29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Foreign Students in Australia: Rights
To the Honorable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and foreign students respectfully showeth:
That many foreign students in Australia, as well as many Australian students are deeply concerned at the political surveillance of foreign students in Australia by the officials of foreign missions from the nations of these students, particularly students from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and South Vietnam.
That the undersigned strongly object to the extension into Australia of the laws of foreign nations in regard to the political activities and or beliefs engaged in by foreign students during their stay in Australia.
That foreign students on their return home have in fact been charged with activities engaged in while in Australia which under Australian Law are legal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will ensure that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins, Mr McVeigh and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker amd members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540,000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sizedparticles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium panicles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the onlyearth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Gun and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned members of St Mary’s Church of England Girls School, Karrinyup, Western Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to prevent the destruction of the Palace Hotel, St George’s Terrace, Perth.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whilst the Australian Government is granting freedom and independence to Papua and New Guinea, the once free Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are occupied by the Soviet Union and their citizens are continuously and brutally deprived of personal, civil and religious freedoms. We humbly beg to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to this fact and ask that the matter be raised in the United Nations by the Australian Government. We beg the House of Representatives to disallow any steps by the Australian Government which would amount to recognition of incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
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 we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the Television Programme Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Programme Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMcLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we are concerned at letters in the press inferring that the Family Law Bill should be delayed. We are opposed to such action on the grounds that there has been ample time to discuss the bill with the community, and we are informed and believe that many submissions have been considered by Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee and the report of that Committee is substantially in accord with the Family Law Bill.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peacock.
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 reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under Section 82j of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $ 1 50 is $50 below the 1 956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973-1974 level either by increasing taxations or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peacock.
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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray.
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport,in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever humbly pray. by Mr Staley.
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 we strongly oppose the Human Rights Bill, as set forth (1973).
Your petitioners humbly pray, that the Government will reject this Bill in its entirety.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley.
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 since the family unit is the basis of our Australian society, that a fulfilling and fruitful union of husband and wife is required as the foundation for a strong and mature Australian people, then it should be the task and indeed privilege of the Australian Parliament to take all possible steps to assist people to enter into and deepen a relationship in marriage that is satisfying both to them and their children.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will make provision within the Family Law Bill
I inform the House that the Foreign Minister (Senator Willesee), who left Australia yesterday to attend the Colombo Plan Consultative Meeting in Singapore, will return on Thursday. In his absence, I shall act as Foreign Minister.
-I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture to the purchase of wheat from the Australian Wheat Board for the purpose of giving that wheat to needy overseas countries. Can the Minister advise the House whether this wheat is purchased at the world parity price or at the cheaper home consumption rate? If the wheat is purchased at the lower home consumption rate, will the Minister agree that the Government is placing an unfair burden on the wheat grower instead of spreading the cost of the overseas aid throughout the community?
– As I understand the position, the wheat is purchased with the full authority of the Australian Wheat Board under terms and conditions that are agreed to by the Government and the Wheat Board. I will refer that part of the question seeking precise details to the Minister for Agriculture.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: What is the present stock position of motor spirit and other liquid fuels in New South Wales and other States? What is the total stock reserve position in Australia?
-In reply to the honourable member for Evans, I quote the figures for stocks of finished products only. The overall position in Australia normally is that there are 30 days supply of motor spirit, distillate and similar products. At present the total amount is only 20 days supply. In New South Wales there are special disadvantages which flow from the fact that there are only 2 major oil refineries in that State while there are three in Victoria. The refining capacity in New South Wales consequently is only two-thirds that of its sister State. That being so, consistently right through the years there has been a lesser amount of fuel at any given time in New South Wales. For example, the figures at 1 November show that the reserves of motor spirit in New South Wales were 1 3 days supply, in Victoria 23 days, in Queensland 19 days, in South Australia 23 days, in Western Australia 26 days and in Tasmania 31 days. The Royal Commission on Petroleum will, as one of its functions, be submitting a report on the adequacy of the refining capacity in the different States. We anticipate that there will be presented in the near future an interim report on this matter in relation to New South Wales. At present that State is very heavily dependent upon marine transport and it is a situation that cannot be tolerated. There is an urgent need for expansion of the present refinery capacity.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. I recall the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister on the day before the 25 September devaluation to the effect that it is difficult to say to what extent unemployment is as a result of tariff changes or of the appreciation of the currency, ‘which was the far more significant of the 2 things’. That is to say, the up-valuation of the currency to that date, the next day partially reversed, was far more significant in its impact on industry, according to the Minister, than were the tariff changes. At present structural adjustment assistance is being made available to firms affected by the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut and other changes. Is it not a fact that the Government has refused structural adjustment assistance to firms put in jeopardy by the up-valuation- firms for which the devaluation came too late to affect decisions to change their operations or in respect of which the adverse effects of the revaluation persist? This, despite the revaluation, according to the Minister, being the more significant change. If this is so, will the Government reconsider its attitude in the light of the Minister’s assertion and in view of the difficult economic situation?
– The judgment about the relative effects of the appreciation of the currency or of tariff changes is a subjective judgment. It is difficult to relate these events to statistics but it seems to me that the attitude of industry in general gives a fair indication of the position. Most industry groups consider that any restoration of the 25 per cent tariff cut would have had very little effect on the overall flow of imports. They all speak about the necessity for quota restrictions, if their own situation is to be affected. That, however, concerns only about 3 industries- textiles, footwear and electronicsand no more than that. In industry generally, not only does the currency appreciation have effect but also the overall national credit policy has an effect. It is most frequently mentioned that the main problem is the shortage of working capitalthe liquidity problem. I point out, in respect of this, that it is quite impossible for any government to moderate the impact of inflation without some of these consequences. I suppose that today the most significant factor is the moderation of inflation that comes from banking policy. It is quite difficult to identify one aspect or the other. I think it is a rather fruitless exercise, particularly in the administration of reconstruction assistance. Specifically in answer to the honourable member’s question, I have for weeks been concerned to examine this question and I am quite open to the view that the basis for reconstruction assistance may have to be widened.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and remind him of the deep interest of the Australian people in the mining, treatment and sale of uranium. Can the Minister confirm the recent Press reports that Kathleen Investments (Australia) Ltd has not taken up its full entitlement to shares in the issue of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd which closed last Friday? If so, what is the effect on the underwriting arrangements with the Atomic Energy Commission?
-The Mary Kathleen uranium mine is to be re-opened. To give the shareholders every opportunity to subscribe to a new issue of shares worth some $22m, the Atomic Energy Commission agreed to underwrite the share issue. It would appear that the shareholders of Kathleen Investments (Australia) Limited have not been able to do so and that only a small number of the general public, holding about 13 per cent of the shares, have exercised their rights in this respect. Consequently between 32 per cent and 46 per cent of the total float will be taken up by the Atomic Energy Commission. This will in turn give the Commission a 42 per cent interest in the company. If that proportion is found to be correct, we will be entitled to 3 directors on the board of the company.
The purpose of the reopening was to make sure that the contracts which had been in abeyance for some years could be honoured. There will be quite a successful reopening. In point of fact, already we have been able to renegotiate the original contracts which were entered into a few years ago and at prices which do not conform with present market values. The yield from about 5,500 tons under the old contracts will gross approximately $100m. From the residue- a matter of another 2,500 short tons of uranium- there will be a further yield of $50m. The purpose of the exercise was simply to make sure that had we not done this, there would have been foreign companies which would have come in. Under the terms if the arrangements which we entered into as underwriters, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited takes up 5 1 per cent of the shares. There will be an unexpected bonus also in respect of the operations because Mary Kathleen, to quote the words of Dr Fisher, the former Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, is even more a rare earths mine than a uranium mine. With the percentage of rare earths at Mary Kathleen, if we are able to sell the amount that can be produced, there will be a further bonus of up to $4m a year from rare earth sales. Of course, that will depend on the market from time to time, but over a period of 1 0 years it could be a very substantial further bonus. In total, the exercise will be an extremely profitable one for the original shareholders, CRA, and also for the Australian Government which will prove to be very good partners in this undertaking. At the same time we will be honouring our undertakings to firms which were the parties to the original contract.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I wonder whether, for the elucidation of the Parliament and the people of Australia, he might care to identify those whom he asserts to be the bellyachers of his Caucus whose apparent propensity for releasing statements on a Sunday night preconditions a Caucus reaction which may or may not result. Is that a similar posture to that which is followed by members of his own front bench on so many occasions, by similarly using the Sunday night Press release in order to precondition Cabinet? Does not he feel that both, in fact, reflect his own high-handed disdain of this Parliament and his own tendency to make major policy statements outside the Parliament? Does he think that perhaps the real fault of the Labor system lies in himself and not in those others whom he seeks to criticise?
– The answer is in the negative to the whole series of questions.
– Has the Prime Minister seen allegations that the charges made by Qantas for the charter of a Boeing aircraft for the Prime Minister’s forthcoming overseas visit do not actually reflect the full cost of that aircraft’s being taken out of scheduled service? Has Qantas requested the use of the chartered aircraft for the period of time that the Prime Minister will not be using it during his overseas visit?
– I have seen allegations to this effect. In fact, they were put to me in a question asked by the honourable member for Gippsland. As I said during question time last
Thursday, the need for a chartered aircraft arose from questions of security. I have given a copy of the security advice to the Leader of the Opposition. I also stated last Thursday that if Qantas made a request to use the aircraft while I was not using it, then, of course, I would give serious consideration to that request. Qantas, in fact, has made no such request and does not propose to do so. My Department whose responsibility is to negotiate a charge for the aircraft has been informed by Qantas that the price which it assessed as appropriate for my European visit comprises the total operating costs of the flying actually performed, plus a further amount equivalent to the estimated return if the aircraft had been employed on other activities. In these respects, the price structure will be similar to that which applied to charters for the previous government and those which have already operated for the present Government. Bearing in mind the pricing structure referred to, Qantas sees no operational or financial advantage in operating the aircraft commercially to and from Australia or anywhere else during the period that I will not be using it in London. I notice that the honourable member for Gippsland was very vocal during the grievance debate, as well as question time, last Thursday in criticising the cost of my charter. I have been reminded that few honourable members have used charter aircraft more than this one. For instance, in the last 3 financial years the honourable gentleman has had a total of 161 chartered flights within Australia-
– How many ordinary flights has he had? He has no other way to come to the Parliament.
– . . . for a full cost of nearly $30,000.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will remain silent.
– He will not let him come to Parliament.
– He refuses him a plane to come to the Parliament.
– Order! I warn the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
-The Deputy Leader of the Country Party, who is interjecting, is the person who most abuses surface transport.
– Oh, you will have to do more than that.
-The Deputy Leader of the Country Party then asks the Minister for Services and Property- and on appeal asks me- to certify that the use of Avis automobiles in his own electorate -
– You like a chauffeur.
-Order! I name the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
– Give him a chance to apologise.
- Mr Speaker, before moving that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party be suspended from the service of the House I ask whether he might care to withdraw the statement which he made.
– In view of the appeal from the Leader of the House, if the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party likes to apologise I shall overlook the incident.
– I apologise, but I trust that the Prime Minister will speak the truth -
– Order! I call the Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I know -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it proper to condemn members of Parliament, particularly when they are not here, when the sums of money -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order. I call the Prime Minister.
-I appreciate that it is alleged that the honourable member for Gippsland needs charter aircraft in order to service his electorate and also to appear in Parliament. It is significant that in the last 3 years where the honourable gentleman spent nearly $30,000 in charter aircraft, the member of this House who represents the largest electorate in the world and who has an unblemished record of attendance in the House has never sought one charter aircraft. The same ex-Minister- the honourable member for Gippsland as Minister for the Interior- 4 years ago went abroad for 5 ]/z weeks over Christmas and New Year. As Minister for Shipping and Transport he made 3 overseas trips at a cost of$28,000.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a policy of the Government that aged persons pensions, wherever possible, should represent 25 per cent of average weekly earnings? If it is, would the provision of $700,000 help the Government to achieve this aim? Could this amount of $700,000 for increased pensions be achieved by a saving by the Government if the Prime Minister cancelled his charter of a Qantas aircraft to visit Europe soon? Would pensioners appreciate such a move?
– We are seeking to establish the standard rate of pension at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. For the last quarterly figures available it was in excess of 24 per cent of average weekly earnings, which was the highest level for more than 2 decades. To increase the pension by $1 a week would cost much more than $50m a year. So the amount of money about which the honourable member is talking would hardly make an impression on the sort of task ahead of us. However, what we have done- we ought to take the 2 things in conjunctionis to spend much more on pensions than has been spent before in order to give the pensioner a higher living standard than he has ever had before, relative to the average living standard in the community. We have not imposed on the pensioner the pressures of economic restraint when these have applied. This is in sharp distinction to the behaviour of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party when in government for 2 decades.
Until we came into office the standard rate of pension continually hovered around 18 per cent to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. It was the lowest level for about 2 decades. There was a progressive decline to a rock bottom of about 18 per cent to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. The final point I make- seeing that the honourable member wishes to raise the question of pensions- is a challenge to the Opposition. It is about time that the Opposition enunciated its policy on pensions. No one knows. All we know is that the Opposition is proposing an 8 per cent cut in public expenditure. At the same time it is proposing a substantial increase in defence expenditure, which means accepting defence expenditure as an increased expenditure item. This will result in an overall cut on other items, on average, of about 12 percent.
Quite clearly, that will have to carve into areas such as social security payments or benefits of some type or other. Exactly what are they? The other aspect of the Opposition’s rather vague pensions policy is that it has said that it will have pensions increased with cost movements. That is a much lower rate of increase than the rate for which we have been responsible. In fact, if we had committed ourselves to that increase we could have saved several dollars a week on pensions at the pensioners’ expense. Since we have been in office we could have saved something like $ 1 80m on pensions. It is these people who are most vulnerable and dependent on Government policy. We do not care to make the pensioners pay the penalty of any sorts of Government measures which might be going on. No penalty has been imposed on pensioners for any of the things we are doing, least of all through the Prime Minister’s visit overseas. In view of their attitude I rather suspect that there are too many provincial minds in the Opposition which are better suited to some country local government rather than a national Parliament.
-Will the Minister for the Capital Territory indicate what actions he is taking to improve fuel supplies in Canberra, particularly supplies of heating oil? Will the Minister consider calling a conference of representatives of Canberra heating oil suppliers to discuss the heating oil problem generally and in particular the possibility of zoning heating oil deliveries in the Australian Capital Territory?
-The fact is, of course, that Canberra is one of the most vulnerable cities in Australia when it comes to the supply of heating oil and motor fuels. This is partly through the fault of my predecessors but basically through the fault of their supporters, the private enterprise people who are supposed to maintain supplies. We propose to establish a fuel or energy authority to overcome the deficiencies, but in the interim we have had some discussions with the suppliers of the various fuels in order to build up stocks in this city and to encourage people to replenish their stocks. I will take the honourable member’s suggestion and have a conference with the various fuel suppliers in this city. One of the interesting things is, of course, that the public enterprise supplier of energy, the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority, always maintains a full energy supply, but private enterprise institutions do not
– Does the Minister for Labor and Immigration remember accusing members on this side of the House of being union bashers if we dared even to question his somewhat erratic industrial policies from time to time? In view of the remarks of the Prime Minister referring to the unions screwing consumers, will he acknowledge the Prime Minister as the greatest and most unrivalled union basher? Does he agree that it is a proper procedure to bash and then to place as much distance as possible between oneself and the problem?
– I remember quite vividly, as though it were only yesterday, my charge that members of the Opposition were union bashers. Nothing that has happened since we were elected to government has caused me to change my view about them. If anything, I am more convinced than ever that their main purpose in life is bashing unions. If ever the unhappy day comes when they become the government again the unions will learn to their sorrow just how hard members of the Opposition will bash them. There will be no co-operation whatever with the trade union movement under a government led by the honourable member for Wannon or, if he is still there, the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman referred to the Prime Minister and asked: Is he not the greatest union basher of all time? I would hardly think so. The Prime Minister has to his great record in less than 2 years a string of achievements for the trade union movement which is without parallel in the history of Federation. Let me give a few of them.
The honourable gentleman has not given me notice of the question so I cannot think of them all. The Prime Minister was responsible for ensuring the carriage through Cabinet of the paid maternity and paternity leave for the Public Service which gave to Australia the distinction of being the first country in the southern hemisphere to give paid maternity leave to its public servants and the first country in the whole world, let it be noted, ever to give paid paternity leave. Who was it who led the campaign for the granting of 4 weeks annual leave? It was none other than the Prime Minister. Who was the one who gave his blessing and active support to the payment of what is known as annual leave loading? Again it was the Prime Minister. Who was the one responsible for having accepted by the Cabinet the proposal to give to the trade union movement of Australia, for the very first time in history, a trade union training college- something which the trade union movement had been calling out for for years from previous governments without any success?
I could go right through the string of achievements. The greatest one of all perhaps is the Prime Minister’s active support for equal pay. Women not only now receive equal pay for equal work but also, for the first time ever, in September of next year will reach the point where the minimum wage, which was previously confined to men, will be applied to them as well. The trade union movement remembers that it was the Prime Minister who actively supported me and encouraged me to take the steps necessary to ratify no fewer than 10 International Labour Organisation conventions in the space of 2 years. The other thing that honourable members ought to remember is that it was the Prime Minister who drew my attention to something which I had missed and which I think everyone else missed. I refer to an amendment put into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by the Opposition parties when they were in government which precluded the Arbitration Commission from extending the minimum wage to adult females, because the Act specifically made a point of the fact that the Commission could fix a minimum wage only for adult males.
They are just a few of the things I have been able to think of while I have been on my feet. If the honourable member would like me to do so, I will give a complete list of all the achievements that the Prime Minister has to his credit so far as the trade union movement is concerned. When the history of this man is written the thing that will stand out greatest of all will be what he has done for the trade union movement.
-Can the Minister for Defence indicate to the House the improved conditions under which officers of the armed forces retire today as compared with the conditions that existed prior to the election in 1972?
-The improved conditions relate largely to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. In addition, as the honourable member will know, since this Government accepted responsibility for defence it has initiated a number of reforms for serving members of the armed forces. For example, there is the matter of rehabilitation and reconstruction for all regular force members who upon retirement are now entitled to the same conditions that the previous Government granted only to national servicemen. The Government has provided the benefits of the defence service homes legislation to all serving members of the forces. It has provided repatriation entitlements to serving members of the forces. One could list many areas in which this Government has accepted the responsibility that it acknowledged prior to becoming the Government for improving the conditions and pay and allowances of serving members of the forces so that we would be in a position to establish in this country a defence forcecomprising the Army, the Navy and the Air Force- on a volunteer basis. This has been done.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that recently answered by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It relates very much to the impact upon the living standards of trade unionists throughout Australia as a direct consequence of the policies of this Government during a period of 2 years. I am reminded that today is anniversary day; I wonder whether that is a victory or indeed a great weight. I ask the Prime Minister: Aside from the matters which the Minister for Labor and Immigration has mentioned what does the honourable gentleman, now looking back, say to this increasing number of trade unionists to explain why this country today has a level of inflation unprecedented in recent years? What does the honourable gentleman say to those trade unionists today who are very much concerned about the rapidly increasing level of unemployment? What does the honourable gentleman say to those many trade unionists who, in fact, are unable effectively to finance their own homes? What does the honourable gentleman say to those hundreds of thousands of school leavers -
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under what standing order is the honourable gentleman enabled to engage in debate at question time?
-That is no point of order.
-Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to ask his question.
– I conclude by asking the Prime Minister: What does he say to those many trade unionists to whom he preaches the cause of restraint but who respond to the honourable gentleman by saying: ‘ First practise it yourself?
-Order! Such a long question would elicit a long answer. On numerous occasions I have had requests from the Opposition that more questions should be asked in a day to give the backbenchers a fair go- if I may use that expression. This question would require a long answer so I ask the honourable gentleman to put his question as quickly as possible.
-Mr Speaker, I have put the question and I think that in fairness I should point out that the Opposition has just sat through a very long series of answers by Ministers which were designed for purposes of propaganda. That is clear to both sides of the House.
-Order! I call the Prime Minister.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, of course, says what this question is: It is designed for propaganda. I say to trade unionists who naturally are worried by the very great increase in inflation and unemployment in Australia that this is largely due to the fact that Australia, as a great trading country, a great industrial country and a country with a mixed economy, inevitably is afflicted with the same problems as all similar countries.
– You said you inherited the problem.
– Of course, there were many elements of inflation which my Government did inherit; for instance, excessive liquidity at that time, the under-valuation of the Australian dollar and the inflow of overseas capital. These were all evils which our predecessors were urged to cure and which they never even tackled. They remember that whenever they tried to tackle those things there was a dispute between the coalition which would go on for 3 days and 3 nights. But inflation since then has become much worse in every country with a comparable economy or similar society to ours. In every country of Western Europe, in the United States of America, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, as in Australia, the amount of unemployment is about twice as much as it was 2 years ago and the amount of inflation is at least 3 times as much as it was 2 years ago.
Honourable gentlemen opposite believe that trade unionists and the rest of the community live in a cocoon, to themselves, in Australia. Of course, a great deal of Australia’s prosperity depends on trading with the rest of the world and we just cannot cut off our trade. If we did not sell and if we did not buy we would be much less prosperous than we are. But the countries to which we sell and the countries from which we buy are countries similar to ours; they also have these 2 joint contemporaneous problems of unemployment and inflation. As regards unemployment, we are tackling this much more successfully than any of the other countries. This is what I tell trade unionists and, of course, they accept the situation. The honourable gentleman also declaimed about home ownership. When we came into government the great trouble with home ownership was the booming price for land. I notice that even in the top levels of the Liberal Party this practice is still condoned. The Leader can make $20,000 profit on a house in which he has never lived. Quite obviously, the cost of land was an inherited problem which we have had. (Opposition members interjecting)-
– Order! Interjections will cease. I notice that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party is again in the throes of interjecting. I will take the appropriate action if there are any more interjections. I call the Prime Minister to continue his answer.
– Perhaps the rest of the question could go on notice.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. He would be well aware of the plight of the textile and clothing industries. Does he believe that this situation has developed as a result of the removal of import duties, allowing imported goods to flood their traditional markets? Will the government assistance, announced by the Prime Minister on 22 October last and now being talked about, really be allocated in time to save the industries the embarrassment of closing? How many industries have been given actual financial assistance? What is the total figure to date? Does the Minister realise that many of the textile industries are decentralised industries and are committed to repay loan money provided through local government? When the industries close, will the Government go to the assistance of the shires which acted on Government advice?
– The honourable member’s question raises many diverse matters. I begin answering the question by saying that the Government’s program of tariff reform and of structural adjustment in industry is ultimately designed to have very beneficial effects on the Australian community. The beneficial effects will work in 2 ways. First, if one studies the facts and figures one sees that they will produce better paid jobs for Australians generally, and secondly cheaper goods for Australians generally. I will refer briefly to the annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission. It divided manufacturing industries into 4 groups and pointed out that wages paid by the group receiving the least form of assistance were, on an average, 12 per cent higher than in the group receiving the most assistance. This comment is relative to the textile industry in particular. The LAC report- it has never been challenged in this regard- pointed out that the least protected industries in Australia, the industries which make the more efficient use of Australia’s people and Australia’s natural resources, can afford to pay the higher wages. Our reforms and our efforts to assist structural change is designed to facilitate the movement of resources into those less protected and better paid areas.
As far as cheaper goods are concerned, the whole point is that tariff protection amounts to a very high cost to Australian consumers generally. I have some figures which may be of interest to the honourable member. The estimate of cost to the Australian consumer generally in prices- the cost buried as part of the price structure in certain industries- can be listed: Fabricated metal products, about $300m a year; motor vehicles, about $133m a year; refrigerators and household appliances, $61m a year; and television, radios and electronic equipment, $48m a year. There are similar figures for textiles, although I do not have them with me. The honourable member draws attention to the Government’s policy and our scheme of providing a selective form of subsidy that does not impose the same degree of cost on the community as a whole. It is a form of subsidy which would still cost money but which would go to identifiable industries to assist them to maintain their viability. More importantly, perhaps, it would assist them to move the resources into those areas that have a good future and perhaps out of areas of activity that have not quite such a bright future.
