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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2259


Senator PETER BAUME(9.59) —The Senate is operating under a guillotine brought down today which will limit the time allowed for debate on the appropriation Bills. There is a fair amount of goodwill around the Senate because the fact is that each of the major parties at some time or other has moved motions to declare Bills urgent and each of the major groups over the last 10 years has been on the receiving end of such a motion. (Quorum formed) Mr Acting Deputy President, I was observing that the Senate is operating under a guillotine. Most honourable senators can accept the operation of the guillotine on the basis of give and take, but it is necessary to draw to the attention of the Senate that one political grouping in this place that voted for the guillotine tonight, that voted for the gag motion associated with that guillotine, is on record as having in the past condemned the use of the guillotine and committing its party to not going down that track. It is worth reminding the Senate of these events. In fact, the Australian Democrats proclaimed several things. They proclaimed that they wished to be elected as the keepers; to keep the bastards honest, if I can recall the term they used. ( Quorum formed) Mr Acting Deputy President, I was drawing attention to some of the promises made by the Australian Democrats. The first was that they would break no election promises. On the Willesee at Seven show on 11 November 1980 Senator Chipp said:

The other thing is that we won't allow him to break a promise.

The 'him' referred to was the Prime Minister at the time, Mr Fraser. It continued:

Promises to students, to pensioners, to the unemployed, to farmers, to small business people . . .

So it went on. In the Age newspaper two days later, on 13 November 1980, there appeared an article entitled 'The day of honest government is upon us-or else, says Chipp'. I must acknowledge that at the moment Senator Chipp cannot speak in the Senate because of an indisposition. I am not attacking him as much as I am attacking the promises made by him on behalf of the Australian Democrats and the way in which his colleagues have dishonoured those promises. They have dishonoured them not once but again and again. The Australian people are entitled to know that this particular political grouping has no credit at all when it tries to present itself as the keeper, when it tries to present itself as any kind of honourable or honest grouping. The article in the Age of 13 November began with the following words:

Things will be different in Federal Parliament when the Australian Democrats hold the balance of power from next July.

No longer will the Government be able to gag the debate or avoid sensitive issues.

No longer will the Government be able to break its election promises with impunity.

This is what Senator Don Chipp said in an interview, speaking on behalf of the Democrats about to arrive. I quote a specific comment by Senator Chipp in that article:

They won't be able to gag a debate, guillotine a bill or use a favourite device of theirs . . .

The gag and the guillotine were explicitly and specifically put aside by Senator Chipp as tools which the Democrats would not use. Those of us who have been here for the last couple of years will recall that six or seven times the Democrats voted for the gag on the Sex Discrimination Bill, and they have voted for the guillotine today. If we want to see what Senator Mason has had to say on this kind of matter we need look only to the Senate Hansard of 21 August this year when in the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill, Senator Mason said:

I think the point has to be got through to governments constantly that we cannot have a democratic system under circumstances in which a dozen Bills can be forced through late at night by the use of the gag and the guillotine.


Senator Boswell —Who said that?


Senator PETER BAUME —Senator Colin Mason, who not only voted for the gag and the guillotine but also then made sure that he used the maximum amount of time available to him, thus cutting down what is available to other honourable senators at the end of the session in a difficult time. Whatever else the Australian people may fall for this time, they will not fall for the fact that the Democrats can be trusted, because they cannot. They will not fall for the fact that the Democrats keep their election promises, because they break them. They will realise that the Democrats are populists who on their record have voted for every expenditure measure and against revenue measures because that is the popular thing to do. While they are here, from the safety of the cross benches where they will never have to exercise any kind of responsibility to the Australian people, they will continue to support all expenditure, every popular issue and vote against revenue because they are essentially in constitutional terms an irresponsible party and a party furthermore-I say this to their Deputy Leader-which does not keep the promises it made solemnly to the Australian people as regards gags and guillotines. That is worth putting on the record, as are some of the interesting things that were contained in Senator Mason's speech , filled as it was with class hatred.


Senator Jack Evans —Mr Acting Deputy President. I raise a point of order. Just a few minutes ago Senator Baume rose on a point of order, accusing Senator Mason of reflecting on a vote of this Senate. For the last 10 minutes we have heard Senator Baume reflecting on a vote of this Senate. I ask you to draw his attention to that point of order.


