28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. IF. Cope) took the chair at 10 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:
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 Daly, Mr Morrison, Mr Bennett, Sir John Cramer, Mr Edwards, Mr Fairbairn, Mr Kerin, Mr Lucock, Mr Reynolds, Mr Ruddock, and Mr Turner.
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 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, Mr Cooke and Mr Jarman.
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 existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Forbes and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned, being members of the Staff of Newcastle University, respectfully showeth:
That we agree with the aims contained below and urge you to aid in their implementation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should repeal the existing laws that violate a fundamental right: the right to freedom and equality.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and therefore on the lives of citizens living in the general area.
That in close proximity to the proposed Galston airport site are the Berowra Reserves, the Hallstrom Nature Reserve and the Muogamurra Sanctuary, and areas of Sydney’s Green Belt, which would be so affected and should be preserved for future generations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that tha Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second international airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding north-western suburbs of Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards.
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 Dr Forbes. Petition received.
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. Petition received.
– I wish to inform the House that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) today are attending a meeting with the State Premiers. Consequently they will not be present in the chamber until, later today. The Prime Minister had intended that this meeting with the Premiers be held tomorrow, which is a non-sitting day, but unfortunately not all Premiers were able to come to Canberra tomorrow and so the meeting for some very important discussions on Loan Council matters arising from the Constitutional Convention of 5 weeks ago has had to be put forward to today.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour. Did the Minister see the report on the front page of today’s ‘Australian’ under the headline ‘National airlines strike is threatened over pay’? Did that report contain a statement that a national airline stoppage is unlikely before the weekend but that a strike could flare next week? It stated:
At issue in the threatened national airline strike is a move by the Federal Minister for Labour, Mr Cameron, and the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Jones, to force Ansett to sign an agreement to act in concert with TAA and Qantas In any wage demands.
It is believed it would require Government approval of any increase above about SOc a week.
I ask the Minister: Is that report correct. If so, how does the Minister justify this tough stand against wage rises in productive industry when he has recently acquiesced in substantial pay rises in non-productive industry affectionately referred to by him as the fat cats of the Public Service?
– Order! The honourable gentleman should ask his question. He makes speeches out of questions every day.
– I understand the question is: Did I insist upon Ansett signing an agreement? The answer is no. The rest of the question does not have to be answered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing and Minister for Works. Is it a fact that the Minister is planning a task force to investigate the Government’s future role in industrialised or systems built housing with a view to reducing costs? If this is so, will the Minister give an assurance that if such plans come to fruition the homes mass-produced in factories will not be uniform or dull in design and construction, and that proper regard will be paid to the need for factory built houses to be of high quality, with a wide range of variation in the design? In other words, will he make sure that the industrialised home building does not lead to any lowering of standards or a lack of individuality?
– It is true that I am contemplating the appointment of an investigatory group which will undertake a very short term operation to examine the potential of industrialised or systems produced housing. It would be highly presumptuous of me to anticipate the result of such an inquiry, certainly before the appointment of the investigatory group and, for that matter, at any stage during its progress. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we are to face up to the expanding need for housing production in Australia this is probably the opportune time to do it. Whereas we produce about 163,000 houses a year at the present time, it is estimated that in the next 5 years we will need to build about one million houses. This demand is coming upon us at a time when all the shortcomings of the previous governments are becoming manifest. That is to say, we have a shortage of tradesmen.
– Sit down.
– The honourable member for Balaclava may wave his hands in derision but the fact is that the shortage of carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and the like was certainly not created by the present Government. It takes some years to create such a task force. It is obvious that with this expansion of the demand for housing we will need to look at the question of producing houses in a more effective way. I have mentioned that it is opportune and timely to be looking at this because of the demand. It is certainly opportune to look at it from the standpoint of other factors, especially as the whole housing industry is about to move into metrication with the associated system of preferred dimensions in the metrication concept. It would be highly fortuitous if we were able to identify some desirable systems of factory produced homes - modular homes - and virtually set out with government encouragement to bring building processes into the twentieth century. It would be absurd these days if one set off to have a car made in individual components, which is the way we build houses. It would be absurd to go to someone and say ‘Design me a car’; to someone else to build the chassis; to someone else to build the engine; and to someone else to build the body; and put the components together. That is the way we have been building houses.
I was asked whether, if we move into a systemised and efficient process of building houses, we will sacrifice anything to mediocrity and uniformity. I think every honourable member would hope that that would not be the case, and this Government is anxious to ensure that it will not happen. There is a process which is in operation in other parts of the world and which some of our entrepreneurial people believe can be accomplished here, which involves the utilisation of interchangeable components. It seems to me that our task force will identify this potential and I hope that before this year has concluded we will be able to bring forward some systematised housing processes which State housing authorities and private manufacturers can utilise so that we can get the benefit of good-
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Are you going to permit Ministers in this House to completely waste question time as the Minister for Housing is doing this morning?
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party knows quite well that no point of order is involved. I have appealed to honourable members to keep their questions brief and to Ministers to make their answers as brief as possible. I call the honourable member for Parramatta.
– Mr Speaker, I address my question-
– I am sorry to interrupt, Mr Speaker, but I have not concluded my answer. I want to be respectful to the honourable member for Parramatta because it will be his first question. I certainly did not intend to make a long answer to the question I was asked but I responded to provocation. I conclude by saying that it is hoped that the proposals that I have been talking about concerning exotic characteristics, new technology and new materials that one sees in commercial building can be brought to bear to great advantage in the home building industry as well.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. As the Minister has suggested to a number of organisations within my electorate that the proposals for expressway development in the area may well be abandoned after reconsideration of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969, does the Minister suggest that the north-western distributor will not be required even if the Government proceeds with its disastrous Galston airport proposal or does the Minister have in mind some other alternative road proposal for access to the Galston area?
Mr -UREN- It is known that the Minister for Transport and I are concerned about freeways in inner city areas. I have expressed opposition to the north-western distributor over a number of years and even in government I have not changed my mind. However it will be a matter for the Government to decide. Regarding the study of the Galston area, preliminary suggestions have been made already concerning where the access could be made to Galston without using the northwest freeway.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education. How are the appeals against the categorisation of non-government schools proceeding? When can decisions be expected? Is the Minister in a position to comment on the nature of the appeals?
– The first meeting of the new Interim Schools Committee, which we hope will become the Schools Commission, will be tomorrow and the appeals will be heard then. I am not sure whether it will take a day or two days for the appeals to be heard. An extensive analysis of the grounds of appeal has been made by the officers whose duty it is to do such work and by certain members of the Committee. One of the grounds of appeal that was stated by the Interim Committee was a change of circumstances. Honourable gentlemen will recall that early this year, because of the circumstances of the rural economy, I brought in a Bill to provide $3m for hardship cases involving students at the tertiary level. This was provoked by the situation at the University of New England. There was a droughtaffected economy. The rural industry was depressed in 1972. Of course, there has been an unbelievable transformation with the change in the prices obtained for wool, wheat and so on since then.
Next year many people in the country will probably be sending their children to boarding schools who withdrew them in 1972. That would be a very clear change of circumstances. The staffing ratio of schools from which a lot of children had been withdrawn in 1972 could rise. That is a very clear ground of appeal. I understand the major ground of appeal lies where it has been pointed out by many of the officers concerned that the school has not stated its own case at the correct level. Many headmasters are very good teachers and have been promoted through their private school organisations to be headmasters but are not necessarily good clerks or good accountants. Many (have not stated their case as it should be stated. This sort of thing has meant that when the headmasters have been invited to put in another assessment with very clear and accurate figures the whole status of the school can be greatly transformed. I believe this is likely to happen in a great many cases.
I think other principles ought to be noted. Very few schools - and I refer to those which can be classed as schools of normally very high academic standards - have made a special effort to locate within the school centres for handicapped children. If honourable gentlemen have ever seen the Commonwealth Government schools for the handicapped in the Australian Capital Territory they will know that under certain circumstances, where a child has multiple handicaps, there is a ratio of one teacher for one child. If handicapped centres in schools are treated as normal staffing, a school will be disadvantaged when it ought to be advantaged for its public service. So, a factor like that needs to be taken into consideration. I believe that the appeals will be finalised in the near future and that the situation of schools will be much clearer.
However, I remain concerned about the problems of one State. I think this is an important consideration. New South Wales grants $75 a head to schools at the primary level and at the post primary level it grants $88 for families towards paying their children’s fees. That does not give anything additional to the schools. At the secondary level in New South Wales the State contribution is therefore nil whereas States such as Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria are granting $104 a head to schools which might be categorised as A schools. Therefore the situation in New South Wales seems to me to be somewhat different. I am not sure whether that matter is being taken into consideration. It is certainly a matter that needs to be considered. Even if it is not a job for the appellate committee I would certainly like to take another look at it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour. On 26 September he said in answer to a question that the Government would discontinue the non-metropolitan unemployment relief scheme despite the fact that some 8,800 people were still on relief. He further stated that in special areas of distress or areas with a great degree of unemployment the Government was prepared to consider cases on their merits. I ask: What action has the Department taken to notify the States or local government authorities that this special relief is available and of the method of obtaining it? When will the new scheme be in operation? Is it not an inhumane act to discontinue one scheme of needed relief before the details and timing of an alternative scheme are formulated?
– Yes, I did tell the Parliament that the Department was preparing submissions. Submissions have been prepared and are now before Cabinet. When will it come into operation? I do not know. Have I yet notified the Premiers of the new plan? No, because the plan has not been decided upon by Cabinet.
– Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware that the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation has stated that the policies of the Federal Government are aimed against decentralisation? If so, is this statement correct?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement made by the Minister for Decentralisation in New South Wales. He mentioned one case of a firm in Albury - Twin Disc. (Pacific) Pty Ltd. This company has not lodged an application to the Department of Secondary Industry following the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut. It could make such a request to the Department, which has informed me that it would examine the case. Might I state clearly, in regard to the broader statement by the New South Wales Minister for Decentralisation that the policies of the Australian Government are directed against decentralisation, that the claim is completely false.
Unlike the policy of the Parties sitting opposite when in government, our policies support decentralisation directly. In the past 25 years, for 23 years of which the Parties now in Opposition governed this country, the non-urban area population of Australia fell from 31 per cent of our total population to 14.7 per cent. The reason for this decline is that the former Government supported a policy of dispersed decentralisation - of spreading the icing thinly over the cake. The Labor Party has clearly identified its policy of support for the establishment of growth centres.
– We supported growth centres.
– The Leader of the Country Party interjects to state his attitude. The trouble with Country Party members is that they want their cake and want to eat it too. In the course of the consideration of the Cities Commission legalisation I asked the Leader of the Country Party whether he supported dispersed decentralisation.
– Yes, I do.
– On the one hand he supports selected growth centres; on the other, he supports dispersed decentralisation. Unfortunately, he cannot have both.
Country Party members - Rubbish!
-Order! I will not call the Minister to resume answering the question until there is complete silence in the House. So, make up your own minds. Order! I just feel in the mood today, I assure you.
– This clearly shows the dilemma faced by those in the Opposition ranks. We want decentralisation to be successful. The only way that we can achieve this is by determining special growth centres and by then using all the resources of Australian, State, local governments and the private sector to make these centres a success. That is why the Government has stated clearly that industries in selected growth centres agreed upon by the Australian Government and the State governments will receive special assistance and special attention in regard to tariff and other policies.
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy will recall telling me yesterday that there will be no Japanese participation in the proposed development to occur in the Pilbara region. Is this prohibition on Japanese investment in the Pilbara to have application also to other projects in other parts of Australia or is it confined to Western Australia? Also, will the prohibition apply to other countries which might wish to participate in the development of Australia’s resources for our benefit?
– The question asked by the Leader of the Australian Country Party is based on entirely misleading premises. Yesterday I said to him in reply to a question that there would be 2 Australian companies which will be quit-, capable of organising and running the refinery. My words to him yesterday were that we would probably as a government take a . more than sporting interest in it through the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The honourable member’s question is mischievous in the highest degree. It is typical of the member concerned to suggest that there is a prohibition on Japanese investment.
– Do you think that he is getting a kick-back?
– Of course he is.
Mir SPEAKER-Order! I ask honourable members to cease interjecting.
– Mr Speaker, it is alleged that the Country Party leader is getting a kick-back. I think that is out of order.
Mr- CONNOR- The statements of the Leader of the Country Party are entirely mischievous. There is no justification for them and they do a distinct disservice to Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Defence the following question: In view of the damage that could be caused by the threatened locust plague in New South Wales, could he give details of measures that have been taken to combat this plague?
– I think from memory that the Premier of New South Wales wrote to the Prime Minister on 21 September asking for assistance to combat the probability of a locust plague in a part of rural New South Wales. The Prime Minister referred the question to me and I asked the Army to investigate the possibility of participating in this campaign. Since then an Army unit has been placed on standby. In regard to the question of the costs involved, including the cost of flying time- (Honourable members interjecting)-
-Order! I have issued my last warning. If there is further persistent interjecting I will take the appropriate action.
– The cost of flying time and accommodation is approximately $59,000. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have now agreed that the full cost of this operation should be borne by the Australian Government. Yesterday I issued instructions to the Department of the Army to proceed with the project. I acknowledge the representations that have been made both by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the honourable member for Macarthur in relation to this matter. I am sure that the action taken by the Australian Government will be appreciated by all concerned.
– Will the Minister for Defence provide the House with information on the many measures designed to achieve economies in defence expenditure, particularly those relating to cuts in training activity which He chose not to disclose in his statement on 22 August and in relation to which information has been dribbling out ever since with shattering effect on the morale of the Services? Will he provide this information, together with the estimated savings, before the debate on the defence estimates takes place?
– I did indicate in the defence statement that there would be some cut back, particularly in those areas of support to the Department of Defence. I refer, of course, to the munitions factories and the naval dockyards. The precise figures have not been determined. The matter is still under consideration. The honourable member will be aware that I received a deputation - indeed, several deputations - from people concerned in these areas. It has now been determined that the matter will be further considered by Cabinet before any final decision is made. When that has been done I shall be pleased to inform the honourable member of the final decision of the Government in relation to these matters.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Services and Property by referring to yesterday’s sudden resignation by Spiro Agnew as Vice-President of the United States and of his subsequent conviction by a district court for, among other things, failing to reveal donations which were made to his campaign funds. I ask the Minister whether there is any evidence of this kind of malpractice in Australian politics. If so, will he consider appointing a royal commission to inquire into the matter or take other appropriate steps to protect the Australian parliamentary institution from the kind of corruption instanced in the Watergate scandal and in the more recent case of the VicePresident of the United States?
– I would say that it is possible that money is being provided to certain people and poltical parties in Australia to carry out a campaign for certain vested interests, some of which are multi-national corporations. I am advised, for instance, that there is a foreign finance minerals lobby operating in Australia. This, combined with the sustained questioning of and sustained attacks upon the Minister for Minerals and Energy, gives some substance to the point of view involved in the question. I am also disturbed by the recent revelation by the Minister for Immigration that a sum of $lm has been donated to the Liberal and Country Parties by foreign interests with a view to defeating the popularly elected Government. Further reports indicate that Liberal campaign funds are overflowing because foreign and local interests are providing funds to ensure that the Government is defeated. The events at Watergate and the recent resignation of the Vice-President of the United States indicate the seriousness of matters of this kind.
The honourable gentleman asked whether I will consider appointing a royal commission or take some other suitable action. The statements in the question require very serious consideration as there would appear from the events in this Parliament in recent times to be substance to the thought that there could be another Watergate in Australia. The Government is considering appropriate action legislatively and the question of a royal commission also will receive consideration because we do not believe that any political party in this country should receive foreign funds without the source of those funds being revealed.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister on the proper assumption that this morning in this House he is accountable for the actions of the Government. In view of the statement made on Tuesday that the Government will recognise the new Government of Chile today, and with the understanding that governments may be recognised notwithstanding the manner in which they take government, how does the Minister reconcile this particular decision with the views stated in a telegram to the Chilean Ambassador in Australia on 13 September by eight of his Ministers and 36 other Labor members of Parliament and senators that the new government was illegal and that they would undertake efforts ‘to help the Chilean people regain their freedom’? How does the Minister reconcile the decision with the actions being taken by members of his Party, as reported today, that they are urging that Federal Government to move against the Chilean military regime?
– The Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs, made a decision about the relationship of Australia with the new Government in Chile. The main criterion applied by most states in determining recognition of a government is whether it is in effective control of the territory of the country concerned. Recognition of a government does not imply approval of the policies or actions of that government. The new regime in Santiago is in effective control of Chile. More than 40 governments have recognised the new Chilean regime, including all Latin American governments - except Cuba - Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, West Germany and Japan -
– Will you table that schedule?
-Order! Once again I issue another warning. If there is any facetiousness during answers to questions I will take appropriate action, and take it smartly. I ask Opposition members in particular to eliminate the larrikinism which has been evident in this House in the past few weeks. If they do not I will certainly see that they are put outside.
– All Latin countries except Cuba have recognised the new government in Chile.
– All Latin countries?
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kooyong.
– Since the honourable member for Kooyong was interjecting let me correct the impression that he probably gained. All Latin American countries with the exception of Cuba have recognised the new regime. The Australian decision to recognise the new regime was made only after exhaustive consultations with friendly countries including, in particular, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand. Mexico has continued its relations with Santiago. Canada recognised the regime on 2 October and, as the honourable gentleman said, Australia and New Zealand are together recognising it today, 11 October.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation by saying that following a request by the Diamond Valley Shire Council that the Victorian State Government indicate clearly whether it was prepared to accept Commonwealth funds for the duplication of the Macleod-Greensborough railway line, the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr Meagher, informed the Council that conditions had been attached which would make the coordinated approach to the administration of transport, which has been initiated, practically unworkable. Therefore I ask the Minister: Has the offer of money been accepted? Will the money be spent on this badly needed duplication? What is the present situation?
– We have made an offer to all States to make available to them this financial year a total of some $3 2m for the upgrading of various forms of public transport. The Victorian Government has written and advised me that it is prepared to accept the money but is not prepared to accept it under the conditions which we have laid down. I want to make very clear what the conditions are but I will not go through each one because members of the Opposition would object to the time that that would take.
All but one of the conditions have been included in previous Commonwealth-State railway agreements and accepted by all of the States at some time or another. The only new condition is one which provides for Australian Government representation in the operations of the State public transport undertakings. We want to be part and parcel of the responsibility of upgrading public transport and providing facilities for people in underdeveloped sections of the cities. I know that the honourable member is a councillor of the Diamond Valley Council. He is greatly concerned with the fact that the proposed railway is not being proceeded with in bis section, and in other outlying parts of Melbourne. We have asked the State Government for representation and an acceptance of responsibility. Contrary to what has been said by Mr Meagher, it is not our desire to veto the general operations of the Victorian railway system. This allegation is completely untrue. But we want to know what is happening in the system and what is required for the future. In other words we want to be part and parcel of the development of the cities and to provide the necessary development in outlying suburbs so that the people there can obtain the assistance of Commonwealth finance and co-operation. This matter was to have been discussed last Friday at a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Sydney. Unfortunately, due to the Professional Radio Engineers Institute dispute it was decided to postpone the meeting for some time, but that meeting will be held at an early date. The only other thing I wish to say is that I made the statement on 16 February this year. The then Minister of Transport in Victoria, Mr Wilcox seemed to be only too delighted to accept my offer. I am astounded at the difference in attitude with the change of Minister.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he is aware of a notice placed on the Press Gallery notice board reading as follows:
Meat Tax. Are you Confused? The reliable source of information is Ken Wriedt’s Press Statement. Tom Connors.
Does he accept this rebuttal by the Press Secretary of a colleague Minister in another place of information given to him as Deputy Prime Minister? If so, what explanation can he offer this House?
– I did see the matter referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. The conclusion that I reach from it is that like the honourable gentleman I am certainly not perfect.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that Pioneer Tourist Coaches Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries, is the only passenger bus operator permitted to transport passengers between Sydney and the Australian Capital Territory? If so, who is responsible for this restrictive practice and what can be done to give Reg Ansett - a champion of free enterprise - a little more competition in this industry?
– I understand that Pioneer Tourist Coaches Pty Ltd, which is a fully owned subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries, has a monopoly of the Sydney to Canberra bus services-
– That is the way it would like to have it with the airways.
– That is the way it would like to have it, but it cannot. My understanding of the position is that on interstate transport no licensing is necessary. I was of the impression that the Australian Capital Territory was in a similar category to the States but I have since found out from my inquiries into this matter that the High Court in the past has ruled that the ACT is not a State and therefore the protection of section 92 of the Constitution does not prevail. So the New South Wales Government’s policy of granting only one licence is paramount and we can do nothing about it. We could issue a licence for travel to the border of the ACT but that licence would have no effect in New South Wales. I think it is about time the NSW Government provided some competition on the Sydney to Canberra run and treated it as an interstate journey, permitting free and open competition, which Ansett always espouses and which that Government allegedly supports.
– My question is addressed to either the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Secondary Industry or the Minister for Overseas Trade, whoever is the appropriate Minister. I would like to have the demarcation dispute resolved by the Minister who answers the question. What ship construction orders will be placed and when will these be placed to ensure the continuance of employment in the shipbuilding industry in Maryborough in the electorate of Wide Bay and thus ensure the viability of this town as a centre for decentralised growth?
– It is perfectly true that an order was placed with the Williamstown naval dockyard for the construction of a ship which I believe would normally have gone to Maryborough. As a result of representations made to me by the honourable member for Wide Bay and at his invitation I recently visited Maryborough, had a discussion with the management of Walkers Ltd shipyard and received certain assurances from it. The Minister for Defence and myself have had a number of discussions as late as yesterday on this matter and we are hopeful that at a very early date satisfactory orders will be placed with Walkers shipyard so that it can go on with the job of building ships. I give this assurance to Walkers Ltd, to the workers in its employ and to the honourable member for Wide Bay: As far as I am concerned Walkers is one shipyard I certainly do not want to see closed. It is a first class yard which in the past has built very good small ships, and we are hoping that in the future it will continue with that work. The problem that was created was the result of its tendering on the basis of dividing its overhead charges between 2 jobs. Because of the transfer of the order to another yard those overhead charges would have been loaded on to one job. As I said, the Minister for Defence and myself are hopeful of having before the end of this week a very satisfactory answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. What is the Australian Government’s involvement in the migrant education program and the catering for latch key children in Brunswick North Primary School in Melbourne and in similar projects in other parts of Australia?
– The Australian Government is involved through the Department of Immigration in the adult education program at the Brunswick North Primary School. It has the administrative control of the Government’s education projects in relation to adult migrants. The Department of Education is involved though in a capacity of giving advice to the Department of Immigration in preparing learning and teaching materials, and it assists with teacher training. It negotiates with particular institutions involved in such a program. Both State and Commonwealth teachers are involved on an hourly employment basis. The projects are in line with the Government’s policy as far as adults are concerned to encourage community involvement in education, in this case the adult migrants themselves.
On the question of the latch key children, I am not certain of any Commonwealth involvement in the Brunswick North Primary School question. The pre-schools commission will be advising the Australian Government on grants that will be applying next year Child care centres are being constructed under arrangements between the Australian Government and various authorities at the present time but I know of none either one way oi the other at North Brunswick. I will have that matter investigated. I might say that this is a project which I wish to visit myself in the near future if I can. The honourable member will be aware that as far as child migrants are concerned we are worried about the fact that the States have no classrooms for the children to be taken to and given special lessons in English, retiring from the normal classrooms. Two million dollars is appropriated towards that end in the current Budget and all-over there is the estimate that $5,250,000 will need to be spent in the next couple of years. However, that is rather a separate question. The question of migrant education is one of my major interests at the moment insofar as each is within my jurisdiction. I want to have a look at the project to which the honourable member refers and see whether there are any additional things that ought to be done by the Commonwealth.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence and is supplementary to the question asked of him by my colleague the honourable member for Barker. The honourable gentleman will be aware of the very serious concern throughout the Defence Services about the marked cutback that has taken place in training activities. Will the honourable gentleman now answer the question from the honourable member for Barker, which he has so far avoided: Will he provide full details of the extent to which the training activities of the 3 Services have been subject to so marked a reduction? Further, in the context of the reduction in the training activity of the Defence Services, is he aware that his reported decision to provide Royal Australian Air Force assistance to the world gliding championships is deeply resented by senior officers as a political misuse of the RAAF? Is he aware that his decision is reported likely to cost between $200,000 and $300,000, that it will lead to a serious disruption to pilot training at Point Cook for more than a month, and will involve some 15 aircraft and 40 to 50 pilots? Will the honourable gentleman provide the details on which his decision on this question was based and assure this House that his decision was not in fact motivated by political considerations?
– In reply to the first part of the question, I indicated to the honourable member for Barker that the matter of cutbacks and a reduction in training activities was still under review. No final decision has been made. Some decisions have been made in relation to a reduction in flying time and also in relation to the sailing time of Royal Australian Navy vessels. These decisions have been made but they are subject to review and indeed they will be reviewed. As soon as I am in a position to provide for the honourable member more precise details of the decisions that have been made and of any review that may be made in relation to these matters I will let the honourable member, and indeed the House, have the information.
The second part of the question related to the world gliding championships. This matter was brought to my attention. A request was made for the Department of Air to provide facilities which would enable the world gliding championships to take place in this country. The first representation was considered by me in conjunction with the Chief of the Air- Staff. At that time it was considered that there were certain difficulties which would prohibit participation by the Royal Australian Air Force in the world gliding championships. This related more particularly to the problems of the Winjeel trainer aircraft. Following that decision I indicated, as a result of the information conveyed to me by the Chief of the Air Staff, that it would in all probability be impracticable for the Royal Australian Air Force to assist. However, I indicated that the Army would provide certain catering facilities.
Naturally, the Government regards the world gliding contest being held in this country as very important in terms of public relations. Certainly as far as my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is concerned, it is a most important event. That information having been conveyed to the people concerned, subsequent representations were made not only from honourable members on the Government side but also, as I understand it, from members of the Opposition. Further information came to me and to the Department of Air from people who I believe were competent to offer some advice as to how the difficulties that had initially been experienced might be overcome. As a result of that, I arranged further consultations with the Chief of the Air Staff and with experts from the world glider championship organisation. Subsequently it was found that the difficulties which initially had been proposed and accepted by the Department of Air could be overcome. No final decision has yet been made. There will be further discussions between the Chief of the Air Staff and the people concerned and I am hopeful that we will be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion by which the Australian Government and the Royal Australian Air Force will be able to participate in what we regard as a major event in Australia, one in which I think most Australian people would want the Australian Government to co-operate and participate.
– In accordance with section 18(6) (a) of the Prices Justification Act I present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal on the price increases for certain iron and steel products proposed by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960-1967, I present the twelfth annual report of the Council of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present a transcript of the minutes of the 15th meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council held at Hobart on Friday, 27 July 1973.
Dr CASS (Maribyrnong - Minister for the
Environment and Conservation) - For the information of honourable members I table copies of 2 letters dated 11 September and 3 October from Mr D. G. Hill, consulting engineer and member of the Lake Pedder Committee of Inquiry, concerning the engineering review of the interim report of the Lake Pedder Committee of Inquiry of June 1973 prepared by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and tabled here on 13 September 1973.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957-1966 I present the annual report of the Commissioner for Police on the operations of the Commonwealth Police Force and a summary of its activities for the year ended 30 June 1973.
World Gliding Championships - National Health Scheme - Air Pollution -War BondsPrivate Nursing Homes - Wheat IndustryKing Island: Dairy Industry - Prices and Incomes Referendum - The ParliamentBrisbane Airport
That grievances be noted.
– Before 1 refer to the matters about which I am concerned in this grievance debate I should like to make passing comment on the answers given by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) a few moments ago in response to questions asked by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and to say how much I personally deplore the run down in Service activities, particularly in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. I make the point that if the Government want to help the world gliding championships - members of the Opposition would approve - surely this should be done through the Department of Civil Aviation, as was done when the previous Government was in power, and not by draining funds away from the Royal Australian Air Force. I heard only this morning that things are in such a serious state in the Navy that in a recent exercise off the Queensland coast the naval vessels involved could use only one screw because the Navy does not have enough money to buy sufficient fuel to enable the running of both engines. The position seems to me to be absolutely deplorable. I trust that the Minister for Defence will have a look at the matter. The time will come when we will have nothing to defend anything with. We will have nothing even to attack locusts.
I wish to refer now to the Government’s proposed national health plan and also the plans of my Party. In particular I wish- to refer to the increasing amount which we hear not only from the Government side but also from journalists who support the Labor Party cause. I believe things have been said which are totally untrue. It has been said that my Party has no positive policies. I wish to compare the Government’s proposed health scheme with our own plans in order to indicate positive and non-positive policies. Our scheme, I believe, is infinitely better than the Government’s scheme will ever be. It is a voluntary scheme and I admit it can be improved. I wish to refer to part of the National Health Act which indicates particular areas where, if my Party had been permitted to stay in government, it would have been able to improve its own scheme. No scheme is perfect; our scheme is nearly perfect. If we can take care of the areas where there has been some disability our own scheme will be perfect. Part of the National Health Act deals with the 3 areas where perhaps our scheme could have been improved. The areas involved are low income earning families, people receiving unemployment, sickness and special benefits and migrants. I do not think it is generally known in the community that those people can be encouraged to take part in voluntary plans such as the one in which the Government will pay the premiums. I admit that to that extent we were neglectful. We did not receive enough information about the areas where there was need and the ways in which improvements could be made.
The big advantage of our scheme and the philosophy of it is that the healthy pay for the sick. It is a voluntary scheme and in spite of what the Minister says more than 96 per cent of the people in this country receive under our existing scheme satisfactory medical and hospital services. The Minister has said time and time again that a million people have no protection. Where are those million people? The figures I have indicate that 83.2 per cent of the Australian community is in voluntary health funds. More than 9 per cent is in the pensioner medical service; 3 per cent is in repatriation services and the defence forces provide medical care for nearly 1 per cent. Those figures indicate that 96.4 per cent of the community is currently receiving the best hospital and medical treatment in the world. The big problem today is that the Minister for Social Security has succeeded in getting public debate about the health scheme into the area of doctors’ fees. I say that the proposed scheme has nothing to do with doctors’ fees. I admit that when we were in government this was an area where we had not completely arrived at a satisfactory solution, but we were getting to that situation.
I see no reason to destroy a first class scheme and replace it with a doctrinaire socialist policy. Let us look at the deficiencies of the scheme. The Minister continues to denigrate the medical profession and to engage it in public debate. I think we should be drawing attention to where the real deficiencies will exist in the Government scheme if it is ever introduced. I refer to the cost of going to hospital and of paying the premiums. I have some figures which indicate the cost to persons who are unfortunate enough to go to hospital under the Government scheme which is proposed to be introduced on 1 July next year. I suggest it will be quite impossible for the scheme to function from that date. The figures for South Australia, which is the State that I know best, indicate that approximately 70 per cent of persons who go to hospital go to private hospitals. I think that percentage varies from State to State. It could be even higher in Victoria. In South Australia the cost of a bed in a public hospital such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or hospitals in Mount Gambier or other country areas is $20 a day. Therefore a bed in a public hospital costs $140 a week. Under the Labor Party compulsory tax finance scheme the maximum Government contribution will be $13 a day, which is $91 a week. 1 wonder whether the Australians realise that when this so-called free scheme comes in it will cost a person who enters a public ward in, say, the Royal Adelaide Hospital $49 a week over and above what it will cost to join the scheme. A share room in such a hospital will cost $84 a week over and above what it will cost to join the scheme. Patients will not have any choice. It is a compulsory scheme. A private room in a public hospital will cost $119 over and above the fee to join the scheme. I think this is of some concern particularly to women who will enter hospital to be confined. Two things will happen, quite apart from having a baby. First, the women will have no choice of doctor. The only choice they will have will be whether they enter a public hospital or a private hospital. A private room in a public hospital will cost them $119 a week. A private room in a private hospital will cost $189 a week. Those fees will be paid by the patient direct to the hospital after receiving the Government subsidy. On top of that cost is the cost of joining the scheme. I repeat that it will be compulsory to join the scheme. Nobody will have any choice. A single person on a salary of $100 a week on present plans will be paying $28.60 a year to join a fund. In return nearly all of the costs of hospitalisation will be refunded.
Under the Government’s scheme a single person earning $100 a week will pay $62.52 a year for the privilege of so-called free medicine. On top of that he will be facing some of the cost of hospitalisation. It is very bad news for a single person. He will pay more than double what he pays now in contributions and he will pay a great deal more to go to hospital. The same position will apply to working wives. There are thousands of 2-children families in the community in which both parents are working. At present they pay $61.88 a year. Under the free Government scheme they will pay $96.20 a year.
– What is their income?
– The income is $100 a week; I appreciate the interjection. Assuming that the wife’s average income is $60 a week she and her husband will pay nearly $100 a year to be part of the Labor Party’s so-called free health fund. On top of that they will have to pay the hospital costs.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The subject I wish to bring to the notice of the House in this grievance debate is air pollution control. It is coincidental that today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ carried a heading on page 11: Air pollution in major New South Wales cities too high’. That heading arose out of the tabling in the New South Wales Parliament yesterday of the 1972-73 report of the Air Pollution Advisory Committee by the Minister for Health, the Honourable H. Jago. The report states that the major cities of New South Wales had average air pollution levels exceeding those already offered by the World Health Organisation as long term goals.
In a time of doomsday prophets it has become customary to expect a continuous deterioration in the quality of our environment. Consequently when one is able to report that there is somewhere at least where a few certain aspects of the environment have improved there are many cynics who would comment that such a thing is unlikely, if not impossible. One famous example of such an improvement is the air of London and the quality of the water in the River Thames. Another example is the air of the city of Pittsburgh, United States of America. One example in Australia is the air of my own home city of Newcastle. I would like to relate briefly what has been achieved there. It is all the more impressive because it has been a local operation originated by the people of Newcastle and its Council with the support of local industry and with only minimal help from the governments of New South Wales and Australia. At the same time, I emphasise that there is much to be done and that more money must flow from the Australian Government to enable the situation to improve further in Newcastle and to help to arrest the alarming decline in the quality of air in our major cities.
One section of the new 14 point environment platform of the Australian Labor Party, which was approved at its 1973 Federal Conference at Surfers Paradise, is ‘regulate toxic or indestructible materials by the development of standards for ambient air quality, water quality, ocean release of materials and the land disposal of solid and liquid waste and by the development of integrated programs at all levels of government under the leadership of the Australian Government’. The platform item identifies the importance of the development of an adequate monitoring system for air quality in Australia. I will return to that subject in a moment.
Meanwhile, what is Newcastle’s record? Newcastle in 1947 when our air pollution monitoring began under the supervision of the Smoke Abatement Panel of Newcastle City Council was a dirty and grimy city. Many people from other parts of Australia think that it still is. It is a reputation that Newcastle does not now deserve. I am informed that Newcastle is now the cleanest industrial city in the world. In 1947 the monthly average dust deposit was 94 tons per square mile. By 1972 it was down to 12.15 tons per square mile. The smoke haze in 1957 at City Hall was 2.6 haze units per 1,000 linear feet. In 1971 the figure had dropped to 0.9 haze units per 1,000 linear feet. These are just a few figures on the subject but behind them is a story of dedication and co-operation on restricted and tight budgets.
The story commenced 26 years ago when Newcastle City Council decided to establish its pioneer Smoke Abatement Advisory Panel and invited experts to join in its deliberations. This action was many years ahead of that proposed by any other city in Australia. In fact, the work carried out by Newcastle City Council has been detailed in its publication ‘Air Pollution Monitoring, Newcastle 1951-1971’ which has become a most useful reference work on air pollution control.
At this stage I pay tribute to the dedication of the staff and officers of the Newcastle City Council who have been associated with the activities of its Health Division in the long struggle to improve the quality of air in Newcastle. In many ways, the story of the improvement of air pollution control in Newcastle symbolises many of our real environmental problems. Progress will be made only by hard work and by the use of good technology. Progress in overcoming such problems will not be glamorous. The manifestation of environmental problems might grab the headlines whereas the slow work to rectify them seldom gains attention.
Having shown the improvement in air quality that has taken place in the past 26 years in Newcastle, I turn now to one of the few major sources of visual pollution remaining on the Newcastle scene. I refer to the ferro alloy plant operated by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Port Waratah. Whilst I commend the company on its activities in regard to antipollution control measures taken in respect of other plant, the history of the operation of the ferro alloy plant and the latitude extended by the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Jago, to that company through the Clean Air Branch must cause concern. This plant, constructed in 1941, emits thousands of tons of fine metallic dust into the air over Newcastle every year and has the permission of the New South Wales Department of Health to do so. Repeatedly the company has been granted a ‘temporary’ exemption from the provisions of the Clean Air Act 1961. Without those exemptions it would face prosecution and possible daily fines for each day that it continues to operate the plant.
Having in mind that the New South Wales Clean Air Act came into operation 12 years ago and that polluting industries were given a 5-year period in which to comply with its provisions, since 1969 the Newcastle City Council has sought definitive action from the BHP Co. and the New South Wales Department of Health to control the emissions of the plant. Following further requests from the Council through 1971 and 1972, in the course of which the technological difficulties faced by the company in obtaining suitable air pollution control equipment were pointed out, advice was received from the company in July 1972 that it had been granted an extension of time until 30 September 1972 to submit firm plans to the Minister to fit fume collection equipment to the ferro alloy plant to control the emissions.
However, a further exemption was granted and, by letter of 24 July 1973, the then acting Minister for Environmental Control in New South Wales, Mr Lewis, advised that he had been informed by the Minister for Health, Mr Jago, that the company had informed the Health Commission that it would not install air pollution control equipment on the obsolete plant and that, if required to do so, it would close the ferro alloy plant. He went on to point out the technical difficulties associated with conversion of the existing plant and stated that the company would be allowed to continue to operate the plant until June 1974. On receipt of this advice, the Council resolved on 7 August 1973 to inform the Minister for Health: . . that the report be received and the Minister for Health be advised that the Council strongly disapproves of his allowing the plant to continue to pollute without control until June 1974, having regard to the time which has elapsed since the promulgation of the Clean Air Act in 1961.
