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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1444


Senator VIGOR(6.43) —I rise this evening because in recent speeches in the Senate Senator Bolkus has seriously maligned two honest citizens of my State. I informed Senator Bolkus that I would be speaking tonight, in contrast to previous occasions when Senator Bolkus gave me no notice of his intention to speak. He has made a series of malicious unsubstantiated allegations against Donald Chisholm and Wendy McPherson. These allegations are totally and utterly false. This unwarranted attack is a vicious attempt to smear persons of the highest integrity through the privileged confines of this House. I challenge Senator Bolkus to make outside this chamber the allegations that he has made. I am sure that the courts would then be able to deal with these unfounded statements.

I can only assume that some base political motive is behind Senator Bolkus's activities. The groundless assertion that Donald Chisholm is unsuitable as a candidate for public office points to a possible motive-raw political smearing. It is a straight out political smear quite out of keeping with the traditions and dignity of the Senate. I intend to show conclusively that Donald Chisholm is quite innocent of the improper allegations and charges that Senator Bolkus has made against him. Donald Chisholm is indeed eminently suitable for public office in South Australia and for public service in the State Legislative Council, for which he is a candidate. However that is a decision for the electors of South Australia later this year or next year; it is not a matter to be decided by Senator Bolkus.

I will briefly mention the scurrilous allegations Senator Bolkus has put before the Senate. They are that Donald Chisholm was ineligible to receive a community employment program grant, that he was involved in the decision that gave him a community employment program grant, that he received the unemployment benefit while receiving income from a business he was operating and that somehow-it is quite unspecified-he has misled the Government. I have said in earlier speeches in the Senate that I will produce documents which refute all the matters raised by Senator Bolkus. I now have such documents in my possession and I intend to vindicate both Donald Chisholm and Wendy McPherson.

Firstly, there is the matter of the community employment program grant under which Mr Chisholm was employed as a research and development officer with Adelaide Community and Educational Television, known as ACE TV. Senator Bolkus claimed that this involved the dishonest adoption of a mechanism of trusts to avoid the provisions of the CEP guidelines. According to Senator Bolkus, Mr Chisholm was not a person to whom CEP grant employment should have been offered; somehow he was outside the ambit of the program's guidelines. In 1984, when the application was made, the following guidelines were enforced by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, which has administered the program from its inception. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a description of the eligibility criteria from the guidelines document.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

SECTION 4-PARTICIPANTS

4.1 Eligibility Criteria.

4.1.1 Those eligible to be employed under CEP would be unemployed persons who have been continuously registered for full-time work with the CES and away from full-time education for the immediate past 3 months.

4.1.2 Priority will be given to such persons registered with the CES who have been:

unemployed for the immediate past 9 months or

who have never worked or

who for other reasons (as assessed by the CES) are in need of immediate employment or

who are especially disadvantaged in the labour market including

Aboriginals

Migrants with English language difficulties

Disabled


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. Let me quote the first of those priority criteria:

Priority will be given to such persons registered with the CES who have been-unemployed for the immediate past 9 months . . .

The CEP grant provided employment for a 12-month period. Prior to May 1984 Donald Chisholm had been continuously unemployed since October 1982-certainly a period of at least nine months. Donald Chisholm was registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service during the whole of that period. He was actively seeking paid employment. He complied with the CEP guidelines as a person eligible to participate in the program. Donald Chisholm commenced employment with ACE Television at the beginning of May 1984.

I remind the Senate that it was not ACE Television which was responsible for determining who was eligible for inclusion in projects sponsored by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. The only persons who have ever been eligible for employment under a CEP grant are those who have been recommended for interview by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Without a recommendation for interview from the Commonwealth Employment Service no one, but no one, could be eligible for employment under a CEP grant. That situation remains unchanged today. Mr Chisholm was so recommended.

Donald Chisholm is a highly qualified man. He was looking for work; he had fulfilled the criteria by being registered and out of work for over nine months. The Commonwealth Employment Service was happy to recommend him for interview. For Donald Chisholm it was an opportunity to learn new skills and enhance his prospects for future employment. Donald Chisholm certainly was within the ambit of the community employment program criteria. His ability was known to the selection committee acting on behalf of the board of ACE Television. His suitability came out much further during the interview. He had a keen interest in public television, having been involved in trying to get it introduced in Adelaide since early 1980. Indeed, it would have been discrimination against Donald if he had not been considered for the job. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from Mr Richard Coy, President of ACE Television, which was delivered to my office today, setting out the chronology associated with Donald's appointment as Executive Research Officer for ACE Television.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

ADELAIDE COMMUNITY &EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION INC.

Office: G.P.O. Box 870,

Adelaide, S.A. 5000

Phone: 51 4423

17 Oct. 1985

To Whom it May Concern

The circumstances surrounding the appointment of Donald Chisholm as Executive Officer of ACE-TV under a C.E.P. grant are set out below.

