26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– 1 ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question about Commonwealth Railways in South Australia. When will consultants be appointed for the 20-year old Adelaide to Port Pirie rail standardisation project in the light of the proposals which the interested con.sultant firms had to forward by last Friday? Has the Government yet considered the interdepartmental committee’s report which was expected this month on the alternative Port Augusta to Alice Springs routes recommended by the Commissioner for Railways in June 1967? What is delaying an announcement on the Whyalla to Port Augusta rail project on which the Commissioner gave his final reports and specifications last January?
– The Commonwealth Railways has in South Australia a number of proposals relating to each of the three routes which appear to have highest State priorities. A list of consultants to examine the line between Adelaide and the east-wept standard gauge line has now been submitted and is under examination by the Commonwealth and the State with a view to approving one. The terms of reference have been agreed upon and the report is expected within about 4 months of the consultant being commissioned to undertake the examination. In addition a supplementary report on the standardisation of the lines north of the east-west standard gauge line will be submitted following upon the main report on the siting of the main line from Adelaide to the standard gauge line.
A line between Adelaide and the standard gauge line has always been accepted as being desirable to give Adelaide and the people of Adelaide access to the markets of the east and as an integral part of the overall Australian standard gauge rail pattern. At the same time there has been within South Australia some concern to see in what way and to what extent the existing narrow gauge and broad gauge lines should be standardised or whether it is preferable to get the principal link through to the standard gauge line of Adelaide itself. It is on that matter that there has been protracted discussion between the Commonwealth and State governments.
The South Australian Government has been a little uncertain in that it has the total responsibility for the economic operation of the railways in South Australia, its concern is both to provide adequate access for the industries of Adelaide and to ensure that it can operate its rail system without undue cost to users of the railway in that State. Indeed, I believe that there has been a number of railways which the Government of South Australia has either already closed down or has announced it will close down. These lines are being closed because the Government believes that road transport operation is more efficient on those routes.
As to the line from Whyalla to Port Augusta, a report has been tendered by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, recommending that a particular route be followed and that a particular course of construction be pursued. Before building a railway line it is necessary to determine the most economic and practical route and to assess the economics of the proposition generally. The link between Whyalla and Port Augusta will cost a substantial amount of money. The honourable member foi Grey has spoken to me on many occasions and has suggested that there is a very real demand and a necessity for this railway link, but it is still necessary to determine the volume of cargo and the economics of such a line. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has reported only on the technical engineering aspects and the construction of the line and not on the economics of the operation of the line. As a result of the decision of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd to send steel to the eastern ports by trans-shipment from Port Augusta to the trans-continental railway system the volume of traffic will now substantially increase. This has changed the assessment of the economics of the operation and indeed it has vindicated the original decision of the Government to re-examine the position in 1969. This re-examination is now being actively pursued, and when a decision has been taken no doubt it will be announced by the Prime Minister or by another responsible officer of this Government.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked about the Alice Springs railway, This problem has been aggravated by the very frequent heavy falls of rain that have inundated the line between Marree and Alice Springs. At this time an interdepartmental inquiry is being undertaken to determine the relative economics and suitability of a road link and rail link. There are a number of separate proposals. There is the question whether the line to Alice Springs should be connected to the eastwest standard gauge line at a point somewhere west of Port Augusta. There is the question whether or not the existing line from Maree to Alice Springs can be upgraded or whether or not it should be reconstructed as a standard gauge line. All these propositions would involve very substantial amounts of money.
As I explained before, with all railway development proposals it is necessary to determine not only the cost of construction but also the economic practicability. It is necessary to decide whether we can expect a return from the provision of the service. Honourable members on this side of the House believe that it is necessary to have an adequate service, but it is also necessary that the Government keep in mind its responsibility to ensure that we will receive a return for the very substantial amount of money involved, in the construction of the railway line. The matter is still under active examination, but the Government does believe that it is necessary for Alice Springs and for the Northern Territory that there be an adequate transport service provided for the people of the Northern Territory. It is for that reason that we have been trying to decide whether it is better that this adequate transport service be provided by road or by rail.
-Order! I have had occasion to request both honourable members asking questions and Ministers answering those questions to co-operate with the Chair so that honourable members may be able to utilise question time fully and correctly. I suggest to Ministers that if there is a question that requires a long and involved answer the correct procedure would be to ask for leave to make a statement after question time. I believe that this is a reasonable request from the Chair and I trust that it will be heeded.
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs whether he has seen the rather strong statement made by Mrs Kath Walker on the subject of assistance to Aboriginals which appeared in today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. If he has seen the statement can he say whether, there is any validity in Mrs Walker’s criticism?
– As the honourable member said, the statement made by Mrs Kath Kalker was a strong one, but it is not one with which I or the Government would be entirely out of sympathy. Mrs Walker did make the point that the Aboriginal people must be the makers of their own salvation; that they had to work out their own destiny and that they had to get rid of the mentality of the hand-out. She referred in stronger terms than I would use to charity to Aboriginals as being brutalising but in general the way in which she spoke and the direction of her comments was not entirely out of line with Government thinking on this matter. Of course I would deplore any exaggerated talk of black power or things of that description which could operate only to the disadvantage of the Aboriginals. May I make these final points: The Aboriginals differ as to their needs and as to the way in which they express their desires. I do not think that anybody should endeavour to impose a single way of advance which would be applicable to the whole people. They are different people and some of them have different needs. They should be expressing their needs on an individual basis.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Is it a fact that a challenge to the validity of legislation setting up the Trade Practices Tribunal has been with the High Court of Australia since May this year but that no hearing date has yet been listed? Is it a fact that the authority of the Tribunal is in suspension until this challenge is decided? Incidentally, it is a challenge based on the first action heard by the Tribunal. Is it a fact that no determination on this challenge can be made until a replacement is found to fill the High Court bench vacancy caused by the death of Sir Alan Taylor? Will the AttorneyGeneral promptly move to fill that vacancy and then arrange for an early hearing date for this challenge so that the Tribunal may know whether it will be allowed to tackle the expanding volume of work massing before it?
– It is true that there was a challenge by Cascade Breweries to the validity of the Trade Practices Act at the time mentioned by the honourable member for Oxley. The challenge is based on the assertion that in the Act we have given judicial power to an administrative tribunal. There has been some delay in having this case heard by the High Court. Without going into all the details, among the factors involved has been an objection to the Chief Justice sitting on the matter and I think he will not now be sitting on the healing. Then there was illness on the part of Mr Justice Owen who was hospitalised. Finally there was the unfortunate death of Sir Alan Taylor. These matters have affected the hearing of the case but I understand it will be heard early in the next Sydney sittings which commence on 22nd October. As to filling the vacancy in the High Court, the Government has been considering this and I hope to make an early announcement on the subject.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that Captain J. P. Stevenson, the captain of HMAS ‘Melbourne’, was discharged with honour from the court martial where charges were laid against him? Is it a fact that Captain Stevenson’s seniority on the Navy list as a captain dates from 31st December 1960? Is it a fact that he has now been posted to replace Captain Johns whose seniority on the Navy list dates from 30th June 1968? Will the Minister explain to the House the reason for this action?
– Early this year, well before the collision, a decision was made to make the posting of Chief Staff Officer to the Flag Officer in Charge of the Eastern Australia
Area a senior captain’s posting. This was necessary because it was felt that the Flag Officer should have a senior officer to act as his deputy when he was inspecting other units or was away from his post for other reasons. The decision to appoint Captain Stevenson to this post was made on 5th May this year - before the collision. I think this disposes quite effectively of the criticism that has been made, particularly in the Canberra Times’ this morning, that this was some vindictive action. I repeat, the decision to upgrade the Chief of Staff post and to appoint Captain Stevenson to it was made before the collision. It has been suggested that Captain Stevenson may have had command of ‘Melbourne’ for rather a shorter time than usual. The facts are that Captain Stevenson had command of Melbourne’ for 15 months. Of the previous captains of ‘Melbourne’, Captain Synnot had her for 11 months; Captain Wells, now Rear Admiral Wells, had her for 12± months and Captain D. Stevenson, now Rear Admiral Stevenson, had her for 18 months. I can assure the House that there has been no victimisation as, of course, there could not be and I think that the standard of comment that appeared in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ is a poor sample of journalistic ethics.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an allegation that Sir Reginald Ansett is engaged in a campaign to defeat the honourable members for St George and Barton because both honourable members are opposed to Sir Reginald’s plan to force the Government to institute night flying at Mascot Airport in Sydney? If there is even the slightest semblance of truth in this allegation will the Prime Minister confer with the Leader of the Opposition to find out just how many thousands of dollars Sir Reginald is offering to pour into the coffers of the Australian Labor Party to secure the defeat of any Liberal Party members who stand in the way of his ambitions? Finally, if he is satisfied that the allegation is correct, will he take steps directed to bringing Sir Reginald Ansett to the Bar of the House to explain just what he is trying to do?
– My attention had not been drawn to the allegation referred to by the right honourable member, no doubt because the allegation is, on the face of it, so patently absurd. I would not believe that Sir Reginald Ansett was engaged in any such activity at all. Indeed, I think that the facts are that the Labor Party itself is seeking to misrepresent the position in the two electorates concerned in regard to night flying and this, perhaps, is a further endeavour to push forward that misrepresentation. Clearly a suggestion that a party which over and over again has threatened to abolish competition in airlines in this country by destroying the private enterprise part of that competition is not a party which in any way whatever could be expected to have any kind of affiliation with the private enterprise it seeks to destroy.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer the right honourable gentleman to the Budget introduced into the Victorian State Parliament yesterday by Sir Henry Bolte. In view of the record budget deficit of $20m and Sir Henry’s reported statement that some of the deficit would be met by the Commonwealth since the Prime Minister had promised to consider another grant to the States in February, does it appear that Sir Henry is clearly looking to the Federal Government to meet some of this deficit? Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House whether the statement made by Sir Henry is a reasonably accurate assessment?
– I am sure I would not be expected to offer opinions on what was in Sir Henry Bolte’s mind when he brought down the Budget for his own State Government, nor am I able to do so. But there is every February a meeting between the Commonwealth and the States at which the general budgetary position and the general financial situation are examined, and it may well have been that Sir Henry was hoping that at such a meeting, as has happened in the past on occasions, there would be an examination of the position not only in the State of Victoria, but in all States. This could well have been in his mind, but I am not able to answer for him.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that there is one senior officer of the rank of captain or above to every eight cadets at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. If so, and in view of the fairly long standing practice of hazing or bastardisation of junior cadets and the fact that relatively recently appointed civilian academic staff had to expose this brutal treatment, why did senior officers fail to concern themselves sufficiently with the welfare of young cadets, or did they regard this sadistic behaviour as standard and acceptable conduct in the training of future Army officers?
– As I previously have stated in this House, a board of inquiry is making a comprehensive investigation into the general matter to which the honourable member refers. In the course of the inquiry evidence is being taken from a large number of witnesses. Until the board has made its report and its conclusions and findings are available to me it would, I believe, be inappropriate for me to comment or to express conclusions on matters coming within the scope of that inquiry or, in fact, to discuss the cases of individuals who may be invited to give evidence at that inquiry.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General referring to the report of the committee under Mr Justice Manning which was presented in May 1964 and which recommended amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act. Can the Attorney-General state the present position? Will he do his best to hasten the new legislation because conservative estimates show a considerable cost to the Australian economy in processing approximately 1,500,000 dishonoured cheques per annum, brought about by the endorsements required and the numerous types of crossings on cheques totalling 500,000,000 per annum? If investigation of electronic processing is creating a hold-up, would it be possible for this section to be added by amendment at a later stage, as the costs of the present procedures are increasing steadily in these days when skilled staff is scarce?
– My Department is conscious of the expense involved in operating a cheque system which was copied from the English Bills of Exchange Act of 1882. At that time the work was done by handwriting, and it is necessary to modernise this system. The Manning report incorporated in the appendix a draft Bill and from that a series of draft Bills was prepared but it has been found that alterations have been necessary, some dictated by changes in banking procedures. I had hoped to bring down this legislation in the current session of the Parliament but the stage had not quite been reached where all the difficulties of fitting the cheques legislation entirely into the modern system as it is operating at present, with electronic processes and so on, had been solved. However, the stage has been reached where I think an assurance can be given to the honourable member that the new cheques legislation will be presented to the House in the autumn session of next year.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. How does the Minister justify the limited maximum Commonwealth benefit of $60 that is payable to medical benefit fund contributors for any surgical operation? is the Minister aware that the usual fee for surgical correction of a congenitally deformed spine is $500 and that the operation is within the competence of only a limited number of surgeons? What relief is proposed for fund contributors who are required to pay at least two-thirds of such a fee, which is the amount in excess of the combined benefits received from the Commonwealth and the fund?
– Over 1,000 separate items and benefits are listed in the Schedule to the National Health Act. I do not think it is reasonable to ask me to comment on a particular item. I do not have the details in my head of each one of the 1,000 separate items and benefits. But I would point out to the honourable member that, as I have indicated on previous occasions, the Government set up the Nimmo Committee to inquire into health insurance. The Committee has made certain recommendations on precisely the point raised by the honourable member. Its recommendations are being considered by the Government.
Discussions are taking place with the various bodies and people concerned. When a final decision is made 1 shall make an announcement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the commencement of the construction of a dam at Dartmouth is being delayed because the South Australian Opposition is playing politics? In view of the fact that the construction of this dam is of vital importance to the continued prosperity of the people of the Riverina area, I ask: What wilt happen if the South Australian Opposition continues its present attitude?
– This is not a factor in the delay at present. We are on [he point of obtaining agreement between the three States concerned and the Commonwealth. This agreement will then have to be approved by the respective Parliaments. It could well be that if the Australian Labor Party, which is in Opposition in South Australia, opposes the agreement, commencement of the Dartmouth project will be delayed. I think I should point out that the Labor Party was in office in South Australia when it began to appear likely that Chowilla was not the most suitable site for the next major storage on the River Murray. In fact, Mr Dunstan was Premier of South Australia when the River Murray Commission unanimously decided that work should be suspended on Chowilla and alternative sites examined. Following this suspension of work, Mr Dunstan visited myself and the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales and put to us that in looking at alternatives to Chowilla we should seek to give South Australia not less than the benefits it would have derived from the Chowilla scheme. We readily agreed to this. In fact we ascertained - through the River Murray Commission - that a dam at Dartmouth could give five times the amount of water that a dam at Chowilla could give at exactly the same cost of construction. Because of this the South Australian Government, which had then changed and was a Libera] government, readily accepted that the next major storage should be at Dartmouth. It would be a tragedy if Mr Dunstan, who when he was Premier appeared ready to agree to an alternative scheme that would give South Australia more water, should now seek to play politics and delay the completion of this project, particularly at a time when financial and all other arrangements appear to be satisfactory to the governments concerned.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Now that the Government has turned down for the immediate future the Queensland Government’s request to support financially urgent water conservation schemes in coastal Queensland, why is the Government delaying a positive announcement on the Queensland Government’s urgent request for a power house? Is there any substance in the persistent rumours that the public announcement on the power house is being delayed so that it can coincide with the Prime Minister’s election policy speech?
– In so far as the question refers to the matter of a proposed power house in central Queensland the answer to the honourable member’s question is that the first financial propositions put before the Government as to how such a power house might be financed reached the Commonwealth Government only, from memory, on 25th August or some date about that time. There were discussions and there have been discussions between the officials of the two Governments since that time. There has been an alteration in the suggestion put before us by the officials from the Queensland Government. I think the honourable member would agree that in a matter of this significance and this importance the time during which financial propositions need to be discussed for such a large matter has not in any way been excessive.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. In view of recent comments on the 5% reduction in defence expenditure in this financial year, can the Minister advise the House and the country what effect this reduction of expenditure will have on our defence capability in the known strategic situation?
– I am sure it will be understood that defence preparation is a continuing thing. If one takes cognisance of the last 4 completed financial years one will note that defence expenditure has risen from S750m to S950m, then to $l,100m and ultimately to SI, 156m. The fact that there should be a drop of 5% on this amount this year would perhaps lead to the idea that we should have spent money merely for the sake of keeping the figures up. The real fact is that the reduction of 5% in this year’s defence vote does not represent a conscious decision to drop the vote. Clearly, in a programme of the magnitude of the one in which we are involved, it is not possible to have projects begin and terminate in a way that will keep spending precisely at any particular figure in one year. Added to that, of course, a considerable amount of money has been deferred from this year’s accounts because the accounts, and particularly those for overseas purchases, have not been presented.
The 3-year programme in which the Government was engaged financially in 1968 - and in accordance with which, incidentally, equipment is still coming forward - has left our defence services better equipped than at any other time in peace time. I am sure that the honourable gentleman will understand and appreciate the philosophy behind the change from a 3-year programme, which certainly presents a dramatic shopping list in one piece, to a rolling 5-year programme which has regard to the strategic situation and better systems of planning and appraisal of defence equipment within the Defence Department. One does not expect a dramatic programme to be put down at the moment. The equipment that I have mentioned, and particularly equipment that is associated with the Navy, is providing new mobility for our defence services and already represents SI 30m of the defence programme. In addition to that, of course, 1 have mentioned a number of items that are well up in the pipeline and which are close to finality. Under the new arrangement these items can be admitted at any time. Something was said last week about Cockburn Sound development being dropped from our defence programme. I categorically denied that we had dropped it. The fact of the matter is, of course, that this will be in Government planning, and as soon as the planning and consideration of the expenditure, which is quite considerable, on that proposal has progressed, it can at any time be admitted to the defence programme. I think that these points will indicate that really any minor reduction in the programme for this year does not indicate any reduction in defence preparations. Indeed, the honourable gentleman will see from the programme that has been put down that we are paying consideration to upgrading the Navy to provide it with new equipment. Equipment is constantly being provided to keep the Army in good shape. We are providing additional mobility. There will, perhaps, as soon as possible be admitted to the programme aircraft works which are under consideration. All told, the Armed Services are in pretty good shape.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Is the Government considering a proposal for the construction of additional wharves on the eastern side of Garden Island naval base involving the reclamation of about 10 acres of Sydney harbour? Has the New South Wales Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects protested to the Minister at the proposal and urged a complete reappraisal of policy in relation to defence installations in the Sydney metropolitan area and particularly on the foreshores of the harbour? Has he considered suspending the projected extension of the Garden Island wharf space pending a review of policy?
– I can only tell the honourable gentleman that these matters have not come to me, nor have I had representations to which he refers. If they should be in my Department, certainly 1 will look into them. They have not reached me personally, but I will look-
– Is there a proposal for Garden Island?
– I am not even sure of that. It has not come to me at this stage. It would be with the Navy. In other words I wish that the honourable gentleman had addressed his question to my colleague the Minister for the Navy. I will have a look at the position and he will be advised.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware of the number of men and women registered as unemployed who, either because of their physical or educational disability, or merely because of their age, are being passed over by employers who, because of the current position in most parts of Queensland, can be quite selective in their choice of labour? What percentage of these people is also rejected by rehabilitation centres? If, as the Minister suggested last week, these people can be better helped by church and charitable organisations, what assistance will be given to such organisations?
– I think that the honourable member misquoted a little of what I said last week. I did say that some of these people, but not all of them, would be better helped by such organisations. If the honourable member will do me the honour of looking at what I said in the House he will see that I addressed my mind to this particular question. There are some of what I described as the hard core of unemployed people who, I believe, can still be helped by rehabilitation and by other means. We have had some analysis made of this. At the present time there are not many of these people. I am looking at the people who have been on unemployment relief for upwards of 3 months and upwards of 6 months. These are what I call the ‘hard core’. They fall, very largely, into two or three main categories. A number of young girls are in this category, particularly in country towns. There are also unskilled labourers who, because of advancing age, are unable to sustain the rigours of their old labouring avocations and, having no skill, are difficult to reabsorb into the community. Another group consists of migrants who lack a command of English. We are at present examining each of these groups and trying for the first time to elaborate a policy to help them.
As I said there are some people who, for reasons of alcoholism or something of the sort, are not really amenable to the kind of help that the Government can give. For these people I would think that the help so generously offered by church and charitable organisations is more effective than the help the Government can give. But there are still some, even though they are a small number, who can be helped and will be helped by the plans that the Government is developing. May I just remind the House that the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit at present is of the order of only 12,000 throughout the whole of Australia. This includes those In transition, the derelicts and the hard core unemployables who can be helped and to whom the Government is directing attention. I am grateful that the honourable member is turning his mind in the same direction too.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the prosperity presently being enjoyed by air transport operators, will the Minister review the air services provided to country areas with the object of encouraging the operators to provide a better service by increasing the frequency of nights?
– The services provided throughout Australia by the major operators and other operators are very extensive. The number of licensed aerodromes is a record for a country of this size. An earnest of the importance attached to aviation in Australia is that, as I have said in the House before, we are third in the world in terms of the number pf passengers carried. This does indicate that services are being provided. A reasonable proportion of the number of passengers is represented by people carried to and from country areas. I appreciate that in all circumstances it is not possible to maintain the absolute maximum service that is required, but to the extent that is possible, in co-operation with my Department, the airline operators are trying to do this. The Government also is assisting substantially by providing subsidies, which amount to more than SI. 3m, for developmental and essential rural routes, particularly in the northern parts of Australia. They certainly apply to a number of areas in the honourable member’s electorate. However, there is a limit to the total subsidy that can be provided and to the facilities and services that can be made available. I assure the honourable member that careful attention is given to this matter. We will certainly continue our discussions with the airline operators to ensure that the best possible service is provided.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can he explain to the House the statement made by an official of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd regarding cracks in the Boeing 727 aircraft? Will he say why these fractures were suspected at the 4,000 hours overhaul but were not found until the 8,000 hours overhaul? Was his Department aware of the fractures suspected at the 4,000 hours overhaul? If so why did it not order a strict check of the aircraft , at that time instead of allowing it to fly for a further 4,000 hours? Can the Minister say whether any such cracks were found in aircraft used by Trans-Australia Airlines?
– This matter is mentioned in my annual report, which I submitted to Parliament yesterday. That reference is probably the basis for this question. It is also referred to in our ‘Aviation Safety Digest’, which outlines some of the problems and the attention given to them by the air safety investigation officers in my Department and the maintenance groups associated with the airlines. It is a fact that some corrosion cracks were evident in the early models of the Boeing 727. They appeared after a certain number of hours. This is not unusual. There is no aircraft flying in commercial service or any other service that does not have these problems. I think the honourable member is well aware of this. The cracks appear in varying degrees under varying circumstances.
I can give a guarantee that Australia has the tightest system of supervision of any country. As soon as these particular fatigue indications became apparent, steps were taken to deal with them. I may say that at the same time the manufacturers became aware of this situation and modifications have been made in later models to overcome this problem of corrosion. I assure the honourable member and the House, as well as the travelling public, that there is no problem in relation to this matter. It is a relatively minor matter which is under control. There is, no safety problem involved at all. We certainly keep a very strict check, particularly on earlier models of the 727, to ensure that maintenance is kept up to a high standard. Later models which are now partly in operation in Australia and which are being imported have no corrosion problem.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle)Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes- by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). During question time the right honourable gentleman, when replying to a question asked by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), said that the Labor Party Opposition was trying to destroy the two airline system. I want to be very clear-
-Order! There is no misrepresentation. The honourable member for Newcastle is not identified with the statement.
– The statement was made originally about me as spokesman for the Labor Party on civil aviation matters.
-Order! There is no cause for a personal explanation. The honourable member is out of order.
– Mr Speaker, on this point, four members of the Labor Party spoke on this subject yesterday. They were the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), whom I have chosen as spokesman on civil aviation matters, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and myself. Would it be in order if all four were to claim to have been misrepresented?
– I think the same rule would apply.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a short statement about the reports of the inquiry into salaries of lecturers and senior lecturers in colleges of advanced education and of the inquiry into academic awards in advanced education.
-Is leave granted?
– No. We have had no opportunity to study these.
– Leave is not granted.
– I present the following papers:
Report of Inquiry into Salaries of Lecturers and Senior Lecturers in Colleges of Advanced Education (the Sweeney Report); and
Report of Inquiry into Academic Awards in Advanced Education (the Wiltshire Report). and move:
That the House take note of the papers.
I might say at the outset that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) did indicate that he would like information to be made available quickly. This has been his general attitude. A few days ago he asked me a question about these reports. I indicated that I would have a meeting with the States last Monday. The general conclusions agreed to at that meeting were endorsed by the Commonwealth last night. Accordingly I sought to lose no time in seeking to make the reports available not only to members of this House but also to the very many people outside who have been pressing for the public release of the reports. I indicated, through the officials, to the Leader of the Opposition earlier today that I would be seeking to table these papers and at the same time to make a very brief statement indicating the Government’s attitude to them. I was advised that there would possibly be some difficulty about leave being granted. It seems to me that the present Leader of the Opposition has taken the odd view that he must jump to his feet and respond immediately to every Government statement. It seems that he is not prepared to consider them in the normal course of events and reply at some future time.
Having said that, I turn to the subject matter of the papers presented to the House.
The reports are the ‘Inquiry into Salaries of Lecturers and Senior Lecturers in Colleges of Advanced Education’ (the Sweeney report), and the ‘Academic Awards in Advanced Education’ (the Wiltshire report).
Mr Justice Sweeney was commissioned by the Commonwealth, with the assistance of two assessors nominated by the States, To advise on salaries of lecturers and senior lecturers in colleges of advanced education having regard to present levels of academic and professional salaries in Australia, with a view to such advice being used by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education as the basis for recommending grants for colleges of advanced education.’ His report has been considered by the Commonwealth and the States and the Commonwealth and the States have agreed that, firstly, it is for each State, in accordance with its own procedures, to determine the actual salaries payable to academic staff in colleges of advanced education; secondly, while not specifically endorsing the report or any particular part of it, the report, among other things, should be taken into account in making such determinations; and, thirdly, in the longer term it is desirable to achieve comparability as between colleges throughout Australia of academic salaries paid in those colleges.
For its part, the Commonwealth accepts that the maximum salary levels for lecturer and senior lecturer which it is prepared to support in determining grants for colleges of advanced education will be those payable in universities. The Commonwealth will continue to look to its Advisory Committee on Advanced Education to recommend the levels of recurrent grants in respect of particular institutions. The inquiry into academic awards in advanced education was undertaken by a committee comprised as follows: The Chairman was Mr F. M. Wiltshire, OBE, Managing Director, Wiltshire File Co. Pty Ltd., Melbourne, and the members were Professor J. J. Pratt, Professor of Education, University of New South Wales, and Dr
To inquire into and make recommendations on:
The desirability of conformity in nomenclature for awards in colleges of advanced education and, if considered desirable, the steps appropriate to achieve this conformity.
The criteria which should be applied to the assessment of courses designed to qualify students for awards at various levels.
The nomenclature to be used for awards.
The nature and modus operandi of a possible body to advise on comparability of standards in awards.
The Commonwealth and the States agree that the Wiltshire report represents a careful analysis of the question of nomenclatures appropriate for courses, of the question of degree granting in the colleges and of the possible work which might be undertaken by a national accrediting agency. It provides useful guidelines for a comprehensive system for nomenclature of awards. It is a matter for each State to determine the courses and the appropriate academic awards in its colleges of advanced education.
Consistency in awards throughout Australia is desirable but further consideration needs to be given to the necessary consultative machinery and a working party is to be set up to examine this aspect and report to Ministers. Some States have set up their own machinery for the purpose of determining awards. Others may elect to establish their own machinery or to use a national consultative body representative of the States and the Commonwealth. The relationships between the States and the national body will need to be carefully worked out. The Commonwealth will be prepared to provide financial assistance for degree courses in colleges of advanced education where the standard of those courses has been endorsed by a national consultative body.
– I express my appreciation to the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for making available the Wiltshire Report and the Sweeney Report so that they can be taken into consideration when tonight the House debates the various tertiary education Bills. I wish at this stage to confine myself to the Minister’s opening remarks. It is true that this morning a message came from the officers who are in charge of the Government’s legislative programme to the officers who assist my Deputy and me, that the Minister wished to make a statement by leave on the subject matter of these two reports. A message was sent back that leave would be given if the reports were made available to the Opposition in time for somebody from the Opposition also to make a statement. A message came back that the reports would not be made available ahead of the Minister tabling them. Thereafter the daily programme for the House of Representatives, known as the blue paper, came out and it is plain from it that the Minister had decided not to make a statement by leave, because against the entry on the blue paper his name is not entered, but instead to present the papers, because against that entry his name does appear.
Mr Speaker, this was quite deliberate and the Opposition accepts it. This matter was first a subject of controversy between the honourable gentleman and the Opposition some months ago when, in similar circumstances, he sought to make a statement by leave on a document which his Department had prepared concerning the comparative expenditure by Australia and other countries on education in terms of the gross national product. There again the response by the Opposition was that leave certainly would be granted if the Opposition were given an opportunity to look at the document before that time so that if it wished, a spokesman on its behalf also could speak to the document. The Minister was not prepared to take that course. He took the course which he adopted today of presenting the paper.
Any Minister is entitled to present a paper. He does not need leave of the House to do so. If, however, a Minister wishes to make a statement he requires the leave of the House. The Opposition takes the attitude that at least there should, in a deliberative chamber, be some parity. If a Minister wishes to make a statement on a subject then in all fairness the spokesman for the Opposition, the shadow minister, should have an opportunity to make a statement on the same matter. This practice was followed always, and accepted, under Prime Ministers Menzies and Holt. It is a practice which is very much in the discard today.
– Only because the Government is rattled.
– The reason is obvious. I agree with the interjection. But last night one saw this happen at the top. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) at 8.45 last night made a statement on overseas investment and I received a copy of the statement just as he rose. This was not as bad as when there was a statement made by the right honourable gentleman on aid to Indonesia after 10 p.m. and I did not receive a copy at all.
-Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition is getting a little astray. I allowed the Minister for Education and Science to make some comment on this but I think the Chair has been sufficiently lenient to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Might I conclude with this illustration: The Opposition believes that in the Parliament it is entitled to be heard and that if leave is required the Opposition should not give leave unless it also has the opportunity to be heard. Our experience has been that if a statement is made and we then seek an adjournment to consider it, there has been no resumption of the debate. From today’s notice paper it is clear that that has occurred in respect of the wheat delivery quota proposals of 30th April, the marginal dairy farm reconstruction proposals of 20th May, the national water resources development programme of 26th February and various projects under that programme of 17th April. It is for this reason that on this occasion leave was refused. We welcome the reports although we notice that they have been in the hands of the Government, in the case of the Sweeney Report since 1 st May and the Wiltshire Report since 12th June. Even if they are belated, they are welcome and the Opposition will have the opportunity to make considered remarks on them on the debates on the Bills tonight.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon - Minister for Education and Science) - Mr Speaker, I rise to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. It was earlier this morning pointed out to the Opposition that I was seeking to do this, so that these statements which are relevant to the programmes that will be debated tonight could be fully examined and debated on that occasion. There was no wish to strifle or restrict any debate. Indeed, a positive attempt was made to see that debate would bc possible not only on the two documents but on the Government’s attitudes to them. The Leader of the Opposition was not prepared to co-operate in that particular approach and that is why I took the course that I did take which enabled me to present the documents and state the Government’s attitude in relation to them. 1 mention another very minor point: I was also misrepresented in respect of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition did not get copies of the documents before they were presented. Discussion originally occurred on this matter at about 10 o’clock, perhaps a little earlier. If the Leader of the Opposition thought that he could have made a considered statement immediately after question time by getting them at 10 o’clock instead of at 10.30 when he did get them be must, indeed, be a very fast reader. I believe that my first course, indicating that he could make considered statements this evening during the general tertiary debates, was the appropriate course for the Parliament - a course designed to stimulate proper debate in the Parliament.
-Order! The Minister is going beyond a personal explanation.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - On that, Mr Speaker-
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition want to make a further personal explanation?
– I should like to say that there was no opportunity for me to read the documents during question time.
– I did not say that there was.
– Very smart. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Construction of Pathology Block at Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1<»1 3-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Construction of new pathology block and associated works at Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
The proposal includes erection of a new building to accommodate an operating theatre suite, the Pathology Department and a central sterile supply unit, and remodelling and extension of existing areas for administrative services and school of nursing. The estimated cost is $3,400,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Construction and Extension of Stores Buildings at St Mary’s, Botany and Waterloo, New South Wales
– I move:
That, in accordance with, the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which th, committee has duly reported to this House: Construction and extension of stores buildings at St Mary’s, Botany, and Waterloo, New South Wales.
The proposal involves construction of new storehouses and associated buildings and services and renovations to storehouses to replace facilities at Bunnerong. The estimated cost is $3,500,000. In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Committee recommended that the Government should give prompt attention to relocating storage for the Commonwealth Archives Office. The Government recently acquired a site at Villawood, New South Wales, for this purpose. Upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Development of No. 1 Stores Depot, Royal Australian Air Force Base, Tottenham, Victoria
[11.33J- I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Development of No. 1 stores depot, R.A.A.F. base, Tottenham, Victoria.
The proposal involves erection of a protective treatment and packaging building, a gate control building, an education and training building, an airmen’s recreation centre, officers’ and senior noncommissioned officers’ accommodation blocks, messes and kitchen, an airmen’s mess, kitchen, etc., and an airmen’s accommodation block to replace existing substandard buildings. The estimated cost is $2,235,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and upon the concurrence of this house in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1417), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Daly had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting (he following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House condemns the Government because it has failed to-
increase adequately rates of all pensions and social service benefits to meet the increased cost of living;
investigate and deal with the real areas of need and poverty;
provide an equitable and just basis for regular review of social service benefits to maintain their purchasing power,
eliminate injustices of discrimination between pensioners and the sick and the needy;
provide ‘fringe benefits’ for all pensioners;
give effect of the 1949 election policy of the Liberal-Country Party to abolish the means test; and
make benefits retrospective to 1 July 1969’.
– We are today debating a Bill which, amongst its many commendable provisions, contains a proposal which I believe will, in time, be recognised as one of the most significant steps taken in Australia’s social security legislation. The means test for many years has been a most vexed and controversial question. Throughout the time that I have been a member of this House I have consistently advocated that for Australia’s retirement benefits scheme to be comprehensive it must be designed to ensure that adequate minimum provision is made for all whilst, at the same time, giving encouragement to those who wish to provide for themselves at rates above that minimum.
The introduction of the tapered means test will ensure that Australia’s retirement benefits scheme is able to meet these tests. There have been many who have held the view that priority should be given to the relief of poverty and to the assistance of those with the greatest need. They have advocated that social service benefits should be available to those most in need. They have opposed those supporting the payment of universal benefits on the ground that their provision would result in less money being available for those whose need is greatest. They have been supported by those who have believed that a selective benefit is an effective means of redistributing income between the stronger members of the community and the weaker ones. They have expressed the view that if age pension payments are to be made universal the ability to help those in need would be limited.
It has been argued that a selective scheme is likely to result in benefits available to those most in need being higher and rising more rapidly than would be the case if the benefits were paid universally to all citizens. But there is another school of thought whose adherents have advocated a system of universal flat rate pensions payable to all irrespective of means. The adherents of both schools of thought, particularly those supporting the provision of selective benefits, have tended to overlook the fact that poverty due to income deficiency can be abolished only if all have adequate incentives to provide at rates above the poverty threshold - a threshold which is constantly rising as the standards of living of the community rise. The adherents of the two schools of thought had become polarised to the extent that, until now, each group was blinded to the real deficiencies of the means test as it has operated in recent years. The so called needs based and selective test used to determine pension eligibility has been under constant criticism, but criticism alone provides no solution. Examination in depth of the basis of determining eligibility was essential if the efficacy of the test in achieving its objective was to be ascertained. To do this the objectives had first to be defined. I believe the objectives of any comprehensive retirement benefit plan should be to ensure that those who for whatever reason have made no provision for retirement are adequately provided for whilst all those who have made some provision are better off for their efforts, whatever level of provision they may have succeeded in achieving. Having defined these objectives the means test, as it had operated, needed analysis to determine whether or not it caused the conditions it sought to alleviate by encouraging greater numbers to become dependent upon the cash benefits available to those eligible under the old means test.
Many supporters of the selective benefits scheme that has been in operation, believing it was designed to relieve poverty, ignored the fact that the method of selection can sometimes be as significant as the nature of the benefit provided in achieving the objectives of a comprehensive social security programme. The method of selection that has been used has increased the numbers of those eligible for maximum support because it has encouraged rather than discouraged people to seek eligibility for that support. This selective programme, originally designed as a safety net for the exceptional case, has become a vast platform attracting people to it rather than encouraging them to rise above it. The result of this defective method of selection to meet needs has, in itself, imposed limitations on the ability to help those most in need. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), upon assuming office, saw the need to evaluate Australia’s social security programme. He drew attention to his desire to see that: . .the aged needy, the ill needy and those really suffering from some unfortunate circumstance through no fault of their own are ade quately provided for by the nation but that this should be done without destroying the incentive to save and without destroying the incentive to self-reliance.
In recent months Australia’s social security programme has been carefully evaluated, and I have had the privilege of being Chairman of the Social Services Committee of Government Members which has given careful and deep consideration to the problem that the means test has created. As a result of announcements in the Budget Speech there is proof of the worth of the work done by the Government members Committee and the best way in which I can add my tribute to the work of that Committee is to quote the remarks of the Prime Minister. In a recent speech he said:
He went on to say:
The introduction of the tapered means test is undoubtedly the most significant outcome of the evaluation made by Government back benchers and by the Cabinet Sub-committee on Social Welfare. As a result of the introduction of the tapered means test the social security programme will be better able to accomplish its purpose. It will now be purged of that element which made it self-defeating. Incentives will no longer be reduced to the point where the economy was worse off as a result of certain fundamental features of the scheme. It will cease to produce undesirable economic consequences. There will no longer be an artificial distortion of the allocation of resources and normal expenditure patterns. The scheme will be sound when assessed as part of the total structure of our society.
In 1960 with the introduction of the merged means test one of the severe penalties which the test formerly imposed upon the thrifty was removed. This was hailed as a great step forward but the greatest step yet remained to be taken. The Bill now before the House takes this step. Before the introduction of the merged means test there were separate tests applicable to income and capital. The effect was to place a person who had saved capital to provide for his old age at a considerable disadvantage when compared to another who had provided for his old age by contributing to a superannuation fund from which he received an annual income after retirement. Those who made provision for old age by direct personal savings could become eligible for a pension only after they rearranged their affairs by using an appropriate amount of their savings to purchase an annuity. The merged means test is based upon the proposition that at the age of 65 a man may purchase an annuity for life for $1 per year for a capital payment of $10. If he chooses to retain assets in preference to purchasing an annuity he will pay a price for the retention and continued control of those assets. As a prudent investor he will find that the income derived from his assets is less than the income from the annuity he could purchase. The merged means test did, however, introduce justice as between persons entitled to superannuation and other annuity payments and those who had made direct personal savings. But there was a most significant problem which it did not solve. The most difficult aspect of any selective or needs based scheme is the problem of incentive - incentive to work; incentive to save; and incentive to self-reliance. The “knock out means test’, as it has appropriately been described, has been operating as an example of how not to deal with the incentive problem. Although the incentive rate has been and is 100% for provision in the free’ area over the range of permissible income, this incentive has been reduced to nil when what is known as permissible income is exceeded and the ‘knock out means test’ when means as assessed exceeded the so-called permissible income limit, 100% of the provision was deducted from pension entitlement. The incentive to further provision was nil.
Whilst it is reasonable to convert assets into notional income on the basis of the annuity value of those assets, it is unreasonable to destroy the incentive to save and the incentive to self reliance by reducing pension entitlement at the rate of $1 for every $1 by which the income or notional income exceeds the prescribed permissible or free limits. Loss of pension at this rate in effect imposes a 100% tax on provision for retirement in excess of maximum permissible limits. Reduction of pension entitlement at this rate has discouraged rather than encouraged private provision for retirement at a rate in excess of permissible limits. Thus, over a significant income range, the means test has imposed an arbitrary ceiling on the extent to which income could be supplemented. Unless provision could be made considerably in excess of the aggregate of pension and permissible income, saving in excess of permissible income for retirement was of no benefit. The cause of resentment at what has, in effect, amounted to a 100% tax will by this legislation be removed with the introduction of the tapered means test. That aspect of the old test which stifles incentive is to be removed. The existing penalties on thrift are to be removed. Those who save and those who work will be better off for their efforts at every level of retirement provision, whatever their earnings.
Under the new tapered means test pension entitlements will be reduced by 50c instead of $1 for every $1 by which earnings or superannuation or the assessed value of assets - that is, annuity value - result in means exceeding the free limits. Persons of pensionable age whose assets, other than their homes, personal effects and motor cars, are less than $37,200 if married or $21,200 if single, or whose income is less than $70 a week if married or $40 a week if single, may be eligible for some pension. The tapered means test will result in persons who are not of a pensionable age being able to provide for their retirement knowing that at every level of provision they will be better off for their efforts.
In Australia today income is provided for retirement in 3 ways - age pensions, superannuation payments and the use of private resources. There is increasing acceptance of the idea that income provided for retirement should be a substantial proportion of the income received by the individual whilst working. Most pension plans are now designed to ensure that current living standards are maintained after retirement. In order that a comprehensive retirement benefit plan can work effectively provision through these three methods must be capable of proper integration. The tapered means test will permit this integration. If income tax rates imposed no tax on employees whose incomes did not exceed $42 a week and thereafter taxed them at a marginal rate of 100% or $1 for $1 for the next $25 of income, such a tax scale would discourage employees earning more than $42 unless they could earn considerably more than $67. This has been the position with a husband and a wife planning for retirement. If they have treated the pension as income and provided an amount equal to the permissible income, the next $25 of the retirement income provided in the past has been deducted from the pension entitlement. 1 believe that the tapered means test could be properly described as an income test because incomes such as earnings and superannuation are taken into account and the annuity value - the income value—of assets is also taken into account. Therefore, there is a free area where income earnings, superannuation or the annuity value of assets cause no diminution in the pension entitlement. Thereafter the reduction in the tapered means test will be 50c in the $1 for every $1 for which earnings, superannuation or the annuity value of assets exceeds the free limits. In the past the penalty was $1 for $1 and no incentive was provided. I illustrate the fact that at every level of contribution a person will be better off now for having provided than for not having provided. For earnings in excess of the free limits a pensioner will have his pension reduced 50c for every $1 whereas previously the reduction was $1 for $1.