The Minister has ignored Council’s requests and has virtually given BHP unlimited permission to continue use of the present polluting ferro alloy plant.
Whilst I appreciate that there have been difficult technical problems in designing effective emission control equipment and that BHP has expended large sums in installation of other anti-pollution equipment at its Newcastle plant generally, the continued operation of the ferro alloy plant is a major source of visual pollution in Newcastle. Proper control of its emissions would result in a further dramatic improvement in the air quality of the city. I believe that the installation of control equipment is a matter of urgency for the sake of the citizens of Newcastle and that Mr Jago should take a much more vigorous line with the company. The longer the installation is delayed, the greater the savings in private cost to the company but the greater the social cost to the people of the area in terms of poorer visibility and air pollution and possible illness. After all, 32 years of operation for any plant is a long time. The company ought not to be adopting the attitude that ‘if we do not get further exemptions we will close the plant down and about 70 men will be displaced’. Surely the City of Newcastle has waited and suffered long enough?
Having referred to the problems associated with the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. ferro alloy plant and the additional improvements that would follow effective control of its emissions, I emphasise again the progress which has been made in the reduction of air pollution in Newcastle since 1947. It is one of the cleanest heavy industry centres in the world and is certainly much cleaner than comparable centres in Australia. It does not deserve the reputation of being a dirty, smoke-affected city. I challenge any such criticism.
Elsewhere in Australia other problems of air pollution continue to exist. Despite a regulation in some States which allows only the use of industrial fuel oils containing a maximum of 1 per cent sulphur, air borne sulphur dioxide and sulphur trioxide still represent a potential danger to people. If they continue to increase, they might cause many respiratory diseases. My attention was drawn to a Press report this week which detailed the imposition of a $1,000 fine on a Geelong company for the emission of a high quantity of sulphur dioxide on a day on which there was a temperature inversion layer over the area and which resulted in 14 children and 3 adults being affected.
We solve some problems, but other related problems remain or even get worse. That is the message of most of our environmental problems. We need to be vigilant and to think in a total planning framework if we are to deal with such complex and interconnected problems. Above all, we must recognise the very limits of the natural systems, the air sheds and water sheds which we are using to our advantage. We must plan and locate our industries recognising these limits. This will require a great deal of basic research and good monitoring. If we do not, we will lose all.
- Mr Speaker, the question before the House is that grievances be noted. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) will note my grievances because for almost 3 years I have pursued this matter.
– He is not even here.
– I have notified him but he is conferring with Premiers.
– I trust that his officers will draw his attention -
– I do not want to waste my time.
– Order! This point should be cleared up. The honourable member for Barker knows that the Treasurer is at a Premiers Conference.
– Yes. I am sorry that time has been wasted. I was about to say that 1 notified the Treasurer and I know that what you say, Mr Speaker, is so. I trust that his officers will draw his attention to what I say as it is reported in Hansard.
For over 2 years I have sought redress for a grievance of one of my constituents by means of letters to 2 Treasurers from time to time, by conferences with officials and by every other means. Now I come before this place which is supposed to be the place where grievances are redressed. That it has long since ceased to be. The best way in which 1 can state the facts of this matter is to read a summary which I put to the then Treasurer on 23 August 1972 and put before the present Treasurer later. This is the way my letter ran:
I wish to make representations for an ex-gratia payment to my constituent Mr G. W. Henry, 14 Lord Street, Roseville.
The sum involved would amount to about £30 invested in war loan in 1917 with compound interest at the average rates prevailing for government loans over the intervening years - a sum amounting, on my calculation, to approximately £500-
Or $1,000- at the present time and ignoring the decline in the real value of money over the past 50 years or so.
I enclose the whole of my file on the matter, supporting the following brief statement of the case:
Henry was a member of the AIF in France in 1917 and invested, under a scheme promoted by the Treasury, the sum of £30 in Australian war loan. The evidence that he did so appears from his Army pay book and certain official letters-
Photocopies of these letters were sent to the Treasurer. I said in the letter that the fact that he made such an investment had not been contested by the Treasury. I went on to say:
Now of course an old man, he says that in putting his affairs in order he came upon some relics of his World War I experience, including his Army pay book, and this recalled to his mind the fact that he had made his investment of £30 in war bonds 50 years ago. He immediately inquired of the Treasury whether they had a record of the transaction and was informed by them that, since it had occurred over 50 years ago, a record was unavailable’.
He then contacted his solicitor ….
The matter was then put before the Treasury. I went on to say:
The Treasury referred the matter to the Reserve Bank, which informed my constituent’s solicitor that no trace of any security, in Mr Henry’s name has been found’.
At this point my constituent brought the matter to my notice and I wrote to the Treasurer stating that it was ‘not his fault that the government machine …. failed to process the transaction correctly, or to record it or to preserve the record’.
My constituent, on the other hand had made, and submitted to the Treasury, a sworn statement to the effect that he had never received repayment of the loan nor any interest on it.
I have here a copy of a sworn statement in which the relevant paragraph is this:
I did not return to Australia until the year 1920.
He then referred to the receipt of certain letters while he was on service overseas and went on to say:
I have never heard further from any authority regarding my said loan nor did I ever receive any interest thereon, nor has the sum of £30.0.0 or any part thereof ever been repaid to me.
I remind honourable members that this was a sworn statement. In reply to this the Treasurer drew attention to a statement appearing in my constituent’s pay history card, as it is called in the Army, held by Southern Command pay office of the Army, as follows:
That is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia - claim No. R75826, payment by bonds approved’ and surmised that this entry ‘could indicate that he used the bonds to meet a claim for £30.’
This was absolute nonsense. It appeared in the remarks column and could not possibly have indicated a repayment. What it did mean, I believe, was simply that so far as the Army was concerned it acknowledged that they had received money for bonds and that Mr Henry was entitled to receive it from the appropriate authority dealing with bonds. My letter continued:
The Treasurer’s explanation is as cryptic as the entry. Nevertheless, he concluded ‘the evidence before me does not establish that the amount has not already been repaid’. To which my constituent responded ‘if that was the case, the claim would have been entered in my pay book in red ink’, and not in the Remarks Column.
At my request, the Treasurer then made available two officers of the Reserve Bank (Mr Leighton and Mr Thomas)’ to discuss the whole matter with my constituent, his solicitor and myself. The upshot of this conference was summarised by me in my subsequent letter to the Treasurer in these words: Their case simply is that their records were destroyed only when a transaction has been completed. Therefore they conclude that the bonds in question must have been redeemed*. I went on to say: ‘My constituent is adamant - and I believe him implicitly - that, if they were redeemed, it was not by him or on his behalf.
At my request, the Minister for the Army also made available two officers from the Army Pay Office (Mr Barnsley and Mr Pope) to discuss with my constitutent, his solicitor and myself relevant procedures at the Army headquarters at Horseferry Road, London, and the Minister subsequently wrote to me as follows: ‘Because of the service conditions u’n France arrangements were made to hold at Horseferry Road the receipts for amounts invested in War Loans until these were required by the soldiers concerned . . . Subsequently occurrences would only appear in the records of the Bank.’
Then I said - and let me emphasise that I made these remarks with irony:
Perhaps soldiers -would remember to apply for their receipts at Horseferry Road - again I emphasise that this was ironical - if they were not killed, or forgot, or ever reached the London headquarters, and perhaps they presented the receipts and obtained their bonds in exchange at the office of the Commonwealth (Reserve) Bank in London or Sydney or Melbourne or wherever. And perhaps their identity was carefully checked at Horseferry Road and at the office of the Commonwealth (Reserve) Bank in London or elsewhere and perhaps no official was ever careless or dishonest.
I must repeat again that the whole of that paragraph is highly ironical. I went on to say:
But if the investment were small, many soldiers must have forgotten to collect their bonds, and many others must have been killed and been unable to collect them. Is it absolutely impossible that some dishonest officials by collusion profited from this situation?
The fact is that there is now no evidence to prove or disprove what may have happened in the conditions of World War I. The stark difference is this: Treasury and Army claim without being able to produce the proof- excusable perhaps after SO years, but a fact - that they must have been infallible. On the other hand, a citizen of clear mind and understanding makes a sworn statement that he never received or redeemed his bonds for a trifling investment in 1917 in circumstances that lend complete credibility to his evidence. Yet he is regarded as a perjurer.
I am absolutely convinced that his memory is clear and that he is telling the truth. Otherwise, I would not have spent hours seeking justice for him.
I am informed that the only way open to do this is through an ex-gratia payment, and accordingly I ask that this be approved.
I received a reply finally from the present Treasurer. He said: it is accepted that Mr Henry paid £30 towards a war bond in 1917, but, taking into account the information that has already been passed to you-
And I have mentioned all this -
It cannot be accepted that he did not receive the bond or some consideration for it.
Honourable members will notice that the Treasurer said that it cannot be accepted that he did not receive the bond. The onus is on him, apparently, according to the Treasury. The Treasurer went on to say:
Whilst in no way doubting Mr Henry’s good faith, in all the circumstances and in the absence of evidence to support his claim that the bond was not redeemed, I regret that I must conclude that I would not be justified in authorising a payment based solely on memories going back over so many years.
So he is a perjurer or he just forgot. I have a letter from Mr Henry in which he says:
I was discharged at St Kilda Road Barracks on 22 May ‘1920 and received my gratuity which was paid into the State Savings Bank, Melbourne.
It had been suggested by the Treasurer that he should have received payment of his war bonds at the time he received his gratuity. He went on to say:
I wish to state that I have never received the bond nor any moneys in lieu thereof.
This is a case in which a constituent is rubbished as a liar and a perjurer despite the circumstances that I have set out. I believe that this is a grievance that should be brought to the notice of this House and to the notice of the public so far as Hansard is read by anybody.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take the opportunity this morning to refer to a matter which has been of grave concern to me in recent weeks and which I am sure has concerned equally other members of this House. I refer to the problem, particularly in the Brisbane area, of the forced closure of a number of private nursing homes. I took the opportunity recently to raise this matter during question time when I asked the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to clarify the situation in regard to Press publicity that was being given at that time to the closure of the Lynfield private nursing home at Wynnum in my electorate. The publicity in the Press was a reflection on the Minister and on this Government in that it suggested that because of the actions of this Government these nursing homes were closing. The Minister in answer to my question, as I expected he would be able to do, exposed the true reason for these closures. The reason was adverse fire brigade reports over a number of years in regard to numerous nursing homes, most of which were of timber construction. Most of the buildings originally had been used as private dwellings and had been converted over a period of time to accommodate the aged ‘and infirm. Many of the buildings had been enlarged with timber additions. The majority of those buildings were never at any time intended to be used for this type of accommodation.
The Minister was able to show that fire brigade reports which were presented, in some instances as far back as 3 years, advised the State Government of Queensland that many nursing homes were high fire risks and consequently required fire prevention devices to be installed in them. The owners of the homes were notified that the State Government would require them to commence operations for rebuilding or face closure within a period of 3 years. As the Minister explained to me and to the House, the reason why these homes are now closing is that for various reasons the owners have decided not to replace the existing building in order to provide adequate accommodation. Instead of rebuilding they have decided to close. The owners of many of these premises began by establishing nursing homes to care for a few people and gradually enlarged them to increase the number that they could accommodate. They did this because of their concern for the aged people who had nowhere else to go.
The position in Queensland is that not since ‘the war has the Queensland Government provided accommodation of this kind. This applies to the Labor governments that were in power in that State for a number of years and also in recent years, to the Country Party-Liberal Party Government. Since the transfer of the people from Dunwich on Stradbroke Island to the Eventide home at Sandgate in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) no action was taken until in recent months a new home was constructed at Wynnum West, which is in my electorate. But over that period those governments, and the Federal Government also over a number of years, shirked their responsibilities in regard to providing accommodation for aged people. In many instances this responsibility has been taken up by nursing sisters who were prepared to establish small homes to accommodate these people and to provide the care and attention that they required but which the Federal and State governments had refused to provide. Recently the Federal Government saw a need to provide some financial assistance to nursing homes by way of subsidies and was forced to do this because of public opinion. But now the profiteers have moved into the nursing home business. Many of the new ones which have been built in Brisbane in recent years have been constructed by companies, for the most part representing doctors in various areas who have formed themselves into groups. Their interest in establishing nursing homes certainly is not based on concern that they have for the people. Rather, they see it as a golden opportunity to exploit the people and to make a profit for themselves.
I want now to refer again to the question I asked of the Minister for Social Security. My purpose in raising this matter this morning is to remind the House that once again the Queensland Government has failed to respond to the initiative of the Australian Government, as has happened on other occasions. This Government has offered assistance to the Queensland Government in an attempt to overcome the difficulties which both should face and for which both should be equally responsible. In July the Minister for Social Security offered the Queensland Minister for Health a government grant amounting to $1.2m on a $1 for $1 basis. If that offer is taken up it will result in $2. 4m being available immediately for the purchase of suitable accommodation or for the construction immediately of alternative accommodation for those people who are faced with the problem of finding other accommodation because the homes in which they are accommodated at present are closing. I refer, for instance, to the Lynfield convalescent home which is to be closed and the closure a few weeks ago of the Bayview convalescent home at Wellington Point also in my electorate. Other nursing homes in the Brisbane area will close in the next few months.
It was disclosed by the Minister for Social Security a couple of months ago ‘that some 400 patients in homes are in need of alternative accommodation and will have to find it within the next 12 to 18 months due to the failure of the State Government to provide alternative accommodation. I say that it is the failure of the State Government to provide this alternative accommodation because it was on behalf of a State Government authority that the fire brigade reports were prepared and also because the State Government has been responsible for the issue of licences to these homes to enable them to operate as nursing homes. Surely the State Government cannot shirk its responsibility to provide accommodation for these people and force them to continue to live in nursing homes which, as I am sure all honourable members will agree, are not adequate for them. Because they are high fire risks they must be replaced as a matter of urgency.
The initiative was taken by this Government through the announcement of the Minister late in July when he offered a grant of $1.2m to the Queensland Government. I understand that so far the Queensland Government has failed to respond to that offer. The Queensland Minister for Health continues to ignore the danger to these people. Once again he is playing politics. He does not see the value of the offer which has been made by this Government. He has not been prepared to show that he is concerned for the welfare of these people. He has ignored the offer by the Federal Government. I appeal to him now, before more nursing homes are forced to close, to accept this offer of financial assistance before it is too late. One can well appreciate the grave problems faced by people who have become used to the life they lead in these homes when they or their relatives, if they are fortunate enough to have relatives to assist them in coping with their problems, suddenly find that they are forced to seek alternative accommodation. I appeal to the State Minister for Health to cast aside the political considerations which so far have caused him to reject or refuse to accept the offer of this Government and to see the offer for what it is worth. I appeal to him to cooperate with this Government to provide the $1.2m from State Government finances and to move quickly to secure adequate alternative accommodation for these poor unfortunate people whom today he continues to ignore. He is shirking his responsibility in this matter.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) never ceases to amaze me. Members of the present Government when in Opposition always blamed the Commonwealth Government for not looking after nursing homes. As soon as this Government took office it blamed the States. I suggest to the honourable member that his time would be much better spent in trying to solve some of the industrial disputes which are holding up the supply of such things as nails and other building materials. If this were done the Queensland Government would be able to build homes.
Today I wish to draw to the attention of the House some matters which are causing much resentment among many people. People are angry and disturbed at the rejection by the Labor Cabinet of the wheat industry’s request for a Commonwealth contribution of Sim, backed by $500,000 from the States and $500,000 from the wheat industry, for the purposes of research into live insect control on grain and protection from cross infestation from grain in flour mills, provender mills, stores, and such produce as the humble pound of rice held in corner grocery stores.
– The Government promised it.
– The honourable member for Wimmera is quite correct. I thank him for his contribution and I will develop his line of argument further because it coincides with my own. The export regulations stipulate that there be a nil tolerance of insects, moths and weevils, in all grain exported. Indeed, Australia and Australia’s farming community have a reputation for cleanliness and hygiene in this regard which places Australia in the forefront of world exporters. Today I pay tribute to the officers of the Australian Wheat Board, the. various State handling authorities and their employees, for their meticulous attention to detail in carrying out their duties. But the vast amount of money expended by them can come to nought if their efforts are to be frustrated by cross infestation from the enterprises I referred to earlier. The cost to the Australian Wheat Board of fumigation for insect control last year was $1,222,911, or 0.434c a bushel. An analysis of the figures will show that there has been a disturbing increase in costs in later years.
There is an alarming situation in the grain industry because of the breakdown of malathion which up to the present time has been widely and successfully used as a grain protectant. Based on a phosphorus compound, malathion has been successful in minimising and controlling live insect damage. Unfortuately there is no other protectant in the pipeline to take its place so the industry, alive as always as to its responsibilities, believes it to be imperative to practise hygiene on the farm, in industry and in shops for the purpose of minimising cross infestation.
The industry agreed to a suggestion by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) - we congratulate him on his initiative in bringing the matter up at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council - that there be an involvement by the Commonwealth with the State governments and the wheat industry for the purpose of having premises capable of cross infestation kept free of insects. It was to be a two-pronged attack - the grain handling authorities keeping their storages clean, treating the grain on receival and adopting good housekeeping techniques, as they do at present, with their efforts supplemented by Government help and participation in areas causing cross infestation. This was a reasonable proposition. After all, no one would expect the farmer to keep the corner store and the flour and provender mill premises clean. As I said earlier, this scheme had the approval of the Minister for Primary Industry. In fact, although there was a working committee from New South Wales analysing the position, the Minister planted the idea in the minds of members of the Agricultural Council. They took up the challenge and industry also appreciated the point of view put to it. The industry realised that it was essential to keep grain free of insects in order to maintain our reputation for top quality produce.
This is a serious problem and, as stated previously, once malathion breaks down the industry will be in chaos so far as controlling insects is concerned. Much research is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation into grain storage and, incidentally, the industry contributes some $340,000 a year to help research programs initiated and being carried out by that body. But in the prevailing circumstances the best plan of attack is to destroy conditions amenable to the buildup of infestation, thus keeping grain storages insulated from infestation from outside hot bodies.
The Minister appeared to be eager to get things done but he has got everything into a mess. Obviously Cabinet refused to listen to him and to the honourable, member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The tragedy of this is that one of our great export industries will be placed in a difficult position. I am thinking particularly of the long term when, as inevitably as night follows day, the world’s market places will be controlled by the buyer, and produce no longer will be brought but must be sold. Drastic action has been taken against rural industry by the Federal Government. It appears to me that Labor members who represent rural areas thought, in their enthusiasm after their election, no doubt in moments of dreams and journeys into fantasy land, that they would be pioneers in search of land to clear. All that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has given them to tend is a small kitchen garden. The Prime Minister might think it is good to follow the global swirl of high policy but let him remember that Australia still depends upon primary produce to keep it viable. I lay down the challenge to him that the Country Party will fight against the devilry at present ranged against rural producers by the Labor administration.
I bring to the attention of the House as an example of this devilry the savage increases imposed by the Federal Labor Government on the overdraft advances made to the Australian Wheat Board. For years the Australian Wheat Board has operated on an overdraft account which allows farmers to receive a first advance to help them pay their bills and to help keep local business people in business. The Rural Credit Branch of the Reserve Bank has made money available and it is paid back when payments for wheat sold are received. The previous rate of interest was 5 per cent but this Labor Government has increased it to 7 per cent. I want to know where Labor members who represent rural areas stand in regard to this matter. It is all right for them to say that the first advance has been increased by 10c a bushel but the net result of this savage increase in interest rates will downgrade the return to the average farmer by upwards of 6c a bushel.
– Where is Mr Grassby now?
– Mr Grassby comes in here and talks a lot but when he should be counted the golden voice remains silent. To make matters worse, the interest rate on Government backed loans to the Australian Wheat Board which are to be redeemed by 31 March, following the crop year, has been increased from 5i per cent to 7i per cent.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to refer to the dairying industry on King Island and to request the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wreidt) to send some of his departmental officers to the island to study the position at first hand. I realise that departmental officers were in Hobart recently for discussions with the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture and with industry representatives. But King Island is in a special problem area. I appeal to the Minister for an on the spot investigation of the problems. Some Department of Primary Industry officers have been to the island but I ask for an in depth study of the whole problem affecting dairy farmers in this area. In this regard I refer to statements made by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation on behalf of the island. This island is situated in the western entrance to Bass Strait about half way between Tasmania and Victoria and supports a population of about 3,000 people.
The Tasmanian Farmers Federation points out that following the Federal Government’s decision to phase out the dairy bounty over the next 3 years the Minister for Primary Industry has suggested that special assistance may be given to dairy farmers to make their units a more productive and profitable enterprise. Furthermore he indicated that funds would be made available to make the dairy industry a more viable national industry. For individual dairy farmers he said that money would be made available to convert cream producers to whole milk production. While the Government has not given precise details of its intentions in this direction it is assumed that funds will be available for farmers to install refrigerated milk vats and other necessary specialised equipment required for whole milk production.
The Federation also pointed out that the Minister said that additional funds would be made available for the marginal dairy farmer reconstruction scheme. Presumably these funds would be designed to assist dairy farmers into some other form of production such as beef or wool or to assist dairy farmers to leave the industry entirely. The Minister has also said that the Australian Dairy Board would be restructured to make it a more effective marketing organisation. This apparently is being done on the assumption that if more profitable long-term markets can be established for Australian dairy products these will have a stabilising effect on the entire national industry.
The TFF points out that while these measures announced by the Minister may have some effect in improving the economic stability and efficiency of the Australian dairying industry, there are pockets of dairying in Australia that will not be effectively assisted by the measures already announced, and one of these areas is King Island. King Island is ideal for dairying because of its climatic conditions. It can produce up to 250 lb of butterfat to the acre and this, as others interested in primary production will agree, is a higher yield per acre than some of the traditional dairying districts in Australia. At the peak o. the war service land settlement on the Island there were about 200 dairy farmers there. Now this number has been reduced to 75. Under the conditions of war service land settlement these dairy farmers were restricted to approximately 220 acres. If these dairy farmers have to diversify into beef production or some other form of primary industry I cannot see how they will be able to do it because of the limitation of the area of their properties. The 75 dairy farmers oh the Island send their cream to a co-operative butter factory which produces about 750 tons a year. The Minister could best assist by providing finance to bring this factory up to export standards to ensure an outlet for the products it is producing.
The TFF emphasises that the co-operative cannot convert into some form of whole milk production because this would be far beyond the financial resources of the co-operative. There may be other solutions to this problem but I do not think that it can be solved either in Canberra or in Hobart. I repeat my request to the Minister for an on the spot investigation and I ask that departmental officers visit the Island. It has become one of the problem areas with the phasing out of the dairy subsidy. I do not want just a visit by some officers who speak only to somebody in charge of the co-operative. What II seek, as I said before, is an in depth study into the whole matter. This study is important now because an application has been made for Commonwealth financial assistance for the establishment of a cheese factory. Some people on the Island favour this proposal and others do not. There is a divergence of opinion as to whether they should continue to support the present butter factory or change over to whole milk production and the operation of a cheese factory.
I think it is time the Minister or the departmental officers and all the technical staff available to him from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and so on, were able to conduct a study in this area. It is a problem area deserving of attention. The people on the Island are both the old traditional settlers and those who have settled since World War II. They are taxpayers of this Commonwealth and they are entitled to a fair go. On the mainland of Tasmania it is not economic for some dairy fanners to continue to produce cream for butter at the 36c a lb being paid for butterfat as against the 49c a lb being paid for fat in whole milk. But some of these farmers who want to change to whole milk production will have to receive Government assistance and I have asked the Minister for this.
I refer again to the submission toy the Tasmanian Farmers Federation which indicates that the Minister has stated that it is his intention to investigate this matter and that some money will be made available to help to convert cream producers to whole milk production. I have suggested to the Minister on behalf of a group of farmers at Circular Head in the far north-west of Tasmania that he should make availabe to them a grant of $3,000 to $4,000, depending on circumstances, to enable the farmers to install the necessary vat, the cooler and the access roads required for the tanker to call. These requests are under consideration. If the farmers have to diversify because of the Government’s actions, Government financial assistance must be made available. I hope that an announcement on this matter will soon be made. The Jersey Cattle Club in Tasmania has also submitted some worthwhile suggestions to assist the industry and those affected by the phasing out of the dairy subsidy. I hope that the Minister is giving consideration, through his Department, to the proposals put up by the Jersey Cattle Club and that some announcement will be made on those proposals.
I turn again to King Island. In the few minutes available to me I want to advise the House that a bright spot for the islanders is the fact that thanks to the efforts of the Tasmanian Transport Commission the vessel Straitsman’ has re-entered the trade and King Island now has a weekly shipping service with Melbourne and Tasmania. The Federal Government has assisted to the extent of making additional loan funds available to the Tasmanian Government so that the Transport Commission could buy the ‘Straitsman’. During the months that the ‘Straitsman’ was tied up the Tasmanian Transport Commission did a most commendable job in lifting stock from King Island to Victoria with the ‘Joseph Banks’. I pay the highest possible tribute to the people in the Tasmanian Transport Commission such as Captain Maddox and others who saw that this service was carried through. However, the improvised service is not to be compared with the regular weekly services that the ‘Straitsman’ now gives.
I should like to give just one example of the value of the service. One of the most sought after trophies for livestock in the various States is the Buchanan trophy for Angus cattle. This is competed for on a points basis at various agricultural shows and thanks to the ‘Straitsman’ one of the leading cattle producers on King Island, Mr Peter Snodgrass, was able to take his cattle to the Burnie Show last weekend. He has tried for 3 years to get his cattle to the Burnie Show, but as Mr Snodgrass said, now it is so easy. It is only 6 hours steaming time from King Island to Stanley. It is wonderful to know that the shipping between King Island and the mainland of Tasmania and Victoria has been restored on a regular weekly basis. The islanders have a wonderful service to transport their stock between the island and the markets in Melbourne. The normal shipping service to the mainland of Tasmania has also been restored. This service of course now provides a flow of stock from the Island. As I have said in this House before, King Island is one of the best stock producing areas in the whole of Australia. The grass seems to grow all year round. It has a wonderful climate. This is evidenced by the win of Mr Peter Snodgrass last weekend. That shows that the stock was the best in Australia. He has won the Buchanan trophy on 3 occasions and this indicates the high standard of the stock that comes from the island.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct my remarks to some of the implications of the prices and incomes referenda, but before doing so I would like to take the opportunity of making my own personal position clear in regard to certain matters of wages and hours. For many years I have been an advocate of the highest possible wages that could economically be paid, and for many years I have also been an advocate of the shortest working period that was consonant with the maintenance of our economy. I might recall to the House that some 30 years ago I advocated, and I still advocate, the better use of increased leisure time. I spoke then of the long week-end as an alternative to shortening the daily hours of work, and this is now becoming a possibility with the idea of a 4-day week and changes of that character. I actually appeared before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in an inquiry into this matter, I think some 25 years ago, advocating that in place of shortening the daily hours of work we should consider giving more holidays, perhaps a 4-day working week, the long week-end and things of that character.
I place myself on the side of those who take the most liberal view in this matter, but I do not believe that at the present moment we can envisage either shortening hours or increasing wages because of the extreme inflationary situation in which we are placed and which is, I think, one of the most dangerous things that any economy can face. If I might use a simile, it seems to me that the Australian economy is rapidly getting out of control like a car careering down a hill. One certainly would not want to apply the brakes to an extent that a skid would be caused, but on the other hand it would be irresponsible under these circumstances to put one’s foot fiat down on the accelerator. At the present moment therefore I feel, and I am sure all people of reasonable responsibility will agree with me, that this is the time for restraint. That is a short term policy. Over a longer term I am in favour of the raising of the real wage and not only decreasing hours of work but - I think this is even more important - also using the increased leisure time coupled together in the form of extra holidays, long week-ends or something of that nature and not dissipated simply in a few minutes off in each day of work. This is something I have consistently advocated for some 30 years.
I come to something that occurred in the House yesterday. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in answer to a question, I think behaved in a way which evaded the issue. I want to put it squarely on the line. The Prime Minister at his Press conference the previous day - and I have a verbatim report of that conference - said that if the referenda were carried and if he got new powers over prices and incomes he would apply to non-wage incomes the principles that were already applied to wage incomes, and he spoke of bringing them before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I quoted his exact words to the House when I asked him the question. There is no point in my repeating them now. They stand as a verbatim report of that conference, and they were not denied. The Prime Minister is perfectly well aware that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does not declare maximum wages. It does not put a ceiling on wages; it puts a floor on wages. It declares a minimum, not a maximum wage. It does not say: ‘This is a wage which must not be exceeded*. It says: This is a wage which will he maintained. Nobody will pay less than that’. The Arbitration Commission does not say: ‘Nobody will pay more’. In point of fact many wage earners have availed themselves of their undoubted right to get over-award payments. This is quite common, and it is certainly within the framework of the law and within the framework of the arrangements of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Indeed, under the present arrangements I do not think that the Commission has any constitutional power to declare maximum wages. It can declare minimum but not maximum wages.
If the prices and incomes referenda were carried it would certainly acquire the power, if the Australian Government so directed it, to declare maximum as well as minimum wages. I think this is what the Prime Minister must have intended when he spoke at that Press conference, because otherwise his words are meaningless. Does he mean that for nonwage incomes he will prescribe, as is provided for wage incomes, a floor and not a ceiling so that he will be prescribing for these nonwage incomes a minimum and not a maximum and anybody will be entitled, as a wage earner is now entitled, to get something over the prescribed amount? That would surely be not consonant with any possible effective economic control through the new powers. Or does he mean that he would use the new constitutional powers to direct the Commission to outlaw over-award payments, to put a real ceiling on them? This is the question I asked him and he did not answer it. He spoke of a wage freeze. In the question I did not raise the point of a wage freeze at all. I spoke of over-award payments, and that is something quite different. He evaded that question. He would not answer that question. He turned the whole discussion aside toy bringing in a lot of windy irrelevancies.
I will put my own position in regard to a wage freeze or a prices freeze and an incomes freeze. I believe - in fact I was the first advocate of the idea - that there is a case to be made out for a short term, and I emphasise short term freeze on wages, incomes and prices. Over the long term it simply will not work because the black market comes in and complexities come in. But in this present system of endemic inflation I believe there is virtue in a short term and temporary freeze, a kind of 90-day halt to stop the momentum forward, but I am not in favour of a long term permanent freeze of this character. Do I make my position clear? The Prime Minister in his irrelevant reply to me said, and I quote from Hansard:
However, it is clear from looking at the statistics for the last 20 years or so that the amount of the gross domestic product represented by wages and salaries has gone down but other forms of income have gone up.
I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistical Service showing the real position.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– This table shows that the Prime Minister’s statement in not only untrue; it is absolutely the opposite of the truth. If one looks over the period which the table covers one sees that in 1948-49, for example, the last full year during which the last Labor Government was in power, wages represented S3.8 per cent of gross domestic product. There has been a not quite even but consistent increase since that time and in 1972-73 they went up to 61.5 per cent. I think the Prime Minister knew this and I think he lied to the House. I do not believe that the Prime Minister was ignorant of this. I believe the House must face the fact that we have a plausible rogue sitting at that table - a man who is prepared to lie to this
House, a man who is prepared-
– I rise to order. The words of the honourable member for Mackellar are offensive to me and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw those words.
– I am afraid they must stand on the record. The Prime Minister has a habit of being very plausible and seeming sincere but saying things he does not believe in. He is but a plausible rogue.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw those words.
– He is a plausible rogue.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Mackellar.
– I cannot withdraw them. The Prime Minister has, in my opinion -
-I name the honourable member for Mackellar.
– Like Hitler and Goebbels, he has used the technique of the big lie. I do not believe that he did not know.
– Order! I have named the honourable member for Mackellar.
Motion (by Mr Enderby) put:
That the honourable member for Mackellar be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Dr H. A. Jenkins)
– Order! I will be forced to name the honourable member again.
Mir James - Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you a courteous question. Is it within your province to recommend psychiatric treatment for the honourable member?
-Order! I think that remark is offensive and I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, as I leave the House may I say that this table entirely supports my view of what the Prime Minister said. I challenge the Prime Minister to appear on television with me and discuss these facts which the Parliamentary Library Statistical Service has produced. He has said things in this House which are untrue and which he knows to be untrue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The honourable member for Mackellar is suspended from the House for 24 hours. (The honourable member for Mackellar thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
– I rise to raise a matter which is of extreme importance to this Parliament and to this House. It could have repercussions which could damage or destroy the parliamentary institution itself. Therefore, in raising it in this House, I think I am taking the only action that is possible at this stage. There are widespread rumours and some fairly substantial reports that major international organisations are, because their profit taking is threatened by the present Australian Government, seeking to purchase an election in Australia to replace the present Government.
– What evidence do you have? Are you close to the source?
– I think the honourable member would be closer to the source than 1 am. The situation is that very substantial amounts of money are said to be available for persons who would be disadvantaged by any action they might take in the Parliament which would result in an election; that high official office is being offered to certain persons whose careers might be interrupted or damaged. These statements are prevalent throughout this Parliament and the community. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to quash such rumours once and for all. The situation to which I draw attention is the very substantial call which is toeing made throughout the country for action to be taken in the other place to refuse supply to the Government and to override the House of Representatives - the only House which is elected by the whole of the Australian people. By resolution of the other House of this Parliament it has excluded certain sections of the Australian community from representation in that House. It has denied them representation in the national Parliament.
– Sack Marrickville.
– I could tell the honourable member about Marrickville. Why does he not ask me to tell him about a couple of others? This is a very serious matter. If, as has already happened in Chile, international corporations are able to buy the destruction of an elected government -
– That has not been proved.
– All right. You support the actions in Chile because it was a left wing government and a right wing government took over; I am sure you would be in a shooting match now to replace the government if it suited you. Make no mistake about it. I am not sure that some leading spokesmen representing the Parties opposite have not already had talks along that line.
– I rise on a point of order. I find any reference to the question of support for the new regime in Chile personally abhorrent to me and I ask the honourable member for Corio to withdraw it.
– I was not referring to the interjection made by the honourable member so he cannot take offence at my remark. ‘The situation is that I understand one Party has already taken a decision to refuse supply.
Mir Corbett - Name it.
– You name it. The situation - I make this statement quite categorically - is that the Senate has the power under the Constitution to refuse supply. That power is present because of an accident of time. Had the Constitution been drafted at a later time when certain events had taken place in the United Kingdom relating to matters of supply, the passage of Supply Bills in the Senate would no longer be necessary as they now are no longer necessary in the Upper House of the United Kingdom Parliament. Only the House of Commons is required to pass supply. The rejection of supply in an upper House is a step which should be taken with great care. I make these points quite clearly. Only the House of Representatives can initiate money legislation. Without the concurrence of the
House of Representatives no Supply Bill can be passed and no funds can be spent from the Commonwealth Treasury.
– You are running to water; that is your trouble.
– You are an opportunist of the worst type. If you remain quiet I might tell you something.
– Order! The honourable member for Corio will address the Chair.
– The situation is that if a Supply Bill is passed through this House it can be agreed to or rejected by the Senate. If the Senate rejects the Supply Bill there is no obligation whatsoever on this House to pass an amended Supply Bill. I would suggest that some honourable members opposite, who are running away from their responsibilities as members of the House of Representatives, should consider that aspect, especially members opposite who are publicly stating that they will in no way interfere with the profit-taking rights of multi-national corporations even where Australia’s interests are concerned. In the final analysis this is a matter which will have to be resolved in the House of Representatives. If the Senate rejects Supply even members of Parliament stop getting paid, pensioners do not get paid, the Public Service will not be paid and there will be no funds to run an election.
– You are trying to scare us.
– I am not trying to scare honourable members. I am telling them the facts. The Senate does not, because of its own resolution, represent all Australian people. The Senate, which is not elected on a basically equal franchise, is not the House of government - the House of Representatives is.
– You are running scared.
– I am not running scared. I will be back, make no mistake about it. What I am worried about is that we might have the Government of Australia in board rooms in the United States of America. That is what I am afraid members opposite are prepared to allow. The situation which could occur in Australia after 30 November if supply is refused in the other place and this House, by majority, expresses its confidence in the Government, as it will, and refuses to pass an amended Supply Bill-
– How do you work that out.
– I can count past 10, but the honourable member cannot. This House has every right to refuse to pass an amended Supply Bill at the behest of the Senate. I am asking honourable members opposite to give consideration to their positions as members of the House of Representatives.
– We have.
– Have you? I ask honourable members opposite to give very serious consideration to what the situation will be if this House hands over the power of government to the Senate on a permanent basis. No party can guarantee or expect to have a majority in the Senate because of the manner in which its members are elected. Approximately half of the members of the Senate were elected when Harold Holt was Prime Minister of Australia. I think some honourable members can remember back that far.
– You had better hurry up.
– I will hurry up. Very strong statements have been made that multinational corporations are trying to buy an election in Australia. If an election is bought in Australia on this occasion the parliamentary institution is totally dead.
– The Labor Party in the last month seems to have been possessed by the greatest streak of wild imagination that one has ever seen. I have never heard so much garbage from members on the other side of the House as has come from them in recent times when their electoral prospects are diminishing. They are suddenly trying to find excuses to portray the Liberal-Country Party Opposition as being totally reliant upon overseas corporations. I can tell any member opposite where I obtain my campaign funds. I do not obtain lc from overseas and I am quite sure that my Party has sources of local people who contribute. The little people contribute, not the big trade unions. The people who donate to our funds have different political philosophies from the Labor controlled unions who say to certain people that they must donate a percentage towards Labor Party slush funds. We have heard enough of this garbage.
In recent weeks this country has been brought to its knees through industrial strife. Inflation is Tunning riot. Measures taken concerning tariffs and other things are to the advantage of importers and overseas manufacturers. Honourable members try to fly kites here to protect their own skins and to give the impression that all is not well in the state of Denmark. Not one member opposite has been prepared to lay on the table any proof of the claims that have been made in recent times. Let us hope that the Australian Press is mature enough not to start making headlines of the various claims which have been made by small time members of the Labor Party.
