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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 753


Senator REID(10.31) —There are four matters that I wish to refer to in the adjournment debate tonight. First, in what might be regarded as a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, I refer to Mr Willis's Press statement of 28 August about the community employment program for 1984-85. In that he deals with the allocation to the various States and Territories and he also refers to the funds which are to be spent in relation to Commonwealth programs in particular. The Minister indicates that $5.6m is to be allocated to the community employment program during the current financial year. The papers tabled by the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) on Budget night indicated that $1,726 ,000 was to be spent in the Australian Capital Territory. I would like to know how the remaining $3.9m is to be spent through the Commonwealth and who makes the decision as to which Commonwealth programs receive community employment program moneys. I would also like to know how many jobs there have been in the period of the community employment program to date, what was the average length of time of them and what was the average amount spent per job. I think that information would be useful and we should know it. If possible, I want to know how many people employed in the Commonwealth sector went on to obtain permanent employment.

The next matter I wish to raise-the office of aged care-was referred to earlier tonight. The setting up of that office was an election promise. There have been two elections since and I still see no evidence of funding for it. I regard it as an important office. There are many aspects of the aged, of the recently retired and the people who are in the category of the frail aged, that need to be looked into to see that there is not a duplication of programs. I asked a question during consideration of the Supplementary Estimates in May as to why the office had not been established. I was told that the Government had not sorted out exactly where the office would belong. It was suggested that it would belong either to the Department of Health or the Department of Social Security. I suggest that neither is suitable. One implies that all the aged are in ill health and need care in that area, and certainly some do. The other implies that all aged are welfare cases and in the social security system, and certainly many of them are. But I think to place the office within either the Department of Health or the Department of Social Security fails to address the real benefit of an office of aged care and what it can and should be doing. In any event, let us get it under way and let it be of benefit to the community. It was an election promise and I cannot see any reason for it not yet to have come into being.

I wish also to raise a matter that I mentioned on 24 August. I have since written to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) asking whether she will make available the report of the Australian Captial Territory Consultative Committee on Education under Self-Government. It is an important document and it is very relevant to the future of self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. In fact the future of education is perhaps the most important aspect that we are thinking about. I understand the Minister has had the report for some time. I would like to know when it will be made public and what her reasons are for not making it public. I ask that she give the matter her earliest attention.

The last matter that I wish to refer to is in the area of the Attorney-General' s Department and relates to a Mr Robert Walter Foster, who stood trial in the Australian Capital Territory in October last year on eight charges of obtaining a valuable security by false pretences. The trial was aborted and he then stood trial again. In between the two trials his solicitor put a proposition to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) that the charges should not proceed, that the evidence in the first trial indicated that there was not sufficient evidence to convict him. A long and reasoned argument, with many quotations from the evidence, was put to the Attorney. Notwithstanding this, the Attorney elected to proceed with the trial. That took place, and Mr Foster was acquitted by the Supreme Court of the Australian Captial Territory on 4 June 1984.

I would be interested to know the Attorney's reasons or the advice that he was given that indicated that it was appropriate to proceed with the second trial, in view of the information that has been given to me. On 4 June the Commonwealth was ordered to pay $4,000 towards Mr Foster's costs. Mr Foster has incurred a total of over $22,000 in costs, $15,000 of which he borrowed by way of a mortgage on his house and the rest privately. He has still not received the $4, 000 that the Commonwealth was ordered to pay. I think that is inexcusable. I have suggested to the Attorney that he should follow his own advice and make a payment of costs to Mr Foster considerably in excess of the amount that was ordered. The Attorney has directed his prosecuting counsel in the Australian Capital Territory to ask that anyone who so much as dares to defend a case and loses be asked to pay the costs. He seems to think that that in no way is a denial of civil liberties and that he is entitled to proceed in that instance. Maybe he is, but if that is the case why should not the Attorney pay the costs of Mr Foster which I have indicated are considerable.

I have not had a reply or even an acknowledgment to my letter that I wrote on 9 August. It may be a matter of no consequence to the Attorney but it is a matter of great importance to Mr Foster. He owes a considerable amount of money. I think it is questionable whether the costs of the second trial should have been incurred. I find it inexcusable that the Commonwealth has not met its commitment to him and paid that money. In view of the Attorney's attitude towards claiming costs from persons who are convicted, having defended proceedings, he should pay the costs in the circumstances that I have outlined.

I would like to go through all the circumstances-I have information available to me in relation to what I would challenge as a good decision to proceed with the second trial-but I shall not do so. The Attorney has the letter dated 19 October 1983. In any event I think he ought to have another look at the matter and his decision to proceed with the second trial.