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Tuesday, 6 September 1960

Mr HAMILTON (Canning) .- It was not my intention to discuss education during this debate on the Estimates for the Prime Minister's Department, but in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) I feel I should say something about it. Quite frankly, I treat with suspicion any move for extra finance for education that is made by the Labour Party, because in February of this year the Premier of New South Wales, who was also the Minister for Education in that State, promised the education council, which I understand consists of State Ministers for Education and Directors of Education, that he would make a request on behalf of that council at the Premiers' Conference this year. About a week before the Premiers' Conference was held he notified the State Ministers that he was not prepared to proceed with that arrangement, and at the last moment it was decided that the Premier of Western Australia should raise the matter on behalf of the education council.

Then we noticed that the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who I understand is a Labour man, started to launch a campaign against the Commonwealth, asking for more funds for education. The honorable member for Wills said that the greatest demand for this increased finance came from New South Wales. He then went on to destroy his argument completely, at least in one respect, by citing figures from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, from which it can be seen that the two States which members of the Opposition are prone to call the mendicant States can find more money to spend on education than can the two major States - and those two States have been governed, for the most part, by Labour governments. Honorable members may remember that in reply to an interjection by me the honorable member for Wills said that a Liberal-Country Party government is in charge in Queensland, but I direct attention to the fact that the figures being considered were prepared when a Labour government was in office in that State.

The position is that no matter how much money is granted by the Commonwealth to the States, the Commonwealth has no control over the spending of it once the States have it in their grasp. We find to-day, as we have found ever since this Government came to office, that the number of foundation-stones being laid in New South Wales is almost as great as the number of electors in that State. There is no semblance of order, and the Government there is running hither and yon trying to placate the people, saying, " We are doing this for you and we are doing that for you, but we cannot get enough money from the Commonwealth ".

The honorable member for Wills raised the matter of priorities. He is apparently unaware that when this Government first came to office the Prime Minister and Treasurer of the day, at a Premiers' Conference, suggested that the States should set up a committee to organize their priorities within the States and come to an agreement between themselves. The Premiers left this chamber with the intention of giving effect to that suggestion, because I feel certain that they realized that the extent of the demand for development in every section of our economy was such that some semblance of order had to be organized. Shortly afterwards they returned, and the man who destroyed the idea of bringing some semblance of order to this matter was none other than the Labour Premier of New South Wales.

Mr Wheeler - Is that true?

Mr HAMILTON - Yes, and the Premier was none other than Mr. McGirr. I repeat, therefore, that I treat with suspicion all this heat that is generated by members of the Labour Party in their contribution to debates on education.

Honorable members opposite know full well that education is a State responsibility. They also know full well that under the formula that has been in operation ever since one of their own Prime Ministers introduced the tax reimbursement scheme the States can get money to cater for their education needs. They know, too, that in 1947, when the scheme was amended, it was provided that after the expiration of seven years any government could ask the Commonwealth for a reconsideration of the formula, and until 1958 not one State availed itself of the opportunity, which I think is afforded by section 10 of the act, to request the Commonwealth to do so. That section of the legislation specifically states that upon receipt of such a request the Commonwealth shall hold a conference to reconsider the whole matter.

We have heard these complaints so very often that I want to say just one thing in concluding my remarks on the matter of education. I hope the people of Western Australia will not get sucked into the vortex created by the New South Wales Government, because if they do so, then as sure as night follows day they will lose the education system they have in their State of which they can be justifiably proud. They have a free university, at which the son or daughter of any man or woman in that State, irrespective of financial position, and providing only he or she has the necessary ability, can receive a first-class university education. Once the matter of education comes under the control of the Commonwealth, Western Australia will face two problems. First, it will be told by the Commonwealth what it shall do, and, secondly, when the Commonwealth Grants Commission undertakes an assessment of the requirements of the State it will use the eastern States as a yardstick and Western Australia will be penalized in other directions. I sincerely trust that we will not allow ourselves in Western Australia to be affected by the heat that is being generated in New South Wales. I hear an honorable member interjecting and saying that it is a threecard trick. Well, it is something very similar.

