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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 363

Senator REYNOLDS —Is the Minister for Social Security able to report on his discussions with the Queensland Minister for Welfare Services, Mr Muntz, in regard to the provision of new child care centres and also the crisis accommodation program in that State? In view of Mr Muntz's failure to attend the welfare Ministers' meeting in Canberra last Friday, is the Minister satisfied that Queensland's welfare needs are being adequately addressed in close co- operation with major Federal Government initiatives?

Senator GRIMES —It is true, as Senator Reynolds has said, that Mr Muntz did not attend the meeting of welfare Ministers in Canberra last Friday. Equally I must be fair and point out that that meeting was not about children's services at all , it was about the sheltered accommodation program, and Mr Muntz was not the only Minister who did not attend. I would not like people to think that his absence from that meeting had anything to do with the negotiations between the Federal Government and the State governments on the children's services program.

As Senator Reynolds and other honourable senators know, we are negotiating with all States to improve the distribution of funds in the children's services program. Many of the States have come to arrangements with the Commonwealth Government whereby, through a co-operative effort, through the provision of land , through the provision of buildings and through participation in the planning mechanism of children's services, the Commonwealth Government will now be able to provide more places in children's services for a set amount of money because of this assistance and co-operation. We will be able to provide more places where they are needed through the development of a planning approach.

This procedure was quicker with New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia because those three State governments were anxious to go ahead initially. The Government of New South Wales had already started to take action on its own behalf to improve the distribution of children's services in that State. It is my understanding, and I have certainly been having correspondence with the Queensland Government and the other governments, that they will now see the benefit of joining in such co-operative arrangements.

I have not had final details of what can be expected from the Queensland Government. I understand that discussions are still being held with the State Treasurer and the State Budget has not been brought down. I know in the past the Queensland Government has not been very interested in the provision of services for children and in particular the provision of services for women in distress through women's refuges. I hope that in the future it will see, by the example of the other States and by example of what can happen with Commonwealth-State co -operation, that it should take part in such co-operative arrangements and we can end up with an Australia-wide program. Whether that eventuates from the present Queensland Government and from the discussions that the Queensland Cabinet will have, I am afraid is a matter on which we will have to wait and see .