28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (HonJ. F. Cope) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Coates, Mr Molten, Dr Klugman and Mr MacKellar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shews:
Your petitioners therefore ask that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education, and so instruct the proposed National Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed Tree’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Govment will take no measures to interefere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKellar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully, showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon.
– May I inform the House that the Treasurer, Mr Crean, left Australia last Friday to lead the Australian delegation to the annual meetings in Nairobi of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Recon struction and Development? He is expected to return to Australia on 5 October. During his absence, the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, is Acting Treasurer.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Science. Recently the Minister paid a visit to Geelong to investigate a site for the new $42m National Animal Health Laboratory. Will the Minister inform the House what the site requirements are for this Laboratory so that the Ballarat Development Committee can present to the Government a case for consideration? I would like the Minister to bear in mind that a Ballarat district site could well be superior to those sites already listed for consideration.
– It is true that I visted Geelong last Friday. The honourable gentleman has asked what the main criteria are for a site for the Laboratory. The main criterion is that the site should be located away from livestock susceptible to disease. The purpose of the Animal Health Laboratory is to prevent the outbreak of exotic animal diseases. The site that has been recommended was chosen by an evaluation team. The site at Geelong meets all the requirements of the evaluation team. Another criterion in choosing the site is that it should be close to tertiary educational institutions particularly concerned with the field of microbiology and veterinary science. The site at Geelong was selected after consideration by the Town and Country Planning Authority of Victoria and also by the Cities Commission. I understand that the Victorian Government has favourably received the notion of a site at Geelong. There are several other matters to be resolved before I can make a recommendation to the Cabinet on the site and the further implementation of the recommendations for a national health laboratory which, I might add, was initiated by the previous Government and which this Government fully supports. I think one of the difficulties in relation to animal health in Australia has been that it has been more by good luck than good management that Australia has been spared the impact of quite serious diseases such as foot and mouth disease. The intention behind the animal health laboratory, is to ensure that Australia will be free from these diseases and, therefore, make a great contribution to the livestock industry of Australia.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of a possibly serious situation that has arisen following the discovery in Maryborough of a West Indian dry wood termite infestation? In view of the serious effects that the spread of this pest could have if action is not taken, can the Minister indicate whether the Australian Government will offer the Queensland Government financial assistance towards an eradication campaign?
– It is true that there has been grave concern for quite a considerable time about a most undesirable immigrant that I understand had the original name of cryptotermes brevis but which is known more popularly as the West Indian dry wood termite. It is a most unwelcome visitor to our shores and certainly a most unwelcome intruder into Queensland. As long ago as, I think, June 1972, the Premier of Queensland wrote to the then Prime Minister and was anxious to receive some assistance and I am pleased to say that the present Australian Government has offered assistance on a $1 for SI basis in the eradication of this pest. I know that the honourable member, who has been most concerned about this infestation, as it has occurred in his electorate, will be happy with that decision which the Minister for Primary Industry is to announce in detail this morning.
A warning should be issued because this termite is no respector of persons, dwellings or States and there is a need for a continuing survey of the position in other parts of Queensland, in northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory. In case there is any doubt about the seriousness of the problem, I understand that the cost to treat an individual dwelling can be as high as $900 and continuing treatment may be required at a cost of $150. So I think the action that has been taken in concert with the Queensland authorities and with the support of the Australian Government is very timely. The honourable member for Wide Bay has done a service to all of us in his efforts to contain this most undesirable of immigrants that Australia has had recently.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Treasurer. The honourable gentleman will recall that, in the course of the
Budget Speech, the Treasurer noted that the continuing housing boom was straining resources and adding considerably to the upward pressure on the price of houses and land and also his statement that the Government would be seeking some modest abatement of the private housing boom in 1973-74. Will the Minister now consider reducing the intense inflationary pressure on the house building industry by cutting back the immense outlay on government housing which is provided for in the Budget, instead of imposing savage increases in interest rates on all those in the community who either are acquiring or are planning to build or buy their own homes?
– I should not expect that the Government would be prepared to cut back on the allocations for government housing. As a personal judgment, I certainly would not be happy about such a move. The direction in which expenditure on government housing will be going in the future, as decided by the Minister for Housing, is one which will give emphasis -to a group of people who largely missed out in the past - the low income earners. If I recollect the figures correctly, outstanding applications for Housing Commission accommodation in the various States exceed over 100,000 persons and the number is growing at a rapid rate. These are the most deprived and most needful people in terms of housing requirements in the community. Their needs have been neglected for too long and they are not going to be made to suffer as part of any economic control policies over the near future. As for increases in interest rates on housing loans, the honourable member would be well aware, from statements in the Press, that the Government is in the process - indeed, consultations will be taking place today with appropriate bodies in the community - of developing a system of housing interest rates which . will be most considerate of the needs of the moderate and middle income earners in the community.
– I ask the Minister for Education: What amount has been allocated to country areas in the Australian States under the isolated children’s allowance scheme instituted by this Government a few months ago? Will this expenditure of Federal money remove many of the worst disadvantages suffered by country children who seek to fit themselves for a wider range of careers in the country or in the cities?
– Firstly I would like to say to the honourable member that the isolated children’s scheme is undergoing assessment at the present time by officers of the Australian Government’s Department of Education and the various State governments. About 11,100 families are receiving assistance under the isolated childern’s scheme and this involves about 15,500 children. Of the 15,500 children concerned, about 1,500 are doing correspondence work at home and 14,000 are boarding. Of the 11,100 families receiving assistance, about 4,223 families, or 40 per cent, are receiving more than the basic $350. They are getting up to $700. The Australian Government’s Department of Education has sent circulars to about 2,800 families indicating that possibly they are entitled to the further additional assistance of $304 for secondary students or $200 for primary students beyond the $700. About $9.5m is the estimate of the expenditure in this field in the present financial year. I point out to the honourable gentlemen that that sum is in the Budget.
As far as children doing correspondence work are concerned in my statement on the Government’s initiativies in education I drew attention to the fact that under an international agreement there is to be a change of transceiver. That change is required by December 1977. The Australian Government at present is allocating $100,000 a year to enable families on correspondence who use transceivers to turn over to the new transceiver. The scheme includes reimbursement for those who hire transceivers and do not desire to buy them. This has had important effects in rural districts. I think it is of interest to know that Tasmania has more claimants than has South Australia, for instance, and Tasmania, possibly because of the relatively depressed condition of the fruit industry, is receiving a somewhat higher proportion of the additional grants to assist the children in that State to go and board in order to get an education.
– Has the Minister for Defence received any reports of the reaction of the Royal Australian Air Force, Port Stephens Shire Council or the residents of the surrounding district to the disbanding of 76 Squadron at Williamtown? Is he aware that the defensive capacity of the RAAF will be seriously impaired by this policy of fewer aircraft and fewer men? What action does he intend to take to meet the strong resentment of the RAAF at this policy decision? Will he immediately review these decisions to prevent any further deterioration in the morale of Australian servicemen?
– I have received representations from the organisation to which the honourable member referred. These followed decisions made by the Department of Defence concerning some cutback in the Royal Australian Air Force. I have not yet received a reply from the Department of Defence concerning these representations but I will undertake to obtain information about the request made by the organisation. As soon as I am in a position to do so I will advise the honourable member accordingly.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen statements in the Victorian metropolitan and provincial newspapers indicating that the State Government is planning to recruit building workers, particularly for country areas? Is this being done outside the announced program or is it being done in co-operation with the Australian Government?
– I have not had any direct discussions with the Victorian Minister of Immigration or his officers since the meeting of the State Ministers some time ago. AH the State Ministers for Immigration will be meeting in Adelaide on 9 November and any of the matters that call for co-operation will be dealt with there. I have seen some statements which indicate a totally unreal attitude to migration at the present time. I saw one particular headline in a journal in Victoria which said: ‘Migrants wanted. Let’s go and get them.’ This betrays a completely unreal attitude both towards the people who desire to come here and to their response to that sort of recruitment approach. I want to make it very plain and I stress again that what we must do at all times is to invite people to join us - not to be the shock troops in this or that operation, but to invite people to join us as permanent settlers and members of the family of the nation.
If anyone has knowledge of some secret source of supply of skilled building workers we would be delighted to know about it because these people are in short supply in practically every country. We would certainly not be in a position to outbid other people and this is not our intention. We extend an invitation to people to join us for very many reasons and not just for short term advantage. I have made it very plain that it is our intention to give priority to decentralised development, to the growth centres and to country development generally to take the pressure off the inner city areas. We will continue to do that. Certainly where co-operation is needed we will be giving it. As far as the program is concerned, the movement of people that is desired by the States or by local authorities will be carried out in co-operation within the program and not outside it.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. I refer to a statement attributed to Mr Des Foster, the Federal Director of the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters, who said:
As a result of the Federal Government’s decision to increase land line charges many country radio stations will face a financial crisis.
Can the Postmaster-General inform the House of the exact position? Will there be an increase in land line rates as from 1 October? In the broad, what is the extent of such increases? If this is the case, will the Postmaster-General delay such alterations to a later date and so give those people who arc interested an opportunity to examine the consequences and, in turn, to make representations to the Government on this important issue?
– It is true that new rates for landline charges are proposed. I received in this morning’s mail a letter from Mr Foster indicating that there are country radio stations which are concerned about this matter. The question of finance, which falls into 2 parts, is related to a limited number of country stations. Some 15 country stations have applied for what is called a news concession. The amount involved is about $18,000. The concession varies in accordance with the type of station and where it is located. Also, in relation to land line use, charges have been adjusted to correspond with those being paid by the general public. I think the adjustment will result in an increase of some $46,000 spread over all stations in Australia. I am not aware of the individual problems of any radio station. However, I can indicate to the honourable member that I am in the process of advising Mr Foster of the situation by Telex. I would be pleased to hear the particular problems of any individual station. The matter could be reviewed in that light.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Having regard to the serious problem of dental caries, what action is being taken by the Australian Government concerning the operation of the school dental service? In particular, I would like to know the present situation in Victoria.
– The Australian Government, in co-operation with the States, has set up an advisory dental committee which has representation from the States, the Territories and the Australian Dental Association. Us function is to supervise an Australian school dental service. All States, except Victoria, will be training dental therapists next year. The Victorian Government has submitted a proposal to us for a dental training school which should be operative in 1975. As far as financing is concerned, the Australian Government will meet all capital and training costs for the dental therapy schools, all capital costs for the clinics for school children and threequarters of the running costs of these clinics. Following the experience in this field of New Zealand, Tasmania and South Australia in particular, we are sure that these proposals will make a major impact on the problem of dental caries and routine dental care of children generally. The Minister for Health in Victoria has expressed some misgivings about the fact that the advisory dental committee is responsible only to the Australian Minister for Health. He believes that this should be a joint responsibility of all Health Ministers. But I think the experience in the past with such joint responsibility has been that it makes for stagnation, inaction and buck passing. I can assure him that my officers, the advisory committee on which his administration is represented and everybody concerned are anxious only to co-operate at all stages in this activity.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees with the Minister for Labour that his election promise concerning the 35-hour week for the Commonwealth Public Service cannot be kept, or does he agree with the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, who says that it can?
– My memory is that my undertaking on behalf of the Government is to introduce the 35-hour week for Commonwealth Government employees in the life of this Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I preface the question by stating that a number of constituents have expressed great concern at the future employment opportunities at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and Woomera in South Australia. Can the Minister inform the House as to the present and future operations of this important organisation, particularly as they affect the security and employment opportunities of all employees?
– The Weapons Research Estabishment at Salisbury and the Woomera range, which is associated with it, are both committed to programs of work concerned with approved Australian defence projects. In addition, the significant work load of the Establishment and the range is subject to a joint arrangement between the United Kingdom and the Australian Governments. This arrangement has now been extended to 1976. The joint project, which involves work for the Department of Defence, will proceed as planned. However it may be necessary foi some new direction in the work that is being undertaken at the joint establishment. The whole question of employment at Woomera is under consideration. Some retrenchments may be necessary but it is hoped that these will be effected as a result of normal wastage. The honourable member will recall that last week I met representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a request was put to me by them that no retrenchments should take place until the whole question had been further considered by Cabinet. When that has been carried out I will be in a position to advise the honourable member of any retrenchments that may have to be effected in this area.
– Has the Prime Minister received a telegram from the Leader of the
Opposition in South Australia, Dr Eastick, requesting an immediate meeting of Premiers and Leaders of Oppositions throughout the nation to contrive a concerted attack on economic difficulties including inflation? Does the message stress the urgency of the request? What does the Prime Minister intend to do about the request and the problem it concerns, other than hedge about the matter?
– I discussed this matter with Dr Eastick on Friday night in Adelaide.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Territories been drawn to the comments contained in a report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation regarding Christmas Island? If so, what steps has he taken to ensure revegetation of areas affected by phosphate mining operations and so on? Have any steps been taken to set aside sufficient rain forests on the island for the preservation of Abbott’s booby bird and the Christmas Island Imperial pigeon which are endemic to the island and are listed internationally as gravely endangered species?
– I share the honourable member’s concern about the report that was brought down in the last Parliament of the failure of the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission to revegetate the worked out mine area. I will be visiting Christmas Island at the end of next month and one of the purposes of my visit will be to examine this question. I have written to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation suggesting that a term of reference for the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, of which the honourable member for Scullin is the Chairman, include the environmental impact of mining operations on Christmas Island. It may well be an opportune time, when I am visiting Christmas Island, for members or a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation to join me in that visit.
– Could the Prime Minister tell the House who in his Government is responsible for policy decisions? Is he aware that the Deputy Prime Minister last week told this Parliament that no decision had been taken on Galston as the site for Sydney’s second airport? Is it true that significant concern was expressed in the Parramatta byelection in Sydney on Saturday on the same issue? Is it also true that at a dinner party last night the Prime Minister asserted that he maintains his own strong belief that Galston would be the site of the second Sydney airport? Would the Prime Minister now tell us the attitude of the Labor Party as to the siting of the second Sydney airport?
– Unless the studies which are being conducted now show that it is from an engineering or financial point of view impractical to erect Sydney’s second airport at Galston, or unless it is found that the speed of surface communication between an alternate site in the Goulburn-Canberra area and Sydney is acceptable, then Galston proceeds. Honourable members know that the committee of Australian Government and New South Wales Government officials which considered the question of the second airport for Sydney recommended in terms of cost and speed that there should be another parallel runway built into Botany Bay. The committee asked the Government to determine that question before it went ahead with the examination of any other sites. The Government promptly determined that it would not accept a further runway into Botany Bay. I believe any Australian Government would come to the same decision.
I readily concede that in the Parramatta byelection people were very much concerned about the prospect of a second airport at Galston. I accept the situation that in any area there would be equal concern about a proposal to build a second airport in that area. In those circumstances I adhere to the point of view that the second airport should go in that area where fewest people are inconvenienced and most are convenienced. and that is Galston.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House what measures are being taken by the Government to overcome the drastic shortage of interpreters to assist migrants with little or no English in such matters as contracts, court cases and government welfare services? Can the Minister also inform the House what safeguards and qualifications will be expected to ensure that interpreters in official and unofficial business will always act in the best interests of the clients requiring the service?
– The position in regard to interpreter services generally in Australia is deplorable. It has been established by task forces particularly in Sydney and Melbourne that in some cases people who have needed treatment in hospitals have not been able to receive that treatment in a proper and effective way because of a lack of interpreters. I have received a report which indicated that a man had gone to gaol because there was complete confusion both on his part and the part of his defence about what the exact position was. It has been the practice over the years for interpreters to be almost dragged in off the street to give assistance in the courts on most complex matters. This seems to me to be prejudicing justice in our country. The reports of the task forces indicate that there is a great need to upgrade the standard of interpreter services, to provide for proper training and above all to seek co-operation now in all spheres between the Australian Government and the State governments, particularly in the fields of health and justice, and this I will do. We need to ensure that health services are properly provided and that justice is done. I am not satisfied at all that justice is being done at the present time or that it has been done in the past.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour. Did the Minister state that the election promise of the Prime Minister, to introduce the 35-hour week for the Commonwealth Public Service in the life of this Parliament, could not be carried out with any economic responsibility? Does he still adhere to that view or does he support the carrying out of the promise made by the Prime Minister at the election and by implication endorsed again just a few minutes ago?
– The right honourable gentleman knows very well what I said because he was looking at the program. He does not remember exactly what I said, but it is near enough. I have personally come to the view that while the labour market remains as tight as it now is, that is, with more unfilled jobs than registered unemployed, it is not possible to introduce a 35- hour week across the board or in the Public Service without merely increasing either the amount of regular overtime that the public servants now work or else, if this is to be avoided, drawing on the market that is already very tight and taking from private enterprise people who are in short supply and putting them into the Public Service, in which case the regular overtime which would otherwise be necessary in the Public Service would be transferred into the private sector. It is not the purpose of the 35-hour week merely to increase the amount of regular overtime. That is not why the unions are asking for the 35- hour week either. They want the 35-hour week in order to increase the amount of leisure for those who are working and to give greater job opportunities for those who cannot get any work at all. Honourable members must remember that when the Prime Minister gave his undertaking to introduce the 35-hour week in the lifetime of the present Parliament we had an army of 130,000 people out of work with less than 30,000 registered unfilled vacancies. Today we have something like 80,000 unfilled vacancies and something in the order of 69,000 registered unemployed. So the situation has been drastically changed, and the Prime Minister cannot have it both ways.
– The former Prime Minister.
– No, this Prime Minister connot ‘have it both ways. He cannot reduce the level of unemployment in the way he has done and expect to be able to introduce the 35-hour week at the same time. It cannot be done. I hope that he is not like my uncle and decides that death is preferable to breaking a promise.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Has the Minister studied the submission referred to him by the Treasurer from the Shire of Warragul to have the Reserve Bank note printing works re-sited at Warragul? Does he agree that the submission contained irrefutable proof that the area offers all necessary opportunities and is the appropriate environmental site for such an industry? Is the Minister prepared to visit Warragul to discuss further this important matter and to satisfy himself on any queries he may have? Will he do so in company with the Reserve Bank directors and the Treasurer?
– There have been discussions between the Treasurer and myself in regard to the siting of the note printing plant for the Reserve Bank. A great deal of study was made previously in regard to locating it 15 miles north of Melbourne at a place called Craigieburn. This is, of course, on the main line corridor between Melbourne and Sydney. Another proposal has also been put forward for its siting at Warragul the gateway of the Latrobe Valley. The Government is still considering this matter. We believe that both sites are good sites. Until further investigation is made by the Government, the Government will not be making a statement on this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Because it is so difficult to forecast the future demand for wheat, as it is for nearly all primary industry products, will he do his best to ensure that at this time of buoyant demand and high prices some proceeds are prudently put aside for greater storage facilties and also for future income subsidy?
– The honourable member poses a question relating to what is really a matter associated with wheat stablisation. As I mentioned in the House last week, I think it was, on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry, the discussions on the new wheat stabilisation scheme are proceeding at present and will take into account some of the matters that he has raised. I would just add that there is often a great deal of misunderstanding about the returns for wheat and the charges for wheat, and particularly the spread of costs between the producer and the consumer. I was interested to see the other day that in 1952 a 2 lb loaf cost 10c and contained about 3.4c worth of wheat and that last year a loaf costing 23c contained even less value in wheat, namely, 2.8c. So there is certainly room for a look at the whole gamut of matters associated with the producer and the consumer and quite frankly I would hope that we would be able to bring them much closer together in the future to the benefit of both.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Has his attention been drawn to reports last weekend and during the previous week that the Lynfield private nursing home at Wynnum, in my electorate, which provides accommodation for some 18 patients, is to be closed next month by the Federal Government? Is this report correct?If so, why has the Government decided to close the home? Further, can the Minister give the House any information on the plan, which he put recently to the Queensland Government, to provide alternative accommodation for patients affected by nursing home closures?
– It is not correct to assert, as was asserted in those reports over the weekend and earlier, that the Australian Government is responsible for the closing of the Lynfield nursing home. One of the requirements for registration as an approved nursing home for the purpose of attracting bed day benefit from the Australian Government is that the nursing home must be acceptable for registration purposes to the State government concerned; and a condition for registration is that a suitable fire report has to supplied by the appropriate fire authority, which in Queensland is the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board.
The facts about this home are that in October 1970 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board reported that the home was then unsuitable for occupancy as a nursing home, and the licence should only be extended for a further 3 years’. Soon afterwards the people conducting the home installed an automatic fire alarm but did not carry out structural changes as required by the Fire Brigade Board. In November and December 1970 the State Department of Health in Queensland and the Department of Social Security, respectively asked the proprietor of the home what were her intentions as to the future operation of the home, especially in relation to the report by the Fire Brigade Board. In February 1971 a letter was received by the Department of Social Security from the proprietor stating that it was rather difficult for her to say exactly what her intentions would be. In July 1972 the State Department of Health renewed the licence for this home to 15 October 1973 and requested advice from the proprietor about her intentions in respect to the continued conducting of the premises.
On 11 August 1972 - well before the system of free justification which was introduced by the previous Government was legislated for and, of course, well before it was applied by the present Government, which was from January of this year - the proprietor of the home advised the State health authorities that in accordance with the Fire Brigade report she would close the home when the licence expired. Accordingly, the home is to be closed down because of an adverse Fire Brigade report and because the proprietor of the home had decided, well before the election to office of the present Government, to close down the home following that report. I repeat that the Australian Government had nothing to do with that decision being taken. Quite a number of private profit making nursing homes in Queensland, mostly in the Brisbane area, are the subject of adverse Fire Brigade reports. We must accept those reports on their face value because they come from a responsible authority charged with this duty by the State authorities. Because a number of these homes have been the subject of adverse Fire Brigade reports and have been for a number of years the Australian Government has advised the Queensland Government that it is prepared to make $1.2m available on a dollar for dollar basis for the acquisition of existing premises that are suitable for conversion to nursing home units. The proposal which has been put to the Queensland Government is a clear indication of the sincerity of our intent and of our concern about the security of people in private profit making nursing homes designated by the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigade report as being fire hazards. Until we receive further advice from the State Government we can take no further action.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Last week the Prime Minister stated that the Parliament is entitled to the same information as is given at his Press conferences. Will he now state the decisions made by Cabinet since the last Press conference?
– If the right honourable gentlemen had risen promptly I would have sent for a list of them and could have announced them to him now, but this is really the end of question time and I cannot do so within the time now available. I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister announcing to the House the decisions reached by the Government since his last Press conference.
-Is the motion seconded?
– 1 second it.
-I request the Leader of the Opposition to write the terms of his motion on a piece of paper and hand it to the Clerk.
– Mr Speaker, is it in order for a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to be moved to provide for a procedure which is provided for in the Standing Orders without such a suspension?
– No point of order is involved. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to take such a course of action if he thinks fit.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made a fetish of his Press conferences. The way in which those Press conferences have been conducted since the first early flush has been for the Prime Minister to make a series of statements and to take up most of the time of the Press conferences with such statements. No adequate time is then allowed for questions to be asked of the Prime Minister by members of the Press about the way in which the Government conducts its affairs. If the Prime Minister wishes to have Press conferences they should be for the purpose of allowing questions to be asked by the Press of the Prime Minister about the conduct of the country’s affairs. If the Prime Minister wishes to make announcements of policy they should be made in this House. Over a long period when we were in Government the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, supported by those who sit on the front bench and who were then members of his executive, was very anxious to impress upon the Government and all Ministers that if a statement was to be made it should be made in this Parliament. In those days they were the great parliamentarians. Today they are not great parliamentarians. Today they are so anxious to avoid proper debate in this place that they take every opportunity to gag every debate to try to silence the Opposition, but we will not be silenced.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is now debating an issue instead of giving reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended. I ask the right honourable gentleman to confine himself to giving reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.
– Standing Orders should be suspended because the Prime Minister has once again flagrantly gone back on his word. On Monday of last week the Prime Minister said uncategorically that, before the Press conference was told, this Parliament was entitled to a statement by him of the decisions taken by the Government. He very magnanimously said that the House was enitled to as much information as the Press. He made that clear, unequivocal statement. Today I have asked him to live up to the statement that he made. He has failed to do so. He has refused to do so. He is not in the House. In all decency, one can assume only that he is outside collecting the papers so that he can return and make the statement. In all decency, what he is doing at present is collecting his scattered thoughts about what happened. A perfect example of why statements ought to be made in the House is the Galston decision. The Prime Minister said that it was a decision. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) said that it was not a decision. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who was temporarily the Acting Prime Minister said one day that it was not a decision. The previous day he had said that really it did not matter.
The real reason why the Prime Minister has had to go back on his word is that he does not want to make a statement in this House where his Caucus can challenge him. He wants to make a statment to the Press at a Press conference where his Caucus is not entitled to ask him questions. In this House the Caucus - members of the Australian Labor Party - is entitled to ask him questions. It would be in his own interests if he made public a debate over the decision which was made by the Government and then overturned by the Caucus. It is an extraordinary situation when the Prime Minister, in the words of the President of the Australian Labor Party, cannot deliver the Caucus. The Caucus has proved that it cannot be delivered. The Caucus is now quite clearly determined that the Prime Minister should not have his Press conferences and announce decisions until after he has taken the decisions to Caucus. That position explains the difficulty the Prime Minister has. He cannot come into this House and make those statements. It is clear dereliction of his duty as a parliamentarian. He has always claimed to be a great parliamentarian. Today, when put to the test, he quite clearly abandons his parliamentary responsibility and goes back on his word. Is there any member on the Government side of the House who will vote against giving the Prime Minister the opportunity to state the decisions of the Government to the Parliament? Surely this motion must be passed on the voices. If it is not passed on the voices it can be regarded only as a failure of Government support for the Prime Minister. The rather new member for Diamond Valley, who will have a temporary stay here, is adviser to the Prime Minister on parliamentary practice. He has been a member of this Parliament for about 5 minutes.
– Oh no!
– Yes, he is the adviser. Did not the honourable members just hear the honourable member for Diamond Valley offering advice? If the Prime Minister has a jot of decency in his soul, if he has any compassion for the members of his own Party and, above all, if he believes in the parliamentary system, let him enter the chamber now and say to his supporters ‘We will support the motion’ and then make a statement to this House. If he does not do that, never should he again say that he supports the principle of the parliamentary system. He should never again go to the Standing Orders Committee and speak in grandiloquent terms about what a great parliamentarian he is. He now has the opportunity to walk into this House, to support the motion and to make a statement.
– I second the motion that Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to announce any appropriate Cabinet decisions which have been made since Parliament last sat. I will not say that all Cabinet decisions can be announced to the public or to Parliament, but any Cabinet decisions which are to be made public should be announced to this Parliament and not to a Press conference this afternoon. This is the area which is of concern to the Opposition. We often heard the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, championing the rights of this Parliament and saying that it should be supreme in any major policy announcements that are made. The Prime Minister treats the Parliament with contempt and with a lack of dignity when major policy decisions are made outside of Parliament during a period when Parliament is sitting. Naturally, statements will have to be made at times when it is not possible to make them to members of Parliament. When it is possible for statements to be made in this House the Prime Minister should do so and not make statements to the Press so that members of the Press have the advantage of being able to question the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister has the chance of putting his own interpretation on the policy decisions.
Members of the Opposition have a right to question decisions and to make their own comments. If Parliament is to be treated with contempt a mockery is being made of this institution where the debate should be on both sides of the House. I presume that one of the reasons for the Prime Minister’s strategy in making announcements outside of the Parliament is that he has time to do a little kite flying and to be able to reverse his decisions if Caucus rejects his proposals. Is that really the way to give leadership and to announce major policy decisions? The Australian people expect that any statement made in this House is a concerted approach by Government supporters. Yet, we are finding that decision after decision is being qualified so that nobody is quite sure whether it is a firm Government decision. I refer to the proposed referendum which would give power to the Commonwealth to control prices.
– Order! I think the right honourable gentleman should confine his remarks to the reason why Standing Orders should be suspended and not debate the issue.
– I am not debating the issue. I am debating why it is unwise for such decisions to be made outside of this Parliament. In that case, the matter was canvassed in the public arena. The people thought that the Labor Party had a certain approach. Then we found that another point of view was being put by the Prime Minister. There was backing and filling and complete uncertainty as to what was the Government’s approach. If this is the sort of feeling engendered throughout the Australian community, it is little wonder that the people have become concerned about the direction in which the Government is taking them. There is little wonder that the people of Parramatta rejected the Government so overwhelmingly on Saturday. They really did not know what was the policy or attitude of the Government. This is basically because the Prime Minister is trying to have a little both ways. He is making decisions outside the Parliament and coming into the chamber at a later date and informing us, as an afterthought almost, of what the decision is. We want major policy decisions to be announced in the House so that we know that the point of view is definite and so that we have a chance to comment upon it. We have seen enough cases of this already. Over the weekend 2 major decisions have been made. One was in relation to the cancellation of unemployment relief to non-metropolitan areas. Not a word has been said about that in the Parliament today. Also, a decision has been made in relation to the industry assistance commission. That is a major decision to replace the Tariff Board. I predict that this afternoon the Prime Minister- will make some comment to the public about this decision. That decision should be made in the Parliament because it is a major decision affecting legislation before the Parliament.
– The question before the House is that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announcing to the House the decisions reached by the Government since the Prime Minister’s last Press conference. Quite frankly, I thought that after Parramatta the Opposition could have done better. When all is said and done, it would appear that members of the Opposition may be suffering from an attack of gallstones after the events of Saturday. Let me say that at least this motion has brought the Liberal and Country Parties together. Constantly, when motions are moved in the House for a statement to be made, we have to listen to 2 speeches from the Opposition parties because honourable members opposite do not know who is talking for whom. The situation is that during the period of the last Government Press conferences were never held and policy statements were never made, inside or outside of the Parliament. The decisions were kept secret by the clique or the junta that controlled that ill-famed organisation. As honourable members opposite know, this Government has announced consistently in the Parliment great measures, great legislative proposals and great reforms.
Let me point out what honourable members opposite are asking for today: At this very hour the Executive Council is meeting.
Cabinet has made decisions in regard to a number of appointments which have to be ratified and approved by Her Majesty’s representative in this country. Do honourable members opposite expect the Prime Minister of this country to come into the House and make announcements concerning these matters even before the Governor-General has assented to them7 Do they seriously ask that that be done? Does the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) say that we should announce in the Parliament what will be done when such matters are still subject to the approval and endorsement of Her Majesty the Queen and probably run the risk of the Queen not accepting the matters? Does he say that? Even the members of the mushroom club would not -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country Party were heard in comparative silence. I ask honourable members of the Opposition to show the same courtesy to the Leader of the House. If they do not do so, I will see that he gets it.
– There is nothing foolish about this. I repeat the position: At this very moment the Governor-General is considering certain Government decisions in regard to appointments. Does the Opposition say that it should be told before Her Majesty’s representative in this country is told? Do honourable members opposite seriously say that? Of course, they do not. They know that they are putting up a phoney proposition this morning. It was never endorsed by their own Government. It was never more difficult to get decisions or submissions out of a government than it was from the previous administration which the honourable member who has just spoken helped to lead to its political doom. This Government has been the most open Government of our time.
The claim by the Leader of the Opposition that every debate is gagged by this Government is a fantasy. If the record of curtailment of debates by the previous administration was compared with our record, what we have done would hardly be noticed. The reason why debates have been gagged by this Government is that stupid senseless motions such as the one now before the House are moved by the Opposition to waste the time of the Parliament. I tell the Opposition that. later today. I will give notice of a motion that will seek to stop these time wasting procedures such as the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition today.
The Leader of the Opposition said that decisions of the Cabinet are overturned by the Labor Caucus. Unlike honourable members opposite, the Australian Labor Party is not run from the top. Honourable members opposite know that they were never consulted on any aspect of policy. They never knew what a budget contained until it was presented in the Parliament. Each member on the Government side of the House has an equal say in the running of this country, the administration of the Party and policy decisions. Consequently, Cabinet decisions must be submitted to the Party as a whole. We do not blindly follow, as honourable members opposite did as they went to their political doom, what is decided without knowing the substance of proposals which affect our electorates. That is why we on this side of the Parliament are consulted on decisions.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that Cabinet was overturned by the Caucus. 1 remember when he appointed his shadow Cabinet. Then, his Party members decided that members of that shadow Cabinet should be elected by them. The selections by the Leader of the Opposition were overturned when that right to elect the Opposition shadow Cabinet was given to Opposition members. Looking at the few who were elected on the other side, I think that those who were beaten were unlucky to lose their positions.
The Prime Minister brings to this Parliament legislative proposals and announcements of great importance. He makes them in the right place. This is the point at issue. We can never please the Opposition. When he appeared on television with Mr David Frost, the Opposition said that the Prime Minister first should have consulted the Parliament on the decisions he mentioned. More people in Australia on that night through that program saw and heard announcements and statements than probably have ever heard decisions by any political leader of our time. The Prime Minister meets the Press each week. He gives the Australian Press entree to what is happening in the Parliament. The Opposition says that instead of telling the Press the Prime Minister should come in here and tell the Parliament. Why, as honourable members know, this practice demonstrates a real approach to democracy in this country.
The present situation arises because a desperate Opposition is clamouring for power which it cannot get. It wastes the time of the Parliament and then wonders why the time allowed for important debates must be curtailed. Honourable members opposite know as well as I do that the legislative proposals that will be announced here in the next few months will be such that a record will be created in this Parliament.
– How many are there?
– I think there are between 150 and 200. I urge honourable members opposite to be patient because they certainly will have available to them plenty of time to discuss many of these matters of great importance. In that way they will be able to give vent to whatever their feelings may be on the matters to be considered by the Parliament.
I consider this motion to be frivolous. I say quite frankly that I would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition and the third most important man on the Opposition side of the Parliament had more to do “-t this time than to move and second this motion. At a time when all kinds of important issues face this Parliament I would have thought that they would seek more time to deliberate on those issues. The Government rejects this motion. I repeat that it is lovely to see the Country Party and the Liberal Party again speaking with one voice. The few fleeting moments of joy that I get from this debate arise from the opportunity to see them together again arm in arm supporting even a minor motion of this nature.
The Government rejects the motion. The Prime Minister will continue to do as has been his wont. He will present to the Parliament decisions in accordance with determinations made by the Government from time to time. I understand that the Press conferences will continue. Good luck to them. The people are entitled to be told what the Government is doing. In addition, I hope that those members opposite who waste the time of the Parliament by moving motions such as this will realise that they cannot be allowed to continue to waste the time of the Parliament and then expect to be able to have time available to consider statements or other matters of that nature which are of great importance. Later today I will give notice of a motion that will seek to provide that the time wasting procedures indulged in by a temporarily exuberant Opposition will be dealt with in such a way that the Opposition will be brought to face the fact that it cannot take such action and at the same time expect important matters to be debated. The Government rejects the motion and will vote against it.
– I doubt whether this House has ever heard a more brutal rejection of the rights not just of members of the Liberal Party of Australia and members of the Australian Country Part but the rights of all members than the one we have just heard from the leader of the House (Mr Daly) who has not only rejected our rights but has announced that he will later on move to use his numbers to prevent the exercise of all our rights in the future. All we are asking by this motion is for the right of this Parliament to be told of decisions before the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announces them to the Press. It is known that he holds his Press conferences on Tuesday afternoons. We want to give him an opportunity now, which is not otherwise available, to tell us first.
