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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1627


Mr REEVES(11.48) —The Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill contains many initiatives in the social welfare field, an area in which this Government has a genuine and deep interest. A special initiative is contained in the Bill, which will be of particular importance to people living in remote areas; that is, the introduction of a remote area allowance. As from 1 May next year an unmarried person will receive $7 a week and a married person $6 a week, or a combined amount of $12 a week; there will be a payment of $3.50 a week per child. I believe that this initiative shows the Hawke Labor Government' s real concern for the people who are living in the bush, in remote areas. It is interesting to look at the history of this initiative. It was first raised publicly in the report of the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty in 1975. That report recommended:

. . . remote area allowance, to be determined after investigation of actual cost of living differentials, be paid to pensioners and beneficiaries living in the Tax Commissioner's Area A.

This initiative, of course, applies to the area known as tax zone A. In 1981 the public inquiry into zone allowances noted:

. . . serious problems for such people, particularly pensioners, because their income is often insufficient to meet the costs of living in such localities and/ or making their residency more pleasant.

The report continued:

. . . there is a strong case for the government to consider an additional social security payment to pensioners living in the prescribed zones when they are unable to fully benefit from the zone allowance rebates.

At its 1982 National Conference the Australian Labor Party confirmed in its policy a commitment to introduce a special zone allowance for social security recipients in remote areas.

In February this year the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) announced in Darwin that this allowance would be introduced on the election of a Labor government. The Minister, in February this year-of course at that stage he was shadow Minister-said:

It is Labor's intention to give some recognition of the fact that cost of living and transport costs in these areas are high and that though wage and salary earners have had some relief from these extra costs through the tax system, pensioners have up until now missed out on a similar loading.

As I have already indicated the allowance will be introduced for people living in zone A. An estimated 24,000 people who are in that zone are receiving social security pensions. About 13,000 people are living in the Northern Territory and receiving social security pensions. That is about 10 per cent of the population of the Northern Territory. The allowance will not make those people rich; it will simply assist them to remain in areas such as the Northern Territory rather than move to southern capitals after they retire or when they receive a social security pension. It will have a direct social impact in that there has been a tendency for people, after they retire, to leave the Northern Territory. As a result, grandparents and older people do not make up a large part of the population of the Northern Territory. With this allowance, which, as I have said , will not make people rich, it is expected that people who would otherwise go south may stay in the Northern Territory after their retirement. It is a very important initiative and an indication yet again that this Government, in seven short months, has acted to show its real, deep concern for not only people receiving fixed incomes and social security pensions, but also people in the bush.