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Thursday, 25 November 1965

Mr SEXTON (Adelaide) .- I wish to talk about the Government's failure to accept its proper responsibilities in respect of Australian volunteers serving abroad. It is true that Australia has assisted in many ways, mostly economically, the underprivileged countries, but in respect of Australian volunteers serving abroad the Australian Government has been found wanting. This fact was highlighted on 7th November when two of our Ministers made a joint statement that the Government had decided to give some assistance to the Overseas Service Bureau in its programme involving sending overseas Australian volunteers. This assistance is very belated, of course, but it is a small step in the right direction. But a more important fact emerging from the statement was that the Government is running away from its responsibility and saying that private agencies can do the job better than the Government can. Obviously the Government has not given the question proper consideration. It has not given it the consideration that many other developed countries have given it. It was only after a good deal of pressure had been brought to bear by private agencies that the Government belatedly agreed to make some financial contribution to a private agency doing valuable work abroad. Over an article in the " Canberra Times" of the 9th November the heading "Hasluck calls for effective aid abroad " appeared. I ask: To whom does he call? Where does he call? This rather wordy report that the Minister has given contains very little substance in respect to aiding Volunteers Abroad - that is on the Government level. It is true that the Government recognises what private agencies have done, but it is doing nothing effective itself. The Government could take a very good pattern from the American administration which in 1961 extablished a Government instrumentality to pursue the great ideal of getting Americans not only to volunteer for overseas service but first to be trained intensively in their own country before going overseas to assist underprivileged countries with the skills and know-how that will give them the opportunity to overcome the lack of knowledge that has been bede veiling them down through the years.

I was talking to administrators of the Peace Corps in Washington quite recently. One of the first things they said to me was: " Your Australian Government does not appear to be very interested in this cause. It will not even allow donations given to assist the Australian Volunteers Abroad scheme to be claimed as tax deductions. I had no answer to this statement other than that if they knew the kind of government we had in Australia they might fully understand. Here is the real test: If this Government were sincere in its desire to assist the Australian Volunteers Abroad scheme it would long before now have allowed donations to the scheme to be claimed as tax deductions. Because it has not done so, donations go into other channels. Potential donors to this project, because they cannot obtain a tax concession, make their donations to other causes. It is the responsibility of this Government to allow donations to this cause to be claimed as taxation deductions. The Government has a greater responsibility to follow the lead of America and to set up a government sponsored peace corps in Australia. This could be complementary to the work being done by private agencies in this field. 1 believe that a peace corps could be a powerful instrument in obtaining world peace, because it would operate on a person to person basis. Its members would volunteer to serve in the underprivileged countries in order to help raise their standards of living to those that obtain in the developed countries. If that objective could be achieved the causes of, and the desire for, war would melt away very quickly. It is only because of the misery that surrounds poverty, illiteracy, suffering and malnutrition that people turn to war in desperation. If these ills of society could be cured we would go a long way towards attaining world peace.

I hope that the Government will consider this matter and decide to set up a government sponsored peace corps, as has been done not only in America but also in many other countries. Today there are working abroad volunteers from the following countries: Canada, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, West Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, the United Kingdom and Japan. In most cases members of government sponsored peace corps go to underprivileged countries to assist them to achieve a better standard of living and a better way of life. If these other countries can do this why cannot the Australian Government follow suit?

This scheme was initiated in 1960 under the sponsorship of the late President of America, John F. Kennedy. Tt was carried on after his assassination by President Johnson and his Administration. When other countries saw the benefits that were flowing and accruing from this work their governments came in behind the Americans and established peace corps of their own. I believe that if the Government gave this matter the serious consideration it warrants it too would follow the lead that has been given. By doing this it would, as I have said, be making a powerful contribution to the peace of the world because it would be helping to abolish the causes that breed war. I ask the Minister and the Government to have another look at this matter and not just say, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) has said, that private agencies can do the work completely and satisfactorily. They can do it to the limit of their resources, and all credit to them, but they cannot do it on the great scale that is needed. Only a government that has the necessary resources can do the job that should be done. For these reasons I hope that the Government will heed what I have said and give this matter the consideration that it deserves.

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