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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1291

Senator WOODLEY —My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer relates to the Industry Commission inquiry into charitable organisations. Does the minister agree that rural and remote areas have been experiencing hardship on a greater scale than city areas and, consequently, the services of welfare and charitable organisations are under an even greater strain in such areas? Does the minister agree with the assertion made by the Queensland Council of Social Service in its submission to the Industry Commission that the inquiry process particularly disadvantages organisations in rural and remote areas, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations? Given the automatic disadvantages faced by organisations from rural and remote areas in trying to participate in the inquiry, and the importance of ensuring that the commission is made aware of the special needs of people and organisations from these areas, can the minister explain why the commission cancelled its public hearings scheduled for Townsville and why it will not be visiting any other areas outside the capital cities?

Senator COOK —I acknowledge that Senator Woodley was kind enough to give me notice that he may ask me this question today. I sought, as a consequence, to obtain the necessary detail from the Industry Commission to provide him with an answer, but at this moment I have not got an answer to the relevant last part of Senator Woodley's question from the Industry Commission. I regret that, but I will redouble my efforts upon the conclusion of question time in order to encourage the commission to provide me with an answer so that I might put it on the record.

  However, I do not wish to speculate, as Senator Woodley invites me to do in the first part of his question, on whether rural Australia or urban Australia, when they are in hardship, are enduring more than each other. Nonetheless, I think that if rural Australians are in hardship they should have access to the right facilities, in this case charitable organisations, as do urban Australians, but I do not wish to engage in a debate as to who is worse off—people in the country or people in the city. I think that is an idle debate. As I have indicated, I will endeavour to obtain the answer to Senator Woodley's question and provide it to him as soon as I can.