowed shall thereupon cease to have effect.
The fact is that these regulations are required under that Act to lie on the table of the House. If they are disallowed, they cease to have effect. The Bill itself, in clause 12, provides for annual reporting. The process of making a regulation and the regulation being available to the Parliament is one of common use and should totally obviate the need for Senator Wriedt ‘s amendment. The Bill in fact, provides the very safeguard that he is seeking.
– I want to raise one other matter of a general nature which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) might explain. Is it correct that this Bill, which pertains to the States, does not provide for the same interest provisions as are provided in the similar loans guarantee arrangements which apply to the Territories.
– It does not. It is an entirely separate Bill.
– I ask the Minister why the Government has decided not to include interest repayments.
– I will need to refresh my mind on this, but I think there was an entirely different capital loans scheme previously and the Territories Bill related to that. This is a loans scheme based on entirely different principles. Therefore, it is a separate Bill.
– I have listened to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and I have listened to the reply of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). In addition to what has been said, I point out that in clause 12 of the Bill there is a requirement of a report for every year setting out the particulars of the guarantees that have been given during that year. I would have thought that that fulfils the very same purpose as the amendment would fulfil.
I rise really to call attention to clause 1 1 of the Bill. It is the sort of clause to which I have an inherent objection. I leave it at the stage of comment now. It states:
The validity of a guarantee purporting to have been given in pursuance of this Act shall not be called in question in any legal proceedings on the ground that the guarantee was not given in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
In other words, what purports to be a guarantee under this Act is not to be examinable by a court of law to see whether in fact and in substance it was given pursuant to this Act. That is an entirely objectionable clause for any government to introduce into legislation. If there are to be presumptions of validity, well and good; but an irrebuttable declaration of this sort, that what purports to be valid is valid, is objectionable. I raise the point and say that, if the Minister will not take heed of it, it will not rest at comment on the next occasion but will call for rejection.
– First of all, I support what Senator Wright has said. Again, it is a legal matter and I think it is for the legal men to argue the point. I cannot see why there is some fear of a challenge in a court under that particular clause. I do not see the necessity for it, if the Minister is sure of the guarantee that he gives. I do support Senator Wriedt ‘s proposed amendment to clause 7. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in justifying rejection of the amendment said that it is not necessary because the Acts Interpretation Act gives power to either House of the Parliament to disallow a regulation. Any additional amount would have to be granted by regulation. While that is true, the amendment in fact does not seek acceptance or rejection; is seeks an explanation. That is all that it seeks. If an explanation is given and it is an acceptable explanation, it may not be necessary for the Senate to move for the disallowance of the regulation. Clause 7 (2) provides:
Guarantees given in any year commencing after 31 December 1977 shall not guarantee the repayment of amounts exceeding in the aggregate $10,000,000 or such higher amount as is prescribed in respect of that year.
The Minister can prescribe an amount in respect of any one year of say $20m. The members of the Senate have the right to move to disallow a regulation. Without the reason or the justification for the regulation they are forced into the position of having to move for disallowance when there may be no need to do so. All the Opposition is saying is that if the need arises to increase the amount of $ 10m we should be told why. What is wrong with that? I assume that the explanatory notes to the increase would tell us that but our proposed amendment provides a protection in that the Minister cannot increase the amount until he explains to the Parliament why he is doing so. I would have thought that the
Minister would accept this amendment. An explanation for an increase in any government operation would be appreciated. There is nothing secret about our amendment. We have explained it. That is all our amendment seeks.
- Senator Wright has raised an interesting point. If I may, I remind him that in the debate on the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Bill 1969- he had control of the passage of that Bill in this Senate- he found himself defending the very principle that he is now querying. Therefore, I suggest with the best of goodwill on earth that Senator Wright might look at Hansard of 29 May 1969. I do not say this with whimsy, because it is a valid point. We are entitled to look towards the basic point in this matter. If in a subsequent examination of this Senator Wright would like to inform me that he now has a particular view, I will certainly keep it in mind for future legislation, but the principle is embodied in existing legislation.
– I am obliged to the Minister for calling attention to thoughts that I had as long ago as 1969. 1 am not here to guarantee that in 1977 my opinions will be fixed by considerations of 1969 or the opinions at that time of my Government colleagues which in loyalty I might have been bound to express here as a Minister.
– Or as a radical young senator.
-No. Of course one ofthe considerations that would prompt something like this clause is to assure the lender of the money that there would be no question as to the validity of the principal obligation. All I say is that it should not be expressed in such conclusive terms so as to preclude examination by a court if what purports to be a guarantee in pursuance of this legislation can be shown in fact not to have been so. I think it is a valid principle, but I will ascertain whether or not the wisdom of 1969 elucidates the matter to my mind any better.
– I rise to support the contention that has been put forward by my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, who drew attention to clause 7 (2) which provides:
Guarantees given in any year commencing after 31 December 1977 shall not guarantee the repayment of amounts exceeding in the aggregate $10,000,000 or such higher amount as is prescribed in respect of that year.
My colleague, Senator Wriedt, has moved on behalf of the Opposition that the following words be added:
Irrespective of what my friend Senator Wriedt has said in respect of clause 1 1 regarding the validity of the guarantee, clause 12 provides:
The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after 31 December 1978 -
I emphasise these words ‘as soon as practicable after 31 December 1978’- and after each 31 December thereafter, cause a report containing particulars of the guarantees that have been given during the year ending on that date, and of any payments made during that year under any guarantee, to be laid before each House of the Parliament.