We are told by the Leader of the House that this motion to suspend Standing Orders is a shocking thing, a ridiculous thing and a waste of time. This is just another example of the great splits which are appearing. We had an example of this during question time. The Leader of the House has said that this motion is ridiculous yet the Prime Minister got up and said that he would be glad to make a statement in the House if he had a little more time. How do we gel the 2 things together? Surely it is right for us to offer an opportunity to the Prime Minister to enable him to do what he has said he would be glad to do if he had more time. Surely it is wrong for this motion to be rejected. I would have hoped that not just members of the Liberal Party and members of the Country Party would have been united on this matter but that all members would have been united on it. Surely members on the other side of the House have sufficient regard for their standing to believe that they ought to be told of decisions before the Press are told.
I know that the Government and the Prime Minister in particular work under a great disadvantage in regard to this matter. He has a difficulty which I can express in the form of an old riddle about when is a door not a door. The riddle is: When is a decision not a decision? The answer is, after it has been announced publicly by the Prime Minister but before it has gone to Caucus. That is the disadvantage as I see it. But if the Prime Minister is going to announce something publicly this is the place in which statements ought to be made. This is the place in which he said he would be glad to announce them. Why does the Leader of the House prevent us from hearing what we want to hear and the Prime Minister from saying what he has said he would be glad to say?
– I will be quite brief about this. I sat in this place over a period of 17 years and watched the behaviour of honourable members opposite when they were in government. I never saw or noted any compassion or consideration for the Opposition whatsoever. I do agree, however, that the time has come for us to consider the operations of the House and the way in which matters of this kind are dealt with. There could well be some restructuring of Standing Orders to provide for an announcement session immediately after question time. But I do believe that in situations such as this as they have developed over the last 8 or 9 months the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is a piece of parliamentary vandalism. Every opportunity is taken to stop the smooth working of this place on the slightest possible pretext. The time to raise the question of how we operate this Parliament is in debates on the parliamentary estimates or when we are discussing Standing Orders. I believe that the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition is doing this House a great disservice and it is darn near time that he learned that his writ ran pretty poorly when he was running the place. We are going to change the structure so that, at last, Parliament will take over and we will not have the sort of phoney executive operations with which he used to conduct it.
– Mr Speaker, when the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) was speaking he indicated that I had interjected. I did nothing of the sort. I merely shook my head in disagreement with what the right honourable gentleman was saying.
– Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
– I have to present, pursuant to statute, the annual reports and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon, for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 32b of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949-1966, 1 present the twentyfourth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966-1970,I present the sixth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1296), on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– I had hoped to continue my remarks last Thursday on the 4 Bills now before the Parliament, but of course this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. At that stage I was referring to the lack of information provided by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) about the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Last week I referred to the Force as the Pacific Islands Regiment and I am grateful to the Minister for reminidng me that in fact on 26 January an announcement was made that thereafter it would be referred to as the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. I believe it is more than time for the Minister to advise this Parliament on the stage of negotiations reached between Papua New Guinea and Australia on the future structure, deployment, size, etc., of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. I referred to some of the considerations that ought to have been placed before us and to some of the discussions which undoubtedly were held and about which we ought to have been advised. I referred, for example, to consideration of organisation, training and other matters relative to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force which could be accomplished now without prejudice to its size and shape. I referred to the need for study and consultations with and increased responsibility by Papua New Guinea authorities in defence matters right up to the time of independence. Papua New Guinea now has a Minister for Defence, Mr Albert MaoriKiki. Undoubtedly he will be wanting to play a real role in the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea.
We need to be advised of the concepts for the future role and deployment of the Papua New Guinea forces in a post-independence situation as it is seen by both the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government. The former Australian Government was criticised continually for not making sufficient statements on the future role of the Pacific Islands Regiment, as it then was, although we were referring to it consistently. We have heard little or nothing from the Minister for Defence about either the matters I have mentioned or the financial arrangements on defence between Papua New Guinea and Australia in the period of internal selfgovernment and at independence - that is, between 1 December and whatever date is agreed upon for independence.
That leads me to a couple of points of criticism that I make of the present Government relating to independence. Honourable members are singularly uninformed on the date of independence. All we have is statements about independence in the life of the Australian Parliament - that must have as much relevance to the progress of Papua New Guinea as has the life of the Norwegian Parliament - and statements earlier in the year by the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) that independence would be reached some time in 1974. That was contradicted, and properly so, by the Chief Minister who said that he wanted to experience a period of selfgovernment before determining the date of independence. We have had statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that Australia will share equally in the determination of the date of independence. That, to me, is a classic colonialist attitude.
The date of independence must be determined, at least in the practical sense, by consultation between Papua New Guinea and
Australia; but the prime determinant must be the desire of the people of Papua New Guinea, as expressed by the leadership group. The Government of Papua New Guinea must determine the date. Australia ought to respond to the date that the members of that Government determine. After all, it is their country and their future, not ours. We ought not to be imposing the date of independence on Papua New Guinea. To me, that smacks of a colonialist attitude. It is a phony approach by a party which says that it is anti-colonialist. It seems to me to be placing stresses on Papua New Guinea instead of easing it along the road towards independence and continuing the smooth and orderly transition towards self-government which was being carried on under the previous Government’s administration of the Territory and, in fairness, under the moves towards selfgovernment by this Government. As I said on Wednesday, we must distinguish between selfgovernment and independence.
A further criticism that I have regarding independence is that it is inconceivable to me that this Government should allow Papua New Guinea to be shortly approaching the stage of independence without determining what the basic relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea will be when that country reaches the stage of independence, or when the watershed actually occurs. It will not occur on self-government; it will occur on independence. Will we stop, look at one another and say: ‘Now let us discuss what our relations will be’? We ought to be determining our basic approach now. To me it is the height of foolishness and crass stupidity, apart from maladministration, to be thinking that we can reach a date for independence and then determine relations as if we were pressing a computer button. We must determine the basic approach and be guided particularly by the attitude of Papua New Guinea as to how it sees its relations with Australia as well as its relations with other countries.
After 1 December Papua New Guinea will be responsible for all domestic matters. I do not quibble with that. After all, the decision was reached by the previous Government in conjunction with the coalition Government in Papua New Guinea. Between 1 December and independence Australia will be dealing with defence and foreign affairs matters on behalf of Papua New Guinea but in conjunction with it. It is well to bear in mind that we ought to be distinguishing now between Australia’s relations with Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea’s own foreign relations. We have to develop our relations with Papua New Guinea having proper regard to Australia’s national interests, and we should expect Papua New Guinea to do precisely the same. In particular, we should not expect her to look to us to decide what her national interests are. Nor, as I have said on previous occasions, should we expect that over the years Papua New Guinea’s national interests, as they are better defined and as Papua New Guinea’s political leaders become more conscious of them, will not become more and more divergent from those of Australia. This is something to which the Government ought to be directing its attention and on which it ought to be preparing papers and information for this Parliament. It should do so in the execution of the fundamental duty that we have had to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. We are being given sparse information as to what relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia after independence are foreseen.
It seems to me that yet another breakdown in relations was the way in which there was fighting over whether Papua New Guinea would be allowed to join in the AustraliaJapan ministerial talks in Tokyo. We understand now that Mr Albert Maori Kiki will be allowed to attend the Australia-Japan ministerial committee. To give credit to the Minister, from the leaks I have heard around this Parliament it would appear that it was only through his strong representations that Papua New Guinea was allowed to attend. Where was the Prime Minister? Why was he not agreeing to the move that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be a participant in these discussions? Surely increasing investment and improved relations between Japan and Papua New Guinea alone would dictate that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be allowed to represent Papua New Guinea. Surely the close and abiding relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea should have dictated that Mr Albert Maori Kiki be present at the AustraliaJapan ministerial committee.
This is another example of the wishes of the Papua New Guinea Government being secondary to the determinations of individual Ministers or the Prime Minister. This has happened not only in relation to these talks and the talks on independence which 1 mentioned a little earlier in my speech, but also in the disagreement over the airport proposals and the disagreement over the nature of aid programs. This is the way in which relations between the 2 countries have diverged. This does not affect the date on which selfgovernment will come into operation but it may jeopardise relations in a postselfgovernment pre-independence situation. I hope it does not. I trust it will not. We have been too close to Papua New Guinea for too long to allow this to happen.
I stress again the necessity to distinguish between Australia’s foreign relations interests and the proper regard that she must pay to her national interests when making those assessments and the fact that Papua New Guinea will be making similar considerations. Therefore mutual discussion should be held now to determine the form which relations with other countries should take as well as with Papua New Guinea in a postindependence situation. It is not good enough to wait until after self-government before holding these discussions. After all, as I have said, Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea is in the process of changing fundamentally. In working towards selfgovernment and later independence, we are discarding the former relationship of an administering authority and an administered country. Prior to this Government taking over the process had been achieved largely without bitterness or recriminations from either party. Relations between our 2 countries are still reasonably well founded on a sound basis of goodwill and mutual trust. I earnestly hope that that situation will continue. Speaking personally, I always valued a close association with the Papua New Guinea Government and I hope that Ministers in this Government - I mean Ministers in the plural - will see that that situation continues. I agree with what is contained in the article written by Mr Creighton Burns which appeared in the ‘Age’ yesterday. He said that the Ministers of this Government ought to be in Papua New Guinea continuously to reassure the Government of Papua New Guinea about the aid programs and helping it during this sensitive time. They should be there to stress that so far as Australia-Papua New Guinea relations are concerned Papua New Guinea will occupy a special place as a recipient of aid from Australia in the future.
Some people would regard Papua New Guinea’s movement towards independence at the present moment as exciting. One can imagine a situation some time in the future in which Papua New Guinea, independent and developing, has close and friendly relations with Australia that have stabilised into a permanent reality. But let no one dismiss the sensitive period towards which Papua New Guinea is moving now. I have the utmost confidence in the future of Papua New Guinea, provided the government of the day in this country, whichever Government it may be, gives the assistance requested by Papua New Guinea and does not impose its views on Papua New Guinea. The association between our 2 countries cannot end at independence. We ought to be taking steps now to determine what our relations with Papua New Guinea will be after independence. Events of history and factors of geography have dictated that our 2 countries must have a close relationship. We are too important to each other for it to be otherwise and for it to be to the detriment of both countries. I am confident that provided there are efforts by men of goodwill in both Papua New Guinea and Australia we can achieve that goal. We must recognise that she will be taking decisions primarily in her interests. This means that she will weigh up the relations between herself and Singapore and herself and Indonesia. In other words she will look to both the Pacific and South East Asia as she has not had to do before and we should be preparing ourselves - not simply Papua New Guinea - for the time when that stage is reached.
I have said that I am optimistic about the future of Papua New Guinea. I am sure that the Chief Minister would be as cognisant as most members of this Parliament are of the difficulties she faces. We do not underrate those difficulties. We want to give all the assistance we can give. She has domestic problems of management, a small number of Papua New Guineans in high positions in the Public Service and a small indigenous tax base. She therefore is heavily reliant on expatriates and foreign investment. We would hope that this will change over a lengthy period, but it cannot be changed overnight. There are problems of secession movements, but I do not want to exaggerate them. There is the question of the Papua-Queensland border. One would hope that that matter can be resolved by negotia tion. People in Australia do not seem to realise the deep sensitivity of the question of the Papua-Queensland border and what it could cause internationally and within Papua New Guinea if it were unresolved. I hope an earnest endeavour is made not to shout from the Federal Parliament to the Queensland Parliament that the decision will be taken unilaterally but that cognisance will be given to the provisions of the Constitution and that negotiations will be held between the Queensland Government, the Federal Government, the people of the Torres Strait Island and, in particular, the people of Papua New Guinea. After all, the colony of Queensland in the late 1890s resolved to change the boundary. It did not go ahead. There seems to me to be a prima facie case but that does not mean that the Australian Government should bludgeon the Queensland Parliament into doing as it sees fit. I think it was within 2 days of taking over Government that the Prime Minister said that the boundary would be changed. He should have known that he had no power to change it and it was wrong to mislead the people of Papua New Guinea in that way. The way to resolve all these sorts of problems is by goodwill and mutual discussion. This should be taking place now.
– I hope you will talk to the Queensland Government.
– I have already expressed my views earlier in this House along the same lines and members of the honourable member’s Party supported the view I am now putting forward.
– I congratulate you on the view you are putting, but I hope you will persuade the Queensland Government.
– I am pleased that your remarks will be written into Hansard. I congratulate the honourable member on this mutual exchange of goodwill in this House. We must accept that the movement to self government, which has been described in this Parliament on a number of occasions, is reaching its end. We must look beyond the stage of self-government and, as I stressed to the Government, beyond the date of independence itself. We should not wait until the break occurs in relation to the execution of our duty to the United Nations. We must recognise that Papua New Guinea will be independent and looking to Asia and the Pacific. We must recognise that by ‘independent’ we mean just that. There will be stresses and strains and we, in this Parliament, will need to be tolerant of the relations that occur between Papua New Guinea and Australia.
What I want to say in conclusion calls for a degree of self-congratulation, not personally but of the previous Government and, to an extent, this Government. 1 believe that no other administering power in the world has been able to bring a country to selfgovernment with such close relations between it and the administered area as has Australia - no country, except perhaps Britain with Fiji, but that might be the only example, and even that I would challenge. I think that Australia can be proud of the role she has played in moving towards self-government and independence for Papua New Guinea but that does not mean that she should be looking for thanks from Papua New Guinea. It was a proper execution of a legal and moral duty. The fact that we have tackled the process of winding down and have done it properly does not mean that we should look for selfcongratulation or gratitude. We have done our job. We should be proud of what we have done. We should be thinking beyond the stage of carrying out our duty and looking to the stage of relations between an independent, friendly country north of ourselves.
I would like to give my final congratulations to the Department of External Territories because it, after all, evaporates on the date of self-government and its personnel move to various other departments. I have mentioned once before the debt that Australia owes the Department and successive Administrators in Papua New Guinea. Extraordinary tasks have been handled by them. A large amount of credit should go to officers of the Department for rapid movement and transition towards self-government which has been carried out so smoothly and in such orderly fashion. It would be wrong to conclude my remarks without referring to them. At the same time, on behalf of the Opposition - and I am sure that those honourable members who follow me in this debate will say the same - I wish well the Government of Papua New Guinea and the institution of the House of Assembly in their relations with this current Australian Government as they move towards independence.
– I wish to make only a few simple points on the Bills before the House. Despite the great and growing appreciation of the prospects and problems of Papua New Guinea by the 2 major parties in this House there still remains in the community at large too many stereotyped and simplistic views on the country. I am often amazed by what some of my constituents say to me about Papua New Guinea. Many still assume that unless Papua New Guinea is identical in form to Australia that country will not be ready for self-government and independence. I think that all of us in this House appreciate that this is an absurd point of view. I wish to direct most of my comments to some of the simplistic views about the country.
Despite the mild criticisms expressed by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) I think he largely agrees with what the Government is doing and the Opposition is not opposed to these Bills. The die was cast when the honourable member for Kooyong was the Minister for External Territories, and I think the casting has resulted in this collection of Bills, particularly the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973. As the honourable member has fairly stated these Bills are a progression of policies initiated by the previous Government. However, I want to point out that letting her rip is a different task from seeing it through. This Government in the months that it has been in office has seen the matter through. I think we all appreciate the clever way in which the honourable member for Kooyong has put forward some criticisms and we appreciate that he has given the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) ample opportunity to reply to them and to trace out the progress that this Government has made.
During the recess I had the privilege of being a member of the first all party parliamentary delegation that has made an official visit to Papua New Guinea. I think that this in a way is a reflection on the Australian Parliament. I want to pick up something that was said by the honourable member for Kooyong about the interest shown by Prime Ministers in Papua New Guinea. I point out to the honourable member that the previous Prime Minister did not go to that country and that the present Prime Minister who has a great interest in Papua New Guinea was there within 2 months of gaining office. In many ways the interest in this country on the part of the present Prime Minister has been one of the catalysts which has brought these Bills about. The Prime Minister before the previous Prime Minister, of course, only went up there with a gun on his hip.
I do not suppose that all members of the delegation agreed on the background of everything that we saw but I am sure that we all agreed on the beauty and the potential wealth of the country as well as the intelligence of the people. I believe they are possessed of enough talent, ability and skills to handle selfgovernment and independence. There may be a lot of problems but Australia has plenty of problems and I am quite sure that we do not envisage that Papua New Guinea will be faced with anything like the problems of such a sophisticated nation as Northern Ireland. I think the stage simply has been reached where there are few problems which cannot be solved better by the people themselves. I would put myself down as only a 6-day expert and I do not know anywhere near as much on this matter as one of my colleagues in the delegation, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who was a great guide to us. But I did form many opinions.
The reason why the honourable member for Morton (Mr Killen) often alludes to the ancients in regard to politics is, of course, that political attitudes are pretty general and have been that way through the centuries. In our tour of New Guinea we visited many local councils. There, in the members of the Council, one could sec just about every political attitude that is exhibited in this House. There seemed to be a Country Party in microcosm, with the attitudes towards the land. There was a mutual suspicion of Port Moresby as a sort of central power. Everyone wanted more money for local government and a lot of people, of course, wanted the localisation process to give more autonomy in setting up budgets to the regions themselves. The only difference was that the opinions being expressed by the Council members tended to be more overt, more open and perhaps less subtle than we have in our own parliaments. But every political attitude was there. The people knew what they wanted and they knew what they were about.
I think there were about 155 local government councils in Papua New Guinea. Some of them go back many years. Many of the councillors are very skilled men indeed, particularly in committee work. I went there possibly a little more pessimistic than I came back, because certainly I came back feeling optimis tic, despite some of the problems we saw. One is dealing only with elites in developing nations. Of course there are a lot of tensions. But many of these tensions can be very creative as well as potentially destructive. I came back with two major impressions with respect to the so-called troubles and the way of the highlanders. I felt that the recent troubles had little to do with the coming of self-government and more to do with the change in the degrees of control and changes in the basis of authority. There is the constant problem of land, but this again would be best solved by the Papua New Guinea people themselves.
We were privileged to see also one of the land commissions of inquiry in action at a village level trying to work out what recommendations it would make to its own Government. The other thing is the problems of the highlanders who supposedly are opposed to self-government and independence. I do not think this was an opposition in any sort of traditional conservative terms at all. It seemed to me to be just a hard-headed appraisal of the situation. The highlanders worried mainly about money and a continuance of Australia’s role in providing funds and the wherewithal for what they have seen in their own lifetime. Many men there could remember seeing the first European coming into the valleys. Since development has accelerated since about 1966, they have seen roads, hospitals, schools and all those things come in. They simply do not want to take the risk of the provision of these improvements ceasing in any way. I think that we have to assure the people of Papua New Guinea as much as possible that Australia is committed to continuing finance in the future. The present Budget was a record Budget and much of the various allocations were negotiated between the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government.
I thought also that there was a much greater need for dissemination of information. Communications are still poor in most areas, as many people realise, with problems of language. There still has to be a lot more communication, I think, and there should have been a lot more communication from the Australian Government to the people to prepare them for changes. They are in a society that has been enmeshed in change for a long time. It is pretty reasonable to expect that there will be over-reaction to some changes when they are in a society that is so much in flux. 1 do not think there has been so much a problem of law and order as a problem in specific areas - great problems caused by the diversity.
As the Minister said, this Bill is historic. I should like to make just a few blunt and rather didactic statements. I think there is much value in speeding to self-government and independence as soon as possible. I think we need to have a situation where those who actually take a decision are legally responsible for it. I think that delay means shadows, a shadow line, grey areas, uncertainty as to who has the power and who has the responsibility. This must be avoided. Law and order have been trotted around Australia as well as in Papua New Guinea, Law and order is a cliche. Law is a social device and I want to speak more of it as a social device. There is a need to seek public order and harmony within the community. But I think that the Papua New Guinea Government, the Australian Government and the Australian people must not ignore the underlying social tensions. I think there is a great need for the Government to be magnanimous. I do not think that police should be used simply to alienate some of the community problems that the people may or may not have. The police must not enforce unjust laws when the laws are seen by the people to be unjust. I do not think that the constabulary and the Army should be assumed to be the first and only answer to problems. I think that there should be a lot more emphasis on funding of the police rather than the Army.
I agree with Professor J. B. D. Miller, who said in a recent issue of the ‘Australian Outlook’ that Australia has been gravely at fault in the past in delaying the separation of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea from those of Australia. The Army and the Police Force in fact are at best only short term expedients. We all agree, I think, that the future will be one of turbulence and excitement. This is natura! and to be expected; it would be curious if it were any other way in a new nation which has such great vitality. I think the country needs now a vigorous assertion of legal power. The power of a foreign derived law, as it has had, could itself precipitate an anti-Australian movement within the country. I think it must get its own laws as soon as possible which would be more in keeping with the mores of society. There have been a lot of headlines in the Australian newspapers and in papers in Papua New Guinea about certain riots. A brigadier - I forget his name - when giving evidence to a Senate committee spoke about a possible bloodbath up there. I think that these headlines and these generalisations are not desirable. One heard a lot about the Port Moresby riots following a football match but not too much about the fact that the Mt Hagen show, which was attended by an enormous number of people, went off without any incidents whatsoever. We heard a great deal of publicity about Josephine Abaijah and the movement she leads, and that is fair enough; attention should be paid to her ideas. However, it seems that emphasis was not put on the fact that the death of Matthias Toliman had united the people in their grief for one of their leaders.
I think we have to examine what evidence there is in reality of a breakdown in law and order. I shall quote from the most learned article on the subject which I have read recently. It was written by Nigel Oram and appears in the journal ‘New Guinea’, Volume VII, June 1973. He traced some of the evidence that is available and quoted from the Commission of Inquiry into Alcoholic Drink. He certainly could point to evidence that crimes associated with drunkeness had increased dramatically but that this was more a problem of the town and migrant populations and not of the villages. Some of his conclusions were that nowhere in Papua New Guinea has public order ever broken down completely but that there are distinct problems in different areas. What is needed is an analysis of supposed crime or of law and order in the social context of the society and an analysis of social control. Administrative control or administrative action is concerned with authority whereas political action is concerned with power relations and decision making. We have to define the 2 problems - the dichotomy of legality and legitimacy. It is very hard to say that the colonial regimes had any legality; but when one talks of legitimacy, one is talking of a wider matter. Legitimacy really gets down to the socialisation of the society itself, the mores and the values of the society. Societies depend for their existence on the presence in the minds of its members of a certain system of sentiments by which the conduct of the individual is regulated in conformity with the needs of the society. Customary values, beliefs and techniques of society grow up over centuries.
I have little time in which to describe the clan society of Papua New Guinea and the kinds of leaders with which it has grown up; one could possibly describe them as ascribed leadership and achieved leadership. But the society itself did evolve means of settling disputes, and probably one could boil this down to saying that the big men talk the problems out. With the European administration came direct rule by Kiaps which largely meshed into the traditional system in some way; but imposition of the English legal concepts and European concepts was always poorly understood. I would, if I had time, try to trace the progress of legal administration in a society which largely went along as if it were along colonial lines until 1965. Since then there have been great changes in legal administration in the country. And, of course, the great change in the impact of European administration also has to be understood in terms of the way in which the patrol officers and district commissioners and others set up the administration. This, of course, went back to the 1880s. Great changes have been made in the society by the impact of Europeans, monetary economy, Western education and Christian religion.
I think the attempt to introduce the Australian legal system was not a matter of replacing chaos with the rule of law but of replacing one type of social control with another. The Western concept of abstract justice and punishment for offences is not uniformly accepted in conceptual terms - and why should it be? The Papua New Guinea Government is now developing its own ideas about laws which will have country-wide applicability. While I was in Papua New Guinea a report was brought down in the Parliament on the first thoughts about the development of these laws. I think the old certainties of village life have disappeared and the Papua New Guinea society is in a constant state of trying to adapt to changing conditions. The roles of the luluais, tultuls and village constables have changed in the space of a few short years. The Native Village Councils Ordinance of 1948 provided for a situation where the councils themselves were responsible for the maintenance of order in their areas. But in 1963 the powers in a local government ordinance relating to law and order were removed as a result of recommendations made by Professor Derham in 1961. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has filled this gap. I often think in sociologi cal terms about whether that was any great advance. I think it could be argued that the old council kin relationship was possibly better than the police as a means of enforcing law and order.
I think the same sorts of stresses and changes have occurred with respect to the administration of justice, as I said before. Unfortunately I have not time to go into this aspect. To sum up, I do not think that there is so much a law and order problem in Papua New Guinea as a number of specific fields in which stresses within the society threaten public order. Tensions have developed throughout societies in Papua New Guinea as a result of rapid change. But I maintain that if they are recognised by the people in those societies they are often socially and economically productive. I am optimistic about this occurring. I have great faith in Michael Somare and his Government and in their perceptions of their own society. As the honourable member for Kooyong has just stated, it is the people of Papua New Guinea who have to make up their own minds and we have to let them go ahead and do so. When they do get independence it has to be total independence. I think the so-called law and order issue is best handled by the people of the country itself. This Bill goes part of the way towards making the power formal. This Bill will allow Papua New Guinea to have its own home-grown constitution. It will not in any way pre-empt any of the decisions of the Government of Papua New Guinea or of the committees working out these things at present.
To sum up my attitude, I think that there is a need for Australians - the people to whom I addressed myself at the beginning of this short speech - to understand the society sociologically. Alarmist statements by newspapers and the media do little to help but only serve to disguise the real issues. Attitudes of Australian politics have little to do with the underlying factors and the qualities and initiatives of the Papua New Guinea people and their past, present and future leaders. I commend the Bills to the House.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
– This Bill relates to the bringing of Papua New Guinea into self-government. As the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has said, 4 Bills are being debated cognately. The basic intention of these Bills is to ensure that
Papua New Guinea attains self-government by 1 December next. We on this side of the House are in agreement with that intention simply because it is a decision which we made last year when in government and which has been ratified by the present Government. However, I feel that the present Government is forcing Papua New Guinea into an international void by pushing it too fast towards independence. This has been done not in legislative form but in the form of statements made by the Minister at various times this year. The statements were made not to the House but to newspapers and the like.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that the Bills were more symbolic than substantive. Certainly the Bills are very symbolic because a country, for which we have had a tremendous responsibility for a number of years - a United Nations trust responsibility - is being brought towards selfgovernment. We see the fruition of the work done by previous governments and ratified by the present Government. The statement that the decision is not substantive is one with which I cannot agree. First of all, the country will be brought to self-government. I believe that it is ready for it. But to force it into this international void of independence early next year - I believe this is the Government’s proposal - is certainly substantive. I am certain that we will get a reflection of the Government’s decision in the months ahead; in 1974 we will feel the results of what this Government proposes to do.
I believe that there is no sincerity in what the Minister has said. He has informed the Press rather than the Parliament. He and his Party feel that unless and until they get rid of this responsibility they will be branded by the Third World as colonialists. Nothing is further from the truth. I believe that the nations of the Third World, in particular the African and Arab nations, have told this Government to get rid of Papua New Guinea and the responsibilities which the Government has for it. I believe that this Government has acceded to that request and said: ‘We will make certain that Chief Minister Somare, his Ministers and his Government reach independence in 1974’. For many years past the Government of Papua New Guinea has needed the advice, guidance and assistance given by previous administrations. I believe that it will need the same help for at least several years in the future. When my Party was in government we gave that help willingly because it was our responsibility. No political gains were to be made by any government in Australia which was helping Papua New Guinea. It was a job which had to be done as a responsibility to the whole world and because the United Nations had signified that Australia should do this job. I believe that the work which has been taking place from early post-war years should continue for at least 2 or 3 years.
Earlier this year - I believe it was in March or April - the Treasurer (Mr Crean) introduced 2 Bills concerning overseas loans to be raised by the Government of Papua New Guinea. From memory, the first loan was for $40m. The Australian Government made a loan of approximately J 10m at cheap interest rates to the Government of Papua New Guinea. However, the balance had to be obtained overseas and it is my understanding that we advised the Government of Papua New Guinea that deutsche marks would be available if it applied for them. In the economic area we are forcing the Government of Papua New Guinea to go on to the open market to obtain loans when our coffers in Australia are full and overflowing. It was my deep regret earlier this year that Australia did not see fit to make these loans available in full at cheap interest rates to a government that is endeavouring with our assistance to bring its country into the 20th century.
I believe that the present Australian Government is endeavouring to dictate policies to and the future of the Government of Papua New Guinea. For proof of this statement, we need only to read reports of the dispute that arose in connection with the airlines policy in Papua New Guinea and the problems in that area. The present Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) made it quite clear to everybody in Australia that he rigorously opposed Ansett Airlines of Australia having any truck with an airline to be set up in Papua New Guinea. Is self-government as envisaged by the Australian Government a means by which we can dictate our form of independence and our policies to the Government of Papua New Guinea? I say that it must not be. I feel realIy pleased that the Government of Papua New Guinea ultimately made its own decision on the airlines problem. The difficulty in this matter highlighted the deteriorating relations between the Australian Government and the Government and people of Papua New Guinea. I believe that our present policy should be carried out, as the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said earlier today, more by way of listening to Ministers of the Government of Papua New Guinea and in advising, guiding and helping them, as has been the practice in the past.
We read in the newspapers - I cannot confirm what I am about to say, but I believe it to be correct - that militant trade union officials were castigated on at least 2 occasions by Ministers of the Government of Papua New Guinea for interfering in union matters in that country. We are quite wrong to a.’low Australians to interfere with the internal affairs of Papua New Guinea. I believe that the Government of that country should make independent decisions regarding its airlines and its trade union relations with management and the like. If it asks us for advice, we should give it willingly and without charge. But until and unless the Government of Papua New Guinea reaches the point where it asks for that advice, we should let it tread its steps first to self-government and ultimately to independence in its own way.
I feel certain that there is in Australia a rising feeling of opinion that the present Australian Government is forcing independence on Papua New Guinea. There is a general uneasiness in Australia and most obviously in that country about the weakening of ties between the 2 countries. The uneasy feeling is held that the Australian Government is casting adrift its responsibilities with respect to Papua New Guinea. We are severing the umbilical cord between our 2 nations without any real reason for such action except that a Labor Government is now in power in Australia and people and governments throughout the world obviously are criticising that Labor Government for the continuing colonial trends or tendencies with respect to Papua New Guinea.
I know that Chief Minister Somare is suspicious of the Minister for External Territories even though he is a nice fellow. Mr Somare is suspicious of him because of some of the statements that he has made this year. The Minister is reported in the ‘Age’ of 3 April of this year as saying that:
Independence for Papua New Guinea would be little more than a tidying up exercise as independence flows on readily from self government.
This statement indicates not only to Australians but also to the people of Papua New Guinea that there is very little difference between self government and independence. But in fact we heard the previous Minister for External Territories, the honourable member for Kooyong, say that there were certain areas in Papua New Guinea that still . have not been tidied up. With the attainment of self-government in Papua New Guinea Australia will still look after defence and foreign affairs but there is the matter of internal security. The Chief Minister, Mr Somare, made a statement to the House of Assembly and the present Prime Minister quoted from it in a speech he made within the last 12 months. In a speech which he made on 9 May 1972 and which is reported in Hansard at page 2203 the Prime Minister, when talking about selfgovernment and independence for Papua New Guinea, said:
It is certain that the assumption of an increasing measure of responsibility will accelerate the desire and ability to accept total responsibility. In this sense it is true that the people of New Guinea will decide their own timetable for independence.
That is a straightforward statement. Those words were used last year by the Leader of the Opposition who is now the Prime Minister of Australia. In other words the people of Papua New Guinea would decide when they should reach independence, not the Minister or the Government in Australia. I have already quoted what the Minister for External Territories said on 3 April this year. He went on to say:
You will have deduced from what I have said that the Australian Government does not favour a long interval between self-government and independence, . . .
There is no mention in that statement of the Government of Papua New Guinea. There is only mention of the Australian Government. That statement is in contradistinction to what the Prime Minister said on 9 May last year. I ask the Minister for External Territories: What are we doing to this country in forcing it quickly into independence when obviously the people are not ready for it? There is no mention of Papua New Guinea in the statement made by the Minister and reported in the Age’ of 3 April this year. There is only mention of what the Australian Government wants. I deduce from that that the Australian Government wants to get out of its responsibility as soon as possible. It wants to throw the Government of Papua New Guinea to the wolves. It wants to throw that Government on to the international arena as far as foreign affairs, defence, internal security and currency are concerned. I do not have any notes on currency but it is my belief, having been in New Guinea from 4 to 6 times in 14 years, that New Guinea uses the same currency as does Australia. What are we doing as far as currency in Papua New Guinea is concerned? We have revalued the Australian dollar twice since December last year.
– Three times.
– Three times, as the honourable member for Berowra has reminded me - because there was a devaluation of the United States dollar. In other words, on 3 occasions we have affected the purchasing power and selling ability of the people in Papua New Guinea. We have a currency that is highly sophisticated. Australia’s currency is recognised throughout the world as a very solid currency. But how do our revaluations affect the spending power of the people in Papua New Guinea? How do they affect their ability to import goods which the people in that country so sorely need? We have done nothing about this. In fact when the decisions on revaluations were made I think, from memory, that 2 Ministers of the Government made the decision. Therefore they did not discuss this very vital problem with the people, the Ministers, or the Parliament of Papua New Guinea.
I believe that this Government ought to do much more than has been done in the past in discussing these problems with the Ministers and with the House of Assembly before decisions of these sorts are made. I said earlier and I repeat that I believe the present Government is being very selfish and self.opiniated about these decisions in saying that something will flow from them and it hopes it will be good. This is not the way to run our relations with Papua New Guinea which has depended on Australia for aid, assistance and guidance since the early post-war years. We all realise that the Chief Minister from Papua New Guinea came to Australia for discussions to be held from 16 to 18 January last. As a result, a joint statement was issued on 17 January which, in part, said:
We cannot cavil at that because the decision was made by the previous Government. In other words, we entirely agree with it. However, the statement went on to say that Aus tralia would work towards independence early in 1974. No mention was made in the statement that Chief Minister Somare would agree with this. Finally, the statement indicated Mr Somare’s lack of enthusiasm by stating:
During the discussions the Chief Minister emphasised that until Papua New Guinea had progressed further towards self government his Government would be reluctant to enter into any firm commitment on a date for independence.
As I have said, there was no enthusiasm, no agreement at all, on the part of Mr Somare. He wanted time to sort out the problems that he knew from his experience would result from self government coming to his country on 1 December next.
In fact, the Chief Minister wrote an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 12 March this year in which he said:
Independence is a word that, in a colony, should be a word of hope and promise.
How true that is. As far as Mr Somare, his Ministers, the Parliament and the people of Papua New Guinea are concerned, independence should be a word of hope and promise. The article goes on to say:
But to many in Papua New Guinea it is a dirty word. To us independence is a new word and that in itself is sufficient to worry about. They fear that all Australians will leave when independence comes, taking with them .their moneys, businesses and expertise.
Here is a man - the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea - imploring Australia not to throw them to the wolves, not to cast them aside, and we have done nothing about it since he wrote this article for the Melbourne Herald’. All we have done has been to say that independence must come early in 1974. There has been no discussion with the Government of Papua New Guinea in relation to the date of independence or in relation to the decision. Yet he, the Chief Minister, has all these problems and realises that Papua New Guinea could be in dire trouble unless Australia or some other country gives them guidance, aid and assurance.
I wonder whether that country will be Australia. I heard the honourable member for Kooyong say this morning that certain negotiations are taking place with Japan. It could be Japan that will provide Papua New Guinea with the aid and assurances that we as a country have given them in the past. I read quite recently - I think it was last week - that a company in Japan is setting up a shipbuilding yard at Madang. This could easily be the first step for any country in taking over the responsibilities that Australia accepted as a United Nations trust responsibility after the Second World War.
