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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2336

Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation) - I want to make a number of things clear. First, Senator Greenwood has said that I have suggested or stated that what Opposition senators have said on this matter is in some way to be deplored and that I have subjected them to a tirade of abuse.

Senator Greenwood - So you have.

Senator WHEELDON - I deny that. I believe that I have answered courteously all those senators who have spoken, apart from Senator Greenwood. I believe that Senator Baume has asked interesting and important questions with regard to this matter. I thought that I had answered them courteously. I certainly endeavoured to answer them courteously and to the best of my ability. Questions were raised by Senator Davidson. I have not yet answered them, but I certainly will not subject him to a tirade of abuse. I believe that the questions which were asked and the matters that were raised by Senator Jessop were worthy of respect. I thought I had answered them courteously. I cannot remember any tirade of abuse which I offered to Senator Jessop. I congratulated Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson for his contribution to the debate. In fact Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson used the expression 'teething troubles'. I did not use it. Senator Greenwood now says that I am trying to excuse the initial weaknesses- I admit there are weaknesses- of the Australian Assistance Plan by referring to teething troubles. I did not say that at all. The former leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate used that expression. I quoted Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson by saying that I agreed with him that there are teething troubles, but the expression came from Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. If Senator Greenwood wishes to take something up with anybody he can take it up with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.

I find it personally offensive- I do not say that lightly- to be accused of being a party to the giving of patronage and of being a party to some dishonest practice, which is what has been suggested by Senator Greenwood tonight. He has virtually accused the Government, he has accused the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and he has accused me of corruption with regard to this Australian Assistance Plan. I find that a personally obnoxious reference. In the past outside this chamber I have been personally civil to Senator Greenwood. As from now I shall cease that practice. I do not doubt that it will be no loss to either of us. I did have some small regard for Senator Greenwood in the past, but he has lost completely whatever regard I did have for him. I regard his comments as one of the most contemptible accusations I have heard in this Parliament. It is perfectly untrue to say that I or any other senator on this side of the chamber has engaged in any sort of attacks on those senators in the Opposition who have asked questions or made any criticisms of the operation of this Plan, because we have not done so. We have dealt with the matters that have been raised. But Senator Greenwood has not. He has accused us of corruption; he has accused us of dishonesty; he has accused us of using the Australian Assistance Plan for the purposes of patronage. I categorically deny it. I find it personally insulting. I find it an affront to this Parliament and to this Government and I would think also that it would be an affront to those Liberal senators who sat on the Committee which inquired into these proposed expenditures. I would think it would be an affront to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson in view of what he said tonight. I invite anybody to look at Hansard to see what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson did say on this subject.

I do not intend to spend any more time whatsoever on the outrageous allegations that Senator Greenwood has made. But I do intend to deal with some other matters that have been raised. Senator Davidson has raised the question of the headquarters of the South Australian Youth Council and the difficulties it has experienced, or may experience, in obtaining a grant from the Central Adelaide Regional Council under the Australian Assistance Plan. It appears that the headquarters of the Youth Council may be outside the Central Adelaide region. I am informed that this does not prevent the South Australian Youth Council from receiving assistance. It may receive assistance from the relevant regional council in whichever region it is functioning. If its headquarters are outside the Central Adelaide region it is none the less entitled to receive assistance for the work that it is doing inside the Central Adelaide region or inside any other region in South Australia. If the South Australian Youth Council has experienced difficulties of which Senator Davidson is aware I ask him to acquaint me with those difficulties. I undertake to take them up with the Department so that they may be overcome. Certainly under the guidelines for the regional councils it is eligible for these grants and there is no reason for its concern that its headquarters may not be in the area in which it is engaging in its work.

Senator Baumehas raised the matter of a proper accounting system for the disbursing of moneys which are received by the various regional councils. The regional councils must obtain prior approval from the Department of Social Security and provide evidence that the funds for which they have applied are to be expended for the purposes for which they are provided.

Senator Baume - Would it be subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General?

Senator WHEELDON - Yes. Regional councils are required to submit regularly to the Department of Social Security certified audited statements setting out all receipts and expenditure in each period.

Senator Greenwood - But that is not unless the Auditor-General has occasion to look at them.

Senator WHEELDON - I am not speaking to Senator Greenwood. I am referring to the questions which were asked by Senator Baume. If Senator Greenwood wishes to make another of his typical contributions he is at liberty to do so and I will deal with it in the manner it deserves. I am now answering the serious question which was asked by Senator Baume with regard to the accounting and auditing of regional councils. Having been interrupted by Senator Greenwood I will try to get back to the explanation I was giving to Senator Baume. I understand he has some real interest in the matter. I repeat that regional councils are required to submit regularly to the Department of Social Security certified audited statements setting out all receipts and expenditure in each period. The Department examines these to ensure that all expenditure complies with the purposes for which the grants are made. The audited reports have to be presented to the Department.

Senator Baume - Does the Auditor-General then examine those?

Senator WHEELDON -The regional councils are not as regional councils subject to scrutiny by the Auditor-General.

Senator Greenwood - Precisely, and that is the point. That is a valid point and you know it.

Senator WHEELDON - If the Opposition wants me to endeavour to answer a question on a rather complicated subject, a question which I thought was being seriously asked by way of making some contribution to the Plan, I am prepared to do so. If Senator Greenwood would like to engage in another form of debate I can assure him that I can do it just as well as he can. I have known Senator Greenwood for a long time and there are few people in this Parliament who frighten me less than he does. But if we want to have a discussion about the auditing and accounting arrangements- a very complicated matter- that is what I would like to do. If the Opposition does not want to listen to the answers I am prepared to sit down and keep quiet. I am not prepared to try to answer a complicated question with this hee-hawing coming from Senator Greenwood opposite me. He is a disgrace to the Senate and I think he is a disgrace to the Party of which he is the Deputy Leader.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator WebsterOrder! I will not have Senator Wheeldon using those words.

Senator WHEELDON -As far as I am concerned I have no further contribution to make on the questions that have been asked.

The CHAIRMAN - Before the Minister resumes his seat I ask him to withdraw the statement. It is an unparliamentary statement.

Senator WHEELDON -Which one?

The CHAIRMAN - That Senator Greenwood is a disgrace to the Senate.

Senator WHEELDON - I withdraw the statement.

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