Under the knock-out means test, there was widespread dissipation of assets before or after retirement in order to come within the range of pension eligibility. Now it will not be worth while dissipating assets. A person who is eligible for a pension in other respects will not improve his income by getting rid of assets. If a pensioner’s assets exceed the free limits when combined with earnings and superannuation income by $1,040 the loss or dissipation of that $1,040 on an unwanted trip overseas or on a motor car that the pensioner does not really want will result in an increase in the pension entitlement of $52 a year or $1 a week. If that pensioner had retained the $1,040 and invested it in Commonwealth special bonds and received 5% income he would be as well off from an income point of view as he would if he did not have the $1,040. In fact the pensioner would be better off. He would be better off because he would have the security of knowing that he has assets available to him to meet the situation of a rainy day. He would also have the feeling of satisfaction of knowing that he had the assets he had built up through years of hard work. He would not undergo the degrading experience of having to get rid of hard won savings. In addition to having the security of the savings the pensioner may be better off from an income point of view. There are many safe trustee-type investments from which a pensioner or any investor can receive more than 5% on the investment. Any income over 5% will place that pensioner in a better income position than his next door neighbour who has dissipated the same $1,040. This would be particularly so if the expenditure of the assets in an exempt form was on, for example, a motor car, which is a wasting asset because it declines in value very rapidly. It will now pay a pensioner to keep his money in a bank or invested in trustee-type securities.
As a result of the tapered means test every woman over 60 years of age - regardless of whether her husband is over 65 years of age - should ask herself whether, in view of her husband’s earnings and the family’s assets, she would be entitled to a part pension. Certainly every woman whose husband’s earnings are less than $70 a week should ask herself this question. The fundamental change that is taking place in the means test is in recognition of the need to solve the incentive problem. It makes possible a proper integration of the employer-based superannuation schemes with the Government’s pension scheme. Every additional $1 of retirement income provided will now result in an increased retirement income. Although the additional $1 provided may not mean that an additional 81 is available for spending it will at least result in some additional income being available for expenditure. Australia’s retirement benefit plan now looks with favour on the attempt* of any individual to spread his purchasing power over his life time. It now incorporates an incentive factor which will operate at every level of saving. At every level of provision a person will be better off for having provided than if he had provided for $1 less. The means test now incorporates a positive encouragement to self-reliance.
When one looks at the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), as explained by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) earlier in the debate, one does not find any firm proposals. All one finds, as the Prime Minister pointed out, are high, wide and handsome airyfairy proposals. Those who advocate abolition of the means test must be prepared to put forward an alternative pension plan that is both financially sound and fair in the burden it imposes upon the taxpayers. Does the Leader of the Opposition, in advocating the abolition of the means test, propose to confer upon all those in receipt of an age pension not only the cash benefits but also the full range of fringe benefits that are now available? This would impose an unbearable tax burden on those under pensionable age. Even with the means test and the tax legislation that we will have following the introduction of the Budget proposals, undue burdens will be imposed on the family man. For example, a family man with a dependent wife and 3 children who, after meeting out-of-pocket payments of chemist, medical and educational expenses, life assurance and superannuation payments, has a net income before tax of $49.50 a week pays tax at the rate of $3.30 a week, whilst a non-pensioner couple of pensionable age with a similar income do not pay any tax. In the case of a taxpayer who has a dependent wife and three children, child endowment of $2.50 still leaves this family 70c worse off. Why should these children and their families suffer the burden of providing retirement incomes for people with substantially higher incomes?
Would the Leader of the Opposition relieve all aged people of tax liability? This is what the slogan ‘Abolition of the Means Test’ means to many. A social security programme must take account of the needs of the whole community and provide a means by which men and women are able to spread their income over their lives in order to have the means of providing for themselves and their families a proper standard of living which rises as national productivity improves and does not fluctuate according to the number of dependents within the family or as a consequence of retirement. The Leader of the Opposition said of the introduction of the tapered means test: ‘lt merely substitutes a new type of test’, ft does just this. This is its virtue. The tapered means test alters the whole structure of the basis upon which eligibility is determined.
The Leader of the Opposition has sometimes compared the Australian social welfare programme with that in Canada. If he studied that country’s old age security legislation he would find that eligibility for benefits designed to provide guaranteed minimum incomes is determined by a tapered test. This test reduces pension entitlement by 50c for every $1 by which income exceeds prescribed limits. Vet, in Canada, this test is not called a means test. In fact, the Minister of National Health and Welfare in Canada, in introducing the legislation, said:
Some persons have attempted to attach a means test label to the programme, while others have talked about a needs test Because it involves the provision of a guarantee of a basic minimum income, it is necessary that a norm of eligibility be employed. There is no other way to administer or operate a guaranteed income programme of this kind. But I can assure honourable members that the norm is. in my view, a simple and acceptable one. It does not involve what we commonly refer to as a test of means or needs.
The tapered means test that is introduced by this Bill approaches closely the norm of eligibility that is employed in Canada, in Canada retirement is provided for by an Old Age Security Act pension, a guaranteed income supplement scheme, a Canada pension plan and occupational superannuation schemes. The old age pension plan is financed by a 4% tax on individual incomes with a maximum liability of $240 a year, a 3% sales tax, and a 3% corporation tax. This provides all with a $75 pension income, a pension income which is itself part of the recipient’s taxable income.
In addition to the 4% levy on individual incomes the Canadian pension plan is also financed by another 1.8% of salary from those in the $600-$5,000 income bracket and 1.8%, with amounts payable by employers. If a person is self-employed he contributes 3.6% of income into this fund. In each case the schemes are financed by what is a special purpose tax under the guise of contribution. The Leader of the Opposition docs not tell us how he would finance his retirement, benefit proposals. It is worth noting that the Canadian pension plan makes provision for a retirement age of 65 for all people. Does the Leader of the Opposition intend to exclude from any proposal that he puts forward women between the ages of 60 and 65?
– Or service pensioners.
– Or service pensioners, as my honourable friend interjects. Pensions under the Canada Pension Plan are reduced according to the earnings of the recipient of a pension. The pension is reduced by a tapered test of 50% of earnings over a certain limit. It is true that in Canada contributions to the pension plan form a deduction against other tax liabilities but the deduction itself is taken as if it were a tax in the first instance. The Canada Pension Plan does not include a medicare plan for pensioners. This plan is separately operated and separately financed. Again, this is a tax under the guise of contribution. We should study carefully what the Leader of the Opposition says as to when he will introduce his proposals. He has no firm proposals. As I have said, they are high, wide and handsome. Do the Labor proposals involve lifting the pensionable age for women, taxing pensions, a 20 year wait for a scheme to operate, no benefit for those now retired or special purpose taxes camouflaged under the name of contributions? Do they involve a proposal for the nationalisation of industry by the use of funds?
The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) supported the view of socialism last night when we were debating questions relating to life assurance offices. I believe that we must beware of a Utopia described by the Leader of the Opposition - described by a socialist wolf in sheep’s clothing. We must look at and study the proposals that are before the House and lay the foundations of a viable national retirement benefits plan that incor porates government provision through occupational superannuation schemes and private saving.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In rising to support the Bill I would first like to congratulate the former speaker, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), on his excellent coverage of the Bill. No honourable member of this House - and I have been actively engaged with the honourable member on the Government members’ social services committee - has a more detailed and more thorough knowledge of social services and its many problems than the honourable member for Sturt. No man has devoted so much time and so much earnest study in doing what can be done to solve the problems in the field of social services that will always be with us.
I would like to quote what the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said in the opening remarks of his second reading speech on this bill. He said:
This Bill gives effect to the two fundamental principles of the Government’s social services policy, first to raise the general standard of pensioners, direct special relief to the areas of greatest need, and second to encourage thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
Never before has the Government or any Minister spelt out so clearly or made so great an advance towards the encouragement of thrift and self-reliance. Of course, this is the principle upon which any democratic government is based. It is the principle upon which such a government bases its philosophy and social services programme for the care of the aged, the ill, the orphans, the widows and those unable to care for themselves, as well as to see that all those who have a very special need are cared for in our modern affluent society.
Unlike socialist governments, any democratic government worthy of its name should set out to encourage thrift, self-help and self-reliance. The Bill now before us has gone a tremendous way along the road towards achieving this. The Bill encourages people to save for themselves and their dependants for an emergency or for their declining years. Basically, two things tend to make a man work. There are other factors but basically a man works because of fear or because of incentive. A man will work because of a fear of being unemployed, hungry or destitute. This fear has largely disappeared today under our social services programmes. The other thing that makes a man work is incentive. In this case a man works because he wants to improve his position in life. He wants to live better and own a better motor car or a better home and give his children better education. As I read the average Australian, he wants to do just that. But if a man finds that he is not able to attain better living conditions, and all that goes with them, by working harder, and has the alternative of sitting down, I am afraid that usually he will sit down. Most Australians seek to have self-respect and to become independent. In contrast, a socialist state tends to kill incentive. No doubt the most striking modern example of that is the United Kingdom at the present time. Under a Socialist Government a once great nation has been brought to the verge of bankruptcy.
I think that the setting up by this Government of a welfare committee of Ministers has been a very worthwhile forward step, because all social service measures - health, housing and repatriation matters - if they are to be effected, must be incorporated in the one set of proposals. There is no question that the most important feature of the Bill has been the introduction of the tapered means test. This proposal has been welcomed, particularly by those many solid, thrifty Australians who, because of their thrift, have been ineligible to receive many social service benefits, and in many cases have found themselves to be much worse ofl than those people living on pensions alone and receiving all the fringe benefits. A great many Australians who have denied themselves all sorts of privileges and luxuries during their lives in order to put aside substantial amounts for superannuation, week by week or month by month, have been denied the standard of living that has been provided for those people who have no provision for old age whatsoever. Those people who fought hard and preserved something for their declining years have found themselves very much worse off than those who have made no attempt whatsoever to provide for their old age.
One effect of the tapered means test is that it will allow many older people to continue working, perhaps in a part time capacity. It is very hard to estimate what this will mean to the individual and to the nation, because those of us who are interested in social services know only too well that many people who have led a busy and active life decline in health and activity very quickly when they suddenly retire. They become a burden upon the community because when they lose interest they fall victim to illnesses and to all the problems of old age. The benefit of the tapered means test to the nation will be considerable.
One very interesting feature of the Bill is that in almost all grades of pensions the standard will be considerably above the line of poverty that was drawn in a study undertaken by the University of Melbourne, lt is estimated that some 110,000 part-pensioners will benefit from the tapered means test and that at least 130,000 new pensioners will be introduced into the scheme. The raising of the allowable income for a married couple will be of considerable help. The improvements in the unemployment and sickness benefits are most welcome. The elimination of waiting time to one period in every 13 weeks will help very considerably the great number of people who depend upon casual work. I look forward to further advances being proposed in the policy speech which will be made before the forthcoming election. In the health field, in particular, I am looking towards the provision of a dental health scheme which I think would be of tremendous importance to people with large families.
Returning to the problems of those people who have retired, one of the greatest problems facing the aged is of course boredom. There is a great need for more centres for the aged, particularly in country areas. The provision of dwellings for aged persons has been a very worthwhile innovation introduced by this Government. I should like to see established in country areas more homes for the aged, starting off with the provision of home units. Then there should be provided hostels with dining rooms so that people who are reaching the stage where they are not prepared or able to feed themselves can get their meals. I think that a nursing home should be attached to such accommodation.
There is a tremendous demand in country areas for homes of this type. I do not suggest that it would be possible to establish such homes in every town, but it would be possible to do so in strategically placed towns. It would mean that people who entered these homes would be within travelling distance of their sons and daughters and other relatives, and this would go a long way towards alleviating the boredom. In my own town there is a nursing home for aged people which on the average rejects eight applications every week. I believe that there is a very great need for some provision to be made in this area. I am very pleased indeed to see that the Minister has said that he plans to make greater use of church and other voluntary bodies in developing the present arrangements under which the Federal Government provides a $2 for $1 subsidy towards the establishment of nursing homes. I believe that with further encouragement a great deal more can be done in country areas.
One could say a great deal more about the details of the Bill, but they have been covered very thoroughly and substantially by former speakers. I want to conclude by supporting the Bill and by congratulating the Minister on his enthusiasm, devotion and determination to do all that is possible, not only for people who cannot help themselves, but also for Australians who exercise that thrift which has always been an important part of the national character. I think that the Government has shown a great deal of forward thinking in the improvements that are incorporated in the Bill.
– Undoubtedly, this is the most important Social Services Bill that has come before the House in the last 5 or 6 years - certainly in the time I have been a member of this Parliament - and probably it is one of the most important Social Services Bills that has come to the House since Federation. The Bill contains a number of measures which continue the policy of assisting those people in most need or, to use the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), encouraging thrift, self-reliance and self-help. But there is one completely new measure contained in the Bill, and that is the tapered means test which will have a large and beneficial effect on a number of groups within the community. It will benefit many retired people, many returned ex-servicemen, in particular those who have suffered some war caused disability, people who are still working, and many people who are, or who unfortunately in the future will be, in receipt of workers compensation, particularly if the system of workers compensation in time is altered from the present lump sum court award method to that of an assessment tribunal. The tapered means test will have an important effect on the future welfare programme in this country, apart from a beneficial effect upon the economy as a whole.
The Bill provides for an increase in the standard rate of pension for aged people, invalids and widows with children, of $1 per week in the case of single pensioners and 75c per week in the case of married pensioners. In addition, the Bill contains a number of measures dealing with increased pension payments for pensioners with children and for widows. Apart from the tapered means test proposal, there are four or so measures dealing with unemployment and sickness benefits and several other measures dealing with children of people who are unemployed. The tapered means test will have an immediate effect on all persons who are in receipt of part pensions who will still retain fringe benefits. For those who are just outside the present means test and who are not in receipt of a pension, there will be very considerable benefits if their means as assessed as a married couple are below $70 a week. In addition taxation concessions are allowed if taxable income does not exceed $5,000 per annum. These are very valuable and important changes for people who in the past did not receive the benefit of the retirement scheme that we had. Similarly, those with a war disability will benefit from the tapered means test, particularly if they are in receipt of a total and permanent incapacity pension. War widows will also receive considerable benefits. Others whose war pension has affected their service pension or age pension will also benefit.
The tapered means test provides to people who are still working an opportunity to decide the rate of retirement pension they wish to receive. This is in contrast to the old means test which, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) described it, knocked out people who had an income above the allowable means. Under this proposal, a person who is still working can calculate the level to which he wishes to contribute to a superannuation or retirement benefit fund or for an annuity and the level to which he wishes to save. This will have a considerable effect not only on the individual when he retires but also on the economy, lt will encourage people to save for their retirement to a much greater extent than they have in the past. It will allow us to continue to use insurance houses for superannuation. The Opposition’s proposals for blanket retirement benefits would possibly tend to reduce the use made of insurance houses.
I have already mentioned the benefit that the tapered means test could have for workers compensation, lt will also have a considerable effect on the future welfare programme of Australia, lt will allow more public moneys to be directed to the areas where the need is greatest. In approximate terms, it costs between $45m and $50m to increase the -pension rate by Si a week. Under the present system it is virtually necessary to increase all pensions to provide any assistance to the areas of greatest need. In my view the new system will allow supplementary assistance to be used more freely to overcome particular problems in particular categories.
The tapered means test and the philosophy behind it should have a long term effect on the economy as a whole. We now have full employment and the indications are that we will have it for a long time. 1 suppose that we have a greater proportion of natural resources in Australia than any other country has and there will be pressure to develop them. So Australia is in a fortunate position. Other developed countries have across the board superannuation or retirement benefit schemes that are to some extent intended to encourage people to leave their employment and make their job available for someone who is unemployed. We see high rates of unemployment in some European countries and especially in North America. The scheme that we have will gradually build into the economy the costs of retirement. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, the burden on the Budget will in time be self-liquidating. This in turn will allow for a better use of public moneys in the welfare field.
We as a country have a unique opportunity. We have a scheme that provides an incentive. It allows for responsibility to be taken at a national and family level and it allows for people to save for their retirement. This is in contrast to the schemes that are being proposed in this election campaign by the Opposition and by others interested in welfare. I would like to quote portion of an article written by Arthur Seldon, a noted English economist, who came to Australia to study our welfare scheme. On 12th December of last year the English ‘Daily Telegraph* published an article that he wrote on the Australian welfare scheme. Amongst other things, he said:
Australia has instinctively sensed, more than other Western countries and certainly more than Britain, the inevitability of the urge to individuality in an opulent society. It is not difficult to eliminate poverty by trampling on personal and family aspiration, initiative, accumulation. Tha art of politicians in a free society is to help individuals out of avoidable poverty without destroying their urge to help themselves.
When we examine all the proposals that will be put in the coming election campaign I am sure we will find that the proposals put by the Government are the right ones in the present circumstances. We do not want to create a situation in which selfhelp is completely destroyed. We do not want to create an economic situation that could well, because of welfare payments, cause serious problems here similar to those that have arisen in a number of European countries, including Great Britain, and in New Zealand. So we do have a unique opportunity.
The Government has already given considerable help to pensioners. I will give a comparison because the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) used comparisons to state his Party’s case. The standard rate of pension, including supplementary assistance given to those in greatest need, has risen since 1949 from $4.25 a week to $16 a week in these proposals. Assuming that money values had remained constant, pensioners now have a purchasing power of some $7 a week more than they had 20 years ago. The value of the Government’s scheme is also shown by the percentage of people who are receiving pensions or part pensions. In 1949 pensions were paid to 36% or 38% of those of pensionable age. When these proposals are implemented, pensions will be paid to 70% or 75%.
When we look at these proposals we should keep in mind the pensioner medical service, provisions for the housing of aged people, the nursing homes provisions and the new proposals for home care, which will, without a doubt, come into operation. The honourable member for Grayndler continually says that they are a paper tiger. He fails ta mention that they were put into legislative form only in May of this year and the State governments are still examining their attitudes to them. Other proposals relate to rehabilitation for disabled people in sheltered workshops. Within the context of trying to encourage self-help, reliance and thrift, we are approaching the stage where, with community services, a total care programme can be implemented. It is a programme not conducted solely by government but conducted by the community with government. It is a programme where the individual, the family and the community play a very important part.
I have one final point to make, and I refer back to the article written by Mr Seldon. The proposal for a national insurance scheme* that has been put up by the Opposition is across the board. It will be expensive. It is compulsive in its nature. People will be compelled to participate in the national insurance scheme. This undoubtedly will have a number of effects. In the long term such a policy will affect not only the heart of the nation but the nation’s economy as well.
I support the Government’s proposals. I reiterate what I said earlier. This Bill is the most important piece of social services legislation put before us in recent times and quite possibly one of the most important since Federation. It will have a long term beneficial! effect upon this country and could well make other countries examine their schemes and compare them with ours.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Daly’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced. lini Committee
– In the brief time at my disposal let me repeat that Labor’s policy is the gradual abolition of the means test over the life of two parliaments by means of a national superannuation scheme. Some honourable members opposite have alleged that Labor has not elaborated on its proposals. Today I just place them on record not as the basis for a programme but as a principle which we think is worthy of consideration and which could be given effect to. The principle is that recently announced by Professor Downing. The principle is strongly recommended as the only way in the current circumstances of raising social welfare standards. As I do not wish to take up the time of the House 1 just say that what has been called the Downing scheme was put forward in Melbourne by Professor R. I. Downing, a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne. Professor Downing outlined the basis on which a policy such as we have announced could be discussed, elaborated on and probably given effect to. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following recent statement by Professor Downing:
My proposals need refinement through extensive debate and investigation of administrative problems.
But I cannot for the life of me see why Australians should not move gradually along lines such as I have suggested, to a standard of cash benefits and social services at least as good as is provided in the socially most advanced countries of the western world.
In brief outline, his proposals would provide a system compulsory for all wage earners (including working wives), and rights to benefits would continue with change of employment.
The benefit would be payable at age 65, and would be related to average earnings over the last several years prior to retirement.
For a married couple a minimum of $23 a week could be payable, but a pension of 100% of average past earnings would apply up to $42 a week or less.
The rales would fall for past earnings in excess of $42 a week to reach two-thirds of earnings at $90 a week.
For single earners the ratio would be 729ir of past earnings up to $42 a week (with a minimum of $18) falling to 664% at $90 a week.
Widows would receive *th of a deceased husband’s entitlement.
Benefits would be regularly updated in step with the index of average earnings.
The benefits would be financed by a charge on employers of about 6% on total payrolls, and this would meet half of total costs.
The Government would provide a quarter (about the current proportion of total earnings now spent on age and widows pensions).
Contributions from earners would meet the remaining quarter of cost, and would be graduated in relation to earnings.
Those on $25 a week or less would pay nothing.
The rate of contributions would rise through: 1.1 per cent a week - 32 cents - on $30 a week 2.7 per cent a week– $1.10 - on $42 a week 3.8 per cent a week - $2.45 - on $65 a week 4.3 per cent a week- $3.90 - on $90 a week The scheme could also be extended to a wider range of benefits - disability, sickness, hospital, etc.
His proposals are a basis for discussion and are a practical way by which our scheme could be given effect to. At least when we get into government we will be able to make a more extensive survey of it.
There are only one or two other matters I wish to touch on. I have here the report of the Department of Social Services for 1968-69, which reached me only yesterday. Let me first of all congratulate the Department on the elaborate nature of the report and the practical way in which the achievements of the Department and social service matters are presented. I point out, however, that there is one error on page 39. Under the heading ‘Pensioner Medical Service’ it states:
Under the National Health Act certain benefits are available, without charge, to pensioners, people receiving tuberculosis or sheltered employment allowances, and their dependants.
I would mention that these benefits are not available to all pensioners but only to a section of pensioners because 130,000 people will still be denied their right to those benefits. I would suggest that that might be corrected. I believe that the new table incorporated on page 27, giving the variations in weekly rates of pensions and allowances and the amounts of funeral benefits for each year from 1945 to 1969, is a very desirable improvement in the booklet. Similarly the table at the end of the booklet dealing with age pensioners by age, sex and conjugal conditions and other circumstances provides very valuable information. I make a few suggestions about the survey of social services for each year from 1945 to 1969 shown on page 27. Firstly, it would be a good idea, to avoid any false impression, to show the average income for each year and the average pensions as a percentage of average income at that time. The population in each year and the percentage of the population receiving benefits each year might also be shown.
This would show that the increased expenditure is not due entirely to higher benefits but also to an increase in the population, which means an increase in the number of beneficiaries. This would also show the effect of inflation. These figures over a period of time would be very helpful and very desirable for all those interested in statistics. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) whether the printing of that table indicates that social service benefits will remain stationary for a long time and will not have to be changed. In other words, has he put it in as the final chapter in his social services programme, feeling that no added expenditure will be needed to meet changes in the future? I hope that is not right.
Having made my suggestions to the Minister, let me say, on a happier note, that I presume that a number of honourable members opposite wonder and marvel at the penetrating and concise analysis I am able to make of social services legislation from time to time. In order to dispel any doubt, let me say that lt is not entirely due to my limited abilities. Some people are of great assistance to me. Honourable members might well say, not uncharitably, that 1 would need a lot of assistance, and I acknowledge that. But the fact of the matter is that I am grateful to the Minister. I am thankful to him for quite courteously making information available through his officers and for not in any way retarding my efforts to obtain information. On many occasions it has been information I have been able to use very effectively to answer statements he made in respect of the social welfare programme. I would also like to express my thanks to the officers of the Department in Canberra and in all States who have from time to time made time available to give me facts and figures which have been very valuable. To those I come into personal contact with in my own district and to the officers of the Department in Sydney and other places let me express my personal thanks and the thanks crf other honourable members on this side of the Parliament. Having said so much in a convivial and sincere way, I ask the Minister not to take it as a weakness but rather as appreciation for what I hope will be more forceful debates from time to time, from whatever side of the Parliament we may be sitting. They will not be personal attacks but rather constructive criticisms of the social welfare programmes.
– The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) raised the question of the proposals of the Australian Labor Party, not ite present plans but its long term proposals.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– In concluding the Committee stage of the debate I would like to thank the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) for what he said about the Department of Social Services and my officers. We do try to give honourable members on both sides of the House factual information which will help them to carry out their duties. I hope before the Parliament rises to put into the hands of honourable members a folder on social services which will contain the latest information. This may help them with their constituents. We are trying to get pensions into the hands of all people entitled to them and I am sure that the Opposition will help us in this matter.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 September (vide page 1279), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition welcomes this Bill.
It provides for the extension of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers at the existing level of S80 per ton of contained nitrogen for a further 3 years until 1972, in accordance with a decision by the Government. The other welcome aspect of the Bill is that it provides for imported nitrogen to be subject to the subsidy under various conditions. There can be no question that the Opposition has supported this subsidy because we believe the principle behind it is important. It is termed a subsidy but honourable members on this side of the House do not necessarily believe that it is a subsidy as such; it is more in the nature of an investment allowance than a subsidy. If one wants to speak of subsidies, then tariff also could be labelled as a subsidy for secondary industry. Actually no cash payment is involved as there is with respect to the deductions for bounties and subsidies.
There is no question that the subsidy has permitted a marked reduction in the price of fertilisers with nitrogen content. So far as aqua ammonia is concerned, the nitrogen content is approximately 20% and the subsidy allows a saving of about $16 per ton. I am referring to Queensland prices in these instances I shall give. Ammonium sulphate contains 21% nitrogen and the saving in production is about $16.80. Urea has a nitrogen content of 46% and the saving will be around $36, depending on the price applying in the particular State. With respect to anhydrous ammonia the nitrogen content is about 80% and the saving to the consumer is estimated to be between $60 and $70 per ton. There is a significant saving in the price to the consumer, who is a farmer in most cases.
The Opposition intends to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading along the lines that the Bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted so that the nitrogen fertilisers subsidy will be increased in line with the recent increase in the subsidy on superphosphate. It can be argued that whereas superphosphate prices have increased substantially over the years there has not necessarily been the same increase in the price of nitrogenous fertilisers, particularly urea and sulphate of ammonia, but the salient point is that this relates only to one of the costs involved in the production of farm commodities. As I said before, the Opposition looks at a subsidy on fertiliser as an investment allowance rather than an actual subsidy, particularly if this allowance will result in an increase in the net income of a farm and the net national income and, of course, make some contribution towards our balance of payments.
Although it has been stated on many occasions that fertiliser manufacturers are not passing on to the farmers the economics of scale with respect to the manufacture of superphosphate or nitrogenous fertilisers, there are inbuilt safeguards relating to the duties of the Department of Customs and Excise in acting as a watchdog on manufacturing costs of both superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. Although this charge has been levelled in many quarters it is difficult to prove. I think that the Government has plenty of power at its disposal to adopt measures which will force any manufacturer to reduce his price for nitrogenous fertiliser if the Government finds that the manufacturer is charging too much, particularly in relation to fair import prices. This subsidy was first introduced in 1963. There has been no increase in the rate of $80 per ton although it can be shown that the bounty on superphosphate has increased by 100%. I assume that the Government would argue against an increase of such a magnitude, its reason being that sulphate of ammonia and urea prices have been stable and in fact may have declined in some instances.
Mr Speaker, I should have thought that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) would be here to listen to the debate on this Bill. After all, it is an important Bill for primary industry. Frankly, this type of treatment of the Opposition is not appreciated. The Minister for Air (Mr Erwin), who is in charge of the business of the House, informed us when this Bill would be brought on. An amendment will be moved and the Minister for Primary Industry should be present to deal with it. It is becoming too frequent - Ministers just dishing Bills out here and then disappearing. It is no good saying that they are in Cabinet or elsewhere because it is not only members of the Opposition who want to ask questions. If the Minister for Air is now going to be the authority on primary industry matters, all I can say, with due respect to him, is that things are slipping to a bad state of affairs.
The most important users of nitrogenous fertilisers in the industrial field are the sugar and fruit industries, although in recent years there has been a substantial increase in the usage of such fertilisers, particularly of urea, by wheat farmers in Western Australia. The traditional users - the sugar industry, for example - use sulphate of ammonia principally. Where irrigation is being practised ammonium sulphate is used extensively. One cannot study the various industries to determine the justification for nitrogenous fertiliser subsidies or a subsidy on any fertiliser. There would not be sufficient time to do that. The Minister, in his second reading speech, referred to the cost price squeeze as a justification for a reduction in fertiliser prices. The relationship of prices received to prices paid is a matter on which 1 should like to make a few points with respect to the sugar industry, the principal user of ammonium sulphate. It is clear that this type of legislation is welcomed by the sugar industry. Any action that will reduce costs of production would be welcomed.
The two greatest problems in the sugar industry today are the uncertainty of unstable export prices on the free market and the rising costs associated with sugar production, particularly with cane production in the first instance. The producer has little or no control over rising costs. Australia must ensure that supply and demand stability is maintained within the International Sugar Agreement otherwise the income of the sugar farmer will be materially affected. We must ensure that countries like France, for instance, do not wreck the International Sugar Agreement as has happened with the International Grams Arrangement. Even with the International Sugar Agreement as it is operating at present, severe and unexplained price fluctuations will have an appreciable effect on the export price and on the income of producers. It is becoming clear to all that to smooth out these fluctuations there may have to be some type of domestic or internal stabilisation plan with respect to the volume exported to the free market, which represents 50% of our total production.
The Government’s pandering, we might say, to secondary industry through high protective tariffs has caused a substantial increase in the costs associated with the growing of sugar. It is obvious that wilh the costs on chemicals, machinery and spare parts, insecticides and pesticides increasing with such rapidity some cost compensatory measures have to be devised to cushion the cost price squeeze that the Minister mentioned. The principle of applying a subsidy to nitrogenous fertilisers and superphosphate is good, but it ought to be applied more widely, lt should be applied to insecticides, pesticides and, in some respects to spare parts because all of these commodities are important to the costs of production of a crop, the costs of which are heavily influenced by costs associated with nitrogenous fertilisers.
The Minister has given various examples of the ratio of prices received to prices paid. Again using the sugar industry as an example, one finds that this uncontrollable increase in costs has reached such proportions that some compensatory measures will have to be seriously considered, quite apart from the fertiliser subsidy. This is one of the main reasons why we have proposed our amendment. Taking the base year of 1950 as 100%, marketing costs, which include freight and interest rates, have increased by an average of 208% and the prices of essential materials, such as chemicals, fertilisers, spare parts and replacement parts for machinery and tractors, have increased by 170%.
The stranglehold continuously being exerted by rising farm costs has not been offset by a corresponding increase in sugar prices. When we have a relatively stagnant level of sugar prices and a spiral of rising costs, it is obvious that two things must happen: We have to increase productivity per acre - and the same principle applies to wool or any other primary industry; or we have to have some cost compensatory measure, such as this legislation, to cushion the effects of rising costs. Within the sugar industry, even though cane growing and milling have responded greatly to increased productivity, the cost price squeeze is increasing and the smaller farmer is being unmercifully squeezed between the parameters of income and costs.
In his second reading speech the Minister gave as one of the principal reasons for the application of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy the fact that it would be an incentive to expand production. This is one of the most important aspects of legislation. It is not only cushioning net incomes to balance the cost price squeeze but it is allowing for the great potential which exists for the usage of nitrogen. I have always believed - certainly from seeing some of the experiments that have been carried out during the last few years in respect of pasture development in tropical and sub-tropical areas - that nitrogen is going to play progressively a more important part in Australian development than will superphosphate in the future. The main areas of superphosphate usage have been determined, but this is not so with nitrogen which, because of its price, has been somewhat frowned on except in the high yield per acre crops like cotton, sugar, market gardening and fruits. It is becoming obvious with the expansion of capacity in Australia - Austral-Pacific is coming on stream - and in the United States of America that the price of nitrogenous fertilisers, particularly urea, should decrease.
I am pleased at the proposed amendment to allow for the payment of a subsidy on imported nitrogenous material under certain conditions. In other words, if there is a price increase by the manufacturers the safeguard will be that the imported material, provided it is not a dumped material, will qualify for this subsidy. This provision is a very good one and is one which will keep thu manufacturer in line. If he cannot control his costs his recourse will be to put to the Tariff Board a case along the same lines as the chemical and other manufacturing industries have done.
I was speaking of the scope for the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in industry. The use of nitrogenous fertilisers in the sugar industry is limited because in terms of acreage that industry is rigorously controlled and the big scope for its use must lie in other fields. If there was a reduction in the price of nitrogen it is almost certain that there would be a very large increase in its application to pastures, particularly in the sub-tropical and tropical areas. I understand that in the electoral area for which the Minister for Primary Industry is responsible there already is a very significant increase in the amount of nitrogen applied to pastures. There had always is the past been some degree of unreliability at certain times of the year. It appears that further research will have to be carried out with respect to dairy farms to measure the effects of the application of nitrogenous fertilisers to pasture grasses such as kikuyu and the improved pasture grasses such as pangola that have been introduced, because experiments undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and by State departments of agriculture show a remarkable response to high applications of nitrogen to sub-tropical and tropical pastures.
I know that in the area in the north of Queensland in which I am personally interested the few experiments that have been carried out there by farmers and by the Queensland Department of Agriculture have confirmed the results of experiments carried out in northern New South Wales and in southern Queensland. In fact some of the pasture yields in response to the application of nitrogen have staggered the scientists. Even guinea grass which is regarded in some quarters as a pest has shown a tremendous increase in dry matter in response to applications of nitrogen from the bag. These experiments pose to the departmental and CSIRO people the question of what are the economic possibilities of the application of nitrogen to pastures.
Those people who know the wet tropical coastal areas and the tropical coast areas with a reasonably good rainfall, know that for certain periods of the year there is tremendous growth and that the carrying capacity is very high. But when one considers how these pastures can be increased by the application of nitrogen one begins to wonder what the carrying capacity of these pastures at certain times of the year would be. I am pleased to see that the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is to be extended for a further 3 years. Perhaps the Minister did not hear what I said earlier when I stated that the Opposition will move an amendment to the Bill. Although there may not be the same case for an increase in the subsidy rate for nitrogenous fertilisers as there is for superphosphate, if this subsidy were considered as an investment allowance rather than as a subsidy the Government could cushion the insidious increase in farm costs over which the primary producer has little or no control.
Therefore the argument of the Opposition is that this is one way in which the Government can show its concern about the cost-price squeeze, not so much in respect of ammonium sulphate or urea as other areas where it would be most difficult to implement a subsidy scheme. One way in which the Government could bring back money to the farmer is to reduce the price of nitrogenous fertilisers. At the same time a reduction in price would encourage greater use of nitrogen in many areas. The Opposition has in mind two objectives with its proposed amendment. The second part of the amendment which I shall move provides that each year there shall be a review of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy rate. The reason for such a review is that with the Austral-Pacific company coming on stream and with the output of Imperial Chemical Industries the Australian production capacity of nitrogenous fertilisers would be, while perhaps not as high as 500,000 tons, at least a fairly large figure compared with the 150,000 or 160,000 tons at present. It appears that on the basis of elementary economics there should be a downward sloping average cost curve because as Austral-Pacific comes on stream competition will be promoted in Australia between imported fertilisers and Australian fertilisers, and therefore there should be a reduction in the price of sulphate of ammonia, urea, anhydrous ammonia and other compounds.
– This is not fixing the price?
– No. My argument is that I believe there is an excessive capacity and as we do not know the elasticity of the demand consequent on price changes, if there were a reduction in the price of nitrogenous fertilisers there could be a very significant increase in the use of such fertilisers.
– Why would you want a review? Would it be to decide whether you would give a larger subsidy or not?
– Yes. If in fact the price did come down you would be able to reduce the subsidy if you wished to do so.
In other words, you would not be tied to a fixed amount for a certain period. There would be a review of a particular rate rather than of the total amount.
Another matter on which I want to speak briefly is the growing use of nitrogenous fertilisers in the wheat industry. This use is a marked innovation and it is only a recent one. It has been shown that some soils in Western Australia have been markedly deficient in nitrogen, lt was thought that it would not be economical to apply urea at the rates at which fertiliser had been previously applied to bring these lands into more intensive production, but this has now been done. This is a contributing factor - perhaps only a minor contributing factor - to the great expansion of wheat growing in some areas of Western Australia. However, it does seem that there is a future for the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in these areas. In the higher rainfall areas more use is now being made of nitrogenous fertilisers on pastures. It is apparent that if the price of these fertilisers were reduced there would be a significant increase in their usage, which would result in increased pasture production. Earlier I referred by way of example to the sugar industry. I could have dealt with the dried vine fruits industry or some other industry, but the principles would be the same. The cost-price squeeze about which the Minister spoke is such that this proposal by the Opposition is a countervailing proposal, a compensatory proposal to cushion the costprice squeeze or the deteriorating real net income of primary producers in some areas. I move:
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– The amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is contradictory.
The first part of the amendment calls for an increase in the rate of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy in line with the recent increase in the subsidy on superphosphate and the second part calls for a review each year of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy rate. In reply to an interjection by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), the honourable member said that the second part of his amendment could result in a reduction in the subsidy. So it seems to me that the two sections of his amendment are contradictory. Apart from that point, however, in my opinion and I am sure in the opinion of the House there are sound reasons for not supporting the amendment and there are equally sound reasons for supporting the Bill.
Before dealing with the Bill itself I wish to comment on some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson concerning the Minister for Primary Industry. I appreciate that not many people in Australia will be aware of what the honourable member said about the Minister at the commencement of his speech because the proceedings of this chamber are not being broadcast today, but for the benefit of those who read Hansard I think I should comment upon the honourable member’s remarks. I do not know whether the honourable member was sincere in his criticism of the Minister for Primary Industry. If he was sincere I can only surmise that the honourable member does not realise how busy Ministers are and what calls are made on their time during the sitting. In criticising the Minister the honourable member was either using a very old political tactic to impress those who read Hansard or he was acting in sincerity but in ignorance of the responsibilities and activities of the Minister. The honourable member is no doubt well aware that from time to time it is very difficult to forecast the timetable of the House. The Minister for Primary Industry was criticised by the honourable member for Dawson for not being present in the House at the exact moment the honourable member commenced his speech. In fact, the Minister came into the House 7 minutes later.
Whilst the honourable member was being critical of the Minister I could not help but think that it is not vitally important to the practical effect of this Bill for the Minister to be present in the House at all. The Minister and his Department have already done their job in regard to this nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. The various primary producer organisations no doubt made representations and provided assistance before the legislation was introduced into the House for debate. The important thing is to persuade the Government to agree to continuation of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. The honourable member for Dawson is constantly trying to put the Minister for Primary Industry in particular, and the coalition Parties in general, in the worst possible light.
– Not successfully.
– My colleague reminds me that the honourable member is not successful. I have said outside the House and I repeat here that since the Minister’s appointment to his present portfolio I have met a vast number of people from many walks of life, including industry and the retail field, and they have expressed the view - I now put it on record - that the Minister’s reputation for capacity and diligence in the performance of his duties is increasing all the time. I think that the Government is fortunate to have a man of his ability in the Ministry. Furthermore, I think that the primary producers of Australia are fortunate to have a man who is prepared to put so much time, effort and ability into the his administration of the portfolio of Primary Industry. The Minister would be the first one to admit that mistakes have been made in the past and will be made in the future. But the only person who has never made a mistake is the person who has never made anything.
The constant efforts in this House of the honourable member for Dawson to denigrate the achievements, capacity and interest of the Minister for Primary Industry and of the coalition Parties - in particular, the Country Party, which represents the primary producers - are well known. The honourable member made a strong point concerning the rising cost problem that is facing the farmers of Australia. There is no doubt that the farmers have a problem; the honourable member is only giving information that we already have. Rising costs are of very serious concern to the farmers. The Government should continue to show great concern about this matter. It is also a problem which is common to every country in the world, although I appreciate that this does not make it any less serious. It is ironical to hear the honourable member for Dawson express the concern of the Australian Labor Party about the rising cost structure that is affecting farmers. The basic objective of the Labor Party and its bosses outside the Parliament is to implement policies which can only have the effect of causing tremendous inflation and further rising costs in the primary production field. The first statement that Mr Hawke made when elected Presient of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ last Friday, was: ‘We must fight for a reduction in the working week from 40 hours to 35 hours. We must fight for longer leave’.
-Order! I think the honourable member is getting a little wide of the provisions of the Bill.
– With due respect to you, Mr Speaker, I am merely making the point that, in relation to rising costs, the new President of the ACTU made the statement I have quoted.
– The honourable member has not mentioned nitrogen so far.
– The honourable member objects to what I am saying, but he spent a lot of time referring to rising costs. I am only pointing out the fundamental policy governing the Party to which he belongs. This Bill has the effect of showing the Government’s interest in attacking the cost problem of the farmer. And in increasing productivity per acre. We are troubled with an over-supply of some commodities at the moment but basically farmers are fighting rising costs. This Bill helps considerably in that fight.
The previous speaker, when he moved his amendment, said that there ought to be an increase in the rate of subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers in line with the recent increase in the subsidy on superphosphate. Of course, as he said himself, perhaps there is not as good a case for an increase in the rate of subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers. I do not think the honourable member has any case at all. Because the wholesale price of superphosphate has risen quite considerably over the years it has become necessary to increase the subsidy on that commodity. The honourable member for Dawson made the point that manufacturers were using the subsidy to increase their prices. This is not true. If my memory serves me correctly, in 1961 bulk superphosphate cost §21.20 per ton. With the new subsidy the cost for bulk superphosphate is now §14.80. Therefore, the manufacturer has not taken advantage of the subsidy to increase his prices.
Much the same thing has happened in the nitrogenous fertiliser field, but it is not exactly the same because the actual wholesale price or the starting price of such nitrogenous fertilisers as urea and sulphate of ammonia has fallen. I would like to give the House some figures in this regard. In 1966 the price of urea in New South Wales before the payment of subsidy was $125.50 a ton. The price has since fallen to $115.80, a reduction of $9.80 a ton. During this period the price of sulphate of ammonia has fallen from $6 1 to $48 a ton. I would now like to give the House the price of fertiliser after payment of the subsidy. In 1966, the cost of urea after the subsidy was $89.70 a lon and today it is $79 a ton. This represents a reduction of $10.70 a ton. The cost of sulphate of ammonia in 1966 was $44.20 a ton and now it is $32 per ton, showing a reduction of $12.20 a ton. Here we have a practical example of the Government’s concern for the rising costs of farmers. As honourable members know, I have supported this principle, along with my colleagues and in particular the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and other members of the Australian Country Party, for many years. It is very difficult to do anything about the rising cost position of the farmer legislatively or arbitrarily. As a result, the Australian Government must be prepared to follow the line that other governments around the world have taken by granting subsidies and by cost compensation in order to help the farmer maintain his standard of living, his dignity and his property in this changing world.
We live in changing times. One consistent thing about these times is that costs rise not only in this country but all around the world. Another consistent thing is that the small farmer all over the world is having an increasing battle to stay in existence. Legislation such as the Bill now before us recognises the problems that face farmers. At least this Bill does something to counteract the problems. I want to make one more point The honourable member Dawson made a comment about manufacturers increasing their prices. He said that manufacturers were not answerable in any way for taking this action. I realise that the honourable member did not actually say that they were not answerable. The honourable member talked about a review of the price of fertilisers and the importation of this commodity, and he made the point that we should keep a check on the manufacturers of fertilisers. Of course, the original Act provides for this very point. Section 11. (1.) of the original Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act 1966 - and I think this is worth putting on record for those people who read Hansard - states:
Where the Minister is not satisfied that the prices being charged by a producer or importer of subsidised goods to’ purchasers in respect of the sale of the goods are such as to pass on to the purchasers the full benefit of subsidy payable to the producer or importer in respect of the goods under section 5 of this Act, the Minister may direct that subsidy payable under that section shall not be paid to the producer . . .