Whilst there is a binding obligation in clause 12 on the Minister to deliver a report to the Parliament containing particulars of the guarantees that have been given during the year, there is no obligation on the Minister to report within any given time. The words ‘as soon as practicable’ are used. I believe frankly that those provisions are an affront to this Parliament. There should be a time limit after the end of the year 1977 and any subsequent year. A time should be stipulated by the Parliament within which these matters should be reported to the Parliament. Therefore, I support the remarks that have been made by my colleague Senator Cavanagh, in regard to clause 7 (2) of the Bill and ipso facto I support the comments that have been made by my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), concerning clause 7 and the proposal to add the words:
Those words should be incorporated in the provisions of the Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 September, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-These three Bills- the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1977, the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1 977 and the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill 1977- are being considered cognately. I have no comments to offer regarding the third Bill, which is a machinery measure to correct a drafting error in previous legislation. It is sufficient to say that and nothing more in relation to the Bill. The Opposition does not oppose any of the three Bills. The purpose of the Bills is quite apparent from the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and from the brief contents of the Bills themselves. The licence fees Bills make an additional imposition on the commercial television stations and the commercial broadcasting stations in relation to licence fees and increase the amounts payable by a percentage formula. What is done by these Bills is quite consistent with the Budget announcement by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in relation to licence fees for broadcasting and television stations and is quite consistent with statements which have been made recently by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson).
What is interesting in the context of the present increase in licence fees for broadcasting and television stations is that in July of this year the nation’s television stations announced the most dramatic increase in profits since the inception of television in Australia. For example, for the national stations profits increased from $21.5m in 1974-75 to $44m in the year ended 30 June 1976. In the same situation, commercial radio stations also had a dramatic increase in profits from $ 12.4m in the previous financial year to $ 16.2m in the last financial year, an increase of 30 per cent. If I may put it in these terms, the Government struck at an appropriate time to increase licence fees. By increasing licence fees at this time the Government has said to the commercial sector of radio and television:
You have made record profits and we are going to have a bit of the action because you have made record profits from the use of this country’s air waves, which of course are a public resource ‘.
One thing which does disappoint the Opposition is that in deciding to increase licence fees for commercial radio and television stations the Government, in terms of its own conduct in relation to broadcasting since it came to power, has really dipped its fingers in rather dirty money. It has done nothing in terms of broadcasting policy since it came to power which in any way reflects a concern for the public interest or the public philosophy in relation to the content and nature of broadcasting programming in Australia. This is really only the second positive thing the Government has done in respect of broadcasting since it came to power. The first thing that was done in terms of legislation was in November and December 1976, when it introduced the infamous amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act with two specific purposes in mind. The first purpose was to emasculate the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as it then was- the public sector of television for which any government is deemed to be responsible, one would have thought- by the removal of a number of members of that Commission, particularly the staff-elected member of the Commission. The piece of legislation failed because it did not meet with the approval of many members of the Government back bench, some of whom are here tonight. The second purpose of the legislation introduced in December 1976 was to abolish the then existing Australian Broadcasting Control Board and, more particularly, to get rid of two of the members of that Board. That piece of legislation was successful and the Broadcasting Control Board was replaced by the present Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
An extraordinary feature of this Government is that since it came to power there has been a tremendous amount of talk about broadcasting policy but nothing has happened in real terms. I might illustrate the confusion of the Government’s policy by reference to a couple of points, and I ask the Senate to bear in mind that those two positive acts are the only acts which have in any sense been constructive and positive in terms of broadcasting legislation. When one looks at the other actions of the Government in relation to broadcasting, it is perhaps salutary to remind the Senate of some of those under particular headings. The Senate will remember, first of all, the method adopted by the Government when the Minister in the House of Representatives, Mr Eric Robinson, was asked early in 1976 what the
Government’s attitude was on a number of matters of broadcasting policy.
In the course of a debate in the House of Representatives he announced off the top of his head that he would set up an inquiry into broadcasting in Australia. That inquiry, which was given some six or eight weeks in which to report, was not public. It was given a very limited time in which to report, and when one compares it with the three years given to Lord Annan’s committee in Britain to report on a much less complex broadcasting structure than we have here, it clearly did a very worthy job in the circumstances. It was not a public inquiry, limited numbers of the reports were made available to the public, and subsequently when the Government introduced legislation it was not consistent with the recommendations of the inquiry. That was the first report which the Government commissioned and from which little has flowed in any constructive sense.
In December 1976 the Government appointed the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, which was grandiosely described by certain sections of the Press as the new ‘supremo’ body of Australian broadcasting. Just as with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, when the Government indulged in a practice which I think most parliaments would deplore, namely, the appointment to the chairmanship of the Commission of Sir Henry Bland, a personal adviser to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), so it indulged itself with the appointment of Mr Bruce Gyngell to the chairmanship of the Broadcasting Tribunal. At the time of his appointment Mr Gyngell was a personal adviser to Mr Kerry Packer, the proprietor of the Channel 9 network and of the Australian cricket team. That was done again, one would have thought, with total disregard for the niceties of public appointments.