Many matters require decision and assistance by the Australian Government. I refer, for example, to internal security. The honourable member for Kooyong mentioned that this morning, but the matter was specifically excluded in the statement made by Chief Minister Somare to his Government in September last year. There is the matter of currency. Obviously, Australia is affecting the ability of Papua New Guinea to buy, sell and trade because we are making the decisions regarding currency. These things cannot be left in the melting pot. The Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) has a responsibility to himself, to his Government and certainly to the people of Australia to do a lot more about these matters than he has done hitherto.
– I would like to make it clear that these Bills are part of a consistent policy by both the former Government and the present Government in the move towards complete independence by Papua New Guinea. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) seemed to indicate - I think he even said this - that we were in danger of pushing Papua New Guinea into an international void. I do not believe that this will happen. One of the things that give me a great deal of hope in this regard is that earlier this year I was privileged to take part in the first all-party parliamentary delegation to visit Papua New Guinea. I am well aware that many members of this House have paid many visits to Papua New Guinea and know a great deal more about it than I do; but I think it was important that the Australian Parliament was represented in this way as Papua New Guinea approaches very shortly self-government and finally independence. I was very impressed by the way in which this delegation, representing all political parties in this House, approached the task which had been entrusted to it. I certainly learned a great deal not only from those members of the delegation on my side of the House but also from members on the other side of the House representing their particular party, and for this I express my gratitude.
I do not believe that we will force Papua New Guinea to do anything that it does not wish to do. I recognise that in the highlands and in other parts of Papua New Guinea there is a feeling among many people that we could be moving too quickly; but this is understandable when we consider that many of the people in the highlands of Papua New Guinea were living literally in the Stone Age at the time of the Second World War. The advances which they have made and the advances which have been made possible by Australian administration over a period of time, I believe, stand to the credit of all concerned. Independence will come to Papua New Guinea when the people of Papua New Guinea decide that it is time for them to have it
The principal Bill in this series of Bills merely sets out that the time for formal selfgovernment will be 1 December. As the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) said in this second reading speech, to all intents and purposes self-government exists now. The Ministers in Papua New Guinea who will be charged with making the decisions in governing their country make those decisions now. The principal Bill is a symbolic Bill; it is an historic Bill. The Territory has the sort of self-government which I think we want to see it have. I was impressed by both the political leaders and the administrative leaders whom I met when we visited Papua New Guinea. They arc first class. I believe that they will do the job which will be theirs, if not now then in the future. I recognise that there is still a long way to go, and in this regard Australia bears a heavy responsibility. We will need to assist with the development. I do not think we will sever the umbilical cord that ties us together. We will still need to give Papua New Guinea both the intellectual and financial nourishment it requires.
I was impressed when we visited Mount Panguna, site of the copper mine on Bougainville, to see the effort that had been put into establishing technical education. The facilities that have been provided by the company are first class. Sometimes we are bound to criticise the fact that large corporations come into this country and other countries, but I think that we should balance it by saying that in many cases they do good things. I believe that this is one of the good things that Bougainville Copper has done on Bougainville. I understand that shortly 82 per cent of the persons employed in what is a fairly technical operation will be indigenous people. We cannot give up our responsibility to provide the necessary finance to Papua New Guinea. This is a continuing obligation upon us.
I would like to mention briefly the local government situation and the feelings of trepidation that we , noted about the approach of independence. The structure of the local government council is very well developed. I think the people there were impressed by the fact that an all party delegation from this Parliament could express very similar views that, no matter what government was in power in Australia, it would continue to support them. This is an obligation that has been undertaken by all parties in this Parliament. I am quite sure that given that sort of assistance and assurances the move both to self-government and to independence will be a relatively smooth one. We should do everything within our power to see that extreme nationalist movements are not given the food they could feed on eventually to undermine the stability of the country. I think it is the right, and I uphold the right of anyone, to express strong opinions in government but I hope that these strong opinions are expressed in such a way as to lead towards the unification of the country and not to emphasise the separateness which is also evident to many people. This Parliament has a great responsibility in this matter. The way in which the Bills that come before this House are discussed will have an influence on the way in which the people of Papua New Guinea approach the tasks which lie before them. In the structure of local government there is a firm foundation upon which to build. Soon Papua New Guinea will achieve independence. I hope that when it occurs it will receive the help and support of Australia. Papua New Guinea will have to work out its own destiny but it is up to us to see that the path is smooth.
– I support the legislation being presented to the House today. It is non-controversial because basically the principles embodied in it were commenced by the previous Government. But there are one or two factors that might be worth mentioning when we are considering these Bills. I have a particular interest in Papua New Guinea because in my electorate the Taree Municipal Council in the Manning area has an association with a local governing body in Goroka. Some years ago members of the local municipal council and some private citizens visited Goroka at the time of its show and that association has continued. Two lads from Goroka have visited Taree and have attended high school there while staying with people in the district. As I have said, there is this association.
On top of that, in 1957 when I attended the United Nations I had the privilege of being a member of the fourth Trusteeship Committee which gave consideration to the various trusteeships that were granted under the auspices of the United Nations. As the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said, we should be reminded at this time of some of the problems and difficulties that exist in Papua New Guinea. I know that the accusation has been made against those people who say ‘Hasten slowly’ that they desire to keep control of these people and do not want to give them independence. I do not think that this is now a point at issue with members of either side of the House. I think we should also give some consideration to the fact that people who are stressing that they are anti-colonialist and want to give the people of Papua New Guinea independence are advocating something that is even more detrimental than colonialism, that is, pushing people or rushing people into independence before they are prepared for it. In this circumstance, surely the people who should make the ultimate decision are those to whom we are giving independence. I believe that this Government is making a mistake at the moment because it is not listening sufficiently to men like Michael Somare and other leaders in Papua New Guinea who are looking to the future with confidence but knowing that it will bring with it many difficulties and complex situations.
I was delighted to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Kooyong about Albert Maori Kiki, who is the Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations in Papua New Guinea. I attended a South Pacific Commission conference a couple of weeks ago at which he led the Papua New Guinea delegation. I was impressed with his political maturity, the way in which he handled the situation and with his presentation of the case for Papua New Guinea. At the same time he showed a wide and broad understanding of the problems of other countries in the area and also of the problems that are confronting countries like Australia and New Zealand. I felt, as I was sitting at this conference, that here was someone who could take his place in international conferences and could hold his own with any of the leaders of the communities and the nations of the world today. I have already referred to the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Michael Somare, and the contribution that he has made. At this time we also should have some thought of and should give congratulations to those who, in the early days, played their part in bringing Papua New Guinea and its people to the stage of development it has now reached. I refer to the Department itself, the Administration, district commissioners and all the many and varied people who, in their own way, played their part and made a contribution to the progress and development of Papua New Guinea.
The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) referred to the establishment of an airline in Papua New Guinea. What was said by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) appears to me to be a contradiction of the Government’s expressed attitude. The point was made by the honourable member for Balaclava that on the one hand the Government is saying: ‘We are going to give these people and this country independence on date X irrespective of whether they want it’, yet the moment those people say that they want to do something on their own, that they want to establish this airline and participate in it, this Government immediately steps in and says that they will not do it unless they do it the way the Government wants it done. I think the point was made very well by the honourable member for Balaclava when he said that this was a complete contradiction. I think it is one of the matters to which we should give very careful consideration. The fact remains that this Government has to be careful lest it create a problem in regard to independence rather than a partnership. There has been goodwill. I believe that on both sides there has been an understanding and an appreciation of the complexities and the difficulties associated with self-government. If this goodwill continues to be shown independence will occur to the advantage of the people of Papua New Guinea as well as the people of Australia.
I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation before the House. I promised the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that I would not speak for my full time so I do not want to labour the point. But I hope, as I said, that independence will proceed to the advantage of both Australia and the people of Papua
New Guinea. I join the honourable member for Kooyong in wishing the Government of Papua New Guinea and the House of Assembly all good wishes for the future.
– Like the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) I should like to support the measures that are before the House this afternoon. As has been said by previous speakers these Bills are historic and important. They take the territory of Papua New Guinea towards the date of December 1973 when self-government will be formally established there. The House of Assembly and the Government there within will then assume the responsibility for the internal direction and control of the people who live within that country. We in Australia will retain responsibility for the external security and the foreign relations of the people who live within the Territory.
It was my privilege, under the leadership of the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), and accompanied by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin), the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and Senator Durack of Western Australia, to constitute the first Australian parliamentary delegation to Papua New Guinea during June of this year. I should like to congratulate the honourable member for Banks and the other members of that delegation on the work that was done during that visit, upon the understanding that was established and upon the goodwill that was fostered during that period by all of the members of the parties who represented this Parliament of Australia in the Territory.
Many times on previous occasions groups of members from both sides of the House have been within the Territory for a variety of reasons - political, personal, commercial, etc. But this was the first occasion during which there had been a parliamentary delegation in the historic sense. I feel that the honourable member for Banks and the other members of the delegation from both Houses of the Parliament did a splendid job in fostering goodwill, particularly with the local government councils, so many of which we saw in so many widespread parts of that great Territory. The honourable member for Diamond Valley has spoken about Bougainville.
The honourable member for Macarthur, who made a fine speech just prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch has told of the local government councils to which we spoke and of some of the social problems that will inevitably occur in the Territory. As the honourable member for Macarthur pointed out, even at the d:te of self government - an historic occasion on which there will be ratification of the control of a function that has virtually been controlled for at least 12 months because self government has virtually been operating within Papua New Guinea for this period of time - there will be a certain amount of turbulence and enthusiasm that will probably lead to a number of social problems. Whilst that may be the case, I feel that his expressions in relation to this matter were accurate and that he showed wisdom when he said that it must be upon the local authorities and the local police - the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary - that we should rely for the maintenance of law and order.
That brings me to a significant point. I am sure that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), who has had a lifetime career in the service of our country overseas and who has had many experiences not only in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Asia but also in other countries, will be prepared to accept the fact that humanity may not react in quite the ordered way that one would hope it would react once the first experience of self government is appreciated within the Territory. Be that as it may, if the Government of Papua New Guinea reacts in a strong manner we ought not to be the first to rush in and criticise it because of its stern intentions to maintain law and order and its international reputation. I beg leave to suggest that if it errs at all it may be rather more on the strong side than on the weak side.
Having said that, I wish to turn to a number of the problems that will arise in the future. I recognise in the first place that the Bills are very important because they deal with communications, civil aviation - a vital component of the developing economy of the Territory - and the progress of the economy. In this respect the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill is vitally important. The Commonwealth of Australia will sustain the Government of Papua New Guinea into the future by guaranteeing the loans that have already been underwritten from the Asian
Development Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I have no doubt that it will be our responsibility well into the future to stand beside the people of Papua New Guinea and help them convince the international banking authorities that their proposals for the future and their projects for development are in fact banking propositions in the international sense. Here again not only the Minister for External Territories but also some of us in this Parliament who have had experience of the operations of international financial bodies are aware of the fact that almost all of the qualities of native wit and ingenuity will be called upon for demonstration by Ministers in the Government of Papua New Guinea.
I wish to deal with that part of the Minister’s second reading speech on ;he Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) in which he said:
By agreement with Papua New Guinea, defence and foreign relations will remain reserved to Australia until independence.
I have given this matter a lot of consideration and thought, and as it is 31 years since I and the honourable member for Wimmera first i”t foot on to Papua New Guinea it will be readily understood that we have a degree of emotional association with the Territory. During the visit to the Territory by the delegation from the Australian Parliament we took some of the younger members of the delegation to the war cemeteries in Papua New Guinea. They were profoundly impressed by the atmosphere at those war cemeteries, the way in which they were maintained and the reverence and dignity with which the people of the Territory - the political leaders in particular - regarded them. They have established for us a liaison between Australia and the Territory which is a little different from the type of liaison that we have with other countries. The Minister might ponder, for example, the relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom and bear in mind not only that London is a long way from Lagos but also the subsequent development within Nigeria which led to the terrifying circumstances of a few years ago and the possible emergence of Biafra until the final defeat of Colonel Oiukwu’s forces by General Gowon. We in Australia ought to be able to avoid circumstances of that nature if we are prepared to enter into contractual arrangements with Papua New Guinea at the time of independence. I believe that this will be something we will have to face up to and it will have to be done in the interests not only of the Territory for the first decade of its independence but also in the interests of the Commonwealth of Australia for that period.
I hold the view that it will be a terrible shame if the people living in the Territory have to spend a single dollar on military hardware or that sort of equipment which can be provided readily by the Commonwealth of Australia. Papua New Guinea needs every bawbee’, every dollar, it has for spending on roads, schools, hospitals and education. In our own interests we ought to encourage Papua New Guinea to do that to the utmost. I notice, as the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said that no pattern has been laid down for the future relations between the Papua New Guinea defence force and the Commonwealth of Australia. I am not at all concerned about that situation because it encourages me to believe that the Government of Papua New Guinea, during the year or so prior to independence and in the years following independence, will be loath to spend money on military equipment and also to believe that the Australian people prefer to be in the position where they are able to recognise, in some way or another - perhaps by some mutual defence treaty or agreement - that we will be prepared to look after the external relations of Papua New Guinea conjointly in the future. This proposition is by no means impossible. There are many instances of similar activity between countries. It is my hope that this is the sort of thing that will develop within the relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia.
I was delighted that the Japan-Australia negotiations were accompanied by visits to Japan by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, and other members of the Papua New Guinea Government. It is quite clear to everybody that Japan will be one country in Asia which will be vitally interested in the future development of the Papua New Guinea nation. Japan will be the country that will be economically capable of providing a great deal of assistance. Whilst other countries may be interested in Papua New Guinea, I believe that a great deal of developmental assistance will come from Japan. As we have promised to keep our remarks short, I will merely congratulate the Minister for External Territories again upon the decision to have a parliamentary delegation visit Papua New Guinea. I repeat my thanks to the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) for the work that he did and I congratulate the other members of the parliamentary delegation who made their contribution towards the fostering of goodwill between Australia and the Territory. I hope that it will not be the last parliamentary delegation to Papua New Guinea.
– in reply - I believe that it has been encouraging for all of us to see the sense of responsibility with which this House has approached what is in fact an historic act in providing for the self-government and eventual independence of the Australian colony of Papua New Guinea. One of my colleagues referred to my experience in the Australian Foreign Service for some 20 years. Those of us who have had such experience know that decolonisation in other parts of the world has been both depressing and disastrous. I think this flowed from the attitude of mind of colonial powers. Because of this reluctance Indo-China, Algeria and elsewhere throughout Africa were reluctant to give up their position as colonial powers. Because of this reluctance the colonies had to resort to armed conflict and subversion to gain what they considered their inherent right. The people of those colonies considered they had the right to make decisions affecting themselves in their own way. We members of the Australian Labor Party, mindful of this experience, decided not this year but several years ago that our policy would be to bring Papua New Guinea to self-government and independence not through conflict but by the colonial power saying: ‘We believe that you have a right to make your decisions in your own way. We will assist you in achieving independence. We will not resist your movement to independence. We will provide all the facilities for you to gain self-government and independence’.
In 1970 the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as Leader of the Opposition, went to Papua New Guinea. He went again in 1971 and as a newly elected member of this House I had the privilege of accompanying him. Those visits proved to be the watershed of the development we are witnessing today. We said then that Papua New Guinea was ready for self-government and that independence was not that far off. This was at a stage when the previous Government, although recognising under
United Nations pressure the possibility of selfgovernment and independence, treated it with no degree of urgency and provided no timetable for the achievement of either self-government or independence. In 1972 there was a change of portfolio - this was another watershed - when the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) became Minister for External Territories. At the same time there was a change of government in Papua New Guinea and Mr Michael Somare became the Chief Minister in a national coalition government. We had met Mr Michael Somare when he was in Opposition in Papua New Guinea and we were in Opposition in Australia. We talked to him about his hopes, his ambitions and his aspirations in 1971. He campaigned, as the leader of the Pangu Party, for self-government and eventual independence. What happened in 1972 was that the then Government had the presence of mind to accept the inevitability of that which we as the Labor Party in Opposition had put forward and that which the new Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea had put forward. What we are doing today is the logical extension of a process that started many years ago. The process has been followed in a steady, deliberate and determined way. I think that as Australians we can all be proud that we are bringing Papua New Guinea to independence not through conflict or violence but through constitutional procedures in this House and in the House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea.
Much of the debate on these Bills was very good humoured. There was, I suppose, an element of shadow-sparring on the part of the Opposition, for example, concerning the extent to which we should consult with, take notice of and act in conjunction with the Papua New Guinea Government. I reiterate that all steps taken to date and all steps planned for the future have been agreed between the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government.
In the period that I have been Minister for External Territories there have been 4 substantial changes in the approved arrangements under sections 24 and 25 of the Papua New Guinea Act. Each of these changes has been at the request of and in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea. I have made frequent visits to Papua New Guinea. I will be visiting the country next week. That visit will be my ninth as Minister in the last 9 months. Discussions have been held not only with Government leaders and leaders of the coalition, party, but also with members of the Opposition, members of the Constitutional Planning Committee and town councillors throughout the length and breadth of Papua New Guinea. We have agreed in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea that there will be a 2 stage development in Papua New Guinea in which the opportunity would be given to the Constitutional Planning Committee and, through it, the House of Assembly for a home grown constitution. This should come to pass in April of next year.
Our policy is that the date for independence will be achieved in the closest consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea. It will be subject to the endorsement of the House of Assembly /as representing the view of the people of Papua New Guinea. I wish to place on record the resolution of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four, which was agreed to unanimously on 21 August 1973. The Committee had this to say:
The Special Committee notes with satisfaction that Papua New Guinea is making steady progress towards the achievement of the goals proclaimed in resolution 1514 (XV) and that progressive steps to this end are being taken by the administering Power.
It went on to say:
The Special Committee endorses the view that the House of Assembly, as the duly elected representatives of the people of Papua New Guinea, in consultation with the administering Power, should decide the date for the attainment of independence of the Territory in the light of General Assembly resolution 2977 (XXVII) of 14 December 1972. Pursuant to that resolution, the Special Committee calls upon the administering Power, in consultation with the Government of Papua New Guinea, to prepare a timetable for independence.
Perhaps I might recall the words of a former Leader of the Party which is now in Opposition. I speak of Sir Robert Menzies who, back in I960, I think, made the observation that if there is to be independence for Papua New Guinea it is better sooner rather than later. I agree wholeheartedly with that view of a politician whom we all respect.
The accusation has been made, somewhat lightly, I suppose, as there was not a great deal of sincerity in the viewpoint put by various speakers, that we are rushing into independence and that we are not providing sufficient opportunities and facilities for Papua New Guinea to play its part. It has been our policy, it is our policy and it will continue to be our policy to give Papua New Guinea an international identity not only before independence but also before self government.
We as a Government have sponsored membership by Papua New Guinea of such international organisations as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, the Asian Development Bank, the World Health Organisation, the South Pacific Commission and the International Labour Organisation. The Chief Minister, Mr Somare - and we have encouraged him in this - has paid formal visits to Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and New Zealand. In each country he has been accepted as the elected leader of an emerging nation. We have sought to encourage other countries to take an interest in Papua New Guinea. Indonesia has recently established a consulate in Port Moresby; the United Kingdom has done likewise. Other countries such as New Zealand, Germany and Japan are discussing with Papua New Guinea the establishment of representation in Papua New Guinea ahead of independence. We have established also in the last few months a Ministry of Foreign Relations and Defence.
We have accepted the most urgent need for Papua New Guinea to enter nationhood in a harmonious relationship with its neighbour, Indonesia. I might recall that a Committee of this House in the previous Parliament - the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs through its Sub-Committee on Australia’s Relations with Indonesia - recorded in its report the importance of this close relationship being developed between Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. We said in that report:
In the determination of the boundary between West Irian and Papua New Guinea and in the negotiations on a border regime, the Committee recognises the importance of the active participation of the representatives of the Government of Papua New Guinea. Australia’s role in resolving these two matters is to ensure that relations between Indonesia and the new state of Papua New Guinea are established on a firm and harmonious basis and that Australia in discharging its responsibilities maintains the respect of and cordial relations with both countries.
Nothing was done by the previous Government to implement those recommendations. But, on assuming responsibility for this portfolio, I immediately put arrangements in hand and the border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia has now been delineated. The Chief Minister, Mr Michael Somare, visited Indonesia and initialled that agreement. Discussions are taking place this very day in Djakarta on the border arrangements between Papua New Guinea and West Irian.
Throughout the whole range of our activities, we have been planning not just for self- government but for independence. The Prime Minister announced last week the establishment of a Commonwealth aid agency known as the Australian Development Assistance Agency. One of the primary responsibilities and tasks of this aid agency will be continuing assistance to Papua New Guinea. We have accepted the special relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. We have expressed our viewpoint that the aid should be over a 3 year period of the improvement program to commence 1974-75. By this commitment to a timetable for assistance, Papua New Guinea will be in a better position to plan its own development. We have stated also that Papua New Guinea will have first call on Australia’s foreign aid. We accept the responsibility to ensure that Papua New Guinea is in a position to develop for the good of its own people in the way that the elected representatives of the people of Papua New Guinea, and not of Australia, should so decide.
Several references were made in the course of the debate to defence. This is one of the reserve powers which distinguishes a self governing country from an independent country. We have made it very clear that, in this period, we will operate in the closest consultation with Papua New Guinea. It was for one of these reasons that the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Defence was established. I might point out to honourable gentlemen opposite that it was because of their complete neglect and their complete incompetence that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and I have had to put a great deal of effort into ensuring a sensible program in the defence relationships between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the future. In a recent article, Professor J. D. B. Miller of the Australian National University said:
Australia has been gravely at fault in delaying so long a separation of the armed forces in Papua New Guinea from those of Australia.
He went on to say that frantic efforts were now being made to separate the 2 armed forces but it was proving to be more difficult than it would have been even a few years ago. But we still accept the responsibility. It was a responsibility that should have been accepted by honourable gentlemen opposite when they had the opportunity to do something about it. But we have moved quickly and one of the first acts of the Government, in January, within a month of taking over power, was to redesignate what used to be called the ‘PIR’, the Pacific Islands Regiment.
We called it the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. As my colleague, the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, said on that occasion:
This re-designation parade is an important and historic occasion in the development of the armed forces of Papua New Guinea and of the identification of the forces within the country.
We have had these discussions with Papua New Guinea through the Minister for Defence as a result of his visit there within the first month - in January - of assuming office. In these discussions with the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea it was agreed that consultations on defence matters would commence in March between officials of the Papua New Guinea Government and the Australian Government. We have made it our firm view - our firm conviction: - that the ultimate decision concerning Papua New Guinea’s defence capability, its structure and role will rest with the Papua New Guinea Government. Our role in these consultations has been to advise and to assist in the decision making processes and to bring to the attention of the Papua New Guinea authorities all factors relevant to the formulation of a suitable defence policy for an .independent Papua New Guinea. So all the questions of organisation, role, size, localisation and training of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is now a matter for close and continuing consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government.
In fact in May 1973 the Papua New Guinea Government issued policy guidelines in proceeding with the defence arrangements after the achievment of independence. The Minister for Defence has been in close consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government and we are convinced that this is the right way to proceed because the nature of the Defence Force for Papua New Guinea is primarily a matter for the Papua New Guinea Government itself to decide. So what we have had to do in 9 months was due to the neglect and incompetence of the previous Government in this very important area.
There is one other point I wanted to mention. It relates to the ministerial arrangements after 1 December 1973 as this is all part of the forward planning to ensure the smooth transfer from self-government through to independence and independence and beyond. I believe these ministerial arrangements are a measure of the degree of forward planning for which this Government has been responsible in the approach to this very important matter of the independence of Papua New Guinea. (Exten- sion of time granted) I thank the House for its courtesy. In this period between selfgovernment and independence there will be a Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to matters affecting Papua New Guinea. As of 1 December this year the office of the Minister for External Territories will go out of existence. The Department and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will assume the responsibility for Australia’s relations with Papua New Guinea. Because of the importance that we attach to the smooth transfer, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to Papua New Guinea matters will be given the responsibility for coordinating all the matters relating to Papua New Guinea. Other Ministers who have statutory responsibility in Papua New Guinea, such as the Minister for Defence, have been asked by the Prime Minister to consult with the Minister Assisting in discharging their own responsibilities so as to ensure adequate coordination. The Minister Assisting, in consultation with other Ministers who have a responsibility for particular subjects involved, will co-ordinate the negotiation of such agreements between Australia and Papua New Guinea as may be needed between now and independence. The Minister Assisting will also coordinate the activities of the relevant Australian departments in regard to the final stages of the handing over of powers to the Papua New Guinea Government and the final steps to independence.
Although the main workload for specific functions will fall on relevant departments and the Australian Development Assistance Agency, the Minister Assisting will have a small unit to assist him in the interim period to independence. This will be known as the Papua New Guinea Office. It will be staffed by officers with experience in Papua New Guinea affairs now serving with the Department of External Territories. It will depend on the Department of Foreign Affairs for administrative support but will not be a part of the divisional structure of that Department. The head of the Papua New Guinea Office, who will serve the Minister Assisting, will chair the standing interdepartmental committee on Papua New Guinea. The High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea will be appointed as at 1 December 1973 to take the place of the office of the present Administrator and during the self-government period he will be responsible to the Minister Assisting for all the matters undertaken by the Minister.
This concludes the debate on the Bills before the House. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, these are historic Bills but I believe that with the co-operation of all groups within Australia, with the continuing cooperation of the Government, the House of Assembly and the people of Papua New Guinea we can bring about an orderly transfer of authority from a colonial power to its former colony. I believe that if this process is achieved we will all be able to say that this has been a job well done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Morrison) together read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 12 September (vide page 847), on motion by Mr Crean:
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 Morrison) read a third time.
– by leave - I wish to make this statement in 2 parts, firstly as a general statement and, secondly, with reference to the particular case of Nola Banbiaga who is now at Maningrida. I take this opportunity to inform the House of the approach which I think it appropriate for me, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and for the officers of my Department to take towards some matters of Aboriginal custom which have recently attracted public notice.
I am particularly concerned by the suggestion voiced in some quarters that the Government should intervene, directly and arbitrarily, to prohibit certain betrothal and marriage customs, or aspects of them, and even to disallow or abrogate arrangements which Aborigines have entered into amongst themselves, simply because the customs or arrangements are distasteful or repugnant to our ideas.
It is nearly always the case that incidents of this kind occur in communities which continue to live to a substantial extent in accordance with tradition although, as I will mention later, there is evidence that Aborigines widely are beginning to adapt that tradition, voluntarily, to their changed circumstances of life. But I believe it to be undoubtedly true that Such communities by and large, in respect of their own affairs, still want to live and as far as we allow them do live in accordance with their own law. Their betrothal and marriage customs are part of that law. What Mr Justice Blackburn held to be true of their land-holding and religion - that they governed themselves by veritable systems of law cognisable as such by our courts - is incontestably true also of their institutions of marriage. Indeed, in the world of expert scholarship, Aboriginal marriage systems have been recognised for well over a century as a classical instance of institutions governed by rules of general application and enforced by moral and jural sanctions. I am against interference from mere doctrine.
I need hardly point out that in the past a great deal of what Professor Rowley rightly described as ‘the destruction of Aboriginal society’ was brought about by our domineering and arbitrary interference with customs we did not properly understand, and all too often did not even want to understand. One would hope that our days of proud and invincible ignorance are over. We will have learned nothing if we do not now think twice or thrice before we interfere, unless for reasons of grave and compelling urgency. I do not think we have such reasons.
I mentioned earlier that the Aboriginal people quite widely are voluntarily adapting their traditional practices to new circumstances. There is a great deal of human and social wisdom amongst them in the ways they are going about it. They recognise that older and younger generations do not see things in the same way and many of them - both old and young - beseech me to let them work out their own adjustments in their own way without third party interference. As far as is humanly possible, that is what I want to do.
The aspects of Aboriginal marriage arrangements which offend Europeans seem to be polygamy - or to give its correct name, so my experts tell me, polygyny - so called child marriage and what is often called the promise system. Let me say a few words about each, to put them in perspective, because there is a lot of misinformation about them. Polygyny was apparently never universal amongst Aborigines in the sense that every man had more than one wife at a time, or even in the course of a lifetime. Where the matter has been studied carefully it would seem that fewer than one man in two had more than one wife at a time. Some men no doubt had egotistical and sexual reasons for taking several wives, but others acquired them as a social duty. They were expected to give security to the widow of a dead brother or, in some cases, another relative, and other men, especially the older, took an additional wife or wives to support them in their declining years. But, in any case, multiple marriages are now clearly on the way out. The ‘problem’ is solving itself. This is not simply because the Christian missions, as they are entitled to, expect their adherents to be monogamists, but because there is a distinct shift of sentiment amongst Aborigines themselves, especially the younger ones. Having several wives is no longer as fashionable as, and in modern conditions rather more troublesome than, it used to be; widows need the social insurance of a man’s protection less, and are often content to live as widows on the pension they receive and young women increasingly resist having to accept status as co-wives. Most mission authorities and settlement officials now wisely refrain from breaking up polygynous marriages of long standing.
It may be worth my pointing out a fact that few Europeans realise - that the stability of Aboriginal marriages does not suffer by comparison with ours. Certainly, for us to interfere arbitrarily with old-established polygynous marriages would be intolerably censorious and meddlesome. Insofar as it is a problem it will be dealt with by Aborigines in their own way and in all probability will in time disappear. The main point I desire to make is that most of the circumstances allowing or encouraging polygyny have changed, and that Aborigines widely realise that this is the case. Neither I nor my officers are going to harass them about the matter.
The betrothal of girls rests on some complex but ancient customs which we would do well to try to understand without prejudice. It certainly runs counter to some of our most cherished ideas, but many people who worry themselves about so-called child marriage do not realise the extent to which this misrepresents the Aboriginal custom, and even insults the Aborigines, who in some ways could teach us a lesson or two about the care of children. The Aboriginal tradition of child care was at least as solicitous as ours; it was less authoritarian; and in practical psychology it was possibly more perceptive. There was no bashed child syndrome amongst them.
Under the old-fashioned rules of Aboriginal society - and again I stress that they were rules of law in a strict sense - it was allowable practice to bestow girls by betrothal for eventual marriage before they were born, or in infancy, or at any time before they were of marriageable age, or even after that age. This practice was sanctioned by morals as well as by law. It was also possible to bestow a girl as a man’s future mother-in-law. This is what the Aborigines describe as the promise system. The promise in fact amounted to a solemn contract publicly known and recognised as such. The contract of eventual marriage was less between the boy and girl concerned than between their family groups. Interestingly enough, though the paternal families were consulted, the arrangement was usually much more between the maternal families of the boy and girl. A promise of this kind, properly entered into and later solemnised, as it usually was, by a formal if brief ceremony, was a very serious and public pledge, and could not be dishonoured with impunity. To do so injured interests wider than those of the principals.
I fully recognise that the idea of young girls being required to marry men, often many years older, whom they may dislike, offends against our ideas of marriage, the liberty of the person, and women’s status. Even so, I feel that we should tread very carefully here. Aboriginal society allowed, and still allows - I stress this point - girls and women who refuse to go through with marriages ordained for them ways of escape. It is simply inaccurate to picture them as men’s chattels; it is also needlessly pejorative to talk about bride price; and perhaps I may point out too that only a few people in human history have attached the importance we do to romantic marriage and are so opposed to the idea of arranged marriage. I do not defend the Aboriginal attitudes. All I am doing is to suggest that meddlesome and morally censorious interference by us is not the answer to a tradition which a great many Aborigines, especially in the more traditional areas, still uphold strongly. Incidentally, the experts tell me that the durability of Aboriginal marriages under their system compares very favourably with our own.
But, as in the other matters I mentioned, the Aboriginal scene is changing in this respect, too. I thought it very interesting and significant that a recent congress of Aborigines in the Northern Territory decided, of their own motion, that promises of long standing would continue to be honoured but that in future young men and women would be free to marry by choice provided they kept the other laws of marriage. This encourages me in the approach that I as the Minister and the officers of my Department wish to take.
I believe that the Aboriginal people are at least as wise in respect of their own affairs as we are in ours. If we seriously intend to allow them to follow their own rules in their domestic and family affairs, and to adapt their style of life in ways and at speeds of their own choice and not ours - a principle to which the previous Government pledged itself - we must open to them fully the path of their own wisdom. I do not doubt that troublesome particular matters will arise from time to time. If so, I and my Department will discuss them with the Aborigines concerned with the utmost patience and goodwill. One hears a good deal about human rights. I remind the House that one of the most fundamental rights, of which we hear little, is the right to be different. The Aboriginal people, too, are entitled to that.
That brings me to the recent occurrence in Darwin. I have had inquiries made about the movement of the child Nola Banbiaga from her foster parents’ home in Darwin to her parents’ home at Maningrida. The inquiries are not complete but I believe Parliament is entitled to know the information so far available. On 23 August I received a telegram from Mr Athol Brown, Nola’s foster father, advising of the dispatch of a letter to me, and on 27 August I received the letter from Mr Brown seeking my support to retain the custody of Nola. I immediately sought advice from my Department and advised Mr Brown of this. On 8 September Nola was taken by a departmental social worker, with the foster parents’ consent to meet members of her family at the Bagot Reserve. While she was at the Bagot Reserve representatives of the Aboriginal Legal Service are reported to have arranged for her to be flown with her father to Maningrida. Inquiries are proceeding to determine the extent to which the departmental officers were involved in these events, and should those inquiries show any departure from their duty appropriate action will be taken.
Nola is one of many Aboriginal children who, because there were no essential medical, educational or other facilities available at their parents’ normal place of residence, have been taken from their natural parents and reared in missions, orphanages, hospitals, institutions or private foster homes. The grief that this policy has caused the Aboriginal parents is equalled only by the grief of the foster parents who have been called upon later to surrender a child they have reared as their own. The effect of this policy on the child can only be guessed at, but there are outstanding examples of young Aboriginal men and women in our society who have overcome this trauma without loss of their cultural identity. But we should not impose this burden on any more children or parents or foster parents. New procedures must be developed to care for children found in this situation. It would be easy for me to claim that the custody of Nola is a civil matter as indeed it is; but as the Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I accept the responsibility of putting right the wrongs of history and ensuring, by a vigorous policy of developing educational, medical and similar services in remote Aboriginal communities, that the practice of separating mothers from their children ceases. There are perhaps hundreds of children in orphanages and such institutions throughout Australia, as well as those with foster parents, who should be reconciled with their parents. I have asked my Department to initiate a program of reconciliation.
There are one or two comments I want to make. The Press reports of this occurrence - and I deplore the occurrence - were in large measure irresponsible and they were inaccurate. First of all, some of the leading articles in newspapers for whose views I often have respect even if I disagree with them, carried racist assumptions that the child, in going back to her parents, inevitably was in the wrong place and would be ill-treated. There is no evidence that this is the case. The life that Aborigines lead might well be austere, but to assume that they ill-treat children is quite wrong. It is a racist assumption and it must not be allowed to be perpetuated throughout the community.
The other thing was the wrong information. This caused me a great deal of concern, as it did everybody in the community. It was said that the girl was going back to marry a middleaged man. Nothing of the sort. It was said that the parents were nomads. They are not. It was said that the girl was put through certain initiation rites. She was not. These reports have had a very damaging effect on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relationships throughout the country. They have caused a great deal of concern to me and to many other people, and they have had all sorts of damaging implications, particularly in the Northern Territory. I hope that in future people who are reporting such events at least will take the care to get all the facts right and to base any comment upon assumptions which give consideration to the fundamental equality of the situation.