Further, I am assured that officers of the Department of Customs and Excise regularly visit manufacturers of nitrogenous fertilisers and do make checks.
Broadly speaking, I have dealt with the points raised by the honourable member for Dawson. In so doing I have taken nowhere near as long to speak as he did. The Minister for Primary Industry will no doubt add his contribution at the end of the debate. But in my opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of the House, the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson is neither practical nor worthy of support.
– The first 5 minutes of the speech just delivered by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) was spent in defending the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony).
– Well, the first 10 minutes of the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was spent in criticising him.
– It was not. I was here. He took only a few minutes to criticise the Minister, and he did this most effectively because the Minister was not in the House to hear him. Fancy the honourable member excusing the Minister for not being at the table during the progress of his own Bill! This is a practice that is fundamental to a democratic parliament; we in this place have always insisted that the relevant Minister should be present while a Bill relating to his Department was being debated. When we were in government we insisted on this, and we have continued to insist on it since being defeated. We have always been critical of a Minister absenting himself from the House during a debate on his Bill.
– I rise to order. The Minister was receiving a deputation. He had no hope of being here.
– I am glad to have that interjection. The honourable member for Indi cannot possibly get away with making an excuse on behalf of his Minister. The Minister for Primary Industry is a friend of members on this side of the House. He is a pleasant Minister and easy to get on with. I will not get a vote out of saying this; I am saying it because it is true. I appreciate a Minister who will listen to me, even when I do not agree with him. The Minister for Primary Industry will listen when you put up a tough case. He will also listen even when your case is not perhaps very good. He does this graciously, and these things always count with me. The Minister has always kept his feet on the ground. He does not get around in the clouds as some other Ministers do.
-If the honourable member will get back to the Bill it will count with me too.
– We are told that the Minister for Primary Industry was at a meeting and that this is why he was not here at the beginning of the debate. The Minister did not tell us this himself. This information was given to us by the honourable member for Indi. Members of the Opposition will continue to criticise the absence of any Minister from the table when his own Bill is going through this House. In any case I see that the Minister is now here and evidently will be here for the rest of the debate. The greatest steal that ever took place in this Parliament was when this Government stole our policy on superphosphate subsidy during the 1963 election campaign. Ned Kelly was an amateur compared with the Liberal-Country Party Government in its habit of taking, cold-bloodedly and deliberately, great chunks out of our policy as it has done over the last 10 years. This is one of them. It is all very well for supporters of the LiberalCountry Party Government to get up in this Parliament and to say what they have done for the fanner. They would not have thought to provide a nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy if the proposal had not been contained in Labors policy speech in 1963. Now they are committed to the payment of the subsidy. They have increased the superphosphate bounty, and under this Bill they are continuing the subsidy of $80 a ton on nitrogenous fertilisers.
The Bill consists of 5 or 6 pages, but all it does is to extend the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy for another 3 years; it does not increase it. The farmer will not receive lc a ton more by way of a nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy for another 3 years, unless - and this is definitely a great possibility - after 25th October next we will become the Government. We will then be able to implement the proposal which is contained in our amendment today in order to grant in respect of nitrogenous fertilisers an increase proportional to that granted in respect of superphosphate. The superphosphate subsidy has been increased by 50%. Obviously this is election year. If it had not been election year this Government would not have dreamed of granting a 50% increase in subsidy to any farmer. The increase in the superphosphate subsidy is straight out electioneering. The Bill we are discussing is designed to continue the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers for another 3 years, to 31st October 1972. We are justified in putting down this amendment which provides that there should be an increase in the rate of nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy in line with the recent increase in the subsidy on superphosphate.
Nitrogenous fertilisers are a limited type of fertiliser. They are used in the more intensive type of farming, such as the sugar industry, on farms on which irrigation is provided, and in the dairying industry.
Therefore, the use of nitrogenous fertilisers is not so widespread. Impressive figures were given by the Minister in his second reading speech. They show that in 3 years the consumption of nitrogenous fertiliser has risen from just under 70,000 tons in 1.965-66 to an estimated level of approximately 140,000 tons in 1968-69. This is a tremendous increase in the use of nitrogenous fertiliser and, of course, it is directly due to the payment of the subsidy. During the next 3 years 1 would estimate that approximately $50m will have to be provided in order to continue the payment of the subsidy until 31st October 1972. 1 pay a tribute to the ordinary Australian taxpayer who helps to subsidise farmers in our community, in the same way as he helps to subsidise other industries. I know that some consumers feel that the farmer is getting it too easy, because they have to subsidise him in so many ways. But, of course, these people do not understand the risks and the gamble involved in farming, the tremendous cost of farming and the great losses which can be incurred in farming due to disasters through drought, hail, fire or flood. People do not understand these things, and sometimes it is easy for them to be critical. This subsidisation programme is the means by which the strong help the weak; the means by which those who consume products help those who grow them. People who consume the products take no risk. Those who grow them take every risk and therefore they deserve some compensation.
– He is learning.
– I was born on a farm, and 1 was on a wheat farm for years and years. I know as much about farming as do most members of the Country Party. 1 know suffering. I went through the depression years on the land in Victoria. During that time 20,000 farmers in Australia walked off their farms. So I ask members of the Australian Country Party not to try to make out that they know everything there is to be known about farming or the risks involved in farming or the needs of farming because we on this side of the House who were born on the land and who have worked on farms know these things, too.
– You are getting away from it pretty early.
– Order! There are far too many interjections.
– The interjections are coming from the self styled experts in the Country Party. Finally, I should like to commend our amendment to the House and to the Minister. It is designed to allow numbers of farmers, who are using nitrogenous fertilisers to a greater extent and in a wider expanse of farming, to share in the good fortune which this Government has handed out in the form of an increase of 50% in the superphosphate subsidy. When one thinks about it it is amazing that the Government has granted a 50% increase, from $8 to $12 a ton, in the superphosphate subsidy but it has given no increase in the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. We cannot understand the reckoning or the reasoning behind this. I am sure that sugar cane growers in the north will be very unhappy about this position.
I shall mention one other aspect that has caused great concern amongst Australian merchants who have stored superphosphate consistently year after year for farmers to use during this period of the year. These merchants have been caught with thousands of tons of superphosphate for which they will not receive the recent increase of $4 a ton in the subsidy. One merchant in my electorate will lose $50 because he had 40 tons of superphosphate hi store on the night before the Budget was introduced on 13th August last. I think that the Government had a right to compensate Australian merchants in farming communities who provided this service so that the fanner could have superphosphate immediately instead of having to wait while it was railed 200, 400 or 500 miles from the seaboard or from the factory where it was manufactured. These merchants were penalised because they had superphosphate on hand. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and I have taken this matter up with the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) but I do not think we will get anywhere. I think that the Government has lost a lot of voting support from the merchants of Australia who had superphosphate in stock for the farmers but who will not be compensated in respect of it. We support the Bill wholeheartedly, but we would like to see our amendment carried in order to help farmers over the next 3 years, by the payment of an increased subsidy for nitrogenous fertilisers.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), in bis speech, slated that I had criticised the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) as soon as I started to speak. This is not in accordance with the facts, as Hansard will show. I stalled - or waited for some time - before I criticised the Minister’s absence because we had an amendment to move. The Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) was at the table, but we had no indication whether the Minister for Primary Industry was coming into the chamber or not.
– As Leader of the House 1 was standing in for the Minister for only a few minuter.
– The Minister for Air should have told us that. On other occasions when the Minister for Primary Industry has not been present in the chamber and we have known about it, we have accepted it and there has been no criticism. I can assure-
-Order! 1 think that the honourable member for Dawson is going beyond the point of a personal explanation. I think he has made his point and I ask him to resume his seat.
– in reply - I just want to make a brief reply to the discussion that has taken place in the House regarding the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill which I introduced.
– Is the Minister speaking to the amendment now, or is he closing the debate?
– I am closing the debate. The Bill is designed to continue the bounty at $80 per ton for contained nitrogen in fertiliser for the next 3 year period ending 31st October 1972. First of all, I have listened to some acrimony as to whether 1 should have been in the House or not, and as to where I was. Let me pronounce myself guilty of not being here. I acknowledge that a Minister should be in the House when a Bill for which he is responsible is being debated and I apologise to the Opposition for my absence for 7 minutes at the commencement of the debate on the Bill. I had an important deputation in my office during the suspension for lunch and I tried to reach a conclusion with the members of it. I should be meeting the members of another deputation from the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council who have come here to see me, but I am afraid they will have to leave without seeing me at all. I have apologised to them, but I have a Bill before the House and that is my first responsibility.
I thank the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) for coming to my defence and for explaining the situation. He did it most admirably. I also thank him for some rather flattering remarks. I do not know whether I was worthy of them, but they were kind remarks. I have a clear recollection of the years 1961, 1962 and 1963, when I was a back bench member. They were rather interesting political years. The Government had a small majority. In those years both the honourable member for Indi and the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) were almost labelled as fanatical proponents of a subsidy on fertilisers. Their main contention was that a subsidy should be paid on superphosphate. In 1963 the Government decided that a subsidy of $6 a ton would be paid on superphosphate. I always recall that both honourable members played a most significant part in obtaining this subsidy and it was interesting to hear the honourable member for Indi speak today on the subsidy for nitrogenous fertilisers.
The Opposition has moved an amendment. It is in two parts. In the first part the Opposition suggests that the rate of subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers be increased to the extent of the increase this year in the subsidy on superphosphate. I do not know whether the Opposition is including last year, because then the subsidy on superphosphate was increased by $2 a ton. However, I suppose that does not matter to the Opposition, as long as it outbids the Government in the auction ring. No matter what figure we produce, the
Opposition will always come up with a better one. I have seen this happen in the auction ring when people have been bidding with money that belongs to someone else. They do not mind how much they bid, if it is not their money. That seems to be the philosophy of the Opposition. As long as it is using the taxpayers’ money, it will outbid the Government on every issue.
But the Opposition’s logic in outbidding us is not very sound. We had a good argument for increasing the superphosphate bounty this year. As I explained in my second reading speech, we did so because the costs of superphosphate have risen considerably in the period since we introduced the subsidy. Furthermore, over the past 12 months the rate of consumption of superphosphate has declined. In addition, the Government had in mind giving encouragement and assistance to the Australian grazing industries - the sheep and the cattle industries. These two industries have received very little Government support. As about 60% of the superphosphate bounty would go to them, the Government thought that this was a way to give aid to industries that needed it, especially as potential markets existed for the produce from the grazing areas.
As the honourable member for Indi pointed out, there has been quite a rapid expansion in the consumption of nitrogenous fertilisers. The Treasury subvention required to meet the subsidy since it was introduced has been escalating every year. In 1968-69 it was $llm and for 1969-70 it will be approximately SI 5m. Even if we do no more than maintain the rate at S8 a ton, the figure will become bigger and bigger. But of course the Opposition, wanting to outbid us, has suggested an increase of a further 50%, irrespective of the logic in the argument. I am afraid that the Government cannot see its way clear to give assistance of that kind to an industry where there is an increasing commitment, where consumption is increasing and where the price has been declining. The price of both urea and sulphate of ammonia is lower today than it was when the bounty was first introduced. The price of sulphate of ammonia when the bounty was introduced was $61 a ton and today it is $48 a ton. The price of urea was $125 a ton and today it is $115 a ton. That excludes the subsidy. So the Opposition’s argument is not sound and is not logical.
The second part of the amendment is most interesting. It proposes that the subsidy rate be reviewed each year. When asked why the rate should be reviewed each year, the reply was: ‘The manufacturing cost could come down. With the increased throughput of the big plants that are being constructed, the price ought to come down and therefore the subsidy content ought to be reduced.’ In other words, the Opposition will not allow the consumers of nitrogen to benefit if the production methods of factories become more efficient. Under the Opposition’s proposal, the consumer has no chance of benefiting from a tower price. I think that is a rather difficult argument to sustain. For the reasons I have given the Government cannot accept the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Di Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 September (vide page 1249), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– In introducing the two Bills the Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentwortb) devoted the first nine pages of his printed speech to an exposition of Government policies and activities in Aboriginal affairs during the past year. It was an election oriented speech, designed to convince the voters that the Commonwealth’s lack of activity in Aboriginal affairs since the referendum of 1967 was due to the need to collect information which no Commonwealth government has possessed. The Minister had the audacity to say that the Government, notwithstanding that it has been in power for 20 years, did not have information about Aboriginals in Australia. The Minister set the pattern. He made an election speech. I intend to follow his example by devoting the first part of my speech to an exposition of the policy and attitudes which the Labor Party will follow after it becomes the government on 25th October. You may take it for granted that it will not take us 20 years to set about trying to solve some of the problems of the Aboriginals in Australia. Labor already has a clearly defined policy for approaching the problems of Aboriginals in the community. That policy was approved by the twenty-eighth Commonwealth conference of the Party held in Melbourne last month. So that the people of Australia may judge for themselves whether the Government’s record with regard to Aboriginals can be beaten by a Labor government let me quote our policy with regard to Aboriginals as contained in our official ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’. Dealing with Aboriginals our platform reads: 1 The Office of Aboriginal Affairs be upgraded to Ministerial level and the Commonwealth assume the ultimate responsibility for Aborigines and Islanders accorded to it by the referendum of 1967. 2 Aborigines to have equal rights and opportunities with all other Australians, and every form of discrimination against Aborigines to be ended. 3 Aborigines to receive the standerd rate of wages for the /ob and to receive the same industrial protection as other Australians. Special provision for employment to be provided in regions where they reside. 4 Provide educational opportunities in no way inferior to those of the general community, with special programmes at all levels where necessary to overcome cultural deprivation and meet special needs. Pre-school education to be provided for every Aboriginal child including teaching indigenous languages where desirable. Adult education to be provided as broadly as possible. 5 Housing programmes to give consideration to the personal wishes of the Aborigines as to design and location. Special areas of effort should be:
I have both these Conventions here, but as they are very long I will not ask for their incorporation in Hansard. The other policies in our platform are: 10 A Parliamentary Committee to be established to study all aspects of policy affecting Aborigines. 11 Every Australian child shall be taught the history and culture of Aboriginal and Island Australians as an integral part of the history of Australia. 12 That trained Social Workers be provided in every area where housing of Aborigines has been undertaken.
That policy has been part of the platform for a number of years. Additions have been made on a few occasions. I note from the Minister’s second reading speech that some of the things we have suggested and have been pressing for over a number of years are now to be instituted by this Government, particularly vocational training and adult education. The Bills we are discussing give $5,410,000 for some of these purposes. Labor will not impose one point of its policy on the Aboriginal people of Australia without ascertaining the views of their leaders and obtaining their acceptance of the plan. Our recognition of the urgency and the importance of the problem of the Aboriginal people is shown in the first plank of our platform, which refers to upgrading the Office of Aboriginal Affairs to a separate Ministerial department. The Commonwealth has been given responsibility to look after Aboriginals by the Australian people in the referendum held on 27th May 1967. The result of that referendum showed that 5,183,113 persons were in favour of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for our Aboriginals.
– How many were against it?
– There were 527,007 persons against it. In other words, 91.46% of the formal votes cast were in favour of the Commonwealth Government assuming responsibility and 8.54% were against the Commonwealth assuming responsibility. The result of the referendum is a clear indication that the vast majority of Australians realise that the States could not handle the problem. Despite this the Commonwealth Government still persists in making the State Governments share the responsibility and also half the cost for the care and assistance of our Aboriginals.
The two Bills we are discussing are the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill 1969 and the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1969. The second Bill merely makes legal the payment of certain moneys to the Queensland Government for certain work already undertaken by that government. The first Bill, the main Bill, provides that an amount of $5,410,000 be made available to the States on a $1 for $1 basis for housing, education, health and a couple of additional matters, employment and vocational training, for Aboriginals. Of that amount $5m is to be used on the things I have just mentioned and $410,000 is to be used on special works projects, relocation projects and special adult education. I pause here to remind honourable members that it has been written in our policy for some time that adult education should be made available to the Aboriginals. This money now being made available is on top of S3. 65m made available last year. The amount has been increased this year to $5m. It is a pauper’s handout. It is given to the States only if the States are prepared to spend $1 fo every $1 that the Commonwealth gives. Clause 3 (2.) makes it quite clear. It reads: (2.) Payment of an amount to a State under this section is subject to the following conditions:
If it is not bad enough to demand that the States spend $1 for $1 when the Commonwealth truly has responsibility for looking after our Aboriginal people, clause 3 (2.) goes on to state:
The Minister not only has the power not to approve but he also has the power to withdraw. The worthy sentiments which he expressed in the concluding paragraphs of his speech cannot be sustained when we see that the Commonwealth makes it mandatory that the States pay $1 for every $1 contributed by the Commonwealth to solve some of the problems of our Aboriginal people. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
In conclusion, I would merely say that our objective is that all Aboriginal Australians shall come to enjoy the same benefits of our society as do other members of the community. It is evident that in order to achieve this we shall have to extend certain privileges to Aboriginal Australians - on a temporary basis. Our aim is to break the existing vicious circle of paternalism, dependence and pauperism which has become self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating, sapping Aboriginal integrity, self-respect and vitality. We seek to create conditions, as far as they can be attained by public agencies, under which the Aboriginal citizens of Australia can be helped and put in a position where they can help themselves to develop a dignity of life, a command of their own activities, a full opportunity for their aptitudes and a place in the nation’s counsels equal to those of any other Australian citizens.
The Commonwealth now has full responsibility for Aboriginals should it care to exercise that responsibility. It is of no use for the Minister to mouth phrases such as this and at the same time demand that the States pay $1 for every $1 contributed by the Commonwealth in order to advance the Aboriginal people of Australia. The Bill provides, as I said, $5,410,000 for the States. The amount will be divided this way: Queensland, $2,055,000; Western Australia, $1,255,000; New South Wales, $1,179,000; South Australia, $535,000; Victoria, $347,000; and Tasmania, $39,000. At the census held on 30th June 1966 the figures for the Aboriginal populations in the various States were as follows: Queensland 19,003, Western Australia 18,439, New South Wales 14,219, South Australia 5,505, and Victoria 1,790. The Aboriginal population in Tasmania was not counted separately. In 1966 there were 80,207 Aboriginal persons in Australia. This figure includes 21,119 in the Northern Territory as well as those in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. They are not shown separately. I could obtain the breakdown of the Australian figure only into metropolitan, other urban areas and rural areas and the figures were as follows: Metropolitan 5,339, other urban areas 16,557 and rural areas 58,311.
This problem predominantly is a rural one, with Queensland and Western Australia needing greater assistance than the other States. Mr Deputy Speaker, you may say: So what? The State with the highest Aboriginal population receives the highest amount and the State with the uncounted Aboriginal population receives the lowest amount, so this is a fair distribution.’ But I ask: How are the various States placed financially and in regard to area? Western Australia and Queensland, with the largest areas and the largest Aboriginal population, are given only slightly more than New South Wales. Both New South Wales and Victoria are populous States, fairly well urbanised, and they might be able to match the $1 for $1 subsidy, but even the Premiers of those States are complaining that the grants they receive on a $1 for $1 basis, for a lot of responsibilities that are rightly Commonwealth responsibilities, are not capable of being matched by them because they are not getting sufficient money from the Com monwealth in the first place. If New South Wales and Victoria complain, how much more genuine are the complaints of the less developed, less populous and less urbanised States of Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia which have, as I said, the highest Aboriginal population?
It can be seen from the figures I have quoted, that the Commonwealth is still leaning very, very heavily on State governments to solve our Aboriginal problems. This is also borne out by what the Minister said in his second reading speech. He said:
It seems to the Government wrong in principle for the Commonwealth, even if it could, to assume or seek to assume total responsibility for all the affairs of the day to day life of one ethnic group of the population. The new legislative powers which the Commonwealth possesses as the outcome of the 1967 referendum are of course only concurrent powers. But, more than that, very different circumstances exist in each State or region. It seems to the Government obvious that if Aboriginal policies arc to be effective they must be implemented on a regional - that is, a State or Territtory - basis.
He went on to state:
We do not seek to enter unnecessarily into the fields of State responsibility or activity but to give substantial financial and other support to State programmes which are acceptable to the Commonwealth. In so doing the Commonwealth exercises a policy co-ordinating role to an extent.
In that last quotation the Minister said ‘to give substantial financial and other support to State programmes’, but the Government is giving that support only on a $1 for $1 basis. It expects the States to carry half the responsibility for the Aboriginal people. This approach will not succeed. The States have not been able to face up to their responsibility in this direction for almost 2 centuries and they are not likely to face up to it now unless the Commonwealth is prepared to provide the money and, if necessary, allow the States or other regional bodies to put that money into effect.
But the field of Aboriginal affairs is not the only field in which the Commonwealth refuses to accept its responsibility and its charter. It hands over the care of the aged, the infirm, the invalid, the deserted wives and the widows to State governments and local government bodies, asks them to provide certain amenities such as home care and recreation centres, and expects the States to provide a $1 for $1 subsidy. The Commonwealth is being far from magnanimous when it gives grants on a $1 for $1 basis.
The States now are carrying a tremendous number of financial burdens. State Premiers are violently criticising the Federal Government for not providing sufficient money for them to run these services. But time and time again, when some item of social welfare legislation is presented the assistance is provided on a $1 for $1 basis.
The Commonwealth is the holder of the purse strings. The ideas expressed in the Minister’s speech are worthy ideas but they will not be fulfilled if the States are not given the finances to carry them out and are expected to provide $1 for every $1 given by the Commonwealth for use in these areas. The Commonwealth Government, practically throughout the 20 years of its life, has shown that it does nothing about matters until such time as the rumbling of public opinion forces some action. Assistance to primary, secondary and technical education for government schools was neglected completely in this Budget because there was no real pressure on the Government to do somthing; but grants were made to the private sector of our school population.
Over the years that we have been trying to solve our Aboriginal1 problems - trying half-heartedly to a great degree - we have been using State governments, local government bodies and private organisations, but they have shown, for almost two centuries, that they have been unable to face up to those responsibilities. Yet the Government and the Minister propose to use the same organisations and the same plans as were used in the past. How does the Minister put it? This is what he said in his speech:
The Commonwealth wishes to act co-operatively, pragmatically, and in a complementary way, in this aspect of its role. It tries to respond to existing and developing needs as they become apparent, or are brought to our notice by the States.
This is not good enough. We want an imaginative policy towards the Aboriginal people of Australia. They are now pressing the Minister. In answer to a question asked of him this morning the Minister commented on a statement made by one of the Aboriginal leaders. He said that the statement was a strong one but that he had some sympathy with it I think the Minister has a great deal1 of sympathy for the problems of our Aboriginal people and is trying to do something. But I think also that he has found that the problems are far more difficult to solve than he thought when he was a backbencher. He then had all the solutions. I read into the Minister’s speech a pessimistic note - almost a note of despair. On seven or eight occasions during his speech he used the words ‘hope’ and expect’. He is not certain whether the plans he envisages will be accepted by the Aboriginals or by the States. He paid a compliment to the missions for their spirit of education and co-operation but not such compliment is paid to the State governments. If the Minister is having difficulties in obtaining co-operation from the States or from local authorities he should tell the Parliament so.
The Opposition welcomes the grants which are being made available to the States under these Bills but expresses regret that the Government has not seen fit to take a far more active part in the organisation of projects to restore to Aboriginal people their initiatives and independence in both the social and economic sense. The Opposition believes that the Commonwealth has full authority to do so. In the referendum of May 1967 the words that were deleted from section 51 placitum (xxvi.) of the Constitution were ‘other than the Aboriginal race in any State’. That provision now reads:
The people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.
I am not a legal man so am unable to argue this legally, but it reads to me that the Commonwealth Government now has full responsibility, if it wishes to exercise it, and full authority, if it wishes to exercise it, to make special laws for the Aboriginal people of Australia. I think that this is necessary. We are going to be criticised more and more until such time as we make the Aboriginals proud to live with and among us. The Opposition also regrets that the Commonwealth Government has not accepted greater financial responsibility in the overall plan to allow our Aboriginals and I use the Minister’s words:
– I rise to make some brief remarks on these Bills. I point out that I am interested in Aboriginals all over Australia. The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) has implemented a far reaching plan for these people, one aspect of which I recently discussed at a meeting of councillors in the north. The Government is accused of doing nothing for the Aboriginals. The plan, which the Minister mentioned in a reply to a recent question by me, envisages help to enable Aboriginals to become self-supporting, to look after themselves and their families by their own efforts and not to be dependent on government handouts. No matter how much money we devote to ensuring that Aboriginals are given a chance to conduct their own businesses and enterprises, the main underlying problem is that having been nomadic people all their lives we must instil in them the desire to take part in enterprises. It is no use our continuing on a handout basis. The Aboriginal people throughout my electorate are beginning to realise this and are starting to ask for help under the plan that was announced in the Budget.
The Minister, in his reply to my question, said that the plan was based on the Aboriginals’ own desires and was approved by them and could be implemented by the Government. The Minister said that he hoped to be able to extend the plan to all areas of Australia. Action similar to this plan has been initiated on Goulburn Island. It involves co-operation in a transport business of the type that is relevant to the top of Australia, in Western Australia, Queensland and certainly in the Northern Territory. The transporting of mission settlement goods is done mainly by means of barges. In this particular instance they are operating a barge out of Elcho Island. The Minister envisages that Aboriginals will operate their own transport services. However, this plan cannot be brought into operation by a wave of the hand. The Government has shown a keen appreciation of the problem, and something is to be done.
The Minister is making real efforts to assist Aboriginals to look after themselves and to build up their own enterprises. It may be quite a long time before they can actually run them themselves, but they must start somewhere and the plan that he has initiated is the commencement. The Minister said that similar action would be initiated in other parts of Australia so we can assume that the Minister and the Government will be looking at various projects throughout Australia in an endeavour to assist Aboriginals in establishing their own enterprises. Construction equipment will be involved. Aboriginals will be able to build their own houses, station yards and fences. They will be able to operate the equipment that is necessary in building up this part of an enterprise.
In the overall plan there is room for fishing activities. This aspect can be applied right across the top of Australia, from the gulf off the Arnhem Land coast and down past northern Western Australia. Timber projects will be incorporated in the plan. Many Aboriginals are being trained at present in the growing of young trees and the maintenance of pine forests. This activity can be expanded, and will be expanded under the Minister’s policy. Cattle will play a major role in the enterprise scheme. Aboriginals already operate one or two cattle stations in my electorate. The other day the Minister mentioned that a large project was being worked out in respect of the area near Port Keats. To say that the Government is doing nothing for these people is to misrepresent the case entirely. One can never do enough of anything. I am not saying that we should not have started this type of activity 100 years ago as everyone suggests, but we have started now. We have to look forward. To look back and say: ‘You did not do this or that’, is no way to assist any programme or to help people to develop their own enterprises. We must look forward in these matters. I want to bring to the notice of honourable members that there is a lot of forward planning and forward thinking in bringing the Aboriginal people to the position where they can and will take their place alongside Europeans in business enterprises and in life in general. There are many other projects in this plan. These things could be applied almost anywhere in Australia and there is no doubt that they can be brought into being.
Recently I was at a native settlement where there were seven carpenters building their own houses. Those men had put in a tender for a contract for the erection of another building many miles away from their own settlement. This is something that could not have happened years ago. Years ago the Aboriginal people would not have left their own area to work elsewhere. At the council meeting to which 1 have referred there were councillors from a dozen different areas and they all spoke of their own welfare, their own enterprise, their own schemes, their own desires and so on. These meetings which take place have been brought about through the cooperation of the Government and the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, who is sitting at the table, and the people living in the settlement areas. There are many people in Australia today who are genuinely trying to assist the Aboriginals to get on. Everywhere we go across northern Australia we see Aboriginal handicrafts. We see very fine examples of articles made from buffalo horn or wood, their paintings, shiel’ds and spears, and in this regard the Aboriginal people are doing very well. They are selling these items all over the world. Only last year I brought some of them to Canberra and an honourable member sent quite a parcel of them to America. This is another field in which the Government is doing something to assist the Aboriginals.
Earlier I listened to the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) read the new charter of the Australian Labor Party. That charter contained many things which are in fact in operation today. Before I resume my seat I would like to make some comment about education in my own electorate, and I think that my remarks could be applied to other areas of Australia. Because of the Government interest we see the erection of dining rooms, the provision of bores, of powerhouses for the supply of electricity, and sewerage facilities. More than $2,500,000 is being spent in one area on school buildings. In my electorate a transitionary college has been operating for some years, but 1 note that $300,000 or $400,000 is yet to be spent on this college. I have been there several times just recently. The children who attend that college come from all parts of my electorate which covers 520,000 square miles. The men and women who operate this school and the teachers who instruct the children all have something to do with its administration and they all are trying their hardest to help the Aboriginal children. There is not enough said about these people. They are not employed by the mission organisation. They are Government employed men and women. Not enough credit is given to them for the work that they do and for the thought they give to their work.
We read the newspapers and we hear speeches made by members of the Opposition about what the Government is not doing for the advancement of Aboriginals. Probably the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who is to follow me in this debate, will unleach a tirade about what the Government is not doing. But the Government is doing a lot for the Aboriginals. It is doing a tremendous amount to assist the Aboriginal people. People who get up and say that the Government is doing nothing, and make disparaging remarks about what the school teachers and staffs at the settlements and missions are doing or not doing, are insulting many hundreds of people who are making genuine efforts to help the Aboriginal people. The honourable member for Wills knows this and I know it. Only last Saturday I was at the Hermannsburg settlement discussing with the members of the council there some minor points of law which they wanted the Government to have a look at so that it could assist them. These people are aware of a lot of things that they want. We cannot just throw something into their laps. It will take a long time, but for the sake of the Aboriginals I ask everyone concerned to try not to use them as a political football. That will not do them the slightest good. To use a colloquial term, I ask those concerned not to pressure cook this deal.
The Minister has said that his plan is to lead the Aboriginals towards those things that he suggests that they do for themselves. For heavens sake let us lead them. Do not let us push them, because if we do they will only become bewildered. I am speaking of the full blood Aboriginals. It will take them a long time to get to the stage where they can grasp very readily many of the things which are now occurring. Let us retain the policy that is laid down by this Government and let the people of Australia get right behind the Government instead of haranguing and knocking the Government for everything that is does in relation to the Aboriginals. 1 suggest that everyone ought to go and have a look at the settlements and see the teachers instructing the children and watch the nurses dealing with the mothers and the babies, so that they can really get an idea of what is taking place. They might then be able to be of some assistance to the Aboriginals instead of knocking the Government and treating Aboriginal welfare as a political football.
– I do not quite know what a political football is in this context but one would think that in Parliament and in politics, when you start to discuss anything that is the logical way to go about it. To try to define your opponent’s views as being just political is, I think, to remove from the debate a degree of relevance to the situation. The Opposition is not here to attack the Minister-in-charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) or the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I am not going to say that nothing has been done. I think it is fair to ask whether enough is being done in Australia, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Are the powers that were .vested in the Minister, as a result of a constitutional amendment 2i years ago, being adequately used? Other questions that one may ask following the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory are: Are there still thousands of Aboriginals who are not living in houses? Are there many thousands of Aboriginals who are still illiterate? Are there many of them who are unable to find a proper place in the community, either economically or socially? If the answers are in the affirmative we should ask ourselves whether we are doing enough and whether we are attacking the problem in the right way.
It has been said that the Opposition attacks the Government’s policy. I do not know about that. The Government has certain policies on the one hand and principles of action on the other. I think that this Bill is a part of the Government’s system of action which will result in a failure to carry out the policies that the Minister has espoused for so long. In 1957, a campaign to change the general situation of the Aboriginals of Australia began. For 10 or 11 years it has ranged through a series of petitions, motions in this House, conferences of bodies throughout Australia associated with Aboriginal affairs and so on. In 1967 the Constitution was amended. By that time I think almost ail of the States had amended their laws. At any rate, the Constitution and the ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory were amended insofar as they concerned Aboriginals. I think it is fair to say that only the legal position has changed dramatically. There has not been a great change in the material position in which the Aboriginal people of Australia find themselves.
A weakness in this Bill is that it places responsibility back upon the States. Another weakness is that it based upon matching grants. As the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) pointed out, the State governments will have to find an equal sum of money. I do not believe that the legislation will be successful. Problems of this nature cannot be attacked second hand. I do not think it is a specious argument to say that this is a regional problem. 1 do not think it is rational to say that, for instance, the problems in the north west of Western Australia are so different from the problems in the north coast of Queensland that the matter should be left to the respective States. I do not think that it can be left to the States to handle. I do not believe that the people of Australia want it to be left to the States. The honourable member for Lang quoted certain figures in relation to the referendum that was conducted on Aboriginals. Over five million people said that something should be done to improve the conditions of the Aboriginals and only 500,000 people were not in favour of anything being done. In fact 91% of the population of Australia said that the Government should get on with the job.
When considering this Bill one has to ask oneself whether the Government is getting on with the job with enough vigour. I think it is true to say that in every electorate in Australia the absolute majority of voters was in favour of getting on with the job. There may have been one or two polling booths throughout Australia where the majority was not in favour. We have to ask ourselves whether this Bill fulfils the aims of the Minister. We on this side of the chamber believe that it does not. The Minister said that the Government’s aim is to break the existing vicious circle of paternalism, dependence and pauperism which has become self-reinforcing and selfperpetuating, sapping Aboriginal integrity, self-respect and vitality. Nobody in this House would gainsay that aim nor say that it is not a laudable one. But I believe that by leaving the responsibility with the existing institutions - the States - which have for so long failed to carry out the trust that has been placed in them, we are failing in the trust that was pl’aced upon us 2£ years ago by the people of Australia.
I think it was the honourable member for the Northern Territory who said a moment ago that we could not expect the Commonwealth to accept total responsibility. I think the Commonwealth must accept total responsibility. I do not think that this is undue centralisation or bureaucratisation. I do not think that it is impossible for the Commonwealth to do for somebody in the far west of Western Australia what it can do for somebody in the far east of New South Wales or in Queensland. There is ample evidence of this in other directions. The Repatriation Act is a case in point. Nothing more pervasive than the education system for children of soldiers needs to be quoted to support the view that when the Commonwealth puts its shoulder to the wheel it has to be a pretty big wheel not to turn. In this instance the Commonwealth is not putting its shoulder to the wheel; it is trying to get somebody else to turn the wheel. The Minister does not have a great deal of faith in the States. When addressing a luncheon in Sydney of the Australian Society of Accountants on 8th May, he said:
I am not certain all of this money is well spent. At least 80% is spent on maintenance.
Which is natural enough. He went on to say:
This is not value for money because after it is spent you are left with the same conditions that there were in the first place.
Admittedly the $S.Sm or thereabouts that is to be allocated under this legislation will assist to overcome some of those difficulties. What are the problems of the Aboriginal people of Australia? They are manifold. One is education. If one looks at, touches or scratches any area of education as it applies to the Aboriginals one finds that, compared with the rest of the people of Australia, they are disadvantaged. If one studies their life one will find that statistics - hard as they are to get - indicate that the Aboriginals are worse off as far as health is concerned; that their housing is deplorable; that economically they have very little chance in the community compared with their white brothers; that socially they are discriminated against; and that they plead in vain for land - even in the Northern Territory, which is in our own domain. The Minister is up against the conservative approach of his own Party to these matters. He is up against those people in his Party and in the satellite Party who think that State rights transcend human rights. 1 do not think that the Minister agrees with this, but as a Party man he has to toe the line.
The Minister is also up against the conservative attitude of the State governments, which administer the funds provided for the Aboriginals. I shall take one State as an example. I do not want to labour this point any longer than is necessary to place it on record. I shall use Queensland as an example. Queensland has one of the worst records in the history of Australia insofar as Aboriginal affairs are concerned. Its laws and regulations in the past were Draconian; they were restricted. Until the changes in the Constitution 2 or 3 years ago the Aboriginal people of Queensland had less freedom than most aboriginal people anywhere else in the world. I wish to refer to an article by Mr Frank Stevens, who is a lecturer at the University of New South Wales. The article was published this year in the winter issue of ‘Dissent’. It is available in the Parliamentary Library for those honourable members who wish to read it. This is the attitude of an academic observer who has no personal row of his own to hoe. I believe that he is objective in all his studies. He has spent many years on the subject. He said that the life of the Aboriginals on reserves is a life inside an authoritarian system. The authorities do such things as control the bank accounts of the Aboriginals. The trust funds are still not administered for the benefit of the Aboriginals. I am not too sure whether we should have trust funds in that form any more. In fact, I ana pretty convinced that we should not.
Throughout areas of Queensland one finds - I suppose naturally enough because it happened in other parts of the world - that the minority group is often discriminated against in the exercise of the law. There is plenty of evidence of this. Statistics indicate that an Aboriginal is more likely to end up in gaol for the same kind of sin - for example, drunkenness or disorderly conduct - than his white brother. One has only to visit the average Aboriginal settlement in Queensland to appreciate what I am saying. Early this year, together with some of my colleagues, I visited the Woorabinda settlement, which is 90 or 100 miles out of Rockhampton. The rainfall of the area is in the vicinity of 20 to 30 inches - probably closer to 30 inches. The settlement comprises an area of, 1 think, 56 acres. What is the situation at this settlement, which has been in existence for so long? 1 am not reflecting upon the people who administer it because they are the victims of the system. They can only carry out their duties in accordance with the resources bestowed upon them. The housing is meagre to the point of being miserable. It is nothing to write home about. The settlement is depressing to look at. The products of the soil and the profit from the animals of the settlement are ploughed back into general funds rather than the funds of the settlement so that they can become selfgenerating.
The most depressing feature of the settlement is the prison. We visited it on an average day in January when the temperature was somewhere in the vicinity of 90 degrees - normal for that part of Australia. The prison comprises four cells. The most substantial building at the settlement is the prison, which is made of reinforced concrete. It was said that there was a good reason for making it of reinforced concrete. Apparently a previous building had been burnt down with tragic results. But what kind of spirit is it which will pour money into a prison block on an Aboriginal settlement in Queensland? We visited the prison. I think there were three people in it that day. One was a young woman who was in her twenties. The other two were men who had been in there for about 10 days. There is no gainsaying what I am putting. The evidence is there. We saw the people ourselves. A young woman who was in her twenties, I think, was in for drunkenness. What a dreadful sin! I say this although I happen to be a wowser and I do not drink at all. But it seems to me to be a terrible indictment of the Queensland system that someone would be locked up for 10 to 14 days on a charge of drunkenness. 1 am informed by my friend, the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Hansen), who visited this area with us at the time, that since we have been there some improvements have been made. An exercise yard or something of that nature has been provided. After we visited the place, of course, we made the statement that was boosted abroad and we made Press statements. We were attacked as being mischief makers, as stirrers, as trouble makers and as people who really did not understand. This, of course, is the situation in Queensland. This is the situation which my friend the Minister for Social Services and Minister.inCharge of Aboriginal Affairs is impliedly in favour of, inasmuch as he is going to make available Commonwealth money for the Queensland people to spend. I do not think the Minister can expect anything like the results he aims at. Mr Frank Stevens said in an article that many Aboriginals living in Queensland - and I think there is plenty of evidence of this - were living in circumstances of dire oppression, instability and fear. He implied that officialdom in this field was quite insensitive to many of the needs of Aboriginals.
There has been a very slow change indeed in Queensland. This is not good enough. In some areas, of course, Aboriginal1 people have probably done better than those in other areas. In Queensland there may be a higher proportion of the Aboriginal people living in the community down the street than is the case in other States. This is something that we have to tackle. The plea I make is that this Parliament and the Government should take the responsibility placed upon them by the people of Australia and act by themselves through a department of this Parliament. I cannot see any proper advance, in the sense that we normally use the term, being made unless that is done. But of course, all is not light and happiness in the Northern Territory, which is the concern of this Parliament. In recent times, as a result of lifting the ban on the consumption of alcohol, thus allowing the kind of freedom to do what one likes which I for one have always espoused, drinking in the Northern Territory has become a serious matter. Somewhere along the line we have to apply all of our social skids and resources towards trying to overcome this situation. I take it that the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory will turn to liquor because there is very little else for them to turn to. This is not the product of the Minister’s administration; it is the product of a century or more and we should do something about it.
There is evidence from the Press, and one would think that it is reliable enough, that the police in the Northern Territory still discriminate against the Aboriginal people. I notice in a Press account by Mr Dick Ward of 23 rd May of proceedings in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory that a native had been beaten in a cell. I suppose that this happens just as much in white prisons. I suppose it happens often or too often in white communities too. But we must set up some system of scrutiny by which this Parliament can be kept informed all along the line of what the situation is so that it can act. We cannot leave all this to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), no matter how much he thinks he can keep such matters under scrutiny.
Of course, there is the question of land rights. It seems to me that there is little excuse for us avoiding our responsibilities in this field, particularly in the Northern Territory. I would presume that we now have the absolute constitutional right to do something about land rights wherever this matter arises in Australia. There were those who attacked the Australian Labor Party policy as announced after our recent conference as Utopian or starry-eyed in regard to land rights. Other people have found solutions to land problems. The people of Canada and the United States have resolved this matter. The people of New Zealand have found some kind of solution to the land hunger of their original people. It is time that we applied ourselves to this.
I will just briefly mention some of the things that are deficient as far as one can see. Firstly, I refer to the field of education. The statistical return that was presented to us some time back from the Bureau shows that of the adult Aboriginal people of Australia 23% had no education whatsoever whereas only 1% of white people were in that position. When we look up the results we see that .35% of the people concerned had achieved matriculation standard whereas in the white community the figure was 9.78%, or 27 times the percentage for Aboriginal people. In the case of secondary education, although there has been a fair effort put into the field over most of Australia now, there are still only 12% of Aboriginals who have been in secondary schools whereas 24% of the white community have received this level of education. These figures have been calculated from the total population and not just from the school population. When we get to the university area where one must look to the hope of the side, one might say, for the future, I think that there are nine or ten Aboriginal students at universities this year. I suppose this represents about 1 in 10,000 Aboriginal people. However, the ratio of white people attending university is about 1 in 120. So, the white population still has about 80 chances to 1 chance by Aboriginals of getting to university.
It was refreshing the other night - and it was an historic moment and I meant to stand up on the adjournment to say something - to see Mr Charles Perkins as an officer of the Ministry sitting in the House with the Minister’s advisers. I do not know whether this was the first time that an Aboriginal has sat in the House as an adviser to the Minister. I suppose it was. I congratulate the Minister and Mr Perkins on having arrived at that state of affairs.
The education needs of the Aboriginal people cover the whole field. We will have to do something especially in regard to kindergartens and pre-schools. Also, Aboriginal adults will need assistance for retraining. If it was possible to retrain all of those, such as myself, who came back from the war, and to put them through universities - I was at the mature age of 31 or thereabouts at the time - we could certainly do this for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people will need all kinds of social assistance.
