26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. S. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr MINOGUE presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government co-operate with the State Government of New South Wales in sparing the Customs House Building, Circular Quay, from possible demolition and in undertaking its conversion into a maritime museum.
Petition received and read.
– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration. Has the grave dissatisfaction of British migrants in Australia over conditions and charges in migrant hostels caused any decrease in the number of applications for assisted passages from Great Britain? If so, what action is the Government taking to rectify the situation?
– The rate of applications for the first three months of this year has declined by about 36% , judged on the prior year. It is, however, at a higher rate than in the equivalent three months of each of the two years before that; that is, it is higher than in 1964 and 1965, although down on 1966. I am concerned about this, but I do not believe it follows from any dissatisfaction about the hostels. However I am concerned about the matter for the future. We got 70,000 very fine migrants from the United Kingdom in each of the last two years. I had hoped that the figure would climb, and that is the cause of my concern. As to the remedy, we are undertaking quite an aggressive campaign of publicity in the United Kingdom through all the mass media of communications.
So far as the hostels are concerned, I must make the point that about 30% of the United Kingdom migrants go to them, and hundreds of thousands of United Kingdom migrants have settled in Australia very happily and very well. It is true that some hostels are not of a standard that we would like, but the Government has already agreed to the construction of two new hostels, one at Randwick in New South Wales and the other at Springvale in my own electorate in Victoria. The Government has also given close consideration to a programme for improvement of the hostels. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I have had discussions about this problem. We hope to make a statement about it in the very near future. We will make that statement literally as soon as we are able to make it. It will include an intimation of a bold new method of providing transit accommodation for migrants.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister recall a joint Press statement he issued on 15th August last when, with the Minister for National Development, he said that copper producers in Australia had decided to sell their product for domestic use at the equivalent of the prevailing world parity price? ls the Minister aware that Australian copper producers are now charging Australian users of raw copper a price which is about $100 a ton above the landed world price for imported copper? Is the price of copper produced in Australia fixed by agreement by the Australian producers? Is the Minister aware that, while the price of Australian produced copper is higher than the prevailing world parity, Australian fabricators of raw copper are placed at a grave disadvantage against their overseas competitors, who can buy their raw materials much cheaper? If the price set by the Australian producers of raw copper is higher than world prices, can the Minister take any action at this stage to assist Australian users of raw copper, or must the position await rectification until the restrictive trade practices legislation is in operation?
– I well remember the statement about copper that was made jointly by myself and the Minister for National Development in August. I remember pointing out in this House that Australian copper producers, of their own volition, had sold copper to Australian consumers over a considerable period at prices much lower than they could have received by exporting it or by selling it domestically at the world parity price, and that this decision had saved the Australian community and the users of copper products many millions of dollars. This should be kept in mind when one is considering the record of the Australian copper producers. It is quite wrong to say that, because at a certain point of time an overseas producer of a copper fabrication can buy his raw material cheaper than it is available in Australia, this puts Australian industry at a disadvantage. It does not, because there is the natural protection of freight, procurement and handling costs, and the tariff protection on the fabricated product. So Australian users of fabricated copper are protected under the tariff and they have the natural protection of distance and costs.
Although the copper producers, of their own volition and unprompted by anyone, elected to sell at a price lower than they could otherwise have got, they later decided to raise their price to the equivalent of the world parity, or something like it, and since then there have been some variations. I understand that at present the selling price of Australian raw copper is above world parity, but I understand also that the price was reduced by $100 a ton within the last month. There is a real advantage to all who are engaged in industry, whether it be the metal or textile industry or any other industry, to have some stability in the procurement price of the raw material. When the world parity price of copper is above a certain level - it is above that level now - no duty whatever is levied against the importation of raw copper. If fabricators think that the price of Australian copper today is higher than it ought to be, and that they are thereby placed at a disadvantage, they are as free as the birds to import their copper from overseas.
– Will not the Government act?
– In what respect?
– To protect Australian industry.
– I have been explaining that we have acted to protect the Australian fabricated copper industry. Of course there is a provision in the law to protect Australian copper producers from unreason ably low prices. By a combination of bounty in certain circumstances and tariff in certain circumstances we have protected the copper industry all along the line, and I am proud to have taken a part in the provision of this protection for a very important industry. Let me make it clear to the House that the Commonwealth possesses no powers of price control. Nevertheless we have ensured an availability of copper in this country, both by encouraging the production of native copper and also by preventing, in certain circumstances, the export of copper scrap.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I preface it by saying that I understand that immigrants arriving in this country under the Commonwealth’s assisted passage scheme are met at Fremantle by an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service who allocates the immigrants to the various States. Before such allocation is made are the various State Governments consulted as to the economic capacity of the States to accept their quotas? If the economy of a particular State is not buoyant at the time of the allocation, what Commonwealth assistance is given to that State to enable it to accept its quota of immigrants?
– I regret that I was unable to catch all of the honourable member’s question, but the general nature of it-
– I will repeat it if the Minister wishes.
– I think I have the gist of it. If I leave some point unanswered perhaps the honourable member will raise it with me later. The general procedure is to work in close conjunction with the State Governments. It is very much an interlocking procedure involving the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service and the State departments concerned. We do our best to allocate migrants to the hostels which will be most suitable for them in their work. Some of them, of course, will be going to particular jobs already selected for them, while others still need to have jobs found for them after their arrival. This is done in consultation with the authorities including, of course, the
Commonwealth Employment Service. We make the best arrangements that we can in ali the circumstances. If the honourable member thinks there is some other form of consultation which might be usefully added to that already carried out we will be glad to consider it. I think the honourable member referred to housing?
– No, but if I might amplify it, Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. During the recent heavy flooding in north Queensland a great number of the people in the electorate of Herbert, and their properties, were adversely affected, and naturally I am very disturbed about their situation. I believe that the Premier of Queensland has forwarded to the Commonwealth Government within the last few days a request for financial assistance to help those people who have suffered personal hardship and distress and to assist local authorities with their rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes. Can the right honourable gentleman tell me what stage the Commonwealth has reached in its consideration of the request of the Premier of Queensland?
– There were some early exchanges between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister about what relief might be needed as a result of these terrible floods in north Queensland. The Premier of Queensland forwarded an explicit request to the Commonwealth Government last week covering certain aspects of this matter. In response to this I have, in the absence of the Prime Minister, written to the Premier of Queensland and advised him that the Commonwealth will make available $625,000 for the relief of personal hardship, on the understanding that the State Government, in accordance with standard practice, will make available an equivalent amount for the same purpose. The Premier has pointed out that there is in addition a problem associated with the destruction of State or municipal property and the loss involved through damage and destruction of crops. At present the Commonwealth is awaiting clarification of what the Queensland Government may claim under these heads. We have said that we will await an explicit request under these heads. We will go into the matter when that request is received.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. I refer to statements in this morning’s Press and on the radio claiming that the Minister has said that thirty-three national servicemen and thirtyfive regular soldiers have been killed in action or have died of wounds in Vietnam since April last year. Have national servicemen formed about one-quarter of Australia’s task force during the last year? If so, does this mean that national servicemen have been killed at about twice the rate of regular soldiers? Can the Minister advance any reason for what appears to be a substantially higher fatality rate for national servicemen? Will the relief of the task force in the next few weeks mean that national servicemen will comprise half of the Australian forces in Vietnam? Will there be occasions when combat operations will be conducted with a majority of national servicemen?
– What appeared in this morning’s Press was, I think, substantially correct. In any event, what appeared in the newspapers I saw was completely correct. This matter arose originally out of a report on yesterday’s 7 o’clock Australian Broadcasting Commission news service. That report gave rise to some Press interest. It is certainly not true that up to half the total force in Vietnam is or will be composed of national servicemen. In the relief force national servicemen will account for a slightly higher percentage of the total than in the present force - probably nearer onethird than the figure of one-quarter of the present force. One of the reasons for the lower percentage of national servicemen in the present force in Vietnam is the fact that when the present force was sent abroad national service training had been in operation for only about nine months and sufficient numbers of trained national servicemen were not available to raise the proportion to what will be roughly the steady state in a force of this size. Future forces will contain about the same percentage of national servicemen as the relief force now going overseas.
There are some clear reasons for the present situation and I tried to point these out in the information that was the subject of the Press report. If the Army has a serviceman for two years only there is a limit to the number of positions in the Army for which he can be trained. If the Army has a serviceman for six years or longer it can afford to train him for more complicated and difficult tasks. The time element is the limiting factor on the positions to which a national serviceman can be posted. It is a fact of life that an infantry rifleman can be very well trained - as well as we know how and as well as any infantry rifleman in any army in the world - in a much shorter time than a soldier can be trained for a good many other positions. This means that there will be a fairly high proportion of national servicemen in battalions.
There are 10,000 or more positions in the Australian support area, not in field force units, that cannot be filled by soldiers on a two year term of service. That will give some indication of the number of positions in respect of which there is a limitation of this kind. Present basic training occupies from eleven to thirteen weeks. Infantry corps training is an additional thirteen weeks. Then there is training at Canungra in the battalions or on an individual basis as well.
We have extended the period of training we are prepared to give national servicemen to open additional positions to them. For example we give national service signallers a total period of twenty-six weeks corps training. But there are many other positions in signals which require between forty-two and fifty-six weeks training in addition to basic training. It is just not a proposition to spend this amount of time in training a national serviceman for these positions when he is only going to be in the Army for two years. The purpose of having national service is to add to the teeth of the Army, to put the Army in a better position to meet Australia’s responsibilities and commitments. This can be done only if the national ser viceman has residual service of about twelve months. If we allow for the period required for discharge, he must have nearer fifteen months available after he has completed his training. This again is one of the major factors that has governed this particular position.
To give another example, I mention that several years training is required of engineers in some cases. In the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers twelve months trade training is required for people who have some skills before they start on the course. This, too, is in addition to the basic training. The position therefore is that unless a national serviceman in these fields has had some apprentice training before entering the Army a good number of these positions would be denied him because of the period of training that would be required. It is not impossible, as was stated in the Press, that on some operations, depending upon the composition of the units, up to 50% and possibly more than 50% of the soldiers going on patrol could be national servicemen. Overall, in the relief task force, the proportion would be about one-third.
– 1 address a question to the Treasurer. The right honourable gentleman will recall that in answer to a question asked by the honourable member 101 Calare on 15th March this year he said that at the last two meetings of the Australian Loan Council a special allocation of funds was made to New South Wales to permit increased wheat storage to be erected in that State and that if a further request was received it would be considered carefully in the context of the next Loan Council meeting. I ask: Has any request for similar financial assistance been received from Western Australia? If a request has been made will it receive the same sympathetic consideration, particularly in view of the interest-free loans being made by Western Australian growers from their first advance payments, amounting to almost $6 million last year, in their effort to provide facilities for the housing of the production from one million acres of new land being developed each year by farmers in that State?
– So far, the Government has not received any request from the Western Australian Government relating to wheat storage. I am sure the honourable gentleman will know that if an application were made it would, of necessity, have to be presented to the Loan Council and it would be the Loan Council that would make the decision. I can assure the honourable gentleman that if a request is submitted it will be listed. I shall certainly be one of the participants in the discussion, but I hesitate to tell the honourable member at the present moment exactly what my approach will be.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Yesterday, the right honourable gentleman assured the House that there was some good reason why the Treasurer had not made an important statement to the House. What was the reason for the release yesterday in Canberra by the right honourable gentleman of a Press statement on the important subject of industrial research without first making a statement to the House?
Mir McEWEN - There is a constant flow of explanatory statements from all of the twenty-six ministries of the Government. I am perfectly sure that if, at the end of question time, twenty-odd Ministers were to stand up and ask for leave to make statements there would be resentment in the House at their action. It should be clearly understood that we believe that statements relating to fundamental questions of policy of great national concern ought to be made first in the House but surely honourable members are not going to ask that every explanatory statement relating to matters that have already been made known to the public in general terms and about which explanations have been given in policy speeches, Budget speeches and on other occasions should first be made in this House.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has seen recent reports by eminent medical experts to the effect that cases of venereal disease are far more prevalent than is thought or admitted. Will the honourable gentleman have the situation examined to ascertain whether it is desirable to hold an inquiry into this matter with a view to the possibility of having venereal disease treated as a national rather than a State problem, as has been done so successfully with tuberculosis? Will he also examine the practicability of having all migrants and, very importantly, servicemen from other countries spending leave here, specifically screened for these diseases before they are allowed into Australia?
– As the honourable member said when putting his question, as a public health matter this question largely falls within the province of the States. However, I recognise the point he has made. I think the most appropriate course is to have the matter examined by the appropriate committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is the highest body in Australia in this field and which exists to advise the Commonwealth and the States. With respect to his point about migrants, I will be glad to look into the matter.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister and concerns the spillage of oil at sea. Will the Acting Prime Minister consider calling a conference attended by defence authorities, State authorities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and oil companies so that the latest knowhow will be available should Australia ever have to cope with a situation such as the United Kingdom has had to face in the case of the Torrey Canyon’? Will he consider this matter as being urgent, because under our present laws, where the several States of the Commonwealth are the authority to act in such cases, a delay longer than that taken by the UK Government to make the final decision to destroy the ‘Torrey Canyon’ could arise? The right honourable gentleman will be aware that should cases similar to that of the ‘Torrey Canyon’ occur along the Australian coastline delay in taking action would be most costly, and fatal to most forms of marine life.
– I think this is a very important matter, as the honourable member for Batman said. It has engaged the attention of the Government. We are full of sympathy for the British Government and the British community because of the suffering due to this disaster that befell the Torrey Canyon’, and the great expense of attempting to cope with the matter. The position of the Australian Government is that we are members of the international maritime consultative organisation and have signed the international convention for the prevention of the pollution of the sea by oil. That does not deal with accidental disasters of the kind referred to, but it has resulted in this international organisation being triggered off to study very carefully on an international basis what precautions ought to be taken and what arrangements ought to be made by all member states of the organisation. This study is proceeding now. My colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport is keeping in close touch on it and with the British authorities to learn what we can. Having explained that this matter is in hand at the present time, I think that when these investigations have proceeded a little further we could decide whether or not a conference such as that suggested by the honourable member for Batman is the best means of attacking the problem.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. 1 refer to the fact that Victorian ex-servicemen have not been able to obtain war service home loans on ‘own your own home’ units in Victoria owing to insecurity of tenure and difficulties in disposing of such property under the Victorian Transfer of Land Act. Is the Minister aware that the Strata Titles Bill has now been passed through the Victorian Parliament to overcome the difficulties of the previous legislation? Will this enable Victorian exservicemen to use war service home loans for the purchase of property covered by strata titles in Victoria and, if so, how soon can applications be made to the War Service Homes Division?
– The War Service Homes Division has been examining this problem for a long time. In fact, in conjunction with other lenders, it has been partly instrumental in persuading the Victorian authorities to introduce this legislation. As the honourable member said, until a proper strata title can be given no opportunity exists for the War Service Homes Division to get satisfactory security. I understand that the State legislation has been passed, but of course it is not yet law. The Department of Housing will be examining the legislation closely. As always, the Department is eager to meet the requests of exservicemen as quickly as it can. Certainly the Department will lose no time in taking advantage of the law, assuming that it is satisfactory.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as the Minister for Trade and Industry: Is it a fact that the Government proposes to make a radical alteration to the composition of the Tariff Board by appointing twenty or forty persons as part time members of a panel, from which they may be chosen to sit with the Board? If this is so, will the Minister say who the part time members are likely to be, how their duties will be allocated, and whether they are to be representative of industry in any way? Has he realised the possibility of men who have an interest in particular matters swamping independent members of the Tariff Board when the allocation of members for inquiries is being made?
– 1 am glad the honourable member has asked this question. It gives me a chance to set out what the situation is. The honourable member asks whether the Government intends to take certain action. Let me commence by saying that there has been no Government policy on this matter. Indeed I, as the Minister who is responsible for making recommendations to the Government in the first place about Tariff Board matters, have not yet consulted my colleagues for reasons which I shall proceed to explain. The position at the present time is that the Tariff Board is one member short due to the death of Mr Gill. Over the last six or eight months - I forget the precise time, but it is probably more than eight months - the officers of my Department have been endeavouring to find a satisfactory person to fill this position. I have been taking some part in this too. We have bad people who were willing to fill it but who later withdrew. We have found people who were willing to fill the vacancy but who were not assessed as having the necessary ability or experience. In short, I now have to say to the Parliament what I have not yet said to my colleagues - that after some months I am not able to recommend a person to fill the position. In the circumstances and acting in the most normal manner, I and my advisers have examined the situation and have considered whether there is any alternative.
One of the problems that will not necessarily be solved by appointing one additional member is the workload of the Tariff Board and the lengthy period of time between references to the Board and the submission of recommendations. Perhaps I might put it more correctly by saying that there is a diminishing number of recommendations coming through from the Board. The pressure on the Tariff Board is obvious when I point out to the House that the Board, with a normal total membership of eight, at the present time consists of seven members and has felt impelled for several years to sit very frequently as a sub-board of only two members. 1 say quite frankly and publicly that it can hardly be regarded as a very satisfying state of affairs if these great issues have to be heard by two members only. The members of the Board are people who come from the Public Service because of their experience and from the community because they have experience and knowledge of (a) primary industry, (b) commerce and (c) manufacturing industry. These are the ingredients of experience judged by previous governments and previous parliaments to be necessary and desirable in a tariff board. When I tell the House that many hearings have been conducted by two persons only, it will be seen that obviously some of that experience has been absent.
Out of this situation I, and my advisers, came to a conclusion that a possible step might be taken - not necessarily the best and not necessarily desirable, but a possible step, and I accepted it - to have a panel of persons appointed by the GovernorGeneral, by the Government itself and not the Minister for Trade and Industry, which could be drawn upon to sit on a Tariff Board reference, it being understood in the first place that no person would be drawn to sit on a Board where the hearing involved a matter in which he had any personal or business interest. No persons would be drawn to sit on a Board except to make up, with the permanent members, the balanced group of persons from the three non-Public Service areas of experience that I mentioned, namely, commerce, manufacturing and primary industry. From such a panel the Chairman of the Tariff Board himself would, where he thought necessary, invite representatives to sit with the Tariff Board members - not separately from them and not swamping them but supplementing them to give this experience and knowledge for every inquiry. This might aid the Tariff Board in its throughput.
As I have done perhaps 50 or 100 times in my long ministerial experience I reached the conclusion that if I were to propose this idea to my colleagues the first questions that they would legitimately ask me would be: How would the farmers like this? How would the chambers of commerce like this? How would the chambers of manufactures like this? So, to put myself in a position to answer these questions if 1 went ahead and proposed the scheme to my colleagues, I and some of my advisers interviewed, not secretly but confidentially, senior representatives from the kind of organisations I have mentioned. I am in the position of knowing the reaction of these organisations.
However, I leave on a mission to Geneva on Wednesday. It is perfectly clear that I am not in a position to propose anything in this respect in the near future. Very shortly after my return from overseas the Prime Minister proposes to go abroad on another important mission. I would never dream of proposing such a policy as this - if, indeed, I decided to bring it to the Cabinet - in the absence of the Prime Minister. Therefore, out of a situation of physical facts, there is no likelihood of this matter being examined, if I decide to bring it forward, for months to come. However I am grateful for the opportunity to explain this to the House. There is no mystery about this: there is nothing sinister about it. It is an attempt to the best of my ability and of my advisers’ ability to put myself in a position in respect of a practical problem to offer advice to the Government.
– Could the Minister for National Development explain the present position as between the Commonwealth and the States with respect to the supply of finance by the Commonwealth to the States for afforestation purposes under the terms of the agreement recently arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States? Particularly I ask: Could the Minister tell us whether there are any factors holding up the supply of Commonwealth finance for this purpose to the State of New South Wales? If there are, when are they likely to be resolved? I understand that if the delay in New South Wales is likely to be more than about four weeks from today the planting programmes in that State could be seriously affected.
– I am hopeful that it will be possible to bring before the House, especially if we sit well into May, a bill granting $20m over a period of five years from the Commonwealth to the States for loans to finance increases in softwood planting. A very minor matter is now under discussion between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. When New South Wales first made its application, it was based on a base figure that the State authorities later discovered gave an incorrect result. They have sought to alter this figure because it included some additional plantings that should not have been put into the figure. I believe that it will be possible for the Commonwealth and New South Wales to reach an agreement on this matter. I hope that if the States accept the agreement very soon the Bill will come forward early in May.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Now that, after five or six years discussion between the Commonwealth and the State Attorneys-General, the Legislative Council of South Australia has rejected the Bill introduced by the State Government to complement the Commonwealth’s Trade Practices Act and the other mainland State Governments have declined to introduce such bills at all, is the honourable gentleman reconciled to the Commonwealth Act having to operate on its own?
How much more time must elapse before the Act comes into operation? Are there any other factors delaying its operation?
– First, may I say that the reaction of the States to this legislation is in no way related to the time when it will come into operation. The factors delaying its being brought into operation are quite otherwise and include the drafting of the regulations, the recruiting of adequate and competent staff and the choice of lay members of the tribunal to form a panel. However, action to implement the legislation has progressed to a point where it is substantially on the way. In addition, a handbook is being prepared so that it can be placed in the possession of industry, say, a couple of months in advance of the Act coming into operation. It may be possible to make an announcement in the not too distant future.
So far as the substance of the early part of the question is concerned, I would be content with the Act operating under the powers that this Commonwealth Parliament has. It would, of course, be an advantage to have either a reference or complementary legislation, as is provided for, from the States - all of the States if possible. This has not proved practicable so far, although I think the account that the Leader of the Opposition has given is not quite an adequate account of what has occurred. Perhaps I should state for the information of the House that the Tasmanian Parliament has made a reference of power. In order to exercise this power we will introduce a bill to bring the principal Act into force in Tasmania. This will be brought forward shortly in this session. In South Australia, although the Bill to refer power was introduced in the lower house, an amendment was moved in the upper house which would have deferred its coming into operation until the other States brought the Act into force. This would be the subject of a joint sitting of the two houses. At the moment, that is where it rests in South Australia. It is not entirely accurate to say that the other States have rejected the legislation. Mr Willis, the Chief Secretary of New South Wales, is chairman of a committee which is considering this at present. Although Victoria has passed its own law, it is still disposed to discuss certain aspects with us. I would not hold out very much hope that Queensland or Western Australia would refer powers or have complementary legislation, but 1 thought I should amplify the facts relating to what the other States have done.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Earlier this week an organisation known as the Free Enterprise Marketing Organisation of Wool presented a scheme for what is claimed to be an improved method for the marketing of Australian wool by auction. As previous proposals have suggested the establishment of a statutory body, would the new proposal be in any way unacceptable because this organisation is not a statutory marketing body?
– I have no details of the proposal, although T have heard of it. Historically, the marketing of Australian wool has been conducted without the aid of government. The National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, acting separately and jointly, sells the Australian clip. This has, within limits, satisfied the Australian wool growing industry, and that situation has left the Government satisfied. When there emerges a proposal that relates to some change in the marketing of any primary product, provided that those who are engaged in the production and marketing of this product reached agreement, I have no doubt this would be acceptable to the Government.
The only reservation I would put to that statement is that if the proposal were one that involved the Commonwealth Treasury the Commonwealth would, of course, reach a view as to whether it was acceptable or not acceptable. But in respect of the wool industry, what this Government has done, having regard to the problems of wool marketing and the high level of controversy about wool marketing, is to establish under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry, and consequent upon a great public inquiry by Mr Justice Philp, what is now commonly known as the parliament of the wool industry - the Australian Wool Industry Conference. If the Australian Wool Industry Conference felt that a proposal in respect of marketing was acceptable to it, and if that proposal did not involve Commonwealth funds, I should say that this
Commonwealth Government, being a free enterprise government, would be quite content to see this approved.
