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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 300

Mr HAND(7.07) —Around about this time last year, as honourable members will probably recall, most members of the House were visited by people from the Low Income Network in Melbourne, a single mother and child group and the Campaign for Economic Justice. You will be aware, Madam Speaker, that they are back here again today. On the last occasion they presented us with a tree, which I attempted to have incorporated in Hansard, as a memento of the message behind the presentation of the tree. I have here a bunch of flowers and I will present it to you, Madam Speaker, after we finish. I notice that you have taken excellent care of the tree and that it is doing very well.

This group represents low income people, including those on fixed incomes as well as those who are referred to now as the working poor-people on minimum rates. The groups come from a wide range of areas. They include Community Link groups and representatives from the Coalition of Low Income Earners from Mildura, the Bairnsdale Community House, the Women's Education Support and Awareness group in Mildura, Parents Without Partners in Victoria, Bendigo community groups, the Campaign for Economic Justice in Fitzroy in my electorate, the St Kilda Income Stretchers, sole parent groups and many others. Those types of groups are here in Canberra this week.

I had the pleasure of farewelling the group from Fitzroy in Melbourne on Sunday and it will be here for the whole week. I make the point to all members of the Parliament that if these people do knock on their doors and wish to see them, they have a very interesting message, and in fact a very sad message, to pass on to us concerning the state they currently find themselves in. It is not an issue that one necessarily wants to start scoring points on here tonight but the plight of these people is extremely serious. More importantly, they are here with their children to put the case of their children. It is the 850,000 young children who now find themselves in this incredible situation of poverty that exists in Australia today. That has been created over many years for a whole range of reasons. It seems to me that this Government, through the social security review currently taking place, will be able to address that problem in the coming months.

Honourable members will be pleased to know that work has already begun on a family package along the lines that I suspect has been referred to in the submissions from the Low Income Network and from the Campaign for Economic Justice. It is simply not good enough for us all to see these people and let them wander back to the electorates which we represent. We must approach the matter in a very positive way-all of us-learning and understanding more the problem that these people face. There are children in this country who are hungry. Today these people provided a lunch at the front of Parliament House at a value of 81c for each meal. This amount is based on the family allowance. A number of people took part in that luncheon.

Mr Cadman —I hope they blamed the Government.

Mr HAND —The people were not there to blame anybody; they were there to show others what they were experiencing. To their credit, they did not engage in blaming one party or another. The point I am trying to make here today is that we all had an opportunity to go to the lunch and to experience the 81c meal which was provided for all members of parliament and a number of people did that. Children were sitting there telling us about their experiences. I will always remember that and not necessarily find it as humorous as some people do. I make the very serious point again and, as I did last year, I urge the Government-and I urge all members of this House to get behind the Government's attempts-to improve the lot of the children.