This is my own view: First of all, the child’s welfare is paramount. There can be no other consideration whatsoever. When this matter came to me suddenly one morning, I was asked to make a decision whether she should go back to her parents or whether she should stay where she was. I said: ‘First of all, the child’s welfare is paramount, but I cannot possibly be asked to solve that sort of question in this sort of situation’. So I discussed the matter with the director of my Department in the Northern Territory and we decided that the best advice that we could give to the parents and the foster parents was that if they would take legal action and put the matter in the hands of the courts we would ask the courts to expedite the matter - we initiated that - so that judicial judgment could be brought to bear upon it. Custody cases cause a great deal of heartache in this country. Nobody is ever satisfied that the decisions are right. So, my indignation was absolute when I found that some people had intervened in a manner which seemed to constitute a breach of trust with the Brown family. I offer the Brown family my sympathy in the situation in which they find themselves. I found that somebody had pre-empted the situation and the girl had gone back to Maningrida. I suppose Maningrida is one of the nicest spots in the Northern Territory.
This problem is my inheritance. I have looked through the files. I find that this matter has been on the stocks for four or five years. For 4 years or more the parents have been asking for her back. I can only try to solve the problem. I do not blame anybody for not solving it in the past, except that I believe social workers as a profession should have taken much more effective steps to bring about a reconciliation between the foster parents, the parents and the child, and taken steps to make sure that what occurred in this case does not occur again. My own position is such that I will take every possible step to ensure Nola’s welfare in the future. I make it quite clear that the legal position, as far as we can determine, is that the Government has no authority. The absolute authority, unless it can be proved in accordance with the law that- the child” is neglected, is in the hands of the parents. In these situations one has to take all sorts of actions. I took steps to ensure that physically the girl, for the moment, was in a sound situation. There has been some criticism of the steps I took, but I assure the House - I suppose honourable members would hold this view anyhow - that in attempting to solve these problems I do not propose to be imprisoned by the past or by any system. Human rights and the welfare of the people themselves will be mv first concern.
– by leave- Unfortunately, I have not really had sufficient time to look through the first statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). It came to me just a little too late. Nevertheless, I hope that at some future time the House will have the opportunity to debate the issues and the matters that are outlined in it. Of course, they come right back to the essential right of the Aboriginal people to have a choice in pursuing their culture or moving out into the wider Australian community. With respect to the second statement of the Minister, regarding Nola Brown, I say from the outset that I do not envy the heavy decision and the responsibility on the shoulders of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who apparently has been placed in an awful situation by overzealous legal aid service officers and others who obviously planned, to coin a phrase, the shanghai-ing of the little 7-year-old Aboriginal girl Nola Brown from her foster parents in Darwin to her biological parents at Maningrida.
One must feel a deep sympathy for the little Aboriginal girl, the victim perhaps of a plan in somebody’s mind. Nola, 7 years of age, was reared in the home and the environment of Mr and Mrs Brown, loved and cared for from her earliest babyhood, speaking English and walking in the ways of the foster parents and the little foster brothers and sisters with whom she grew up and played. Now she is plunged into a totally different society with her biological parents, not even speaking their language or sharing their customs and values at this stage of her life. One does not need much imagination to know the consequences, the suffering and the sorrow that the Browns must be enduring and the confusion that certainly must be confronting Nola particularly as the immediate excitement wears off and she suddenly gets a yearning to be back where she was loved in her own home in Darwin.
One does not need much sense of humanity to question the role of the Legal Aid Service in this sad and sorry business. One does not need much imagination to foresee what will happen to any officers of the Minister’s Department if they had a hand in this macabre affair. The Minister said, quite rightly, that if there was any complicity on their part heads would roll. We are indebted to the Minister for reporting to the House on the actions he has taken so far in good faith to investigate the sad circumstances of Nola’s abduction. To my knowledge no requests were made to me for Nola’s return to her biological parents whilst I was the Minister for the Interior. At that time the Department in Canberra was principally involved in policy issues and the Northern Territory Administration was involved in the day to day administrative matters. Such issues as fostering were left to the Northern Territory Administration and the Director of Social Welfare. In such cases the Director of Social Welfare operated within the bounds of the Child Welfare Ordinance and in particular, part V of the Ordinance.
If the proper course had been followed in regard to Nola’s case a children’s court would have granted an order under section 36 (1) (b) of the Child Welfare Ordinance, which would have placed the child under the care of the Director as in paragraph (i), or in the hands of the foster parents as in paragraph (ii). If this had been done, the taking of the child back to Maningrida would be wrong under section 37(2)<c). A court which makes an order can always revoke it. So the parents and indeed the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service which advises them could always apply to the same court to revoke an order under the Child Welfare Ordinance.
However, I am at a loss to know the terms of reference of the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. I checked to see what the terms of reference were of the Legal Service Bureau which is administered by the Attorney-General’s Department and which advises retired members of the Services. Its terms of reference were set out in detail by the Attorney-General at the time in this Parliament on 14 September 1966. By contrast, the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service has been established with no terms of reference so far as I know. It is responsible to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and not to the Attorney-General. As I understand it, the fostering provisions of the Northern Territory ordinance are not unique but are similar to those in force in the States and the Australian Capital Territory.
I pose the following questions with respect to the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in the hope that the Minister may answer them at some stage: Firstly, can the Minister inform the House of the terms of reference of the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service? Secondly, is there a relationship between the Legal Aid Service and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs? Is it responsible to the Council? Thirdly, was Nola Brown a child in respect of whom an order had been made under section 36 (1) (b) of the Child Welfare Ordinance committing her to the care of either the Director of Social Welfare and Child Welfare in the Northern Territory or foster parents? Were the foster parents entitled to the care of the child under the ordinance? Fourthly, is any action to be taken to enforce the order of the court?
The sad circumstances surrounding the case of Nola Brown, the foster parents and the biological parents at Maningrida call for a full scale public inquiry. I do not believe it is sufficient to have some low key investigation by the Minister or by his good wife, who, I know, has had a very deep affection for the Aboriginal people and has given a great many years of her life to their cause. There is too much involved, too much human sadness, for this issue to be quietly forgotten by some form of low key investigation. I call on the Minister and the Government to establish a full scale inquiry into the Nola Brown case in the following terms: Firstly, the circumstances and the legality of Nola Brown’s abduction from her foster parents; secondly, the foster parents’ system as it operates in relation to
Aboriginal children; and thirdly, the role of the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service in this field and in general.
I do not cast any reflection or blame upon either the Minister or this Government because quite obviously Nola Brown was fostered out to foster parents 6i years ago. The Minister has inherited the situation. Perhaps there is something wrong with the fostering laws or with the way in which they are administered, but it seems to be a shocking indictment of the system when a situation like this can occur. In submitting the proposal I appreciate that everything may not have been right during the reign of the former Government. But how else will we have an impartial, objective investigation into this complex area of human concern so that mistakes like this may never occur again? If the whole exercise is based on a philosophical belief and recognition that Aboriginal custom is above Australian law, it raises a very serious question indeed. It represents a conflict between native family law and Australian law. I believe it to be divisive and racist in application to have 2 parallel systems of law in Australia. Just as the last Government tailored a general purpose leasing tenure for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, this Government must investigate sensible ways and means of avoiding in the future a recurrence of the circumstances that have enveloped Nola Brown and her foster parents.
Under the provisions of the ordinance, if Nola’s parents felt that they could care for Nola, it was open to them to go to the court with a view to changing that order. So there should not be a conflict between the Aboriginal customs and our laws in general. Our real concern should be for the welfare of the child and the right of the court to make a decision in such a matter. The court is the place where such issues need to be settled. I appeal to the Minister in the light of the circumstances that surround this case that both he and his Government consider throwing the whole issue of foster parents and the system that is operating in the Northern Territory and under Commonwealth jurisdiction open to a full scale public inquiry in the hope that no other child is victimised in the way that Nola Brown has been victimised.
Mr BRYANT (Wills- Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - by leave - Mr Deputy Speaker, I have initiated steps for the necessary inquiries to be made into both the fostering situation and the possibility of a judicial inquiry into what happened in Darwin. I will make a further statement to the House when I am better informed about the matter.
– I present a report on the restructuring of the criminal justice system in the Northern Territory. This report was prepared by Professor Gordon Hawkins and Dr Robert L. Misner and is dated 20 July 1973. 1 move:
That the House take note of the paper.
This report is the result of a survey undertaken at my direction by one of Australia’s most respected criminologists and penologists, Professor Gordon Hawkins, ably assisted by a visiting American scholar, Dr Robert L. Misner. It describes and suggests reforms in the criminal justice and prisons systems of the Northern Territory. In tabling the report for the information of this House I want to make a number of brief comments to set it in perspective. Firstly, I agree with the substantive messages to be found in the document. The situation it discloses is grave. It would be too easy to say that it is the product of years of neglect by the previous Government and to try to lay the blame at the door of any particular group of individuals. That is only part of the story. The neglect, lack of concern and lack of awareness seems to me to be something that can be attributed to all Australians. Politicians of all parties and politicians of the previous Government demonstrated that lack of concern and lack of awareness.
Perhaps I may concentrate briefly on that part of the report which deals with the prison system of the Northern Territory - a system described in the report as outdated, ineffectual, dehumanising and degrading. In this context I should like to borrow and use words uttered last month by Judge Muirhead who is now the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. He said:
There is not a State in Australia that can be proud of its prisons.
It’s not the fault of prison administrators. It is the fault of governments over the years and of society, which has shut its eyes to conditions in prisons.
Two points are involved here. In fairness to the Northern Territory, I should like to enlarge on Judge Muirhead’s other reference to the lamentable condition of prisons in general in Australia.
It is my personal view, and has been for many years, that prisons as we know them today are a blot on our society - something to be changed, something that must be changed and improved and something that in many cases should be done away with. Of course there will probably, regrettably, always be a need for some sort of high security restraint to protect society from the compulsive criminal offenders - the recidivists, particularly those who show tendencies to violence. But such people form a minute proportion of the 11,000 Australians immured in our 30-odd prisons and they, at any rate, are more in need of cure or assistance, in many cases, than incarceration. No less a conservative than President Nixon of the United States of America has referred to prisons as ‘universities of crime’. This is an expression that bears repeating. Prisons are universities of crime and Australian experience confirms this and bears him out.
Prisons have not turned back the generally rising trend in crime rate over the years. The blunt truth is that prison experience reinforces the spread of criminality. It is a degrading, dehumanising experience. A great number of people in prisons today have been there before and will be in them again. Prison, and the criminal law generally, discriminate against the poor and the badly educated - the people who are already victims of society. Of our prisoners, 80 per cent are people without skills and with little education. Up to the present precious little has been done to provide them with any skills and with any education. Worse still, the Hawkins-Misner report reveals that most of these people should not be in gaol at all, no matter what view is taken of them. The vast majority are people who have been convicted of offences like drunkenness or vagrancy, that is, being found without visible means of support. Being poor is what has put them in gaol. Even non-payment of maintenance results in some going to gaol. Some are openly and without disguise in prison for debt - something that is widely believed to have been abolished in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These are surely things that a modern community should be able to take care of through community based services instead of uselessly paying out $2,356 a year which it costs to keep a man in the Darwin gaol. If to this charge is added the cost of giving basic support to the prisoner’s wife and family a total amount of approximately $7,000 a year in involved in putting a man in gaol. There are better ways in which that money could be spent.
Dr Paul Wilson, a reader in sociology at the University of Queensland has recently calculated that 75 per cent of those who pass through our prisons should not be there and should not have received this form of punishment. He has calculated that only 10 to 15 per cent were people for whom the punishment might be justified. These people are intract.ables who require the kind of isolation that our prison facilities impose on everyone who enters our prisons.
The reason why in 1973 we have this situation in our penal system in the Northern Territory is, in part, that our predecessors allowed the concealment of what was going on. I do not say they encouraged it but they certainly allowed it. They perhaps relied on the old maxim ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If the public had had knowledge of the true state of affairs undoubtedly they would not have tolerated it. The reticence of the previous Government may have been due partly to shame but probably more likely it was due to indifference, particularly over the statistics concerning Aborigines in the system. It is perhaps appropriate that my few words now should follow the earlier statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), because this report concerns an Aboriginal problem. Aborigines constitute only 26 per cent of the population of the Northern Territory but they make up 56 per cent of the gaol population. Frequently they are in gaol for vagrancy or drunkenness. It is public drunkenness, because when they are drunk they are seen to be drunk. They do not have the luxury of a car to drive them home nor do they have the luxury of drinking in their own homes. They are society’s most vulnerable and likely victims.
I will let the Hawkins-Misner report speak for itself on what the investigators found. The picture, in general, is one of needless misery, unenlightened policies, unfair restrictions on liberty and blatant racism. It is a sad situation not easy of solution in any short time or in any simple way. Many of the reforms referred to in the report will come from the office of the Australian Attorney-General. I have discussed problems of this kind with the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) on several occasions. Other reforms will come from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Health and my own Department of the Northern Territory. I hope, and I am confident, that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory will also be active. It has a committee involved in a study of this problem and is working on this problem. I look forward to receiving its report in the near future.
Motion (by Mr Calder) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned
– by leave - Perhaps I might say a few words in relation to this matter the debate on which the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is seeking to have adjourned. The report before the House is important. It contains 42 pages and I know that the honourable member has not seen the details of the report. At an appropriate time he will be given the opportunity to speak after he has had a chance to study the report. That opportunity will be as soon as possible and when circumstances permit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 226), on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On the surface this Bill appears to be a mechanical one and could be classed as an enabling Bill - that is,, on the surface. But I feel it should be looked at more deeply, especially the background that led to its introduction. In his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) said that the Australian Government would assume ultimate responsibility for Aborigines and would establish a Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, with offices in each State to give the Commonwealth a genuine presence in the States. This could be interpreted in many different ways as far as officers to staff them would be concerned, and I will deal with that matter later.
I have no quarrel with the provisions contained in this Bill, which is to facilitate the transfer of State officers to the Australian Public Service, because I believe that an officer is entitled in all fairness and justice to have his rights and privileges protected. The Minister has said that the State departments responsible for Aboriginal affairs have received an increasingly large part of their funds from Commonwealth grants and that they have channelled a substantial proportion of these funds through other departments in areas such as health, education and housing. He also stated that this involves duplication of effort between the Australian and the State authorities, which leads to confusion. But I ask the Minister in this respect: Does he intend his Department to take over the State departments in areas of health, education and housing, eventually or does he expect the States to continue administering these responsibilities as far as our coloured people are concerned? My concern is that there are so many cloudy areas, so much that has not been explained and I feel that these matters should be clarified completely.
In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned the consultative committee which he established early this year. I would like to know whether this body is to have an established office in each State, which it will staff? In fact I query the capability of this committee, which was organised by the Minister shortly after he took office. I query its capability to speak on the welfare of all Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, seeing that virtually all of this committee was nominated by the Minister and drawn from the ranks of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, except for a few other reputable people, who, in the opinion of a number of people, were appointed for window dressing purposes only.
Recently again we witnessed a high pressure public relations activity leading up to the proposed development of a so-called elected national Aboriginal consultative committee. I ask the Minister whether he hand picked the organisers of this committee, for again there seems to be a large number of members of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders appointed as such, and this organisation, as we all know, was presided over by the Minister.
Have these organisers been given the choice of selecting their own enrollers to move around the country enrolling only those coloured people who wish to be included on a roll to vote, or are all coloured people being given the opportunity to enrol. Are these organisers and the enrollers being paid, and if so, by whom, and how much is it costing the community. I think everyone is entitled to know, seeing that the taxpayers’ money is involved. Are these organisers and enrollers eligible to bc candidates for this election to the consultative committee? If they are, would it not be reasonable to assume that they are being paid by the Government through the Minister to do their own campaigning and the preparation of this specific electoral roll.
Are the public servants who are expert in this field, be they State or Federal, supervising this exercise? If not I feel that our coloured community in this country is being badly served, instead of assisted, as it should be. From some of the comments I have heard regarding this enrolling procedure, I feel that the Minister has embarked on a course of procedure which could be called a little irresponsible which must be costing quite an amount of public money, in order to achieve the establishment of a committee that will completely belong to the Minister and therefore, I say, it could never be truly representative of the feeling of the Aboriginal and Island people. I have no doubt the Minister will reply to the effect that this particular exercise will mean that the Aboriginal and Island people will be free to determine their own future. But this I doubt very much.
I have heard also that the Minister intends to establish centres in some of the major cities, in Queensland for instance. Does he intend to staff these centres with State or Federal officers. How many does he anticipate being employed in this capacity and what if he gets no takers from the State Public Service to transfer to the Australian Public Service? Will he continue to employ these State employees in these centres if the State governments agree? If some do transfer, will they be known as his departmental officers? Does he intend to staff these centres with coloured people only and employ his departmental officers in another capacity? If so, in what capacity? There are so many loose ends associated with this changeover. It sounded simple when we first heard of it. I think it only right that the Minister should outline his ideas more clearly.
Is it his intention to have these officers regularly visit all centres. If it is, may I ask if he has yet received permission for himself or his officers to visit Yam Island in the Torres Strait Group, the elected chairman of which stated that he was not prepared to accept an offer of money on behalf of his people in return for allowing the Minister or his departmental officers to visit the island as the opportunity arises.
Will the Minister’s departmental officers, be they State or Australian Public Service, be engaged in the development of the proposed turtle and crocodile farming planned for our coloured people? This additional economic avenue for development in my opinion is to be commended. I presume it will be owned by the Australian government. But if his departmental officers are to be so employed, to whom do they answer - the Minister or Senator Georges, who I believe has been appointed chairman of the board of directors of this project company, replacing a Dr Bustard, who was until recently chairman of this board. Why was Dr Bustard replaced? I would say that he would have more expertise in this direction than Senator Georges. But will the senator, as an elected member of this Parliament, be in a position to handle and direct finance and staff for this project, or will the Minister or his officers handle this, as they should. I cannot explain the move. I do not know the reason behind it, but I would say that it requires an explanation.
If this is the case is one permitted to ask: Will Senator Keeffe get the next berth in the next project?
In his second reading speech the Minister also said that the responsibility which the Australian Government seeks is responsibility for policy planning and co-ordination. How does he tie this statement in with his earlier statement in the same speech that the Government would assume the ultimate responsibility for our coloured people. It would appear from reading his speech that the major function of caring for our coloured people will still be left as a State responsibility. Would the Australian Government attempt to get the credit for it? The wording is too loose in my opinion and it should be tightened up.
Again in his second reading speech the Minister kept referring to the fact that there has been ready agreement in some States and that in a number of States there has been extensive discussion on a matter contained in this Bill. In some States it would be necessary for us to work out with the State authorities the best means of proceeding. We have only 6 States. How many are involved? Which are the States with which we are having trouble. I presume by his statement that all the States do not agree. I would have thought that the Minister would have tidied this matter up before the introduction of this Bill.
While I have said that this is a mechanical Bill, which deals with a Public Service officer’s entitlement to have his rights and privileges protected, I think I have pointed out that there are a few cloudy issues associated with its introduction, which concern every Australian, but more particularly the Aboriginal and Island people. I would suggest that in order to avoid any queries regarding the Minister’s administration of his important office he should deal more openly with the public and advise them fully of his intentions and plans for the welfare of our Australian coloured people. I think the first step towards this could be achieved by the Minister if he answered some of the queries I have raised today. I repeat that the Opposition will not oppose the passage of this legislation because it serves to protect the rights and privileges of the Public Service.
– Unlike the governments of Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America, the Australian Government, and the British colonial administration before it have never recognised the rights of the indigenous people to the land they occupied at the time of European settlement. The British Crown declared Australian land its own and, except in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, proceeded to expropriate it to European settlers. Aborigines were regarded as rural pests and an obstruction to what is called development. Even when Aboriginal reserves were established towards the end of the 19th century they were leased not to the Aborigines but to Government departments or religious missions on the assumption that they could best judge the most appropriate form of development.
In 1936 the first conference of Commonwealth and State authorities dealing with Aboriginal matters was convened. The meeting concluded that it believed that ‘the destiny of the native of Aboriginal origin, but not of full blood, lies in his ultimate absorption by the people of the Commonwealth’. It therefore recommended that all efforts be directed towards that end. In 1936 the matter of Commonwealth control of Aboriginal affairs was broached and rejected by the Premiers Conference as being impracticable. In 1937 assimilation was accepted as official government policy. Judith Wright, in a book entitled The Future of the Australian Aboriginal’, wrote:
There has been evidence in recent years of Increasing consciousness of the right of Aboriginal Australians to a choice about the nature of the future that government policies are designing for them.
In 1965 at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers it was stated:
The policy of assimilation seeks that all persons of Aboriginal descent will choose to attain a similar manner and standard of living to that of other Australians, and live as members of a single Australian community, enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities and influenced by the same hopes and loyalties of other Australians.
Change from the assumption that our society is entitled to expect of Aborigines the supreme flattery of imitation has been very slow. After the referendum which brought the Commonwealth into the field of policy the then Prime Minister, the right honourable John Gorton, expressed a view which acknowledged that Aboriginal Australians may have different views about the pace at which assimilation is to take place but the objective remained unchanged and the conviction that Aborigines would, in due course, desire it is re-emphasised by the following statement by him:
Without destroying Aboriginal culture, we want to help our Aboriginals to become an integral part of the rest of the Australian people, we want the Aboriginals themselves to have a voice in the pace at which this process occurs.
At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1971 the right honourable William McMahon said:
We believe that Aborigines must be helped to take an increasing part in the management of their own affairs.
I would say that they were important changes in the stated philosophy and objectives of policy. I would also say that much remains to be done before the spirit expressed in the words of the 2 previous Prime Ministers and by the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1971 pervades the policy itself and effectively determines the pattern of programs undertaken. I would say further that well conceived programs designed by social scientists and administrators have failed because their clients, the Aborigines, have been involved only as passive recipients and, at most, have been invited to endorse programs already approved for them.
During the period between 1968 and 1973 the Commonwealth Government has recognised that persons of Aboriginal descent experience a number of disabilities in comparison with the rest of the community and that special measures are needed to overcome their disabilities, lt has been said that programs have been evolved which are designed to encourage and strengthen the capacity of persons of Aboriginal descent to manage their own affairs as individuals, groups and local communities to increase their economic independence and to reduce social and other handicaps facing them in health, housing and education. However, one wonders what programs, if any, have been evolved for the Aborigines. Allocations have been made by both the Commonwealth and the States for Aboriginal affairs. Between 1968 and 1973 a total of $170,478,000 was allocated. An amount of $89,326,000 has been allocated for the present financial year. A total of $259,804,000 has been allocated up to the present time for Aboriginal affairs. Of this amount a total of $79,360 has been allocated by the Commonwealth to the States for assistance since 1968.
With this kind of money being made available both by the Commonwealth and the States one would have thought that considerable improvement would have been evident in the Aboriginal way of life and that the aims and objects of previous governments with regard to health, education and housing would have resulted in greatly improved conditions over the last 5 years. It was therefore rather surprising and perturbing to read the report of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) on his first inspection of Aboriginal settlements. He found that 90 per cent of the Aboriginal community was living in a state of absolute acute social depression. He said that nobody knows how many houses are needed. He said that the majority were inadequately housed. He found the same thing applied to education in that only a handful of the Aborigines he reported on had reached the top classes in secondary schools. The Minister reported that 90 per cent of the Aborigines in some towns are unemployed and are living on unemployment benefit, social benefits and handouts. Most of the areas visited by the Minister were ones of devastating neglect, and disaster areas as far as health is concerned. He said that their tin shanties, their decayed and broken down homes and their lack of hygiene and sanita tion made him ashamed to think that they were the people who once roamed Australia as a proud race. As a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs I, together with other members of the Committee, followed in the wake of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and visited the towns of Dubbo, Bourke, Walgett, Mungindi and Moree. I support everything the Minister said with regard to the conditions under which the Aborigines in those areas are living.
One may therefore ask: Where has this large amount of money - the amount of $259m which has been provided by the Commonwealth and the States for the benefit of Aborigines - been spent? The honourable P. Howson, as the then Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, in a debate in Parliament on 14 September 1972 set out the number of organisations which had been set up to care for the welfare of the Aboriginal. There are approximately 160 organisations in Australia looking after Aborigines. I would say that the Aboriginal is very fortunate because each of those organisations presumably is really dedicated to doing its best for the interests of the Aborigines. But there are a lot of these organisations that I feel should be looked at a second time. It was only as a result of the passing of the referendum, and it will be only as a result of the passing of this legislation that the Commonwealth will have some say in the future with regard to the management and control of Aborigines throughout the Commonwealth. For instance, dealing with building, in New South Wales there are the Housing Commission of New South Wales, the Housing Funds Aboriginal Affairs, the Aboriginal Advancement Association, the Youth and Community Service and Aboriginal Affairs and the local government authorities all building houses in different ways and all making a mess of them. If the question of housing in New South Wales was left to the New South Wales Housing Commission, and a similar position applied in other States, a better job, a quicker job and a cheaper job would be carried out. Maintenance also would be attended to. That situation does not prevail with the present organisations. In Dubbo, Moree and Walgett I did not see a house that had ever had a paint brush put on it, in the way of maintenance, from the time it was completed.
I refer now to pre-school education. It is a vitally important matter for the children of Australia today. The Aboriginal child is just as important as the white child. When we travel through the north we find that there are church mission pre-schools, private preschool organisations, shire council pre-schools and Daughters of Charity pre-schools. I could mention another dozen or two organisations which are involved in pre-school education in different ways and which are not doing the child a bit of good. Possibly pre-school education in general should be taken over by the Education Department. Also I think the whole question of housing should be left to the New South Wales Housing Commission.
Health is very important, lt is vital that something be done in this field immediately. Hygiene and sanitation throughout Aobriginal settlements in New South Wales - I would say that the same applies in other States - just do not exist. Twenty-five per cent of Aboriginal children born today suffer from brain damage due to malnutrition. The general health of Aboriginal children is exceptionally low. I think that situation is related to the previous Administration which was in power for 23 years and had control of Aborigines. I wish to know where the tremendous amount of S250m has been spent. I think that, especially in New South Wales, consideration and examination should be the first priority for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in order to find out what the 160 or more committees are doing. I am sure that the committees are doing the best job they possibly can. I am sure that they are working in the interests of the Aborigines. But I am sure that the committees need streamlining. They should be brought into order concerning the spending of money allocated by the Commonwealth.
The condition of housing generally is an utter disgrace. Houses, except those built by the Housing Commission, have never received maintenance attention from the day they were built. They lack doors and windows and roof timbers need to be replaced. In many places tin shanties with mud floors predominate. The purpose of the referendum of 1967 was that the Australian Government should assume responsibility for Aborigines. The Government’s purpose now is to establish a Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs with officers in each State. The Commonwealth will have a genuine presence in the States. I think it is about time that was done. One only has to be a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and to have a look at the conditions under which Aborigines are living at present to realise the importance of the Standing Committee.
As the Minister said, this Bill is aimed at expressing briefly the Australian Government’s new responsibilities and, in particular, at facilitating the transfer of State officers to the Australian Public Service. The present system involves duplication between Australian and State authorities and leads to confusion. There is no need for me to emphasise that point. The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee has expressed a desire to transfer from the State sphere to the Commonwealth sphere. The Government seeks responsibility for policy planning and coordination. The Bill is purely one enabling the facilitation of transfers of State officers where there is agreement between the Australian Government and State governments. The sooner the provisions of this Bill can be brought into operation, Australian Government control established and some sense of sanity and goodness achieved for the Aborigines, the better. I commend the Bill.
– This Bill comes before us by reason of an amendment made to the Constitution in 1967. Let me say at the outset that I consider it regrettable that in those days, as now, the citizens of the Northern Territory had no right to vote in such a referendum. As I said strongly then and I say again today, citizens of the Northern Territory should have the right to vote in such a referendum. The people to whom I refer on a percentage basis, are the most concerned in Aboriginal affairs. I will continue to urge upon the Government that something be done about this anomaly.
I refer now to the Bill itself. In accordance with the referendum of 1967, the Commonwealth Government is to assume the ultimate responsibility for Aborigines. In many cases I think it is better for people to deal with State authorities. There is better liaison, very often, between State departments when the matter being dealt with concerns the health, education or housing of Aborigines. Although the overall finance and organisation must come from the Commonwealth there is a far better chance of understanding at the grass roots level. An example of this is the turtle farm fiasco in Queensland. As one of the previous speakers mentioned this matter, I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant): How many turtles did Dr Bustard muster on his 5 farms? Were there sufficient turtles in fact to stock all the farms, Was some sort of sleight of hand going on between the turtles and the farms? Some very strange things are going on, and I would welcome the Minister’s advice as to what that story was all about. Once again it is an instance of the Common: wealth scrutiny.
– You would need a boundary rider.
– Yes, a boundary rider would be needed. Perhaps the turtles need to be earmarked, too.
I mention now the abduction case concerning a young Aboriginal girl named Nola. This matter was referred to very ably by my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). I support his demand that a full inquiry be made into this matter. I will not discuss the circumstances of the case. I think the Minister is sympathetic and upset. He is sincere and genuine in things of this nature and I am certain that he will go to great lengths to try to get to the bottom of it and to see that the child Nola receives the best possible deal.
– Have there ever been any similar cases?
– There have been many cases of foster children, and this case has probably damaged the whole concept of the foster children scheme. Many people in the Northern Territory and no doubt in other parts of Australia were influenced to take children away from the circumstances which applied in this case. I think that when the investigation is carried out it will be found that the health situation of the child and the actual feelings of the parents for the child at the time were discussed between the foster parents and the Welfare Branch as it then was, of the Northern Territory Administration. This Branch decided where children were placed and what they did. Its authority will be undermined. It is a pity if, after an Aboriginal child grows up with a white family, its parents, for some reason or other, say that they want the child returned to them. I think the Aborigines are missing a chance for their children to get a better start in life, especially if they do not wish to care for them in their early years. The opportunity is there for their children to be well looked after and reared. These children can be used as bridgeheads into the European society to assist the Aboriginal cause. Quite often over weekends, Aboriginal children would stay at my home in Alice Springs. They came from the Aboriginal hostel in Alice Springs to my home and played with my children. We treated them as we treated our own children. It will be a pity if the present case breaks down this sort of feeling between Aborigines and Europeans.
I return to my original line of thought. Quite often the centralist approach is out of touch with the grassroots feelings. I mention another example which has not come before the House and has not received any publicity. The case concerns a glaring lack of understanding with regard to a land auction sale at Borroloola. This was a sale of various house blocks. Two of the blocks were supposed to be for fisheries branch purposes. The nub of the matter that I raise concerns the sale of a service station site and a caravan park site. Buyers came from hundreds of miles to attend this sale. Borroloola is some 600 miles or 700 miles from Alice Springs. People came also from Tennant Creek and Katherine. Many travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles to bid at this land sale at Borroloola. A virtually unknown man appeared at the land sale and, apparently on advice from Canberra - a central control - he outbid others who were interested in bidding for that land. He reluctantly admitted later that he was bidding on behalf of the Borroloola Social Club.
At the conclusion of the sale the members of the Borroloola Social Club, who are Aborigines, had to be instructed on what had occurred. They did not know that this man had come with instructions from afar - I do not know whether he came on the instructions of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or some other authority - apparently with an open cheque book to bid for 2 sites at Booroloola. The Aborigines did not know what was going on; they were told later. Local people and those who had travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles to attend the sale did not know what was going on either. They found later that no ceiling had been placed on the amount that this man could pay by cheque for these sites. I say that this was a major blunder. Some pretty fierce talk occurred at Booroloola over this incident. I was there quite by accident on the day of the sale. If either the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) had been there either on that day or within the next week, I can tell the House that they would have received a pretty hot time.
I make this point: If this land was required for Aboriginal enterprise - by all means let the sites be used for that purpose; I am all for such projects - why on earth was it ever allowed to go to public auction which in the event meant that people bid against a man sent from the centralist control in Canberra with an open cheque book to buy that land? Such action ignores the grass roots approach. The Commonwealth Government or the central control does not have the knowledge and very often the understanding of the grass roots approach, lt does not have the ability to get down to the level of the common people. This case is an instance of my argument.
In his second reading speech, the Minister stated that some confusion existed among Australian Aborigines as to whom they should approach. The Interim National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which he established earlier, is in some doubt. I ask the Minister: How is that Council progressing? Is it truly representative of all Aborigines across the nation? What is happening with regard to the election which Aborigines are supposed to be holding to put Aboriginal members on to that Council? What thoughts has the Minister about the complaint from many Aborigines in the outback areas of Western Australia, Queensland or the Northern Territory - I say this reservedly - that they are being bulldozed into accepting the decisions which come from this Council and which purports to represent them? These Aborigines say that they are being bulldozed into agreement by the better educated part-coloured city slickers, as it were, who come into their areas and are used as mouthpieces. Is that what is happening with the Interim Aboriginal Consultative Committee? Do Aborigines really understand what is meant by transferring authority from the States to the Commonwealth? I believe that many of them do not understand this aspect.
From the point of view of the Northern Territory, I would say that the Commonwealth has already taken over the responsibilities proposed in this Bill as all the necessary planning and co-ordination work are taking place. I point to the fact that an ex-director of Aboriginal Affairs of 20 years to 25 years’ experience has been stood down; other men of similar experience are being brushed aside. Who is taking over from these people? Someone must advise the Aborigines. I know that a policy of self-determination has swept into this sphere. A Fabian-Socialist and those under him have embarked on a policy of what appears to many others and me as a policy of separatism. Separatism in South Africa is called apartheid, although I would say that that policy might be working in reverse in Australia. The policy being espoused in Australia for Aborigines is quite separate and distinct from that followed with respect to European Australians. Whether this is being done consciously or unconsciously, I do not know. Looking at the instances that I have quoted of what has happened, I think that this is occurring unconsciously rather than consciously.
By all means let us work towards assisting Aborigines to take their place in our society. This Bill is another step towards that end. Let Aborigines participate in the fruits of the development of this tremendous country. Let them be with us and us with them. What has been achieved has not been reached without great effort. Is the Government embarked on a course which will bring Aborigines to that desirable state? Are Aborigines and the Government working together to achieve that end? I say that work is the basis of many of the problems which have arisen. Who is working some of the places that have been acquired by the previous Government and this Government? Who is working Everard Park which consists of $200,000 worth of cattle country? Who is working the $300,000 Yugul Cattle Co. project? Who is working the $300,000 Willowra station? Who is working the Kildurk station, a $890,000 cattle property in the Kimberleys? These are very considerable undertakings. Who will work the $lm Finniss River station if it is acquired by the Government? I do not know whether it will be taken over. It is of no use continuously to buy these places and have people just sitting down on them doing nothing. Unless something is done the whole onward movement of Aborigines towards involvement in their own enterprises will go down the drain.
I have constantly urged these people to their faces to see that work is the answer to many of their problems. I wonder whether by allowing them to own these places without running them economically we will make them into a race of parasites. I hope not. Over the weekend I heard in my home town about the purchase of an immense hotel and business block combined. Who will work them if the purchase ever comes about? It is all very well to own these properties but something has to be done about working them. There is also the 5,000- square mile property at Haasts Bluff. I do not know for sure that I understand that the other day some experts went and had a look at it. What is happening in regard to the Daly RiverPort Keats area, the Finniss River proposal and so on? The time has not yet arrived when success for these people will be achieved by self-determination.