Senator Peter Baume —On that point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, I point out that I took some trouble at the beginning to indicate that I was not reflecting on a vote of the Senate. I accepted the vote of the Senate. I was merely observing the way in which the Australian Democrats have conducted themselves in the light of their promises.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! There is no point of order, but Senator Baume has been very close in his remarks to such a reflection.


Senator PETER BAUME —We know from the events of the last week that the Australian Labor Party will consider a review of the taxation system and that that will include a capital gains tax. We have learned tonight from Senator Mason that the Australian Democrats favour a capital gains tax, albeit a tax with some conditions attached. The Australian people are entitled to remember that when they consider how they will judge the Australian Democrats in the election.

I want to say a few words about the very excellent taxation policy announced by the coalition parties in the last 24 hours. This policy will help Australian families to prosper, will reward enterprise and will give Australian families a fair go. It is based upon several features. First, it recognises that the overall taxation burden in Australia must be reduced and that this requires spending restraint and economic growth. Can anyone argue with that? Could even Senator Colin Mason argue with that? The policy states that it is our aim in the first term of government to achieve reductions in expenditure and taxation as a share of the gross domestic product. That will help Australian families and it has been welcomed in the Press because it will do so. The policy observes quite correctly that in Australia we rely far too heavily on personal income tax as a source of revenue. The policy seeks ways of lightening the burden of personal income tax, especially for families in Australia. The coalition will progressively lighten the personal income tax burden by a combination of spending restraints, economic growth, and broadening the indirect tax base.

Further, we have offered certain initiatives which have been the subject of much favourable Press and editorial comment. We will give priority to helping families with children. Is this not what is needed in Australia today to help families succeed? We are a Party that supports the family. We want to see families prosper and able to have the resources to control and live their own lives. We will give this help to families by introducing progressively a system of income splitting which will allow married couples with children to divide their aggregate income for tax purposes. This will assist one income families, particularly those families in which there is one breadwinner. It will also help those two income families where the incomes are substantially unequal.

In addition, we will introduce progressively tax rebates on child care expenses for two income families and for sole parents. We will, of course, also give single income families equivalent assistance. We will ensure that any changes to indirect tax will be gradual. We recognise the difficulties of introducing an indirect tax, but if there is a trade off in respect of reductions in personal income tax, relief for families and the introduction of indirect tax, Australians will be better off. This is recognised by newspapers and by commentators and this policy, because it will help families, is attracting considerable support, even in the single day since it has been released.

The coalition will not introduce a new capital gains tax, death duties or a tax on assets. The coalition government will maintain its strong line against tax avoidance practices generally. We will abolish Labor's 31 per cent tax on lump sum superannuation and we will move towards providing a differential company tax for small business.

I observe that there are differences between the policies of the Liberal and National parties and the policy of the Labor Party. We aim to reduce taxation as a proportion of gross domestic product. Labor has made taxation a higher proportion of the gross domestic product than ever before. We aim to see a similar commitment on government spending. We want it to come down because without such a fall there can be no real reduction in taxes. On the other hand, Labor is increasing government spending. In just a year and a half it has increased from just under 30 per cent of GDP to more than 31 per cent.

We are moving immediately to reduce the personal tax burden on families with children through the measures I outlined earlier. Labor, after almost two years in office, has neglected the family, with no increase in family allowances and no increase in dependent spouse rebates. The coalition parties have been moving towards a steady reduction in the share of personal income tax in the total tax mix, with an increased move to indirect tax. The Labor Party is moving to impose an ever increasing burden of personal income tax on Australian taxpayers. We have a complete and unqualified opposition to capital gains tax, new capital taxes and death duties. Labor has no such total opposition. We are committed to abolishing the assets test and abolishing Labor's tax on lump sum superannuation . The Labor Party has no such commitment. We are committed to maintaining vigorous anti-tax evasion and avoidance action. Labor, on the other hand, is moving to do this by retrospective law. We are moving to reduce the cost of government administration by limiting the role of government. That is certainly in contrast to Labor which is a big government, big spending party. The comparison between the parties and their tax policies is stark. Families will be better off under our government than under a Labor government.

