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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo) - I would like to comment on a few of the remarks made by the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie). It sometimes staggers me that members of the Government can adopt such an approach as he adopts to the people that it employs on behalf of the Australian people, that is, the people referred to, usually contemptuously, as bureaucrats'. A description of these people is usually accompanied by such words as remote', 'faceless' and 'impersonal*. One gets the impression that because public servants have to live in Canberra, a distance from the State capital cities, there are some special demoniacal, impersonal and inhuman qualities about them, lt is staggering to hear this. Yet obviously the honourable member who made those very same comments would not express the same sorts of views about the faceless bureaucrats who run the private banks of Australia or some of the directors of companies in which people of Australia hold stocks and shares.

Mr Dobie - "Bureaucrat' is not a dirty word.

Mr KENNEDY - I dare 10 suggest that in the way in which the honourable member used it it is a dirty word.

Mr Dobie - I suggest that in the way the honourable member interprets it it is a dirty word.

Mr KENNEDY - The honourable member can leave it to my interpretation. Maybe he can reply at some other lime. I think the words he used were 'remote' and'. We were all cautioned very much to be on our guard lest these malevolent characters interfered in the sa.-red things called 'State rights' and the 'rights of voluntary bodies'. I do not care two hoots about who runs and who finances the education of young handicapped p--op'e. It docs not bother me whether it is done by local government bodies. Slate bodies, Commonwealth bodies or voluntary bodies. My on v concern is to see that it is done. We cannot ignore the fact that at the moment it is not being done. This is why wc are worried. 1 suggest that the obvious thing to do is for the Commonwealth to sit down, reason it out with the State governments, look over the whole problem and say: What can we do? What have wc done so far? What have we not done? Where are the areas of need that should bc patched up? What do we have to do?' That is exactly what this Government has not done. This is why we on this side of the House are angry. I simply cannot comprehend what makes federal public servants any different from State public servants or even local authority public servants and what makes public servants any different from anybody who is paid by some private profit making organisation.

The comment was made that there is something sacred about voluntary bodies.

Nobody on this side of the House argues with the importance that is placed on the job that voluntary bodies do. There is no question about that. Of course a lot of these organisations, such as the Spastic Childrens Society of Victoria Inc. could never have got started without voluntary help. But why could they not have got started? The honourable member for Cook said that their establishment was all due to the pioneering spirit. But why did they have to have this pioneering spirit? It was simply because the State government, the Commonwealth Government or the local government authorities would not do the job themselves, lt is quite true that the voluntary bodies have done a marvellous job. But they have reached a stage in their history where they simply cannot carry on.

What are we doing about the problems?cms? 1 venture to say that we are not doing very much. 1 say to the Minister: As far as I can see, this is insignificant. I would like to bc able to say that it was more important. What exactly will it do? lt is taking over an area of responsibilityitv that is at prose ii! being div barged by the State govevernments We arc supposed to assume that for sonic magical reason the Slate governm ~n's will i.p nd on maintenance costs, lor example. l>those moneys which are presently bc;ng expendedled on capital costs. As far as I can sec, this is .sheer optimism and sheer wishful thinking, because surely the w*o'e trend of financial relations between the Commonwealth and li'e State governments over recent years has been that when the Commonweath increases the amount that it pays to some body that relies on Commonwealth money tl'c first reaction of the Stale governments i< to de re:ise the amount thai they pay or to increase changes or if the State governmentn» increased superannuation the Commonwealthth eoi ives along and lift>. off 50% of ii through « lap'-red means lest. This is what is happening ali the way along.

On what ground are wc on this .side of the House expected to believe that the State governments arc lo spend more money on the recurrent costs ot caring for handicapped children thanii they are spending at the moment'.' I cannot see it. A.s !a: as I am eon .fined it simply wis! not hupp -n. I do noi want to .-p.n.l a;i isn I m d :>:.'*a wilh comments made by the hu o ruble member for Cook. Obviously we have different views on the subject. It is partly a question of ideology, I suppose. I am all for strong Federal goverment, strong State government and strong local government. It does not matter who does the work as long as somebody does it. Every time we stand in this House and say that the Commonwealth should be doing more we have thrown in our faces the words: 'State rights'. That phrase is used to evade the fact that somebody is not doing the job or that somebody is not forced to do the job.