The position of Aboriginal housing is deplorable. One does not need to go very far to see this. One has only to visit any
Aboriginal settlement in Australia to find that this is the case. For instance, it appears from a journal I have here that in 1966 the State governments did not apply their resources or themselves as vigorously to Aboriginal housing as they did to other people’s housing. In 1966 in New South Wales - and I am indebted to an article in Architecture in Australia’ of last year for this - the Board built one house for every 269 Aboriginals. On the other hand one house was built for every 103 white persons. The article is there for people to read. It mentions the shanties, the ghettoes and the sheer misery of it all. We ought to be able to do something about it. The people of Australia have the resources to do something about this situation. At the end of this article, which was written by Ian McKay, the Chairman of the housing committee of the New South Wales Royal Australian Institute of Architects had this to say:
The Board’s houses consistently are cheaper and are built of cheaper and less effective material for Aboriginals than they are to the rest of the community .
These, I think, are the areas which we must attack.
The same applies to the question of the occupation of Aboriginals and to the question of health. I find it extremely difficult to find any reliable statistics on health. The State reports are very general about this subject indeed. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) in May this year asked a question about leprosy. He wanted to know how many people were considered to be suffering from active leprosy in each year. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) said that he was unable to give the honourable member the information requested because this matter was under the jurisdiction of Western Australia. I would have thought that he should have been able to give that information. We have to gather information in this field. It has to be readily available to this House and to Parliament which has to take the responsibility for it. One other comment I would like to make refers to the question of what has become known as black power. It is unfortunate perhaps that we have not been able to find some other term or some other form of partnership. I do not see any particular chance of a minority group of only 1% in the community exercising what might be termed ‘power’. But Aboriginal people of
Australia in the last 10 years at least have had forums available to them through which to speak. They are learning to do this with vigour and, in fact, to an extent with effect. To that extent I suppose that we can be grateful.
I hope that we will do something about the land position of Aboriginals in particular. This would seem to me to be the most pressing psychological need of the Aboriginals of Australia. On one select committee on which I sat we were told that they did not have a feeling of proprietorship over their land but instead they got a kind of spiritual refreshment from it. My experience and the experience of people I have met - 1 know that I am just one of those frustrated do-gooders from the south who do not know what they are talking about - I will put that in inverted commas and honourable members opposite can underline it if they wish - but I speak as one who for 14 years has been around a good deal and has met many Aboriginal people, has visited a large number of settlements and when overseas has taken the opportunity to discuss the problem in areas with similar problems. I am convinced that from the psychological viewpoint alone it will be worthwhile for the Australian Government to do something in particular about land - to find some formula which will solve this problem.
Before I conclude I point out also that I wish that we could do something to assist the woman who is in gaol in Queensland in her appeal against the sentence imposed upon her by the court for the manslaughter of her child. It is worthwhile each one of us studying the health problems that are associated with this case. It was claimed in her defence - and I believe it was true enough - that the child died of malnutrition because of the conditions under which it had to live. I believe that we ought to support this appeal. However, we should do something in particular about providing legal aid for the Aboriginal people of Australia. New Zealanders do it. We ought to be able to do it.
– The policeman is the protector.
– As my friend the honourable member for Wide Bay points out, the policeman is the protector. This will not work. The Commonwealth has to accept the responsibility. Aboriginals will not get anywhere until the Commonwealth steps into the field on its own behalf and executes its own laws directly through its own officials.
– Now that the do-gooder from the south, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), has resumed his seat, I should like to take a few minutes of the time of the House to refer to the Bill before it. I think that the honourable member for Wills mentioned that the Commonwealth has thrown the responsibility back to the States, so far as Aboriginal people are concerned. I believe that this is quite a fair thing to do. I believe that the Commonwealth should provide the finance. I think that the States have established a good contact with the Aboriginal people in their areas, and perhaps I will surprise the honourable member for Wills by paying a tribute to the Dunstan Government for the work that it did in certain areas of South Australia. I do not agree with everything that the Government did but I believe it did some good. I thing that it did establish some contact with the Aboriginal people.
– It sounds more objective, coming from you.
– I knew that the honourable member would appreciate what I said. I have been very critical of some of the things which the Dunstan Government did, but I would remind the honourable member that under the present State Government, things are really moving in South Australia. I note that very shortly a canteen will be opened in my electorate to provide funds and opportunities for the Aboriginal people to become assimilated in our way of life. I think that this is a commendable act on behalf of the Hall Government in South Australia.
I should like to return to the Bill and to point out some of the realisms which exist in it. The Commonwealth Government, on the advice of the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth), has seen fit to increase the allocation to the States for Aboriginal affairs by almost 50%. The Government has increased the allocation for South Australia by 50%. I think this is a commendable achievement and something which indicates the good faith of the Commonwealth Government in the work that we are doing among Aboriginal people. I note that in South Australia approval has been given for the erection of an ablution block and change room at Oodnadatta and a community centre at Ernabella. I have been to this area on many occasions, but I am certain that the honourable member for Wills has never been to the area and seen the development that is taking place there with the encouragement of the Commonwealth Government. The Minister and I were at Amata not long ago. I am pleased to see that plans have been approved for the erection of a pre-school there. It has also been suggested that two residential courses will be conducted in South Australia for the benefit of Aboriginal reserve councillors. This is a progressive move which is designed to encourage Aboriginals to take a more aggressive interest in their own affairs. This has proved to bc a satisfactory way in which to encourage the Aboriginal people.
I also note that additional money will be provided for housing. During a recent visit to my electorate the Minister and I inspected five homes that have been built. The honourable member for Wills said quite plainly that he thought there is a lot of substandard housing among Aboriginal people. This is true, but if he cares to have a look at the development that has taken place in my area he will see houses in which he would be proud to live with his family. They are very comfortable homes. In addition, pensioner units, which would be very fitting in any area in Australia, have been built on the Davenport reserve. The people living in those units are particularly happy. I remind the honourable member for Wills that many Aboriginal people prefer to live in their own natural environment. I have noticed this. I have seen this at Ernabella where houses have been constructed. There are six very good homes there, but the Aboriginal people prefer to live in the camp environment, around their campfires with their dogs, which is the traditional way of life. This way of life takes a lot of breaking down and I believe it is a project that will take the Government years - perhaps generations - before it can achieve the result for which it is aiming. 1 think that one way in which we can break down this way of life is to encourage the younger Aboriginals. I have been very keen to encourage young Aboriginals in my area to take advantage of the Commonwealth scholarships which are made available to them in order to encourage them in their particular talents. There is a young girl in the Davenport reserve who won a prize for art. I have made representations to the Minister on her behalf. He is very sympathetic to this case. This girl has exceptional talent. I think that if we can encourage her to take advantage of the Commonwealth scholarships that are available, she will set an example for the rest of her people. I think that in this way, by concentrating on the younger people, we have a good chance to accelerate the assimilation and development of the Aboriginal people. The honourable member for Wills criticised the Minister. He inferred-
– I chided him.
– That is criticism, in my book. I believe that the Minister is a conscientious Minister who had an interest in the Aboriginal people before he attained the exalted position of Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I have sat with the Minister on the ground at the Amata reserve around a camp fire, and I was surprised - in fact, I was absolutely amazed - at the confidence which the Pitjantjara people showed in the Minister’s approach to their problems. We sat down and discussed matters concerned with the chrysophrase mining venture in that area. We discussed the intrusion in the Wingelinna Ranges in Western Australia by miners who broke sacred rock. These people brought their problems quite confidently to the Minister, and I can assure honourable members that the problems are receiving his active consideration. At Ernabella we looked at the amazing craft work which these people are doing. They are producing woollen rugs. They are doing very fine artistic work. The Minister undertook to look very carefully at the proposition of establishing a new building there to further the development of this art work among the people. Currently he is considering very carefully the possibility of the Commonwealth providing finance with which to construct a building to house a silk screening process in order to encourage further development of art work amongst these people. All this is evidence that the Minister and the Commonwealth Government desire to do what they can to encourage the Aboriginal people to develop their various talents.
In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
The purpose of these grants is te allow governments, shires or other authorities in particular regions of Aboriginal unemployment to provide employment for Aboriginals on necessary projects, thereby enabling these Aboriginals to undertake useful community work and regain their selfrespect. A further $250,000 is provided for what I will call relocation projects on the basis of New South Wales receiving $220,000, and Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia $10,000 each.
This is evidence enough to show that the Commonwealth Government is interested in the welfare of the Aboriginal people and is keen to encourage authorities to provide better housing for them. I notice a suggestion that three health inspectors will be provided with accommodation, vehicles and equipment. They will be located in my electorate at Ceduna, Oodnadatta and Port Augusta. This is tangible evidence of the Commonwealth Government’s efforts to improve employment opportunities for the Aboriginal people and to make provision for their education, housing and health. Provision has been made for these activities since the Minister took over the portfolio. I congratulate him. I pay a very real tribute to him, because I have seen at first hand the way he has been able to win the confidence of Aboriginal people in my area. I congratulate the Government for supporting his very real enthusiasm.
– I want to speak briefly about the Aboriginal woman in Queensland who has been committed to gaol for the neglect of her child. The information reaching us through the Press has been fairly scanty, but it appears that the evidence of Dr Kalokerinos of Collarenebri has been discounted. Very high powered medical evidence was called to prove that Aboriginal children do not suffer from scurvy and his clinical impressions that these children needed exceptionally large doses of vitamin C has therefore been discredited. It has come to my notice recently - I have mentioned this in an adjournment debate - that official research in Queensland has confirmed up to the hilt the clinical impressions of Dr Kalokerinos, quite independently of his work. This medical evidence is not to be published until October.
I can see no good reason for this. It has been mentioned to doctors in various areas. But why has .it not been published in the Medical Journal of Australia? Is there some reason why we must wait until the last minute before we learn what the Government can do about the deficiency of Vitamin C and other deficiencies, especially folic acid and iron? These deficiencies have now been proved in laboratory tests. Why are they not allowed to become general knowledge? I do not want to impute improper or base motives to the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) or his Department or any Queensland Department. The only advice that I have been able to elicit from anybody is that we should give the Government a chance to do something. Again I do not know why October should be the deadline for it to do something.
I realise that one of the steps the Government, has taken is to introduce the supervised feeding of pre-school children in Aboriginal centres, and I commend the Minister for this. I think it is a sign that he is really worried and is interested in trying to solve this problem. But he should recognise that this is a paternalistic approach, lt is a stop-gap measure and is not an attempt to solve the basic problem of Aboriginal malnutrition. I commend to him the report of a nursing sister who spent some 3 years in the north-west of Western Australia and reported to the West Australian Government on some of the problems that she had to meet in educating these people in methods of hygiene. She taught them how to grow vegetables. After several trials and failures she succeeded in getting them interested in this activity so that vegetables would become a proper supplement in the diets of Aboriginal children.
These are simple folk. They are interested in the welfare of their babies. When their babies cry they are given something to make them happy and contented. Very often this is a sweet liquid. The easiest one and the one usually given is based on refined sugar, which is produced in my electorate. It has no vitamins. I must say that this is the easiest way for an uninformed mother to produce in her child a vitamin C deficiency. There is no sweet natural food that does not contain vitamin C; it is only the artificial foods that we sell to Aboriginal people at stores in settlements and nearby that cause the damage. We allow these foods to be advertised freely over television, in our newspapers and in women’s journals. We allow this to happen without providing any health education to counteract the appeal of the energy foods which are in fact poisonous if they are not balanced by natural vitamin-containing foods.
I submit that no real attempt has been made to tackle the problem. I appreciate the Minister’s assurance that something will be done. But what is needed is a basic attack on the wrong influences. There should be a counter-influence that will lead to the proper nutrition not only of the Aboriginal people but also of other culturally deprived families. There should be speedy action to intervene in the case in Queensland, where the State provided the prosecution and the defence. On the superficial Press statements, it would seem that the soundly based evidence of Dr Kalokerinos has been discredited to achieve a conviction on dubious grounds. One of the important features of this case is the cause for neglect. We should consider whether, by gaoling a parent, we will really correct the position or prevent neglect somewhere else.
The most urgent need, from a scientific point of view is for an ethno-psychiatrist to be engaged. These are rare birds. I realise that the more specialised any discipline is the more meagre is the supply of people in it. But after all this is our main ethnic problem. This is an affluent nation and, if necessary, we should be prepared to pay to bring at least one of these experts from overseas and to start training our own psychiatrists who are interested in ethnic problems to take an active and perhaps a leading part in the Minister’s Department. Once we have such a high-powered specialist available and once he knows where he is going, we can attract other specialists. He could draw on the experience of other nations and I would say that we should specially draw on the experience of New Zealand. There is a snowballing effect. If you do not start with the best you find it difficult to get other experts, such as social workers. Again, there was no evidence in any of the Press reports which I read that a social worker or psychiatrist was called to give evidence as to the reason for the mother’s neglect. There are many cases of crimes committed by people whose motives would be, in my opinion, far more suspect than the motives of this mother but the defendants in those cases, in order to explain their criminal actions, often call as witnesses on their behalf leading psychiatrists. This is the type of thing with which the Department might well concern itself. It should do all in its power to see that the best expert evidence is called in the defence of these people.
– in reply - I am, of course, familiar with the case referred to by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). Some aspects of the case I would prefer not to discuss in the House, but I will be very happy to speak about them privately to the honourable member later. I have been shown a copy of this morning’s ‘CourierMail’ in which one of the matters which I had hoped to keep confidential is mentioned. The woman concerned is to have another baby. I would not have mentioned that fact but as it is reported in this morning’s Press I see no reason why I should not mention it.
Dr Kalokerinos has put forward a proposition which, I understand, has not been thoroughly accepted by the medical profession. Nevertheless, speaking as a layman I feel that there is some evidence for the validity of the proposition he has put forward, at least in part. At any rate, he has succeeded in reducing Aboriginal infant mortality in his” area in quite a dramatic way. This is something which does need to be looked at. A couple of weeks ago I took the opportunity to speak to some doctors in the far west of New South Wales who had been specially concerned with Aboriginal infant welfare. They were inclined to go at least half way with the diagnosis of Dr Kalokerinos. But as I have said, this is not a matter in which a layman should have a definitive opinion. It is a medical matter and the sooner the doctors can settle it among themselves the better I, for one, shall be pleased.
I would say just two things. If there is this vitamin deficiency - this folic acid deficiency - it may be, as Dr Kalokerinos has said, that it has to be fixed by intramuscular injection because of the peculiar metabolism of some of these Aboriginal infants or it may be - I think it probably is - that better diet in the early days would itself be sufficient. I simply say that doctors disagree on this and do not give an opinion. In the west of New South Wales where citrus can grow practically wild there is no reason why this kind of diet deficiency should be tolerated. Only last month I approved an expenditure of $15,000 in Queensland on Aboriginal health education which, of course, would be oriented particularly towards infant mortality and infant health. At the present time we are subsidising investigations at an academic level. I would not like honourable members to think that we are not taking steps in this regard. We are.
I was grateful for the frankness of the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in stating that they approached this debate on a political basis. I would not want to do this myself because although I think it is quite proper for political pressures to be used in the interests of the Aboriginals, I do not think it is proper that the interests of the Aboriginals should be exploited for political purposes - to win an election. If you are to use political pressures it is proper to use them only in the interests of the Aboriginals. It is not proper to use them in the interests of a political party. The differentiation should be made and kept in mind. Secondly, I would not find myself absolutely at variance with the policy enunciated by the Labor Party. Why should I? 1 would not say that it imitates what I have done but it is a policy which follows what I have done. In many ways it is parallel to what the Government is doing. But do not let us get the idea that everything can be done overnight. I was a little put out by the reference of the honourable member for Lang to my pessimism because 1 hoped that this would be done. Hope is not a word which I associate with pessimism. The real point 1 am trying to make is that in a sense Kath Walker is right. We should not be telling Aboriginals what to do. We should be involving Aboriginals in making decisions about their own future. For this reason it is not always desirable simply to make a decision in your own mind as to what is right for the Aboriginals and then enforce it. It is better sometimes to take the slower course which, for example, we have taken with the Arnhem Land scheme - to consult the Aboriginals, find out what they think is right for them and on the basis of that put up a proposition to them and say: This is what we will do if you want it’. This is a slower and more time consuming approach than going to them and saying: This is good for you. This is the plan that we have for yam. This is what we will do.’ I like the slower approach because 1 think it is better for the Aboriginals. I agree in this respect with the opinion expressed by Mrs Walker that this is in their ultimate interest.
I will make just a couple of small points. 1 felt that the honourable member for Lang had not really studied the population figures. The census figures are not entirely relevant because they do not take account of many full bloods and many half bloods. We have published much more accurate and detailed figures. I was surprised that the honourable member was not conversant with them. As at December 1966- nearly 3 years ago - there were, in round figures, 140,000 people of Aboriginal descent in Australia. The figure has probably increased to 160,000 today. But it is far different from the figure of 80,000 referred to by the honourable member. I was surprised that he was not up to date. I was surprised also that he appeared not to have read the Bill because he criticised clause 3 (2.) in terms which showed that he misunderstood its provisions. This clause does not demand that the State governments spend from their own resources $1 for every $1 contributed by the Commonwealth. This clause relates to the expenditure by the States of the moneys advanced by the Commonwealth. We give this money to the States in advance. The States then have to apply it to Aboriginal welfare, and this is simply a sanction to see that it is so applied. If a State used the money for something else, this clause would become operative. It is simply a precautionary clause and it has I am sure, very little chance of practical application. But it does not say what the honourable member thought it said. I think I should make that point clear to the House.
– You are not giving a matching grant, in other words?
– No. It is not a matching grant. This relates only to the expenditure by the States on Aboriginal welfare of the money that the Commonwealth advances them in accordance with this Bill. We ask, on an informal and not a legal basis, that the States maintain their own expenditure on Aboriginals from their own resources at the current rates. What we give here is a net increment upon what has been spent on Aboriginal welfare.
Finally, let me just say that this grant to the States is only part of our scheme, ft is, of course, a very significant part, but it is not the whole scheme. On the longer term I would put greater emphasis on the development of the capital fund and on Aboriginal enterprises financed from that fund. This second approach will, of course, be much slower in taking effect than money spent directly by the Commonwealth, but over the long term I think it will be more fruitful. I was glad to have an opportunity in recent months to go to various parts of Australia. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) was good enough to refer to a visit to the South Australian areas I made with him a few weeks ago. I hope that, just as we have a plan in Arnhem Land which is in the process of Aboriginal discussion for adoption in part or whole as the Aboriginals themselves think fit, we will be able, in accordance with what the Aboriginals in South Australia asked me when I was there, to implement in South Australia something that will be consonant with what they themselves believe should be their own development.
May I say finally that if I have in any respect criticised the Opposition’s political approach I did not want to go too far. I do acknowledge - and I think the House would agree - that on both sides of th House there is a real and sincere desire to help the Aboriginals. We do not want to overwhelm them with charity that can be morally destructive.
– Who on our side says the opposite? Why does the Minister not be honest about our approach? We do not do what he suggests.
– The honourable member does not understand the Bill.
– The honourable member for Lang said that he was doing this on a political basis. Those were his own words. In that regard I also acknowledge that on both sides of the House there is real goodwill towards this problem, and we hope that this goodwill will be maintained and will in the end be productive of the very greatest good for our Aboriginal people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I just want to say a few words about clause 3 (2.). The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has given some explanation of it and admittedly I fell into a trap. But the clause reads: (2.) Payment of an amount to a State under this section is subject to the following conditions: -
The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) said that I do not understand the Bill. Perhaps I do not understand it, but I challenge the Minister to put any interpretation on that other than the one I have put on it. My interpretation is that unless the States spend an amount equal to the amount that has been given by the Commonwealth the Minister can withdraw the amount that has been given by the Commonwealth. The Minister chided me for having the wrong figures. I do not know whether the Minister disseminated very widely the figures which he quoted, because I went to the very best reference service that is available to the Opposition and there I was given the figures I quoted. In his second reading speech he said that he intended to outline the policies and activities of the Government over the last 12 months. He then has the audacity to challenge the Opposition for doing something political in suggesting that the Government has not accepted its responsibilities. We did not chide the Government on one of its policies in relation to Aboriginals. We said nothing about the Government’s policies at all. I object very strongly to the sanctimonious attitude taken by the Minister to score a political point.
– How often has the honourable member done that?
– The Government uses the Aboriginals more than we use them. The Postmaster-General took out his handkerchief and started to cry.
– What is the honourable member doing now?
– I am certainly not crying. I am making the Postmaster-General whinge. This is the second occasion on which the Minister for Social Services has done something similar to me. If he wants to play politics as tough as this I will certainly play politics with him. Clause 3 (2.) is not stated clearly in the Bill. By allowing it to come before the Parliament in its present form the Minister is as much to blame for the Opposition being misled as anyone else in the place.
– With reference to clause 3 (2.), which has been under discussion, I think it can be read both ways. The more intensely one reads it the more one can see that it can be interpreted either way. I must admit that the first time I read it I thought that it did not mean a matching grant, but when I read.it again I thought it did mean a matching grant. This may be correct Parliamentary draftsmanship, but it does not seem to me to be precise English. On the question of the things upon which the money is to be spent, it seems that these have to be approved by the Minister. Earlier the Minister for Social Service (Mr Wentworth) said that we should seek the advice of the Aboriginals in regard to these matters, and that this is a slow process. The Government does not need any advice in order to make an allout attack on leprosy, hookworm, infant mortality, illiteracy or housing. If consultation is to become only a method of escaping from one’s direct responsibility to resolve the tremendous social, health and educational problems of the Aboriginals then it is to be regretted.
As for the politics of this matter, I do not know what political gain there is in it unless all honourable members believe that the social conscience of the people of Australia will decide how they vote at the ballot box. I only wish that that were true. It is true enough that the Opposition has a policy which I think we would carry out correctly. The Government has a policy which it will carry out incorrectly. Whether this is a political issue, I do not know. It represents a difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. As far as I am concerned, I have been at this business for a long time. So has the Minister. I thought that we were being extremely courteous to the honourable gentleman but he stood up and said that we were being political. I suppose that the present Minister is the most non-political politician in Australian history. However, we of the Opposition wish him well in the 3 or 4 weeks that remain to him. The millenium starts on 26th October.
– T want to return to clause 2 of the Bill. I shall explain it again. I thought it would have been clear enough, but I shall go through it from the beginning because honourable members opposite still are inclined not to understand it. Under this Bill the Commonwealth will pay amounts to the States. It is essential, of course, that those amounts be spent on Aboriginal welfare. Clause 2 does not refer to matching grants. It refers, as the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), I think, first thought, to the application of the moneys which the Commonwealth gives to the States. For example, if we give a State $100,000, it has to spend that same amount on Aboriginal welfare. I should have thought that this is set out as clearly as possible in subclause 2 (a.). I commend this to honourable members. I suggest that if they look at the Bill carefully the misunderstanding which appears to be in their minds may be cleared up.
I am sorry if I have offended the honourable member for Lang. He is one of those persons one would hope not to offend. However, I direct his attention to what he will find in Hansard when he looks at it tomorrow morning. I refer him to the record of his speech. He began by saying that he proposed to attack this Bill in a political manner.
– I did not.
– The honourable member will see that this is what he spoke about when opening his speech.
– I said that your speech was orientated in that way.
– The honourable member said that he intended to do this and to do certain other things for that purpose. I do not intend to argue the matter further. Reference to Hansard and the transcript of his speech will show the honourable member exactly what 1 am talking about. I will not take up the time of the Committee any longer. From the Commonwealth’s point of view we do not want to centralise all power on this matter in Canberra. These are concurrent and not exclusive powers which we have under section 51 of the Constitution.
The Commonwealth is not trying to evade, in any respect, its proper responsibilities. The Commonwealth is trying to see that the machinery which will help the Aboriginals to help themselves is most effectively used. I think that this can best be done on a decentralised basis. I am going to agree with the contention implicit in some of the things said by Opposition speakers in that there are things in certain State administrations which are not, as yet, as we would want them to be. But I think that honourable members opposite also should agree that in both the State and Federal administrations, in the attitude of the Australian people towards Aboriginals, and in the attitude of our Aboriginals towards their future and destiny, although things are not ideal by any means we are making greater and better progress than we have yet made - I would say greater and better progress than has been made at any time in the last century. Things are not perfect but they are moving, very much, and satisfactorily in the right direction.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 September (vide page 1249), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
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 Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 952), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate on the two measures? There being no objection I shall allow that course to be adopted.
– The Opposition welcomes the improvements to repatriation benefits made by this Bill. In regard to the special total and permanent incapacity rate and the intermediate rate the increases go some of the way towards restoring the purchasing power of benefits which has been steadily eroded over the past 10 to 15 years. The Bill makes for some progress. It provides for some improvements and those improvements are acknowledged by the Opposition. The increases also move the benefits closer to the requests of the Returned Services League as set out in its 1969 pension plan. That plan was presented to the Government in March and it seeks the payment of compensation far permanent and total disablement at an amount equal to the minimum wage. It calls for other pensions and allowances to be increased in proportion. The present minimum wage in the State capital cities is $38,90 a week. This means that the value of totally and permanently incapacitated compensation has risen substantially in the past 2 years although it still falls short by $2.90 a week of the Returned Services League’s recommendation which was based on a comprehensive survey of its members.
I have referred to the plan that is normally submitted to the Government each year by the National Executive of the RSL - usually to the Government’s subcommittee which deals with repatriation matters. This plan has been ignored consistently in other years. It was not until the last 2 years that the Government decided to provide a measure of relief for two of the main categories of repatriation pensions. I refer, firstly, to the special rate pension - the totally and permanently incapacitated pension - and, secondly, to a measure of relief for the general rate pensioner, but only to those who receive a pension between the 75% and 100% general rate. I think that the Government will acknowledge that as a result of the 500,000 pamphlets which the National Executive of the RSL distributed during the 1967 Senate compaign it was necessary for the Government to look at the situation in relation to repatriation pensioners in Australia. The pamphlet pointed out that conditions had deteriorated under this Government and that the Government had not honoured the promises it made to ex-servicemen back in 1949, almost 20 years ago when it was elected to the Government and when it promised to retain the purchasing power of all repatriation pensions. No doubt the Government was influenced by the well presented plan and the well documented evidence that the RSL distributed on behalf of its members just prior to the 1967 Senate compaign. Therefore some improvements have been made in this year’s Budget.
The RSL also sought an increase in the 100% general rate pension equal to half the minimum wage - that is, a figure of $19.45. The Bill has not increased the general rate, although those with an assessed incapacity of 75% to 100% will get an increase and a special compensation allowance if they qualify for it. Those with an assessed incapacity below 75% and those assessed above 75% who do not qualify for the special compensation allowance will1 get nothing i unless, of course, they qualify for the intermediate or special rate. The failure to vary the general rate pension distorts the whole pattern of benefits. This distortion of the benefit table is even more marked because of the $2.25 increase in the intermediate rate of pension. May I digress for a moment in dealing with the intermediate rate of pension to point out that when this rate was first introduced only 2 years ago by the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) it was to be paid to ex-servicemen who had an accepted war caused disability and who, as a result of that disability, frequently lost time from their employment? The annual report for 1968-69 of the Repatriation Commission was tabled in this House a few days ago. It shows that of the grand total of 221,343 repatriation pensioners in Australia, those in receipt of the intermediate rate total the staggering number of 1,153. The House may draw its own conclusions about the difficulty that ex-servicemen quite obviously experience in making a successful application for the intermediate rate of pension. It is an insignificant number and one must wonder at the attitude of tribunals and the conditions they apply to the granting of the intermediate rate of pension when so few qualify for it.
As I was saying, the failure to vary the general rate pension distorts the whole pattern of benefits. It would be appropriate at this stage to make some observations and comments on the general rate pension. There are 197,555 ex-servicemen who have been accepted under the Repatriation Act as having a war caused disability. Those who receive a percentage of the general rate pension - that is those whose percentage is below 75% - number 161,476. This means that there are 36,079 ex-servicemen above the 75% rate. They will qualify for the special compensation allowance introduced by the Minister for Repatriation in last year’s Budget. This is the compensation that is paid to those who have a disability which is assessed at between 75% and 100% of the general rate pension. Slightly more than 36,000 will benefit as a result of the increase in the special compensation rate of pension as announced in this year’s Budget. The great bulk of the general rate pensioners - the 161,476 to whom I referred - will receive no increase at all.
According to information which the Minister made available to me on 27th May 1969 in answer to a question I directed to him, the last increase to the general rate pension was made in 1964, some 5 years ago. The great bulk of these pensioners will receive no increase as a result of the Government’s decision to adjust certain repatriation benefits in this year’s Budget. I turn now to the question of compensation. The number of those who receive the special rate of compensation totalled 25,801 as at 31st March 1969. They are those whose disability is assessed at between 75% and 100% of the general rate pension. As a result of the increase that the Government has decided to grant by way of compensation allowance 25,801 persons will benefit. At 31st March 1969 there were 8,094 pensioners whose rate had been assessed at a level of between 75% and 100% and who received no compensation allowance at all because, as I pointed out during a debate on the Repatriation Bill in 1968, the special compensation allowance is not paid in certain circumstances. If the disability from which an ex-serviceman suffers is defective hearing or defective eyesight he does not qualify for the special compensation allowance. According to the figures supplied by the Minister there are 8,094 such pensioners who will not benefit as a result of the decision to increase the special compensation allowance.
The approach to improved benefits should have been a movement upwards of the whole scale of benefits, thereby preserving the present relativity of total and permanent incapacity pensions, intermediate pensions and general rate pensions. The Bill increases the war widows pension by $1 to $15 a week. That rate is still $3.90 a week less than the amount requested in the Returned Services League pension plan of 1969. Does anyone suggest that the pension plan for war widows proposed in the 1969 pension plan submitted by the National Executive of the RSL to the Cabinet sub-committee which deals with repatriation matters was not a reasonable one? The Government has decided that the increase will be $1 a week. The measure of the generosity of this Government is illustrated when all it can provide for those whose husbands who gave their lives in the service of this nation is a $1 a week increase in the war widows pension rate.
The Opposition makes it perfectly clear to the Government that this increase cannot in any circumstances be regarded as an act of generosity on the part of a government that has spoken frequently about its attitude to ex-servicemen. I do not want to remind honourable members of what was said by Prime Minister Menzies - now Sir Robert Menzies - in 1949 but I point out that he promised the people of Australia that the purchasing power of repatriation benefits would be maintained and, indeed, improved. There has been a deterioration in the standards of every pension rate to which one may wish to refer under the terms of the repatriation legislation as it exists today. The magnanimous gesture of the Government on this occasion is to increase the war widows pension rate by $1 a week. I do not overlook the fact that there has been an increase in the domestic allowance payable to war widows. I suppose that one can argue that the domestic allowance is now being paid to the majority of war widows. In dealing with the rate now paid to war widows one must bear in mind that widows who do not receive any domestic allowance will now benefit to the extent of this increase of $1 a week.
The Minister may argue, and I suppose successfully, that in addition to the domestic allowance increase, as a result of the decision of the Government to introduce the tapered means test there will be some war widows who will benefit from this. I acknowledge that from the point of view of the war widows who are affected by this provision, the increase is not an ungenerous one. But in dealing with war widow pensions as a whole it is the basic rate of pension with which this Parliament ought to be concerned. The Opposition says that a Budget which the Government has already described as one that is meant to provide generous treatment for those who are in need, an increase of $1 a week for war widows is in all the circumstances insufficient. In general, while the higher payments have improved the relative status of the TPI, the intermediate rate and benefits for the war widows, nothing really has been done to restore the relative value of the general rate and the other pension rates to which I have referred.
In discussing the payment of pensions to war widows I would like to point to another very important category of pensions. 1 refer to the wives of special rate pensioners, the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and the wives of general rate pensioners. These rates have been completely ignored by this Government. The pension rate now being paid to the wife of a special rate pensioner is $4.05 per week. The last increase for this rate was in 1964 - again 5 years ago. In 1950 the amount paid was $3.05 a week. In 1958 it had climbed to $3.55 a week, an increase of 50c in 8 years. In 1961 it was $4.05 per week. It has remained unchanged ever since. In 1949 Sir Robert Menzies, then the Leader of the Opposition, promised ex-servicemen and the RSL that if elected to office the Liberal Party would review and revise war pensions. This it ultimately did in 1950. Since then successive Liberal governments have allowed the compensation paid to ex-servicemen and women and their dependants, in terms of the 100% pension rate, to be eroded by at least 20% .
For example the TPI pension rate in 1950 was 101% of the Commonwealth basic wage. In 1968-69, the last financial year, it was 89% of the minimum wage. As a result of the increase announced in the Budget Speech for the financial year 1969-70 the rate for the TPI pensioner will move to more than 90% of the minimum wage. Some improvement has been effected but as the National Executive of the RSL pointed out in the plan which it submitted to the Government, it is still less than the minimum wage paid in this country.
I turn now to the 100% general rate pension. In 1950 it was 51% of the Commonwealth basic wage. In 1962 it was 32% of the minimum wage. This percentage reduction is a result of administration by a government that said in 1949 that it would maintain the purchasing power of repatriation pensions. According to figures set out in the 1966-67 report of the Repatriation Commission, only 51,755 people of a total of 145,647 in receipt of the general rate pension obtained more than a 50% pension. I am referring to figures set out in the latest report presented to this Parliament by the Repatriation Commission. In 1954, Senator Cooper told the No. 3 War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, which had just been appointed, that there was no shortage of money for those entitled to a war pension. This has not been demonstrated by the present Government.
In recent years there has been a hardening of the Government’s attitude to ex-servicemen. The Government seems determined to peg the total cost of war pensions and ancillary services and expenses to a figure as near the 1965 level as possible. This is shown by the attitude that the Minister for Repatriation has adopted in relation to annual submissions by the Returned Services League, the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women, the Air Force Association and various other associations. The submissions indicate quite clearly the erosion that is occurring in the purchasing power of war pensions. The Government cannot contradict the case submitted for an independent arbitrator to adjudicate; the case is unanswerable. All categories of war pensions today are down considerably in purchasing power.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) referred briefly to the application of the means test provisions to repatriation and Service pensioners. The legislation before the House includes certain machinery amendments to enable social service changes for Service pensioners. These are welcome. In total, the Budget provisions of the past 2 years have resulted in better benefits over the whole range of repatriation and Service pensions, but there are grounds for criticism and disappointment. I hope that further substantial improvements will be made in future Budgets.
I would like to refer briefly to other features of the RSL’s pension plan, which I think should be acted on by the Government. According to an answer supplied to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) by the Minister in May of this year, total implementation of the RSL’s plan will involve an additional! outlay of around $85m. It would be completely unrealistic to expect the introduction of the whole scheme in one hit when extra spending of this magnitude is involved. A substantial part of the extra spending would be absorbed in increasing the 100% general rate pension to one-half of the minimum wage. This measure is estimated to cost $3 1.6m. Even if the total sum is too much to be allocated in one Budget with the scarce resources available, I believe that the Government could have started to implement this portion of the RSL’s pension plan.
As an initial step the Government could have allocated SI Om towards higher general rate pensions. The rest could have been spread over the next two Budgets. There are other more modest items in the RSL’s plan which could have been introduced in this Bill. For example, the funeral benefit, which has remained at $50 for many years, could have been trebled to $150 at an estimated cost of $780,000. This would have brought that benefit into much closer alignment with the present high cost of funerals. More significantly, the RSL’s proposal that repatriation hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits be extended to all exservicemen of the First World War and the Boer War should have been adopted.
This would result in the provision of a repatriation cover for the veterans of those two wars without any need on their part to establish an association between the disability or the illness and their service. It would cost S3. 5m to $4m annually to extend this benefit.
How often have honourable members on this side of the chamber, when repatriation legislation has been before the Parliament, moved positive motions to provide free medical and hospital treatment for exservicemen in the categories to which 1 have just referred? The numbers of these exservicemen are diminishing; there must be very few left who would qualify for this kind of benefit. I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is at the Table and who represents the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber and is also a former Minister for Repatriation, that this request by the National Executive of the RSL, which was supported by RSL branches throughout the Commonwealth, was the subject of a motion that was passed in the Senate. The motion was accepted by a majority of the members in the Senate, who believe that returned ex-servicemen from the First World War and the Boer War should be entitled to receive free medical and hospital treatment regardless of whether their condition is war caused. Although the motion was accepted in the Senate it has been rejected by honourable members who sit on the other side of the chamber. The Government has never implemented this plan. I repeat that the provision of this benefit to a very deserving section of our community would mean an additional expenditure of approximately $4m annually. It is not very much to ask. In fact, it is less than the cost of one FI 1 1 aircraft. But the Government is completely unsympathetic on this matter. It would involve a relatively modest proportion of the total repatriation expenditure. I believe that it would be fair and just compensation for these ex-servicemen.
Another important aspect of the RSL’s plan is the appointment of a nonparliamentary committee of review to examine thoroughly every aspect of repatriation. The review would involve overhauling and modernising many of the provisions of the present legislation and the removal of repatriation from the Party politics arena. Last week a resolution moved by the
Opposition for the setting up of a Senate select committee to examine the inadequacy of the provisions of the repatriation legislation was carried in the Senate. A similar resolution was carried in the Senate last year, but it was ignored by the Government. The Government has again failed to appoint such a committee. The RSL obviously envisages a more comprehensive review of the repatriation structure than that which was envisaged by the Senate last week, but at least the resolution carried in the other place would be a start. It would give those persons who are appointed to a committee of this nature an opportunity to take evidence from people who have some knowledge of the matters affecting ex-servicemen generally throughout the country today.
Considerable criticism has been levelled at aspects of the repatriation legislation in recent years. Undoubtedly certain sections of the legislation need to be revised. I could mention a number of them, but time does not permit me to do so. But I would like to refer to section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which is the onus of proof provision. I invite all honourable members to consider the 1968-69 report of the Repatriation Commission, which sets out in detail the number of applications heard by the tribunals appointed by the Government for this purpose. The number of claims which have been disallowed is staggering. A comparison between the number of cases disallowed and the number of cases accepted is certainly not in favour of the exserviceman who puts his case to an appeal tribunal. These are some of the matters that a committee of review should have an opportunity to investigate, as well as the question of repatriation pensions. This will always be a matter for determination by the Government.
I turn now to the question of the disabilities that might be accepted as war caused disabilities in the same way as tuberculosis has been accepted. There is no question of onus of proof in the case of tuberculosis. But let me suggest that other disabilities have been put forward by the Opposition on other occasions, and members of the medical profession and certainly members of the National Executive and the various branches of the Returned
Services League believe that people suffering from these disabilities ought to be allowed automatic entitlement. I merely refer to one of them, cancer, in respect of which the Government has again rejected our request out of hand. These are matters that a committee of review ought to have the opportunity to consider on behalf of the ex-servicemen of this country. Therefore, I take the opportunity to move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill the House condemns the Government because - (1.) it has failed to restore the relative values of repatriation pensions and (2.) the Bill does not provide for the appoint ment of a select committee to completely review the Repatriation Act, its operation and all of its provisions, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government.’
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I now turn from the provisions of the Repatriation Bill to the other matter that is before the House. I refer to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. I suppose that most of the arguments I have advanced in the debate on the Repatriation Bill, and which concern ex-servicemen generally, will also apply to those who will benefit as a result of the amendments proposed by this Bill. It is much more difficult, of course, for an exmariner to prove that his disability is due to his service on behalf of this country during the First and Second World Wars or during the Korean operations than for an ex-serviceman. I have dealt with the matter of ex-mariners on a number of occasions in this House when dealing with repatriation benefits. The amounts that I have referred to in respect of the special rate pension and the general rate pension and the other amounts payable to ex-servicemen will also apply to those who benefit under the terms of the seamen’s legislation.
I believe that the Government ought to look seriously at other matters. I have made the point that it is extremely difficult for an ex-mariner to prove that his disability is due to war service. Indeed, I have moved in this House on other occasions that an ex-mariner who asserts that he has a dis ability which is due to war service should have the same opportunity as an exserviceman has under the repatriation legislation to have his case heard and to be given I he opportunity to prove his case. All honourable members are aware of the circumstances under which an ex-serviceman applies to have a disability accepted under the Repatriation Act. The ex-serviceman submits his case to the Repatriation Board. If his case is not accepted he has the right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission. He finally has the right of appeal to an Entitlements Tribunal. But, more importantly, he has the opportunity to appear before the Tribunal as an appellant to put his case and to deal with the evidence. This situation ought to apply in respect of an ex-mariner. There is no reason and no justification why there should be a different set of circumstances and why an ex-mariner should not have the right to appear before a tribunal. Because he is not given this right he cannot argue his case. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will seriously consider what I have said and at least offer some reply and give some reasons on behalf of the Government why the circumstances that apply to ex-servicemen should not apply to ex-mariners.
Finally, I say that the Opposition is not satisfied with the Government’s performance generally on questions of repatriation benefits. We believe that the Government has allowed repatriation payments to deteriorate. The purchasing power of these payments has not been maintained and is certainly not at the level that it was when this Government came to office 20 years ago. For this reason we agree with the submissions of the National Executive of the RSL that certain improvements ought to be made. We believe that this Government has had the chance to bring about those improvements. For this reason I have moved an amendment in the terms that I have already stated to the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence I would like to ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) a question in order to amplify some of the points he made. I ask: Is the policy of the Opposition to simply give war pensioners what the
Returned Services League plan provides or does the Opposition want this to be investigated by a committee?
– The special rate pension should not be less than the minimum wage.
– Thank you very much. This means that the Opposition has adopted a course of simply accepting what the RSL plan provides. The Opposition said this plan would cost $S5m to implement. This situation indicates the very loose thought and approach that the Opposition brings to the financial side of measures that flow from the Budget. I was under the impression that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this matter should be referred to a committee. No doubt this is because the Opposition does not seem to be able to make up its mind on most things. It is in favour of a committee on education and health. It wants to be told by someone what to do because it does not know just what it should be doing. But one would expect this because the Opposition is not really concerned with putting forward a plan of what it would do if it were in government. This is because members of the Opposition in their hearts do not expect ever to have the opportunity of sitting over on this side of the House and putting their plans into operation. If they do want to be on this side of the House they will need to be very much more moderate in their thinking.
The Repatriation Bill now before us is more or less a formal method of bringing up to date with new rates the amounts which have been customarily paid in the past. The totally and permanently incapacitated pension has been increased to $38, which is $2.90 short of the RSL plan for half of the basic wage. We should remember that when we speak of a minimum wage, this does not include anything for a wife. If we add to the TPI pension of $38 the wife’s allowance of $4.05, we find that the amount that is paid into the household of a married TPI pensioner is above half the amount of the basic wage, which is the rate which the RSL and the Opposition evidently would like to see preserved.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not tell us that.
– No. He was very vague on this point. I point out to the House that we have to consider the provision of repatriation pensions in conjunction with the Social Services Act, because quite a number of returned exservicemen are receiving a service pension in lieu of the age pension. Under the provisions of this year’s Budget, a married TPI pensioner and his wife would each receive $4.50 a week under the tapered means test, in addition to the pension of $38 and the wife’s allowance of $4.05. But this is nol the real point on which 1 want to spend a few minutes. 1 think that the provisions in this Bill, so far as they go, are quite satisfactory. The Government, in its thinking, has brought repatriation pensions into line with arrangements for other financial matters affected by the Budget year after year, lt has increased the TPI pension. It has introduced an intermediate rate pension, and it has also granted substantial increases for the majority of people who receive the general rate pension. I dismiss the concept that an amount paid to men and women as compensation for a war caused disability should be regarded in the same way as other pensions. The Government saw fit to raise the general rate pension by $3 a week last year and by another $2 a week this year, which means that it is trying to give some extra compensation, presumably, for the increase in the cost of living. There can be no other reason why pension rates would be increased, other than to bring tb_em up to date with increases in cost of living indices.