– 1 have received a letter from the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The unsatisfactory provision for supervision and enforcement of safety standards in civil aviation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
- Mr Speaker, in February of this year in my speech in the Address-in-Reply debate I referred to many matters relating to civil aviation and made certain submissions concerning the Department for which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who now sits at the table is held responsible to this Parliament. To this date the Minister has not answered any of the references that I made. I raise this important subject because 1 am aware that many of the regulations in force regarding air navigation are made under designated powers of the executive government, and in my opinion many of these regulations are not being enforced by Department of Civil Aviation officials.
In the first instance, it is impossible for employees of the Department to carry out these regulations because of the lack of staff. At some important airports in Australia there is no staff available at all. I refer to Canberra, where there are about thirty flights in and out a day on almost every day of the week. We find that there are no air safety officers available here in Canberra to check the aircraft, to carry out spot checks and to be there when aircraft are being refuelled, loaded and so on. Nothing can be done in Canberra about this very important matter of aircraft safety. Many members of Parliament travel frequently by aircraft, but I do not think any member could stand up in this House and say he had actually seen a Department of Civil Aviation official going around inspecting aircraft at any airport at which he had touched down. I know that the Department employs air safety officers at the major airports in Australia, but these officers are available only between the hours of 8.30 a.m. and 4.51 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays. This means that safety officers are not on duty when many of the aircraft take off. Many aircraft fly at weekends, when no air safety officers are available. Every aircraft that leaves a major airport over a weekend cannot be checked because no air safety officers are available then.
The Minister said in reply to a question 1 asked that it was the duty of air safety officers to carry out spot checks on aircraft; but I am afraid that that answer was misleading, because the senior safety officer at Mascot airport maintains that it is not his duty to carry out spot checks of aircraft and that he makes inspections only when directed to do so by the Department. In other words, he does not go out on the tarmac and check aircraft which are standing there. He does not go around to see whether the engineers are carrying out maintenance of aircraft in the hangars; he does not go near them at all.
The same thing applies if there is a dispute between a pilot and his company about an aircraft. The company may be using intimidatory methods to get the pilot to take the aircraft off the ground. The senior safety officer does not adjudicate in such a dispute. What really is the duty of these officers who are employed by the Department of Civil Aviation? The Minister may be able to answer that question today. It is important to get answers to such questions, because in the near future an inquiry will be held into a disaster that occurred seven months ago in Queensland. The Minister should answer some of these questions so that the people of Australia may know a great deal more about the Department of Civil Aviation.
I have said in this House that I have endeavoured to obtain lists of permissible unserviceabilities with which aircraft may fly in Australia. The Minister has informed me that if I wish to look at any of these lists for Viscount or Fokker Friendship aircraft 1 must go to Melbourne to do so. I take exception to the statement that a member of the Parliament must go to Melbourne to see these lists, and I have requested that they be made available in the Parliamentary Library so that all members may look at them. If the lists were made available, some members would have their eyes opened when they saw the unserviceabilities with which aircraft may fly. I do not intend to go to Melbourne, because I believe it is not my duty to go there. These lists should be available in Sydney for everyone to look at and they should be available to members of Parliament here.
I do not know whether the safety officers at Mascot airport have a list of permissible unserviceabilities. If a list is not available in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, how do the safety officers in those cities enforce the regulations relating to the unserviceabilities with which aircraft are permitted to fly? I think the Minister should answer this question when he speaks on this matter this afternoon, so that we can all be enlightened about exactly what goes on.
I have already complained about the practice of allowing an aircraft to fly with a particular piece of equipment unserviceable.
I refer to the fuel quantity gauge which gives the only indication to a pilot that one of his fuel tanks is leaking. It is only by consulting this gauge that a pilot can discover a leakage of fuel into the wing of an aircraft. If the instrument is unserviceable the aircraft could virtually become a flying bomb because of fuel leaking into the wing, although the pilot would have no knowledge of such a leak. I think there is a grave risk in allowing this item to remain in the list of permissible unserviceable equipment. I know that it still remains in the list, even though 1 spoke about this matter last year. Viscount aircraft No. VH-RMP made three trips between Sydney and Canberra on 26th January 1967. I have a list here-
– Is this an Ansett aircraft?
– I am not saying which company was involved because I do not want anyone to think that 1 am picking out a particular company. I am merely saying that this is the kind of condition in which an aircraft is allowed by the Department of Civil Aviation to fly. I have the pilots’ Part
II reports here. I will give the numbers of them so that the Minister may check them. The first is No. 326823. The flight was at 1230 hours. It was flight No. 59 from Sydney to Canberra, and the pilot reported fuel dripping from the vicinity of No. 1 tank. When the aircraftarrived at Canberra the pilot reported the matter, being quite within his rights in doing so, and the engineer’s report was as follows: 50 gallons de-fuelled from No. 2 tank. Also Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to balance loads.
The aircraft took off again from Canberra and flew from Sydney on flight 58 at 1515 hours. The pilot’s report referred again to a check for a leak from No. 1 tank and the engineer’s report stated:
No. 1 fuel tank filler neck nuts tightened. Aircraft towed to check.
The same aircraft flew at 8 p.m. on flight 69 to Canberra. On arriving at Canberra the pilot again reported ‘fuel leaking from No. 1 tank one foot outboard of No. 1 jet pipe’. The engineer’s report stated:
No. 1 tank de-fuelled until leak stopped. Suspect No. 2 cell. Refer to Sydney maintenance.
Then the plane flew back to Sydney where it remained overnight. On arriving at Sydney the pilot again put in a report ‘Check No. 1 tank for fuel leak’. That was report No. 326826. All these reports follow in sequence. The engineer’s report on the overnight service in Sydney said:
Connections check tightened in vicinity of flowmeter. Fuel system topped up to 1300 gallons. No leak evident at figure.
The next day the aircraft flew to Melbourne and another report was submitted concerning leaks. The report of the engineer stated:
Aircraft in Melbourne on 27/1/67 and the following Part II entry noted. Cells 1 and 2 of Tank 1 changed. Leaking.
This was a Viscount aircraft that was permitted to fly between Sydney and Canberra on three occasions and then to Melbourne with a fuel leak. As 1 have said, if the fuel quantity gauge in that aircraft had been unserviceable the pilot would not have known that there was a fuel leak into the wing of the aircraft. I just say this to you, Mr Minister: this is one instrument that is still allowed by the Department of Civil Aviation to be unserviceable, and I think you should immediately issue an instruction that if the fuel quantity gauge is unservice able in an aircraft, that aircraft should not be permitted to leave the ground. The lives of many people are involved. If anything happens to the aircraft it is a matter of criminal negligence on the part of the company concerned. It could be a case of criminal negligence on the part of the Department of Civil Aviation because it permitted the aircraft to fly with that degree of unserviceability. This is why I say that the Department is falling down on its job in not having more checks made on aircraft now flying in Australia.
I am concerned with the safety of aircraft because I fly in them a great deal, as do many honourable members. But I fly with one particular airline and I feel happy about its record. What concerns me mainly is that it is evident that it is comparatively easy for any airline company to have an item specified as a permissible unserviceability. It is not hard to obtain the permission of the Department to have an item in the aircraft recognised as an item of unserviceability. Once this is done it is apparent that the Department does not follow through to see that the regulations are enforced. In this respect the Department is falling down on the job and the Minister is responsible for what his Department does.
We know that the fire which occurred at Mangalore was caused by a rear compressor bearing breaking. In answer to a question the Minister informed me that there are still thirty aircraft flying in Australia with this unmodified rear compressor bearing. Those bearings must be weak yet these aircraft are still flying with them. One airline company is permitted to overhaul its Dart engines at intervals of 5,000 hours. The other company overhauls its Dart engines at intervals of 3,500 hours. The running time of 5,000 hours represents about two years flying for a Viscount aircraft. So notwithstanding the near disaster at Mangalore, that aircraft could fly for the best part of two years before being taken off the run to have the engines overhauled. I do not think this is right. I would not feel safe in an aircraft which I knew was fitted with the unmodified rear compressor bearing. The bearing could break at any time. A fuel line is positioned close to the compressor bearing. One of the fuel lines could break and the fuel mix with the oil. Due to friction caused by the bearing the oil could ignite and it would not be long before there was an uncontrollable fire in the aircraft. For the life of me I cannot see why the Minister or the Department allows aircraft to fly if there is any suggestion that they are unsafe. After all, the lives of many people are at stake. They could be members of Parliament. We all should be concerned about this matter. This is an important issue and merits our earnest consideration. We should not wait for a disaster to show up a fault in an aircraft. We -know that after the Winton disaster action was taken in respect of the Viscount series 800 because something was found to be wrong with the air compressor units.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) said that during the debate on the AddressinReply he referred to a number of subjects, which he has again raised today, and he claimed that I had not taken the opportunity during the Address-in-Reply debate to reply to him. If he had cared to look at the list of speakers in the Address-in-Reply debate he would have seen that I was listed to speak one night at the best time - 8 p.m. - but unfortunately, due to some circumstance during the day, the debate was delayed a little and because a number of maiden speeches had to be made I did not have the opportunity to speak. But I certainly have the opportunity now to correct some of the matters raised by the honourable member.
There is something rather vague about this debate on a matter of urgent public importance. One is given cause to wonder whether the Opposition is really concerned with our aviation safety standards or whether it is endeavouring by its consistent attacks to cause the public to lose confidence in our aviation system. Perhaps the Opposition is more concerned with bringing about a lack of confidence in the system than it is with air cafety. Surely all the responsible nations that praise and envy the standards of safety that are enforced in this country cannot be wrong. How is it that experts from the Department of Civil Aviation are regularly invited to other countries to implement systems similar to ours? How is it that experts from other countries - in some cases technologically advanced countries - come here regularly to see and to learn and go away in many cases pledging most enthusiastically their support for the introduction of some of our measures in their own countries? How is it that Australia’s record of air safety is equal to the best in the world?
I will tell the Opposition why these things are so. Even though honourable members opposite are apparently the only people in Australia who do not believe that we have a high standard of air safety the story should be told in case somebody believes there is substance in the uninformed and incorrect claims that are brought before the House today in this debate. I am sure that the Opposition cannot hope to gain any satisfaction from attempting to sow fear in the minds of the Australian travelling public. The facts speak for themselves. I refer to the chapter on airline safety appearing in the annual report of the Minister for Civil Aviation for 1965-66. I note that the honourable member for East Sydney has on his desk a copy of that report. I note also that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who sits across the table from me, has before him a copy of the report. It reads:
It is reassuring, also, to compare Australia’s airline safety record over the past decade with world-wide safety levels, especially in countries with comparable air transport services.
There follows a graph which compares the number of passenger fatalities per 100m passenger miles in Australian domestic and international airline services for five year periods with figures achieved in similar operations throughout the world and with those achieved in America and Britain. The report continues:
The two most interesting features of this graph are the steady improvement in world airline safety and the pleasing relationship of the Australian figures with those for world-wide operation and, particularly, with those for the two countries acknowledged as leaders in civil aviation development.
That reference is to the United States and the United Kingdom.
The figures support the claim that Australia has achieved a level of airline safety second to none.
The graph referred to appears on page 59 of the report. It is a graphic illustration of
Australia’s airline record, which is being comparatively maintained despite the tragic accident at Winton last September.
In a section headed ‘General Aviation Safety’ on page 62 the report records that in each class of light aircraft operation there has been a continuing reduction in the accident rate, although the number of general aviation accidents and incidents had risen. The reduced rate was achieved because of the very substantial increase in light aircraft activity.
Let me now deal with one aspect that has concerned the honourable member for East Sydney in the past and to which he has referred again today. I refer to the allocation of Department of Civil Aviation safety officers and their hours of work. The honourable member has claimed in the past, as he did again today, that the hours of work of safety officers are proof that full supervision of aircraft is lacking. Departmental safety staff are stationed at certain selected locations. The Department does not and could not endeavour to maintain continuous surveillance of all matters associated with airline safety. The members of the staff are therefore employed on spot checks which are arranged by the Department and in dealing with particular safety problems that arise. They are on call at all times and frequently are required to work outside the normal hours and at weekends. But this is only the Department’s side of safety surveillance work. The airline operators themselves are required to set up extensive safety control systems of their own, specifically for the purpose of ensuring that their activities conform to laid down safety requirements. It is important to appreciate that these systems are based on certification as to airworthiness by highly qualified engineers licensed by the Department of Civil Aviation for these purposes. Licences are only issued after the engineers have passed searching examinations to demonstrate their competence. Moreover, the activities of the airline inspectors and maintenance engineers are the subject of continual surveillance by my departmental officers.
The delegation of responsibility for safety inspection to key staff in the airlines is a practice followed throughout the world, and the results achieved are beyond dispute, due, no doubt, to the sense of responsibility thereby promoted within the airlines. Let me say, however, that at the first indication of any laxity - and we have bad very little cause for action on this ground - my Department takes appropriate action and it is for this purpose that spot checks are made by departmental staff and that regular reports of defects are required from the airlines. This system has been in practice for many years. It is proven, it is practicable, and it is world wide.
The honourable member for East Sydney also referred to his request that he be given a list of the items on the permissive unserviceability list. In my reply to his question, 1 did indicate the position with relation to this matter. 1 am sure that he does not have a full understanding of the position. If be did, he would not have raised the matter as he did today. The permissive unserviceability schedules are incorporated in the maintenance and operations manuals of the airlines and are distributed to all persons who require to consult them. For example, all pilots receive a copy of the operations manual and copies of the maintenance manual. These are available at the maintenance centres of the airline operators. On the other hand, the Department normally limits its demand to two copies of the manuals, one of which is held in the regional office of the area in which the airlines are based while the other is held at the central office of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Viscount and Friendship manuals of Ansett-ANA and Trans-Australia Airlines are held in Melbourne because Melbourne is the base of these two major domestic airlines. They are held in the regional office in Melbourne and in the central office of the Department of Civil Aviation and all responsible people have access to those documents whenever they want them. As I have said to the honourable member, he can view these particular manuals, which consist of thousands of items, at any time. They are in the office in Melbourne. If he wished to see them in Sydney, if he approached one of the airlines, or if he went to one of his pilot friends who have fed him with certain information on these matters, perhaps the necessary answer would be produced for him. As I have said, the offer is still open to the honourable member to view the only two copies which we have, and which are in Melbourne, the next time he is down there.
The honourable member also referred again to the operations of a Viscount aircraft between Sydney and Canberra and Melbourne which was reputed to have flown with leaky fuel tanks. I think the date he mentioned was 26th January. He referred to this matter in the previous debate and he mentioned it again today. So far as I can find, there is no substantiation whatsoever for his assertions in this instance. Certainly the matter has not been reported to my Department as an incident, and it would be most surprising if the pilot of any airline would fly an aircraft which, according to this particular story, was obviously unserviceable.
I think we should conclude that if there were some particular problem there the pilot, who is the final authority in this particular case, would refuse to fly the aircraft. He has the authority to do that. However, as a specific flight has been mentioned, I shall make further inquiries.
I did make inquiries after the matter had been raised on a previous occasion in this House but there are no reports of this particular incident in my Department. The aircraft was flown by a responsible pilot who has the authority to refuse to fly it if he feels there is any danger involved by flying it. First of all, I should refute such an implication as was made by the honourable member for East Sydney - the implication that a pilot would be victimised by the company if he undertook an action relating to the safety of not only himself but also the passengers on the aircraft. That was a shocking accusation to make against a pilot. The pilot is the final authority in such cases. He is given that authority by regulation. All pilots know they have this particular authority and they exercise it. Regulation 219 (3) provides that the pilot of a commercial aircraft shall have final authority as to the disposition of the aircraft when he is in command. Regulation 225 provides that the pilot has an obligation to ensure that the aircraft” is airworthy before he flies it. I am sure this accusation against the pilot is not appreciated by the industry or by the public and it is shocking that it should be made under privilege in this House.
Before I conclude I should refer to the growth rate, in association with the safety factor, of aviation in Australia because it throws a very interesting sidelight on the safety factor in relation to the industry here. The growth rate .can be assessed from the number of aircraft operating today. Looking at the history of this development, we find that in 1955 there were 807 aircraft operating. Today 2,700 aircraft are operating. During this period, the domestic airline operators have introduced jet services which have a fine safety record indeed. Australia is the third country in the world in domestic airline traffic. The United States of America is the first and Canada is the second but, on a per capita basis, we are second only to the United States.
Between 1955 and 1964 the number of ton-miles flown increased from 123m to 200m. This represents an increase of 60%. At the present time, five million passengers are carried each year compared with 2) million passengers in 1961. If there was any basic inadequacy in the airworthiness systems of Australia, surely the pressure of this growth in aviation in this country would have found it out. Perhaps we can say that the safety system which we have adopted in Australia is universal in its principles, except that we go further than most other countries do. That we do go further than most other countries is borne out by the very point raised by the honourable member for East Sydney in connection with the Viscount situation following the incident at Mangalore. The regulations now applied in Australia with relation to Viscount aircraft are stricter than those applying to this type of aircraft in the United Kingdom, where it is manufactured. I think there has been sufficient in what I have said to refute completely the imputations and allegations made by the honourable member for East Sydney in his speech.
– I feel that all honourable members should congratulate the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) upon, and commend him for, the amount of work and research which he has put into what he considers and indeed what all honourable members on this side of the Parliament consider are failings within the Department of Civil Aviation and within the airlines system of Australia, because of which Australian air passengers are not being given the maximum air safety to which they are entitled. It is all very well for the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) to come along here this after-noon and make a prepared speech to the Parliament in which he gives us a prepared resume of what the Government considers -and what he considers is being done to provide the air safety which is necessary for travellers today. I think honourable members should commend the honourable member for East Sydney. The Minister should not be critical of what he has done but should have a look at what he puts forward, in a constructive manner, and not try to destroy what he says and not to try to ridicule him. I know from discussions that I have had with the honourable member that he is concerned about this matter. It was only because of a flight into Canberra some time ago that these things were brought to his attention and he began to make inquiries.
The Minister for Civil Aviation, in his reply, quoted from the 1965-66 report of the Department of Civil Aviation. After all, why should he not quote from it? In theory he is the author of it and his Department prepared it. The authors were the same people who wrote the speech that the Minister made this afternoon, so why is he not entitled to quote from his own document? If the Minister does not believe what is in that report then that is a poor lookout. Let us examine the paragraph in that report to which he referred. On page 58, under the heading ‘Air Safety Investigation’ it states that the total number of accidents had risen by 65%, from 91 in 1964-65 to 150 in 1965-66, while the number of fatalities increased from 20 to 31. The position is quite clear: what we are putting forward does warrant investigation and consideration by the Minister as to why the number of fatalities on air line services today is increasing. Why should there riot be a full inquiry into air safety?
After all, day by day we are told that new systems are being introduced which make flying much safer. New types of aircraft are being introduced which, because of their modern design, are supposed to be much safer than the old kites we used to travel in. My colleagues used to tell me about the times when they flew into Canberra in Convairs and DC3’s. They used to tell me how it was nothing, when coming into Canberra from Melbourne, Sydney, or some other point, for refreshments, tea and so on, to be thrown all over them. How rare this is today. This is an indication of the, improvement in aircraft and the facilities available for air travel. Yet the facts are there in the annual report of the Department, showing that the number of accidents increased by 65%.
The Minister questioned the statement made by the honourable member for East Sydney concerning a leaking fuel tank. The honourable member quoted the number of the aircraft concerned - Viscount VHRMP. He gave the day on which this aircraft flew - 26th January 1967. He did not mention the pilot’s name, but the information is available. If the Minister wants to check 1 am confident the honourable member for East Sydney will be happy to furnish the information he has. He has made the charge but the Minister has not bothered to go to him and ask for the details. The Minister merely asked the airline concerned: Did this occur?’ The airline official concerned said: ‘No’, and the Minister accepted that answer. I do not think that that is good enough.
With regard to safety officers, once again we are indebted to the questions asked by the honourable member for East Sydney. Safety officers at airports work Public Service office hours, from 8.30 a.m. to 4.51 p.m. Monday to Friday. Honourable members should not misunderstand me; I am not saying this in order to castigate the officers. They are employed by the DCA and the DCA is responsible for the hours they work. What happens about spot checking - which is supposed to take place - before 8.30 a.m. and after 4.51 p.m.? There is no spot checking after 4.51 in the afternoon and before 8.30 in the mornings, Monday to Friday, and there is none at all on Saturdays and Sundays. What about this, Mr Minister? If it is necessary to have these officers available between 8.30 a.m. and 4.51 p.m. Monday to Friday why is it not necessary to have them available at other hours of the day? I ask following speakers in this debate to answer these questions if they can. Opposition members could bring forward numerous incidents that have occurred. We remember very vividly - I do particularly, because I was on one of the aircraft - that during the Budget session in 1965, because of a high wind that had been blowing right across Australia, which caused untold damage everywhere, aircraft were brought into Canberra after the airport had been closed by the Canberra air controller. He closed the airport but some high official of the Department of Civil Aviation overruled his decision and the airport was reopened. Honourable members who came in on those aircraft that morning never want to go through such an experience again. The Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) is laughing. But he told me of one occasion when the aircraft he was flying flipped over in a storm and he was upside down.
– That was my own aircraft.
– That was the Minister’s own aircraft. That is all right if a person is in a little kite, but I do not want to be flipped over in one of these big aircraft. That is what I am trying to avoid by speaking today. The aircraft I was in on that morning came into the airport like a crab. It came in sideways in order to counter the effects of the wind. Yet somebody created this situation by overruling the decision made by the departmental officer at the airport. I could refer to a number of other close squeaks. Members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Public Works Committee had a very narrow escape coming out of Mount Isa a couple of years ago. After the aircraft took off it was noticed that fuel was dripping from the wings. After the attention of the air hostess had been directed to this the pilot landed straight away. These things should not happen. Sufficient precautions should be taken on the ground to obviate these problems.
There are a few other matters I would like to refer to. One is the matter of pilots being stood over. An important official of the airline pilots federation said in a statement to me that it was a reasonably common occurrence for pilots to be asked to fly aircraft which had allowable deficiencies about which they were not happy. Certain faults are allowable deficiencies. But non-technical airline representatives often say to the pilots concerned: ‘We cannot understand why you will not fly the aircraft’. Pilots are then placed in the position of having to decide whether they want to be responsible for 20, 50 or 70 passengers having to wait for anything from one to four hours while the aircraft is inspected. Does the Minister for Civil
Aviation deny that the airline pilots federation has been endeavouring for some considerable time to have a review made of allowable deficiencies in aircraft? They believe that the list of allowable deficiencies should be reduced. One airline pilot was written to recently by his employers telling him that if he continued his present attitude the company would have to consider his future with that company. The Opposition emphasises particularly that we are not making an attack on any of the airlines in particular, but we are concerned about air safety as a whole.
