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Thursday, 11 September 1958


Mr CLEAVER (Swan) .- The preceding speaker got very worked up on the point which he raised. I should like to point out to the committee that surely it is proper that all relevant information from any source whatsoever that bears on the case should be placed on a man's file. I leave it to other speakers during this debate to deal further with that point, because my interest is in another field, but I make that statement very emphatically because of the emphasis that the previous speaker has given to his own view.

I want to take up the time available to me to speak to Division No. 222 - Department of Health, item 3, " Commonwealth Council for National Fitness (for payment to the credit of the National Fitness Fund Trust Account), £72,500 ". I direct the committee's attention to the fact that this figure remains unchanged at £72,500. It has stood at that level in the Estimates of this Parliament, without variation, since 1944. Many voices, apart from my own, have been raised to extol the virtues of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness. Apparently many years must elapse before our case gains sufficient strength to enable the provision for this organization under the National Fitness Act of sufficient funds to do the task that is desirable. I believe that the merits of my request must be acknowledged by all thinking people. I submit that this is a proposition which can be fairly divorced from party politics.

The National Fitness Act 1941 set up councils for national fitness in each State. I want to underline the fact that this act of the Commonwealth Parliament showed the interest displayed by the Commonwealth and each of the States in this subject. Over the years, of course, this activity has become a partnership between Commonwealth and States, but because of the Commonwealth's considered decision in recent years - in fact, since 1944, as I have mentioned - not to increase Commonwealth contributions, it has become increasingly necessary for each of the State governments to contribute more and more finance, not to extend but purely to maintain the work. In my opinion, they have been unable to maintain the work that was done in earlier years and extension has been out of the question.

If we look at the objectives of the national fitness movement, I am sure that what I have emphasized will be recognized. During the life of the Council for National Fitness, it has been clearly maintained at the Commonwealth level and in all States, that its objective is the all-round fitness of individuals to create and maintain a healthy nation. Health involves not only physical training but also cultural, moral and spiritual qualities. In the council's first statement of aims and objectives, it was stated that all classes of the community should enjoy advantages which were enjoyed only by the more favoured.

So we can see that these councils in each of the States have not only had high objectives, which all thinking people must surely support, but also have become excellent coordinating agencies for voluntary youth organizations. The World Assembly of Youth is, to my mind, a very good illustration of the need for the Commonwealth to take the initiative in this field. In a recent question I stressed the need for the Commonwealth to go further in relation to this aspect of a national organization of youth, so that national representatives could go to the World Assembly of Youth conferences in various parts of the world. This question elicited the reply from the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs that this was a field in which the initiative must be taken by the various youth organizations of Australia.

I find it difficult to reconcile this statement with the reports of the Council for National Fitness which, over the last two years, have referred to the steps taken to set up a national advisory body to deal primarily with the nomination of suitable representatives of Australian youth to attend overseas youth conferences and, in particular, meetings of the World Assembly of Youth. A report was submitted to the council by the Commonwealth National Fitness Officer, and it was decided to recommend the establishment of a U.N.E.S.C.O. Committee for Youth, consisting of twelve members representing national youth organizations with international affiliations. When that committee met, it was decided to recommend instead the establishment of an advisory panel on youth, consisting of a number of members drawn from various youth committees and certain youth organizations that are known throughout this country. It was pointed out in the report that the functions of the panel would be, broadly, to advise U.N.E.S.C.O. committees on questions in the U.N.E.S.C.O. programme affecting youth.

It would appear to me that the high objective of helping youth organizations, through the Council for National Fitness, as a co-ordinating body has not been, achieved. As recently as last month, at New Delhi, India, Australian youth could, not have a direct representative, but could, supply only an observer. The point I make is that surely Australia is worthy of having, a representative on a democratic youth organization. Is it to be left to one organization in Australia to call for a federated' youth body to ensure Australian representation at future conferences of the World' Assembly of Youth?

We should either expand the national fitness movement and be proud of this Commonwealth legislation and the lead which1 the Commonwealth gives to the States, or vacate this field entirely to the States. It is. far better that we should do this than hogtie the movement for finance. However, my own personal belief is that from a national viewpoint Australia desperately needs this movement established under this act.