While we are on the question of honesty and integrity I revert to an issue which I have raised many times in the last few weeks. Fortunately this is the last time that I will have to speak on the matter because at long last the Government has taken some action. The matter I refer to is the Brisbane airport. Last night the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) told the Parliament that his Government had allocated Sim through division 940 of the estimates of the Department of Services and Property. He almost gave the impression that members of Parliament who had had the idea in the past that the Government was not building a new airport at Brisbane were placing a wrong interpretation on the recent Budget. I believe that the Minister has misled this Parliament. It is a grave accusation to make and one which I have never previously made. I believe that the Minister for Civil Aviation, at a time of panic last night misled the Australian Parliament in bis presentation.
For 2 months now I, along with the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the Brisbane Courier Mail’, through its editorials, have claimed that the Labor Party scrapped the Brisbane airport from its program for this coming year. The ‘Courier Mail’ of 31 August carried an editorial of condemnation. On 23 August the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones, expressed disappointment. I spoke in this Parliament half a dozen times trying to ferret out from the artful dodger what he had in mind for the Brisbane airport. Considerable suggestion had been made which had not been denied, that the Labor Party in accord with its intentions to cut down expenditure in certain areas had lopped off the proposed expenditure for the Brisbane airport.
I commenced to campaign in this Parliament like I have never campaigned for anything in this Parliament before. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle), who is interjecting at the moment, holds his seat by a margin of 35 votes. At long last the Minister has told the Parliament that the money is to be made available. I would say that it was a million reaction dollars. One million dollars is to be spent in an endeavour to save the seat of the honourable member for Lilley. I have nothing personal against the honourable member for Lilley, but it is not he who decides how money is spent. He and the people of Brisbane had been given a miss at the last consideration of the Budget. I said that the Minister has misled the House. He has misled the House in that he claimed that the $lm involved was put away in the estimates for ‘the Department of Services and Property. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is in the House. Knowing how conniving the 2 Ministers are, I can see that they have got together, thought about the Brisbane people having them on the run, and found $lm. They have ripped the money from the Department of Services and Property and have said that it is for the Brisbane airport. All that I ask for is a little honesty from the Government.
– You cannot expect those sorts of things.
– Well, I would hope for a little honesty from the Government. I know that $lm is not much but according to the Coombs committee report that is all that the previous Government was setting aside for this year. According to that report the Liberal-Country Party Government was setting aside $13m next year, $18m the year after and $130m thereafter. I expect in the Budget next year an allocation of similar amounts.
– We will put it in all right.
– The honourable member reminds me that we will be allocating money in the Budget. That will happen if there is an election in the near future and the Labor Party, as it most certainly will, goes out of power. In that event I will be as vociferous as I have been in recent weeks in attacking members of my own Party if they act to give Brisbane a rough deal. Now we are on the way let us not lose the advantage. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation is charitable and comes into this Parliament and admits that the money has been made available as a result’ of the perseverance of the honourable member for Lilley who has reacted to my persistence and my own actions. I did not tell the Minister that I was going to speak in this debate because on every previous occasion I have informed him of my intention to speak he has not had the manners to come into the Parliament and to respond. What is the use of extending courtesies to some Ministers? I assure the rest of the Ministry that I will extend the courtesy which is expected at all times.
– A short time ago it was unfortunate that following an outburst by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) he was suspended from the House. The incident that led to his being suspended involved his incorporating a table in Hansard. The honourable member had consulted me on the document and as a matter of courtesy we gave him leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. The interpretation he chose to place on the document was that some statements which the Prime Minister made yesterday are not true. I ask for leave - I understand it is to be granted - to have incorporated in Hansard another set of figures in my possession together with some notes which accompany that set of figures which put a completely different picture on the figures given by the honourable member for Mackellar. The 2 sets of figures may be studied side by side and people can then make their own decision as to which are the correct figures.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Bruny)Order! Is leave granted?
– I seek leave to make a short statement on this matter.
-Is leave granted to the Minister?
– Two minutes.
– Two minutest This is an important matter. This is a great issue.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Cowper may speak in the ordinary course of events.
-Order! The question before the Chair is whether leave is or is not granted for the material to be incorporated in Hansard. That question is not open to debate.
– I want to seek a specific qualification. I agree to the tabling provided that I can say a word afterwards.
– Order! The honourable member may rise to speak after the Minister has concluded.
– Be fair.
– I agree to the tabling but I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– To the honourable member for Cowper, no.
– I agree to leave to incorporate the material.
– Order! There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Changes in labour’s share over the economy as a whole can be affected not only by changes in labour’s share in particular industries but also by changes in the relative importance of the various industries in the economy. For example if high capital intensive industries were growing at a more rapid rate than low capital intensive industries then even if the income share remained constant in each individual industry, the overall share of labour would tend to fall. It is necessary in examining the trend in labour’s share to remove the effects arising from differential growth rates of industries included in gross domestic product. Thus industries have been weighted according to their contribution to total production in 1958-59. Each industry represents the same proportion of total production for every preceding and succeeding year as existed in 1958-59, so the industrial structure remains constant throughout the entire period.
Adjusting for Changes in Occupational Status The figures have been adjusted to allow for changes in the occupational status of the employed workforce. If there was, for example, a large number of self-employed persons who decided to become wage and salary earners, the proportion of wage and salary earners in the employed work force would rise, hence wage and salary earners share of national income would rise even though the average wage had not changed. Hence to overcome this problem we have divided the share of G.D.P. (Gross Domestic Product) going to wage and salary earners
– I am indebted to my friend.
– I wish to raise the point that the figures tabled by-
– I take a point of order. I sought leave to table those figures. I understood that leave was given for that purpose.
– Leave has been given.
– I am in continuation. I wish to continue my remarks.
– Yes. The Minister is perfectly in order.
– He had finished his remarks.
– No, I had not. These figures show a decline in the proportion of wages and salaries and supplements as a proportion of national income between the years 1948-49 and 1971-72. This is a progressive decline from a percentage of 76.5 per cent to 66.6 per cent in 1969-70. I know that it is always said that anything can be proved by statistics and figures. It may well be that that is what the honourable member for Mackellar sought to do with the table that he produced. It is unfortunate that we have not the time to compare the figures to determine which set is correct or gives the true position.
I have incorporated these figures in Hansard to put the point of view that this may be what the Prime Minister had in mind when he made his remarks yesterday. The figures that I have incorporated in Hansard show a most consistent and progressive decline in the share of the wealth produced by Australia going to the employee groups of Australia - the wage earners of Australia. Indeed, this is exactly what one would expect to have happened under the leadership of a Country Party-Liberal Party coalition type of Government because those Parties have very little purpose other than to ensure that the wage earners of the country get as little as possible and that the other people in the country who obtain wealth get as much as possible. I refer to the people who get their wealth from dividends, rents and profits. They have been extremely successful because between 1948-49 and a year or two ago the proportion given to wage earners fell from 76.5 per cent to 66.6 per cent. Honourable members opposite have been extremely successful in their task.
– The Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) has incorporated in Hansard certain figures. He claims that this action is necessary to rebut figures previously incorporated in Hansard by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I draw attention to the fact that the figures incorporated in Hansard by the honourable member for Mackellar had as their source - and this appears on the document - ‘Commonwealth Parliamentary
Library Statistical Service’. I feel that the House should be informed of the source of the figures now incorporated in Hansard by the Minister for Secondary Industry. He went further and by way of comment said that the previous figures were misleading. He threw out the challenge to those on this side of the House that we had a motive in presenting those figures. I put it clearly to the House that there is a motive in respect of the figures incorporated in Hansard by the Minister for Secondary Industry. It is only fair and reasonable that he should take this opportunity to tell the House the source of those figures. It will take him 2 words to identify the source of the figures so that we may know their authenticity.
– The Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– Fine! That is just what we wanted.
– It is the most representative body of the people of Australia.
-Order! It being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with standing order 106, 1 put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Bryant, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is the machinery by which we pass to the States the funds that this Parliament allocates. I propose, with the agreement of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), that, instead of reading out the second reading speech document that I have here, I will ask that it be incorporated in Hansard and then I will outline what the procedures are as proposed by it. I do so because we had a lengthy debate on this subject in the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Agairs only yesterday.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! Is leave granted?
– The Opposition agrees.
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as fallows) -
This Bill provides for a total of $32,250,000 to be paid to the States in 1973-74. That compares with $22m in 1972-73. In reality the comparative increase is much greater because the 1972-73 figure included $3. 5m for special work projects which I now propose to fund by direct grants to the employing authorities which are almost entirely local government bodies. It is only 6 months since this Government legislated to give the States an additional $7.5m and in introducing that legislation I made some comments about the disgraceful situation in which the Aboriginal people of Australia find themselves. To the extent that money and resources are required to change this situation this Government is determined to provide them.
Total expenditure by the Australian Government in 1973-74 is estimated to be $1 17.4m of which about $95m is being spent through my Department. The balance is expended by the Department of Education for study grants and secondary grants, the Department of Health in the Northern Territory, the Department of Labour under its employment training scheme and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. This $1 17.4m compares with an actual outlay of $61. 4m in 1972-73. I think these figures speak for themselves. I now refer to matters of major importance covered in these proposed payments to the State.
The most obvious area of need is in housing and the Bill proposes that the States receive $14,422,000 for this purpose. This ought to be sufficient for over 1,100 houses, which would roughly equal what we believe to be the annual rate of family formation. I believe that the housing needs in some areas are so close to being overcome that we should make a major effort this financial year to clear the needs up. Thus, I am consulting my Victorian colleague with a view to our providing sufficient funds this year to meet that State’s major capital needs for Aboriginal housing, and I am contemplating a similar approach in Tasmania. In addition however the Government will continue the provision of funds for housing through Aboriginal housing associations which operate mostly in remote areas and rely heavily for their construction programs on Aboriginal labour and the maximum use of local resources such as timber and bricks. Depending on the progress of such associations it ought to be possible for them to build at least an additional 500 houses in 1973-74. A further approach which I am initiating is the construction of houses by local government authorities on the bash of direct grants. The total attack on the problem is thus much greater than is reflected in the level of the grants to the States, and we are starting to make inroads into the huge backlog of housing needs.
The increase in housing payments to the States is roughly 35 per cent. A greater increase could have been provided but I have not wished to make such an allocation untilI am satisfied that the funds can be expended. Already one State has indicated that it is unable to use additional funds and I believe that another major State is also having difficulties in its Aboriginal housing program. I intend to keep this matter under close review and, if satisfied that further funds can be utilised by the States, will seek to provide additional funds to them. I should also say that I believe it is high time that the abysmally low rate of home ownership amongst Aboriginals is improved. The present procedures provide that houses acquired by the States are available for sale under the same terms and conditions as apply to other housing provided through Australian Government grants to the States. This has proved to be of little effect and I am with my Department exploring ways in which funds can be provided or guaranteed to enable Aboriginals to have either a sufficiently large deposit or sufficiently low repayments to enable Aboriginals to acquire their own homes.
Funds for health services and community amenities, especially water and sewerage supplies, provided for in this Bill total $10.3m compared with $3.7m in 1972-73. These funds will enable a big expansion of effort in providing community health services in rural and remote areas. This Government established a special study group of Commonwealth and State health authorities which recommended a co-ordinated program covering establishment of local health committees, delivery of health care - including much wider deployment of doctors and community health nurses - administrative re-organisation, education, family planning, research and other special programs. The funds now being provided are in keeping with the study group’s recommendations. I do not pretend that even this effort will rapidly improve things since in areas where traditional practices are still strong the concepts of nutrition, health care, public health and sanitation which the non-Aboriginal community take for granted have still to find a place in the thinking of the Aboriginal people. Programs to educate such people will take time to implement, but they have been started.
Honourable members will recall that this Government extended the Aboriginal secondary grants scheme to cover all children at secondary schools. It is still a fact however that only a relative handful are undergoing tertiary education. Programs to overcome this situation have been approved by me and include support of teachers colleges carrying out courses in Aboriginal education; compensatory teaching programs for children in primary school; support of a special college of Aboriginal education at Torrens in South Australia where a range of basic skills is taught, leading to further education or improved employment. In New South Wales a supportive and remedial service is proposed to be operated by four teams operating from different centres to provide a link between the school and the home. Each team will consist of a social worker, an Aboriginal liaison officer and a full time guidance officer.
This Government is following a policy of self-determination by the Aboriginal people. The Government’s aim is increasingly to act as a supportive and resource centre for communities so that they will be able to develop their own community life at the pace and under the conditions which they themselves choose. The Bill provides for payments totalling $708,000 for employment training programs, in such fields as forestry, fisheries, and heavy equipment handling. As I said earlier special work projects are now proposed to be funded direct by my Department and a sum of $5.4m has been set aside for this purpose. These projects provide a wide range of employment and training mostly through local government bodies. Road making, kerbing and guttering, forestry, conservation of such areas as foreshores, maintainence, dust abatement, re-afforestation, flood mitigation and other social or environmentally useful projects are carried out under this item.
For the information of honourable members I have had prepared several tables setting out past and proposed Australian Government expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. The first table is a summary of the more important components in the payments to the States proposed in this Bill. The second table sets out the increases in the 1973-74 payments to the States as compared with the 1972-73 programs. The third table sets out the manner of expenditure of the $22m paid to the States in 1972-73. The fourth table sets out those payments made direct by the Australian Government to a wide range of non-Governmental bodies in 1972-73. The next table sets out the grants to the States over the 5 year period 1969-70 to 1973-74. The final table is a statement showing how the $1 17.4m being spent this year by the Australian Government is to be allocated.
Honourable members will know that an important program we have embarked upon is the creation of a nationally elected Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The enrolment of voters is going on right now across the nation and in November, in each of 41 electoral areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people will vote to elect one representative to come to Canberra to consult with and advise the Minister. The electoral system has been designed by the Aboriginal people themselves and I believe that the body they are creating is essential to give them an effective voice in the things that affect them so that they may achieve the respected and more satisfying place in the community which is their right.
– I thank the House. This is a short measure but a significant one. It provides for a total of $32,250,000 to go to the States compared with an allocation last year of $22m. It covers a multitude of matters with which the Australian Government is concerned in its relations with the States. The funds cover innumerable operations. For the advantage of the Parliament, I have incorporated the statistics or the plans for this year. I have set out for instance the allocation of houses to each of the States. At this moment, I am unfortunately unable to give the House the actual location of each of those houses. Honourable members will see that there are to be 219 houses in New South Wales, 40 houses in Victoria, 304 houses in Queensland, 132 nouses in South Australia, 267 houses in Western Australia and 10 houses in Tasmania. We hope to manage the construction of 500 houses in the Northern Territory. Also, I have provided a list of all the projects which we hope to undertake or have undertaken in each of the Aboriginal communities. A full statement setting out the grants for last year is incorporated too. I hope that, thereby, honourable members will be able to be as well informed as possible on the operations of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the impact those operations will have on the Aboriginal situation in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ian Robinson) adjourned.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
In sub-clause (2), leave out ‘one-tenth more or onetenth less’, insert ‘one-fifth more or one-fifth less’.
Mi DALY (Grayndler- Minister for Services and Property) (1-2.49) - I move:
That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to. This is an amendment returned from the Senate to the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill 1973. Having moved my motion, I wish to say a few words on the matter. Before dealing with the proposed amendment I shall, for the benefit of honourable members, reiterate the purpose of the Bill and briefly explain its provisions. As its title indicates, the purpose of the Bill is to provide for an additional representative for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives. The provisions of the Bill are to (a) provide for 2 members of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory elected on the basis of single member electorates, with effect from the first sitting of the twenty-ninth Parliament; (b) provide for full voting rights for both members for the Australian Capital Territory with all the powers, immunities and privileges held by other members of the House of Representatives; (c) divide the Australian Capital Territory into 2 single member electorates, of which one electorate shall embrace part of the Australian Capital Territory proper and the other electorate shall embrace the remaining part of the Australian Capital Territory plus the Jervis Bay territory, to be effective immediately following the expiry or dissolution of the twenty-eighth Parliament; and (d) provide firstly for the setting up of a distribution committee and secondly, for the inviting of suggestions and objections and preparation of a report to Parliament, along similar lines to that provided for the distribution of a State into electoral divisions.
In accordance with the declared belief of the Australian Labor Party in the principle of practical equality of electorates, provision was made in the Bill for a maximum permissible variation from the quota of electors of ‘onetenth more or one-tenth less’. We believe that this margin provides ample scope for a distribution committee to divide the Territory into 2 electorates while giving due consideration to the factors required to be considered pursuant to clause 10 of the Bill, lt would enable the distribution committee to divide the Territory into 2 electorates ranging from 42,968 to 52,515, based on the latest enrolment figures. But the Senate was not satisfied. The amendment before the House will allow a 40 per cent differential- from 38,194 to 57,289 - a difference of 19,095 votes. Would anyone seriously suggest that such a variation is warranted in the Australian Capital Territory - an area of less than 1,000 square miles where living conditions and the growth of the community are exactly the same throughout?
I therefore want to make it clear that in moving the motion that the amendment by the Senate be agreed to, the Government does not believe that there is any justification for the amendment whatsoever. We do not waver from our adherence to the principle of onevoteonevalue. Rather, we are faced with a situation where the electoral population of the Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, is approaching 100,000 - the enrolment was 95,483 as at 28 September 1973. We accept the amendment at this time in order that the necessary steps may be implemented to ensure that the people of the Territory are afforded their rightful number of representatives in this House at the next general election.
– I am very pleased to see that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) and the Government have seen the sense and the wisdom of accepting an amendment which will in fact make the redistribution to be carried out in the Australian Capital Territory consistent with a policy that has obtained in Australia since Federation. It is all very well to talk in terms of one vote one value but this is a very hackneyed phrase. What does the phrase ‘one vote one value’ mean? We would reach a position of one vote one value only if a redistribution was made immediately after a census was taken and if we were able to ensure that no one moved in or out of an electorate.
– An election would have to be held at that time.
– That is so. It would be impossible to achieve the objective of one vote one value unless an election was held on the day on which the census was taken. So this talk about one vote one value is a lot of nonsense and I am pleased to see that even those who were doubting-
– It is the principle.
– The Minister for Secondary Industry, who is also the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for Supply says that it is the principle. But there is a great difference between a principle and what is practical. In real and practical terms it is not possible to achieve a practical situation of one vote one value.
We have argued this matter in the House on numerous occasions. I do not want to delay the House in going over old ground. But no one can say that the principle of one vote one value applies in respect of Senate representation. Under the Constitution each State is represented by 10 senators. Where is there any relevance of the principle of one vote one value in the Senate where the voters of Tasmania have the same number of representatives as the voters of New South Wales? So let us forget all this pie-in-the-sky theory. It is all very well to go out and tell the people that the present system - the system that has operated since Federation - is wrong.
– Look at what was said by the Labor Premier of Western Australia.
– That is quite true. The Labor Premier of Western Australia makes a lot of mistakes, but he is not a real idiot. He knows the practicalities of the game. There is not a country in the world that has achieved the principle of one vote one value or applied it in practice.
– It is a pipe dream.
– That is right. I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Services and Property who is sitting at the table. Although he is very hard on the Australian Country Party from time to time he has shown wisdom that becomes him in accepting the amendment which now makes the number of representatives in the Australian Capital Territory consistent with that of the rest of Australia.
A redistribution is to take place in Western Australia. I am willing to wager a bet now that the next Federal election will not be undertaken on new electoral boundaries. I forecast that the next election will be undertaken on the 20 per cent margin that now applies. I do not regard myself as a great prophet, but I see the writing on the wall. It is true that a redistribution will take place in Western Australia and new boundaries will be drawn up in that State and also that another seat will be created in the Australian Capital
Territory. But no matter when the next election is held it will be carried out on the old boundaries under the old system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of terminal building and aircraft aprons at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
The proposal involves alterations and additions to the passenger concourse to provide 3 passenger handling positions for wide-bodied aircraft, expansion of the first floor departures hall, air-conditioning of the existing concourse and proposed additions, and provision of additional aircraft standing aprons with associated connecting taxiways and vehicular access. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7. 3m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Dr 3. F. Cairns) agreed to:
That the amendments be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
A Bill for an Act to repeal section 6 of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965-1969
BE IT ENACTED by the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives of Australia, as follows:- 1. (1) This Act may be cited as the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1973.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
After clause 3, add the following new clause: “ 4. After section 7 of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965-1969 the following section is inserted: - 7a. (1) In this section, “ amendment “, in relation to the schedule to the scheme in relation to a State, includes the substitution of another schedule for that schedule.
The provisions of sections 48 and 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 (other than paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (1), sub-section (2) and sub-section (6) of the first-mentioned section) apply, by force of this section, to amendments of the schedules to the schemes in relation to the States in like manner as those provisions applyin relation to regulations.
Where an amendment of the schedule to the scheme in relation to a State is disallowed, or is to be deemed to be disallowed, under a provision of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 as applied by subsection (2), the schedule has effect as if the amendment had been revoked with effect from and including the date of the disallowance.’.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
In the Title, leave out “ repeal section 6 of “, substitute “ amend “.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to. The effect of the amendments passed by the Senate to the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill 1973 is to require all future amendments of the schedule of subsidy rates to be notified to the Parliament in the form of a regulation. Both Houses will thereby have the opportunity to consider amendments and motions of disallowance may be moved. The principal Act, passed in 1965, provided that amendments to the schedule of subsidy rates be notified in the ‘Gazette’ and this practice has continued to the present time. So the effect of the amendments is to discontinue that practice and provide that future amendments of the schedule of subsidy rates be notified to the Parliament in the form of a regulation. Both Houses thereby will have the opportunity to consider amendments and may move motions of disallowance if they want to do so. The amendments which have been passed by the Senate will add slightly to the administrative process of the subsidy scheme but they are acceptable to the Government.
– The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) has expounded, as I would see it, correctly and in detail, the purpose of the amendments moved by the Senate. There is only one area in which something perhaps might be added to his exposition, that is, that the amendments are not only for the purpose of making it possible for either House of Parliament to move for the disallowance of future regulations but also to make it possible for members of Parliament to be aware of the changes at the time the changes are intended rather than to have to read them in the ‘Australian Government Gazette’. It is felt by the members of the Opposition that this manner of presentation of change has advantages. It is felt that members of Parliament should be advised if there are to be significant changes in legislation such as this where there is provided a positive incentive which seeks to reduce the cost of fuel in country areas. The purpose of the amendments is, of course, to ensure that parliamentarians can see and understand the changes and, if it is desired, take action on those changes at the time they are introduced.
This particular piece of legislation is one of those which were intended to provide for some general assistance to communities throughout Australia. It is one of those areas of infrastructure in costs which were adverted to yesterday during debates on the Estimates. It is an area which is of concern to all Australians to the degree to which there is an increase in the percentage of our income being spent on the cost of transporting both people and goods. This subsidy which provides for some reduction in the cost of fuel outside capital cities is an important method by which this cost can be and has been reduced. This change specifically will ensure that if there are future changes in this area the Parliament will be able to observe the changes and, as the Minister has explained, take action on them if it so desires. The Opposition fully supports the amendments moved by the Senate and it is pleased that the Government has seen fit to agree to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; reported adopted.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief ministerial statement on immigration.
– I ask the Minister whether in fact he will be speaking to the total document which has been the subject of circulation and consultation between the Government and Opposition Parties.
– I propose to make a brief statement and then to ask leave to incorporate in Hansard the balance of detail so that it can be studied adequately by all honourable members.
– Is leave granted?
– If I may take a point for the purpose of recording it in Hansard, this is an unprecedented practice. I am certain that the Minister in fact really wants to read the total document so that this matter can become the subject of a full parliamentary debate in this House. I urge the Minister and his colleague the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) not to persist with a practice of this type. This Government knows as its members did when they were in opposition that this is totally contrary to the normal forms and precedents of this House. I ask the Minister for Immigration to consult his colleague, the Leader of the House, and not subject to this House for the first time so far as I can recall, to having a ministerial statement incorporated in Hansard. The Minister for Immigration has a 41-page ministerial statement to make on Australia’s immigration program. The Opposition accepts that the Minister wants to deal in depth with the matter contained in the statement, and we believe that the statement should be read by him, as he originally intended. The Minister - I give him full credit for the initiative he is taking - simply is responding to the request by the Opposition parties that a ministerial statement be made in this House on the immigration program, the bases on which that program is structured by the Minister, and the policies which he has brought to bear during the course of his ministry.
– Order! I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now debating the question. No debate is permitted on a request for leave to make a statement. The answer is either yes or no. I believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was allowed quite enough latitude to explain the reasons why he should or should not grant leave for the statement to be made.
– Mr Speaker, you have asked me from the chair whether leave is granted by the Opposition parties for the Minister to deal with the subject in the manner which he outlined. In responding to that request could I ask the Minister for Immigration, through the Chair, whether he is prepared to put down this statement in the detail set out in the document. Will the Minister do that?
– To help the House and to assist the Chair, the situation is that I have a brief summation of actions and policy. To facilitate the proceedings of the House I had proposed to make a statement quite briefly and to ask for leave to incorporate the detail and the complete summation of events in Hansard. If this is not acceptable I will table the document so that all honourable members will have an opportunity to study it. Last evening I made copies available to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), and the Opposition spokesman on immigration. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been most anxious to get it. I let those 2 gentlemen have copies in advance. There are 2 ways in which we can proceed. We could proceed with my brief statement at the present time and at the conclusion of it I would ask for leave to incorporate. This is to get away from ritualism and to help the House. If that is not acceptable, all right; we will bow to the wishes of the Opposition on whose behalf I am making the statement. It wanted the statement and asked for it. I will table it and it can be printed in the normal course of events.
– Mr Speaker, could I have leave to deal with this matter for one or two minutes? This is not a question of ritualism. Surely, whether this is on behalf of the Government or of the Opposition parties, this is not ritualism. The question relates to the basic forms of this House and the workings of this Parliament. I want to go on record, on behalf of the Opposition parties, as saying that we are sick and tired of the Parliament being treated in this way.
– Not again!
– The honourable member for Franklin is very much aware of the situation in this House. If a Minister wants to put down a parliamentary statement he should do it in full.
– Order! No debate is permissible on a request for leave to make a statement. A request for something to be incorporated in Hansard is another matter which may arise later. The point is that no debate is permissible on a request for leave to make a statement. If you grant leave for the statement to be made now, the incorporation of matter in Hansard is something for you to decide later. There is no debate on a request for leave to make a statement.
– I hope the Chair will bear with me, Mr Speaker, because I regard this as an unprecedented situation. Through you, Mr Speaker, could I ask the Minister for Immigration or the Leader of the House whether the Minister and his colleague will agree that consequential upon leave being granted by the Opposition parties this statement will become a matter for parliamentary debate in this House next week? That is a fair proposition. I see the Leader of the House responding in what I hope is an encouraging way. That suggestion is put forward with a sense of great protest about the forms of the House. What I, on behalf of the Opposition parties, am being offered is either incorporation in Hansard or the tabling of a document without debate.
– Order! In regard to the appeal, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could move that the House take note of the paper if he wants it to be debated next week. That is the only way.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a brief statement in answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted on the basis that this is an important point which requires an answer.
– The procedure mentioned is by no means unprecedented.
– When was the last case of it?
– If I checked the record I probably would find a couple of dozen instances in the time of the Government in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) was a Minister. Furthermore I would say that there will be ample time to debate this statement in this Parliament during the debate on the Estimates. The Estimates debate would provide full and adequate time. That is the only assurance I will give in respect of the tabling of this document. If honourable members wish to use their time in the debate on the Estimates to speak about this important matter of immigration there is adequate time for discussion. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that no matter what the future might hold, as yet we are the Government, so the time allotted to debate matters is something which we on this side of the Parliament will decide. He has nominated next week but we may nominate some other time. We have no desire to avoid discussion in any way but it is a full and lengthy statement. It could receive adequate discussion in the course of the debate on the Estimates. I suggest that that should be done. Of course, if honourable members opposite do not want the statement incorporated in Hansard that is their business. I think that alot of second reading speeches and documents should be incorporated in Hansard instead of being read, even those presented from time to time by Opposition spokesmen. That applies particularly when, as in this case, the document has been given to the Opposition which knows all that it contains. In those circumstances there should be no objection to the incorporation of this statement in Hansard.
– Order! The Minister for Immigration is seeking leave to make a statement. The answer is either yes or no. No debate is permissible.
– I seek leave to make a brief response to the Leader of the House.
– Do you seek leave to make a statement?
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– That is typical of the way in which this House is being conducted.
– Order! The Chair is not responsible for such a decision.
– I raise a point of order. Is the Minister seeking leave to make a statement which will be his full statement or is he merely wishing to make a statement saying that he is going to table a paper?
– Order! The Minister for Immigration outlined his intention just before the honourable member for Wannon (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) entered the House. His intention was to read a brief statement from a document and then, if leave were granted, to incorporate the rest in Hansard. That is the request of the Minister. The decision just made by the Leader of the House has nothing to do with the Chair.
– Mr Speaker, I thought, in view of the disputation which has taken place and the points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the Leader of the House and the Minister for Immigration might be prepared to change their view and make the statement in the normal way.
– Mr Speaker, to end the wrangling which is holding up the proceedings in the National Parliament I table the following paper:
Statement on immigration by the Honourable A. J. Grassby, 11 October 1973.
– That is a sham and an abuse of this Parliament.
– It was an ordinary request and it was made to facilitate your debate. Both the Deputy Leader of the’ Opposition and the honourable member for Wannon have read it. That is the hypocrisy of the situation.
– It is the most disgraceful thing I have ever seen in my life.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will contain himself.
– It is contempt of Parliament.
– You were not even here. Do your job. It is dereliction of duty.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will contain himself.
– I am finding that difficult indeed.
– Order! If you act in defiance of the Chair I will have to take appropriate action. I have asked you to contain yourself. Do so.
– Mr Speaker, you are asking the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to contain himself.
– I raise a point of order. On what basis is the Leader of the Opposition trying to speak?
– Here is the Minister for non-secondary industry.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition taking a point of order?
– Yes. The only way in which these matters can be brought out is by taking a point of order. It is quite clear that your request that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should contain himself should apply equally to the Minister for Immigration who is not containing himself.
– The outburst was made after the Minister for Immigration had said that he would table the paper. That is when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made his outburst.
– I regard the remark as offensive.
– It was not offensive to you at all. I did not say anything offensive to you. The fact is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made the outburst because of the Minister for Immigration saying that he would table the document. That is exactly what happened when the Minister for Immigration tabled the paper. It was then that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made his outburst. I think I was quite entitled to ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to contain himself. The matter is finished there.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The matter is not finished.
– Order! You raise a point of order on what?
– The point of order, Mr Speaker, is in relation to the conduct of this House.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is taking a point of order.
– The point of order is in relation to the conduct of this House. It is well established practice in this House that when a Minister chooses to take the course of action that he proposes, the Opposition should be able to point out the departure from the practice of the House. That was what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was doing. For him to be reprimanded in the way that he was I think is not in accordance with the practice of the House.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. If a Minister tables a paper and then there is an outburst by any honourable member, irrespective of who it may be, I would ask that member to contain himself. That is all I did - nothing else.
Debate resumed from 27 September (vide page 1637), on motion by Mr Beazley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I should like to ask the indulgence of the House to see whether the Clerks have copies of amendments which I have asked to be circulated in my name. I am advised by the Clerk that the amendments are not yet prepared for circulation to honourable members. Could this debate be adjourned until the amendments are circulated?
– That is a matter for the Leader of the House. If the honourable gentleman wishes to do so he may move that the debate be adjourned to a later hour this day.
– I move:
That this debate be now adjourned. I ask that the debate be adjourned until the Clerks, who are in no way to blame for the delay, have had time to have the Opposition’s proposed amendments run off and circulated to both Government and Opposition members.
– Order! The honourable gentleman has moved that the debate be adjourned. He may not debate that motion. The question is ‘that this debate be adjourned and made an order of the day for a later hour this day.’
Question resolved in the negative.
-The decision of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in rejecting the motion is typical of the contemptuous attitude with which this Government holds this House.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not a question of contempt. The proposed amendments will not be moved until the Committee stage. There is time for them to be circulated. I am not responsible for how late the Opposition spokesman on education circulated his amendments. We do not want to delay the discussion of this Bill. I have every respect for his right to move the proposed amendments, but I do not think that he has any right to make such an allegation because we want the proceedings of the House to go as they were planned.
- Mr Speaker, is the debate now to proceed on the second reading of the Bill?
– I repeat what I was saying: What has just happened indicates the contempt that this Opposition holds for this House and the procedures of this House.
Government supporters - Hear, hear!
– I stand corrected. I mean the contempt that the Government holds for this House.
-Order! Does the honourable gentleman want to make a withdrawal?
– I think every honourable member on the Government side of the House knows full well what I mean and why I said it. The Government also knows quite well that it is trying to bring important legislation into this House after the Government has had months to consider it. There are a number of significant clauses in the Bill and the Government is quite deliberately adopting a procedure of making sure that the Opposition does not have an adequate opportunity to consider the Bill.
– ‘The debate has been adjourned for a week.
– Yes, and what are the other matters that have been adjourned for consideration in the same week-the Industries Assistance Commission Bill, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the Schools Commission ‘Bill. And on earlier occasions the Minister for ‘Education would have been the first to press for adequate time to take the matter through the Party committees and sub-committees and through the Party room. The Government has quite deliberately sought to thwart the normal procedures and timetable that would enable the Opposition to give proper examination to important measures.
– Your normal procedure was to give us a day’s notice.
-The Minister knows that is untrue. He knows that if he looks at the record he will find that that is untrue.
– One would not ‘find more than a week’s notice being given of the previous Government’s education legislation as the Opposition has been given of this legislation.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister was listened to in silence when he introduced the Bill. He seems quite determined to see that the Opposition is not listened to in silence. Be that as it may. As a result of our considerations the Bill will become a much better Bill and be made into a much better Act than that which the Minister has proposed. I think it is significant that the Minister himself has moved an amendment to this Bill in relation to clause 13, which deals with government and non-government schools. That is about the only place in the Bill in which nongovernment schools are mentioned.
– That is rot. They are mentioned earlier.
-The Minister seems somewhat touchy this afternoon.
– He is just caning you for not doing your homework.
– If it is not impertinent, Mr Speaker, I would say that it would be almost time for some of the remarks you addressed to the Opposition this morning to be addressed to the Government side this afternoon. There are 4 or 5 matters which the Opposition regards as important in this Bill. As a result of our deliberations and the proposed amendments which will be circulated as soon as they can be printed, the Bill will be better than might otherwise have been the case. I only hope that the Bill has not been rushed forward too quickly. Earlier this afternoon I asked for a copy of the proposed amendments to be given to the Minister before the other copies were run off so that he could consider whether he should accept any of them. I only hope that the Bill has not been brought forward in the same hasty way as the statement by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) a few minutes ago, who refused to read his statement. The Minister knew that the proposed amendments had not been circulated and was trying to force debate on this Bill before the amendments had been run off.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the honourable member for Wannon in order, when I received his amendments half an hour ago, in imputing to me that I knew everything that he was doing? As far as I knew the amendments might have been circulated in cyclostyle form.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The Chair is not in a position to know what actually took place.
-The Minister knew full well that the amendments had not been run off when he came into this House and that he had been given an advance copy.
– I did not know, and I got an advance copy half an hour ago.
– He should be better served by his staff. His staff served me better than they served him. This Bill does nothing to preserve the freedom of choice of Australian school children and it does a good deal to diminish that right, a right which is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and which we, through our amendments, will seek to have enshrined in this Bill, quoting the very words of Article 26 of the United Nations Charter. I know the view that the Minister has of the United Nations and of its Declaration of Human Rights, and I hope therefore that he will be able to persuade his Party to support our amendments in this regard that would preserve freedom of choice for parents and school children.
We are not opposing the Bill in whole. We realise that the Opposition, as it then was, argued for a schools commission throughout last year. It of course won the election and as a result of that it has now brought forward legislation for a permanent schools commission. But many of the predictions that we made last year concerning the shape and form of that schools commission have been revealed to be true in the legislation as it is presented to this Parliament by the Minister. It does not preserve, as I have indicated, freedom of choice. Last year we said that the legislation would involve undue centralisation, undue control in Canberra, dictation by Canberra to State Departments of Education, to State Ministers and to the independent schools. The proposal to establish regional boards represents a deliberate attempt to by-pass State Departments of Education, independent school authorities and the priorities committees which the independent school authorities have voluntarily established. It should be noted that in all these procedures-
– Do you not-
– Oh, there is another new-found supporter of the Government who cannot listen to a speech for a few moments without showing his own desire to interrupt orderly debate in this House.
– The honourable member has no taste for misrepresentation.
-Order! The honourable member for Casey, who I see has his name on the list to speak next, will cease interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I do not mind if the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) wants to interrupt. It is part of his normal processes in this Parliament. The determination of the Minister to appoint regional boards, as is evident from clause 16 of the Bill, shows that there is a determination within his Party, within the Government ranks, to by-pass State Departments of Education, the independent school authorities and the priorities committees that have been voluntarily established by those authorities in each State to determine priorities within the independent school systems. It needs to be noted that the Minister is reserving unto himself the power to appoint all members of the Commission, and as I understand it, all members of the regional boards. The Minister is somewhat vague about the nature of the Commission and the numbers to be on it, giving himself a very wide flexibility in the arrangements that he might seek to make, giving to himself, I believe, a discretion that this Parliament ought not allow him and which I am sure the Senate will not allow him.
There is no real evidence that in coming to frame this legislation the Minister had consultation with the States or with the independent school authorities in any meaningful sense, because the Bill is not a Bill that is designed to service all education; it is a Bill that is designed to service particular objectives which certain members of the Minister’s Party enunciated throughout last year. We will move amendments that will achieve consultation, co-operation and deliberation with people involved in education in a sense which gives them a participation in the decision making of the Commission itself. Because of the short time that this legislation has been before us, the amendments that I shall move on behalf of the Opposition, if they can be printed before the Minister sees that the debate ends, may well be changed, modified or added to by the Opposition in the Senate when the Bill goes before the Senate.