The question of Mr Gyngell’s appointment has again come before the public eye in the last couple of weeks with the publication of the Tribunal’s report on self-regulation in broadcasting. The report was tabled on 25 August, and at the time of tabling the Minister brought down a statement in which he invited public discussion and public comment on the report. He said that the issues in the report were too important to be dealt with without a full public debate. Those are familiar words in the mouths of Ministers of this Government- the need for a full and adequate public debate. From 25 August the Minister gave until 30 September for the public to contribute to a debate in this country on the future of broadcasting. Some 35 days was allocated by the Minister for the public to take part in discussion of a report of which limited numbers where printed and made available to the public and to which there is very little accessibility in terms of public debate. So for the second time the Government has indulged in the device of commissioning reports to get itself off the hook of the inadequacies of its policies in this area and, when the reports have been published, setting up the facade of calling for public debate and not allowing time for that public debate to take place.
One interesting aspect of the report of the inquiry conducted by the Broadcasting Tribunal into self-regulation is the role of the Chairman of the Tribunal. There are three members of the Broadcasting Tribunal and they reached agreement on most issues. On the one vitally important issue of Australian content in radio and television, which is of concern to the television and radio production industry in this country as well as to numerous creative people, actors, writers, producers and others engaged in television production, in the one area of the question of Australian content the Chairman dissented from the majority of the Tribunal on what should be done. The majority suggested that by a slow process of implementation, 50 per cent should be the level of Australian content to be attained by 1979. The Chairman dissented from that view. He is quite entitled to dissent, although in view of his past associations one is entitled to wonder why.
As I say, the Chairman was entitled to dissent but in my view, as a statutory office holder in this country, he was not entitled to go on commercial television as he did last week and the week before, advocate his own view and denigrate the views of his colleagues on that statutory tribunal. Not only did he advocate his own view to the detriment of his colleagues on that tribunal, but also he invited members ofthe public to participate in the public debate and write to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications supporting his view against the view held by his colleagues. I would have thought that in governmental terms, that is an extraordinary abberation in the light of the standards which one could expect from public office holders. But as I said earlier, it is typical of the sort of totally laissez faire dilettante attitude which the present Government has adopted and allowed in relation to the development of broadcasting policy. In substitution for action, it has consistently resorted to public inquiries and reports as a result of which precisely nothing happens.
There is a further example of the Minister’s inactivity in relation to broadcasting based again on a report. The Government sought since it came to power to grapple with the difficult problem of ethnic broadcasting in Australia. I say that it is a difficult problem. It is not really a difficult problem. It is conceptually a difficult problem for many supporters of this Government. They have difficulty in grasping the fact that migrant communities in this country are entitled to broadcasting services in their own languages. They are entitled, just as Australians ought to be entitled in terms of broadcasting, to put forward their own views, their own opinions and their own cultural values in relation to matters which concern them as members of ethnic communities. The Government has always had difficulty with that concept. After failing to persuade the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because inadequate funds were available, to take over ethnic broadcasting the Government again grappled with this question by setting up yet another Government committee, the deliberations of which, of course, have been secret and the report of which purports to advise the Government on ethnic broadcasting. As I understand it, the Government is to set up a special broadcasting service arising from that report. One of its duties will be to deal with ethnic broadcasting.
When I asked a question of Senator Carrick, the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in the Senate, on what the nature of the report to the Government was and whether he would table it in the Parliament, he said no, he would not do that because it was a confidential report to the Government. It is a funny confidential report. Sections of it have been published in the National Times. It is freely available amongst ethnic communities in Melbourne. But apparently the Australian Parliament is not entitled to have it tabled. The members of the Australian Parliament are not entitled to look at the contents of that report. Upon the basis of that report the Government apparently is adopting a new policy in relation to ethnic broadcasting. It is an extraordinary proposition that members of the parliament are not allowed to look at a document like that but other people are entitled to see it.
Again, there have been a number of totally inconsistent answers from this Government to questions about the functions of the proposed special broadcasting service. During the meeting of a Senate Estimates committee the other day we were told that the functions of the proposed ethnic broadcasting service would be ethnic broadcasting, educational broadcasting and Aboriginal broadcasting. In an answer to a question which the Minister gave me today we were told that the functions of the special broadcasting service would be as proscribed. Apparently, they could not be revealed at that stage. Again, that is quite an inconsistent answer and is illustrative of the Government’s confusion on this matter.
There are a number of areas which are of important public concern in relation to broadcasting policy. That public concern is expressed by numerous broadcasting consumer groups throughout this country, groups made up of people who are concerned with such questions as the quality of children’s programs on radio and television, ethnic radio, the fact that Australians should be given as wide as possible a choice in the programs that they have available to them on radio and television and the fact that there is no Australian image, if I can use that term, on Australian television but rather an almost total American image of some seven years ago. All these questions are of concern to many people. It is time that the Government clarified some of the very important issues, some of which I have referred to.
What has the Government done in this area since it came into power? It has done nothing, apart from undertaking first of all a cursory and superficial restructuring of the mechanism of public accountability in the broadcasting system. That has really resulted, if one reads the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal of a week ago, in the wheel coming full circle. What the Tribunal in fact is recommending should occur in Australian broadcasting is really the reconstitution of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which was abolished by this Government in 1976. That is what the Tribunal is really recommending and that is the only area in which the Government is embarking upon any legislative initiative. The Government has been unable to state an attitude in relation to the important question of advertising on television. When I asked Senator Carrick, the responsible Minister in the Senate, a question in March of this year about the Government’s attitude to advertising, he replied in these terms:
I am very well aware of the people’s attitude to this question and the Government’s attitude in this regard.
