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Thursday, 5 March 1970


Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - Mr Deputy Speaker,it is with a great deal of pride that I participate for the first time in the debates of this Parliament. There is pride in the fact that I am one of the relatively small band who have transferred from membership of a State legislature to membership of this House. There is pride also in the electorate of Scullin which I represent and in which I have resided for most of my life. Its boundaries, which include the State electorate of Reservoir which I had the privilege to represent for over 8 years, encompass well developed industrial and residential areas. Within its boundaries are a wide range of community facilities including a university, a large hospital, schools of all types and so on. In fact it is very much a cross section of urban Australia, with people from all walks of life pursuing their day to day activity with all the hopes and aspirations that we have come to expect from Australians. Therefore it is not with specific aspects of the GovernorGeneral's Speech as they affect my electorate that I intend to deal but rather with a couple of matters arising by inference from that Speech as they affect all of us.

I mention in passing that 1 listened with interest to the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) in his analysis of democracy and the need for participation and training in it. As a Parliament we ought to be concerned with political ideas and ideals, prompting our community to be concerned in the same manner. But what do governments provide for the youth of our community? In what way do we educate the young for participation in democracy? They are served a solid sectionalised and professionalised diet of education from the close of their primary school days. If one follows to the tertiary field one realises the narrowness of training at universities, institutes of technology, teacher training colleges and so on. There is cause for alarm at the end result. They are offered narrow vocational techniques and promise of material success, but there is little air of community responsibility. They see little of moral and ethical values among their elders. Perhaps this is the reason for the growing turmoil among the young and among students, particularly on issues of conscience, as a reaction against the aridity of thought in our community on these matters.

The Australian Labour Party was founded by men who strove for the wider horizons of education, the principle of loyalty to their fellow workers and their community, the need for associations to achieve these purposes and concepts of justice and democracy for every individual. In fact, I believe these were Australian ideals. Australia is a young and developing nation, and what a pity it is that for want of leadership in the right direction these ideals are being obscured. As a former State member it is only natural that I share in the growing political awareness of the problems of Commonwealth and State relationships. Here, however, as exemplified by the Government's programme outlined in His Excellency's Speech, the overriding consideration is the financial relationship. I believe there are some more important con siderations and so I will deal only briefly with the financial aspect. The sordid aspects of this financial relationship in recent years have degraded our parliamentary institutions in the public eye. In his speech tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made comments on many of the details of this relationship. The faults are on both sides. Every defect in State government policy or administration is excused by reference to lack of Commonwealth finance. Failures of accommodation, staffing and facilities in the State education system, even where sound planning and policy is palpably absent, are excused on financial grounds. The blame for the inbuilt inequalities in the State education system, brought about by the purchase of facilities and equipment on the iniquitous subsidy system which forces parents to pay heavily and means that areas of greatest need are those least able to obtain these extras, is placed on a parsimonious Federal Government, and perhaps with partial justification. This stands, even when exorbitant prices for school sites and expensive building contracts are revealed and subsidies to privileged private schools to the detriment of Government schools are realised.

States abrogate their initiative in tertian' education by saying that the Australian Universities Commission dictates the terms of development and maintenance of tertiary institutions. It recently appeared to dictate a great increase in university fees and yet fees, from the point of view of government, are a negligible contribution to university finances. Bold thought is confined to the election platform and bold action is never seen, yet thousands of young people qualified for entry to tertiary institutions are turned away.

In the hospital field, for example, Victoria's hospitals have accumulated deficits of SI Om. This is blamed on Commonwealth activity or inactivity in the health field. I have no confidence that a slavish adherence to the voluntary health insurance system is going to provide any solution, yet onethird of that State's deficit is from workers compensation and motor accidents - in other words, insurance cases where simple legislation by the States requiring forward funding by insurance companies would easily solve this without major economic upset. So. on the State side we have the loud plaints of such governments, particularly at election time, against the Commonwealth. As I have said, the Commonwealth is not without guilt. Too little account is taken of the needs of the community in the face of the Commonwealth's overall control of revenue. Tied grants by the Commonwealth to the States are not necessarily bad things, but they must be applied in a way which will lead to effective forward development in various fields. At the moment they are not necessarily being applied in this way.

In the social welfare field we see a hodge-podge produced for pensioners. Certainly the aged receive their age pensions, but of a kind bearing no relation to needs. States are forced to cover the greater part of the cost of pensioners' hospital treatment. Transport concessions, which would not be necessary if pensions were adequate, are supplied by the States. Low rental housing is a further strain; and so one could go on. There appears to be no combined Commonwealth and State examination of needs in so many areas where provision of facilities is necessary. If so, why was the report of the University of Melbourne's Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research of an incidence of poverty of nearly 20% in our community received with such amazement? The Victorian Government, in fact, appointed a committee from among its parliamentary parties' backbench members to investigate this matter of poverty. Its findings must have been so alarming that they have been clouded in a shroud of deepest secrecy ever since they were concluded.