This subsidy scheme that the honourable member mentioned and which the Prime Minister announced some time ago is already in operation; it is not merely being talked about. I think it was last Wednesday that a committee of Ministers, which I chaired, met and approved of 6 payments to firms in selective areas in the textile industry. Those firms are Bruck (Australia) Ltd at Wangaratta in Victoria, $400,000; Wangaratta Woollen Mills, Wangaratta, $150,000; Kelsall and Kemp, Launceston, $100,000; Ballarat Woollen and Worsted Company Ltd, Ballarat, Victoria, $150,000; Courtaulds Australia at Tomago, $200,000; and Prestige Ltd at Ararat in Victoria, $150,000. So the honourable member will appreciate that the scheme is not being just talked about, but is actually in operation. I can also assist the honourable member by telling him that a number of other applications are in the course of being considered. The same group of Ministers will meet on this Wednesday to consider further applications, and if the honourable member cares to ask me for particulars after decisions have been taken on the applications I will be happy to give them to him.
– The Treasurer will be aware of the liquidity difficulties being experienced by many companies and, resulting from these difficulties, the representations made for the deferment of the quarterly company tax instalment which was due a couple of weeks ago. The Treasurer announced earlier that the Australian Taxation Office would consider sympathetically an application by any company for deferment of the instalment. Is the Treasurer now in a position to say how many companies have paid up, how many have applied for deferment? Of those, how many have so far been granted a deferment and how many have been refused? Finally, how many companies have yet to contact the Australian Taxation Office on this subject? If the Treasurer is not in a position to give this information is he yet in a position to form an opinion as to whether or not a general deferment for those who have not paid is in order?
– I do have information concerning the quarterly payment of company taxation in respect of those assessments that were due on 15 November. I repeat that the amounts are legally due and payable. Notices requiring payment of the instalment of tax on 15 November 1974 were issued by the Taxation Office to 64,584 companies, and the amount was a total of $484m. Twenty-five per cent of those companies, that is, one quarter of the number, have lodged applications to have the amount of the instalment reduced to reflect lower 1973-74 income. That was an option which the companies had. If they believed that their incomes for 1973-74 were lower than for 1 972-73 they could apply for a variation, and one quarter of them did so. Of the remainder, 68 per cent have paid the assessments in full. So if one adds the 68 per cent which have paid in full to the 25 per cent which have applied for reductions, one is pretty close to the total number of companies concerned.
The 68 per cent of all companies have paid $3 12m, which is some two-thirds of the total amount due and payable. Of the remainder, 4 per cent have applied for an extension of time and their assessments total $61m. The applications for extension are being examined by the Taxation Office. The honourable gentleman will know that a company’s financial circumstances are examined by the Taxation Office before a decision is taken on any request for an extension. I am assured by the Commissioner of Taxationbecause I do not deal with the applications individually; they are dealt with by the Commissionerthat where a company has a good case for an extension of time its application is treated sympathetically.
– Pursuant to section 7d of the States
Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1972-1973, 1 present a statement of approvals given during 1974 in respect of the grant for special education in colleges of advanced education.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report by the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education on supplementary funds for programs administered by that Committee.
– Pursuant to section 50b (3) of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973, I present the annual report of the Director of Defence Service Homes of operations in relation to insurance for the year ended 30 June 1 974. The interim version of this report was tabled in the House on 25 September 1974.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne PortsTreasurer) Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to clarify a matter in relation to what might be described as the John Curtin House Appeal. I seek the indulgence of the House to make a statement on the matter.
-I call the Treasurer.
– Over the weekend the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a statement in the television program ‘Federal File’ concerning what he described as favourable treatment in relation to what is known as the John Curtin House Appeal. I wish to set the record straight about this matter. At the end of what I have said I propose to ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter which I have received from the Commissioner of Taxation, Sir Edward Cain, a transcript of the ‘Federal File’ interview and a full copy of the letter which was sent to Mr T. Kavanagh, the Secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal. How the honourable member got a copy of it I do not know but I wish that, having got it, he had quoted the whole of it instead of only selectively from it. I shall also seek leave to incorporate 2 short extracts from -
-Is the Treasurer seeking leave now or will he be doing so at the completion of his remarks?
– I will be seeking it at the completion of my remarks.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I suggest to the Treasurer that it would be in order if he were to seek leave to make a statement and then, after he has finished, it would be in order for the honourable member for Wannon also to seek leave to make a statement.
– I am merely indicating that they are documents -
– May I ask a question first, Mr Speaker?
– The Treasurer certainly got leave to make a statement, but it is unprecedented to make a statement of this kind. I would be grateful- because I will be seeking leave to make a statement following the Treasurer’s completion of his statement- if the Treasurer could give me an advance copy of the letter from Sir Edward Cain which he says he wishes to have incorporated in Hansard.
-It is the usual practice for that to be done if it can be done.
– If I could have a copy of it now it might expedite matters, Mr Speaker.
– I will give the honourable member a copy as soon as I am able. I wish to refer to it. I am merely indicating that they are documents from which I am going to quote. It would place the whole story on record if they were to be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted to the Treasurer to make a statement? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Does the Treasurer have a copy of Sir Edward Cain’s letter?
– The honourable member can have the copy I have as long as he returns it to me.
-I gather that the honourable member does not want a copy of the ‘Federal File’ transcript; he is well aware of that. I have been asked from time to time in this House whether I have any intention of varying the provisions under which gifts are allowable under the Income Tax Assessment Act and 1 have indicated that I have no such intention. The provisions under which gifts arc allowable are covered by section 78 ( 1 ) (a) of the Income Tax Assessment
Act, which is a section which covers nearly 4 pages of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I will seek leave to have that section incorporated also. Broadly, gifts are allowable in respect of donations to public hospitals, to a public benevolent institution or to a public fund that was established in certain conditions and eight or nine other sub-headings. Then a number of specific funds are listed. There is quite a number, including the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund, and so on. There are approximately 45 of those. In addition there is section 51 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Section 5 1 is a short section and I will quote it because it deals with what can be described as business expenditure. It states:
All losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income, or are necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing such income, shall be allowable deductions except to the extent to which they are losses or outgoings of capital, or of a capital, private or domestic nature, or are incurred in relation to the gaining or production of exempt income.
That is a fairly broad section. Under it a number of cases have been decided in the courts as to whether donations that are made by business undertakings for what might be called charitable or other purposes, including John Curtin House or even including John McEwen House -
– Why ‘even including’?
– Because the honourable member at the table chose to suggest that somehow the treatment for John Curtin House was different from that for John McEwen House.
– I am trying to suggest that it is not. If honourable members opposite, as individuals, made donations to John McEwen House they would not be allowable. If donations are made by my colleagues, as they are, to John Curtin House they will not be allowable as deductions.
– Because they do not come within the provisions of section 78(1), which I will seek leave to incorporate. That may be somewhat of a disappointment to some of my colleagues who have made donations of substantial sums. Donations which were made by certain organisations, mostly companies or businesses, could have been allowed in respect of John McEwen House. They may be allowed for John Curtin House. Let us be objective about this matter. Honourable members opposite do not know whether donations made by particular firms to John McEwen House were allowable because they are matters between the Commissioner of Taxation and the firm itself.
– They were not.
– They were not. The Commissioner told us that they were not.
– Honourable members opposite do not know. There is a great habit on that side of the House of asseverating that something is different if it is done by the Labor Party than it is if it is done by another Party. The law is no different in December 1974 when donations to the John Curtin Appeal are under consideration than it was when donations to McEwen House were under consideration.
– A different interpretation.
– There is no difference in the interpretation. That is what is in the letter. What I resent is that people are suggesting that pressure has been placed upon the Commissioner of Taxation to treat the appeal for John Curtin House differently from the appeal for McEwen House. I give the lie direct to that. That is why I have asked that the letter from the Commissioner himself be incorporated in Hansard.
The honourable gentleman did not quote something else during the interview for the television program the other night. All that had been sought by Mr Kavanagh- he has nothing to do with Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- who is the secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal was to ask the Commissioner of Taxation what the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act were. He spelt them out quite specifically. This is the bit -
– Will you table the letter from Mr Kavanagh?
– I intend to table the letter to Mr Kavanagh.
– No, the letter from Mr Kavanagh.
-No, I do not have the letter from Mr Kavanagh. I have had one experience in the Parliament of being accused of making an innuendo. I am not making an innuendo. I am simply trying to put on the record what ought to be put on the record. If the honourable member wants the provisions of section 5 1 of the Income Tax Act altered, he should set about to have them altered. But he did not alter them in the past and those provisions prevail in the same way now. This is the relevant part of the letter that was not quoted during the television interview the other night. It states:
The question whether a gift made to the Appeal would qualify for deduction under this provision, is a matter which can be determined only in the light of the facts of each particular case. It is accordingly not practicable to indicate in advance any ruling which would be capable of general application.
The letter concludes by stating specifically:
As you know, the Appeal does not satisfy any of the requirements of section 78 ( 1 ) (a) of the Act. For this reason, gifts made to the Appeal by taxpayers not carrying on a business, for example, taxpayers whose income is derived wholly from salary or investments will not in any event be allowable deductions.
That is specific enough. So far as section 5 1 of the Act is concerned the case is no different for John Curtin House from what it was for McEwen House. I quote only 2 cases and they both go back a long time. One of them concerns Starke J. who has been removed from the scene for some years. The other was from Latham C. J., a very fine man for whom I had the greatest respect even though he belonged to the other side of politics at one stage. These 2 cases concerned section 51 of the Act as to whether items that would not be allowed specifically under section 78 ( 1 ) (a) nevertheless may be deductions which can be classified as business expenses in terms of section 5 1 of the Act. The first case, the Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Gordon, is reported in volume 43 of Commonwealth Law Reports at page 456. The report states:
So far as the matter of law, money expended, not of necessity but voluntarily, and on the grounds of commercial expediency, and in order to protect or facilitate the carrying on of a business may be incurred in gaining or producing the income arising from that business.
The second case is Sun Newspapers Ltd v. The Federal Commissioner of Taxation. It is reported in volume 61, Commonwealth Law Reports, page 337. The appropriate words to quote are these:
But the payment was plainly made as a payment which was expedient for business purposes and the fact that it was made voluntarily does not exclude the possibility of it being an allowable deduction.
I simply cite this as the law.
– Which case was that again?
– The second one was Sun Newspaper Ltd v. the Federal Commissioner of Taxation, reported in Vol. I, Commonwealth Law Reports, at page 337.
– Which year was that?
– I cannot tell the honourable member the year but I indicate that it was Latham, Chief Justice, so at least it was prior to the Labor Government. Section 5 1 in the Act is identical now with what it was when the McEwen House appeal was opened.
– Did those who made donations to McEwen House apply for this deductibility?
– I suggest again that this is a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation and the particular firms which contributed to it. I am in no position to say whether company A which subscribed to McEwen House was able to claim the amount as a deduction from tax, neither is the honourable member for Chisolm (Mr Staley) and neither is anybody in the Country Party. They may believe that that was the case but they do not know. As the honourable gentleman on the front bench says- I respect his view- he made a donation himself, but it is not allowable, any more than is that of my colleagues. But if a particular company chooses to make a donation it can include it in its tax return alongside other contributions made and the Commissioner of Taxation, in his discretion, can decide whether the amount is an allowable deduction. I simply indicate that there are plenty of cases where nobody, least of all the honourable member for Wannon, can assert that deductions for McEwen House were or were not allowed, or can assert that deductions claimed for donations to John Curtin House will be allowable. I sometimes wish in regard to this sort of thing that the former Prime Minister, the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), at least would be a little objective and not so highly political in his observations. I am trying to clear up something which I regard as a dirty sort of innuendo which ought never to have been made in the first place, least of all on television.
– And with moral indignation.
-I think that at times there is room for moral indignation in this Parliament.
The law is no different in 1 974 in respect to the John Curtin House appeal than it was when the John McEwen House appeal was under way. I simply say to honourable members opposite that they do not know, because it is a matter as between the Commissioner of Taxation and the person who made the donation, whether it was allowed for taxation purposes. There could well have been some instances where it was allowed and there could well have been others where it was not allowed. It may well be that no deductions were allowed. When it is said in advance that somehow pressure is being brought on this occasion to make the Commissioner of Taxation act differently from what the law says, I think it demands some son of explanation here.
The whole of the gift provision in the Income Tax Act is rather curious. What is included is in the Act sometimes not for the best of reasons, but it is there. What is excluded is left out sometimes not for the best of reasons either. But 1 believe that when the wells of charity, which are supposed to be what we are talking about in connection with gifts, are muddied by the odd waters of whether things are tax deductible, we are making a travesty of charity. But the question here is whether donations in respect of John Curtin House are allowable. They are not allowable in respect of individuals. I put that on record categorically. They may be allowable- as they could have been allowable in the case of John McEwen House-in respect of companies claiming under section 5 1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The legal position is no different now from what it was then. But there should be no suggestion that somehow pressure has been brought upon the Commissioner of Taxation, a man for whom I have the highest regard as I do for all the officers of the Taxation Office. If I may say so here in my last few days as Treasurer, these remarks apply to every officer in the Treasury as far as the carrying out of their individual duties are concerned. They are people of integrity. They are not people who bow to political favouritism or anything else. They interpret the Income Tax Act and I cannot instruct them and I do not want to instruct them.
Finally, I seek leave, as I indicated earlier, to incorporate in Hansard the full text of Sir Edward’s remarks, the relevant part of the transcript of the ‘Federal File’ interview, the letter in which Mr J. W. Curtin, the First Assistant Commissioner replied to Mr Kavanagh- I do not have Mr Kavanagh ‘s original letter; I have not sought it- the 2 short extracts from the Commonwealth Law Reports and the full text of section 51 and sections 78(1) (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I think those incorporations complete a story. At least those who read them may understand the situation better than from reading what is reported in the Press where one reads only what happens to be written.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Letter from Sir Edward Cain
In a television interview presented on ‘Federal File’ last night, the honourable J. M. Fraser, M.P., quoted from a letter written from this office concerning the circumstances under which income tax deductions may be allowed for gifts made to the John Curtin House Appeal. Mr Fraser questioned the correctness of the interpretation given and also suggested that the Taxation Office may have been subjected to pressure from the Government.
I am enclosing a copy of the transcript from ‘ Federal File’ and also a copy of the letter which issued from this office on 28 October 1974.
This letter referred to the provision under which deductions may be allowed for expenses which are incurred in carrying on a business. There is ample case law which supports the proposition that expenditure which is incurred voluntarily and on the grounds of commercial expediency may qualify for deduction under the general provisions of section 51. The advice given to the Secretary of the John Curtin House Appeal did not break any new ground in the interpretation of the taxing law. It was also subject to the reservation, not mentioned by Mr Fraser, that the question whether deductions would be allowable would depend on the facts of each particular case and, for this reason, no general ruling could be given.
I am satisfied that the advice given from this office is correct in principle and accords with long established departmental practice. There is, of course, no substance in the suggestion that any pressure was exerted on myself or any of my officers when the matter was under consideration. ‘Federal File’ Transcript
Mr WALEY: Mr Fraser . . . taxation deductions for donations to the John Curtin House as being tax deductible.
Mr FRASER: Well I’ve got a letter here, a photostat copy of a letter which is addressed to a Mr T. Cavanaugh as secretary to the John Curtin House appeal. The letter is signed . . . dated- the twenty-eighth of October this year, and signed J. W. Curtin, First Assistant Commissioner. The object of . . . a paragraph of that letter, the third paragraph, indicates in plain terms that large business organisations often make donations as a form of advertising. The letter goes on to say because of the wide publicity the cause will give to donors to the appeal it is thought that taxpayers carrying on business operations would have little difficulty in establishing gifts were for bona fide purposes. In other words, because the donors are going to have their names published as donors to the John Curtin appeal, it is therefore an allowable form of advertising, and therefore an allowable deduction.
Mr WALEY: Why do you specifically object to this though?
Mr FRASER: Well 1 think it is quite wrong for the general public to subsidise the building of a political centre. A political building. I think this is utterly wrong, for a little earlier the Government was considering and may still be considering cutting out deductions for charities for hospitals, and you know, that’s a very worthwhile purpose. Political parties in my book, ought to stand in their own right.
Mr WALEY: Is it not sour grapes over details involving the John McEwan House?
Mr FRASER: Well I wouldn’t have thought so. I understand that was looked at, at the time, but people thought it would be quite improper for general taxpayers to- subsidise the building of a political centre. In my view, I think it’s an outrageous proposal, and you know, if this is a correct interpretation or the law, I believe the law ought to be changed.
Mr WALEY: How seriously do you rate this?
Mr FRASER: I regard it as very serious. I really do.
Mr WALEY: Can you go so far as to suggest the Government is leaning on the taxation department as far as this is concerned.
Mr FRASER: Well we’ve seen how the Government has leant, is leaning on the Arbitration Commission, meant to be equally independent from the taxation commissions, and I think it is certainly open to that suggestion.
Letter to Mr Kavanagh 28 October 1974
Mr J. Kavanagh,
John Curtin House Appeal,
P.O. Box 465.
Canberra City, A.C.T. 260 1
Income Tax: John Curtin House Appeal
As arranged at your recent discussion with the Commissioner, the following information is supplied in relation to the allowance of income tax deductions for gifts made to the John Curtin House Appeal.
Under the provisions of section 5 1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, deductions are allowed for outgoings incurred in producing assessable income or which are necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for that purpose, except to the extent to which the outgoings are of a capital, private or domestic nature. The question whether a gift made to the Appeal would qualify for deduction under this provision is a matter which can be determined only in the light of the facts of each particular case. It is accordingly not practicable to indicate in advance any ruling which would be capable of general application.
It is recognised, of course, that large business organisations often make donations as a form of advertising and, in this situation, deductions would ordinarily be allowable in terms of section 51. In view of the widespread publicity which it is proposed to give to donors, it is thought that taxpayers carrying on business operations would have little difficulty in establishing that the gifts were made solely for business purposes and would qualify as allowable income tax deductions.
As you know, the Appeal does not satisfy any of the requirements of section 78 ( 1 ) (a) of the Act. For this reason, gifts made to the Appeal by taxpayers not carrying on a business, for example, taxpayers whose income is derived wholly from salary or investments, will not in any event be allowable deductions.
First Assistant Commissioner
Commonwealth Law Reports: Excerpts
FCT v Gordon (43 CLR 456)
So far as the matter is one of law, money expended not of necessity but voluntarily, and on the grounds of commercial expediency, and in order to protect or facilitate the carrying on of a business may be incurred in gaining or producing the income arising from that business (per Starke, J.).’
Sun Newspaper Ltd v FCT (61 CLR 337)
But the payment was plainly made as a payment which was expedient for business purposes and the fact that it was made voluntarily does not exclude the possibility of it being an allowable deduction (per Latham, C.J.). ‘
Sections of Taxation Legislation.
( 1 ) All losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income, or are necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing such income, shall be allowable deductions except to the extent to which they are losses or outgoings of capital, or of a capital, private or domestic nature, or arc incurred in relation to the gaining or production of exempt income.
Expenditure incurred or deemed to have been incurred in the purchase of stock used by the taxpayer as trading stock shall be deemed not to be an outgoing of capital or of a capital nature. 78. (1) The following shall, subject to section seventyseven sub-section (11) of section seventy-seven D and section seventy-nine of this Act, be allowable deductions:
Gifts (not being testamentary gifts) of the value of Two dollars and upwards of money or of property other than money which was purchased by thetaxpayer within twelve months immediately preceding the making of the gift, made by the taxpayer in the year of income to any of the following funds, authorities or institutions in Australia:
a public hospital, or a hospital which is carried on by a society or association otherwise than for the purposes of profit or gain to the individual members of that society or association;
a public benevolent institution;
a public fund established before the twentythird day of October, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-three and maintained for the purpose of providing money for hospitals or institutions specified in sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of this paragraph, or for the establishment of such hospitals or institutions, or a public fund established and maintained for the relief of persons in Australia who are in necessitous circumstances;
a public authority engaged in research into the causes, prevention or cure of disease in human beings, animals or plants, where the gift is for such research, or a public institution engaged solely in such research;
v) a public university or a public fund for the establishment of a public university;
a residential educational institution affiliated under statutory provisions with a public university, or established by the Commonwealth;
a public fund established and maintained for providing money for the construction or maintenance of a public memorial relating to the war which commenced on the fourth day of August. One thousand nine hundred and fourteen or the third day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine;
a public institution or public fund established and maintained for the comfort, recreation or welfare of members of the armed forces of any part of His Majesty’s dominions, or of any allied or other foreign force serving in association with His Majesty’s armed forces;
the Commonwealth or a State, when made for purposes of defence;
a university, college, institute, association or organization which is an approved research institute for the purposes of section seventy-three a of this Act, where the gift is for purposes of scientific research as defined in that section;
the United Nations Appeal forChildren;
the Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Gift Fund:
the Australia Elizabethan Theatre Trust;
the Australian Academy of Science;
a public fund established and maintained exclusively for providing money for the acquisition, construction or maintenance of a building used or to be used as a school or college by a government or public authority or by a society or association which is carried on otherwise than for the purposes of profit or gain to the individual members of that society or association;
the Duke of Edinburgh’s Study Conference Account maintained by the Department of Labor and National Service;
the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science;
the Australian Administrative Staff College;
the Commonwealth, when made for the purposes of research in the Australian Antarctic Territory;
the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons;
the Royal Australasian College of Physicians;
the Australian Regional Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists;
the New South Wales College of Nursing;
the College of Nursing, Australia;
the Council for Christian Education in Schools;
the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales), the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), The National Trust of Queensland, The National Trust of South Australia, The National Trust of Australia (W.A.), the National Trust of Australia (Tasmania), the Northern Territory National Trust and the Australian Council of National Trusts;
a public library, public museum or public art gallery, or an institution consisting of a public library, public museum and public art gallery or of any two of them; ( xxviii) the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund;
the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Trust;
the Industrial Design Council of Australia;
a public fund established and maintained extensively for the purpose of providing money to be used in furnishing persons in Australia with marriage guidance through a voluntary organization or through a branch or section of such an organisation being an organisation, branch or section that the Attorney-General, upon being satisfied that the organization, branch or section is willing and able to engage in marriage guidance and that marriage guidance constitutes or will constitute the whole or the major part of its activities, has approved in writing for the purposes of this sub-paragraph;
the Australian National Committee for World Refugee Year;
the Council for Jewish Education in Schools;
the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales;
the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia;
the Australian Postgraduate Federation of Medicine, the College of Radiologists of Australasia, the Australian College of General Practitioners and the College of Pathologists of Australia, where the gift is for the purpose of eduction or research in medical knowledge or science;
the Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Foundation; (xxxviii) the Australian National Committee for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign;
the Australian Institute of International Affairs;
the Australian National Travel Association;
the National Safety Council of Australia;
xlii) the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust;
a prescribed institution of advanced education where the gift is for certified purposes of the institution or for the provision of certified facilities for the institution;
the Australian Conservation Foundation Incorporated, or to a public fund established and maintained under a will or instrument of trust exclusively for the purpose of providing money, property or benfits to or for funds authorities or institutions referred to, and for the purposes (if any) referred to, in any of the subparagraphs of this paragraph, or for the establishment of such funds, authorities or institutions, being a public fund as to which the Commissioner is satisfied that the terms of the will or instrument of trust are such that any moneys (including income derived from investments and proceeds of the realization of investments) paid or accrued to the fund as a direct or indirect result of the particular gift and not applied for the purposes of the fund may not be invested by the trustee otherwise than in a manner in which trustees are permitted by an Act, a State Act or a law of a Territory of the Commonwealth to invest trust moneys without special authorization;
Mr MALCOLM ERASER (Wannon)-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In his speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) spoke of moral indignation at what had been said on ‘Federal File’. There will be a great deal of moral indignation in Australia to find that for the first time the law is being used to pay for a political party headquarters in the Australian Capital Territory. I state at the outset that it is not a question of the view we have of John Curtin whom I believe every person in this House would regard as a great Australian Prime Minister. It is not a question of that. But there are other public memorials to that great man, such as the John Curtin Medical School, and that is a different matter entirely. The proposed building is not to be a public memorial to John Curtin- a great Prime Minister and greater than any member of the Government now in this House by a thousandfold, although the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who always says that he is the greatest, would no doubt denigrate John Curtin and claim that he, the Prime Minister, is greater. But let that be put aside. It is not a question of that; it is a question of public funds being used to support- by coercion perhaps- the building of an Australian Labor Party headquarters in the Australian Capital Territory. The moral indignation of the people of Australia will rise against that because they will find the proposal utterly repugnant.