Underlying this Bill 's the basic Liberal Party philosophy. The honourable member for Cook said we should not talk about the past. He said the Commonwealth had done a good job generally and there were certain areas where it had not done as much as it should have done, but let us look at the future. The question I ask is: Where does this Bill fit in? What is it a:med at? Is it aimed solely at stopping a gap that the Commonwealth believes the State governments cannot fill or is it part of a philosophy of expanding Commonwealth assistance for handicapped children? That is what 1 want to know. We are told that sheltered workshops are be ng subsidised by the Commonwealth. Now we are to have capital expenditure subsidised by the Commonwealth. Is the Commonwealth intending to do one thing now, something else in another 3 years and something else again after another 3 years, or is this part of an overall scheme? The question is whether the Government is go'ng to sit down with State governments, local government bodies and representatives of voluntary organisations and plan what it is going to do in future years instead of continuing with this stop gap policy.

There is a base philosophy behind most of the Bills Introduced by the Liberal Party. I think it also underlines this one. lt is difficult to see any philosophy apart from that one. Once again, behind this Bill is the theory that the individual is in charge of his own fate. There seems always to be the argument that the individual is capable of looking after his own problems. This is very true to a certain extent. That sort of person always will come to the fore when there is a problem and the\, are the sort of people we need to he'p. There seems to be in this Bill no philosophy of Common wealth responsibility. Once again the Commonwealth is relying on individuals. How sound today is the argument that things can be left to individuals? As far as I am concerned it is not very, sound at all. If we continue to have a system that relies upon individual voluntary groups to do things then we are going to continue the inefficiency and injustice we have had in . this subsidy system for years. Honourable members on the Opposition side of the House know that in the education field schools in the inner suburban areas that rely on government subsidy do far more poorly despite the fact that they have greater needs than schools in the wealthier areas. The same thing will apply in respect of this Bill, lt is not entirely a matter of capital assistance being granted according to need; it :'s capital assistance being granted according to the haphazardness and the sheer chance of local circumstances.

There is another aspect involved. There is no argument about the rights of the individual. I suppose it would be a daring thing for a Liberal Government ever to assert that any person has distinct rights. Private profit has rights, States have rights, but individuals do not have rights. As far as the education of handicapped children is concerned, there is no statement of rights. Assistance will be given to them if in certain circumstances a certain group of people come together and raise one-third of the capital cost involved. The thing that bothers me most is that nobody in Australia is settling down to look at the whole field of handicapped children, let alone the whole field of general welfare, and asking: 'What are rights of the people that we should be looking after?*

It is not good enough to rely upon voluntary organisations because already many of them have reached a state of despair. Their finances are in a chronic state. I cite, for example, the situation of the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria. This is the sort of society that the Government expects will benefit from its generosity in providing for subsidised capital expenditure. What is the good of offering two-thirds of the cost of buildings, extensions and land if you cannot put bodies in those buildings and you cannot run them? This is the case with the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria. Until recently it had a bank overdraft of $338,000.In a fit of pre-election conscience Sir Henry Bolte discovered the plight of handicapped children and tossed them $100,000. Now, the Society's bank overdraft will be lowered to some extent. However, that is the situation of the people that the Government thinks are going to benefit from this subsidised expenditure.

Another aspect of this Bill about which 1 want to speak is in line with the general argument I am putting forward that the Commonwealth is not looking at the whole field of assistance to handicapped people. It completely ignores the Stale system. The usual Liberal reply is that these are State rights and never mind about individual rights. Of course the Commonwealth completely disregards the fact that health authorities and education authorities throughout Australia are in desperate financial straits. The Commonwealth should si: down with each State Government and say: What do you need in your private sphere and what do you need in your State sphere?' Having decided what the need is it should decide what assistance it can give. The Commonwealth has made a survey of Australia's needs in education and it should be able to do this in the field of social welfare and assistance to handicapped children. There should be no artificial distinction between somebody who attends a State institution and somebody who attends a private institution.