It is fair for State governments to point out that the rate of increase in their tax reimbursement grants is so much less than the rate of increase in Commonwealth tax collections. For Victoria in 1969-70 the increase in the tax reimbursement grant was only 81% on the previous year's figures yet the predicted increase in Commonwealth tax collections was 171%. Nor is it surprising that States resent that the payments which they have to make to bear interest and service charges on their debts is not taken into account when payments are made by the Commonwealth under the formula. Such payments for Victoria in 1969-70 were $154.5m. These included some reduction not only on the interest payments but on Victoria's public debt, including liabilities to the Commonwealth. But enough of the need for an enlightened attitude in Commonwealth and State financial relationships.

There is a deeper, more far-reaching view to be taken of relations between Commonwealth and State Governments. It will be realised that State governments are essentially governments of provision whose essential role is to provide physical assets in the way of schools, roads, transport and so on. Since the adoption of uniform taxation, at any rate, the Commonwealth Government is not only a government of provision but very much one of finance and decision. Its actions in the financial field determine the economics of the community in every field. Its decision making powers in so many fields of policy, upheld by its financial powers, determine Australia's development in a way in which no State government can affect or, indeed, could effect. Yet this parliamentary division of functions and responsibility resides in a distribution of constitutional powers arrived at in the 1890s when no-one would be expected to have envisaged the development of Australia, the change in social and economic attitudes in our community and indeed throughout the world, the massive advances in technology that have produced these changed attitudes and the alterations that have occurred in the distribution of personal wealth and power. Thomas Jefferson is often quoted in discussions on the evolution of constitutions. He said:

In questions of power, let no more be beard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.

And bound down by the Constitution both State and Federal Parliaments have been. I do not deny the very real protection the Constitution has given individuals and groups, but it is a horse and buggy constitution for a space ship age. There is no more fascinating story than the development of our Australian Constitution and the great struggles and the conventions which were held in developing it. Through the story there runs the foresight of some, the conservatism of others, the attitudes of the capitalists of the day who had reached the height of their power and the slow gropings of the developing Labor movement which was then achieving the militancy and unity it needed for nationalism and its concept of democracy. Eventually it was the propertied gentlemen who decided the main principles of our Constitution, taking what was best from the States and giving it to the Federal Government and leaving a suitable environment for themselves in the State field. But as 1 have mentioned, although the Constitution does reflect the attitudes of that time, times have changed considerably. Even the lower portion of our system of government - local government - now needs greater consideration. It is this form of government which feels most heavily the burden of our present system. This evening the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke about this need and of the provision of normal municipal services. Increased welfare services are also being forced on local government by subsidy in the way of baby health centres, elderly citizens' clubs, creches and so on. Its source of revenue is rates on properties which takes no note of the ability of the citizen to pay and so may bear heavily and unfairly on individuals.

What can we do about it? Do we leave this unsatisfactory situation as the apologia at all levels for defects in government performance or do we show the same drive and imagination that led the fathers of our Constitution to hold their great, and for those days representative, conventions, to find common grounds for the alterations that are needed? Even the State-righters should be interested in this for it is obvious that only a bold approach can lead to the solution of their problems. I do not accept the fears expressed of centralism for I feel that central government is not to be confused with central bureaucracy, lt is certain that smaller units are needed for regional administration and even to some extent local policy formulation in a way that even the States cannot offer. Should we not look at where the power of government and its delegation should reside and what rules should govern its delegation? The States realise that even they as they are at present defined cannot effectively do this. The States are moving more and more to regionalisation of services such as health and education.

Tasmania is the only State with a natural boundary. The boundaries of the other States are largely political accidents. No natura] regions such as the Riverina, which is divided by the New South Wales and Victorian borders, exist. This from time to time gives rumblings for a new State, but it is only a rumbling. No action is ever taken, and action is needed to overcome the difficulties. After 8 years of frustration of serving in a State Parliament with all the practical restrictions for effective action that abound there and the difficulty in progressive planning, I am convinced that State governments are becoming more and more the complete lackeys of the Commonwealth and that some form of the centralist view would be the best form of government we could have. 1 realise full well that many will disagree with me, but I challenge them to say that they are satisfied with the present situation. I challenge them to join in the demand for a re-examination of the constitutional structure and the presentation of proposals to the Australian people to alter it. Even in my centralist view there is a role for the States or a smaller equivalent type of regional unit to play, but shorn of its expensive trappings and high membership, with clearly defined administrative and governing roles laid down on principles in keeping with present day' demands. My question is: Who will take the initiative in pursuing this vast problem? Surely that initiative should reside in this Parliament.