I also indicate that we are committed to greater and greater support for education, as the activities of the previous Government indicated last year and as has been reinforced by the enthusiasm with which the Minister has re-announced a number of our own decisions throughout this year. I am glad to see that he has accepted the recommendation of the committee on teacher training and committees of that kind which we established and which will do much for the quality of education and we all recognise that this is an area that will require greater funds and greater support from governments. As more children stay at school until they reach a higher level, more find places in technical colleges, universities, colleges of advanced education or teachers colleges. But we are not necessarily committed to achieving this co-operative process in the way in which the Minister would want to see it. We are not necessarily committed to a process which takes over the funding of all tertiary institutions and which takes an equivalent number of dollars off the States, meaning that it is just a transfer payment if the Commonwealth decides to pay directly to the tertiary institutions themselves money that was to go to the States through the financial reimbursement grants. That kind of counterfeit trick adds nothing to education. If the transfer payments were taken out of the present Budgets we would find that the real increase in education expenditure coming from governments, both State and Commonwealth, would be nothing like as great as has been claimed.
Be that as it may, the point I seek to make here is that while we are committed to a broad based education of high quality, improving the opportunities for all children, especially those who come from disadvantaged families and disadvantaged groups and especially those who require special treatment and specially trained teachers - matters which we put in train over a year ago - and while we are committed to better conditions in schools, to which we became committed over a year ago, we are not necessarily committed to the techniques and methods which the Minister is using to achieve the result that he thinks to be necessary, because we are not committed to centralisation of education in the Commonwealth’s hands. We do not believe, as good as they are, that all Commonwealth departmental advisers on education are the only departmental advisers who should be properly consulted in relation to these matters. So we would reserve our right, on return to government, concerning the way we go about these matters and we will make our own decisions.
The BUI is to establish a schools commission, as we know. We want to see very substantial changes in the Bill, because we think it will lead to too much centralisation, inadequate consultation, and at the same time leading to too much power being in the hands of the Minister. It will not ensure adequate representation of appropriate people on the schools commission itself and it will not ensure that the purposes of the Bill, as set out in clause 13, will properly meet the education needs and requirements of all Australian school children. I will describe from a draft I have the amendments I will move. Mr Speaker, may I ask how the printing presses are rolling? Do you know how long it will be before the amendments are circulated? May I have a commitment from the Government that this debate will not be gagged before we have an opportunity to move our amendments in this House?
– We have not set a time limit on the debate. We just assume that the second reading debate will go along and that by the time it is concluded the Opposition amendments, which will be moved in the Committee stage, will be printed.
– That is not a commitment.
– For the edification of the honourable member for Wannon, I have 10 speakers listed.
- Mr Speaker, I suspect that the printing presses will take less time than the time taken by those 10 speakers, so I thank you for the assurance that the Minister was unwilling to give me. I am now advised that the amendments will be ready in 10 minutes time. Mr Speaker, I would like to apologise to you and to your officers for the inconvenience that has obviously been caused but I repeat that it has been caused by the way in which the Government has denied adequate time to the Opposition to examine this very important matter.
The Opposition proposes to add to the definitions of the Bill - if not in this House at least in another place - an additional definition of the Australian Education Council consisting of the Australian Minister and every State Minister. The Opposition is determined to give the Australian Education Council a role in the workings of the Schools Commission which the Government apparently has been unwilling to concede. That definition will be necessary to make sure that the rest of the Bill flows appropriately. Clause 4 will also be amended because the Opposition disagrees with the
Minister when he says that ‘the Commission shall consist of a Chairman, and such number of other members, not being less than four nor more than eleven, as is from time to time prescribed’. That definition is far too wide. There is also wide discretion for the Minister concerning the people that he may appoint. There is no guarantee that those concerned with State departments of education or those concerned with independent schools will be given any support or representation. For all we know, the people appointed to the Commission under this Minister could well be people who are committed o one form of education - government education - alone, whilst the Opposition is committed to a high standard of government education and, in addition, to the continued maintenance and freedom of independent schools.
So the Opposition will be moving that subclause (2) of clause 4 be omitted and that the Commission shall consist of a chairman and 2 other members to be appointed directly by the Commonwealth Minister, 7 members to be selected from a panel of ten to be nominated by the Australian Education Council - that council consists of State Ministers together with the Commonwealth Minister for Education - 4 members to be selected from a panel of seven to be nominated by the independent school authorities, and one member from a panel of three to be nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education. The Opposition submits that this will provide a balanced membership for the Commission. It will be a more adequate membership. It will make sure that appropriate people are represented on the Commission, and it will make sure that the undue discretion that the Minister has sought is reasonably circumscribed. The Opposition is proposing in fact that there will be 10 people who might be regarded as coming from the government sector of education, three appointed by the Minister and seven to be selected from a panel of ten nominated by the Education Council on which, of course, the Commonwealth Minister is represented.
– Does the Commonwealth Minister select from the panel?
-The Commonwealth Minister would select from the panel. He would have that choice. The Opposition recognises that this is necessary because when 2 or more panels are represented it is appropriate that the Commonwealth Minister should have the capacity to balance the membership of the Commission. That is quite deliberately why the Commonwealth Minister is given that discretion. What I have just said is the intention of the Opposition. The amendments have been hurriedly drafted, without the authority of the Parliamentary Council to back up the fine detail of the words. If it were found that the amendments did not precisely achieve that situation, it would be possible in the Senate to look at what they would achieve precisely. The Opposition believes that the discretion given to the Commonwealth Minister is an adequate discretion to see that those who should be appropriately on the Schools Commission are on it and that the different people and groups are appropriately represented.
I was saying that 10 members basically would be coming from the government sector - three directly appointed by the Minister and seven nominated by the ‘Education Council. There would be four from a panel of seven to be nominated by the independent school authorities and one from a panel of three to be nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education. The Opposition believes also that the discretion I think the Minister has given himself in the Bill concerning full time members should not be there and that at the outset there should be one full time member - as was the case with the Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education - but that the others should all be part time members appointed for terms of not more than 5 years but subject to reappointment.
I can find no valid justification for giving the chairman and each other full time member an appointment of 7 years. That seems to be unduly long, especially as members are eligible for reappointment. I understand that in some other government operations the period of 7 years is used but in this area, especially because it is a new venture and because there is the safeguard of reappointment, the Opposition believes that a S-year term is adequate. It also believes that there should be no class distinction between the full time and part time members. They should all be eligible for an appointment of that period. The Opposition submits that representation on a commission of this kind will make it possible for the Commission to do the job which the Government would want much better than could be done under the Bill presented to this House by the Government.
The other important amendments that the Opposition will be moving concern clauses 13 and 16. I would like to deal with clause 16 first because that amendment is the shortest. The Opposition will be moving that clause 16 be deleted and replaced by another clause which would guarantee that in pursuit of its functions the Commission shall consult with the State education authorities, independent school authorities and parent and teacher organisations for both government and independent schools. That is the extent of clause 16 as the Opposition believes it should be. Clause 16 is the clause under which regional boards would be established. Of course, this is the axe which will be used to chop down the State departments of education - not in one blow but in several.
Clause 13 will be substantially amended because it is one which does not look adequately to the totality of education. It looks too much to only one sector of education. The Opposition wants to make quite sure that the Commission is pointed in the appropriate direction. The preamble to clause 13 of the Minister’s Bill reads as fallows:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters.
The Opposition’s amendment deletes that and requires the Commission to work in cooperation with the State departments of education and independent school authorities, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister and to State Ministers. It must be a commission that reports to State Ministers as well as to the Commonwealth Minister, as does the Universities Commission, for example. Good precedents have been set for that.
I doubt whether the Minister was responsible for paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1) of clause 13 because the wording is convoluted and very difficult to follow. The Opposition will move to delete that paragraph and in its stead to place the words ‘any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b)’. That is all in relation to the functions of the Commission. The Opposition’s paragraph is simple ‘and easily understood. I think the Minister’s paragraph is most difficult to understand. Then we come to sub-clause (3) of clause 13. Here the Opposition proposes to omit the whole of sub-clause (3). The Opposition proposes to take appropriate parts out of it and to replace it with a wider and broader sub-clause which I will read to the House because I think it describes very adequately what the Opposition is seeking. It states:
In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in government or independent schools.
We are establishing for the Commission an obligation to look at the needs of all children, not just of some children. Sub-clause (3) continues:
Further, the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations charter on human rights . . .
Article 26 calls upon member governments to preserve freedom of choice in education and reads:
That, of course, is what the Opposition wishes to enshrine and what the Government, I believe, wishes to bury. I most certainly hope that this amendment will be supported. The Opposition’s amendment to clause 13 provides for a new sub-clause (3a) as follows:
Furthermore, in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the need to provide increased and equal opportunities for education in all Australian schools. In pursuit of these objectives the Commission shall have regard to -
the obligation for governments to provide and maintain schools systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees;
the pre-eminent position of State Departments of Education in relation to their own schools;
the pre-eminent position of independent authorities in relation to their own schools;
Paragraphs (d) to (g) which follow are the renumbered paragraphs (b) to (g) of the Minister’s own proposal. The Opposition regards its amendment to clause 13 as a most fundamental amendment. In addition to that, the Opposition’s proposed amendment to clause 16 to remove from the Minister the right to establish statutory regional boards on his own appointment is regarded as of great signifi cance. The Opposition’s amendment provides that the Commission shall be appointed with a fixed membership and an appropriate quorum of eight. This will ensure that matters coming before the Schools Commission are examined objectively, fully and fairly with the interests of all Australian schoolchildren in the minds of the members of the Commission. Of course, the other amendment to clause 13 directs the attention of all members of the Commission in that direction. We will be pressing these amendments in this chamber. Obviously the Government has the numbers in this place but the Opposition will, I believe, have the numbers twice round in the Senate, if the Minister wishes to take it that far, because we are serious about these matters and will press the amendments.
I ask the Minister to look at the Opposition’s amendments coolly - not the way that this debate began - and without passion and heat because it is the Opposition’s belief that its amendments will lead to a much better Schools Commission and a much better balanced Commission whose nose is pointed in the appropriate direction to advance education for all Australian schoolchildren. If the Minister is prepared to accept as many amendments as I accepted from him when the Commonwealth teaching service legislation was debated last year, the Opposition will have no quarrel with the result because that probably will cover the number of amendments that it wants accepted in this debate.
– Let me say at once that the Government gladly accepts the inclusion in this Bill of the extract from the Declaration of Human Rights from which the former Minister for Education and Science, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has quoted, embodying, as it does very thoroughly, the philosophy and statements of faith on which the legislation before the House rests. Although it accepts that amendment from the Opposition, the Government rejects the remainder of the Opposition’s amendments as totally undermining the hope of achieving the great aspirations set out in the Declaration and, indeed, emasculating the legislation which we are debating. The former Minister for Education and Science, upon whose shoulders rests a very formidable share of the responsibility for the present state of Australian schools, has, in the name of fighting centralisation, proposed amendments which would destroy the most hopeful initiatives in the direction of decentralisation in the administration of education which this country has yet seen.
The honourable member for Wannon, in proposing to combat bureaucracy, has chosen to concentrate the overwhelming weight of School Commission representation in the hands of 2 bureaucracies, namely, that bureaucracy made up of the State Departments of Education, as expressed through their Ministers and institutionalised in the Australian Education Council, and that other bureaucracy, no less hidebound, which is institutionalised in the independent schools authorities. The membership proposed for the Australian Schools Commission, and foreshadowed in the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission which was announced by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on 24 September this year, reflects very closely the membership and the spread of interests represented on the original Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, which was appointed under Professor Karmel as one of the first acts of the present Government.
The work of that Committee, unrepresentative and flawed as the honourable member for Wannon would have us believe it, led to the production of the interim report of the Australian Schools Commission which was hailed by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), as ‘this magnificent report’. It produced a document which that right honourable gentleman said his own government should have produced. The great body of teachers in Australia and that great body of parents whose efforts have done so much to keep the education system afloat in this country throughout the postwar period will view with great trepidation the amendments that have been proposed by the honourable member for Wannon and will similarly regard the philosophy of which those amendments are an expression. There will be no doubt in the minds of those organisations that there would be no place on a Schools Commission, staffed by a government in which the honourable member for Wannon was again the Minister for Education, for persons such as Mr Ray Costello, the President of the first Teachers Federation, who has been appointed to the Interim Committee by the present Minister for Education. There would be no place on such a commission for Mrs Joan Kirner, who has been appointed from the Australian Council of State School Organisations. Mr Costello and Mrs Kirner are people with a knowledge as deep, an experience as extensive, a commitment to education equal in every way to anyone-
– I raise a point of order. May I gently correct the honourable member for Casey? What he has just said is not correct. I initially gave the funds to the Australian Council of State School Organisations to establish a central secretariat.
-Order! There can be no debate. No point of order is involved. If the honourable member has been, misrepresented he can make a personal explanation at the conclusion of this speech.
– The honourable member for Wannon shows himself no less adept at taking up the time of other speakers by the procedural forms of the House than he accuses other members of being through interjecting. It is quite clear, given the terms of the amendments moved by the honourable member for Wannon, that neither of these people, enormous though their potential contribution is to the cause of education in this country, would have any hope of finding their way on to a commission in which the honourable member for Wannon had any say. Indeed it was clear from the speech made by the honourable member for Wannon that the existence of the Schools Commission itself will be in serious doubt should he again return to the office which he has twice occupied. He said his Party would preserve its own right and make its own decisions on this matter. I regard that as a very ominous warning for the prospects of any objective process of inquiry into the needs of education in this country.
Honourable members will not find it hard to recall how, prior to the 1969 election, the honourable member for Wannon promoted the idea of a nationwide survey on educational needs as a means of staving off the demands not only of teachers’ organisations and of parents’ organisations but also of State Ministers and others who make up the Australian Council for Education, for which he has suddenly developed so high an opinion, until after the Government of which he was a member could get over a critical pre-election period. How rapidly he and his leader moved to discredit the results of that survey as soon as the election was over. The whole philosophy of members opposite in matters of Commonwealth assistance for education has been based on a 3 -tier model of the education system.
The honourable member for Wannon and those associated with him have always had a very special affinity with and concern for a very small group of schools in this community whose students are already receiving education of a very high quality. They have been prepared to spare a few crumbs for those parochial and government schools in middle and outer suburban areas which have been represented in this place until recently by members of their own Party. They have had no concern whatsoever for those schools at which Australia’s least privileged children receive their education. Three groups in particular have missed out throughout the long period of Liberal Party Government of this country. I refer in particular to children who are handicapped by being born into socially and economically disadvantaged households, children who are drawn from migrant households in which the language spoken is a language other than English and the cultural assumptions are other than those of our own society, and children who are born mentally or physically handicapped in some degree. Although any community should acknowledge a great and overriding obligation to those 3 groups of children, it is these children who, under the government of the honourable member for Wannon and his predecessors in the Education portfolio, have missed out. I have little time to develop the extent to which they have missed out but I draw attention in that time to a few indicative facts, including those set out in the report of the Migrant Task Force Committee of Victoria which was tabled recently in this Parliament. The first conclusion of that report states:
Recent surveys and reports Indicate that: effectively only 20 per cent of the children in the schools surveyed who need English tuition are receiving enough of it . . .
In effect there in a blatant denial of the child’s right to a meaningful and fulfilling educational experience.
I turn to the needs of the handicapped children and particularly those who are psychologically disturbed and have specific learning difficulties or have difficulties of language expression and articulation; that is, to children who, under any proper system of priorities for educational expenditure, would receive prompt and proper care from the phychology and guidance branches of education departments, from the speech therapy branches of education departments and from remedial teaching staff of education departments. A report presented recently to the Victorian Minister for Educa tion revealed that in that State, with a school population of 600,000 children, a mere 98 officers in the Psychology and Guidance Branch were available, 43 of whom were still in the process of training. I think that is a fair indication of the priority attached by the honourable member for Wannon and his State colleagues to the needs of the child who is handicapped by emotional disturbance or by specific learning difficulties. The report went on to point out that the speech therapy branch of the Victorian Education Department had barely half the speech therapists necessary to meet its estimated workload.
I wonder whether the honourable member for Wannon and those who, like him, try to undermine the process by which these facts could regularly be brought under public scrutiny have any comprehension of the misery of the family and the child when defects of speech get steadily worse over a number of years while that child is waiting for treatment and none can be provided for him. I have seen children identified by officers of the Victorian Education Department as having defects of speech in their first or second year at school and denied treatment for 3 or more years because of the gross shortage of speech therapists. For 3 or 4 years these defects became exacerbated and fed on themselves until the children concerned became speech cripples. I wonder whether the honourable member for Wannon has any comprehension of the distress of parents and the child where specific learning difficulties are identified and where 80 per cent of the children who receive the assistance which they require in the first year or 2 years of their school career, recover from those difficulties. A majority of the children with these defects are denied the assistance that they need up to grades 5, 6 and beyond, even into secondary schools, where the prospects for successful action are remote indeed.
I bring these very few instances to the attention of the House and to the honourable member for Wannon because I am convinced that the great contribution that the Australian Schools Commission will make to the affairs of education in this country is to bring before the attention of the public, this Parliament and the State Parliaments not only the great and glaring problems of education in which we all share most directly but also those problems of special education, special services, education for handicapped children and education for migrant children which have so long been swept under the mat and which will not receive the attention to which they are entitled until they are regularly exposed to the light of day.
This process of an objective inquiry is one which will not be well served if the people responsible for it are drawn exclusively from the bureaucracies of State education departments and from the teaching and parental hierarchies of the independent school system. The selection of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission - that is, the committee that was headed by Professor Karmel - was a triumph to bringing into play in this field of educational investigation the best resources that our community has to offer. There is a very considerable overlap between that initial interim committee and the interim committee announced by the Minister on 24 September. If the amendments that will be moved by the honourable member for Wannon are carried it would be most unlikely that more than one or two at the most of the people who were represented_on those committees would figure as members of a permanent schools commission. That would be a tragedy for this nation, for its schools and for its children.
I hope that there will be no retreat by the Australian people from the commitment into which they entered last December for a new deal for the schools of this country. I hope that they will not allow themselves to be frightened off from the new processes of objective inquiry and from the greatly increased scope of financial commitment on the part of the Australian Government to the Australian education system. I hope that we can go forward from the recommendations which have been put forward by the Karmel Committee and adopted overwhelmingly by the Government to new uplands of education in this country. The Karmel report is a great charter for the development of Australian schools and the present Bill gives that charter lasting form.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We would all join with the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) in desiring new uplands for Australian education. I think there is great agreement in this House and in the Australian community that the provision of extra funds for education which we have seen this year is a good thing. Many of us on this side of the House have been worried by the tendency over recent years for the States to be starved of funds for the fulfilment of their essential purposes and, of course, among the most crucial purposes of the States is education. So, I can only say that we would agree with the honourable member for Casey on that point. But we fear that signs are appearing that the Government’s conception of the uplands of education should scare the living daylights out of a very large percentage of the Australian community and should scare the living daylights out of those who have regard for the higher values and for the non-material values in education.
Without in any way detracting from amounts of money and from many of the purposes of the Australian Schools Commission, I say that it is distinctly odd that this new and permanent proposed Australian Schools Commission makes no provision for non-material values and has no aspirations above financial and material values. It provides no guarantees and no formal structures of freedom in the educational processes of our community. It seems to me to be one of the major ironies of present politics in this country that one of those rare and splendid public men who are most concerned with nonmaterial values in the Australian community - I refer to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) - should be forced to preside over some - not all - education policies which in my judgment and the judgment of my colleagues threaten crucial non-material values in our community.
This Bill is a Bill which we will support after our amendments have been accepted. If our amendments are accepted, we will not attempt in any way to delay the passage of this Bill. As the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has pointed out, we are asking no more than was asked of us last year in the consideration of an equally important Bill. Our amendments aim basically at 3 things. They do not seek to strike out provisions of the Bill. They aim at positive provisions. They seek guarantees of freedom, effectiveness and decentralisation.
Another irony of present day politics in our community is that a Party which has preached so much about open government - open government these days seems to mean that one tells all the secrets of the previous Government and keeps all one’s own secrets - and which has talked about getting the people involved, in fact rarely stops to listen to the people.
It announces its policies. It speaks on high. It does not ask those who are most affected how they would have various things done. It is not surprising that group after group in the Australian community has been alienated and has squealed. The way in which so many hopes have been dashed is one of the saddest things that I have seen in Australian politics in many years. This could so easily have been avoided. A little consultation goes a long way when one is formulating new policies. A pause to discuss, to reflect and to talk together could have solved many of the problems that the Government has struck in this area of education as well as in other areas - such as arts policy notably, but across the whole range of Government policies. Of course the Government - the Australian Labor Party - has tied the hands of the Minister for Education in ways which he could only regret. I am convinced that personally he would have consulted and involved more people in the educational process than he has done.
Our amendments to the Bill seek to ensure and to guarantee the participation of those who are involved as parents and those who are involved in the organisations of nongovernment schools as well as government schools and to ensure and guarantee their permanent participation at the highest level of national education planning.
Nothing in this Bill can still our fears about excessive centralisation. Clause 13(1) (a) of the Bill sets out how the Commission is to establish acceptable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff. In other words, the Commission is charged with very detailed decision making. We saw, of course, in the report of the Interim Committee how mangled things can get when they come out of one central single body. It might be said, that we have learnt the lesson from the findings of the Interim Committee in regard to how much injustice can be done to particular schools as well as to hosts of parents in all schools. It might be said that we have learnt our lesson from that and we will consult with the States. But there is no guarantee that consultation will mean anything in terms of performance. Clause 1 6 (1) provides that the Parliament may in each State establish a schools commission advisory board. It may establish - there is nothing mandatory about this. This provision looks promising at first. But our point is this: Why by-pass those who are most deeply involved in education? You do not decentralise by setting up yet another centralised bureaucracy. That is precisely what the Government is attempting to do - to decentralise by setting up another centralised bureaucratic system. We want to push power in education right out to the periphery of the system. That needs to be further decentralised and we are all in agreement on that.
– There is no trace of it in the amendment.
– I do not intend to have a mean quarrel about that. But the parents are not aided in any material way by the provisions of this Bill. Another point I want to make concerns the vital matter about which the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke - the preservation of freedom of choice for parents and school children. This is referred to in article 26 of the charter of the United Nations Charter. We look to this Bill in vain for any guarantee about the future of independent schools. Clause 13 (3) (a) speaks of a primary obligation of governments in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children. That is splendid. We look for the sort of guarantees that the Government would make in regard to the independent school system.
– This is in 13 (1) (a).
– It is suggested that there is a guarantee of independence in clause 13 (1) (a). But I am pointing to the factors which the Commission is charged to take into account. There is no guarantee of the future of independent schools in clause 13 (1) (a) which the Minister has just mentioned. They are referred to in clause 13 (1) (a), but my point is made precisely by the Minister’s interjection because what we have in clause 13 (l)(a) is a general reference to schools, both government and non-government. Paragraph (a) of clause 13 (3) gives quite specific guarantees about the future of government schools, but we have no guarantees about the future of independent schools. I can only come to the conclusion that as there are no guarantees of the future of independent schools - there are no secondary or tertiary guarantees at all - the Bill deliberately has failed to guarantee the future of nongovernment independent schools.
The Bill does encourage much that is positively good and we have no complaint about that. I mention provisions such as are contained in clause 13-
– May I ask the honourable gentleman a question if he is talking in terms of guarantees?
– What legislation of the Commonwealth has ever guaranteed the existence of schools in any State in the past?
– My point is that this legislation is guaranteeing the maintenance of government school systems. I do not care about the past; we are looking to the future. The Government is guaranteeing the future of government schools in a Bill which will become an Act. There are no guarantees- in regard to independent schools in the same Bill which guarantees the future of government schools. That is absolutely plain, lt may be unintentional, and I hope that it is. But this is absolutely plain from the wording of the Bill. No matter how many other refrences are made in the Bill to non-government schools, they do not get the specific guarantee that is given to government schools. I hope the Minister can clear this up.
– It is very sinister.
– I hope it is not sinister, but I fear it may be. Again it may be that the hands of the Minister are so tied by the faded, old-fashioned reactionaries in his own Party that he has little to do with it. Much that is good is encouraged, such as education for the handicapped, special education problems, migrant education problems and all these things which in later years we in the Liberal governments began to do something about and which have been carried on splendidly by this Government. That is positively good. But the point is that in spite of all of the guarantees the Government made before the last election in regard to the future of independent schools it has now guaranteed only the future of one sector. Therefore all their promises and all of their guarantees about the future of the independent schools have been given their second body blow in this Bill. The first body blow was, of course, contained in the first report of the Interim Committee and the recommendations of that report show how much injustice can be perpetrated in the name of equalising opportunity.
– Could I ask the honourable member another question? How is it a body blow to get their grants trebled?
– It is a body blow to countless parents and to the schools which have been improperly classified, and the Minister wanted to see aid continued even at Geelong Grammar. We know that he had to give in to his colleagues on that. We are not going to continue that fight now because it is well known to the community.
What has happened, sadly, is that now that the Labor Government’s education plans have become concrete their promises have melted away. This, as I have said, should scare the living daylights out of so many people in the Australian community who are discovering that as much injustice can be done in the name of equalising opportunity as can be done in the name of anything else. The other point that I want to make is this: In our attempts in the amendments to ensure freedom and effectiveness and decentralisation we are aiming at the guaranteed participation of those deeply involved in education. It is quite extraordinary that in days when people are crying out for participatory democracy that guarantees are not given to the affected community that it shall participate. That is all that we ask. I have high hopes that the Minister will be able to come to the party on that. I am sure that as a man of good will, he will seriously consider this. I conclude by saying that much has been done by the Minister and much is being done by the Government. We fear much because of the provisions of this Bill. We do not want to detract from anything, but we do want to see this lovely talk about the uplands of education developed in the finest way possible by this Government, as it would be by any government, so that those non-material values which can make all the difference to an individual’s education are preserved for all time in the Australian community.
– I rise to support the Bill. Before I go on to make my own positive remarks on the Bill let me refer to a few of the remarks made by the 2 speakers for the Opposition who so far have taken part in this debate. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a former Minister for Education, seems to have learnt nothing. He has forgotten nothing, but he has learnt nothing from the experience of 2 December 1972. He still goes on with the same old complaints about centralism, talking about how this new enterprise - the Commonwealth Schools Commission - is going to centralise the task of education in Australia.
We remember his pre-election prophecies about how this Commission would want to appoint every teacher to every school in Australia and all this sort of nonsense. He conveniently forgets that his own government or governments of his kidney in previous times set up comparable bodies at the tertiary level - such as the Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Commission on Advanced Education - on which this Schools Commission is very much modelled.
The honourable member quite conveniently forgets those things. He ignores the provisions in the Bill when he talks about centralism. He ignores the provisions in the Bill that give the Commission, with the sanction of the Minister for Education, power to set up all kinds of consultative bodies in the community. Why all this nonsense about centralism when it is explicitly stated in the Minister’s second reading speech that the State governments will still have control of State education and all that we will be doing will be helping them to do it a lot better. The honourable member for Wannon talked in a derogatory way about the Commonwealth taking over the financial responsibility for tertiary education. Does he not remember the outcry from every State Minister for Education about the formula imposed upon the States by the previous Commonwealth Government in respect of financial grants to the States whereby for recurrent benefits the States had to find $1.85 for every $1 that the Commonwealth provided? What was the result? The result was to distort the educational pattern.
We had very good universities and we had very good colleges of advanced education. But look around the community, look around the inner suburbs - but do not restrict it to that - and look at the condition of so many of the primary and secondary schools in Australia. Do not look for pre-school education because so little of its exists. Do not look very much for the welfare of the handicapped children in our community because they are still running chocolate wheels to raise funds to maintain their own schools. I could go on with further examples. The former Minister for Education has the hide to say: ‘Our concern is for a high standard of education for all children and our particular concern is for those most in need’. That is a laugh when one remembers just how the previous Government gave flat rate grants right across the board, niggardly as they were, and the poorer schools got exactly the same amount per capita as did the richest schools in the country. Yet the honourable member for Wannon refers to that as ‘our concern for those most in need’.
Does he not remember the science grants provisions whereby twice as much per head was spent on private schools as was spent on state schools? Does he remember what the previous Government did not do about the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which was tabled in May 1971 in respect of the welfare of the mentally and physically handicapped children in Australia? That report culminated from an inquiry set up in 1970 in the Senate at the behest of Australian Labor PaTty senators who at that time, with the co-operation of the Democratic Labor Party, had control in that place.
That report lay on the table for 18 months prior to the last election and hardly a thing was done about it. Like so many other reports it was pigeon-holed. It was referred to an interdepartmental committee. We went to the election on 2 December and all those handicapped children in Australia, not only those in private schools but also those not able to get into any school at all, were deprived. The least of God’s children, you might say, were deprived by this former Minister for Education who now expresses his concern for all children.
I could go on with other examples of this woeful state of affairs that I have referred to in regard to so many of our government schools. But what about the concern expressed by him about there being no guarantees. The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) - if he would care to listen to my remarks - was looking for guarantees in respect of private schools, but he ought to know that many of our private schools had to close down. Look around the countryside. Look- at the number of private schools, the number of Catholic and other schools that have had to close down. At this stage 40 per cent - and the percentage is rising every year - of the children who would have liked to go to, say, a Catholic school have been denied that choice because those schools could not be maintained. The previous Government did nothing to help to sustain those schools. Yet in this Bill the aid for all such schools has been more than trebled. I know what the reaction is in my electorate. The private schools have been amazed by the liberality of this Bill and the provision it makes to sustain them. I am talking about not only the non-systemic schools but the systemic schools as well. Our prime concern, I suppose, always has to be on behalf of the approximately 75 per cent - and it is rising still higher - who go to state schools. We have an obligation to them, an obligation which the previous Government ignored.
Let me turn now to the report itself. The report had to be produced in a hurry. Let us be frank and admit that. The urgency of the situation demanded it. We gave a guarantee that when we became the Government we would set up this Interim Commission, and we did that immediately we became the Government. Within 5 months this very capable body, this dedicated body of men and women, produced this report. That body has done a magnificent job on behalf of Australian education. Of course there are defects in the report. What body, exercising such a wide charter, could avoid making some errors? Well, it has the opportunity to revise the report. The Commission that will be set up as a result of this report will be widely representative. More will be said about that during the debate, I would imagine, as we go into the Committee stage of the Bill.
The overriding principle guiding this Bill is that it should provide for quality of education and that it should provide for equality of educational opportunity. As a first step towards achieving that which provides the basic requirements that are so much denied one does not have to go very far - just go to schools in all of our metropolitan areas all over Australia - to see the dingy schools, the dingy class rooms, the high turnover of teachers who refuse to remain in those schools and playgrounds that are represented by a dingy little piece of potholed asphalt. Yet, on the other hand, we have schools that occupy literally acres of green pastures. This is the kind of thing we decry and that is why we sought a mandate from the Australian people to give something like equality of opportunity. Until we can bring all those schools which have been so neglected up to a reasonable standard we are going to restrict the amount of grants that we will give to those schools which already have reached the standard which the Karmel Committee reckoned was a reasonable standard for the Australian school system.
I have not heard any of the State Ministers for Education decry this Bill or its provisions. In fact in New South Wales, at a time approaching the State election, the Minister for Education is busying himself going around announcing how many teachers he is going to recruit.
– State Ministers of education attending the Australian Education Council unanimously commended the entire Karmel exercise and the offer of funds.
– Let that interjection be recorded. They all accepted it willingly. In my State of New South Wales at the present time advertisements appear day after day in the newspapers to recruit more teachers. We did not see that during the Liberal-Country Party regime. We see that more school buildings are to be erected, more ancillary staff are to be recruited and more librarians are to be trained. The State cannot get the bodies quickly enough now and it has funds like it never had before. Surely that is the prerequisite to setting up a decent educational system in Australia. We are not concerned only with the qualitative aspects; we are concerned also about the quantitative aspects, despite the remarks of the honourable member for Chisholm who suggested that we lacked some kind of value system and that we were concerned only with material things. As a former teacher in the educational system in New South Wales I regard that remark as a gross reflection on the vast body of teachers in government and non-government schools. To say that teachers concern themselves only with material values is a gross reflection on any body of people, and in my view this is a dedicated body of people.
Not only have the State Ministers applauded what has been done. The Australian Council of State School Organisations, the schools themselves, their professional bodies, and parents and teachers alike have applauded this step. Why should they not applaud it after looking at some of the figures. I will not have time to say all that I would like to say. Why should not these people applaud this step when you consider what the Karmel Committee report provides. For the 2 years 1974 and 1975 the Karmel Committee report will provide an additional S467m. That is additional to the amounts that were to be provided under the previous Government’s scheme. Taking into account what the previous Government was going to do, that provision will give the government and non-government schools of this nation $693m more than the 1972-73 provision. In the 2-year period, 1974 and 1975, government schools will get $476m extra on what the previous Government had provided in 1972-73. They will get $476m extra. It is said that we are not making any guarantee for the existence of non-government schools but they will get $123m extra during that time compared with what they got in 1971-72.
– Come off it.
– This is in the record and the honourable member for Wannon has been supplied with the details. He may not have had time to read them but they are on record. The tables are there for him to read. I shall refer to one of them - payments to or for the States in 1973-74.
– I raise a point of order. I ask the honourable member for Barton to table or have incorporated in Hansard all the documents he has which he believes prove that independent schools are getting $170m more than would have been provided by the previous Government.
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– The documents are available and I will make sure that they are widely circulated. I will quote from the tables for 1973-74 but I will not go right down the list. I will give the amounts in round figures. For all schools, government and nongovernment schools alike, it is estimated that $181m is to be provided as against only nearly $74m in 1972-73, the last financial year for which the Opposition was responsible. Compare those 2 figures, $181m as against $74m.
– That is only-
– I shall take your interjection in a moment. If the honourable member for Wannon wants to pick out the details for non-government schools for this financial year they are as follows: In round figures this financial year non-government schools will get $72m as against $47m last year. What is the position so far as government schools are concerned? The previous Government provided $26m. It provided twice as much to nongovernment schools as it provided directly to government schools. In round figures it provided $26m and this Government is going to provide SI 09m, which is almost a fourfold increase in the amount provided for this purpose.
– That understates the matter because the period is for 6 months only.
– Notice that the amount is for this year, and it is not a full year. I hope that people will recognise how much better off they will be in terms of hard cash. Honourable members opposite talk about principles. You can talk about principles when you are given cash, when you are given opportunities for research and for diversity of school systems such as are provided in this Bill. There will be curriculum research, organisational and administrative research, and consultation with all kinds of bodies in the community. All these things are provided for in this Bill yet the Opposition spokesman would try to have us believe that this is a highly centralised system. It is anything but that. It provides far more choice than was ever given before. This body will not be a dominating body. It is a body which will provide resources to so many people to carry out the kind of things they want done.
In the last few minutes I have left in which to speak I want to turn to a couple of other items that touch my heart particularly. I want to talk about handicapped children again. How much did the previous Government provide directly for such children in 1972-73? Nil. Nothing. Under our Government $7.7m, nearly $8m, is to be provided in 1974 and that is just a beginning. Overall in 1974 and 1975 this Government will provide almost $44m for handicapped children. Let all parents who have such children, or citizens with a humanitarian concern for such children, take note of the vastly improved status and opportunities that they will have. They were the forgotten children. Then there is the question of the disadvantaged schools, the ones which are so characteristic of our inner city areas, the schools frequented by the lowest in the socio-economic scale and those where the greatest congregation of migrant children happens to be, the children who were brought here by the previous Government and then forgotten. This Government has made special provision for them over and above what it is doing for schools generally. Special provisions are being made for them in accordance with the Karmel Committee report. They got nothing specifically under the previous Government. This year alone this Government will provide $7. 7m for those schools, over and above what else is done, on the basis of need.
We cannot do all these things overnight. My colleague the Minister for Housing (Mr
Les Johnson) knows the problem that we have in recruiting tradesmen alone for the multiplicity of purposes that the Government has taken upon itself. One of the reasons why we do not have enough tradesmen is the ineptitude of the previous Government in not giving support to another aspect of educational enterprise, technical education. For a fair part of my life I served in that sphere, training teachers for technical education, and I know a little about the subject. Technical education will get a substantial increase as well. In 1972-73 this branch of education got only $13m but under this Government it will get $32.6m in one financial year. That is the difference in approach. Educational authorities will get further help in the tertiary aspects pf education but I will not have time to talk about that today.
We are still awaiting the report of the committee set up by the Minister to inquire into Australian technical and further education. So I could go on. This Bill provides fina’ncial resources that every State and nine-tenths of private schools applaud. They have a guarantee of continuance under this Government. This is not an ad hoc commission. It has not. been set up to last for one year and then be forgotten about for another 20 years, this is a guarantee for Australia’s educational future. It is to be a permanent commission backed by the national government - the one Government in Australia that has the resources to guarantee the future of every child, and for that matter every adult, seeking an appropriate education in Australia. No wonder I support this Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable members time has expired.
– Firstly, I should like to make it clear to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) that in speaking to the Schools Commission Bill, the Australian Country Party in no way condemns him, or for that matter his Government, for the genuine attempts that he has made to try to improve the standards of education in Australia. We have some criticism of some of the ways in which the policy direction has been taken. We do not oppose the establishment of a schools commission. The Government certainly went to the people with that proposal in its platform and it was made clear that this proposal would be adopted. It can be truly said that the Government has a mandate to establish such a com mission. However, the Australian Country Party supports the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition spokesman on education, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), principally because we are anxious to ensure that the Government carries out that spirit of the Minister’s intention as stated in his second reading speech where he said that the States will retain responsibility for administering their own educational programs but will have available to them greatly increased funds for this purpose. That is perfectly true. The States will have greatly increased funds available for the purposes of education. But in our judgment it is very important to ensure that the States continue to maintain the direct responsibility for the administration of education. I feel that the amendments give greater substance to the Minister’s expressed intention.