As far as we of the Opposition are concerned there are a number of points that we can stress which would distinguish our attitude from that of the Liberals. We regard this assistance being provided to handicapped children as a matter of right. It is not a matter of accident or a matter of privilege. Every single child in Australia has a right to an education that will develop all of its capacities no matter how extensive they are or how limited they are. Indeed the more limited is the capacity the greater the need for that child's rights to be recognised by this Government, by a State government or by somebody - just so long as somebody does recognise it. At present everybody recognises that a normal child has a right to develop to a stage of education which will bring out all of his capacities. This principle is honoured in the breach. One could not say that we had this in fact in Victoria. In that State there is a philosophy of 4 walls and a teacher. Sometimes there arc not even the 4 wails and it cannot be guaranteed that a qualified teacher is available. But in theory it is admitted that A walls and a teacher will providethe education that will bring out the latent ca pacities of normal Victorian children: But. b., God. you look beyond the normal child and ask yourself: What about the child that goes to the spastic centre, the one that goes to the school for the mentally retardedorthe one that goes to special school? Their rights arenot comparable with the right, of a normal child.

This is an amazing thing. How does this come about when it is the handi apped child especially who needs the special ist training, the physiotherapist, the speech therapist, the occupational therapist and the trained teacher? That child's parents probably need a social welfare worker. The teacher probably also needs a psychologist to watch the child's progress. Set these things as the standard of what the handicapped child needs and you can guarantee that the child has not got them, This is simply because nobody in Australiais prepared to accept full responsibil ity for the education of handicapped children

The philosophy of the Labor Party - it is also my philosophy - is that the assistanceto begiven 'oa handicapped chil dis a right and it shouldbe the absolute best. The fact is, of course, that the assistance provided is among the worst. The handicapped child is among the most underprivileged of Australian school children. He ranks with the Aboriginal, the migrant child and the child of the working class family in the inner suburban areas. That is where the handicapped child stands in Australia.

One other fundamental difference between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberals is that we believe there is a need for planning. An honourable member opposite admitted earlier in this debate that there is a need for some research into this subject. Very good. There also is a need for planning and to consider what Australia needs as a whole.It is no good simply trying to patchup the State system. Obviously, each State has different standards. The quality of what they provide is different. Australia has become a nation. As far as I am concerned, it is no longer a collection of 6 States. It is all humbug to go on raising the matter of State rights. This is a problem that we should be worried about as a nation. We should bc dealing with it as a nation. We should be trying to cope with this problem in a way, at least comparable, with that of many overseas countries which are a lot poorer than we are financially and yet which do a better job.

There is a need for planning. The authorities should sit down and see exactly where needs exist. This will not happen under this continual stop-gap philosophy that is applied. Obviously country areas, including those areas in my own State of Victoria, will continue to be deprived of educational and rehabilitation facilities for handicapped children. There are also the inner suburban areas of Melbourne and the areas of high rise buildings where parents could not possibly raise one-third of the capital cost required to receive this assistance let alone pay for maintenance costs thereafter. These are the areas of need that are being ignored because nobody is planning for them.

One must accept also that there is a Commonwealth responsibility and that there is a State responsibility. I have said it before, and I think that there is no point in repeating it: Somebody has to accept the responsibility. It must be a full responsibility. We in the Australian Labor Party do. not wish to shut out the voluntary workers. As far as I am concerned it is essential to have community involvement. This does not mean that we must inflict every unfortunate parent with the task of raising money by way of fetes and door knock campaigns just in order to preserve this mystical quality of community involvement. Community involvement can still occur while at the same time we insist that the Government fulfils its full responsibility to handicapped children.

Mr Cohen - The Government would collapse without community service organisations.

Mr KENNEDY - That is true. Furthermore, I think it is necessary to have some sort of co-ordination between the various bodies that are involved. Discussions on co-ordination should take place. Included in these discussions should be the Federal Government, State governments and local government bodies involved as well as the voluntary organisations. They all should sit down and see exactly what their roles should be. I think that this just is not happening very much. Insofar as co-ordination of their activities and their roles exists, it appears that this is co-ordination by stealth.