I think the Aborigine must have assistance in the things he is doing. I think he recognises that this assistance is important. I am certain that the Aborigine just does not want money poured down the drain without getting out any results. As I said, this Bill is a move towards achieving results. But I say to the Minister: Do not turn your back on those who can assist you and the Aborigines. Do not make the Aboriginal community a parasitical community. We must realise that they live in this country just as we do and that they have to work for it the same as we work for it. If they are to have any self-respect and the respect of other Australians then surely they must be prepared to work to the best of their ability and be prepared to be trained to the best of their ability to prepare themselves to take part in some of these private enterprise properties which are being taken over by this centralist Government, I know that the Minister is very sympathetic and thoughtful in regard to this matter. But I feel that on occasions he can get carried away. I say to him: Use the resources that you have before you squander your money on things that you just like the look of and probably do not know anything about and which you have not anyone to work.
The Government should be training men and women who can assist the Aborigines themselves to develop their own skills and to develop their own determination to work for themselves in order to enable them to own and operate a considerable part of this country. We must help them to do this. It will be a matter of co-operation. It will be a matter of lining up the people with the experience and trying to teach the Aborigines until they have reached the stage where they can cope for themselves.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This Bill is probably one of the most important Bills ever to come before this Parliament. The Bill transfers to the Australian Government the responsibility of the States relating to the affairs of the Aboriginal people in this country. We are dealing with the most disadvantaged group of people in the Australian community. We are dealing with a group of people who have the highest birth rate of any group of people in the world. So we are dealing with a continually growing problem in connection with which a great deal has not been achieved by the States in recent years. A great deal of licence was given to the 2 previous speakers from the Opposition side in allowing them to traverse some of the things that they dealt with and I feel that a reply is necessary because both of them made some reference to recent Press statements concerning the turtle and crocodile farms in the Torres Strait and northern Australia area.
I am amazed that 2 people who have been supporters of the Government for the period of time that the previous Government was in office know nothing about this. For the first year of the 3 years of operation so far this was a research project funded through the Australian National University; but for the next 2 years it was directly the responsibility of the Government. It was directly under the control of the then Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts but the 2 previous speakers on the Opposition side said they know nothing about it. That is understandable because they took absolutely no interest in what was going on. Whatever circumstances the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) has found himself in in relation to these matters was a direct inheritance of the lack of interest of the previous Government. The project was well under way when the present Minister took over his portfolio. Over 100 turtle farmers were employed. The expenditure for this project that was put forward to the new Minister when he assumed office amounted to $1.4m for this year. I fail to see how people who have supposedly taken so much interest in these matters could not know that for 2 years it had been the responsibility of the previous Government to know what was going on in those areas and to superintend what was taking place.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) referred to the fact that Senator Georges was chairman of the boards of 2 of the 3 companies that had been set up to try to rationalise the problems associated with turtle and crocodile farming in the Torres Strait and in the northern part of Australia. Firstly, let me say that Dr Bustard was never chairman of the board to which reference was made. An elementary inquiry would have ascertained that. In fact the whole contribution by the honourable member for Herbert seemed to centre around a series of unending questions to the Minister. I suggest that if he likes to spend 10 minutes one evening in the Minister’s office the Minister could answer every one of his questions very precisely and very quickly. It might be a great advantage if the whole Opposition arranged a seminar one evening so that the Minister may tell them what is going on because it is very obvious that honourable members opposite know very little about what the previous Government did in the handling of Aboriginal affairs.
– We all know this. Get on with your speech.
– It needs to be repeated. Dr Bustard was never the chairman of the board. Senator Georges, myself and a Mr Neill were appointed by the Minister to the board. There is only one member of the board who receives any remuneration for his services to the board. The chairman receives no remuneration. He has to devote a great deal of time to its work. This was especially so over the formation months. He has to devote a great deal of time in the direct administration of the company and also in the field - as the other members of the board do - to see precisely what is going on and to try to rationalise this legacy that we inherited from the previous Government.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) referred to some part coloured city slickers who, he contended, had been going around making representations and were resented. People in Australia today who are of Aboriginal descent are starting to proclaim their Aboriginality. They are proud now of the fact that they are Aboriginals and they look to this Government to do something about the impoverished and shocking conditions in which they have had to live for many years, especially during the period of time when the previous Government was in power. In the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party gov ernment since the Second World War, when the country was progressing culturally and when its standard of living was progressing, there was ample opportunity for that Government to demonstrate its great concern for the Aboriginal people. Let me say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory that these part coloured city slickers have been largely responsible for drawing the attention of the people to the impoverished circumstances in which coloured people have been living.
– Well, why are they not accepted by the Aborigines in the north? Tell me that.
– I do not know why they are not accepted by Aboriginal people in the north. However, I would suggest that there is a great deal of concern amongst Aboriginal people generally because of the conditions m which they live and they treat everybody, including the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and every member of any government with some suspicion because, over the years, promises have been made to them which have not been carried out. This Government now is trying to rationalise the situation.
The Aboriginal people certainly have the right to have a national Aboriginal consultative council. There is very little chance, except in the Senate, where they now have one Aboriginal representative, that the Aboriginal people will ever attain representation in this House because of the dispersion of their numbers.
– What about Queensland.
– Well, they might win one seat in Queensland, but I do not know that they have a great chance because of the difficulty of winning representation to this House under the franchise that exists at the moment. So there is a need for these people to be able to come together in an unfragmented manner, not in the way that they are now. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs receives representations from small groups of Aboriginal people all over Australia, but there is a need for these people to come together and to get their priorities in order and to speak with one voice when they ask the Minister for the expenditure of funds which this Government will provide in an endeavour to establish the Aboriginal people in their rightful position in the Australian community.
The Commonwealth Government is to assume these’ responsibilities from the States. I do not want to detract from anything that the States have done because some of the States have made very progressive movements with the limited funds that have been made available to them by the Commonwealth. But there is a need now to have a co-ordinated approach to the Aboriginal problem. It is the intention of this Government to establish the Commonwealth presence in centres all over Australia so that we might be able to get the priorities right; so that not necessarily those people who make the most sound will get the most action but that we might apply the money that is available from the Government in the right direction; so that everybody might get equal share of the money; so that we might be able to build houses in the places where houses should be built; so that children might be educated in the places where they should be educated; so that we might provide employment for those people where they need employment. All these things are necessary and are progressing at a pace.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the committee which works with him are most anxious that the regional presence of the Australian Government should be established as quickly as possible in centres throughout Australia, that we should co-operate with those State agencies which are able to fulfil their function as an agent for the Commonwealth in a particular State, and so that we might be able to gain value from the expertise of the people who have served the States in the role of Aboriginal welfare officers so that these people might be incorporated into the Australian Government organisations in order that we might benefit from the wealth of knowledge that they have available. All these things -will be done.
However, it is necessary first to have the States hand over their control to the Commonwealth so that the Commonwealth can proceed.
There are other areas of Aboriginal welfare about which the Government is gravely concerned. I want to say at this time that, while the Australian Country Party has never had a Prime Minister-
– That is not true.
– In recent times.
– You are wrong. They had the eighteenth Prime Minister.
– For one week, was it? I am sorry.
– He was still the Prime Minister.
– He was not the Prime Minister for any worthwhile period of time. If he was the Prime Minister and did represent the point of view of the Country Party, he never made statements such as those of the 2 former Liberal Prime Ministers, the sentiments of which are contrary to the remarks made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. The honourable member said that this Government was forcing the Aboriginal people into an urban situation. Both the previous Liberal Prime Ministers, contrary to the statement made by Commonwealth and State Ministers after their 1965 conference, said that they appreciated that there was a need to let the Aboriginal people determine for themselves in what direction they should go. Many of these people will elect to stay in the tribal conditions in which their ancestors have lived for the past 20,000 years. Many of them, because they have had to try to assimilate and integrate into the white community, will have to be accommodated in the same types of conditions in which white Australian people live in the cities and towns around Australia. Both of the previous Liberal Prime Ministers appreciated this fact and, when they were in power, they made statements that were contrary to the views expressed in the 1965 statement of Commonwealth and State Ministers. I think that in this regard there is little difference between the attitudes of both of those gentlemen and the thoughts of the present Australian Government. We think that this is entirely necessary.
There are a number of things that we must do and a number of decisions which must be made. Some decisions are going to be difficult to make and we will need the co-operation of the entire Government in making them. There are Aboriginal people scattered throughout towns around Australia in which employment opportunities cannot be provided for them, and on this point I agree with the honourable member for the Northern Territory when he says that we must encourage the Aboriginal people and must provide for them the right to work and the places to work. These people want to be profitably employed. They do not want to be parasites on the community, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory described them. These people are as keen to work as are white Australian people. They want to be given the opportunity to work. It may be necessary to relocate quite large groups of these people away from some of these towns where they have traditionally lived for many years - on the outskirts of the towns, in reserves, in humpies or even in houses of some sort or another in the towns themselves - and to bring them to places where employment opportunities can be provided. This is going to be a difficult decision to make because, like most people, they resist change and, because they probably have never been out of the town in which they were born, their horizons are very narrow. It will be very difficult to convince them that probably the best thing for their welfare is for them to be located where we can provide these opportunities for them. These are some of the problems we will have to face when we establish officers in these areas. The regional officers will be able to establish programs for the people. Wherever we can provide job opportunities for them we should be able to provide housing for them, whether it is in the town in which they now live or somewhere else.
Education is one of the paramount problems of the Aboriginal people today. Many of the Aboriginal people - in fact the great majority of them - who live on the outskirts of our towns, especially in New South Wales, have not had the opportunity of a full and proper education. In many instances Aboriginal children who attend school where there is a predominance of white children have never obtained the right education opportunities, frequently finishing up in opportunity classes and never able to progress. It is quite interesting to note that the standard of passes of the Aboriginal children invariably is much higher in schools where there is a predominance of Aboriginal children than in schools where there is a small percentage of Aboriginal children. So there is a great need for these children, who may come from an illiterate family, whose mother and father have had no formal education, who possibly live in a humpy with earth floors and no water or electricity laid on to it, who are without the advantage of a television set, a radio or even a clock in the house, as is frequently the case, and who cannot take school books home because there is nowhere to put them where the smaller children will not get at them and destroy them, to be brought into a pre-school situation, as has been mentioned by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Ashley Brown). We members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on
Aboriginal Affairs saw some of these preschools in operation. It is too early yet to judge what the final outcome will be because most of these pre-schools have been in operation only in the last couple of years. But it is a fact that in the infants section of these schools, where we members of Committee were able to speak to the teachers, there has been a great improvement in the standard of the children. If this is to continue at the primary and secondary levels the same opportunity has to be provided, but there are too few of these kindergartens now available. So there is a great need, firstly, to house the people so that the children, when they come home from school, can have the advantage that other children have and, secondly, to provide pre-schools to give them the opportunity to reach the standard that is necessary for them to start on their endeavours in education.
The other matter that causes us a great deal of concern is health. The honourable member for Mitchell covered this in large detail. No matter where one goes, it is evident that the health of the Aboriginal population generally is much lower than that of white populations anywhere in our community. This is so for a number of reasons. Of course, one of the greatest reasons is the poverty of the people themselves. The children cannot get the right nutriment and value from their food because they are not getting the right type of food to provide these things for them. This impoverished situation exists not only in Aboriginal families but also in white families which are in similar positions, but, of course, it is much more predominant in Aboriginal families. So there is a great need for us to be able to improve their quality of life and their health so that the children will have an equal opportunity and so that when they grow to adults they can grow to healthy adults and in turn will be able to raise their children.
There is a need for an education program as well as a need to try to improve their general standard of living so that they can appreciate the need for the proper types of food for their children. A typical example is the one that has been well reported in the Press over the last few days. On Palm Island off the Queensland coast almost the whole of the younger population has been suffering from a number of complaints, including worms, which of course contributes to the malnutrition of the children. There also has been a gastroenteritis epidemic there. The people contract this so easily because of their condition of health. The Government hopes to achieve all its aims by taking over responsibility for the Aboriginal people, with the active and vigorous support of the many people who have been concerned about this problem for years, but with a Department that is having great difficulty in being able to establish itself in the short time it has been given because of the urgency of this matter. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Whilst many of the things that the honourable member for Cook (Mr Thorburn) said are commendable for the sentiments expressed in them, let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Liberal Party is the party which turns words into reality. The honourable member for Cook referred to the fact that there is one Aborigine in the Senate. Let me remind him that that senator is a Liberal and that the honourable member’s Party is yet to endorse an Aboriginal candidate who is in the position of winning. The action of the Liberals in endorsing minority groups can be further underlined by the fact that in the history of the Australian Parliament - I am referring now to a majority minority group and one . which has been kept down by the Australian Labor Party - only 8 women have become members of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Two women have entered the House of Representatives and six women have entered the Senate. The 2 women who have come into the House of Representatives both have been Liberals, and of the 6 women who have come into the Senate five have been Liberal ladies.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the Bill and to deal with the feminine question later.
– Yes, Sir. I was just drawing this to the attention of the House as an example of how the Liberal Party does what it says, and at times even more. In speaking to the Bill providing for arrangements with the States with respect to Aboriginal affairs. I have a duty at this time, on the first occasion since the unfortunate matter erupted, to draw to the attention of this Parliament and to leave in the record of Hansard forever a case which underlines the inept manner in which this new Government, which presently reaches out into the States for more powers, handled the procurement of the Hill End hostel in Brisbane. Mr Deputy Speaker, whilst the Opposition is not opposing the Bill, you will recall the words of the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who comes from north Queensland, when he drew to the attention of the House the fact that the Bill and the explanatory notes are more famous for what they do not say than for what they do say.
As I said, this is the first opportunity the Parliament has given me to raise this subject without having to speak in an adjournment debate or the like. Let me go back a few months to the latter part of June 1973. At that time somehow it was announced that the new Labor Government had bought the Baptist Theological College in the Brisbane suburb of Hill End for the purpose of a hostel for Aborigines. It was announced suddenly, and because of misunderstandings which exist in our community there was a reaction which members of the Australian Labor Party themselves have described as understandable. The reaction was not pleasant. I recall contacting the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and advising him that there was a great necessity for a public meeting to be held and that he should be present to address it. I commend the Minister - and this is where my commendation ends - for his willingness to come to this public meeting. Furthermore, he acted with speed. He interrupted his return flight from Cairns in north Queensland to Melbourne in the south especially to address this public meeting in Brisbane which I had helped to organise.
– He was a bit provocative before he got there, though.
– I hope that the honourable member for Petrie will take the opportunity afterwards to back me up in these views. As he said, the problem was that even before the Minister attended the meeting he was making statements to the effect that he had no sympathy for the objectors to the hostel. He had not even been there. He had not heard their views but he was stating quite clearly that he had no sympathy. On 23 June he said that the hostel would provide ‘student facilities and a respectable place for Aboriginals to live’.
No one could argue against the sentiment or the endeavour of the Minister. However, the public meeting was held and approximately 300 local residents plus a number of disruptive outsiders attended. The Minister’s attitude was arrogant.
– Yes. The Minister’s attitude was so arrogant that it had the effect of making a long time Labor voter stand up and say to the Minister: ‘Get down off your high horse.’ He proclaimed to that angry crowd that had been whipped up by the Minister that he was a Labor voter - a brave thing to do at that time - yet his reaction was: ‘Get down off your high horse’. Further on that occasion - I give the Minister a small credit tick for this - he accepted an invitation by a Mr Forrest who was at the meeting to visit Manhattan Walk and Musgrave Park. This is recorded in the ‘Sunday Mail’ of 24 June. The invitation followed an offer by the Minister to anyone in the audience to go down and look at a hostel which was operating in Victoria. One of the problems and concerns of the people is that Musgrave Park and Manhattan Walk are probably only a mile from the proposel hostel. The people are concerned about the close proximity to what is commonly described as a sometimes undesirable part of Brisbane.
– Did the Minister go to Manhattan Walk?
– The Minister went to Manhattan Walk.
– After dark?
– No, he did not go after dark. At that time the Minister was responding to a challenge from Mr Forrest to go there, and the Minister said: ‘As long as you will come to Melbourne and look at this hostel.’ The Minister accepted, but since then no contact has been made with Mr Forrest who offered to pay his own fare to Melbourne and who was promised that he would be shown the hostel. What a deplorable state of affairs. Further in this long history I wish to draw the attention of the House to the words of an Aboriginal civil rights leader, Mr Archie Smallwood, who summed up in a nutshell the feelings of the people of the multi-racial suburb of Hill End in Brisbane, a suburb where people have learned to live with people who are different. An article in the ‘Courier Mail’ of 26 June stated:
Aboriginals want to live in a respectable fashion like everyone else. We shouldn’t be judged on the Aboriginals at South Brisbane who won’t help themselves.’ Mr Smallwood, an Aboriginal who works as a foreman with the Railways Department said the proposed Gray Street, Hill End, hostel would not become a haven for Aboriginal layabouts. ‘It will be a hostel for students and it will be run properly with local residents being included on the hostel committee’, he said.
– The Minister was very equivocal about the use to which it would be put.
– That is right. Until 23 June we were told by the Minister that it would be for students. At the meeting the Minister procrastinated. He went slightly back on his word and said that the hostel would be for people. That was immediately after he answered a question in which he said that it would be basically for students. Even one day later he was going back on his word. The people went away from the meeting believing that it was to be a hostel for students. Unfortunately, some of those idiots who exist in our society endeavoured to whip up racial hatred. At that time not very pleasant slogans were painted on the walls surrounding the hostel. There were a few unfortunate public utterances, and these were not helpful. They only whipped up trouble and were condemned by all thinking people as being unnecessary and unfortunate.
On 8 July, according to the Brisbane Courier Mail’, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs stated:
The purpose in our mind is to accommodate Aboriginal girls completing Senior and wishing to enter commercial and other courses starting in February.
He said a lot more. I refer to this matter while this Bill is being discussed because I seriously doubt the competence of this Australian Labor Party Government - just as the people of Parramatta expressed grave doubts last Saturday - to administer the Department correctly. On 18 July the ‘Observer’ newspaper, which has a huge circulation on the south side of Brisbane, including the electorate of Griffith -
– It is full of Labor propaganda.
-It is not always full of Labor propaganda because it gives me an opportunity to express my Party’s point of view in an honest way. On 18 July the headline read: ‘Hostel use determined’. This appeared after some concern was expressed in our community as to what was going to happen. I am glad that the Minister is listening. The article read:
There was absolutely no suggestion of the Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End being used for anyone other than students, the Federal Member for Brisbane . . said this week.
He said: ‘Despite recent statements to the contrary this was the Government’s final decision on the matter.’ Because of the growing problems of the area I responded by sending a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 2 July 1973 asking him to intervene. He advised me through his office on 6 July that the telegram had been forwarded to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. But unfortunately Brisbane was again to be neglected. The unfortunate history of the Hill End hostel shows that, after the public meeting I referred to earlier, a woman had been threatened that if she ever came into South Brisbane she should watch out. This stirring up of racial differences is something none of us, regardless of our policies, would want to see. But this was the unfortunate result. I am glad that the Minister is taking off his glasses and is listening more carefully now. That is the manner in which he should have approached this rather delicate question.
The matter hit the ‘Sunday Mail’ on 29 July 1973. This is a little bit like ‘Blue Hills’. The history continued:
The Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End will accommodate girl workers and not students when it opens on October 1.
This is another reversal from the original stand. The ‘Courier Mail’ of 30 July records how I deplored the switch. The ‘Australian’ newspaper - perhaps the Queensland edition - on 30 July reported that Aborigines were not being consulted by the Federal Government over the use of hostels. The President of the Black Community Service advised that ‘Aborigines were angry that the Federal Government had reserved the Hill End hostel for girl workers and not students as originally proposed’. These were the actual words of Mr Ron Finney.
We come now to the next edition of ‘Blue Hills’. On 8 August 1973 in the ‘Observer’, under the headline ‘Students to use Hostels’ the following report appears:
Despite Press reports to the contrary the Federal Government still intended the Aboriginal hostel at Hill End to be set up for students’, Federal member for Brisbane …. said this week. The hostel -
It proceeds with an historical account. Honourable members may laugh. Those who come from Brisbane already know the sad history of this mucking around. My reason for raising this particular matter is that
I believe that the Government is totally incompetent in endeavouring to control every aspect of Aboriginal affairs. The Australian Labor Party already has proved that it is a party of procrastination. The Government’s handling of the Hill End hostel has been so inept and studded with contradictions, bungles and indecision that even the staunchest Labor Party supporters in the area have long since ceased to play the pollyanna game in defence. There are in existence examples of conflict between the member for Brisbane and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Nobody in Queensland knew for months what was going on. The latest headlines advise that there will be some kind of training school. Indeed, in the Courier-Mail’ of 11 September appears the heading: ‘West End may be a pilot’. If the present Government is steering that plane I would not like to be on it. Heaven help the poor people that the Government will be picking up simply for an experiment.
The time allotted to me in this debate has almost concluded but I want to give one more example of the way in which the Government has treated the people of Queensland in this matter. In early September it advertised for a hostel manager and an Aboriginal house mother to be located in Brisbane at this hostel. It did not have the courtesy to place the advertisement in the ‘Courier-Mail’, Queensland’s main newspaper. The Minister smiles. He has a particular feeling about that newspaper. The advertisement may not have been placed with that newspaper as a result of a particular instruction. However it is the height of rudeness for the Minister to advertise in other States through the national ‘Australian’ without giving the people of Queensland, who are not great readers of the ‘Australian’, an opportunity to be aware of such positions and of applying for them.
While the Opposition does not oppose this legislation there is every reason for the State governments to continue to voice concern at the spread of centralism because already, while the Government regards itself as capable, it has shown itself to be inept and incapable. The people of Hill End in Brisbane have been treated most shabbily. Any resentment which presently exists in that area is the direct result of fumbling in the purchase of the hostel and of the conflict in the various statements that have been made in the past.
– The Australian Government has a clear mandate to change the way of life of the Aboriginal people of Australia. In the policy speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was the Leader of the Opposition, at both the 1969 and 1972 elections, Aboriginal affairs played a very important part. This legislation is a recognition that the Commonwealth can benefit very greatly by co-operating with the States. It seeks the co-operation of the Australian States in the transfer of certain public servants in the policy and administrative areas of Aboriginal affairs. I think we all appreciate that the Commonwealth has unrestricted power in the Northern Territory but it shares power with the States elsewhere. The road ahead in Aboriginal affairs is not a simple one. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) have spoken about the complexities of Aboriginal affairs as they see them. The road ahead involves co-operation with the States and liaison with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people of Australia. Of course, we all realise that whilst the Torres Strait Islanders are Aborigines within the strict interpretation of the word, they are proud to retain their own identity as Islanders.
It would be easy for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), who brings to this portfolio a great deal of enthusiasm and sincerity, to go ahead and chart out policies to benefit the Aboriginal people. But unfortunately it is not as simple as that. Perhaps I should withdraw the word ‘unfortunately’. The facts of life indicate that it is not as simple as that because we are committed to liaising with these people in working out future policies. A great deal of energy at this point in time is being devoted to working out this process. Liaison with the Aboriginal people was never carried out very effectively under the previous Government. When the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was, under the Prime Minister, MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs, some conferences took place. When Mr Howson, the former honourable member for Casey, was the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, government policy was to liaise with the organisations set up in each State. In my own State of Queensland, for example, this meant the liaison committee assisting the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It represents communities only, which means only approximately one-third of the Aboriginal population of Queensland.
The honourable member for Herbert, in criticising the proposal for the establishment of a national Aborigines consultative council, did not take into account what has actually happened. Earlier in the year the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs brought together a representative group of people who had been involved in Aboriginal affairs He asked them to recommend the manner in which Aborigines could be consulted in the future. They suggested to him in 2 conferences in Canberra, and in a number of regional conferences, that an elected national Aborigines consultative council be set up. Australia is a large nation. This matter has involved a great number of discussions and I am told that more than 2,000 Aborigines have attended regional conferences to discuss it. This matter has yet to come back to the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee for further discussion with the Minister. To do this job properly and really to evolve patterns of consultation with the Aboriginal people, is not something which can be hurried because we are not in the business of pushing around the Aboriginal people of Australia. But a lot of things have happened. There has been a great expansion in the Department, which was previously the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. It is now the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. There is a much more vigorous Commonwealth role. The Government has sought to encourage members of this House to take a greater interest in Aboriginal affairs by appointing by resolution the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. This of course is an all-party committee and as Chairman of that Committee I acknowledge the very willing co-operation that we receive from Opposition members of this House as well as the part played by honourable members on the Government side. All of these things have served their own useful purposes. But it is impossible for any Australian Government to solve the problems without the cooperation of the Aboriginal people and without the co-operation of the States.
The word ‘centralist’ has been thrown into this debate by the honourable member for the Northern Territory. This Government recognises that it cannot solve problems in Aboriginal affairs without co-operation with the States. Indeed, legislation which will be introduced to follow the Budget will give a very substantially increased amount of assistance to the States for Aboriginal advancement. The preceding Budget provided $22m for this purpose. The proposed expenditure under the legislation to be introduced later this year will provide $31,750,000- an additional $9m for the States for their own programs. Does this show an attitude of a Commonwealth Government that is trying to exclude the States from the field? This is not the intention of the Australian Government at all. It is the intention of the Australian Government to develop a healthy co-operation with the States. The expenditure for this year for Aboriginal advancement is: Education, $4,600,000; health $9,il 34,000; social security and welfare, $3,230,000; housing and amenities, $14,786,000 - a total of $31,750,000. Of course that expenditure is quite outside the amount that the Commonwealth will spend on its own behalf. That money comes out of an expenditure from the Aboriginal Affairs Trust Account for the year 1973-74 of $73.5m. It is a massive amount of money. It is the function of the Commonwealth Government in co-operation with the States to see that it is wisely spent.
I want to pay a tribute to the co-operation which we receive from the State Governments. Firstly, I should like to say that it is not the purpose of the Commonwealth Government to set up a Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs which is similar to the department which exists, for example, in Queensland at present. In its day that department managed the affairs of Aborigines from the cradle to the grave. I know that some changes have taken place in the Queensland legislation. I should like to see all restrictive legislation removed. But we see the Commonwealth as taking over the administrative and policy functions and the States as playing their role in servicing the Aboriginal people of Australia in State schools and hospitals and the like in the same way as they treat other people in the community. I think we all acknowledge the co-operation with the States in a whole range of programs.
I cite an example from Queensland. The Commonwealth Department of Labour has a scheme for pre-employment training. Through the Commonwealth Employment Service it selects and offers pre-employment training to young Aborigines who might be short on skills but show that they are not afraid to work. These young people are offered the opportunity to go to technical college or elsewhere to acquire skills which they might use to improve their income. We recently had a course of about 20 young men from northern Queensland who attended the Eagle Farm Technical
College at Brisbane to learn basic welding. There is quite a demand for people who can weld in garages and in repairing agricultural machinery and the like. The scheme is a useful exercise in Commonwealth-State co-operation. The Commonwealth Department of Labour, through the Commonwealth Employment Service, locates the trainees. The Queensland Department of Education makes available places in its technical colleges. The Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs arranges accommodation for the young people at the Bulimba Hostel. Of course the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs monitors the program and provides the money. So we see in the future an increasing level of co-operation with the States. Anyone who suggests that we are in the business of excluding the States is being quite unreal, when so many basic services such as health, education, housing and the like in our community are financed through State Governments.
There is a need for a Commonwealth presence on a regional basis throughout Australia. The steps are now being taken to establish a Commonwealth regional presence. The honourable member for Griffith who spoke earlier mentioned that applications had been called for the provision of Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, associated with the hostel at Hill End but other applications had been called for Commonwealth offices at Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Brisbane, and of course in other States as well. A Commonwealth presence is needed to assess priorities; to liaise with State government departments and Commonwealth government departments to co-ordinate their activities; to lead and to assist Aboriginal organisations that might be seeking financial assistance, initially perhaps, to prepare a submission if people in the organisation have an idea that deserves support, and then to be able to attend meetings to counsel people on how to spend money and how wisely to administer public money if it is entrusted to their care. So it is necessary for us to establish a Commonwealth presence.
Given the fact that it is the objective of the Commonwealth to avoid unnecessary duplication by having 2 different administrative functions in Aboriginal affairs, it is the policy of this Government to arrange with the States to transfer public servants in that area. We have not always agreed with the attitude of the States in Aboriginal affairs and we do not agree with all of them at the moment. In fact I venture to say that probably if we went to any State we could see some aspect of Aboriginal affairs that we think perhaps we could handle better than the State. On the other hand, of course, it may well be, as I think we would all acknowledge, that in some areas we have learned a lot from the States. The States have many officers of talent and ability. The purpose of this legislation is to enable them to transfer to Commonwealth employment and to protect their employment by guaranteeing them remuneration in no way less than they receive today, but to protect them insofar as superannuation may be concerned and in other entitlements. In other words the purpose of this legislation is to enable us to bring into Commonwealth employment State government officers who have already contributed in the field of Aboriginal affairs and who have something to contribute in the future within the areas of Commonwealth administration.
I think that we would all agree that it is a very worthwhile piece of legislation. I mentioned the organisations that the Commonwealth helps. Speakers on the other side of the chamber mentioned a number of programs that had been assisted by the Commonwealth. The honourable member for the Northern Territory mentioned turtle farming - a project that started off as a pilot scheme under the previous Government and has now arrived at the stage where massive capital investment is necessary if what was a pilot scheme is to be expanded into a viable industry. Naturally any Australian government will look at the project carefully and sympathetically when it is called on to spend large amounts of public money, to ensure that the industry is economically sound and that it is technologically sound. When I say economically sound I do not necessarily mean that it should be profitable in the sense that some Australian industries which pay large interest rates are profitable. But surely we ought to be encouraging anything that enables Aborigines to be given a better life than living on unemployment benefits or on subsistence agriculture or fishing.
The road ahead is not an easy one. The honourable member for Griffith has given some attention to the hostel at Hill End. He suggested that it is an example of indecision on the part of the Australian Government. We need many more hostels like Hill End. When the Commonwealth has an office in Brisbane, I hope that it will be possible to work out priorities for the acquisition of hostels to suit the range of needs of Aboriginal people. What happened with respect to Hill End is very simple to explain. The Baptist Church, in its wisdom, decided to build a new theological college at Brookfield or Kenmore and offered the building to OPAL - the One People for Australia League - as an Aboriginal hostel if OPAL could find the money. The State Government put the proposal to the Commonwealth Government without telling it that it was intended to vest the hostel in the hands of OPAL and suggested, if my memory serves me correctly, that about 90 people could be accommodated there. The initiative was taken by the State Government.
The Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which is not sympathetic towards large hostels because they are not easy to run, looked at this proposal with a somewhat sceptical eye. Because it was in such a desirable locality and because it was so handy to town, a technical college, a university and schools, I took the view that it was a suitable site for a students hostel and suggested to the Minister that he acquire it for that purpose. The Minister came to Brisbane at Easter and inspected the hostel. The honourable member for Griffith was absent at the time, but I recall telling him several days later that an inspection had been made of the hostel in the electorate of Griffith. The hostel was acquired with that purpose in mind. A little later the Government looked at the whole question of vesting hostels because it was obvious that a large number of hostels had to be acquired. In the past, grants had been made to organisations to acquire properties. In other words, the Commonwealth acquired a valuable piece of property and handed it over to a private organisation. So the Minister, in his wisdom, set up an organisation called Aboriginal Hostels Ltd in which the ownership of Aboriginal hostels acquired by the Commonwealth will be vested and which will have the authority to administer those hostels and if necessary or if it is thought desirable lease them to an appropriate organisation or in other ways manage them.
The funny thing about hostels for students is that one connects students with programs only at the start of a year. The hostel will become available much earlier than that. In point of fact it is probably being transferred to the Commonwealth somewhere about now. The theological college of the Baptist Church is shifting out. Should the hostel at Hill End be left empty? Aboriginal Hostels Ltd discussed this problem and decided, because the demand by students is not there at the moment and because there is a demand for accommodation by young working girls, that the hostel should be used for the accommodation of these girls. I put it to the honourable member for Griffith that the people of Hill End are not concerned so much with whether they are school girls of 15, 16 or 17 years of age or workers of 17, 18 or 19 years of age as with the fact that the hostel is well run and is playing a positive role. An iron clad guarantee has been given in that respect.
I am prepared to state in the Parliament, as I have stated elsewhere, that I support the decision which has been made by Aboriginal Hostels Ltd not to leave the hostel empty but to accommodate young working people in it at the present time. There will be a need for other hostels, but it is not wise to hurry too much into such a situation. A wrong decision which is made at a place like Hill End could bring the Commonwealth under a great deal of fire, especially if the hostel is not properly managed. The important thing is that it should be. The people of Hill End have been given an absolute guarantee by the Minister that it will be. That guarantee stands.
This legislation is designed to effect the transfer of State public servants to the Commonwealth Public Service. They will make a useful contribution in the future in a joint enterprise by the Commonwealth and the States to a bettering of the way of life of the Aboriginal people of Australia.
– It is a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) in this debate. I think he made a very sensible and responsible contribution to it, as we have come to expect of him. I do not know whether his reply to the charges made by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was an effective one. I will leave it to the honourable member for Griffith to take up the matter at some future stage.
The purpose of this legislation is to transfer power from the States to the Commonwealth - to give the Commonwealth wider powers. I have a desperate anxiety about whether that is a wise thing to do. I have no doubt about the enthusiasm and interest of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) or, indeed, about his eloquence. It was frequently said before he became a Minister of State, when he was a back bench member of the Parliament, that he would speak under water with weights on. Of course, that would not be said of him now that he is a Minister. But I do pay tribute to his interest, eloquence, enthusiasm and, indeed, generosity. What is worrying me is that I have considerable doubts about his wisdom. I think wisdom is much more important at this time in this field than generosity.
I think it is essential to look very carefully at the proposition that the Commonwealth knows best. I think there is a great discipline in having to live with one’s mistakes, as the States have to do. That applies as a general comment about the administration of the affairs of government. It applies particularly to the handling of Aboriginal problems, which are grass roots problems. I have found that there seems to be an inability so far by the Minister and his Department really to think things out. The Commonwealth has not been miserable with its money; no<one can say that. Whether it has been right with the decisions it has taken is a much more difficult question to answer. At least let us take the matter out of the field of party politics.
Let me give the House an example of what happened when the previous Government was in office. One day I went to an Aboriginal settlement, as it was then, and was received with glad acclaim. I said to one of the responsible officers at the settlement: ‘To what do I owe such a welcome? Do I deserve it?’ He said: ‘You have been given credit for what the Government did last week’. I said: ‘What did the Government do last week?’ He said: ‘It increased the unemployment benefit by between $10 a week to $17 a week and you have been given credit for it’. The officer also said that he experienced very great difficulty in getting the Aborigines to apply for work previously and that it would be quite impossible now. That is a sample of generosity as distinct from wisdom. We all know that in certain areas of our community there is a great disincentive to look for work or take work. Not to recognise the failure to look for work as a problem is just to blink the facts of life away.
It is all right to be able to stand up before the United Nations and claim that Australia is treating everybody equally. But to do so at the expense of the happiness and well being of the Aboriginal population, as seems to bc done in many cases, is to pay for popularity at a price that is far too dear. It is all very well to sneer at paternalism and say that paternalism is a bad thing, but just to wash one’s hands of the problem /because of the unpopularity that comes with authority and to let things drift along is to buy popularity at the expense of the well being of the Aborigines. It is all very well to give Aborigines the same rights as other people to obtain drink, but, in view of the way in which the drink problem is destroying them, the price of being popular in the general community is a very dear one. It is all very well for the Government to say that it will buy popularity by giving Aborigines land rights. But, if it is done, as it appears to be done in many cases, “without any wise guidance as to how the land rights should be used, it is done at the expense of the well being of the Aboriginal people. We have to be very careful that we resist the temptation to buy electoral popularity at the expense of the wellbeing of the people we seek to serve. This willingness to sacrifice the Aborigines on the altar of political popularity is one of the things about which I am acutely anxious.