There has been little adverse reaction in the community to the proposal to establish a schools commission. There have been serious objections raised as to the extent to which the Australian Government should determine how funds granted to the States should be spent. I know that there are arguments for and against this principle. But after all, we are living in a federation of States. We have a Federal system of Government and there are great difficulties once we try to impose upon the States a machinery that could in some way take away from them any degree of flexibility in their own administration.
– But you earmarked the grants for science laboratories and libraries and the States said that they wanted to spend the money on something else. You still earmarked them for those purposes.
– If this was against the wishes of the States, I do not think it was right. Frankly, 2 wrongs do not make a right. Often in our zeal to try to do the best job possible we can overlook the desires and the aspirations of the States and those who have a primary responsibility at the grass roots level for putting into practice the function of education. No one will deny that the States have needed the additional funds that are provided for them under the terms of the recommendations of the Karmel report. No one will argue that the Minister has failed in his task of pumping the urgently needed additional Commonwealth resources into education. No one would want to rubbish the work of the Karmel Committee. Whether one disagrees with aspects of its recommendations or not, it is a very creditable effort which was done in the shortest possible time available. I think great credit goes to the Committee for what it did in surveying the needs of education in Australia right through the breadth of education, including the needs of disadvantaged and handicapped people in the community.
The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) was critical of the former Minister for Education and Science for what little the previous Government had done to try to improve migrant education and the education of handicapped children. I remember the former Minister for Education and Science and the former Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, setting about the establishment of a task force to inquire into the needs of migrant education. Also, a considerable amount of work was done by the former Minister for Education and Science to improve the general standards of education applying to handicapped children. He was looking at the need to provide special facilities for teachers to teach handicapped children. Thus it is rather an unfair criticism to have made of the former Minister for Education and Science, who was making great strides in the field of advancing the needs of education generally.
It would be wrong and not in the best interests of education generally if the Commonwealth Government, or the Australian Government as the Government wishes to have itself known, should assume any form of centralised control or direction. Indeed, it is probably more important in the field of education than in any other field to have greater decentralisation and local autonomy. Although attempts have been made recently in the States to decentralise or to regionalise administration of education I am not so sure that sufficient has been done to achieve the local autonomy that is necessary in the field of education. For instance, I believe there is too much rigidity in the curriculum among schools within the various State boundaries. There is insufficient vocational training in secondary schools and insufficient opportunity for students to undertake study in subjects which equip school leavers to go into worth while jobs in their local environment.
In my own electorate of Gwydir we have a great number of Aboriginal children, many of whom are now starting to flow into the high schools. But unfortunately the subjects that are available to them do not always help them to adjust themselves to the local community in which they wish to live once they leave school. There is not enough pretechnical training in the education system to equip those people who do not necessarily have the inclination or the ability to go to university. I believe there has been too much emphasis on the need for students to attain university level qualifications. So I believe that as the system now rests there is an even greater need to have more flexibility in the curricula available within schools from region to region. la my own home town of Moree, for instance, from time to time we have a great shortage of plumbers, electrical engineers and motor mechanics. The building industry has to import a great number of its tradesmen. Yet at the same time we are seeing a drift of young people after they leave school away from the town of Moree to the cities and elsewhere to find employment or to pursue further educational levels.
I think it is absolutely essential for schools within the States to have a more diverse and more flexible approach to the educational needs of our children. I believe that if this were so we would not have so many dropouts, drug takers, hippies and others who have not been able to make the grade in their school because of the tailor made type of curriculum available. Far too many parents are putting pressure on their children, wanting little Johnny and Mary to be university students. If he or she does not become a university student Johnny or Mary feels a failure. Yet Johnny could have a great future as an electrical engineer, a plumber, a painter or a builder. I wonder what our schools are in fact doing to try to get the ‘best out of our children. I do not think that we are doing enough in the field of vocational training. I throw this into the debate here this afternoon for the reason that I believe that as education is structured in our society at the present time there is not enough decentralisation. I would hate to see the establishment of any system that would tend to centralise and perhaps make the function of education even more rigid. This leads rae to support with great conviction that part of the amendment which seeks to insert in the Bill the following words:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and .the independent school authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State ‘Ministers with respect to, the following matters:
The whole purpose of the amendment really is to ensure that the Minister’s stated objective is in fact put into print so that the real objective that he outlined in his second reading speech is actually tied into the Bill itself. Another worthwhile amendment is the amendment to clause 4, which seeks to substitute the following sub-clause (2):
The Commission shall consist of a Chairman, who shall be the only full-time member, and two other members to be appointed directly by the Minister, seven members to be selected from a panel of ten to be nominated by the Australian Education Council-
I am sure that this would be a way of assisting the Minister to get the names of the best people who are available throughout the length and breadth of Australia. What a good way, in a good team spirit, to try to get the right people on to the Commission. The amendment goes on: four members to be selected from a panel of seven to be nominated by the independent school authorities–
The independent school authorities would not put up anybody who would not be worth while. Undoubtedly they would seek to nominate to the Minister the best people who they thought could serve their own interests and the interests of education generally. The amendment goes on: and one member from a panel of three to be nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education.
If the Minister accepts that as the criterion under which appointments shall be made to the Schools Commission I am sure that he will never regret having chosen this method. To some extent it takes the blame away from him if he should choose in his own way the wrong man for the job. It puts the onus on the community through its various representative organisations and through the Australian Education Council, which consists of State Ministers for Education. The onus rests upon them to play their part in nominating the personnel who are to play an important role in the direction of the commission itself. I do not doubt the Minister’s sincerity, but if the Government is sincere in its objective to get the co-operation of the States and is sincere in its objective to get the co-operation of the States and is sincere in the objective that was stated in the Minister’s- second reading speech that the States will retain responsibility for administering their own education programs, the Minister will see the wisdom of accepting the amendments moved by the honourable member for Wannon. It would take away the doubt that I think lies in clause 13 (1), which states:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters:-
The establishment of acceptable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff and other facilities at government and nongovernment primary and secondary schools in Australia–
Standards acceptable to whom?
– To any civilised person - otherwise than they are now.
– Would the honourable member like to answer the question or would the Minister?
– I think both answers would be valid.
– The honourable member for Casey is trying to take the words out of the Minister’s mouth.
– I would just like to draw to the attention of the honourable member that the same sort of objections were raised before the Karmel Committee got into operation. What Professor Karmel defined as a minimum standard for which to aim was 40 per cent in resources above the existing average of State schools, which will cost $2,000m to reach, so it is a pretty strenuous target.
– When the Minister says acceptable standards’ does he have any concern for whether they are acceptable to the State Departments of Education as well? Is that consideration an important one?
– I just ask the honourable member to look at our proceedings so far. We asked the States to nominate their disadvantaged schools, and the grants of money are given to lift up those standards. We asked them to nominate what they wanted for handicapped children, and grants for that purpose have been lifted up. Over and above that there have been grants for ordinary buildings and ordinary recurring expenses. Similarly Catholic schools nominated their disadvantaged schools. They have been guiding us by their evidence.
– I thank the Minister for making that point clear. I am sure that the Minister, though, would have no real objection to the amendment. No doubt, if he does, he will have his chance to explain why he would be opposed to the provision in the amendment which underlined the need for complete cooperation with the State Departments of Education, which reads:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and the independent school authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters:
I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to that principle. Whether that wording is to his satisfaction perhaps does not really matter but the importance of that principle needs to be embodied more strongly in the Bill than it is at the present time. The Bill gives the impression that only token consideration is being given to the requirements of the various State Departments of Education. It lends weight to the body of criticism that has plagued the concept of the schools commission for the last 2 years, and that was that once it was set up we would see all power with respect to education centralised in Canberra. I believe thatthe Minister in his own heart and in his own mind does not intend this to happen, but who is to know how long the Minister will be in charge of this portfolio. I believe it is absolutely essential for him and the Government to give serious consideration to the amendments that have been moved by the honourable member for Wannon, which are designed firstly to ensure that the Minister is helped in the choice of membership of the Commission and, secondly, to ensure the necessary degree of co-operation between the Australian Government and the States in the operation of the Australian Schools Commission.
Debate (on motion by Dr Jenkins) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1972 to implement the Government’s acceptance of the Tariff Board’s recommendation in its report on Resins of the Propylene Type. The Board has recommended that a rate of 30 per cent apply to Resins of the Propylene Type. As this report was received prior to 19 July, the duties adopted by the Government are those recommended by the Board less the 25 per cent tariff cut. The new duties will operate from tomorrow. A summary of changes and duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Molten) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I table the report by the Tariff Board on Resins of the Propylene Type. I also table for the information of honourable members the report by the Tariff Board on:
Resins of the propylene type.
These items were referred to the Tariff Board in 1971 after objections were received from Australian manufacturers when the items were proposed for addition to Schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The Board has found that the items could be added to Schedule A without being seriously detrimental to Australian industry. It has, however, drawn attention to the possible difficulties which could arise in some cases under the current rules of origin governing preferential trade between Australia and New Zealand and on questions of equity regarding reciprocal access into New Zealand. The Government has decided to adopt the Board’s report and the items will be added to Schedule A if a mutually satisfactory arrangement can be reached with the New Zealand Government on the questions of rules of origin and access. Consultations with New Zealand have already been initiated. I reported to the House that that was so after my visit to New Zealand in the early part of the year. It is hoped that these consultations with New Zealand will be completed shortly.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I must express a certain degree of surprise at the attitudes of the Opposition to this Bill. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) made his second reading speech on 27 September and yet, on the resumption of the debate today, we had a rather disturbing display of pique and temper because amendments proposed by the Opposition were not available in time to be circulated when the second reading debate was resumed. It seems to me that with a structural Bill like this one, with the amount of material that the Minister has supplied to honourable members relevant to the Schools Commission including the report by the Interim Committee on the structure, honourable members opposite should not have complained after such an adjournment that they were unable to have their amendments ready. Obviously they are slow learners and slow thinkers. If the Bill dealt with greater detail than simply the structure and the functions of the Commission, one could have excused honourable members opposite. But the fact is that it did not. The Schools Commission Bill is relatively simple.
I am also disturbed at the complete disregard shown by honourable members opposite for the recommendations of the Interim Schools Committee in the Karmel Report, which is well known to them and which surely they must have examined, lt outlines the structure and functions of the Schools Commission, which is the very reverse of centralisation of the educational process, lt is couched in terms that allow examination of a wide variety of problems in the educational field of a structural nature and an educational nature and also the exciting prospects of future change. Yet the Opposition has completely ignored so much of this. Honourable members opposite spoke about the structure of the Commission and suggested that the only full time member should be the chairman. Despite the excellent work already done by the Interim Committee, the Commission will be confronted with a great task because of the many defects in our educational system, because so many demands will be made on it and because of the inequality that has occurred in so many areas in so many years under conservative governments, whether they were Federal or State ‘governments.
It is incredible that the Opposition should think, that one full time commissioner would be sufficient. The Karmel Committee said that any less substantial structure would be unlikely to provide the leadership and stimulus that are so badly needed in Australian education. That Committee recommended 3 or 4 full time commissioners because, as it properly pointed out, with the significant need for committees for research and regional boards, there will need to be full time members to chair these various organisations. The Opposition mentioned the width of responsibilities and interests of the Commission. How can one full time commissioner expect to be able to carry out these duties?
If there is not to be more than one commissioner on a full time basis how can we hope to ensure the appointment of senior and experienced persons who would otherwise be interested in taking on this task in the full knowledge that they had the support of others interested in the area, that they had the supporting services and that they would be able to perform a worthwhile task? We know that one man cannot be all things to all men. If, as advised by the Committee, there were more than one full time commissioner, commissioners could be used in different areas of expertise. With the interlocking of their expertise we would have a much more satisfactory full time component of the Schools Commission. I look next at the proposals for the part time membership structure of the Schools coommission. I can only assume that the Opposition sticks to its stodgy, old school tie, Party factionalism type of attitude that has become so evident in its political manoeuvrings in recent times. We should avoid, in such a Schools Commission, the appointment of persons representing particular interests who would bring in factional interests or factional fights contrary to the functioning of the Commission. The Minister has tried to avoid this in this Bill. Certainly there will be part-time commissioners who have had experience as parents and as teachers and of all the other aspects that affect schools.
The proposition put by the Opposition is that the part-time commissioners shall operate not as individuals looking at the comprehensive field of education and able to look at all matters, whether they represent nongovernment schools or government schools or have experience with those not representing such groups, to see how the recommendations of the Commission can be used for the good of the whole educational system in Australia. The Interim Committee commented on this aspect. It referred to representations made by the Australian Teachers Federation and the Australian Council of State School Organisations which argued strongly for the right to nominate representatives to the Commission. The Interim Committee of the Schools Commission saw some virtue but not total virtue in this argument for the very reasons I have mentioned, namely, that such persons would be representing a narrow group and voting on behalf of a narrow group when many of the people in those organisations have the breadth of vision which would enable them to look at the whole field of education and make recommendations that would benefit all and not just the interests they represent. This factionalism, this whole sense of trying to get different groups fighting for their rights, fighting to see whether they can get a bigger slice of the cake than another particular group, is implicit in the matters raised by the Opposition. I hope that the Parliament will not allow these sorts of inhibitions to be built into the Schools Commission. There are great dangers in their being built in.
We have heard some fiddling with words by Opposition members with regard to the functions of the Commission. I would have thought that the functions of the Commission, as expressed in the Bill, were straightforward. In its report the Karmel Committee acknowledged that there were serious deficiencies in 3 broad areas in Australian schools. In its summary of recommendations the Karmel Committee stated:
First, most schools lack sufficient resources, both human and material, to provide educational experiences appropriate to the young in a modern democratic industrial society.
I believe that the setting up of the Schools Commission, such as is proposed by the Minister, will allow us to provide sufficient resources of both a human and material nature to give the educational experience appropriate to the society of today. In education appropriate to today’s society Australia has lagged because past Australian governments have not been sufficiently interested to recognise the crisis and do something about it. The Karmel Committee also pointed out:
Secondly, among schools there are gross inequalities, not only in the provision of resources but also in the opportunities that they, offer to boys and girls from varied backgrounds.
I comment now on the socio-economic background of many of these children. If one comes from one of the large cities one can see this particularly in the inner suburban areas where there are grave socio-economic factors to be dealt with. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) referred to the problems of children who are underprivileged because of language difficulties - those children of migrant origin. I do not suggest that this is confined totally to city areas. I have no doubt that many honourable members who represent country electorates could indicate areas of socio-economic disadvantage.
The final and most cutting comment of the Karmel Committee was that the quality of Australian education leaves much to be desired. In a country where averages are taken to show the quality of our standard of living, and the quality of our way of life, what an indictment it is that a group of persons looking at our educational system is able to say that in Australia the quality of education leaves much to be desired. The blame for this situation can reside only with governmental apathy and lack of action over a period of years. In the functioning of the Schools Commission when it is set up - I have no intention of going through all the items that list its functions - lies great hope for the future in seeing that this essential quality of education is raised to an appropriate standard. Already the suggestion that this will be done has caused international comment. Other countries look to the Australian experience in education and are looking to the fact that no longer is Australia just talking about education as a political catchery but is doing something about it by establishing :i Schools Commission which will be able to do the job, it will determine the requirements and, as is provided in the Bill, will have consultation with the States, with the authorities in the Territories, with persons, bodies and authorities conducting non-government schools in Australia - not only government schools but the whole range of schools - and all persons with an interest in education. We are told by members of the Opposition that it is a small group of schools which has been unfairly categorised but, as the Minister has pointed out, this situation is to be reviewed. There has been some misunderstanding on the part of the schools.
Forgetting the interests of the great majority of schools^ - both government and nongovernment - the Opposition has tried to turn this Commission into one which will be inadequately staffed by full-time commissioners and because of this restriction on the full time commissioner it will be unable to give to issues the breadth of examination that is necessary. The Opposition wants further to stultify the Commission by producing its own type of factionalism - by providing for representatives of certain factions on the Commission. I do not suppose this is really surprising.
I cannot see how the Government could accept these sorts of amendments to this Bill. The Government was threatened that in another place the Opposition would use its numbers to ensure that this Commission would be so hacked around as to render it impotent. If the Opposition does that it will answer to the people of Australia. The people have shown by community involvement, community interest and community activities that they demand of governments proper action in the educational field. They will no longer be fobbed off with indecision and all sorts of alibis as to why the educational program cannot be carried out across the field. I congratulate the Minister for Education on the nature of the Bill that he has brought forward to form the Australian Schools Commission. I believe that if the proper structure and functions are used the Commission will follow the very worthy report that was given in such a short time by the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission. I believe that to fiddle with the Bill in the way the Opposition has proposed - after its obviously superficial appraisal - would be a grave mistake for the young people of this country.
– When the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) introduced this Bill he said, in his second reading speech, that the establishment of the Australian Schools Commission was a logical extension of the principles adopted by former governments in regard to universities and colleges of advanced education. Unfortunately I think the Minister was using logic of a Fabian school rather than of an Aristotelian school. It is obviously quite different having a commission which supervises the expenditure in 12 universities, all of which have a common interest in that they are run by States, from having a commission which is to supervise the expenditure for 9,500 schools, some of which are run by governments and others run by varying groups of parents with different principles and different ideals in view.
I suggest that the task which the Minister hopes this Commission will perform is so enormous that it will emasculate the program. The Commission will get into such a tangled mess trying to work out priorities among those 9,500 schools that the whole of the Minister’s grand ideas and grand concepts will crash to the ground. He said in the second reading speech also that the Government attaches very high priority to education, particularly to the quality of education and to equality of opportunity in education. I agree with the principles that he expressed. I doubt that the Bill which he introduced will achieve either objective. I suppose in dealing with the Bill we can only assume that the Commission will proceed somewhat along the lines laid down in the Karmel Committee report. If that is so the quality of education will suffer as a result of this Commission’s activities. One has only to look at the efforts of the Karmel Committee in seeking to classify private schools to realise that a category system has been established which gives a positive disincentive for schools to upgrade their facilities. If they upgrade their facilities in one particular year they move into a higher category and the Government support which they receive would drop.
– That is not so.
– The Minister might interject but in fact when the matter was pointed out in the Press a spokesman for the Interim Committee was cavalier enough to suggest to schools that if they wanted to go down a category they ought to sack a teacher and increase their student-teacher relationship in order to qualify for a higher grant. That is the type of quality of education that this Commission is likely to produce. What does this Commission mean and what does the Minister mean by the quality of education? Does it mean that he wishes to have modern buildings? Does it mean that the Minister wishes to have playgrounds with trees? Does it mean that he wishes to have sporting facilities? Does it mean that he wishes to have libraries or certain teacher-pupil relationships? The quality of education is one of those vague phrases which are bandied around so frequently by educationists and academics - and the Minister is no exception to either of those groups - and no one really knows what is meant by them. It is one of those things like motherhood that everybody is in favour of but no one quite knows how to define.
The quality of life depends on the value judgment which is made by the community whose needs the particular school wishes to service. So this is something extremely subjective. I suggest that in questions of Government finance of education a vague phrase such as that is absolutely meaningless. We have to get down to tin tacks. One has to say whether the Government will set positive standards for schools. Are we to have class sizes restricted to certain numbers? Are we to have audiovisual aids available for every class? How much and what sort of equipment will be provided for sporting facilities? What type of curriculum will be used in the various schools? I think this would lead to very meaningful discussions about what advances could be made in education. Simply to refer to the quality of education is to be as vague and meaningless as are some of the other terms which, unfortunately, have been used in the Karmel Committee report.
Let me deal with the second principle which the Minister announced as Government priority - equality of opportunity. May I suggest to the Minister that if his Government is concerned about having equality of opportunity in education he is going about it the wrong way round. It is ridiculous to start spending money by making universities free if equality of opportunity in education is the aim. Unless a child is grounded properly in infant and primary school - I leave out of account secondary schools for the moment - there is no point in making attendance at universities free. In the United Kingdom recently a teacher shortage has occurred in secondary schools because of an earnest desire by the Government since the Second World War to make secondary education available for every student. This country has followed exactly the same course. Whether that course has been wise will perhaps be judged in future years, but it is certainly correct to say that hundreds of secondary students in this country today are wasting their time and wasting the Government’s money by staying at school. Alternatives have to be made available in order to make sure that children in the last 2 years of secondary education do not waste their time sitting in school simply because they have to and to make sure that they derive something of advantage to themselves when they leave school.
I refer now to the infant and primary schools. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) referred to this matter. I rather feel sorry for the honourable gentleman because every time he speaks I get the distinct impression that he had a nasty experience in his youth and he has not quite got over the shock. I will refer to the disadvantaged people mentioned by the honourable member. He talked about handicapped children and children with specific learning defects. If the Government wishes to provide equality of opportunity for people like that it must first provide remedial teachers in the infant and primary schools.
– I suppose the honourable member realises that he is a remedial teacher?
-‘I am glad to hear that. It is no good asking why this was not done 23 years ago. I suggest that 23 years ago remedial teaching was unknown in practically every country. It is only in recent years that educational techniques have advanced to such a stage that learning defects in children can be diagnosed and treated and that persons have been trained as remedial teachers and placed in schools.
Education in general is an expanding and an evolving program. It is no good asking why certain things were not done years ago because years ago the need was not there. I see the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) trying valiantly to make a sensible interjection. Let me remind the honourable member that when I was a lad in Brisbane, and no doubt when he was a lad there, under a Labor government which was in power in that State for over 40 years there were 2 State secondary schools in the whole Brisbane metropolitan area. Since the Liberal-Country Party Government came to power in Queensland in 19S7, State secondary schools have been established in every Brisbane suburb. This is what has happened in the field of education. It is the process of evolution - keeping up with the times - which has taken place over the years.
Let me return to the concept of equal opportunity. The report of the Karmel Committee, if honourable members care to read it, has this to say about the concept of equality:
The Australian interpretation of equal opportunity has, then, been confirmed to public schooling, and has been interpreted there as equal and, in the main, uniform provision throughout the State for which each education authority is responsible.
Mark these words:
Given the spread of population, the degree of equality of provision which has been achieved is, by world standards, impressive.
So much for equality of opportunity. But if one reads on in that report by the Karmel Committee one sees the real thrust of this Government. It is a thrust inspired by either jealousy or envy against independent schools. The report says that independent schools in general enjoy a higher standard of educational facilities than government schools. So, what does this Government propose? Instead of maintaining the independent schools at their admitted high level of operation, it seeks to cut down aid to independent schools and to lower their standards rather than to try to pump money into the government school system to improve government schools and to bring them up to the same acceptable high standards which independent schools have achieved very largely at great financial sacrifice to the parents of the children who attend those schools. I do not accept for one second that all parents of independent school children are wealthy. If the Karmel Committee worked on that theory, this is another glaring example of how it has approached this matter with a mind completely closed to the facts.
– Have you read the report?
– I have read it several times. I must say - and I will when I come on to the point directly - that some of the concepts mentioned in the Karmel report are academic bunkum. I refer to the concept of need and the way in which it is defined. I will deal with it now so that the Minister will have the benefit of my observations. The Karmel Committee’s report deals with the concept of need in these terms:
The concept of need is not easy to define.
I would agree with it there. It continues:
Beyond a basic minimum level, the needs of schools can only be considered in relation to the objectives set for them and in accordance with what is considered appropriate in terms of the wealth of society.
That is what the Karmel Committee says about need. So, dealing with the need of an individual school, presumably one must find out what objectives the parents of children at that school set for the school and what wealth in the society is available to finance those objectives. What does the Karmel Committee report do? It says: ‘This is too hard to do. So, we will devise some mystical formula which produces inconsistencies of classification.’ Even blind Freddie could realise that that formula is stupid.
– Who is he?
– He is not the honourable member for Lilley; he is stupid but not blind. The Karmel Committee report works out some silly mathematical formula-
– I rise to take a point of order. I take offence at the suggestion made by the honourable member for Petrie that I am stupid. I am stupid only in that I am sitting here listening to him.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw. I was provoked by the honourable gentleman, and I am sorry. However, I am not sorry for the remarks that I am making about the Karmel Committee’s concept of need because it is the most fallacious formula I have ever seen.
– What formula should it have used?
– The same grant for the school with 1,380 as for the school with 204; that was your formula.
– The Minister has mentioned a most interesting point. One wealthy independent school in Queensland - or one school recognised in the Karmel Committee report to be the most wealthy independent school in that State - will receive more money from the Government than it received under the LiberalCountry Party Government. That is the position. An independent school in my electorate which depends entirely on the support of the parents of its pupils and which has no endowments at all is classified in the same category as the most wealthy school in Queensland.
– How do you know that?
– This formula is complete bunkum.
– They are all subject to appeal. Some of them have put in wrong returns.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask the Minister to cease interjecting.
– The Minister says that they are all subject to appeal. Well, I suppose one can say that it is an appeal, but it is a curious sort of appeal when the person who hears the appeal is exactly the same person who has classified the school and knocked it out in the first round. So, the same person or people will reconsider the decision. If that is an appeal, I will eat my hat. This concept of need, according to the Committee, takes no account of whether a school is run at a surplus or a deficit. Surely one of the basic criteria to determine whether a school is in need is to see whether its balance is run in credit or in deficit. The Committee takes no account of debt charges or whether higher fees can be charged. This is a patent and manifest fallacy. If parents are saving in order to pay school fees at a particular level and that school still has not the facilities necessary to give their children a decent education, surely one would say that that school is in need. But not according to the classification of the Karmel Committee. The fact that parents are paying as much by way of school fees as they can does not matter twopence to these academic gentlemen who have sat down and worked out a mystical formula for the distribution of government moneys. This is one of the main objections that I have to the Schools Commission: Parliament will be asked annually to appropriate bulk sums of money for expenditure on education. It will then be distributed to the States presumably under section 96 grants earmarked for schools in accordance with the recommendations and the formula determined in secret by the Commission. There are no bases on which any school in Australia can work out its own classification or formula. Goodness knows what mess this Commission will get into when it starts categorising government schools.
Does the Minister suggest that the Commission will classify every government school in every State on the basis of need? How will that be done? Will the Commission have a different formula from the formula it used to classify need for independent schools? If so, it is a blatant discrimination against the parents of those children who go to independent schools. If not, surely the report itself makes nonsense of the concept of classifying government schools in accordance with need because the States have set minimum standards for every school. Certainly there are areas in which more money needs to be spent on education. But it ought tobe spent in a more rational and sensible way. People ought to toe told what are the criteria on which this Commission will operate, what are the standards which this Commission sets for schools, and what the Commission considers to be the proper use of resources. Do honourable members imagine for a moment that this Commission will not use the power of the purse to interfere in the way in which schools all over this country will spend their money? I suggest that this Commission is nothing short of an attempt by the Government to introduce a Fabian concept of equality into education that is doomed to disaster and failure.
– It is a great privilege to take part in a debate on the second reading of the Schools Commission Bill because the proposed Schools Commission is the hope of Australian education in the years ahead. The Budget provided for an increase of over 90 per cent in Commonwealth funding for education, and of course that 90 per cent increase takes into account only 6 months of operation of the proposed Australian Schools Commission and similar programs. In other words, there is a vastly increased Australian commitment to education now and in the future. I do not know whether Sir Robert Menzies is listening to this debate but I think it should be pointed out to honourable members opposite that the Schools Commission will set up for schools the same type of authority that their own Government set up to serve the needs of universities and, later, colleges of advanced education. In both of those cases the commissions set up by the former Government have served Australian education well.
– What about the difference in numbers?
– An interjection has been made about the difference in numbers. This is, of course, one of the matters of great concern to the Government because the previous Government was always concerned with the minority groups and never concerned with the great numbers. I thank the honourable member for his interjection.
The 1972 policy speech of the Labor Party on the subject of education stated:
We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools.
It goes on to say that it follows the pattern set by Sir Robert Menzies when he wrote in December 1956 to Sir Keith Murray and outlined that an Australian Labor Party Government would give a great priority - the utmost priority - to this proposal. On 12 December 1972, before the Cabinet had been elected, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who then had the responsibility, appointed an Interim Committee for an Australian Schools Commission. I think that we would all agree that that Interim Committee did a remarkably good job in the time allotted to it. I think it must be a matter of great satisfaction to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazely), who is sitting at the table, to see an education policy for which they worked extremely hard not only in public in more recent times but also, in earlier days, inside the Labor Party itself. It is good to see that policy now being developed in the way that it is being developed.
The Bill proposes an Australian Schools Commission to consist of not fewer than 5 and not more than 12 members, including the chairman, The 4 full time members are to be appointed for 7 years and the part time members for 3 years. The functions of the Commission are set out in clause 13 which is a lengthy portion of the Bill. Some of the questions raised by honourable members opposite would, of course, be answered if they paid more attention to clause 13 which sets out the guidelines for the Australian Schools Commission. I would like to quote from the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
Our approach is to establish commissions of expert advisers rather than a vast centralised administrative machine.
He went on to say:
We therefore seek in this legislation to set up an efficient impartial body to examine, identify and determine needs of students in government and nongovernment schools at the primary and secondary levels in Australia.
Further on he said:
The States will retain responsibility for administering their own educational programs but will have available to them greatly increased funds for the purpose.
Again the Minister’s second reading speech answers many of the arguments advanced on the other side of the House. I do not think that any of us would pretend that given the time factor the proposals or the categorisations of the Karmel Committee were perfect. I think we all would agree that the Committee performed a remarkable task in bringing down the recommendations given the fact that the Labor Government wished to include a massive increased commitment to education in the 1973 Budget. The Minister has pointed out that there were misunderstandings. Some schools did not submit their real position because they misunderstood the documents or because of other reasons. It has been clearly made known to them that they have the right of appeal and many schools have exercised such a right of appeal and many of the appeals have been upheld.
Even the proposed Schools Commission has a restricted time in which to bring down a submission. The time specified is early in 1975 so that its recommendations can be considered for inclusion in the Budget of that year. Of course, there is a need to set up a structure at State level which I understand will not be an administrative structure but rather will recommend priorities and also set up the building priorities sub-committee for independ ent schools and the other machinery envisaged. It is proposed that these programs will begin in January 1974. So even now there is a great urgency for the Parliament to pass this legislation so that these programs might be under way as soon as possible.
I very much support the fact that provision for a rigid structure for a board, or whatever other arrangement might be set up at State level, is not written into this legislation. I am keen to leave the utmost flexibility in the hands of the Minister. While I am happy about the placing on the board at State level of the State Director of Education and the Director of Catholic Education I feel, from information available to me and to my colleagues, that there is need for a much broader representation than that. The point was made by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), who spoke earlier in this debate, that representatives of organisations in themselves may not be a good thing. I support that idea. If rigid structures are laid down in this legislation they may be counter-productive.
Many of the amendments proposed by the Opposition seek to develop a piece of legislation which would be much more rigid than the legislation proposed by the Government. Much of the hope in what is to be achieved, of course, is vested in the discretion of the Australian Minister for Education. The report of the Karmel Committee proposes that the Minister should appoint certain people at State level in consultation with the State Minister. I am delighted with the effect that the report of the Karmel Committee has had on the State Education Department in Queensland. As Chairman of the Migrant Task Force in Queensland I have in recent times had an opportunity to take evidence from officials of the State Department of Education. I have been tremendously impressed with the quality of the people now administering education in Queensland. I know that the proposal for the Australian Schools Commission to give increased support for State education has given great impetus to the Queensland Department of Education to rethink its priorities in the knowledge that money will be available for areas which previously were starved of support. One thinks immediately of the rebuilding of old schools and the provision of facilities for children with special needs. When one looks at clause 13 of the Bill one realises that the Schools Commission is directed to pay particular attention to the needs of disadvantaged children, children with special needs, migrant children, Aboriginal children and other areas of education such as physical education.
As I mentioned, I was associated recently with the Migrant Task Force in Queensland and I have been tremendously impressed with the way in which teachers, both in the State system and in the Catholic system of education, have been teaching migrant children, very often in what are very difficult circumstances. I think we all have to admire teachers who teach migrant children whose knowledge of English is very modest, who teach in overcrowded class rooms with inadequate teaching material and very often in temporary class rooms built under schools. I am pleased to see that all these matters are taken into account in this Bill to establish the Commission. The ball is now back in the court of the States to take up the challenge and to work out priorities within their own systems of education to ensure that every child within state schools receives the maximum benefit.
I now refer to the position in Queensland. I do not wish to incorporate a great amount of detail in Hansard, but the total grants for Queensland schools this year amount to $26,340,000 against $10,616,000 in 1972-73. That is an increase of the order of $16m - well over 100 per cent. This amount of money which is set out in the Budget documents does not include the increased assistance for universities and colleges of advanced education, for pre-schools and the like. The Schools Commission makes a massive increased commitment to the needs of independent schools.
It has been argued that the Karmel report has a sectarian flow-on. I am very disappointed to hear this suggestion because the same criteria were used to assess the needs of all independent schools, irrespective of the denomination to which they were attached or whether they were attached to any denomination at all. So I think I would deal with the needs of independent schools when I deal with Catholic non-systemic schools. But those people who argue that the report has in some way discriminated against Anglican schools, for example, fail to take into account that the Catholic education system has sought to provide education for every Catholic child in a way which no other major denomination in this country has sought. I think the Catholic system should be given credit for doing what it has done under great difficulties in the past. The Karmel Committee recognised the needs of these schools.
There are distinctive needs in systematic schools and non-systemic schools. I make the point to the Minister that when this legislation has been passed and the Schools Commission is established it will be very important that officers of his Department or of the Commission go to the States, sit down and talk to the people involved in administering the Catholic systemic schools and, in particular, to explain some of the proposed administrative arrangements. We are approaching the end of one school year and the beginning of another and some of our proposals and what our requirements will be are not so well understood as they might be. I do not think anyone should expect dramatic improvements in Catholic systemic schools in the year immediately ahead. There is a substantial increase of expenditure for these schools, but much of the funds will be eaten up by salary increases. In Queensland in January of this year teachers in Catholic primary schools were paid 90 per cent of the State award rate and, naturally, they are keen to improve their position. But while one can expect no dramatic improvement in 1974 - and I imagine the same thing may apply to State schools - certainly there are not-
– The teachers will not go back.
– They will not go back. They will be in a position where they can advance their position and a large increase in the amount of money to be made available in 1975 should ensure real improvements indeed. I have had put to me a question as to whether the recurrent grants are going to be used to provide remedial teachers in the Catholic systemic system in perhaps 6 to 7 centres in Queensland because the State Department of Education which previously accepted the responsibility in this field is no longer able to accept the responsibility. There are many questions of this kind yet to be negotiated. II am sure they will be negotiated when the legislation has passed through the Parliament.
There are, of course, distinctive differences in the needs of non-systemic schools. I accept the fact - I think we all do - that if we divide schools into categories, it might ensure that all schools whose needs are greater than others will receive increased assistance commensurate with their needs, but there are problems of marrying Government funding with personal initiative and the problems are highly complex. I have been concerned that in cases which have been brought to my attention categorisation can operate to lower the standards of schools. I have one particular school in mind. I know that after it was classified the number of teachers at that school was reduced and the school then sought reclassification with a view to bringing about a higher level of assistance. As I have been talking about the Catholic nonsystemic schools may I make the point that the school to which I referred was not a Catholic school. Nevertheless, what I have said poses problems.
I think that critics of the Karmel Committee report may say that perhaps one would expect a much greater degree of sophistication in assessing the needs of schools when the Schools Committee has much more time than the Interim Commission had available to it to look at the question of needs. There are of course some problems concerning building programs. The independent schools at the present time are already building or proposing to build new additions onto present structures or to build new schools whichever are the highest priorities. I understand that although some of these schools may be able to receive assistance from what has been known as the Dougherty program, they will not be able to receive assistance under the Karmel scheme which will take effect only from the date of the proclamation of this Bill. I ask the Minister to look sympathetically into this matter to see what can be done because one of the problems of Government that evolve with new programs which are designed to meet new needs is that very often the government is confronted with the fact that a school is already undertaking what is its highest priority and, because of the legislative program, the Government may not be able to assist with that priority in the way that we would wish. I can only say that I take great heart from what the Minister has said. It shows that he recognises, probably more than any other person in this House, the need for flexibility. It is very easy for people to lay down desirable guidelines, but the needs of schools vary so much from place to place.
I represent an inner city electorate. Many of the schools in my area have comparatively small playgrounds or no playgrounds at all. In some cases schools which serve a need because of the strategic location of the school have been obliged to acquire adjacent land at very high cost. Some have been obliged to acquire land for playgrounds in the outer suburbs. This involves transport and the like. Yet very often these inner city schools cater for children who come from the low income suburbs. I do not think that people can generalise in many’ of these areas. I trust that the Schools Commission will carry out the wishes of the Minister to develop a program not only to assist schools and pupils in accordance with their needs but also to do this with the greatest possible flexibility.
As was pointed out by a member of the Opposition by way of interjection, the number of schools is very great and the range of needs is very great. As always when new schemes are being put forward, there are some fears. I noted a statement of the Catholic bishops in which they expressed the view, amongst other things, that there should be some Government assistance given to the education of every child. I have some sympathy for that argument. I know, of course, that the program being put forward under the Schools Commission legislation is by no means the only program which this Government advances for the education of Australian children. This Government inherited certain educational structures but this year, under the guidance of the present Minister for Education, we have had measures aimed at assistance in the education of isolated children, and a very high proportion of those children, by the very nature of things, attend Catholic schools. We are to have legislation to come into effect next year which will assist disadvantaged children for the first time and we await legislation on pre-schools and teacher training.
The Commonwealth Government is making a contribution towards assisting every Australian child. It has been suggested that because some schools are losing their assistance under the proposals of the Karmel Committee this is part of a sinister scheme to phase out further assistance to independent schools in the future. Nothing could be further from the intention of the Labor Party. The Labor Government is determined to make a permanent commitment to the education of every Australian child and every Australian young man and young woman. This legislation is a step in that direction. I congratulate the Minister on the legislation he has brought down and I congratulate him on his choice of a Schools Commission. I am sure that in the years ahead the Commission will make a major contribution to the education of all Australian children, whether they attend State schools or non-State schools.