The interviewing panel for the appointment of both positions under the C.E.P. grant was composed of Rick Coy President of ACE-TV, Cathy Robinson Executive Secretary ACE-TV and Ray Buttery Chairman of the Legal and Finance Committee. Mr Buttery was to supervise the project.

On receipt of confirmation of the grant we contacted the C.E.S. and requested some suitable people be sent for interview. After the interviews were conducted the panel was agreed that none of the applicants were suitable. We were about to go back to the C.E.S. for some more people when Ms. Robinson pointed out that one of our hard working board members was out of work. Don Chisholm had been manager of the Birdwood Mill Museum but had been out of work for some time.

I contacted the C.E.S. and asked them was Donald Chisholm registered as being unemployed. Their answer was yes. I then asked was he eligible for a C.E.P. grant. Their answer once again was yes. We then approached Mr. Chisholm and asked him if he would be interested in the position of Executive Officer. After due consideration he accepted the position and at the next Board Meeting resigned from the Board. He worked for ACE-TV for the full 12 months of the project finishing in May.

There were no political considerations in the appointment. The panel, which incidentally represented a full scope of political views, was of the opinion that Mr. Chisholm was suitable for the position whereas the people sent from the C.E.S. were not suitable.

I consider there was no impropriety in his appointment and he proved to be a satisfactory employee.

Yours faithfully,

G. RICHARD COY

President ACE-TV


Senator VIGOR — I thank the Senate. In the selection committee's opinion, Donald was the best applicant. Donald Chisholm and I took no part in the decision-making process relating to the appointment. The letter states that the appointment committee comprised Rick Coy, President of ACE Television; Cathy Robinson, Executive Secretary of ACE Television; and Mr Ray Buttery, Chairman of the Legal and Finance Committee. Mr Buttery was to supervise the project. Donald Chisholm had properly distanced himself from all these deliberations, and that is shown by the letter. This week I received from the office of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) a copy of the answer to question No. 412 asked by Senator Bolkus on 20 August this year. I seek leave to have the answer incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-


Senator Walsh —The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes. Mr Chisholm was referred to the CEP project, which commenced on 7 May 1984, because he met the participant eligibility requirements of the Program. Subsequent enquiries by officers of my Department did not uncover any evidence that Mr Chisholm was in receipt of any income at the time of referral to the project. I would point out that CEP participants are not eligible to receive unemployment benefit from the time they commence work on a project. Mr Chisholm ceased receiving unemployment benefit on his placement with the project.

(2) Senator Vigor is on the Board of Management of ACE Television and currently holds the position of Vice President.

(3) No. Mr Chisholm resigned his place on the Board of Management of ACE Television following his placement on the CEP project.


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. The Minister states quite plainly that Mr Chisholm met the participant eligibility requirements of the program. Subsequent inquiries by a departmental officer found no trace of any impropriety.

Senator Bolkus made certain claims about family trusts. These claims are a red herring. Senator Bolkus appears to have some type of blind spot. If one mentions the words `family trust' he may assume that something is wrong, underhand or even illegal. Maybe that is a reflection of his own thoughts. However, his whole view point is not sustainable. Donald could have been the beneficiary under a discretionary family trust but, clearly, he was not absolutely entitled to any benefits since the trust was discretionary. Donald Chisholm in fact received no payment under the trust mentioned by Senator Bolkus in the financial year 1982-83 and/or the financial year 1983-84. The trust mechanism is a legitimate procedure designed to distribute the income earned by a small business to members of a family. The trust concerned was established by Mr Chisholm's father, not by Donald Chisholm himself. The deed shows that this occurred on 13 October 1978. I have here a copy of the deed. The trustee was Glen Grove Pty Ltd, and the trust was called `D Trust'. Other beneficiaries include Mr Chisholm's former wife, his present spouse and his four children.

I now refer to the tax returns for D Trust lodged in the financial years 1982-83 and 1983-84, sent to me by Mr Chisholm. I inform the Senate that the annual income of this trust was not inordinately large in either of those years. In 1982-83 the total net income was $4,358 and was distributed to the two youngest children of Mr Donald Chisholm. In the second year the net income was $4,875 and this was distributed as follows: Marcus Phillip Chisholm, $416; Roderick Russell Chisholm, $964; Wendy Anne McPherson, $3,495. D Trust is obviously not part of some mythical scheme to defraud the Commonwealth. It is a small scale family trust, similar to many which have been established throughout this country by families which operate small businesses. The trust was established long before Donald Chisholm sought the unemployment benefit. He did not receive income under the trust in 1982-83 or 1983-84. No impropriety was involved, and to suggest that there was is mindless, if not malicious.