Another matter is that many airports today have no let-down aids. Some have aids which are not sufficiently sophisticated. For example, Kingsford Smith airport can bring aircraft down to approximately 300 feet of the ground using such aids. At Cooma airport, which has the worst weather conditions of any airport in Australia, the poorest form of let-down aid is installed, and it has the lowest possible classification. Today no country airport - and I emphasise that - has visual glide slopes for night operations. The airline pilots federation has been asking for this aid for some considerable time. After a conference held recently between the Department and the federation this subject was informally raised and an officer of the Department said that the Department could not install this type of aid because it was not getting sufficient finance from the Government. This means that the safe approach to airports which could result from the installation of visual aids is jeopardised because the Government is not prepared to make sufficient money available. The answer to the problem is this: even if air travellers today have to pay a little extra, by way of an increase in fares, for this aid to be available, none of them would object because it would mean that this major problem would be overcome. If lack of finance is holding up the provision of safety facilities in Australia for air travellers it is the responsibility of the Minister -and of the Government to ensure that sufficient money is made available.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Not only must 1 oppose the views expressed by the
Opposition, but my experience as an air traveller compels me to pay the highest possible tribute to the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of the measures it has laid down to ensure the maintenance and development of the very high standards of safety which govern the operation of our airlines within Australia and overseas. Procedures for ensuring the airworthiness of Viscount aircraft are far more rigorous in Australia than anywhere else in the world, including Britain where the Viscount is made- Australia has an outstanding record in the field of air safety. In the past fifteen and a half years our airlines have flown more than 50,000,000 passengers and have experienced only three accidents involving passenger fatalities. This record is unequalled anywhere else in the field of aviation. It is a record of which Australia may feel tremendously proud. It is a record which must surely reflect the adequacy of the measures that are being taken by the Department of Civil Aviation in the tremendously important field of air safety. Our airlines now are carrying more than 5,000,000 passengers a year as against just over 2,000,000 in 1961. This dramatic growth in air travel could not have taken place against a background of unsafe flying conditions. The maintenance and intensification of safety factors in Australian commerical aviation are in the most capable and conscientious bands when they are in the hands of the Department of Civil Aviation.
As some honourable members know, prior to entering the Parliament I spent ten years as a member of the Australian Wheat Board. I represented Western Australia. This necessitated an air flight from Perth to Melbourne and back every second week year in and year out, or approximately 100,000 miles of air travel every year for more than ten years. I travelled extensively overseas as a member of selling missions. In this sphere I had the pleasure of flying with Qantas ‘Empire Airways Ltd as well as the opportunity of using many of the better known overseas airlines. In one instance I travelled in a Russian aircraft which had a Chinese crew. For thirteen years prior to 1963 I represented Western Australia on other national organisations, which required extensive air travel throughout the length and breadth of the Australian continent from as far north as Cairns in Queensland to Albany in the south western corner of Western Australia. Only as recently as the end of last year I travelled around the world by air, deliberately using as many different airlines as possible and visiting as many different countries as time would permit. My object in doing so was, amongst other things, to gain some first hand experience of the safety standards and attention to passenger comfort that were employed by our competitors in the very big business of international air travel.
Therefore I speak today as a person who has had considerable experience of conditions which apply overseas, and as a person who has logged literally millions of miles of air travel. Unlike the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) I approach this subject against a background of extensive air travel. Indeed, the electorate of East Sydney and Canberra are more adjacent to each other than many places throughout my own vast electorate where of necessity I must travel in my own motor vehicle. Against this background I can only repeat my great admiration and respect for the work of the Department of Civil Aviation in this important matter of aircraft safety.
As an instance of what we require in the field of safety in relation to pilot training, let me mention that only last Monday I found myself in conversation with an old friend who learned to fly in the early days of the war under the Empire air training scheme. This man flew almost every known type of aircraft in operation at that time. On his discharge he joined one of our commercial lines as a pilot, and he has flown most operational types of aircraft in commercial use in Australia since that time. Last Monday he was virtually back at school again doing a complete conversion course in the techniques of flying the new all jet type of aircraft now coming into general use in Australia.
I have always been tremendously impressed with the painstaking work of the Department of Civil Aviation in its thorough and far reaching inquiry and investigation into even the most minor mishap which from time to time occurs within our air services. I know from personal observation and experience that the Department’s determination to probe even the most unlikely cause of accidents with a view to laying down measures to prevent a recurrence has been a major factor in the maintenance of our excellent reputation in the field of air safety and has done much to popularise and enhance the extensive use of air travel in a continent where distances have in the past been a great handicap to progress and development.
My experience overseas last year and conversation with other people have led me to come firmly to the conclusion that the great popularity of Qantas in the field of overseas air travel stems very largely from the safety factors that are laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation and which are used as a guide for our overseas airline. My association with airlines personnel, ranging from the most senior captain down to the most junior technician, has convinced me that they are a body of men - I think I can include the hostesses - who are dedicated to their work. In fairness to these people, I have never heard them complain of what at times must have been to them irksome delays and frustrations in the performance of their duties on the score of making absolutely sure that an aircraft was 100% airworthy before it was permitted to take off and that the safety and comfort of the passengers were unlikely to be prejudiced in any way through conditions which could well have been noted before the aircraft was permitted to leave the ground.
The work of the Department of Civil Aviation in its efforts to keep abreast of overseas developments in the field of air safety is well known. Officers of the Department regularly go abroad for study as a means of familiarising themselves with the latest techniques. In conclusion may I say that not only do I condemn the criticism that is presently before the House, but I deeply regret that the Opposition has seen fit to raise and publicise the matter in this way. I only hope that the damage which I think it can and must do to the great reputation for safety which has been built up over many years in Australia and overseas for our Australian air services can eventually be retrieved.
– It appears that the considered position of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) and his supporters in this House is that any member of the Opposition, or anybody anywhere else in Australia, who at any time criticises the Department of Civil Aviation or suggests that there could possibly be any improvement in the way airline safety in Australia is administered is, to use the Minister’s own words in his attack on the speech made by the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine), not concerned with safety but is out to cause a loss of confidence in the public. I am sure that the Minister has been advised by the Department to say this because he would never have thought of it himself. When a Minister who is responsible for something as intimate and as sensitive as airline safety assumes that position, we have a very serious state of affairs indeed.
The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), who preceded me in this debate, told us about the air hostesses and senior pilots he has known and the airline people to whom he has spoken during his travels all over the world. If the honourable member for Moore has never been told by any pilot or by anyone else that there is some concern about airline safety in this country, then I submit that they did not trust him. During the last twelve months I have had nine separate visits from pilots employed by airlines in Australia, all expressing their concern about the state of airline safety. I have not adopted the practice of making speeches on motions for the adjournment of the House or of asking questions about this matter because I know what the Minister’s reaction would be. He would brush it aside. He would have nothing to say in answer except: ‘You are out to cause a loss of confidence in the public’.
The honourable member for East Sydney put a number of specific proposals to this House over a month ago, but on that occasion the Minister was not able to intervene in the debate to make a reply. I emphasise that the Minister suggested that this matter was raised for the purpose of causing a loss of confidence in the Australian public. However, the Minister has taken over a month to answer the specific matters raised by the honourable member for East Sydney. The Minister could not have been very concerned about a loss of confidence in the public. He was present in the House during the debate about a month ago and he allowed a number of maiden speeches to be made. He is responsible for air safety, not for facilitating the making of maiden speeches by his supporters in the House.
It is his responsibility to answer specific questions, but he did not do so. Would he have answered those, specific questions if this subject had not been raised in the House as a matter of urgency? Of course he would not have done so. If the Minister has this passive attitude to his responsibilities then he is not a suitable man to administer his portfolio. He has shown today that it is not his concern to probe into these matters; he leaves it to his Department. He came in here with prepared pieces of paper supplied to him by the departmental officers. He read them to us, and he did not even read them well. It is not his concern to exercise his responsibility as a Minister; he leaves it to the Department.
We have reached the stage when the only answer the Minister has to many of our criticisms is that Australia’s record of air safety is the highest in the world. This may well be, but I have two things to say about that suggestion. Firstly, Australia’s weather and geography are about the best in the world, too. Those factors have much to do with Australia’s record of air safety. We have no 1’2,000 ft mountains and we do not have sudden storms such as occur in many other countries. Those factors, too, contribute much to safety in Australia, as the honourable member for Moore should know, particularly if he has travelled all over the world for the Australian Wheat Board as he told us he has. If Australia’s record of air safety is the best in the world, well and good. If this is so, I am pleased that it is so. .We want to keep it that way, and we want also to improve our air safety. However, does the Minister or his Department - and we all know that his Department speaks through the Minister because the Minister does not speak as a man himself - believe that there can be no room for improvement in Australia? Have we reached the pinnacle of perfection? Have we reaced the stage where any criticism of the Department of Civil Aviation puts ona beyond the pale and is in some way unpatriotic or is an immoral stand to take?
A number of specific points were put to the Minister by the honourable member for East Sydney but the Minister has not answered adequately any one of them. Let me recount them briefly. Firstly, the honourable member for East Sydney said that’ no safety staff was available in Canberra. Does the Minister consider that Canberra airport is not big enough or busy enough to have a member of the safety staff available there? The Minister gave no consideration to whether or not safety staff is needed at Canberra. He simply brushed the suggestion aside. The honourable member for East Sydney said that at Mascot the safety staff came on duty at 8.30 a.m. and went off duty at 4.50 p.m. Is there any relation between what may cause accidents and the hours of 8.30 a.m. and 4.50 p.m.? Is the situation such that safety staff is likely to be needed during those times or is it reasonable to expect the hours to be staggered somewhat to enable safety staff to be available for a longer period each day? The Minister has not considered any of these points or the relevance of what the honourable member for East Sydney had to say about them. Reference was made to spot check inspections. At first the Minister said that members of the safety staff can themselves decide to go and make a spot check. We find that the Minister was not right when he said that. Spot checks are made only at the direction of the Department, but at what level of the Department? Is the officer in charge in Sydney entitled to decide when and where to make a spot check, or does the decision have to come from the all-high? Where does the decision come from? Who makes decisions about spot checks?
The honourable member for East Sydney referred to a list of unserviceabilities. The Minister had a lot to say in trying to answer this point. He said that a manual listed the unserviceabilities. The manual is available to pilots and to maintenance centres, but if a member of this Parliament wants to inspect one of the manuals he has to go to Melbourne to do so. He must do this even if he is a Sydney member. Does this mean that nobody on the staff of the Department of Civil Aviation in Sydney has a manual? It strongly suggested that no-one has. II the Department in Sydney has not a manual how does it know what is unserviceable and what is not unserviceable? Does it have to rely on a manual carried by an AnsettANA pilot or a TAA pilot to discover what is unserviceable? Does it have to go and beg one from a pilot or from a maintenance centre to discover what is or what is not unserviceable? Why are these books - apparently sensitive and important - available only in Melbourne? It seems to me that in this respect the Minister’s reply was not a defence but a condemnation of the practice that is involved. The honourable member for East Sydney gave details of leaks from a fuel tank in aircraft VH-RMP. He gave the number of the pilot’s report. He presented this information over a month ago, but the Minister for Civil Aviation and his Department have been unable to discover it in the meantime. If in a month’s investigation they cannot discover a report that was made, the details of which were given to this House, how can they discover anything at all? If they cannot do better than this in discovering details of reports that have been made available in this House how can they discover what caused the crash at Winton? It is no wonder that they have taken six, seven, eight months or whatever the period is to get to the stage of having an inquiry. It shows that something needs speeding up in the investigation procedures.
The honourable member for East Sydney said that the Minister told him that thirty aircraft were still flying with rear compressor bearings that had not been altered. How many are flying today? The Minister did not tell us that or whether the aircraft have to wait for their own overhaul periods. He did not say why one company is servicing engines every 5,000 hours and another company every 3,500 hours. None of the points raised were answered at all. The only reply was that Australia has the safest flying record in the world. The Minister has failed completely to discharge his responsibilities.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I believe that emerging from this debate is an attempt by the Opposition to argue against the safety procedures adopted by the Department of Civil Aviation and, indeed, by the aircraft industry generally. I do not blame the Opposition for bringing a matter forward if it believes sincerely that something is wrong. If such is the position then by all means members opposite should discuss it, but the arguments they have presented to the House today in actual fact represent an attempt to hang a hat on a peg which virtually is not there, or if it is there has only a stub on which there is no chance in the world of hanging any tangible hat of argument, if I can put it metaphorically in that way.
Let us deal specifically with the questions raised by the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine). I am not really interested in what was said by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) or the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) because they have adopted the role of debating hacks in this discussion. They have supported the remarks of the honourable member for East Sydney but have brought no new matter forward to substantiate his argument. The honourable member for Newcastle saw fit to try to persuade the House to congratulate the honourable member for East Sydney for his sense of public responsibility. I will certainly not go as far as that, for I am more interested in the propositions of the honourable member for East Sydney who believes that some aspects of safety in civil aviation need attention. I do not agree, but let us examine those things that he believes need attention. The facts have been very ably outlined by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) and by my colleague, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey).
It is clear that the safety system used by the Department of Civil Aviation is one of the most effective systems in the world. Before I come to matters of detail, let us consider some of the figures. Australian airlines have carried fifty million passengers in the past fifteen-and-a-half years and in that period there have been only three fatal accidents involving passengers. No other country can boast of such a record. Let us try to picture the airline industry in this country as it was fifteen-and-a-half years ago and compare it with the industry that we have today. The evolution of the industry in that period is astonishing. No other industry can claim to have had a similar development. We have seen significant changes and the growth from one power system to another and yet another - the pure jet which is of a far more complex technical nature than is either the turboprop or conventional piston engine. In addition, our airlines now carry five million passengers a year. This is an increase of more than 100% since 1961 - not 1951. Despite this development, we have maintained the safety record of which we are proud and which has been given in detail by the Minister and the honourable member for Moore.
The honourable member for Newcastle was derogatory in referring to our airlines and he endeavoured to support his arguments by quoting from page 59 of the report of the Department of Civil Aviation for this year. He claimed that the accident rate had increased by 65%. He conveniently overlooked the need to compare the statistics he used with the increase in airline activity, the number of aircraft being used and the number of passengers being carried. I suggest to the honourable member for Newcastle that if he makes the comparison I have suggested he will find that his 65% is almost eliminated or certainly is reduced substantially. He also conveniently forgot to mention other sections of the report referring to the same subject. Another important factor is mentioned on page 59. Had he observed the page opposite he would have found there a graph showing the outstanding safety record of Australian airline operations compared with that of airline operators in the rest of the world. If he cares to look also at page 63 he will see a graph of our astonishing record in all phases of domestic and private air operations. But again he conveniently forgets these facts in an attempt to press home a minor point of political advantage.
In the short time available to me I should like to deal with the point made by Opposition members on the availability of examining officers. The honourable member for Yarra also referred to this point. The Department of Civil Aviation has a number of qualified officers who, in addition to carrying out tests on aircraft, also adminis ter the second level of the system. On the second level engineers of the airline company are taught, tested and licenced to supervise aircraft maintenance. These officers must undertake a series of courses and examinations before they can qualify for a licence. After obtaining this licence these are the people in the airline companies who are responsible for conducting the day to day spot tests. Opposition members throughout the debate have tried to derogate them.
– Why does-
– Excuse me. The honourable member has had his say and I will now press my points against the very weak arguments he has presented. The term safety officers’ was used. This is a general and misleading term. There are thousands of air control officers and Might service officers in this category. Opposition members tried to include them in this field of activity. The correct designation of the officer concerned with checking is aircraft engineer. Let us move on quickly to the question of reports on aircraft accidents. The honourable member for East Sydney, in dealing with this subject, suggested that the Department and the Minister were trying to evade the issue. The fact is that the accident in Winton occurred miles away from habitation and from observation, and time has to be taken to collect all the parts and bring them together under the one roof for the meticulous examination that the Department conducts. I would be disappointed if the officers of the Department did not take as much time as they have in performing their tasks. The honourable member compared the time that has been taken with the five months required to investigate the tragic aircraft accident in Botany Bay in 1961. The investigation of the Winton accident has taken a little more time, but it was away from the general air traffic stream and from general observation. More work was involved in bringing all the parts together under the one roof.
The honourable member consistently referred to service checks. I hope that my explanation of the system has been sufficient to clear up his doubts. Obviously he did not take the trouble to find out what the system was or he chose to avoid doing so in order to make his point.
Service checks are not insufficient, as the honourable member has claimed. In fact they are available for twenty-four hours a day. I do not claim that they are done by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation for twenty-four hours a day, but I do claim that they are done through the system that I outlined earlier.
The honourable member referred to the incident at Mangalore involving a bearing. Again he tried to create an aura of suspicion and implied that aircraft with this problem are still flying. I do not know whether he has taken the trouble to find out what has happened, but the fact is that the Department of Civil Aviation has insisted on a magnetic sump plug being placed beneath the bearing, and this is subject to a maximum time check of fifteen hours. The Department was the first authority to take this action. It has gone further in ensuring the safe operation of the Dart engine in Viscount aircraft than has any other authority in. the world, including the country of the manufacturer, the United Kingdom. The plug is subject to inspection every fifteen hours, and this system will be used until the bearing is modified. The modification of the bearing is new under consideration, but this requires research, engineering and testing for maximum beneficial results.
I would have liked to have referred to a number of other points. I would not like the House to have the impression that I have avoided any of the points made by the honourable member for East Sydney. He referred to fuel quantity tanks and their checking and to the overhaul hours. Referring specifically to overhaul hours, the point is that it suits Trans-Australia Airlines to operate on one span of hours between overhauls and it suits Ansett-ANA to operate on another. The fact is that almost every airline operator in the world has a longer span between overhauls than Ansett-ANA does. I presume that the honourable member is criticising AnsettANA. This discloses one of the intentions behind his motion. Unquestionably the arguments that we have put here today will establish that the safety checks used by the Department of Civil Aviation are ample and I am sure that we have rebutted the arguments of the Opposition.
– Order! The honourable member’s lime has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I moveThat the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purposes of this Bill are to amend the formula under which the annual financial assistance grants to the States are determined and to authorise the payment of a special, non-recurring grant of $5m to the States in 1966-67. Both of these measures were agreed upon during discussions on Commonwealth and State financial relations which were held with the Premiers of the States on 16th February.
Honourable members may recall that the former system 0£ tax reimbursement and supplementary grants to compensate the States for loss of income tax revenue arising from the adoption of the uniform tax system was replaced in 1959 by arrangements for the payment of financial assistance grants. Under these arrangements, the financial assistance grants were varied from year to year by reference to the two main factors affecting current expenditures of State Governments, namely, changes in population and wages. In consequence, as State populations grew and as wage costs rose, the grants increased proportionately. In addition, that formula included a ‘betterment’ factor in the form of a 10% addition to the percentage increase in average wages. This addition was intended to help the States to raise the standard and extend the range o,” their services to the community. This formula determined the grants from 1959- 60 to 1964-65.
The present arrangements, which it was agreed at a Premiers Conference in June 1965 should operate for a period of five years, provide that the annual financial assistance grant payable to each State should continue to increase in proportion to variations in population and increases in average wages. However, it was decided to improve the betterment factor by fixing it at 1.2% per annum regardless of the size of the increase in average wages; under the previous formula the betterment factor had the effect of increasing the grants by an average of only 0.4% per annum and it had the disadvantage that it fluctuated from year to year in line with fluctuations in average wages.
The Commonwealth also proposed that, in order to reduce the time lag before changes in population and wages were reflected :n the grants, more up-to-date statistics for these two items should be used in calculating the grants. Specifically, it was proposed that the increase in average wages used to determine the grant for a financial year should be that for the year ending March of that financial year - instead of that for the preceding financial year - and that the increase in population used should be the increase during the year ending December in the financial year, instead of the increase during the preceding financial year.
The proposal to up-date the population statistics was accepted by the States and incorporated in the present formula. Although the States were generally in favour of reducing the time lag in average wages, they did not support this proposed change at that time because, in that event, their 1965-66 grants would have been determined without reference to the large rise in average wages which occurred in 1964-65.
There is no doubt that the present grants formula constitutes a significant improvement on the previous formula. Over the period of the previous grants arrangements the financial assistance grants increased at an average annual rate of about 7% per annum, which was slightly less than the rate at which the gross national product increased. The betterment factor of 1.2% in the present formula should ensure that, over a period of years, the financial assistance grants to the States will increase at a faster rate than the economy as a whole.
At the Premiers Conference held last February, the Premiers indicated that they were concerned about two sets of problems - one relating to longer term aspects of Commonwealth and State financial relations and the other relating to their immediate budget problems. In the time available, it was not possible to discuss the longer term aspects in any detail. On the longer term problems, the main thesis put forward by the Premiers was that, on the basis of their experience in recent years, the States would need additional financial resources - in the form or more liberal Commonwealth grants or access to new fields of State taxation - if they were to meet the increasing demands of the community for State services. It was agreed that the longer term problems in the field of Commonwealth and State financial relations would be considered further at a Premiers Conference to be held towards the end of the current financial year.
As for their immediate financial problems, the Premiers indicated that, despite the additional revenue raising efforts which the State Governments had made this year, they would be faced with quite substantial budget deficits if more Commonwealth help were not forthcoming; they pointed out that their budget results this year would be worse than estimated because of higher costs arising from the Arbitration Commission’s decision last January to award increased margins to metal trade employees. Taken in conjunction with the increase in the basic wage announced last July, it was clear that margins increases would result in a relatively large increase in the wage costs of the States in 1966-67. At the same time, it was pointed out that, because of the time lag in the average wages element of the formula, the financial assistance grants for 1966-67 were being determined by reference to the relatively smaller increase in average wages in 1965-66.
In these circumstances, we considered it appropriate to repeat the offer made by the Commonwealth in June 1965 to reduce the time lag in the average wages adjustment. As a further contribution to the special budget problems facing the States this year, we also agreed to make available this year a non-recurring grant of $5m to be apportioned among the States in the same proportion as the formula grants. The Premiers warmly accepted these proposals and the present Bill is designed to implement them.
The precise amounts which would be payable to the States under this new legislation will not be known until the relevant statistics - particularly the figure of average wages for the year ending 3 1st March 1967 - are available. At the time of the Premiers Conference it was estimated tentatively that the proposed revision of the formula would produce an additional amount of $8m for the States this year. It now seems more likely that the addition will be just over $6m; in that event, after taking account of the proposed non-recurring grant of $5m, the effect of this Bill would be to provide the States with additional grants of about Slim this year. I commend the Bill to honourable members. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the following table in Hansard:
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes amendments to the age allowance provisions of the income tax law. These provisions may apply to men aged 65 years or more and women aged 60 years or more if they are residents of Australia.
For the current financial year, the age allowance exempts from tax an eligible aged person whose net income does not exceed $1,040. In the case of a married couple who meet the prescribed tests, exemption is provided if their combined net income is not greater than $1,950. A measure of relief is provided also by the age allowance where the net income is somewhat in excess of those exemption limits. The maximum income levels to which marginal relief is granted are $1,221 and $2,882 for single and married persons respectively.
As honourable members are aware, a Bill to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1966 was recently introduced in this House. Under that Bill it is proposed to increase by $156 per annum the means test for age pension purposes as from the first pension pay day after the Bill receives the royal assent. It is anticipated that there will be five pension pay days in the period from the date on which that legislation becomes operative to 30th June 1967. On a pro rata basis, what is, in effect, the permissible income will be increased by $30 for that period.
At present, the exemption limits for the age allowance are correlated with the sum of the full age pension and the maximum amount of permissible income for the purposes of the age pension. In order to maintain that position, this Bill proposes an amendment of the Income Tax Act 1966 to increase by $30 the exemption limits for the age allowance. The new limits will, therefore, be $1,070 for a single person and $1,980 for a married couple. Consequential adjustments of the maximum net incomes to which marginal relief is granted are also proposed by the Bill. The new income levels for this purpose will be $1,264 for a single person and $2,958 for a married couple.
Further consequential adjustments are proposed to the special provisions for certain aged persons contained in the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Act 1966. The amendments proposed will have effect in respect of income derived by aged persons during the current financial year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
Mr ADERMANN (Fisher- Minister for
Primary Industry) [4.43]- 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The current five-year dairying industry stabilisation plan, which is the fourth such successive plan, is due to terminate on 30th June next. In his policy speech on 8th November 1966, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) stated that it would be the Government’s policy, if returned to office, to consult with industry bodies on a further five-year plan. This policy was given the endorsement of the Australian electorate.