– Before commencing my remarks on the Schools Commission Bill I want to make some comments about the speech made to the House this afternoon by the honourable member for Casey (Mr- Mathews). Unfortunately the honourable member is not in the chamber at the moment but he may be listening to the broadcast of this debate; otherwise he can read my remarks in Hansard. The honourable member sought to accuse the Opposition of undermining and emasculating the legislation by the amendment put forward. This charge was supported in a sense by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). Let me assure both honourable members that the intention of the Opposition in bringing these amendments forward is not to undermine or emasculate the legislation. We seek to clarify what is in reality a fairly unclean Bill. We seek to ensure that some of the items mentioned by implication will not be mentioned by implication but be actually included in the wording of the Bill.
The honourable member for Casey also accused the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other members of the Opposition of having no concern for underprivileged children. He mentioned, in particular, children belonging to the lower socio-economic groups, migrant children who have been disadvantaged because of the lack of knowledge of the English language, and handicapped children of various natures. Obviously that was less than fair because, as mentioned by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), the previous LiberalCountry Party Government did show a very real concern for these groups. I need only instance the migrant education program operated through the Department of Immigration and the provision of $16m for this purpose. This program has been recently updated by the present Government but the basis of the scheme has not been overthrown by it. I think that represents a realistic appraisal by the present Government of the worth of the legislation brought down by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. I want to say to the honourable member for Casey that I believe most sincerely - and I believe his concern for underprivileged groups is very real - that concern for such groups is not his sole preserve or that of members of the Australian Labor Party in general. Despite the somewhat righteous enunciation of concern by the honourable member for Casey and his denigration of other honourable members, particularly those on this side of the House, he should bear that in mind.
It is unfortunate that this Bill came forward so quickly because it deals with a subject of enormous concern, and not only immediately; it will have an effect on the future lives of hundreds of millions of Australians. The Liberal Party often has been accused - it has been so accused in this debate today - of acting on behalf of minority groups alone and of forgetting about the majority; in other words, the accusation is that it only seems to speak and exercise any support for independent schools. I would like to make it quite clear to the House and to the people of Australia that this is not the case at all.
I want to quote briefly some aspects of basic Liberal Party philosophy in terms of education. It is our intention to provide all our children - I repeat, all our children - with the best quality of education and the greatest quantity of educational aids which the resources of the nation will allow. This is something we should bear in mind, particularly when all those accusations of lack of action over the previous 23 years are brought forward. The total resources of the Australian nation have grown tremendously over the last 23 years. Naturally enough, the resources of the nation which can be channelled towards education now are much greater than they were in, say, 1949. We do not think that people who wish to supplement the resources provided by the governments of Australia should be discouraged from doing so. We believe it is positively good that various avenues to education should be open to Australian children and therefore, of course, we support the independent school system as well as the government school system.
We believe that the very existence of such variety must lead to diversity in teaching methods, to more opportunity for experiments and to differing emphasis on subjects and the content of subjects. We believe that one system of primary and secondary education, centralised as to administration, bound by departmental regulations, however sensible, and closely directed as to methods, however good, is monolithic and, were it the only system, could easily become moribund. That, in particular, is why we are so concerned to ensure the maintenance and the health of the independent school system. This is not to say for a moment that all new techniques, all fresh approaches, come from independent schools. Obviously they do not. It is to say that various systems, one State controlled and operated and the others operated and controlled by other bodies, tend to interact upon each other to the advantage of all, and that means to the advantage of all students, be they in government or independent schools.
I think I have put forward very clearly the basis of the philosophy on education adhered to by the Liberal Party. It is not, as I have clearly shown, solely directed to independent schools. It is directed to all children, no matter what sort of school they go to. We believe, firmly in instilling in all families a concern for the needs of education and a desire to encourage their children to maximise their potential. This, of course, is one of the problems which beset the state school system. Unfortunately many of the parents of children in the state school system do not have sufficient concern for the needs of education for their children. We seek to encourage local educational research programs, to identify the major educational needs and problems and to ensure that Australian solutions are developed on soundly based analytical work. We wish to do this work in co-operation with the States and other authorities and, in particular, to encourage greater local contribution and interest in the day to day running of educational institutions and an avoidance of centralised control.
I now wish to refer to the Bill. I do not agree with the basic concept of a Schools Commission, as enunciated in this Bill. As has been said earlier in this debate, the educational policy of the Australian Labor Party in its campaign before the last election was aimed squarely at the establishment of a Schools Commission. I do not oppose the establishment of a schools commission as such. But I support very strongly those amendments which I consider add to the possibilities of the Schools Commission being able to fulfil the function that I would like to see fulfilled.
I have mentioned already in this debate the basic adherence by the Liberal Party to the concepts of freedom of choice in education. There is no mention of freedom of choice in this Bill. As I have already said I believe that we should do what we can to maintain an independent school system so that this very necessary aspect of the individual rights of people in Australia - that is freedom of choice in the education of their children - should be preserved. In relation to the functions of the Schools Commission we have mentioned specifically in our amendment Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states very specifically that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. It may be argued that this is implied in the Bill. We want it to be much more specific than that. We want this freedom of choice to be set out in the Bill.
I am very concerned about the membership of the Commission and the Boards. I believe that it could quite easily become nonrepresentative simply because there is such an enormous amount of ministerial discretion. I do not say for a moment that the present Minister would allow a situation to arise which could be designated as unrepresentative. But the present Minister for Education may not be the Minister for very long. We have found already in this Labor Administration that some Ministers do not last all that long in their portfolios. It could be that another Minister could take over the portfolio and his administration of it may be very different indeed. So we are concerned to see that the representative nature of the membership of the commission is specified in the Bill. At paragraph 13.5 of the Karmel Committee’s report it is stated:
The Committee believes that the . . . membership . . . should be drawn from as wide a cross-section of the community as possible and should have regard to both age and sex.
I agree with this, but we want to make it absolutely specific. I point out the stated objectives of the Australian Council of State School Organisations when it said:
This organisation believes that the appointment of both an experienced teacher and an experienced parent as well as other persons broadly representative of the community is clearly appropriate.
That body stated very clearly that it wishes to see a representative balance maintained in the membership of this Commission. That is why in our second proposed amendment to clause 4 we state:
The Commission shall consist of a chairman, who shall be the only full time member, and two other members to be appointed directly by the Minister, seven members to be selected from a panel of ten to be nominated by the Australian Education Council, four members to be selected from a panel of seven to be nominated by the Independent School Authorities and one member from a panel of three members to be nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education.
In assessing this amendment-
– May I ask the honourable gentleman who are the independent school authorities.
– The independent school authorities are quite capable of assessing-
– Do you mean all the headmasters?
– No. It would involve the Australian Independent Schools Council plus the Catholic schools. I believe that the independent schools organisations which are closely related would be quite competent to nominate 4 members from a panel of seven from which the Minister for Education would have the right to choose.
– The honourable member recognises that there are 1,768 Catholic schools, 108 Anglican schools, 33 Presbyterian schools and 19 Methodist schools. So on that basis the Catholics would be entitled to ninetenths representation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The Minister is not entitled to debate across the table no matter how informed his information.
– We will have the opportunity to debate this point during the Committee stage of the Bill. But I seek to point out once again that the Opposition is concerned to make sure that membership of the Commission is truly representative and truly guaranteed.
We disagree with the establishment of regional boards. I contend that regional boards can do nothing that cannot be done by organisations already established and working very well. Our amendment guarantees decentralisation and representation. We admit that it takes away the ministerial control which this Bill directly gives to the Minister for Education. I think it is right that it should take away this ministerial control at the board level. Members of the Opposition and honourable members who have spoken on the Government side have been concerned to make sure that this Commission, as I have said, is truly representative and not capable of becoming a moribund centralised organisation. There is a danger of this occurring should the Bill go through in its present form.
I am also very concerned about the vagueness of some sections of the Bill. Clause 13 (c) has been mentioned already. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough at a later stage to tell me exactly what it means. Perhaps he could also explain matters in connection with the grant by ‘Australia’ of financial assistance to the States. It sounds as though Australia is some benevolent overseas country which is going to give grants to the States. We feel that that clause should be amended. We state this in our proposed amendment to clause 13 where we state:
Any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b).
We believe that this states much more specifically and simply what is intended to be covered by that clause in the Bill.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is giving the same speech that was given earlier this afternoon by the honourable member for Wannon. Is it in order for a speaker to give the same speech twice?
– A good point.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member is aware of that. I remind the honourable member for Adelaide that whilst his comment may be enjoyable to himself, an absence from the House for a while would not be. Honourable members are not entitled to take points of order on subject matter other than the conduct of the House and the rules of debate.
– Hear, hear!
– That applies to the Opposition too.
– I was talking about the vagueness of the Bill. There are other areas of vagueness which I personally do not believe are good. For instance, the actual number of members of the Commission are not specified in the Bill. It says that there must be a number between one figure and another figure. We do not believe that this is specific enough. I would not like it to be thought for a moment that I can see nothing good in the functions of the Commission as set out in the Bill. I certainly agree with the Minister for Education in relation to the activities charged to the Commission in terms of assistance to handicapped children and particularly in relation to the clause referring to gifted children.
I have been concerned for some time that opportunities for the special treatment of extremely gifted children in the Australian environment have not been available. I think that the nation loses as a result of this unavailability of special treatment. We are extremely lucky, as is every population, to have highly gifted individuals. Once we have recognised these people I think that we should give them every opportunity to develop to their full capacity. If this opportunity is denied these extremely gifted children in many cases the effect on the child is extremely deleterious and as a result, of course, the Australian nation as a whole suffers.
In the remaining time that l have in which to speak I would like to bring up the point that has been made time and time again by Government supporters in relation to the increase in educational expenditure by this Government in the last Budget. Of course I concur that there has been a hefty increase in educational expenditure, but I would not agree for a moment with the argument - and I do not think Government supporters should be allowed to get away with it - that this is something extraordinarily new. I point out to them that increases in educational expenditure have been the largest individual increases as a proportion of Budget expenditure in successive Budgets over the last few years. I also point out to those people who loudly proclaim that educational expenditure has the greatest proportional increase in the Budget under the Labor Government that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself countered this allegation by pointing out that the greatest proportional increase in Budget expenditure is in housing.
We will not oppose the Bill as such. What we are seeking to do as responsibly and as clearly as we can is to put to this House and to the other place amendments which we believe will add immeasurably to the chances of success of the Schools Commission. We believe that these amendments are not put forward in any light-hearted fashion or simply in an obstructive manner. We sincerely believe that they can do a great deal to assist the Commission to function in a way which is in accord, I believe, with the feelings of many members on both sides of the House, and that is to function not as a centralised bureaucracy but as a Commission seeking to decentralise the administration of education as far as possible.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), who has just taken his seat, is rather angry that the Bill came on so quickly. In fact the basis of the construction of the Schools Commission and its duties were outlined in approximate terms in the report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission 5 months ago. Since that time a further 44 months has elapsed and still we hear from members of the Opposition, as typified in the comments of the honourable member for Warringah, vagaries and ill-researched comments upon this extremely important Bill. For instance, the honourable member complained of the way in which we have constructed the Commission, but I have the wording of the former Government’s Australian Commission on Advanced Education Bill 1971, from which the wording of the present Bill was copied. It states:
The Commission shall consist of a Chairman and such other members, not being less than four in number, not more than nine in number, as are appointed from time to time.
The example, if there are vagaries and I contend there are not, was set by the Opposition when it was in government. The honourable member for Warringah accused the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) of virtual incompetence and said that he would be replaced as a Minister. There is more likelihood of there being a new member for Warringah than there is of there being a new Minister for Education. The Minister has shown compassion and understanding and an overall review that has been necessary for any advancement in Australian education in the primary and secondary sectors.
We see the same sort of attack that was levelled against the report of the Interim Committee. The Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission chaired by Professor Karmel and including representatives of government and non-government schools entitled its report simply ‘Australian Schools’. Now we have simply ‘Schools Commission’. It is difficult to believe, and impossible to accept or to justify, that so much of the public and political discussion, coming from our opponents, of the Government’s needs approach - which is a breakthrough - should be pre-occupied with the alleged and negotiable implementation anomalies affecting 105 private schools out of the total of 9,500 schools. Now members of the Opposition are relying upon small points to try to drag this Bill down. Let us look at what happened when the report came down and the Cabinet adopted that report with one minor modification. Of the 734 nongovernment schools, 105 mainly - but not all - very wealthy ones, lost $1.50 to $2 a student a week. These schools enrol a shade over 2 per cent of the nation’s learners and, at a good guess, at least 80 per cent of the families involved are either well-to-do, rich or completely loaded. I am not criticising those parents who make a sacrifice because for them there is not an alternative standard of equality education in the State system. Parents of a slightly larger group will have to find between 26c a week and $1 a week extra to finance their rejection of the State system, and 7 per cent of students in the neediest schools in the nation pick up an extra $1.50 to $2 a week.
People expect value for the money they pay in taxation. This Commission will ensure that they get value for money. It is not the excess dollars that are raised that they complain about; it is how the money is spent. Every clause in this Bill is designed to ensure the maximisation of value from each dollar collected and spent on education. Let us look at the comments of the parents and teachers, for instance, on the findings of the report handed down by the Karmel Committee. The Australian Capital Territory Council of Parents and Citizens Associations commends the Committee and its report. It welcomes particularly the Committee’s statement that the strength and representativeness of the government school sector should not be diluted by policies for the private sector. Had such a policy statement backed by action come in the past from the Government of the day, now the Opposition, the Committee would not now be reporting serious and widespread deficiencies in the quantity and quality of human and material resources in government schools, which, I need not remind this House but it can bear repeating, carry the bulk of community responsibility for the education of disadvantaged children as well as for the great majority of all Australian children.
What do the teachers think of the first report? The Australian Teachers Federation, with a membership of about 100,000 teachers, has made a thorough and objective study of the Interim Committee’s report. The Federation states:
The report has our complete support. We believe the philosophy and recommendations of the Committee members represent the most important development in Australian education this century. It has implications, not only for education, but for the kind of society Australia may become.
It would be a tragedy for the majority of parents and students if the biased, ill-informed criticism now coming from the Opposition, much of it naturally is politically motivated, led to the watering down of the findings in that Committee’s report. We did not water them down. We agreed to reviews, which were already advised before the report was handed down.
Grants to schools and school systems will be made to the States under section 96 of the Australian Constitution, and they will be made, as is right and proper under section 96, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. Although grants have always been made this way, and particularly on recommendations of such bodies as the Australian Universities Commission, members of the Opposition still shout ‘centralism’ as if the conditions attaching to the grants were opposed. But before resorting to cliches - the only spice I find in their dull rhetoric - they should examine what is meant by centralism and the purpose of the Commission itself. The Constitution places the responsibility of public education on the States. This Commission will not interfere with the management of schools or school systems. In other words the Constitution has not been violated. What we are arguing for is the devolvement of responsibility within the schools. We are arguing for greater diversity of education which, instead of being limited to the independent sector as it is now, should be evident in both the government and nongovernment sectors. But in providing the funds for schooling we wish to ensure that the basic Australian objective of equality of opportunity prevails. The States may refuse to accept the funds on the conditions we request. In fact, the Victorian Government tried to redress what it considered an imbalance in the access to equality of education by disbursing its own funds to take up the original per capita grants. I contend that this is an absolute denial of the equality of opportunity to education. Equality of access is only half the story. It is equality of access to education that will produce in a particular individual an equality of expected performance within the capabilities of the individual.
The functions of the Commission will be determined not by a permanent bureaucracy or by an enlarged and inflexible bureaucracy as advocated by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser); they will be determined by all concerned with education, diversified and expert with flexible interests.
The Commission will be not representing but representative of the interests that go to make up the community and those involved in education. As the Minister has said:
The establishment of a Schools Commission is a logical extension of the principles adopted by former governments in regard to universities and colleges of advanced education. Our approach is to establish commissions of expert advisers rather than a vast centralised administrative machine. . . . We therefore seek in this legislation to set up an efficient, impartial body to examine, identify and determine needs of students in government and non-government schools at the primary and secondary levels in Australia.
The first qualification or term of reference for the Commission is to ‘have regard to the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children’.
Parents should have the right to educate their children at private schools. They should have the right to choose, as the honourable member for Warringah reminded us, under section 26 of the United Nations charter. This is not challenged. It is strengthened because unless you have the economic resources of 80 per cent of the parents of children at private schools you do not have a choice. Many parents sacrifice their own pleasures and convenience for the sake of their children getting a better education because they cannot find it at the moment in the present government systems. To improve the standards, to have a primary obligation to the government schools, will mean an effective choice for all who have the resources or who do not have the resources. I would like to take just one or two moments to praise the efforts of those who in the past, under the desultory system of the previous Government, had to sacrifice to give their children what they thought was a better education. For instance, the Mount Evelyn School for Christian Education in my electorate has been erected, repaired and run entirely - except for the Federal grants for libraries and science blocks - out of the involvement, concern and dedication of the parents of the pupils at that school. I take my hat off to them. Now, because we see equality of education as the goal to equality of performance, enjoyment and contribution to society, we take the wider view that all Australian school children should have this right of choice.
The differences in resources between nongovernment schools must be removed whilst diversity is still retained. Consequently, because of studies into the purposes of education, the effect of education and the effect of society in determining people’s attitudes to education, there is a growing realisation that educational reforms have to be co-ordinated with social and economic reforms. One cannot establish greater equality of opportunity in the educational system without promoting it concomitantly with the social system at large. Anyone who sees the Schools Commission as a single identity without relating it to the other magnificent work the Minister for Education has done or without seeing it in relation to the overall program for which this Government was so overwhelmingly elected, fails to see the inter-relationship between education and the community.
The Karmel Report and the Schools Commission are part and parcel of an overall attitude to a philosophy contained in the Australian idiom of ‘equality of opportunity’. The core of the problem of educational opportunity is whether equality should be viewed as a starting point or as a goal. To state it more precisely, do we want to give everybody an equal formal opportunity of access to education, or do we want everybody to perform more equally at his own standards and to his own satisfaction? The ensuing policies depend upon the answer to that question. If one wants to establish formal equality on entry to the regular educational system and throughout its various stages, the major goal of educational policy should be to provide free access to a system which, at least during the compulsory school age, is structurally unified. That is the philosophy of the Opposition. It fails to distinguish between what is meant by equality and equality of results. If the goal is to reduce differences in performance, equality in formal treatment does not suffice. Differentiated treatment with the aim of providing compensatory education for the socially disadvantaged pupils will have to be considered. It is being considered. It will be considered by the Schools Commission.
Like the Minister, I regard clause 13, subclause (3) (d) as vital. The Commission will have regard to the needs of disadvantaged schools and of students at disadvantaged schools, and of other students suffering disadvantages in relation to education for social, economic, ethnic, geographic, cultural, lingual or similar reasons. Here is a fruitful field of advice as to how the Australian Government may exercise its power to grant benefits to students. We will be following the standards and experience, so being able to avoid the pitfalls, of the achievements in education in the United Kingdom flowing from the findings and the implementation of the Plowden Report which could be summarised by saying that we have to be more than equal to the unequal to have equality. Who can consider that in our society females have the same prospects of full education as males? Not until our social standards, our social beliefs and mores are changed will we have equality there. That is really beyond the power of the Schools Commission but certainly we can tackle the disadvantages of being born into an Aboriginal family rather than a white family. We can overcome the disadvantages of being born in the country and not having access to the same variety and diversity of education as if one were born in the metropolitan area. Of course we must overcome the cultural factors that have such an impact on an individual’s education.
Strategies for bringing about greater equality of educational opportunity can be brought to bear at 3 levels or points. The first is at preschool age. Once again I remind the House of the Government’s integrated approach to overall education - not from pre-school to the tertiary level, but a realisation that education is a state throughout the lifetime of the individual, from birth to the grave. One’s strategy should be concentrated on the school itself as an institution. This is the great impact or thrust of the Australian Schools Commission. During third strategy, the post-school period - the open university - there is a constant’ realisation that given a thorough preparation in the primary and secondary schools, the individual can continue his development and education until he is completely finished with it. It is gratifying to know that in evolving a new approach to education, which is not hidebound by the fixed bureaucracies or the fixed approaches of the last centuries, we will be paying attention to the development of responsibility.
I mentioned earlier the benefits that can come from involvement as is found with the Mount Evelyn School for Christian Education - a complete involvement and understanding of why teachers are taking a certain approach, why pupils are learning in a manner different from the way we learnt a generation ago, without panicking about why we do not understand the new mathematics or why there is variance in the degree of discipline in a school.
By involving ourselves in the school and by speaking to the teachers, to those in areas of responsibility in school councils and to the principals we can have not only a greater understanding and involvement but also have a greater say in what our children should be taught and how they should be taught without interfering with the rights and the benefits that come from having fully trained teachers coming from the expanded now governmentfinanced tertiary institute of teaching colleges.
This is the first occasion on which I have spoken in full on education in this House. I am glad that it is on such an important Bill that I rose to give my personal philosophy and the philosophy of the Government in realising the co-committal approach we must have between changes in society and changes in schooling. We must de-school society so that we merge both society and the schools. The Schools Commission will carry out that work effectively. I look forward to its work and commend the Bill to the House.
– This Bill preempts a major change in the administration of education and, as such, the establishment of the Australian Schools Commission to determine the needs of students in both government and non-government schols, at both primary and secondary levels, is therefore an important piece of legislation. Tremendous advances have been made in the provision of educational facilities throughout Australia by all State and Federal governments in recent years. Whilst there are many areas of agreement and disagreement with the recommendations of the report handed down by the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission, it is imperative that an impartial commission be set up to advise any government on the best means of meeting our future educational needs. The Bill deals specifically with the setting up of that Commission. I must support the amendments proposed by the Opposition which aim to protect the future freedom of choice of parents and students and to ensure that our education system continues with as great a degree of diversity, with a wide base, and taking in every area of this nation’s requirements.
The Bill, as it is, will centralise our education system. It will take away from the States much of their constitutional powers and, more importantly, the innovations that a variety of school authorities adds to our system. The amendments that the Opposition proposes, and which we hope the Government will agree to, are to ensure that the membership of this Australian Schools Commission will include people and educational groups who should appropriately be represented on this panel. I appreciate the fact that it is necessary for the Minister to have considerable discretion in regard to the makeup of the Commission but we are concerned that this Bill, in its present form, will give to all these educational groups neither the opportunity nor the responsibility of guiding educational commitments.
Previous speakers in this debate have adequately explained the Opposition’s amendments to the particular clause dealing with this matter. I wish to deal in greater detail with other aspects of the Bill. Clause 13, for instance, sets out the function of the Commission, which is to advise the Minister on establishing acceptable standards for buildings, equipment, teaching and other staff - in broad, the facilities at government or non-government primary and secondary schools. Facilities are important and I would be the first to admit that grave deficiencies exist in many areas of our system. The Karmel Committee report is a document which is exceedingly valuable and interesting. It has become the basis, no doubt, for future discussion, decision and action. It is a lengthy document but, even so, in many areas it is vague and makes but few comments on many vital aspects of our education system.
There are groups of children in our community who have been seriously disadvantaged by a system that unfortunately, in the past, due to the demands and the clamour for education, has been catering mainly for the majority. I cannot, however, accept the emotion or the drama of the honourable member for Casey in speaking about our disadvantaged children. Whilst I believe his concern is genuine I assure him that he is not the only one in the Parliament with a desire to help these children. But it is this very type of contribution that damages Government and public endeavours. The amendments to be moved by the Opposition do not, as he suggests, limit the functions of the Commission. They do, in fact, greatly broaden its content and, consequently, its function and, I hope, its results. By these amendments we do not detract from the increases in Federal Government expenditure. I applaud those increases. I applaud also the enthusiasm of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and his endeavours towards the responsibility of his ministry but I fail to see how he can accept all the provisions of this Bill and how he can give in to the pressures within his own Party in a way that gives neither assurance nor initiative to many schools other than government schools - perhaps not even to some of these.
The future security of many schools and parents results from the introduction of the principle of less aid or none, if the system of independent schools proceeds to use more resources per pupil, or if the standard for aid is the resource usage in the average government school. Such a principle as this will not encourage the participation of parents in schools, which is so nobly spoken of in the Minister’s second reading speech. It will discourage the vital involvement of pupils and parents and, slowly but surely, will force all our governments into greater financial commitments and responsibility producing a straitjacketing of ideas and a lack of diversity and initiative.
I believe it is essential that all viable educational groups within our community have a place on this Commission. The Opposition is not attempting, as has been suggested, to remove the discretion of the Minister. We are only ensuring full participation and representation. My entry into this debate is purely to express my desire that the future funding of our educational system will not be hamstrung by the disadvantages of centralised bureaucracy. I, and the Opposition, wish to see the Commission established so that it will provide for present and future citizens and will give not only diverse opportunity and equality of opportunity but also will be an instrument of permanent action with the support of the entire Australian electorate.
The Karmel Committee report is an historic document but it has caused considerable uncertainty and ferment. It is valuable as a basis for considered judgments. It is, however, vital that there should be less centralisation of control over the operations of schools. The people running the schools, with the parents and even the senior students, should be given greater responsibility for effecting their own decisions. The standard of schooling a child receives should depend neither on what his parents can or will pay nor whether he attends a government or an independent school. Every child must have the right to be prepared for full participation in society, both for his own and for society’s benefit. This, of course, means special assistance for slow learners, handicapped children, Aboriginal children and, of course, children of migrant parents. We must have facilities but let us concern ourselves too with the provision of teachers for these children. Remedial teachers are in short supply and there is almost a complete absence of these teachers in rural areas.
Whilst recognising the importance of priorities as they have been established in the past, it is now imperative that this serious problem, in this important area of education, be given special attention. I accept the fact that the Federal Government has a vital role in education. I believe, as does the Minister, that the formation of the Schools Commission will commence a new era in education. But I am also of the opinion that the amendments to be moved by the Opposition will give to this Act greater diversity and provide for greater participation and will, as a result, promote the real objectives of schools.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for the dinner adjournment I was pointing out why 1 was supporting the foreshadowed amendments which are to be moved by the Opposition. Firstly, the amendments would avoid centralism of control resulting in an unimaginative system. Secondly, the amendment could allow greater participation on the Schools Commission so that it is representative of the total community. I also mentioned that there appeared to be an over emphasis on education facilities expressed in the Karmel Committee report. While I admit that these are important they must play in present day education a secondary part to curriculum structures and the provision of qualified teachers particularly for disadvantaged students.
I agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who rightly pointed out that we must not wittingly develop a system that forces many young people into higher academic education when their skills and inclination may be more adaptable to a technical form of instruction. I believe our aim must be in providing individual children with the experience of being a member of a diverse group of people, while still acquiring basic skills and knowledge. The freedom of choice of individuals and students is a basic right in our democratic society, as is the basic right of all children to equal opportunity and equality of education. The amendments proposed by the Opposition to the Schools Commission Bill give it flexibility, greater participation in and to the composition of the Commission’s expertise. For those reasons I support the amendments and I hope that the Government will see its way clear to accept some of them. Debate interrupted.
Mr DALY (Grayndler- Leader of the
House) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, it is due to an error mainly which was not made in any purposeful way. As recorded in Hansard of 27 September 1973 on pages 1639, 1640 and 1641 I made a personal explanation concerning the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. In the course of that speech I was given permission to incorporate in Hansard certain resolutions that were passed at the conference. When the Hansard staff asked me for the incorporation I handed over my files and inadvertently - I suppose I would be as much to blame as anybody for not indicating clearly the documents involved - some resolutions were incorporated that did not refer to my speech. The first of these was on page 1641 and is headed ‘Nineteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, Australian Constitutional Proposals’. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Australian Constitutional Proposals The Commonwealth of Australia Branch Delegation desires to notify Delegates that at the 18th General Meeting it proposes:
That this meeting requests the General Council to change the structure of the Executive Committee so that:
Treasurership is located shall have only one regional representative, and
It is not intended to proceed with the other amend ments notified.
– I then sought leave to incorporate another document. Section 1 of that document was incorporated but it did not apply to my explanation. I seek leave to incorporate section 1 of the second part in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– In other words leave was not granted to incorporate the sections which are now in Hansard and I ask that they not be taken into consideration of that personal explanation. I thank the House.
– The House is at present debating the Schools Commission Bill. This Bill has been introduced by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in performance of an undertaking given by his leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his policy speech prior to the last election. In that policy speech the Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, said that the Australian Labor Party believes that the Commonwealth should adopt some methods to assist schools as it has adopted to assist universities and colleges of advanced education through a commission. He went on to say:
We will establish an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government–
I emphasise the words ‘non-government’ - primary, secondary and technical schools.
It is interesting to trace that promise back to the Labor Party’s convention at Launceston where the Party resolved:
That the Commonwealth should establish an Aus tralian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students.
The Labor Party stated further:
That the Commonwealth should make to the States grants to assist in meeting the requirements of all school age children on the basis of needs and priorities.
The promise of the establishment of a schools commission created an impression in the public mind that certain goals would be achieved. It is interesting now that we see the detail of that legislation to note the changed emphasis. The emphasis that originally pointed to the importance of examining the rights and interests of students and children of our country has been translated into a concern for schools rather than for children themselves. It might be suggested that to make that point is somewhat academic or somewhat semantic. But I believe it is quite significant that there has been this change in emphasis away from a concern for the Australian children to a concern for schools because in expressing that concern for schools the legislation that we are now considering places great emphasis upon the schools run by the States and by the Australian Government in the Territories that it administers.
We in the Opposition support the need to look at the educational needs of handicapped children and handicapped young persons and to consider the needs of disadvantaged schools and of students at disadvantaged schools. We endorse the concept of the need to encourage diversity and innovation in education in schools and in the curricula and teaching methods of schools. We support the concept of the need to stimulate and to encourage public and private interests in and support for improvements in primary and secondary education and in the schools and school systems. We also support the concept of the desirability of providing special educational opportunities for students who have demonstrated their ability in particular fields of study. We look also with favour on regard being paid to the needs in relation to primary and secondary education and in school and school systems to promote the economic use of resources. But we seek to amend the legislation to have a broader concern for every Australian child.
We have in recent months had quite an extensive public debate arising out of the recommendations contained in the report of the Karmel Committee insofar as that report has had a significant effect on the educational opportunities and future of a significant group within the Australian community. That group is the group of students who receive their education in the independent system. It has been said in today’s debate that the concern that is being expressed is a concern for a very small minority of Australian school students. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that our concern is a concern for every Australian student and for a much larger number of children at independent schools than is made out. In fact, if one looks at the recommendations of the Karmel Committee one finds that, for more than 50 per cent of the children attending independent schools in the nonsystemic section of independent schools, the aid being given by the Australian Government to those schools will be reduced in real terms in the forthcoming year as against that which they would have received under existing legislation.
– You will have excluded the parish schools from that which outnumber non-systematic, non-government schools two to one.
– But nevertheless, the numbers who attend the independent schools to which I have referred are a significant group of the students attending Australian schools. The fact that this large number of students and their parents are going to be prejudiced in the way that they will be prejudiced as a consequence of the report of the Karmel Committee is something which is of great concern to members of the Opposition. We seek to amend the legislation to include reference to the provisions in the United Nations Charter which deals with the right of every parent to choose the kind of education that shall be given to his children. The amendment that we seek to include in the legislation is to require the Commission to have regard to the principles as set out in article 26 of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. The relevant sections of the United Nations Charter are as follows:
I submit that this implies that that right of choice shall be a real right. It is one thing to say that there is a right of choice; it is another to push such a price on the right of choice that no real choice exists. Even the Karmel Committee in its report gave the impression that it would like to see the price of choice reduced. Yet, in its recommendations it increased the price of choice.
Furthermore, the actions of the Government went a stage further. Instead of allowing the adjustments recommended by the Karmel Committee to be phased in over a period of time the Government made a decision that the price of choice would be increased immediately. The implications that flow from that are quite serious. We in the Opposition question the sincerity of the Minister and the Government. During the election campaign the Government made promises that no aid being given to independent systems would be reduced. Following the tabling of the Karmel Committee report when the Minister himself indicated that he preferred to accept the recommendations of that Committee-
– I went beyond that in what I stated I preferred, if the honourable member really wants to look back.
– Yes, the Minister did, and in doing so he indicated his views of concern. Yet the Government of which he is a member went against the recommendations of the Committee and presumably against the Minister’s recommendations and as a result destroyed or reduced the right of choice that Australian parents have to send their children to independent schools.
– Nobody is stopping them.
– Nobody is stopping them by direct prohibition. But the Government is stopping many of them by raising the cost of education in the independent system and by creating a situation of which government supporters themselves have been critical, that only those who have means, and substantial means, are able to exercise that right of choice. Why should not that right of choice be extended beyond the limits to which it is now available? Why should not many more parents have the opportunity, within their financial means, to exercise a choice as to whether or not they will send their children to a state system school or to an independent school? It seems to me ironic that at this time when the Karmel
Committee and other education experts are advocating community involvement in education and community participation in the running of schools and the direction and development of their educational outreach, that this Government, professing that it supports community involvement, should deny to communities who wish to group together, for whatever reason it may be, in supporting independent schools the right of choice by putting the price of that choice so high that the numbers able to exercise it are severely reduced.
When we come to look at this legislation we see that there is only passing reference in it to non-government schools - the independent schools. In fact, this legislation contains a criterion - an obligation upon the Commission to pay regard to the primary obligation of governments to provide and maintain school systems that are of the highest standard and open without fees or religious tests to all children. No one would deny that governments should provide free education of the highest possible standard. But the inclusion in this legislation of the reference to a primary obligation has been interpreted by many in the Labor Party’s anti-independent school lobby as an explanation and justification for the concentration of effort on the State-run schools and the withdrawal of support from the independent school system.
– Consider the situation in the Northern Territory. Surely the honourable member would concede that as Minister I have a prior obligation to put a state school in the remotest areas where the Methodists or somebody else are not likely to be putting a school at all.
– Of course you have an obligation to put a school in areas so that free education is available to every child. But you know as well as other people know that there are supporters of the Government Party who interpret the words I referred to as justification for diverting funds solely to the state system and not providing any support for the independent school system of education.
– You would not know what a state school looked like.
– I know what a state school looks like. I have visited IS state schools in my own electorate in recent months and the work that is going on in those schools is highly commendable.
-Order! I remind the House that this Bill will go into the Committee stage shortly and then there will be ample opportunity for honourable members to say whether they are for or against what the honourable member for Sturt is putting. I call the honourable member for Sturt.
– This legislation needs to be amended to ensure that the Schools Commission will pay regard to the educational opportunities of every Australian child and provide and guarantee the right of a real choice to parents to have their children educated either in a state-run school or an independent school.
The other aspect of the Bill that the Opposition wishes to see amended is that which relates to the composition of the Commission. We seek this amendment because at this time when there is this trend towards involving the community in education we believe that the community and those concerned directly with education should have an opportunity of submitting to the Minister a panel of names from which he can select the appropriate number to comprise the Commission. If one turns to the recommendations of the Karmel Committee it is interesting to find that that Committee reported as follows:
The Committee favours less rather than more centralised control over the operation of schools. Responsibility should be devolved as far as possible upon the people involved in the actual task of schooling, in consultation with the parents of pupils whom they teach and, at senior levels, with the students themselves. Its belief in this grass-roots approach to the control of the schools reflects a conviction that responsibility will be most effectively discharged where the people entrusted with making decisions are also the people responsible for carrying them out, with an obligation to justify them, and in a position to profit from their experience.
Later on the Committee went on to say:
As responsibility moves downward, the professionals in schools must expect to share planning and control with parents and interested citizens, safeguarded by limitations where professional expertise is involved.
It is upon those principles that we now advocate amendments which would require the Schools Commission to be comprised of representatives made up in the following manner: The Commission should be headed by a chairman who shall be the only full time member. There should be 2 other members appointed directly by the Minister for Education. There should be 7 more members selected from a panel of ten nominated by the Australian Education Council, representing the State school systems through the State education Ministers.
The Council, in selecting its nominees, no doubt would take account of the recommendation of the Karmel Committee that all those involved in the various aspects of education, teachers, professionals and parents, should be involved in that panel. Then there should be 4 members selected from a panel of seven nominated by the independent school authorities, and one member from a panel of three nominated by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education. In this way the Minister will have the final say as to who shall be on the Commission but he will have an obligation to select the final group from panels selected by people close to education in the State systems, in the independent school system and in the area of education research.
We urge upon the Government that it give serious consideration to this matter and the other amendments that have been proposed. In this way we of the Opposition believe that under this legislation a Commission can be established which will far more effectively carry out the philosophy enunciated by the Karmel Committee and at the same time raise the standard of education of every Australian child whilst preserving a right which Australians hold dear - the right to freedom of choice, the right to select the schools to which they send their children. The States responsibility under the United Nations Charter is to provide free education. It is not the States’ obligation to compel a monopolistic situation where freedom of choice is taken away, either directly by prohibition or indirectly by so raising the price of choice that there is no choice at all.
– in reply - At least the honourable member who just spoke, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), does not come from New South Wales. Such a speech from a New South Wales Liberal would have been the most bare-faced effrontery ever enunciated in this House as it would come from a State government which does not give a farthing to any non-government school at the secondary level. The Australian parents councils, the councils of independent schools and certain ecclesiastical dignitaries from the city of Sydney have nothing to say about the State Government of New South Wales. No doubt they are waiting for Pat Hills to become Premier before saying that the State legislation does not give freedom of choice at the secondary level. However I leave that point aside.
The day on which all of us were waiting for the results of the last election, 2 December 1972, was almost the finish of the last biennium of the McMahon Government. If any of us had taken the trouble to be involved about that Government’s educational expenditure in that biennium we would have known that in the 2 years, in every form of grant - capital grant, library grant and science facilities grant - that Government had given to the State schools of Australia $40.5m. In the same 2 years it gave to the non-government schools $7 1.5m. So all up in that biennium its expenditure on schools was $112m.
– You know that is a gross misrepresentation, completely and utterly dishonest.
– It is not a misrepresentation. Those are the figures prepared by my own Department and I trust them.
– Yes, and you asked for the exclusions to make sure you got the prejudiced position that you wanted to depict.
– I did not ask for any exclusions at all. The figures were given to me.
– You asked for certain figures in a certain form and a certain pattern.