Some of the things that the Treasurer said are just not correct. When John McEwen House was built 2 members of the Australian Country Party, who are sitting on the front bench at the moment, were told quite specifically that if contributions to the funds to build John McEwen House were to be tax deductible, its name would have to be written specifically into the Income Tax Assessment Act. When the Churchill Fund was established the name of the Churchill Fund was written specifically into the Act.
– This is not written specifically into the Act, and you know it.
– It is not written in, but there is no difference in substance between the fund for the construction of John McEwen House and the John Curtin appeal.
– You cannot even argue honestly.
– If the Treasurer can explain the difference in substance between the appeal for funds for the construction of John Curtin House and the appeal for funds to build the John McEwen House I should like to know what it is.
– Section 5 1 was used.
-Section 51 was not used in relation to the construction of John McEwen House. Two honourable members, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), both were told quite directly by the Taxation Office at the time that if donations were to be exempt for taxation purposes, this would have to be specifically written into the Act. That applied also to the Churchill Fund. Donations to Community Aid Abroad are not tax deductible. Donations to ambulance funds are not tax deductible. Under the interpretation that is coming forward, if companies give money to Community Aid Abroad and do so for the purpose of taking a significant or large scale advertisement to make known that they have made these donations, they would suddenly have a tax deductible item.
– They do not.
-Now the Treasurer says that they do not. But the Assistant Commissioner’s letter says quite plainly that if donations are made as a form of advertising to seek publicity for the company, then the money expended for that purpose is tax deductible. How can the Treasurer sit there supinely and say that in the case of John Curtin House it is advertising but could not possibly be advertising in the case of Community Aid Abroad? Why should not Community Aid Abroad give as much publicity to any donor as the John Curtin appeal? The Treasurer’s logic is at fault, his interpretation is at fault, and his defence of the Government is culpable in the extreme.
There are many funds in Australia at the moment in relation to which donations are not tax deductible. The Government has been considering wiping out as tax deductible items donations to hospitals and charities but not donations made to the building fund of the Australian Labor Party headquarters. That is going to be supported from general taxpayers’ funds. When the Treasurer was speaking he was complaining about the reception that he was getting, but he is finding now that he cannot sit and listen. Let me read part of the letter that came from Sir Edward Cain as a result of that ‘Federal File’ interview. In his letter the Commissioner of Taxation had this to say:
There is ample case law which supports the proposition that expenditure which is incurred voluntarily and on the grounds of commercial expediency may qualify for deduction under the general provisions of section 5 1 .
What does ‘commercial expediency’ mean? Does ‘commercial expediency’ mean getting alongside the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) so that you qualify for a structural readjustment allowance? Does ‘commercial expediency’ mean getting alongside the Treasurer or the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) so that you qualify for some of the special provisions of this Government? The words ‘commercial expediency’ are wonderful words. Who knows what they mean? Does the Treasurer know what they mean? They are so open to abuse and misuse. They are as wide as the sky. They are as wide as the horizon. One of the problems we would have is that those words ‘commercial expediency’ are very wide indeed.
The First Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, Mr J. W. Curtin, appropriately named in this debate, had a slightly narrower interpretation than that of the Commissioner of Taxation. Let me read the full paragraph of what he had to say. He said:
It is recognised, of course, that large business organisations often make donations as a form of advertising -
I am advised that that is generally not so, and’ that is my interpretation- and, in this situation, deductions would ordinarily be allowable in terms of section 51. In view of the widespread publicity which it is proposed to give to donors -
I emphasise those words- it is thought that taxpayers carrying on business operations would have little difficulty in establishing that the gifts were made solely for business purposes and would qualify as allowable income tax deductions.
I emphasise that he does not even say ‘may qualify’ but that he says ‘would qualify’. The
Treasurer again does not like the words that the Commissioner’s office have in fact used. But this paragraph from the First Assistant Commissioner is I suggest a blanket undertaking, meaning that there a discretion is not to be used case by case. It is virtually a blanket assuranceand on the plain meaning of the words cannot be taken to mean anything else- that so long as significant publicity is given to a donor the gift is tax deductible. This is the basis upon which I drew the analogy with contributions made to Community Aid Abroad for which many members of this House have fought and said should be tax deductible. If donors were given significant publicity as a result, on the interpretation of the letter which the Treasurer has incorporated in Hansard such contributions ought to be tax deductible. This was the basis of the charges which I in fact made.
In recent times we have seen the Government put abnormal and extreme pressure on the Arbitration Commission. We have seen one Commissioner removed from his area of authority simply because the Government and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) did not like what he was doing. We have heard the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) say that commissioners will be appointed for fixed terms, taking away the independence that they ought to have, the independence that has traditionally been part of this kind of operation so that governments could not lean on individuals. But this Government leans with all its weight to pursue its own narrow and sectional interests or the narrow sectional interests of particular groups to whom it is beholden. We have seen this in South Australia, but at least there Mr Dunstan was open about it. There is something to be said for Mr Dunstan in respect of the $200,000 grant made by the Dunstan Government to the Trades and Labor Council headquarters in that State. If this Government really wants the taxpayers’ funds to support its headquarters, why does it not make a subvention of funds, say, $500,000, $lm or $2m? The amount does not matter because money is nothing to it. The Government prints money as fast as the presses can run. If the Government took such action at least people would know what the score was. But no, the Government sneaks around and tries to do it this other way.
The position in Western Australia is slightly different because an advertisement was placed in the newspapers of that State seeking funds for the John Curtin House appeal. I seek leave to have the words of the advertisement incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
John Curtin House Appeal
Dear Fellow West Australians,
The John Curtin National Appeal has been launched to commemorate an outstanding Western Australian and Prime Minister, a man who guided his country, so ably, through the last World War years.
Approximately $1,000,000 is needed to construct the memorial building in Canberra of which the target in Western Australia is $ 100,000.
A small donation from you, will help in achieving a memento to John Curtin, a Prime Minister who represented all Australians. Donations of $2, $5, $ 10 and $20 and larger amounts are needed to ensure the West Australian target. All donations, no matter how large or small, will be appreciated.
Similar appeals are believed to have been responsible for the Sir Robert Menzies building in Melbourne and the John McEwan building in Canberra. We now call on all West Australians to support the recognition of this great man.
All donations may be forwarded toG.P.O. Box P1 169. Acknowledgement of small or large amounts will be recorded. Cheque to be made out to John Curtin House Appeal.
Business firms may check with Mr Bob McMullan Ph. 28 7222 re Tax Deductibility.
Sir Thomas Wardle
Cheque attached $…………………………………………..
Post to G.P.O. Box P 11 69 PERTH 600 1
John Curtin House Appeal
– The advertisement was inserted by the John Curtin House Appeal. I would like to read part of it. It states:
A small donation from you, will help in achieving a memento to John Curtin, a Prime Minister who represented all Australians. Donations of $2, $5, $10 and $20 and larger amounts are needed to ensure the Western Australian target. All donations, no matter how large or small, will be appreciated.
Similar appeals are believed to have been responsible for the Sir Robert Menzies building in Melbourne and the John McEwen building in Canberra. We now call on all West Australians to support the recognition of this great man.
It is pointed out that business firms should check with Mr Bob McMullan and a phone number is given concerning tax deductibility. So tax deductibility is being advertised by a Labor Party official, because Mr Bob McMullan is a Labor Party official although it does not say so, and he is well aware of this interpretation of the law that suddenly comes out of the heavens to advantage the Labor Party headquarters in the Australian Capital Territory.
The one thing that the Opposition cannot understand is how the interpretations of the law were given differently at different times. We know that the law has not been changed. We know that case law has not been changed. The one thing that has been changed is the Government. The one principle that has gone out of the window with the change of government is the principle that independent commissions and statutory authorities ought to be able to operate within their own charters, within the law without interference of governments. Why was not the letter from Mr Kavanagh to the Commissioner tabled?
– He has not got a copy of it.
– It is so convenient not to have a copy of it. It is so convenient to be without an essential piece of evidence.
– You are a hypocrite.
– I intervene at this point and I ask -
– Order! The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw that remark.
– In deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw it.
– I ask the honourable member for Wannon to withdraw. I did not see and have not seen the letter from Mr Kavanagh. All that I saw was the honourable member’s incomplete quotation of the reply to the letter. I ask that he withdraw the innuendo that I conveniently did not. I have never sighted the letter.
– I accept absolutely what the Treasurer says for the Treasurer is an honourable man.
– You are certainly not.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw that.
– Surely the implication is there that -
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw. I will name you if you do not.
– All right. I withdraw.
-Let me repeat what I believe: The Treasurer is an honourable man. There was no implication- I apologise to him if he thought there was- when I used the expression ‘so convenient not to have a copy of the letter’. I am just suggesting that it is one of those oversights which is inadvertent and completely above the table. But I still suggest that this House ought to have the total evidence. We want to see not only that letter from Mr Kavanagh but also every other communication between any member of the Government, any member of the Labor Party and any branch of the Taxation Office on this matter, whether that communication was verbal or was in writing. We must have a clear record of the communications. I suggest that that record cannot come only from the Government; it would need to come from the written words of Mr Curtin and the Commissioner himself so that there can be verification of whatever the Government might say or might not say on this issue. Until we have that from, both sides, there will be the suggestion that someone in the Government- I know that it would not be the Treasurer- has used his position of influence to achieve an interpretation that is the reverse of the interpretation given with respect to John McEwen House and which was never an interpretation given in respect of the Menzies Centre in Melbourne because all of the funds came from the pockets of people or of companies and tax was paid on them if they came out of income. Those funds were not tax deductible.
There is a change of circumstances and a change of interpretation to meet a changed situation. We have a situation now in which grave doubt is cast on the credibility of the Government on this issue. The Government has an obligation not only to the Australian public but also to the Commissioner of Taxation and to his assistants to make the position fully and completely plain and clear. If necessary, the Commissioner of Taxation and his assistants would need to be able to do that in their own words and in their own way. How can one interpretation of the law be given with respect to donations to John McEwen House and to the Menzies Centre in Melbourne, and a quite different interpretation of the law be given with respect to the Australian Labor Party project in Canberra?
This whole business is one of the shabbiest involvements of the present Government. The Treasurer asked: ‘Where is principle?’ Principle has gone out of the window. It does not exist with this Government and in the actions of the present Prime Minister. We have seen time and time again that this is the case. At question time today, he sought to excuse his own extravagant use of a VIP Qantas jet at a cost of one million dollarsthat aircraft ought to be earning money for Qantas- when he could easily have taken a closed off part of a -
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I maintain that this matter has nothing to do whatever with the subject under discussion.
– He has leave to make a statement.
-Order! I do not think that, in respect of a statement by leave, there is any provision that would debar the honourable member from -
-But, Mr Speaker -
-Order! He can say what he likes in a statement by leave.
– I was suggesting only that it is relevant to this matter because it shows the complete lack of regard for principle in the use of the public purse and taxpayers funds. This is the Government that has called for restraint from everyone but itself. The Prime Minister calls for restraint even from his own members- and he calls his members today, ‘bellyaching nervous nellies’- and it is the Prime Minister who goes off on a grand tour of Europe in a private Qantas jet demanding that other governments provide helicopters here and helicopters there to go on fishing expeditions in Sicily and Italy.
-Order! The honourable gentleman sought leave to make a statement in regard to the statement made by the Treasurer. I think it is only right that he should keep to that subject.
– I am sorry about that; I got carried away. The matters under discussion are of great concern to all Australians. We have a situation in which every Australian taxpayer will have to subsidise the building of the Labor Party headquarters in Canberra. It is a shameful and disgraceful chapter in the history of this Government and every member and supporter of the Government- the Treasurer, the Prime Minister, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who has been interjecting and who has been warned by the Speaker on more than one occasion, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) who is assiduously reading Hansard for the first time in his life, and the honourable members from Tasmania- ought to be ashamed of what is happening in these present circumstances.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I refer to 2 articles that have appeared over 3 Sundays in the Sydney ‘Sunday Telegraph’. The first appeared on 17 November 1974 and the second on Sunday last. The first is an article which states that the Liberal Party is prepared to force its Federal members of Parliament to retire at 65 years of age.
– Hear, hear!
– That is what the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) wants. Of course it is. The article goes on to say that among those affected is a former Prime Minister, and it also refers to Mr Wentworth. It states:
The idea of a mandatory retirement age has the support of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, among the Liberal organisation, and is heavily backed by Young Liberals.
In answer to that the General Secretary of the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party of Australia wrote on 22 November to the editor of the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ and said that the story is totally without foundation. He continued:
I find it unbelievable that Mr Ernie Davitt should proceed to file the story, after he had checked it with me on Friday, 15 November, and I had informed him that it had no foundation.
Since then I have checked carefully through our records and found that the only reference to the subject is the overwhelming defeat of a motion to this effect from a Young Liberal Branch at the New South Wales Young Liberal Council.
Last Sunday there appeared an article, not attributed to any person, headed: ‘New South Wales Ministers May Stand For Canberra’ which said that Mr Willis is known to be extremely disappointed at losing the premiership battle and ‘is likely to seek pre-selection for the Federal seat of Lowe, at present held by a former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon’. Mr Willis had already made it officially known that he would not be leaving the State Parliament. This article, therefore, is also based upon a lie and the position should have been known to any responsible editor -
– I rise to order. Is this a personal explanation?
-The right honourable gentleman must state where he has been misrepresented.
– I have just stated that that was a misrepresentation. Now I come to the third article which appeared under ‘Capital Comment by Cassandra’ in the same newspaper. Dealing with the recent meeting between some of my colleagues and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), Cassandra states:
Who were the manipulators who failed so abysmally to get the Fraser challenge off the ground?
The Liberal Party has closed ranks, but the presence of a former president of the Queensland Liberal Party in Mr Eric Robinson among the handful -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The right honourable member for Lowe stated that he had been personally misrepresented. So far he has not indicated at any point where he has been personally misrepresented, although he has been addressing the House for some minutes.
– I have. And I have to give the facts first as to the second incident.
-Order! I think the right honourable member is leading up to it.
-So I am, Mr Speaker. The article goes on:
I state this to show continuity and also malice. To their credit, those members who interviewed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) did not seek my assistance, co-operation or advice in any way. They took the responsibility themselves. My attitude to the leadership of the Liberal Party is summed up in my remarks in a talk-back program with John Laws on 2UW on 1 1 October. The interview was as follows:
Mr Laws: Now working on the assumption that what you say will be correct and that we’ll go to the polls perhaps April or May or even sooner, do you think we’ll go to the polls with Bill Snedden as leader of the Liberal Party?
Mr McMahon: Yes, 1 do.
Mr Laws: And do you think that he’ll be more successful this time than last?
Mr McMahon: Of course.
Mr Laws: A great deal more successful?
Mr McMahon: Yes. A great deal more successful.
That is still my view.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) this afternoon in his reply to a question. He suggested that my use of ground transport as Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party was in excess of that of any other member of this place. I wondered whether the Prime Minister was aware that an answer was given to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch)even the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and perhaps the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) might have read it- which demonstrated that the travel by ground transport with a chauffeur by the former Minister for Immigration in this Parliament was greater per week than my travel per annum. Of course the answer did not refer to transport that emanated from the Department of the Capital Territory in Canberra; it referred only to the transport from the Department of Supply. I believe it is also worth mentioning that the Prime Minister’s air travel, in his impending travel overseas, is almost 100 times per week what my travel is per annum. The statement was grossly untrue.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the question.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Air Navigation Bill 1974.
AirNavigation (Charges) Bill 1974.
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Bill 1974.
Customs TariffBill 1974.
Customs Tariff Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 974.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1974.
Excise TariffBill 1974.
Customs Bill (No. 2) 1974.
States Grants (Schools) Bill 1974.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Aboriginal Loans Commission Bill 1974.
States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1974.
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1974.
States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1974.
– I wish to inform the House that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has nominated the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) to be the additional member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties.
-Mr Speaker, on behalf of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I bring up the report of the Committee on the Environmental Impact of Freeways, together with the extracts of the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- This report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation entitled ‘Environmental Impact of Freeways’. The Impact of State Highway 23 on Blackbutt
Reserve, Newcastle; New South Wales’ is the second report to be tabled by the Committee in the 29th Parliament. The inquiry into the impact of a State highway on Blackbutt Reserve in Newcastle was undertaken as a case study based on the wider reference of the. social and environmental impact of freeways on urban areas. The Committee’s major aim was to examine the proposed route of State Highway 23 to see if it would cause any significant damage to the social, recreational, and environmental amenities of Blackbutt Reserve. This reserve enjoys a substantial popularity amongst the residents of Newcastle. Although not unique in the scientific sense, its location close to the heart of Newcastlea distance of only 7 kilometres- and its possession of a wide variety of flora and fauna make it an asset of great value. Blackbutt Reserve is invaluable to present residents and future generations. No form of compensation could make up for its loss. To safeguard the amenities of the reserve there is a need for a comprehensive management plan to be established to ensure that it is not damaged by over-use, due to its popularity.
The Committee, therefore, recommends the establishment of a Blackbutt Reserve management committee, comprised of representatives from the Newcastle City Council, community groups and an ecologist to draw up and implement the plan. The Committee believes that the worth of the reserve as a whole has been placed in jeopardy by the proposal to construct State Highway 23 through the western portion of it. This area is, in fact, the most attractive part of the reserve. The need for such a road through the reserve has not been proven. A comprehensive transport survey is necessary before decisions with such far-reaching consequences can be made. To date none has been completed.
The Committee is aware of a comprehensive investigation into the transport needs of the Newcastle region, which is currently being undertaken. No decision on the need for a road of freeway standard should be taken until the results of this inquiry are available. The penetration of Blackbutt Reserve by State Highway 23 would result in a rapid deterioration of the highly attractive western portion of the reserve. The immediate effect would be an increase in both air and noise pollution and a consequent reduction in the amenity of the area now enjoyed by so many people. The whole reserve will eventually be affected. The Committee is convinced that this situation can be avoided. There are viable alternatives to the proposed route of State
Highway 23 that would not destroy the reserve. These alternatives are detailed in the report.
During the course of the inquiry the Committee became aware of the desire of various communities affected by the freeway proposal to become involved in the decision making process. As a result, one of the Committee’s major recommendations is the implementation of environmental impact statement procedures in cases such as this. This would allow public participation at a very early stage. To ensure that the final decision is in the best interests of the community as a whole, it is important that the decision making process provide a means that will clearly establish whether the suggested proposal is the most satisfactory of the alternatives available. As a result of this particular case study, the Committee has arrived at 2 general conclusions regarding road systems in urban areas. The Committee has concluded that wherever possible roads of freeway standard should not pass through urban areas. Where arterial roads must pass through an urban area preference should be given to upgrading the existing arterial roads rather than having a new road of freeway standard. Finally, the Committee was pleased with the interest generated by the inquiry and impressed by the concern of organisations and people who assisted us with our investigations. The result was a high degree of public participation.
-I seek leave to make a statement in support of this report.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection; leave is granted.
-I wish only to make a few comments in support of the remarks which have been made by my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in relation to the report presented by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). It is quite obvious from the hearings of the Committee that the awareness of the public is being drawn to the need to protect natural areas of flora and fauna that exist close to a number of our city areasapart from those that exist outside that radius. It appears to me that the findings in the report and the comments of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) clearly indicate- in support of what I wish to say- that both the State and Federal Governments will have to co-operate, despite their political and ideological differencesin order to preserve our national estate. I am very much indebted to the chairmanship of the honourable member for La Trobe on this subcommittee. I pass on to him my compliments for the manner in which he carried out his chairmanship duties.
Mr Speaker, as you know the Committee is a House of Representatives Standing Committee and it comprises members of all Parties. We acted without any political prejudice. I was delighted to find that members of the public from Newcastle and surrounding districts were so willing to participate in this inquiry. The local councils and government body representatives were very open and frank in their discussions and comments. I believe that as a result of this the Government can act positively and fruitfully to ensure that this area of land will be protected. I only hope that the State Government will acknowledge the report, study it and seek cooperation with the Federal Government in finalising a by-pass road which will leave this area of Blackbutt safe as a natural parkland area for the city of Newcastle. I wholeheartedly support the report as tabled and recommend it to the House.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement concerning an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Prices.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Committee’s terms of reference allow it to inquire into and, as appropriate, report upon complaints’ arising from prices charged by the private sector. Members will realise that these terms of reference may be discharged not only by tabling a report in the Parliament but also by means of a statement made in both this House and the Senate. The Committee prefers such statements to the tabling of reports if the statements are brief because this enables the Committee to bring the matter to the notice of the Parliament more speedily. The 1974-75 Budget abolished licence fees for television viewers. The Committee was made aware of the fact that some television rental firms did not intend reducing their hire charges notwithstanding the abolition of the licence fees. The Committee moved quickly and invited the public to inform the Committee of instances of television rental firms not passing on the benefits of the abolition of the fees.
The Committee received a number of complaints on this matter and sought clarification of the pricing policy of the firms which were complained against. The firms contacted included large national rental firms such as Radio Rentals Pty Ltd. In addition, following the
Committee’s Press statement, Canberra Television Services, one of the largest of the national rental firms, announced that it intended reducing rental charges following the abolition of licence fees. The Committee was pleased to receive correspondence from members of the public advising that the benefits of the cancellation of the licence fees had been passed on to them as a result of the Committee’s Press statement. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the response of television rental firms to the inquiries made by the Committee.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– To summarise what is in the table, of the 7 firms contacted by the Committee following the abolition of the licence fees, four have reduced their charges; two have postponed increases; and the remaining firm hires television sets to hospital patients, such sets not being subject to licence fees. In conclusion, I would reiterate that the consumer should once again be made aware of the advantages of shopping around when his present contract expires so that he may choose a firm whose price and service offer best value for money.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian delegation to the third International Parliamentary Conference on the Environment which was held in Nairobi between 7 and 1 1 April 1974.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The alarming rate of resignation of officers from the Services and the failure of the Government to implement defence policies which would remove the underlying cause of such resignations.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-Eight hundred and thirty-nine officers have left the Services in the last 17 months, 274 of them between April and August this year. This means that an average of more than 49 officers a month have voted with their feet against the defence policies of the Whitlam Government. There is not one informed commentator who does not regard this massive loss as disastrous to the future defence of this country. Let me quote from only two of these commentators. The first, Denis Warner, had this to say:
The Army is not too concerned about the numbers game. It accepts that force strengths must sometimes fall below what commanders would like. This is not too significant provided the base for rapid expansion remains. But it is precisely this base that is being swept away by current resignations. There are plenty of pawns, but the ranks of the ‘pieces’ are being heavily depleted. Among the young and able colonels who have opted out there are many who carried a general’s baton in their knapsacks. There will come a time when Australia, if it reverses its ‘no threat’ concept, will have neither allies it can be certain of nor the material on which to rebuild its armed forces. A rush to the colours may reflect splendid patriotic virtues, if it happens, but it will be no substitute for professionalism in these days when the sophistication and complexity of equipment in all Services demand years of training.
My second quotation is from Major Peter Young who, the House will remember, was a Labor candidate for the seat of Lowe, I think, in the 1969 election and the senior adviser to the present Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) when he was shadow Minister for Defence while in Opposition. Major Peter Young said: . . . despite what may be said about officers snatching their time and pension it is a loss of expertise and capital expenditure which can never be replaced.
Yet all the Minister does is puff out his chest and talk about the generosity of the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits scheme as if the loss of all these officers- this experience, this expertise, this essential element in our capacity to expand in time of war- does not matter provided the Government has been generous to them in their premature retirement. The Minister is the Minister for Defence. It is his responsibility to do something, it is his responsibility to prevent the patient bleeding to death- not to sit idly by boasting about the skill with which he punctured the artery, which is what he has been doing.