As an element of each of the five-year plans which have operated over the past twenty years, successive Commonwealth Governments have provided a production bounty for the benefit of the Australian dairying industry. Such a provision is regarded as being a sound investment in a vital area of primary production. The aim of the bounty is to maintain at reasonable levels the cash returns received by dairy farmers who supply milk and cream for manufacturing purposes. Moreover, the fact that the farmers receive such returns through the operation of the bounty means that the prices of butter and cheese paid by Australian consumers can be held down to levels that would otherwise not be possible. The dividends from the provision of bounty can be clearly seen in increased production, improved productivity and increased foreign exchange earnings from the export sales of our dairy products in the face of the keen competition that exists in the international trading of these products.
In October last, representatives of the industry submitted proposals for a five-year stabilisation plan to begin on 1st July next immediately after the end of the current plan. The Government looked at these proposals in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement on the dairying industry and decided on the plan which I shall now outline. On the matter of bounty, I am pleased to announce that the Government has decided to allocate for each of the five years of the new plan a sum of $27m as bounty on butter and cheese and related butterfat products produced in Australia. This was the amount provided for each year of the current plan. Under the existing legislation, which authorises the payment of bounty and specifies the procedure to be followed in disbursing the bounty to dairy farmers, bounty is payable only until 30th June 1967.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the provision of the legislation to provide for the continuation of the payment of the bounty on the production of butter, cheese and other related products containing butterfat for a further five years ending on 30th June 1972. The Government has decided also that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for each of the five years of the new plan. The Government’s decision in this regard is reflected in a Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill which I shall introduce in conjunction with this Bill and which I would wish to be considered concurrently with this Bill.
The bounties provided for in this Bill and its complementary Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill are not, of course, the only features of the plan but they are the only two that require immediate legislation Those points of the scheme that will ultimately require arrangements between the Commonwealth Government, some State governments and industry bodies cannot be spelt out in legislation, at least at this stage. The Government has decided also to continue for the duration of the plan the principle of underwriting equalisation values for butter and cheese at levels which will enable the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee through the factories to make a reasonable first payment, including bounty, to dairy farmers.
The level at which equalisation values are to be underwritten will he determined each year. For the first year of the new stabilisation plan, 1967-68, the values will be underwritten at a level which will enable factories with average manufacturing costs to pay producers 34c per lb commercial butter basis. This is an increase of approximately lc per lb over the rate which has been underwritten since the inception of the arrangement in 1958.
The underwriting arrangement was never intended to be a price support measure and the Government does not intend to underwrite a figure in any year which is going to involve it in a residual financial liability. If returns in any year are estimated to fall, then the level at which returns will be underwritten will also fall. The industry is aware of this and appreciates that the value of the arrangement lies in the ability of the Equalisation Committee to make higher initial interim payments than would be otherwise possible. In its submission to the Government the industry made certain recommendations seeking measures of assistance specifically to aid marginal producers to build up their properties to profitable working units or, in some cases, to leave the industry.
By instituting the Commonwealth Development Bank, by establishing the term loan funds and by setting up a farm development loan fund administered by the trading banks to supplement the previously existing sources of farm finance, I believe that this Government has ensured that economically viable dairy farmers, in common with other primary producers, have access to finance for soundly based investment to increase farm efficiency and farm profitability. But there is a group of marginal dairy producers whose farms fall into a different category. These are farms which, for a number of reasons, commonly because they are too small, are not able under normal circumstances to become payable propositions with today’s production methods and today’s markets. If such people are to share in the advantages of increased living standards in our country they will need to be helped. For some this may be to enable them, if they so desire, to leave the industry to take up some other occupation. For others it may be in the form of assistance in the reconstruction of farms to the stage where they can be operated on a payable basis, whether in dairying or in some other line of production.
The Government has agreed in principle to assisting the industry with respect to the problem of the marginal dairy farmer but the ways in which this help can most effectively be given have yet to be worked out. Much thought has still to be given to the practicable ways and means to achieve this end and there will of course need to be discussions with the industry and with State Governments. Consequently the Government feels that at this stage it need only signify to the industry that it is willing to provide assistance to high cost and marginal producers. At the same time the Government will ensure that there will not be any undue delays in getting such an important scheme under way.
With the view of further improving the economic position of the industry and of overcoming some of the problems of the changing marketing patterns for dairy products the industry also recommended that Commonwealth assistance be given, on the one hand, to Australian factories to develop facilities for diversifying production away from butter, and, on the other, to the Australian Dairy Produce Board to expand its overseas milk recombining plants. In this respect where it can be demonstrated that funds are not available from normal financial sources the Government will be prepared to examine applications by factories or by the Board for a Commonwealth loan or guarantee.
Now that I have outlined new arrangements which will operate during the new five year plan I should like to turn to a further matter, which is of major importance to the dairying industry and which has received considerable publicity lately. I refer to the quotas imposed by the State Governments on table margarine production. All members are aware of the buttermargarine controversy which has engaged considerable public attention for some time. This controversy arose out of the prosecution by the New South Wales Government of Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd, a holder of a New South Wales table margarine quota. The history of the prosecution of this company is well known. It culminated in the refusal by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of special leave for the company to appeal against the unanimous judgment of the Australian High Court that New South Wales legislation had been contravened. During the course of the litigation and since, the Marrickville company has conducted an extensive public relations campaign aimed at arousing public support for its cause and bringing pressure on the New South Wales Government to increase or abandon quotas. I am sure honourable members are familiar with the Marrickville campaign.
The Federal Government is not statutorily involved in table margarine production quotas but through the Australian Agricultural Council the Federal Government provides a forum for discussion between State Ministers for Agriculture on margarine. In the course of the Australian Agricultural Council’s meeting last
February, Ministers discussed in detail the situation with regard to margarine quotas in Australia, coupled with the related subjects of the position of the dairying, industry and of vegetable oilseeds production. Ministers unanimously agreed that the principle of quotas on margarine production was sound and that the quota system administered by the States should continue to operate. It was agreed that the whole question will be kept under constant review by the Council.
It has been claimed that the States’ table margarine quotas are inhibiting the development of the Australian vegetable oilseed industry and that a position of over-supply of oils from these crops, particularly saffloweroil and cottonseed oil, is being reached which can only be overcome by additional table margarine production. Members of the Australian Agricultural Council agreed that on figures presented at the meeting such a pessimistic conclusion was not warranted. In reaching this conclusion the Australian Agricultural Council accepted an estimate that Australian usage in 1965-66 of edible type vegetable oils, including those used in table margarine manufactured in excess of quotas, as about 59,000 tons. Of this some 16,500 tons were used for industrial purposes. Usage for edible purposes could therefore have been as high as 42,500 tons.
Usage of vegetable oils for edible purpurposes, exclusive of oils used in table margarine manufactured in excess of quotas, is in the vicinity of 35,000 tons a year. This quantity, together with the 16,500 tons of edible type vegetable oils used for industrial purposes, would allow an annual total usage of some 51,500 tons of edible type vegetable oils if table margarine production is confined to quotas.
The Council also accepted an estimate of production of edible vegetable oils from Australian grown oil seed crops in 1966-67 of 16,850 tons. Coconut oil produced in Australia from copra imported from Papua and New Guinea amounts to some 18,000 tons each year. Production of edible vegetable oils from Australian grown oilseeds and from copra imports from Papua and New Guinea will thus total 34,850 tons. The margin between this figure and the total estimated quantity of 51,500 tons of edible type oils which would be used even with table margarine production confined to quotas is 16,650 tons. As there is a high degree of substitution possible in the usage of various edible vegetable oils, there would be considerable scope for expansion in local production of oil seed crops without cutting into imports of copra from Papua and New Guinea.
Imports need to be made to meet the shortfall between local supplies and the total usage of edible vegetable oils. For instance in the first eight months of 1966-67, 3,738 tons of safflower oil were imported into Australia compared with 1,547 tons imported for the corresponding period of 1965-66.
With regard to table margarine itself it has been claimed that as a result of the enforcement of production quotas there is a shortage of one brand of the polyunsaturated variety of table margarine. I would not wish to enter into arguments over particular brands but it would appear that other brands of poly-unsaturated table margarine made from vegetable oils which have comparable properties are freely available. The largest Australian manufacturer has stated that poly-unsaturated margarine represents less than 20% of all table margarine production, that many manufacturers produce it and that any increase in demand could readily be met within existing licences, lt would therefore appear that supplies of this product, which is claimed to have special properties, would continue to be available within the existing quota arrangements.
In Western Australia, where a shortage may have been developing, the Western Australian Government has licensed the manufacture of the remaining 200 tons of the State’s overall agreed quota of 800 tons. This should help to overcome any immediate shortage in supplies which may have been developing in that State.
The Australian vegetable oil industry is only one primary industry with a stake tn the table margarine quota question. Another industry vitally concerned is the dairying industry, an industry which ranks fourth in Australian primary production. The dairying industry depends heavily on the fortunes of its main product, which is butter, and it is most important that sales are not eroded by the substitute table margarine.
The dairying industry plays an impressive part in Australia’s economy. Current production excluding the value of pigs is worth about $4 15m a year. Capital investment is over $ 1,400m and the industry supports directly and indirectly 600,000 people, providing direct employment for over 100,000 of these. Moreover, no Australian industry does more for decentralisation throughout Australia. This industry assists secondary industries by substantial expenditure on containers and packaging, factory operation and maintenance and at the farm level, on machinery and equipment.
A further valuable contribution to Australia’s economy, which I have already mentioned, is the export income earned by this industry. The dairying industry exports to ninety-four highly competitive, low priced overseas markets to earn annual export credits of over SI 00m essential to Australia’s development and the maintenance of high standards of living. The industry is enabled to do this only by equalising returns from exports and local sales. The margarine quotas exist to aid the industry in maintaining its position in the home market. Any expansion of margarine production for domestic consumption alone would benefit imports and importers to the detriment of an industry that is decentralised, has diversified its production and markets and is earning considerable amounts of overseas exchange. Opportunities to exploit export markets exist as much for the margarine industry as they do for the dairying industry; but the margarine industry is content to produce almost entirely for the higher priced local market and has shown no inclination to produce for the lower priced export markets.
Though the bounty has been an essential factor in the dairying industry’s operations for many years now, the industry’s own efforts in aiming for stability should not be overlooked. In the current financial year the dairying industry will have contributed over $2m for research, promotion and overseas marketing. Through internal cooperation between the producing, processing and marketing sectors of the industry and through their co-operation with the Commonwealth and State governments, in the fields of research, promotion, extension and marketing, the industry has attained a reasonable degree of stability. Undoubtedly this stability has been assisted by the federal bounty and the Government has decided that it is essential that the bounty should be maintained. The Bill provides for the continuation of the payment of the bounty in the present manner for the duration of the five year plan to commence on 1st July next. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In my second reading speech on the Dairying Industry Bill 1967 I referred to the Government’s decision that the bounty payable on the export of processed milk products will be continued for the new five year plan commencing on 1st July 1967. The Government has decided to maintain the maximum amount of bounty payable at $800,000 per year for each year of the plan. The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision by extending to 30th June 1972 the operations of the Processed Milk Products Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech on 8th November 1966. The Prime Minister said:
We will widen the scope of assistance by in cluding local governing bodies in the organisations eligible under the Act and accepting contributions by them towards aged persons homes as qualifying for Commonwealth matching subsidy.
With advancing agc many people are faced with increasing problems arising from loneliness, insecurity, need for greater personal care and lack of suitable accommodation. The Commonwealth Government has taken the view that it can effectively contribute towards the alleviation of these problems through partnership with the churches and other voluntary organisations, many of which have, over the years, maintained a close interest in the care of the elderly.
To this end, the Government some twelve years ago introduced the Aged Persons Homes Act. This offered subsidies to religious and charitable bodies and contributed towards the establishment and extension of accommodation and care for the aged, while avoiding any suggestion of government controlled institutions.
Honourable members will recall the purpose’ clause which expressly states:
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband’ and wife.
This remains as the Government’s objective in the administration of the Act.
In later years the Government introduced new measures to expand the scale of assistance. The original one for one subsidy was increased to two for one, and land, which had not been provided for in the original Act, was included in the capital cost for subsidy purposes. Last year the scheme was again extended to enable nursing accommodation provided for aged persons to qualify for two for one capital subsidy on conditions that were explained to the House during the Budget session. In recent years, a growing interest in homes for the aged has been shown by municipal and shire councils. A number of these have already assisted aged persons homes organisations by grants of land and in other ways. After considering proposals for local government bodies to be brought within the aged persons homes scheme the Government reached the conclusion that this could be done without endangering the general character of the scheme as a partnership between the Commonwealth and community bodies.
Municipalities and shires are well situated to assist the needs of their particular regions. Often they are able to encourage the establishment of community bodies to resolve particular problems. In recognition of the interest of local authorities in housing elderly citizens, and as a further means of increasing accommodation for aged persons, this Bill provides for the extension of the Aged Persons Homes Act to enable local government bodies to participate more directly in the subsidy scheme. This will be done in two ways.
In the present Act a local governing body is not included in the organisations which can obtain financial assistance. Honourable members will be pleased to know that under the Bill local governing bodies will be eligible organisations in the same way as religious, charitable and certain other bodies. The second provision is in respect of the funds which can attract the Commonwealth subsidy of $2 for $1. At present funds received from a local governing body are expressly excluded from attracting subsidy. This section of the Act will be amended so that both the funds raised by a local governing body towards the establishment of a home of its own, and contributions of money or property by such bodies to another eligible organisation, will be able to attract subsidy. I might specifically mention the property component as I know many local government bodies are in a position to contribute property for this particular purpose. A property and the valuation of buildings on that property can be taken into account for the purposes of attracting subsidy under the terms of the Bill now before the House.
There will remain one restriction. Where the local government moneys are received from the Commonwealth or State governments they will continue to be ineligible. This is in keeping with the policy applied to other organisations and will ensure that the subsidy under the Act is attracted to moneys raised in the particular local government area. The Bill provides for the amendments in respect of funds received from local governing bodies and homes established by these bodies, to be operative as from 28th November 1966, the first working day after the re-election of the Government.
There is one other provision in the Bill. This is of a machinery nature and is in relation to the method of payment of instalments of approved grants. Instalments of grants are made available progressively as work on an approved project proceeds. As the Act now stands each individual payment must be approved personally by the Director-General of Social Services. The very great success of the Aged Persons Homes Act has resulted in a great deal of routine work being required in approving the payment of instalments of grants. The opportunity has been taken to reduce the time and work involved in these routine payments by providing for the DirectorGeneral to authorise appropriate officers to approve the payment of instalments. A general power of delegation is not being sought and there will be no change in the present requirement that all grants must be approved by the Director-General.
Mr Speaker, I am sure this further action by the Government to increase the effectiveness of the Aged Persons Homes Act and expand the scope of assistance under it will receive the support of all honourable members. The unqualified success of the Act and the progress already achieved are widely known. Since 1954 subsidies totalling more than$66m have been approved enabling the provision of accommodation for over 25,000 aged persons. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1965 provided money for interim grants for capital purposes to colleges of advanced education in the States. It contained a schedule setting out the colleges which were to receive grants and the amounts which each college was to receive. The State of Queensland, under the Act, was to receive a grant of £475,000 which was to be distributed, in accordance with the schedule to the Act, between the colleges at Brisbane, Toowoomba and Rockhampton.
The State Government has requested a redistribution of this money as between the three colleges and the table, which with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard, sets out the original distribution proposed in the 1965 Act and the altered distribution as proposed in this Bill.
The redistribution has become necessary because the original distribution proposed was on estimates of cost for approved projects made for the Martin Committee some years ago and the actual costs vary from the estimates. In the case of the colleges at Toowoomba and at Rockhampton the cost of the approved buildings will be fully met from the proposed new redistribution. At Brisbane the buildings originally approved will not all be paid for from the proposed new redistribution but those buildings where cost will not be met from the interim grant will be included in the triennial programme for 1967-69.
The currency of the 1965 Act ended on 31st December 1966, but the Act gave the Minister power to extend its period of applicability for the approved projects and this has been done for the projects in question at the three institutes of technology in question. The purpose of this Bill is therefore to seek approval for the redistribution as proposed in the table I have incorporated in Hansard.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 April (vide page 890), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In rising to support the Government on the introduction of the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill I should like to refer briefly to the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Before doing so I should like to complement the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) upon his first class contribution to the thinking behind this Bill and behind the Government’s action in introducing the original Act in 1964. However, he made certain small points which, frankly, I cannot accept completely at this time.
On this particular matter the Opposition is extremely green-eyed because it had nothing to do with the introduction of the original measure. Honourable members opposite have taken every opportunity for some years to point out what they consider to be the wrong course taken by the Government in concluding that, with the operation of the dual system of education which I think everyone in Australia accepted - certainly everyone accepts it today - it was right to introduce measures to provide assistance. This was what the Government did following the policy speech made by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964. The Government at that time decided that in this modern technological age it was necessary to have facilities to train people properly in the field of science. Further than this, it decided that our future as a nation could well hinge on our ability to cope with this new fact of life. So the Government at that time went across the spectrum of educational society, if I may put it that way, and decided that regardless of where these students were to be trained it would help promote the study of the sciences. It decided to do this by introducing a scheme whereby grants would be made not only to independent schools but also to State schools.
The record of the Opposition is not so good in this regard. In March 1964, in a report to the West - Australian, Australian
Labor Party Executive, Mr Chamberlain had this to say:
The establishment by the Federal Government of science blocks and the provision of science facilities in private schools is quite obviously contrary to Federal Party policy.
That was the Federal A.L.P policy on this particular topic at that time. In fact on 10th May, in an address to the Queensland Labor Convention in Townsville - a few weeks afterwards - the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) completely contradicted this point of view when he made the rather remarkable statement - from his position as a socialist thinker - that he thought the Government’s decision was consistent with the prime socialist objective of ensuring an equal opportunity for all in life. If I remember rightly, this was a statement which one or two of my colleagues on the opposition side of the fence, including one honourable member who is at present overseas, objected to profoundly. That is understandable, because many members of the Opposition do not agree that there should be an independent school system in Australia. What honourable members opposite will think today or tomorrow is anybody’s guess, but there have been those who would do anything they could to ensure that the people of Australia did not have the right of deciding what education system to use. At this time there are still some people against having independent schools. We are not debating whether the Government should support either independent or State schools. It is a basic belief that the Government should support both.I am not sure whether the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) believes this. I do not think he does although I cannot remember him ever having told me so in so many words.
If that statement of 10th March 1964 is not bad enough, let us come forward to 10th February 1966. which is considerably more recent. The Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party, meeting in Canberra on that day, released the following statement in relation to State aid:
In view of the bitter row that this decision has provoked in the Labor Party the full text of the resolution released by the A.L.P. Federal Secretariat is reproduced.
I do not have time to deal with the full text of this statement but the fifth paragraph is sufficient. It states:
That in view of the Federal Executive’s interpretation of the 1963 policy regarding State Aid, the Federal Leader be advised that future extensions of the Science Laboratory Grants by the Commonwealth Government be opposed by all Federal Labor members.
That was on 10th February 1966. That was a rather rapid change of opinion. I do not know the reason for the change, and I do not suppose, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am here to offer a guess. But that is what happened. That was the statement released by the Australian Labor Party Federal Secretariat following that meeting on 10th February 1966. Today is the 5th April 1967. However, I have just been making my comments in passing on these matters. They are rather political comments, I fear, in relation to this debate.
I will now proceed to a slightly more objective effort in the terms of this debate. I will start right from the beginning. In 1964, as a result of Sir Robert Menzies’ policy speech, legislation was introduced in this place to enable the spending of $10m a year for science blocks in both private and State secondary schools. Further to this, $10m a year was provided for similar facilities for technical education. That is a point I will refer to a little later. These were grants by the Federal Government which did not require matching grants by State governments. In order to arrive at some form of allocation between States, the whole population of each State was assessed and the grants divided between the States in proportion to the population. Within each State, school enrolment figures were used in order to draw up a fraction. For instance, in any one State two-thirds of the students might have been enrolled in State schools and one-third in Independent schools. So far as independent schools were concerned, a further figure had to be arrived at in order to proportion funds between Roman Catholic schools and other private schools. Having arrived at this step further machinery was necessary in order to allocate funds to the schools selected.
If I might pause at this point, in view of the general working of this Act in the past I think it is as well to consider something which I trust no honourable member will find offensive. There are very good figures - I do not intend to produce them today - which point out that in the Roman
Catholic educational system in the United States of America there is a very low output of science graduates. In that country they are probably more interested in the humanities than in science. But I think there is another implication involved in this matter which is important when considering grants for science laboratories in Australia, and that is that I suspect that much the same conditions apply to this particular section of our educational system in Australia today as apply in the United States of America. I refer to the rather archaic classroom conditions, particularly in some of the major cities, and to the number of students in classes, which is far too high. We are considering scientific and technological matters, and under such conditions it is probably very hard to produce graduates or properly trained people. I put this point forward as a further very good reason why the provision of facilities such as science laboratories and equipment should be undertaken right across the strata of people attending schools in Australia today if we are to cash in on the potential resources of our community.
I now return to the procedure applied to the operation of this Act in the past. In the case of independent schools a standards committee has been set up which copes with problems of layout and matters such as the size of buildings and the efficiency of operation within them. That committee deals with different types of facilities. It attempts to exclude some facilities that are not up to the mark. It deals with such matters as bench layout and general overall efficiency. The effect of the standards committee is to overcome a certain amount of looseness, shall we say, in architectural design. Not only does this ensure effective use of Federal Government funds but it highlights the importance of laboratory design which, because of the action of this Government, has reached a very high degree of efficiency.
The South Australian Government, for instance, is currently studying, I believe, plans showing the layout and general design of science laboratories to see whether it can improve its own design efficiency within the State school system. I agree that it is sensible to do this. In the case of Government schools the full amount of the cost of each science laboratory is met, but in the case of private schools the appropriate committee may either recommend meeting the whole cost or a proportion of it. Many private schools prefer to apply this proportion of the costs and perhaps use funds raised from other sources to meet the establishment of science block facilities. I gather that in the case of the proportion not paid by the Federal Government there is a repayment clause which appears to help many of the private schools, judging from the fact that in the majority of instances the schools appear to act in this way.
The 1966 policy speech of the Prime Minister included the statement that grants for science laboratories in independent schools would be doubled. The result is that this Bill is now before us. The reason for this action lay largely in the fact that by far the greater proportion of one $10m grant was allocated to State schools and the second grant of $10m was applied to technical education. In effect, it all went to State schools. A problem arose in proving that certain private schools were in fact technical schools. These schools were unable to claim what originally was regarded as their fair share of funds that were specially granted for technical education purposes. The doubling of the grants to independent schools under this Bill will increase the proportion of the grant used by the independent sector to approximately 25%. This means that 75% of the overall funds will still be utilised in the State school system. These figures are important. One must feel much happier if one knows that this type of help is going to that section of our educational system which is in greater need.