-Order! The honourable member for Wannon will cease interjecting.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are members of the Opposition .to stay on this side of the House and allow the Minister to mislead the House and not-
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– The Minister-
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! There is no point of order involved. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! There is no point of order involved in what you have just mentioned.
– I raise another point of order, Mr Speaker.
– Order! There is no point of order involved in the matter you just mentioned.
– I raise another point of order.
– What is your point of order?
– The Minister himself has interjected on Government speakers throughout the whole of this day’s debate, and occasionally in a quite sharp fashion. I think that in that case he ought not to be quite so sensitive when he gets the same treatment.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– I assure the honourable gentleman that I am not sensitive to his interjections. The only thing that I could suggest which would be adequate for his speeches would be for us on his side of the House to wear boater hats whenever he spoke. We would then be expressing his values. That $112m all up was the previous Government’s expenditure on government and non-government schools in the biennium 1971-72. I would not have dared to have stood on the hustings and said that in the biennium 1974-75 I would propose to spend $693m on schools. But that is what the Karmel Committee has recommended to the Government. I invite the attention of honourable gentlemen opposite to the fact that obligingly in September 1972 they provided that beginning 1 July 1973 - not in the period that they could guarantee was their Budget - there should be, over 5 years, a capital expenditure on non-government schools of $48m and a capital expenditure on government schools of $167m. All of that falls within this proposition and within the expenditure for this year and the following year.
Taking all these things into account - the on-going programs and those in this year, 1973, following your programs - $34m will go to government schools and $57m to non-government schools. Persistently, almost double the expenditure will go to about a third as many children. This is the arrangement that we face. What does the Karmel Committee recommend? Allowing for growth in all the existing expenditure under present programs, there will be $83m for government schools in 1974 and 1975 and $143m for non-government schools.
-How much are the States spending on state schools?
– This is an action of the Commonwealth to raise the standard of schools identified as defective in both government and non-government areas. The sum of $83m is to be provided for government schools and $1 43 for non-government schools. The Karmel transformation is to add $397m to the expenditure on the government sector, which will make it $480m, and $50m to the non-government sector, which will make it $193m. People have spoken about destroying the non-government schools. We are destroying them apparently by giving them$193m in the biennium 1974-75, and the late Government was sustaining them by giving them a third of that in its last biennium. Could anything be a more gross misrepresentation than that kind of statement? But I leave that aside in this debate on the Schools Commission Bill.
I merely wish to refute the gross defamation of Karmel, who was and is the appointment of the Party opposite for the Australian Universities Commission but who in this connection has been defamed, and lyingly defamed, from one end of the country to the other. But put that aside. I want to dismiss very quickly the nitpicking approach to this Bill by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) and the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The honourable member for Wannon has a technique of weaving. He gets a statement and he draws all the wicked implications from it, which he imputes to his opponent. He got hold of the fact that this Bill says that the Commission can range from 4 members to 11 members. Of course after he denounced it I wanted to find where this Bill had its origins. I had not remembered the discussions. This provision in the Bill is taken holus-bolus from the former Government’s own legislation for the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission of the Colleges of Advanced Education, which states this:
The Committee shall consist of a Chairman and such other members, not being less than four in number nor more than 9 in number, as are appointed from time to time.
If we repeat it, it is sinister; if the former
Government did it, it had no sinister implications at all. But I leave that. It is a minor feature.
I was reading quite recently a book called The Proud Tower’. It is a study of the world before 1914. In that period British Liberals were trying to get amendments to education legislation in Britain that were invariably thrown out of the House of Lords because of the influence of the Anglican Church at that time. Every one of those proposed changes in education would now be recognised as ordinary common sense, as the changes we propose would be recognised as ordinary common sense.
I thank the honourable gentlemen opposite for the notification that the Bill will not pass the Senate, because tomorrow I will be speaking to the members of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, which I had hoped would become the Schools Commission. A collection of sinister people has been conjured up by honourable members opposite. I will be able to tell them that probably they will carry on as an interim committee. But if the previous Interim Committee could raise expenditure from $112m to $693m there is not much more that something called a Schools Commission could do. Since there have been all these pretences about sinister people, let us hear who will be on the Commission. The chairman will be Dr Kenneth McKinnon, who for many years was the Director of Education in Papua New Guinea, who created a very large part of the secondary and teacher education aspects which have been the most marked development of education in Papua New Guinea. Other members will be Mrs J. Blackburn, now senior lecturer at the Sturt College of Advanced Education in Adelaide and who for many years was connected with teacher education; the Director-General of Education in South Australia, Mr A. W. Jones; Father Martin, director of the Catholic Education Office, Melbourne; Dr Peter Tannock, Dean of the Faculty of Education of the University of Western Australia, who also is on the Roman Catholic Archbishop’s trustee board or whatever it is called, for education in Western Australia; Mr Ray Costello, the President of the Australian Teachers Federation; Mrs J. Kirner, President of the Victorian Federation of State School Mothers Clubs; Mr A. McNamara, the President of the Sydney Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations; Mr Peter Moyes, the Principal of the Christ Church Grammar School in Western Australia; and Mr A. D. J. Wood, the Principal of St Michael’s School for the Handicapped, which I honestly think is regarded as one of the finest schools for the handicapped in the world. Mr Wood comes from near Launceston in Tasmania. There will be 2 other appoint ments - one a very distinguished officer of the New South Wales Department of Education whose name I am not yet free to disclose and another, a man who was until recently a principal of one of the leading experimental schools of Australia.
If the Bill is to be mangled in the way that is proposed by the Opposition and if the Senate’s amendments are no more intelligent, then the Opposition will be advising the Government how to exercise its power to make grants under section 96 of the Constitution without having a schools commission. When the honourable member for Wannon was in Government and when we moved any proposals about a schools commission he had a standard argument. He said: ‘You can have a universities commission. There are only 22 universities to look at. But you cannot have a schools commission. There are 10,000 schools in Australia; therefore it cannot function’. I think the Interim Committee functioned very well and to the satisfaction of the Australian Education Council which has been cited here this evening by so many people. It consists of the 7 Ministers for Education in this country. The honourable member for Wannon was quite right in saying that there has been some indifferent drafting .because of haste. 1 accept that it was because of haste. I believe the Bill was introduced on 27 September.
– After 10 months drafting by the Government and less than one week for the Opposition to look at it.
– I think the Opposition had as much chance to study the legislation as is normal. We need not argue about that. I do not mind the incorporation of glorious statements such as the one about Article 26 of the United Nations Charter, but what on earth is the use of telling a Commission in Australia that education shall be free. Of course we have that, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. How long has that been true in Australia? The Commission does not need to be told that now. Article 26 says that technical and professional education shall be made generally available. Well, we are making it more available but it has been here for years. The Article says that higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. We are doing more than that. We are doing it on the basis of matriculation, which may not be the same as merit. At least it is going to be free. The Article goes on to say that it shall promote tolerance and so on. All these things are quite unnecessary.
But the bite came from the honourable gentleman when he said that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. I hope that this will always be taken to mean that Aborigines will have a right to have an education in their own language and culture, which we are attempting to give them for the first time. But the exact point about the propaganda of the Australian Parents Council is interesting. There is another section of the Charter which speaks of the rights of the unborn, and that is an extremely mandatory section of the Charter. This section of the Charter that speaks about the right of parents to choose does not enjoin governments to finance non-government schools, which is the implication being given. This Government does finance non-government schools.
There have been 2 campaigns, one an overcover respectable one and the other an undercover sectarian one which I have encountered in recent weeks. It is a fact that there are 1,768 Roman Catholic schools in Australia compared with 108 Anglican schools. So, necessarily, if the Government starts a policy to assist non-government schools, overwhelmingly the bulk of finance will go to Catholic schools as compared with Anglican schools. What on earth would honourable members expect if one outnumbers the other by 16 to 1? In Australia there are 3 Presbyterian schools, 19 Methodist schools, various Lutheran and Seventh Day Adventists schools; I forget the statistics. But overwhelmingly, 1,768 non-government schools out of 2,190 non-government schools are Roman Catholic. It is probable that the number of schools classified A out of that 2,190 will end up as about 70 schools, and the entire interest of the Opposition is concentrated on those. The final decisions about those schools have yet to be made. Many of them have appeals before the Committee. Some of the honourable gentlemen opposite have used the criteria of the Karmel Committee - which are not binding as criteria on this new Schools Commission at all - to say that one school which is rich is classified D and another one which is poor is classified A. How do honourable members opposite know that the principal of the school did not make a complete mess of his return? They do not know that-
– You were keeping it a secret.
– Secret my foot! The formula has been published. The schools concerned have been encouraged, where they have made mistakes that have been palpably obvious to the responsible officers, to resubmit their returns.
– You are blaming it all on the schools.
– I do not blame anyone. I merely say that the comparison between 2 schools is not necessarily the validation of the Karmel criteria. It could be a mistaken return. I refer not to the amendments which honourable members opposite prefer. One matter on which I agree with the honourable member for Wannon is that the drafting of this legislation is bad and it may need polishing up in the Senate because it has in it statements like the one that the Schools Commission is to note the obligation for governments to provide and maintain school systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees’. I presume that means Government school systems. Is it saying that it is an obligation of the Schools Commission to maintain Geelong Grammar School open to all children, without fees? That is what the drafting means. If that is what it means then right throughout Australia in making every independent school totally free and paying the lot, we are up for more than $693m. I do not know that I can enjoin that on the Schools Commission. I hope that the Opposition’s Senate colleagues, when they are redrafting the Opposition’s amendments, will draft that amendment with a little more polish.
The basic point is that this will destroy the needs concept. Its whole intention is to destroy the needs concept. And should it not, from the point of view and the logic of the Opposition? The Opposition when in government faced the situation. The Karmel Committee report refers to non-government schools that range from having resources only 40 per cent of that of the average state school to 270 per cent of that of the average state school. If we take the average state school as S511 per pupil, that means the range in the non-government schools is from a resource level of $204 per pupil to $1,380 per pupil. The late Government’s’ policy was to give all non-government schools $104 per pupil. The school at the $204 level would still be in the process of buying chalk and pads with the additional $104. The school at the $1,380 level could be buying the most sophisticated equipment, so quite clearly whatever that principle was it was not a needs principle. We have argued for a needs principle and because the amendments overthrow the needs principle - where they do not their meaning is vague - it is not possible for the Government to accept them. In the course of this debate some statements were made upon which I should like to comment. Whatever legislation we bring down or whatever legislation is proposed by the Schools Commission, it will be introduced in the form of States Grants (Schools) Bills. The simple function of the Schools Commission is to advise the Commonwealth Government-
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
That the Minister be granted an extension of time.
– Mr Speaker before that question is put can the Opposition know whether there will be time for a Committee debate?
-Order! There is no debate on a motion to extend the speaking time of a member or a Minister. The question is that the Minister’s time be extended. I think the Ayes have it.
– I am not giving guarantees about anything. I want the legislation to be passed tonight.
-Order! I call the Minister for Education.
– The legislation that we will bring in is exactly the same in its titles as was the late Government’s legislation. They will be States Grants (Schools) Bills. That is what the Schools Commission will be recommending. Honourable members opposite decided as a government that over 5 years they would give $4 8m to non-government schools and $167m to government schools and leave whoever was in office on 1 July 1973 to pay for it. When these arrangements were made the Australian Education Council was not appointing nominees to some advisory body to tell the Minister what to do. The Opposition, when in Government, was totally opposed to such an advisory body as the Schools Commission. I am grateful to those members who, like the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) said they were still opposed to it.
The real purpose of these amendments is to carry through a successful opposition to the Schools Commission without the Opposition showing that it intends to do so. Opposition members have spoken about spiritual aspects of education. I presume therefore that they understand the scriptures. The problem with the Opposition’s education policy is that it has been always governed by Mark chapter 4 verse 25 and not by Matthew chapter 11 verse 5. I hope honourable members opposite understand that. If they do not they should have a look at them. Mark chapter 4 verse 5 states: ‘To him that hath more shall be given’. Matthew chapter 11 verse 5 speaks about the gospel being preached to the poor, the halt, the maimed and so on - a different basis. When honourable gentlement opposite speak about non-government schools I think they need to face a few simple facts. The distinctive feature about the Catholic sector of education is not that it is Catholic so much from the point of view of a secular government as that it reaches wage earning groups in the community. It can be argued strenuously that Anglican education might do that in certain circumstances but undoubtedly there are orders in Queensland which argue that way which is why I think there are very few category ‘A’ schools in Queensland.
By and large if one covered the names of the schools and the fees charged by these schools on my Department’s schedule and said, ‘Fees $1,117 - guess who?’, anyone who was in any way intelligent would know it would not be a Roman Catholic school. If the amount was $150 a year and a person was in any way intelligent he might have the problem of deciding whether it was Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist or Roman Catholic school. As the overwhelming majority are Catholic one could safely guess. I refer now to our action for non-government schools in this biennium 1974-75. If the present level of recurring grants to Catholic schools continued the schools would receive $7 1.66m in 2 years. Under the Karmel Committee proposals they will receive $122m. Three-quarters of the schools, 1,768 out of 2,190, are involved. Honourable members opposite should have the integrity to recognise that all of those conditions are being improved and a considerable number of others are also being improved. More than most people have guessed we were told originally that there would be 140 category ‘A’ schools. I doubt whether there will be many more than 70 of them.
The honourable member for Wannon in seeking to belittle the changes made by the Government said that in teacher education I was merely carrying on his policy from the Cohen report. The Cohen report recommended in the terms of the policies of the late Government. It recommended that if the Government came into teacher education it should do so on the basis of granting $1 whereas the States would grant $1.85. Under those recommendations the Commonwealth would be up for $83m and the States would be up for $124m in round figures. We have changed the $83m to $188m. That is not sleight of hand as has been suggested. We have asked that the schools be autonomous. I believe that the intention of these amendments is to destroy the intention of the Bill. If the amendments are agreed to in the Senate and returned to this House for agreement my recommendation to the Party will be that they are totally unacceptable. If it means that no Schools Commission comes into being and the body has to carry on as an Interim Schools Committee I will certainly stump the country.
No member opposite has dared to deny that we have a mandate to set up this Commission. They have made many innuendos about the sort of people we would appoint to the Commission, but no one has dared to name a soul whom we have already nominated. The people we have nominated are of the highest integrity and of the highest ability in this country. I have been scrupulous in the representation of Catholic and independent schools. I could not imagine a more distinguished man than Mr Peter Moyes, the headmaster of Christ Church Grammar, who has been chosen by all the headmasters of the independent schools as their president. That choice of presidency came after I looked at a panel of names from that quarter and selected him as a man I thought to be outstanding. He is a man of great integrity and of great intellectual insight who, in Christ Church Grammar School, has developed a magnificent section for brain damaged handicapped children as well as having a school with children of the highest academic ability. We have been quite scrupulous in wanting those viewpoints reflected.
The Schools Commission, if it comes into being will not be bound by any of the criteria of the Karmel Committee but I hope it will be bound by a challenge of that Committee. The challenge was to raise all schools in Australia over the next 6 years to a level at least 140 per cent of the existing State school level. That effort over 6 years will involve $2,000m of Commonwealth money at the 1973 value of the dollar. I hope that that kind of challenge will continue. The Karmel Committee operation was not a snide depriving of any schools. The Committee had a conception that there was an aim of minimum dignified standards. It was 140 per cent above the existing State school average level. All schools below that level - and some of the non-government schools were abysmally below that level - were to be brought up to that level and the $693m to which we refer is the first 2 years expenditure of that 6-year program. The Schools Commission, if it comes into being, has the right to vary that program. If the Senate insists on these ill drafted amendments that have been put up by the Opposition this evening and returns them to the House of Representatives no doubt the Schools Commission will not come into being. I will ask the Interim Schools Committee to continue to advise the Commonwealth Government on how to exercise its grants under section 96. I remind the members of the late Government that they exercised grants under section 96 apparently on their own decision and certainly not on decisions of panels of independent, schools and the Australian Education Commission, or even on decisions of a representative committee such as the Interim Schools Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Australian Capital Territory “ includes the Jervis Bay Territory;
– I move:
After the definition of “ Australian Capital Territory ‘, insert the following definition: “ ‘ Australian Education Council ‘ consists of the Australian Minister and every State Minister.”.
By the amendment that I have moved, the Opposition seeks to add to the list of definitions a definition of ‘Australian Education Council’ which, as honourable members will know, consists of the Commonwealth Minister for Education together with the Ministers for Education of the various States. It is the view of the Opposition that, because the matters under examination by the Schools Commission will affect all schools, the administration of State Departments of Education and the provinces under the responsibility of State
Ministers, the consultative procedures should be guaranteed by the Bill itself. Therefore the Opposition believes that there are certain places where the Australian Education Council ought to be given a positive role in the Bill itself. For that reason, and for the sake of clarity, we seek to have a definition of the Australian Education Council included in the list of definitions.
– The grounds on which this amendment is unacceptable to the Government are quite simple. The function of the Commission is to make recommendations to the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution, which provides in effect that the Commonwealth Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on the terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. No government before us, and certainly not our immediate predecessor, suggested a control on or recommended the way in which the Commonwealth Parliament should exercise its power in making these grants or required that it should be subject to a mandatory provision that the Commonwealth Minister must accept the nominees of the State Ministers who will be the beneficiaries of these grants. The State Ministers have put evidence to the Schools Commission. We have a director of education from one of the States on the body that we propose for the Schools Commission. But, beyond that, the making of a mandatory provision that State Ministers will give me a panel of names from whom I must choose people to exercise the prerogative of this Parliament under section 96 of the Constitution is not anything that has been required of any previous government in Australia and certainly is not a provision that our prececessors would have accepted from us. Therefore, the amendment is not acceptable.
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
– Clause 4 is the clause which determines the composition and nature of the Schools Commission. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) sought to justify his cause by saying that the same wording has come out of the Act establishing the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. I think that is rather an argument out of the past. If the Minister wants to turn to our past to get arguments to justify his case he is entitled to do so. But that does not mean to say that, sitting on these benches, we can advance our thinking while the Minister moves in the opposite direction. That is in fact what has happened.
There is also a difference between the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education and the Schools Commission because the universities are independent bodies even though established by State statute for the most part and the schools have a relationship with their State departments and State Ministers of a different kind and of a different order. If there is to be a Commonwealth body that is to make recommendations to the Commonwealth concerning school systems which are not owned by the Commonwealth but which are owned by the States or other authorities independent of the Commonwealth, then the Opposition believes that there needs to be some certainty in the legislation that other people will be given fair and appropriate representation.
The Australian Education Council is a responsible body. The Minister is a part of it. I should have thought that he would not mind consulting, at the very least, with his ministerial colleagues. But in concluding his second reading speech the Minister seemed to indicate that this is a responsibility for the Commonwealth Minister and for the Commonwealth Minister alone. I think that is unfortunate because one of the things that ought to happen in a federation in which there is more than one level of government is the establishment of systems and laws which require consultation, require negotiation and prevent the kind of self-willed decision making which this Government has become typical for and noted for in a number of fields. I am only sorry to see that legislation from the Department of Education and the Minister for Education is of a kind that indicates that there will be a minimum of consultation.
That only reinforces us in our determination to press with this particular amendment which would see that the Commission shall consist of a Chairman, who shall be the only full time member, and 2 other members to be appointed directly by the Minister; 7 members to be selected by the Commonwealth Minister from a panel of ten to be nominated by the Australian Education Council of which he also is a part; 4 members to be selected from a panel of seven to be nominated by independent school authorities and one member from a panel of three to be appointed by the Australian Committee on Research and Development in Education. Within that arrangement there is plenty of room for those representing the teaching profession, for those representing the State departments, for those who are expert in education in different fields or expert in schools of education in universities, to be represented. I believe they would be represented. I think that the amendment being proposed by the Opposition, and which I believe will be passed in the Senate, would lead to a much better Commission and would guarantee that the different people concerned with Australian education have a voice within the Commission itself. There is no other purpose in the amendment than that.
The Minister tried to suggest that members of the Opposition had imputed improper motives to members of the Interim Committee or to those members appointed to the present Commission. I had not heard that. If that is . the Minister’s view he is entitled to it. But I think it is only fair to say that we want to make sure that there is some kind of guarantee. The Minister may believe that a person represents a certain group, but members of that group might believe that he does not represent them. Therefore they ought to be consulted. The only way that one can make sure that there will be consultation with this Government is to make consultation a mandatory requirement. Therefore on behalf of the Opposition I shall formally move the amendment to clause 4 standing in my name which involves the deletion of sub-clause 2 and the replacement of that sub-clause by the. amendment. I move:
– I would like to express my appreciation of the courtesy of disagreement of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I must therefore pay him the equal courtesy of explaining why the amendment he has moved is unacceptable.
– You have done that.
– No, I have not. This is a point that I have not made. To begin with the honourable member said that there shall be only one full time member of the Schools Commission whereas we suggest that there should be four. When the honourable member suggested that originally he said: ‘Why do you not follow the analogy of the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education which have only one full time member?’ May I therefore turn on him his erstwhile argument. There are 10,000 schools and only 22 universities in Australia. If the process of consultation with State governments is to take place there must be a number of members who are giving their full time to the work of the Commission and who can travel around the country consulting people.
I am tired of the accusation about consultation because this accusation was also thrown at Karmel. I invite the honourable member for Wannon to turn to appendix C of the Karmel Committee report and to have a look at the consultation that was carried out by the Interim Schools Committee. He will see that every State government through its director of education was consulted. There were 6 or 7 figures from the Federal Catholic Schools Committee; 5 representatives from the National Council of Independent Schools; 5 from the Council for the Defence of Government Schools; 3 from the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee and 2 from the Commonwealth Committee on Facilities for Non-Government Schools. The Committee also held discussions with the teacher organisations from Papua New Guinea, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory as well as from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Discussions were held with the Technical Teachers Association, the Victorian Teachers Union and the New South Wales Teachers Federation. Many of the people consulted had multiple representation. The Committee held discussions with 4 representatives of the Australian Parents
Council. It also consulted with 4 representatives from the Australian Council of State School Organisations. The Committee met with 5 members of the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled - the National Committee on Education. This group included some of the most distinguished experts in the world on the education of handicapped such as Professor Marie Neale. There were 2 representatives of the Australian College of Education.
There was massive consultation. It is an untrue charge to say that the Interim Committee did not consult people and just made ad hoc decisions. The witnesses who came and sometimes gave entire days of their time, included some of the most distinguished figures in education in this country. One has only to look at the list of witnesses to know that this would be so and that every element of education was represented - .the Catholic schools, the non-government schools and the independent schools. They represented any field of education that the honourable member for Wannon would like to name. There is not the slightest doubt that consultation continuously will take place. But if it is to take place I think that we must have more than one full time member of the Commission. To restrict the Commission to one full time member seems to me to be a grave mistake.
– Surely it is obvious to the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is the spokesman for the Opposition and a former Minister for Education, that the States will still have quite expansive expenditure in their own field. They will have resources of their own which they will be able to allocate at their own discretion. All that we are doing in this Bill is to supplement what the States have. In fact, the Commonwealth is taking over the full financial responsibility for tertiary education to make available to the States those extra funds which they will be using at their own discretion.
The second point - and the Minister has, I think, made it quite adequately - is that there are a number of provisions in this Bill for organs of co-operation and consultation, not only with the Education Ministers who are on the Australian Education Council but also for a wide variety of people in the community who might want to participate and forward advice to the Schools Commission. We propose to set up advisory boards. This Bill gives the Commission, with the sanction of the Minister, authority to set up specialist committees which might relate to deaf children or might deal with equipment of some kind. They might refer to the State curriculums and so on. There are so many opportunities available.
One of the main themes of this Bill is the chance to get out into the community, to consult with the States, to consult with the independent or non-government schools. This has been going on and the Minister has just testified to this fact. That has happened within 5 months - not years. Within 5 months that consultation has taken place. So I think that this Government has established its bona fides as a democratic government - because it has been consulting with the clients, consulting with the practitioners and seeking advice from wherever it could get it. We are going to establish and institutionalise much greater opportunities than ever existed before.
I heard the honourable member for Wannon say: ‘Well, we have learnt a few things since we have been in opposition.’ I hope so because I can recall the previous Government bringing the Universities Commission Bill into this chamber. That Bill was passed through the House. The previous Government committed every one of the State governments in respect of their universities, apparently without even having asked them. The previous Government decided that it was up to the States to match the Commonwealth financial offer and it was left to the States to accept or reject the offer. The previous Government said: ‘If the States are prepared to put up this amount of money we will pass this legislation.’ But that legislation was passed before the States had given any indication of their agreement to accept it on the terms the previous Government had offered. In many cases the only way the States could match the offer was by increasing substantially the fees of all students who entered tertiary institutions in successive years.
What happened in respect of the universities happened also in regard to Colleges of Advanced Education and apparently the same thing would happen to the teachers’ colleges now that they have become autonomous bodies in various parts of the Commonwealth. One could allude to other examples. Look at the legislation on social welfare. Much of that legislation which passed through this place was dependent on the States and in some cases local governments providing a grant matching what the Commonwealth was providing, but without them ever having been consulted. As a result many of the welfare proposals which were put up in 1969 never got off the ground because the States said: ‘You will not give us the money to enable us to provide the matching grants to go on with proposals and build senior citizen centres or to pay welfare officers and so on.’
The Opposition has given us a pretty bad example of consultation, if that is what it is preaching here tonight. I agree with the Minister every bit of the way. The activities of the Commission will require every bit of the work of 4 full-time commissioners. The Opposition has provided the Government with a good argument. The Opposition has told us what a sizeable commitment we have because there are 9,600 schools. We do not intend to do what members of the Opposition were prophesying or trying to portray before the last election as what we would be apt to do, such as appointing teachers to one school, shifting them around, telling them what they would teach or anything of that sort. All that sort of rubbish, that propaganda, has now gone. But this Opposition still wants to carry on some of it by the stupid notion of centralism.
If there is one feature about this Bill it is the lack of centralism, except that we are providing funds - after consultation - in very considerable amounts. The consultations will not be in respect of funds only. There will be consultation in respect of research and consultation relating to possible administrative procedures. As a matter of fact, the Bill provides for special allocations to enable people to carry out experiments. It might involve a single school or a group of schools. We are trying to get rid of the dull uniformity which has beridden the Australian educational scene and which has caught the eye of most educationists who have visited this country. The centralism of the various State bureaucracies of education is what we are aiming to get rid of. That is why we are offering money to these people and to all independent schools which want to carry out innovations or experiments. So all the nonsense about centralism and suggestions that we are not consulting others is the kind of idle propaganda - mischievous propaganda - that was put up at the last election. I am happy to be associated with the Minister who spoke so eloquently tonight and will go out to the polls any day honourable members opposite like in order to defend this Bill.
– Members of the Opposition are persuaded by the point made by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). We think they are right about the need for more than one full-time member on the Commission and we would be prepared to accept the Government’s original proposal that there should be 3 full-time members, provided the Government is prepared to accept our proposal that there ought to be the sort of full participation of effective groups at the highest level of advice along the lines that we put before the House today. I have discussed this with the Opposition spokesman on education, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and we put this forward in all seriousness. We would like to add that we do this in a sort of spirit of compromise and a spirit of agreement which we would hope to get from the Government when we put up our proposals in good faith.
We are upset that the Minister and other honourable members opposite have attempted to suggest that we have been indulging in cheap smears against Professor Karmel and other members of the Karmel Committee. We have done nothing of the sort. The only problem with Professor Karmel and his colleagues was that which was given to them by the Labor Government. They were given an impossible task. If they made blues, which are now being said by the Minister to be the fault of the schools in the way that they put in their submissions to the Committee, that was because this Labor Government just did not give them the time or the chance to put in the sort of information which any decent institution in the world would want to submit. That is where the problem lies. The schools were given a few days to provide details of their needs. We would be the last people to blame Professor Karmel. He was given a timetable by the Government.
– Would you have kept the schools waiting?
– Oh be quiet.
– Order! If the honourable member for Wannon would remain silent I will manage affairs in the chamber. I suggest to the honourable member for Casey that if he has anything to say in the debate he should do so in the proper manner.
– We on this side of the chamber have always admired Professor Karmel. He had good people working with him. It was never our point to cast smears. Those people had their riding orders. They had their instructions. That is why they had to fall as they attempted to travel the course.
In putting these amendments we are attempting to achieve two basic things. Firstly, we want to ensure a co-operative Federal approach. We can understand that that is not necessarily attractive to the Labor Government because we know that it is dedicated to a mindless centralism. This is the sort of action which we will take again and again in this place as long as this old-fashioned mindless centralism is put up to us. All we are attempting to ensure is that those who are most closely and deeply involved are institutionally involved at the highest levels of advice to the Government right through the whole system of education, extending beyond the State Education departments and into the independent sector involving parents, groups and also teacher groups. This is what we are after: We are after a co-operative Federal approach and the forced participation of the affected groups at the highest level of advice to government. We are not suggesting for one moment that the ultimate responsibility of government should be usurped but we want to see this participatory approach adopted at the highest level.
– It is always a pleasure to listen to the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley). He says it all so we’ I but what he says never seems to mean everything. Just recall the way he referred to a mindless centralism. We are talking about an operation in which a Schools Commission is to dispose of very large sums of money to innumerable institutions for them to dispose of according to their own considerations and he calls that centralism. If honourable members opposite would only depart from some of the slogans and start to think about what the problems. Let us consider for a moment his charge that the Karmel Committee was not given enough time. That may well be true. However I believe it performed a prodigy in producing its report so soon. However the point is that my colleagues opposite might stop and consider next time they get back to their electorates what this Bill really means for the schools.
Of the 10,000 schools of Australia and the 8,000 State schools in particular there are hundreds if not thousands that ought not to be allowed to continue a day longer than necessary in their present condition. A great number of them are in electorates such as mine. There is an urgency about this matter which we have been promulgating for the last 17 or 18 years but it still escapes my friends opposite. Over the years the Australian Education Council produced continuous reports about the needs of education. We placed those reports before the Parliament year after year but to no avail. Now we are applying a sense of urgency to an immediate human problem. Most of the children that pass through our schools will pass that way once and if this is not done for them this time their opportunity has gone for good. That, I think, is the urgency involved in this Bill. The establishment of the Schools Commission is the next step.
What are some of the other things that honourable members opposite say. I am always intrigued at the use of the phrases ‘the independent schools’ and ‘the independent system’. Independent of what? The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), for instance, earlier told us how important it was that the independent schools have public funds. Obviously they are not independent of the public purse. Are they independent of the education system? Of course they are not. They design their education system generally speaking to fit into the same pattern as everybody else and to produce the same type of people to go to the same sort of universities. They are not independent in that respect. They are not independent of anything but public responsibility. We believe that that is one of the most important functions of government. They do not accept the same responsibility as do the State education systems. To find out one only has to get on the telephone and ask whether it would be all right to take 6 children along tomorrow.
– Order! I suggest that the Minister is getting wide of the clause under discussion. This debate could be turned into a second reading debate if he continues in that vein.
– With all respect, Mr Chairman, part of the principle of debate in this place, as I understand it, is that one is entitled to answer things that are raised. I will deal with those questions raised by my friend the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about this institution, the Schools Commission. During the long deliberations which we carried out a year or so ago on this question of what the structure of the Schools Commission should be we gave a lot of consideration to representation on it. After tossing the matter around in much the same way as my friends opposite have done we decided that in fact it was impossible to have a representative body to do the task in the way that it had to be done, that is, representative in the true sense of the word. Firstly, there are 6 State systems. Then there is a multitude of Catholic diocesan and other kinds of systems. There is a multitude of other schools which come together, perhaps, for their purposes on occasions but in no way can they be regarded as continuous bodies, similar though they all might be. Therefore the idea of representation in the way in which we use the word in this institution was found by us to be invalid. We decided that the best way to proceed was with a body of people appointed by the Minister and responsible to him.
One of the other problems we felt would be encountered if we took nominees from other bodies was that responsibility was removed from the appropriate Minister. People would be placed in a position where they were not answerable to the authority which had to take the final responsibility. I can assure my colleagues opposite that we on this side of the House gave serious consideration in our original discussion to this matter of representation and we were sympathetic. You have to admit, at least, that on this side of the House some of us taking part in this debate have been talking and working on this matter for many, many years. Only a particularly biased person opposite would not admit that the Party now in Government was the one which injected education into the Australian scene as a Commonwealth matter. Consultation, participation, responsibility and representation are the principles on which this Government is working. But to actually enshrine those things in a piece of legislation designing the membership of a commission is impossible. But we are now launching ourselves on what might be called part of the Australian educational revolution. I only hope that the spirit with which the honourable member for Wannon endows the State education systems and the other bodies, with the idea of using federation as a co-operative undertaking, is the case. One of the great difficulties that this Government has faced over the last few months has been the almost complete impossibility of getting co-operation from State governments on detail and often on matters of principle.
I represent one of the areas which needs the immediate application of all the funds that can be made available but I am not convinced that the Victorian Education Department is going to apply funds to the areas of need that are so apparent in that State because there are extraordinary constructional difficulties and so on. I only wish that we were able to get closer and continuous co-operation with our State colleagues, no matter what their parties, on these matters. If we are going to consider federation as a co-operative undertaking, the time has come for a good deal of the politics to be taken out and a lot more of the principles injected into relationships between this Government and several of the Australian mainland State governments.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Malcolm Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Omit sub-clause (4), substitute the following subclause:
The Chairman and each member shall be appointed for a term not exceeding five years.’.
– This proposed amendment would require the Government to appoint the Chairman for a term of not more than 5 years. The gentleman who has been appointed as Chairman of the Interim Committee is Dr Kenneth McKinnon. He is a very distinguished former Director of Education in Papua New Guinea. He is a young man of 42. I have the greatest confidence in his ability. I think it would be extremely unfair to say that he is simply to have a 5-year term at this stage of his career. The amendment would ask a man to move from a secure position into another position with a limitation of 5 years on his term of office.
The amendment also requires that the part time members of the Commission shall be appointed for a period not exceeding 5 years. These members will be drawn from many areas and the bodies with which they are associated may not want them to have longer than a 3-year term on the Commission. They may not want them to have a mandatory 5-year term. I think it is fair enough to give people who are asked to commit their whole lives to the Commission for a period of time a reasonably lengthy term in office. Those who are part time members pursuing other vocations should have a shorter period of office subject to renewal. For this reason I cannot accept the proposed amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 12 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters: -
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in Australian schools, and, in particular, shall have regard to-
– Clause 13 is one of the most important clauses in the whole Bill. It is the one that comes to the substance of the operations of the Commission and points the nose of the Commission in whatever direction the Government might intend. Earlier the Minister was somewhat scathing of the admittedly hasty drafting that has been undertaken of our amendments because of the short time that the Opposition had to examine this important Bill. The Government and the parliamentary draftsmen have had several months to examine the legislation. I should like to read one sub-clause which we propose be deleted because of the convoluted and verbose manner in which it says something which is very hard for anyone to understand. The Minister might well get to his feet afterwards and say what he thinks it means. I think that people would have to read the clause very carefully several times to find out what in fact it means and then they would not be sure. Paragraph (c) of clause 13 (1) states:
Matters in connexion with the grant by Australia of financial assistance to the States for and in respect of schools and school systems and to schools in the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, including matters relevant to the necessity for financial assistance to be so granted by Australia, the conditions upon which financial assistance should be so granted and the amount and allocation of any financial assistance so granted;
That is a somewhat lengthy paragraph. It is’ somewhat verbose and difficult to understand. We are proposing that this whole paragraph be deleted and that it be replaced with a shorter one in these terms:
Any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b).
We also believe that the preamble to clause 13 is inadequate, because we want the Commission to be a co-operative arrangement. We want to enshrine in the Bill itself the cooperation that we believe ought to be undertaken. For those reasons we believe that the first 3 lines of sub-clause (1) of clause 13 ought to be deleted and that in its place we should insert these words:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and the Independent school authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters:
We propose that following these words would be paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Bill and the new paragraph (c) which we have indicated we wish to have inserted by way of amendment. In addition, further on in clause 13, in paragraph (d) of sub-clause (1) we want to insert a provision so that the Australian Education Council and not only the Commonwealth Minister will have the capacity to refer matters to the Commission. I would hope that at least the Minister might agree to that innocuous but helpful suggestion. It needs to be noted that the Australian Education Council does not consist of a single Minister of a State; it is a body on which the Minister himself is represented. I think it would have been reasonable to allow that body to refer matters to the Commission for examination and not merely the Commonwealth Minister, who as the Bill stands could ignore the Education Council in its entirety.
When we come to sub-clause (3) of clause 13 we find the matters to which the Opposition objects most significantly. Here the Government enshrines the words which admittedly were taken from the Australian Labor Party’s own platform or words that are very similar to the ones in the platform. Paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3) states: the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children;
We do not deny the Government obligation in that area but at the same time we believe that there are obligations to all children. In addition to the obligations concerning Government schools there is an obligation to those who choose to go to independent schools. I think the best way to explain the differences between the Bill and the Opposition’s intention is to go through our amendments to sub-clause (3.) We seek to insert the following words:
In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in Government or independent schools. Further the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights a copy of which is set out hereunder.
The Minister chose to ridicule that Charter and to say that it was inappropriate to Australia. I suppose that he would claim that it would be appropriate only to Africa, and he has said as much.
– He did say it and if he now wishes to retract it and say that he did not mean it-
– I did not say it was appropriate only to Africa. I said that in Africa there were many countries that needed the statement that you had to make primary education free, but it happened in Australia in 1890.