In any case it is a monstrous insult to the integrity, dedication and professionalism of most of these officers to suggest, as the Minister has, that the sole reason why these officers left the Service was the attraction of a retirement pension. The Minister knows nothing of the attitude and make-up of Service officers if he believed that they will abandon their career at the 20-year mark, as many of them have done, unless there was something profoundly wrong. His cheap gibe, when I asked him a question the other day about Air Vice Marshall Hurditch- he quoted the size of his pension- does the Minister no credit. This officer is 53 years of age which means that he has at least 4 years to go even if he is not promoted further. He is generally acknowledged to be one of the ablest officers in the Royal Australian Air Force. There is not a shadow of doubt that his natural motivation, shared by most other officers, would lead him to continue to serve his country in the career to which he has devoted his life if he felt that any good purpose would be served, if he felt that the Government believed that defence mattered, if he felt that the Government gave defence any sort of priority and if he felt the Government had the slightest interest in instilling a sense of purpose in national defence. There are many reasons associated with the Government’s neglect of defence which have led officers in all 3 Services to resign in such large numbers. My colleagues and I on this side of the House have referred to them time after time, only to be treated with contempt by the Minister, who has hardly ever bothered to reply. I shall refer to them again later if I have time.
For the moment I want to say something about the reorganisation of the Defence group of departments, the dissatisfaction with which, as the Minister has admitted, played a large part in Air
Vice Marshal Hurditch’s decision to resign. Although the Minister has denied it, it is well known that a large proportion of the officers who have resigned this year have been influenced by the way in which the Government has handled this matter. The Minister has implied that dissatisfaction with the reorganisation springs from an incapacity on the part of the older officers to adjust to desirable change. He has refused to admit that it is due to the defects in the reorganisation itself and the Government’s handling of it. According to the Minister, he is infallibleincapable of making a mistake. As I warned him it would when he tabled the Tange report, his belief in his own infallibility has cost the country dear. Even if the Minister chooses to take no notice of the Opposition he should have taken heed when Brigadier Greville, in a brilliant, logical and penetrating address to the Staff College, criticised the new system and placed his career on the line in the process. I hasten to make the point that I do not know a single Service officer who is not in favour of the integration of the Defence group of departments. Their criticism is not with the objective but with some of the means of achieving the objective and with the hasty and insensitive way in which the Government has handled it.
Despite the fact that similar reorganisations in the United Kingdom and Canada- I admit that the Canadian one went further- took many years to consider, with exhaustive discussions with everbody likely to be involved before the government took a decision and took even longer to accomplish after decisions had been taken, the Government required Sir Arthur Tange to prepare his report in 12 months. The situation was made worse by the fact that it was a period in which Sir Arthur and the Service chiefs were deeply preoccupied by the savage cuts which the Government had imposed on the Services. My understanding is that towards the end of 1973 Sir Arthur asked for more time for deeper consideration and greater consultation. It was refused, I am told, by a decision of the Prime Minister himself, who was more interested in giving an impression of activity on the part of the Government than in sound decisions in a matter vital to the defence of this country.
To make matters worse, the report was approved by Cabinet with hardly any consideration and with hardly a Minister present even beginning to understand what it was all about. This was a shocking abdication of responsibility by a Government to whom the Services look to exercise civilian control. To the Services civilian control means control by the elected government in
Parliament, not control by civil servants. Sir Arthur Tange ‘s report indicated that there were major disagreements between him and the Chiefs of Staff on the matters on which they were consulted, quite apart from those on which they were not. Most, if not all, of these disagreements were decided by Sir Arthur against the Chiefs of Staff. This should have set the alarm bells ringing. Here was an occasion on which the Government should have exercised its responsibility to consider these issues with great care and in great depth. It did not.
From that time on trouble was inevitable. Understandably, it disposed servicemen to believe that the new organisation, with its heavy emphasis on civil servants in senior positions, was designed to filter service advice so that it would never get to the Minister and the Government in a pure and unadulterated form. They were disposed to believe, as Denis Warner has put it, that here the no threat doctrine was being given a son of perpetual status, with the Public Service taking over the ultimate control of the defence forces. It would not work in time of war, the Services complained. ‘Australia has spent very few of its years at war’ was, I am told, Sir Arthur Tange ‘s reply. Their fears were confirmed by the fact that the proposed reorganisation, in contrast to the United Kingdom, provided the Chief of the Defence Force Staff with very little staff backing in contrast to the large high powered machine the Secretary had behind him.
In this situation the people in the Services have little doubt, in any conflict between the two, who would win. Civilian control would, in fact, become control by civil servants. Their fears have been underlined by the fact that it has been virtually impossible for the Chiefs of Staff to gain access to the Minister for Defence. They are deeply worried by a situation in which they are charged with the responsibility for preparing their services for tasks laid down by the Government, without the direct means of putting to the Government what is required to carry out these tasks. Again, they see the civil servants, with no responsibility and no expertise, at worst obstructing their task and at best filtering their advice to the Minister. I am not saying that all these fears are justified. What I am saying is that the Government and the Minister must be held responsible for the fact that they exist and have not been allayed.
It was not necessary to take decisions on the new organisation with such haste. Indeed, so low is the priority given to the matter by the Government that we are not now to get the legislation to implement the reorganisation until the autumn sitting at the earliest, despite the Minister’s earlier undertaking that it would be brought down in this sitting. It was not necessary for the Government to abdicate its responsibility and thereby signify to the Services that under this Government decisions on defence matters by civil servants would be rubber-stamped by the Government. The Government could have instituted a defence council comprising Ministers, the Chiefs of Staff and senior civil servants. It could have provided that many of the senior positions in the Department of Defence would be filled by either civilians or servicemen, whoever was best qualified. It has committed all these cardinal errors of omission and commission. As a result, the Government has lost forever large numbers of valuable officers and has created a crisis of confidence which will not be overcome until it is thrown out of office.
– The shadow Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), as he usually does in these debates has neglected to offer any suggestion about what he would do about reorganisation and about the conditions he says apply in the Services today. There was nothing from the shadow Minister for Defence; he never had an idea. He was completely bereft of any suggestions about what ought to be done. Indeed, he did not do his homework. I am satisfied from what he said that, apart from making some accusations against civilians in the Department of Defence- those who happen to be civilian public servants- and speaking in a detrimental way about them personally, he had nothing at all to suggest. He suggested that a council ought to be established when the reorganisation takes place. He has suggested that the council ought to comprise myself as the Minister, the Chief of Defence Force Staff, Sir Victor Smith, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, and the 3 Chiefs of Staff. I have been meeting with those people once a month for some time now and we have had under discussion no doubt the things that the honourable member has in mind at this time. But if he had read the report he would have seen that when referring to a defence council Sir Arthur Tange said:
I suggested to the Chiefs of Staff that a Council be established, presided over by the Minister for Defence, and having as members the Minister or Ministers Assisting the Minister for Defence, the Secretary of the Department, and the Chief of Defence Force Staff; the object being to provide the Minister with a system of collective policy advice and information and to facilitate the issuing by turn of policy directions to the Department.
In discussion, the Chiefs of Staff and others argued that there is no need to formalise arrangements of this kind which can be made by the Minister ad hoc, and therefore the proposal was withdrawn.
If the shadow Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Barker, had read the report he would have seen that reference to a council in a statement made by Sir Arthur Tange. It is quite clear that the Chiefs of Staff themselves argued against the establishment of a council. As I have said, I regularly meet with the Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I can call a meeting whenever I believe that a meeting is necessary. We have been meeting regularly each month. Secondly- and again the honourable member for Barker is wrong- the chiefs of Staff regularly seek to interview me, and they do so at any time. They themselves ask for a meeting.
It is not too surprising that the honourable member for Barker has raised this matter of public importance this afternoon. After all, he was in great difficulty last week, having predicted an increase in defence expenditure. But he has never said to what extent a government, in which the honourable member would expect to be the Minister for Defence, would increase defence expenditure. No reference to any increase has been made by the shadow Minister for Defence. He has not said by how much he would increase the $l,500m being spent on defence during 1974-75, nor has he compared the expenditure with the gross national product. So once again the honourable member for Barker slides out when it comes to making a decision in relation to expenditure. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) confirmed what he had said previously, that there would be an across the board cut in the expenditure of departments which, in my estimation, would be about $ 1,000m. That across the board cut would obviously include expenditure on defence, because when he said that there would be a cut in government expenditure he indicated 3 areas that would receive priority. The first was education, the second was social welfare and the third was health. So quite clearly from the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, the Department of Defence would be included in any examination which was made for the purpose of reducing government expenditure.
When I made my statement on defence reorganisation on 19 December 1972 I announced 5 major objectives which this Government had to modify and improve in the form of defence administration which was bequeathed to us by our predecessors. These objectives and the defects in defence administration to which they are related were developed further by Sir Arthur Tange in his report to the Government on defence re-organisation. As honourable members will know, the Government adopted the Tange report progressively and in its entirety, and defence administration has since been developing progressively towards the final steps which can be taken when, as I plan, the amending defence legislation is introduced into the House early in the autumn session. It is curious that the defects referred to by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, for example, and the measures it has proposed to correct the defects in most cases merely restate the Government’s objectives as announced in 1972 and the detailed translation of these in the Tange report into re-organisation activity and in the progressive implementation of its recommendations.
The task of reorganisation of a very large and complex activity such as Australian defence has necessarily been slow, particularly where considerations such as departmental structure and classification have to be submitted and approved by an external authority- the Australian Public Service Board. In this context, minor misunderstandings grow and ill-founded criticisms add to the general problem of maintaining the morale of people engaged in a major administrative activity which is being subjected to progressive and substantial change. Every step is being taken to inform all concerned as opportunity permits but it is quite clear that criticism, both from within and without the Services, is to a very large measure based on a failure to appreciate the reasons for and the significance of the changes which are being planned.
Great play has been made of the resignation rate of Service officers, and it would be surprising if such a trend did not become evident in a period when activity participation by our forces and warlike operations overseas have come to an end and a substantial period of low or minimum threat is the assessment of all specialised advisers to the Government. In addition, the Government has amended the defence forces retirement benefit scheme to permit easier retirement from the Services after 20 years service and to provide adequate resources to establish defence personnel in second careers should they so wish. This, as well as the factors I have mentioned, has undoubtedly led to some increase in the rate of resignations. There is, however, no cause for alarm as the resignation rate is no more than is necessary to retain in peacetime the young and vigorous servicemen and servicewomen, a trend which we anticipate will continue in the next few years.
As I pointed out publicly in a document which I release monthly and which gives the number of enlistments and resignations for that month, it is quite clear that the number of enlistments in the 3 Services is satisfactory. What evidence is there of an alarming rate of officer resignations? Our regular forces had a total of 6,698 officers in June 1965. Today there are 9,788 officers, an increase of 46 per cent. Let us look at the ratio of male other ranks servicemen to male officers. In June 1 97 1 there were 8.2 Army other ranks per officer compared with 6.2 today. The Navy ratio was also 8.2 other ranks per officer compared with 7.2 today. For the Royal Australian Air Force the figure was 5.6 in 1971 compared with 5.1 today. Clearly, the officer situation in the Services gives no cause for alarm.
Naturally I have discussed this matter with the Chiefs of Staff, naturally I have asked the chiefs of personnel of the Services about resignations. The latest advice I have had from them is as follows:
Navy: The impact on Navy’s ability to meet commitments has been negligible. However, there have been internal difficulties arising from officers being posted at short notice to relieve officers who have resigned- even though we have kept this to a minimum. The current resignation rate does not give cause for alarm.
Army: Officer resignations have not affected Army’s ability to carry out its functions overall. However, the resignation of some officers in the middle rank bracket will, if continued in the future, give some cause for concern. It is a fact that resignations have caused some posting turbulence.
At the same time, however, they have increased the opportunities amongst other officers for promotion and are leading to a younger officer structure.
Air: Resignations have had an impact on the Service, but by observing manning priorities, we have been able to meet all our commitments.
I would like to turn now to the last part of the motion moved by the honourable member for Barker which relates to the implementation of defence policies which would remove the underlying cause of such resignations. Again the honourable member has not offered any suggestion about what ought to be done in this respect. I have already decided that it is advisable from time to time to provide an opportunity for servicemen to express an opinion about what should be done if there are problems within the Services. Naturally, of course, there will be some difficulties at times such as this. When we were changing from the activity which was undertaken by servicemen during the period of office of our predecessors, particularly the last few years of their period of office, I never doubted that there would be some changes in the basic philosophy and attitude of servicemen generally. One can understand that. I believe that we can look at the situation in the Services and give servicemen the opportunity to express an opinion. I have discussed this matter with Admiral Smith, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, and Mr Wilfred Jarvis, the sociologist who contributed so well to the inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces. We decided that a study should be conducted which would examine the following areas:
The study will be under taken by Mr Wilfred Jarvis and will require the participation of all members of the forces. As it happens, Mr Jarvis is to meet the Chiefs of Staff tomorrow to discuss the matter in greater detail. So once again I have shown, as in the case of the inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces something which was never undertaken by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It would never have conducted an inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces. I set up such a committee of inquiry. The report of that inquiry, as is known to all honourable members, is now available. Many of the recommendations have already been adopted by the Government. Mr Wilfred Jarvis served on that committee. I believe that he served, as did the other members of the committee, with very great distinction. There is an opportunity for someone with Mr Jarvis’ background, ability and understanding of these problems to investigate the kind of problems that are bound to develop within the armed Services from time to time. I have never denied that there could be problems. There will always be problems. This is not the first occasion on which one has read about the resignation of officers from the Services. I have not taken the opportunity, nor would I want to, of making any comparison between the resignations to day and the resignations which took place when the honourable member for Barker was a member of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) has me completely confused. He has made a number of contradictory statements regarding defence as it exists today in Australia. He said, first of all, that the Government is not particularly perturbed about the number of officer resignations and that it is accepting what is happening because of a nothreat philosophy developed by the planners to suit what is going on in the defence field today; yet in a statement he issued on 27 November the Minister pointed out that the 3 Services were still seeking suitable recruits and that the Army required large numbers of fit young men for its expansion program. So, on the one hand, the Minister is saying that he is not particularly concerned about the massive number of officers resigning from the Services and, on the other hand, the Minister is expressing his concern about an expansion program for the Army. This seems to be a contradiction in terms or an indication of a confused mind. Either way it adds up to a trouble for the Services that they should not rightly have, because of the Minister’s doing.
In answer to a question from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Young) the Minister stated earlier today what he and this Government had done for people who are retiring from the Services. He stated that there was a rehabilitation and reconstruction scheme, that the Defence Service Homes Bill had been passed, that there were certain repatriation benefits and that conditions, pay and allowances had been improved. I agree with the Minister that all those things have been done. There has been a remarkable improvement in pay, an increase in pay, for Service officers since this Government came to power. However, again there is a contradiction. Service officers are now confronted with an improved Defence Forces Retirement Benefit scheme but at the same time there has been a healthy increase in the payment received on the job. How does the Minister explain why men receiving satisfactory pay leave the Service before time and accept a greatly reduced retirement benefit? An officer retiring at the notional retiring age 5 years before his normal time receives approximately 30 per cent less than he is entitled to receive upon normal retirement. Why would an officer seek to leave the Service, after spending most of his working life in it, 5 years before time at a greatly reduced pension rate? The answer is that the man must not have job satisfaction.
This is where this Government has fallen down completely. It has decided that the problem in the Services can be solved by giving members of the Services more money. The same attitude has flowed into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Massive increases of money have gone into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and yet the people concerned are not happy with what the Government is doing. The question again is: Why? In the defence area the answer is fairly simple. The Government has taken away job satisfaction not only from the officers but also from the rank and file members of the Services. To speak of resignations of officers being on the decline now is again to fail to paint the picture as it really exists. At the moment we are in what I suppose one could call a trough of resignations. It is getting towards Christmas which is the time when those people who are seeking a discharge from the Services will let it stay over until January, February or March of next year. I ask the Minister to be very careful about making pre- dictions on the present state of officer resignations in November and December.
In the Services there is a diminished responsibility, brought about deliberately by this Government. Young men who are graduating into the Services, whether from the Royal Military College or the Officer Cadet School, are faced with the prospect of going to units which have no soldiers. They are committed to certain tasks. They had been told in Service training that they would be in command of or would be called upon to lead a certain number of men. They have been sent to units which are completely under strength. This breeds dissatisfaction regardless of how much money the man receives in return for what he is supposed to be doing. This is what is happening now among all officers in the Services. They have no responsibility because the responsibility is slowly but surely being taken away from them. Whether they be in the field, where the reduction in troop strengths has taken away their responsibility, or whether they be at Army headquarters, where under this present reorganisation scheme most Service officers see their responsibility being taken over by civil servants, the officers do not like the position. I believe that these are the things that the Minister should look at. I also believe that the Minister has been either badly informed or wrongly informed. If he is being badly informed, I ask him to go back and seek better information. If he is being wrongly informed, I ask him to go back and make certain that those people giving him the wrong information are removed from the positions from which this information is coming.
The next point which 1 think is important in regard to the Services today is that this Governmentit also did this before it came to officehas successfully made the serviceman a secondclass citizen. Whether the Government likes it or not, in my opinion it happens to be a hard, cold fact of life. Before the Vietnam war the Australian serviceman, when seen in the streets of Australia, was generally given the position due to him, that is, the position of a man giving perhaps the highest form of service to his country. -During and after the war in Vietnam the Australian serviceman became a second-class citizen. In fact, today it is very difficult to find a serviceman on the streets in uniform. This is the fault of the Government; no one else. We have to give back to the serviceman the dignity and pride that makes him feel that he is doing a worthwhile job for the country and not, as he feels now, that he is doing something that has to be hidden from the rest of the community at large.
These are the reasons why there is dissatisfaction generally within the Services. These are the reasons why officers are resigning from the Services. Until the Minister takes positive steps to rectify these matters the trend will continue despite what he may say to the contrary. It does not matter how much he re-organises the 3 Services or how much he does here in Canberra; the trouble will still remain within the Services themselves and the number of officers seeking discharges will continue to increase. It is a very serious state of affairs. Right now we are observing a diminution and complete disintegration of Australia’s armed Services. It is hardly likely- it is extremely unlikely- that Australia could deal with any trouble that may arise in the near future. I have stated before- the Minister did not seek to deny it- that currently the strength of the Australian Services for a continued action in the field is less than one infantry battalion. That is the present strength of Australia’s forces for sustained operations in the field.
– What a disaster.
-It is a disaster. There is no question about it. As the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) clearly says, it is a disaster- a national disaster. It is of no use for Government members to stand up in this House and voice platitudes about how much is being done in regard to the defence forces retirement benefits scheme and in regard to pay and allowances. What the Government has to do is to have a very close look at the Services as they are today and to obtain the best advice which will produce the Services this country needs now in the 1970s and which it will need in the future.
-The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) who has just resumed his seat concluded his address by talking about platitudes in regard to the defence forces retirement benefits scheme and pay and allowances. He might consider remarks in regard to these matters to be platitudes. I can only say, as one who spends some time in defence establishments, that one of the matters that has been raised with the members of the Labor Party’s Defence Committee everywhere we have gone is appreciation by the members of all the Services of the very great improvements that have been made in Service pay and conditions under the present Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). The honourable member for Riverina might consider them platitudes but that is not the evidence we have had. In this matter of officer resignations we are suffering- experiencing might be a better word- the effects of the improved Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. Many officers and men who retired from the defence forces in former times suffered very severely from the niggardly attitude of the former Government.
– But they served out their time.
-They had to. They had no alternative. They could not go out in decent circumstances. They were treated in a pennypinching way by the former Government not only while in the Services in terms of pay, but also when they retired in terms of the DFRB, war service homes and a great range of other factors. We hear some talk about job satisfaction. The experience now being had is not a new one. At the end of every war situation there are people who have served in the forces with great distinction and great credit to their country and also to themselves but there is nothing very much really that one can do at the end of such a war situation to give people the job satisfaction that they get out of the real thing.
– It requires imagination.
– Maybe the honourable member for Riverina could suggest a war, perhaps a small war, that we could enter into at the moment.
– He did not talk about a war at all.
– We are talking about career officers.
-Order! The honourable member is entitled to be heard in silence.
– Let us consider what we can do in the way of job satisfaction. Firstly, quite a number of exercises have been conducted in recent times. During the past year the Royal Australian Navy has participated in 4 major international exercises and many other minor exercises as well. The Army has conducted 5 battalion scale exercises. Elements of the Army have been able to train in Hawaii, the Philippines, Canada, Malaysia and New Guinea. The Royal Australian Air Force has participated in international and joint Service exercises over Darwin, the Queensland coast, and in Malaysia and Singapore where we are continuing to provide the main air defence capability to help our neighbours move towards their own defence capacity. In exercise Kangaroo One held in June in Queensland and the Coral Sea areas forces were involved from Britain, the United States of America and New Zealand, as well as our own Services. Over 5,500 troops, including 1,500 United States Marines, more than 50 aircraft from 4 nations, and 38 warships took part in this major landmark in the development of our defence expertise. The varied skills which an officer needs to develop into a full professional requires wide and varied training. The satisfaction which an officer feels as his experience widens can be given only if the Government gives him the widest possible variety of training. After 23 years the country now has a Government which is prepared to see that exercises both in Australia and overseas cover the wide range of skills that occur in a variety and diversity of terrain. This training is required for the development of the professional officer in the modern world.
The Minister for Defence dealt with figures relating to the retirement of officers but I think it is important to look at the other side of the coin, enlistment to defence forces. In 1973-74 recruitment for the 3 Services experienced some difficulties because of strong competition in the labour market. However, the Services did not experience difficulty in attracting satisfactory intakes of officers and specialists. Recruitment since June 1974 has increased very handsomely. For the information of honourable members I shall compare 2 years. In July 1973 the recruitment was 274 and in 1974 it was 380. The figure for August 1973 was 355 and for August 1974 it was 376. In September 1973 the figure was 196 and for September 1974 it was 341. In October 1973 it was 215 and in October this year it was 449. Therefore recruitment has increased over the period by 506, or 50 per cent. Recruitment is now running at record levels and the Government will have no difficulty at all in achieving the planned growth of 1,300 in Regular Army strength and its target of 31,500 by June 1975. It might also be noted in the area of officers that a record number of applications was received for officer entries to the Royal Military College at Duntroon for the year 1975.
I mentioned before that the Minister for Defence had dealt with officers, but I think it is not inappropriate to mention other ranks in terms of re-engagement rates. Since the Government took office re-engagement rates have improved as indicated in these figures: In June 1972, under the former Government, the re-engagement rate for the Navy was 44 per cent. In the September quarter of this year the re-engagement rate for the Navy was 65 per cent. Under the former Government the rate for the Army was 69 per cent and in this year it was 72 per cent. Under the former Government the Air Force rate was 65 per cent and in the September quarter of this year it was 78 per cent. It has been pointed out, and I made the point myself, that these figures are against the background of a different labour market, but the fact remains that these reengagement rates have substantially increased. I hope that members of the Opposition, in bringing this matter forward, will not continue to try to exaggerate differences between civilian and military personnel in the re-organisation of the defence departments. When the Minister introduced the Tange report on the reorganisation of the defence group of departments in December 1973, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) said that it was the logical extension of the process that started when the Morshead Committee report was brought down. This was 16 years before under a previous Government, which had done nothing to implement the recommendations of that report. The honourable member for Barker said: . . although the government of the day, for what were considered to be very good reasons, which were not supported by me- I was one of the members who advocated the implementation of the Morshead Committee report- did not adopt the report.
These are the facts. The present Government is doing something which was recommended to the previous Government 16 years ago. Inevitably in a range of departments as complex and important as Defence changes will take some time. I am not altogether satisfied with the progress that has been made. The facts of life are that the Minister was left with a task which should have been carried out 16 years previously by a former Government. I give him credit for the progress that has been made and I commend the personnel in the defence departments- not only the civilian personnel but also the military personnelfor the loyal way in which the overwhelming majority of these people have accepted the proposed re-organisation of the Defence Department as a good thing.