The other matter to which I want to refer to briefly is pollution which the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) mentioned in his maiden speech tonight. Various aspects of the GovernorGeneral's Speech lead us to a consideration of the degradation and pollution of our environment. References dealing with dam construction, eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis in cattle; forestry development, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission's proposed nuclear power station, research into wild life and marine science are all relevant to the degradation of our environment. President Nixon in a recent State of the Union message said:

The great question of the 70s is: Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?

He might also have added every animate thing to these inaminate factors.

To put it on the most material basis, man for all bis brain, his form and so on can be reduced in scientific terms to a series of chemical reactions. Some of these chemical reactions can be reproduced in the test tube, but others as yet cannot. From time to time great concern is expressed as to what will happen in the test tube. What chemist would expect the chemical reactions that he desired to produce under laboratory conditions to proceed in a normal way in the presence of impurities? Yet these are the very conditions under which we expect the chemical reactions of human beings and other animals to proceed. We degrade, pollute and ravage our environment in every way imaginable. Our society is being called the 'effluent society'. 1 hope I will have time to illustrate how apt that description is.

The chemical armamentarium we use in food production and preservation, in the extermination of pests, in the treatment of disease not only due to bacterial or other parasites but due to degenerative diseases, all lead to further contamination. Massive physical projects take their toll. Certain irrigation projects which in the short term produce beneficial results may in the long term with constant leaching of salts and their re-deposition abolish the productivity of the areas concerned. We are all familiar with the problem of dust-bowl conditions in grossly defoliated areas. In fact conservationists who deplore the destruction of large amounts and numbers of flora and fauna are indeed referring to a portion of our environmental degradation. In the publication 'Science USA' the author Gilman points out that scientific research and development in 1965 took one-sixth of the United States Budget. This involved in excess of SUS15 billion. From other sources I have ascertained that only $US57m of this was devoted to research in pollution control.

Just as the picture in America is one of complete ravaging of the environment due to industry so it is with other industrialised nations. Even the smaller areas are concerned. About 18 months ago in Suva, Fiji, the local Press spoke about the new cement works there and the emissions of smoke which were causing pollution and about which they were concerned. We can assume that in Australia we are at the stage where we can do something about it. One might feel, if one thinks of the smog in places such as Los Angeles, Detroit and

New York, that there is no hope of it happening here. Yet the number of motor vehicles in Australia has increased more than one and a half times in the last decade. In petrol use per capita we are out-ranked only by the United States of America and Canada. In 1967 we burnt 1,820 million gallons of petrol. Can we be sure that there are not densely populated areas which possess the physical and geographical features that will cause the inversion and the photochemical reaction that produces the irritant and toxic substances from such fumes?

In Victoria, the State inefficiently runs a Clean Air Division. It is very proud of the fact that it has never launched a prosecution through that Division and in fact today the number of complaints its receives is onetwentieth of what they received 10 years ago. It is very true that people can complain and nothing happens. There have been factories in my electorate which pollute the environment. Promises are made that the situation will be remedied but the result is stained and damaged laundry and corroded duco and metal on cars and houses. People have complained of smarting eyes, running noses and respiratory infection. This is the way we ravage the environment with pollution. Gauges in the city of Preston, for example, show that 9 to 10 tons of dust per square mile per month are deposited over areas of the city. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) would be aware that in the Herne Hill area something like 70 tons of dust per square mile per month is deposited. This figure has been revealed by dust gauges. But the evidence of pollution does not stop there. This week in the House we heard comments about sewage in Sydney Harbour. It is not so long ago that it was proposed to dump great amounts of Melbourne's sewage into Port Phillip Bay. In this case the sewage was not important but the detergent and chemical content was because this would have damaged all the flora and fauna of the Bay with great degradation to the uses of that area for man.

I am not able to completely cover this problem. I have tried to respect the customs and usages of this House under which the House hears an honourable member's maiden speech in silence. There are many matters of a much more partisan and possibly more controversial nature which could be raised. But I believe this Government just has not applied itself to these matters I have discussed in the urgent way needed. There is an urgent and pressing need for notice to be taken of parliamentary structure and of the prevention of environmental degradation. I trust I have raised matters of sufficient substance concerning them to engage the future attention of the House.







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