I think that there is one other principle that we would insist on. That is the regional concept of providing assistance for the handicapped. lt is no longer good enough to have a school here and a school there, a department here and a department there, and everything centralised. We should be able to consider the whole of the needs of the nation, look to areas as being regions and guarantee that these areas have all the appropriate government departments that are necessary. This is not happening under the Liberal system. I believe that one other point should be stressed about our philosophy. It is this: If Commonwealth money and State money are to be spent, wc should be watching how that money is being spent. If we are to spend money on building these schools, we should be sure that the buildings will be used in the best possible way. We should be ensuring also - and nobody is doing this - that the standard of teaching is the highest possible. We should be setting standards. At present, standards are not being set very much in Australia. Things are just continuing in their old familiar haphazard way.

I wish to give some specific examples of criticism of the Bill. I said earlier that we support the Bill because, after all, it is an indication of Commonwealth participation and Commonwealth involvement in part of its obligation. But the question is: Is capital assistance alone the answer? The answer to that question is of course no. Many of the organisations concerned with this field of activity are very much in debt already. Many could not afford to pay one-third of the costs as required by this Bill. Even if they did pay their part of the cost of putting the buildings up, they could not run them. I quoted figures concerning the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria Inc. That Society has 2 country centres, 5 metropolitan centres and 2 hostels. Quite obviously, it would like to expand- its activities. But how can such a body expand when it has an overdraft which only recently stood at $338,000? How does such a society pay its teachers? How does it pay physiotherapists, occupational therapists and so on? To give capital expenditure assistance only is not good enough. The Commonwealth must give an undertaking that it will enable such an organisation to maintain its buildings also.

At the present moment, the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria lnc. is greatly in need of various types of therapists. Speech therapists and occupational therapists are available only on a sessional basis in Melbourne for the Spastic Children's Society. Some of the assistance from physiotherapists is provided also on a sessional basis while some is provided on a full time basis. The point is that the Society must have these 3 types of therapists at its centres full time. It has not got them. Part of the reason for this state of affairs is the general shortage of these specialists and the starvation that we foster in our system of tertiary education. Part of the problem is the need for finance.

Let me bring this situation home to my own doorstep. One can see the problem in my electorate also. The offer of capital assistance, as far as the spastic centre in my electorate is concerned, is just not enough because other problems are faced there as well. The spastic centre in Bendigo is a very important institution. It caters for 19 children. It has not a physiotherapist. It has not an occupational therapist. It has not a speech therapist. Of course, it has not a fully trained teacher. It has not a fully trained staff. Yet. this is just the type of organisation - and these 19 children are just the group of young people - for which these specially qualified people are needed. But this centre has not these people. If the Government is to help this group, it must offer the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria Inc. assistance towards running costs as well. If the Government can get the Society out of its debt problem, it will enable the Society to do the job that it wants to do.

Until we can get these special facilities in Bendigo, a number of these children will have to leave my electorate. As anybody can understand, severe heartbreak is involved when people must pull up roots from their home and go to the city. Honourable members know this; anybody would know it. Anybody who has to leave in circum stances such as these is faced with heartbreak and very many problems. If these facilities and specialists were provided in my electorate these children could stay there. Obviously, this is another thing that we need.

Let us look at some of the other requirements. One asks why, in God's name, spastic children and their parents must pay for their own travel to and from school when normal children, particularly in the case of country children, receive their travel free. But no. Spastic children must pay. Why do spastic children not have at least the same rights as normal children enjoy? Why is it that parents and local bodies must pay for such items as electric typewriters for these children? They are fantastically costly. This cost should be borne by the States as their responsibility.

The second criticism that I would make concerns the ignoring of State bodies. I repeat what I said earlier. It is not good enough to draw a distinction between the special schools run by the Government and the day schools that are being run by voluntary bodies. In Victoria, there is a shortage of places in these day schools run by the Victorian Education Department. Not enough staff is available. Far too much money, which comes from parents or from other voluntary contributors, must be spent on equipment. Not enough residential accommodation is provided for the students at these schools. The buildings are archaic. Many of them should have been bulldozed down years ago. A great need exists for more buildings to be provided. Mr Barrie Rimmer was referred to earlier. The research that he undertook on behalf of the Victorian Teachers Union was mentioned by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor). Barrie Rimmer's research showed that at least 4 new buildings should be erected. When these buildings will be built, we do not know. If this is correct, the Commonwealth Government should be considering this problem in cooperation with the State Government and should deal with it.

