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Tuesday, 17 November 1964

Senator DITTMER (Queensland) (12:23 PM) . - Again we have an example of the dilatory approach by the Government led by the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). We are not opposing the Bill because in some measure it metes out economic justice to those with higher academic qualifications in universities. But let us examine the economics of the proposal. This is certainly the greatest financial confidence trick ever put over the States. The Bill appropriates £1,300,000 to meet the cost of the increased salaries.

Professorial salaries are to move up to £5,200 a year while those for associate professors and readers are to be increased to £4,300 a year. But when we consider what will be returned to the Commonwealth Government by way of increased taxes resulting from these higher salaries, we realise that the Commonwealth Government probably will receive back more than it proposes to outlay. I repeat this is the greatest financial confidence trick ever played on the States. We have witnessed this type of thing often. The Commonwealth is claiming credit for paying increased salaries to intellectuals with academic qualifications, but I challenge the Minister to tell us the actual amount that will be returned to the Commonwealth by way of increased taxation as compared with the outlay proposed in the measure.

The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has a brilliant academic background. He had great success in his profession and as a parliamentarian has had a' scintillating career. I thought that when he moved into the field of university education he would leave permanent footprints on the sands of the educational history of this country; but all he has left is an impress on quicksands. He entered the field in what I thought was a big way, but he left in a small way because he was not prepared to face up to the needs of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

I appreciate that the Bill before us deals with academic salaries and I do not propose to digress. However, I should be permitted, at least, in some measure, to make my remarks without distraction from the other side of the chamber. The terms of the inquiry conducted by Mr. Justice Eggleston were incomplete. On 14th May 1964 he was entrusted with this responsibility -

To advise the Government on the standard salary or range of salaries for a professor and the standard salary range for a reader or associate professor which the inquiry considers should be adopted as a measure of academic salaries to be used by the Australian Universities Commission for the purpose of recommending grants to be made to universities, including the Australian National University, for recurrent expenditure.

When the terms of the inquiry were announced, the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations requested that they should be enlarged. The Federation approached Mr. Justice Eggleston but he said that it was not within his authority to do so and he was not prepared to approach the Prime Minister. He was definitely limited by the terms of the inquiry. However, in his report His Honour made certain recommendations in relation to junior lecturers and senior lecturers, even though he had not been entrusted with that responsibility.

Again we are dealing with something that is vitally important but which comes before us in the dying stages of the sessional period. By its actions the Government shows just how arrogant it is. How contemptuous of Parliament is the Government we do not know, but in the last week it has given us many examples of its contempt. It has exhibited no sense of responsibility to Parliament and has completely disregarded the rights of the people by its treatment of important legislative measures that should have been discussed more fully and should have been open to the public to be assessed. The Press of this country, deplorable as it may be, has not seen fit to attack the Government. I have nothing but the greatest contempt for most of the Press of this country because it is wedded to a government which is completely intolerant of the rights of the people.

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