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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2255

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(5.57) —Mr Chairman, I believe that Senator Peter Baume's remarks cannot be allowed to pass in this way. The Commonwealth Schools Commission distributes funds which are provided by the government of the day. It distributes these funds in the form of grants by the government of the day, the same as any other department does, the same as the Department of Social Security does. It is absolute hypocrisy for Senator Baume to get up in this place and complain about a practice such as that when it was the practice of the Government of which he was a member, when it was the practice of the Minister for Social Security in the Government of which he was a member and when it is a practice which I followed exactly when I became Minister.

How the matter was drawn to my attention was that the then member for Braddon, Mr Groom, wrote to me and said: 'Dear Minister, would you please inform me of all the moneys that are going to be given to groups in my electorate several days before it is announced so that I can make the announcement'. I thought that was a bit rich, so I asked my Department what was the usual practice. My Department produced for me the instructions from Senator Chaney, which were that where there is a Government member, he or she announces it; if there is no government member, the government senator or the Minister announces it; and only later than that-I think it was after a period of five days-were non-government members and senators asked.

If that is the practice of the Government, who can blame a statutory authority, which is doling out money in the same way as a department is, for taking its cue from that Government and doing the same thing? Senator Baume should not get up in this place when he is in opposition, with due respect to you, Mr Chairman, and whinge about a practice which was the practice of his Government, which was good enough for him and which was certainly good enough for me when I became a Minister. It is the height of hypocrisy for a senator to get up here and say: 'This independent statutory authority is not carrying out its duty in doing such a thing'. It is absolute nonsense. If we are going to have to put up with hypocrisy, cant and rubbish such as this during consideration of the departmental estimates, perhaps we ought to dredge out a few of the old practices of the previous Government in other areas. The present practice is a sensible practice. It is certainly a practice which I continue to follow and which I have no intention of changing.