I point out that a very large number of ex-servicemen are receiving a pension, or a part pension, or call it what you like, and are also in receipt of quite good money from employment, or have other means of support. There is no relationship whatsoever between the repatriation benefit, which we call a pension, and the normal provision which the Government makes for people who require Government assistance in orderto cope with living costs. That is why a person can receive a repatriation pension and also be eligible to receive a service pension. But, as we all know, the amount which a person receives by way of repatriation pension is discounted against the amount which he might receive by way of a service pension, and very often, before the introduction of the tapered means test, it meant that if a person received an extra Si a week in repatriation pension, a similar amount was deducted from his service pension. This is completely ridiculous. The whole purpose of granting pensions to men who returned with some war caused disability was to compensate them for something which occurred to them out of the course of their normal living. They received pensions because they thought enough of their country to go away and to fight for it. In doing so they suffered some disability for which the Government felt some sort of compensation should be paid.
Under the income tax law the Government disregards the amount which a person receives by way of pension, but when it comes to the application of the means test, the amount received as a pension is included as. part of a person’s income. My whole purpose in rising to speak to this Bill was purely and simply to bring this point out. I do not believe that the amount received by way of repatriation pension should be classed as part of a service pensioner’s income when it comes to calculating his total remuneration.
– That would be the removal of the means test.
– One of my friends, the honourable member for Wimmera, says that that would be the removal of the means test. In that application, yes, it would, and it would be a very direct benefit to those people who are in need. I pointed out that a man who is not in receipt of a service pension receives the amount paid as a repatriation pension as an extra, over and above his ordinary earnings. When a man in ordinary employment reaches 65 years of age, provided he complies with certain means test requirements, he is given the opportunity to receive the age pension. Exactly the same conditions should apply in the case of a returned soldier, if his circumstances are such that he becomes eligible for a service pension. But this principle has been spoiled for many years by the intrusion of the repatriation benefit as part of a person’s earnings, when it comes to working out his means as assessed.
I do not propose to go into this matter in great detail because all I am putting forward is an idea. I mentioned it last year, and I hope it will not be necessary to mention it again next year. I hope that the Government will see fit to go into this matter a little more thoroughly than it has done in the past. I know that the Department has examined this question. Departmental officials have told me that there are certain difficulties in some classifications - one of them being war widows. I am quite sure that if the Department carefully looked at the whole proposition it would find that a war widow is in exactly the same position as a man who has a bit of shrapnel in him. He suffers a war caused disability because he has some handicap. A war widow suffers a war caused disability because she has lost her husband. Although the Bill might appear to be fairly large, I am quite confident that the granting of the extra amount that I have advocated to the ex-serviceman who is in need of a service pension or an age pension would cost a lot less than doing what the Government has tried to do, that is, to make more money available by increasing the rate applicable to individual items in the schedule.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
[Quorum formed.] I rise to plead with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), to have another look at the two Bills that are before the House. They are the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. I make this plea because I think the time has arrived when all aspects of repatriation should be examined. All this legislation does is to increase the pension rates, but the increases are not in step with the increases in the cost of living. I hope that when I have made a few comparisons the Minister will ask Cabinet to review all pension rates.
I find it hard to believe that there should be a big difference between the pensions payable to those who are injured in industry and the pensions payable to those who are injured during time of war. I do not say that the people who are injured or killed in industry get too much. In my opinion they do not get enough. But when a comparison is made between the two, it is readily seen that there is a big difference. I fail to understand why the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) is able to grant bigger awards for those in industry than the Minister for Repatriation does for ex-servicemen. What is wrong with us? After all, we are all human beings. When a man goes to war we say he goes to do his bit for his country. But if he is killed his widow and children, unless she remarries, have to struggle for the rest of their lives. Everyone in this House knows how much is paid to a war widow.
I want to make a few comparisons between the rates that are paid in industry and those paid under the repatriation legislation. I have the latest figures that the Legislative Research Service could obtain for me. There are small discrepancies between the States. For instance, if a worker is killed in New South Wales, his estate receives $10,000 and in certain circumstances a funeral allowance of $160. In Victoria the amount is $9,000, in Queensland it is $8,380, in South Australia it is 4 years’ earnings, in Western Australia it is $10,582 and in Tasmania it is 284 times the weekly basic wage. But what happens when a young soldier is killed while fighting for his country? If he is 22 years of age and had one child, does his wife receive a lump sum? I am pretty sure that she does not, but I would like the Minister to tell the House just what she does receive. Suppose she had been married for only a year or 18 months; what does she get so that she can do something for herself and for the future of her child? She has had her income cut by more than half, because when her soldier husband is killed she is given a pension. If he was a sergeant, her income is cut by more than half. She has to carry on with the pension she receives.
She probably did not have a home when he was killed and may have been renting a house. She is entitled to assistance from the War Service Homes Division. But how can she buy a home when she has no money in the bank and when the average price for a block of land in the suburbs today is, I suppose, $3,000? Unless she has a block of land, it is useless going to the War Service Homes Division and saying: ‘I want a house for myself and my child because I have lost my husband’. She does not have a hope of getting any finance. If she bought a few items on hire purchase just before the death of her husband, she is forced to face up to those commitments and to do so very quickly. If it were not for organisations like Legacy and the Carry On Clubs, the widow would be in very awkward circumstances. When outside bodies must rescue these poor unfortunate people, it is obvious that the pension paid to them is not enough and the Government should have another look at the rates.
What happens to a soldier if he loses a limb or limbs? Does he get compensation or must he wait and try to carry on after a period of occupational therapy? Is he left to get a job in the best way he can? At one time ex-servicemen with one arm were employed to drive lifts. But that occupation is no longer available because most lifts are now automatic. It is very interesting to note that a worker in industry who loses either arm or the greater part of an arm receives $5,300. The list of compensation payments goes down to the loss of a finger, the loss of the sense of smell and the loss of the sense of taste. But what happens to a soldier who, after fighting for his country, comes back as a single or double amputee? He does not get a lump sum. Why is this? We are all human beings and we are all cast in the one mould. Why is it that a person engaged in one occupation receives more than a person engaged in the other? 1 am all for the man who gets the better deal, but I am more for the man who gets the lesser deal because I believe that the amount he receives should be increased.
Now I. come to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill. This Bill relates to the merchant seamen who manned the ships during periods of war. They served alongside members of the Royal Australian Navy on ships that carried soldiers and Air Force personnel. What happens to them? What do they receive? I was a naval officer and my recollection is that a 7-inch gun crew consists of seven men. The captain of the crew is an able seaman from the Royal Australian Navy and the other six men are merchant seamen. If the naval rating gets cordite sickness or something like that through frequently firing the guns he is looked after by Repatriation but if the merchant seaman suffers anything other than a gunshot wound he gets nothing. I have written several letters to the Repatriation authorities on this issue but they are adamant that the seaman must have a gunshot wound to qualify for benefits. I have nothing against officers of the Repatriation Department. They have been very decent to me. They always answer my letters promptly. What is needed is Government action to allow the Department to give justice to these people who are not now covered by repatriation.
On other occasions I have related to the House the case of a young fellow who, when 16 years of age. was an apprentice on a ship in Darwin Harbour. His ship was bombed and he ultimately came to Melbourne. He did not know what to do. The company for which he worked had lost three ships and did not have a job for him. He eventually accepted a position as an ordinary seaman on a British ship, which was later torpedoed in the middle of the Atlantic. The man was picked up by a German submarine and became a prisoner of war after having spent 43 days in an open boat in the Atlantic. He ultimately returned to Australia mentally deranged. Surely this is a case where a TPI pension should have been ‘ paid immediately. But nothing happened. All the Department would say was that as he was employed on a British ship it was a matter for the British Government. As far as I am concerned it is not a matter for the British Government. That boy went to sea at 16 years of age to do what he thought was his duty. Now he is wandering around Australia. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) has had dealings with him and knows the case as well as I do. In all fairness I must concede that it is an isolated case.
If a merchant seaman suffers any sickness through being in confined spaces during war service or contracts a chest ailment other than tuberculosis he gets nothing. The Act stipulates that he can be compensated only for a gunshot wound. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act defines a war injury as a personal injury in this way:
caused by -
These people were serving their country and therefore are entitled to the same treatment as is accorded a man who served in any of the other Services. If a man was serving in Alice Springs on a certain date - I do not make light of this - and a case of jam fell on his back causing injury, he would rightly be entitled to compensation. But a merchant seaman who suffered a similar injury in the course of his service would get no compensation. The Act states that he must suffer a gunshot wound. This is the attitude taken by the Department on every occasion. Section 14 of the Act provides:
A pension or allowance shall not be granted in respect of the incapacity of an Australian mariner unless a duly qualified medical officer or practitioner nominated by the Commission or a Pensions Committee certifies that the incapacity is directly attributable to a war injury sustained by the Australian mariner.
But according to the Act a war injury must be an injury caused by gunshot. Merchant seamen should be placed in the same category as other ex-servicemen. They should have the right to go before a tribunal. If unable properly to put their cases they should have somebody to assist them. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation, who handles repatriation matters in this chamber, to do all in his power to see that merchant seamen are adequately compensated for their injuries. There must be some reason for treating them as they are now. I fail to understand why, when a ship sailing under Navy orders is torpedoed, some of the people on the vessel are looked after by the Government and others are not. After all, under whose orders did the merchant seamen sail? It could be argued that the torpedo got through a naval escort and that the Navy was therefore responsible. We do not want such technical arguments. If a man has been injured in the service of his country he should be looked after. The widows and children of deceased mariners must be looked after better than they are now. If it were not for such organisations as Legacy these unfortunate people would indeed be in sorry circumstances. I hope that the Minister will do his best to improve matters for the people to whom I have referred because they deserve a better go.
– I direct my remarks principally to the Repatriation Bill. This afternoon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) gave a lengthy oration on this legislation. He claimed that the TPI pension will continue to be less than the basic wage of §39 a week. He failed to mention that he was thinking only of the single rate TPI pension. It is well recognised that the basic wage is calculated on the basis of the needs of a married man, his wife and two children. A married TPI pensioner with two children would receive a base rate of $36 a week, a wife’s allowance of $4.05 and an allowance for his two children of $2.75, making a total payment of $42.80 a week. So it was misleading of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say that the TPI rate falls far short of the basic wage. This legislation is designed to give effect to proposals announced a few weeks ago in the Budget. The Repatriation Bill and the Social Services Bill, which we dealt with earlier today, are complementary as far as the Service pension is concerned. I believe that the Returned Services League and other ex-servicemen’s organisations, as well as ex-service personnel throughout Australia, fully appreciate what the Government has done for ex-servicemen. The Government has taken a number of steps on behalf of ex-servicemen and can be proud of its record.
I turn to the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). I want to run very quickly down some of the increases in the various repatriation benefits. The TPI pension has gone up $2.50 a week and the intermediate rate of war pension has increased by $2.25 a week. The pension for a war widow has increased by $1 a week and the domestic allowance for a war widow has increased by 50c a week. The special compensation allowance has gone up by $2 a week, the attendant’s allowance by $2 a week, the recreation transport allowance by $5 a month, and the gift car allowance has increased by $60 a year. The single rate service pension has increased by $1 and the married rate service pension by 75c. The allowance for each child except the first has increased by $1.
I do not see how anyone can say that the Government has not seen fit to give substantial increases.
The most important issue of all deals with those ex-servicemen who receive some benefit from the tapered means test. I wish to give an illustration on this because many people outside this place are in doubt as to just how some of these rates will apply. The tapered means test permits the 100% rate pensioner to have his service pension of $1.5 included as permissible income, so that while his income was previously limited to $12 a week it is now not unlimited but is certainly increased. The rate for the 100% pensioner is now $12 a week, but he now receives also special compensation of $5 a week, making a total of $17 a week. The first $10 of this is then disregarded and the remaining $7 is treated according to the tapered means test. The effect of the extra $7 is then to reduce the service pension by only $3.50. Taking that $3.50 off the service pension rate of $15 we get a remainder of $11.50. So what this pensioner will in theory receive is $12 for the 100% pension, $5 special compensation and $11.50 service pension, making a total of $28.50. This represents an increase of $4.50 on the previous rate.
I now turn to the TPI pensioner, who previously was receiving $33.50 a week and was ineligible for a service pension because his permissible income was only $10. This prevented him from being a combined TPI and service pensioner. Today he will receive $36 a week as a TPI pension, but under the tapered means test, provided that he has no other form of income, capital or otherwise, and is of age he will now be eligible to receive a small age pension of $2 making a total of $38 or an increase of $4.50. He obviously would appreciate the action that the Government has taken. His weekly income - and do not confuse this with fortnightly income - will be $38.
I have given the example of the rate for the single TPI pensioner. When we come to the married couple most honourable members realise that the incomes are added together and divided by 2. The sum total a married TPI pensioner, if his wife is eligible for an age pension, will find that their total income has increased from $42 to $55.06 or by approximately $13 a week. This is a substanial increase.
– Depending on what they have in the bank.
– If the honourable member had listened to what I had said a couple of minutes ago he would realise that I mentioned this. I made this point quite clear. The honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) a few minutes ago referred to the war widows. Again we see a substantial increase in the payments to this class of pensioner. People may be under a misapprehension about the classification of a war widow. As far as repatriation is concerned she is the widow of a man whose death was accepted as due to war service. She is not simply the widow of an exserviceman who has passed on. There is certainly a very big difference. A full repatriation war widow does receive a certain pension without a means test. Under the old system she received $14 as a pension plus $7 domestic allowance, if she qualified for it, and a small amount of S3 if she was eligible for an age or invalid pension. Under this proposal her payments are substantially increased. Her pension is increased to $15 and the domestic allowance will be $7.50. She will now qualify for an age or invalid pension, if she is in this category, of $8.75, making a total of $31.25 - or, as most people prefer to express it, she will receive an increase of $7.25. So you can see, Mr Speaker, that these increases I am presenting to the House this evening are substantia).
Of course, there are always weaknesses in the pieces of legislation that are put forward. I am particularly concerned about one weakness. Despite all my discussions with various individuals in this place I am not convinced that the Government has done everything possible for the general rate pensioner. This is the person who does not qualify for the special compensation allowance. The interesting part here is that since 1964 there have been increases in the special compensation allowance but there have been no increases in the base rate pension. It is all right for the pensioner receiving the 100% pension because he has received an increase of $5 by special compensation allowance. The special compensa tion allowance operates on a sliding scale according to assessed incapacity for all pensioners with an assessed incapacity of 75% or more, but the person whose incapacity is assessed at 70% or any figure below 75% receives no increase at all. The 50% rate pensioner in 1964 received $6 a week. Five years later he still receives $6 a week. 1 do not think that this is good enough. It is time that the Government gave consideration to increasing this figure.
When we are looking at repatriation pensions we should ask ourselves why we have a particular type of pension and why we call’ it a repatriation pension, i think one can sum up the answer in a few words. lt is more or less for services rendered or as a form of compensation. We should not classify a repatriation pension in any other way, because before we pay this pension we look at the various reasons why an individual is entitled to a particular rate of pension. There is always a little doubt in my mind as to how they actually arrive at it. ls it because of his lack of ability to earn? ls it payment for services rendered? Or is it a combination of both? I think this is a question that we must look at very closely. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan), who spoke prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, made reference to this. I agree entirely with him. I believe this is compensation or payment for services rendered during wartime. I think more consideration should be given to this class of individual.
There is one way that we can assist such people and that is to look at the position in relation to the means test. A war pension is exempt for taxation purposes but it is not exempt from classification as income under the means test. If a man is paid a special rate, whether it be 50% or 100%, because of a certain disability, then we are truly paying him in the form of compensation. If a person loses his eyesight that is a different kettle of fish entirely; but if a man is suffering from some other disability - the loss of a hand or a disability which affects his normal way of life without it affecting his normal income - surely we must consider his situation. I urge the Government to give very favourable consideration to the adoption of a method to do away with the means test in this regard. IE this can not be done for exservicemen in One hit then the Government should do something similar to the tapering of the social service means test. I think that idea could be considered in the field of repatriation rates.
Before I conclude I think I would be failing in my duty if I did not pay a tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department. Over the years 1 have had nothing but co-operation from them. I suppose 1 could say that very seldom does a week go by that I do not have some association with them, and no doubt there are plenty of other honourable members who are in a similar position. On numerous occasions, in fact almost daily, I have to get in touch with someone within the Department. The officers are most helpful and very cooperative. They do everything possible to assist. They fall over backwards to assist ex-servicemen, whether in connection with a pension, medical treatment or whatever it may be. I would like particularly to pay a tribute to them because I believe they do much more than they would normally be expected to do.
Finally I want to refer to the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the motton before the House. I am one of many honourable members in this chamber who recognise the ability of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when it comes to repatriation matters. I believe he is one honourable member on the Opposition side who has devoted a lot of time and study to repatriation matters. But when it comes to suggesting that we should amend the motion on certain grounds - I wm not read the entire amendment but it deals chiefly with the appointment of a select committee - I would like to ask him, or any Opposition member who may follow me in this debate: What would they expect from a select committee investigating repatriation matters?
Repatriation has been with us for very many years. No doubt there have been many experts on it in this chamber over those years. We have had many officers studying repatriation issues. I believe that from time to time the Government has introduced some very good measures to improve the repatriation system. One such improvement comes to mind very quickly. I refer to the intermediate rate pension for a person who does not quite qualify for a TPI pension but is a little more disabled than those we classify as being eligible for the 100% rate. That was a good measure and there are others. The benefits are improving all the time. But a select committee would consist of just a few members of this House, or possibly some from this House and others from the Senate. Those people would make a quick study of the situation and would present certain recommendations.
There is a question I would like someone from the Opposition to answer. If the Opposition came to power would it accept the recommendations presented to it by such a select committee? I think the answer to the question is obvious. I think the Opposition then would say: ‘That is not quite in line with our policy’. That is what would happen if the Opposition came to power - but that is not likely to happen for a while yet. That is the reply I would expect to get from the Minister for Repatriation. I would expect him to say that the recommendations were not. in line with his Government’s policy and that therefore he could not accept them. If this is the case, why should we have a select committee? Possibly this is the first time that I have had to disagree strongly with some of the issues put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I strongly recommend to the House that it throw out this amendment and adopt the original motion.
I commend the Government for what it has done. As I said a few minutes ago I suggest that it have a further look at the general rate pension. This is what we call an election year and I can think of no better time than during the next few weeks for the Prime Minister of Australia to suggest that we will increase the base rate pension.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) has every right to disagree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in respect of the amendment which the Deputy Leader moved to the motion for the second reading of the Repatriation Bill 1969. But apparently he little realises that when he disagrees with the setting up of a committee to review completely the workings of the Repatriation Act he also disagrees with the Returned Services League of Australia of which he is a member. Unlike the honourable member for Wimmera I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It reads as follows:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill the House condemns the Government because -
It has failed to restore the relative values of Repatriation pensions, and
That it does not provide for the appointment of a select committee to completely review the Repatriation Act, its operation and all of its provisions, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government’.
This is not the first occasion on which the Opposition has moved such an amendment. We suggested a committee of inquiry into the Repatriation Act before the Returned Services League of Australia, at its National Congress, adopted a similar resolution. I admit that the RSL wants an independent committee and that the Labor Party is asking for a parliamentary committee but the motives of the Opposition and the RSL are similar, if not the same. In the Senate last September the Opposition moved the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Repatriation Bill 1968:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that a Select Committee of the Senate should be appointed to examine and report upon the adequacy of the rates and allowances proposed, and all other aspects of repatriation affected by the Bill, and in particular report whether the amendments to be made by the Bill to the Repatriation Act are sufficient’.
That resolution was carried in the Senate, Mr Speaker, by 26 votes to 24. Again in the Senate, last Friday, the following amendment was moved to the motion that the Senate take note of the proposed expenditure of the Repatriation Department:
At end of motion add - and recommends to the Senate that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon all aspects of expenditure on and in connection with repatriation, including the adequacy of the rates and allowances provided for and all other aspects of repatriation, and in particular the operation and adequacy of the Repatriation Act and the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, such committee to commence its inquiry not earlier than 1st January 1970.
That amendment was carried by a vote of 23 to 21. So, despite the adoption on two occasions in the last 12 months of resolu tions in the Senate calling upon the Government to establish a committee of inquiry into the Repatriation Act no action has been taken by the Government. The first time that a resolution was passed in the Senate was almost 12 months ago to the day. The Government is acting not only against the wishes of the Senate but also the wishes of the Opposition in this House. We have moved a similar amendment on previous occasions but it has not been carried because unfortunately we do not have the numbers in the House. The Government has not only ignored the wishes of the Senate and the Opposition in this House but it has also ignored the wishes of the Returned Services League of Australia which, this year, submitted to the Government its 1969 war compensation plan which reads as follows: 1 That an independent non parliamentary committee be set up to completely review the Repatriation Act, its operation, and all its provisions, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government. 2 That there should be a general review of war and service pension rates. That in this review the special rate TPI pension should be increased to an amount equal to the present minimum wage, the 100% general rate and war widows pensions should be increased to an amount equal to 50% of the minimum wage, and that all other pensions and allowances should be increased proportionately. 3 That repatriation, hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits should be extended to all returned ex-servicemen of the First World War and the Boer War without the necessity of establishing any association between the disability or the illness and their war service. 4 That the funeral grant be increased from $50 to Si 50.
That plan was presented to the Exservicemen’s Cabinet Sub-Committee on 19th March, but not one point of it has been adopted by the Government. In case some people should be at a loss to understand why this is so, and should wonder whether the RSL’s National Executive and trustees are made up of people who cannot be trusted - people who do not enjoy good reputations in the community - let me inform the House that the National President is Sir Arthur Lee, K.B.E., M.C., the Treasurer is Air Vice-Marshal Bladin, CB.,
M.C. Whatever honourable members may think about these people they cannot say that they are not responsible people in the community or that the war compensation pension plan that has been presented to the Government and Cabinet for or on behalf of the National Executive and all members of the Returned Servicemen’s League of Australia throughout Australia is not a reasonable plan that has been created without due consideration and thought by responsible people in the community.
The honourable member for Wimmera spoke about refusing to accept the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of a select committee to investigate the workings of the Repatriation Act. As I have already quoted, the first point of the 1969 war compensation plan of the RSL is that an independent non-parliamentary committee be established. In order to give the League’s arguments, not my own - because I have given them on two or three occasions and they have not been heard - let me quote from the submission that was presented to the ex-servicemen’s Cabinet sub-committee on Wednesday, 19th March 1969. The report reads:
It has become increasingly clear in recent years that developing problems in the repatriation field can only be resolved by a searching inquiry conducted by a specially appointed Commission divorced from established attitudes and Party political interests.
The League now requests, as the first proposal in its 1969 War Compensation Plan, that a non.Parliamentary Committee of Review should be established to investigate all aspects of repatriation including pension rates and the maintenance of values, hospital and medical treatment, the functioning of the Appeals system and the scope of repatriation legislation especially having regard to the nature of hostilities in which Australia is at present engaged and is most likely to be involved in the future.
It is conceded that during the course of each year repatriation provisions generally come under fairly continuous scrutiny. The RSL, through its Sub-Branches, Slate Branches and National Headquarters, the Commission and the Branches of the Repatriation Department in each State, Parliamentary Committees from both parties and finally the examination by Cabinet during the preparation of the Budget, all amount to a fairly sizeable inquiry at all levels on most aspects of repatriation.
The League submits, however, that in spile nf this generalised examination, what is now urgently required is a Special Committee acting with the Government authority to hear submissions from all interested parties, to carefully analyse present needs against existing provisions and finally to compile a report that will review and make recommendations on every aspect of repatriation and its capacity to meet the requirements of those who have been affected by war.
The League appreciates the opportunity to meet Ex-servicemen’s Committees from both Parties and to finally present its submissions to the Exservicemen’s Committee of Cabinet. These Meetings at best, however, only permit of a very superficial examination of the problems involved and are in no way an alternative to the type of searching inquiry envisaged by the League. The existing repatriation structure has now been in existence for approximately half a century and in general terms has served the Nation and ex-servicemen well. Its development, however, has been haphazard and at no time, not even on those occasions when pension rates were all reviewed and increased in 1943 and 19S0 has there been a thorough and detailed examination of all repatriation provisions with a view to streamlining and improving all the services and benefits that are provided.
For the reasons that will be set out in the following sections of this document, the League believes that the question of pension values is by far the most pressing. These have been dealt with in such a way that the principle of compensation has virtually been abandoned and from year to year the position has steadily deteriorated. It will be a major task of a Committee when established, to examine not only the question of current rates but to explore means by which values can be maintained without incurring any partisan disputes and conflicts which are now an annual feature of repatriation legislation.
An examination of the kind envisaged by the League has recently been conducted in Canada -with results that have met with the satisfaction of all interested parties.
This, I repeat, is the submission that was presented’ to the ex-servicemen’s subcommittee of Cabinet by the National Executive of the RSL in March. The honourable member for Wimmera casts it aside completely, and he is a member of the organisation. Most honourable members on the Government side will cast it aside completely. The Minister for Repatriation in the Senate and his representative in this House have cast it aside completely. You will note, Mr Speaker, that the RSL points out that no comprehensive review has been made of the Repatriation Act since it came into existence. The Opposition submits that a committee of inquiry should be established. We would prefer a parliamentary select committee but we would be quite happy if the RSL’s request for an independent committee were granted. Our one desire is to see that the anomalies of the Repatriation Act are remedied. The amendment moved by the Opposition merits the support of every ex-serviceman in this
House. 1 hope that 1 will see some members on the Government side show a little independence and vote on it with us.
Since I have been in this House two ex-service organisations have always submilted a pensioner plan to the opposition Party. Those organisations are the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia and the Returned Services League of Australia. Repeatedly their requests have been either ignored or practically ignored by this Government, and this year the treatment accorded them is not much different. For instance the TPI association requested that the TPI pension should be increased by $5.40 a week to bring it up to the average weekly earnings. The Government granted an increase in this rate of $2.50. The TPI association requested that the pension for wives of TPI ex-servicemen should be increased by $4.05, but nothing was granted. It also requested medical benefits for the wives of TPI ex-servicemen, but this request was denied. A request that the funeral grant be increased from $50 to $150 also was rejected. That request was supported by the RSL. In its submission to the Cabinet sub-committee the RSL cited the following figures:
If it was good enough in the first instance to make a funeral grant it should be good enough now to increase the rate of the grant so that it wil’l bear the same percentage relationship to the cost of a funeral as it did when the grant was first introduced or when it was increased to $50. The Opposition has moved that a committee of this Parliament be set up to inquire into such anomalies and to find out why the Minister for Repatriation and the Repatriation Department have not done anything about them but have allowed them to stagnate, as in the case of the allowance for gift cars which remained at $240 from 1950. I daresay that as a result of efforts on my part in putting a question on the notice paper that rate has now been increased to $300.
Some of the provisions of the Repatriation Act and the benefits thereunder have remained stagnant for a number of years. 1 am not one to suggest that ex-servicemen should get everything that they ask for, but 1 certainly suggest that now, more than 20 years after the Second World War, is the time to review the Repatriation Act and to have a look at the way in which the Act has operated and is operating, lt is a number of years since war pensions at the lower percentage rates were increased. In the last couple of years a special compensation allowance has been granted payable down to the 75% rate. If the Government has no intention of increasing the lower rates why not cancel them entirely so that psychiatric or geriatric wards or additional beds may be provided in repatriation hospitals for hospital and medical care and treatment of all members of the First World War and the Boer War? These are the things that could be investigated by a parliamentary committee, be it an independent committee as the RSL has suggested or a select committee of this Parliament. We have to look into these matters. It is essential that we bring the Repatriation Act up to date. I am sure that there are many senior officers in the Repatriation Department who would love to see the Repatriation Act thoroughly examined, new provisions included and some of the old provisions discarded. That cannot be done without political implications unless it is done by a committee of one kind or another. You, Mr Speaker, and the Minister for Civil Aviation know that there is always a majority of Government members on a select committee of the Parliament, so the recommendations brought down by such a committee would represent a general concensus of the Parliament. The RSL has again this year, as it has in the past, submitted that the rates of war pensions for TPI ex-servicemen should never be less than the lowest legal wage and that other pensions should be graduated accordingly. Again in its submission - and I am using it extensively tonight because the RSL is a non-political, non-sectarian organisation and is controlled on the national level by various people, some of whom I mentioned earlier - figures were stated, and they were supplied to the Ex-Servicemen’s Cabinet Sub-Committee. The figures quoted show that in 1950 the basic wage, now the minimum wage, was $13.80 a week. The present amount is $38.90. The increase is $25.10, or 182%. The average weekly wage of the employed male in 1950 was $21 a week. It is now $66.30. That is an increase of $45.30 a week or 216%. The base grade clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service at the age of 21 years in 1950 received $948 per year and is now receiving $2,650. That is an increase of $1,702, or 179%. The special rate pension - or, as it is known, the TPI pension - was $14 a week in 1950 when the basic wage was $13.80. The present amount for a TPI pension - and this is the new amount - is $36 a week. The increase is $22.20 a week, or 157%. The 100% rate pension - and this applies down to the 75% rate - in 1950 was $7 a week and is now $15 a week. There has been an increase of $8 a week, or 114%. The 70% rate pension in 1950 was $4.90 a week and is now $8.40 a week. That is an increase of $3.50 a week, or an overall increase of 71%. The rates of Service and soldier pensions have declined between 1950 and the present time compared with the basic wage, the average weekly earnings and the wage paid to a base grade clerk aged 21 in the Commonwealth Public Service.
I heard honourable members on the Opposition side chided by Government supporters in the last couple of days because, it was said we have no policies on these matters. As we are on the eve of an election I want to state the repatriation policy of the Opposition. I may say that this policy was not amended at the twenty-eighth Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party held in Melbourne last month and it has been our policy for some time now. In the Australian Labor Party ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules’ the following is set out under the heading ‘Repatriation’:
I leave it to the people of Australia to judge which Party is more sincere in its approach to repatriation matters. I support the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) challenged the necessity for or the usefulness of an inquiry. It seemed an odd statement to be made by a person who is a member of the parliamentary institution itself.
– The honourable member for Indi has not spoken in the debate.
– I am sorry, I meant the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I was 200 or 300 miles out. I was only testing the honourable member for Mallee to see whether he was awake or asleep. The point at issue is how much faith one has in Parliament and the parliamentary system. Where does one’s responsibility lie? We on this side of the House believe that the Parliament should accept much more responsibility. I believe that there should be more parliamentary committees set up by the House of Representatives along the same lines as those which have been set up in the other place. I believe that such committees fulfil a fundamental need in the way that our democratic system of government works. I think it is a tragic waste not to use the resources available to the House for the examination of society’s needs. We on this side of the House believe that repatriation problems should be tackled in this manner. All important social exercises, including repatriation, should be constantly examined. It may well be - although I do not believe that we on this side of the House or many honourable members on the other side will agree - that there is nothing needing amendment.
The repatriation system has been in existence for the past 50 years. During that time there have been innumerable amendments to the system, as one can see from the list at the front of the Repatriation Act. At least one fundamental change has been successfully made as a result of an inquiry that was conducted by a parliamentary committee. The Opposition has moved on a number of occasions, and the principle has been accepted in the other place on a number of occasions, that the Parliament should set up a select committee to inquire into certain aspects of repatriation that are important to the nation. I am surprised that honourable members opposite should continually deny that this is a proper function of the Parliament. I cannot understand why the Government and its supporters refuse to accept the usefulness of parliamentary inquiries. As I see it, by so doing they are failing to fulfill their parliamentary functions.
I would like to raise four or five matters relating to the working of the repatriation system. Firstly, there is the general question of access to hospitals. On occasions there is too much red tape. I believe that it should be easier for ex-servicemen to obtain treatment in repatriation hospitals. The report of the Repatriation Department does not indicate exactly how many beds are available and what usage they receive, but it would seem that some of the best equipped hospitals in the Australian health field and the ones which give their patients the most satisfaction are those that exist under the repatriation system. It appears that, particularly with men who served in the First World War, there is a psychological advantage in being admitted to a repatriation hospital. 1 believe that we have been too restrictive in the past in regard to admission to these hosiptals The Opposition, which has the support of the returned servicemen’s organisations, believes that there should be more automatic acceptance. In particular, the Opposition has chosen the question of cancer. I think it is all bound up in the way the system works. It is true that one cannot say where the origin of cancer lies. But I would say that one could equally apply the principle that because one does know where it lies one does not know where it does not lie. The same situation exists with regard to most heart ailments.
The argument is advanced that men who served in the First World War are getting on in years and should be showing signs of wear and tear anyway. That may be so, but nobody can prove that a condition was not due to the war. In their time they were probably the fittest of their generation, so it can be argued that they should be able to last longer than their contempories, The ex-servicemen of the Second World War are, of course, younger. I do not know what the statistics are, as there is no publicly available research material on this matter, but it seems to me that a large number of men in their fifties are wearing out much too soon. These men are burnt out well before their time. It is my personal experience that this is what is happening to many of the men who served in the Second World War. In most instances they were physically fit when they joined the Services.
I do not think that there can be any basis in logic for the general attitude that people who have carried a severe wound for half a lifetime in the case of those who served in the Second World War and a lifetime in the case of those who served in the First World War have not suffered any damage to the functions of their body. If a man has heart trouble after he has suffered from a wounded hip or some other disability for 40 or 50 years, I believe it is fair enough to say that the strain on the heart has been caused by physical disability as a result of war service. Although it may not be possible to prove this medically, I believe that the time has come when the Parliament should accept responsibility. It should not load the responsibility on the medical profession or on the tribunal concerned. The Parliament should state where it stands in this matter.
We are living in an age in which there is increasing acceptance of the community’s responsibility for a person’s medical welfare. The current debate on the community’s responsibility in regard to the national health scheme is indicative of the complete change of heart that has occurred over the last 40 or 50 years. The repatriation system is a ready made vehicle for implementing some form of universal medical service for those who have accepted the responsibility of the nation. The difference between a civilian’s war service and a soldier’s war service is that the soldier accepts the responsibility of laying down his life if necessary for the community. The community must accept in return total responsibility for any disablement suffered.
In this regard the Opposition believes, and it has the support of a large number of Service organisations, that the application of section 47 of the Repatriation Act is too restrictive. It is quite clear that section 47 places the onus of proof upon the repatriation tribunal. But that is not how it is applied.
Most of us continually come into contact with situations where a serviceman has what to us as laymen looks to be a reasonable open and shut case for acceptance of his disability. I could run through Hansard of the last 12 or 14 years, and presumably for 20 or 30 years prior to that, and find case after case which would have been automatically accepted by a jury but which was not accepted by repatriation tribunals. The Act states that if a disability has been caused or aggravated by war service the responsibility must be accepted by the Department. I believe that there is a great weakness in the way in which this principle is applied. One way in which the matter could be broken down would be to require the tribunal to give reasons for its decision. I think this is a fair demand to make in the modern age in which we live. I think that the reasons for decisions which affect another person’s welfare should be made public if necessary. In other words, the decision should have to stand up to the scrutiny of the ordinary citizens.
There is nothing anonymous about the repatriation tribunals. We all know who comprise the tribunals and where the inquiries are held. The inquiries are semipublic. The real secret is the reasons behind the decisions of the tribunals. I think this is the greatest weakness in the system as far as a democratic procedure is concerned. The form of the hearing is intimidating or inhibiting to the average Australian working man - the type I represent, anyhow. The average man is a bundle of nerves by the time he gets in there. There is no known formula by which an advocate can place the case better than others can. So we find that the average citizen has little chance of proving his case no matter how informal the members of the tribunal try to make the situation. They are handling so many cases that to them this is just another one coming up. I do not quite know what the answer to this is or what sort of formula can be applied to the problem. But there must be some way in which we can bring some of the relaxed and informal nature of some other judicial inquiries to bear upon this great social problem. This would be one of the things that a committee of inquiry of this Parliament would be able to resolve.
Another group of people who I believe are seriously disadvantaged by the interpretation of the Act are the wives and the widows of ex-servicemen. These are the womenfolk whose pensions are inadequate because they are entitled only to a proportion of the pension. Also, they do not get hospital treatment in many instances. They can spend a life of sacrifice and service to a disabled husband without receiving any medical treatment during the course of that sacrifice, even though they may well be better off from a hospital point of view when they become widows. I believe that this would be a simple enough responsibility for the community to accept through the Repatriation Department.
In recent times, of course, some hundreds of young men have been seriously disabled in the Vietnam war. Whilst there is no substantial difference between their position and the position of those who served in the first world war and the second world war, the facts are that the great majority of these young men were called to the colours and conscripted by the community’s demand. One has only to examine the rate of pension that they receive. Quite a number of young men in Australian military hospitals are totally disabled. There are others who are almost completely disabled, even if they are back in civilian life. The totally and permanently incapacitated pension is going up to a level where I think it hardly makes the present basic wage - although the term ‘basic wage’, I understand, is out of fashion. Who can live comfortably, respectably, peaceably and in a dignified way on the basic wage? The average person, of course, has a possibility through his life to improve his conditions. Even if a man starts off as an ordinary labourer he can well end up as some tycoon or other. But this cannot happen to the person who has been incapacitated by war service by the time he is 20 or 21 years of age. In fact, what we are doing in a system which is a combination of the conscription system, the Vietnam war and the repatriation system, is to conscript a number of young men into a lifetime of poverty. I do not believe a community such as this ought to tolerate such a system.
The other point I wish to make concerns the question of chronic sufferers. Too often terrible hardship is inflicted upon people because when they go over their statutory period of illness, if they are Service pensioners and so on they are sent away from the Repatriation hospitals. Quite often this action certainly creates great hardships and places many people in an impossible position. In general, the pension rates are too low. One hundred per cent war pensioners receive $12 plus whatever has been the recent subvention. I wonder what this amount is related to? I wonder what particular cloud one plucks that figure from? I wonder what the accountants were doing? I wonder what the Treasury officials and the Minister were doing? We know what successive Ministers for Repatriation were doing on these matters when they have been under discussion. They have been asleep. In the 14 years in which I have been a member of the Parliament there has been no evidence at any time that any Minister has applied himself with a proper sensitivity to this problem. So while repatriation is the Minister’s particular responsibility, I just wonder what line of thought makes up the mind of the people who decide that a certain amount is appropriate for the 100% war pension.
– in reply - The amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and supported by other members of the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government for a number of obvious reasons. Firstly, the amendment is in somewhat similar words to the amendment that was proposed last year and other years. I think the most important aspect to consider is that this is a Budget measure and the only effect that an acceptance of an amendment of this type could have would be to delay the payments which we propose to make under the Bill before the House. So, we reject the amendment on that ground, apart from any other grounds.
To hear members of the Opposition speaking on the Bill before the House one would assume that very little is being done in the repatriation field. Members of the Opposition did not quote the figures of expenditure for this year to indicate what is being done. I would like to do this for the House although, of course, these figures are available in the Budget papers. The total expenditure under the Repatriation Department’s control for this year is estimated to be $307m of which $222m is for war and service pensions and allowances. Other benefit payments and medical treatment amount to a further $70.7m. This expenditure, in relation to the Budget, of course, is a very substantial amount. Year by year there has been a very substantial increase in the total allocation for repatriation purposes. I think this fact should be recorded to indicate that the Opposition, whilst arguing a certain case in relation to repatriation benefits, is not being fair to the system and is not being fair to the House by not quoting the extent to which the repatriation system is being sponsored by the Government and being supported by this Parliament.
The repatriation system is soundly based and worthwhile and is accepted as such in the ex-service community and by the community at large. Since 1914, the notion of repatriation in the Australian context has come to embrace three essential elements.
Firstly, repatriation embraces the payment of compensatory pensions as a monetary recognition of suffering and deprivation because of war-caused incapacity or death; secondly, the provision of medical treatment and related services with the object of restoring incapacitated men to physical health, or, if this is not possible, of caring for their war caused injuries; and thirdly, a series of re-establishment measures including business loans, vocational training, preference in employment and other measures to bring about the speedy and effective return to civilian life of those whose normal existence has been dislocated by the need to serve in war.
The legislation under which these benefits are provided has some special elements. In particular, it includes the section which requires all reasonable inferences to be drawn in the claimant’s favour and requires that he be given the benefit of any doubt. It ensures that his claims are considered, not by departmental officials, but by independent determining authorities, which in every case include a representative nominated by ex-service organisations with Common wealth- wide membership. The benefits available are war pensions, service pensions for those with theatre of war service or who are in need, and a range of worthwhile allowances, for example allowances for an attendant, for recreation transport and for damage to clothing arising from war caused disability or treatment tor it. Treatment services are also extensive and meet the highest modern standards.
Also, there are training and education benefits. I mention in particular the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, which provides for children from the age of 12 right through secondary and tertiary education if they are children of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners or war widows. Overall, therefore, while it is always inevitable that there will be criticism of aspects of a system, we have in Australia a sensible and reasonable system which has stood the test of time.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when introducing the case for the Opposition, referred to the special compensation allowance. This, of course, is an entirely new approach to deal with the element of need as far as the ex-service community is concerned. Again, the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition made no allowance for the fact that the special compensation allowance was a recent innovation. He gave the Government no credit for this. Of course, when one looks at the increases that are being made this time we see that the TPI pensioner will receive an increase of $2.50 a week. This brings the TPI rate to $36 a week. The intermediate rate will increase by $2.25 which will bring this rate to $26.50 per week. A war widow will receive, under this legislation, an increased pension of $1 per week. This will bring her weekly pension to $15. The domestic allowance wilt be increased to $7.50 a week. These increases have been based on the increases given to social service pensioners in the community. Altogether, a very substantial change has taken place and a very big increase in benefits has been granted this year.
But there is one point I want to make quite clearly regarding the benefits that are now being increased, and that is the effect of the tapered means test on service pensioners. The tapered means test will mean that only one-half of a pensioner’s means over and above the value of means which are exempted will be deducted from the maximum rate of service pension. About 51,300 ex-servicemen and about 12,900 dependent wives and children receive a service pension. Upwards of 20,000 more exservicemen may become eligible for a service pension as a result of the introduction of the new tapered means test. Also their dependants will benefit. Approximately 16,500 existing pensioners and their dependants will receive increases because of the tapered means test. Also, about 50% of service pensioners at the present time are in receipt of some rate of war pension. I draw the attention of the House to that fact because it is important to note that this completely new element which is being introduced on this occasion will be of special benefit to ex-servicemen in the community. It is interesting to note that not one member of the Opposition has seen fit to draw the attention of the House to the fact that thousands of ex-servicemen will gain some benefit from the tapered means test which is being introduced into the system at the present time.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred in a rather disparaging way to the question of medical treatment. He referred to the case that has been advanced and he has submitted on behalf of the Opposition that there should be an extension of medical treatment in the community. This case has been submitted and considered from time to time, lt was considered again this year. It has not been accepted in the full context. [Quorum formed.]