There are dissatisfactions- of course there are- when changes take place. We have these dissatisfactions every time there is a reorganisation in a Public Service department, in a bank or for that matter in any segment of private industry. With something as important and as complex as defence it is inevitable that some of these problems will occur. But nothing is to be gained by trying to divide civilian personnel and military personnel in the defence forces. Indeed, everything is to be gained in bringing about this re-organisation in a proper way. The honourable member for Barker, speaking in his capacity as defence spokesman and representing the Opposition, welcomed this re-organisation. I take great exception to the fact that other people- I am not suggesting that either of the Opposition honourable members who has spoken today has this motive in mind- are trying to divide the civilian and military defence personnel on the basis of dissatisfactions that have been expressed. I have every confidence in the way the Minister for Defence is handling these difficult matters. We live in fairly difficult times, but the recruitment rate and the rate of retention of our forces indicates that the future of our defence forces is assured.
– The discussion is concluded.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendment.
After clause 6, insert the following new clause: 6a. Section 10 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting ‘ 3 years’ and substituting ‘ 5 y ears ‘.
– I move:
The amendment is to the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1974. The legislation became effective in 1972 for a 3-year period. At the time the Bill was introduced by the then Minister its purpose was to hasten -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. I wonder whether I, as a member of this House, am entitled to the courtesy of being given a piece of paper in the form of a communication from the Senate. I have had no communication from the Minister whatsoever on this matter. I am wondering whether honourable members of this House are entitled to the courtesy of having before them what we are debating.
– I do not run the affairs of the House. Perhaps if the honourable member did a little work himself he would be better informed.
– You will keep for just a minute if you make remarks like that. I can tell you that.
-The amendment would have been circulated to members of the House when the message came from the Senate.
-As I said, the honourable member should be informed. I was making the point that when this Bill was introduced initially it was to be effective for a 3-year period from 1972. Its purpose was to hasten the development of hostel accommodation for the aged. I gather that the purpose of the then Minister when introducing the Bill in making it effective for a 3-year period was that by compressing its effectiveness into this period there would be an acceleration in the development of hostel accommodation. There has been some but, I would suggest, probably not as much as he would have liked. Nonetheless, what has taken place has been valuable.
As I mentioned in this House when the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) proposed a similar amendment on behalf of the Opposition, we are not prepared to accept an extension of the period to 5 yean. We are certainly not prepared to do so at this point of time. As honourable members would understand, the Government is carrying on a national inquiry into programs whereby accommodation is provided for the aged. That inquiry not only has to report to us on those programs and how they perform but also has to indicate to us alternative ways of providing more successfully accommodation services for the aged. This is the first time in more than 2 decades during which the Australian government has been involved in the provision of accommodation for the aged that there has been any review of this major program. I suggest that it has been a serious defect, which persisted until this Government came into office, that there has been a total absence of monitoring the evaluation of the progress of various types of programs in the field of welfare.
I think honourable members would recognise from what I have said in this House from time to time that this Government has been developing systems of monitoring an evaluation of many of its welfare programs and intends to expand this activity to a comprehensive stage. We want to know whether what we are doing is relevant when we commence doing it and whether it is still relevant on some future occasion. It may well have been that when the programs to which I am referring were first introduced they were the most relevant and represented a comprehensive list of needs in terms of accommodation services for the aged. But that may not be so now. On the other hand, it may be so. I am not saying that it is or that it is not. My own feeling is that more needs to be done. I have no intention at all of pre-empting the valuable work of that committee of inquiry, which has been working for several months now, by making some sort of precipitate decision when we are on the eve of receiving the report from that committee of inquiry. The report, in common with reports I have received, will be tabled in this Parliament and will be available for discussion by members of this House, by members of the Senate, and by members of the community. From this discussion we hope to be able to make firm decisions about the direction we will be taking in the future in the provision of accommodation for the aged.
That then very simply is the reason that we are not prepared to accept this amendment which is proposed by the Senate and which was rejected by this House. What I am saying is that, weighing up all the circumstances, it is better to wait the short time involved until we receive this report. The report may recommend against an extension- I repeat that it may recommend against an extension- of this program. It may very well recommend an extension of it. I do not know. But if it recommends against an extension of the program and we took action now, I think it would be quite unwise action and the results of it would be imposed upon us for an unnecessary period into the future. If it recommends for an extension this program will be continued into 1 975. 1 repeat that we will have the report before the end of this year. The Parliament will then be able to consider the program and we will be able to make decisions in plenty of time. It is for those reasons that I have to advise the Committee that we are not prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Senate.
-We have just heard the most extraordinary speech that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has ever made in this place. He has tried to justify his bloody-mindedness in not accepting a very constructive and helpful amendment that the Opposition both here and in the Senate has tried to make to a great area of social need. There is not one word that he has uttered today that can justify his pig-headedness, his obstinacy and obstruction in refusing this amendment.
What are we talking about? We are talking about the Aged Persons Hostels Act, legislation which was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party government about 2 years ago. It has a period of 3 years to run. It will not be operative as from late September next year. It has about 10 months to run as of now. I commended the Bill because it sought to allow voluntary organisations, welfare organisations and people interested in philanthropy to transfer their entitlements and to receive money or assistance from the Government if they had an entitlement under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Government’s action in this regard is commendable
The Bill essentially did two things. It increased the subsidy or the grant to which these welfare organisations were entitled. As I said in my earlier speech, the extension of the grant was illusory because I have the opinion that the cost of building hostels is higher than that which the Minister cares to admit. But the Opposition decided not to press an amendment seeking to raise the minimum amount of subsidy or grant that organisations could receive. But the Opposition was firm on asking that the operation of the Act should be extended for another 2 years. I gave the reasons quite clearly in my second reading speech. Before I again refer to those reasons may I make with as little anger as I can, although 1 am feeling angry at the moment, the following point: A member of the Minister’s staff telephoned me this morning. She said that she could not contact me on Friday, for some extraordinary reason because I was in my office in Melbourne all day on Friday, to tell me that the Minister wanted 2 Bills dealt with tomorrow. As Opposition spokesman on social security I have to handle 6 Bills this week which were introduced only last week by the Government. The member of the Minister’s staff asked me this morning would I co-operate with the Government and the Minister by expediting the passage of the 2 Bills, the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill and the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill, tomorrow. I said that I would be pleased to do that as the Opposition is always pleased to co-operate with the Government.
I then said to that member of the Minister’s staff that I understood that an amendment to the Aged Persons Hostels Act was coming back to this place today. I asked could I have the courtesy of receiving from the Minister information about the Government’s attitude to the amendment. I asked whether the Government would accept or reject the amendment made to the legislation by the Opposition in the Senate. It was not until I walked into this place just now, even though I received that phone call at 10 o’clock this morning, that I learned from the Minister or any member of his staff what the Government’s attitude would be.
– It is a diabolical plot; I can see that.
-It is not a diablolical plot at all because you do not have the intellectual capacity to concoct one. It is just sheer blank, arrant discourtesy. If the Minister wants co-operation from the Opposition, he had better learn how to behave himself as a Minister, to conduct himself in this House as a Minister, and not to ride roughshod over the Opposition which at all times wants to co-operate with him in the passage of important social legislation. This is not the sort of matter on which the Minister can score cheap political points off the Opposition. He wins no marks for not telling me until I walked into the House what his attitude would be.
How the devil the Minister possibly expects to win any sympathy with this action I do not know. Every welfare organisation with which I have spoken has supported the stand on this matter by the Opposition in asking for an extension of the Act for another 2 years. The Minister flies in the face of that support Does he fly in the face of it simply because the amendment was suggested by the Opposition? Is it true- I propose to ask him this question tomorrow and give him the opportunity of telling another untruth as he did today at question time- that the advice from his Department was that the Opposition’s amendment should be agreed to? I have it on information that that was the advice from his Department. Why is he refusing it?
Let us look at the situation. This Bill transfers entitlements to welfare organisations running aged persons hostels as distinct from aged persons’ homes. The hostel is very valuable for the accommodation of the aged who do not need the full facilities that aged person’s homes may have. It is good legislation, and I said that, but for the organisations to get their entitlements under this Bill they must do deals with other organisations. For example, the Brotherhood of St Laurence may have an entitlement to provide a certain number of beds under the legislation relating to aged persons homes. For some reason or other that organisation may not wish to take up that entitlement. It may be going into some other field of endeavour, some other charitable or philanthropic work. It might not have the funds to meet its full entitlement. It might already believe that it has enough entitlement and wish to unload some of that entitlement under this procedure to another organisation.
Let us assume that the Salvation Army, or one of the many philanthropic activities of the Catholic Church or the Jewish fraternity wanted that entitlement. It would need to go to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, in the case of my example, negotiate for the transfer of the entitlement, go to an architect and engineers to have some plans drawn for its aged persons hostel, have the work costed and tenders called and then somehow raise the appropriate amount of money it needed to do that work. Does the Minister seriously suggest that that all can be done by September of next year? It cannot be done. Nobody in any of the welfare organisations with whom I have spoken says that it can be done.
With respect to the example that I quoted, in the State of Victoria a public appeal cannot be held unless the organisation wishing to undertake the appeal is slotted into a month by the Hospitals and Charities Commission. Therefore, if an approved organisation in Victoria wanted to raise a public appeal next year for the purposes of this Act, it simply could not do it. It would be breaking the law to conduct a public appeal next year in Victoria to raise funds for the purposes of this legislation. What organisation will commit itself to the expenditure of architects’ fees and engineers’ fees to prepare plans for an aged persons hostel when it has no guarantee, as the Minister has just said, that the legislation will continue.
The Minister just said, and put doubt into the minds of all welfare organisations, that perhaps this working committee of inquiry will recommend against the extension of this Act. Sir, have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous as to put up that kind of proposition, that is, to recommend against the extension of the Act? The Minister said, with that great logic of which he is always capable, that there are 2 things that the committee of inquiry might recommend. The committee might recommend that it be extended or the committee might recommend that it not be extended. I would have thought that there were only 2 possibilities in this area. We are appalled at this judgment. We realise that the Minister is being obstructionist and is prepared to hold up this legislation. We are not. For that reason we very reluctantly say at this stage that we will not divide on this Bill although we criticise the Minister for his pig-headedness, his obstinacy and the way in which he is being obstructionist in regard to what we believe to be a thoughtful and constructive amendment suggested by the Opposition and carried by the Senate.
Amendment disagreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
That Mr Daly, Mr Nicholls and the mover be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate.
-On behalf of the Committee appointed to draw up reasons for the House disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate, I bring up such reasons. (Thereupon the Clerk read the reasons as follows):
Because the present Act has a further year to run and if it is desirable to consider extending the Act’s period of operation, next year would be a more appropriate time, after the report on the currently conducted inquiry into aged persons accommodation programs has been received and considered by the Government.
Motion ( by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
That the Committee’s reasons be adopted.
Debate resumed from 21 November on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this Bill; in fact, the Opposition supports it. The Bill is an extension of the policy propounded by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and an extension of the policy outlined by the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), in his well known Australia Day address on Aboriginal welfare. Under the sub-heading ‘Land Off Reserves’ he said:
There are many Aborigines in Commonwealth territories living outside Reserves, some of whom belong to recognisable communities or groups.
The Government -
That is, the McMahon Governmentdesires to give them the opportunity of access to specific areas of land to use and develop for economic and social purposes.
We intend therefore, as opportunity offers, to acquire properties off Reserves for this purpose.
The Liberal-Country Party Government of the day undertook to provide some $Sm then and further grants of at least $2m in the two following years. It should be noted that the provisions of the present Bill are the same as those proposed 3 years ago except that as time has passed and in the light of experience the $5m that was considered appropriate for the first year has been extended to the present date. The Bill provides for very few things that are different from the original proposals and I will discuss very briefly just four matters. Clause 5 (3) contains a provision which is different from that contained in many Bills that this Government chooses to bring before this House and that is why I mention it. It requires the proposed Commission to report upon ministerial directives. I commend this procedure to the Government as one that it ought to follow in many other matters.
Clause 8 set out the membership of the Commission. There are to be at least 2 Aborigines on it. I support this concept. I believe that it is important that the Aboriginal people should be involved in making their own decisions and that they should be seen to be involved in their own decisions, and that as a result they will feel that what they are doing is of their own people and of their own culture. They should be made to feel that they can hold their heads high in a community that will inevitably remain dominated by the European population.
Clauses 19 and 20 are the principal clauses of this Bill and provide grants and guarantees to the Aboriginal communities. The point that the House should perhaps note about these 2 clauses is that they require the Aboriginal groups to live on the lands for which these grants and guarantees are provided. This is an important provision because it ensures that the proposals will not be abused and this provision also ensures that the Aboriginal people will, in fact, be able to develop as Aboriginal people among their own kind and will have some greater influence over the direction in which they will head. It will increase the chances of their retaining a position in which they can feel proud of their own accomplishments and they can see their own accomplishments. A further provision of this Bill is that the land for which the loan or the guarantee is provided can in no way be encumbered. I support this proposal. Many of the people to whom the loans or guarantees will be made will not be people who are sophisticated in the commercial world. However, I think the House should note that it does have the drawback that the land cannot effectively be used as collateral and limits the way in which the land may be developed and the way in which the enterprises on the land may be developed.
I noted one other thing while researching this Bill. In 1972, the former Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, Mr Howson, said in a second reading speech that the procedures that were to be adopted in a Bill he was putting forward were ironed out in consultation and after discussion with the State Ministers. I think it would be a great thing if this Government were to adopt those procedures of co-operation with the States that were so common, in fact routine, with the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. Like the Aboriginal Land Commission Bill, this Bill provides a further opportunity for Aboriginal communities to acquire land- and it is for that reason that I have chosen to speak on the Bill- so that the Aboriginal population and individual members of it may stand upon their own feet, to do their own thing under circumstances that will not court the so-called white backlash that has been so damaging to the Aboriginal population over the last 18 months.
Five million dollars is not a lot of money but it is important that it be not wasted. It is important that it is not wasted firstly and obviously because it is taxpayers’ money. The taxpayers have the right to expect their money to be used carefully and wisely. It is even more important to the Aboriginal people that the money allocated to them should not be wasted. I should like to quote a few examples from the Auditor-General’s report just as a reminder to honourable members of what could happen and what might happen again. I believe that the Government has seen the error of its ways in these matters. I believe that in fact the management of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will, from here on, be more careful and much tighter. In a submission by the Auditor-General concerning grants made by that Department, he stated:
Further grants had been made to organisations although they had not complied with the obligations arising out of earlier grants.
Even after the Department had been warned by the Auditor-General that its affairs were not in order, it chose to carry on. The Auditor-Genertal stated:
Requests for submission of financial statements were often not specific on the nature of the statements to be submitted or on the time of their submission: follow-up of their submission was inadequate. Further
Some financial statements submitted contained insufficient information.
The Auditor-General ‘s report stated finally:
Action taken by the Department to ensure that satisfactory accounting and financial and administrative controls were operating within organisations receiving (or to receive) grants was inadequately or unduly delayed.
One could go on reciting similar quotations from this report but I will not do so because I believe it would be a waste of the time of the House.
Honourable members have heard these comments before. It is not good enough that a department of this Government should treat the taxpayers’ money so carelessly. More importantly, it is not good enough that it should treat the money of the Aboriginal people so carelessly. It is important that these funds be used in a way which will mostly benefit these people who surely need it.
I am aware of a property in the Northern Territory which was purchased by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs under circumstances with which I am reasonably familiar. I know that the seller of this property received about $800,000 for it. I also happen to know that that was some $300,000 more than he ever expected to receive for the property. In that case the Department was careless with the money of the Aboriginal people. I am also told that so far there are no Aborigines on the property. I should like now to quote from a telegram sent by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. The last sentence of that telegram states:
Widespread dissatisfaction with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs amongst our people. Our views must be taken seriously.
I am not suggesting that this organisation represents all Aboriginal people and that this Government has not a sincere desire to better the Aboriginal people. What I am suggesting is that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been careless and over-adventurous and, as a result, there has been a serious backlash. There has been a backlash firstly, from the white community and, secondly, from the Aboriginal people themselves. I believe that the Government sincerely intends to take notice of the AuditorGeneral’s report because it has serious implications for the Aboriginal people concerned. In supporting this Bill I merely urge the Government to ensure that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs exercises much greater care in the management of its affairs than it has in the past.
-The Opposition supports the Aboriginal Land Fund Bill which derives from an initiative developed in 1971 by the McMahon Government. On 26 January 1972 the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, in an Australia Day statement on Aboriginal policy stated:
Land Off Reserves
There are many Aborigines in Commonwealth Territories living outside Reserves, some of whom belong to recognisable communities or groups.
The Government desires to give them the opportunity of access to specific areas of land to use and develop for economic and social purposes.
We intend therefore, as opportunity offers, to acquire properties off Reserves for this purpose.
Most of the areas outside Reserves have, however, been alienated to other holders for a variety of purposes. But such areas of land do, from time to time, become available for purchase.
When they do, the Government will use Commonwealth funds to make purchases for Aboriginal communities.
To this end the Government has decided to appropriate a sum of $5m for the first year and would contemplate a further $2m in each year for the ensuing 4 years.
The funds allocated for the purchase of land for Aboriginal communities will, with the co-operation of the States, be available for the benefit of communities in the States as well.
So the House will see that the initiative was developed in 1971. It was announced on Australia Day 1972. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) made this comment in his second reading speech:
In addition to recommending that Aboriginal reserves and certain other lands in the Northern Territory should be vested in Aborigines, and that machinery should be ‘set up to enable Aboriginal claims to other lands to be considered, the report recommended that a fund or funds should be set up from which additional lands could be purchased for Aborigines . . . Arrangements proposed in the Bill will formalise existing Government policy and practice in respect of acquisition of land by Aboriginals. Although the former Government did not recognise Aboriginal rights in land, it did recognise the need of many Aboriginals living outside reserves for land to use and develop for economic and social purposes.
He goes on to say that Prime Minister McMahon on 26 January announced a new policy to purchase land outside reserves for Aboriginal communities. It is not exactly true to say that the former Government did not recognise Aboriginal rights in land. In the strict legal sense to which the Minister probably referred it did not but in the Northern Territory at the time that that Government went out of office it had approved 1 10 rights to land or tenures to land or entitlements to land. Of these, 2 pastoral areas had been granted, one at Roper River and one at Port Keats. Two others had been approved but the final details had not been resolved. In order to settle applications from differing groups in the Northern Territory for leases where there was perhaps a conflict between one Aboriginal community and another the former Government set up what is called the Northern Territory Land Board. That Board had a membership of five, two of whom were Aboriginal people who were chosen from the area from which applications came for areas of land. So it was not quite true to say that the former Government did not, as the
Minister has said, recognised Aboriginal rights in land. Indeed we recognised that the Aboriginal tribes and clans in Arnhem Land certainly had unalienable rights to the land in which they lived and on which they hunted. We saw some difficulty in trying to apply this policy off reserves. I am sure the present Government is finding a similar difficulty.
Within the reserves in the Northern Territoryand there are 92,000 square miles of them- we have, I think, one-third of the Aboriginal people. The areas that are encompassed by the boundaries of these reserves were arbitrarily drawn by white legislators. They took no account of the conflicting needs or rights of the Aboriginal clans at all. We always sensed that there would be some difficulty in trying to apply this land rights principle to Aborigines living off reserves. To overcome that problem it was resolved that we should set up a land fund to buy land for Aborigines off reserves both in the Northern Territory and in the States. The Opposition fully approves the establishment of a commission with 5 commissioners, two of whom shall be Aboriginal people. In accordance with the policy of the former Government this Government has adopted the principle of providing 2 members out of the membership of five on the commission to help determine matters of ownership.
The Opposition also would like to draw attention to the fact that a number of properties have already been acquired for Aboriginal groups throughout Australia. The Minister refers to the properties of Willowra and Kildurk in the Northern Territory and Everard Park in South Australia. Interestingly enough, all the properties that the Minister mentioned and indeed most of the properties that have, in fact, been acquired for the Aborigines throughout Australia were the subject of negotiation, if not acquisition, at the time the Labor Government achieved office. I wish to make some remarks to put paid to some of the criticisms and comments that have been levelled at my Party, the Australian Country Party. It has been called a racist party by those whom it suits to call it a racist party. Indeed the Liberal Party has also been called a racist party. In fact, I think the Labor Party has been called racist from time to time by those who want to call it that. But there is a general trend towards trying to overcome this great land problem for Aborigines by most political parties.
It is pleasing to see the Government moving ahead with some of its initiatives and perhaps taking a bolder approach than the former Government did in achieving some justice for the
Aboriginal people. The Opposition also endorses the concept that land vested in Aboriginal corporations cannot be alienated without Government approval. This, of course, will ensure that land acquired will not be disposed of without proper consultation. This is rather important because I am sure that people will appreciate there would not be much sense in setting aside areas for the use and benefit of Aboriginal people, or even purchasing land for them whether it be Everard Park or Willowra Station, to find that in 10 years time, or less than that, those who have purchased the land have sold it to another person or group- it could be a white person- without giving due consideration to the problem of dispossession of the Aboriginal people. I think this is a proper consideration and I commend the Government for having taken it into account.
I want to direct my attention to the unsatisfactory methods of valuation and acquisition of land for Aboriginal communities. When the Opposition Parties were in government they considered the methods that should be adopted for acquiring land under the new fund for the purposes of Aboriginal communities, groups or individuals. Two options were open- the first by using the Lands Acquisition Act and the second by providing funds to Aboriginal groups, trusts, or associations enabling them to buy the land. Clearly, the Government has adopted the second method, which does not provide the protection of the Lands Acquisition Act to either the purchaser or the vendor. The system being employed by the Whitlam Government is conducive to the possibility of vendors raising prices where a private sale is involved. The method adopted by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs throws the door open to possible unsavoury commercial practice and/or bad commercial practice.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has not altogether earned itself a great reputation for being sound in commercial judgment. I refer to the Queensland turtle enterprise which was exposed by Senator Georges and which leaves no doubt as to the Department’s capacity in the field of commercial enterprise. It is due to the option chosen by the Department and the Minister that I have placed on the notice paper a number of questions regarding the purchase of land for Aboriginal communities. I asked the Minister in Question No. 790:
On 6 November I received the following answer
The properties included Kildurk Station, the purchaser being Kildurk Station Pty Ltd, the vendor being Reg Durack and the amount paid being $829,000, walk-in walk-out. Also listed were Willowra Station and Glenairy/Sunnyside in New South Wales. The vendors were Rice Brothers and the amount paid was $ 1 30,000.
I then placed another question on the notice paper as follows:
I emphasise the words ‘valued by private consultants ‘- and that Glenairy/Sunnyside was similarly valued at $125,000, will the Minister obtain, and provide the House with, the Valuer-General’s valuation of these properties at the time of their purchase.
On 20 September the Minister replied as follows:
Here is a situation in which millions of dollars of public funds are about to be spent on the acquiring of land outside the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act, not using the Valuer-General’s valuations but using private consultants. The reply continued:
That might satisfy the Minister but it does not satisfy me. I do not think the Auditor-General was particularly satisfied because the AuditorGeneral ‘s report on Aboriginal Affairs, at page 9, deals at length with Kildurk Station. Although the Department provided some information to try to satisfy the Auditor-General, his comment was thus:
Serious deficiencies existed in the Department’s administrative and financial control over substantial expenditure from the Trust Account. The Department has assured my Office that it is no longer making payments of grants before the moneys are required. Advice has also been received of action taken or proposed to improve the departmental control over the expenditure by organisations, etc., of grants received from the Trust Account. It is a matter for concern, however, that the Department considers it impracticable and unrealistic at this stage to undertake the task of confirming that all grants made in previous years have been expended for the purposes for which they were approved. If the control over grants is to be effective it should be maintained on a current basis.
That does not really cover the question I raised about Kildurk Station. I am documenting this for the purposes of Hansard because I do not like the way things have gone. On 15 October 1974 I placed on notice another question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I want to read it because it remains unanswered. It is question 1306 and reads:
The fifth part of that question is very significant and will need to be answered. It reads as follows:
I will be very interested to see whether there is relationship because we could well see a situation where funds are being provided by the Australian Government to an Aboriginal loans commission fund and purchases or acquisitions are being made on the advice of a valuation tendered by a consultant who we might find is the same consultant responsible for advising the Government or the Aboriginal community as to how that farm, property, land or undertaking shall be run. I think those sorts or things lead not just me but the public and the Auditor-General to run a critical eye over the activities of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I believe that the whole administrative procedure is appalling; it reflects discredit on the Minister, the Department and the Government; and it gives some credence to those Aborigines who seek a royal commission into the Charles Perkins allegations. I do not know whether those allegations are right or wrong, but while the administration of Aboriginal affairs is conducted in this way there will be criticism of it. The Government can spend as many millions of dollars as it likes, but if the department has a smell about its operation, if it can lay itself open to charges of malpractice, it can destroy the value of its intention.