In conclusion - I have been asked to be brief - I add that it is no good thinking that the problems of the Aborigines can be buried under a mountain of money, because they will fester there. It is no good thinking that the problems of the Aborigines can be washed away in a torrent of eloquence, because they will still be there when the speeches are finished. As a community and as a Parliament we have an extra responsibility at this time to resist the temptation to think that there are any easy, rapid answers. I think the Minister is acutely aware of this. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) certainly referred to it. If we think that we can buy political popularity by rushing headlong into some halfbaked ideas, as there is a tendency to do, we run the risk of buying popularity at the expense of the people we hope to help. Members on both sides of the House have a very real responsibility to recognise that there are no easy answers and particularly that there are no rapid answers. In this field the only way that we can get wise and sustained development is by moving with extra wisdom and extra carefulness and recognising that the problems cannot be buried under a mountain of money. I beg the Minister, knowing that he has an active interest and a generous nature in this field, to recognise that in many cases wisdom is much more difficult and much more necessary than generosity.
– in reply - I thank the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) for allowing me time to make some comments. My comments will have to be brief. One of the penalties of being a Minister in a busy government is that one is pushed out of debates. However, it is a field day for me; this is the third time I have spoken today. I will try to be brief in my comments in answer to matters which have been raised principally by honourable members opposite. I deal, first of all, with the question of generosity, money and wisdom. What is wisdom in this field? For the 2 centuries in which we have occupied this continent nearly everything we have done has failed. The last thing I, my colleagues on this side of the House or members of standing committees concerned with Aboriginals would say is that we know what the answers are. The last thing we are trying to do is to bury anybody under a mountain of money. What I have attempted to do in the things which we have set going throughout Australia is to establish a stockpile of opportunity for the future. My colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), asks what we will do with Willowra. Things are not going too badly at Willowra. We might not have bought much profit with the purchase of that station, but we bought an immense rise in morale. We are placing the responsibility, as far as possible, back with the people themselves. We are asking them to develop their programs and we are trying to supply, with whatever wit and wisdom we have at our disposal, the capacity to solve the problem on the spot.
On the wall of my office there are the names of some 460 places where Aboriginal people live. Some of the places are quite small, housing 20 to 30 people. Some are large and would be termed ‘towns’ in anybody else’s language. Every one of them is unique. Every one of them is different. Every one of them has a problem of its own right across the board. Every one of them looks at Australian residents generally as problems too. The transfer or acceptance of responsibilities from the States is an attempt to create on the ground the people who will be able to take on the task as gathering these threads of wisdom that are about and turning them into realistic social policies. Many questions were raised this afternoon, and perhaps honourable members opposite will forgive me if I leave the answers to some of them until the Estimates debates start. We are adopting one or two principles. I believe, and my colleagues on this side of the House have made it clear, that it is only by consultation with the Aboriginal people and by their wholehearted participation in the operation that we will achieve any kind of success. In some places we are having success. One senses the .morale and notices the different way in which the Aborigines approach things compared with what they did 12 months or even 10 years ago.
As honourable members have pointed out. I have been associated with Aboriginal advancement for many years. One of the stimulating things is that there are now so many Aboriginal people who can stand on their feet and dish it out. It so happens that at the present moment many of them dish it out to me. I have in my office a filing cabinet which ought to be labelled ‘Friends I used to have’. But that is part of the operation. Some of the things we are doing, I suppose, will fail. If they do I will say to myself: ‘Why did we do that? Why did we not know that would happen?’ That just cannot be done in human affairs. We are still going forward with the objective of creating an Aboriginal voice of its own, integrated with that of the Department, the Ministry and the States. We are not attempting to take over everything that the States do. Our job is to make sure that duties are performed - to make teachers teach and doctors heal and to get councils to make roads down to the reserve. I am attempting to come to agreement with every community and every municipality where Aboriginal people live so that they can get things moving on the ground.
It is my firm belief - I presume that my friends on the opposite side of the House would feel much the same way - that one of the great deficiencies of modern government, arising perhaps from its complexity and its size, is the isolation of governments from people. One of the products of this legislation will be the ability of the Australian Government to deal directly with the people on the ground as they are. I think this is a fundamental democratic concept. I would say that it is a fundamental democratic socialist concept that people deal directly with the governments to whom they look for assistance or whose laws rule them. This is part of the function. I do not believe that we are attempting to bypass or short-circuit the States. I do not think we can do things better than the States, or vice versa. I believe that it is the Government instrumentality and its attitude on the ground that will matter. All the matters that were raised in this debate, I point out briefly so that the Bill can be passed through this House and then transmitted to the Senate where I hope it will be passed with expedition, are designed towards creating that situation.
We will not take over all that many people. Only a handful of people are involved - 15 or 16 in South Australia and New South Wales, perhaps 60 or 70 in Western Australia and various numbers in the other States. This legislation is creating the opportunity for those persons to enter the Australian Public Service with all their rights preserved. The preamble has been written into the legislation to assure people that we accept the responsibility. All I can say is that in creating the stockpile of wisdom which we are trying to create every member of this Parliament may participate. Aboriginal hostels were mentioned earlier. Senator Bonner has been appointed to the hostels directorate. I believe that all members of this House can contribute something. They represent people on the ground and they can participate.
A few weeks ago I visited several towns in the electorates of Moore and Gippsland. I will visit any electorate with anybody, as long as my physical capacity to do so and the transport systems of Australia can stand it. I suggest to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is notably sensitive on some human and social problems - erratic, eccentric and reactionary as he might be on others - that Point Pearce, which I think is in his electorate, might well come under his fatherly guidance. We enter this debate on the understanding that we all are concerned to take the Aboriginal people forward to a place in Australian society in which they feel equal and in which if they wish to be different they may be different in the same way as Scottish, Irish, Jewish and other people may.
My colleague, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), I am afraid, does not do the cause all that much good with his attack on the purchase of the Hil] End property in Brisbane. The property is a very good one. lt will be run as well as anything can be run. I am afraid that the citizens there are straining the friendship by their constant cry that if Aboriginal people live in it their behaviour will be bad. In general, the behaviour of Aboriginal people is much the same as the behaviour of everybody else. In general, I am certain that they can be part of the Australian society, as can anyone else.
I make this assertion: This Government does not believe that money is everything, but it is a most handy weapon when one faces up to social problems. It does mean 10 houses, a street made, a health centre or specialist assistance. With it, we can say that we will foot the bill. The objective of the Government is to ensure that whatever we may be short of in ordinary wisdom, we will not be short of the resources which this Government can supply to do the job. 1 therefore commend the Bill to the House. I hope that it receives an expeditious passage through the other place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bryant) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, this Bill, which seeks to provide Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, is in identical form to the Bill having the same title which I introduced on 22 May 1973 and which was passed by this House on 30 May 1973. As honourable members would know, the motion for the second reading of the Bill was defeated in the Senate on 7 June i973. It is interesting to note, however, that when the second reading of the Bill was agreed to by this House on 29 May 1973, it was carried by 78 votes to 43. Seventeen members of the Australian Country Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government. The result of that division as recorded on page 2815 of Hansard shows that the other 3 members of the Country Party were absent when the vote was taken. Very little criticism was offered in this House by the members of the Country Party and in fact the Country Party member for the
Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is recorded as saying in the course of his speech:
In speaking to this Bill, I point out that in 1966 Senate representation for the Northern Territory was on my platform and it has been ever since . . .
He further said:
I support Senate representation for the Northern Territory . . .
At another stage he went on to say:
This Bill seeks to grant Senate representation to the Northern Territory. I say again that I welcome it . . .
He further said:
I am glad that it has been introduced because it provides a chance for the Northern Territory to get further representation in the Parliament . . .
Yet, when the vote on the second reading of the Bill was taken in another place, we find that all 5 Country Party senators voted against it. Senator Drake-Brockman, at the conclusion of his speech, stated quite definitely:
Therefore, we in the Country Party oppose the legislation.
This is a remarkable display of political gymnastics based not on facts, principles or reason, but straight out political opportunism. I wonder whether it is more than coincidence that the Chinese acrobatic team is visiting Canberra this week. In fact the only party out of step in this House was the Liberal Party. Even the Australian Capital Territory federal electorate conference of the Liberal Party is reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 17 May 1973, under the heading ‘Libs Wants Two A.C.T. Senators’, as supporting the legislation. That article stated:
The Australian Capital Territory Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party may ask the Party’s Senate wing to initiate moves to bring in legislation giving the A.C.T. two representatives in the Senate.
The Conference may ask the Senate wing to initiate it, mind you. The article continues:
The Federal Electorate Conference will also ask the Parliamentary Liberal Party to support any legislation providing for the two Senators. At its meeting last night, the Conference carried a motion supporting the establishment of two Senate seats for the A.C.T. both to be elected at the same time. The Chairman of the Conference, Dr Peter Hughes said today the legislation should be brought down as soon as possible. The two Senators are vital to Canberra because the A.C.T. is under-represented in that it does not have self-government’, he said.
In these circumstances, to say the least, the attitude of the Opposition parties to this legislation is indeed exceedingly difficult to follow. Of course we understand that they have one policy in this House and one in another place. Senator Withers said to the Leader of the
Opposition: ‘Keep your nose out of our business’. So evidently we have to negotiate 2 ways.
My second reading speech when introducing the Bill is reported in Hansard at pages 2425 to 2430. In that speech, I fully explained the details and the purpose of the proposed legislation and, having in mind that the measures contained in the Bill were agreed to by this House, I do not propose to enter into a lengthy discourse on the many reasons which justify the proposed legislation.
However, for the benefit of honourable members. I will deal briefly with the proposals contained in the Bill, and the purpose of the Bill. The Bill provides for the election of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and that such senators have the same powers, immunities and privileges as senators representing the States; that the first election of Territory senators be held at the same time as the next Senate election in the several States or at the same time as the next general election for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate election: that the term of the first Territory senators be from the date of their election until the eve of polling day for the ensuing general election for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election for Territory senators, elections be held at the same time as the general elections for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election of Territory senators, the terms of Territory senators be the period between each House of Representatives election; and for the Territory senators to be elected under the same system of proportional representation as that currently applicable to the election of senators representing the States, except in the case of a single casual vacancy when such vacancy shall be filled by the holding of a by-election adopting the procedures used for filling a single casual vacancy for a State senator, as far as may be applicable. Under another Bill to be presented later today, Territory senators will be excluded for the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act.
The purpose of this Bill - and this is its only purpose - is to provide a measure of representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory in the
Senate and thus give some meaningful expression to section 122 of the Constitution in respect of the Senate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such representation is clearly permissible. Section 122 of the Constitution provides:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
During the past couple of decades there has been a significant increase in the development and population growth of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These 2 Territories, and the people who reside in them, are as much part of Australia as any other part. Had these areas not been formed into Territories they would have been within the States of New South Wales and South Australia respectively and their people would have participated in electing representatives to the Senate. We believe that while the national Parliament is comprised of 2 legislative chambers, all people and all parts of Australia should be represented in both chambers. We tried to bring this about in Opposition and we seek to bring it about in Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when Leader of the Opposition, introduced the Territory Senators Bill in 1968 and again in 1970. He explained the justification for the provision of senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory on those occasions. This justification has continued to exist and to grow with the growth and development of the 2 Territories.
I turn now for a moment to a matter which has been the subject of legal advice in relation to section 24 of the Constitution which provides, in part:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators.
On the basis of the advice by the Commonwealth legal advisers, the provision of Territory senators under section 122 of the Constitution does not cause an alteration in the number of members of the House of Representatives by virtue of section 24. Consequently, the proposed Territory senators will be excluded in determining the number of members to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act. This will be made clear by proposed amendments of the Representation Act contained in the Representation Bill which I shall introduce later this day.
The Bill before the House provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory differing in extent to representation in the Senate afforded the States. The Government proposes two senators for each Territory. We believe that it would be proper to have an even number elected each time for each Territory, thus allowing representation of the parties to be more evenly balanced than would be the case if only one senator for each Territory was provided.
Fifteen years ago the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties were represented, recommended that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was a general election for the House of Representatives. Bringing elections for Territory senators into line with House of Representatives elections accords with the recommendation of that Committee. It is proposed that the first election of the Territory senators will take place at the next Senate elections or at the next general election of members of the House of Representatives if such takes place sooner than the next Senate elections. The legislation gives effect to the Government policy to provide increased representation to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This Parliament has an obligation to give adequate representation to the people of these Territories. The Government is endeavouring to carry out its mandate and the Opposition in this House and another place should act with a sense of responsibility and not, by its actions, deny the people of these Territories the representation in the Australian Parliament to which they are so justly entitled. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, which is in identical form to the Representation Bill 1973 passed by this House on 30 May 1973 but rejected in the Senate on 7 June 1973, seeks to amend the formula in the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives in the several States. This legislation was carried without a division in this House on 30 May 1973, again with Country Party support. It was, however, rejected and voted against by the 5 Country Party senators in the Senate on 7 June 1973 - another acrobatic act that is exceedingly difficult to follow. This was another example of opposition without rhyme or reason, evidently designed to embarrass rather than further the interests of the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Before dealing with the amendments of the Representation Act proposed by the Bill, I will refer briefly to section 24 of the Constitution, which is relevant. Section 24 provides, in part:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators.
Section 24 further provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people and the section goes on to specify the manner in which that number is to be determined ‘until the Parliament otherwise provides’. As honourable members will know, Parliament has otherwise provided in the Representation Act. A short time ago I re-introduced the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973, which provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Government’s legal advice is that section 24 of the Constitution does not have application in relation to senators who may be provided for a Territory under the provisions of section ‘ i22 of the Constitution. In other words, the requirement contained in section 24 for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators does not relate to Territory members or senators provided under section 122 of the Constitution. Furthermore, ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ in the context of section 24 are the people of the States. The formula in section 10 of the Representation Act for determining the, number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, sets out that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. The number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of people of the State by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Clause 3 of the Bill before the House makes it clear that in applying the formula provided in section 10 ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ are the people of the 6 States and do not include the people of any Territory. Clause 5 of the Bill which substitutes the words ‘the Senators for the States’ for the word ‘Senators’, makes it clear that Territory senators are excluded from the formula for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. Thus, consistently with section 24 of the Constitution, the introduction of Territory senators will not affect the representation of the States in the House of Representatives. Opportunity is being taken in clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill to make some amendments of a formal nature to sections 7 and 13 of the Representation Act. The present provisions of these sections do not take into account the fact that one House of the Parliament may be sitting although the other is not. At the same time it is desirable to bring the period within which regulations are to be tabled under sub-section (2) of section 13 into line with the period of 15 sitting days provided by the Acts Interpretation Act in relation to regulations generally. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
– On behalf of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety I bring up the first report of the Committee which relates to a national authority, the constitutional position and statistical needs, together with minutes of proceedings. I move:
That the report be printed.
– I ask for an assurance from the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) that at the appropriate time this matter will be revived so that the 2 members of the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and the honourable member for Isaac (Mr Hamer), who are members of the Committee but are not in the House tonight will be given an opportunity to comment on the statement by the honourable member for Robertson.
– I am quite prepared to give the undertaking. I understand from the nature of the document that there may be others who want to speak. At least those concerned will be given the opportunity and it is to be hoped that other honourable members will be able to participate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr COHEN (Robertson)- I ask leave of the House to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Select Committee on Road Safety was first appointed by the House of Representatives on 27 April 1972 on the motion of the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). At that time it was not really expected that this Select Committee would finish its inquiry into such a complex problem as road safety in the period of life left in the 27th Parliament. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), Chairman of that Committee, tabled a report in October 1972 that the Committee had been unable to complete its inquiry and recommending that the Select Committee be re-appointed in the next Parliament, with the ability to use the evidence of the previous Committee.
I would like to pay tribute to the members of the previous Committee for the volume of work done in assembling the body of evidence which has provided a starting point for the present Committee. Especially I wish to acknowledge the work of the honourable member for Henty for his able chairmanship and for his continuing work as a member of the present Committee; of Dr Solomon, former member for Denison, who lost his seat at the last election, and of the honourable member for Northern Territory (Mr Calder). The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) also a member of the previous Committee, moved for the re-appointment of this Committee on 12 April 1973. At this time the Minister requested an early report from the Committee on the form which a specialist National Office of Road Safety - recommended by the Expert Group on Road Safety in its report ‘The Road Accident Situation in Australia - A National Review’ - should take. The report I am tabling today goes beyond this request and includes an outline of the problem, the constitutional position, and statistical needs.
The problem is a pressing one. The 820,000 injuries and 33,000 deaths in the 10-year period to December 1972 makes it so. This mayhem is estimated to have cost between S650m and $875m for 1972 incorporating such things as vehicle repairs and loss of value representing around 40 per cent of these costs; personal injuries around 20 per cent, fatalities around 20 per cent and insurance administration and legal costs around 20 per cent. Seat belt legislation has reduced this to some extent. The average growth rate of around 6 per cent was experienced during the period 1962 to 1970, excluding 1967 when there was a slight pause in the upward trend. In 1971 and 1972 the trend was reversed quite dramatically and the number of deaths per annum declined. Estimates of the lives saved over the 2 year period is around 850. That is, 850 persons are alive today because of the use of seat belts. This, of course, does not take into account the many thousands of people who have been saved serious injuries by the use of such belts.
When honourable members read the report, they will find that the Committee has recommended that the Australian Government should take steps to examine the constitutional position in the light of the opinions received by the Committee from the Attorney-General and from Professor Howard, Hearn Professor of Law, University of Melbourne, with a view to removing any barrier to the implementation of recommendations of this Committee or any other duly constituted authority. This is necessary because of the uncertainty in the area of constitutional powers on road safety matters, and much of the lack of direct action by the Australian Government appears to have stemmed from this uncertainty.
I suppose the major recommendation in the report is that the Australian Government should legislate for the creation of a national authority on road safety and standards as a statutory authority with a full time commissioner of First Division status. This authority should include an advisory committee on road safety research and information to advise the Minister for Transport on major research projects and to assist the commissioner in facilitating communication with various bodies associated with road safety. The advisory com- mittee would include a part-time chairman and the commissioner would be an executive member of that committee. The authority should have the following functions:
To carry out the last two functions it will be necessary to create within the authority a central information service, to include a national data base of road safety statistics developed in consultation with the Commonwealth Statistician, firstly, to explore user requirements, and the relevance of statistics and other data to the reduction of traffic accidents and identify, and recommend to collecting agencies, data requirements; secondly, to work with relevant authorities towards the development and general use of uniform definitions and concepts, uniform data collection forms and compatible data processing and storage systems; thirdly, to bring together all relevant data from other agencies, both Australian and foreign, and establish a data base to serve research and statistical purposes; and fourthly, to produce, and integrate when appropriate, data analyses case studies for research purposes and public information. These recommendations, if adopted by the Government, should provide the basis for the impetus that the cause of accident reduction needs. It should lead to improved roads and roadside environment, safer cars and better drivers through better training and more effective publicity.
Also, honourable members will note that the Committee has recommended that the Australian Government should make a grant of up to $20,000 to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to assist the Road Trauma Committee to complete its survey of road accident injury patterns. That body has carried out a survey at its own cost, has pioneered in this area of statistics and has established many sources of data which would prove valuable to the new information service. It therefore deserves assistance.
At the Committee’s request I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 1 2 September 1973, seeking his co-operation in obtaining uniformity throughout Australia of traffic legislation, signs, signals, accident reporting and definitions. I feel that much of the frustration in this area has been due to the problem being approached at lower levels instead of being decided at the Prime Minister-Premier level and a way found to implement their decisions. I also requested that he assume the type of national leadership in the road safety area that the President of the United States and other national leaders have taken in recent years.
In its resolution of appointment the Select Committee was given leave to report from time to time. This report is the first of a series of reports which the Committee will be making on particular areas, most of which are listed in paragraph 25 of the report. The next topic probably will be that of road environment, with the vehicle, the driver, and the road transport system to follow. I should like to thank the Department of Transport for the assistance rendered to the Committee so far in this inquiry. I should like also to explain that in paragraph 42 of the report, part (c) could be attributed to the Department of Transport. In fact this was a suggestion made in evidence by the Road Trauma Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
My final comments on the Committee’s work, just briefly, are that I am very proud to have worked with this Committee. We are only just beginning our job. We worked very hard during the recess, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on a number of occasions and also visiting Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. There has been a wonderful spirit of cooperation among all members of the Committee irrespective of Party affiliations. I am delighted that the report is a unanimous one with no dissenting minority. The only complaint I have is that I think that the Government could provide us with some extra staff.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
May I have the indulgence of my friend by paying a compliment to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and all members of his Committee. Too often do committees of this House do the kind of work that this Committee has done - as the honourable member said, members of his Party, the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party were on the Committee - and a report is brought down here virtually to an empty House. But this is where the real work of Parliament is done. On behalf of my Party I should like to pay a tribute on the floor of the House to the honourable member and the work that has been done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 218), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate’ covering this Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill as they are all associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 Bills? There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– This is a cognate debate covering 3 Bills which are virtually Budget Bills - the Aged Persons Homes Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill - to which the Opposition has no objection. I will deal with them briefly in turn, firstly the Aged Persons Homes Bill. The Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced in 1954 to encourage nonprofit organisations to erect or purchase homes for the aged. Capital cost subsidies on a $1 for $1 basis were provided under the Act to religious, charitable or returned services organisations and other organisations approved by the Governor-General. In 1957 this was increased to $2 for every $1 of capital cost. In November 1967 local government organisations became eligible for this subsidy.
The Aged Persons Homes Act was amended in 1969 to include personal care subsidies to approved homes for the aged. To receive the subsidy homes are required to provide meals and to employ sufficient staff to help residents in need of personal care. At least one member of the staff must remain on the premises at all times in case of an emergency. Initially the personal care subsidy was $5 a week for each resident aged 80 years and over. In 1972 it was increased to $10 a week for each resident aged 80 years and over. The Aged Persons Homes Bill presently before the House provides for an increase in the personal care subsidy of $2 a week from $10 a week to $12 a week for each resident deemed to be in need of personal care services. The eligibility agc limit previously prescribed under the Act of 80 years and over is to be amended to include all those in aged persons homes who require or who are receiving personal care attention.
The proportion of residents 80 years and over in homes currently receiving the personal care subsidy is 45 per cent. The proportion of residents who will attract subsidy under the extended criteria is highly speculative, as I think the Minister far Social Security (Mr Hayden) has admitted, but it is expected to rise by about half to aproximately 67i per cent. To determine which residents in an aged persons home do in fact require personal care services the present Government has incorporated classification procedures in the amending legislation. Homes will be required to make individual applications in respect of each hostel resident of under 80 years of age whom they consider to be in need of personal care attention, and registered geriatric or general nurses from the Department of Social Security will visit the homes at regular intervals to assist in classifying any of the borderline’ cases. The Minister has indicated that ‘the classifications will proceed on fairly liberal lines’. In fact, there have been some pronouncements by the Minister lately which have given us encouragement as to his liberality. Applications for personal care subsidies from aged persons homes in respect of residents under 80 years of age will be made every month. Visits to the homes by nurses attached to the Department of Social Security possibly will be made on a thrice yearly basis. Thus the existing amount of paper work in respect of residents 80 years of age and over in aged persons homes will be increased to include a monthly list of residents under 80 years of age considered by the homes to be eligible for personal care. Nurses from the Department of Social Security will be required on each visit to assess the condition of each resident on the list under 80 years of age and decide whether or not that resident is eligible for continued personal care and subsidy. However, despite this tendency to what might be considered to be bureaucracy, provisions in the Aged Persons Homes Bill for increased capital grants and extended terms of personal care subsidy may encourage - the Opposition hopes they will - organisations to provide further accommodation for the aged. I make a personal appeal to the Minister and to his senior departmental advisers in the House tonight not to let this personal inspection become a nightmare. I say that because bureaucracy can go mad. The Department of Social Security is notorious for its liberality in looking at cases. I hope that will continue. But if an army of trained nurses is to go out to these homes and check every borderline ca.se by some sort of slide rule method the thing could become a nightmare. I know that the Minister is conscious of that.
– It will be discreet and liberal.
– I thank the Minister for his assurance. At the end of the 1971-72 financial year 45,000 persons were accommodated in homes provided with capital grants under the Act. Of that number 23,000 lived in selfcontained units and 17,000 in hostel-type accommodation and 5,000 in nursing accommodation. Those figures represent only a small proportion of the aged population of Australia. Of the 834,000 aged pensioners in 1972, 519,000 or 62 per cent lived in homes which they themselves owned. State housing authorities and unsubsidised hostels provided for a further 25,000 and approximately 40,000 were living in profit-making homes not subsidised under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It has been estimated that as many as 50,000 pensioners are living under unsatisfactory conditions. I was quoting from the statement made last year by my friend, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who I am sure would have loved to have spoken in this debate tonight.
– He has the mumps.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope that your sympathy for him is as strong as mine.
-I sent him a letter.
– Thank you. Modern industrial society is geared to the concept that work is of vital importance. The aged can suffer from the limited opportunity to work and from the insecurity of becoming a useless member of society in economic terms. Non-employment of the aged results from the stereotyped attitudes of their inability to maintain efficiency. However, evidence has shown that the peak of creative production remains high in later years and that older workers have an attendance record as much as 20 per cent better than that of their younger counterparts. That evidence seems to fly in the face of philosophers such as Alvin Toffler who tells us that from the age of 16 years part of our minds and brains starts to deteriorate. Those of us who are over 16 years of age can take some comfort from the fact which I have just quoted from the New York Family Health Magazine of March 1970.
My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) stated in 1972 that older people too often believe that human activity which is not production oriented is not worthwhile; it should not surprise us that some old people who accept the conclusion that life’s only meaning is linked with being economically productive breakdown with apathy and boredom after retirement, and soon die. How true that statement is. I know that the Minister is sympathetic with the view that our present society is geared to the concept that is given us from the time we begin to think, namely, that we must create to justify our existence on earth. Thus, in addition to developing areas of support for the aged such as aged persons homes, it may be desirable to foster programs which would psychologically, as well as materially, support the aged, such as employment programs and classes for the encouragement of the arts and crafts. For instance, the Minister might be interested to know that in the United States elderly people are being employed in some areas as tutors for those falling behind in school. That may sound a wild idea. I know that the Minister has called for a further report on this question. I am sure he will agree that simply to create homes for the aged is not an answer in itself; one must go deeper than that.
The secretary of the Australian Association of Gerontology, Mrs Ruth Inall, claims that the aged often have problems adjusting from work occupation to full-time leisure activity; most people reach retirement without being sufficiently equipped to cope with free time; and attention could be given to promoting education for a time. I hope that is a concept which the Minister and his Department have in mind. I am reminded of those immortal words which I think G. K. Chesterton once said, namely, that millions long for immortality but do not know how to occupy themselves on one rainy Sunday afternoon. The concept of retirement could be altered by encouraging a change of attitude in the community towards the aged. This could be done by a conscious effort to re-evaluate their roles. The arbitrary retirement age of 65 years could be reviewed and perhaps adapted in employment situations to meet the desires and capabilities of those approaching that age. There is often no reason why a worker should terminate employment when he is 65 and conversely a worker in a dull routine job would probably appreciate an earlier retirement scheme. But is such a person ready for retirement. To what does a worker retire? Does he retire from a job of boredom to a life of what? As the life span of more people in our community extends because of the growth in the knowledge of medical science, this aspect will become an increasing problem. The Bureau of Census and Statistics has projected a marginal increase in the proportion of the aged in the community to the year 2001. In 1972 those over 65 years of age comprised 8.3 per cent of the population. By the year 2001 this figure will increase to 8.5 per cent of the population if account is taken of existing immigration trends or 9.1 per cent if immigration is not considered.
I turn briefly to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1973. I commend the Minister for Social Security on a speech which contained a great deal of humanitarian content with which the Liberal Party and, I am sure, the Country Party would agree. In fact, it is consistent with the philosophical thrust of my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Perhaps he might appreciate a meals on wheels service, or something else, this evening. I know that many friends on the Government side, such as the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), would be delighted to deliver a meals on wheels service to the honourable member for Mackellar tonight. The Delivered Meals Subsidy Act was passed in 1970. It provided a subsidy of $1 tor each 10 delivered meals provided by approved meals on wheels organisations, including those run by local government bodies. The object of the legislation was ‘to assist in the establishment, expansion, improvement and maintenance of the meals on wheels type of service’.
In 1972 amending legislation increased the subsidy to $1.50 per 10 meals and provided an additional 5c per meal subsidy if the meal included approved types and quantities of fresh fruit, fresh juice or fresh tomato - that is,$2 per 10 meals if fruit or juice or tomato is part of each meal. These fruits and juices, as you would know in a flash, Mr Speaker, contain vitamin C. The Minister declined, in his usual reluctant fashion, to answer my interjection when he was speaking when I asked whether he had given consideration to including vitamin E for those people in this age group and, if not, why not. I have a table which has been provided to me by the Parliamentary Library setting out the expenditure by the government since 1969 to 1973 under this Act. I ask leave of the House to incorporate the table in Hansard. -
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This Bill proposes to increase the subsidy rates to $2 per 10 meals, plus 50c per 10 meals where the fresh fruit or juice supplement is included - that is, $2.50 per 10 meals, an increase of 50c per 10 meals of either kind over the prevailing subsidy rates. The Bill also provides for the subsidy to be paid quarterly so as to assist organisations in their financial arrangements by avoiding problems caused by the present practice of annual payments.
The organisational structure of meals on wheels services may well be a particularly fine example of government and voluntary aid combining to provide an effective and extensive social welfare benefit. In 1970, after various private and local government groups had proved the value of the service, the Liberal Government initiated the subsidy scheme which has enabled existing organisations to consolidate and expand their services, and has encouraged the establishment of new services. The results so far show an increase in the number of approved meals on wheels services from 191 in June 1970 to more than 350 in June 1973. Meals served and subsidies paid have increased substantially also.
The value of a hot, cheap midday meal is very significant to large numbers of aged and partly disabled people who remain in their own homes. Growing immobility, forgetfulness and carelessness can cause a risk of malnutrition and lower the resistance of aged people to illness, as well as reducing their general wellbeing. The fresh fruit or juice subsidy aims to ensure a supply of Vitamin C, which may be destroyed in prepared heated meals. There is little we know about malnutrition amongst the aged. I will quote from a survey which was carried out by Dr Sandra Silink and Dr Sylvia Mobile of the Medical Department and Vitamin Laboratories, Roche Products Pty Ltd. They say:
Malnutrition may be overt or subclinical requiring special tests for its detection. A further category, that of marginal nutrition, is one in which an episode of stress will cause rapid precipitation of oven clinical malnutrition.
I compliment the Minister for recognising this fact in his second reading speech. In addition to its nutritional value the delivery of the meal represents an important daily social contact to many people. Mrs E. McCallum, who is a senior social worker of the City of South Melbourne, has been quoted as saying:
In all our thinking about the meals on wheels services we are providing, we must not overlook the important role played by the person who actually takes the meal into the home. This person must feci a real concern and deep interest in the people she is seeing, as very often she may be their only regular contact with the outside world.
She continues - and I invite the Minister and his advisers to note this:
For this reason, in South Melbourne we keep detailed records of all our meals on wheels clients, the name of their doctor, next of kin or friend, and each deliverer of the meals is required to report buck to the Social Work Department if any of the people on her round are in trouble or fail to open the door. Even though we know that the food delivered is so important for physical well-being, the personal and regular contact which accompanies the meal is of almost equal importance.
I do not think it is important only to the elderly person to whom the meal is being delivered. I think it is equally important in recruiting that type of person who delivers the meals on wheels to make them feel more involved with the clients in their visits. In other words, it takes them out of the category merely of being a delivery girl or a delivery lady if, without being busybodies, they can feel some form of involvement with the physical, psychological, mental and spiritual condition of the elderly person they are visiting. The Minister’s second reading speech refers to a departmental survey to establish the gaps in meals on wheels coverage. Accurate figures on need are not available but in speaking in the debate on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1972 my colleague the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) suggested that 6 million delivered meals a year would be needed adequately to meet Australian needs. One would join with him in hoping that this target would be reached in the next year or two.
The third Bill before the House is the States Grants Home Care Bill. Honourable members would know from the framing of this Bill that it is a States Grants Bill. Under this Bill money is granted by this Parliament to the States in a tied way. That is to say, the States must spend the money in a certain way. In this case it is on home care. It is an allied Bill and it has 3 main provisions. The first of the 3 provisions relates to the financial assistance provided by the Australian Government for home care service schemes. This is housekeeper and other domestic assistance which helps to keep aged people in their own community for as long as possible. The principal Act provides for State Government expenditure on such schemes to be shared by the Australian Government on a $1 for $1 basis. The amending Bill, this Bill we are now considering, enables this subsidy to be increased from one-half to two-thirds of State Government expenditure. I suggest to the Minister that instead of Si for Si that means $2 for $1. I wonder why he did not say that instead of going into these rather strange fractions. To ensure that the additional subsidy is used to expand home care services, however, and to ensure that the State’s contribution is not reduced it will be a condition of the increased subsidy that the States own expenditure must not be reduced below its level in respect of the financial year 1972-73. The Opposition supports the increase and supports the concept that State Government expenditure must be maintained.
The second provision of the States Grants Home Care Bill concerns senior citizens centres. The principal Act provides for the Australian Government to contribute up to one-third of the capital cost of such centres on a matching basis with State or local government expenditure. The amending Bill doubles the Australian Government’s contribution to $2 for every $1 contributed by the State government or the local governing authority. Again the Opposition supports that portion of the Bill. I note one aspect of the Minister’s speech on which I would hope subsequent speakers on both sides of the House will comment. It is an interesting contribution by the Minister. He said:
I further noted that some such centres are being largely monopolised by particular aged persons groups, or treated as clubs and open to members only. To my mind this is quite wrong. All aged persons within the local area should be encouraged to feel that the centre is there for their use.
The Minister hopes to do something about this. I absolutely agree with him. It is rather sad sometimes, as all members of this Parliament would know, to go into senior citizens centres and find the atmosphere there is a club atmosphere and cliquey to such an extent that an elderly person breezing in off the streets is regarded as a Johnny-come-lately and is not welcome. This is human nature. It is unfortunate and I wish the Minister luck in what he hopes to do. I cannot make a contribution as to what his answer on this might be but I thoroughly agree with his views on this and 1 share his concern.
The third provision in the State Grants Home Care Bill concerns assistance towards the employment of welfare officers. Section 10 of the principal Act provides that where a person is employed as a welfare officer of a senior citizens centre wholly or mainly in connection with the provision of approved welfare services by or in association with the centre, the Australian Government may pay an amount equal to one-half of the welfare officer’s salary. The Minister in his second reading speech said:
In order further to encourage and assist the provision of the welfare services to which I have previously referred the amending Bill increases the Australian Government’s subsidy from one-half to two-thirds of the salary paid to appropriate welfare officers.
