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Maroondah women's section



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MAROONDAH WOMENS' SECTION

It is a great pleasure to he addressing the Marcondah Women’s

Section of the Liberal Party today. Women have I believe

achieved more in the ranks of the Liberal Party and the

Liberal Party has made greater provision for women’s representation

on Party Branches and Party Bodies than any other Party in

Australia „ The Liberal Party has, T believe·, in their attitudes

towards women been at the forefront of the movement to achieve

equal rights for the sexes in this important sphere.of our

national life. .

The economy has been very much in the news in recent weeks?

and no doubt it will continue to be. It is very easy to

run an ocean liner off the rocks but it .is not so easy to

get it sailing properly again. We have said before the

election and since that it will take a full three years„

But I do not intend to speak on the economy today.

I would like to speak on a topic which is very important to

Liberals„ A topic which is at the core of our beliefs„ That is

our commitment to enhancing the. position of all individuals in

Australian society, although the attention of the public and

the press has generally focussed on economic matters„ The

reforms we have brought to improve the position of the individual

is no less important to this government.

Our concern for the individual is a distinctive aspect of

Liberalism as an approach, and as a philosophy of social

economic and political life. We have a commitment to establishing

the "situation in which the opportunities of individuals'' and

their capacities to realise their own potential ir expanded.

In this tv ay individuals can make a greater contribution to .

the well-being of their community and of the total Australian

s o c i e t y ■

This particular approach which emphasises the individual is .

in stark contrast to the socialist concern with increasing the ,

power of government - trie restrictions which are placed are on

individual freedom, under socialism. These restrictions are

always made. it is claimed, so that the general interest may be ■

batter served„ Unfortunately.,· this rarely turns out to be the .

case„ ' ■ .

But the problem is not merely socialism.. The problem of protecting

individual liberties is inherent in the nature of the■modern

society, its complexity, the increasing size, of organisations,

both governmental. and non— governmental. These pose- threats to.

the autonomy and the rights of citizens. The fact that the

limitations that modern society places, on the individual are

often unintended only means that we must be even more careful .

to ensure that the rights of the individual are not eroded ~

because we took them for granted. Re dp not want to wake one

day and find that there have been significant inroads in the

traditional liberties of the Australian people.

/ , .

, We believe that the. basic responsibility of government is to

protect and enhance the civil liberties and political rights of

all people by giving effective assistance to the disadvantaged,

in the Australian community.

Most governments, most political parties, claim to have noble

ideals, and usually their goals are laudable. But the real

test of governments and of political parties is the record of

what they actually do, Good intentions are not enough. The

ultimate test is how far that government is prepared or capable

of translating good intentions into reality.

what is this government's record since December 1975 in these matters? What have we done to protect and expand civil and

political liberties and to assist those individuals who are

disadvantaged and in special need in the Australian communi.ty?

, o t me take first of all the question of civil liberty a

fundamental commifcnent of the Liberal .Party., Civil liberties

are often taken f o g r a n t e d in Australia but they ought not

to b e , There is always a need to protect and improve · our '

civil liberties.and. this requires constant viqilance,

Society changes c new problems arise, and. then; must, be a

constant sensitivity .to how civil lib,..sties cam be maintained

in.a constantly changing situation„

'We have acted on a number of fronts, A Human Rights Commission

will be established by 1st July,. Its purpose is to promote ..

human rights and to ensure, that; our laws, comply with the United-

Nations International Convenant on civil and political rights.

We intend to introduce a Freedom, of Information Bill P giving

as a right, access to certain categories of information held

by Government„ The previous administration said that they were

in favour of a Freedom of Information Bill when 'they came into

office. They soon developed a vested interest in greater"and

greater secrecy and they forgot all about freedom of - information.

We have a firm commitment to passing legislation on this issue

and v;e will act. ' . ·

We have decided to implement the report of the Law Reform

Commission on criminal investigation. That is an important

a c l . v a nee i n c i v i 1 1 i b erties for pers o ns d e tained f o r questioning

or arrested and charged with a Federal criminal offence.

We have extended legal aid and the Attorney General is

conducting negotiations ‘ with the State designed to improve access

to legal aid; - to make sure that it is available to all in

most need, And despite the general budgetary restraint,

funds available to Legal Aid have increased by about 23 or 2 4% „

nearly $4 million, .

^/Aboriginal Land Rights legislation to the Northern Territory

has been passed - a significant achievement - a significant advance

Other people spoke of Aboriginal Land Rights but r-.ur cove<

acted„

: . m e n t

There have been references to the Law Reform.Commission on the

protection of privacy; the lav; of defamation; investigation

into the. possibility of·.applying aboriginal customary law in

criminal matters to aborigines living in the traditional manner.