My principal concern is that there appears to be a wish to avoid proper procedures within the departmental structure. If there is to be a statutory authority it is a new ball game, but while the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has a responsibility it must follow proper procedures; it should follow the normal regulations. If land is to be purchased for a Commonwealth purpose, the Department should surely use the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act rather than acquire land at great cost, running into millions of dollars, use consultants to determine the value of that land in the Northern Territory or wherever it might be, and then use the same consultants to advise the Government as to how the land should be utilised after its purchase. It does not look good on the surface. I do not suggest that there is anything wrong below the surface, but it leaves the doors open for incriminations and allegations, and I do not think that it protects the public coffers as well as it should and I do not think that it protects the Aborigines from abuse.
Certain procedures have been designed to prevent the Government from paying prices that are too high for properties for Aborigines outside reserves, and this House is entitled to know whether the amounts of public money expended to buy Willowra, Kildurk Station in the Northern Territory, Everard Park in South Australia and Panther Downs in Western Australia accord with the values of the properties as assessed by the Valuer-General or the Government’s valuers. If more was paid for these properties than the valuation imposed upon them by the Valuer-General, we are entitled to know why. Unless the Minister is able to assure the House that the prices paid were no more than the values assessed by the Government’s own valuer, then there is a clear case for a royal commission.
It is these sloppy approaches to the administration of Aboriginal affairs that hastens me to caution the Government against taking over the administration of Aboriginal affairs from the States. I know that there are problems in the States, but I do not think that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is ready or is in any shape or form to try to take over responsibility for Aboriginal people in Queensland or New South Wales or South Australia or Western Australia. It has not been able to achieve its targets. It has not been able to free itself of all sorts of allegations and charges in areas where it has direct responsibility. So before expanding its areas of responsibility the Department needs to put its own house in order. Then, having done that and having gained the expertise that it would require, that would be time enough to think about taking over the administration of Aboriginal affairs in Queensland or elsewhere. Having said that, we support the Bill in the hope that action will be taken to tighten up the sloppy procedures in land purchase and to clean up the whole shoddy business.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will take shortly the points that have been raised by the honourable members for Moore (Mr Hyde) and Gwydir (Mr Hunt). However, I think it is important that we recognise the significance of this piece of legislation for the Aboriginal people of Australia. It is one of the most significant steps so far been taken to place the Aboriginal people in a close relationship to the land which they once owned, from which they were driven and to which we now want them to return in a new relationship. I do not think we can overlook the significance of the land to the Aboriginal people. I suppose we are all addicted to the same sentiments and emotions when we think of the plot of land where we were born or where we lived or which is part of ourselves. But we are accustomed to shifting from place to place as opportunity occurs, acquiring and disposing of land as private property. Of course, to the Aboriginal people land was not private property, it was a part of their very being. They belonged to the land more than the land belonged to them. I think it was Mr Justice Blackburn in his deliberations on the Yirrkala case who put it in those terms. So until we have resolved the question of the relationship of the Aboriginal people to the land itself it is pretty much a fruitless exercise to try to resolve the question of the Aboriginal people in relationship to this community. There is a lot more involved in it than a simple question of whether the books were right, whether the valuations were correct or whether the procedures followed were in accordance with the book. I agree with the honourable member for Gwydir that it is important that all those things be done, but in our evaluations over the last few years, including those of the administrators of the system during the time in office of my predecessors, we have had to regard the situation of the Aboriginal people themselves in relation to the land. The Government does accept the fact that the Aboriginal people have a title to their land in this country. It is not certain exactly how that title ought to be spelled out in the long term. That is a difficulty that baffled its predecessors. It is a difficulty which we recognise, but we will find away.
There is the simple problem of the definition of the land itself- whether it is to be leasehold or freehold or something else, and of course in relation to the Aboriginal people it has to be something else. The ordinary terminology of the society from which we have inherited all our beliefs will not apply as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned, and this Bill is perhaps a small step in the direction of placing the Aboriginal people of Australia in a more direct and, in our terms, proprietary relationship with the land. Those issues which have been raised here this afternoon, those properties that have been nominated, are all part of that step. In some ways it is going to be simple enough to acquire land. It is available, and there are Aboriginal people living on it. We can deal with that, but we still have to resolve the question of the relationship of the Aboriginal people to the land in the great metropolitan areas of Australia and other areas in which they have been dispossesed. So although this is an important step and although it is a fairly substantial sum of money which the Government is proposing to allocate- $5m a year over the next 10 years- it is still only part of a step towards the solution to the problem of the Aboriginal people ‘s occupation of the land.
Since I entered this Parliament the question of the Aboriginal people and the land has been one of the bedevilling features of Australian politics. It was the cause of great unrest for the Aboriginal people in Yirrkala and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs has just reported on the situation there. Ten years ago the previous Government made decisions about the usage of the land which totally disregarded the rights of the people in Yirrkala, and now those people are reaping the whirlwind that arose from the decisions.
Perhaps I should refer to some of the issues that have been raised here this afternoon. The honourable member for Moore had some criticisms to offer about the way in which the Aboriginal Land Fund has been administered, and my colleagues on the other side of the House have continuously used terms such as the honourable member for Gwydir just usedsloppy administration, disgraceful exercises, non-recognition of appropriate procedures and so on. I feel that some of those criticisms ought to be answered. Some of them, of course, the Government acknowledges, but it would not be appropriate for me this afternoon to refer to those things that are presently before the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Accounts. There is one point, of course, that the honourable member for Moore raised about the negotiations of communities who have acquired land to obtain funds to develop it. Of course it is true that there are not going to be negotiations on a mortgage basis of borrowings or loans from the normal financial institutions. But we have the Aboriginal Loans Commission which will be able to overcome that. So we are going to place the communities in a position where finance is available.
The honourable member for Moore mentioned the Auditor-General’s report and quoted some matters from it. Those of us on both sides of this House who have been involved in the general administration of Aboriginal affairs will recognise the enormous difficulties involved in launching programs throughout Australia for hundreds of communities, many of which are dispersed in the most remote parts of Australia, and often having to do so with administrative machinery which is totally inadequate. One of the things we have inherited is the inadequacy in many ways of the administrative systems to tackle new situations. It has taken a long while for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to get itself launched as a going concern. Of course, we have to rely upon other institutions- the State governments, the municipalities and the rest- to act for us.
I do not agree that there is any future in waiting for co-operation from the State governments. Some of them have co-operated; some of them have not. I believe that the present State governments, particularly those in the 4 non-Labor States, are guilty of a conspiracy against the Australian Government in an attempt to strangle any efforts it is making to carry out the policies upon which it was elected. In some situations it is almost impossible even to get to the negotiating table. There is no future for the Aboriginal people or for the Australian Government in waiting for action in some of these areas by people in the State governments. I do not believe that we are going to get anywhere in waiting for them. The strictures in the Auditor-General’s report upon various areas of Aboriginal administration, particularly by Aboriginal organisations, are fair enough. Those of us who are involved in Aboriginal affairs would recognise, as I did when I took over the Ministry, that one of the great difficulties was going to be how to administer a situation in which many of the people involved would not have at their disposal proper administrative systems without becoming too much of a big brother.
I come to the issues that have been raised by both the honourable member for Gwydir and the honourable member for Moore about the purchases of properties. I recognise their sensitivity to the idea that the Aboriginal people of Australia ought to own property that has been occupied by others for so long. Several questions have been asked and several issues have been raised in this respect. I acknowledge the fact that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government did take steps to establish a land fund and set acquisitions in train. Some of them were done through the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act and some of them were initiated along the lines which have been followed by the present Government.
What is the situation at present? Let us take the question raised by the honourable member for Gwydir and, I presume, the honourable member for Moore of the purchase of Kildurk Station in the Northern Territory. I was the Minister at the time. The proposition concerning the purchase of the property was placed before me by departmental officers with a great deal of experience in the field. As has been pointed out in the various answers to questions about it the valuations had been received from reputable firms. I am not quite sure which firm was involved on that occasion, but one of the firms with which we dealt at that time was the Australian Agricultural Consultancy and Management Co. Pty Ltd. It would be folly for a person such as myself to say that he is an expert in that field, but the technique was to contact the appropriate government section and find out what it felt about it. If a property were on offer in other areas closer to home such as Melbourne, Brisbane or somewhere like that, we would get the valuation done by the appropriate department- the Department of Services and Property- and unless the value and the sale price or the offering price were within the general margin the purchase would not proceed.
I understand that Kildurk Station is one of the historic properties of the north. I also understand that it is probably worth a great deal more now than was paid for it but it is also very important to the Aboriginal people. Some issues involved in this matter transcend the question of pounds, shillings and pence, or dollars and cents. We strongly deny, particularly in the Kildurk case, that there was anything wrong with the procedures that were adopted. In fact an American consortium was attempting to purchase it, and the fact that we purchased it incurred their ire. The consortium wrote to my colleague, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), complaining that it had been pre-empted. If we had waited much longer that property would not have been acquired on behalf of the Aboriginal people, it would have been acquired by a foreign company. Honourable members opposite can talk as they will, but there is no evidence whatsoever that anybody was prepared to take it for less than the amount that was paid. The deliberations and negotiations had been going on for some time. I am speaking now from memory of something that occurred perhaps 18 months ago.
The same situation obtains in relation to the Commeragunga situation. The properties of Sunnyside and Glenairy, I think they are, are adjacent to the Cummeragunga community. There were long term associations between Sunnyside and Glenairy with Cummeragunga. It was essential for that community that the properties be purchased. It has been some time since I visited that area, but the last time I did I certainly obtained a great deal of encouragement from the sight of the pastures and the cattle and what had been done for the community. It is true that we could perhaps use the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act. I personally believe that it is inappropriate even for other purchases by the Australian Government. In many respects its procedures are too slow. It causes great hardship to the people from whom properties are purchased, particularly if any dispute or negotiation is concerned. I want to lay at rest for the time being a matter that has been discussed pretty effectively before the Joint Committee of Public Accountsthe purchase of Kildurk and most of the other purchases.
I believe that the land purchases that have been initiated over the last 2 years have been very important towards establishing a proper morale and a proper right for the Aboriginal people because of this association with the land.
I do not know of anything further that one can say at this stage. The matters that have been raised by honourable members in reference to the Auditor-General’s Report have been debated before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The Committee can produce its report in due course. However I will say this: The consistent assault upon the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as a waste of money is doing a great disservice to the Government’s approach and the approach of the whole of the Australian people to the advancement of the Aboriginal people. I would be the last to say that there had not been administrative errors but in my experience, which now has covered a long time not too many steps have been taken that ought not to have been taken. Not too many steps have been taken in which money has been wasted. During the course of my administration of the portfolio I did everything in my personal power to ensure that when money was paid it was supervised inside the reasonable limits of my not becoming a Big Brother. We have embarked upon an enormous social and administrative enterprise. There have been great miscalculations- for instance, the turtle project in the Torres Strait. It is hard to lay the blame for that on anybody. We inherited it. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) initiated it in good faith as almost a scientific experiment, and it got out of hand. It is certainly not fair to blame the honourable member for Gwydir. I do not know who one can blame. It . was one of those things but we certainly inherited it and I think we have sorted it out.
I think it would be worth while for honourable members to examine land purchases on the ground and to see whether they ought or ought not to be done. The Land Commission and the Aboriginal Land Fund will create a better administrative machinery. My view is- and in many repects I support the honourable member for Gwydir in this- that I would much rather use Government facilities and Government valuation procedures or systems than use private ones. But in some areas government has not been designed to act quickly. In many of these areas, particularly in the emotional context of Aboriginal lands it was important in most cases that the property be acquired. It is not being acquired as a commercial operation. It is being acquired for the Aboriginal people. I hope that this legislation will establish a more effective piece of machinery so that we can be assured that in the future no errors are made. Certainly, in regard to the properties that have been nominated this afternoon in the House, I deny that any of those were not worth getting, ought not to have been bought or that anybody was overpaid for them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bryant) read a third time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to correct the record of the House following a statement that I made at question time. In reply to a question during question time I referred to the standard rate of pension. I said:
For the last quarterly figures available it was in excess of 24 per cent of average weekly earnings -
In fact, I should have included at that point a statement indicating that that was for the quarterly figures available at the time of the increase. A more appropriate way to put that statement would have been to state that for the last quarterly increase available when we increased pensions, the increase was in excess of 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. I regret the error.
Debate resumed from 21 November on motion by Mr Beazley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) and the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
-As the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has observed, the House is dealing with 3 Bills. We have agreed to have a general debate on these cognate Bills. The States Grants (Universities) Bill, which deals with amendments to the States Grants (Universities) Act, occasions no disapproval from this side of the House. In simple terms, the Bill takes cognisance of the fact that inflation is still with us, like the poor, and the Government is seeking to heed that simple fact. The Opposition supports it. That Bill can be put to one side and those honourable members who interest themselves in the debate are, of course, at liberty to roam far and wide over the field of university activities.
The second Bill, the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill, similarly can be despatched within a short space of time. However, before I deal with it may I put this to the Minister The
Minister, in my long association with him, is, both by instinct and by practice, a most courteous man. Therefore, I am somewhat dismayed to observe that questions I had placed on the notice paper of 18 September 1974, relating to colleges of advanced education, have not been answered. I readily concede that the Minister is busy and that a great Department of state is busy -
– I am sorry; I have been overseas.
– I realise that. To that extent, I am at a minor disadvantage in dealing with this Bill because there was information I was seeking regarding the activities of colleges of advanced education. May I say that my instinct, vulnerable as that may be to a great variety of elements and influences, leads me to the conclusion that we have embarked upon a program of cultivating a few too many colleges of advanced education. I am wondering whether the Parliament at some time in the future should not look at this form of activity with a view to ensuring that the taxpayerthat magnificent uncomplaining characteris getting his and her fair share of the money.
– You are not confusing the addition of teachers colleges to this?
-No. 1 assure my friend that I am under no element or influence of confusion whatsoever. The second matter I would like to raise that concerns this Bill is this: One of the sections which the Bill seeks to amend is section 6 of the existing Act. Section 6 of the existing Act provides, amongst other things, that: … for the purpose of carrying out an approved project in connection with the college or colleges, there is payable to the State in which the college is, or the colleges are, situated, for the purpose of financial assistance, such amount (if any) as the Commission approves, but not exceeding . . .
This is where the amendment comes in-
That section is to be amended to provide for what is described as a ‘relevant factor’. The relevant factor is included in the Sixth Schedule to the Bill. May I use a specific case to illustrate the difficulty which I understand could well arise in the administration of the Act as amended. I am looking into the future. Take the college in Queensland, the Brisbane Kindergarten Teachers College, which is mentioned, I believe, in the Second Schedule in the Act. A total grant of $810,000 is to be applied to that College. The way the proposed amendment will work will mean that the amount to be ascertained is so ascertained by multiplying the State’s contribution by the relevant factor for the State. Let us take the position with respect to this specific college. The State of Queensland is advancing $90,000 for this project. Applying the proposed amending Bill as an Act, we find the relevant factor is 5.9458. Exactly how the relevant factor is worked out I am curious to know. However, applying that to the $90,000 one finishes with $535,000 or thereabouts. One is guided by the amendment to section 6 of the Act in terms of the relevant factor. I take it as 5.9 for the sake of convenience, multiplying State’s contribution, this sum of $90,000, by the relevant factor one is limited to the amount I mentioned and one does not get to $810,000.
What I think has happened with respect to the new colleges which have come into the scheme of things is that the person who has drawn the Bill or who gave instructions for the Bill to be drawn has sought to take into account those colleges which did not fit into the full triennium. In the aggregate I concede that the sum of money which will be available to Queensland will not change but I invite my friend, the Minister for Education, to direct his attention to the fact that in some instances one could well find that some anomalies will occur. I am sure the honourable gentleman, if such an anomaly does occur, will respond to it readily and, I am sure, sympathetically. Mr Speaker, they are the 2 short observations I want to make about two of the Bills. My observations relating to the third Bill dealing with technical education will be a little more elaborate. I suggest, as a consequence, that this may be a convenient time to suspend the sitting of the House.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had dealt with 2 of the 3 Bills which the House is considering in a cognate debate. One of the Bills deals with universities, the second deals with colleges of advanced education and I now turn to the third Bill, which in my respectful opinion is the most substantial of the 3 measures, namely, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill. I move:
At first blush that may seem to be a rather ungenerously worded amendment. This Bill seeks to expend some $89m in an 18 months period from July 1974 up to and including June 1975. 1 can understand honourable members on the Government benches saying: ‘What a curious response to give to the expenditure by the Commonwealth of such a vast sum of money on technical education’. I am bound to describe this Bill as being utterly unique in the parliamentary history of this country. Never before has a Bill containing some 32 clauses been introduced holding within it some 43 ministerial discretions. I want to say without any sense of offence that the person who gave the instructions for the drawing of this Bill, I hope, will be identified because he is deserving of some measure of immortality at least in terms of having a wax effigy made of him and for that effigy to be stuck in Madame Tussaud ‘s waxworks.
It is a most extraordinary Bill indeed. I am bound to say to the House that the technique which lies behind, first the giving of instructions for the drawing of this Bill, and second, the purpose in the drawing of it, is a technique before which I bow with unfeigned admiration. I would not have thought it possible that any one person would have had such an infinite respect for Parkinson’s Law or for the manner in which the whole edifice of bureaucracy is constructed that he could have combined all these qualities and put them into one Bill. But here it is; it has been achieved. For a paraphernalia of this description to be created and to be passed through this Parliament without complaint would mean that the Parliament of the country had lost its capacity to protest. I would hope that every newspaper editor in this country and every person who has anything at all to do with technical education in this country will get hold of the Bill and will examine it by day and meditate upon it by night. I would say that after the third or the fourth day their sense of resentment will be well and truly accumulated.
Let me describe to the House what sort of a Bill we are dealing with. We are dealing with a Bill that provides for 8 categories of grant. I will deal with three of them for a start. Grants will be made for major building projects, minor building projects and student resident projects. Grants made for each of these projects in the first instance are to be subject to ministerial approval of the project. When the Bill talks about ministerial approval of the project, it is not talking about some State Minister; it is talking about the Federal Minister. The basic assumption in the Bill is that either by dint of environment or by geography a measure of political infallibility can come to Canberra but cannot go anywhere else in the State. I do not yield to any person in this Parliament, or indeed outside it, in my desire to see created a proper sense of national priority. But for the Government to trot in here with a BUI of this character and to expect us to accept it in a manner of infinite docility- all I can say is that it has lost command of its cerebral processes.
But I come back to the 3 types of projects. Let me take the first one, which is concerned with major projects. Such projects are controlled by dint of clause 5, which reads:
For the purposes of section 6, the Minister may approve major building projects . . .
First of all the Minister’s approval of the major project has to be obtained and then, after having approved of it, the Minister under clause 6 may approve of the moneys for the project to be paid to the State. Under the Schedule some $28m-odd is to be made available. Then we come to minor building projects. People may well say: ‘Why should you get so fussed up about this?’ Let us look at the definition of a ‘minor building project’. It means a building project other than a student resident building project that does not involve the purchase of land- that is intelligible- and the estimated cost of which does not exceed $40,000. Also included in that category are items of equipment costing more than $2,000. I ask my friend the Minister for Education whether he really knows what sort of burden he proposes to shoulder under legislation of this character.
– He does not mind. Look ‘ at me, writing letters all the time.
– Yes, indeed; to look at the Minister is to sweep one into a sense of acute dismay.
– How did you vote on the leadership last Wednesday?
– Curiosity has always consumed the Minister; it will yet destroy him. Under this legislation the Minister could have put before him for consideration the purchase of a small lathe costing $2, 100 for the town, for example, of Barcaldine in central western Queensland- a town the name of which the Australian Broadcasting Commission insists on mispronouncing. The Minister has to approve of that purchase. Why should a Minister shouldering the administrative burdens of a great department of State have to concern himself with that sort of responsibility? But having made the decision, what can the Minister then do? Pursuant to a further clause in the Bill he may revoke or vary the project. What an incredible business. Why? No explanation is given. There is not one syllable of justification given in the Minister’s second reading speech for such a sweeping indulgence in ministerial discretion.
But then again, in respect of student resident projects -
– Ha, ha.
– ‘Ha, ha’ says the Minister for Labor and Immigration who has recently returned from his jaunt abroad. The Minister for Education approves a project. Then he may approve the payment to the States. There is a total of some $4m in the aggregate. I want to say this to the Minister The 3 categories of project are all subject to a number of conditions, and these are governed by clause 1 1 of the Bill. Under clause 11 if the Minister forms the opinion that the moneys have been applied with undue delaythe language of the Bill provides ‘without undue delay’ or that the State has not furnished to the Minister a certificate of an authorised person- he can turn round and say to the State: ‘In my opinion’- listen to this for a form of legislative impertinence impossible to believe- ‘a condition has not been fulfilled’. After having determined that the Minister can turn round and determine what sum of money is to be repaid by the State to the Commonwealth government.
I invite the Minister- I invite him to use all the paraphernalia at his disposal and at the disposal of the Government- to produce one other comparable example of a debt being incurred by dint of ministerial discretion. I would have thought that if a State had not spent the money that would be a question of fact and not of ministerial discretion. If the State had not spent the money the Minister would have been able to make appropriate moves for its recovery. Clause 1 1 in its present form reads: . . . if the Minister informs the Treasurer of the State that he is satisfied that a condition applicable under paragraph (d) or paragraph (e) - which are the preceding paragraphs in clause … has not been fulfilled, the State will repay to Australia such sum as the Minister determines -
– Hear, hear!
– It is unbelievable. I am delighted to see that the Minister for Labor and Immigration has such boisterous enthusiasm for such a curious proposal. No doubt the Minister’s display in this matter will confirm the suspicion that a number of us on this side have, and that is that the Minister has a fancy to indulge in erraticism
I come now to that part of the Bill which deals with grants which are made available, namely grants for recurrent expenditure. To work one’s way through the manner in which conditions descend down over this system can only be described by me as unbelievable. Clause 13 regulates the manner in which these grants are to be paid. Interestingly enough, there is no discretion given to the Minister with respect to the payment of grants for recurrent purposes. But there is a host of conditions. For example, the application must be made within 6 months. Mention is also made of ‘a certificate of an authorised person’, moneys to be spent and the furnishing of information by the State to the Minister as required, and never mind about its relevance. Further, if the Minister is not satisfied that one of those conditions has not been fulfilled what does he do? He writes to the Treasurer and says: ‘My dear Sir Gordon Chalk -
- Sir Gordon Chalk. He is the Treasurer of the State of Queensland. The Government of that State will have a resounding victory next Saturday.
Then there is the category for certain programs for particular purposes. Again one finds a curious legislative formula which is invoked here. Funds may be transferred from this area of activity to another area. In my opinion, these funds could well become subject to the conditions now existing in clause 13.
I hustle on, not that I would not enjoy going through each of these clauses with what I have described as customery Irish patience; but I take the last 3 categories, which are the teacher training program, special projects and planning projects.
– Whoever accused the Irish of patience?
– I am delighted to find at long . last the Minister would make a confession which would be marginally in my favour. Again, these 3 categories are controlled by conditions. I say this to the Minister: We have, I hope, in a gentlemanly and I would like to think in a genial fashion for nearly 20 years exchanged views on one another’s political affinities. But I say further to the Minister, out of sheer personal solicitude, that if he were to seek to administer this legislation as is proposed, I venture the view that we will be attending a State funeral within 6 months, such will be the physical burden which will be thrust upon him. For the life of me, I cannot understand why it is that Ministers have an anxiety to involve themselves in the minutia of day to day administration.
