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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2335

The CHAIRMAN -On 2' occasions I have made my request to the Committee. I cannot decide what senators wish to speak about. I am sure that if prior to dinner I had- applied to Senator Wheeldon the criteria that he .is- asking me to apply, no one would have been heard. I am afraid Senator Greenwood has the floor and he is entitled to speak.

Senator Wheeldon - Very well, I am rising to a further point of order. In view of your last contribution, Mr Chairman, I take it -from what you are saying you will allow a wide ranging discussion on all issues and I take it then that you withdraw your previous statement that you are going to ask us to confine ourselves to the estimates.

Senator Poyser - Speaking to the point of order, I point out that a similar situation arose last night in a debate on another Estimates Committee report. I endeavoured to obey your ruling by restricting my remarks as you requested, Mr Chairman. You have again requested this to be done this evening. You said that while you allowed a wide ranging debate earlier you now required honourable senators to come back to the estimates which we are discussing. If this is not to be the case I take it that we will be able to move into a second reading debate on this Bill, an opportunity which no member in this chamber availed himself of when the motion was moved that the Bill be read a second time. If this is the position I think it should be clarified so that we can go into a full scale debate, otherwise the request that you have made should become a ruling and we can then get down to the estimates proper.

The CHAIRMAN - The point of order taken by the 2 honourable senators has some merit. I have requested honourable senators to speak directly to the expenditures involved in the divisions which are under discussion. But it is not appropriate for me in the ebb and flow of debate in this chamber to confine honourable senators strictly to the items under discussion. I am quite sure that honourable senators would find that were I to do so I would be sitting down every honourable senator immediately he spoke. I think that in fairness honourable senators should attempt to confine themselves to the items of expenditure under discussion. I would ask that that be done.

Senator GREENWOOD - I do desire to speak exclusively and entirely to the item of appropriation relating to the Australian Assistance Plan. I know that you, Mr Chairman, are conscious that prior to dinner I was subjected to a tirade of abuse for approximately three-quarters of an hour and this is the first opportunity I have had to reply to some of the things that were said. It is not surprising that Senator Wheeldon and Senator Poyser should seek to use this opportunity to prevent a viewpoint contrary to their own being expressed in this chamber because that is typical of the way in which this Labor Government tries to conduct the affairs of this nation.

We are talking about the Australian assistance program and all that the Government has said is that what the Opposition has been complaining about has absolutely no foundation. If I may I will refer to what the report of the Estimates Committee, on which there were 3 Government senators and 3 Opposition senators, has said about this plan. It has not yet been quoted. Let us hear what the Government has to say about the report of this Committee. Part of the report states:

The Committee wishes to draw the attention of the Senate to sub-division 4 of division 530 in the estimates of expenditure of the Department of Social Security.

I interpolate to say that that is what I have been endeavouring to speak about all today. That is what Senator Wheeldon and Senator Poyser have been claiming I have not been speaking about. The Committee 's report continues:

This sub-division proposes a sum of $5,970,000 to bc spent under the Australian Assistance Plan for the development of regional welfare services. Most of this money is to be spent through bodies known as Regional Councils for Social Development, which are intended to include representatives of governments and private organisations.

Mr Chairman,if Labor senators are prepared to engage in some listening instead of conversation amongst themselves, I ask the Committee of the Whole to consider the next sentence in the Committee's report, which states:

The Committee considers that there is a need for adequate procedures to be laid down to ensure that the Regional Councils are genuinely representative and that the fullest opportunity is provided for public participation in them.

It was in support of that proposition that Senator Baume initially rose this afternoon. It was in support of that proposition that I instanced things which had occurred with regard to the western suburbs of Melbourne development council which were subsequently conceded to have occurred and which were said by the Minister to have been simply teething problems in a new organisation. I have suggested that far more fundamental questions are implicit in this proposition of the Committee than have been adverted to so far. For all the obfuscating fury with which the Minister has sought to shut out discussion about this Australian Assistance Plan, it ought to be recognised that it contains the means and the mechanisms for patronage unparalleled in the history of this country. If one reads the documents which have been circulated in support of this Australian Assistance Plan one can see that power is vested in those few people who happen to be the interim committee which has the power to decide who shall comprise the regional council and who shall comprise therefore the executive committee which determines the whole structure of this concept.

I wish to refer to what is contained in Guidelines for Pilot Program- Australian Assistance Plan' which has been put out by the Department of Social Security because it shows how it can be misused for the purposes for which any government intent on using patronage desires to use it. It is amazing that a sufficient number of commentators have not gone through this documents to realise the power that is given to a few individuals to use millions of dollars to give effect to some party political program.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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