May I direct the attention of the committee to what I consider to be some interesting aspects of the present Australian situation. The continued education of the basic mass of Australian youth, which I would estimate at approximately 70 per cent., which leaves school and has little further education beyond the ages of fourteen or fifteen, is in my opinion a very haphazard affair. This field of youth education falls into a category of its own, when we recognize university, secondary, and primary systems of education, and the responsibility now being exercised by the States, with invaluable financial assistance from the Commonwealth. I make the point that the national service training of young men in Australia in recent years has been quite drastically reduced, resulting in a saving by the Commonwealth of some £10,000,000 under the Defence vote. Having effected that saving, we should not lose sight of the fact that the withdrawal of this amount of money has reduced opportunities for splendid training in physical fitness and citizenship for many thousands of young Australians. That is a strong argument why this vote should be at least doubled. The Commonwealth Office of Education has specific duties closely allied to those of the universities and the State education systems, but it plays no vital part in providing for the young people who have just left school. I admit that the Victorian Government, in 1956, recognizing the need in this field, passed its Youth Organizations' Assistance Act, which allocated £20,000 from State funds to help voluntary youth organizations. But apart from the aspects I have mentioned, the only other current contribution towards the training envisaged for this group of young people is that made under this provision to which 1 address my comments.

The Commonwealth contributes only £72,500, and there has been no variation of that amount since 1944. What is our assessment of the value of this amount of money, when we recognize that since 1944 the national fitness movement in the various States has been subject to tremendous demands? How can we even maintain the programme which so impressed the nation in those early years after the passing of the net? The associated youth committees that operate in each State under the National Fitness Councils have now been recognized by State governments virtually as the voice of organized youth.

If time permitted I could remind the committee that while this is the unsatisfactory situation in Australia, overseas there are trends and developments which should challenge us as a young nation. What has happened in the United States in recent years is quite fantastic. No less a person than the President of the United States has set up a committee to investigate this field of fitness amongst the nation's youth. Some of the recommendations of that committee should stir Australia to similar action. The President of the United States has been asked to create a top-level committee of federal departments having programmes and activities related to the fitness of America's youth. A citizens' advisory committee has been appointed by the President to advise him and the American people on the fitness of American youth. The co-operation of television and radio stations has been obtained in order to tell the story of youth fitness to the people of the nation. Sufficient funds are to be provided from public and private sources to permit the promotion of plans and activities essential for the attainment of fitness in American youth.

In Denmark, a recent new development has been the setting up of a Department of

Youth and Physical Education. The United Kingdom has taken steps to rectify the mistakes made in the immediate post-war years in this important field of youth activity. To-day, in the United Kingdom, there is a youth service section, and assistance to the youth of the country is provided under the 1944 Education Act. Reports that we receive from Soviet Russia - and surely there is some vestige of accuracy in reports of this nature - indicate an amazing advance in youth education and national fitness. The prowess of Russian competitors in all sports at the 1956 Olympic Games would seem to confirm the point that I have made. I understand that in Russia to-day pioneer camps for children, and children's outofschool activities, are absorbing many millions of roubles.

In the time remaining to me I propose to make some concrete recommendations as to what is necessary in Australia. I submit that the recognition at Commonwealth level of the need for immediate action and implementation of a plan for national conference and research into the problem of young people who have just left school is essential. The Government should acknowledge the wonderful stimulus that has been given to the youth of this country by the small national fitness grants made since 1942, and I urge that the grant of £72,500 should, at the very first opportunity, be increased to at least £150,000. 1 also suggest that all persons active in Australian youth organizations should be encouraged to recognize that the National Fitness Councils and the Associated Youth Committees represent quite satisfactory existing machinery, rendering unnecessary the establishment of any further youth assistance committees, such as we have seen recently in Victoria. I believe that we could po a step further. I believe that this Government might well consider a scheme whereby every youth organization in Australis that is contributing towards the training of leaders and inspiring national idealism would be encouraged bv a £l-for-£l subsidy for capital expenditure on youth centres, halls and training camos







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