The position has been reached where in four years - and within the next triennium - the whole scheme of science grants could terminate. I imagine there will always be a small trickle of applications from new establishments and from newer schools that are established in areas where there is a population increase. Let me say, Sir, that the implications of this Bill are such that at this stage we should perhaps ponder the step that the government of the day should take when grants for science laboratories terminate. Doubtless steps are exercising the minds of honourable members. For instance, I have heard of a possible move to subsidise school teachers within the independent section. I suppose this would have some advantage, because the government of tomorrow will be able by this means, if it wishes - I am quite sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who spoke about the necessity to organise central control of the education system would so wish - to look intently at the qualifications of science teachers and other teachers. It also might be able to look carefully at class sizes. Frankly, I use the same argument but come to the opposite conclusion. I believe this advantage would put the governments of tomorrow in too strong a position in that they could interfere in the independent school system and could attempt to govern class sizes and, rightly or wrongly, the proper qualifications of people who teach within that area. I believe that if there is any area of need in our educational system, then it is in the provision of libraries. Reference libraries could be provided, whether they be science references, technological references or historical references. Encouragement could be given to the provision of contemporary papers, such as trade papers, which would be of help in the higher school levels. The Government could well move into this field and make grants that would help the independent and State school sectors to obtain adequate libraries. I know that my colleague, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), feels quite strongly on this matter. He would probably go further and suggest the provision of text books. I do not think that this is a good idea - perhaps because of my experience in South Australia where the State Government has recently tried to provide text books for various schools. Quite frankly, I believe that the student of today loses a great deal if he cannot have a new book for himself in which he can take a pride. The position is worse in South Australia than elsewhere, because if a book is damaged in its first year of use - whether it be a science manual or any other book - the parent has to pay for that book. It is the headmaster’s prerogative to try and get the cash for a book that is damaged in this way. It is almost impossible for him to do this.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned at some length the shortage of science teachers. I acknowledge that this is a problem, but surely it is quite illogical to question the value of a scheme such as the Government’s science laboratory scheme which, after all, is the kindergarten of the future science people, whether they go into teaching, production or anything else. Quite obviously it is stupid to argue that these grants should not be made or that these facilities should be established at a slower rate because there are insufficient science teachers to cope with them. In all the States science teachers are not in ample supply; they are becoming very difficult to obtain. In South Australia we can hold up our heads perhaps a little bit higher than people in some other States, because in that State even at the primary teacher training level a three-year course is necessary. This length of course is certainly not required in other States. At the secondary level we have had a four-year teacher training course for forty years. This state of affairs could be well emulated by one or two other States. In other words South Australia does attempt to ensure that proper training is given to these people before they go out to try to pass on the results of their learning to highly susceptible and highly impressionable children. I understand that Queensland has not the same training period as has South Australia.
Before I resume my seat may I deal with one other very small point. At the Flinders University of South Australia there is a language laboratory in Spanish. I do not know whether honourable members think that Spanish is so valuable a language that it should be taught in this highly competent and efficient manner. I suggest that when we have completed providing science laboratories it would be a good move to supply library facilities in certain selected schools - for instance, to the private sector and to colleges of advanced education. The Federal Government could act in introducing language laboratories to schools, and I believe that the best language to be encouraged would be Malay, which is not hard to learn. I have not learnt it, but I believe it is a fairly simple language. In the years to come an Asian language like this would enable us to communicate far more effectively within the area in which we must more and more closely live and trade. I do not pretend that it would help the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) get through to me if he spoke Malay; indeed, I sometimes wonder whether he does so now. I believe that within the next twelve months the Govern ment might consider this suggestion, particularly as within the next three to four years it may no longer be necessary to provide science laboratories in schools. In providing language laboratories the Government could make a real contribution to the educational field in Australia.
Before I sit down, perhaps I should point out in order to protect the Government that the provision of science teachers has been immeasurably eased in the last few months by the Government’s announcement that it intends to act somewhat in accordance with the Martin Committee’s report on teacher training. In South Australia the recent visit by Senator Gorton was much appreciated, as was his rapid action in offering help in two major fields. This offer was well received by the South Australian public and, indeed, by the South Australian Government even though it is not of the same political colour as the party to which Senator Gorton belongs.
– I support the Bill and congratulate the Government on doubling the amount to be made available to independent schools under the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act. Under the present set-up independent schools will receive $2,668,000. Experience proved that more money was required than had been allocated. A total of 771 secondary schools have registered as being interested in receiving assistance to enable them to teach science and to prepare students for tertiary education. So far 508 independent schools have received assistance, and science buildings have been or will be built in them by the end of 1968.
It is desirable that independent schools should be assisted in the establishment of science blocks, the cost of which is beyond the financial capacity of those schools. It would be quite wrong to allow the great talent available in independent schools to be denied the privilege of being taught science. To deny this great reservoir of potential scholars such training would be wrong. However the parents of students at independent schools must realise that the Opposition would never be able to pass legislation like this because the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party has tabooed the whole idea of assistance to independent schools.
During the debate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) meandered over a large field. He spoke with his tongue in his cheek. He said that the Opposition would not oppose the Bill but that it was not to be taken for granted that it was wholly behind the Bill.
– What is the honourable member trying to get at?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was trying to have it both ways. He did not want to oppose the Bill but he did not want to give it the congratulations and adulation it merited, because the legislation does a great service to many people whose children, for various reasons, do not attend schools provided by the States. This is their democratic right, but it would be quite wrong to deny these children the right to be taught science. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted to be with the Government for bringing in this legislation, but he wanted to criticise the Government for not making teacher training available for the staff of science laboratories. His attitude was remarkable in many ways. He wanted the Federal Government to assume the responsibility of training teachers for the science laboratories it finances. Of course it is the aim of the Opposition to have everything centralised in Canberra, but we on this side of the House do not subscribe to that theory. We believe that the more diversified education is, the better the standard of education throughout Australia will be.
It is most desirable that we should assist independent schools, no matter in what category they are classed or from which religious denomination they come. The great wealth of talent in independent schools should be assisted to the full. Last night the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) said that we can have science teachers teaching in these schools only if the States honour their obligations to provide sufficient assistance to enable the schools to pay the salaries. This is a simple and logical proposition. We cannot have teachers unless we pay their salaries.
Over the past few years a larger number of teachers of mathematics have been trained and they have the ability to teach science in secondary schools. We believe that by providing the wherewithal for the teaching of science students we are helping to prepare them for tertiary education. Over the years the Opposition has had differing policies on education. However, the policy of the Australian Labor Party is not decided by honorable members on the other side of the chamber but by the Federal Executive of the Party. If Opposition members were in power, they would not be able to speak as they have during this debate; they would be restricted to the policy decreed by the Federal Executive. They all know that; yet they rise in this House and allege that we are not doing enough for teacher training. They know that if they occupied the treasury bench, by some chance, they would not be able to provide equipment and buildings for independent schools because of the attitude of the Federal Executive on this subject.
The doubling of the amount available to independent schools will help the more able students to proceed to their tertiary education. Without this aid, students attending independent schools would suffer a great handicap. I am sure that the Bill will receive the approbation of the many people who want their children to attend secondary schools. By 30th June 1967 the States expect to spend $14,475,600, which is their entitlement for the first two years of the triennium ending on 30th June 1968. Each State has a programme of work in hand, which will, we hope, take up the whole of their entitlement for the three years to 30th June 1968. During the operation of the scheme the Government has made available grants of sums recommended by the State advisory committees for projects in schools recommended by those committees. The Government in doing this undertook to meet the full reasonable cost of assisted projects when the initial grant did not do this. This undertaking was given subject to the proviso that Parliament continued the scheme and that a definite date for payment of outstanding costs could not be given.
The Bill is a good one. It will benefit many students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity to be taught higher mathematics and science. I again congratulate the Government for bringing in this legislation so quickly in conformity with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech.
- Mr Speaker, Government members, as is their custom, have just about dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on the back about this legislation. This would be fair enough if it were a piece of espoused Liberal Party policy before it was introduced and had not just arrived, as it were, out of the opportunistic attitudes that the former Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) adopted, rather successfully, it would appear, and probably in some instances with some justification.
We have heard quite a number of statements from the other side of the House about the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that we have denied freedom of choice. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) spoke about the financial capacity of the institutions that are being endowed under this legislation. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) spent most of his time discussing the Labor Party and its Surfers Paradise conference last year.
I propose to try to bring the House to some of the principles associated with this subject, to some consideration of where we are going, and to a reasonable consideration of exactly why this legislation has come about. Firstly, what are the principles behind our conduct in the field of education? Australian education is richly strewn with searches for some kind of principle of equality of opportunity throughout the whole system. This does not mean a total equalising downwards or an effort to find mediocrity or anything else. The education systems of the Australian States were established on the principle that every Australian would have equal access to a similarly high standard of education. If we go back almost a century, to the time when the State systems were founded, we will find a great effort in this community to establish schools equally endowed with capacity as far as teaching was concerned and equally endowed as far as the structure of buildings was concerned, whether they were 500 miles from the capital or in the centre of the capital.
I think it is one of the fundamental principles of the search of Australian governments in the field of education to offer equality of access, equality of opportunity, and an equality of educational expen diture to each Australian child who enters the State systems. This has produced a system of centralisation, and it is very difficult to find a method of breaking this down. In fact, all the State systems of Australia are much of a muchness in this regard. Each one is fairly highly centralised in its administration, and we still have not found an adequate formula for giving localities in some areas both autonomy and equality of expenditure over the general field.
I am quite confident that this legislation does not achieve any of these aims. It has been claimed by honourable members opposite that this is a break-through and a new look in education, an expansion of the principle of a dual system of education. I will say something about that presently. I do not think it can be claimed that this particular legislation and its approach to the independent schools of Australia really is increasing the equality of opportunity, the equality of access, or the equality of expenditure of educational effort upon the students in schools. Therefore, I challenge it on those grounds. I know honourable members opposite will bring in various comments about what they claim to be the doctrinaire approach that we bring to these matters. The Australian Labor Party has an educational philosophy which, although it may not be fully developed, at least has been developed with regard to the needs of humanity and of the community. It is based not upon political opportunism or expediency but upon a whole attitude to education.
As one of the people involved in the Labor Party search for a policy and philosophy in this matter, I am prepared to say that we have not yet arrived at a suitable conclusion, and I do not suppose we ever will, but one can search in vain through the policies of the people opposite to find some expression even of the need to carry out research in the field. This legislation is not something that has arrived on the scene because the Liberal Party and the Country Party, in a search for some field of endeavour in education-
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member is getting extremely wide of the Bill, which seeks authority for the Government to make financial arrangements to pay annually additional financial aid to the States. I suggest to the honourable member that he make only passing reference to general questions in relation to education. The subject matter of the debate is the financial arrangement under which the Commonwealth Government will assist the States financially. Therefore the Bill has a limited scope.
– Mr Speaker, the Bill is granting aid, if I may say so, to a certain group of schools based upon the principles expounded in the Act which this Bill is amending and which is a development of the policy that was announced when that Act itself was introduced. My colleagues opposite have taken many opportunities in this debate to range over the whole field and, with due regard to the proprieties and to the Standing Orders, I would think that the principles behind the legislation are in fact germane to a second reading debate on the Bill.
-The principal Act deals with the question of the whole range of financial aid. The object of this Bill is to make money available from the Commonwealth to provide science laboratories and equipment in independent secondary schools throughout Australia. I suggest that the honourable member come back to the Bill before the House.
- Mr Speaker, as I was saying, the subject before the House concerns the general principles behind this matter. I point out that some of the questions that have been raised by honourable members opposite, and in respect of which they have poured congratulations upon the Government, are in fact vote-catching exercises. The honourable member for Angas, I think it was, said we had now accepted the view that there was a dual system of education, and that this Bill is accepting a responsibility to one particular side of that field of education. On this occasion I think it is appropriate to examine whether this is correctly applied and whether the system that has been developed about it is the one that is best for that particular field of education. There are several fields of education in Australia. One of those is richly endowed from private sources, and there are two others, I suppose one could say, that are not so richly endowed - the systems provided from State sources and the Roman Catholic schools in general. This particular legislation has poured more riches into schools that are richly endowed. It has given some advantages to the second area of private schools - the Roman Catholic schools - and it has given soma advantages, which are not so specifically outlined in documents that we have before us, to the State school system.
I want to examine why we have picked this particular field of endeavour. Why science blocks? Honourable members opposite have attempted in previous speeches to make it clear that the Government adopted this method as a result of deliberate policy. In fact, the then Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in announcing the proposal in his policy speech at the time, said:
There is a special need for improved science teaching in the secondary schools, if we are to keep in step with the march of science. As some recognition of this need, we will make available £5 million per annum for the provision of building and equipment facilities for science teaching in secondary schools. The amount will be distributed on a school population basis, and will be available to all secondary schools, Government or independent, without discrimination.
I think it is appropriate to remind honourable members opposite - and they can find these comments in the Melbourne ‘Studies in Education’ of 1964 in an article by Mr Gill - that to attempt to discover precisely why this almost casually announced and new-found plank was included in the Liberal platform is to step into the realm of conjecture. Of course all of us realise that that is so. In fact, honourable members opposite did not know this was going to be part of the policy; they were surprised to find it was there, and they are now making the most of the opportunity to congratulate themselves about it. I believe that this is part and parcel of the approach of honourable members opposite and of the Government itself to the question of education. Why are we at this stage considering science blocks in particular and not libraries and other fields of educational research? I think this was something that just came into the Prime Minister’s head at the time. There is no evidence anywhere that science teaching and science facilities are more neglected than are any other fields of education. There is no evidence that the way in which this money is to be applied will overcome some of the difficulties that are apparent in this particular field of education. In 1963 we saw a new look in relation to education and the constitutional responsibility of this Parliament. Would we have done better if we had related this legislation to libraries, or had done something about science teachers or the teaching of English? There are many other areas of deficiency in the education system.
Honourable members opposite have asked us to say what we think about this legislation. I think we are now venturing into an area of education in which we cannot see the end. In introducing the Bill, the Minister said:
This Bill seeks authority for the Government to double the amount of money annually available from the Commonwealth to provide science laboratories and equipment in independent secondary schools throughout the Commonwealth.
So, in three years it has been found desirable to double the amount. We are stepping into an area of education where the path is uncharted. There is no policy in relation to the area in which control will be exercised or in which we are to expand. We are stepping into a field which covers 2,000 independent schools and half a million students, but we are assisting only in relation to a fraction of education - science blocks. We are prepared to neglect the rest and to ignore some of the demands of modern parliamentary practice in relation to control over public funds and all the other things that go with it. Science blocks were a gimmick at the time this legislation was forecast. They were something that could be constructed and which could be visible to all. 1 am not convinced that the approach to this subject either in this legislation or in the original Act produces the greatest value for the largest number of children, as honourable members opposite have suggested. About three-quarters of our secondary schools are government schools, the remainder being independent. Under the system that has developed over the last few years, a large number of high schools obtain some assistance in the form of apparatus. None of the high schools in my electoral division have received science blocks, but between $200 and $400 has been advanced for science apparatus to the Newlands High School, of the advisory council of which I am chairman. In addition to the three science rooms that it has, this school has had to use one other room as a science room. So it needs another science block. I understand that this project is somewhere on the list. It may be said that this is the responsibility of the State Government, but if the correct approach were made to this question some form of means test based on relative need would be applied. Can any honourable member tell me that the Geelong Church of England Grammar School at Corio, which has received $66,000 or $67,000, has any greater need for science facilities than have dozens of other independent or State secondary schools which have inadequate provisions? This is a hit and miss business. I understand that the member for Angas (Mr Giles) the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton), the member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) are products of that estimable institution.
– Not me.
– Graduates of this school have a very powerful lobby in this place. Does this school need this kind of endowment? Honourable members opposite may well talk about equality of expenditure and say that these are the people who pay the taxes, but they do not accept anything like the same responsibility. When I was studying education at the University of Melbourne students were taken to the Geelong Church of England Grammar School so they could see what a really richly endowed school was like. Honourable members opposite who are interjecting ask why I did not go there, or something to that effect. I understand that, as long as one has the money, one does not require any educational or intellectual capacity to go there. This is the fundamental difference between the State and the independent education systems. I do not know whether what I have said applies to Catholic schools, but it certainly does to others.
It is a fundamental principle that if public money is applied to an institution it should be accessible to all members of the public. If a family moves into the area served by the Newlands High School, the Coburg High School or the Bundaberg High School, the school is bound to accept the children of that family. However, if one wishes to enrol a child at one of the many independent schools one may be told: ‘You cannot. We have twentyfive in the class already’. There is a fundamental difference between the approach of the independent schools to the community and the approach of the State schools. This is important to an institution that is handling public money. It is nonsense for the honourable member for Angas to talk about freedom of choice. In some of my previous speeches in this subject can be found adequate evidence of the expensive nature of non-public schools. A book setting out the fees they charge can be obtained from the Parliamentary Library. It is nonsense to say that there is freedom of choice for people whose basic salary is often not much higher than the fees these schools charge.
We have embarked upon a new attitude in education; we are entering into two areas of education, both supported from public funds, although one is totally supported and the other only partly supported. One area is totally answerable through public institutions - the Parliament, the Ministry, departments and so on - but the other is not answerable at all, because the science blocks are built on private property. I know that science equipment was supplied to one school that was later sold - lock, stock and barrel. This is a fundamental departure from the principle we ordinarily apply to the use of public money.
The honourable member for Lilley asked where I stood. I believe that public funds should be spent in a publicly accountable way and that the people spending them should be answerable to the public. That is a principle upon which this Parliament functions - that the Minister for Education and Science shall answer questions on notice or in debate about everything that is done with public funds. Apart from this, we have an Auditor-General and a Public Accounts Committee to investigate the expenditure of public funds. There is an ever increasing demand on the public purse through this Parliament and the State Parliaments. This subject will become a major issue in the Victorian election.
As the Minister has said, this Bill seeks authority to double the money that is annually available for this purpose. Honourable members opposite may well take some comfort from what appears to be the political advantage they have gained. However, they cannot take any comfort from the knowledge that we are stepping into this matter completely blindfolded. I want this Parliament to accept its responsibility not only for independent schools but for the whole educational system of Australia. I want to see that public funds are publicly applied, that expenditure is publicly explained, and that the whole system is developed scientifically. Nobody can claim that the ordinary principles of scientific method have been applied to the provision of science blocks in schools. The greatest difficulty in relation to the teaching of science is the supply of teachers. One might say, of course, that we must first supply the buildings in which to put these teachers, but the fact is that it is really the development of the higher echelons of teaching in science which represents the weakness in the Australian educational system - presuming, of course, that science is the weakest area of Australian education, and I do not know that it is. My own information indicates that libraries and such ancillary services represent the greatest weakness in Australian education. In most cases the teaching of literature, art, history and languages is frustrated by the inadequacy of Australian school libraries. Any research into the question would probably disclose that this is the area of greatest need, and this is where the largest number of people can be assisted. But the scarcity of teachers does represent the weakness of the system. One does not need to look very far to discover this fact; it is apparent in every direction in which one cares to turn. As has been pointed out on both sides of the House, something should have been done about leaching.
We neither oppose nor support this legislation. We accept it as a fact of political life that has happened because of the haphazard, hit or miss, off the top of the head approach of this Government to this and many other fundamental social problems. I had hoped that we could bring a new look to our consideration of this matter. It is not such a very long time since we on this side of the House, whenever we rose to debate educational questions, during the estimates debate and at other times, had the floor to ourselves. Honourable members opposite sat silent when we talked about
State educational systems. We on this side could talk about the subject continually and get no response. Now, because the Commonwealth has stepped into this field in this way, Government supporters are full of self-congratulation. But this is not good enough. 1 hope that this Parliament, if it is going to tackle the problem of Australian education, will apply the principles that honourable members opposite have espoused - freedom of choice, some autonomy in the system, and so on. We have half a readymade system in Canberra in which to apply ourselves. We have half a dozen Government high schools. We have a university of our own, one might say. Here is a place for this kind of experimental attitude to develop, but 1 do not see any evidence of such development. We are still drifting into what is Australia’s largest social enterprise. I hope that some honourable member on the opposite side will be able to stand up and tell me where he thinks we are going in this field, in what way the Liberal Party and the Country Party are going to develop a scientific approach, a reasonable and logical and non-expedient approach to the needs of Australian education.
I put this to honourable members: this is an exercise in the aggravation of inequality. Nobody looking through this list of schools which are going to be endowed in the proposed manner, and taking a patrol around the industrial areas and country towns of Australia, can be content that this is a logical exercise on the part of the Australian Government, an exercise carried out from a scientific and commonsense approach. In fact we are getting an irrational approach to the subject. I hope that this Parliament will, in the exercise of its powers and the extension of its operations on which it has embarked, will soon apply itself in a scientific, parliamentary, logical and public spirited way to this problem, rather than the way of political expediencey.
– The debate on this matter has so far been a most interesting one. I feel privileged indeed to follow roy distinguished colleague from Wills (Mr Bryant) in the debate. After having listened to him for twenty minutes, which is the time he took for his speech although he was allowed thirty minutes, I can understand why the Australian Labor Party at its March conference decided to dispense with his services on its education committee. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you will, having given the honourable member permission to roam over the widest fields of education in this debate, allow me to make some passing references occasionally to the views of the Labor Party on this matter.
-Order! At the outset I remind the honourable member that the scope of the debate on this Bill does not allow him to range over the whole field of education. The Bill deals with an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for the provision of money for science teaching equipment in private and secondary schools.
– I realise that, Mr Speaker, but I feel sure I will be given the same kind of hearing as the honourable member for Wills received. That, I think, will be sufficient for my purposes. The Bill flows from statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech delivered before the last election. The right honourable gentleman said:
We will provide $8m a year over the next three financial years for the construction and equipment of new colleges for teacher training throughout Australia.
Then he spoke about matching grants, and he went on:
Our scheme to provide science laboratories and equipment to ail schools has been highly successful. Wc intend to do more. In the next financial year and subsequently, we will double the amount available to independent schools for these laboratories. We believe this will ensure that in four years every science teaching secondary school in Australia, whether government or independent, will have the science teaching laboratories and the equipment it needs - provided with the financial help of the Commonwealth Government.
And as we all know, Mr Speaker, the Government went to the people and was returned in a resounding victory. On 5th March 1964 the present Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) delivered a ministerial statement in which he said:
Allotment will be made by way of a grant under section 96 of the Constitution and the recipient State will be entirely responsible for spending the sum allotted it in ways which, in its opinion, best suit the requirements of education in that State. The grant will, however, be made subject to the conditions that it can be spent only on the provision of science teaching laboratories in secondary schools or the provision of capital equipment for such laboratories, and it will be subject to the further condition that the items on which it is spent, and the source of the funds so spent, are clearly indentifiable in the State budget. The Commonwealth has made it clear to the States that it expects the sums so provided to be regarded as supplementary and additional to sums which the State would normally provide for education.
In the case of non-government schools, the Commonwealth will be solely responsible for deciding grants. To do so, it will adopt the following procedures. First, it will allot the amount available for non-government schools among the States having regard to the population of each State, though in later years it may be necessary not to be too strictly bound in this regard. The amount available for each State will then be divided into two paris. One part will be for assistance to non-Catholic schools within the boundaries of that Stale and the other part for assistance to Catholic schools within the boundaries of that State.
He then went on to explain how the division was to be made, and I am sure that is understood clearly by honourable members on both sides of the House. He said, further:
For this purpose, the Commonwealth hopes to create, within each State’s boundaries, two advisory bodies. One body, drawn from those responsible for non-Catholic schools, -
He was referring to non-Government schools - will be asked to suggest priorities for such schools and, subject to the standards proposed being acceptable to the Commonwealth, to advise on the amount of assistance extended to each school. The other body, drawn from those responsible for Catholic schools, will be asked to do the same for such schools. When grants are decided by the Commonwealth, they will be made to a State under section 96 of the Constitution. The State concerned will act as agent for the Commonwealth and will not accept any responsibility for making such grants.
