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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3123

Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - Referring to the War Graves Bill 1980, which was read for the first time on 15 May, let me outline the background of the legislation. The war graves referred to include those of the Commonwealth of nations' service personnel who died in action in the 1914 War or since, Victoria Cross winners, and those whose death has been accepted as due to war service or who died while they were in receipt of totally and permanently incapacitated pensions. The graves for which Australia is responsible to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are those in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, at Guadalcanal, Norfolk Island and at Ambon, Indonesia. In Papua New Guinea, German, Dutch and French war graves are also cared for. In Australia the Japanese War Cemetery at Cowra is cared for. Under the term 'graves' we treat similarly cemeteries and memorials .

The type of care that is involved for the Office of War Graves under the Department of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Mr Adermann) involves providing kerbing and filling for graves, headstones, plaques for the graves and niches for ashes in memorial walls. None of this work is provided where private monumental work has been undertaken. The Office has also set up gardens of remembrance in each State capital and at Launceston. The aim of the Bill as set out is for the Governor-General to appoint a Director of War Graves to carry out these functions, but the functions will still remain under the charge of the Department of Veterans' Affairs Office of Australian War Graves. If the appointee is a member . of the Public Service he will retain his rights under the Officers' Rights Declaration Act. As would apply if the Bill had not been introduced, the secretary to the Department will report annually to the Parliament; so the Director remains under the administration of the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The effect in essence is to have an officer appointed by the Government.

When the Act speaks of the Governor-General it means the Governor-General-in-Council which in effect means the Governor as advised by his Ministers. It is a government appointment. The Opposition has never shrunk from the prospect of taking responsibility for making major appointments to responsible positions. After all, it is closer to the grass roots and to the people who elect us to this Parliament, to the people who give authority to the Government and to the Public Service. Therefore an elected representative and a Minister chosen by the elected representatives should make an appointment. If one wanted to extend this to an absurd degree one could say that Ministers could appoint the whole Public Service all the way down the line.

The Opposition is not opposed to the principle, but let us not kid outselves that in some way we are upgrading the functions of the Office or changing its obligations or its responsibilities to the Parliament by the appointment of a Director of War Graves. Obviously the Office of Australian War Graves already has somebody who is responsible to the head of the Department of Veterans' Affairs for the administration of Australian war graves. I venture to say that if such a provision had been brought in by the Labor Government the first thing that would have been said by most honourable members opposite and, I dare say, by a fair slice of the media, would have been that it was jobs for the boys. In other words, instead of the Government appointing an impartial career public servant to carry out a responsible Public Service job it would have been alleged that the Labor Party was taking it upon itself to make it a political appointment. I will not indulge in that sort of carping criticism. I just point out that when the Labor Government found it necessary to change the ingrained conservative thinking of certain senior public servants who had grown up doing things in an antiLabor way, in a politicised way- they did not realise it because they knew no other method of thinking- it was accused of providing jobs for the boys.

Mr Neil - You did, too.

Dr EVERINGHAM - That is a shining example of the sort of prejudice to which I am referring.

Mr Neil - All Whitlam 's staff were appointed to the Public Service.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order! Interjections are out of order.

Mr Neil - He is attacking the Public Service. It is independent.

Dr EVERINGHAM - The prejudice displayed by the honourable member for St George is typical of the prejudice which I am trying to draw to the notice of the House. The honourable member for St George is quite convinced of the justice of his theme. The Labor Government appointed people who were competent, aware and able to cany out the philosophy of a different government. The Whitlam Government wanted to change things and wanted to make something happen. It found that certain heads of certain departments could not comprehend its policies and could not or would not carry out those policies. The heads of departments who could not carry out the wishes of the Labor Government were replaced by people who did carry them out. One of the major criticisms that people such as the honourable member for St George made of the Labor Government was that it did too much too quickly and changed too many things. Had the Labor Government appointed people who were incompetent and who were incapable of change that criticism could never have been made because the changes would never have occurred and honourable members opposite would have no grouch. The people appointed by the Labor Government showed their competence by making those changes. Some of those appointments have gone down in history as remarkable appointments. To emphasise this point I need go no further than to refer to the appointment of our Ambassador to China. He has transformed the relationship between Australia and-

Mr Neil - What about your Ambassador to Ireland?

Dr EVERINGHAM - That was an inspired remark, was it not? The Labor Government's appointment was as good as this Government's appointment of an Australian Ambassador to New Zealand from the Senate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Capricornia come back to the Bill.

Dr EVERINGHAM - I do not need to labour the point that it is likely that there will be an appointment not from the ranks of the Public Service. If there is such a thing as jobs for the boys it will be very interesting to see whether the honourable member for St George declares when this appointment is made that it is a nonpolitical appointment.

