Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3480

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(10.48) —As to the particular point made about access to financial assistance for homes for aged or disabled persons, it needs to be appreciated that the assistance able to be delivered under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act 1954 is discretionary in character. Therefore, it is highly unlikely as a practical matter that the particular situation to which Senator Peter Baume refers could possibly arise.

Senator Peter Baume —Delivered meals could.

Senator GARETH EVANS —As to delivered meals, that is also discretionary, as I recall. The Delivered Meals Subsidy Act 1970 provides discretionary grants to non-profit organisations delivering meals to aged persons. To the extent that it is discretionary I have no doubt that conditions could be imposed on the aged persons in question to whom the meals could appropriately be delivered. There is a slight element of whimsy about Senator Peter Baume's examples, but there is perhaps a larger question as to why among all the various discriminatory provisions in social welfare legislation it was this particular group of provisions that it is now sought to bring in line with the Sex Discrimination Act. The Attorney-General acts on behalf of other Ministers in introducing this kind of omnibus legislation. The policy decisions taken, bearing in mind possible financial implications, have been made very much with the approach of the relevant policy departments being taken into account. Certainly, no significant cost increases are associated with these extensions of the Act.

The amendments to lower the eligibility age for males for benefits under the two Acts we have just been discussing do not reflect any generalised government policy decision about eligibility age provisions in other Commonwealth legislation. There is other legislation in existence with discriminatory age limit provisions, for example, the Social Security Act itself, which has been exempted indefinitely from the Sex Discrimination Act on the ground of cost. The Government, faced as it was with the choice of exempting the two particular Acts we are now talking about from the Sex Discrimination Act or making amendments of the kind that we are proposing, which have no significant direct costs, has decided that the discriminatory provisions should be amended now. In other words, unless there is some overriding reason why we should not bring these provisions in line with the Sex Discrimination Act, we have taken the view that we should. We believe that as a practical matter the discretionary character of the social security benefits in question will be such as to ensure that no anomalies, idiocies or eccentricities of the kind identified by Senator Peter Baume will occur.