Unfortunately for Senator Bolkus, there is no evidence which even hints at any intention to mislead the Commonwealth. On 8 October Senator Bolkus said that Donald Chisholm had supplied misleading information which amounted to nothing less than a fraud on the Commonwealth. There is and there can be no evidence for this false proposition. Both Donald Chisholm and Wendy McPherson have been scrupulously honest and straightforward in their dealings with departments. Senator Bolkus, who parades an interest in civil liberties, has resorted to some very strange techniques.

I would like to place on record a brief chronology of the events which clarify Mr Chisholm's circumstances. Donald Chisholm has not been in receipt of the unemployment benefit since May 1984. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Department of Social Security dated 11 October 1985 which confirms this.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY

116-118 Reservoir Road

Modbury, S.A. 5092

(P.O. Box 619)

Telephone 265 9511

11 October 1985

Mr Donald W. Chisholm

Co P.O. Box 194,

Birdwood 5234

Dear Mr Chisholm

As requested, this is to confirm that Departmental records indicate that you have not claimed Unemployment Benefit since May 1984.

Yours sincerely

R. COOPER

Manager


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. In fact, his benefit was terminated on 4 May 1984, prior to his starting work at ACE Television. Secondly, he was employed by ACE Television from 7 May 1984 to 6 May 1985. Prior to this, Mr Chisholm was in receipt of the unemployment benefit. I refer to his taxation return for the year 1983-84. He was unemployed in that year except from May when he was employed by ACE Television. From 1 July 1983 until just before he took up that position he was on the unemployment benefit. Thirdly, since ceasing work with ACE Television, Mr Chisholm has been registered for employment and he personally has not been in receipt of the unemployment benefit. However, his spouse, Wendy McPherson, has been claiming the benefit. He is listed as her dependant. Wendy McPherson first applied for the unemployment benefit at the end of April 1985-not 29 May 1985 as I believed previously. Wendy McPherson has used the freedom of information legislation to obtain her file from the Department of Social Security and has given me full access to it. In the records of the interview which was conducted on 1 May of this year she is shown as having declared Donald Chisholm as her spouse. She explained that as the hours of her part time employment had decreased she was seeking the unemployment benefit. Subsequently, proof of identity was provided to the Department by Donald Chisholm. His employment with ACE Television was declared to the Department, as was her part time work. Subsequent returns to the Department of Social Security accurately reflect the circumstances. The file is here. It shows no evidence of an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the Commonwealth.

Donald Chisholm is actively involved in many community organisations. He is a hard working, honest citizen who has contributed much of his spare time to the improvement of public life in South Australia. I seek leave to have a list of the organisations to which Mr Chisholm belongs incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The list read as follows-

DONALD M. CHISHOLM

Membership of Organisations

Freedom from Hunger Campaign, State Executive committee member (recently stepped down due to pressure of Legislative preselection)

Australian Institute of Exporters, Fellow (member since 1961)

Australian Small Business Association, Inaugural Member

Bay to Birdwood Run, Committeeman and Chairman of Publicity and Promotions subcommittee (major Channel 10 Christmas Appeal)

Adelaide Community and Educational Television, Inc., Public Officer and voluntary executive officer.

Birdwood Park Committee (redeveloping local amenities and in this committee implemented a State Unemployment Relief Scheme (S.U.R.S.) with six unemployed people)

Trakehner Society of Australasia Inc., President

Mt Pleasant Pony Club, Public Officer

Birdwood Cricket Club, President

Birdwood Football Club, Vice President

Torrens Valley Indoor Soccer Association, Patron

Blumberg Food and Wine Club, Secretary.


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate very much. Mr Chisholm is held in high regard in those community organisations with which he has worked. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard references and testimonials which have come into my possession. The first is from Mr Murray Byrne, MLC, a former Minister for Tourism in Victoria. The second is from Mr Richard Coy, Director of the Salisbury Education Centre in South Australia. The last is a letter from Pastor Reg Kotzur of the Birdwood Lutheran Church.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

DONALD MICHAEL CHISHOLM

I have known Donald Chisholm since he assumed the position as General Manager of the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement approximately 18 months ago.

Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement came into being 12-13 years ago as a unique concept to preserve living examples of Australian pioneer life for posterity. It has accomplished this to an amazing degree and has established not only an Australian reputation for leadership in the folk museum field but an international one as well. It is without doubt the premier folk museum in this country and has been the inspiration for numerous other similar attractions. Its management has at all times provided guidance and assistance to other projects wishing to emulate it.

At the time Mr Chisholm took over the management of the Settlement its fortunes were unfortunately at their lowest ebb since its inception due to an encephalytis outbreak in the Murray Valley which had depleted the tourist trade in the area. In addition the Settlement was experiencing liquidity problems.

