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Tuesday, 23 November 1965

Mr Webb b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that in the north-west of Western Australia many unemployed Aborigines and also many whose low wages make them eligible for unemployment benefits are denied unemployment benefits because illiteracy prevents them from completing claim forms?

2.   Has his Department made it clear to the Native Welfare Department of Western Australia that the Aborigines should be advised of their entitlement?

3.   If the Aborigines are not being assisted in this way, does this lack of assistance by the Government encourage the creation of a pool of cheap Aboriginal labour in the north-west of Western Australia?

4.   Does the Government support the maintenance of such a pool of cheap Aboriginal labour?

Mr Sinclair (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Social Services) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth unemployment benefit scheme, as with similar schemes in other countries, is designed to meet the needs of an industrialised society. This means not that rural workers are excluded from the benefit but that it is directed to assist members of the work force whose earnings have been temporarily interrupted by unemployment. The first essential qualification is that the claimant must be unemployed. A person who is employed, even though his wage may be low according to urban standards, cannot be said to be unemployed, In addition, unemployment benefit does not extend to persons who are not unemployed or to persons who are not normally employed.

The welfare of Aborigines in the States is the responsibility of the State Governments. This does not preclude Aborigines from receiving Commonwealth social service benefits where they are so qualified. However, where any person is unable to satisfy the conditions for a Commonwealth benefit his welfare and maintenance remain the responsibility of the Slate Government.

The officers of the Western Australian Department of Native Welfare understand the qualifications for unemployment benefit. Consequently there would be no point in their obtaining claims from persons who are not qualified for benefit. Any person without regard to his race who becomes unemployed may lodge a claim for unemployment benefit and where necessary he will be assisted in completing the application form. When the claim is lodged it is investigated in the normal manner and determined on its merits in accordance with the provisions of the Social Services Act. 3 and 4. My Department is not responsible in any way for wages policies.

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