I merely wanted to record again for the benefit of honourable members the extent of the provision of medical treatment under the repatriation system. This matter is set out quite clearly in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission, which has only recently been presented to the Parliament. It sets out eligibility of treatment in these terms:
Medical treatment is provided for all disabilities which have been accepted as due to war service and, subject to certain limitations, for disabilities not due to war service for the following classes: Ex-servicemen and women who have been assessed at the maximum general rate (.100%) or a higher rate;
Nurses who served in the First World War;
Widows and certain dependants of ex-servicemen whose deaths have been accepted as due to war service, or who died from causes not due to war service but were receiving at the time of death the special (TPI) rate or the rate for amputation of two or more limbs;
Service pensioners, including service pensioners of the Boer War.
I think it is of great importance that this matter should be recorded for the benefit of honourable members in order to indicate the extent of medical services that are being provided at the present time. The treatment services provided through the Repatriation Department are most comprehensive. They are unique in the Australian scene, providing all forms of medical, dental, pharmaceutical, ophthalmological and hearing aid treatment, either through the Department’s institutions or through the general facilities available in the community. I think it is worthwhile recording that particular fact again for the benefit of honourable members.
One or two other matters have been raised by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson), the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and other honourable members, with special application, in one case, to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and in another case, to matters relating to the Repatriation Act. I undertake to see that the matters raised by these honourable members are brought to the attention of the Ministers concerned.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Barnard’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Hon. Sir William Haworth)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original 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 Mr Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9 September (vide page 953), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 1413), on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the four measures? As there is no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The House is debating a set of four Bills outlining the flow of Commonwealth assistance to tertiary education for the 1970-72 biennium. These Bills follow a comprehensive outline of the Government’s attitudes by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this House on 21st August. The Minister also tabled the report of the Australian Universities Commission and the report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education - the Wark Committee. The legislation at present before the House derives from these two reports the recommendations of which were accepted by the Commonwealth.
With regard to the colleges of advanced education, consideration is further complicated by the tabling today of two further reports. The first is the report of the Commonwealth committee of inquiry under Mr Justice Sweeney into salaries of lecturers and senior lecturers in the colleges of advanced education. The second is the report of a similar committee headed by Mr F. M. Wiltshire into academic awards in advanced education. When tabling these reports the Minister indicated briefly the attitude of the Government towards the recommendations of the Sweeney and Wiltshire reports and I will refer to them in the course of my remarks.
The debating of these four Bills as a cognate measure puts a vast sweep of comprehensive and most important legislation before the House. There are many aspects of university policy and administration which should be dealt with in discussing these measures. It is more than 2 years since the colleges of advanced education were debated extensively in this House. However, because of the pressures of an election timetable the House has to confine itself to a limited period of debate with four important Bills taken in conjunction. In this context I will attempt to deal broadly with the whole structure of tertiary education in Australia.
The structure of Australian tertiary education which is reflected in the legislation before us derives from the Murray Committee and Martin Committee reports. From these seminal sources have come the two reports which guide the planning of tertiary education and spending on tertiary education over 3-year periods. In general terms the Australian Universities Commission sets the guidelines for the traditional university system which is being expanded on fairly conventional lines. The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education is charting the development of the colleges of advanced education, the generic name for an unwieldly and incohesive amalgam of former technical colleges, agricultural colleges, art schools, paramedical schools, conservatoriums of music, nursing colleges, a school of forestry and a school of horticulture. Standing in uneasy relation to both these systems of tertiary education are the teachers’ colleges which in some cases are closely linked to universities, in others to the colleges of advanced education.
In essence, the Government has moved by deliberate acts of policy to set up what the Minister has termed in a fashionable phrase a ‘binary system’ of tertiary education. This postulates two streams of tertiary education with the Commonwealth Department of Education acting in the rather uneasy role of co-ordinator. This structure is superimposed on a restive and turbulent federalist system which is extremely critical of what the Commonwealth is doing in education. The Minister for Education and Science has outlined in this House what he conceives as the respective roles of the components of this binary system. Rather more illuminatingly, he has elaborated these concepts at the conference on planning in higher education held last month in Armidale, New South Wales.
According to the Minister, young people requiring tertiary education have two sorts of minds - analytical minds and practical minds. The first type will be best catered for by an analytical, theoretical kind of education, backed by practical work, but with the major emphasis on analysis. According to the Minister, this sort of young mind would be suited by the universities. But not all minds are analytical, the Minister says. Other school leavers may not have the kind of mind which can comfortably and naturally adopt the analytical approach. This kind of mind would best be nurtured in another sort of institution with a strongly practical bias - that is, the colleges. By definition there are two kinds of mind, therefore two kinds of tertiary institution will be needed. By this sort of logical argument - the Minister obviously hails from the analytical school - the binary system conveniently emerges.
– Which are you? !
– When the honourable member makes such inane interjections I often wonder which system he came from. According to the Minister, school leavers would by some undefined process divide into two streams - the analytical and the practical. One stream would flow to and through the universities; the other would flow to and through the colleges. The end product would be a rigidly differentiated system of two tiered tertiary education remarkable for its simplicity and its perfection.
Rather remarkably, this lucid exposition of education and psychological theory was rejected by the conference on planning. It is worth noting that this conference included seven vice-chancellors and very senior administrators from other universities. It included the principals of colleges of advanced education and of teachers’ colleges. It included, also, the principal officers of the New South Wales Advanced Education Board, the Victorian Institute of Colleges, and the Tertiary Education Commission of Western Australia, State directors of teacher education and of technical education, senior academics, and representatives of State and Federal Departments of Education. There can be no doubt about the breadth of representation or the distinction of this conference. It included many of those who administer our great tertiary institutions and who implement Government policy. It was the first completely representative meeting of all concerned with higher education in Australia.
This distinguished and representative gathering completely rejected the educational theories of the Minister for Education and Science, and the Government’s concept of the relative roles of the universities and the colleges. In its recommendations the conference rejected the concept that human minds can be divided into analytical minds and practical1 minds. I quote from the recommendations with regard to the structure of tertiary education:
The system should not be constructed on the basis of two or three narrowly specified types of institutions since students do not fall into simply defined groups such as those with analytical minds and those with practical minds, or those with vocational and non-vocational interests.
This is a calculated and unequivocal rejection of the Minister’s wording, and by inference, of the Government’s concept of tertiary education. The Government and its Minister for Education and Science have been dismissed out of hand by Australia’s leading tertiary educators. Quite clearly, there are not two or three areas of need in tertiary education; there is a great diversity of needs and preferences - social, industrial and community needs and preferences, as well as individual needs and preferences. These cannot be served by a formalised and inflexible binary system on the guidelines the Minister has clearly laid down. The Minister sorts students into analytical and practical categories; he divided tertiary institutions into vocational and non-vocational. Much lip service has been paid to the concept of ‘parity of esteem’ for the colleges with the universities. But the plain inference from the Minister’s statement and its rejection by the planning conference is that the Government does not intend the colleges to provide education of the same quality, at the same level, or of the same value to the individual and to the community as the universities. The end result of this attitude can only be the downgrading of the colleges into a second choice, an avenue for the less able, as a source of education inferior to a university education. These are the long-term implications of the Minister’s policy, despite the increase in the allocation to the colleges for the next triennium.
The basic failure of the Federal Government in tertiary education is inability to plan for tertiary education as a whole. It is quite prepared to continue with an ad hoc system which has evolved for reasons of expediency. I do not criticise the valuable work of both the Universities Commission and the Wark Committee in their specialised areas. Both bodies are aware of the need for a closer relationship and for the relative roles of each to be precisely defined. But there is little either can do in isolation to give the existing system the transformation it so badly needs.
I refer again to the recommendation of the conference on planning in higher education. The conference called for a co-ordinated system of diverse institutions to be developed for higher education. This, of course, implies complete equality in diversity of the universities and the colleges. The recommendations of the conference go further in calling for the replacement of the Universities Commission and the Wark Committee by a single higher education commission to advise the Commonwealth Government and to consult with State Governments on the short and long-term needs of all institutions in the higher education system. This is a sane and sensible suggestion; if the Commonwealth is to effectively discharge its duties in higher education it must have a single body to assess and make recommendations.
The present division contains the seeds of future trouble; with two bodies competing for the allocation of resources, the gulf between the two systems must increase. There is the danger of two separate and isolated systems of tertiary education, each considering the needs of one set of tertiary institutions and making a separate set of recommendations. A system which perpetuates competition for scarce resources within a narrow and inflexible system should be scrapped and replaced by an integrated higher education commission. We need a single body to determine future needs in this area, not a compromise between two systems. Of course a higher education commission would need sub-committees to deal with particular kinds of institutions. But it is of paramount importance that the needs of all institutions should properly be considered as part of the whole.
I move on further to attempt to set higher education in the context of overall education policy within the framework of CommonwealthState relations. It is understandable that both the States and individual tertiary institutions are resentful of present Commonwealth policy. There are frequent complaints of the delay in providing capital items under the existing system. In particular, the States and universities find the processes of the Universities Commission extremely cumbersome. The Chancellor of Monash University, Dr Matheson, has estimated that university building operations are delayed from 9 months to a year by the Commonwealth domination. This is frustrating to both the universities and the State governments. In a wider context it indicates the serious defects of the whole education structure relative to the federalist structure.
The essential reason for the weaknesses and inadequacies of our education is the Commonwealth’s failure to plan education at a national level. This is needed because it is impossible to plan tertiary education in isolation; the federal structure with the States’ traditional responsibility for education prevents this. The federal structure we have inherited makes it vital that Commonwealth initiatives be balanced with State initiatives, and tertiary education be balanced with other levels of education. Proper planning for tertiary education is impossible without considering the interrelationships between education at this level and education at pre-school, primary and secondary levels.
As an example, how can teacher training be planned without considering the needs of primary schools and pre-schools? Further, how can courses be devised for tertiary education without consideration of the impact these will have on secondary school courses? For many years the Labor Party has recommended the establishment of a national inquiry to examine education at all levels so a comprehensive national plan can be devised and introduced. The conference on higher education has extended, and, I concede, improved this scheme by putting the national inquiry on a permanent basis. It has urged the formation of a standing national advisory committee on education to investigate and review regularly the needs of education at all levels, and to recommend plans for action. The Minister may deny the need for such a committee by referring to the survey of educational needs being made by the Commonwealth and the States at the instigation of the Australian Education Council.
As the Minister will recall, this is a matter that has been raised in this Parliament on a great many occasions. Indeed, since 1957 moves have been made by members on this side of the House on fourteen separate occasions for an inquiry to be made into aspects of education in this country, particularly at the primary, secondary and technical levels. The Minister for Education and Science has always denied the need for an inquiry of this kind. He has never been able to explain adequately to educationalists generally, to parents and citizens councils or to the members of the Opposition in this Parliament why he believes an inquiry of this kind could not produce the evidence that would be needed, the priorities that should be established, to improve the levels of education in this country. However, the surveys that will be made by the Australian Education Council will deal with the immediate need of seven educational authorities. The surveys will be made without the consideration of the global picture.
You do not plan a house by asking seven people to design a room each. By the same token you do not get an effective national plan for education by totting up seven isolated and inadequate surveys. Furthermore, these surveys will not cover tertiary education except for teacher training. The mere aggregation of these surveys is not a substitute for national planning by a permanent committee of competent and able educators backed by an adequate secretariat.
The extreme dissatisfaction of the States with the present structure was brought out in a devastating attack on Commonwealth education policy by Mr Davis Hughes, the New South Wales Minister for Works. Mr Davis Hughes, as the Minister knows, is a member of the Country Party in the State of New South Wales. No Minister in any State has expressed opinions so strongly as did the New South Wales Minister for Works. No Minister, as far as I am aware, has been more critical of the circumstances that exist between the Commonwealth and the States on the question of education generally. Mr Davis Hughes made a speech to the Conference on Higher Education Planning which represents the most destructive critique of Commonwealth education policy that I have read. According to Mr Davis Hughes the present approach to higher education is fragmentary and spasmodic. It is unco-ordinated with the whole educational programme because of ad hoc decisions which conform to no known or required pattern of development. Mr Davis Hughes went on to say:
In other words, there is no overall fundamental education philosophy which has been carefully defined, carefully evaluated as the guiding principle of policy decisions jointly required at State and Federal level.
He concluded that the existing structure of Commonwealth-State finances could be changed to remedy deficiencies in the education system, with the States retaining administrative control and the Commonwealth supplying the bulk of the finance.
I believe the policy of the Labor Party offers a more relevant and effective solution. We recommend that the Commonwealth should assume responsibility for coordinating and fully financing all tertiary education, including teacher training. This would be conditional on the States spending the funds released on pre-school, primary and secondary education. If Commonwealth grants were extended to all levels of education the present pattern of public finance could be seriously distorted. Undoubtedly such a move would strike resistance from the States but it is appropriate that universities which are national institutions should be planned for and financed at a national level.
Sir, I would like to summarise the points I have sought to make so far. There are grave dangers in the two stream approach to tertiary education adopted by the Government. The so-called binary approach should be scrapped and replaced by an integrated system allowing for a great variety of individual, occupational and community needs. The present two committee structure should be replaced by a higher education commission planning for all kinds of tertiary education, including teacher training. This should be set in the context of national planning for all levels of education by establishing a standing committee on education to engage in national planning and co-ordination of all levels of education. Finally, the Commonwealth should take over the financing of all tertiary education.
This is a proposition that has been put forward on behalf of the Australian Labor Party by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It has been put forward in a well reasoned case setting out quite clearly that the Commonwealth is now accepting a greater share of the financial responsibility for universities in every State. It is logical to argue that the full financial responsibility for tertiary education in Australia should become the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out on a number of occasions, this would release urgently needed funds in the States for expenditure at the primary, secondary, technical and pre-school levels. It would certainly reduce the strains on the federal system caused by the present system of CommonwealthState co-operation in financing tertiary education. It would also free resources for the States to make substantial improvements to pre-school, primary and secondary education, as I have already pointed out.
I would like to conclude by making some observations on the role and status of the colleges of advanced education. I have been extremely critical of the attitude adopted by the Minister for Education and Science in bis opening speech to the Armidale conference on planning higher education. I believe the Minister has much too narrow and short sighted a concept of the future of the colleges. Certainly the Bill before the House makes a very substantial increase in the grants for the colleges in the next triennium. This will provide a stimulus to the colleges which, at the moment, are in an extremely rudimentary state, except for Victoria where the excellent system of technical colleges in existence before the introduction of the advanced colleges system has facilitated development
It will be a very great tragedy if the system of colleges was envisaged as a second alternative to university education. Regrettably, this is the whole tenor of the Minister’s statement on the colleges. As I indicated earlier, I believe it most unwise to define a system whereby the universities are directed towards pure research and the colleges regarded as centres for vocational training. There is a magnificent chance for building a creative-
– Are you frightened to leave your text for a minute? Do you think there is something undignified about vocational training, about working with your hands? The whole tenor of what you are saying is that a university educated mind is superior to the vocational mind.
– Not at all. I have no intention, Mr Deputy Speaker, of debating this question across the table with the Minister for Education and Science. I am putting the case on behalf of the Opposition. The Minister will have the opportunity to reply to the debate. Under the traditional forms of this House he will have the opportunity to close the debate. If the Minister disagrees with the point of view I express one would expect him to take the opportunity to express his views at an appropriate occasion.
There is a magnificent chance for building a creative and experimental system of tertiary education equal in status to universities but different in emphasis and the range of courses provided. An indication of what could be done has been provided even at this early stage by the Canberra College of Advanced Education which has been able to offer tertiary education with a different flavour from that of the Australian National University.
In assuring an equivalent status to the colleges, the reports tabled by the Minister today are most significant. The Sweeney report has recommended that lecturers and senior lecturers in the colleges be paid similar rates to their fellows at the universities, where their experience and competence warrant it. This is a sound recommendation which should ensure that the colleges are equally attractive to skilled staff as the universities.
The Minister seemed a little halfhearted in his remarks on the Sweeney Committee’s recommendations. It seems that responsibility for implementing these recommendations is to be left to each State to determine in accordance with its own priorities. I think the Government should have provided a further lead here in assuring the status of lecturers and senior lecturers in the colleges. It is also regrettable that the Committee was not empowered to recommend on the salaries of administrative staff above the level of senior lecturer.
I was most impressed with the report of the Wiltshire Committee on Awards in the Colleges of Advanced Education. The report recommends a simple framework of four types of award to cover the great range of different courses undertaken by the colleges. In particular, it provides for masters and bachelors degrees for work at the appropriate standard.
The Minister’s comments on these recommendations were rather more positive. It seems that the framework recommended by the Wiltshire Committee would be comprehensive enough to satisfy the Commonwealth, the States and the colleges. I hope it will be possible to work out satisfactory machinery for ensuring the implementation of these recommendations. The introduction of both sets of recommendations would do much to assure mobility of staff and students between colleges and universities, lt should be the aim of Government policy to ensure that the colleges provide a real alternative to universities, but they must be a real alternative and not an inferior alternative.
Finally, 1 should like to make one or two comments concerning the very comprehensive statement that the Minister for Education and Science made in this House. At that time I said that I believed that the statement was a very valuable one. It was certainly most comprehensive and, if I remember correctly, I gave the Minister full credit for providing such a comprehensive report to the House. But that does not necessarily mean that the Opposition accepts without scrutiny all of the matters referred to by the Minister in his statement. We believe that certain improvements can be effected at the tertiary level. I have set out tonight to provide some constructive and positive ideas on what we believe .ought to be done. I hope that when the Minister has the opportunity to close the debate he wilt at least refer to some of the proposals that we believe can make a positive contribution to the future of tertiary education in Australia. I would expect the Minister to give serious consideration to these matters and to reply to them.
Mr BRIDGES-MAXWELL (Robertson) [10.121 - Tonight we are dealing with four Bills which are of considerable importance not only to the institutions that are directly affected by them - the universities and colleges of advanced education in Australia - but also to the people of Australia because these Bills deal with the financing of our universities and colleges of advanced education over the next triennium. This will be an important triennium in this period of our history - at a time of critical development in Australia when changes that are occurring in our economy will be reflected, of necessity, in our education system. I do not intend to traverse the very comprehensive and valuable statement made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the House on 21st August. I would, however, agree with some of the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) on that occasion - remarks that he understated tonight at the tail end of his speech. On 21st August he said:
The statement of the Minister for Education and Science on these reports was in many ways,
I believe, an admirable one.
He went on to say that the Minister rightly emphasised the inter-relation between the two systems of tertiary education and the need for harmony between them to ensure balanced development of tertiary education. Of course, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the two systems he meant universities on the one hand and colleges of advanced education on the other. I will deal with that portion of his speech more fully later. He concluded his remarks by saying:
I believe that the Minister has presented to this House a statement that will be appreciated not only by members on his own side of the House but also by members on this side of the House.
For all the apology that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made at the end of his speech tonight, there is little consistency in what he said on that occasion and the speech that he has just concluded, not only in relation to the statement as a whole but in relation to some of his remarks regarding the policy that he and his Party will put to the people of Australia in the elections that are to come.
Tonight he inferred on two or three occasions - and the Minister for Education and Science pulled him up on this - that a person who has to take a practical job or undergo practical training is in some way of less importance and lower in the social strata than someone who has had analytical training. I suppose that this follows the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) earlier this year when he accused one of the members on this side of the House of knowing nothing about universities because he had not attended a university. I suppose that the House has rarely heard a more snobbish remark, and one that I know had great effect upon his own supporters. There are honourable members who are about to retire, who sit behind the Leader of the Opposition and who have worked hard to try to get better opportunities for people in this country than possibly they had themselves. Before a member of the Opposition accuses me of knowing nothing about higher education I must confess that I never had the opportunity of going to a university. I did, at one stage, work at a university for some 5 years, not on the intelligence side but on the administrative side. This strange complex that the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have about analytical training and practical training seems to be some sort of a phobia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition took it even further tonight when he accused the Minister for Education and Science of trying to differentiate between these two types of training. I suppose that the only place where we can find, in recent speeches of the Minister, where these very words have been used is in the speech that he made to the annual meeting of convocation at the University of Melbourne on 28th March of this year. He was dealing with the very subject that we are discussing tonight and, in part, he said: 1 now come to what is clearly the most difficult part of this discussion, the actual differences between colleges of advanced education and universities. Let me say at the outset that neither institution fits neatly into a compartment.
Let me, as an aside at this stage, refer to the policy of the Australian Labor Party as enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tonight. He said that as a policy matter the Labor Party would create one body to control tertiary education in Australia. I refer to this now and will deal with it more fully in a little while, but this is the prime difference between the Government and the Opposition.
– Centralism again.
– Yes, centralism not only within the political context but in respect of matters of administrative decision in Australia. I will also deal with that, as I did the other night during the Budget debate. The Minister went on to say:
We are not going to be able to make a neat division of areas of activity and say that those matters are the responsibility of a university and those the responsibility of the colleges. In some areas their responsibilities will be overlapping, although they will need to try and avoid this as much as possible.
Later he said:
There are different kinds of tests that can be applied. I am not sure if any of them are absolute, if any of them work in their entirely. 1 suggest that all of them can only be used as rough guides.
This is the philosophy of the Minister. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to put words into the mouth of the Minister for Education and Science and say that that was his attitude. I give him the lie, because the Minister continued:
It is held by many that courses appropriate to universities are those which demand of students a good measure of analytical and imaginative capacity and that those appropriate to colleges of advanced education are the ones which are more practically orientated.
He did not say that this was his view; he said that this was an argument that was put up. He went on:
Opponents of this view hold that this is merely a distinction of words; that good students, whether in universities or advanced colleges, will have those qualities and that their studies should be directed to developing them. I don’t doubt that students with these qualities will be found an both institutions but 1 do doubt whether it is right to argue that both types of institutions should therefore provide courses aimed primarily at developing these particular qualities. That attitude does not take into , account the inclinations and preferences of students, and there is no doubt that if we can provide higher education of a more practical nature for students who want it, we shall be giving them an education that will equip them for vocations which are in demand and which, not unimportantly, are also well paid. There is clearly room for both kinds of institutions and it is certain that they are different in a meaningful and valuable way.
That is different from the policy of the Opposition. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said tonight indicates the desire of the Opposition for control by government irrespective of the needs and wishes of the individual. That statement made by the Minister in March this year clearly shows that his attitude as Minister for Education and Science, and that of this Government, is to encourage persons to develop their own capabilities within their own wishes, and that it is the individual who is of prime importance in this context. Later in the statement the Minister said:
If there is a difference I think it is a difference in inclination, a difference in the sort of thing that the student wants to do with his life after he has completed his education.
There is further proof of the attitude of the Minister. These matters are of considerable importance when discussing the legislation now before the House and the views of the Minister as set out in his philosophical statement relating to this legislation which was made on 21st August. On that occasion the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it was an admirable statement, a statement that both sides of this House would appreciate, and tonight he denied that he had said that. Tonight the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stressed the policy of the Labor Party - that one body should control higher education in Australia. This means that one body, a schools commission, would control the whole of the primary and secondary education in Australia. I dealt with this matter fairly fully the other night.
I now want to refer to the other centralist body to which the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) referred, lt was said that such a body might be necessary to control both the universities and the colleges of advanced education ultimately in 10, 15 or 20 years time when the colleges have grown up. We have been offered in this legislation a nice new structure in education, an attempt to meet the needs and aspirations of individuals in Australia at a time when our economy is changing, when the types of occupation are changing and when training methods also are changing. If one body were to control every advanced college of education and every university I know what would happen. Undoubtedly the universities would gain because they would be the more powerful. They would have the greater influence. They would get the greater share of the finance, unless of course there was a higher body which could direct this Labor Party body how to allocate funds. Let us keep them separate. Let us have development not only in the Minister’s own Department but in the committees that have been set up to allocate the finance.
In the field of higher education this Government in the 20 years that it has been in office has achieved some of the most remarkable development in the world. In 1949 there were between 25,000 and 30,000 students attending universities in Australia. This year there are over 100,000, an increase of 300%. Countries with far greater histories and greater traditions than ours have had lower percentage increases. The United States of America in that same period has had a 200% increase and the United Kingdom had an increase of only 150%. Also Australia has had remarkable growth in the physical numbers of universities. We have had this new structure of tertiary education. We have had the remarkable development in technical education that has come about as a result of unmatched grants by this Government to the States for the purpose of building up technical education. In the last decade in particular, and over the last 20 years in general, there has been growth in the higher fields of education to meet the needs of the individual, to allow him to improve himself to the utmost of his capabilities, if he wishes to do so. In respect of advanced colleges of education those students who may not have had success in their secondary education examinations but who may well develop later go on to advanced colleges, show their ability, and then, having matured at that level, go on to university and develop themselves to the fullest extent of their capabilities.
On the one hand we have proof of what has been done by this Government and on the other the suggestion that the system should be altered when it is running well, as was indicated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he spoke to the reports some 3 or 4 weeks ago in this House. There are one or two matters I want to mention in regard to the remarkable deve lopment in the last 20 years, and particularly the last 10 years through the work of the various Liberal governments that have held office. One must always give a great amount of credit to Sir Robert Menzies for what was done following the setting up of the Murray Committee and the Martin Committee. Let us look at the results of the work of those committees. Most of the recommendations of the Martin Committee, particularly those in terms of teacher training, as demonstrated in the very valuable White Paper on education produced by the Department of Education and Science recently, indicate the criteria in teacher training that have been established. Grants by this Government of $24m to the States over the triennium have resulted in the building of teacher training colleges. If we look back into history, and as the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) will know because he was in the New South Wales State Parliament, we find that in the last 5 years of Labor administration in New South Wales not one new teacher training college was started or expanded. Yet in the past 4 years of Liberal administration in that State 3 or 4 teacher training colleges have been started, improved or expanded. This is further proof, certainly in New South Wales, of the encouragement given by the Federal Government.
Let us have a look at the record of improvement in general education in the State of NSW. When the Federal Government came to office some $300m was being spent on education. For the last financial year approximately $500m was expended in the field of education and half of this came from the Commonwealth. That amount of $500m does not include direct grants and assistance given by the Commonwealth to the States and to the schools by way of provision for science blocks, libraries, technical training and, as I have mentioned, teacher training. In addition, legislation has been proposed in the Budget Speech to assist independent schools. This is a remarkable record for the Government. I look at my own electorate and see the magnificent schools that have been built in the last 3 or 4 years. There are three or four new high schools and there are some very good primary schools which play such an important part in education because unless a person receives training at the primary stage he will not be in a position to obtain the further education this legislation makes available. I commend this Bill to the House. I commend the Minister for what he has done. I commend also his predecessor who is now the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. This country will benefit very greatly by the legislation now before the House, not only in the immediate future but also in the long term because the full effect will be felt when the people who are going to be trained and who will benefit from the legislation have completed their training. I commend the Minister for the work he has done in connection with this Bill.
– I would like to refresh the memory of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) by pointing out that a teachers college was constructed in New South Wales during the last 5 years of a Labor government’s administration. In fact, it was the teachers college at Wollongong. I was personally responsible for that. The honourable member referred to university graduates. To pour a little balm on the tender susceptibilities of the honourable member, 1 would like to point out that every member of Parliament is a university graduate - he is a graduate from the university of life and the faculty of hard knocks. I propose to deliver a few hard knocks at the Government concerning the report of the Australian Universities Commission, which the Government has chosen to thrust upon the people of Australia by the sheer weight of its parliamentary numbers. In 1899, John Dewey said:
What the best and wisest parent wants for his children’s education must be what the community wants for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely. Acted upon it destroys our democracy.
That is precisely what will happen as a result of the limited allocation of funds to universities under this legislation. Only a Cabinet of which 75% come from the old boy network and were educated at independent schools could arrive at such a decision. The report of the Commission has caused consternation amongst the academic staffs of the various universities throughout Australia with one notable exception - the Australian National University - as well as amongst the State governments, the various student groups and, above all, parents and taxpayers. The best that can be said for the Commission’s report is that it spread scarcity unevenly. Notwithstanding the comments of the honourable member for Robertson, Australia is in the junior league amongst comparable countries in regard to the percentage of the gross national product spent on education. In particular, we lag behind the United States of America, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and East Germany.
In the 1960s under the leadership of Sir Leslie Martin we had a sight of the promised land in tertiary education but, if 1 may continue the metaphor, our academic Israelites will be wandering for many years in a wilderness of economic chaos. Future historians will characterise the 1970-72 triennium in Australia as the great retreat from reality. An era of expansion has ended. At a time when there is a world explosion of knowledge and world interest in education, when we have been told that the ordinary person may have to be ready for two distinct careers and two periods of education during his lifetime because of advancements in knowledge and technology, we have a careful pruning of the allocation of funds to the university system in Australia. The universities face a bleak and uncertain future. If Australia is ever to achieve anything in national development it will have to be done by multiplying our manpower by our brainpower. Sir Robert Menzies should be given credit for the fact that in the early 1960s he sensed that we had entered a new era; that the day of endowment of an academic institution had ended; and that it was increasingly becoming the responsibility of the State and Federal governments to ensure that the necessary financial assistance was provided for tertiary education.
What are the statutory functions of the Australian Universities Commission which, under its present leadership, is now degenerating into nothing more than a tame cat instrument of Government persuasion that is quite amenable to Government direction and pressure, in contra-distinction to the outspoken remarks of Sir Leslie Martin? The gains of the 1960s will be eroded in the 1970s. The single exception to the general worsening of allocations is the Australian National University, which will prosper whilst the activities of the State universities are being curbed. That university - good luck to it - will be an academic paradise amongst what will be tertiary slums. Canberra is, of course, the most education conscious city in Australia. The civil servants here will certainly look after their own. It is the function of all parliamentarians to ensure that similar treatment is given in other parts of Australia. Mr Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, at a recent conference of the Liberal Party of Australia in Sydney, made some very scathing remarks about matching grants and their effect in restricting the flexibility of a State’s allocation of funds. The present formula of a $1.85 State contribution to a $1 Federal contribution for recurrent costs, and the 50/50 contribution for capital costs suit the Federal Government beautifully because payouts on this basis mean that there will be a falling level in what the States can afford.
The plight of the States today is well known. Tertiary education should be the full responsibility of the Commonwealth. University fees should be abolished. The respective allocations on a per capita basis for the 1970-72 triennium are worth noting. The Australian National University will receive a per capita allocation of $5,481. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will rush in to point out that this is an institute of advanced research.
– I am glad that the honourable member mentioned that. He has saved me the need to comment.
– Yes. But when one subtracts an amount for that institute one finds that the differential is still outstanding.
– A Labor government established this research institute.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to speak later on in the debate. Therefore he should not intrude on my time. The allocation on a per capita basis for the Sydney University is $1,436; for the University of Melbourne it is $1,430; and for the New England University it is $1,662. The ANU has 4% of Australia’s students but it receives 12% of the total funds. I am particularly concerned about this. In respect of recurrent and capital expenditure for the coming triennium the ANU will receive S80m for 4,650 students but the University of NSW, to which in academic tutelage is the Wollongong University College, will receive less than three-quarters of that amount for nearly three and a half times as many students. In actual fact it will receive $63.2m for 15,650 students. The proposed grants under this legislation will have disastrous effects upon the Wollongong University College. It is without exception the worst financed university college in Australia. It is, of course, under the control of the University of New South Wales at Kensington. The Wollongong University College will in fact be the mendicant of the academic mendicants of Australia in the coming triennium. I have been closely associated with its development. As a State member of Parliament in 1950 I found a collection of galvanised huts and galvanised roofs catering for 50 students. When I left the State Parliament the Wollongong University College had at least substantial buildings and was on its way. But, of course, with the Baxter regime at the University of New South Wales, and by virtue of the legislation in force, we had what might be termed a tertiary empire with branch colleges. Those branch colleges in turn have been subjected to a good deal of autocratic control by the parent and dominant body.
The University College at Wollongong serves a region comprising the City of Greater Wollongong, the district of Shoalhaven, the Berrima district and part of the Campbelltown area. This region has a current population of 250,000 and by 1980 the population will be well over 350,000. In 1967 the University College at Wollongong had a total enrolment of full and part time students of 741. In 1968 the total enrolment was 954 and this year it is 1,052. It is predicted that by 1972 enrolments will reach 1,500. In terms of Australia’s population the City of Greater Wollongong represents little over 2% of the total. Accepting the present figures of Australia’s student enrolments, we should have nearly 2,500 students. On the question of the allocation of funds, we come to the weighting formula which is adopted by the Australian Universities Commission and which counts a full time student as one unit and a part time student as half a unit. This system operates very grievously to the detriment of the Wollongong University College, which draws its students in the main from an area of heavy industry, an industrial district, a district of shift workers and low wages and with a tremendous migrant population. To give a comparison of the situation - and it is a most interesting one - of the 1,052 Students attending the Wollongong University College this year 348 are full time students and 704 are part time students. This is precisely the reverse of the national average. The figures for the national average are 67,000 full time students and 33,000 part time students. This is broadly a ratio of 2 to 1 in favour of full time students. In the Wollongong University College the situation is precisely the opposite. The ratio at Wollongong is two part time students to every full time student.
In our sister city of Newcastle we have something near parity with 1,431 full time students and 1,353 part time students. The University College of Newcastle went through precisely the same cycle and the same ratios when it was under the control of the University of New South Wales. In the Wollongong University College we have a warden in charge. I repeat that the College is still under academic tutelage. Just as there was the greatest reluctance on the part of the University of New South Wales to sever ils link with the University College of Newcastle and grant that college autonomy, every conceivable obstacle has been placed in the way of autonomy for Wollongong. We will profit, of course, by the example and the precepts of our colleagues in Newcastle and we will win autonomy. Of course, with the heavy handed methods of control that are still the legacy of the Baxter era, academics who are prepared to speak out openly and advocate autonomy do so in many cases at the peril of their careers. On many occasions I have requested the Australian Universities Commission to investigate the case for autonomy. I have pointed out the relevant section of the legislation under which it can operate, lt has, of course, most circumspectly refused to do this.
To support my comment I propose to quote in extenso from a letter received by me on 7th September from the academic staff of the Wollongong University College. The letter states:
The University of New South Wales submission to the Australian Universities Commission for this college prepared as long ago as November 1967 without consultation with the staff here had asked for $J.6m for stage I of a science building and $650,000 for stage I of the library. We regarded these figures in themselves as the absolute minimum. Had we had statutory fiscal autonomy like the University College of Townsville we would have requested far more for ourselves because the most recent projections show by 1980 350,000 people will live within a bus ride of this college. The implication is clearly that we ought to be preparing for the university education now, no matter what other tertiary institutions are established locally. Even using the Martin Report figures conservatively, this area will be producing between 3,000 and 4,000 full time university students by that date.
I continue from the letter:
Now we find that we have been allocated $820,000 for the science building and the magnificent sum of $350,000 for stage 1 of the library. You simply cannot put up an adequate building these days with that kind of money. The allocation for the library is preposterous. This would just about build a glorified nissen hut. The University library in particular has to be an integrated concept with extensive initial printings and facilities. This allocation cannot provide these. Yet if we look at the AUC Report, and I have had the opportunity to go right through it, we find that Townsville which becomes the autonomous university of northern Queensland on January 1st next, though rt now serves a total regional population of 100,000, will get more than three times our capital works grants in 1970-72 after getting more than four times ours in 1966-69. This makes no sense at all. We feel that the Minister ought to be forced to state clearly and unequivocally the precise principles on which the AUC acted in making these miserable recommendations for this college. There is no hint of these principles in the report. Now that we have these preposterously low allocations which will allow virtually no new course developments at al), we have the situation where the Physics Department here has told me that even if we get the whole $1.6m for the science building its facilities would have been inadequate to meet demand by the time it was finished. What are they going to do now? They have already been making it in temporary accommodation since the place first took in students in March 1962 and the Physics staff have worked abominable hours all that time. I might add that I found that the delegates at the Federation of Australian Universities Staffs Association Conference found allocations to the Wollongong University College so low as to be inexplicable. Several of the men mentioned to me that the discrepancies between our allocations and those to other institutions are so fantastic that they are not susceptible to any rational interpretation. We have many very able and highly qualified staff here who would affirm their own career interests in staying on under existing conditions. Many of them are remaining largely to fight this blatant injustice. The pity of it is that we could create a really fine university here. We certainly have the university potential. I wonder am I wrong in detecting an element of snobbery as well as jobbery in the Government’s attitude towards us? Perhaps they believe that children from working class and migrant families, the heavy preponderance here, ought to get by with exceptionally limited facilities and opportunities for university education.
Let us have a look in more detail at just what is the position at the Wollongong University College. In the main centre of steel production in Australia there is yet to be a chair of metallurgy. There is yet to be a professor of metallurgy. Strangely, at the University of New South Wales at Kensington there have been four professors of metallurgy and three associate professors of metallurgy. The Wollongong University College has never had a professor of metallurgy and it has never had an associate professor of metallurgy. A senior lecturer has been running this department. Any student at the Wollongong University College who seeks a higher course must go to Kensington. The Wollongong University College library is inadequate for most honours degrees. The Warden of the College is also Professor of Engineering. Because of his administrative responsibilities it is impossible for him to devote full time to his duties as a professor. There is, of course, a full engineering course with a limitation of subjects. In respect of science, a full1 course at the College is limited to chemistry, geology, physics and mathematics. In social sciences and humanities there is virtually only a proscribed course - an extremely limited choice. There are professorial chairs only in history, English, economics and mathematics, and these are the functions of the Warden to which I have already referred. In chemistry there is only an associate professor. In electrical engineering there is only a senior lecturer. It is worth quoting the text of the resolution which was passed unanimously by the
Federation of Australian University Staffs Association which met recently in Canberra. It reads as follows:
That a delegation comprising representatives of the FAUSA Executive and the Wollongong University College Association of Academic Staff wait on the New South Wales Minister for Education and the Universities Board to seek the introduction of a Bill to establish an autonomous university at Wollongong by 1st January 1973 and to request the State Government’s assistance in transition to autonomous status.
We need autonomy, and we are entitled not only to the financial assistance of this Government, but also to its support for the College. I know that the Minister will do a Pontius Pilate act in respect of this matter, but nevertheless, I state the case and challenge him to do it if he is prepared to do so.
I speak with great feeling and with great fervour in respect of sons of English migrants who never had an opportunity to attend a grammar school1, much less to attend one of the so-called public schools of England. I speak for the sons and for the grandsons of Scottish crofters and Irish tenant farmers who had to mobilise the whole resources of the family to educate the bright one, to send him abroad, so that he could earn something with which to educate the rest of the family. One of my predecessors was a Welsh miner. He and his colleagues in the mines in those days had to scrape up pence to buy an encyclopaedia for their little local: institute. I speak also for the sons of migrants from Europe who were deprived themselves of secondary and tertiary education by the turmoil of World War II. These are the people for whom I speak, and these are the people who are getting a dirty, shabby and paltry deal.
– I have heard a lot of speeches in my 20 years in this House, but I have never heard a more extraordinary one than the one to which I have just listened. I know that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) is a very parochial member, and I know that he is interested in the Wollongong University College. But I did not expect him to spend almost the whole of the 30 minutes for which he is allowed to speak in dealing with the Wollongong University College when we are discussing the broad concept of education in the Commonwealth. But this is what he did. From what he said, I gather that this College which he represents and for which he is working so ardently has been very badly treated. Indeed, it has been so badly treated that it has moved the honourable member to be quite emotional about it. He is very distracted by the treatment which this terrible Government has given to the Wollongong University College. I see that the honourable member is leaving the House. I am wondering what the people of Wollongong will say when they read the speech which the honourable member made tonight and then have a look at the public statements which appeared in the local Illawarra Mercury’ of 22nd August, immediately after the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had delivered his speech to which reference has been made tonight. I show to the House the article in the Illawarra Mercury’. Under the heading ‘Bonus’ the article states:
The Federal Government yesterday brought the Wollongong University College closer to autonomy by allocating it $1,255,000 for the 1970-72 triennium.
The College will get $820,000 from Federal funds towards Stage One of a new science building, $350,000 towards the urgently needed library, and $85,000 for site works and services.
So it goes on. Although practically $1.5m is to be granted to this University College, the honourable member for Cunningham says that it has been badly treated.
– It is no wonder he did not want to listen.
– lt is no wonder he did not want to stay to listen to what I had to say. Let me go a little further because, after all, the honourable member for Cunningham is personally involved in this matter. There is another article in the same newspaper, the ‘Illawarra Mercury’, of 22nd August, under the heading ‘Finance for College Welcomed’. There is a photograph showing the handsome face of the honourable member for Cunningham, and the article continues:
The President of the Staff Association- and there is another photograph of Dr Healy who is, as I understand it, President of the Staff Association -
. Dr A. M. Healy last night hailed Federal grants for capital works at the College.
He said: ‘I can only hope that the State will match these to the full. In fact, it is a little more than we expected.’
This was said by Dr Healy, who is President of the University College. The article continued, quoting Mr Healy: “We did not expect the allocation for the residential college to go through.’
I do not want to spend all of my time on this matter, but a little later the article continued:
The financial allocation for capital works announced yesterday will bring the Wollongong University College several stages closer to autonomy, Mr Connor, MHR, said last night.
– Which Mr Connor was this?
– This is the same honourable member for Cunningham who tonight has told us that this is a dreadful thing. The article continued:
Mr Connor, the Federal Member for Cunningham, was speaking from Canberra.
He was speaking from here, he was so interested in the proposal. The article continued:
This decision is most gratifying and represents another step along the long road to a completely balanced institution of tertiary education,’ he said.
– He did not say that tonight.
– This is in contrast with what he said tonight. This is what I cannot understand, because he is a very intelligent member. What will his constituents say when they read the speech which he made tonight, having already read the statement that he made on 22nd August? I do not understand this. Really it is an extraordinary thing. It only illustrates the insincerity of the Opposition. Here, the honourable member for Cunningham, one of the leading front bench members on the Opposition side, castigates the Government for its education policy. For half an hour he dealt with Wollongong and its troubles. But we now learn that less than a month ago he eulogised the way in which money was being allocated to this very university that he has been crying over tonight. How can we take any notice of an Opposition that behaves in that way?
I will leave the honourable member for Cunningham, because I want to deal briefly with one or two matters. I do not want to speak for very long tonight. It is quite unnecessary for me to do so, because so much has been said about the Government’s magnificent education scheme that it is not really necessary for me to deal with it. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) spoke of the need for a higher education commission. His suggestion astounds me. The Opposition’s cure for the ills it sees in all fields of activity - education, hospitals, health and so on - is always to appoint a commission or to hold an inquiry. Its attitude is really extraordinary. Here on the subject of education the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that a higher education commission should be established. I do not for one moment believe that he really means what he says. He is merely trying to create an umbrella under which Labor can bide. It is true to say that the great advances that have been made in education - there is no need for me to give details of them - followed the election of the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government in 1949.