I then asked him what the Government’s attitude was. Senator Carrick replied:
That is a matter which should be stated by the Minister concerned.
I suppose it can be said that he also serves who only stands and waits. But it is now September and there is no statement from the Government about what its attitude to this important question is. One hoped that there would have been some enlightenment from the Minister on that question. There is no statement of philosophical principle by the Government on the guidelines which should have been given to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. There is no Government response to public concern over program standards. There is no Government response to important questions of technology in the industry. There is no plan for FM radio. There is no plan for the public broadcasting sector. The Government has paid lip service to the extension of FM services. It has paid lip service to the development of a public broadcasting sector. It has done nothing about either of these things except in the case of the Melbourne State college where an interim licence has been granted, as I understand it, to that institution on a totally ad hoc basis and, as is widely said in Sydney, because of what is known as the Guilfoyle connection. That is a sophisticated Sydney which I as a Melbournian would hestitate to try to explain to the Senate.
– It is understood.
-Senator Douglas McClelland says that it is understood. There has been a complete ad hocery about the broadcasting policy and no reponse in the areas which I have mentioned. I think it is appropriate to mention these matters in the context of dealing with these licence fee Bills. As I said earlier, this legislation is really about the only response the Government has made to any of the important issues in broadcasting with which many people in this country are properly and rightly concerned. Although I commend the legislation to the Senate, I do so in the spirit of saying that any government which increases licence fees for commercial radio and television stations has a public responsibility to discharge in terms of protecting the integrity of the national broadcasting service and seeing that there is adequate accountability of commercial services to the interests of the public. None of these things have been done in the two years of this Government. In supporting the legislation, as I do, I commend to Senator Carrick the suggestion that he incite his colleague in the House of Representatives to get on with some of these things instead of concentrating so assiduously on his other part time portfolio as Minister Assisting the Treasurer.
– in reply- The Senate is debating three really quite simple measures. They are an amendment to section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 to enable an increase in licence fees for commercial radio stations, a similar amendment to the Television Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 to increase licence fees for commercial television stations, and an amendment to the Postal and Telecommunications Commission (Transitional Provisions) Act 1975 to correct an anomaly. Of course, these Bills are unopposed by any members of the Senate.
Senator Button, as was his right, took the opportunity to make some critical comments about the Government’s policies in the broadcasting and television field. I will not delay the Senate. I remind him that the Government recently had a public inquiry through the new Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The report of the Tribunal is available to the public. The Government has announced its policies with regard to ethnic broadcasting and the special broadcasting services. It has announced that it will be bringing down legislation in the near future. I suggest that Senator Button should await these things.
If I may say so with a little whimsy, I never cease to marvel at the reformist zeal of those now in opposition, who for three years in government must have known that all these things were wrong but contained their patience and did not have a reformist zeal in that regard. God bless them. They are entitled to their hour. In point of fact, if they await the amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act, they will find that the Government is very conscious of its public responsibilities and will respond to them. I commend the Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13 September. Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate approves ofthe proposal.
– I do not know that my party as a whole has considered this matter. Because it is a matter of some importance, I do not believe that it should be agreed to by the Opposition at this stage. Therefore I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 September on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of an amendment:
At end of motion add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget:
a) will intensify and prolong the recession;
b ) will increase unemployment;
will have little impact on inflation;
will make regressive changes in the tax system; and
will reduce living standards’.
– When this debate was interrupted last week, I was pointing out the Government’s concern shown m the Budget in the areas of social welfare. I mentioned the extension of the handicapped children’s allowance and the rehabilitation of disabled housewives. I pointed out that from the first pay-day in November pensions would go up again. I said that the married pension was to increase by $3.70 to $82.20 a week and that the single pension was to increase by $2.20 to $49.30 a week. I remind the community that there is no means test on age pensions for people 70 years of age and over and that the only means test on other age pensions are income tests. Under the new taxation scheme introduced in the Budget the majority of full pensioners will not have to pay tax. The minimum taxable income is being increased now to $3,750. A married person with a dependent spouse for whom he may claim a taxation rebate of $555 can now earn income of $5,485 before paying tax. This will be a great improvement and will help pensioners in particular a considerable amount.
I speak now about the unemployment benefit. We have seen in the Press today a report that the Auditor-General has said that the Department of Social Security made payments of unemployment benefit totalling $40m that were not warranted. When the Government points out that people who are paid benefits to which they were not entitled do not return them, it is accused of bashing the unemployed. If it mentions anything about the unions, it is accused of union bashing. I wish to point out just a few facts about the payment of unemployment benefit. The Government has instituted the payment of unemployment benefit two weeks in arrears. According to the Auditor-General, this should avoid a repetition of at least some of the $40m which has been paid out incorrectly. Much criticism has come from the Opposition of the payment being made two weeks in arrears, but all wages are paid in arrears. If any hardships is being experienced by the unemployed, the measures already available to them will still be available and they will be paid accordingly.