"his is an impressive list, amply demonsbrating not just the

depth of our commitment to maintaining civil liberties of the ·

individual, but also our capacity to act effectively'in these

particular areas, .

Lot us return to-the question of assistance for the disadvantaced.

This is a fundamental commitment of the government' to assist the

disadvantaged. Unless that is provided, both the disadvantaced

and all Australians will lose. It becomes, then a. personal tragedy

and a social tragedy for the community.

/ The basic orientation of. our. programmes, is to- seek to provide assistance to those most in need.. That makes it possible to limit

the dollars that have to be. taken from taxpayers while

effectively assisting· those people, most in. need. , ■

v . ' ' ■

We are .determined to provide assistance to the disadvantaged in

a way that does not make people more dependent on government

or on government bureaucracy. Our wish is to males people more

independent. It is very easy as our predecessors found, to

throw money at problems-But this approach does not really

provide very groat assistance to people .who cannot cope with

the pressures of modern society, , who need something more than

money. . - ·

what surely is needed is. an approach that enables people in need

to be independent and to take .a full and proper place in

Australian societyl^and to take pride and gain self-esteem.

This takes a commitment much greater than a commitment to .

provide funds,

λ · ' .

We recognise quite often that government bureaucracies are

quite often unable to provide the kind of personal aid necessary;

we therefore place great emphasis on voluntary associations.

They can often provide the sort of assistance I. have been speaking

Of. They can often become aware of the need for assistance long

before a government bureaucracy itself. That is why we want

close association with voluntary organisations to let the

government know of emerging needs, and changes in direction

that might be required- in this sensitive area. I believe our

actions in this area reflect our commitments. .

The indexation of pensions automatically retains their real

value - The family allowance scheme is the greatest benefit to . .

low income earners, to over 300,000 families with almost a

million children who got virtually no benefit from the old .

system of tax deductions merely because their.incomes were too .

low to get the advantage. Nov/ government assistance, paid for .

by you and thousands of others like you, goes to those w h o .do most

need it„ That is as it ought to b e .

There has been a reorientation of child care programmes to give '

children of working mothers adequate, care, and single parent,

children adequate care„

I know, this is sometimes. a controversial matter „ . There are .

differences as to whether there ought to be more pre— school

facilities or whether there ought to be more day-care facilities. ΐ "L ' '

Some people argue that/there are more facilities for day-care

this will encourage or compel mothers to go out to work when

they really ought to be looking after their children at hom e .

But when the facts of.the situation are analysed it is very plain

that what we are seeking to.do is not to change anyone's habits

or practices, but to meet a vary serious need. Whether we like

it or not, the fact is that there are many single parent families

V7he.ee. the parent is working and children do not get adequate

care during working hours„ There are also many two-parent

families where both parents work and where child-care facilities

are inadequate„ What we are seeking to do is to provide the

circumstances in which children are properly cared for „ .

I believe that this is important.

-z" Senator Guilfoyle has been reviewing the administration of the

Social Security Department to improve its capacity to assist clients

We have established an inter-departmental committee

operating between those departments that provide over-the-counter

. services to various people in the Australian community. The purpose

of this is to see what can be done to make people behind the ·

counter more sensitive, more aware, and more helpful in their

dealings with the public. Often the people who go to departments

do not necessarily know how to go about getting the sort of

assistance that may be available from the government, and there

is a need to provide more aware and more helpful assistance„

This is not a criticism of the' public.service which I believe

by and large seeks to do what it can as well as possible„

But an examination is needed to see what additzona 1 things vze

can do to ensure that over--the --conn to r. services ' from the

Commonwealth are delivered with the degree of concern and ■ .

sensitivity which may not always be presents

At the present, time there are too many unemployed people and

this is obviously a matter of concern to the government

We have initiated a number of schemes to assist young unemployed

the Youth Employment Scheme; Community Youth Support Scheme; .

Relocation «.ss.istanee.; Tax Rebate, for training. Mr Korgard

is conducting an inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment

Service which should be reporting in a month or two.

In addition, . there· is a wide ranging inquiry under Professor ,

Williams into education and training, I believe: there will

be important lessons to be learned from both of these inquiries.