– You were one of them.
– That is right. I am one of the ‘forty-niners. The enormous advances in education started in 1949. The impetus flowed not only from the money that was allocated by this Government, and I could quote the figures extensively, but also from the inspiration to the States by this Government’s activities. That inspiration not only assisted the States to develop their systems of education but also provided an impetus to people throughout the length and breadth of Australia who wanted universities to be established. The Australian National University was established in this capital and Canberra has become our national seat of learning. This Government caused all that to happen. It is very doubtful whether the States would even have thought of doing some of the things that have been done had they not been inspired by this Government.
The Government is to be congratulated. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is doing a magnificent job. We must remember that until this year almost all of the assistance given by the Federal Government was devoted to universities and to higher education generally. The Government felt that this was needed when we stood on the threshold of the tremendous development of this nation. For this reason the Federal Government concentrated on higher education. It realised that in a competitive world this great and growing country would need leaders trained in science and in various technologies. It realised that we would need people trained in the professions and in commerce. I deplore the differentiation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition between the Colleges of Advanced Education and the uni.versties. There is no difference between them; they devote their attention to different subjects.
The Government has never had any desire to usurp State responsibilities in education. This is another reason why it concentrated on universities and has only entered the fields of primary and secondary education in this year. This has been a very fine example of federation at work. Not withstanding the assertions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, there is close liaison between the Commonwealth Minister and the State Ministers. The cooperation between them has increased each year. After all, the portfolio of education and science has been in existence for only a few years. However, I know that conferences and discussions take place constantly between the Commonwealth Minister and each of the State Ministers for Education. The need to bring the State governments and the Federal Government together in a co-ordinated fashion in this field is being explored. As I say, this is federation at its best. I know that much remains to be done. I could say a lot more about this, but 1 do not want to take up too much time because I know that other honourable members wish to speak.
One matter I do want to mention is the attitude of the young people to higher education. The Minister has supplied some figures on this aspect and they are very interesting. In 1958, 23% of the young people in the age group between 15 and 18 years went on to higher education. In 1968, the figure was 40%. More and more young people seek a higher education. This creates problems, of course. It places pressure on the States and in turn pressure is placed on the Commonwealth for more and more money. This has been supplied to the fullest possible extent and that is shown by the figures. I will not give the details, because I do not want to waste time. In 1963-64 total expenditure was $67,618,000 and this year it is $265,638,000. Expenditure this year is 38%> higher than expenditure last year. I mention this only to show what has been done. I fail to understand how the honourable member for Cunningham can complain about the Government’s actions in the field of education. I fail to understand how the policy of this Government can be criticised. It is doing everything it can to improve education in Australia. It is providing money to the limit of its financial capacity and it will go on doing so whilst it remains in office, as I am sure it will for many years to come.
Mr CONNOR (Cunningham)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. 1 have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). About 6.10 p.m. on the day the legislation was introduced, 1 was not present in the House. I was telephoned by a newspaper reporter from Wollongong and asked for comments on the allocations. My comments were on the basis that the amounts sought had been granted. The following morning when I checked the statistics and discovered the situation I telephoned the Secretary of the Australian Universities Commission for confirmation. I then immediately communicated with the President of the academic staff at Wollongong University College and told him of my concern. He took up the cudgels from there.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honourable member, but this is published in the newspaper.
– You might have paid me the compliment of asking me instead of rushing in bull headed.
– I want to take the opportunity to discuss some areas of inequality in tertiary education in Australia. The first is inequality in the treatment of the University of Queensland in respect of recurrent grants compared with other universities in the Commonwealth. I have had a table prepared from details that 1 supplied to the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. It shows that in the current triennium Queensland receives the lowest allocation of recurrent grants per enrolment of any university in the Commonwealth. The amount is well below the all universities average. The
Queensland allocation per enrolment is $1,167 for the current triennium - that is, calculated on the enrolment of effective full time students. The all universities average for the triennium is $1,514. The situation improves marginally in the next triennium - 1970-72 - but Queensland remains in the position of obtaining the lowest grant per enrolment of effective full time students at the level of $1,339. The all universities average grant per enrolment is $1,612. In each case the all universities recurrent grant per enrolment is some hundreds of dollars above the Queensland level. In each case - in the current triennium and in the next triennium - Queensland retains the position, which it is not happy about, of obtaining the lowest per enrolment recurrent grant for the triennium. I ask the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) why this is so. Why is the University of Queensland, which is not a small university, which is not a university that has a complete supply of facilities but which certainly feels many pressures, persistently placed in the position of receiving the least recurrent grant per effective full time student enrolment for each triennium? Clearly treatment of this kind places the university at a grave disadvantage. There are tremendous demands on universities to supply equipment, staff and the host of services that have to be provided from recurrent grants, yet the State of Queensland finds, as in so many areas, that it is receiving a shabby deal.
The latest annual report of the Australian Universities Commission discloses that the University of Queensland is one of the larger universities in Australia, with an enrolment exceeding 10,000 students. It is larger than the total enrolment of Monash and La Trobe Universities. It is larger than the total enrolment of New England, Newcastle and Macquarie Universities. It is larger than the total enrolment of the universities in South Australia and larger than the total enrolment of the university in Western Australia plus the one in Tasmania. It is, of course, larger than the Australian National University in Canberra. Yet it receives the least support per enrolment of any university in the Commonwealth. This is not something that has suddenly arisen. A document which the University of Queensland circulated a few years ago indicated during the last triennium that this had been a long standing feature of the treatment of the university by the Commonwealth Government. I sincerely hope that the Minister will take the opportunity tonight to explain to the House and to Queenslanders why it has been necessary for such a lengthy period to practice this discriminatory treatment against the University of Queensland. Why is the University of Queensland persistently held back while other universities are promoted? This is the obvious interpretation of the treatment that has been meted out. Indeed the shabby treatment of Queensland - and I repeat that it is shabby - is symbolised by the attitude of the Government towards the need for a new university at Mount Gravatt in Brisbane.
I have referred to the enrolments al other universities and have shown that the number of enrolments at the University of Queensland is greater than the combined number of enrolments at the University of New England, University of Newcastle and Macquarie University. I have demonstrated how the enrolment at the University of Queensland exceeds the combined enrolments of other universities throughout the Commonwealth. The inference clearly to be drawn is that there are pressures on the University of Queensland which affect its service to the State. It is obvious that another university is necessary in Brisbane.
Why is it that the Government in the las triennium, the current triennium and the next triennium has provided, is providing and will continue to provide a paltry sum of only §200,000 for each of those periods? rt has provided only $200,000 for development of the new university complex at Mount Gravatt, a sum scarcely sufficient to provide for the construction of the roads necessary to serve that complex. When is it to be developed? We do not know. In Queensland we have had vague suggestions and titillating implications that an announcement would soon be made and we could expect that it would be developed. But 1 am aware that the reluctant attitude of the Government to proceed on a substantial basis in support of the development of this university is leading to a great deal of despondency and pessimism amongst some faculty members in Queensland. They now feel that the possibility of development of a university at Mount Gravatt is hopeless and that it is much more likely that the old university site at the end of George Street, presently occupied by a College of Advanced Education, will be developed for Brisbane’s alternative university. But God knows when, because we cannot get any details from the Government, lt is altogether too busy looking after other States and neglecting Queensland, it is no wonder that when one goes through the annual report of the Australian Universities Commission one discovers that again Queensland is at a disadvantage. The staff/student ratio at the University of Queensland at 12.8 is much higher than the all universities average of 11.9, and only marginally below that of the worst affected university in this regard.
This is the sort of treatment which the University of Queensland is receiving, lt is to the disadvantage of the people of that State that this sort of inequality should be perpetuated by Government policy. Even worse, it is galling to the people of Queensland that it should be entrenched by such long term attitudes of the Government. What I have said is supported by the figures I have cited. They can be verified. It is up to the Minister tonight to indicate some means by which he intends to remedy this problem. That is one area of inequality to which 1 want to refer. The next area of inequality is that of opportunity, one which is class based. There is an inequality of opportunity for people from the lower socioeconomic sections of the community to participate at the tertiary level of education.
Because of this type of inequality it is clear that universities today are centres of class privilege. This was convincingly established a few years ago by Dr Radford in his report on Australian school leavers. He pointed out that 2 out of every 3 students from the more privileged groups can continue their education, but only 1 in 3 from poorer homes can gain a college education which is now a passport to responsible and better paid positions. He showed that less than 2% of sons and 1% of daughters of fathers whose work is classified as unskilled or semi-skilled enter a university, while 25% of sons and 18% of daughters of men in professional groups go on to higher education. In other words, it is virtually certain that a child of above average ability from a well to do home will eventually attend a university, but it is highly probable that a child of similar ability whose father is a manual worker will leave school before reaching university level.
There are a number of reasons for this situation. Certainly there is evidence that hereditary or genetic factors have some influence in determining the level of a person’s intelligence and therefore his capacity to succeed at higher levels of education. It is also clearly established that people from the lower socio-economic groups in the community are not disproportionately deficient in the genetic factor. Additionally, it is well established that environmental experiences can establish the level of one’s intellectual ability. If one is living in an adequately provided cultural environment one is more likely to succeed in life because of the experiences and the richer variety which is offered in this sort of environment than another person who is deprived of these sorts of experiences and benefits. Obviously, the person in the low income group is less likely to be able to afford to provide these sorts of advantages and experiences, whether it be by travel, by an adequate supply of good books of a wide range, or just by adequate conversation of a stimulating and informed nature in the family group or with visitors coming to the home who can discuss widely and in an informed way a variety of subjects.
There are a whole range of factors which can stimulate a person’s intellectual capacity and help his development and provide him with enrichment. But these sorts of things, generally speaking, are denied to children in the lower income group homes. I am not making this as a generalised statement. These are well-established factors. On the one hand there is the genetic factor that I mentioned. Take this as quality A in the total sum of intellectual ability and take environment as factor B. Then A plus B gives an intellectual standard which is C. If two people have a common level A, which is determined by the genetic factor, and if one comes from a higher income group home providing an enriched cultural environment, his level of acquired intelligence, B, will be much higher than that of a person who comes from a lower income home. So A plus B for him will give a greater C. A plus B for the person from the lower income group home will give a lower C. So we can readily appreciate how the advantages can favour the person from the higher income group home.
Some years ago Professor Schonell and others disclosed in a small survey in Queensland that in that State there was a 7 to 1 advantage for children from professional homes compared to those from manual homes in going on to higher education. He pointed out that under the then system of scholarship examination at about the seventh grade of primary school children from the lower income group homes were maintaining an even pace with children from the higher income group homes. There was no profound deviation by either group from the common line of performance. But from then on there were marked deviations. There were drop-outs because children from the lower income homes could not afford because of financial reasons to continue on to the higher levels of education and because they were missing out on these environmental factors which I have just discussed.
In these sorts of circumstances it means that there are some grave failings in our education system. Our investment in human capital is not being carried out as efficiently and as effectively as we should want it to be carried out. It means that we are not reaping full reward from some of the spending we are making in education. Surely in a discussion such as we have at the present time these are the sorts of factors we ought to be discussing. How can we overcome these clearly grave deficiencies which are widespread in the community? Dr Radford stated in his report that only 2% of the sons of unskilled and semi-skilled parents enter university but 25% of the sons of parents in professional groups go on to higher education. From memory the parents who are classified as unskilled or semi-skilled represent about 30% of the parents of the children who are school leavers, whereas those who are from the professional groups represent about only 2%. But at the university level there is a complete reversal in the representation. This is a gross distortion of the pattern of opportunity and the pattern of equality in the Australian community. It is something which has never been discussed by the Federal Minister for Education and Science.
Obviously there is an obligation on this national Parliament, to give every child an equal opportunity to succeed according to his abilities and according to his inclinations. There are so many things that we can do. We can improve libraries in the suburbs and improve libraries not only in secondary schools but also in primary schools. Too often we start at the head of the body and not at the base. We should be providing better pre-school facilities in lower income areas. Speaking from memory, there are more than 500,000 children in Australia at an age eligible to attend pre-school centres. But fewer than 50,000 of these children are attending acknowledged pre-school centres or centres that are of an acceptable standard.
Here we have some more evidence of how the disadvantage starts at a very early stage of life. It has been established that those children who are able to participate in pre-school training at a properly established and recognised centre will have a better opportunity to fit into school education and to handle all sorts of things which come before them as students. The development of their personality is more successful; they assimilate more quickly into groups at school. But because of the way in which we structure and support our pre-school centres we discover that the best pre-school centres are established in the wealthier income group areas. One is more likely to discover in a low income area such as the area that I represent that there are no, or very few, pre-school centres of an acceptable standard. Even where pre-school centres are established in low income areas they are far too expensive for those living in. those areas.
There are very many things that we can do for these children. But what is called for is a radical restructuring of the educational curricula. These are the sorts of things that we must accept and must do if we want to overcome this inequality which, I suggest to honourable members, is intolerable in our Australian society which has prided itself for so long on a rugged, almost aggressive, claim to equality. Or might it be that the Australian democrat is more interested in the inequality of racehorses than in the equality of man? Of course, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) would say ‘Amen’ to that, especially in view of his recent experiences in Bougainville.
If the Minister for Education and Science is unable to accept my suggestion about this inequality, I draw his attention to the reply that he gave to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 13th August of this year on the subject of secondary scholarships. There is obvious evidence here of areas of disadvantage.
If one looks at the granting of secondary scholarships in 1969 one discovers that 69.9% of students attending metropolitan schools obtain these scholarships but that in country areas only 30.1% of students obtain them. These are the Minister’s own figures. Here is evidence that there is twice the opportunity of obtaining a secondary scholarship in a metropolitan area as there is in a country area. Yet the children sit for the same sorts of tests. Why is this the situation? There seems to be some need for research work to establish why such a sharp disparity should exist between the success of country children and the outstanding success of city children in obtaining these scholarships.
One discovers that in the third last year of each course at secondary school the percentage of students at various types of schools obtaining scholarships in 1969 was as follows: 4.7% at government schools; 7% at Catholic schools; and, even more surprisingly, 14.3% at other nongovernment schools. So, some grave deficiency must exist in the government school area if children at government schools have less than one-third of the chance of obtaining these scholarships as do children attending non-government schools.
The proposals of the Government to provide per capita aid to non-government schools, not on the basis of need or priority, can serve only to aggravate this sort of disadvantage which is discriminating against children going to government schools. I will refer to one case alone involving two schools, Geelong Grammar and Kings College. Between them those two schools will pre-empt over $100,-000 of this sort of aid at a time when there are clear cases of grave need in State schools. If the money is to be restricted to non-State schools they ought to be getting the priority allocation of the total amount of funds available foi this particular project. In any case, the evidence I have quoted tonight shows that on the basis of Commonwealth secondary scholarships, government schools are at a relative and grave disadvantage. It is quite wrong for the Government to provide aid for non-government schools but to neglect this particular area.
I suggest that the Government, with the aim of assisting low income earners more easily to support their children at universities, could well consider eliminating university fees. The total cost would be only $18m, based on 1966 figures which are the latest I could obtain. A few years ago we spent more than $40m to build an artificial lake outside this Parliament so that the placid waters would placate the tense members of the Federal Parliament. If we could spend $40m in order to build an artificial lake outside this place and yet refuse to provide SI 8m in order to eliminate university fees, then there is something gravely wrong with our sense of priorities in this community, particularly when, as I have pointed out, the people in the lower income groups are at a grave disadvantage in providing their children with adequate opportunities to participate at the tertiary level of education.
There is a grave disadvantage in relation to open scholarships to universities. The number of scholarships granted in 1952 represented 51.1% of the applications lodged. In 1968 the figures had slipped to 18.3%. There is a matter of social economic justice involved in this regard; a matter of clear morality. On the basis of the figures I have quoted, low income earners do not have the opportunity to send their children to universities at anywhere near the proportions which their numbers in the community justify. Yet one discovers that nearly 30% of income tax revenue comes from people who earn less than $3,000 a year and that nearly 50% of income tax revenue comes from people who earn less than $4,000 a year. But 30% of the children at universities do not come from families which earn less than $3,000 a year; nor do 50% of those children come from families which earn less than $4,000 a year. Clearly the Government faces a greater responsibility than it has so far been prepared to shoulder.
There is a need for much greater diversity in our primary and secondary schooling structure. Also, of course, there is need for a completely free and comprehensive nationally provided system of pre-school education so that the children from these families about which I am so concerned will receive justice. They represent a glaring example of inequality in a society which regards itself as being the epitome of egalitarian values. These things at least should be minimised or greatly diminished in any event.
The final area of inequality 1 want to speak about is that covered by the colleges of advanced education. Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) I share some concern that there may be a widening gulf between the standards provided by those colleges and the universities; that in fact these colleges may become second rate universities in Australia. I am also concerned, on the other hand, that the prestigious aspirations of some of the people involved in these colleges of advanced education may lead them to want to create these colleges as imitation universities and duplicate the sort of training methods and standards being provided by universities. This would be a rather grave undermining of the original concepts behind these colleges. I remember when they were first discussed in this Parliament I expressed some concern about them at that time. I still believe that the aim of the Government in creating them was not to give an opportunity to people who, for a number of reasons - there could be many and varied reasons - could not or did not want to go on to university; nor was it to provide some additional avenue for people who could not do these things nevertheless to obtain a tertiary qualification. Rather was it the aim of the Government to try to evade its responsibility for fully funding the needed development of the universities of Australia. In any event, 1 believe that the development of colleges of advanced education has been fairly valuable. There is much to be contributed to the Australian community by the development of these colleges as colleges which will give qualifications to people who. for a number of reasons, either by personal choice or for reasons beyond their control, do not or will not go on to university. We need backing up men in industry, the second row people who will be much more numerous than university qualified people in engineering works, construction projects and a whole range of undertakings. We need these people to be qualified at a high level. However we do not want the colleges to be developed, as some people clearly want to develop them, in competition with universities because if that happened we would not need colleges of advanced education. Why not continue to develop the university system? It seems pointless. My concern was sparked in the first instance by the following statement which appeared in the report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advance Education:
England has from lime to time attempted to change the balance between the academic and the technological institutions, but is said to have been defeated mainly by the staffs of the technological institutions who, coveting the prestige and privileges of the staffs of the universities, have so changed their institutions that some have been accepted as universities - though these have returned a technological emphasis in varying degrees.
Mr I. W. Wark of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education had somewhat similar views because in 1967 he stated:
I would like to feel that Australia will benefit from Great Britain’s mistake, conceded now on many sides, of having converted first-class institutes of technology into universities. Fortunately, some of them seem determined to remain true to their former selves, but already others are said to be striving to emulate older universities. 1 know that some Austraiian institutions have had the ambition to be recognised as universities, but to me it seems obvious that were this achieved, they could hardly expect to be ranked with the major universities of this country, at least for a very long time to come. 1 wholeheartedly endorse the views that Mr Wark has put forward. If these people who are responsible for the current campaign in Australia to elevate these colleges in competition with universities are allowed to pursue their present objective of establishing these colleges in competition with and as a duplication of universities, they will destroy completely the original concepts upon which they were based. It is proposed by some that the colleges and universities will not be equal but different. God knows what that means. I fail to understand how one can argue equal but different in terms of the original concepts upon which these colleges were based. Even worse, the people concerned will destroy for a lot of people the opportunity to obtain a higher standard of education, such opportunity not having been available to them before the establishment of the colleges.
Overall, surely what worries us most of all is the spasmodic, almost unrelated way in which education has proceeded in this country. Let me cite what the Government has done. Grants have been provided for science laboratories for schools, for technical training for secondary level work, for secondary and tertiary scholarships, for libraries for colleges of advanced education, for libraries for secondary schools, for preschool teachers colleges and so on. 1 ask Government supporters, who say hear, hear: Where the hell is the relationship? Where is the balance? Where is the dovetailing? Where did the Government ever establish priority of needs in education in this country? It has always supported education at the head. It started with the Murray commission on university education, it fiddled for a while with the Martin committee, it established a committee on educational television whose report is buried. There has never been an interrelated report on education needs in Australia; an indication of the long term position; how to relate the economic social and cultural needs of the Australian community. All these are essential in terms of Australia’s education programme. The Government has never worked out the kind of country we want, the educational resources we need to develop it, and the facilities we require to produce those resources.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-! do not share the same dismal and dull view of the Australian educational scene as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and other members of the Opposition who have undoubtedly assumed this stance on the eve of an election for reasons well known to most of us here and certainly well know to members of the Opposition. We must come to expect constructive criticism. It is helpful, but when criticism is of a destructive nature it is only time wasting and does not meet the general needs of the situation. I wish to devote my attention to the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill because I believe that the establishment of this new concept in tertiary education in Australia fills a vacuum that has existed for far too long in the broad spectrum of tertiary education. Until this concept of tertiary education was introduced we had the universities at one end of the scene and apprenticeship training at the other. But today the new colleges have transformed the situation. Tremendous progress has been made since the concept of advanced education was outlined by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and our present distinguished Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
– Not too distinguished.
– Indeed very distinguished. This concept of advanced education came into being only 4 years ago. 1 want to pay a tribute to those two distinguished gentlemen for ushering in this new era in tertiary education. Since the establishment of the colleges of advanced education, with additional Commonwealth assistance, we have seen the increased rate of growth of the colleges and the fostering of plans for future colleges. Commonwealth assistance has not only promoted the development of the existing colleges - today there are fortythree of them throughout the Commonwealth - but it has encouraged greater support from the States in accepting the need for this type of education. 1 believe it has captured the interest of the general public. lt is certainly giving new opportunities to young people in this rapidly developing technological age. There is a greater demand for technical education of an applied nature. This is exampled by the fact that in 1957 22% of our 15 to 18 year old pupils were at high schools and now we find that 40% of this age group are still enrolled, while bachelor degree enrolments at universities have risen from 7% in the 17 and 18 year old group to 11% in the same period. I have no doubt that this trend will increase and that a greater percentage of our students will continue to complete their secondary education programmes and will seek to enter such tertiary institutions. More students will need to be accommodated by the provision of new universities, two-year colleges or advanced education colleges. I believe that this latter development seems to be a logical pattern that will continue to increase its importance as providing the necessary facility for this type of tertiary education.
The purposes of these colleges are to train students so that immediately after graduation they will play an effective role in industry, commerce, the Public Service or in the arts. The universities offer vocational training but perhaps throw more emphasis on the discovery and expansion of knowledge. This new concept will throw the necessary emphasis on the application of knowledge. Because of the emphasis on practical application it is expected that the teaching staff of the colleges will be involved in commerce, industry and community services. They will attract and provide with employment students who for various reasons have chosen a vocation and will seek employment immediately after graduation. I believe that this will enable our young people to make a far richer contribution to the changing needs of our society.
I was pleased to see in the Bill a provision that in the triennium the Commonwealth’s recurrent grants to the colleges in the States will be $43. 2m, an increase of 118%. In the new triennium there will be capital development amounting to $57.4m and the total combined State and Commonwealth expenditure being applied to this important area of tertiary education will be of the order of $235m. A new feature in the programme as announced by the Minister is that teacher education has been recognised as a proper function of colleges of advanced education. Provision is made in (he schedules for schools of education to be developed in association with the colleges of advanced education at Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Wagga. Bathurst and Hobart. I welcome the provisions for the redevelopment: of the colleges in the country centres of Wagga, Bathurst and Orange. I welcome also the intention to provide additional residential colleges and the extension of residential facilities at the existing residential colleges. This is most important because so often we find that our young people have to leave their homes to seek this form of education. Unless there is sufficient facility for accommodation the general need of the young people is not being met. I cannot over-state the importance of this new concept which was introduced by this Government 4 years ago. It is complementary to the universities and the kind of training necessary to develop to the full the resources of our talented young people.
I wish to commend the excellent work of the Australian Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. These bodies have worked closely with the relevant authorities in the States to achieve the wisest possible expenditure of our resources on tertiary education. It is quite foolish to suggest that our resources are being wasted and squandered on education when we have such competent bodies carrying out the surveys and making their recommendation to this Government which are by and large adopted. Among the recommendations I particularly welcome one by the Australian Universities Commission that a fourth school of veterinary science should be established at the very famous University of New England. I note that the Commonwealth has accepted the recommendation in principle but no decision on location has yet been made. I would urge that the Minister give special consideration to the only rural university in New South Wales, the University of New England, because I believe there is no better site for such a school of veterinary science.
There is an urgent need for further colleges of advanced education in country locations in New South Wales. In this regard I should like to pay a tribute to the New South Wales Government for its recent decisions to locate such colleges at Bathurst and Orange. People in country towns should not be disadvantaged by having to send their children to cities in remote places to provide them with the tertiary education that is necessary for the full development of their talents. This is one way of helping to stop the drift of young people from country towns to the metropolitan centres. Once we lose our young people to some of these larger cities they find employment there. They are then lost to the country towns forever and to our rural communities forever. It is not only necessary to provide these education facilities for the people living in our country towns but it is very necessary to provide such facilities for our young people who are intending to follow farming careers. So far, on the average country children have tended to leave school at a much earlier age than their city counterparts. Therefore they are less likely to obtain Commonwealth scholarships to enter university or to enter any forms of tertiary institution.
I want to repeat what 1 have said before about higher standards of farm management because I believe this is very important. The higher standards of management that will be required on the farms to make use of the new techniques and the new scientific approaches to agriculture will need a better educated farming community in the future. I believe this will be necessary to cope with the need to improve efficiency and productivity. The inadequate education and tertiary facilities available to our young people in many of our country areas in comparison to the city areas is an important and significant disadvantage suffered by the rural community. This disadvantage must be overcome as quickly as possible. In this age extra skills and intelligent application of modern techniques are necessary in any business, whether it be farming, commerce or in the industrial field. The lack of such facilities must be regarded as a major handicap, and I am certain that if it is allowed to continue in the farming sector it will make a serious contribution to the economic difficulties in the primary industries.
I warmly acknowledge the increasing contribution that the Commonwealth is making to education. The increase in this year’s Budget is 38%. A total amount of over $265m will be appropriated this year for education. I believe that this is a good investment. I do not think there is any better investment that a nation could make than in the talents of its young people. While there is a growing need within the primary and secondary sectors of our State school systems this assistance that will be forthcoming to the States for other levels of education will, to some extent, ease the burden and pressure that exist on State resources to meet the great needs of education. Although a good case can be made for immediate Commonwealth assistance to meet the needs of these important levels of education it is my view that the Commonwealth is wise to await the report of the Australian Education Council. 1 cannot accept the policy as outlined by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) that the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility for the coordination of the general activities of education. The policy decisions and the administration of education must remain, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, the responsibility of the States. It would be a shocking state of affairs if the Commonwealth took over the control of these levels of education within the States. The correct approach is the one the States themselves accept. They have set up the Australian Education Council with the education ministers as participating heads of that body. A survey has been conducted State by State to discover the real needs of education within the States. In due course a report of this survey will be made to the Commonwealth Government. I firmly believe the Commonwealth Government will come to the aid of the States so that the areas of need will be reached. I commend the Bills and I congratulate the Minister on the excellent contribution that he has made to education in Australia since assuming the portfolio of Education and Science.
– 1 have listened with interest to the speech made by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) which could very easily have been made by a member on this side of the chamber. I refer particularly to those aspects which related to disadvantages faced by students attending country schools. I can only say at this stage that if the honourable member for Gwydir cares to join us on this side of the House when at some convenient time we move a censure motion against the Government we will be very glad to have bis support. I should like to deal with some aspects of the Government’s record in education as it relates to colleges of advanced education. I refer to what is happening to them.
Colleges of advanced education were established 4 or 5 years ago amid great optimism and enthusiasm for the future among principals, teachers and students of colleges. Unfortunately the future does not look good. I think anybody who has a fair attitude to what is happening to colleges of advanced education will agree with what I say, because already it is quite clear that the finances that the Commonwealth and States together are providing for these colleges simply will not be adequate to cater for their needs. For the benefit of honourable members I propose to cite some figures to show that over the next 3 years there will be great problems. There will be increases in the population and more people demanding places in colleges of advanced education.
The Victoria Institute of Colleges with which are affiliated twenty colleges suggested to the Commonwealth and State governments that what the colleges would require in the next 3 years to cater for a substantial increase, a possible minimum of which would be 50% , was $58m for capital expenditure and $74m for recurrent expenditure. The amounts that they have received for the triennium have represented quite savage cuts. It is quite clear that the colleges simply will not be able to develop without restrictions on their progress and without quotas on their intake. They have received $30m for capital expenditure, which is a savage cut of 50%, and $5 2m instead of the $74m which was submitted to the Commonwealth and State governments as being required for recurrent expenditure, including running costs and salaries of teachers. That, again, is a savage cut of one-third. The prospect of quotas for the colleges is gloomy.
We are not being Jeremiahs or prophets of doom when we on this side of the chamber say that there is a prospect of quotas and that in this country we will continue to ration education, thus ensuring that the inequality of education that we so often criticise from this side of the House will continue. It is clear already that three States outside Victoria have quotas. The Victoria Institute of Colleges is faced with a problem. What is it going to do? It has not the money to deal with the increase in population that is expected - an increase, I repeat, of 50% and possibly even more. What will it do? It can do a variety of things, but it is quite clear that it will have to maintain standards in these new colleges and, to do that, it will have to ensure that classes do not become too large. It will have to ensure that the number of hours that teachers spend in the classrooms is in keeping with the needs of the staff. Already the Victoria Institute of Colleges has announced, in the words of Dr Phillip Law, that it will be necessary for some metropolitan colleges to introduce intake quotas next year. That is a gloomy prospect, but it is a fact and it is happening in Victoria.
When the sort of hacks that would have to be made in the estimates of these colleges of advanced education became apparent last year and early this year the principals and the councils of the colleges became very pessimistic. This was after a few years of considerable optimism. An example of what would happen was given late last year by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The Institute stated that it would be necessary to cut courses. At a period in our history when we need increasingly large numbers of scientists and technologists we find this sort of thing happening. The Institute stated that thirty-five courses would be cut out, which is a terrific number. These things are happening in our education programme at a time when there is a maximum need for education. The Government is not catering for the needs of this time.
At the heart of the problem is the old issue of Commonwealth-State financial relationships. In my State of Victoria over the whole dismal picture of finance for these colleges hangs the shadow of the Victorian Treasury. Every State Treasury must take into account when attempting to work out what it can do the tremendous cost that it will have to face. It is all very well for the Commonwealth to say that the States should be spending more on education, but in the vital matter of recurrent expenditure, on the salaries of teachers and running costs, the Commonwealth expects each and every State government to spend $1.85 for every $1 it spends. This means that almost twothirds of the burden of the increasing costs of these colleges has to be borne by the State governments. Of course, the State governments object. They are not prepared to tolerate the increasing costs that are being foisted on them today by the Commonwealth.
I should imagine that the cuts, the application of quotas and the slashing of estimates take place long before the final estimates are in the hands of the Commonwealth. Once an estimate is made by the head of a college or university he has to be very careful. His first thought is whether the college or university can afford the estimate. He would then submit the estimate to his principal or his bursar, who would also inquire as to whether the college or university could afford the estimate. The matter would then be sumitted to a central body. In the case of the colleges of advanced education in Victoria it would be submitted to the Victorian Institute of Technology, which would itself decide that a moderate approach should be adopted. The result is that cuts take place all along the line before the matter is submitted to the Commonwealth. The Victorian Government, as a body which would pay a proportion of the finance, would also say: ‘We cannot afford it’. At the end of this long line of these statements of ‘We cannot afford it’ and ‘It is costing too much’, is the Commonwealth Government. It immediately replies: “You cannot blame us if these colleges do not have the money to cater for their future needs because we will match everything you put up’. That may be a fair comment, but the $1.85 that the States have to contribute in the very vital sphere of recurrent costs is far greater than the Commonwealth’s contribution of $1.
Finance is at the heart of the problems of colleges of advanced education. It has been said frequently that the Commonwealth should be prepared to negotiate with the State governments in order to change the old fashioned ratio, which does not take into account the financial difficulties of the States. I refer to such an august and eminent body as the Commonwealth Advisory Council on Advanced Education, which has in a previous report suggested to the Commonwealth Government that, as the Commonwealth Government has the money, it should change the present ratio of $1.85 for every $1 to a basis of $1 for $1. It is stated that in this way the colleges will receive a fairer deal. But the Commonwealth Government is not agreeable. Therefore, the colleges will have to continue facing these threats to their future while this inadequate and old fashioned relationship of grants which are more relevant to universities today continues.
I would like to refer specifically to some of the problems facing the colleges of advanced education. These are new institutions. Some of them really developed out of technical colleges. Obviously in any field of education - primary, secondary or tertiary - a vital facility is the library. As they are new institutions, many of them have libraries but the libraries are inadequate. The facilities of the libraries have not been adequate. A perusal of the report of the CACAE on this subject indicates a clear recognition that over the last few years the facilities of libraries have not been adequate. It is also clear that the facilities of many libraries will remain inadequate.
In my electorate of Bendigo we have the Bendigo Institute of Technology. The main drawback to its development is the fact that it does not have a library. As 1 said before, the library is the nerve centre. It is the vital part of a college of advanced education; it is the vital part of a university. The plans for a library at that Institute have had to be foregone. A totally unsatisfactory position exists. An old fashioned library, relevant more to the days of technical colleges, is operating a branch at the new section of the Institute, which has been established on a new site. The problems there are the inadequate facilities and, of course, overcrowding.
I would like to make a recommendation. I do not want to criticise all the time. I think a constructive recommendation that could be made and that possibly could be listened to is to reduce the ratio of 3 part-time students to 1 full-time student, which is rather old fashioned, to a ratio of 2 parttime students to 1 full-time student. Even for purely administrative purposes and for the purpose of facilitating the employment of teachers a more realistic ratio would be the 2 to 1 ratio. The ratio of 3 to I is out of date when one considers the libraries. Regardless of whether or not students are part-time students or full-time students, their reading needs have to be served. They are still bodies. They still require books. The Government could give close consideration to that matter.
I would like to make one further constructive suggestion about the very important matter of libraries. Libraries are being built in new institutions - young institutions.
At this stage of their development they need a good deal of boosting. I suggest that perhaps 10% of the recurrent expenses of colleges should be channelled into developing libraries, their facilities and equipment, including books and periodicals. A very good section of the CACAE report on libraries reveals some worthwhile suggestions, it is clear that the present facilities that libraries have will not be adequate. This section of the report suggests that newly developing universities such as Pupua and New Guinea, Flinders in South Australia and La Trobe in Victoria place great emphasis upon developing extensive book slocks. There they spend between 14% and 16% of their recurrent expenditure on developing book stocks and their other library facilities. This is what should bc taking place in the colleges of advanced education generally. The report contains very pertinent criticism that at present only 7% of the recurrent expenditure of the colleges is being channelled into libraries. So, there is a good deal of difference. Only about half or less of what should be spent is being spent on the college libraries, i ask the Government to bear in mind this worthwhile consideration.
Another problem that the colleges will have to face is that many of them will have to bear a greater burden than was expected when they brought out their estimates for the coming 3 years. I refer again to library facilities. I am concerned particularly about libraries because they are the vital centres of the colleges. Because of the quotas imposed by universities and by some colleges of advanced education, greater numbers than were originally expected will be requiring places in those colleges not imposing quotas. This will impose a greater demand on library facilities in those colleges. One other very vital factor which should be mentioned is the position of colleges in country areas, with particular reference to their libraries. If a student is lucky enough to attend a college in the metropolitan area, and if the college library does not provide adequate reading facilities, he can go elsewhere. Universities are close by. There is a very good central library in Melbourne. Also there are all sorts of libraries in Melbourne including, to some degree, libraries run by industrial firms. So, all in all a student has a great variety of libraries to choose from. Students living in metropolitan areas are not restricted to one single library. However, we should remember that pretty detailed and technical sort of work is undertaken at the colleges of advanced education and that this work requires reading. When we go back to the country college we find that the college library is the major and possibly the only source of the sort of technical information that a student will need. If country colleges are not given special favouritism by the Government - I mean this - and positive discrimination is not made in favour of country colleges, country students at these colleges will be at a grave disadvantage. This is why I ask the Commonwealth - and I put it to the Minister for Education and Science right now - to give special consideration to the Bendigo Institute of Technology. I ask the Minister to see what he can do to ensure that the plans for the Institute’s library go through. I ask the Minister to look at this matter because the library is so vital to the college.
I would like to deal with one other matter in relation to libraries. This is in reference to the very constructive suggestion put forward in the CACAE report that libraries should be working in close relationship with local industry and local business. If this were done a college library, for instance, could provide reference material for nearby industry on a problem concerning refrigeration. I believe that this is quite a good suggestion. Also, I believe that most colleges will appreciate the suggestion. However, such a proposal will mean a good deal of extra work and a good deal of extra expenditure. This is a factor that should be taken into account.
The final suggestion I would like to make in reference to libraries of colleges of advanced education is that when the Commonwealth this time makes its unmatched grants to the colleges it leaves the decision on how that money is to be spent to the college administration itself. I believe that when the last unmatched grants were made available the Commonwealth stressed that this money should be spent primarily, if not solely, on books. I see a problem here. Supposing a college were advised to buy 50,000 books. I believe that a problem will arise because additional staff and facilities for servicing those books will be required. I think that when the Commonwealth makes its unmatched grant this year it should leave the decision on how the money is to be spent to the college administration itself.
Finally, I would like to make the point that although the Commonwealth has recently promised to increase the number of scholarships available to students at colleges of advanced education from 1,500 to 2,500 - and this will be a well appreciated increase - this increase will still not be sufficient. Just as the number of scholarships to universities are not sufficient, the number of scholarships to advanced colleges of education will not be sufficient. I believe that about 11.1% of students at the colleges will receive scholarships. This is still not enough because so many of the children who go to the colleges need a great deal of financial assistance. It is a very costly affair to keep young people going in tertiary level education.
So far I have been talking about colleges of advanced education. I believe that I have put forward some worthwhile suggestions, particularly in regard to libraries. On the subject of universities, again we see not only the prospect of rationing of educational opportunities but indeed the reality of this practice. This reality has been with us for years. In fact, rationing is so much of a reality that no-one even bothers to think about it. It is a normal state of affairs that rationing should exist in universities. But why should people be turned away from universities simply because the Commonwealth is still working under an unsatisfactory relationship in regard to grants to the States and because the Commonwealth and the States are not prepared to spend the money that is absolutely essential to be spent if every person who applies for university is to get that position? Here is an example of muddled thinking and, I believe, muddled planning - or perhaps I should say lack of planning - in the way in which the relationship between colleges of advanced education and universities has been evolving. Up until the last few years the tendency was for the Commonwealth Government to splash money on universities. Now that policy has been changed. Money is now being splashed around for colleges of advanced education. No doubt if we are still unfortunate enough to have this Government for another 3 years - I do not think we will be - money will no longer be splashed around for universities or colleges of advanced education but for teachers colleges. The result of the Government’s present policy has been that there has been a boost in expenditure on colleges of advanced education while insufficient finance has been provided for universities. The expenditure on universities by the Commonwealth over the next 3 years will increase by only 25%. Most honourable members on the other side refer to this increase of 25% as something marvellous. We refer to it as ‘only 25%’, because it must be borne in mind that a good deal of it will be eaten up purely by inflation. Again, there will be a vast increase in the demand from students and that demand just cannot be catered for unless there is a corresponding increase in the finance provided. The fact is that over the previous 3 years the money expended by the Commonwealth on universities increased by 44% whereas in the coming 3-year period it will increase by about only 25%, yet the demand for positions in universities is increasing now at a pace similar to that at which it increased in the previous 3-year period.
The effect of not providing sufficient finance to cope with the continually increasing demand is that this Government is just strangling opportunity; it is rationing education; it is turning away from the universities people who have qualified, people who have gained matriculation, people who have succeeded in this education system with all its inequalities, with all its difficulties, with all the hardships it inflicts upon parents and with all the frustrations and sufferings it inflicts upon the students. Matriculation involves a long and difficult course, as those who have matriculated know only too well. It is a terribly hard course.
Those who survive the system - I use the word ‘survive’ advisedly - and achieve matriculation naturally will say: ‘Good God, at least I deserve a university education.’ But they will not get it because, owing to the stinginess of this Government’s policy of financing universities, it is most likely that this year the three Melbourne univer sities will take in 6,000 students but will turn away 2,000. That is a tremendous proportion to be turned away. One in every four people who apply for positions in the universities will be turned away.
One way in which these universities can deal with the financial problems which confront them because of this Government’s policy is to ration the number of positions available. In this way we will have quotas which are so much a part of our system these days. Another way is to increase the fees. This will have a similar effect to quotas. In other words, the fees can be made so high as to have a deterrent effect. Already the fees at the three Melbourne universities are prohibitive. There are just too many people who cannot afford to enter universities. I mentioned the 2,000 people who will be turned away. There will probably be more who would apply for positions in universities if they did not think that the whole system is just too expensive.
What is going to happen? At this stage it looks as though the Melbourne universities, which I. believe will get only $57m of the $74m for which they asked, will be increasing their fees in the next year by something like 25% or 30%. This represents a substantial increase, but that is what is going to happen. There are other deficiencies which the universities will also suffer. For example, library facilities will be inadequate and it will be necessary to cut some courses. I venture the opinion that there will even be cutting of external courses, but I shall deal with that later.
I do want to impress on honourable members the fact that there are human aspects to this problem. Firstly, a great number of the young people in whom the parents have so much hope and confidence, about whom they have so much optimism, are going to miss out. Already persons who are lucky enough to survive the State education system for 6 years are being turned away. As I have said, in Melbourne one in every four will be turned away. Incidentally, a student can have passed in four, five or six subjects or even obtained matriculation, but the Victorian universities will toss him out because they will apply the quotas. A student can return to high school and repeat the course, but next time he has to do better and, of course, when he returns to high school he is a good deal older and a greater burden is placed upon his parents. It could cost parents, I would say as a reasonable estimate, $1,000 to keep a student at school in order to do matriculation again. Then there is all the frustration and hardship. All this happens because we refuse to provide the money to ensure that every student who has been lucky enough to survive the State education system gets into a university.
There are some aspects of universities with which I should like to deal in relation to country education. The first point 1 make is that under the Liberal Government over the last few years we have seen the process develop whereby external courses are being exterminated. Of course, this is a disastrous blow to people who live in the country. Many people in the country want to undertake a university course by correspondence. Of course, it is not the best way of doing a course, but it is one way of doing it. People get a good deal of satisfaction, stimulus and challenge out of doing such courses. But what has happened? The courses have been cut out. The stage has been reached where no external courses are available. It is bad luck for people who live in the country. So far as teachers are concerned, a number of temporary teachers who want to gain all the qualifications that are necessary in order to lead the sort of professional life which they want simply cannot get the qualifications because they are unlucky enough to live in country areas. The Monash and La Trobe Universities have no external courses. The University of Melbourne is winding up its external courses. I note that the Minister for Education and Science expressed some regret at this fact, but the point is that the measures taken by the Government to stop this tendency have not been effective, and we can see that next year, or the year after that, external courses will be a thing of the past.