I want to comment on remarks made by Mr Uren, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, just before the Budget was introduced. He pointed out very clearly that he considered that the Federal Government should provide for a large increase in government spending in the building area, and he Went on to say that economic recovery in the non-residential building and construction area depended on the forthcoming budget. He said that a large increase in government spending was needed in the Budget for recovery to take place in this sector. He also said that it was possible for the Government to spend more, particularly on government construction projects, to get the industry out of its deep-seated recession. I dare say that if I were to mention anything about the unions engaged in this sector I would be accused of union bashing. Mr Uren pointed out very clearly that the building area needs a boost, yet in Victoria at the moment $469m worth of building is being held up by industrial disputes, Commonwealth Government, State Government and private enterprise projects are being held up by industrial disputes. Industrial disputation is occurring in all areas. There are not only strikes, there are also illegal smokos, claims for a 35-hour week, bans on overtime, the movement of equipment and interruptions to cement pours. When confronted with these facts Mr Gallagher said that there had been only one interruption.
– The lazy loafers. Fancy having smokos
-I am surprised to hear Senator O’Byrne call them lazy loafers, but if that is his term for describing those engaged in the building industry it is fair enough. When it was pointed out to Mr Gallagher that cement pours had also been included in the disruptions he said that there had been only one disruption in that regard and that was in Victoria, but I know that in Tasmania there was also an interrupted cement pour. It held up work on a joint Commonwealth-State building. A $15m project at the Royal Hobart Hospital was held up for a month when 70 men went on strike. That is the type of thing that has been going on in the building industry for some time.
– What was the cause of the strike?
-I will tell Senator Cavanagh the cause of the strike. A cement pour was in process when the men were due to go off work. They refused to work overtime. The cement pour was half completed. According to the construction engineers it certainly would have been detrimental to the building not to have continued the cement pour at that stage. So other people on the project continued the cement pour for the safety of the project. This resulted in a demarcation dispute. (Quorum formed) Obviously the Opposition did not like the answer I was giving to Senator Cavanagh and attention was drawn to the state of the House. Senator Cavanagh had asked me the cause of the strike at the Hobart building site and I had said that a cement pour had been interrupted at the end of a day’s work and that the men had refused to work an extra hour to finish the cement pour, and that because the construction engineers decided that it would be detrimental to the safety of the building if the pour was not completed the other people on the site continued the pour. So there was a demarcation dispute in Hobart that lasted exactly a month. Seventy men were on strike. They held up a combined Commonwealth-State project worth $ 1 5 m.
Let us look at the other industrial disputes that have occurred in the building industry which, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, needs such a boost. A $30m Commonwealth project in Victoria has just been abandoned because of industrial disputes. The Commonwealth has given up and abandoned the whole job. That project catered for the jobs of 150 men, yet the Commonwealth has had to give up the whole project because of the disputes. Industrial disputes have affected another project worth $ 1 30m and capable of providing jobs for up to 1,850 people. Those are the sorts of things going on at the moment. If there were no industrial disturbances in the building area I should not think for one moment that there would be much need for a government boost. If there was nearly $500m worth of projects it would automatically follow that there would be a substantial boost to the economy but that is being delayed by industrial disputes.
– It makes you wonder where the priorities are.
-Yes, it does. If these disputes were not taking place on these projects, there probably would be not only more jobs but also extra money in the economy. I congratulate the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on the efforts he has made to overcome the unemployment situation. He has done so by, firstly, extending the special youth employment scheme to cover 25-year olds.
– And there are more to avail themselves of it, too.
-Senator Cavanagh has complained about this scheme before. I remember him saying that it is an extension of youth employment and will only -
– It is just labour for the employers and there is nowhere to put them once they are trained.
– He says that there is nowhere to put them once they have been trained yet, according to the figures for the six months in which it has been going, nearly 70 per cent of those who have been trained have been placed in employment with the employers training them or they have found other jobs. That disproves the comments by Senator Cavanagh. The National Employment and Training scheme also has been expanded. During the term of office of the Labor Government only 10,658 people were employed under the NEAT scheme. As of this year 1976-77 nearly 40,000 people are employed under the NEAT scheme. I know that they are not earning as much under the NEAT scheme as they were when it was administered by the previous Government, but they are at least employed. We have employed nearly four times as many people. I remember when we changed the NEAT scheme -
– Order! It being 11 o’clock, 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 raise very briefly in the adjournment debate a matter which was referred to last night by a West Australian senator, Senator Coleman. It related to a journey to Canberra which has been undertaken by members of the Aboriginal community who are now living at Lockridge. The stated purpose of this journey is to see the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner. Last night Senator Carrick was able to provide some information to the Senate about the efforts made by Mr Viner to make himself available to these people. In view of the fact that firstly I am concerned with the claims being made by these people and plight they are in, and secondly I am concerned with the efforts which have been made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on behalf of the people, I seek this opportunity to ask the Minister for Education whether he is now in a position to give the Senate some further information on the matter.
– Because the matter is of considerable interest to honourable senators in this place, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, in another place, in fact has given me a fairly lengthy document. I understand that Senator Coleman has been shown the statement. In order not to take the time of the Senate I seek leave to have this statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Department of Aboriginal Affairs Woden, ACT 2600
Parliamentary matter -matters raised by Senators Coleman and Keeffe during an adjournment debate on 13 September- Perth Aboriginal Fringe Dwellers
I want to refer to the answer provided by Senator Carrick, during last night’s adjournment debate to matters raised by Senator Coleman and Senator Keeffe in regard to the journey being undertaken from Perth to Canberra by members of the Aboriginal community now living at Lockridge, near Guildford in Western Australia.