Again I ask the Minister why could not he have said: ‘Instead of $1 for $1 we now pay $2 for ST? The Opposition thoroughly supports this legislation but as I said in my speech in response to his statement on the welfare commission I do invite the Minister’s Department to look at the employment of amateurs in this field. I am the first to admit that one of the great menaces of our society is the misguided humanitarian or the busy do-gooder - the persons who believe they have a monopoly of wisdom on any particular subject and intrude themselves. As an example I will speak of the honorary probationary service of the childrens’ court in Victoria. The Government realised that there were not enough paid social workers or welfare officers to cope with delinquent children and it handpicked with meticulous care adult citizens to act in a capacity of honorary welfare officers. I have someone fairly close to me who is an cutstanding welfare officer.
– Male or female7
– Very close?
– Very close. In fact she is one of the most outstanding women I have ever met. She happens to be my wife. This has worked with astonishing success in recruiting people who can make a contribution. It reduces cost and also has an involvement of people in the community towards community problems which, I know, is part of the philosophy of the Minister.
– Often with a lot of maturity and experience which professionals have not been able to get.
– Indeed, but I suggest that they still need advice from time to time from the professionals. I would ask the Minister to look at that point.
In conclusion, the Minister says that he is unhappy about the fragmented arrangement whereby several departments each sponsor welfare programs. The Ministers referred specifically to the Department of Immigration, the Repatriation Department and Department of Social Security. Each give assistance in restricted or largely restricted ways which deprive the bulk of the community from the benefit of such services. I could not agree with the Minister more. We should have done something about this. Whether the Minister will be able to do it, whether he will be able to buck his colleague Ministers and the other departments with their compulsions of empire building, I do not know. I wish him luck in that exercise as well. The Opposition supports the 3 Bills.
– Before I speak on these Bills, I should like to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I think every honourable member on our side of the House has been delighted with the fair minded approach that he has taken to one measure after another that the Government has introduced. He has refused to play politics, and it is a shame that some of his colleagues on the other side do not approach such measures in the same way. In my view, there is plenty of room for disagreement in politics without seeking to attack on every single measure. The honourable member for Hotham has taken a fair minded attitude on this legislation. I compliment him, and I hope that we can find many more areas of agreement.
I doubt that the Bill on which I intend to speak - the States Grants (Home Care) Bill - will hit the headlines of the national newspapers tomorrow. I have had a particular interest in this subject over a long period of time since I was first endorsed as the Labor candidate for the electorate of Robertson, because of the unique age and makeup of the constituents of Robertson. I have said it before but for the record I say it again: There are some 72,000 constituents in the electorate. Three months ago, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) informed me that there were in excess of 21,000 people in receipt of the pension residing in my electorate and, of course, that does not include probably another 5,000 people who are over the age of 60 but who are not in receipt of a pension.
I think it is recognised that, in terms of numbers, Robertson is the No. 1 retirement area in Australia. People have come to the area to retire. Sadly, what very often happens is that one passes away very shortly after retirement. The intended bliss of retirement ends quite dramatically and is replaced by a great deal of loneliness and sadness. For those who are fortunate to enjoy a long retirement, there is a marked lack of recreational activities in the electorate of Robertson and there is a very real reason for this. This is a developing area; it is one of the growth centres of Australia. I am not saying that in any parochial sense. The area has been designated as such by the State Government and the Australian Government. It will have a population of some 500,000 people. For those members who are not familiar with the area, it is between Sydney and Newcastle.
The councils must concentrate on the basic infrastructure that is necessary to accommodate that projected growth. A great deal of their resources are taken up in providing basic water, sewerage, roads, electricity and other amenities. In the past, they have not had the finance or the resources to indulge in the luxury of building many of the senior citizens centres that exist in other parts of the State or, for that matter, many of the other recreational complexes that are available in other communities. I do not absolve the local councils of all the blame, particularly since legislation was introduced in 1969 providing for a onethird Commonwealth capital grant. The change we now are proposing will bring the Commonwealth grant up to two-thirds of the total outlay.
I do not want to sound conceited about this but I think it is well known in the community that in my role as the Federal member for Robertson I have called numerous public and private meetings and have appealed in hundreds of letters, yet we have not been able to achieve the completion of one senior citizens centre. However, there has been a very heartening increase in activity in the past 12 months, particularly in the weeks since the
Budget was announced. We have 4 projects under way - one in the Long Jetty area, one at Toukley, one which is proposed in the Ettalong area and one at Gosford. Unfortunately, an appalling confidence trick was played upon the people of New South Wales by the Premier of that State, Sir Robert Askin, just prior to the last State election. The Act required a State contribution and an acceptance of the Commonwealth’s offer by the State. We tried to convince the previous sitting Liberal member in the area, who was defeated at that election, that there was an urgent need for the Liberal Party to accept this Act. Just prior to the election, in his policy speech Sir Robert Askin said: ‘Yes, we will accept it’. We thought that our worries were over. After the election we broached the subject of his acceptance of the Act and he said: ‘Yes, we have accepted it but we are not going to give any money’. If that is not a play on words and a confidence trick, I do not know what it is. This is one of the reasons for the failure to get what was proposed as the State contribution to these centres. If the Premier wanted to argue that the Commonwealth should not make grants of this nature dependent on a State Act he should have said so and should not have tried to trick people into supporting his candidates and then disappointing them afterwards.
I should like to refer to another matter which has been mentioned in my area. In fact, last night I spent quite some time writing a letter to one of the organisations in my electorate where it is proposed to construct one of these centres - I refer to the Budgewoi Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association - because of some confusion as to who is a senior citizen. The term grew up for a number of reasons. For many years there was simply one organisation - the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association. It represented people who were in receipt of a pension. Of course, its numbers have varied from year to year. As the tapered means test was introduced its numbers grew considerably, and with the phasing out of the means test everyone over a certain age will be a pensioner.
In the early days there was unfortunately what I may describe as class distinction between persons on a pension and those not on a pension. The Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association was primarily a political - I would not say a Party political - organisation. It was political in the sense that it represented the interests of the pensioners and tried to gain political benefits but, naturally, iti restricted its membership to people who were in receipt of a pension and left out a large group of people who were not on a pension. As a result, the senior citizens clubs, as they were defined, were set up to cater for that group. Unfortunately and rather tragically there was some dissension between the old age and invalid pensioners organisations and the senior citizens centres. The previous Government, however, in defining its Act of 1969 made it clear that it was not saying that the grant was available only to senior citizen organisations. It defined ‘senior citizens’ in the Act as all people over a certain age. I have had to explain this over and over again at various meetings, and still there is in the minds of people a distinction between these 2 organisations. Fortunately, with the abolition of the means test within 2 years there will be no distinction because all people will be pensioners, senior citizens or whatever one likes to call them.
I turn now to the need for senior citizens centres. I intend not to criticise what is offering but to point out what is lacking. The present organisations meet in the community halls that are available to them for hire, but they lack the incentive to develop a more comprehensive entertainment and activity program, as unfortunately they lack the security of tenure that comes with pride of ownership. I am talking now about my own area. While it is essential that aged persons should not lose social contact with other sections of the community, it is clear that there is a desperate need for a centre that caters particularly for the needs of the people in this age group 7 days a week.
The present organisational social structure is catering partially for the needs of that small section of the aged community that has adapted to retirement and the loss of a partner. What is unseen is the many thousands who sit at home, lonely and bored and with their physical and mental health being impaired. The erection of a number of these senior citizens centres will make a considerable contribution to enabling both the presently active and the non-active to live a more vital, enjoyable and creative retirement. An abundance of social research is available from studies done elsewhere to illustrate the improvement in the mental and physical health of the aged community where such centres are created. Incidentally, a by-product of such a program will be a lessening of the strain on our present health resources.
I commend the Minister on his speech. 1 agree with him. Although he is not necessarily opposed to or critical of what is happening, he thinks there is great room for improvement. He mentioned a whole range of activities that could be added to the present senior citizens centres and the ones that will be built in the future. What is a senior citizens centre? Normally, senior citizens centres have a major hall that can cater for 400 to 500 people for special functions, meetings, dinners, concerts and so on. They usually have a kitchen, and in areas where I am associated with them we are seeking, where possible, to provide meals on wheels outside the centre and to provide a hot meal during the day. These centres normally have toilet facilities and offices. They may have such things as a library, a reading room, a television room, a card room, a billiards room, a work room and a hobbies and handicrafts or activities area for a whole range of hobbies and handicrafts that spring to mind. They may have a dining room, and I believe that they should have a dining room if possible. Very often they have laundry facilities. 1 note that the Minister suggests hairdressing and chiropody facilities, a mobile library and a number of other facilities that could be incorporated in the centres. But I believe that these centres should have more than that. I believe that they should have a clinic with facilities suitable for a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist and, as the Minister mentioned, chiropodist, so that they can function adequately. There is a very great upsurge in thinking on this matter and recent thinking is that these centres can provide a much wider range of activity. I think it is fundamental that there should be a social worker. A large number of citizens are unaware of their entitlements in our society and they often require individual case counselling. Owing to the fragmented nature of our health and welfare facilities, people needing assistance are often unable to locate the source and they wander through a bureaucratic maze of government, semigovernment and voluntary agencies, becoming more and more distressed as they fail to overcome their emotional or financial problems. An adequately trained social worker will be able to give the time to case counselling which is now unavailable to any substantial degree not only in my area on the central coast of New South Wales but probably in most areas in
Australia. Such a social worker would become an invaluable link between those in need and the sources of assistance.
I do not think many people outside those who are working in this field realise just how fragmented our society welfare structure is. The moment people get into trouble they go and see their Federal member, their State member, their local councillor or perhaps their local ombudsman. They may go to the Commonwealth Departments of Social Security, Labour, Repatriation and in some areas Aboriginal Affairs and Immigration. In New South Wales they may go to the State Department of Youth and Community Services. They may go to the chamber magistrate, to the police, to the public hospital - where various services are available - to private hospitals, nursing homes or to any one of a whole range of voluntary agencies. Of course, the position is that many of these offices are under-staffed and over-worked ‘and some have personnel inadequately trained to cope with the complex problems - physical, financial and emotional - that beset people when they are in trouble.
Is it any wonder that a large number of people do not receive their just entitlements or the assistance that is available? Many often give up when they are pushed around from one agency to another. In my role as a Federal member I am constantly finding people who are in a desperate plight and who for months or years have missed out on assistance to which they were entitled. Social workers accessible to the people most likely to need their help and available to devote their time to case counselling would be an immense asset if located as part of a senior citizens complex. The new amendment to the Act also increases the Australian Government subsidy for the salary of a social worker from one-half to twothirds.
In all the centres we are planning we are hoping to have a special office for a social worker. We also are hoping to provide a special office for government departments so that all State government, local government and Australian government departments will have an office available for them to use, perhaps, only one morning a fortnight or one morning a week. We believe that a community office should be provided so that the interviews that are conducted by officers of, say, the Department of Social Security, could be conducted at that centre and this fact would become known. Next to that we would hope to have an office for the various voluntary agencies. So we would have an office for a social worker, a government department office, a voluntary agencies office and hopefully a clinic. I feel that in such centres we would accomplish a storefront operation so that people would not have to be shuffled around all over the various towns and shopping centres and from one government department or voluntary agency to another but could go to a senior citizens centre and have a social worker case counsel them and direct them to the various agencies and keep them under observation until their problems are solved.
I commend the Minister on this imaginative legislation. I hope that the various voluntary agencies throughout our society, particularly in my electorate, and local government bodies will grasp the opportunities for initiatives that the extra funds made available by the Minister have created. I commend the Minister on this enlightened and improved approach to the administration of this Act.
– I wish to address my remarks particularly to the amendments proposed to the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Aged Persons Homes Bill now before the House makes 2 alterations to the existing legislation. Firstly, it increases the subsidy payable to eligible organisations which provide personal care services to the aged in hostel accommodation. Secondly, it widens the conditions of their eligibility. The increase of subsidy from SIO a week to §12 a week will be welcomed by all those organisations providing the subsidised care. It will also be welcomed by the many people who are being cared for. An increase of 20 per cent in the benefit seems substantial. In view of the current economic conditions, it is extremely doubtful, however, whether the increase will add to the real value of the subsidy being provided. The major expenses incurred by the organisations providing this type of care arc in the costs of food to provide the 2 meals a day which are a prerequisite of their eligibility for the subsidy, and in the wage bill they must meet in employing the stall’ necessary to provide the ancillary services required. In the short run some temporary alleviation is being provided because of the widened group of people accommodated in these hostels who will now be entitled to subsidy. Up to the present time the subsidy is being paid in respect of all persons of 80 years of age and over whether they need the special care or not. It was assumed when this cut-off point was first introduced that a higher proportion of over 80-year-olds would require this type of care and it was thought that it was desirable to provide it for all, recognising that the subsidy paid in respect of persons 80 years old and over would assist the organisations in the provision of the necessary services for those of their residents under that age.
The amendment now before the House proposes that the subsidy for 80-year-olds will continue but it will add a subsidy to people qualifying for this type of care who are under 80 and who are living in hostels whose operations are non-profit making. These people will be eligible for the benefit only if they are appropriately classified. Under the old system where every 80-year-old resident received a subsidy there was a real incentive provided both to the organisation giving the accommodation and to the resident himself or herself to use the least possible amount of these special services because it meant that there were more resources available for general use in the hostel. It meant, too, that more of the residents were able to live a normal life within the limits of their health, frail though it might have been.
We have seen in other areas where subsidy has been given in a way that is dependent upon a person’s state of health that this sometimes operates in a manner which is counter productive to the objectives now aimed at, namely, the attainment of full rehabilitation or rehabilitation to the maximum of a person’s capacity. I express my concern tonight that the operation of this new subsidy in relation to people under 80 years of age may have this effect: It may result in residents feeling that they must remain dependent when they would like to become independent - to remain dependent when one of the objectives and motives of the legislation is to help make them independent. They will remain dependent because financially it is better for them to do so.
The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has indicated in his second reading speech that departmental officers will be liberal in their interpretation of those in need. I hope that in their interpretation of the allocation of these subsidies they will take account of the very serious effect upon those who are charged with the responsibility of administering these types of hostels and the effect on the attitudes of the residents themselves in ensuring that it does not become a question of remaining sick or remaining dependent in order to continue to be eligible for this subsidy. I personally would have preferred the matter to be tackled in a way which did not introduce into the provision of this subsidy an element counter productive to the rehabilitation of the people being cared for in this type of accommodation.
In his second reading speech on the Aged Persons Homes Bill the Minister laid a great deal of emphasis upon his assessment of the past operation of the Act. He mentioned that the Bill before the House touched on only a small aspect of its operation - the aspect to which I have referred, the provision of additional subsidies to people in hostels - but he took the opportunity to give to this House some of his views as to the manner of operation of this Act in the past. In doing so he exposed some of his attitudes to the whole operation of the Act and to its history. He said that it was medically and psychologically bad for old people to be forced through lack of suitable alternatives to be put under care which is more intensive than they need. At the time the Aged Persons Homes legislation first came before this Parliament there was a grave shortage of suitable accommodation for the aged within the community, and it was essential then that the stock of suitable modern, convenient accommodation for the senior citizens of this country be increased. The method adopted was to involve the community, to involve people willing to establish charitable organisations whose objective would be to provide accommodation for the aged. The motivation which led to the introduction of the legislation was the desire to encourage an expansion in the availability of housing for the aged.
Initially the subsidy was at the rate of $1 for $1. Later, in 1957, it was increased to $2 for $1. But there has been a change due to the fact that, coupled with this provision, there is a $2 for $1 subsidy there is also a ceiling or maximum limit to which the subsidy can be paid. That maximum is now unrelated to the actual experience of organisations in the cost of building suitable accommodation. In his speech the Minister criticised the scheme, as it has operated since its introduction, for failing to hit the target. I venture to suggest that when the commission that he has asked to look at this question brings down its report it should have a look at the question objectively and it may well find that the target has been hit far more accurately than the Minister suggests.
Today there are over 50,000 people being housed in accommodation provided under the Act.
It is interesting to take an analysis of the accommodation that is being provided. In some States - for example, in my own State of South Australia - there are 7.7 beds under the Aged Persons Homes Act accommodation for every 100 people of pensionable age. If one relates that figure to the fact that, as has been suggested, just under two-thirds of pensioners own their own houses, and if one takes into account those who are not pensioners but who are of pensionable age, one finds that the proportion is far higher than two-thirds. One realises that the percentage of accommodation provided under the Act in relation to the total number of people of pensionable age is making a substantial contribution to the stock of suitable housing available to our senior citizens. It is important that the organisations that have developed the expertise in providing this accommodation be encouraged to continue to expand to meet the remaining need. The approved organisations are establishing accommodation at a satisfactory rate and on a scale which is fulfilling the need. In my view it is rather doubtful whether there is any need to give encouragement to other organisations such as local government which could better direct its attention into other areas of assistance for senior citizens. But the existing organisations will fail in their objectives and in the objectives of all of us who are concerned that every senior citizen should have the opportunity of having suitable accommodation in his or her retirement if the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), through has failure to recognise the. rising cost of land and the rising cost of building, does not lift the ceiling limit.
In his second reading speech the Minister spoke of the fact that there is :t S2 for Si subsidy. This is a pretence under present conditions. It is deception because there are very few aged persons organisations - indeed there would be very few government instrumentalities - that could buy land and build suitable accommodation for the aged at a maximum all-up cost of $7,800. I urge the Minister to review this ceiling limit urgently so that organisations which wish to provide accommodation for people who are on their waiting lists can economically do so. It needs to be done not in two or three months time but now so that planning for future increases in building under this Act can go ahead forthwith.
The increase needs to be substantial. I venture to suggest that it should be lifted to at least $10,000 and possibly more to take account of the present rapid escalation in building costs. At present, even in government publications, reference is being made to this fact. In a publication called ‘Shelter’, put out by the Department of Housing, Mr Neville Brooke said:
The Minister for Social Security is alarmed that the proportion of funds provided by charitable organisations as their share of the cost of developing home units and which is generally raised from ingoing donations has gone from 35 per cent to 62 per cent. . . .
If the Minister is genuinely alarmed and if he is concerned, he will announce tomorrow that the ceiling limit has been increased so that people who are anxious to be provided with this type of accommodation can have it provided by organisations equipped to go ahead with building programs. I wish that the present Government would continue to support the program at the same level and at the same rate as its predecessor did so that it is genuinely a S2 for SI subsidy and not something less than a Si for $1 subsidy. In talking of this $1 for $1 subsidy the Minister, in his speech, was very critical of organisations that have provided this type of accommodation because they received contributions from ingoing occupants. I do not believe that 50,000 people would have been accommodated in modern self-contained flats, hostels or nursing homes today but for the fact that the present occupant or the predecessor in occupancy had provided a contribution towards the cost of building that subsidised accommodation.
There is a mistaken notion in the minds of some people that in the provision of accommodation for the aged the only criterion of need is the size of a person’s bank balance. True, this is important and there are a number of people who do not have much money in the bank who are in great need of the provision of suitable accommodation. Many of those who have limited means are in need of accommodation. In some cases, their need is extreme or more extreme need than that of people without resources. Yet such senior citizens are prepared to give to charitable organisations substantial sums of money in order that that money can attract a subsidy and provide accommodation for them now and for other senior citizens, who are not able to provide a contribution, at some future time when the original donor is not occupying the flat. I refer again to the article written by Mr Neville Brooke. He states:
I feel sure that the Henderson inquiry will reveal that whilst there are pockets and many individual casen of real poverty amongst the aged, the major hazards will prove to be caused by, loneliness, fear, boredom and insecurity, which in turn induces a wide range of psychological, emotional, physical and general health problems. As all of these take little heed of financial and/or social status, accommodation and care services must be available to all aged persons where professional assessment verifies need, and should not depend on the ability of the applicant to contribute the required key money. Nor should the possession of some tangible assets deprive a person of adequate support, because of a misplaced belief that those with finance can purchase suitable accommodation on the open market.
Today many senior citizens - many of them widows - are left living in large houses on large blocks of land. They are burdened with high rates and taxes, they have a problem with maintenance, a problem with garden care, a problem of loneliness and a fear of insecurity. If they were to sell their homes for$15,000 or $20,000 and make a contribution by way of outright gift to an aged persons homes organisation to enable that organisation to build further accommodation, it would give them security in retirement, it would give them comfort in small modern self-contained accommodation; it would give them, as an increasing number of these orgainsations do, ongoing care in the event of their frailty or in the event of their sickness, and current care in the event of their immediate welfare need.
Organisations which seek these contributions do so in the belief that by building up the accommodation that they can provide they will, within a reasonable time, also have an increasing number of flats available for those whose need can be assessed without regard to ability to make contributions. I venture to suggest when that time comes many people who have money will be allocated such flats because their need will be assessed on the other criteria to which I have referred. The question of their financial resources will be of far less significance than is suggested by the Minister for Social Security. If the Minister wants to increase the accommodation available for the aged he should immediately take this matter to Cabinet and, now that he is the Acting Treasurer, he should be able to look at both sides of the account. He should be able to announce in this Parliament that the aged persons organisations which have waiting lists of contributor occupants can proceed forth with with their building programs. Two organisations in Adelaide that have a waiting list of 1,500 contributor applicants could go ahead forthwith to build if the subsidy allocation were made more realistic and not based on historic figures of many months ago before inflation caused a rise in the price of buildings and in the cost of land.
– This is a cognate debate on 3 social security Bills. I intend to restrict my comments, in much the same way as did the previous speaker, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), to one of the Bills - the Aged Persons Homes Bill. In strictly mechanical terms this Bill accounts for only 2 small differences to the existing scheme. It makes allowance for an increase in the personal care subsidy from $10 to $12 per week. In the second place it eliminates the age of 80 as a sole criterion for eligibility for that subsidy and extends it to those who require and actually receive personal care irrespective of their age. That second extension of the scheme strikes me as being logical and sensible. Not only that, it also strikes me as being a good example which we should be carefully considering for the purpose of extensions in other areas as well. If I could give just one example of that proposal 1 would refer to the domiciliary nursing care subsidy.
This is a new scheme. It was implemented from the beginning of this year and we have had limited experience of it. But we will presumably continue it and if it is to continue it seems to me to be hard to find any justification for restricting its availability to persons caring for aged relatives. The requirements of eligibility for personal care subsidy as they are summarised in the recent annual report of the Department of Social Security are simply put this way:
To be eligible for the benefit the patient must -
be aged 65 years or more;
have been issued with a certificate (on the authorised form) by a medical practitioner that by reason of infirmity or illness, disease, incapacity or disability he has a continuing need for nursing care by a registered nurse;’
have been issued with a certificate (on the authorised form) by a registered nurse that the patient is receiving nursing care involving at least two visits each week by the registered nurse.
If one considers those criteria for eligibility one will see that with the sole exception of this age limit - that the patient has to be at least 65 years of age - there is really nothing in the criteria that would prevent the benefit applying in reason or in logic or in fairness to a person who is under 65, such as a young paraplegic, to take one example. To take that case, there would be an opening for exactly the same sorts of arguments for staying at home, perhaps even greater arguments–
– Or handicapped children who stay at home.
– I take the point of the honourable member for Murray. I think it is a valid extension of the argument I am putting. We find exactly the same arguments available to us as apply to the aged people; that is, if it is desirable in the interest of the aged person to remain within a home environment rather than an institutional environment, or if one wants to be a bit more callous about it and simply look at the economic argument that even from the public point of view it is cheaper to keep a patient in those circumstances out of hospital rather than in hospital, I cannot for the life of me see how either of those arguments can apply to the person who reaches 65 years of age but not to one who has not reached that age. I am aware that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is conscious of this problem. I hope that something will come of it. I give it just as one example of our tendency to pluck at some quite arbitrary dividing line and to make benefits available above the line and not below it.
As a matter of fact, in the same Aged Persons Homes Bill is another example of a requirement that a person has to be 65 if male or 60 if female to be eligible to be resident in a home covered by the Aged Persons Homes Act. Again, one wonders what there is in particular about the ages of 60 and 65 that make this facility so highly desirable - I accept that it is highly desirable that people in these categories should have the homes available to them - to be provided for persons above those ages and not to people below those ages, such as in the case of a person who is permanently reduced to the invalid pension. I give both of those examples in the hope that this first extension of the scheme cutting through one arbitrary age barrier might he extended into other areas as well.
I turn away from the details of the Bill to discuss some aspects of it in more general terms. Like other social security legislation that has been introduced by the Government, the Bill appears to me to be important not only for what it does, but also for what the
Minister said when introducing it. I am sure that the Minister will not mind if I say that one of the reasons I liked what he said was that it reminded me so much of what I have said in previous debates on the same subject.
– He had a good base to work from.
– He had a very good base to work from. The Leader of the House would know that as well as anyone present. I particularly welcome the view of the Minister for Social Security that residents of aged persons homes should have the right to elect representatives on management committees. I know that ‘participation’ is one of the current ‘in’ words. I suppose ‘open government’ are another two. But I want to say very earnestly to honourable members that it is not on that sort of ephemeral or abstract basis that I am advancing the proposition that residents of aged persons homes should have a voice in the management of their homes. I am not arguing for any abstract democratic principle; I am saying that this sort of development is highly desirable because tensions and misunderstandings in the environment of aged persons homes will inevitably arise otherwise to the discomfort and the unhappiness of the residents and also to the discomfort and concern of management committees.
Representation on those committees would automatically meet another course for which I have been arguing for some time, namely, that residents should have the right of access to detailed financial accounts of homes in which they live. I will not argue again - I think I have it in Hansard on 2 or 3 other occasions - about the insurmountable problems which presently exist when attempts are made by anyone other than the Director-General of Social Security to secure detailed financial statements of aged persons homes. Whether expressed or not my own experience has been that in the absence of this shared confidence, increases in rents or maintenance payments are almost invariably accompanied by feelings of resentment or at least suspicion by residents. I believe that to be unnecessary and so easily avoidable. Frankly, given the universal acceptance that no improper motives or activities by management committees could possibly be involved - on the contrary that they have earned the highest respect and gratitude of residents, their families and the Government alike - I have never been able to understand the general reticence of management committees on this question of taking residents into their confidence.
Recently 1 have had 2 welcome signs in my own electorate of a new approach to this question. Organisations have indicated voluntarily - because the Government has not reserved any rights to demand this co-operation - that they will offer this information. I hope that that is an example which will be followed not only by other homes in my own area but also generally wherever aged persons homes have been established. I also draw attention to and welcome the Minister’s stated objectives of keeping rentals within the limits that pensioner residents can afford. I would tend to modify that statement just a little to say that they should be limited to the demonstrable costs of the home, although, given the special advantages of these homes, namely, the absence of interest payments and their exemption from such costs as land tax and water and municipal rates, in most cases the two should amount to the same thing.
I certainly see nothing in either of those approaches which would justify one unfortunate incident that occurred - again in my electorate - of a management committee seeking to establish a system whereby 20 per cent of each pension increase automatically goes to the home by way of rent or a maintenance payment. I think it is self evident that a formula of that sort bears no relationship either to capacity to pay or to actual costs involved. I think it was an indefensible stand to take. In the last resort, in the face of a lot of resident resentment, the organisation changed its mind. I make a distinction between paying as much as one can and paying as much as the place actually costs to run.
With due respect to the Minister, I think he did tend to sound rather more moralising than he probably intended when he said during the course of his second reading speech that he would like to see the administration of this program considerably strengthened by requiring organisations to demonstrate their charitable and benevolent motives by keeping rentals and other charges within the limits that pensioner residents can afford. I regard the organisational and administrative responsibilities accepted by these committees as being a most important contribution that they make to the scheme and to the welfare of the aged people who are residents under it. I do nol believe that the scheme could have got off the ground without the sort of voluntary assistance that has been made available. There are some cases where the organisations pay the total costs, but I would say that if it had not been for the preparedness of these sponsoring organisations to come forward with their time and work this scheme would not have got ofl the ground. Had it got off the ground it certainly would not have been able to operate successfully on the scale it has, namely, of already housing 50,000 residents with many more continuing to come.
I would relate this - with some qualification also - to another comment by the Minister about donation-linked entry, although I go along with him completely on the general principle which he is arguing. The Minister did suggest that he was looking to the situation where homes could be allocated strictly on a needs basis. I presume that that is a reference to the suggestion that they should be available for allocation without reference to donation. In order to look at this proposition I think we have to go into the background to the scheme. If we were to do so we would find in the first place that in the original scheme - which was set up in a very sloppy way, if I might say so, with far too few restrictions - there was no limit on the number of times a unit could be sold’; I am referring to donation-linked entry. Since the new standard form agreement of 1970 that has been changed to some extent - to a major extent - in that under the new form of agreement only half the units in any given home can continue to be resold.
If I understand the Minister’s comments correctly he is possibly suggesting that we should be in a position to prevent any sale at all. Again with due respect, I would suggest to him that at this stage anyway that might be going a bit too far and if we want the scheme to continue at anything like its widespread present scope we will realistically have to accept the position that all units should be permitted to be sold’ at least on the first occasion but on no more than one occasion. So far as I can see there is no justification - I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knows one - for the provision that even as many as half of them should be permitted to be continued to be resold. By allowing that we are putting up positive barriers in the way of quick expansion of the availability of these homes on a rental basis, which in general terms will be on the basis of availability to the most needy persons first.
In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the disappointing response to the Aged Persons Homes Act by local government bodies and invited suggestions on how to stimulate it. I am wondering whether one form of encouragement might be provided by a relaxation of the rule against the use of borrowed funds and mortgages of aged persons homes in the case - I emphasise these words - only of homes sponsored by local government bodies. The proviso about not accepting loans and not entering into mortgages is, in any event, easily set aside by a device whereby a local government body sets up a formal separate aged persons homes organisation to which it makes donations - not loans - on the basis of money which the local government body itself has in fact borrowed. This has led me to wonder in turn whether the estimate by the Minister that only 500 places have been made available by local government action might be partly due to the fact that further units have been formally made available under a device whereby in reality the local government body provides the assistance but it comes through some intermediate voluntary organisation.
Again I am not raising this matter on a theoretical basis. We have had a very good example of it in my electorate with the Shire of Bayswater, which has entered into a first class development which is admirable in many respects. Before it was able to do so it had to set up what is called the Shire of Bayswater Aged Persons Homes Incorporated. The existence of this whole body is only to avoid the one mechanical problem that the Shire itself would not have been permitted directly to use loan funds for the project. It is in fact using loan funds indirectly. But who would argue that that is in any way improper, whether done directly or indirectly? Having mentioned the Shire of Bayswater scheme, I wish to pay a tribute to the Shire for having in many respects created a pattern which other homes should follow. From the outset the Shire has agreed that residents should be represented on the management body. From the outset it has agreed to the annual financial accounts being published and made available not only to residents of the homes but also to ratepayers in the district. I think that is quite proper.
It has, by the way, raised a further problem. This has been alluded to this evening by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). I refer to the fact that the maximum subsidy is now leaving too great a gap, given the inflation of building costs. In order to demonstrate the problem, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the maximum subsidies under the scheme over the years.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Compiled at request by the Legislative Research Service from information supplied by the Department of Social Security.
– I think a plain reading of the figures involved will show how the maximum subsidy cannot possibly be read as matching the inflation in building costs. The Minister has assured us that the scheme is under review in all respects. It is due for a review. I think one should say that its contribution undoubtedly has been worthwhile. It has cost the public $171m. It has housed 50,000 people. In my own electorate there are 18 homes housing almost 1,400 people. The cost of those homes has been about $4. 5m. A tremendous amount of good has been done. Despite all the problems that are involved, I frankly cannot see the scheme ever being replaced entirely, although I would whole-heartedly support all alternative measures to increase domiciliary assistance.
– The Country Party supports the 3 Bills before the House. We generally agree with the provisions. I will not weary the House by making lengthy comment which would only be repeating what has been said earlier this evening. I will not discuss the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill at all because my colleague, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), will be speaking on that Bill later. I will restrict my comments to the Aged Persons Homes Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. During my comments I wish to put several questions to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden).
The Minister, in his second reading speech, stated that a reassessment of the aged persons homes program is being undertaken at the moment by the National Commission on Social Welfare and pending the receipt of the Commission’s report no major changes are contemplated. Repeating what was said by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), I hope that the Minister does not wait for this report before updating the Commonwealth contribution to the per bed limit which at present stands at S5,200 or a total allocation of $7,800 plus $250 for furniture. This contribution ceiling has not been altered since February 1972. I think we all would agree that with all the inflation in Australia, whether it is the fault of the last Government or the fault of this Government, building costs probably have been the most inflationary. 1 have received a number of requests and complaints from organisations in my electorate saying that they just cannot meet the ceiling which at present is imposed and that raising the additional finance is quite a problem to them.
Recently I received a letter from the Numurkah Pioneer Memorial Lodge in which it asked me to put certain matters to the Minister. I now put the 2 questions to the Minister: Firstly, are there plans to increase the subsidy to take account of the severe inflation in costs in the building industry since the grant was last increased in February 1972? Secondly, if the grant is to be increased how soon can that society and other societies like it be informed so that their projects can continue? I ask that, when the Minister replies when closing this debate tomorrow, he make a statement to the House, if he possibly can, that the ceiling will be lifted and that it will be lifted to a ceiling of at least $6,500, allowing an overall ceiling of about $10,000 which will take into account the increase in building costs since February 1972. If the Minister makes such a statement will he also give details of the commencing date and inform the House whether those organisations that have made application but have not started to build or have nin into difficulties because of the increased inflationary costs will be given help with these new limits?
I refer now to the hostel section of the Bill, which is really the major part of it and which relates to the increase from SIO to S12 a week in the subsidy paid where personal care services are provided and where the eligibility has been widened. We agree with these proposals and agree with what the Minister said in his speech, namely, that this should more than compensate homes for cost increases that have taken place in the past 12 months and maintain the incentive for organisations to provide this valuable type of accommodation. I remind the Minister that, to be consistent, if it is right to take account of increased costs for one section of the aged program he should take account of the overall increase in building costs which has been even more alarming.
I also wish to refer to the Aged Persons Hostels Bill of 1972. This was amending legislation introduced by the previous Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I will quote some relevant sections from the then Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
The Bill provides for the Commonwealth to make grants to eligible organisations towards the building of hostel-type accommodation on the basis of existing homes which were built either without Government subsidy or when subsidy was available only on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The Commonwealth will meet the capital cost of providing hostel-type accommodation for two additional aged persons for every one at present accommodated in an unsubsidised home, or one additional person for every two in an existing home subsidised on a dollarfordollar basis, up to a maximum of $7,800 for every aged person or necessary staff member accommodated.
The then Minister went on to say:
The Bill also includes a requirement that construction of the new hostel must be substantially commenced within a period of 12 months from the date of approval of the grant by the Director-General of Social Services. Otherwise the approval shall be deemed to have lapsed. The object of this provision is to bring about the building of the new accommodation within a reasonably short period. The legislation will operate for a 3-year period only, commencing from the date on which the Bill receives royal assent. In order to ensure that the ‘free’ homes established under this Act provide accommodation for those most in need of it, it will be a condition of approval that the accommodation is to be allocated strictly on the basis of need, without any contribution being required or received from the prospective resident towards the capital cost of the home or the funds of the sponsoring organisation. Personal care subsidy, provided under Part III of the Aged Persons Homes Act, will be payable, subject to the usual conditions, to homes established under this legislation.
I discussed that legislation with the then Minister soon after it was introduced. I pointed out to him that at least one organisation in Victoria - I am sure there are many others in other States as well - has a long and proud record of providing assistance to aged people but has not the organisation, facilities or staff arrangements to enter into hostel-type accommodation. I refer particularly to the Alexander Miller Homes - an organisation which I think is well known to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in Geelong in the electorate of Corio. There are quite a number of these self-contained units in the electorate of Murray.
