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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1025


Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (10.01 a.m.) —I thank honourable senators for their contribution to the Human Services and Health Legislation Amendment Bill. The points made by Senator Tambling really go to the main concern with the disability legislation and the amendment to it. He alluded to the importance of the disabled having adequate access to employment, education and training and whether, under the white paper, there were sufficient training places for the disabled. The government's commitment to ensuring that the disabled are given the opportunity to take their place in the work force is well known, but I will certainly ensure that his comments are passed on.

  In answer to the query raised by Senator Lees, I am advised that measures are already in place to ensure that clients are made aware from the outset that they will incur a debt to the Commonwealth. I take the point that it is important that clients fully understand this point. With regard to the second query raised by Senator Lees about monitoring other matters, there is provision in the act for the debt to the Commonwealth by clients to be waived under special circumstances. So there is provision to take account of individual circumstances. I think the point about changing it is made with the best of intentions, but we can be reassured from the legislation that a process of monitoring is in place.

  As to the debate about the cash rebate and the home child-care allowance, Senator Lees made the point very well indeed. As I have said in many other places, it is like comparing apples and pears and I do not believe we are assisted at all by the contribution that Senator Minchin is making in this area. It will be very challenging, and I look forward to seeing the opposition's policies in this area and how Mr Downer comes to terms with the significant differences or disparity of views on assisting the women of Australia, and whether he will buy the argument put so forcefully by Senator Minchin and others that the place for women is at home in the unpaid work force and that if they stayed there, there would be no more unemployment. These are spurious arguments and it is disappointing—indeed, surprising—to find somebody like Senator Minchin actually using them.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.