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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2197


Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - For nearly 20 years of my career I was a teacher of Latin. I was very impressed with one line by the Roman poet Virgil which goes: 'Timeo danaos et dona ferentes'- 'I fear the Greeks when they come bearing gifts'. When I listened to my friend Senator Wheeldon upholding the right of the Australian Democratic Labor Party not to be criticised and when I tried to recall to mind 95 per cent of the speeches which Senator Wheeldon makes in which he trenchantly criticises the DLP, I wondered, when he was defending the DLP, what was the catch. I have not been able to work it out. I want to refer to only 2 of the considerations which he brought forward and which he said indicated that it was untrue to suggest that his Party was seeking in an undesirable way to concentrate power in Canberra.

I listened to his eloquent defence of the Australian Council for the Arts. I appreciate the wonderful effort which the Australian Labor Party made before the last election to conciliate people interested in the arts. The effort was so successful that when Mr Whitlam held a meeting he had footballers, cricketers, tennis players, dancers and actors attending the meetings. As a matter of fact, I was told that they would have had Piping Lane, the winner of the Melbourne Cup, on stage except that he was not old enough to vote. I only want to say this: As active and energetic as people associated with the arts were in the interests of electing a Labor government, they are just as active and energetic today in telling people that they have been betrayed by the Labor Government and that the organisation that has been set up is the type of organisation that Senator Wheeldon denied it would be. It is an organisation in which bureaucrats in Canberra offices are denying to the people associated with the arts those things which the Labor Government said it would do for them. I quoted only the other day, people from Sir Robert Helpman to Clifton Pugh, a member of the Arts Council itself, who have said that the Arts Council today is an organisation which operates in the interest of a bureaucratic few, an organisation in which there is uncontrolled waste and misuse of government facilities. I would excuse Senator Wheeldon because possibly he is not aware of these facts. If anyone here doubts that the Council for the Arts is not an example of the misuse of power, as exercised by bureaucrats, and of the right to direct money intended for the arts to their own personal aggrandisement, they should go and ask the top people associated with the arts in Australia today.

Everyone knows who runs the arts today. Most people would have said that the arts should have been associated with the Media portfolio. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has taken it to himself. The instruction is that any proposal, any correspondence and anything of a vital nature affecting the arts should not go to a Minister but to Dr Coombs, who appears to be making as big a success of his supervision over the Council for the Arts as he is making of his supervision over Aboriginal affairs. I recall from my reading of history that in 1780 the British Parliament carried a motion which said that 'the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished '. I believe that the motion before us today could well have been worded to state that the power of the Cabinet, the Executive, and the bureaucracy has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. If it were so worded, I believe that I would get a sympathetic reaction from some members of the Australian Labor Party who have taken recently in their own Caucus the type of action that I would have expected Labor parliamentarians to take against what they obviously believe is misuse of power by the Cabinet and the bureaucracy in this city.

I believe that the centralised power of the Government is being increased and extended. I believe that today it is more necessary than ever that Parliament should take action to exert its power and deny this excessive increase of power by the Cabinet and the bureaucracy. I agree with Senator Durack that this increase in power probably began when the Government took office. For a period of time Australia was governed by 2 men.


Senator Devitt - Very well, too.


Senator McMANUS - Senator Devittsays that the country was governed very well. I would like to take a referendum in his Party as to whether Labor Party members agree that 2 men should have constituted the Government. I would like to look over the shoulders of some men who are now Ministers. I would like to look over the shoulders of the 5 Ministers who are in this place, including the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), and get their impression as to whether 2 men should have governed Australia. I asked one Labor man why the Prime Minister had chosen a Cabinet of two. He explained the reason to me. He said that Mr Whitlam wanted a Cabinet of all the members of his Party whom he trusted. (Government senators interjecting)-


Senator McMANUS - If this uproar continues, Mr Acting Deputy President, I will have to ask Senator Wheeldon to defend me again. Immediately these 2 men took over as the Government of this country we had the remarkable situation that there was a spate of government by executive act and by regulation. All kinds of things were done by executive act and regulation. The Parliament was bypassed and was not consulted. There was an obvious intention that power should be taken out of the hands of the Parliament and innumerable things were done on which Parliament was not allowed to adjudicate. We have since had a flood of legislation through which there is one consistent thread. Trotsky raised the cry years ago: 'All power to the Soviets'. The present Government is raising the cry: 'All power to Cabinet'. What we have today is a definite and deliberate decision by the Australian Labor Party to arrogate to Canberra and the bureaucrats, mainly through the exercise of the power of the purse, all power over housing, all power over education, all power over health, all power over minerals, all power over conservation, all power over finance, all power over the control of off-shore minerals, all power over the control of Aborigines and all power over the control of arts and a host of other things.

This attempt by Canberra to arrogate to itself all power reached such an appalling stage that we had the most unusual spectacle of 6 State Premiers- the Premiers of every State in the Commonwealth of whom half were Labor premiers- going to London for the purpose of protesting against what they regarded as being unconstitutional and wrongful attempts by the Commonwealth Government to take power to itself. Why did Mr Dunstan protest in London, why did Mr Eric Reece protest in London and why did Mr Tonkin protest in London if this Commonwealth is not arrogating to itself power which it should not have? We have had the spectacle of Mr Eric Reece protesting at the interference by the Commonwealth in the matter of Lake Pedder. This is only one instance of the fact that while the Prime Minister as the Foreign Minister interfered in the affairs of almost every country in the world, as Prime Minister he interferes in the affairs of every State in the Commonwealth.

We have found as Federal parliamentarians that the amount of work, the amount of legislation, that we are called upon to cover is almost impossible to deal with. Yet, at the very time when the Government places before this Parliament an amount of legislation which is almost impossible to deal with it is greedily grabbing in all directions for other matters over which it intends to take control. I believe that one reason for the failure of the present Government to take advantage of the opportunity which we have given it for a double dissolution is this: The Government knows that the Australian people are appalled at the power hungry character of the Government in Canberra and it is not game to go to the people to get their verdict. What is happening in the field of education is a prime example of this. Before the last election the Prime Minister spoke at a meeting in the Melbourne Festival Hall at which I was present. He received an ovation because he said that no school would have any aid at present being given to it taken from it. The present Minister for Education, Mr Kim Beazley, went to every State and repeated the Prime Minister 's words.

We have indicated our intention to support a proposal that the Prime Minister's promise be kept by his Government. That is all we have said. We have said that we will help the Prime Minister; we will vote so that his promise and the promise of Mr Beazley can be kept. What do we find? The Postmaster-General in another place (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is Acting Minister for Education, says that this is deliberate obstruction, and that if the DLP tries to help the Prime Minister and Mr Beazley to keep their promise, the Government will refuse to give $600m to the schools. He says that the Government will call a double dissolution if the DLP tries to get the Prime Minister and Mr Beazley to keep their promise. I do not know that I have ever heard of a government more bankrupt of principle than a government which says that if people try to get its leaders to keep a promise, it will deprive the children of Australia of $600m in educational aid. If that is not an example of an exercise of power in an arrogant way -

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.







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