I should like to refer now to the Australian War Memorial Bill 1980. As in the Australian War Graves Bill, there is no commitment in this Bill to increased expenditure by the Government. The Government is not giving away anything to improve services. One of the biggest concerns of the Australian War Memorial authorities is the deterioration of fine arts and textiles- things that badly need curator services. There is a world shortage of museum curators. In Australia a need exists for conservation laboratories. The storage problem has been eased recently because of additional storage facilities being provided at Mitchell. There is a need for much more training in museum curatorship for

Australia, South East Asia and the Pacific region. It is still very difficult to get the services of curators.

A shortage of curators is not the only obstacle facing Australia. Australia offers very low salaries for any jobs for curators below the position of director. Because Australia is isolated from the centres of training and expertise in highly specialised professions for which Australia does not offer great numbers of vacancies I believe that we ought to be offering far more than the world salary rates so that people will bring their scarce skills to this country and train people in Australia for positions here and in adjoining countries. Australia even might have to subsidise training for other countries. In the long run the preservation of museum exhibits in South East Asia and in the Pacific region will be an asset to Australia.

One of the biggest growth industries not only in Canberra and Australia but also in general areas of the South Pacific is tourism. The tourist industry will not get smaller, despite the increasing cost of motor fuel and the need to develop alternative fuels. We have to attract people to this part of the world with a package deal. Tourists not only visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, but also visit Fiji, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Countries in the whole area need to work together in a project of this kind to attract people with adequate skills to work as curators. We need to attract people with various skills which are needed to preserve exhibits which are deteriorating.

I am told that 700,000 people visit the Australian War Memorial each year. That is not an insignificant number. The Australian War Memorial is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Australian Capital Territory. There is a need for more background and educational material to enhance not only the attraction of the memorial but also the educational value of it. It should be equipped with a theatrette, more gallery space, a classroom and more active educational facilities. I believe that this month the Cabinet has been considering a submission for extension of the War Memorial.

By and large the Opposition has no objection to either Bill. Whilst the Opposition believes there is considerable virtue in the Australian War Memorial Bill because it rationalises administration to some extent, I urge the Government to do more than simply tidy up the administration. More resources should be allocated. I know that it is a time of contraint. We are always told by Treasurers: 'There is a need to tighten your belt, so do not spend any more, particularly in the public sector'. If I may take a phrase from the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), private enterprise does not work this way. If private enterprise operators can see that there will be a return on an investment they invest. If they could see the tourist industry in Australia, particularly the Australian Capital Territory, benefiting far beyond the cost of preserving the exhibits, presenting them attractively and by making the educational aspect of them more accessible and more entertaining, I am sure they would spend the money required to do these things. We do not even have to go beyond the tourist industry to see this.

Adjoining my electorate is a nice big slice of freehold land on the coast of Queensland which was brought by the Iwasaki Sangyo Company (Australia) Pty Ltd. That company has a record of building some of the biggest tourist resorts in the world in Hawaii and Japan. It is preparing, according to the head of the firm Mr Iwasaki, to build in that central Queensland site something larger than Disneyland. He is going ahead with the project and claiming that there will be no return for 10 years. That is long term investment by private enterprise in the tourist industry. The Australian War Memorial- although it has higher objectives than attracting tourists- if one reduces this to hard, cold cash terms, nevertheless is a good investment in the tourist industry. I believe it is comparable to the investment of Mr Iwasaki. I think that the rate of return will be comparable as well.

The Board of Trustees will be replaced by a council which will have transferred to it the ownership of exhibits that is now partly vested in the trustees and partly in the Commonwealth. The council members will be appointed for specified terms instead of being appointed, as the trustees are, at the Governor-General's pleasure. I believe that is the opposite sort of movement to the movement in administration for war graves where the fixed term public servant will be replaced by someone appointed at the Governor-General's pleasure. However, the important thing is that the council will have more direct control, it will be able to set up its own staff and dispose of its own funds and it will have far more administative cohesion and autonomy. I consider this to be the right move. I would like to see the council appointed in a more democratic way but that is not a major issue.

No doubt there will be ex-service organisations which will, from time to time, be represented on some of these councils. More urgent matters are exercising their minds at the moment, matters of more immediate urgency for disabled and deprived veterans. They are going as hard as they can to get a hearing and a voice with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. So these more abstruse and long term administrative arrangements are left to the Department. By and large the Department and the civil servants have done very well with the resources available to them. We cannot be proud of the way we have preserved the Australian War Memorial in view of the lack of skilled personnel- they are not attracted because of the lack of money offered- the lack of resources devoted to preserving exhibits which are fast decaying and the lack of resources devoted to extending the educational concept and the information resources. The Opposition does not oppose either Bill.

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