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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

The CHAIRMAN - Order! There is too much audible conversation. I can hardly hear the honorable member for Moore.

Mr Bryant - We do not want to hear him.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) had better be quiet, or he will find himself outside the chamber, where he will not be able to interject while I am speaking.

Mr LESLIE - In relation to the proposed vole for Miscellaneous Services alone, there are many matters that I should like to discuss and which I think the committee should consider. Most of the proposed voles in this group refer to grants and assistance to be given by the Government in respect of activities both inside and outside Australia, including the very important measure of assistance which the Government has undertaken to give to our Asian friends under the Colombo plan. I wish to devote a few minutes to discussion of assistance within Australia, because I am one of those peculiar people who believe that charity begins at home and that, whilst it is proper to have a charitable and kindly attitude to people outside Australia who require assistance, we should make sure that the fullest possible measure of assistance is given in deserving cases at home.

In Division 214 of the Estimates for the Prime Minister's Department, under the heading of Miscellaneous Services, a long list of organizations and subjects appears for which money is to be made available. Some of these appear to receive their grants almost automatically each year, and it is not often that a new organization or subject appears in the list. However, this year, I notice that a new organization is included, the Australian Humanities Research Council. Although, as in the case of the other items in this division, the title of this organization is given, no information is provided to enable the committee to understand what this organization is and what it does. Having regard to its title, I have no doubt that it devotes its attention to humanitarian activities, and is a deserving body. However, I should appreciate some information as to its objectives.

Another item is, " Cultural matters, exhibitions ", and the grant for this is £1,500. A similar vote was included in last year's Estimates, but it was not spent. Evidently, the exhibitions did not take place, but it is assumed that they will be held this year. Although the causes listed in this division may merit financial help, I could mention many others which are equally, if not more, deserving of government assistance.

I direct particular attention to the work that is being carried on by voluntary organizations in every State of the Commonwealth to provide medical and educational facilities for spastic children. These children are afflicted with cerebral palsy, and the efforts of these organizations are devoted to the improvement of their physical condition, and to the provision of means of education so that they may be able to enjoy their lives as much as possible and to engage in useful occupations as far as they are able. The demands that have been made for the services of these organizations, even in the short time that they have been in existence, have been overwhelming, and they will not be able to carry on without some assistance from the Commonwealth Government.

The organizations have formed a federal association, and at a recent meeting in Melbourne, after a very careful study of the position, it was found that in order to provide adequately the services necessary to assist spastic children both now and in later life a sum of £400,000 would be required to supplement the funds raised from the public and voted by State governments. Last year an appeal for assistance was made to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but although he gave a sympathetic hearing he gave no substantial help. The organizations had hoped to receive some assistance in this year's budget, but such has not been the case. The time is fast approaching when the Commonwealth will not be able to keep out of this matter, if only for economic reasons, which is a most inhumane way of considering it. But if the Commonwealth does not give financial assistance in the work of helping spastic children, it will be obliged, under its social services legislation, to pay them the invalid pension when they are old enough to qualify for it.

Mr Ian Allan - What are the State governments doing?

Mr LESLIE - The State governments are giving financial assistance in accordance with their constitutional responsibilities. They provide educational facilities, and the State of Queensland subsidizes the spastic centre in that State on a £l-for-£I basis. Nevertheless, the financial assistance from the State governments is inadequate, and the organizations have to depend upon money raised from the public to enable them to carry on. In Western Australia, where it costs £60,000 a year to run the spastic centre, the organization has received generous support from the State government. The difference between the government grant and the actual cost is contributed, voluntarily, by the public. The Australian council of the spastic organizations is fearful that the sympathetic and generous response by the public to the frequent appeals will not be maintained, so that it will not be possible to provide the services that the spastic children need. Already, it is impossible to provide anything like the services asked for.

Although this need has been ignored through the years by governments, the service now being given by the spastic organizations is being sought by increasing numbers of parents whose children are afflicted.

1.   say again that charity begins at home, and this is a case in which the Government should assist. If children can receive treatment in their early years it is possible to do much more for them than in later years. From a humanitarian point of view the need of the spastic children constitutes a demand for government assistance that far transcends the claims of many of the organizations listed in this division to which grants have been made. I hope that, as a result of my appeal, some consideration will be given to the help of spastic organizations, and that when they approach the Treasurer later this year he will give them substance as well as sympathy, and grant them a fair proportion of the £16,000,000 that is set aside for him to spend at his discretion. 1 now turn to a matter under the control of the Postmaster-General - the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On previous occasions, 1 have severely criticized a recent departure in the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by providing only one service in the children's hour, that is, the relay from the eastern States to Western Australia of the Argonauts session. When I discussed this matter with Mr. Moses, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he gave me quite a long story, but to me it was unconvincing and left me cold. I am still of the opinion that Western Australia is not being provided with an adequate programme for children, and it seems that requests to the Australian Broadcasting Commission from Western Australia will not receive favorable consideration.

As proof of that statement I point to the fact that the Royal Show is now taking place at Perth, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission is conspicuous by its absence. At the Royal Show held in each of the capital cities of the eastern States the team which presents the Argonauts session appears in person at the specially provided Australian Broadcasting Commission studio in one of the pavilions. Many Western Australian children who listen to the broadcast of the Argonauts session were keenly looking forward to the appearance of these artists at the Perth Royal Show this year, but they were bitterly disappointed. Why should Western Australia be deprived of a personal visit from these artists? Obviously, it is a case of a distant State being forgotten and neglected.

Mr Daly - Where is Western Australia?

Mr LESLIE - I suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should go back to the kindergarten and learn where Western Australia is. The treatment that has been meted out by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Western Australia is wholly unsatisfactory. I suggest that the commission should again look at the matter. If the idea behind the relaying of a single session all over the Commonwealth is that it is to prepare theway for television, I remind the commission that we will not have television in Western Australia for another two or perhaps three years.

Mr Luchetti - But you are paying taxes.

Mr LESLIE - Of course, we will be taxed. If the children at the eastern end of the Commonwealth are to have the benefits of television and there is to be another programme for Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, which States will not have television for a considerable time, each State might as well be given its own broadcast children's session at the present time. When the Argonauts session wasrun by each State, it was not possible for the stations to cope with the mail that came from the children. The interest of the children in their local affairs, and in the flora and fauna of their country, was such that the stations could not deal with the mail. How in the world those who are responsible are able to deal with the mail since the session was placed on a nationwide basis I do not know. The discontinuance of the session in Western Australia has been very disappointing to the children. I know that the PostmasterGeneral will tell me that he has no control over the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but he should investigate this matter. I suggest that the Argonauts session, even if it costs three times as much, is worth a jolly sight more than is the broadcast of the proceedings of this Parliament. I remind honorable members - and I include myself - that as 1 stand here and speak the broadcast of these proceedings is costing the taxpayers of Australia £2 5s. a minute. I believe that, as far as I am concerned, they get value for their money, but I am not so sure that that applies to a number of other honorable members.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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