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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 126

Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(11.20) —I am obviously at the bottom of the pecking order, having got the first adjournment debate to respond to. Nevertheless, I will try very briefly to note what honourable senators brought to the attention of the chamber this evening. Senators Jessop, Townley, Chaney and Michael Baume remarked on the premature death of Mr Ernest Marty. Mr Marty was indeed a very assiduous lobbyist, well known to those of us who have been in the service of Senate committees in particular over the years. Despite a variety of references with which we may have been involved, Mr Marty quite often found himself putting a particular point of view. He was a lobbyist in the best sense of the word, as has been remarked, and he was always extremely courteous. I can still see him in King's Hall sucking quietly on his pipe in the company of his wife. I am sure that those on this side of the chamber would wish to join in the expressions of sympathy which have been conveyed to his widow. No doubt we will be able to convey those condolences personally when she resumes the role which they undertook together in relation to their lobbying business. I simply indicate on behalf of honourable senators on this side of the chamber that we join in the sentiments that have already been expressed.

I thought that Senator Cooney gave a very good illustration of the need for the printed word because it was quite impossible, using the simple ear, to gather all the gems from the torrent of words that tumbled from him in his passionate defence of the Press and the need for its responsible freedom in order to help preserve the sorts of democratic traditions which we enjoy in this country. I think the Government has indicated that the marriage of dominant Press and electronic media interests in a particular area should be torn asunder and we hope that that will proceed shortly through the various processes. However, the prospect of government intervention to determine the extent of ownership of particular newspapers or magazines is something which fills me with some foreboding. I note that whilst Senator Cooney said that an awesome challenge was contained in his remarks he did not proffer any clear indication of his preferred resolution of the problems that he saw emerging. Nevertheless, having highlighted these matters I will certainly bring his speech to the notice of the Government.

Senator Hill and Senator Alston brought to our attention-following the symbolic activity of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid in the area just in front of Parliament House-the cut in the aid Budget, particularly its impact on Africa. Certainly I generally prefer Senator Hill's views on Africa and Australia's response to Africa compared with perhaps those of the leadership of his Party. Nevertheless, the challenge which he issued and which was supported by Senator Alston is a very real one. There certainly needs to be a realisation that in setting certain priorities one cannot ignore the real plight of those in the African situation whom we have disabled ourselves from assisting through the decisions that have been made in the context of the Budget particularly in the last year. I believe that the challenge is too narrowly directed by those honourable senators to the Government. There is a very real obligation and challenge for us as parliamentarians to go out into the electorate and to try to convince the electorate. I can assure honourable senators that outside those who engage in supporting the symbolic activities that took place in front of Parliament House today, there is not the same sense of compassion or a realisation that it may be better morally and spiritually for us to divert money to overseas aid rather than to fill needs which Australian taxpayers see for certain domestic expenditure. I think we need to engage in that education of the general Australian population in a much more effective manner. Perhaps we will then get the political support out there to channel moneys in the way which has been suggested by those honourable senators.

But I will certainly bring the honourable senators' remarks to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden. I also know, Mr President, that you would wish to aid in that particular representation, because I know that as a result of one of the recommendations of your previous committee, which you chaired with such distinction-the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence-a particular monitoring post was set up in Addis Ababa to deal with the aid situation. I think there is good will on both sides of the chamber, but we really do need political support out in the general electorate for overseas aid, at a time of decreasing domestic expenditures, as a support for the sorts of priorities that Senators Hill and Alston would like to see.

Senator Teague raised a matter which was really consequential on a lot of information given by the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) during Question Time in relation to the fate of the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University, which is one of the centres of excellence subjected to peer review. I am glad that Senator Teague in his remarks acknowledged that the panel which looked at that Centre was indeed composed of peers. I think it was Senator Teague's remark that the Minister, in conveying the tenor of the report, was correct, or at least not misplaced, in her representation of the tenor of that report, although apparently the panel itself did not recommend that funding be entirely ceased. He then posed certain questions for himself and also reiterated some that had been raised in the Estimates Committee hearing, and I will undertake to pass those on to the Minister. I am sure that a fuller answer will be forthcoming.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 11.28 p.m.