I wish to say a few words in this Budget speech about some education issues. I draw attention to a letter which has been written by His Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne, Sir Frank Little, in which he criticises the Government trenchantly for one of its moves to reduce a benefit payable to students in halls of residence in tertiary institutions-an unnecessary and a vindictive measure. This letter from His Grace sets out the arguments as we have been trying to set them out, appealing to the Government to do something about it. But in education we see institutions at the tertiary level being asked to do more with less money. Although the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Senator Ryan, can say that she has allocated more in total, if we look at the number of dollars that will be available for the teaching of each student in Australian universities and colleges we find that over the next triennium there are fewer dollars per head for almost all institutions year after year. They will be asked to do more and they will receive less money per head to do their jobs-more functions, less money per head. I have already incorporated in Hansard on a previous occasion tables which show just how great this reduction is.

The staff-student ratio will worsen under Labor funding and the institutions are wondering how they are to do their jobs. The staff who make up our institutions are still wondering where they stand after their betrayal this year in relation to the determination of the Academic Salaries Tribunal. The students who attend tertiary institutions wonder where they stand with the dishonouring of the promise to bring the tertiary education assistance scheme benefit and the unemployment benefit together. The Australian Labor Party says that it has done that for students aged 16 and 17. How many tertiary students do honourable senators know aged 16 and 17? Almost all of them are 18 years of age or more. For them the gap has widened, the disability in relation to the unemployment benefit has got worse, and Labor has done nothing about it.

I said I would mention something about the halls of residence. Honourable senators will be aware of the fact that the Australian Labor Party has unnecessarily, out of the blue, vindictively and irrationally determined to remove the subsidy which has applied to students in halls of residence. I am attracted to this letter of 8 October written, as I said, by the Archbishop of Melbourne, His Grace Sir Frank Little to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). A copy of this letter has come into my possession. It is a three and a quarter page letter. I want to read just a few paragraphs. I have not shown it to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button) but I can assure him that the Archbishop has written nothing that is either unparliamentary or inappropriate. I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, Vic. 3002 8th October 1984 Hon. R. J. L. Hawke,

Prime Minister,

House of Representatives,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.

My Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman of the Councils of Newman College and St. Mary's College at the University of Melbourne and Mannix College at Monash University about a matter of considerable concern to each college, namely, the decision announced by the Minister for Education, Senator Susan Ryan , contrary to advice from the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, to phase out the recurrent funding to the residential colleges and halls affiliated with the Australian universities.

I seek your personal support to review this decision and to restore the Grant to the colleges.

In particular, I am concerned that the important role of the colleges in the transition of students from secondary to tertiary studies has been overlooked by the Minister. Moreover, the invaluable support given by the colleges to country students who form the overwhelming proportion of their residents has been amply demonstrated in recent studies but again overlooked by the Minister. I am surprised that a government avowedly dedicated to helping disadvantaged sectors of the community should totally withdraw funding from institutions which mostly serve country students.

The recurrent grants have been made to the residential colleges of the Australian universities since 1957. The Tertiary Education Commission has continued to critically review the provision of these funds and has supported their payment each triennium. Until now that support has been accepted by each succeeding Federal Government.

The purpose of these grants has always been clearly stated-by both Government and Commission-as a means of partially compensating the residences for the provision of the academic, educational, pastoral, social and administrative services which they provide to their residents. The grants have never been a subsidy on accommodation or housing. Audited statements have been issued to prove that the grants received have been used for the purposes for which they were given: they have never ''sunk without trace''.

Almost as a corollary, the grants have provided assistance to country students and others disadvantaged by distance or home environment by making a small contribution to those institutions which cater particularly for their needs.

In its Report for the 1982-84 triennium the Commission drew a clear distinction between collegiate and non-collegiate forms of residence and recommended that funding continue at existing levels to those residences which qualified as '' collegiate'' in character.

Without any warning, without any consultation and certainly without any regard for consensus, Senator Ryan responded by announcing that the recurrent grant for 1984 would be cut by 25%. The Minister, when announcing these arbitrary cuts, asked the Tertiary Education Commission to review the whole question of funding for the colleges (which, in the meantime, had to raise their fees for 1984 to recover the lost income).

