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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1782


Mr RONALD EDWARDS(9.03) —In this debate I think it is important to emphasise that we are talking about a substantial number of Budget appropriations. Mr Deputy Chairman, I am sure that you and those who are listening must wonder what Opposition members are doing because they are certainly not addressing substantial financial items in the Budget. They come in here with a great deal of rhetoric, but they have not dealt with any of the technical and specific items of the Budget. One can understand very much why that situation may have arisen. The reason why it may have arisen is that they do not take very well to being in opposition. Their main experience in opposition was an attempt to destroy a Budget in the other place. It would be nice to think that they could engage in a fairly sophisticated debate in this place about some of the financial appropriations in this Budget.

Opposition members have not addressed themselves to the reality that under this Government there will be a 14 per cent increase in funding on immigration and ethnic affairs, taking the amount allocated to $158.8m from the previous $139.3m . That sort of increase in funding represents a substantial improvement. If we take account of the fact that the inflation rate is about 10 per cent, we find that there has been a substantial increase in spending by this Government on immigration and ethnic affairs.

I will go into some fairly precise details. One of the issues that I think is very important is the development of material and syllabus development centres. A substantial amount of money will be spent in this Budget on those areas. I believe that that is a very important point with respect to the development of migrant initiatives. We should also look at child care in the adult migrant education program. This Government will address that area substantially and I believe that that is also an important initiative. One of the areas in which those opposite have a less than happy record is in the provision of funds for women's refuges. This Government will provide $200,000 in 1983-84 for the employment of ethnic workers in women's refuges. We had the unhappy experience in Western Australia, in particular, where conservative governments in the past cut back on funding for women's refuges. We believe that it is an important initiative and that women's refuges play an important part in the social conditions of those who may be disadvantaged. The fact that we are putting money into women's refuges shows an important initiative of this Government.

This Government is making a substantial provision of some $4.8m for grants-in- aid. Again that is a significant improvement in funding, and it is the sort of issue that I would have thought those opposite would have addressed. These are important structural changes with respect to the emphasis in the immigration program. We have heard a great deal about the sorts of approaches that the Opposition would adopt on immigration. I believe that Opposition members are presenting the policy of this Government in a largely inaccurate way. It is not true to say that there has been a radical shift in immigration policy. In fact what there has been under the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West)-I believe that the community recognises this-is an intelligent development of immigration policy. We have taken on some of the policies of the previous Government and we have put a substantial amount of initiative into them now. This Government will be allocating some $1.5m, the previous Government allocated around $1.3m, to assist migrant resource centres. Some $42m will be spent on the adult migrant education program by this Government, compared with $38m by the previous Government.

If one looks at these sorts of initiatives it is quite clear that under this Government there has been a continuation of orderly development of programs. It is not true, as those opposite claim, that we made some radical departures. If one listened to the contributions which have been made in this debate one could be led to the conclusion that those opposite support our Budget. They have not come to terms with any of the specific programs nor dealt with any of the technicalities in the programs. It is all very well to come in here with a great deal of rhetoric on immigration and on what one might and might not do, but we should get down to the reality of what spending we should do.

There are some very important migrant groups in the federal electorate of Stirling. The Macedonians, the Yugoslavs, the Greeks, the Italians are very important parts of the Australian community. The sort of spending intended in this Budget will do a great deal for those sorts of groups. There are a lot of reasons for us to feel very confident about the future. One is the Government's proposal to develop channel 0-28 as a further provision of services to the ethnic community. That will be an important development in other communities. It is starting in Canberra in the next few days. We will welcome it when it comes to Western Australia in 1985. These are the sorts of moves made under this Government, which are important. They represent a continuation of policy which in certain areas I could call a bipartisan policy.

It is not good enough for the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) to talk about the oath and the affirmation at citizenship ceremonies. There is much more to it than that. There is the inheritance that we have of mass unemployment . Mass unemployment, under the previous Government, has done a great deal to further racism in this country. When there is a substantial amount of impoverishment there is also a substantial amount of racial tension engendered. What we need in this community is a bipartisan debate to try to deal with these matters.

There are lots of reasons why in this Budget there are important initiatives. The Minister deserves congratulations for the hard work that he is doing. In some areas one cannot win. It is very difficult when one is dealing with the sorts of immigration programs that we have. We have a community in Australia which puts a lot of pressure on many back benchers to try to get people into Australia. It is the sort of debate that is very difficult to win. All we can do , with good faith and determination, is to go ahead and develop a reasonable immigration policy and I believe that under this Minister that is being done.

I turn briefly to Aboriginal affairs. It is an area in which we believe that a great deal must be done. This Budget does have some important initiatives in it, and I believe that they will contribute a substantial amount. Under division 120 , Administrative, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there will be a substantial increase in spending on community development employment programs. For 1983-84 we are looking at appropriating some $12.1m to Aboriginal communities to provide employment. This is a substantial increase; in fact, it is a doubling of the $6. 3m that was allocated under the previous Government. We know that under the previous Government there was certainly a lack of resolve to deal with this most impoverished and most disadvantaged of the Australian community. It is a truism that under the previous Government, if one wanted to look for disadvantage, one found it amongst Aboriginals, ethnic groups and women. We are doing a lot to redress some of those disadvantages. This Government is treating that matter in a very earnest way. I think it must be said in respect to this debate that, in the Federal area, the previous Government tried to do some sound things in Aboriginal affairs. It is just that, under some of its State running mates, particularly as in Western Australia under the lamentable Court Government and in Queensland under the lamentable Bjelke-Petersen Government, some of the worst things are being done with respect to Aboriginal communities.

It is quite true that we have had previous Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs under previous governments in the Federal Parliament who have been well-meaning and well-intentioned. It is just that they have had as running mates in the States some people who left a lot to be desired. I believe that the Western Australian community has one particular example in mind; that is, the infamous Noonkanbah issue and a decision by the Western Australian State Government to overrule Aboriginal rights completely with respect to a drilling operation in Noonkanbah. All it succeeded in doing was creating an Aboriginal community which was very antagonistic to that State Government. It was quite clear that the then Premier, Sir Charles Court, and Mr Hassell, the then Minister for Police, sought to abuse and use State power to override Aboriginal communities. The fact that they did not succeed is a tribute to the people in the Australian community. I add also that at the time the Federal Government had the sense to recognise what was going on. I also add that those companies which were associated with that infamous Richter drilling episode were very embarrassed-I speak about the parent company CSR Ltd-that such an appalling attack on Aboriginal affairs could be mounted by such a desperate and disreputable government as the lamentable Court Government in Western Australia. I believe that a lot of work has to be done in the area of Aboriginal affairs. Some important initiatives are being taken in this Budget. Under the previous Government there were some reasonable things which we are pursuing. But honourable members opposite will have a lot to do when they have to account for some of their running mates, particularly in States such as Queensland.


Mr PORTER —Mr Deputy Chairman--


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —The honourable member for Barker has already spoken to the question twice. He is not entitled to speak a third time.


Mr PORTER —Mr Deputy Chairman, I seek your indulgence for one second. Apparently , during my previous contribution I mentioned that I had been to Walpiri. Of course, there is no such place. I meant Warrabri. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) quite rightly corrected that statement. Walpiri is not a place; Warrabri is. I apologise for that.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —The Chair accepts the honourable member's brief explanation .