My friend may well say: ‘That is not my desire. That is the intention of the Government. There is a power of delegation in the Bill ‘. That is nothing to the point. I ask the honourable gentleman: Why is there this enthusiasm to adopt the assumption that all virtue is to be found in Canberra? What is wrong with saying to the States: ‘Here is the money. We ask of you, please, that you produce to us every 12 months a report as to how you have spent the money’. Then, the Minister can attach the conditions. You, Mr Speaker, if I may with respect say to you with your immense practical experience in these matters, I am sure would agree with me that this would be the desirable thing to do. But to give to the Minister the responsibility of this enormous administrative detail and burden seems to me to be completely unnecessary. It is to take a very curious view as to how the national Parliament should legislate. I would hope that the Government would reflect on what is involved here and I hope that the Government would consider- I say this seriously- withdrawing the Bill and providing a scheme whereby grants are made to the States and there is a requirement on the States to furnish to the Minister every 12 months a report on what they have done with the money.
It is perfectly true, and I suppose it is one of the paradoxes of political history in this country, that the person who pioneered the emancipation of the grants power was a man who at one time or another in his life stood at this despatch box and at another time- for 16 years- stood at the despatch box on the other side of the table. That was Sir Robert Menzies. In the roads grants legislation in the 1920s, he argued in the courts that grants should not be given subject to conditions. The emergence of Sir Robert from that debate was of course one of the illuminating features, one of the great features, of constitutional history. One then comes onto 1942 when Sir John Latham in the uniform tax case uttered words to this effect in his judgment: ‘If in an Act providing for money to be granted to the States, the Commonwealth Government provides that conditions are to be observed, the resolution of those conditions is not a matter for the Courts; it is a matter for the political arena’.
This is where the Government and the Opposition part ways on this matter. We say that it accords with commonsense, we say that it accords with the spirit of this country, that grants should be given not subject to an infinite array of conditions and not subject to great powers put at the disposal of the relevant Minister. Grants should be given on this basis: ‘Here is the money, we have the power. We are prepared to ask of you but one thing and that is that you will come back here every 12 months and tell us how you have spent the money’. This is the argument I put to the Minister and to the Government.
The last thing I want to say is that the Opposition ‘s amendment seeks not to defeat the Bill as such. The Opposition welcomes the initiative that has been taken in seeking to stimulate interest in this country in technical education and in the creation and the achievement of technical skills. For far too long we have put too much emphasis upon university education and I fear that we have as a consequence roused in Australia something of an intellectual snobbishness in respect of skills. I do not want to give away too many trade secrets as to the basis of my political survival, but if I want to know what is happening in the country the man to whom I go to ask how people are thinking and what they are feeling is the tradesman. It would be a great pity if we ever have that state of mind that only those who have been to a university have the capacity to understand. We would desert, in my view, one of the great traditions of this country and that is that those who work with their hands also work for this country and that those who work with their hands and their minds work very much in its cause.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I welcome the opportunity of participating in this debate tonight. I am pleased that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) added the last words because at least one could agree with the last few sentences of his speech. I will refer later to the amendment that has been moved. I want now to concentrate my remarks on what has been described correctly by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as the Cinderella of education in this country; that is technical and further education. I want to make only passing reference to the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) and the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill. I will not wander far and wide as the honourable member for Moreton suggested Government members may well do. I want to make some pertinent observations about these Bills because they take into account the rises in costs that have occurred. It is proposed that amendments to the principal Act will be made each Budget session to take account of cost variations and that this will be done by the use of indexes based on the actual change in costs, whether it be in respect of salaries, building costs or the like. Honourable members will recall that already we have done this by way of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Karmel Committee to take account of university and advanced education. Honourable members will be aware of the second and third recommendations in the report that was tabled today prepared by the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education and I am certain that the Government will follow them up. I suggest to the House that if there is any evidence needed that this Government gives education top priority these 2 Bills, together with the extra money provided under the States Grants (Schools) Bill that was debated some time ago, provided it.
It is not an insignificant amount that is provided under these Bills- $47m for advanced education and non-government teachers’ colleges and an extra $51m for universities, making a total of $98m. The importance of these 2 Bills should be looked at in relationship to the Government’s total welfare program- schemes such as the Australian Assistance Plan, community health centres, child care, recreation and the like. But the very success of these programs depends on an adequate flow of trained personnel. In these Bills increased funding is provided for the training of personnel for these programs. We note that in the Bills there is an increased amount for the training of dental therapists, social workers and physical education teachers. There are also grants for teaching and research into community practices, social work and special education.
As I indicated earlier, I want to concentrate my remarks on the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill.’ I am personally delighted that the Whitlam Government has taken this initiative. I see it as the most important piece of legislation which is being commenced this financial year in the field of education. There is no doubt in my mind that technical and further education has been the neglected area in the field of education. In my own electorate the Dandenong Technical College is doing excellent work but under the most appalling conditions. I know that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) will recall that when he visited the Dandenong Technical College he saw the proliferation of portable classrooms- I think there were about 16 of them- in which post-secondary work was being done. I am encouraged to find that this urgently needed extensive building program is likely to get the green light. I know that it is a large program that may well cost in the nature of $4m. I am particularly pleased that it is the Whitlam Labor Government which is providing the $4m which is needed so desperately in that area not only to allow the college to continue its excellent work but also to give it the conditions in which to expand that work.
I want to speak briefly on the Kangan report, which I would remind the honourable member for Moreton was tabled as long ago as April this year. It has been available for a long while. We have had the opportunity to look at it carefully. This was a landmark in the field of technical education. One can compare it, I believe, with the Karmel report and the place it had in relation to schools. The Kangan report provides what was desperately needed, that is, an over-arching report on the whole of the field of technical and further education.
There are a number of reasons why I see the report as being of such importance. In the first place, it supports my own philosophy of education. I see education as a process commencing at birth- some would say earlier- and continuing throughout life. I believe that too often people look at education only in terms of the formal aspects- primary, secondary and tertiary. Too often we compartmentalise education; we place it in little boxes. What is needed is increased flexibility in our education system. For example, it is my belief that many young people would do much better to leave school at fifteen years of age than to continue. I say that with a good deal of experience in schools. The proviso I would make would be that they can get back into the education stream later. In the past this has been difficult, but increasingly we are breaking down the barriers. One of the things that I would commend is that an increasing number of adults are attending our secondary schools. Of course the technical colleges have been doing this sort of work and have been providing an alternative choice in the field for a number of years.
I would like to look at one or two of the conclusions that the Kangan Committee came to. One that I would endorse relates to the matter of alternative choice.
Technical and further education has too often been thought of as something different from a tidy mainstream of education- primary, secondary and tertiary. The proper perspective for the fourth quarter of the twentieth century is for technical and further education to be seen as an alternativeneither inferior nor superior- to the other stream of education, but so organised as to enable interchange without personal disadvantage.
In an earlier conclusion it stresses the importance of unrestricted access to education.
There should be unrestricted access to assessments of knowledge and skills for the purpose of gaining formal qualifications, irrespective of where or how the individual prepared himself. Entry requirements should be progressively eased.
I would hope that universities and, in some cases, advanced educational institutions would also progressively ease their entry requirements. I would certainly place on record that I believe that the present matriculation or higher school certificate examinations are a totally unsuitable criterion for entry. The technical and further education program is of great importance in that through the implementation of this report it will allow people to plug into the educational stream at whatever position they happen to be in at the present time. They will be able to learn either a particular skill or to broaden their general education. It will allow adult students- either by part time, full time or external studies- to learn at their own pace and at such times as is convenient to them. I endorse the approach of the Kangan Committee where it states that technical and further education should develop the general education of individuals as well as providing them with specialised skills. Remembering that we live in a world of rapid technological change, it is in this way that people will become confident to meet change because the breadth of their education will enable them to cope with this change and fit them for alternative employment.
I should like briefly to turn to the details of the Bill. The Bill provides for an appropriation of $89m spread over a 2-year period, from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1976. But this, of course, is not the full amount to be spent on technological and further education by this Government. An amount of $7.2m has been previously appropriated under technical training legislation but is unspent by the States. There is $3.45m that has been made available to the Australian Capital Territory for this work. A sum of $250,000 is being made available for research. I think I can foreshadow that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) will be moving an amendment in relation to the $ 1 8.8m that is mentioned in the report that was tabled today. The sum of $ 18.8m has been calculated as necessary for additional fee reimbursement. I believe that provision for this amount will be moved in an amendment later. That will make a total expenditure of $1 19m. It needs again to be stressed that the action of the Australian Government, in providing these additional funds to upgrade technical and further education through this national program rests on the assumption that the States efforts in financing this area of education will be maintained.
I would remind the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) of the fact that we are not saying to the States: ‘Stop your interest in technical and further education’. We are saying: ‘Maintain it at the level of spending and interest as before but, in addition to that, we are providing you with $1 18m over the next 2 years in respect of which you can make your recommendations through your departments to the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education at this stage- later to the Commissionand then the Minister, in some cases, will exercise his discretion’. I should like to stress a couple of points. One of these points was made by the Minister, in his second reading speech, when he said: … we see considerable economies being effected if what are basically educational buildings are so designed that they are suitable for other uses.
I stress the importance of the multi-purpose design and use of buildings and equipment, whether it is in schools, post-secondary institutions or tertiary institutions. I believe that in this way we will ensure the integration of community and educational needs. As one who has worked in schools I have been horrified to see buildings used for some 30 to 35 hours a week and lying idle for the rest of the time. However, I hasten to add that when I drive around the city in which I live and when I pass the technical college I notice that it is a hive of activity every week night.
Then there is the proposal in the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill to set aside $56,000- not a large amount- for distribution among those States which wish to develop proposals for community colleges. I am aware of excellent work which is being done at present by the Darwin Community College. Almost by definition these colleges will vary in nature and scope in order to meet particular community needs. Their purpose is to provide a wide range of courses which could include courses to enable adults to make good deficiencies in their primary and secondary schooling. They could also provide courses at diploma level which are in demand by the community. I am pleased to note that the Bill takes account of the Committee’s report which places emphasis on setting aside current expenditure grants for stimulating qualitative improvements by initiating a wide range of innovative measures. These specific grants for which the States will be expected to submit specific projects for approval include grants for the development of proposals for community colleges, as I have just mentioned. There are a number of other proposals. I believe that one important proposal is the provision of $2.4m which is set aside for in-service teaching staff development.
In conclusion I say- I know that this disappointment is shared by a number of honourable members on this side of the House- that there is disappointment that we find it impossible to introduce legislation at this time to establish a technical and further education commission. I think the reason for this is fairly evident to honourable members; it is the pressure of parliamentary business. However, it should be made clear that the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education- the Richardson Committee as it is now known- will do the work which will later be undertaken by the commission. This Bill provides the States with money for work in this field. State governments have known for some time that this money would be forthcoming. I submit that the onus is now on the State governments adequately to plan how to spend this money so that the bold new initiatives outlined in the Kangan report can become a reality in the next 2 academic years. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I rise to speak to this series of 3 Bills, namely, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill, States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) and States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill. These Bills deal with tertiary education. I must refer to comments made by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow). He stated that we were providing certain things for the States. I refer him to Sir Robert Menzies, to whom the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who is at the table, referred. When Sir Robert Menzies introduced the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill he stated:
The Commonwealth has invited the States to put forward specific proposals under which the Commonwealth and the States will share the capital and recurrent costs of advanced education.
I have searched the second reading speech of the Minister for Education on this matter in vain to find reference to co-operation with the States. I believe that in the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill there is no reference which indicates that the States will be considered in their former role and in the guidelines which were laid down by Sir Robert Menzies. In dealing in particular with colleges of advanced education I should like to refer to the definition that I found in the Library. It reads:
The work of the technical colleges would be distinguished by being tertiary in standard, vocational in direction, and practical in orientation. It would normally be post matriculation, 3 years in duration, leading to the award of a diploma, with the possibility of extension for a fourth year to take the student to degree standard.
It reads further.
As well as colleges of advanced education providing a variety of courses, there are specialist colleges such as agricultural colleges, music and arts schools, and colleges of nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
I wonder at times when visiting colleges of advanced education exactly where they are heading. I have a feeling, and I know the Minister must be aware of this- it is evident in some colleges- that the colleges are looking forward to promoting themselves to the standards of universities. In fact some of them have even tried to offer degrees to their diplomates
– Many of them offer degrees.
– Yes, in name it is called a degree; some of them will not call it a degree course. I think this is justified because these colleges were established as an intermediate type of educational body, although at a tertiary level, that would provide the community with technologists and specialists, not at the level of a university but at an intermediate level.
I notice the Bill refers to the Nepean College of Advanced Education which is situated at present at Westmead. The campus there is now a split campus. The actual activity of the College takes place on the Westmead site, but there are proposals to bring into operation a site at Kingswood which is further west towards Penrith. I feel that this College which has been upgraded from a teachers college is typical of the way that colleges of advanced education have been formed. I think it is very sensible that such an institution can be upgraded in this way. I believe the move to Kingswood has been delayed for some time. The first steps took place somewhere in 1969. 1 suggest to the Minister- I hope is it possible for him to see his way clear to help- that the conditions at the Westmead site must be left behind as soon as possible. There has been much discontent at that site from time to time and in fact we have had some student action in past years owing to the slow upgrading of the Westmead site. Construction has been slow, conditions are difficult and the work is progressing very slowly indeed. However it is hoped that the extra accommodation on the Westmead site, provided by these funds, will rectify this condition. I suggest also to the Minister that work proceed as quickly as possible on the Kingswood site owing to the crowded conditions that will occur at Westmead.
The students attending the college at Westmead are drawn mainly from Parramatta and related areas. Some of them will have to travel many miles to get to the Kingswood site. If this takes place it would seem that with the fall in activity at Westmead there will be scope in that area for the demand that is so obviously there for a college of an advanced type of education. Perhaps there might even be scope for a university. I know that a friend of mine- indeed, a very close friend of the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), his father- has proposed a university at Baulkham Hills a number of times. This area serves quite a large population- something like a quarter of the city area. There will be no tertiary education at that level in the area when the college moves from Westmead. The average age of the community there is about 24 years of age. In fact, 48 per cent of people living in that area are under 24 years of age.
It would seem that as children who are now at primary and secondary schools move on they will be travelling many miles each day to get to centres of tertiary education, whether they be colleges of advanced education or universities. The average population growth for that part of the world is about 1 1.4 per cent per annum. Over an area containing 300,000 to 500,000 people this is a massive increase. The demands for tertiary education in this area are moving very quickly and within the next 10 years- I suggest immediately- planning should start with a view to establishing a university in this area or at least a college of advanced education to replace the one that will be moving to Kingswood.
I note that the Schedule attached to the Bill refers to the Hawkesbury Agricultural College which has been a very honoured college. I know that the staff and the people connected with this famous and historic college have welcomed the proposals and the expenditure that is at present taking place on that site. Many honourable members in this House from New South Walesparticularly Australian Country Party membershad the opportunity of attending the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. Now as a college of advanced education and moving towards the status of a corporate body but still under some control from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, the courses available at that college are broadening, and rightly so. This college is in fact the one that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) completely failed to recognise when he said at Richmond that there was no tertiary education anywhere in that area.
The Hawkesbury Agricultural College is a very important and vital centre with a gifted and guided staff who have proposals- in fact the community requires that these proposals be implemented- for the expansion of the activities of the college. It is ideally sited. It is well served by rail and road. It is closely linked to the rapidly growing western suburbs of Sydney. The courses that the Opposition proposes should be instituted at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College are those connected with a city-country type of environment- those connected with surveying and valuing of land, those connected with the environmental sciences whereby people look at the influence of man on the environment and at the way in which the landscape is affected by the development taking place with the construction of houses. The problems of the fringes could well be dealt with at a college like the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. The environmental sciences could utilise a large part of the facilities already there, taking in such things as soil science and town and country planning, supplemented by things like environmental psychology.
It seems that there is scope too for the sort of course that many of us hold dear, whereby people could learn a trade and learn to make a contribution in the work place, perhaps not at the level of the university but at a level of meeting and finding out from the common man, as the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said, what is really happening in this country. I refer to courses such as truck driving. A young fellow, instead of just gaining his licence to drive a car and then going into a truck of huge capacity and weight, could be taught over a fairly short period the techniques of driving and loading large trucks and of maintaining these very expensive vehicles. I feel sure that the same thing would apply to machines like bulldozers and graders. There is no opportunity anywhere that I know of for people to learn these skills. In fact, I have been told by these young fellows themselves and by their employers that it is most difficult when they begin work using this heavy, expensive equipment. Damage is so easily done and I am sure that the demand for this sort of course- a short course, not a highly technical course but a skilled course- has great merit.
I feel we should look at what sort of courses we are offering young people for the future. The types of courses that are available tend to become more and more specialist and in this way we are getting a race of people- we are breeding a race of students- who in some cases have a very narrow outlook into their specific area of learning. It would seem that the time has come for the pendulum to swing the other way whereby we can train generalists- people who are capable of looking at the all-over scene and are capable of assessing the broad situation- so that having made some sort of a judgment they can say to the specialists: ‘There are the areas we think you should be looking at’. I feel that the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill has been badly drafted. I support the amendment.
-I want to address a few remarks to the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill because it is this Bill that is in furtherance of the Government’s ambition to see technical education raised to a level which has now been reached by primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. In the past, technical education has been greatly neglected by the national government, despite the fact that national governments have for some time spent millions of dollars on universities and colleges of advanced education, and this has led to a feeling of despair among those people of the States who are involved in technical education. I quote from a letter received from the deputy principal of a technical school in Perth. It read as follows:
As one who has been deeply involved in technical education for 20 years and who now sees at last a glimmer of hope that the system may be upgraded and be allowed to do its task more efficiently I ask you to ensure that the TAFE in Australia report is tabled and accepted . . .
He went on to put his full weight behind the report of the Kangan Committee. This is the Bill which implements the recommendations of that Committee. In Western Australia in the 2-year period 1974-75 and 1975-76 this Bill allocates $3.8m for capital expenditure and $3.6m for recurrent expenditure. This compares more than favourably with the figures for the year 1972-73, the last year of the previous Government, when the capital expenditure in Western Australia was a mere $ 1 . 1 m and the recurrent expenditure was exactly nil. When considering these amounts of money it must be remembered that the continuing commitments under previous legislation will continue and, as well as that, the State’s commitment to technical education will be expected to be maintained. It seems to me to be superficially curious that it should be a Labor government that accelerates spending on, and indeed discovers, technical education in Australia because it is true that one of the significant beneficiaries of technical education is industry, inasmuch as it reaps the reward of greater efficiency and greater technical skills among the workforce. However, I hasten to add that the Government does not see technical education in this narrow sense. I quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) wherein he said:
We do not wish to see technical and further education denned in any narrow way, related only to skills required by industry. The definition of technical and further education in the Bill covers the broad range of post-school education, including courses which have a vocational bias in order to meet occupational requirements and also courses which are not necessarily vocational but are designed to meet community needs. The Bill is therefore aimed at meeting national needs for an adequately educated and skilled workforce as well as providing continuing education for the adult population.
Notwithstanding those comments, it is mainly to the needs of trades training and the needs of the skilled workforce that I want to direct my remarks, even though I am aware that the Bill takes great account of the needs of adult education, retraining in conjunction with the national employment and training scheme and also a wide variety of other community needs in terms of further education. Specifically, I direct my remarks to the region associated with the Cockburn Sound industrial area near Kwinana, because nowhere in Western Australia have the needs of technical education been so extensively studied. This area draws on all the local government areas of Cockburn and Kwinana and parts of Rockingham, Fremantle and Melville. It is these areas which provide the vast workforce for the Kwinana industrial area. This area has seen vast expansion over recent years. The population in the local government areas of Rockingham, Cockburn and Kwinana has more than doubled, from 24,000 in 1966 to 49,000 in 1971. It should be remembered that in this industrial area the workforce is employed in very sophisticated industrial activities and the demand for technical education is obviously very great.
Recognising this, in 1971 Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, produced a study which estimated the needs for apprentice training and sub-professional training in the area to the year 1980, depending on various levels of industrial activity. This report revealed that there were great inadequacies in technical education in the region, and as a result of this the Tonkin Labor Government set up the Paterson Committee to look into the needs of technical education in that area. It is worth noting that Mr Paterson, who chaired that Committee and who is the Director of Technical Education in Western Australia, later became a member of the Kangan Committee on Technical and Further Education. The Paterson Committee reported in July 1972, and in its report it referred to the needs of the area as follows:
In planning to meet these emerging demands -
That is, talking about the Kwinana areait is recognised that both industry and technical education have significant roles to fulfil, particularly in the training required for semi-skilled, skilled and technician or middlelevel personnel.
It went on to draw the following conclusions: Firstly that the technical education of part-time and evening students is inadequate in the area; secondly, that too many were required to travel too far; and, thirdly, that the need for a technical school in the area was urgent in terms of the requirements of the population, the industrial development and the interests of the employees. At the present time these technical trainees have grossly inadequate faculties. Most of them who live in the Kwinana region have to travel to Fremantle or to other technical schools closer to Perth. This means that students may be required to travel 15 miles each way to Fremantle, which is 30 miles a day, or 20 miles each way to Perth which is 40 miles a day. Obviously it is ludicrous that the training facilities should be so far from the work place and the residence of the trainees. In this instance most of the trainees live and work in the same area.
If one looks at the case of the part-time student or trainee one sees that he is required to travel long distances for long periods, he is required to take off extra time in order to obtain the training and of course he is required to make a greater amount of effort on his own part. As on-the-job inspections and observations become a more important part of the education process, it is quite ridiculous that the site of the technical school should be so far removed physically from the site of the job. The recommendations of this Paterson report were that a general purpose technical school should be established in Kwinana, and that in its first stage it should provide for training in a wide variety of skills, such as fitting and machining, electrical fitting and installation, boiler making and welding, instrument making, diploma level studies in engineering, mathematics, science, business and commerce, and general studies. It further says that initial planning should commence in August 1972 and that the facilities should be avialable by February 1975. Nothwithstanding the fact that the projections of the Paterson report have not been quite reached in that the expected growth in the number of students in the region has not reached the level which the Paterson report thought it would reach, it is quite clear that there are other factors which have influenced the situation which were not taken into account by that report. For instance, there has been great development in the Pinjarra region. As well as that, the Fremantle technical school has been further burdened with students and it is close to bursting at the seams.
All these factors point to the very urgent need for a technical school to be located in Kwinana. In the face of this crying need the Western Australian Government has said that there are greater needs in other areas and it has decided to shelve for the present the project for a technical school at Kwinana. Indeed, it blames the Australian Government for lack of funds in this area when in fact this is the first Australian Government to contribute in a massive way to the provision by the States of technical education. Whilst I am not going to say that there might not be other regions in Western Australia which have an equally pressing need, it seems to me that there is a great need for work to proceed in the very near future on the construction of a technical school in this region; and if it is not possible to proceed in this 2-year program, I would urge on both the Western Australian and the Australian governments that a technical school in this region be placed high on the list in the next ensuing period, because I think that no region, no area has spent so much time or been so extensively surveyed and studied as has the Kwinana region in terms of trying to establish the need for a technical school. I think that that need has been established conclusively, and I hope that in the very near future the recommendations of the Paterson report will indeed be implemented.
-As previous speakers have pointed out, this cognate debate deals with 3 Bills- the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2), the State Grants (Advanced Education) Bill and the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill. I do not believe that the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) requires any detailed examination, except that I should point out that the Bill, which provides an additional sum of $5 1 m, is necessary not because of an expanded program of capital expenditure but to meet the diminishing purchasing power of the Australian currency brought about by inflation. Huge increases in building costs, in fact the difficulty the building industry is having in meeting the nation’s development programs, combined with escalating administration and salary costs, have drastically reduced the effectiveness of increases in education financing.
However, I wish to turn my attention to the most important of the 3 Bills, that on technical and further education. The report if the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education was tabled in this Parliament in April. It is a most significant report, and I believe that the Committee which submitted it made a serious and non-political attempt to isolate the problems that existed within the Cinderella of education- technical education. Technical education is still regarded as a poor relation when compared with colleges of advanced education or universities, and if one takes into account the support given to it from either the State or Federal governments. There is, I believe, a shortage of technical facilities, particularly in the rural areas, and this shortage creates major difficulties in mounting new courses to meet changing community needs. There is a shortage of accommodation, particularly for the teaching staff, and this is a most common deficiency. There are few opportunities for in-service training. What facilities there are are usually concentrated in metropolitan areas. Every effort must be made, I believe, to assist staff to attend in-service training as a relief from teaching programs.
