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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 273


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE(5.30) —I take this opportunity to comment that this is the last report we will have from the Department of Social Security in its old form. Since the period covered by the report the Department has been split into two departments. One, the Department of Social Security, will deal with income maintenance and cash payments. The other is the Department of Community Services, of which Senator Grimes is the Minister. The former Department of Social Security had grown to be an enormous department of state. I recall that one of the first questions I asked the then Director-General, Mr Laurie Daniels, OBE, in 1975 was why the Department had doubled its staff numbers in the three years prior to 1975. He said it was simply because of the growth of work and the development of the income security system. We find that staff numbers and expenditure in 1975 have more than doubled a decade later. There was an enormous growth in every aspect of the work of the Department.

The Department of Social Security, which was formed during the period of the Whitlam Government, was formerly known as the Department of Social Services. It remains for me to say that the Department has been served by talented Directors-General and dedicated staff. I hope that a satisfactory role will be found for the new Department of Community Services as a result of the splitting of the old Department of Social Security. The Department of Community Services will have to find the proper role for the Commonwealth, in terms of modern government, in dealing with community organisations, State governments and local governments. I hope that the Department will be involved in the development of welfare programs to deal with a wide range of disadvantaged people, that it will develop and provide programs for the elderly in the community, children's services, disabled people, and all the things that have, over the years, been developed by successive governments. It would seem to me that there is a real challenge for the new Department to find a proper role for the Commonwealth to play in these matters. It needs to ensure that there is not an overlap or duplication of services and that there is some integration of services.

I note that the report of the Social Welfare Policy Unit, which I received in recent days, indicates that during the last year the unit developed a number of major analytical studies on which I am sure the Department can draw when it looks to the development of its new programs. The co-ordination of programs covered by the Department of Community Services is a need that must be met with some precision because there is expectation in the community of some integration of, for example, nursing home care for elderly people. A variety of services have been developed for a whole range of disadvantaged people and some direction will be needed. If that direction is to be given at the Commonwealth level, obviously it will be done by the new Department. The new Department might also have a role to play in determining in what way the services will be provided. The new Department of Social Security is an enormous Department that will deal with income maintenance and cash payments. I know that there has been increasing interest in the installation of stratplan resources to enable that Department to give an efficient and effective service.

I simply use this opportunity to pay my tribute to those people who have served in the Department of Social Security, the report of which is now before the Senate. I wish them well in whichever of the two departments they now find that their career takes them. I hope that the person who is selected to fill the position of head of the Department of Community Services is someone of experience and sensitivity. I hope he will be a person who can be relied upon to work at all levels of government and with the community and that he will gain the respect that past Directors-General with whom I have been associated have enjoyed throughout the whole Australian community.