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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2128

Senator PETER BAUME(5.14) —Like Senator Chaney I want to thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button, for this statement and for responding in what is really a brief period to the remarks made last week. But, Mr President, the remarks made last week were in the context of a motion I moved to take note of a paper which you put down and in those remarks I drew attention to two particular committee reports which were on important subjects and to which no definitive responses had been received. I have taken the opportunity in the last few moments to look at the statement produced by Senator Button in relation to the action which the Government has taken on those two reports. In each case the document which the Leader of the Government has given us really contains non-statements. It says merely that there has been no response from the Government because it has not taken any decisions. I draw the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. I was not a member of that Committee at the time it made its report which was tabled in May 1981, so I acknowledge, as I did last week, that the previous Government of which I was a member takes some of the responsibility-

Senator Button —Is this the report on tenure of academics?

Senator PETER BAUME —No, this is the one on a medicated society by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. The previous Government takes some responsibility for the fact that there has been no government response to it, but to say that 'the Government has given substantial consideration to the subject matter of this report and has announced a number of actions in the last 19 months related to it' is interesting, but is quite irrelevant to the issue which is raised by the Government's promise of a response in three months or by the tabling by the President in the Senate of a list of reports for which a response is outstanding.

In the same way, I come back to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on the tenure of academics. This is an important subject and an important document for those in academe. Whenever we travel around Australia to universities or colleges we find that they look to the response to this report for the determination of national policy. I point out what I did not point out last week, which is that when I was Minister for Education that report actually came to me. At the time we left government, I had a response ready. It was a response of the Fraser Government. There is no reason, of course, for the Labor Government to wish to take the same line, but we actually had a response ready to bring into the Parliament. Our trouble was that the election intervened . Again, the document put down here does nothing to help the academics who are looking to some policy statement from government on this question of tenure. I emphasise again that I applaud the Government for its intention to respond quickly. I understand the problems which it faces on some issues which are complex, but on the two reports to which I drew attention last week, the responses tabled today say absolutely nothing. They merely indicate that there has been no response because decisions have not yet been taken. I urge the Government to address the questions, to take decisions, and to let us know what those decisions are.