Senator Carrick drew to the attention of the House the substance of a statement which I made on 6 September in regard to this matter and which, I believe, does adequately convey the fact that I have made myself available to theeople concerned and that I am at all times prepared to meetestern Australian Aboriginal people, either on their home ground or at my office in Perth.
On 20 May 1977 I visited Aboriginal groups camped around the metropolitan area and visited the Lockridge campsite which was not at that time occupied by Aboriginal people. The site in question was one of a number inspected by the Minister for Community Welfare in Western Australia, the Hon. K. A. Ridge. His Department, as well as the State Housing Commission, together with members of my Department, had also been involved in attempting to find a suitable site in the Guildford/Midland area which could be used as a temporary camping site by Aboriginal groups who were without homes.
I also visited the Anglican Church at Guildford where a large number of Aboriginal people were camping, with the permission of the Anglican Church, until alternative arrangements could be made. By an arrangement with the State Department of Public Health, on whose land the Lockridge camping site is situated, the Department of Community Welfare arranged to provide toilet and ablution facilities and other services to the best of its ability, to any Aboriginal people who wished to camp at this site.
During my talk with the people at the Anglican Church, it was made quite clear to me that they’, and their European supporters in the friends of the Fringe Dwellers Association, were not seeking housing at this time. The group believed that its best interests were to be served by the provision of a suitable block of land to which they could return and which they could use as a home base. Every effort to obtain a permanent camping site in this area has been opposed by the local shire council and they have also registered their disapproval of the use of the Lockridge site. The Western Australian State Government has made it quite clear that the future of the Lockridge site is tied to the further development of the Pyrton Training Centre for mentally retarded children and that its use cannot be extended beyond two years.
It is the intention of the Department for Community Welfare and the State Housing Commission to seek accommodation for the Aboriginal families now living at Lockridge and, providing the families concerned are willing, to place them in urban housing in the metropolitan area.
It may well be that other members of the Fringe Dwellers group will not seek housing and alternative arrangements will nave to be made. I made it quite clear during my talk with the group that I would lend every assistance to securing housing for those who require it and would assist where possible in obtaining a suitable camping site providing adequate proposals were placed before me. I also believe that it mav be necessary for a suitable night shelter to be provided in the area for those people who surfer from special problems and for whom housing, or camping for that matter, is not a satisfactory alternative.
I have had talks with Archbishop Sambell of the Anglican Church in Penh and the Archbishop has informed me that the Church will seriously consider administering such a facility providing it can receive the necessary financial support. However, as I said in my statement of 6 September, there is absolutely no intention to ask people to use facilities like a night shelter unless they wish to do so and my Government will continue to seek normal solutions for homeless Aboriginal people by the provision of housing through the appropriate State departments.
I would like to make it quite clear that the State Department for Community Welfare and the State Housing Commission have the main responsibility for settling the Lockridge situation and that my principal interest in the matter was to provide financial assistance for concrete and satisfactory proposals put to me through my Department for the settlement of these distressing conditions.
My Department provides the funds for the Department for Community Welfare to conduct a Special Research Project on Aboriginal homelessness and additional staff has recently been appointed to this unit which includes anthropologists and social workers. I understand that the additional staff will be concentrating its attention on the Guildford area. As a result of a survey of institutional facilities for the homeless, undertaken by the Special Project Scheme, a greater integration of facilities which can now be used by Aboriginals has been achieved and the very great problem associated with homeless Aboriginals camped in the centre of the city has to some extent been eased by the Anglican Church’s involvement through its St Bartholomew’s facility in East Perth. As well, local authority approval has been given for the erection of four houses on the Saunders Street site, some ten kilometres from Guildford and construction is well advanced. Approval for a further four houses is now being sought. Facilities at the Lockridge site include electricity; temporary toilets, with permanent ablutions under construction, twelve tents with yellow sand as a dry foundation; adequate fencing; water supply and gravel access road and visitors’ parking. However, recent heavy rains and wind did cause problems and during one bad storm dwellers were shifted back to St Matthew’s Church in Guildford. In the context of my interest in the situation at Guildford I quote extracts from a letter which I sent recently to the Hon. K. A. Ridge, Minister for Community Welfare in Western Australia, in which I said:
As you are aware, the need to make more adequate provision for homeless Aboriginals is a matter that causes me great concern. Homeless or inadequately housed Aboriginals present an Australia-wide problem and in Western Australia the situation in the Guildford/Swan Valley area provides an ideal opportunity for exploring every possible course of action that oculd be taken in an attempt to reach a solution within a denned area.
It is possible that a systematic method of approach for tackling urban homelessness that has applicability for other parts of Australia could be an outcome of the concentrated study currently being undertaken by Mr Robinson’s Special Project within the Department for Community Welfare.
While I appreciate that the present situation in the Guildford area is a decided improvement on what existed some months ago, I feel that the concerted effort that has been made to date would be sustained and if possible increased. In this regard, I was particularly pleased to learn that the Western Australian Government agreed to appoint further staff to the Special Project section of your Department and that one of the new appointees is an Aboriginal graduate from the South Australian Institute of Technology.