-The Minister was speaking of the Charter as a whole. If he now wishes to qualify what he said I accept his explanation completely. The Minister is quite right when he points out that the part of Article 26 which we believe to be important and relevant is the third paragraph, which states that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Again in the spirit of ecumenical compromise that has applied to this legislation, Jet me state that if the Minister because of his objections wishes to delete the first 2 paragraphs of Article 26 and enshrine in the Bill only the third paragraph of Article 26, the Opposition will have no objection to that comcomprise. I think it would be a reasonable one. It would certainly make the Bill a little shorter. The third paragraph states:
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
If the Government wishes to vote against that it is voting against something which many people, including many who go to government schools, believe to be a fundamental right of parents, and it will be interesting to hear the Government’s intentions. The proposed new sub-clause (3) goes on:
Furthermore in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the need to provide increased and equal opportunities for education in all Australian schools. In pursuit Of these objectives the Commission shall have regard to -
the obligation for governments to provide and maintain -
This is what the Minister sought to ridicule this afternoon - government schools systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees; lt was really an unnecessary comment by the Minister which he might regret tomorrow morning. The proposed new sub-clause goes on:
All we are doing here is asking the Schools Commission to take into account the rights of parents. We stress the obligation for governments to provide government school systems of the highest standards open to all children, the pre-eminent position of the States in relation to their government schools and of independent authorities in relation to theirs. I would have thought that there is nothing in any of those amendments that runs counter to any honourable policy in education. If the Minister wants to say that those words would make it quite impossible for the Government to carry out its education policy he will have to demonstrate that with greater capacity than he has so far done. The remainder of our amendment seeking to insert a new sub-clause (3) assigns new letters to the existing paragraphs (b) to (g), but the remainder of it is as the Minister has intended in the Bill he has presented to the Parliament.
In sub-clause (1) omit the words ‘(1) The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, and to furnish information and advice to the Minister with respect to, the following matters: - ‘, substitute the following words:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into the co-operation with the States Departments of Education and the Independent School Authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters: - ‘.
In sub-clause (1), omit paragraph (c), substitute the following paragraph:
Any terms and conditions that the Commission believes should be attached to grants to meet the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b).’.
In sub-clause (l)(d), after the word ‘Minister’, insert the words ‘or by the Australian Education Council’. .
Omit sub-clause (2).
Omit sub-clause (3), substitute the following subclauses:
In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in Government or independent schools. Further, the Commission shall have regard to Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on human rights, a copy of which is set out hereunder:
ARTICLE 26. -1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. (3a) Furthermore, in the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the need to provide increased and equal opportunities for education in all Australian schools. In pursuit of these objectives the Commission shall have regard to -
the obligation for governments to provide and maintain schools systems of the highest standard that are open to all children without fees;
the pre-eminent position of State Departments of Education in relation to their own schools;
the pre-eminent position of independent authorities in relation to their own schools;
the educational needs of handicapped children and handicapped young persons;
the needs of disadvantaged schools and of students at disadventaged schools, and of other students suffering disadvantages in relation to education for social, economic, ethnic, geographic, cultural, lingual or similar reasons;
the need to encourage diversity and innovation in education in schools and in the curricular and teaching methods of schools;
the need to stimulate and encourage public and private interests in, and support for improvements in primary and secondary education and in schools and school systems;
the desirability of providing special educational opportunities for students who have demonstrated their ability in a particular field of studies, including scientific, literary, artistic or musical studies; and
the need, in relation to primary and secondary education and in schools and school systems, to promote the economic use of resources.’.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that these amendments be dealt with together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– The only exception to the amendments I have moved would be if the Minister were going to accept any part of those amendments, thus obviating the need for a vote on that part, but we might know that after the Minister responds.
– The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has suggested that if we do not think that Article 26 of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights should be in the Bill we are against the United Nations Charter and Article 26 of it. If the honourable gentleman had chosen to move that the Schools Commission should be bound by the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes and
I Corinthians chapter 13 I would have thoroughly agreed with him, but I would still have thought that they were not appropriate to be in the Bill, without being opposed to the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes and I Corinthians chapter 13. It is rather odd to have a grab bag from the United Nations Charter put in. The honourable gentleman should realise that one of his amendments is extremely difficult. I would like to draw his attention to the fact that Professor Karmel’s objective to bring all schools up to a standard 140 per cent of the existing State school level was very mild compared with this objective. I invite honourable gentlemen opposite to listen to their words:
In the exercise of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provision of education of high and equal quality to all children in government or independent schools.
The Schools Commission is obliged by that clause to bring all schools up to equality with the highest standards in independent schools.
– Why not?
– Because of the cost, my dear friend. We believe in going to that by stages. In 6 years we say, it will cost us $2,000m to get 140 per cent of the existing state school level. But this requirement is not 140 per cent of the existing state school level. The requirement is 270 per cent of the existing state school level. I think the cost would be far more than $ 12,000m to achieve such a thing. If honourable gentlement opposite are really going to persist with that amendment I hope they will never accuse us again of excessive government expenditure, because there is somewhat of a difficulty in the objective they are asking us to espouse.
– On a point of clarification-
– You have had your say.
– I do not think the Minister is objecting to a point of clarification. What we are stating here are objectives, not something that can be achieved in 12 months. To state them as objectives for the Commission I would have thought was entirely appropriate.
– I think that the Commission must have objectives that are not so remote as to be unattainable. I would much rather it had more definite objectives. But there is another thing. The wording is always restrictive. Because of this shibboleth about centralism and persisting in calling a body, which is simply advising the Commonwealth
Government how it is to grant money, an administrative body although it comprises part time members who are not administering anything - no one could suggest that they were - in its amendments the Opposition gets itself into what it regards as an ti centralist slogans and then it reduces the Commission to powerlessness. Listen to this one:
The functions of the Commission are to inquire into, in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and the independent school authorities, and furnish information and advice to the Minister and to the State Ministers with respect to, the following matters -
I am not quite sure whether the State Ministers wish to be furnished with this advice by a Commonwealth body. Leaving that aside, why can it not inquire into something of its own volition?
– It can.
– It cannot under the Opposition’s amendment. It has to inquire in co-operation with the State Departments of Education and the independent schools. There are no volitional actions of its own. It is tied to 2 forms of co-operation. I think that the restrictiveness of that clause is the feature which makes it inadequate.
– It is not restrictive because paragraph (d) at the top of page 7 is left in the Bill in our amendment.
– Order! I think I have been fairly lenient with the Committee.
– I think that this helps clarification.
– I think that clarification can be given in the normal way.
– The honourable gentleman also chose to attack a statement. Clause 13 (3) will read this way because I propose to move an amendment:
In the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to such matters as are relevant, including the need for improving primary and secondary educational facilities in Australia and of providing increased and equal opportunities for education in government and non-government schools in Australia, and, in particular, shall have regard to-
the primary obligation, in relation to education, for governments to provide and maintain government school systems that are of the highest standard and are open, without fees or religious tests, to all children.
Then it goes on to deal with all school systems. Honourable gentlemen opposite have quoted only what it is to do about the education of the handicapped, but it is also to provide special educational opportunities for students who have demonstrated their ability in a particular field of studies, including scientific, literary, artistic or musical studies.
The point I want to make about this primary obligation of the States is that the primary obligation has to be acknowledged. I just take my own position where I am equivalent to a State Minister in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. I have made grants, or guaranteed loans, to non-government schools to the extent of $2,900,000 in the 10 months that I have been Minister. The Government has continued the grants of the late Government, and I have told the House of the arrangements that will apply next year. I had to honour and did honour - I do not say ‘had to’ in a sense of compulsion - a grant that the honourable gentlemen made to the Canberra Grammar School for a gymnasium, a swimming pool and other facilities.
– I wish you would do that down our way.
– I certainly do. The undertaking which was binding was made on 28 November 1972, 4 days before the election. Naturally, I honoured it. It was an undertaking of our predecessors. It was a legal undertaking. I may be asked to what I will give priority, when there are whole areas in the Northern Territory where new schools are needed, where it is an obligation of the Government to provide the schools. In those areas nobody else will provide them. The Methodists will not provide them. Even in a large centre like Katherine the Catholics do not provide them. The basic right of every child to an education is the first obligation of the States, and of me in Commonwealth territories. The non-government schools come in other areas which have enough adherents of their own religion or enough people who want and can pay for a certain form of education. The question of aid to them comes next. We make that quite clear.
I have to acknowledge the obligation of State governments to provide for free education. That is not to say that one should deride the non-government schools. But the basic legislation for free education has to be acknowledged as an obligation on the States, and the Schools Commission would have to acknowledge that as an obligation when it is making grants. A great deal has been made in reverse by honourable gentlemen opposite. I remind them again that I am carrying on their system this year and that $34m will go to state schools with 3 times the enrolment of the nongovernment schools, while $57m - nearly twice as much - will go to the non-government schools. The Government is changing that to a fair ratio - about $495m to $195m, which is equitable in relation to enrolments. We are not taking it beyond the relative enrolments of government and non-government schools and we are not taking it below that, but we have to acknowledge that the States have to put up schools where nobody else will put them up. If we do not acknowledge that obligation we will not be meeting the States’ needs.
– I move:
That progress be reported.
I have a matter of privilege to raise.
– The question is that progress be reported.
– You must be joking.
– On a point of explanation, it was arranged that this Bill would finish tonight. If it finished immediately, the Leader of the Opposition may raise his matter of privilege.
– The question is that progress be reported. All I can do is put the question.
– May I have the indulgence of the Chair for 2 sentences? The question of privilege is very important in the Parliament, and the time that will elapse because of the matter of privilege will be about two or three minutes. It will not hold up the progress of the Bill.
– I recognise the right honourable gentleman’s problem. I also recognise the position of privilege in the Standing Orders, but the Standing Orders provide that the Chairman will leave the Chair on an order that he report progress. I am not in control of that situation; the Committee is. I must put the question that progress be reported.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That progress be reported.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Order! Is it the wish of the Committee to take clauses 14 and 15 together?
– I move:
That progress be reported.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved that progress be reported. Does he wish to persist with that motion?
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) supports the privilege motion which I want to put but the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will not allow me to do so.
– Order! This is not relevant to the question at all. The question before the Committee is that progress be reported.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to move the amendment circulated in my name.
– It is not going to be possible to get through this Bill tonight.
– We know that, but I will continue with the amendment.
– An important matter has inadvertently been overlooked and I want to have the matter redressed. I was not aware nor was the Leader of the Opposition-
– Order! The Minister for Education has the call.
– I move:
In sub-clause (3) omit ‘Australian schools’, substitute ‘government and non-government schools In Australia’.
The Opposition does not oppose the amendment. However, I ask that the amendments moved by the Opposition be recommitted because I did not hear you put the question, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) did not hear you put the question. The Opposition wishes to vote against those particular matters and I ask leave to have them recommitted. Mr Minister, I have agreed to the amendment.
– Order! The honourable member for Wannon will resume his seat. It being 15 minutes past 10 o’clock p.m. in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March I shall report progress.
– Order! The question is:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have a matter of privilege which I wish to raise. It is based upon an article published in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of today, Thursday 11 October 1973.
The article appears under the heading Torres Strait Scheme under Attack’. I produce a copy of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ printed and published by Mirror Newspapers Ltd of 2 Holt Street, Surry Hills on behalf of Nationwide News Pty Ltd. I should make the point immediately that the issue of privilege relates in no way to the newspaper itself. The newspaper reports a letter which was sent by Mr Dexter, who is the permanent head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The letter was addressed to Dr Coombs who, among many other duties, is a special adviser to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I understand that he is Chairman of the Aboriginal Affairs Council. The report says that Mr Dexter’s letter to Dr Coombs related to evidence to be given to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I have ascertained that both Mr Dexter and Dr Coombs in fact gave evidence before that Committee. As I have not the letter I am unable to say whether the letter was written before or after their evidence to the Committee. One must assume that it was a letter written before their appearance before the Committee having regard to the quote from the letter which is included in the newspaper report. The newspaper reports:
We should not assume that all those we will be talking to will be interested in getting at the facts.
I have no doubt that at least one of them seeks nothing else than the abandonment of the Turtle Project or in putting what remains of it after restructuring under the direct control of the Thursday Island Co-operative.
We should therefore exercise discretion in what. we say in particular in relation to those aspects where we may not yet have determined our own approach, such as marketing.
I wish to refer to Erskine May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’. On page 114 under the heading Conspiracy to Deceive either House or Committees of Either House’ it reads:
It has already been seen that the giving of false evidence, prevarication or suppression of the truth by witnesses while under examination before either House or before committees of either House is punished as a contempt;
I will real the following words for the sake of completeness but I do not want any allegation to be read into my reading of them: and that persons who present false, forged or fabricated documents to either House or to committees of either House are guilty of a breach of privilege.
The point I wish to make is contained in the next sentence, which reads:
Conspiracy to deceive either House or any committees of either House will also be treated as a breach of privilege.
It hardly needs for me to say, but I think it worth saying for what I say will no doubt be reported, that privilege in this sense does not relate in any way to the personal advantages of any member of the House. Privilege in this sense relates to the House being able to discharge its functions fearlessly without any fear of consequences or without any reward for what is done. It is on that basis that I raise this matter. Can the House or in this case the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation be regarded as being defeated in getting at all the facts and all the truth of the matter which they were examining? Concerned as I was about the matter I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. It was delivered to him this evening. I have had that letter returned to me with a notation from the Prime Minister. I notice the Prime Minister is at the table and I assume I have the authority of the Prime Minister to report what was in the letter and the reply the Prime Minister made.
– The letter reads:
My dear Prime Minister,
A serious issue has been raised concerning the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs involving Dr H. C. Coombs-
– I suggest the essence of the letter is the last 2 sentences. Perhaps you could read them and my 2 sentences in reply.
– I have no objection but it is quite a short letter and it might be as well to read it in whole. The letter reads:
A serious issue has been raised concerning the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs involving Dr H. C. Coombs as Chairman of the Aboriginal Advisory Council and the Permanent Head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr B. Dexter.
The Opposition will seek an opportunity to debate this issue but I want to bring immediately to your attention the possibility that a serious breach of privilege has occurred concerning the evidence that Mr Dexter and Dr Coombs were to give the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Conservation.
If that report is correct (Daily Telegraph 11.10.1973) Mr Dexter is quoted as writing to Dr Coombs as follows:
I will not read that extract as I have already done so. The letter continues:
Will you provide me with the full text of the letter and advise whether you would support referring this matter to the Privileges Committee.
I intend to move the appropriate motion in the House tonight.
The letter -was signed by me. Underneath it is written:
I have no such letter, original or copy. I support referring the matter to the Privileges Committee. 11.10.73 2140 hours.
There is then something which I interpret to be the initials of the Prime Minister. That is the basis upon which I raise this matter of privilege. I am aware that normally it remains for the Speaker to be satisfied that a prima facie breach of privilege exists. I am in your hands, Mr Speaker, as to whether I should move a motion at this stage or wait until you have investigated the matter to see whether there is a prima facie case. If it were your wish, Mr Speaker, that I move the motion now I would move it in the terms that the matter of the article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Thursday 11 October 1973 under the heading Torres Strait Scheme Under Attack’ be referred to the Committee of Privileges. I am in your hands, Mr Speaker. I believe I said earlier that the matter of privilege relates to the letter, not to the report of it. I think it is important that that distinction be made. I leave it to you, Mr Speaker, to indicate to me whether you wish me to move the motion now or whether you prefer more time to consider the matter.
– Order! In conformity with the usual practice and standards of the House in regard to these particular matters, as the Leader of the Opposition said, it is for me to consider whether a prima facie case is made. I shall certainly do so. I will give it every consideration and report to the House at the next sitting.
– A few minutes after 10 this evening- between 10.5 and 10.10 - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) appeared in the chamber and moved that progress be reported. I presume he intended then to raise the matter to which he has just spoken. As the Standing Orders provide that a matter of privilege may be raised at any time, I saw no reason why the debate which was about to conclude should be interrupted and the business of the House delayed. The Leader of the Opposition had no more right than any other member to intervene in the debate as he knew that full opportunity would be given to him later. As a matter of fact, judging by the time it took him to deliver the speech that he has just made, when he first rose to speak he would not have been able to conclude his speech before the point was reached when the question that the House should adjourn would be proposed. In consequence, there was no purpose whatever in seeking to report progress when he did as his subsequent speech would have finished in mid-air. I suggest therefore that he should not say that I endeavoured to prevent him from speaking. I presume that the only reason why he wanted to speak at the earlier time was that at that stage the proceedings of the Parliament were being broadcast. That is no reason why ordinary practice should be departed from and the debate then in progress should not continue. The Leader of the Opposition has his rights under the Standing Orders. He has exercised them. If he were to read the Standing Orders more carefully and not try to play to the gallery, he would get into a lot less trouble.
– The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has spoken presumably as a matter of indulgence, for he was speaking to no motion.
– I was speaking to the adjournment motion.
– The adjournment motion has not been moved yet.
-Order! You are usually right, but you are wrong this time. I proposed the question: ‘That the House do now adjourn’.
– Given that the honourable gentleman was not called by you to speak-
-The Leader of the Opposition has the call on the adjournment motion.
– The Leader of the House is protecting himself from the charge, which is a correct charge, that he knew that a matter of privilege was to be raised but he took action to prevent it being raised when I entered the chamber. The fact is that he forced a division on the motion that progress be reported. When I was Leader of the House, the counting of a division was estimated to take 7 minutes or 8 minutes. I do not know whether the tellers are faster with their pencils these days but I think the counting of that division took 7 minutes or 8 minutes. The amount of time which I took to outline my case on privilege I am sure was less than would have remained from the time I first sought to move my motion until 10.15.
– You took 10 minutes.
– Very well.
– You rose 7 minutes before the adjournment motion was to be proposed.
– If the honourable gentleman had had in his mind the importance of the parliamentary system and the importance of the issue of privilege not only would he not have obstructed me from moving to debate the matter but also he would have taken every step available to him as the Leader of the House to allow me to do so forthwith. It does no credit to the honourable gentleman that he adopted the course that he did. What we have discovered in recent days is that he has lost his touch because he has lost his confidence.
Mr DALY (Grayndler- Leader of the House) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Leader of the House claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said that I tried to prevent a matter of privilege being raised. As the Leader of the Opposition will have seen from the letter that he read, the initials of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) were on it and I, on behalf of the Government, was to accept the motion that he was to move. The question being raised was of no concern to me because I know little about it. I had no desire to impede the discussion of the matter of privilege. But, knowing the Standing Orders, I knew that the Leader of the Opposition could raise the matter before the House adjourned. In case it is necessary to remind the Leader of the Opposition of this fact, the Government, not the Opposition, runs the Parliament. In case the honourable member may not know, it is the responsibility of the Government to move that progress be reported and not the responsibility of some interloper who wanders in and wants to play the gallery. Consequently, I say that I have been misrepresented.
– After listening to some of the statements by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) I can well ask the simple question: Who is running this country? Or I could put it another way, and ask: Who is running this Parliament?
– A good question.
Mir KING - It is a good question. This evening I want to refer to some misleading and confusing statements that have been appearing around the track in recent times. I am not throwing any great blame on our Press because I think the Press is able to print only what has been made available to it. Nevertheless, many misleading statements have been made and our friend the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has certainly been well to the fore in this. It makes one wonder whether he has not passed the clock back a little to a period of about the middle of December 1972 when we had a 2-man Cabinet - a 2-man government, if you like - because at present it would appear to me that there are only a couple of people running the country. I do not know what honourable members think about that but it appears to me that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Immigration seem to be having most of the say. Whenever something favourable is about to be announced, of course we read the country Press and see statements made by the Minister for Immigration. I am sorry that he is not in the chamber; I thought he was here when I commenced my speech, but he is not here now.
I refer to a number of things in regard to this matter. A few weeks ago when the postal rates were adjusted, affecting chiefly country newspapers, the Minister for Immigration was very quick on the draw. He was out contacting his newspapers and telling them what a wonderful job he had been doing and how he had spoken to the Prime Minister. I submit that on this occasion the first the Minister for Immigration knew about the alteration in postal rates affecting country newspapers was when the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) presented the case in this place. Yet the Minister for Immigration was very quick to rush around and suggest that he had been doing a wonderful thing for the country newspapers. The honourable member for Gippsland spoke on behalf of the Opposition and was successful on that account. We all realise that the one-eyed Minister for Immigration must be pretty quick on the draw to get the publicity that he requires.
The other point I would like to raise relates to the meat industry. Where are we going in regard to this industry? What is the policy of the Government towards the meat industry today? There has been a lot of talk about this but nothing definite has been said - nothing that can be confirmed. If people wanted to know all about the Government policy in this regard, the first thing they would say is: ‘Let us have a look at the report on the stabilisation of meat prices made by the Joint Committee on Prices’. That should give one a fair clue.
But when one starts to look at this report one starts to wonder about it. I should just like to quote a couple of points from the report. Its first recommendation is:
As the principal means of stabilising domestic meal prices, steps be taken to introduce a special flexible tax on beef exports . . .
That is fair enough. The report went on to make some other recommendations about putting voluntary restrictions on beef exports and the like, Fortunately, there were some Opposition members on that Committee including, again, the honourable member for Gippsland and, I think, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). I cannot remember who the others were but it was fortunate that we had those 2 Opposition members on the committee because they presented a minority report. They virtually took a reverse position to a flexible tax and the imposition of quotas. Both of these recommendations were rejected by the minority and, of course, in the long and short of it the meat industry has accepted that.
When one looks around and sees the other statements that appear one wonders just where we are going. An article which appeared in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ under the heading ‘Barnard gets his facts wrong’, stated:
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, had another-
I emphasise ‘another’ - disastrous encounter with the Press yesterday, which resulted in a ministerial Press secretary publicly ridiculing him.
This is a pretty serious state of affairs. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) should not have raised this matter with the other matter that he spoke about concerning privilege. I do not have the time to quote all of the article. However, it went on to say:
Mr Barnard was made aware of his mistake shortly after the Press left his office yesterday, and recalled journalists to hear the proper version.
But the situation was left in such a position that the Press secretary to the Minister for Primary Industry Senator Wriedt, felt obliged to put the following note on the Press Gallery notice board:
This matter was raised at question time this morning, but it is worth repeating -
Meat tax. Are you confused?
Of course we are. We always are. The statement continued:
The reliable source of information is Ken Wriedt’s Press Statement. Tom Connors’.
Who is running this country? Today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ carries a story under the heading ‘Caucus rejectsbeef quota’. It states:
Canberra - The Labor Caucus yesterday easily over-ruled a Cabinet decision to place quotas on beef exports to the United States.
T he Caucus ‘rural rump’-
I am not too sure what is meant by ‘rural rump’.
– That is Grassby’s gang.
– I am reminded that it is Grassby’s gang. The article stated:
The Caucus ‘rural rump’, headed by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), overwhelmingly defeated Cabinet’s recommendation agreed to earlier this week.
Further on the article stated:
On Monday Senator Wriedt recommended to Cabinet to reject proposals by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices to impose the tax and quotas.
Cabinet rejected the tax proposal but endorsed the quota controls, pending ratification by the Caucus.
Again I ask: Who is running the country - the Caucus, the rural rump, Cabinet, this 2- man committee which I mentioned before, or you, Mr Speaker? Sometimes, Sir, I think that you have a fair amount of authority. The article in the ‘Age’ went on to state:
Mr Grassby and other rural members are believed to have strongly supported Senator Wriedt.
I start to wonder when I look at all of these statements. I want to refer to a Press statement issued by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). However I do not have time to quote it. I seek leave from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, to incorporate this statement in Hansard. The statement is a page and a half in length.
– Letme have a look at it.
– It is a Press statement by the Minister for Primary Industry. I want to quote one section of it. After saying that the Caucus or the Cabinet or the rural rump - I am not too sure which - was going to withdraw the tax, he went on to say-
– Order! Did the honourable member seek leave to have something incorporated in Hansard?
– I want to look at it first.
– The Minister says that he wants to look at it and I want to quote from it.
– Is leave granted?
– No. I want to look at it.
– Leave is not granted.
– Let me quote this passage:
Action on another Committee recommendation - voluntary export controls by industry would be held in abeyance for the time being.
The Minister has refused leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard. I have now finished quoting from it. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at the material which I seek leave to incorporate. I will hand it to him. I have only a minute left in which to speak. There are many things that one could talk about. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Thursday, 1 1 October carried an article headed’Graziers’ Ally in Tax Fight’. The article stated:
Two of Australia’s top grazier groups this week applauded the Minister for Primary Industry’s successful opposition to a proposed meat export tax.
This article, of course, did not mention the Minister for Immigration. It stated:
The Australian Cattle Council and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council both praised Senator Wriedt.
Then comes the real headline, in my book, as far as the industry is concerned. The article goes on to say that the AWGC economist made the statement.
– What, another textbook commentator!
– An economist above all things.
I come back to where I started. Who is running this country? Who is controlling primary industry - the Minister for Immigration, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Caucus, the rural rump, or even you, Mr Speaker? It is about time that the Prime Minister really put his foot down and told the Australian people exactly where we are going. Talking about credit - I will conclude on this point - the Minister for Immigration has been very vocal on this subject. He has been accepting the credit, not denying it.
– Is leave now granted to the honourable member to incorporate the Minister’s Press statement?
– The Minister for Immigration informs me that he has no objection.
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Ken
Wriedt, announced today that the Government had rejected a recommendation for an export tax on beef.
The recommendation had been proposed by the Joint Committee on Prices in its report on the stabilisation of meat prices. On Monday, Cabinet had accepted Senator Wriedt’s submissionarguing against the imposition of the tax and this had been endorsed today by Caucus.
Action on another Committee recommendation - voluntary export controls by the industry would be held in abeyance for the time being.
Recommendation No. 3 no longer had any relevance as United States livestock producers had ceased withholding stock.
Next month, the Minister will report back to Cabinet in regard to meat supplies and prices, both in Australia and the United States and the Government will then decide if it is necessary to approach the beef industry concerning voluntary restraints on exports.
Senator Wriedt said that prices in the United States for Australian meat had fallen over recent weeks and livestock auction prices in Australia had tended to stabilise. He expected this trend to continue in the immediate future.
The Committee’s recommendations on the pig and poultry meat industry and the collection of information by the Australian Meat Board of sales of meat under forward contracts would be examined by the Department of Primary Industry.
As the Minister has already announced that he intends to review the composition, powers and functions of the Meat Board, the Government had decided that the recommendation on this matter would be taken into account when the review was being carried out.
Senator Wriedt stated that the recommendation on the establishment of a Government sponsored and financed consumer organisation had already been met following the announcement by the Minister for Science on 13 September 1973 that the Government had decided to establish an Interim Commission to liase with consumer groups on matters of direct interest to consumers.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– As my contribution to country hour, I wish to draw the attention of the House to an important matter which has occupied considerable public attention in recent days. It is the matter of the relative shares of wages and profits in the proceeds of production. This is a matter which periodically has been at issue in public forums for many years, particularly in major wage cases before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its predecessor, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Unions and employers have quarrelled over the proper basis of measurement of relative shares.
One method that often has been used by employers to analyse shares is to calculate the percentage that wages and salaries represent of the gross national product or gross domestic product and to draw conclusions from the resultant figures. If the GDP used is the
GDP at market prices, then the non-wage element will include an important proportion in the form of indirect taxes, and they are not gross profits. Thus, if we are interested in the break-up between wages and salaries on the one hand and gross profits on the other, we have to take the gross national product at factor cost, rather than at market prices, so as to exclude indirect taxes. But even then the non-wage and salary element in the grow national product at factor cost includes various elements which must be excluded if we want to analyse the break-up between wages and salaries on the one hand and profits on the other. If these items are not excluded, then looking at wages and salaries as a share of gross domestic product, whether at market prices or factor cost, does not tell us anything meaningful about the break-up between wages and profits.
What we must do is confine ourselves to those sectors of the economy in which there is a distribution of the gross product between wages and salaries on the one hand and gross profits on the other. This means that we must exclude a few sectors of the economy in which no such distribution occurs, either because the gross product is comprised wholly or almost wholly on wages and salaries or because it is all gross profit. The importance of doing this was recognised several years ago by a well known economist, Dr A. R. Hall of the Australian National University, who on this matter of relative income shares said in an article in the ‘Financial Review’ on 9 June 1966:
If one is concerned with stability of distributive shares, then surely the examination of evidence should be limited to data in which the possibility of variation in proportion exists.
The validity of this point also has been accepted by various other economists, including Professor Nevile of the University of New South Wales, who has been quoted with approbation recently in this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). On this basis, therefore, there are 3 sectors of the economy that should be excluded. These are all sectors used by the Commonwealth Statistician in the national national accounts. They are public administration and defence, community and business services, and ownership of dwellings.
Public administration and defence should be excluded because none of the product of this sector is sold on the market and the Commonwealth Statistician values the gross pro duct of this sector at the value of wages and salaries paid. There is no break-up between wages and salaries and profits; so that sector must be excluded. Much the same goes for the sector of community and business services. Here the overwhelming part of the gross product is comprised of wages and salaries paid to government employees in such areas as education, health, law, welfare and so on. Again the gross product of this government area is not sold on the market. There is no break-up between wages and salaries and profits; so this sector, which is mainly governmental, should be excluded.
Another sector that has no breakup between wages and salaries and profits is the sector titled ‘ownership of dwellings’. The gross product of this sector is an imputed rent calculated by the Commonwealth Statistician as the value of the service that owners of dwellings receive from their homes. There is no wages and salaries element, so this sector too should be excluded. One other sector that unfortunately has to be excluded because of the way the statistics are compiled is the sector of finance and property. Here the difficulty is that the statistical series only goes back in a comparable fashion to the year 1959-60, and it one wants to look at the trend earlier than that - and it is important to do so because of the very restrictive wages policy operated by the Arbitration Court and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the 1950s - this sector has to be excluded.
This leaves the sectors of primary production; mining and quarrying; manufacturing; building and construction; transport and communication; commerce; electricity, gas and water supply; and the category of all other industries. In all these sectors there is a distribution of the gross product through wages and salaries and through gross profits, so it is thoroughly appropriate to analyse trends in the distribution of these sectors. However, if the figures are to be really meaningful they have to be statistically adjusted and weighed. The statistical adjustment is necessary to correct for the bias that would arise if wage and salary earners become a greater or lesser share of the total number of employed persons in the economy. Wage and salary earners have in fact become a continuously larger share of the total of employed persons due to small businessmen and small farmers being eased out of business and becoming wage and salary earners. Thus if no adjustment for this factor was made the wage and salary earners share could increase simply because they were a continuously larger sector of the work force and not because individual wage and salary earners were getting any greater share of the proceeds of production.
The statistical weighting is necessary - as recongised by Professor Neville - to overcome the bias that can occur through differential industry sector growth. Thus if we had a 2-sector economy, one sector distributing its gross product mainly in the form of wages and one sector distributing its gross product mainly in the form of profits, and if the gross product of the first sector was growing faster than the gross product of the second sector, the wages share in the total gross product would increase continually without any alteration of shares within the sectors. Alternatively, the same could happen to the profits if the second sector were the fastest growing sector. To eliminate the possibility of such bias it is necessary to weigh the sectors according to their relative importance at one point - preferably a mid-point of the period being analysed - and so maintained this relativity for all years in this period.
When these proper and indeed essential procedures are followed, the resultant picture is one which shows a marked downward trend in the wages and salaries share of gross product. Although the decline does not occur every year, it is more or less continuous and shows a decline from a range of 75 per cent to 79 per cent in the late 1940s and early 1950s to a range of 66 per cent to 69 per cent in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The exact figures were tabled earlier today by the Minister for Secondary Industry (Senator Wriedt). If one calculates a proper statistical trend in those figures - that is, an exceptional trend - ‘the trend co-efficient is found to be minus 0.46 per cent per annum. That is to say, over that period of 23 years from 1948-49 to 1970-71 - and this is on the latest available figures - which period apart from the first year and a half, was a period of LiberalCountry Party government, in those sectors of the economy where there is a breakup between wages and profits the average drop in wages and salaries share was almost half of one per cent per annum. Correspondingly, of course, gross profits took up that reduced share going to wages and salaries. The fact is that when properly analysed the share of wages and salaries has declined markedly and those who suggest otherwise are either being naive or endeavouring to mislead the public.
– The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who has just resumed his seat, made a few remarks about ‘The Country Hour’. I assure him that judged on the contribution he made, while he certainly might aim to get on that program, he would never make it. I say that advisedly because in furtherance of the points made by my colleague the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), I would remind you, Mr Speaker, that in the other House the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) had to bow to the pressures and the honesty of the Australian Country Party and accept an amendment which reduced the meat export levy from 1.6c a lb to lc a lb. That is why I say that, though the honourable member for Gellibrand might speak disparagingly of ‘The Country Hour* program, that program is far too successful to have him on it.
I want to draw the attention of the House to decisions made by the Government recently about interest charges. Two areas are causing discrimination and are departures from established practice and desirable aims. It is not my intention to prime the machinery of the Government’s dislike of valid opposition and criticism but to request it to give further consideration to the correction of anomalies. I draw particular attention to the rate of interest on deposits with savings banks. They are: Up to $4,000, 3i per cent; $4,000 and over, 6 per cent; and on investment accounts which are subject to notice of withdrawal, 7 per cent. These rates differentiate between the rich and the poor and one cannot but recognise that the remarks of the Government supporters in this House are mere platitudes and repetition of meaningless words. We hear them quite often stating that they represent the less affluent members of society; but like so many of their predecessors they have grown apart from their grass roots representation. I cannot understand why a Labor government has accepted the recommendations of the Reserve Bank. I am disturbed that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) did not at the time take the initiative which is available to him under the Act to refuse concurrence with these decisions. Why did he concur?
It appears to me that the small investor, the pensioner, the widower or the widow with a large family and the youth who is just starting on the long journey through life should have had a much higher interest rate applied to their deposits which, because they are usually under $4,000, attract the very lowest rate of 3J per cent. The Country Party will not accept that only the wealthy in society matter. We want to look after the old, the young and the poor. We maintain that this arbitrary decision of this Government is discrimination of the highest order. I find it most difficult to accept that the money held in trust by a savings bank for a pensioner or a small investor is not entitled to earn the same interest as the same amount of money which forms part of a very large investment of someone else. Why has the Government departed from its oft-quoted concept of giving help and consideration where the need is greatest? I appeal therefore to the Treasurer to alter the rates so that there shall be no disadvantage to the small investor. Governments, we submit, must give very special attention to these people, for they do not have the strength or the organisatinn to defend themselves. They are our very special responsibility.
The second point on which I should like to comment is the increase in housing loan rates which also was announced recently. It is significant that over the years various arrangements for housing loans with the States have been made but they have usually been on credit foncier terms over 53 years, with the Commonwealth having altered the principles in 1971. It is true that the previous Government actively encouraged housing with the percentage of home ownership in Australia being amongst the highest in the world. This was good and it encouraged a sense of belonging and a pride in. oneself and one’s country. Are we now to depart from this particular emphasis and to become not a nation of home owners but rather a nation of home renters? Under direction from the Treasury the interest rates have been increased and this can have only one result, dearer housing and a lower standard of housing.
It is appropriate that I develop those statements a stage further. The limiting factor in the amount any lending authority will advance for housing is the amount of weekly repayments that the borrower can service. Generally speaking, on a $15,000 loan each one per cent upward movement in the rate of interest will involve an additional repayment of $10 a month. The simple result is with higher repayments loan sizes will be reduced accordingly because the rule of thumb of lending institutions is that the size of the loan granted is based on the gross monthly income and the amount of the monthly repayment must not exceed one-quarter of that gross income. I submit that we will find one of two things: Either an inability to take up loans because the monthly repayments are too high in comparison with monthly income, and thus the person concerned will have to rent a home - and as my Party represents the free enterprise section of society we submit that this is a most undesirable trend; or the person concerned, who may be about to be married or about to purchase a home for the first time, will have to purchase a home with a lower intrinsic value and this certainly is undesirable. It is more appropriate and better for the future of the Australian ethos if a person on his initial entry into the home ownership field can buy a home that will be suitable for him and his family for the rest of his life.
We take issue with the present Labor Government’s rather deliberate attempts to encourage rental of homes rather than home ownership. We maintain that one of the greatest bulwarks of the maintenance of the Australian way of life is for each family unit to possess an individual home. We are concerned that notwithstanding the pressures of the Caucus to keep the interest on housing loans to the absolute minimum, the Reserve Bank of Australia saw fit to increase these loans by one per cent. We would have appreciated it if the Government had used the available resources to better advantage by allowing the existing home ownership rates of interest to remain. People who some years ago arranged their affairs and borrowed a certain amount of money on a monthly repayment basis are now either forced to make repayments for a longer period or to make higher monthly repayments. These increased monthly repayments might come at a stage of their lives when their families are growing up and they are faced with extra expense in settling them in life or in making higher education available to them. We of the Country Party make that protest, Mr Speaker, because we are concerned for the small investor. We are concerned at any attempt by any government, Federal or State, to give greater emphasis to a mere tenancy of homes rather than to home ownership.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Monday, 15 October 1973.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What (a) quantity and (b) value of (i) ambergris, (ii) whale meal and (iii) whale solubles was produced in Australia in 1972.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I regret that under the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act the detailed information sought by the honourable member is confidential. The Bureau of Census and Statistics only publishes the total value of whale meal, solubles and other by-products. This amounted to $585,000 in 1972.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A total of 2,250,000 copies of the pamphlet: The Australian Health Insurance Program The Plain Facts’ have been printed. This quantity was made up of an initial order of 1,300,000 and two reprints- one of 700,000 and one of 250,000 copies - which were made because of the obvious demand from the public for the pamphlet.
In addition, 40,000 copies have been printed in Greek and Italian along with 200,000 copies of a summarised version called ‘Points for New Residents’ in six foreign languages.
Limited stocks of the pamphlet are still being held by offices of the Department of Social Security and by the Post Office. All the pamphlets produced are expected to be distributed.
Costs involved in the project are:
No specific compilation costs are available. In real terms they represent simply a number of hours of time by various officers who made suggestions, drafted text and researched facts.
Printing and associated freight and dispatching costs totalled $45,211. The foreign language material outlined above cost an additional $2,406.
Distribution costs are made up of two components:
$16,619 charged by the Australian Post Office for placement of material on their counters.
Charges by a mailing house of $2,350 plus postage for dispatching copies of the pamphlet in response to postal requests for it.
As indicated in answer 2 (a), there was no specific author of the pamphlet. It is in question and answer form and the answer material was mostly drafted by Dr R. B. Scotton, Chairman of the Interim Executive of the Australian Health Insurance Commission.
Note - There may be minor variations in the figures quoted when all accounts are received.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731011_reps_28_hor86/>.