The Commission's report for the triennium 1985-87 recommended that an amount equal to the existing recurrent grant be made available to residences to be distributed on a needs basis through a bursary scheme administered by the principal of the residence. Thus did the Commission accept the challenge of meeting the government's broad principle of directing assistance to students in need, while confidently expecting that the appropriate caring environment which distinguishes collegiate residences from other student accommodation would continue to be provided.

Senator Ryan's guidelines for the triennium 1985-87 have announced the Minister 's decision, contrary to the Commission's recommendation, to phase out the grant to the Colleges altogether.

This decision disturbs me. It is the end of an annual grant which has been supported by Liberal and Labor Governments since 1957. It is the end of any direct connection between the Colleges and (through the Commission) the Government and its Department of Education. It is a blunt refusal by the Government to subsidise (or even to acknowledge) the educational role of these colleges. It forces the colleges either to reduce drastically their tutorial and pastoral services-their distinctive caring environment, without which they are no more than hostels-or else to increase their fees by a further $7 a week, thereby making themselves the preserve of wealthier students and thereby depriving disadvantaged country students of these tertiary education opportunities.

I am concerned that the concept of ''disadvantaged'' carries its own meaning within the present policy framework of the government and is not open to objective assessment. Two years ago, the Heads of Colleges Association commissioned a survey into the financial profile of residential college students by Professor David Beswick of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at Melbourne University. This study, which surveyed residential college students throughout Australia, revealed that:

the vast majority of students were from the country

80 per cent of students in residence must live away from home

more than half come from government schools

a quarter of students come from homes where the combined parents income before taxation is less than $300 per week.

Instead of being populated by privileged, financially elite students, Professor Beswick found the colleges in fact to be transitional homes for country students whose backgrounds are not especially privileged. This, I would emphasise, is particularly true of the three colleges with which I am associated.

Although I write to you as Chairman of the Councils of the three Catholic Colleges in Victoria, I am far from alone in my disquiet which is shared by my brother Bishops in this State. I am further confident that my concern is also shared by my brother Bishops in Townsville, Brisbane, Armidale, Sydney, Canberra , Hobart, Adelaide and Perth where there are Catholic university colleges meeting the needs of hundreds of students.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop of Melbourne


Senator PETER BAUME —I am grateful to the Minister. Sir Frank Little says in one paragraph:

In particular, I am concerned that the important role of the colleges in the transition of students from secondary to tertiary studies has been overlooked by the Minister. Moreover, the invaluable support given by the colleges to country students who form the overwhelming proportion of their residents has been amply demonstrated in recent studies but again overlooked by the Minister. I am surprised that a government avowedly dedicated to helping disadvantaged sectors of the community should totally withdraw funding from institutions which mostly serve country students.

The letter states at a later stage:

In its Report for the 1982-84 triennium the Commission-

that is, the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission-

drew a clear distinction between collegiate and non-collegiate forms of residence and recommended that funding continue at existing levels to those residences which qualified as 'collegiate' in character.

Without any warning, without any consultation and certainly without any regard for consensus, Senator Ryan responded by announcing that the recurrent grant for 1984 would be cut by 25 per cent.

I am quoting the Archbishop of Melbourne talking about Senator Ryan's actions and her response to submissions made by this eminent churchman and by people like him. He goes on to say:

The Minister, when announcing these arbitrary cuts, asked the Tertiary Education Commission to review the whole question of funding for the colleges ( which, in the meantime, had to raise their fees for 1984 to recover the lost income).

He goes on then to talk about the rest of the decision. He says:

This decision disturbes me. It is the end of an annual grant which has been supported by Liberal and Labour Governments since 1957. It is the end of any direct connection between the Colleges and (through the Commission) the Government and its Department of Education. It is a blunt refusal by the Government to subsidise (or even to acknowledge) the educational role of these colleges. It forces the colleges either to reduce drastically their tutorial and pastoral services-their distinctive caring environment, without which they are no more than hostels-or else to increase their fees by a further $7 a week, thereby making themselves the preserve of wealthier students and thereby depriving disadvantaged country students of these tertiary education opportunities.