It was also gratifying to learn that, largely as a result of a survey carried out by a member of the Special Project staff, the Anglican Church has now opened the doors of St Bartholomew’s to Aboriginals in the East Perth area. I know that the Church has also indicated a willingness to become involved in a homeless project in Guildford and am wondering where this offer might fit into the plans of the Special Project team.
I am aware that some advances have been made regarding housing at Saunders Street, and that your Department has provided many facilities for the Aboriginals camping on the Lockridge site. However, the continuing inadequacy of the situation was highlighted by the need for Aboriginals to move to St Matthew’s Church hall during recent storms in Perth because their tents were subject to flooding and in some cases had been blown down. I am sure you will share my belief that such a situation cannot be allowed to continue any longer than is absolutely necessary.’
I also asked the Minister to keep me in touch with the long term goals ofthe Special Research Project into homelessness and of his Department’s intentions to involve other agencies such as the Church of England (or other churches) and the Department of Social Security through its Homeless Persons Assistance Scheme and offered him my Department’s full co-operation wherever possible and appropriate.
The present occupants of the temporary camping site at Lockridge moved to the site voluntarily on 16 June 1977 with the assistance of the Department for Community Welfare. Since that time that Department has been in constant touch with the group camped there and 1 am sure that any approach to that Department or to my Department’s officers in Perth would have received a genuine response.
The fact is that neither my Department nor I have been approached, since the site was occupied, with a request that I attend at Lockridge to discuss future needs. I wish to make it quite clear that if Mr Bropho and his group had really wished to see me in Perth they would have sought an interview. I am equally convinced that the trip is being made at the behest of their advisers amongst the Friends of the Fringe Dwellers Association as a propaganda exercise aimed at raising nation-wide interest in the affair. I am not saying that this is not an honest and worthwhile purpose but it is dishonest to say that the trip is being made because I have refused to meet them.
A number of conflicting statements have been made by the people concerned in that at various times they have claimed that they require housing and homes and at others to say that they do not require housing and are merely seeking land on which to camp. There are inherent difficulties in providing suitable land near to the metropolitan area which could be serviced with ablution and toilet facilities and still receive the backing ofthe local shire authorities. This is not a problem which can be solved by emotional outbursts, no matter how well intentioned, in regard to the failure of State and Commonwealth Government authorities to assist. Every attempt is being made to resolve the situation but it does require the co-operation of the Aboriginal people themselves and I can see no gain in attracting whole families across the width of Australia in an attempt to force my hand over matters of which I have little or no control.
The situation at Guildford is by no means unique in Western Australia and I am giving every priority to the problems associated with the rehousing of Aboriginal people now living in appalling conditions on camping reserves. Despite the apprehensions of a small number of Aboriginals in regard to leaving a communal lifestyle for normal housing, hundreds of families have expressed the wish to leave the unsanitary conditions of reserve life for a home of their own. Only last year I made available nearly $ lm to the Western Australian Department for Community Welfare, which has the statutory responsibility for reserve administration, to carry out a special project to eliminate reserve dwellings in the south west of the State. As a result, by the end of this year 30 families should be occupying new homes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The White Paper on Manufacturing Industry was tabled on 24 May. Many matters including devaluation were taken into account in its preparation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 22 April 1977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 22 April 1977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
While the use of ethanol as a motor spirit blending component is apparently attractive to Brazil, in the various circumstances which currently obtain in that country, I believe that Australia is at present best served by the use of conventional petroleum products.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
How many (a) permanent employees, (b) temporary employees and (c) other employees were there in the Minister’s Department for each month since and including November 1975.
– The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer given by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters on page 74 of Senate Daily Hansard dated 16 August 1977.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
Has the Queensland Housing Commission received its allocation of Federal funding for 1977-78; if not why not.
– The Minister, for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech that the overall amount to be made available to the States for welfare housing in 1977-78 is $390m. By letter dated 16 August the Queensland Minister for Works and Housing was informed that his State had been allocated $39,810,000 and was invited to recommend the respective proportions of that amount which he would wish to be allocated to the Housing Authority and to the Home Builders’ Account in his State. When that recommendation is received I will make a formal determination in accordance with Clause 10 of the 1973-74 Housing Agreement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 1977:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Commission of Inquiry into Poverty (Question Na 1239)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 August 1977:
Does the Government intend to make any finance available to the Commisson of Inquiry into Poverty to advertise publicly the Inquiry’s published research reports and the fourteen reports which still remain to be published; if not, why not.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government Publishing Service is responsible for promotional activities for reports of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. Promotional activities in respect of reports already published include:
Production and distribution of 25,000 copies of the advertising brochure, ‘Poverty in Australia Today’, and 30,000 copies of the brochure, ‘Poverty and the Law in Australia’.
As reports are published they appear in both the weekly and monthly lists of ‘Australian Government Publications’, in the ‘Cumulative List of Government Publications ‘ and the ‘ Commonwealth Record ‘.
Promotional pieces have been published in the following monthly lists of ‘Australian Government Publications’, which were circulated to 16,000 addressees’. 1975- January, March, July, October, November, December 1976- April, May, July, October 1977- May,July.