There is also an obvious need to improve the status of technical aducauon in the eyes of the community, which in the past has tended to regard it as second-class. I was interested to note that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) emphasised the poor conditions that existed in some areas of his electorate. I cannot complain about the poor conditions and facilities that exist in my electorate in the technical schools at Irymple, Swan Hill and Mildura. I am sure that there are no better schools in the Commonwealth. But what I do complain about is the lack of technical facilities throughout the area. All these issues I believe were discussed in the TAFE report, yet tonight we are debating this Bill, which allocates $89.268m to the States over 2 years, when we have not had the opportunity to discuss in the Parliament the recommendations or ramifications of the report from which this Bill has been developed. If I remember correctly, when this report was tabled in the Federal Parliament the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) spoke on it for some 25 minutes and the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) spoke on it for about 8 minutes- not a very long period of time in which to discuss a report of such importance. Are we to assume that every report tabled in this House and the recommendations contained therein are to be accepted without debate or discussion in the public forum?
Other speakers for the Opposition tonight have emphasised the uniqueness of this Bill and the ridiculous conditions and demands that the clauses of this Bill place upon the efficient administration of the expenditure of the money. Duplication of the administrative processes at both the State and the Federal level will be inevitable owing to the unrealistic conditions contained in it- conditions that could easily allow the Australian Government to create a debt for the State governments if in fact the Minister or ‘an authorised person wished to revoke or vary any projects undertaken by a State’. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has fully exposed these clauses. It must surely be beyond the bounds of reason that a Minister or a person authorised by him in Canberra can revoke or vary any proposal relating to the purchase of any items of equipment down to this insignificant cost of $2,000 in connection with any technical or further education processes in any State. I believe that the trends in education must be towards regionalisation and not centralisation.
As this House will have no opportunity to discuss the report of the Committee on Technical and Further Education I would like to make some brief comments on the areas of controversy and deficiency within it. I must say that there quite rightly appears to be a general consensus in agreement with the general principles and recommendations in the report. In essence, the sums recommended by Mr Kangan over 18 months from 1 July 1974 to 31 December 1975 now appear to have been applied to a 2-year period. The three main exceptions to that statement are the capital expenditure grants for land, buildings and design, the disappearance of the possible matching capital expenditure grant and the reduction in the research grant to be administered by the Committee on Technical and Further Education from $550,000 to $250,000. Thus a total of some $89m has been allocated over 2 years to technical and further education in the States compared with the sum of $ 105 m recommended by Mr Kangan over 18 months. The $20m provided in this Bill to the States for fee reimbursement purposes was in continuation of an earlier Government initiative. As this is now to apply over a period of 2 years rather than the projected 18 months some shortages of recurrent funds may result.
-Surely you have read the circular.
-I have read the comment that has been provided in the report by the Committee on Technical and Further Education in which it has recognised this drawback and has recommended to the Government that this matter be rectified.
– Have you not read the amendment?
– I am just going to refer to it now, Mr Minister. The Committee pointed out and drew attention to 2 aspects of the Government’s program which it saw as being of concern within the report. The first is related to the repercussions of the Government’s decision to extend the period of the program from the recommended 1 8 months to 2 years and particularly the effect that this has had on the amount of funds provided for the reimbursement of fees. The second was the general effect of rising prices on the level of grants approved by the Government. I am pleased to agree with the amendment introduced by the Government to rectify the very serious deficiency which did occur in the report and which has now been corrected.
In the light of increasing contributions to areas of post-secondary education, large scale involvement by the Australian Government in the financing of technical education must have appeared inevitable if severe imbalances were not to be induced between tertiary and subtertiary vocational training opportunities and manpower supplies. It could be that the maintenance of a continuing balance and an efficient allocation of resources between the various sectors of higher and further education might require an umbrella co-ordinating commission with separate committees for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges. The level of funds currently recommended for technical and further education, on the report’s own admission, has been largely determined by the States’ ability to organise themselves immediately for the use of the extra money. At present an important intricate factor in the Australian Government’s interest in technical education may be concerned with attempts to ease student entry pressures on more expensive full time universities and colleges of adult education, particularly in the re-channelling of intending tertiary students to para-professional certificate courses.
In failing to relate its own recommendations to the external studies proposal that was formulated by the recent open tertiary education inquiry, the Kangan report may of course not be promoting the efficient use of Australian Government funds in the entire higher and further education field. Although recommendations to hold further inquiries on technical education, teacher preparation, paid study leave, apprenticeship education, trade union education and financial assistance to adult education may have emerged from a genuine lack of sufficient consideration time, it is also true that the current injection of large sums of money might be poorly spent in the long term if technical education’s scope and directions are to alter radically following completion of the special inquiries. In the short term, of course, inquiry delays do limit the extent of Australian Government financial outlays. The May 1974 report on Australian labour market training- the Cochrane report- and developments in apprenticeship training assistance schemes could also greatly increase the pressure on technical and further education systems.
The Kangan report has given scant attention to the effects of these latter possibilities, regarding them basically as matters that the proposed Commission will need to pursue. The committee appears to have placed little stress on the possible contributions by private organisations, such as employers, to technical and further education financial assistance. The report took the view that technical education ought not to involve itself in manpower planning, but should establish systems whereby rapid educational reaction to employment needs could occur. It is nonetheless noteworthy that the Kangan committee neither addressed itself in any depth to national manpower needs and goals, nor encouraged as a matter of prime importance surveys of supply and demand in particular labour market areas, with an eye to maximum efficiency in the use of these funds. Indeed, large scale injection of funds has been recommended for reorganisation and development without apparent regard to detailed manpower priorities, needs and objectives.
The report appears to be deficient in its treatment of migrants’ special problems. The question of award conversion is introduced almost as an afterthought in one conclusion. Migrants might well require special study on their own with individual treatment given to specific ethnic groups to facilitate their entry into the technical and further education field. Although technical teacher organisations had requested that a national inquiry be instituted into their salaries, the report ignored this issue and its relationship to technical and further education advancement. If technical education is to gain further parity in public esteem with higher education there would seem to be considerable merit in the general principle of salary equity with teachers in universities and colleges of advanced education. Technical education is concerned primarily with establishing and extending vocational competence, and the importance of this aspect of individual development is obvious. Technical education, however, has other broader objectives and effects. Whilst self-fulfilment for individuals remains the primary aim, a constant regard to national and community needs is vital especially for trained manpower. A technical school should offer a great diversity of courses and no uniform examinations requirement should be necessary for admission. It should offer opportunities to people with a wide variety of educational backgrounds and life experience. Technical education must keep in touch with developments in industry and commerce.
It should be recognised that education, viewed as consumption in the economic sense, is expensive. Equality of opportunity and quality in provision spring from a sound economy. Technical schools must become increasingly involved in retraining as our pattern of work and life style change. I agree wholeheartedly with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Moreton, particularly clauses (a) and (b) which give emphasis to the fact that the States are going to have imposed on them by the implementation of this Bill intolerable and unacceptable administration burdens. I agree with the amendment and support the Bill as amended.
– I am conscious of the fact that the House wishes to deal promptly with these Bills so I will restrict my remarks to the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill. Those honourable members who have examined volume 2 of the Kangan report will know that in the electorate of Scullin there is probably the greatest concentration of technical institutions leading to technical and further education than in any other metropolitan electorate in Victoria. I have had long years of association with some of those institutions. We have heard a lot about Cinderellas and a lot of other comments from honourable members opposite. The hare was started by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) as a subject of a political naturalist’s interest. They scampered across the landscape. In the last speech that he made on education he suggested that the Labor Government would destroy private education. The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill has the Government funding private teachers’ colleges to the extent of about $6. 5m, plus living allowances and fees of students. There is no comment from the honourable member for Moreton. That deals with that area.
Let me take the minds of honourable members back to 24 April this year when a Federal election campaign was in progress. I read from a news release issued by the Technical Teachers Association of Australia. It states:
Technical teachers reacted strongly against the education policy announced yesterday by the Opposition spokesman, Senator Rae.
Mr R. B. Dedman, Secretary of the Technical Teachers Association of Australia, described Senator Rae’s statement as a death blow to post-secondary technical education.
Senator Rae intends to shelve the recommendations of the Kangan Report indefinitely. Postponement of its recommendations until inflation is controlled amounts to that, Mr Dedman said.
Technical education has always been the Cinderella area, Mr Dedman said, because it is the area of education used most by working class people.
More students attend these colleges than attend all the universities and colleges of advanced education in Australia combined.
The report of the Kangan Committee has been welcomed by everybody associated with post-secondary technical education because, for the first time, its importance gained recognition at the national level and the Australian Government has already committed itself to accept its findings.
The statement by Senator Rae is a bitter blow to technical education that cannot be excused under any guise, Mr Dedman said.
Yet we see the attitude displayed by honourable members opposite. During the last Federal election campaign- such a short time ago- they would have given this matter no priority whatsoever. Some concern has been expressed that there has been no legislation for a permanent Australian Commission on Technical and Further Education. Indeed, the Technical Teachers Association of Australia sent the following telegrams on 6 November 1974 to both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Mr Beazley, the Minister for Education:
TTAA concerned at delays in legislating for Australian Commission on Technical and Further Education STOP Particularly concerned at rumors that ACOTAFE will be merged with other Commissions STOP TAFE must retain its separate identity STOP TTAA urges you to ensure legislation immediately STOP Please advise
Technical Teachers Association of Australia.
This telegram came from the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria:
TTAV gravely concerned that TAFE’s Cinderella image will be reinforced if the Australian Commission for Technical and Further Education is not legislated STOP Please inform re your government’s intentions on this matter.
I raise this matter to accentuate what the Minister said in his speech. He pointed out that the pressure of legislation has been great and it has been impossible to put the legislation for the permanent commission forward. He emphasised that the most important task is to get the money flowing into the technical colleges and therefore priority has been given to this Bill. He made it quite clear that the work undertaken by the Kangan Committee, and now carrying on under the chairmanship of Professor Richardson, is a living thing, that it will be legislated for and that there will be a permanent commission. Today we have the confirmation of this with the presentation of a further report. There has been criticism, and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) dicussed that criticism, of the way the money is to be distributed. The report presented today, and the amendment proposed for a later stage in these proceedings, will take due notice of the provision of supplementary general purpose recurrent expenditure and bring it up to the appropriate level. Even more than that, in that supplementary report put forward today by this continuing committee are questions relating to the proper procedures and the proper type of indexation to adjust recurrent grants for cost movements during the period of the program, and these are to be applied to capital grants as well. So the criticisms made in that area have been well and truly answered.
I want to move to the question of the types of shortages that are occurring. I want to move to the apprenticeship area. I have shown a copy of a question and answer which appeared in the Victorian Parliamentary Hansard of 25 September 1974 to the honourable member for Moreton and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. The honourable member for Moreton has agreed to the incorporation.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
(Question No. 168)
asked the Minister of Labour and Industry-
Whether apprentices eligible for trade courses have been unable to gain access to courses in schools conducted by the Education Department; if so- (a) how many apprentices are affected, indicating in which trades; (b) when apprentices in each of the trade classifications will be placed in classes: and (c) what is the position regarding availability of trade courses for the year commencing February, 1 975?
Mr RAFFERTY (Minister of Labour and Industry): The answer is-
In addition to the above, 433 apprentices from country areas who are unable to obtain their technical training at a local school, commenced their apprenticeship too late in the year to be directed to continuous courses in 1974. Courses will be arranged for them in Melbourne and Geelong during 1975.
February, I97S, is currently being sought by the Apprenticeship Commission from the technical schools and colleges which conduct apprentice trade classes.
– This question relates to deficiencies for apprentices in Victoria. The answer indicates that at 25 September there were 1,708 apprentices who were unable to gain access to courses in schools conducted by the Education Department in that community. They will be admitted in February 1975 when it is expected that the shortages for apprenticeship placings will be even worse. In addition to those 1,708 apprentices unable to gain access to courses there were 433 apprentices from country areas who were unable to obtain technical training in local schools, and these have had the same problems. I am surprised that our friends in the Country Party corner have not taken this matter up because these figures show the grave state of technical education for trade training in Victoria. Hopefully the sorts of measures that have been carried out and the grants that are being made by the Australian Government will overcome these problems, because they are important. Unless we have skilled tradesmen we will not be able to supply the employment for those that work in support of them. We must take this point most seriously and trust that the grants given under this legislation will ensure that opportunities abound for them.
Just briefly, I think honourable members might refer to the original Kangan Report. I refer them to pages 32 and 33 where the question of how the change should come about, and the needs, are expressed. Paragraph 6 states:
The Committee believes that well balanced development is better served by gradual rather than abrupt changes. Probably the most difficult change to achieve is in deeply entrenched attitudes; these are modified only over time, and in some cases only after elderly influential administrators retire from the scene. Nevertheless, attitudinal considerations are implicit in a quest for well balanced development.
Well may those remarks apply to legislators in the field of education. For too long has the technical field been neglected. For too long has the attitude to technical and further education been patronising. That attitude does not take account of the fact that this area trains more people to skills and gives more people opportunities than does any other area of post secondary education. I welcome the legislation that has been put forward. I am sorry that the honourable member for Moreton has been so ungenerous as to move the amendment he has moved, particularly in view of the statements made by his Party’s former official spokesman on education so few months ago.
– You have a new broom here now, I will tell you that
-It is a new broom that looks as though it is losing some of its bristles. Perhaps bids for leadership helped that. I should like to raise just one final matter on which the Minister may have an opportunity to comment It is in an unrelated field of further education. I receive a number of queries from students and parents of students undertaking training at bible and theological colleges. They want to know why thenfees cannot be paid as those for students in other post-secondary institutions are. I realise that there is the general principle of the separation of church and state. I understand from the Minister I hope he will correct me if I am wrong- that if the State governments and the universities accepted these training institutions as theological faculties of universities it would be possible for the fees of the students to be paid.
– Or recognise them as colleges of advanced education.
– Or if they were recognised as colleges of advanced education instead of faculties of universities. I believe that one principle should, be enunciated in this case: No religious test should be placed on students entering such courses. I mention this so that it can be clarified because there have been a number of queries on it. If I have incorrectly interpreted the matter I am sure the Minister will correct me. I commend the Bills that are before the House and urge thenprompt passage.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Killen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 13- by leave- taken together.
– I take it that we are still dealing with the Bills in a cognate debate?
-No, we are in Committee on the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill.
-The States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill arises from the findings of the Committee on Technical and Further Education, known as the Kangan Committee. The report of the Committee, which resulted from serious consideration, set out above all else to further the purpose of technical and further education. The report can be very favourably contrasted with other reports such as the Karmel report which had a strong political overtone.
It is interesting that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) chose one clause of the Kangan report to summarise the recommendations made by that Committee, namely the section of the report that spoke of technical education as being something separate and equal to the other branches of tertiary education. This is the essence of the report. It underlines the need for the report and the legislation which is now before us. Most people involved in technical education to whom I have spoken feel very strongly that technical and further education should be separated from other forms of education in the State field. In most states technical and further education is wrapped up with secondary education. As a result the technical and further education sector of education feels- I think quite rightly- disadvantaged. We can see the measure of their disadvantage by comparing those things which they have in common with the other branches of education, for example, by comparing the facilities that technical schools have with the facilities of secondary schools and tertiary institutions.
We have no quarrel with the concepts of the Kangan report. We feel quite strongly that there is a need for something to be done about technical education. We believe that this sector of education ought rightly to be regarded as an arm of tertiary education, as clearly it is. It deals with people who are the same age as those people who are receiving what is normally called tertiary education. It fits people for their careers which they will undertake later in life and so on. It is right that it should be divorced from the secondary education area.
The technical area has fared badly compared with the academic area over a great many years. It has been called a Cinderella, a poor cousin and so on it this debate. It is, however, very diverse in nature. It is for this reason that I feel very strongly it should be administered as near as is humanly possible to those who are receiving the education. It should not be administered from Canberra.
I take as an example only the Western Australian School of Mines. Where does this School fit into the system? It is obviously a branch of technical education. It is obviously a branch of tertiary education. It can be fitted into the system -
-It is a part of WAIT-the Western Australian Institute of Technology.
– Yes. It is a part of WAIT. That is quite right. However, if it is to operate at Kalgoorlie and if there are branches of it to be opened up in other mining areas of the State, is it proper that it should be separate from the technical education field, because of the strong need for technical education to be provided in these centres? It would be far more appropriate if the States were reaching their own decisions on these matters and marrying areas as it suited them, the people of those areas and the circumstances of those areas.
– They do.
– Perhaps the Minister, when he replies, will explain to me how that is possible within the provisions of this Bill.
Coming to the specific provisions of the Bill, I wish only to reply to the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) and point out that in comparing the moneys allocated to technical education over the years- I do not deny for a moment that there is a substantial increase- the honourable member resorted to a trick which is becoming very common from the Government side of the Committee. In referring to the change in the levels of expenditure in given areas, he made no reference to the reduction in general State grants.
– That has not any connection with technical education. That is not part of tertiary funding.
-I realise that that is not part of tertiary funding. Nevertheless, the States were financing it.
– They do not get any reduction in respect of this.
-This Bill deals with recurrent expenditure and with various forms of capital expenditure. I wish to say one thing very briefly about recurrent expenditure. The Kangan Committee recommended a formula to maintain current expenditure. But no, the Commonwealth Government and the Minister for Education must have a finger in the pie; a formula will not do. What a finger it is! Clause 13 provides for an authorised person to seek unspecified statistical information. The Bill provides for the Minister if he wishes on his own initiative, because he does not consider from his own say-so that some of the provisions of the Act have been met, to demand the repayment of such sum as the Minister determines of the moneys provided to the State. This is an extraordinary situation. The way in which this Government manages to mess up in the drafting process what is an excellent idea is quite remarkable. That report set out to deal with an area that badly needed action. We support the proposals of that report. In general, we support this Bill. But we do not support all of its specific provisions.
-Mr Chairman, I have an amendment to clause 13. That clause reads:
The financial assistance to a State constituted by a payment of moneys under section 12, is granted on the conditions that-
Omit paragraph (c).
I will tell the Committee and in particular the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) why the Opposition has moved this amendment There is a very considerable resentment held by administrators in the States regarding the duplication of information. I can give a quick illustration of this. I am informed that one State Government spent some $700,000 collecting information regarding roads which was requested by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I will not argue the merits of the proposal because that would be inappropriate but I do question the wisdom of and the need for this search for information by the Commonwealth. To say that it is a parallel system, of course, is nonsense. To say that it is not vexatious is to take a very unreal view of things.
I suggest to the Minister that the Bill as an Act would not suffer in its operation by having this provision left out. I am quite sure that if the Minister were to write to any of his colleagues in the States, no matter what their kidney of politics may be, and to ask for information regarding technical education, as a matter of plain courtesy the information would be given. For the life of me I do not know why we have this fixation about putting into statutes of this Parliament provisions of this character. I hope the Minister will reflect upon this paragraph and that I can persuade him to abandon it and accept the view that it will not help the efficient operation of the Bill. On the contrary, it will engender ill-will where there is no ground for ill-will to exist.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was very alluring in suggesting that I should accept the deletion of this paragraph. He suggested also that the paragraph is severable from other clauses of the Bill. I do not think that his contention is correct. He gave me the rounds of the kitchen earlier for a clause of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill which was practically lifted holus bolus from the States Grants (Schools) Bill which passed through the House before the Federal election of 1972 and received royal assent on 30 November 1972, almost a minute to midnight in the career of the late Government. The clause which he found exceptionally objectionable in the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill he found exceptionally acceptable when the previous Government included it in the States Grants (Schools) Bill on November 1 972.
However, speaking to the amendment which is before the Committee, the purpose of the condition which is set out in this clause which requires the States to supply statistical and other information is to obtain information on the nature of the expenditure made by the States. It is to be noted that under clause 12 recurrent grants are to be paid to the States as of right. That is, I as the Minister am not empowered to withhold recurrent grants. The honourable gentleman now says that I am not entitled to any information but I can get it as a matter of courtesy. The information to be provided under paragraph (c) of clause 13 is required for the Minister’s annual report to Parliament, which in turn is required by clause 30. So clause 13 (c) is related to another clause of the Bill, and I think that the annual report to Parliament is an obligation which no-one would want to see eliminated. The clause closely follows that contained in the States
Grants (Schools) Act 1972- an Act of the previous Government- which requires in section 14 ( 1) (b) (iii) non-government schools to provide information to the Minister within 6 months of receiving payment.
The honourable member for Moreton can stand here and weave arguments against these clauses. The Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education has on it 3 major figures from the State administrations- 3 State directors of technical education. The idea that we in any of our committees or commissions have ignored the States, trampling States’ rights, is quite erroneous. There is only one matter that the State Ministers have taken up with me in relation to this measure, and that is the need for extra funding for fees in technical colleges. This Bill is part of a complex. When I move the amendment later which adds $ 18.82m to the amount already allocated, this Bill will provide about $108m. With it is $7 .2m carried over as unspent sums of money from previous technical grants to the States and $3.Sm made available through the National Capital Development Commission to the Canberra Technical College, which serves southern New South Wales and northern Victoria to a very considerable extent, as do all educational institutions of a tertiary character in the Australian Capital Territory. So it is part of a complex of about $ 1 1 9m.
It is competent for the Committee periodically to make recommendations to me as to how the States are getting on with this whole problem. There may be a need for extra funding; there may be a need for a change in arrangements, and the sort of information which is given here is no onerous burden placed upon the States. It ought to be an automatic part of their administration. I think the honourable gentleman, in finding plots in a repetition of his own legislation, is really going too far.
– I do not want to seek to refute in particular the indulgence in hyperbole of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) but I am bound to say of the honourable gentleman that he takes a rather fanciful view of the States Grants (Schools) Act when he contends that that stands on all fours with this legislation. It is perfectly true that the honourable gentleman can find in that Act one or two provisions which would be comparable with the provisions in this Bill but I invite the honourable gentleman to seek to disturb my proposition that in this Bill there are no fewer than 43 such discretions. Never ever before has there been put in one Bill passed through this Parliament such a multitude, such a plenitude, of ministerial discretions. I thought for one moment that I had the honourable gentleman -
– Your amendment is not on one of the ministerial discretions; it is on the statistical information.
– I concede that point, and I am about to come to that. I was about to say that the honourable gentleman sought to excoriate me, but that would be a form of activity I know the honourable gentleman could never bring himself to perform on me. The honourable gentleman sought to chastise me with respect to recurrent grants and I thought: ‘At long last you have got him; you have persuaded him’. The honourable gentleman very properly said with respect to recurrent grants: ‘I have no discretion’. That is perfectly true. That has been substantially my lament through this whole debate. Why should the Minister have discretion with respect to capital grants to minor projects such as the purchase of a lathe for $2,185.20, and no discretion with respect to recurrent grants?
The point here is a short-one. The Minister has adverted to the fact that he is required to report to Parliament at the end of each year. Really and truly, I think the Minister is indulging in fanciful contention when he asserts that if he did not have this information he would be placed in an impoverished position with respect to the furnishing of his report. The Minister has said he has only had one communication from the States as far as this Bill is concerned. I am not going to deny that because I am not in a position to deny it. But I do say that I took it upon myself -
– I said the thing the Ministers were interested in was the fees.
– That is perfectly true. The amendment which the Minister proposes to move to one of the schedules deals with precisely that point where the $ 18.8m comes in. I will be making an observation there with respect to capital expenditure. The Minister was kind enough to hand to me earlier this evening a report which one might call the Richardson report which is redolent of days gone by. The Minister may recall that. I will be seeking to make some observations with respect to capital grants. I am not going to take the view that I can be dogmatic about this point.
I think the Minister will have to experience the sense of resentment of the States when they are asked for a lot of information. It takes a great deal of time and a great deal of money to provide such information. I gave to the Committee earlier this evening an example of such costs. It cost one State $700,000 to provide information to the Minister. That was deeply resented by the State. I may be wrong but I am not prepared to capitulate at this stage. I am quite sure that in 12 months time the Minister could well come along and say to me, in that alluring, disarming way: ‘Killen, I am sorry. I was wrong and you were right’.
That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr Killen’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741202_reps_29_hor92/>.