I now wish to speak of something else that has cropped up in the last couple of days. A gentleman who is a member of the New South Wales Parliament has apparently made a trip overseas and has come, back and made a statement which has been reported in the Sydney " Sun ". This gentleman is reported to have said -

I don't want to knock the work that Australians are doing overseas.

He then proceeded to attack what his fellow Australians are doing in London. He is then reported to have said -

But I feel it my public duty as an Australian to express my concern and disappointment with what I found at Australia House.

I think we can accept the fact that Australians know their way about, particularly if they are politicians, and if this gentleman had any real complaints we could all expect him to have gone to Sir Eric Harrison with them. We had that gentleman in this Parliament for many years. He mixed it in the hurly-burly of debate, and he was respected by honorable members on both sides of the Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) appears to disagree, but I believe that even his leader would accept that statement. I just say to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that when I had the pleasure of going overseas a couple of years ago 1 was asked to convey his leader's sentiments to this particular gentleman. Let me go a little further with my examination of the remarks of this well-respected member of the New South Wales Parliament. He said -

There seemed to be too many on the staff with too little direction on how to disseminate information needed by inquirers.

A couple of years ago 1. had the opportunity to go overseas and I know for a fact that Sir Eric Harrison, who is in charge of Australia House in London, regularly calls a conference of all the heads of the branches of that establishment and they have discussions, lectures and so on. The whole staff is working as a co-ordinated body.

Mr Pollard - Did he take you to dinner?

Mr HAMILTON - He was a little busy doing a job for Australia and I said to him, " Go ahead with what you are doing ". This member of Parliament says that he does not want to knock the work that Australians are doing overseas, but he feels it is his duty to say certain things. He says -

I watched queues lined up to see particulars of work and conditions in Australia, trade possibilities and other details.

That is something of which we can be really proud. If people who wish to find out details about this country are prepared to wait in queues, it shows that some interest is being created, which brings them to Australia House to make these inquiries.

I am not surprised at this statement by the gentleman from Sydney because it is typical. I do not know him, but he is a public man and he should be aware of the responsibility placed upon him by his position and he should be careful about what he says. He states that staff members are just meandering around doing this and doing that. Does he want Australia House to be a tourist bureau to which people rush in order to find out the time a certain train leaves the station? Does he want Australia House to compete with the ordinary tourist organizations? The staff at Australia House provides that information and a lot of other information. The officials represent every Commonwealth department. They have a job to do and they do it right loyally and right well, as those who have had the pleasure of calling at Australia House are able to confirm.

This man says that there are too many cocktail parties and he insinuates that the officials do nothing but drink the duty-free liquor. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who interjects, can read the article for himself. The point I make is that no cocktail party is held in Australia House unless it is to commemorate an important Australian occasion or the visit of a dignitary. I wonder whether the gentleman from Sydney realizes that all the AgentsGeneral in London use Australia House for their cocktail parties because they have not the facilities in their own establishments for entertainment. If this gentleman wants to be so critical, let him first find out what his own Agent-General is doing.

I do not want to delay the committee, but I want to say that other people go overseas and have a look at Australia House. One is the Reverend W. J. Johnson. I think he is a Methodist minister from Melbourne. He has just returned to Australia after having spent four months abroad. He said he could not praise Australia House too warmly and that everything possible was being done there. I entirely agree with him.

I think the complaint to which I have referred is another example of the old, old trick that is played from time to time, lt always seems to be played by some one from New South Wales. The purpose is to destroy parliament, more particularly the Commonwealth Parliament, and to knock those associated with parliament. I do not know what is behind it all, but I hope the people of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular, pay no heed to statements of this kind and that, in the years to come, they will keep men of that kind out of politics, particularly federal politics, so that this country may be safe for our children and our children's children.

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