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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1618


Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Murphy has taken the words out of my mouth. How much better off 'his nation, including all those suffering from this terrible scourge, would have been if this matter had been referred to that Senate Standing Committee at that time and dealt with by it? Be that as it may, at least now, especially after the remarks made by and the evidence produced by Archbishop Loane of Sydney and Bishop Hulme-Moir of Sydney directly to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), directly to the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) and directly to other members of the national Parliament including Senator Carrick, who is one member who has experienced this evidence at first hand-


Senator Mulvihill - And the honourable member for Chicey, Mr Armitage, in the other place, who saw it, too.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should mention also the honourable member for Chifley in the other place. I think that it is important to know that at least the Government is considering the establishment of a form of inquiry. Even if it be not by reference to a Senate standing committee, at least the Government is considering the establishment of an inquiry. When Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, on behalf of the Government, indicated this fact this evening, I immediately interjected to ask whether the inquiry was to be public. Quite obviously from the reply that he gave to me, the Government at this stage has not determined whether the inquiry will be public or private.

I hope that the Government will learn from past experience. I can cite a number of occasions when, either at the stage when notice was given of a motion for the Senate to establish a select or standing committee to investigate a certain matter or after the committee was established to conduct an inquiry or an existing committee had a reference directed to it on that subject matter, the Government appointed its own inquiry into the same matter. For instance, in 1962 the Senate appointed a select committee to inquire into and report upon the encouragement of Australian productions for television. Senator Drake-Brockman was a member of this Committee as I was. At that time, the Government appointed an interdepartmental committee of inquiry. The Senate committee carried out a public inquiry; the interdepartmental committee conducted a private inquiry. Certainly the Parliament received the report of the Senate select committee. But we did not hear anything, nor did the public, of the private interdepartmental committee.

Further, the Senate established the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. When we established that Committee which sat in public, the Government established its own private committee on health insurance which we now know as the Nimmo Committee. That Committee sat in private. Although the report of the Nimmo Committee eventually became a Government document and a parliamentary paper, we did not have the benefit of reading any of the evidence that was presented to that Committee. But we had the benefit of the public evidence given before the Senate Select Committee and of the public report by that Committee.

In recent times, the Senate decided to refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare for inquiry and report all aspects of repatriation. That inquiry has been proceeding certainly for the best part of this year, if not longer. As a member of that Committee, I can say frankly that the inquiry is most detailed and comprehensive. But, as soon as the Senate referred that matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, the Government established a private inquiry into the repatriation system to be presided over by His Honour, Mr Justice Toose. I understand that the report by Mr Justice Toose will be presented to the Minister for Repatriation, not to the Parliament. The report of the Senate Standing Committee inquiring into repatriation will be tendered to the Parliament. Therefore, having regard to what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has said tonight, if the Government does determine to establish a private inquiry and agrees to have its hearings in public, at least we of the Opposition in putting this motion forward will have succeeded in achieving what we set out to achieve as long ago as 2nd November 1970.

I am pleased to know that Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have indicated that they will propose that further discussion of this matter be adjourned until 25th May, because frankly I personally will not be satisfied if the Government appoints an interdepartmental committee or a committee of its own choice to inquire into poverty and that inquiry is to sit in confidence or in camera. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country, especially in the great metropolis of Sydney, suffering from the scourge of poverty. Senator Carrick would be able to tell the Senate much more than I about that. Anyone who has had anything to do wilh the Meals on Wheels organisation in Sydney can tell of the extreme poverty in that city. Anyone who knows the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army and the many other organisations, which have hundreds of voluntary workers in and around that city, can tell and expose publicly the great problems that so many thousands of Australians are suffering. If these things are exposed publicly, the public will demand that action be taken to ameliorate the conditions compalined of. So, 1 say that if the Government agrees to a form of inquiry into poverty, be it by way of a Senate committee or some other committee, provided that the hearings of that committee are conducted in public the result which Senator Murphy set out to achieve on 2nd November 1970 when he moved for the reference of this matter will have been achieved.







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