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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2256

Senator PETER BAUME(6.00) —I do not resile one bit from what I have said. When Senator Grimes gets angry we can tell he has not got the facts on his side. It was interesting that during the Estimates Committee hearing, Senator Aulich sought to come in and help out. In so doing he elicited very clearly that when I was Minister for Education my practice had not been what apparently Senator Grimes considers to be his practice or what other people did in the Department of Social Security. I am talking about the Commonwealth Schools Commission as an independent authority. Senator Aulich, in trying to be helpful, asked the officer at page 178 of the Estimates Hansard-

Senator Ryan —He may just have been curious.

Senator PETER BAUME —He was just curious, yes. He said:

In your experience, as a matter of practice in, say, the period of the previous Government did Labor members on a number of occasions-I use that as a minimum-make announcements about schools and so on in their electorates? Can you recall members of the Opposition, in other words, the Labor Party at the time, consistently making announcements?

This is the test of how we behaved because the answer from Mr McNamara was:

Yes, there were occasions. There were also occasions when members of both parties made announcements.

Senator Aulich went on:

On a consistent basis?

Mr McNamara said:

Yes, depending how you define 'consistent'. As I read 'consistent', the answer is yes.

I was Minister at the time and I was scrupulous about making sure that information from my office went out to people on both sides of the political spectrum in the electorates. I gave no instructions to the Schools Commission and made no requests of it. It certainly took no decision at that time to show this political preference. I repeat: I believe it is one thing for a department, operating directly under a Minister, subject to ministerial direction, to take account of any direction a Minister may give and to answer for that in here, but it is another thing for a statutory commission to do so. I repeat what I said: It is a sorry day for the Schools Commission.