Due to an outstanding combination of business acumen, managerial skills, promotional flair and a firm sense of purpose Mr Chisholm was able to reverse the fortunes of the Settlement from an $55,000 loss on its operations to a $55,000 profit in a period of just on 12 months. During the same period the Settlement reached an all time record of 213,000 visitors setting attendance records for each of 8 individual months.

Mr Chisholm is an original thinker and from his personal experience has formed very valuable ideas on the role, development, funding and purpose of folk museums in this country which he has expressed not only to me in my role as Minister of Tourism but to a Parliamentary Committee, Government Departments and business consultants. He is always ready to share his knowledge and experience with the managements of other historical and tourist projects.

It would be most opportune for Mr Chisholm, who is one of the leaders in his field in this country, to have the benefit of study overseas. This experience would be invaluable for sharing between similar attractions to the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement and my Ministry with which he has worked in close co-operation.

MURRAY BYRNE. M.L.C.

Minister of Tourism

Director,

G. Richard Coy,

P.O. Box 433,

Salisbury 5108

Phone (08) 258 8477

Courier R2/35

10.10.1985

To Whom it May Concern

Re Donald Chisholm

I have known Donald Chisholm for a number of years and I worked with him on a project when he was the Manager of the Birdwood Mill Museum. He was also on the Board of a Community organisation that I was associated with and was an employee of that organisation for a period.

I have always found Donald to be a hardworking and industrious man who puts his heart and soul into any project that he is associated with. I do not share his political views entirely, but I am sure that he is a great assset to the Democrats. He would not only be hardworking but is a man of integrity and honesty. I feel that Donald would always stick by his principles and he would be reliable and straightforward in his dealings with all his colleagues and members of the electorate.

I have no hesitation in putting my name to a testimonial for Donald and I hope that any difficulties that he is experiencing will not be long lasting because he deserves better.

G. RICHARD COY,

Director,

Salisbury Education Centre

Box 2,

Birdwood, SA 5234

10 October 1985

Senator David Vigor,

10 Pitt Street,

Adelaide 5000

Dear Senator,

Since there have been some unfortunate accusations brought against Donald Chisholm I wish to bring to your notice some of the community acitivities with which he has been involved in the Birdwood area.

Donald has been a keen encourager of youth, especially of those who worked at the Birdwood Mill on occasions. He was a coach for the Junior football team for twelve months displaying an interest in the individual.

During the past month Donald lead a group of volunteers who rebuilt a wooden bell tower of ancient design for the Birdwood Lutheran Church. Together they gave some 200 man hours of effort to complete the structure which was well made under his supervision. He did not seek any remuneration for his services given. He displayed a keen and friendly interest with the people working on the project. The Congregation is very grateful for his voluntary assistance.

Yours sincerely,

REG J. KOTZUR

Pastor

Birdwood Lutheran Church


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. The third letter is particularly enlightening. I will read the last paragraph:

During the past month Donald lead a group of volunteers who rebuilt a wooden bell tower of ancient design for the Birdwood Lutheran Church. Together they gave some 200 man hours of effort to complete the structure which was well made under his supervision. He did not seek any remuneration for his services given. He displayed a keen and friendly interest with the people working on the project. The Congregation is very grateful for his voluntary assistance.

This is typical of the way in which Donald is viewed in the community. Donald Chisholm is not a member of that church. His time and skills were freely given. He is a person of the highest integrity who is rightly held in high esteem in the community. I hope that I have been able to redress the calumny that has been launched in this place against him.

I conclude my remarks by making a few comments about privilege. The privilege of the Parliament and the unfettered ability to raise matters of public concern carries with it an onerous responsibility which I recognise. Misuse of this privilege for private and party vendettas against individuals outside this Parliament who have no right to reply calls into question the suitability of such people who make the attacks to hold public office in this place. I am concerned by the unjustified attack made by Senator Bolkus based on little more than a cursory glance at the available evidence-newspaper articles, gossip, innuendo and inaccurate rumours. Unlike this place, courts of law require both parties to present their version of the events before a decision is made. If senators hide behind the protective shield of privilege afforded by membership of this House and use the media in unscrupulous smearing of people and organisations, the Senate will unfortunately be held in disrepute in the eyes of the Australian people.

In taking up the defence of Donald Chisholm, I have shown that he is a man of high integrity who has been besmirched. I will rise to the defence of any citizen whose affairs are unjustly and improperly raised in this Parliament. The electors of South Australia, I believe, will be the final arbiters in this case. Senator Bolkus will have to face them at the next election. I trust that he is willing to face the constituency and answer the question as to why he attempted the character assassination of Donald Chisholm in this place. I seek an apology from Senator Bolkus, which I believe is the only decent thing he could do under the current circumstances.