I mention this matter in relation to country people generally who want to do a university course, but more specifically in relation to teachers who want to obtain all1 the necessary qualifications. One other question, which is unfortunate and to which I hope we would give immediate attention when we become the Government, con cerns the fact that facilities for diploma and degree education for teachers are not available. A couple of years ago I remember that friends of mine were delighted to be able to undertake these further courses in education in order to become bachelors of education, having already completed a diploma course at the university. These people were established in country schools and they wanted to stay in country schools. They did not want to go to Melbourne, because often they were dedicated to these country schools. They liked the children at these schools. They had family interests. If they had a couple of children they did not want to go to the metropolis because, after all, who does? They wanted to do a course by correspondence. What happened? Courses for a diploma or for a degree in education at universities have been cut out.
Apparently the Monash University made it clear to the Commonwealth and State Governments that it would be prepared to establish correspondence courses for diplomas and degrees in education. It made the suggestion to the Australian Universities Commission. But, unfortunately, the suggestion did not appear in the Commission’s report, and the Government has taken no notice of it. So here again, the Government is placing country students at an extra disadvantage, because teachers who want to gain all1 the necessary qualifications will have to go to Melbourne to get them. Not many country teachers want to do this. They want to stay at country schools, but they have no alternative. If they stay at country schools they will suffer disadvantages because their promotion and their aim to gain the necessary qualifications will be retarded. This is the price which they will pay to stay at country schools. Otherwise, they will leave the country schools to get what they want. When teachers leave country schools the people who suffer are the students. I make the suggestion to the Government that this situation be rectified. I believe that it can be done. I do not think it would cost all that much to provide the facilities at Monash University, just to mention one university, for external courses leading to degrees in general and in teacher education in particular to be renewed instead of allowing them to be exterminated.
Thursday, 18 September 1969
– The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) has just delivered a well prepared speech. But he took on the gloom that is common to members of the Opposition. He said ‘The future does not look good’. Let me say that if the future does not look good now I just wonder what it would have looked like if the Australian Labor Party had been in office over the period of time the Government has been in office. After all, it is the stability in our economy and the good government that we have had over the years that have enabled this Government to provide the amount of money that it is presently providing for education.
Contrary to what the honourable member said, I go along with the much better assessment made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is now at the table, in concluding his speech on the 1970-72 triennium programmes for universities, research grants and colleges of advanced education. He said:
In conclusion I would like to say that I look forward to the growth in tertiary education and research which will result not only from these measures but in addition from the Government’s decision to provide a further $30m in unmatched capital grants for government teachers colleges. The 1970-72 triennium will, I am sure, be a period of notable development.
It may be true that people who want to spend money in a particular field would like to spend more money. As far as I am concerned, and I am sure as far as the Country Party is concerned, we would like to see a great deal more money spent on education. We would like to see more money spent on a lot of other things, too. But we realise that at all times the expenditure of the Government must be kept within limits which will maintain the stability of the economy, without which the people of Australia would be in a much worse position than they are in today. The people who would feel it most would be the people whom members of the Opposition claim to represent. I do not want to speak for very long.
– Hear, hear!
– But perhaps I should say that, although I will not speak for long, the Country Party can put as much into a 10- minute speech as the Opposition can put into a half-hour speech. So we will work it on that basis. I commend the Minister and the Government on their increasing interest and participation in the field of education, not parochially but throughout the Commonwealth. The need constantly to improve the standard of education is generally recognised. We do not have to be told that there is a need for that. It is recognised in the community. To achieve this, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to play an increasing role in education and to provide for the ever increasing financial needs at all levels of education. That is what the Government is doing. I am sure that it will continue on those lines. It will continue to take up those burdens which obviously will have to be taken up by the Commonwealth.
Splendid examples of the Commonwealth’s acceptance of this responsibility are shown in the Bills that are now being debated. The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 2) 1969 is a Bill to authorise adjustments to the programme of colleges of advanced education. It means additional sums for recurrent expenditure and for a few variations in the capital programme. Commonwealth grants for recurrent purposes will be increased by more than §2m. They are to go up from $ 17.8m to $ 19.8m in the 1967-69 triennium. The Minister has shown a practical appreciation of the need to adjust the recurrent grants in the first triennium, and the Government is ready to meet the special needs of education when it is shown that such needs exist. I am pleased to see that included in the list of colleges of advanced education that will benefit from this legislation are the Queensland Institute of Technology, Darling Downs, the Queensland Institute of Technology at Brisbane, the Queensland Institute of Technology, Capricornia, and the Queensland Agricultural College at Lawes, which is better known as the Gatton College. This College has done a grand job for
Queensland down the years. It claims amongst its past students the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), and he is a credit to the college.
I turn to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill. I note that it has been decided to erect two separate buildings at Moggill for veterinary clinical studies at the University of Queensland. I welcome this decision because of the great need for veterinary surgeons in Queensland and no doubt in other States. We have felt this need for a considerable time and I hope the buildings will be completed very soon. The States Grants (Universities) Bill provides for the 1970-72 triennium. Special mention should be made of the increase in the total programme. I think the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) mentioned that the increase is $119m. The Commonwealth contribution towards the total of $586m is $227m. As each triennium comes along, I am sure that the Commonwealth will contribute not only more money but proportionately more money, and this will be needed if education is to advance as we need it and so earnestly desire it to advance.
The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill provides for flexibility in the use of funds within the triennium with the approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science. I believe that this is a good provision. I agree with the honourable member for Bendigo that there should be some flexibility in the use of funds by colleges and certainly there should be a flexibility in the use of funds over the triennium. [Quorum formed.] It dawned on me during that little break that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who directed attention to the state of the House, suggested in his speech that, if the money that had been used to provide the lake at Canberra had been devoted to university education, fees at universities could have been eliminated. As I understood him, everything in the garden would be lovely if we had not built the lake at Canberra. I do not know how long it would have been possible for the universities to be free of the need to charge fees if only that amount of money bad been used.
I was speaking about the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill which provides for flexibility in the use of funds during this triennium. I wanted to touch too, for a moment, on teacher education at colleges of advanced education. I commend that particular measure very much. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
The Government has accepted the principle that teacher education is a proper function of colleges of advanced education.
I feel that this is something that will be of very real value. I notice that teacher education is being introduced at Toowoomba. The Darling Downs College of Advanced Education, which is situated near Toowoomba, has created tremendous interest in that field of education. I was present at a meeting held in Dalby - one of the largest I have seen - and I have never known such tremendous interest in this matter. Substantial funds were raised and the project has been a real benefit to the people of the area and to the west, both in the matter of the cost of education and the distance that has to be travelled to get that education. I said that I would not be too long and the little time I did have was encroached upon by my good friend the honourable member far Oxley (Mr Hayden), 1 suppose he thought that I deserved a better audience and that is one thing that 1 hold in his favour. But in conclusion f would like warmly to congratulate the Minister and the Government on the success already achieved in furthering and assisting education and on the programme that they have for the future. Because we have had quite a few comments from the Opposition during the day about who is coming back and who is not, I just want to say that the efforts made in the field of education will be one of the many reasons why the public will express full confidence in this Government and the members supporting it on 25th October.
– Earlier this evening we listened to an address by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) who was making a plea on behalf of the Illawarra University College for autonomy and for a better deal. I express my sympathy to him and join with him in his pleas for recognition of that college. The Newcastle University College went through a similar period. We had to fight the empire builders in the University of New South Wales, and it is empire builders who are blocking the Wollongong institution. At the same time, we have seen the universities develop under extreme difficulties. All the universities outside the capital cities are subjected to pressure. The main universities are in the capital cities as are the State seats of Government. The greatest number of parliamentary representatives are from the capital cities and the result is that all the interest and most of the money are concentrated on developing the universities in the capital cities.
The universities outside the capital cities are neglected to a very great extent and it is on that basis that I support the case presented this evening by the honourable member for Cunningham and make a similar plea on behalf of the Newcastle University. It is stated in the report of the Australian Universities Commission that an amount of $1,100,000 has been allocated for a hall of residence, so let us just have a look at what has happened in this field. In the 1964- 66 triennium an amount of $440,000 was recommended to provide accommodation for 100 students, with centralised facilities for additional students. This amount was deleted from the recommendations by the Government. In 1967-69 the Commission made a further recommendation for expenditure of $930,000 to provide accommodation for 200 students and kitchen facilities for 400. Unfortunately that recommendation was deleted. Finally we find in the report for 1970-72 a recommendation for expenditure of $1,100,000 to provide accommodation for 200 students.
This is an indication of the difficulty experienced by universities outside the capital cities in obtaining finance to carry out necessary expansion. If the hall of residence had been provided two trienniums ago the Government would have saved a great deal of money. When first recommended it would have cost about $800,000. Today it will cost $1,100,000. We appreciate the inclusion of this money in the legislation.
In its third report containing recommendations for the 1967-69 triennium the Australian Universities Commission recommended:
Biological Sciences - Although the greater part of the University’s submission was devoted to the consolidation of the University on the Shortland site, one new proposal for an extension of the University’s activities was the establishment of a
School of Biological Sciences . . . The University’s submission noted: ‘For some years now there has been agreement in principle to the establishment of such a single strand school but we have found it impossible to provide the accommodation though we know there is a reciprocal demand now from the local (especially girls’) schools and local hospitals. The original proposal was for a first-year general biology followed by one specialised second and third year strand, but opinion seems now to be in favour of a new type of three or four year course in biology itself rather than a specialty in biochemistry, botany or zoology.’
As long ago as 6 or 7 years it was clearly understood that a school of biological sciences would be established in Newcastle as the first step towards the establishment of a medical school1. Extensions were carried out to the Royal Newcastle Hospital as part of a plan to provide a medical school at an early date. Notwithstanding that the recommendations of 1967-69 were deleted, the people of Newcastle, including myself, appreciate the fact that in this triennium $500,000 has been included for expenditure on Newcastle University, but even now there is no guarantee that the promises made 5 or 6 years ago will1 be honoured and that a medical school will be established in the Newcastle district.
The Royal Newcastle Hospital is one of the best hospitals in Australia. In addition to the main hospital at Newcastle there is the Belmont Hospital, the Rankin Park Chest Hospital and the William Lyne Hospital at Waratah. All told the Royal Newcastle Hospital and its subsidiaries provide about 850 beds. The Royal Newcastle Hospital has the most extensive out-patients block in New South Wales. Last year it handled 624,000 cases. That figure may be compared with slightly more than 200,000 cases handled by Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. I think these facts are an indication of the facilities that are available in Newcastle for a medical school. As to the application of quota systems, the Fourth Report of the Australian Universties Commission shows that every university in New South Wales with a medical school has introduced a form of quota system. The University of Newcastle does not even have a medical school. Now there is an opportunity to do something about that.
I have pointed out that the Royal Newcastle Hospital has about 850 beds and the most extensive out-patient block in New
South Wales. In addition, in the area there are the Wallsend Hospital, the coalfield hospitals, the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and the Western Suburbs Hospital equipped with maternity wards and with geriatric sections for male and female patients. 1 have discussed this matter with people at the Royal Newcastle Hospital who are in a position to know whether the facilities are sufficient for a medical school. I do not wish to quote the names of the people with whom I have spoken at length about this matter, but doctors have claimed that the facilities available at the Royal Newcastle Hospital, supported by the facilities at other hospitals in the area, are sufficient now to establish and to maintain a medical school. These facilities have enabled specialisation in orthopaedics, accident clinics and geriatrics. lt is claimed that the intensive care ward at the Royal Newcastle Hospital is the best of its type in the Commonwealth. With this background of facilities there is any amount of justification for the Universities Commission to extend the medical school facilities available in New South Wales. At present young people in Newcastle who are fortunate enough to obtain scholarships must travel either to the University of Sydney or the University of New South Wales for their studies. Not only does it cost them a considerable amount of money but it also places a heavy financial burden on the parents of these young people who wish to join the medical profession.
It cannot properly be claimed that there is in Australia a surplus of skilled doctors. There is a need for more doctors and the Government should be doing something about it. It has been suggested to me that even at this point the University of Sydney or the University of New South Wales should be arranging with hospitals in the Newcastle district for the transfer of some of their students to Newcastle to give them an opportunity to obtain experience and the benefits to be gained from the excellent facilities available there. This move would also offer Newcastle doctors experience in helping in the training of these people. This is one way that even now something could be done to lay the basis of a medical school in the Newcastle district.
Honourable members representing electorates in the capital cities tend to look down on advocates of universities or colleges in provincial districts. Tonight my friend the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) was subjected to ridicule. Honourable members who engaged in ridiculing him should be ashamed of themselves. They know the real position and for what the honourable member for Cunningham is working. Sufficient facilities to lay the foundation for a medical school arc available in the Newcastle district. A clinical school of surgery, medicine or obstetrics should be established as the foundation of a medical school in Newcastle. I hope that in the immediate future additional finance will be provided for improved library facilities to form the basis of a medical school. A clinical pathological museum should be established in the Newcastle district at an early date to work in conjunction with the biological sciences school which is to be established there within the next 3 years. lt is uneconomic not to use the facilities that are available. This country cannot afford to allow to lie dormant and not to use to the maximum the facilities available at Newcastle. The authorities in Sydney will claim that it would be too expensive to send people from Sydney to Newcastle for their studies. It is a distance of about only .100 miles, and in any case, many of the people who would be transferred from Sydney to Newcastle would be young people who live in the Newcastle district. The move would involve a considerable saving for them. I look forward to seeing action taken in this regard.
The Royal Newcastle Hospital has accommodation which at very small cost could be brought up to date and made suitable to house young students who could and should be transferred from Sydney. So 1 hope that before too long the authorities in Sydney will see their way clear to transfer some of the staff of the Sydney University and the University of New South Wales to Newcastle. I hope that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will take note of what has been said here tonight and will confer if necessary with the authorities. I know that medical superintendents at Newcastle and other doctors associated with the hospital there have come to Canberra and have conferred with the Minister’s predecessors in an endeavour to bring about what I have suggested tonight should be done. All the facts and information are in the possession of the Department. I hope that it will examine them and that something will be done about what I have just referred to.
Bearing in mind the fact that quotas are imposed on the schools of medicine at the Sydney University and the University of New South Wales there is a need to establish additional schools of medicine. I hope that a new school of medicine will not be established at the Macquarie University in preference to the Newcastle University, because that would bring about a situation in which there would be three medical schools in the city of Sydney and none anywhere else in New South Wales. It would mean that every medical student outside Sydney would have to travel to Sydney and would have to live there until such time as he graduated. If the Government believes in decentralisation this is an opportunity to practise it. The University of Tasmania has a medical school, yet a comparison of the population of Tasmania with the population from which the Newcastle University draws students shows that the population in the Newcastle district is greater than the population of Tasmania. I do not wish in any was to disparage the medical school in Tasmania there or the University of Tasmania, but T believe that if the University of Tasmania is entitled to a medical school the University of Newcastle is also entitled to one.
I draw to the attention of the House that the population of the Newcastle area is slightly greater than the population of Tasmania. I believe that Newcastle will develop at a faster rate than Tasmania. Honourable members need only compare student enrolments at Newcastle and in Tasmania. Tocal student enrolments at the Newcastle University have increased from 1,819 in 1967 to 2,784 at the end of 1969. The forecast for 1972, just jumping the figures, is 3,630. The University of Tasmania last year had a total enrolment of 2,786, two more than Newcastle. The forecast in Tasmania for 1972 is 3,315. The forecast for Newcastle is 3,630. Those figures show quite clearly that as far as enrolments are concerned the Newcastle University will be bigger than the University of Tasmania. It is forecast that by 1972 the number of students enrolled at
Newcastle will be 315 more than the number enrolled in Tasmania. Surely if Tasmania can support a medical school obviously Newcastle is entitled to the same facilities. It is not just a question of giving Newcastle a medical school; it is a question whether the district is entitled to it and whether the district can carry it. If Tasmania can carry a medical school obviously Newcastle can carry one and is entitled to a faculty similar to the one in existence in Tasmania. 1 conclude on the point that at this moment even though the money is available for the establishment of a school of biological sciences at Newcastle there is no indication in the report of the Australian Universities Commission or in the Government’s attitude that this medical school will be established in the foreseeable future. I hope that when the biological sciences block is established it will be used for something other than training nurses and high school teachers. I hope that it will be used for something more extensive than that. I was hopeful of reading in the report some encouragement to the residents of the Newcastle district. That district is represented by six members in this place, by you. Mr Deputy Speaker, by the retiring honourable member for Patterson and Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) and by three Labor members, namely, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) and myself. So Newcastle is well and truly represented in this place. Therefore it should be recognised and these facilities should be provided.
The other matter I wish to deal with is the question of a faculty of law at the Newcastle University. Once again there is no mention of it in the Commission’s report that was tabled here recently or in the legislation presented by the Minister. Sufficient grounds exist to support the claim that a faculty of law should be established in Newcastle. At the present time, Newcastle students desirous of studying law must go to Sydney, as is the case with other students, to obtain their LL.B. degree. Any young fellow who obtains a Commonwealth scholarship cannot study his law course by correspondence; he must transfer to Sydney and live there for 5 years. Five years’ training is required for a person to obtain a certificate from the Solicitors Administration Board. Examinations extend over 5 years. Those people who sit for the Solicitors Administration Board examinations and who are aware of the standard of the university examinations have told me that there is very little difference between the two.
There are 52 members of the Newcastle Society of Law Students who are articled clerks in solicitors’ offices in the inner suburbs of Newcastle. It has been claimed by the president and secretary of this Society that many more students or articled clerks would be members of this Society if its meetings could be held at a time convenient to people who come down from cities and towns adjacent to Newcastle for such meetings. They claim that the ratio of articled clerks in Sydney is much greater than in Newcastle. They point out that this is brought about because students in Sydney must attend lectures at the University. They say that in Sydney between 50 and 100 intending articled clerks have not been able to become articled each year. So, any number of grounds exist if the Minister will only examine the proposition that Newcastle should be granted a faculty of law in the foreseeable future.
Once again I wish to compare Tasmania and Newcastle. I have already quoted the number of enrolments, which shows that at the present time there is a difference of only two between Tasmania and Newcastle. I repeat the figures because I think that they are worthy of repetition. The total enrolment in Newcastle in 1969 is 2,784 and in Tasmania 2,786. I repeat the forecast by the Australian Universities Commission which shows that in 1972 the figure for Newcastle will be 3,630 and the figure for Tasmania will be 3,315. One can see that any amount crf evidence exists to prove thai there is a substantial need for a law faculty in Newcastle. Tasmania, with a population smaller than that of the Newcastle district, has a faculty of law. Why cannot the same facility be provided in Newcastle? I hope, as I said earlier, that it will not be very long before this Government and the Government of New South Wales will see their way clear to provide a medical school. All the facilities required are at the hospital and at the University. All these things should be provided. The same remarks can be made about law facilities.
I wish to make short reference to the need to provide some assistance to schools in lower income suburbs. I have in mind the figures available which disclose that 66% of scholarships go to the top 15% of the income earning groups and that only 12% of scholarships go to the 40% of people in the lowest income groups. When 1 was in the United States of America some 2 years ago I made it my business to talk to a number of people engaged in education there. A system is being introduced in the United States through city councils - in some places it is in operation already - to provide facilities for these lower income group suburbs or in the suburbs where most of the lower income group workers live. As honourable members are aware, most of the money for education in the United States is provided on a local government basis. The authorities realise that these people are in a less favourable position than those who come from the higher income groups. They provide facilities during school holidays and at weekends. They encourage university students to go into the suburbs to teach these young children, This is the way they provide educational facilities.
We all know that people in the higher income groups are able, because of their financial position, to have their children tutored. They can send them to special tutorial classes. In the lower income group parents generally have not had the opportunity of education and they cannot afford the cost. They have not had the training themselves and so cannot help thenchildren. I believe it is the responsibility of the educational system to provide such additional facilities as classes on Saturdays and during holiday periods so that these children can be coached. The authorities could go to the extent of having after school coaching classes similar to the coaching given to children whose parents are able to afford it.
There is undeniable proof about these things. The facts and figures are available. I know the Minister is in possession of this information. I ask the Government to do something about this on a practical basis and to provide special tutorial classes. The
Federal Government can provide its share of the cost of such a scheme. I know that the basis of education is in the States but it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to make sure that sufficient money is available. Some years ago Sir Robert Menzies appointed the Murray Committee to investigate university education. The same thing can be done to determine which schools should be provided with financial assistance and the amount of finance which should be made available to them. This would mean that every child in the community would be on an equal basis. If children have the ability to learn, facilities should be provided for them to continue their studies.
I do not want to take up (he time of honourable members by discussing scholarships. I do not think that the value of scholarships is sufficient to maintain students going to universities, but that is another subject. The point I am trying to make now is that some assistance should be available for those children who are unfortunate enough to be born into families in the low income group. The Government at least should give them the same opportunities and chances that are available to those fortunate enough to be born with silver spoons in their mouths.
– The Bill before the House certainly helps colleges, including the Queensland Institute of Technology in my electorate of Capricornia. But of course the contention of the Opposition is that the amount the Commonwealth is spending is not sufficient in this affluent country. In the last years for which figures are available Japan spent 90% as much per head as Australia but this represented 210% as much, as a percentage of its budget, as Australia spent. Although Japan has a much lower income per head it is spending more than double the proportion spent on education in Australia. The United States of America spent 333% as much per head and 170% as much, as a proportion of its budget. Czechoslovakia and Sweden alike spent 160% as much per head. The figures for Sweden represent 94% as much, as a proportion of its budget.
It is also instructive to compare the figures for my State of Queensland, which is the poorest per capita in expenditure on health and education, with those for the Australian Capital Territory. In Queensland in 1966-67 this expenditure represented $39 per head. In the Australian Capital Territory expenditure was Si 99 per head - over five times as much. This huge discrepancy is due partly to the Australian National University taking only some 50% of ACT students in the School of General Studies, and very few from the ACT in the Institute of Advanced Studies. But even deducting this expenditure, the ACT spent $57.5 for non-tertiary education compared with $39 spent by Queensland for all education.
Another cause of this discrepancy is the greater rate of population growth in the ACT which necessitates increased capital expenditure, but this does not account for the whole of the additional $18.5 per year for every man, woman and child in the ACT, including new and old citizens, for non-tertiary education only. That amount is nearly half as much again as Queensland spends per head for every form of education. Tertiary level teachers have informed me that staffing and equipment of the School of General Studies at the ANU are several times as much, in terms of the number of students, as is provided in any other institution in this country. The same can be said of many other fields of education. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) cited details of how Commonwealth allocations are much lower for Queensland than for any other State.
We on this side of the House ask that there be central planning of tertiary education. Several speakers on the Government side sneered at that suggestion as a kind of centralism designed to destroy the independence of educational institutions. If that is so, why then does the Government tolerate a body such as the Australian Universities Commission? The answer is that central planning has proved itself to be of mutual advantage to these organisations. Their autonomy would cease without enlightened Commonwealth aid and without the help of such a body. My colleagues and I are not out to stifle educational freedom by co-ordinating other kinds of tertiary institutions. We simply want to extend the very principle that the Minister has acknowledged in obtaining the Sweeney report.
How else can we carry out its recommendations than by having such a co-ordinating body, recommendations such as appear on page 64 of the report to the effect that there should be staff interchanges between different kinds of institutions; that these institutions should develop relationships with parallel institutions in developed and underdeveloped countries; that qualifications relating to university standards should be set out and so on? We agree with the remarks of Mr E. Storey which appeared in the Australian Dental Journal of December 1967. He said:
The autonomy of universities and academic freedom permitted by advanced communities ensures steady progression of man’s understanding of himself and his environment, lt has been a profitable enterprise for civilised countries to indulge their curiosities. This could be the key to success in the straggle for national survival ahead, but instead our community has decided to wantonly spend academic capital for immediate security and gain. Ours is an affluent society, sick with the desire for the pleasures of life, squandering money recklessly on gambling, alcohol and fast cars. In this atmosphere, academics, young research workers, and children, are being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency for the want of a relatively small amount of money, by Federal and State governments bickering with each other, using the machinery of an outmoded, unworkable system of financing education and health to justify their poverty stricken policies. Unless research and teaching continue as complementary facets of university life, this generation of children will become the uneducated adults of tomorrow.
Those are the words of Mr E. Storey, not of honourable members on this side of the House. We would agree with them. In support of a policy for central planning and in contradiction of the horrorstruck reaction of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) I quote from the second report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education at page 16, recommendation III which reads:
That the Commonwealth Government sponsor, on the advice of this Committee, a co-ordinated programme of research and investigation into the problems of advanced education and that it make available -
And so on. On page 82 of the report, under the heading ‘Forward Planning’ the Committee states:
There is a growing tendency for educators to plan advances before the need becomes acute. To enable this to be done effectively, educational research is being strongly encouraged - financed by governments and the larger foundations. Centra] governments are deeply involved, and through foresight hope to provide well balanced educational services from kindergarten through to the most advanced courses and to persuade the community that education is a life-long process.
We commend the Government because it is doing this, but that quotation was preceded by the comment:
The trend in the past has been for educational systems to evolve slowly to meet changing conditions, and too often changes have been forced upon them by the demands of the community.
We submit that this still occurs. Changes are still being forced on the Government where it is lagging behind community needs. We oppose the cart before the horse idea of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) that there must be a more stable economy before we can spend enough on education. We agree with Sir Fred Schonell, the late Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, who said:
Highly educated men and women are fast becoming the central resources of today’s society. This investment in man is being realised by Commonwealth and State governments but somewhat too slowly. Over the past 9 years there has been a slight rise in the percentage of gross national product spent on education. . . . But 1 would like to see still more graduates, so that we could afford to loan a few to the poorer nations. . . . This is one of the best ways of preventing the poor nations from becoming poorer.
We agree also with the National Union of Australian University Students that there is far too little public debate on education. As its first ‘Education Newsletter’ puts it:
The Commonwealth tertiary education scholarship schemes have now been in existence for 18 years. . . . It is surely time that the Commonwealth investigated the effect of the schemes. Such matters as numbers of students passing have from time to time been made public and it appears that a Commonwealth scholar has a greater likelihood of completing his course in the minimum possible time than other students.
The paper quotes Dr Radford of the Australian Council for Educational Research who as long ago as 1962 wrote:
Boys and girls from homes where the father is engaged in unskilled or semi-skilled work enter occupations where further education is required in far smaller numbers than might reasonably be expected.
The sons and daughters of farmers are contributing many fewer recruits than might reasonably be expected to occupations other than primary production and home duties.
Children in non-metropolitan schools contribute far less than expected to destinations requiring further study.
There is, therefore, a reservoir of talent still to be tapped.
Figures show that 14.2% of the income earning families - those with most income - receive 66.1% of the scholarships. Again we have a case of giving to those who have. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said: ‘The able student can get to a university and, I believe, does’. Does he believe that the children of low income earners are not able? There are many other anomalies with regard to dependants’ allowances. 1 have not time to go into all of them but I do want to mention specifically the difficulty with text books and equipment. Since 1961 many texts have almost doubled in price. The Australian Labor Party’s policy is to produce and provide this equipment. Medical training is an area touched on by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), lt is a scandal that in a country which is short of doctors and which is being called on to provide doctors for under-developed countries every medical school enforces a quota and even before the quotas came in the schools were failing 50% at the end of first year to make an unofficial quota. 1 strongly support the call of the honourable member for a medical school at Newcastle.
– in reply - I should like to thank honourable members for what they have said during the course of this debate. 1 think a number of the remarks that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) who led for the Opposition were in fact answered by those who followed from this side of the House and there is no need to make any additional comment in relation to them. I should like to make one or two points only in relation to remarks made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy). The honourable member for Oxley was trying to suggest that Queensland had been unfairly treated by the Government. I think it needs pointing out that the Government accepted the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission as they were made by the Commission in relation to Queensland. He tried to suggest that the recurrent grants on a per student basis were less for Queensland than for other universities. This in fact is not a realistic com-‘ parison because the small universities that have not yet begun to have economies of scale do have higher recurrent costs per student than do some of the larger universities.
But taking the honourable member for Oxley’s own figures the recurrent grants on a per student basis for the University of Queensland have, I am advised, increased by 15% between the last triennium and this and these grants have increased for the other universities throughout Australia by only 6%. This means that the recurrent grants for Queensland on a per student basis have been increased by 2i times the Australian average. Then, if we take the small university in Queensland, Townsville University, we find that the recurrent grants there amount to about $2,542 on a per student basis as opposed to the Australian average of something very much less than that, probably about $1,600. This is very much a function of size and in addition to that a function of the way in which a university carries out its own business.
The only other point that 1 would like to make is in relation to the honourable member’s criticism of what the Government had done in relation to the proposed university at Mount Gravatt. The Government has accepted what the Commission recommended and I do not think that the Government can be held to criticism in relation to that. The honourable member for Bendigo criticised the progress of the colleges of advanced education. On one minor point he was talking of deficiencies in libraries and I suggest that he read the definition of library materials in the Bill. They include many things other than books. I would suggest also that the honourable member should read, if he has not already read, an editorial in the Bendigo ‘Advertiser’ which was beaded ‘Undreamt of Progress’. That editorial says what the Bendigo ‘Advertiser* thinks, and I imagine many other people in Bendigo think, of the criticisms that are being made of the Bendigo Institute of Technology and of other colleges of advanced education, and it also throws into sharp relief the whole approach to this subject. The editorial reads as follows:
Singularly inept is the attempt by the Federal Member for Bendigo, Mr Kennedy, M.H.R., to discredit the part played by the Federal Government (in association with the State Government) in relation to education in Bendigo and particularly towards the Bendigo Institute of Technology.
Mr Kennedy’s remarks in Canberra on Wednesday (Advertiser, September II) in which he returns to the theme that the Institute faces the threat of imposing quotas and that ‘inadequate finances in Hie recent Budget would make plans for development “precarious” are unsupported by any facts that justify the conclusions Mr Kennedy reaches concerning the Bendigo Institute of Technology.
For the purpose of his argument Mr Kennedy overlooks such facts as these:
The Institute has confirmation that the money available to it for building and capital works in the next triennium (1970-1972) is two and a half times more than in the triennium now ending. The figures are $2,500,000 in the next three years compared to $1,000,000 in the past three years.
Later on that editorial continues: Several times in recent months. . . .
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will resume his seat. The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– The honourable member for Bendigo.
-The honourable member for Bendigo.
– I rise to order. I wonder if the Minister could start again as I missed the first part.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I thought I had earlier shown this editorial to the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope). The editorial continues:
Several times in recent months Mr Kennedy has returned to the theme that the imposition of quotas might be necessary at the Institute and that careers of young people in Bendigo and district might be jeopardised.
On February 19 last the president of the Administrative Council of the Institute, Mr A. C. Sandow, stated: ‘It is extremely unlikely that any tertiary level students will be squeezed out of places in the Institute on account of accommodation or teaching facilities in the immediate future or the next several years if development proceeds as expected at Flora Hill.’
At the same time Mr Sandow-
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting.
-The editorial continues:
At the same time Mr Sandow commented: Although tertiary level enrolments at the BIT are being maintained at the considerably higher levels reached in the past year or so, there is ample room for more students.
Facilities are there, and the Institute has such a full complement of well qualified academic staff . . that an expanding flow of well prepared students from the secondary schools of Central and Northern Victoria - high and technical - will be needed to justify the developments taking place. . . .
Developments completed are at a level scarcely dreamt of four or five years ago, sufficient to justify faith and optimism that progress will continue at a rate to match the needs of Central and Northern Victoria.
The Budget provision of $2,500,000 for the new triennium justifies that optimism.
The editorial concludes with these comments:
In any given situation requests will exceed requirements. The Government has met requirements.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting. Earlier I miscalled the electorate of the honourable member but I now remind him that I am speaking to the honourable member for Bendigo and he will cease interjecting.
– I do’ not think that the honourable member for Bendigo will be here very much longer but if by some mischance he happens to bc here longer he will learn that if he tries to dish something out that does not happen to be accurate he will have to sit back and take the reply when it is made. This evening he has shown that not only is he inept in his criticisms of what has been done in terms of the Bendigo ‘Advertiser’ editorial but he is unable to take a reply when he is shown to be wrong, not just by honourable members in this House but by a leading and authoritative newspaper in his own electorate.
Another point I would like to make refers to external studies, and this matter was dealt with in an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ by a professor from the Melbourne Monash University when speaking on external studies. As honourable members will know I have spoken on this subject on other occasions both in this House and outside of it. The Australian Universities Commission doubled the current provision being made in the triennium programme for external students to provide additional finance for those universities conducting or which would be prepared to conduct courses. I have pointed out that there were fewer opportunities in Victoria than in any other State and that the University of Melbourne, which had been conducting external courses, was phasing itself out of this business. I suggested that the universities in Victoria were not meeting their obligation to the Victorian community by refusing to meet this important need.
The letter in the Melbourne “Age’ suggested that the Monash University had made an approach to the Australian Universities Commission for two courses - a Diploma of Education course and a Bachelor of Education course. The letter went on to say that the Commission had not recommended any provision for these proposed courses and therefore they would not be provided. But what the letter did not say was that these courses were post-graduate courses and that the great need in the external studies field is for undergraduate facilities. This is demonstrated by the fact that where external studies are available, according to the last statistics available, 6,819 undergraduate students were taking external studies and only 170 were taking post-graduate studies, lt is also significant to note that an appreciable number of those taking external studies are teachers seeking to up-grade their qualifications. I have been advised by the Chairman of the Commission that if any of the Victorian universities had put proposals to him suggesting that the university concerned should establish undergraduate courses of external studies, the Commission would have recommended a setting up grant and the additional recurrent provisions would have looked after matters thereafter. J am sure that, because of the importance that the Government attaches to external studies, such a recommendation by the Commission would have been accepted. Therefore it is no answer to this situation to say that, because a particular university sought to make provision for post-graduate courses in externa] studies, that was in any real sense a reasonable attempt to meet the need of the great majority of students in Victoria who would like to be able to undertake external studies. 1 can only repeat that 1 hope that the universities of Victoria, autonomous as they are, will respond to the needs of their own community, of the State of Victoria, and of the very many people who would like to take advantage of properly constituted undergraduate external study courses, and that when they come to make proposals to the Commission for the trienniums in the future they will realistically look to the needs of their community and consequently make provision in these particular area-;. I think honourable members on this side of the House have fully answered other points that might have been made by members of the Opposition during the debate.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, in what the Minister for Education and Science quoted from the editorial. I claim that the editorial misrepresented me and I claim also that the Minister in quoting it misrepresented me. The fact is that in the statement which I made on the day before the editorial I made very cautious statements. I would be very grateful if the Minister for Education and Science would extend to me the courtesy of checking the statement that I made in the first place. Obviously he has not done so. All that he has done so far is read an editorial which was unusually hostile and which broke all the usual principles of local editorial policy.
-Order! I remind the honourable member that-
-] have not finished.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I remind him that in a personal explanation be is not permitted to debate the matter. The honourable member for Bendigo will state where he was misrepresented and not debate it
– The point is that [ made statements, a report of which appeared in the newspaper, and the editorial on my statement misrepresented me. I had made cautious statements. One of the things that the editorial did not mention was the fact that the plans for the development of a library at the Bendigo Institute of Technology had been forestalled and this would seriously hamper the development of the college. This was not mentioned in the editorial which appeared in the Bendigo Advertiser. In other words, the editorial misrepresented me. By quoting rashly from the editorial the Minister also has misrepresented me. The editorial referred to a report made in March by an advisory council. If this sort of evidence is to be used by the Bendigo ‘Advertiser-
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that in a personal explanation he should explain where he has been misrepresented but should not go on to debate the matter. I think the honourable member has done that.
– I am sorry if I have diverged from the topic. I claim to have been misrepresented in that a newspaper editorial on a very cautious statement that I had made the previous day-
-Order! The honourable member is now attempting to debate the matter.
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 Mr Malcolm Fraser) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) Orders of the Day Nos. 9, 10 and 11 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 2) 1969, the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1969, and the States Grants (Universities) Bill 1969 being called on together, (b) a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed, and (c) messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations for the several Bills being then announced together.
Consideration resumed from 28 August and 10 September (vide pages 805 and 1039), on motions by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) passed.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations announced.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to provide assistance to the Australian book manufacturing industry pending receipt of a report by the Tariff Board on the question of long term measures of assistance to the industry. The Bill provides for payment of a bounty to the book manufacturers at the rate of 25% of the cost of production of each book. The bounty will be retrospective to 1st June 1969 and will apply only to books which are of types registerable for transmission through the Post Office as books. That is, the books must be of a literary or educational character. The Government has decided that books produced by or for the Commonwealth or a State will not be eligible for bounty. Assistance was considered necessary by the Government because increasing numbers of books are being printed overseas for Australian publishers. The loss of business to the book manufacturing industry has caused serious damage. Employment has fallen significantly. The Government is convinced that this trend will continue unless immediate action is taken.
Normally requests for immediate and urgent assistance to an industry are referred to the Special Advisory Authority who is empowered to recommend protection by way of increased import duties or restriction of imports. The Special Advisory Authority is not empowered to recommend assistance by way of bounty. It is however, longstanding Government policy that there should be no tariff or licensing restrictions to impede the free flow of books into Australia. The Government, therefore, after extensive investigation into the industry situation and careful consideration of other methods of assistance, took this decision to introduce an interim bounty. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965. This Act came into force late in 1965 to provide for payments to be made to the States to subsidise the distribution and sale of certain petroleum products sold in country areas. Honourable members will recall: that the purpose of the subsidy scheme is to reduce the costs of petroleum products used for transport purposes in country areas so that their wholesale price does not exceed the relevant capital city wholesale price by more than 3.3c per gallon. The five products selected as being eligible for subsidy are those directly employed in transport, with the objective of reducing transport costs so as to assist people in the more remote localities throughout Australia. The products subsidised under the scheme are motor spirit, power kerosene, automotive distillate, aviation gasoline and aviation turbine fuel.
Since the commencement of the subsidy scheme payments to the States under the arrangement have totalled $6 1.9m, of which $ 19.3m was paid in the financial year 1968-69. The States in turn have made payments equal to these amounts to oil companies and their associated agents, who are obliged to ensure that the country wholesale prices at which they make each subsidised sale take into account fully the subsidy amount payable. The rate of subsidy for each country area is related to the industry costs of distribution and subsidy is payable where the industry costs of distribution for a particular locality are in excess of 3.3c a gallon of eligible product. The rates of subsidy payable are set out in a schedule, which covers over 5,000 locations. The locations listed are mainly those which were recognised by oil companies as distribution centres at 30th June 1964, though, from time to time since the scheme commenced, additional centres of distribution have been added to the schedule.
The present subsidy rates are based on differentials which were in force as at 31st December 1964. Because of the administrative difficulties involved in continuously updating these subsidy rates to take into account day to day variations in freight charges and other costs the rates were fixed on the basis of conditions existing at 31st December 1964. In terms of the present legislation the schedule cannot be amended, except to add new centres of distribution, or under certain circumstances correct anomalies in the schedule. The effect of fixing the subsidy on the basis of differentials in force as at 31st December 1964 was that general increases in freight or changes in the distribution costs of petroleum products after that date could result in wholesale prices being more than 3.3c a gallon above capital city wholesale prices although, of course, reduced by the amount of subsidy paid. In the event, the Government undertook to review the operation of the scheme and the rates of subsidy after the scheme had been in operation for 3 years.
This review has now been completed and the Government is satisfied that the scheme has proved worthwhile in that it has significantly lowered the cost of the products covered by the scheme to country dwellers and country industry. Farmers, businessmen, motorists and other users in country areas have all benefited from the scheme. The Government intends to continue the principle of subsidising those petroleum products now covered by the scheme in order to continue to offset part of the cost of moving petroleum products to country areas.
Subsidy payments will continue to be made on the basis of maintaining a margin of 3.3 cents a gallon above the wholesale price in the relevant capital city in each State. In the Northern Territory the practice of basing the subsidy on the wholesale price obtaining in Sydney will be continued, which ensures the maximum benefit to Northern Territory consumers.
As there have been some changes in freight and other distribution costs since the scheme was introduced it is proposed to update the subsidy rates to take these changes into account. The effect of this updating is to restore, in cases where distribution costs for those eligible products increased after December 1964, the difference between the capital city wholesale and country wholesale prices to 3.3 cents a gallon, which follows the original intention of the scheme.
The legislation now before the House proposes to amend the Act to allow the Government to update the schedule of subsidies using the latest available freight differentials. These new schedules using the updated differentials are now being compiled. I might add that the practice of adding new locations to the schedule as they are established as new centres of distribution by the oil industry will continue, subject to the Minister for Customs and Excise approving their inclusion.
As it is impracticable to make day to day adjustments to the subsidy rates for changes in distribution costs which may occur in the future it is proposed to again make a general review of the subsidy rates in a further 3 years. In introducing this Bill, I would take the opportunity to mention the considerable co-operation received from the State governments and the oil companies. I comment the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.43 a.m. (Thursday)
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS UPON NOTICE The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
When a sick or injured person is carried in an aircraft with other passengers, all reasonable precautions shall be taken to prevent hazard to other occupants of me aircraft.’
Can he give information on social workers later than that he gave me in his answer on 7th November 1968 (Hansard, page 2676) to my question No. 749 of 11th September 1968.
The latest preliminary estimates available, based on information obtained from departments, suggest that the total number of Social Worker positions in the Commonwealth Service will increase to between 260-270 over the next three years. There are also approximately 38 current vacancies. Against these needs the Commonwealth Service has 23 Cadet Social Workers and plans to recruit a further 2) to commence their cadetships in 1970.
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What fees are paid to (a) universities, (b) colleges of advanced education, (c) teachers’ colleges, (d) technical colleges and (e) other educational institutions for Colombo Plan students and other overseas students sponsored by the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth meets the cost of all compulsory fees imposed by educational institutions in Australia in respect of all students sponsored by the Commonwealth. Hie number of sponsored students enrolled in the various categories of educational institutions listed in the honourable member’s question was at the 30th June 1969, as follows:
What was the average (a) cost of land and (b) value of building contracts in each capital as indicated in the survey of approved applications lodged during March under the Homes Savings Grant Act
The details requested are available at pages 8 to 10 of the Fifth Annual Report of the Secretary, Department of Housing, for the year 1968-69, which was presented to the Parliament recently in accordance with the provisions of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1967.
What progress has been made with investigations and negotiations concerning the extension of the Ord Irrigation Project into the Northern Territory since his answers to me on 13 August 1968 (Hansard, page 129).
Investigations regarding the extension of Stage 2 of the Ord Irrigation Project into the Northern Territory are proceeding. As I explained in my answer on 13 August 1968, the development of irrigation farming in the Territory, based on water supplied from the main storage dam to be constructed in Western Australia, could proceed only after the completion of that dam and the necessary reticulation works within Western Australia. No substantive negotiations have been held with Western Australia covering extension of the Ord Irrigation Project into the Northern Territory.
How many national service trainees have been taken into training in each year since the inception of the present national service training scheme.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690917_reps_26_hor65/>.