We have tried to tell the Government that it has been wrong on this matter. In a Budget of $2,200m why would it choose to take away a piffling $5m? Why would it do that? It has been done unadvisedly and vindictively. It has been done because of some strange class hatred, some sense of elitism which the Minister perceives in these colleges, and it has been condemned from all over Australia. I ask the Senate to recognise that there is no more distinguished critic than His Grace Archbishop Sir Frank Little, whose letter I have just read to the Senate. I hope the Government will look again at the recommendations which its own Commission, the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, made on this matter and will seek ways to acknowledge that it has made a mistake and that it wants to do something about it.

The education sector is in confusion in other areas. The non-government schools have been told that they are to be allocated into 12 funding groups. We were asked to approve, and we did, the allocation of a certain amount of money for distribution to non-government schools in 1985. We were told that there were to be 12 funding groups. The Government, when it came to the Senate, had not worked out which schools would be in which groups. After a global amount of money was given to it, it went off to the Commonwealth Schools Commission and said: 'Now, you work out where the categories lie, where the boundaries lie, so that the schools fit into categories and the right amount of money is used'. It will not surprise my colleagues who have done this kind of exercise before that the Commonwealth Schools Commission is finding it quite impossible to allocate schools into groups and to use up the money which has been allocated, no more and no less.

I challenge the Government on this point: Is it not a fact that now, in late October, the boundaries in respect of these groups are not ready? Is it not a fact that non-government schools in Australia cannot yet be told to which groups they belong; that they cannot yet be told how much money they will have for 1985 and succeeding years? Is it not a fact that the schools were to be notified of the groups to which they belonged in the first week of November, that is, only a couple of weeks from today? Is it not a fact that they will not be able to be so informed because the Commonwealth Schools Commission, having been given a quite impossible job, cannot come up with a formula? If that is the case, what is to be done? Is it a possibility that non-government schools, which are trying to make their plans for 1985 and subsequent years, may not get their groupings until the latter part of December?


Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —How will they enrol?


Senator PETER BAUME —My colleague Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle asks how they will enrol in the next year? How will they plan for the next year? How will they budget for the next year? They do not know because each of the groups to which they may be allotted will attract a different level of subsidy.

The only other matter I wish to raise for consideration is the enormous policy difference which still exists between the determinations made in respect of education at the ALP Conference and the actions of the Government. The ALP Conference, which lays down the policy of the Australian Labor Party, has made it clear that it has adopted an anti-State aid policy which requires the phasing out of government support for some children at some schools. Whether this is done over time or not, it is a policy which was adopted unanimously by that Conference following minimum debate. The decision is still binding upon members of the Labor Party and upon all Labor parliamentarians. There is uncertainty in the non-government school sector. There is uncertainty among government schools as to which direction this Government is going. The Government has not honoured its promises to public education, a series of specific promises. It has chosen not to honour those promises. We had the spectacle last week of members of the Teachers Federation in Canberra trying to get this Government to cough up what it promised explicitly in 1982. Of course it will not.

The non-government sector is uncertain still whether or not the Labor Party policy passed at the conference is the policy that will be put into effect if Labor has the chance over the next few years. Is there going to be a policy consistent with the conference decision or is there going to be a policy consistent with a more pragmatic and opportunistic approach? Or is there going to be a move, as some of us fear, towards more control, towards changed arrangements and towards making it difficult for new schools to develop and to be established? Is there going to be an attempt to limit and to contain the sector even if parents across Australia want alternative arrangements for their children? The Government's arrangements are unsatisfactory to those who represent the interests of public education. They are unsatisfactory because the Government has not delivered on promises. The arrangements are unsatisfactory for those who are interested in the other side of schooling, in non-government education, because the Government still has an official policy which spells great danger.

I have drawn attention tonight to certain issues of education, but I have been most proud to try to say something about the taxation policy introduced by my colleague Mr John Howard in the last 24 hours. This is a policy which offers enormous benefits to Australian families and, through those families, to the community. It is a policy which should commend itself to the wide Australian community and it is a policy which we on this side are proud to take into next month's election.