In May 1977 a comprehensive list of all reports was published and distributed to 1,225 persons who had indicated an interest in being kept informed on the publication of reports. The same list was included in the ‘Australian Government Publications ‘ of May 1 977.
Copies of reports have been provided for review purposes, resulting in reviews in newspapers and journals The reports have been in prominent point of sale displays within AGPS bookshops and have been displayed at various exhibitions for special interest groups.
An information and promotional letter, written by Professor R. F. Henderson, was sent to 1,270 major overseas University libraries in English speaking countries.
Overall costs for the above activities amounted to $20,000.
As at 1 September 1977 eight research reports and one main report are still to be published and the Australian Government Publishing Service has advised that promotion of these reports is expected to follow a similar pattern to that outlined above.
Royal Australian Air Force Aircraft: Damage Sustained in West Irian (Question No. 1296)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 September 1977:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question ( 1 and 2) An Australian Army Pilatus Porter aircraft was holed by one round of small arms ammunition near Warok in Irian Jaya, on 7 August. A rifle bullet passed through the floor of the aircraft behind the photographers seat. There is no way of knowing the origin of the round or the intention, if any, involved.
Information on the crash in Irian Jaya of a RAAF Iroquois helicopter was provided in response to a Question on Notice by Senator Colston (Senate Hansard, 7 September 1977, page 696).
Pensioners in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay Areas (Question No. 1300)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 September 1977:
How many citizens of (i) Bundaberg and (ii) Hervey Bay are currently in receipt of (a) an age pension; and (b) an invalid pension.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The above figures exclude persons in receipt of wife’s pension.
Uranium for Shipment from Brisbane
-On 19 August 1977 and 8 September 1977 (Hansard, pages 346 and 707 respectively) Senator Melzer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, questions without notice concerning safeguards covering uranium which was waiting at Brisbane for shipment on 19 August 1977. The Minister for National Resources has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The uranium in question was destined for use by power generating utilities in Japan and the United States of America. The material destined for Japan will be converted into uranium hexafluoride in Canada and enriched in the United States prior to being shipped to Japan. The material destined for the USA will be both converted to uranium hexafluoride and enriched in the USA prior to use.
As required of a party to the Treaty on the Non.Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Australia advises the International Atomic Energy Agency of the quantity, composition and destination of the material exported. The IAEA is thus able to apply its safeguards measures to the material.
Canada and the United States, in which countries the material will be processed to uranium hexafluoride, are parties to the NPT and require stringent safeguards on the material processed. Furthermore, in this regard as the Australian uranium will be finally processed into enriched uranium in the United States it will attract the full force of the safeguards policy recently announced by President Carter. Japan is, of course, also a party to the NPT.
In addition, the Australian Safeguards Office prescribes necessary physical security measures to apply until the material leaves Australian jurisdiction. The transport and packaging arrangements are made having regard to all relevant requirements of the ‘Regulations for the Safe Transport ot Radioactive Materials prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Commonwealth and State Government regulations and requirements. The Australian Safeguards Office also advises other national nuclear material control authorities to ensure continuing application of national safeguarding measures, including physical security, after the material leaves Australian jurisdiction.
-On 24 August 1977 (Hansard, page 442) Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning tax indexation. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The purpose of tax indexation is to prevent effective rates of personal income tax from increasing automatically purely because of inflation. It is not meant to guarantee unchanging tax levels.
The Government is firmly committed to tax indexation which it introduced fully in its first year of office, instead of over three years as had been promised. There has been full tax indexation in 1976-77 and 1977-78; it will apply again in 1979-80 and subsequent years. 1978-79 is a transition year. The new standard rate tax scale that is to operate from I February 1978 will, on 1 July 1978, be indexed by half the amount given by the annual indexation rules.
Telecom: Sponsorship of Golf Tournament
- Senator Button asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, without notice, on 6 September 1977:
Is it a fact that Telecom Australia is sponsoring, at a cost of some $100,000, a golf tournament to commence in Melbourne in 13 November? Is it not normal for sponsorship of sporting activities to be undertaken on an advertising basis by businesses in competition with one another? Has Telecom ever before been engaged in sporting sponsorships and, in view of its monopoly position, what is the rationale behind this particular sponsorship?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As reported in Telecom ‘s ‘ Service and Business Outlook ‘ a strong growth in business is an essential part of Telecom’s 1977-78 programme. The plan includes funding $528m or 66 percent of capital requirements from internal sources.
A most important factor in obtaining the growth will be constant basic tariffs to June 1978.
The Commission, however, considers that a limited amount of promotion of selected services is also essential.
Two promotional efforts directed at increasing telephone usage, both local and STD, as well as telex, Redphones and the Yellow Pages directory will be built around the Westlakes Golf Classic in Adelaide and the PGA Golf Championship in Melbourne. These will involve an expenditure of approximately $150,000 and the Commission believes it will obtain very good value for this outlay.
Apart from the many spectators who will attend the Championships there will be wide media coverage through press, radio and television.
In 1976-77, Telecom sponsored the Telecom International Tennis Challenge and the Victorian Open Golf Championship.
In using limited business promotion to increase cash flows, Telecom is following a practice which has been developed in recent years by telecommunications authorities in countries such as the United Kingdom, West Germany and Sweden.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770914_senate_30_s74/>.