Another very great problem is the employment of these handicapped people. Barrie Rimmer estimated that about 70% of these people leaving school could get employment. A problem arises because the progress of these people cannot always bc followed up afterwards. A check cannot be kept on them because some will go to various places and the Education Department has not always the facilities to keep following them. These people need to be assisted. If they lose the:r jobs, they often need to be given special help. Rehabilitation is the responsibility of the Department of Labour and National Service. Insofar as it is, virtually no facilityfacility is operated by the Department in the country areas of Victoria. Once again, it is the country citizen who becomes the second class citizen because many of the advantages and many of the rights which the city handicapped ch id has the country handicapped child does not have.

There are a number of points that should be made about this Bill. Some of the things which arc required in my electorate include a guarantee of more assistance from the Commonwealth to ensure that those people who are trained in special schools and in sheltered workshops can get jobs and to see that they are followed up later so that they remain in employment. In country areas employment is more scarce than it is in city areas. For this reason extra attention is needed. Many handicapped children need hostel accommodation in my electorate. This type of accommodation is necessary because, as many honourable members are already aware, one of the greatest worries of the parents of handicapped children is what will happen to the handicapped children if the mother or father becomes ill or dies. From time to time there is also a need for the parents to have a holiday, and in that case it is essential for the child to have somewhere to stay while the parents are having a rest. This is one of the greatest problems. On those grounds alone it is essential that there should be hostel accommodation, and for the mentally retarded children in my electorate this is a great need.

One thing about this Bill which concerns me is that in taking a share of the responsebility to finance capital works the Commonwealth might be driving the State governments out of a field in which they are already contributing more generously than the Commonwealth is. 1 am particularly concerned about this. At the present time the Victorian Government provides $4 for every $1 of capital expenditure. If the

State Government vacates the field entirely and the Commonwealth steps in and provides only $2 for every $1 obviously the people in my electorate who wilt be forced Vo finance their own hostel accommodation for retarded and handicapped people will have to pay heavier costs. I want to know whether the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has examined this situation. Has he any guarantee that the Victorian Government will still contribute a share so that the people can still get that payment of $4 for every $1.

If I may. 1 will now sum up some of the main points which I think should be stressed. This Bill is inadequate because it deals only with capital expenditure. There should bc included in the Bill an undertaking to assist with maintenance costs as well. We should be insisting that every person who comes into contact with young handicapped children should as far as possible be fully qualified, f do not in any way detract from the work being done by the voluntary workers or tb'- r>-.;H 1 They are doing a very good job, but we must insist that the highest standards arc maintained in educating and training handicapped children. We should be able to guarantee that in a region such as mine, the electorate of Bendigo, there should at least be one or more physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. There should be nursing staff available to go around and visit the families who have children in very serious situations. There should also be social welfare workers available to be able to go around and visit families so as to assist the parents in educating handicapped children if the parents are undertaking this task. Obviously there is a very great need for further development in this field. I ask the Minister whether this measure is part of a developing policy on the part of the Commonwealth. Does he foresee, and better still does he plan, that there will be even greater involvement of the Commonwealth in this field as the years go by? Another urgent need in my own electorate is hostel accommodation. My electorate is only a reflection of the situation which exists throughout Australia as a whole.

Some of the points which I have raised are very serious criticisms of the Bill but

I think fundamentally the philosophy behind the Bill is weak. I think it should be based on a recognition of the needs of handicapped children in this nation as a whole and then action taken accordingly. The Minister nods as though in agreement with what I am saying: If this measure is the first or the second step along a continuing line of involvement by the Commonwealth, then I think that this is very good. But at the present time this Bill is still full of many shortcomings and there are many inadequacies in this field. I think that much more could have been done if a good deal more planning had been put into this. It seems to me that this has been something which was worked out. pretty quickly as a result of an election promise, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction.

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