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Thursday, 8 March 1984
Page: 587

Senator PETER BAUME —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

I will speak briefly because of the pressures on our program today. I hope that a member of another place takes appropriate umbrage at having been described in this statement as a member of this chamber, although we of course think it is a promotion for him.

Senator Macklin —He might get ambitions.

Senator PETER BAUME —He might get ambitions, as others seem to have done in the past. Acknowledging that the person referred to is probably Barry Jones, the Minister for Science and Technology, this statement, which has been countersigned at the bottom 'approved' with initials which look as though they are probably the initials of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs ( Senator Ryan), clearly has not involved close reading or any kind of proof reading. The point I make about this statement is that it completely misses the opportunities and responsibilities of the present Government. It is all very well to criticise a decision by a previous Government with which it does not agree, but it was within the capacity of the present Government, in the year in which it has held office, to have provided the money and to have taken the administrative decisions to restore the Education Research and Development Committee. It is quite apparent that this statement is hypocritical, because it is quite apparent that this Government, now having held office for a year, has brought down a Budget and educational guidelines, and has done nothing to restore the ERDC to existence and has done nothing to cut short the process by which the ERDC was winding up its activities as set out in the statement.

This Government had an opportunity to redress the situation which it claims to deplore so much. It will not wash in the Senate to say what a terrible thing it is, having wound down the ERDC. That may be a very defensible statement. Senator Macklin has made that point on many occasions. But I put to all honourable senators that if it was a bad thing and if the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs wants to say so, she must explain to the educational establishment and to those who care about the ERDC why she and her Government have not taken the opportunity, during their first year of office, to set right a situation which they find to be so deplorable.

Unless and until the Government is willing to restore the ERDC, it has no legitimacy in coming here and saying what a terrible thing it was to abolish it. It may well have been an error on the part of the previous Government, but it was a matter on which it was proper and open to the present Government, if it cared, to have reversed the decision and to have corrected it. It has not done so. It has not matched this rhetoric with any kind of action. When that is realised by education research workers, this Government will have to answer for its failure to act. The fact that it has offered us these words this morning will in no way mollify people who wanted something more than these words from the Government for which they voted.