There are also two significant experimental programmes under way

with migrant resource centres„ One involves the Australian Greek

Welfare Society in this State to which vze are contracting out

the delivery of some government services to the migrant community

In Sydney, there is another resource centre involving a number

of ethnic Communities and departmental officers. We will be

monitoring these experiments to see whether or not we cannot

get a more·.effective delivery of government services and ·

more effective contacts with.migrant and community groups by

these means than by relying on the more traditional government

bureaucracies„ : .

I believe that these experimental programmes are vze 11 worth

while and that we will gain some valuable lessons from t h e m „

There is also a housing voucher experiment designed to enable

people to be eligible for housing assistance to choose their

own housing, rather than have their choices made for them, by­

government bureaucracies. 1 think in the past too much of our

social welfare approach has been designed: "Well, here is the

service, you have got to take it, this is it”, taking choice

away from individuals. Well, choice is just as important to

less well-off.people -in'our community as it is to those■ who

do not need special Government help. .

i.et- me turn to political rights „

Some people may think there is n o n c o d to protect political -rights

in Australia. That . they are safe, they are secxva,. and car· never

be challenged. Well? it anyone thinks that,! believe -

memories are very short. In November ]‘ -)?5 we had' a government

that sought' to govern once the Parl."; aro.env. had. cut off the . ,

supply of'money. The most fundamental principle of all in

a democracy is that once Parliament cuts off the' supply of money .

there must be an election to let the people decide. But. we all

know that there was an' attempt to prevent the people deciding.

Having a election was branded as undemocratic. I would have

thought that the most democratic moments in a nation’s life

are those days when people are putting pen to ballot paper.

Those arc the days on which if you wish to protest or make a

judgement you can make your protest or judgement effective.

On other days you can speak, you can write to Members of

Parliament, or call meetings or pans resolutions. But the most

effective, the most democratic day of all, is the day on

which all the people of Australia . go to .vote . .

I think it is also worth remembering that when Parliament cut

off the supply of money there.was an illicit attempt to get the

general banking system to finance the 'activities of government.

All the L-iberal-N.C.P. leaders met .in Melbourne and branded this

the first step towards dictatorship. This step was not

successful. There was am election and the people of Australia

expressed their views. .

I make these points to emphasise that political rights cannot

be taken for granted. They do need to be protected. We need

to guard against actions that damage political rights and take

measures that enhance political rights and..make them more secure.

It could be said that the createsh possible contribution to

maintaining political rights which the Liberal· Government .

could undertake was to win the last election. With your help

and assistance it was done. . .

But leaving this aside, we have moved to extend rights

for important groups of citizens . to make governments .more

democratic and moreresponsible. Some of the actions we have

taken will tend to make it harder for the' j 975 year

to be repeated„ . · · '

The rights of citizens in the Territories are being enhanced.

doves are being made to bring the Northern Territory to

statehood and to give a greater measure of self-government to

the A.C.T. . ' ■ . -■

There will be a. referendum to permit electors in the

territories to vote in referendmrts. This will not alter the

balance between the states since four of the six. states

must still vote in favour of the referendum, but at the '

present time, territorians’ votes are not even counted in

the Australian total„ I think this is unjust and unreal„

It does make them second-class citizens and the referendum

is designed to -overcome that, ■

There have been reforms to electoral legislation and

redistribution'which 1 believe will produce the fairest balance

yet achieved between one vote one value, and the need to give

fair service to electorates all around Australia„ ■

Let me make just one illustration about this,. In the Labor

redistribution that the Senate rejected, the. seat of Mailey,

geographically the largest in Victoria, was going to have about

0,000 more voters in it than the relatively small seat on the

outskirts of Melbourne - Doncaster/Templesfcoxve. I do not.

really believe that that is one-vote one-value. I do not really

see the fairness in that„ ' .

We have placed a new emphasis on Federalism. We are setting

up the Council for Inter-Governmental Relations and it will

be possible in a few days no announce the.membership of that

Council„ You will remember that there are six members from

State Governments, six from Local Governments, five citizens

of the Commonwealth and five representatives of the Commonwealth

Government on- that Council, ■

Its purpose is to discuss problems that arise between the.

spheres of Government,

9

I believe it wi 11 become a valuable source of advice, to all

governments & viljl help to make - the government a. L machinery

move more smoothLy,„ ■ ■ ' / ,

Our tar sharing wiith states and with local government I think

makes both more accountable „ . They both have -more resources

less excuse perhapjs to say that they did not have the· funds .

to do what, they vaulted to do and 'therefore blame the terrible

Commonwealth Government. ■ More 'capacity to make their' own ' /

decisions and .thaij is as· it ought to b e . . / .