As a member of one of the Government parties I accept this wholeheartedly. We have said that we will enter the field of education in order to make grants for science laboratories and science education, but we have also emphasised that under our Constitution, whether it be right or wrong, whether it is in need of amendment or not, the responsibility for education is that of the States. We have realised that the States have problems in respect of providing adequately for education, and we have decided that this money should be made available to both government schools and non-government schools, to Catholic schools and non-Catholic schools, on the basis explained by the
Minister. We have not suggested that any individual member of the community should be required to pull strings or to use influence to obtain money for a particular area, perhaps to the detriment of another area. We have said that as far as government schools are concerned the State education departments should be responsible for where the money is spent. As regards the spending of these grants on non-Catholic denominational schools, in Victoria a committee has been set up comprising, I understand, Bishop Arnott as chairman and other distinguished gentlemen in the field of education. It is their responsibility to deal with applications for an allocation of the grant, to go into the figures relating to the planning and equipping of laboratories, and to make recommendations regarding the schools that are to receive priority in the allocation of finance. As for the Catholic schools, we have not said that we will have any say as to which schools obtain finance. We have not said that we will pour money into Catholic schools in Labor electorates for political purposes, as we may have done. We have left the use of the money to a committee under the chairmanship of the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne. This is as far as Victoria is concerned. We have not indicated how the grant to Catholic schools should be allocated as between the various orders of the Church. That is a responsibility of the appropriate committee.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) made some comment about those honourable members who had been to Geelong Grammar School. I, thank goodness, did not go there, but I can appreciate that there are many distinguished men who did go there. Many parents could ill afford to send their children to these schools but in the past they have done so, in order to give the children the opportunity of what they considered, rightly or wrongly, were the advantages of perhaps the best education. When we think of science teaching and grants for science teaching, it is interesting to recall the successful scientists in Australia. Perhaps far too many of them in the past have come from those schools which, because costs were cheaper in the past or because of benefactors, were able to provide outstanding science teaching facilities. Now the Government is saying that 75% of the grants for science facilities will be spent on government schools to encourage the State educational system to set up science laboratories. The State systems will be encouraged to obtain the equipment they need so that all children who have the ability and the qualifications to get to these schools will have equal opportunities. The remaining 25% of the grants will go to nongovernment schools. This is fair and reasonable, because the parents of the children who go to non-government schools pay their taxes like everybody else. The cost of operating these schools has increased. The schools are struggling against rising costs. I wonder at times whether the Opposition is the only side which worries which school or university a man went to. Looking at my colleagues on this side, they are either good blokes or the other kind. I can say only that the people of my electorate, whether they support the Opposition or the Government, appreciate that at least the Commonwealth is doing something about education even if in only one sphere. But we have in fact entered many spheres. I think the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) implied that the Commonwealth may enter other spheres of education as time progresses. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) put the matter in a nutshell as far as the Opposition is concerned when he said that in the Labor controlled States of Tasmania and New South Wales, until the change there no assistance whatever was forthcoming for secondary schools.
– What about Queensland?
– I mentioned two States. There has been a Liberal Government in Queensland for some time and it has rectified the situation there. As the honourable member for Lilley pointed out, lack of enthusiasm for this Bill on the part of honourable members opposite is understandable. The Bill will double the grant to secondary schools for science laboratories and equipment. If you double what has been given by Labor governments you will find that twice nothing is still nothing. The speech made by the honourable member for Wills was interesting. I think he implied that he was opposed to a grant of taxpayers’ money being made to educational systems over which the Commonwealth had no control.
– To systems that were not publicly accountable.
– Can this be accepted as a side bet by the honourable member, that Labor’s federal platform in respect of education may swing again as it has twice in the last year. This is worth thinking about because if we look at the statements made by the Labor Party on the subject of education, and remember that the words are put into the mouths of honourable members opposite by their Federal Executive-
-Order! The honourable member should come back to the Bill. I warned him earlier about keeping to the Bill.
– I was trying to reply to a statement made about the principles of the Bill. We are talking about an allocation of money for science teaching in secondary schools. We have seen that the Opposition is in some trouble in finding speakers with abounding enthusiasm to support the Bill. It may be in the interests of the Parliament and the people of Australia to ask why there is no enthusiasm in the Opposition to support this allocation of money for science teaching. We on this side of the House enthusiastically support the doubling of this grant. I am optimistic that you, Mr Speaker, will allow me to read from an interesting document which I obtained from the Library.
– Grimm’s ‘Fairy Tales’.
– It is very similar; it is the report of the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference. I obtained it from the Library. The Conference was held on 25th March. You will remember, Mr Speaker, because you took an interest in this matter at the time, that the subject of the Conference was primarily the granting of aid by the Commonwealth to secondary schools. If honourable members were to read that report, which I will not quote in detail they would find some extraordinary statements. At that time there was an instruction to members of the Labor Party literally to vote against State aid for non-government schools. That was a clear directive. Senator Kennelly was about to be expelled from the Party or judged by his peers. He stated, in a telegram which he sent on the subject:
The Federal Executive is now instructing all members to vote against any extension of a current benefit (namely assistance to science blocks) and has instructed its Legal Committee to see if all assistance to private schools can be declared unconstitutional.
If I may use the term, the Federal Executive was scraping the barrel in an effort to stop the Commonwealth from making these grants. The report refers also to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who was drummed up before the court martial. One article in the Launceston ‘Examiner’ is headed: ‘Duthie raps Executive’. I can imagine it. The article goes on to say:
That is, Mr Duthie - criticised the Federal Executive’s decision to query the constitutionality of Government aid to independent schools.
Similar criticism may be seen right through the article. Some interesting letters have also been written by the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, to the Tasmanian members of the Labor Party about science grants for independent schools. He also wrote to South Australia members of the Labor Party about science grants to independent schools.
-Order! The honourable member is persisting in getting away from the principles of the Bill. I ask him to relate his remarks to the provisions in the Bill.
– In view of your ruling, let me say in conclusion that we on the Government side consider this to be a good Bill. We are glad that the secondary schools have been able to use the money which has been granted to them to date for the construction of science laboratories and the purchase of science equipment. We are also glad to be able to say that the Government is now going further and is honouring the promise made by the Prime Minister to give further encouragement in this direction.
If I may I should like to refer to one other matter mentioned by the honourable member for Wills. He asked what benefit is to be had from making grants for science laboratories and equipment if we have no science teachers. It is obvious that he either does not know or does not want to admit - I think he knows it - that the Commonwealth Government is assisting in the promotion of teacher training. I mention as an example the fact that this Government has agreed to subsidise the cost of erecting extensions to secondary teachers training schools in Victoria which will be used for the purpose of training science teachers for employment in both government and nongovernment schools. I understand that the Victorian Government is discussing the matter with the engineering faculty at the University of Melbourne with a view to having the years of training and the qualifications gained at this training college recognised by that University.
We are doing something. We are starting with what we might term the factory - the laboratory. We are also providing the tools - the science equipment. We are giving encouragement to the State governments to provide teachers training colleges, science training facilities at universities and so on. Compare this with the Labor Party’s policy which, in the past, has been completely opposed to the granting of aid to secondary schools. I can only conclude by saying that the people themselves must be the judges. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– The Bill before the House is a very important one which will have far reaching effects. It is evidence of the fact that the Government has decided to double its grants to nongovernment schools for science laboratories. I believe that is a clear indication of the value of the policy which was initiated in 1964 to give some degree of assistance to non-government schools. The 1964 measure, of course, provided aid for all schools whereas the Bill before us refers to aid to non-government schools only. If we are to retain our present system of giving people the opportunity of choosing between the schools which are now available to them for the education of their children quite obviously it is necessary that some assistance be given to these schools.
The cost of giving the students of today the type of education that it is essential for them to have is so great that we must give assistance to the schools covered by the Bill or some of them at least will have to go out of existence. We have to choose between supporting the schools or losing them. In those circumstances the Government has decided that, having already given grants to quite a number of schools, it should extend this principle which has proved to be of real value. By this Bill the Government is extending the system of giving to students the opportunity of attending any of the different types of schools which are now available, a system which has proved so beneficial not only in Australia but also in other countries.
There is very healthy competition between these schools. There is also the fullest co-operation between them. I know of many instances in which teachers have gone from one school, perhaps a government school, to an independent school to instruct classes in the same subject. I have also known of cases in which sports coaches have given rival schools the benefit of their assistance and advice. This friendly, healthy rivalry between schools has added considerably to the interest and the value of the educational system in this country. One thing that many people seem to have lost sight of is what could happen if the Government was not prepared to do something along these lines.
What would it cost the Australian taxpayer if, for example, these schools suddenly went out of existence and the Australian taxpayer had to provide all the buildings, staff and maintenance costs now borne by these schools in addition to meeting the cost of the responsibility already accepted by the governments for their schools? Members on both sides of the House should give this point a great deal of consideration instead of condemning the Bill with faint praise, which is about the worst way in which one could condemn anything. It is far better to come out in the open and oppose a measure than merely to get up and say that you neither support nor oppose it.
I suggest that even with the increased grants which are proposed by the Bill it is possible that the non-government schools will have the greatest difficulty in maintaining the standard of education that is required today. This step is the least the Government can make as an expression of appreciation of the tremendous value of the work that has been done by these schools for so many years. I think it is fair to repeat that the decision we have to make is whether we are to maintain the present system of secondary education or whether we should throw it to the winds. In speaking tonight I select no particular school for praise. They are all deserving of the highest commendation for the way in which they have trained their students. At the same time, I give full credit to the government schools for the work that they have done. But the fact is that it is the combination of the work of both types of schools that has brought the standard of our education to the high pitch at which it is today. Earlier I mentioned the friendly rivalry that exists between the many schools that we have. This friendly competition has done a lot for education generally.
– Is the honourable member opposed to government schools.
– I am not opposed to government schools at all. I stand for the right of people to have the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice. One honourable member of the Opposition said that in this country the schools generally do not receive the same amount of assistance that the schools receive in the country from which he comes.
– Would the honourable member favour subsidising Communist schools?
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.
– I do not need to rely on questions to help me make my speech. There are many schools which are still in need of assistance from the Government. Some have been helped, but there are many more still in need of it. Indeed, in my own area-
– The honourable member is raising sectarianism.
– The honourable member for Hunter is raising sectarianism, I am not. In my own area, to my knowledge the schools have not yet received this assistance. Approval has been given for some assistance for some of these schools in the 1967-68 financial year.
– The honourable member did not campaign on it, did he?
-Order! If the honourable member for Hunter does not cease interjecting I warn him that I will have to take some action.
– This system of giving grants for science laboratories works in very well with the State education systems. I would like at this stage to pay a tribute to the Government of my own State for the work it has done and the assistance it has given to schools generally. I extend those remarks to cover the Minister for Education in Queensland. I believe that the Queensland Government has set a lead in this direction which will be of benefit to that State. This system of providing assistance for science laboratories in nongovernment schools is working particularly well in conjunction with the State educational systems. One of the reasons for this is that in addition to providing assistance so that these independent schools can continue operating, under this system the people also have a choice of schools. As already mentioned in the course of this debate, the way in which this financial assistance is being allocated to science laboratories means that we are preparing to meet the need for a greater number of scientists in order to cope with the work which must lie ahead of us.
Mention has been made already of this need for scientists. Getting back to my own occupation in the rural industry, scientists are being called upon more and more in this field. They are being called upon to assist in primary production. They are needed to help in the control of diseases, to examine soils and to increase their fertility. These are things which a lot of people do not usually realise. Many people do not realise what scientists are doing, and will be called upon to do, in primary industry, lt is obvious - and I need not elaborate on this point - that the need for scientists in many fields will continue if we in Australia are to keep abreast of the discoveries being made and in line with development taking place elsewhere in the world. Surely we must do this. The need for more scientists will become more and more apparent. The Government has recognised this and has provided this form of assistance to schools in order to help them to build science laboratories.
If our schools are able to maintain the good work they have done up to the present, with assistance to this extent only, then I believe that the Australian taxpayers will be very fortunate. However, the level of assistance will have to be considered in the future. If some of my honourable friends opposite who were interjecting earlier had their way the taxpayers of Australia would be very heavily hit in the not too distant future. I regret, Mr Speaker, that I should have had to adopt this line. When matters such as those introduced by Opposition speakers are brought up, and when they are mentioned in the manner in which they were mentioned, I believe they should be taken up.
I want to refer to what the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said about political expediency. If I have ever seen political expediency used, I have seen it used by honourable members opposite during the debate on this Bill. If political expediency is alleged against the Government, honourable members on this side have a right to reply. The attitude of the Government towards this field of education has been consistent. After a full consideration of the position facing independent non-government schools the Government considered that they were deserving of the support to be given to them. Honourable members should bear in mind that two years ago the Opposition was strongly opposed to this assistance. Now, after the evidence available from two years of the good work carried out with the money made available under these grants we find the Opposition giving lukewarm support to the Bill before the House. It has taken the Opposition two years to reach the position that the Government was in two years ago. I congratulate honourable members opposite for being only two years behind.
The need for this financial assistance from the Government is apparent because the needs of the schools are going to grow. Demands on education must increase as time goes by; therefore the financial burden on the people as a whole, however it is borne, will increase also. Surely, then, it is up to us to continue to assist these schools if they are to continue to provide the standard of education that has been available in the past. Obviously they will provide that standard in the future if they have the finance to do it. That is why we have to consider this important’ matter. We have to remember that the cost of schools will increase. The range of subjects to be taught will increase and the coverage given to those subjects, particularly science, will increase. No doubt specialist staff will be required to cater for science teaching. We will find that in this particular field of education schools will have an increasingly heavy burden to bear.
This subject of Government and independent schools has been questioned, debated and argued about for a good many years. I believe that after considering all the evidence available on the Australian scene, as well as overseas, honourable members will find that this system has operated in such a way that our standard of education is as high as any in the world. This position we want to maintain. Because of the competition between State Government schools and independent schools obviously the education standard will have to be maintained. By the same token there will be an incentive for students to continue their schooling and they will keep up to the standard being set by the students at non-government schools. This type of healthy, friendly competition will do nothing but good for the Australian education system.
I commend the efforts of all our teachers. I think that the teachers, school boards, and everyone connected with the system have done a mighty job and deserve commendation from this Parliament and from the Australian People. Our educationists are dedicated to their work. We know that there are many instances when they do more than would normally be asked of them. People who undertake this work make it their business to see that our young people get the standard of education and the training that Australians would like them to receive. I believe that the necessity for maintaining this system is so great that we must consider what is a reasonable contribution to be made by this government to the independent schools which are serving this country so well. One of the big problems which has to be faced in Australia is to provide living accommodation for students. This is being done very well by these independent nongovernment schools. They provide the type of accommodation which parents like to have for their children. A tremendous burden would be placed on the parents of these children if the independent schools which provide accommodation were not available. In my speech during the debate on the Address-in-Reply I mentioned the very heavy burden for education which is borne by people living in outlying areas because of the distance that they live from schools. They have to face the cost of sending their children to and from schools. If we are not prepared to contribute in this way the cost burden will increase, because at the present time some non-government schools are much closer to many of these children than are government schools. It may be said that government schools would be built to cater for those in need. No doubt that is so, but surely it is an advantage to have people prepared to devote themselves to the very satisfying work of training these young people in conditions which are acceptable to their parents. Surely we should let these non-government schools continue to provide this facility.
It has been said that I am opposed to government schools. I want to refute that very strongly. Many of my friends - they are very good friends - have come from government schools. They are a credit to those schools and to this country. I say that because that type of argument is sometimes used by those who are in opposition to this scheme. This sort of thing should be roundly condemned. I pay my tribute to these schools and to the teaching profession generally. The teachers in these schools represent a cross-section of the educational system of Australia. We as Australians may justly feel proud of them. We have a system of education which I and the Government believe should be maintained; but if it is to be maintained we will have to give assistance to non-government schools to allow them to meet the heavy burden which now rests upon their shoulders. There is nothing unreasonable about this proposition. If non-government schools were not allowed to continue - I want to emphasise this point - the cost of education to the taxpayer would be increased tremendously. These schools provide a standard of education which, as I have said, has proved its worth. All we have to do to maintain these schools is to give some reasonable assistance to them. If we do this they will be able to continue for at least some time.
If it becomes necessary, I for one will be prepared to consider providing further assistance to non-government schools. There is no question as to where I stand on this issue. Nobody need wonder whether I am for or against the scheme. I stand very solidly behind this Bill. Students in Australia deserve to have the opportunity to choose the schools which they will attend, and I believe that their parents, too, have the Tight to make a choice. If students wish to attend a non-government school they should have the right to do so. These schools are doing a wonderful job. Students should have the opportunity to attend schools which perhaps their parents attended or which have associations that are in line with the type of education the parents wish to give them. Not to give them this opportunity would only mean extra cost to the taxpayer.
This matter has become a political issue in the life of this country, but I believe that the issue has been decided by the Government in a way that is best designed to serve the community as a whole. An unbiased observer must give tremendous credit to the people who are responsible for the traditions that have been built up over many years by non-government schools. There is no need to worry about whether government schools can continue to function, but if we do not provide assistance to the nongovernment schools they will have real difficulty in maintaining their position in relation to the government schools. In spite of the assistance that is to be given to independent schools as a result of this legislation I believe that an increasing proportion of students will be educated at government schools, mainly because the initial cost of building a private school is tremendous. The schools that we are assisting under legislation of this kind are being assisted only to enable them to carry on. The Government will be faced with an increased education bill in addition to the assistance that it is giving under this legislation. This is evident when we note the number of students who are being educated at nongovernment schools as against those who are being educated in government schools. I repeat that it will be of advantage to the taxpayer to keep our non-government schools in existence. As I have said, if the Government were to decide to go further in this direction it would be fully justified in doing so.
I rose to support this Bill, and I do so with complete sincerity. I believe that the education of students throughout Australia is of vital importance to the future of this country. We must consider very closely the future needs of Australia and how they can be best served. We are particularly fortunate in having the opportunity to save money that would have to be spent if the non-government schools were to go out of existence. If we are able to preserve them in existence with what is a comparatively small amount of money when it is related to the total amount the Government is spending on education, we will be doing a good thing. I often wonder how the nongovernment schools manage to carry on and keep pace with the ever-increasing standards of education.
Another wonder is that they can maintain their standard of education with the amount of assistance that is being given to them at the present time. It is certainly not too much. My only thought is that we are not showing our appreciation to the nongovernment schools as we should. We should recognise the value of these schools to our educational system. They provide a choice which is always advantageous. The schools themselves strive earnestly to keep up the enviable reputation that they have established. This can be done only by tremendous effort on the part of those who are responsible. We will be fortunate if we can maintain all the benefits that are being provided for students in this country by giving this assistance to build science laboratories in non-government schools. As one who attended a secondary school of this nature I realise the value of the work such schools are doing and the sacrifice that is being made by the people who are responsible for running them. I have visited many schools attended by children of friends of mine. Those schools are a very real credit to the people responsible for their establishment and upkeep.
I mentioned earlier the problem of distance. This is something we must consider seriously, particularly in view of the fact that we talk frequently of decentralisation. It is necessary to provide educational facilities as close to our outlying areas as is possible. Government schools would no doubt be provided, but at the present time a tremendous amount of money is required for educational purposes generally in Australia. Even if we had money available to provide such schools we could spend it a lot better by maintaining the schools that are at present in existence. There is a great need for increased expenditure on education.
I need not elaborate on this. There is no need for me to go into detail. Surely anyone with the interests of Australia at heart realises just what can be done. We need educational facilities at every level. We need more and better primary schools; we need more and better school bus services. This is particularly so in rural areas. I give great credit to my State Government for the way it has increased its expenditure on school bus services and on education generally. Even so, if we have money to spend on education by replacing schools that are doing a magnificent job today, let us spend it in some way that will increase the benefits of education to the people of Australia as a whole. It is with much pleasure that I support this Bill and commend it to the House.
– Listening to this debate I have heard member after member from the Government side take unto himself great pride in what the Government has done by way of this legislation and in what the Government is doing on the general question of aid to church and independent schools. Of course members opposite had no say in preparing the Government’s policy on this matter. They had no hand in shaping the Government’s policy on it. This was sprung on them entirely unexpectedly during the course of the 1963 election campaign by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Some members on the Government side who throughout their lives had been the most bitter and most bigoted opponents of State aid to church schools found overnight that they were in favour of it. This is the sort of change of heart and change of mind that we have had from the Government supporters on this matter. It has not been a true change of heart or thought, but a direction to change their minds on this question. Some of those who were the greatest bigots and most bitter opponents of State aid to church schools now stand as the virtuous exponents and supporters of Government legislation in this field.
I appreciate the Government’s legislation. I will say at once that the legislation we are now discussing, and the other forms of State aid given by this Government in the Australian Capital Territory, have been of tremendous value to the church and independent schools in this place.
– You were going to take it all away in 1963.
– I have never suggested taking it away and I have never changed my stand on this matter during the years I have been in this House. I have not had to accept a direction as the honourable member had to accept direction from the great white father as to what he should think, say and do. Who among honourable members opposite knew in 1963 that this was going to be in the Government’s policy? Did members opposite have a share in forming the Government’s policy? Of course they did not. That is not the practice on the other side of the House. They do not share in the formulation of policy. They do not get together and say: ‘This is what the policy of the Liberal Party - or Country Party - will be’. It is handed down to them and they find overnight that the beliefs they have cherished and spoken of for years must be changed.
I believe that every child is entitled to have equal effort spent on his education. It is the right of any parent to determine whether his child shall attend a school at which he may get with his secular education his religious education. If he exercises that right, which is assured to him by the United Nations Charter, he should not be penalised for so doing.
– The Labor Party opposes it in New South Wales.
– I am talking about the Federal Parliament, and particularly about my own electorate, and I am expressing my own views. I rose primarily because I was getting a little sickened to hear so many speakers from the Government side patting themselves on the back for something in which they had no part and which was foisted on them from above. This is perfectly true. Let honourable members opposite tell me that they knew this was in their policy. The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), the greatest opponent of State aid to church schools throughout the whole of his religious life, overnight, because Sir Robert Menzies had said that aid would be given to church schools, became the great supporter and great advocate of- State aid. What sort of a man is that? What sort of men are so many others on the other side of the House who changed their opinions overnight about a policy on aid to church schools? This evening I heard an honourable member opposite quote from the Austraiian Labor Party’s Federal policy. I will quote from it, too.
– Order! I hope that the honourable member will not quote to the same extent as other honourable members have quoted it.
– I will quote to the same extent as my friend from the Australian Country Party who ranged over the whole field of education, even to the extent of referring to school bus services.
-Order! I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that we are discussing the amount of money being made available by the Commonwealth Government for the provision of science laboratories in schools.
– May I respectfully suggest that that did not seem to cross your mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, during the speech made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who preceded me in this debate and who spoke about school bus services and everything else that he could possibly speak about.
– Do not be disrespectful to the Chair.
– I am not being disrespectful to the Chair.
-Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– I will address the Chair with the greatest of pleasure, Sir, and I would remind the Chair and the House that the Bill we are now discussing stems from a policy which was dreamed up in the 1963 election campaign for a specific purpose. It was not the cherished ambition of the Liberal Party or of the Country Party, and never part of their policies, to give aid to church schools in general, although the Government had accepted a special responsibility for the Australian Capital Territory. The aid that was given by the Menzies Government in this Territory was never opposed in this House by the Labor Party, which raised no objection to it whatsoever. No member from this side opposed that legislation or the action taken to give aid to church schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I admit frankly and freely that the support that has been given here has been tremendously valuable. I have visited the schools in which science laboratories have been built and in which other Commonwealth expenditure has been made and I say that this has meant much to the church and independent schools in this Territory and I applaud what has been done.