I asked the then Minister whether it would be possible to allow transferability of entitlement to beds from this organisation or other organisations to other bodies which are providing hostel accommodation. At the lime the then Minister said that he wanted the legislation to start working and that 1 should come to see him later on. I have allowed, 1 think, a reasonable time for this scheme to be working and I now ask the present Minister: Will he consider altering the regulations or the legislation to allow transferability of bed entitlements under the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1972 to other organisations which are providing this type of accommodation? In asking this question I wish to make 2 points. The Minister has mentioned that hostel-type accommodation is what is urgently required and that he wishes, to encourage the principle of the granting of these beds on a needs basis. The reason I made the lengthy quotation from the previous Minister’s speech is that one of the conditions of these free bed entitlements under that legislation is that they be allocated on a needs basis with no ingoings. I ask the Minister whether, in his reply tomorrow, he will give some indication as to whether transferability will be considered under this legislation as a means of increasing the number of hostel beds that are available, in particular hostel beds for the needy.
The second piece of legislation is the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. It widens the home care services available, with some safeguards, which I think are essential, so that the States do not reduce their expenditure. I join with the honourable member for Perth who explained very well some of the principles involved in the provision of domiciliary care benefits to various groups of needy people. 1 wish to ask the Minister a question which relates to the domiciliary care benefits scheme which commenced early this year. I know that it is not part of this legislation, but I think it is part of the overall pattern of endeavouring to assist people to be cared for in their own homes rather than in the more expensive and, I think, less socially desirable way in a hostel or home. The Minister did state earlier that some problem had arisen with the application of the requirements for the domiciliary care benefit and that this matter was being investigated. I ask him what has happened to those investigations. Is it possible to make an announcement on increased flexibility for those who should be eligible or could be eligible under this scheme, particularly those people living in country areas where problems arise through the unavailability or insufficient numbers of registered nurses? This is one of the requirements of the legislation. I ask the Minister whether he can indicate when these new ideas for this domiciliary benefit will be available for application.
The other question that I wish to ask concerns senior citizens club rooms or centres. 1 congratulate the Minister on increasing the Commonwealth’s contribution to a maximum of two-thirds of the total cost although his description of this change in his second reading speech could be slightly clearer than it is. Slight confusion is found in the expression two-thirds or something else, whichever is the less’. The Minister stated also that this applies with respect to State or local governments. I ask: Why does the qualification ‘local government’ apply? I know of a number of cases where a local organisation has raised money for the capital cost of a senior citizens centre. The only way that contribution can be included for subsidy or grant purposes is if it is handed over to a local government organisation which then claims that money as its own so that a subsidy or grant will apply. This may be peculiar to Victoria. If it is 1 would welcome the Minister’s statement to that effect.
Why can the scheme not be a little more flexible so that a local organisation which is set up for the purpose of community involvement to raise money can be approved by a local government body for the purpose of subsidy under this Act? If this cannot be done, I ask the Minister to explain why. If it can be done, perhaps he could indicate whether the regulations or the Act wil be altered to allow this approach, which is more flexible, more sensible and enables greater community involvement, to apply.
I hope that the Minister will answer these questions. I have put them constructsvely in a non-partisan way. I believe that they are important to the subjects under discussion. In conclusion, I repeat that the Country Party supports these measures.
– In this cognate debate tonight on these 3 Bills I wish to speak on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill. The Delivered Meals Subsidy Act came into force in 1970! An established premise of catering for the elderly is that they should continue to live as independently as possible in their own homes for as long as it. is feasible for them to do so. This scheme is not a charity service; it is an attempt to solve the problem of the care of the aged in modern conditions. It enables these people to live their lives as a part of the community with the maximum of independence, freedom and comfort possible in old age. The aim of the scheme is to provide one hot meal per day in the homes of aged and infirm people.
Together with home help and district nursing services, meals on wheels is an important supporting service. Numbers of people of old age will not need hospital care, fewer beds are taken up in medical and mental hospitals and hospitals are relieved of pressures as a result of the number of patients who can be sent home earlier than would be the case otherwise. Today it must be recognised that the hospitalisation of elderly people should be a last resort and not a convenient way of disposing of a problem. The purpose of the Act when introduced was to assist in the establishment, expansion, improvement and maintenance of meals on wheels services by providing a subsidy on the basis of 10c for every meal delivered to aged and invalid people by an eligible organisation in the course of the previous year. Last October this subsidy was increased to 15c per meal. Payment was commenced in January of this year and applied to all meals served since January 1972.
The 1972 amending Bill also introduced an additional subsidy of 5c per meal for organisations which undertook to include with each meal appropriate types and quantities of fresh fruit and fresh juices with a high content of vitamin C. The legislation now before the House further increases the rates of subsidy from 20c to 25c for each meal with an approved vitamin C content, and from 15c to 20c for all other eligible meals. The additional subsidy of 5c per meal will help to meet the increased costs of food. The next annual payment of subsidy will fall due in January 1974 and will cover meals served in the calendar year which ends on 31 December 1973. The Bill provides that payment at the increased rate will commence in January 1974 and will apply to all eligible meals served since 1 January 1973. It is provided also that all future payments of subsidy will be made on a quarterly basis. This will stop the accumulation of considerable debts or the need to arrange overdrafts while waiting for the next annual grant.
Tonight I wish also to pay tribute to the work done by those engaged in assisting the meals on wheels organisations. These people are able to assist the sick and the housebound and often lonely people. These people must feel a real concern and deep interest in those whom they assist. Very often they are the only people whom housebound patients see and have contact with in their daily life. I pay a tribute to those people. I have had quite a deal to do with them. In fact, my wife looks forward to her regular turn on the meals on wheels roster coming due so that she may deliver these meals to aged people. She often relates to the circumstances of these people. I agree with previous speakers that welfare workers should accompany these voluntary workers and that the needs of these people should be catered for in other areas additional to the need for a meal. I believe that many other services including chiropody and library services should be made available to these people who cannot leave their homes.
In paying these tributes I wish to mention the Drummoyne Municipal Senior Citizens Centre. This is an organisation in my electorate of Evans which provides a meals on wheels service 5 days a week and delivers on average approximately 250 meals a week to senior citizens who pay 60c for each meal. The number of senior citizens in this centre is 457. When the Minister considers the introduction of further amendments to this legislation I ask him to take into account that the present legislation does not include senior citizen centres which provide meals wholly and solely at senior citizen centres. I agree with the Victorian Meals on Wheels organisation because we must encourage these elderly people not to stay at home but to come out. If it is possible we must provide transport for these people to enable them to go to these centres and have their meals.
I should like the Minister to take into consideration in reviewing future changes in this legislation a request that these centres also be given this subsidy. At present the meals provided through Meals on Wheels from these centres are subsidised. But I feel that those who do not have meals delivered to them but who go to the centres are entitled to a subsidy of 20c to 25c a week. In the electorate of Evans there are some 12,000 pensioners. Not all of them attend these centres. I am sure a lot of them do not rely on Meals on Wheels. Ten per cent of those pensioners are over the age of 65. The Drummoyne Municipal Senior Citizens Centre provides library facilities, chiropody services and also many other things to make life happier for these pensioners. The total expenditure on these services for the year 1973-74 will be something of the order of $l.lm. That amount of money will provide no less than 3,864,000 meals. Those meals are provided by only 354 approved delivered meal services throughout this land of Australia. We must realise that these dedicated people - both men and women - who work for the 354 meal services use their own vehicles and their own time. I pay a great tribute to these people.
As we have been requested to keep our remarks short in this debate I shall conclude by congratulating the Minister. We note that since the beginning of this session he has introduced 3 most important social welfare Bills. The first Bill was to increase the rate of the aged, invalid and widow pensions. The second Bill continued the payment of aged, invalid and widow pensions for Australian pensioners proceeding overseas. The third Bill related to assistance for unmarried mothers and married women who no longer live with their husbands in order to help them to care for their children adequately. I feel that these are most important Bills. They provide for those people in our community who cannot provide for themselves. I am very grateful to be allowed to speak on such an important Bill as the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bil).
– The 3 Bills before the House tonight are all concerned with the welfare of the aged. 1 do not believe there is any disagreement about these Bills. There no doubt is a difference in emphasis and in detail. Indeed our senior citizens have found much improved conditions in recent years in Australia but there is still substantial loneliness and substantial hardship particularly in the larger cities and particularly amongst those who are older and frail. I commended the Government in the Budget debate on many measures within the social security field. I repeat that commendation this evening. I think the Minister for Social Security (Mr
Hayden) has presented to the House 3 desirable Bills. I believe it is quite valid to put on record the tremendous improvements that have occurred under the Liberal-Country Party Government. I particularly make reference to the contribution by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), a former Minister for Social Services who did conduct the portfolio he held in a very humane and compassionate way.
In supporting the Bills, I would like to make just a few comments. As to the Aged Persons Homes Bill, which increases the subsidy for eligible organisations which provide personal care services for the aged in hostel accommodation, I am very pleased to see that eligibility for those under 80 years has now been made available and that there is an increase in the subsidy for homes on a $2 for $1 basis. The Minister expressed some concern about what he referred to as key money or donations in this general situation. My own experience would lead me to believe that there is some tidying up to be achieved. I am therefore very pleased to see that a special committee within the national commission on social security is attending to that because I know of one or two circumstances myself which are undesirable.
As to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, the Meals on Wheels organisation has grown throughout Australia and it is tremendously desirable. I think the nation as a whole can take some pride in the contribution by people from many walks of life. There is no doubt that the longer we can keep people in their own homes the better. There are definite social benefits to be gained by doing that. The increase of the subsidy to 25c when vitamin C content is made available has been accepted and, as far as I can ascertain, accepted well by Meals on Wheels organisations. Certainly that is the case in Queensland. Similarly payment on a quarterly basis is desirable and commendable.
It is a fact that Meals on Wheels do more than just provide meals to people in their own homes. It is a very valuable social benefit. It provides a social contact with people and it alleviates loneliness. I am quite certain that there are many members of this House who through their wives or personally have had an association with this organisation and have seen for themselves the enormous social benefits which flow from it.
I am a little concerned to read the figures relating to Queensland. That State is somewhat behind other States, particularly when one compares the Queensland figures with the figures for Western Australia and South Australia. I am informed that there are 45 Meals on Wheels organisations in Queensland, 18 of which are in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. There are a number of committees at present at work hoping to expand the organisation. The Minister might look at the desirability of one of his officers assisting local committees to get moving. I believe there is an area there where the Government could be of very real assistance. I am also not sure as to grants for kitchen equipment. I know there is a very handsome subsidy for capital works. The Minister might look at whether that covers the cost of kitchen equipment because I believe if it does not - and it could - an extension of the subsidy to kitchen equipment would assist in getting many new organisations moving.
As to the States Grants (Home Care) Bill in which we see increased assistance to State governments and, as I read it now, a S2 for $1 subsidy, this Bill as we know provides for housekeeper and general domestic assistance for the aged in their own homes. I would hope each and every State will be tremendously active and will take up the full entitlement of the Australian Government’s contribution in this area. When we see the figure - and I take it as accurate - of 13,000 people in nursing homes who do not really need to be there then it is tremendously important that this home care service gets all the attention and assistance it can.
I believe that there was an instance on the Gold Coast within the electorate of Mcpherson where a lady had broken her arm. She had been found the next day by the Meals on Wheels organisation and been taken to hospital but was returned to her home within a matter of days. Of course she was not able to look after herself. There is no home care service operating in the city of the Gold Coast and I hope that the Queensland Government sees fit to extend the service to that area as quickly as possible. If it were not for the Meals on Wheels organisation doing more than it had to do and other voluntary community organisations who helped that particular woman then she would have found it very difficult to manage. I am certain that is only an example of many cases that occur throughout Australia.
I commend the Government again on the increased subsidy for community centres. The Minister expressed in his speech his concern that some discrimination was used as to the complete use of the centres. I do not suggest that 1 know all the answers but looking at the situation on the Gold Coast where, as everybody would know, there is an enormous number of retired people - senior citizens - the more complete the centre is the more chance you have of having everybody use it and of having a community involvement in it. Here again, I believe that there is room for improvement because I see some areas of fragmentation of effort in my own city.
I agree that the increasing of the share of the salary subsidy for welfare officers is desirable. Again, tidying up is required here because there is not the cohesion between the government departments that there should be. I have had experience in my electorate of finding that because, welfare officers are appointed by many departments, their communications are not as good as they should be and there has not been the support and the service given to the community which could result if we had great co-operation. However, I commend the Government. This is a very desirable area in which we all want to move. I do not believe that it matters very much which Party is in power. We all have a commitment to see that our senior citizens are looked after, and I believe there is so much more to be done in our whole approach to this matter that government expenditure in other areas should be carefully pruned. This is one area in which there is an immense amount of work yet to do.
– In referring to these 3 Bills in the cognate debate - the Aged Persons Homes Bill, the States Grants (Home Care) Bill and the Delievered Meals Subsidy Bill - one finds that very many problems experienced by our aged community have been looked at. One wonders what happened to people before the introduction of this type of legislation. Is it a fact that people are living longer or is it a fact that the young people of today are reluctant to care for their own aged relatives, preferring to institutionalise them, to put them out of sight and out of mind only to be thought of and visited on special anniversaries? We all hope this is not so. However, this type of legislation indicates an overall increase in the standard of living of retired people, that they are continuing as active members of the community, and that they highlight through their organisations to those in authority the need to give more attention to their section of the community. Even though the benefits enacted in this legislation are generous, they cannot attempt to solve all the problems with which the aged community are faced.
Let us look at the question of meals on wheels. I often wonder whether it would not be better if this service were to become an extension of hospital services. Whilst I do not decry the tremendous amount of work done by the voluntary bodies, very often there arises a duplication of kitchens in the one area, with one at the local hospital and one at the meals on wheels centre, while in an adjacent shire no meals are delivered at all and will not be until some civic-minded group decides to commence an operation in that area. This is not good enough. If we are to have a social welfare service and if the aged are in need in one area, surely that need is reflected in all other areas. Thus it is pleasing to see that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is carrying out a national survey in this matter. But I feel the facility will become universally available only when Government initiative takes place to ensure delivery to all areas. In the case of services which deliver only meals which are prepared at other centres no subsidy is available, and often it is necessary for the shire councils to meet some of the costs of the service as sufficient volunteers are not always available and employed personnel are required to ensure regular deliveries. In fact in most cases of meals on wheels deliveries, shire councils give their full support. However, I feel it would be preferable if a system could be evolved which would give every person in Australia an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of government subsidies, no matter where they live.
This also applies to home care. The people have to be there in the first instance to render this assistance in order to receive the subsidy, and in these days of full employment and of the working wife there is little to attract people to volunteer based schemes or to other organisations which rely upon employing part time employees. The Minister is to be congratulated on this attempt to make more funds readily accessible to those organisations through the States. The general implementation of the S2 for Si subsidy by the Com monwealth in this area of direct aid is long overdue. No doubt at some future date we will sec senior citizens centres operating as truly viable community aid centres and not as goodwill clubs, which they must all be at the moment. Let us face it; the only real resources available to them are the moneys they themselves raise from their own members, with some operating losses being met from shire and State government sources. I am sure that it is not a lack of desire but a lack of direction and resources that brings about the current situation.
One must remember that in many cases people who use the centres come for brief periods from rest homes or retirement centres. Such accommodation provides somewhere to go for people who have been displaced from the family home, and to ask them to contribute anything but a nominal amount would be asking them for something which was beyond their capacity to pay. To ask those who paid key money, by way of a donation, to enter a settlement still to pay rent would be adding insult to injury. This is an aspect of the matter which, although 1 have been party to it myself, I have never liked. I refer to the charging of rent in advance by way of a donation of $2,000 or $3,000. Depending on the life expectancy of the person, it often works out that the person who has lived at such a home for, say three or four years has been charged up to $20 a week plus a weekly maintenance fee or rent - call it what you will - which in itself is subject to no controls by outside parties.
Even though the Government provides twothirds of the actual cost of buildings by way of direct subsidy or donation, what happens in effect is that some party, whoever it may be, receives capital assets which act as bank collateral on which to operate with no controls. What amazes me is that the shires have not taken more advantage than they have of such a good thing, for where else could one obtain capital buildings donated by the Government and the public, with running costs met out of the pockets of residents and which is. then described by the term ‘charitable’? Some organisations pay administrators substantial wages out of available funds. But the amazing thing is that for all the years of the existence of this scheme very few units are now available for rent without entry fee.
It just does not appear to happen that organisations see their way clear to assist people who are unable to raise the entry key donations. This may be for very good reasons, but it certainly enhances the need for the very generous increases provided for in these Bills. People who have been waiting foi State housing commission flats for 5 years oi more and those who have money or assets which take them above the means test for State housing assistance and yet who have insufficient means to pay entry fees must be concerned about who is going to look after them when they reach an age at which they cannot care for themselves. They realise that organisations with cottages must give preference to their cottage residents for hostel type accommodation, for not only do they have a community and a personal obligation to those residents but they also have waiting lists for vacancies occurring in the cottages. So it can be seen that people who are not in the system become rightly concerned as to their future. No doubt, they are somewhat relieved to find a Minister who is prepared to act so quickly and sympathetically.
However, it is useless to introduce legislation such as this if the State authorities, the local government authorities or the voluntary organisations do not take advantage of it. It may well be that these bodies are not aware of all the facilities that are available to them and only on inquiring and following their own initial interest do they find that these benefits exist. With this in mind, I ask the Minister to have prepared a suitable detailed pamphlet outlining all facilities and subsidies available and. more importantly, how to go about implementing them. These could be circulated to State governments. State members of Parliament, local government bodies, members of councils, voluntary organisations and their members and other interested members of the public. If such authorities or persons wish to find out anything now, they require to obtain a handful of pamphlets which make very dull reading if one is not interested in particular items. This may be the reason for the scarcity of welfare workers in Western Australia. I was appalled to find that the subsidy claimed by local government Authorities in Western Australia for welfare workers was only S5.475 for the period from 1 July 1969 to 30 June 1973 and for home care aid for the same period $26,000. This might account for the situation in my electorate of a home being sold up while the gentleman who occupied it was in hospital - he is now in a C class hospital - or another case of a home being sold up around a gentleman while his wife was in hospital and committed to a socalled C class hospital. These are the things that happen. If home care were readily available or if people knew how to go about getting assistance that is available to them, it could well be said that these personal tragedies would not happen. I commend the amendments.
– The Aged Persons Homes Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill seek to build on the foundation of previous Bills introduced by the LiberalCountry Party governments. The second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) on the States Grants (Home Care) Bill once again was indicative of the quality of the man. It contained not one word of recognition that it was a free enterprise government that pioneered legislation of this type. Praise for a job well done is good and should be readily forthcoming. It has a twofold object. It invigorates the recipient and develops a sense of generosity and fairness in the giver. I suggest to the Minister that these are admirable traits of character that he should endeavour to cultivate. For our part, we of the Country Party would supply the fertiliser without subsidy.
The whole social security legislation at the present time would surely indicate that the Minister is losing both a policy war and a personal battle. We hear each day of this commission or that commission being set up and of target dates which forever seem to be receding into the horizon of dim obscurity. No doubt these things have been a bitter experience for the Minister; but, for the sake of Australia for the short time that he will be the Minister, it is to be hoped that he has learnt at. least part of a valuable lesson. Let us look at some of the irregularities which we could have expected the Minister to clarify, recognise and alleviate. The first item for home care service schemes which provide housekeeping and other domestic assistance for aged people in their own home is not covered adequately. With the fanfare of publicity that surrounded the Minister’s accession to his portfolio, we hoped that the scope of services would be widened in their concept and their area. There are many families who are in need of domestic help and who do not meet the criterion of age. The Minister, in effect, is saying that he is not concerned about the crippled, the amputees, the chronically ill and the poor. All these people are in need of help, particularly domestic help.
Let us consider the mother of a large family with a husband on the basic wage. She becomes til and the family obviously has no money to pay for domestic help. One must have a feeling for these people and be directly responsible for their demands. The Minister probably can say that this is a Bill dealing with the aged, but I remind him that in another debate in this chamber we were advised that revenue from a meat export tax for the purpose of paying for inspection services was to be used also for the eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. Hence, with this background of historical knowledge of how the Labor machine fires, I pose the question: Why has the Minister not included cases other than the aged? Surely the quality of a nation can be measured, in a way, by the concern it shows for the unfortunates and the old in its care.
We on this side of the House cannot accept and will not accept that the only ones who matter in society are the strong, the determined, the courageous and the visionary. We will not stand idly by while the weak, the sick and those who cannot cope are swept aside. That is why we are disappointed that the scope of the people to whom the benefits are to apply has not been widened. The Minister did not state in the debate the Government’s plans for increased payments or increased varieties of help. He did not tell this House whether there were plans to increase the number of home services in such places as Queensland, where branches are established at 5 centres - Brisbane, Townsville, Ipswich, Toowoomba and the MaryboroughBundabergGympieNambour area. The Minister pays lip service to equality of opportunity but then fails to admit that legislation of this type denies that equality. I ask: Why should the people of Brisbane have access to help and the people of Charleville be denied it? How does the Minister reconcile this with his socialistic philosophy? It is obviously based not on justice or philosophy but on the cheap political trick of gaining votes in the large areas of population. This type of thinking is anathema to us. We want this type of service extended to all, irrespective of where they live.
It is rather remarkable to look at the amounts of money spent on home care over the last 4 years by the various States. What an astonishing fact we ascertain! In the free enterprise States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the sums of $607,199, $527,273 and $517,826 respectively have been expended, while in . the socialistic States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania the sums expended have been $50,347, $26,000 and $27,221. Does this not inspire the question in our minds: Do the Labor States reject the proposition that they are responsible for the care of the aged? The figures would seem to indicate this. We welcome the increased Commonwealth contribution in this sphere but we express the wish - and let us hope that it is not a pious wish that will attract a flow of platitudes from the Minister - ‘that the Minister will recognise the great and basic need of many people who are excluded because of the age or distance factor. We uphold the proposition that, if at all possible, people should be looked after in their own homes and surroundings where the dignity and privacy of their lives can be encouraged and respected and where they retain a sense of belonging.
The second matter to which I want to make reference concerns senior citizens centres. These centres are the hub of existence of many people. From them, by the opportunity they present for people to meet in suitable and peaceful surroundings, these people draw strength and renewed confidence and enthusiasm to resist the pressures that are thrust on them from economic, social, health and family worries. It is good to see the Commonwealth giving increased subsidies provided the States do not spend less than they did in the previous period. In the Darling Downs area only 2 organisations - the Toowoomba Senior Citizens Club, which is actually in operation, and the contemplated Oakey Senior Citizens Club - are participators in the scheme. Why is this so? Is the scheme not broad enough? I submit that it is not.
The capital cost of the scheme in Queensland since its inception has been $1,238,307, made up as follows: $412,769 from the State, $412,770 from the Commonwealth, $90,693 from local government bodies and $322,075 from voluntary organisations. Why has the scheme not spread further? The obvious answer, to me, would be that local authorities are unable to raise sufficient finance. At times the local authorities experience great difficulty in balancing their budgets and have to expend their finances on the bread and butter issues. The Minister should get out of his ivory tower of isolationism and observe what is going on. Why does he not, in this legislation, widen the range of organisations which can contribute to the building of senior citizens club rooms and attract subsidy? I refer to local voluntary and service bodies such as Apex, Lions, Rotary, the Country Women’s Association and many other such organisations which contribute manifestly to the welfare of the citizens within their sphere of influence. These people should be encouraged to develop their policy of generosity of heart and mind. The Minister appears to have as one of his ‘aims the complete disregard-
-Order! It being 15 minutes to 1 1 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the Order of the House of 1 March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am very concerned, as all people should be concerned, about the attitude of the Government towards the media generally and particularly towards the media serving the community outside the metropolitan area. Recently the Government, under pressure from the Opposition, agreed, to proposals put forward by the Australian Country Party member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) with regard to postage on country newspapers. I welcome this concession. But in view of the overall approach of this Government towards the community I still wonder whether this is but a temporary reprieve or whether there has been a change of heart by the Government on this issue.
However, tonight I want to refer to the attitude of the Government towards another vital component of the media - the commercial broadcasting stations. Those stations serving people living outside the metropolitan area have received the most savage treatment from this Government. The increased charges for broadcasting the Australian Broadcasting Commission news and the increased charges for land lines will force some country broadcasting stations to close down or at least to reduce the service now being provided for listeners. These country stations are essential to provide a medium for local advertising and par ticularly to notify changes in advertised events. It is worth noting that announcements by these country broadcasting stations are the only way in which this information can be provided to very many people in country areas, particularly those who have waited for years for telephone connections to be provided. With this Government’s concentration on the provision of telephones for city residents they could have a long wait yet before they will have the telephones by which they can receive other information.
The commercial broadcasting stations in the outlying areas of this country - in many instances they are not so far outlying - play a very important part in the community life of the district. It would be nothing short of a tragedy if, by the insistence of the Government on these very largely increased charges, they were unable to carry on. I have referred to the increased charges for the broadcasting of the ABC news. These charges have been increased enormously. On the information I have, I believe that under the new proposals some of the stations will have to pay up to 400 per cent more for this service. I have it on good authority that some stations are con,sidering having to forgo the provision of the ABC news for their listeners because it is not economical for them to carry on.
In the case of land lines the cost has been increased in some cases up to about 50 per cent. Since these increased costs are more than the profit earned by the stations, inevitably the money invested to provide the service to the community in those areas will be lost unless substantial relief is provided. It is my object tonight in raising this question in the adjournment debate to appeal to the Government to take into account the serious position of these stations. It is all very well to say that something has to be economical. The work that is done by these stations in providing a service to those people helps to retain people in those areas where the provision of food is the major industry. Surely we all know the need for the continued production of increased quantities of food in Australia in particular. It is not an exaggeration to say that people in those areas are getting fed up with the problems and difficulties they have to face on every hand and they are concerned that they will not receive anything like a reasonable return for the efforts they make or anything like reasonable consideration for the disadvantages that they suffer. They will feel like giving the job away and becoming extra residents in the already overcrowded cities - and I am not drawing an exaggerated picture at all.
I have referred to some of the worst affected stations, but other stations affected by seasonal conditions and the fact that the producers can get only low prices for some of their products have found that their advertising revenue is reduced to such an extent that their operations have come down to about an even keel. With the improved seasonal conditions and improved prices they were beginning to look forward to a return to profitability, but now the stations will again be forced into operating on an unprofitable basis simply because of the increased government charges being forced upon them.
I am not blaming the Government for the advertising situation because it is something which was set in train at an earlier date. I want to be completely fair about that. We ali know that tobacco advertising was a substantial source of revenue for these stations. Now that it is being phased out the Government surely should give some assistance to these stations so that they can regain the position that they held previously. But what has happened? Apparently the Government has decided that this would be the opportune time to deal a death blow to these stations by imposing very heavy increases in government charges, knowing as it does that they also have to meet the increased costs of recent salary rises.
Why does the Government want to get rid of these stations, if in fact that is what it is trying to do? Is it because so many of them serve country and rural areas? Is it because the Government considers that they give a broad view of all matters of interest to the areas they serve; or is it because the Government considers that some of them might have some sympathy for the country people generally and perhaps for the Australian Country Party? That reminds me of an answer given by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), who I am pleased to see in the House. In answer to a question asked on 22 August about country newspapers - I have time to read only the last portion of his answer - he said:
AH we have done is suggest that rural newspapers should pay the same as the general public. What is wrong with that? Unless that attitude is adopted the public will be asked to subsidise owners of small industries - perhaps uneconomic industries - who obviously vote for the Country Party.
That was rather an illuminating sort of observation by the Minister. Has the Government applied the same thinking to this excessive increase in charges on our commercial broadcasting stations? I am very concerned about this matter. As I said earlier in this speech, the Postmaster-General gave some alleviation to country newspapers in relation to the charges that were to be imposed. I hope that he will be consistent when dealing with the broadcasting stations, because these 2 sections of the media are interlocked. They have to be combined to give the necessary service to the people in country areas. I appeal to the Government and to the Postmaster-General to have a look at this problem that is facing the Country broadcasting stations and to see whether it is possible for the Government to grant them sufficient relief to enable them to carry on providing their service.
The owners of country broadcasting stations do not derive a large amount of revenue from them, as do the owners of the city broadcasting stations. Of course, the city broadcasting stations do not have to use landlines to anything like the same extent that country broadcasting stations do. So we are faced with the position that we could lose country broadcasting stations which have been in existence for many years and which in some instances have made no profit and in other instances have made very small profits. They have been prepared to carry on and to provide a service to the community. They have been prepared to give sporting news on Saturday afternoons to the people in the surrounding areas. Does the Government intend to deprive the people of this service because of the miserly amount of money it will gain by imposing these charges? The responsibility rests squarely on the Government. Is it prepared to keep these stations in operation by leaving charges at the level at which they stood or at least increasing them only to a minor degree? Will the Government put these stations out of business completely? I will leave it to the Government to decide.
– The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) was good enough to indicate to me that he proposed to raise some matter this evening, but the matter he has raised was raised by his colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), during question time this morning. He has asked about the charges proposed for broadcasting stations for the use of news relays in country areas and also for the use of landlines. The answer given this morning still stands. I have received correspondence from Mr Foster. I have undertaken to look at the situation, and that is what I will do. Let me restate the position. As honourable members know, the general public pays for services that the Government provides. What is envisaged is that where a commercial enterprise that is making a profit might have a capacity to pay, it should pay. If the situation is that it does not have the capacity to pay, that aspect will be examined.
Honourable members should not run away with the idea that because the public is being asked to pay increases for services other bodies, which have a capacity to pay, should be exempt. The charge for news relays has applied since 1951. It has not been reassessed since then, yet the public has been obliged to maintain this service. Perhaps a submission could be made in respect of some stations. I think the number involved is 15 and the total amount involved is $18,000. These are all commercial stations and I would be surprised if a large percentage of them could not meet the charges that are being suggested to them. For relay lines they arc now paying $101,000. It is suggested that that charge might be upgraded to about $140,000. This proposal would involve some 50 stations. So it is not an exorbitant amount which is being spread over that group. This is the issue we put to honourable members.
– It will put some stations out of business.
– No station will go out of business on this basis. I will give that assurance. However the Government is not saying what the honourable member wants us to say, namely, that because they are in the country they should be put out of business. This is the usual argument expressed by members of the Country Party, but it is not true. I made this point at question time today. What honourable members opposite wm not face up to is that when they were in government they were using the resources of the people to give subsidies in certain areas. They could not care less about the merits of the situation. Members of the Country Party are asking that the public pay these charges. They will not face facts. When they were in government their interest was in giving people concessions or services for which they asked other people to pay more. On many occasions members opposite have said that there should not be a burden on other people using the service. Never once did the previous Government take the money from the tax pool. It was suggested that this would be done but members opposite were in power for 23 years and did nothing about it. They were prepared to fleece other taxpayers to get this concession. The Post Office is faced with continual Josses in its postal services, but the previous Government did nothing about it and increased postal rates resulted. Members opposite could not care less about rising charges so long as the cost of some of their publications is kept low.
– What profits were made last year?
– Last year, as a result of the Liberal-Country Party Budget, the Post Office had a loss of S23m. Members of the Country Party could not care less about what members of the general public pay for telephone services. It costs an average of $9,000 to install a country telephone service yet under the previous Government’s policy interest had to be paid on that amount. Country telephone services were running at a S30m loss within 2 years of the capital outlay, yet some people could not be provided with a telephone service on such lines for years. The previous Government misled them by saying that it would do something for them.
Members opposite should examine what this Government has done from the rural point of view. It secured markets for Australian wheat in China. Members opposite would not sell their soul to China, yet they arc happy to sell their wheat to China. They have a two-faced policy. Because this Government has a contract with China which members opposite could not secure they do not want to give the Government credit for it.
– You want to learn a bit more about the subject.
-I know a fair bit about the subject. This is the problem of members opposite: They are upset that we have been able to secure such sales.
– You have not.
– We have. Honourable members opposite could not even go to China. Their problem is that they could not even get in the door. What I have said applies to many other aspects of the country.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock the House stands adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.
Mouse adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 01)(a) None, but an urban rehabilitation scheme is being considered in both Sydney and Melbourne and discussions are presently being conducted with the relevant authorities, (b), (c) and (d) At this stage we have not carried out a survey of renewal projects being conducted by State Governments, local governments and private enterprise. The information should therefore be sought from these bodies, (e) See 1 (a) above.
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (2) The Pipeline Authority will esablish formulae which will provide a uniform basis of pricing. The main factors in these formulae will be gas price at the inlet valve, transmission costs and amortisation of capital costs, including, on a present value basis, the installation of compressors at a later date.
United States of America: Immigration Inquiries at Australian Government Offices (Question No. 782)
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many immigration inquiries were made at Australian Government offices in the U.S.A. during the first six months of (a) 1971. (b) 1972 and (c) 1973.
– The following table provides the number of inquiries received at offices of my Department in the U.S.A. in the years 1971, 1972 and 1973 (January to August) on a monthly basis.
It is believed that the downturn in the inquiry rate which commenced at about April 1972 is the result largely of the then deteriorating employment situation in Australia and the knowledge in the U.S.A. that strict controls were being placed on migrants who fell into over-supplied employment categories.
This is confirmed by the fact that the inquiry rate for the last three months for which figures are available - June to August 1973 - represents an increase of 23 per cent over the last three months of 1972 when the downturn was approaching its lowest level.
This trend indicates that interest in the U.S.A. in migration to Australia is increasing, coincidentally with a return to conditions of full employment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
How is it intended to raise the $6m from the beef industry to finance the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaigns.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The funds to recoup the Government’s expenditure on the eradication campaign will be obtained by way of a charge of 0.6c per pound on exports of beef and veal. Legislation imposing this charge, together with a charge of 1.0c per pound on meat exports to recoup export meat inspection costs, was introduced on 11 September 1973.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
This Convention includes special provisions relating to species taken in the marine environment not under the jurisdiction of any State. It should be noted of course that the Convention covers more than ‘wildlife inhabiting international waters or those which migrate from one country to another’ and is designed to conserve all species of wild animals and plants threatened by international trade.
I have also asked my Department to examine in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and other relevant Australian Government Departments and agencies the desirability of having treaties with other countries on various aspects of nature conservation.
The Australian and Japanese authorities are considering the terms of a treaty and it is expected that a broad measure of agreement will be reached on the terms of a treaty in the near future. However, it may take some time to complete a list of the species of birds to be protected by the agreement.
Bureau of Environmental Studies (Question No. 939)
asked the Minister for the
Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (Question No. 940)
asked the Minister for the
Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Is he able to say whether there is a Centre of Research of the Environment.
If so, (a) what are its responsibilities, (b) who is the head of this Centre and (c) how many people are on its staff.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Is there any overlapping in the responsibilities of the Bureau of Environmental Studies, the Centreof Research of the Environment and the three Land Research Divisions of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. The Bureau, the Centre (see answer to Question 940) and the relevant Divisions of the CSIRO will work in close co-operation.
Prime Minister: Discussions with General Carlos Romulo (Question No. 946)
asked the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
What action has he taken to develop environmental guidelines for primary, secondary and tertiary industries to ensure the protection of Australian flora and fauna.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am pleased to see that the honourable member is keeping abreast of the Labor Party’s environmental platform which was adopted at our recent conference. I plan to ask the National Parks and Wildlife Branch of my Department to examine the implementation of the policy and subsequently to discuss the matter with the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730925_reps_28_hor85/>.