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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2555


Mrs DARLING(10.30) —As Queensland is celebrating Labour Day today, I would like to speak about important developments which will seriously affect the Labor movement and which require the full attention of those with a commitment to Labor's cause. However, before I do so I wish briefly to comment on the plaint of the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper) regarding constituents on Bribie Island whom he claims are being neglected by the Federal Government. I was very surprised to hear that because although we are all aware that there is a problem for any government as we come to the turn of the century because of the increasing ratio of aged people to younger and working people; yet in conditions of economic restraint the Hawke Government granted $376,000 for an extension to the aged hostel on Bribie Island at the end of last year. Further, the Government has established a special office for the aged. I believe that at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Bribie Island markets restaurant there will be a public meeting to discuss the problems of pensioners on Bribie Island.

The honourable member for Fisher should be made aware of the fact that under the Hawke Government rent assistance for pensioners has been increased by 50 per cent. The Government has extended the range of aged hostel subsidies to better assist the care needs of the elderly and has indexed increases in this funding. Nursing home bed subsidies are increased annually under this Government with $1,072m being spent on this in 1986-87, and by 1989 the Labor Government will have doubled the number of hostel places. This is the sort of information that the honourable member for Fisher should be giving to his constituent on Bribie Island. I would like to thank my friend Bill Osborne from Bribie Island who, when I visited him at that beautiful spot yesterday in preparation for the Labour Day celebrations, gave me the information regarding the special meeting tomorrow on Bribie Islands.

In particular, in the last couple of minutes available to me in this debate, I would like to speak about the role of the Federal Labor Government in the development, because as a member of that Government I can see first hand the important links between our Government and the achievement of those objectives which lie at the heart of the labor movement. It is indeed timely to reflect on these links because today we are faced with a serious challenge by conservative forces to hold on to all the reforms and improvements that Labor Governments and the unions have struggled so hard to achieve for working people. However difficult the economic or political times, we must always recognise our Federal Government as a central part of the struggle to maintain and improve the living standards of working people and welfare recipients in our community. It is for this reason that I would like to speak about elements of Federal Labor policy in comparison with what is offered by the opponents of social reform, the New Right and other forces of reaction. This comparison becomes absolutely crucial as the important differences between our objectives and those of our conservative opponents are quite often underscored by inaccurate data contained in statement given to the media. We must therefore clearly state what our policies are and contrast those with the damaging, inequitable and divisive alternatives of the--


Mr Hollis —Forces of darkness.


Mrs DARLING —As the honourable member for Throsby points out, the forces of darkness, the conservative parties. I would like to touch briefly on the area of education. Under Labor the number of school-children staying on to grade 12 has increased from 36 per cent under the Fraser Liberal Government to 46 per cent today. The Government has set itself a target of 65 per cent retention to provide young people with the greatest possible qualifications for the labour market and higher education.


Mr Cunningham —A 58 per cent retention rate in Victoria.


Mrs DARLING —As the honourable member for McMillan says, a 58 per cent retention rate in Victoria under the Labor Government. The Government has also created over 36,000 extra places in universities and colleges of advanced education since 1983. There has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of yearly housing commencements under Labor. Funds available for public housing have increased by 42 per cent.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.