– Whilst the purpose of this Bill is to continue assistance to government schools for the provision of science laboratories it also intends to double the grants to nongovernment schools. The objective of this legislation is to ensure that all secondary schools throughout Australia have adequate science laboratory facilities, furniture and equipment within the next four years. This, of course, is of great importance not only to this House but also to the people of Australia. It has been with considerable interest that I have listened to honourable members from both sides of the House debating this issue. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) suggested that the Government parties had this legislation foisted on them. Of course, he seems to forget the work of Government members’ committees. He tends to ignore the attitude of his own party. It was this Government which instituted the principle of assisting education at the primary and secondary levels in the Australian Capital Territory. In 1956 we gave assistance to secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory and in 1961 assistance was extended to primary schools. In 1963 the then Leader of the Opposition, appearing on television in Brisbane, said that he would not negotiate any new contracts or loans for non-government schools in the Australian Capital Territory and, in fact, he would allow the present ones to run out. In the debate on the original Bill, an Opposition member - I think it was the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory - moved an amendment. Of course, the object of moving an amendment is to negative the Bill, and if this amendment had been carried the legislation would never have come into operation. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) said so eloquently last night, the Opposition intended at that time not to have this legislation at all. Of course if we double nothing we still have nothing.
The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in opening the debate for the Opposition said, as I understood him, that the legislation was wrong in three ways. It was isolated, it was inadequate and no provision was made for teacher training. He added that deficiencies existed in the assistance that was given for the new science laboratories in that laboratory assistants should be provided for the teachers. He emphasised what is becoming quite apparent in this new regime that runs the Australian Labor Party and that is its centralist policies. The other night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) advocated, for instance, that the Commonwealth should take over slum clearance in local government areas and that local government bodies should have an equal say at the meetings of the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conferences. This centralist policy was brought forward again in this debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who said in effect that the Commonwealth Government should take over the whole responsibility for education from the States. Our activities in the field of education are, of course, limited by the Constitution and the Federal system under which we work.
The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) made a number of suggestions in his speech. He spent a considerable time in trying to say that science facilities were needed in schools to help to overcome some of our national problems. He particularly mentioned the brigalow and other matters which, I think, affect his electorate more than any other. The problems with which he dealt were largely agricultural. Of course, the point he missed was that the Bill we are now debating is designed to meet the problems that he raised, and it is this Government that has done all this for education. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) spoke in his normal style. He seemed to hang the whole of his speech on one statement. He said that this legislation is a hit or miss effort and that it is isolated. He conveniently forgot to say that the last policy speech delivered by his Party advocated definite policies on education. Of course, he thinks that the Commonwealth needs definite information upon which to base the assistance it gives to the States for education, but the policies he sup ported very vocally at the last election will also be hit or miss and would also have been introduced without any information or any basis of fact.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition once again called for an inquiry into primary and secondary education. The information he seeks is largely available now, because the States control 75% of the primary and secondary education systems and they have information relating to their needs, capital charges and running costs. They state their needs every six months when the Premiers meet the Commonwealth Government at the Premiers Conferences and once a year at the Australian Loan Council. The information relating to the needs of independent schools is now coming to hand. It is being verified and undoubtedly will be made public in the future. The main contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that this legislation is isolated. He forgets, of course, that the principal Act was the starting point, and a very important starting point. I intend to deal with that matter fairly fully later. He also said that it was inadequate. However, he did not deal with the fundamental question in the Bill we are now discussing and that is that the intention of the Government is to ensure that all school children in Australia have adequate science facilities within the next four years. He says that this is inadequate, although the Government started virtually from scratch just three years ago. I suggest that he should deal with facts and not supposition.
The third point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was almost a denial of his other points. He said that this legislation was causing a shortage of science teachers in the schools system. I think he was referring mainly to Government schools. Of course, he failed to mention that since the last election the Government has announced that it will provide assistance for teacher training, and it has started to implement this scheme. In the scheme, 10% of the places will be kept for students who are not bonded and who can go into the independent schools system. This will help to meet the needs of schools. He did not support his argument with any evidence at all, whether it be from one of the schools in his electorate or from any other school. He did not give any figures from any Government publication or from any publication relating to independent schools. He did not support his argument at all. He referred to laboratory assistants to help science teachers. In this legislation, the Government provides assistance for capital works. Under the Federal system the running costs are still the responsibility of the State governments in their normal education budgeting. This is a different matter with independent schools, but, in accepting the assistance, they are aware of the additional costs that will be involved. But Opposition members fail to realise that it is of fundamental importance to ensure that our school children are given the opportunity to gain an understanding of science while they are at secondary school and that, to do this, additional running costs must be met.
The honourable member for Lilley, in what 1 thought was a very fine speech it.deed, mentioned many of these matters. He also suggested that the Australian Labor Party has swung from one side to the other in the last few years. In 1956 Labor changed from being willing to assist independent schools to being violently opposed to such assistance. Since then, its policy has fluctuated. Even in this debate we have had the amazing spectacle of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in effect supporting the measure and the honourable member for Wills saying that he neither supported it nor opposed it. He was very wishy washy. The attitude of the Australian Labor Party is revealed in the report of the Special Commonwealth Conference of the Party held at the Beachcomber Tiki Village, Surfers Paradise, on 29th and 30th July 1966. This shows the assistance that is given by the State Governments for both capital costs and running costs. It shows that, in assistance for capital expenditure, New South Wales pays the interest on loans, Victoria pays the interest on loans and Queensland pays the interest on loans and also meets 40% of the cost of approved construction of a number of grammar schools. In South Australia there is some advance of reasonable costs repayable over forty years for the purchase of land and construction of buildings, and in Western Australia there is the payment of interest on loans. However in Tasmania, which has had a Labor Government for many years, there is no provision whatsoever.
On the question of tuition allowances, in New South Wales there is no provision. Since the new government has come in, that State has had a major drought. It has gone into the field of assisting in capital expenditure. In Victoria there is direct assistance of up to $50 for the third to sixth year, and in Queensland there are allowances of $36 and $40 for various grades. In South Australia there is no provision, yet that State has had a Labor Government for several years; the Government there has done nothing, and the State has not had the same drought conditions and other problems that the New South Wales Government has had. In Western Australia there is provision for the payment of $30 in the first, second and third years and $36 in the fourth and fifth years. Yet again in Tasmania, where there has been a Labor Government for a number of years, there is no provision whatsoever.
As was shown last night by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) the policy of the Labor Party in this regard is of a see-saw kind. It just goes up and down, and if one faction gets off the other goes down with a thump. This depends on whether the left or the right wing controls the executive. The importance of this legislation is that it meets a vital need. It provides for a full education in both the humanities and the sciences for all. It ensures that this will happen within the next four years. It is intended to provide for the basic training of our future scientists.
As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pointed out, this legislation is of great importance. It also affords an opportunity, which I think is of great importance, for our younger generation to get an understanding of science and technology. This is something that will affect their lives and those of other members r f the community. It is also most important because it has established a principle of assistance from the Commonwealth Government not only to the Government secondary schools but also the non-government schools of Australia. This principle is to give assistance to independent or non-government schools, and also to give that assistance for special purposes to the Government schools.
This Government has made moves in this regard. In 1956 in the Australian Capital Territory there were subsidies paid to independent schools, and of course the basic reason for this was that the Commonwealth Government had caused by means of legislation, instruction or executive action the migration of public servants to Canberra. In 1961 this action was increased to cover the primary schools as well. In 1964 or 1965 there was the repayment of capital costs to schools in the Australian Capital Territory. In 1964 the original legislation which we are amending tonight was passed in this House. In the same year there was provision for scholarships to the secondary schools throughout Australia, and now, as announced in the policy speech, assistance is to be provided for teacher training which, as I mentioned earlier, will help to offset any deficiencies that exist in the independent schools in the teaching of science.
These matters are fundamental, but they are matters which the Labor Party has opposed in principle almost completely in the last decade, except possibly in the matter of scholarships. Democracy in Australia is not only just votes but votes plus groceries. As President Kennedy once defined it, democracy means the ability to live and to have the right to freedoms in a country. In a democracy of this kind, defence and development are, of course, the main pressures that come upon the Government. Defence is paramount, while development leads to generation of the economy of the country. However, the main pressures on the political system come from welfare and education, and this is how it should be, because we do have a responsibility to the aged and the infirm in the community and we also have a responsibility to the young people to ensure that they have as good a start as we had, or a better one. These political pressures come not only upon the Commonwealth Government but also upon the State governments, and today we find a large increase in expenditure by the State governments in the field of education.
In 1964-65, the last year for which I have published figures, some $442. 3 87m was spent by the States in their budgets for education, while $ 102.9m was spent on capital expenditure, giving a total expenditure of about $545m. In New South Wales, where $214.374m was spent on education, this represented some 27% or 28% of that State’s total budget. This is a very large percentage. I draw the attention of the House, and ultimately that of the Treasurer, to the difficulty of obtaining accurate and uniform statistics. It has been very difficult to get these figures through the parliamentary research service because of the difference in statistical methods in the States and the Commonwealth. It is extremely difficult to get a common figure. I direct the attention of the House to this because I believe this is important if we are to examine these matters. The Commonwealth Statistician said that the New South Wales figures were $2 14m, yet the New South Wales Government has advised me that in that year it spent $216m. However, the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report for this year said that the New South Wales Government spent only $174m, because it left out the capital grants expenditure. I believe there is a need for uniform statistical methods so that we can measure these things accurately.
These pressures upon State governments are very real. The States believe in the federal system, and they are continuing with their responsibilities in this field of education because they accept that they have those responsibilities. Commonwealth assistance was offered to the States at one of the Australian Loan Council meetings and it was rejected on the ground that they did not want to lose their rights in this area. They just wanted a grant they could use without any strings attached.
Similar pressures are coming upon the independent systems, and this is largely because of the increasing number of students and the consequent rise in costs. These things are beyond the control of the independent schools. There are more technical subjects to be taught. Of course, assistance has been given with this legislation we are now discussing. There are, of course, more years now spent at school. The independent schools come under the inspectorial conditions of the various States in which they are situated. These are factors that arc beyond their control. The Commonwealth Government is doing its very best to increase our population through immigration, which again is causing pressures that are beyond the control of the independent school system, and also to a large extent it is causing pressures upon the State system.
As I said before, with more technical subjects and longer schooling costs are increasing. Therefore, when this legislation expires in four years time, I believe that there will be a continuing responsibility. We should continue to tackle areas such as those we are discussing and which are of critical importance. As I have said, these things are beyond the control of both the independent and State systems, for both systems are finding difficulty because of the specialised teaching and the high costs involved. We have taken action in this regard. It has been stated in this debate that assistance for libraries should be considered. This is of considerable importance. I refer honourable members to an excellent editorial on this matter in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald’. Another matter of considerable importance that should be considered is the giving of assistance to provide all school systems with video machines and television, and the giving of assistance for language laboratories. Assistance in these fields, critical and important as they are, will merely assist but will not solve the major problems, particularly of our independent school system. I believe that this Government has a responsibility towards independent schools. Even though parents of children attending independent schools are given tax rebates, we as a Government should give the independent school system direct assistance. The time when this should be done may well have arrived.
This legislation is of tremendous importance. The fact that within the next four years we will have solved the problem that the schools are facing, whether they are independent or government schools, and that they will be able to give a full education to all pupils is of satisfaction to us. However, the operation of the legislation is coming to an end. Although this figure is only approximate, 1 believe it costs about $280 a year to educate a child in a public school but that the cost in an independent school is much lower. Although, as I have said, we give the parents of children attending independent schools tax rebates we have a responsibility to the schools, because the pressures facing not only the parents but the school system in particular are largely beyond the control of the schools, particularly the Catholic schools. These pressures have been caused by migration and the speed with which we are endeavouring to build up this country. I believe the time has come for us to consider giving direct aid to the independent school system in addition to the aid that we give to the State school system through tax reimbursements and Loan Council allocations to the States, which come from the public purse.
I support this legislation, which has had a very great effect in my electorate. Six high schools in this electorate have been assisted by this legislation. The Asquith Boys High School has received $41,000 for the construction of a science laboratory, $4,636 for furniture and $1,280 for equipment. The Asquith Girls High School has had $1,148 for equipment. The Erina High School, which is one of the finest high schools in New South Wales and which is nearly completed, has been given $41,000 for construction. The Hornsby Girls High School has received $1,190 for equipment, and the Morisset Central School, which is another fine high school, has had $20,500 for construction, $2,318 for furniture and $1,215 for equipment. The Toronto High School has had $1,230 and the Woy Woy High School $1,220 for equipment. This assistance has had a very great effect upon the educational opportunities of the pupils attending these schools. A matter of considerable importance which I believe the Opposition has tended to ignore is that the intention of this legislation is to ensure that within the next four years all school children throughout Australia will have adequate facilities to learn and understand science.
^ When listening to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) I was reminded of the old biblical quotation that the hand is the hand of Esau but the voice is the voice of Jacob. If the honourable member chooses to take the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) as his mentor, friend, guide and philosopher in these matters, he will be led on the path to political destruction. If one really wanted to lift the lid off the cesspit of sectarian controversy, the speech of the honourable member for Lilley would be a shining example of such action. I hope to lift this discussion to the much higher plane of national survival, because we cannot temporise in relation to the deficiencies of Australian education on the basis of sectarian controversy or on the exiguous political advantage that still might be gained from it by legislation of this type. The best that can be said for this Bill is that it offers too little too late.
– This has been in operation for four years.
– The honourable member has had his say. He should listen to me as a matter of courtesy. He might be enlightened. We are faced with the need for national survival, as I will point out when I develop my speech. In making these remarks, I am speaking for the Australian Labor Party, which has been traduced, calumniated and vilified by the honourable member, who has never held a ticket in it and whose political stock in trade is consistent attacks from which he hopes to glean some political advantage. The two main groups in the community that support the Labor Party are the intellectuals and the ordinary men in the street. In any country there are only two groups of people - those who are satisfied with things as they are and those who believe things are capable of improvement. Naturally, the intellectual makes common cause with the Labor Party in matters of this nature. Education is a national responsibility. It should come right above the level of sectarian controversy and doubtful political manoeuvring. The days when some political advantage could be extracted from legislation of this type have gone. This Bill is providing too little too late, as I have said. From the point of view of the responsibilities of the National Government, the education situation is nothing short of a major national scandal.
The honourable member for Lilley spoke about the record of the Labor Administration in New South Wales. I was a member of that Administration, which has the proudest record of any Government that has held office in Macquarie Street, Sydney, in relation to expenditure on education and development within the limits of its finance. The honourable member for Lilley would not know this or would not be frank enough to admit it and to give credit where it was due. The man to whom credit is due in this regard is the former Premier of New South
Wales, the Honourable Robert Heffron, M.L.A., whose memory will be revered when that of the honourable member for Lilley will be forgotten.
I am old enough to remember an earlier dispensation in education. In the early 1920s I, like so many others of my generation, went to high school through the sacrifice of my parents and the help of a small bursary. In those days we were told that a man named Rutherford was doing something in the way of splitting the atom, although until that time the atom was supposed to be the smallest particle of matter. We knew nothing of radio-active isotopes. A man named Einstein at that time had developed a theory, and possibly only a dozen men in Australia knew something of its application. Today, however, we live in an age of technology, an age of applied science, and unless this country can multiply its manpower by education, by science and by horsepower it cannot survive. It cannot answer the challenge which will be made of our right as a small under-populated nation to hold this vast country with its tremendous resources.
Today we are in a period of change. In this House we are faced with a Government which is in the grip of an agrarian pressure group, at a time when the terms of trade are strongly against us, when in terms of primary production we have to produce more and more and receive less and less for that production, while trying as best we can to maintain our export income from primary produce. We are in a period of transition. In this House honourable members often ask where we are going in terms of overseas investment. But what is involved is not really overseas investment at all. What we are facing at present is an invasion from superior scientific and technological countries. We do not merely import money today. Money is coming in to back technology, and Australia is pathetically deficient in its approach to the general question of scientific research. In this connection I intend to cite some figures which are quite illuminating. As for their authenticity, they come from the Journal of the Institution of the Engineers of Australia of June 1965, in which this information appeared:
Total expenditure on research and development in Australia for 1964-65 appears to have been no less than $195m, about 1.0% of the estimated gross national product for that year of $ 19,120m. The Commonwealth and State Government sectors were responsible for $140m or 70% of this total. This should be compared with an average of 30% of the total research and development effort performed in government laboratories in European countries.
This, of course, squares with the announcement in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of yesterday. I have not seen it yet in the Sydney metropolitan Press. It referred to assistance that will be given by the Commonwealth Government to industry in Australia. Yes, assistance can be given and should be given, but let us have a look at the other side of the picture and consider our limitations in science and technology and the fact that we are literally in a country whose technological development is, at best, derivative. Returning to the journal from which I have already quoted, I find that it contains a table giving national expenditures of various countries on research and development in 1962. In the United States it was 3.1% of the gross national product; in the Soviet Union, the twin world power of the United States, the figure was 2.6%. In the Netherlands it was 1.8%, the United Kingdom 2.2%, France 1.5%, and Australia a humiliating 1.0%.
– What year was this?
– It was 1962, and the figures have not improved. Let us have a look at another authority, a very reputable one, too. This is a work entitled ‘The Development of Australia’. It is a report prepared for the Australian Development Research Foundation by the Stanford Research Institute. That report said at page 259:
It has been reported to us that many leaders of industry feel that adequately trained technicians with diplomas from technical schools are more useful to them than university graduates, since they can be recruited at an earlier age (and more cheaply) and trained in the business. If true, this amounts to a preference for recruits who will accept the philosophy of current business practice. That philosophy, practical as it may be, inevitably derives, as Lord Keynes once pointed out, from the teachings of some defunct economist. It is important, at this critical juncture of Australian development, when the difficult transition must be made from a sheltered local market to the rigours of international competition in world markets, to call upon the best available knowledge and to be flexible enough to at least consider whatever challenges to accepted business practice may emerge both on the technical and on the managerial side.
I return, Sir, to my theme. Today if we are to preserve our identity as a nation, if we are not to suffer the fate that befell Canada and so many other countries in the face of superior technology and superior managerial experience, we must at all costs concentrate on science. In Australia we should have a crash programme in education, and the first step of course is to wipe out this nonsense, this utterly antiquated nonsense, of trying to derive some political advantage out of commiserating with the inequality of a dual standard of education. The day of the dual standard is past. Today it is the birthright of every Australian child to get a full, free and complete education, primary, secondary and tertiary, to the limit of his ability, and this Government is neither capable of providing it nor willing to finance it. Fundamentally this country is a sound one. We are a literate country by world standards. We are an ingenious people capable of improvisation. Australians traditionally are capable of turning their hand to anything. But today we face not the usual threat of physical aggression but that of economic aggression. It is no longer necessary for a country that seeks to dominate another to conquer it, to attack it and send in a governor and an army o. occupation. Instead there comes the economic emissary to make a survey of the economy of the country, to look at the opportunities that are available and by force of superior technology and scientific knowledge - in most cases, and in almost all cases in Australia, backed by adequate finances - literally to take over the country. This, Sir, is of much more importance to me than getting down into the political mud with the likes of the honourable member for Lilley.
Some honourable members may ask - > and I do not doubt that there are many impartial men in this House - just how a country as small as Australia can achieve the standard of technological efficiency that is necessary for its survival. To them I would reply in this way: the shining example in the world today of technological efficiency is Sweden, which has a population of some 7im people.
– And the highest suicide rate.
– The suicide rate has nothing whatever to do with it, as the honourable member well knows. That was a gratuitous interruption quite unworthy of the honourable member. The technological standards in Sweden are remarkably high. The people of that country have been able to survive because they have concentrated on education. Sweden produces its own aircraft, an aircraft that is right up to world standard. Sweden is in world class in the production of ball bearings and other machinery items and in every form of the use of iron ore. In most items of business machinery Sweden leads the world. Who leads the world today in electronics, particularly in their application to telecommunications? Sweden. Sweden’s motor vehicle industry is outstanding. If Sweden can do it so can we.
– We are doing it.
– We are doing nothing of the kind and the honourable member knows it. If we are to achieve anything it must be by a concentrated national effort. What we have heard in this debate does no credit whatever to the Government. Once again the Government has wheeled forth the Trojan horse in the hope of collecting a few votes with what is relatively a paltry, piddling allowance. That is the only way to describe it.
– What kind of allowance?
– The Minister heard me, and it is a correct description. Let him look in the dictionary for the meaning of the word. The Government is not prepared to face up to its responsibilities.
On the subject of the standard of education <an New South Wales, I point out to the honourable member for Lilley that no city of Australia is more education conscious than is Canberra with the leadership of the civil service, and the people of Canberra are happy to accept the standards of the New South Wales Department of Education. That is a complete answer to the honourable member for Lilley, if one is needed. The people of Canberra know precisely what they want and they know where to get it. The present standard of educational curricular excellence in New South Wales stands to the credit of the former Labor Government which was in office for twenty-four years. Its record is a proud one.
I do not intend to delay the House unduly but I did feel most incensed by the attack made on the reputation of the New South
Wales Labor Government and one of the most outstanding educationists in Australia today. I repeat that this legislation is too little too late and does no credit to the Government.
– Despite what the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) said I take great pride in supporting the Bill. Over the years I have been a member of an education committee in New South Wales which has been thinking about the problem of education. It had been thinking about it long before science aid to secondary schools became part of the Government’s policy in 1963. Together with other members of that committee I was very gratified but not surprised when in November 1963 Sir Robert Menzies announced his Government’s policy on education. This was something for which I and my committee colleagues had been fighting for years. We recognised it as one of the most forward looking policies that had been presented for a long time. At the time the Australian Labor Party, far from accepting the policy and agreeing that the ordinary person who is struggling to get an education should be supported, no matter which school he attends, opposed the policy. This surprised me greatly because I had been told that the Australian Labor Party stood for the worker; that it was always ready to support the person struggling to get an education. But I was very naive in those days. I even thought that members of the Labor Party formed their own policy. I have been told - I do not know whether it is true - that members of the Labor Party do not have a part in forming the Party’s policy but that it is decided by an outside body which then tells members of the Party what they should do. Perhaps this is why they opposed the policy in 1963.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you will remember that in May 1965 the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill was introduced. The Bill was designed to cover the three years until 1968. The Bill brought about a revolution not only in public schools but also in independent schools and gave to Australia the first real fillip in education in the national sense that it had had for quite a while. It has been found necessary to introduce the present Bill in order to double the annual grant that was made only last year. I do not see how anybody can oppose the Bill when all it does is double the amount of money being made available for science facilities in independent schools. I have been waiting a long time in this Parliament to hear honourable members opposite make a spirited defence and give some practical rules to safeguard workers against the introduction of automation. I have heard them rave because they have claimed that the Government is not doing anything in this regard. Believe me, the subject of automation is very closely connected with this Bill. When I was overseas I was able to visit a number of universities in the United States and see what they were doing there in a scientific sense to plan for the re-education and reemployment of people who had been displaced from industry by automation. I believe that here in this sphere of science we have an opportunity in our public schools and our independent schools to widen our sphere of influence and to bring this most important facet of automation into our programme. After this Bill is passed - I have no doubt that it will be passed; I hope that it will - in four years time all of our schools, independent and public, will have first-class science laboratories. Those who are of my age can remember the disadvantages that they were under when they were at school. I went to a public school, a very ill equipped public school, in 1932.
– That is obvious.
– Is the honourable member not in favour of people going to public schools? Our science laboratories were ill equipped. As a result the science teaching was very poor. As a consequence of this it was very difficult to get adequate teachers to teach science in our public schools. The subject of science teachers is bound up with this Bill because I am certain that well equipped science laboratories are the places in which one is inspired to learn, and from these we will get better science teachers offering to teach in our schools.
What will happen in four years time when every school has a well equipped science laboratory? As somebody else has suggested, I hope that the principle of this Bill will be extended to the provision of capital items for both government and independent schools. I cannot agree more with the honourable member who expressed the hope that at the end of the four year period adequate libraries will be provided in all schools. I regard the provision of libraries in schools as absolutely essential because I think that the quintessence of man’s knowledge is to be found only in books. I hope that the assistance provided under this Bill will not stop after four years but will extend to the provision of adequate libraries in schools. An honourable member mentioned videotape machines in schools. Having had a lot of experience with this type of education in the Australian Broadcasting Commission and having witnessed the dramatic results that may be achieved from television and radio in schools, I hope also that the Bill will be carried on to provide this sort of thing.
I have been moving around the schools of my electorate in the last few years and I have found that every master to whom I have spoken, whether in a public school or an independent school, has been most enthusiastic about the type of aid which this Government has given to the schools in my area. This is not only a good Bill; it is the type of thing the people want. A government must be responsible in a very real way for the manner in which it spends taxpayers’ money. I commend the Government for taking what was a revolutionary step in appointing a standards committee to control the quality of the science laboratories that were being built in schools. I can remember, for example, that when the Standards Committee inspected the plans for a laboratory in which it was pr.oposed to carry out experiments in the magnetic field it discovered that the school planned to have iron benches in the laboratory. To do this would have been a tremendous waste of money because the benches would have had to be taken out and replaced. The Standards Committee, which was appointed by this Government, discovered this fault in time and was able to rectify it. I can remember, too, that another plan for a laboratory included provision for a very attractive fitting. It was proposed to install mirrors underneath the benches where students would be placing their feet. This was certainly quite attractive, but it was entirely impracticable. Once again the Standards Committee was able to come in and make sure that the taxpayers’ money was spent wisely.
Many people have different ideas of what education should be. Some seem to think that if a person can interrupt a speaker by making an inane interjection that is an indication that he has had a good education. I do not agree with that view. I believe that the aim of the teacher should be to show the student a vision and then to give him the opportunity to work towards that vision. Perhaps this is an idealistic conception of education, but it is an ideal that can be achieved only if we attract the right type of teacher and only if we have the right type of equipment to enable the teacher to instruct the students. I believe also - I am confident that the Bill will help in this direction by providing better facilities for schools - that what we need in this world, contrary to general opinion-
– I rise to order. We on this side of the House have been rather restricted in our debating by rulings from the Chair, lt seems to me that the honourable member is drifting a little from the subject. Perhaps he is on Schedule 5.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member.
– I had been misled by the honourable member for Wills. I was more or less following the example set by him. May I repeat what I said? I can understand the honourable member for Wills objecting to this because I am sure he does not want what I am about to suggest. What we need is an education system that will provide more intelligent, critical followers who will not try to tell everybody, as apparently some people have been mistakenly told, that they are potential leaders. I believe that the policy which this Government is following will provide such a system, that it will provide the opportunity to achieve this education ideal. I believe that it will lead to the provision of the opportunities for our education system to produce more intelligent and questing followers. As my time has just about expired and as I believe that a most talented speaker is to follow me I conclude by saying that I believe that the whole concept is a grand one. I believe that it grew from the grass roots of the Liberal Party, and it represents the Liberal Party’s policy of supplying the needs of all people regardless of class, colour or creed, and 1 commend it.
– I am grateful for the tribute paid to me a few moments ago by the honourable member for Barton (Mr. Arthur) when he spoke of a most talented speaker. I have never thought that I had any more talent than anyone else in this House. The honourable member for Barton has just informed the Parliament that for many years he fought strenuously for the granting of Commonwealth aid to denominational schools. I shall be very surprised if the honourable member ever campaigned along those lines in the borderline seat of Barton prior to the last election. I think he has developed more courage since coming into this Parliament; but he should remember that what he has said in the Parliament tonight might be published in the local newspapers in the electorate of Barton and he should shudder at the thought of what the results might be in the electorate at the next election.
I also remind the honourable member that it has not always been the policy of the Liberal Party to grant increasing aid to private schools . At this stage, I am endeavouring to support the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser), who spoke on the subject now before the Parliament a short time ago. I remind the Parliament that the policy of the Liberal Party in 1960 towards granting financial aid to denominational schools was referred to in an answer to a question that I asked the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on 30th August of that year. I think that both the question and reply are worth reading verbatim. They appear on page 514 of Hansard of that date. We all know that Sir Robert Menzies was very skilful in answering questions. For that reason, when I asked him a question I endeavoured to limit the wording to the bare minimum in order to complete it before his rapier-like brain got working and he got into action because if the question was lengthy he would have the answer out before one was half way through asking the question. On 30th August 1960, I asked this question of the then Prime Minister:
My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he inform the House whether his Government favours the provision of financial assistance for denominational schools throughout the Commonwealth?
That was probably one of the shortest questions asked of the Prime Minister for quite some time. The right honourable gentleman’s reply was even shorter. It was:
The honourable member puts to me a question that is outside the jurisdiction of this Government.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party. Tonight we have heard the honourable member for Barton say that he was a member of the Education Committee of the Liberal Party of New South Wales. That should not have stopped him from seeking an interview with the then Prime Minister with a view to getting him to alter his policy. Honourable members will remember that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory pointed out that the Liberal Party had changed its policy following the 1961 election when it was returned with a majority of only one in this House. Believe me, Mr Speaker, these Liberals are very skilled. They can adjust their sails to every gust of wind that blows. I shall be surprised if, when the Australian yacht, whether it be ‘Gretel’ or Dame Pattie’ is chosen to contest the Americas Cup, it is not manned entirely by members of the Liberal Party who can trim their sails to every breeze that blows.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I suggest to him that he come back to the subject matter before the Chair.
– I was just sailing along towards the subject matter before the Chair. Because I cannot trim my sails as skilfully as the members of the Government, I ask you to forgive me. I have been a motorboat man all my life. I will never make a sailor. Parliament is debating the question of further grants to denominational schools. This Bill provides for the making available of $29,717,400 to government and independent schools for scientific laboratories and equipment during the three year period ending 30th June 1968.
Sir Robert Menzies was not alone in the view that he held in 1960 and to which I have referred. I understand that Mr E. C. B. MacLaurin, Master of Arts and one of the senior members of the Liberal Party of New South Wales wrote a booklet entitled State Aid for Non-State Schools’. It is available in the Parliamentary Library to all honourable members. I will stand corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that this distinguished representative was a member of the Liberal Party’s Education Committee. Therefore, he is probably well known personally to the honourable member for Barton. In his foreword to the booklet, he says:
I have written this brief document because I believe that State Aid introduces a bad, undemocratic principle - favoured treatment for one section of the community at the expense of al) the rest.
This is the type of thinking which leads to totalitarianism- whether fascism, communism, or ecclesiasticism, as in Spain today. It is completely imcompatible with the truly Australian way of life.
– Who said that?
– Mr E. C. B. MacLaurin. Probably he (ls a Scotsman. I understand he is a very prominent member of the New South Wale9 Liberal Party. He continued:
My first comments deal with State Aid and the Church. This is placed first, because some knowledge of the motives from which claims for State Aid arise is essential if the agitation is to be understood. I cannot close this foreword without drawing attention to the smear campaign which some State Aiders are conducting against their opponents. I write regardless of the falsity of their charges; they are accusing respectable men of being Communist. This is McCarthyism, and it is serious because not only are honourable men harmed thereby, but also because the real Communists are thus provided gratis with a respectable front.
Among the valued information supplied in this booklet by this distinguished member of the Liberal Party is this statement:
State aid, so far as the Roman Catholic child is concerned, is a form of compulsory apartheid.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat. I remind the honourable member that this Bill seeks the authority of the Parliament to allocate moneys in respect to science laboratories and equipment. Therefore the debate on the Bill is limited. I suggest that the honourable member return to matters appertaining to the Bill.
– Mr Speaker, unfortunately you were not in the Chair for a while and in your absence the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) was permitted to traverse the whole field now being traversed by the honourable member for Hunter.
-Is the honourable member for Scullin speaking to a point of order? If so, there is no substance in the point of order. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– As a result of this legislation we learn that independent schools will receive only $2,668,000. The Opposition agrees that Australia is greatly in need of qualified scientists. We believe that compared with the advanced countries of the world Australia is lagging shockingly behind in this field. But a lot of people who have considered this problem hold the view that it would have been better had the Government built science laboratories in separate areas away from the public and independent schools, and had equipped them, without sparing expense, in a most elaborate manner, with modern equipment. In parts of Australia where the climate is very irritating in the summer they should have been fitted with air conditioning equipment. Then the pupils of all schools, independent and State, would have been able to use these ultra-modern science blocks. They could have been accommodated in them. If the Government had considered this before introducing Commonwealth aid for private and public schools alike 1 think that possibly the scheme of today would have followed along the line suggested to me by many important Australians and which I am imparting to the Parliament now. Children of all faiths could have attended these ultra-modern science laboratories. The buildings could have been erected in country towns or cities in a position convenient for students.
However, Mr Speaker, the Labor Party supports the legislation. I re-emphasise that the Government was strongly opposed to granting aid to private schools until it suffered near defeat at the 1961 election. Then it turned turtle completely, as I pointed out when I quoted the answer to the question put by me to the then Prime Minister on 30th August 1960. That right honourable gentleman found that the position was such that he had to perform the twist in order to suit the political views of the people at that time. The Labor Party, as a result of intense campaigning by sections of the community, fortunately or unfortunately had to alter its policy because the Government had made the breakthrough in this field with a policy which in the long run may or may not be beneficial to the country. I will watch this matter and give it careful scrutiny as the years roll on.
- Mr Speaker, I support this Bill. I was very disappointed to hear one of my constituents, who is on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), say that he was unable to give the Bill much support. I was particularly disappointed because
– A constituent of the honourable member’s?
– One of my constituents. I was particularly disappointed because not so very long ago there came into my hands, while I was in my electorate, a report from the Evelyn branch of the Parents and Friends Association concerning an interview with the honourable member for Wills. This happened just before the last election. Apparently the honourable member for Wills gave the impression that he was very much in favour of helping the schools. Honourable members opposite must find themselves in a cleft stick. They realise that the Government knows of the problem facing independent and Church schools today. They realise also that 25% of the voting population of Australia follows the Roman Catholic faith. Therefore they feel that they cannot come out as they would like, perhaps, and act as the left wing executive would like them to act, and oppose state aid to Church and independent schools, because they realise that such action would cause them to lose votes.
– Order! I call to the attention of the honourable member for Deakin the fact that this is not a full discussion on all aspects of education in Australia. As I have reminded honourable members before, this is a Bill which seeks the authority of the Parliament to double the amount of money paid annually to independent secondary schools by way of grant from the Commonwealth for science buildings and equipment. This debate concerns the financing of this assistance and the manner in which the money will be paid. It does not cover the whole realm of education.
– In 1964 the Opposition moved an amendment to the first Bill concerning grants for science brought forward by this Government. That amendment was designed to negate the grants to independent and church schools. The bill we are discussing tonight is designed to double the amount made available annually by the Commonwealth to provide science laboratories and equipment for independent secondary schools throughout Australia. Honourable members on this side of the House believe that the increased assistance to these schools would be of great benefit. Within four years every independent school and every Government school will have an adequate science laboratory. Only as recently as last Sunday, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) I opened a science block at the Lutheran College at Croydon in my electorate. I was told by the chairman of the school council that they are very grateful for the assistance that this Government has given to church schools for science laboratories. I know that the same thought prevails throughout all such schools. At the present time 773 secondary schools have registered for assistance from the Government under the science laboratory grants scheme and 508 schools have already received assistance.
I should like to refer to a statement that was made by the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton). In March last year he said:
In doing this-
He was referring to the science grants: we see no principle violated, but we see the quality of education improved and the quantity of facilities increased.
Surely this is the criterion by which we judge whether or not this is a good Bill. It will improve the quality of education of all students and also will increase the quantity of the facilities provided. I believe that this is a good Bill. I support it and commend it to the House.
– I support the Bill one hundred per cent. If it has any fault, it is that it provides just about half of what it should provide. We in the National Parliament have been kicking a football around for the last twenty years - or at least eighteen years - about whether funds should be given to church schools. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who was the last speaker on our side, was perfectly right about what the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, told him and me also in reply to a question I asked. Sir Robert Menzies said:
The honourable member for West Sydney knows as well as I do that we cannot give any church aid to schools in that locality.
He went on to say, however, that through the Australian Loan Council the Government gives so much money to State governments each year but it never questions what they do with the money.
While I support the honourable member for Hunter for saying what he did about the reply to the question I asked, I condemn him for what he said in the last few words of his speech. He said that he was pressured into agreeing to State aid as a result of what the Liberal Party did. Any man who comes into this House and advocates aid for teaching, scholarships and everything of that kind, but who goes back to Sydney or Melbourne and tries to deprive children from attending the schools that their parents desire them to attend is not worthy of the name of freedom.
Five years ago in this place I made a speech on this subject. I was once told that one should not repeat oneself in Parliament but I intend to do that tonight later in my speech. I shall remind honourable members of the speech I made at that time for which I was condemned by the President of the State Labor Party in New South Wales and by Mr Chamberlain in Western Australia. They reckoned that I was destroying the Party. It is well to look now at the Party which they said I was destroying. There is hardly anybody in this House who can escape blame for what he has done in the past. On one occasion after I had discussed this matter in our Caucus room the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is now sitting at the table, interjected when I was making a speech about social services and asked me how my church schools were getting on. That is how he thought about it at that time. I replied to him by saying that if he had attended a church school he would at least have learnt some manners - certainly far more than he learnt at Oxford. The same gentleman never spoke to me for about twelve months after that. But we have been good friends since he has become a Minister of the Government. He is not the only one that has acted in that way.
Nobody can tell me that this Government is doing enough by way of aid for those schools that are dependent on such aid. Where can you get teachers like the nuns and the brothers who work day and night to help to rear children as their mothers and fathers want them to be reared? No thanks are due to the Federal Government for the aid that has been given to schools in Canberra. Because of the change of the seat of government from Melbourne to Canberra people were transferred here. Many of them wanted their children to have a Catholic education. It is of no use beating about the bush. I have listened to honourable members beating about the bush for seventeen or eighteen years. People have come to Australia from other countries. The Federal Government must accept the responsibility for educating the young people that it brings into this country, many of whom are flocking to the Catholic schools. Were it not for these people, there would not have been these applications to both State and Federal governments for more money. For many years no provision was made for the teaching of these children who wanted to go to certain schools.
We have an immigration programme. I understand that it costs the Government from £1,500 to £2,000 to bring in each immigrant. However, when it comes to the building of a school it is regarded as something that you would parade at a show. Not only has the Government deprived schools of assistance in the past, but it has denied State governments finance for this purpose. How many Catholics have represented the people in the Ministry? I think John Cramer was the first to do so. How many in the Liberal Party in New South Wales represent them today?
-Order! I ask the honourable member to restrain himself and to come back to the Bill before the House.
– Well, I will come back to it with a vengeance. I will repeat now the. speech that I made here in April 1961. I made it just about the time when the Liberal Parity was all at sea. Had it not been for the Communist vote in Queensland it would have been out on its pink ear at that particular time. The Government is now making a contribution to Catholic education but not to the extent that it should. It is not giving half the money that it should give. If the Government had to pay the wages of teachers in private schools its balance sheet would not be as satisfactory as it is today.
In April 1961 I made a speech in this Parliament which was reported in the Press as follows:
Australia was the only country in the British Commonwealth which refused aid to denominational schools, Mr Minogue (Labour, New South Wales) said in the House of Representatives in Canberra late last month.
The Government was denying to people the right to educate their children in the manner they thought fit, he said.
Mr. Minogue, who was speaking during the Address-in-Reply debate, discussed accommodation in schools.
In bis electorate of West Sydney, he said, was Blackfriars Correspondence School, the largest school of its kind in the world, with 7,000 pupils.
School accommodation was anything but modern and teachers had many problems, Mr. Minogue said.
But this should be compared with the position of children attending denominational schools whose parents got no aid of any kind from the Commonwealth Government.
Australia is the only country in the British Commonwealth which refused such aid,’ he said. ‘When I was in England three years ago, I found that it had been the practice both of Labor and Conservative Governments to contribute 75 per cent of the cost of building schools for all religious denominations.’
The Press report indicates that I went on to say:
In Scotland 100% of the cost is paid by the Government and nobody would accuse the Scots of wasting their money. At least they pay for justice. I hope and trust that the time will come when aid will be given to denominational schools in this country.
We have taken only the first step up to the present time and I hope that the Government wm keep on stepping forward until every child in this Commonwealth, irrespective of whether he is black, white or brindle, and no matter what his religion, will receive his education free in a church school if his parents send him to one. The Press report states that I also said:
If a war broke out tomorrow the Government would not ask the young fellow who was called up for service what school he had gone to.
Has that not come to pass? The Government is calling up twenty-year olds. They are not being knocked back because they were educated in Catholic schools. They are soon packed off to get murdered over in South Vietnam. They are all right to fight, but they are not all right to share in a distribution of money from this country’s budget. I concluded my speech in April 1961 by saying:
It would soon build a camp in which to put him. Yet the Government denies certain people the right of educating their children as they think fit.
It does not matter whether it is the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Labor Party, none is against the teaching of these children. I think it is a shame that the Government does not take over education and give full rights to all children attending schools. The Government should not brag about what it is doing at present. We have heard from the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). We have listened to him on television. He has been opposed to State aid for schools. Who made journeys all over New South Wales opposing State aid?
– Order! I again remind the honourable member that he must get back to the subject matter before the Chair.
– Well, it might be time for me to sit down. Nevertheless I can assure honourable members from both sides of the House that they should not be bragging that they have done this and have done that. They have not done anything really about the situation at all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Forbes) read a third time.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to speak on the subject of rural credit facilities. I am concerned that although the Farm Development Loan Fund was established in April 1966 only $ 16m of the $50m provided for in the Fund was committed as at 11th January 1967. I am at a loss to understand why this Fund has not been utilised more fully by primary producers as I have had complaints that they, the primary producers, cannot obtain finance on the longer fixed term basis provided for under the Farm Development Loan Fund. My inquiries into this matter lead me to believe that there is some misunderstanding in the minds of at least some bank managers as to who are entitled to receive advances from this Fund. In a statement to the House on 31st March 1966 the right honourable the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said:
Loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be made by trading banks to rural producers, particularly smaller producers.
He also said:
Generally in the administration of the Farm Development Loan Fund they- meaning the banks - will also give special consideration to the needs of creditworthy younger men with appropriate experience who have been unable to build up adequate resources.
Whatever the cause of it, I am of opinion that these funds are being confined too strictly to these particular, and undoubtedly very deserving, sections of the primary producers. This, I believe, is one of the reasons why such a large part of this Fund is being left unused. In his statement the Treasurer also said:
Loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be directed predominantly to developmental purposes which will raise productivity in rural industries.
I am of opinion that this aspect of the purposes for which this Fund was instituted has also been interpreted in such a way as to confine the use of this Fund. I believe, and apparently the Government believes, that this type of finance has a large and important part to play in the development of rural areas and to ‘assist those engaged in primary industry. I am also convinced that there are many primary producers who are anxious to use funds available under Farm Development Loan Fund conditions.
I feel therefore that it is necessary for the Treasurer to give a clearer interpretation of the purposes for which these moneys can be used with the object of making them more readily available to a greater number of individuals. I would also urge the trading banks to co-operate fully through their branches by ‘acquainting primary producers of the availability of these funds and by encouraging primary producers to make use of this comparatively new credit source.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The Government’s military advisers keep under constant review the threat to Australia, and in present strategic circumstances, it is assessed that general war involving nuclear weapons is not likely.
The Government’s civil defence programme is related to this assessment of the strategic situation at any time and is developed consistently with our overall defence policy and programme. In present circumstances a substantial diversion of our national resources to the civil defence programme is not warranted but the Government is progressively developing plans and preparations for civil defence which could make an effective contribution to survival and rehabilitation following either a conventional or a nuclear attack. The States likewise are developing their civil defence programmes.
Commonwealth expenditure alone on civil defence in 1963-66 was $723,806 and estimated expenditure for 1966-67 is $796,000.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The following tables provide the details requested by the honourable member in respect of claims approved for payment under the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965 and the Northern Territory Petroleum Products Subsidy Ordinance 1965 in the period from the introduction of tha subsidy scheme on 16th September 1965 to 30th June 1966.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
No such survey has been carried out. However, present departmental procedures ensure that as far as possible, eligible cases who may benefit from rehabilitation treatment or training are brought to the notice of the Rehabilitation Branch.
The medical information concerning all persons granted an invalid pension is reviewed by a rehabilitation medical consultant who recommends assistance where it appears that rehabilitation measures will enable the pensioner to engage in employment.
Similarly, sickness benefit grants are scrutinised for cases likely to benefit from rehabilitation. The Commonwealth Employment Service refers disabled persons who are receiving unemployment benefit and liaison is maintained with State Directors of Tuberculosis in respect of tuberculosis sufferers.
In addition, the assistance of doctors, hospital authorities, almoners and social workers is actively sought in the referral of cases which might need rehabilitation.
The Department also maintains liaison with voluntary bodies and social welfare agencies to ensure that they are aware of the services available to eligible persons who require rehabilitation assistance.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions, and also advises that information relevant to these matters is contained in the detailed description of the consumer price index which appears in successive issues of the annual Labour Report. A copy of the relevant section of Labour Report No. 5 1 - 1964 is being sent to the honourable member. The answers are:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s questions, and also advises that information relevant to these matters is contained in the chapter on wholesale prices and price indexes which appears in successive issue*; of the annual Labour Report. A copy of that chapter from Labour Report No. 51 - 1964 is being sent to the honourable member. The answers are:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– Tables showing details of securities on issue, the annual interest liability on these securities, and capital re payments on behalf of the Commonwealth, the States, local government and semigovernmental authorities are set out below:
The information in the foregoing tables has been taken from the White Paper ‘Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1966’, the Annual Reports of the National Debt Commission, and Finance Bulletins and the Bulletin on ‘State, Territory and Local Government Authorities’ Finance and Government Securities’ published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Figures showing actual interest payments are not available on a comparable basis for all authorities. Figures showing the annual interest liability have therefore been shown.
Statistical data for local and semi-governmental authority debt were not collected during the war years and collection was resumed in 1946-47. Details for Commonwealth, State, local and semigovernmental authorities have therefore been shown for 1947 in lieu of 1945.
The table ‘Capital Repayments’ shows actual expenditure of the Commonwealth and the States on debt redemption from the National Debt Sinking Fund, Consolidated Revenue Fund and Trust Fund. It excludes redemptions from the Loan Fund, i.e., where securities are issued and the proceeds used to redeem other securities. The figures shown for local and semi-governmental authorities are of funds provided for the redemption of debt. Unlike Commonwealth and State sinking funds, contributions paid into some local and semi-governmental authority sinking funds are not expended on debt redemption as they become available, but are accumulated until maturity of the loan for which the contribution is payable.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the total amount paid by way of dividends by all United Kingdom wholly-owned Australian subsidiaries to their parent companies for each of the years 1950-51 to 1965-66?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The specific information requested is not available.
However, total investment income (excluding undistributed income) payable by companies in Australia to U.K. investors from 1950-51 to 1965-66 was as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670405_reps_26_hor54/>.