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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2527


Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) (Minister for Social Security) - in reply - Mr Speaker, I thank members of the Opposition for the succinct and thoughtful way in which they put their many points of view on the subject and the way in which they have facilitated the progress of this Bill. To continue the facilitation I will condense what I have to say to a few points in reply. The main points that were made relate to the amendments which the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) proposes to move at the Committee stage. Insofar as his amendments relate to widowers, I support the views he put forward. I believe that something has to be done. Indeed the honourable member would know that earlier this year and towards the end of last year I indicated after this Government was elected that this would be one of the things that we would want to rectify at what I hoped would be a fairly early stage.

The honourable member wanted to rectify this defect himself when he was Minister for Social Services. I have no doubt, knowing him, that he tenaciously tried but he was not successful and there would be reasons for that. I hope that I will be successful in the near future. I only mention that to indicate to the honourable member that there are reasons why a person cannot do these things immediately. Perhaps I can take him back to the 1968-69 Budget speech of the then Treasurer, the right honourable William McMahon, in which inter alia he said:

The Government is aware of the difficulties that can be faced by widowers of relatively small means who are left to care for a family of young children. It is hoped that the measures of relief for these widowers will be formulated and announced soon.

Of course, the announcement was not made soon. I can only say that it is a little late now to remonstrate with us although, in fairness, I appreciate the genuine way in which the honourable member for Mackellar as Minister for Social Services did try to apply many farreaching changes to the system of social security, or social services as it was then known. In fact, the then Minister for Social Services did effect quite a number of valuable changes and advances in the field of social services.

The other amendment which the honourable member proposes relates to the supplementary assistance which is drawn by people in sheltered workshops. The honourable member is correct; it is a baneful issue for these people and it is a disincentive as we understand from the reports that we receive. But what is to be done about it? I do not think that the answer rests in tinkering with the supplementary assistance system. If we do adjust the system I apprehend that there will be widespread pressures for the general adjustment of payments which are received by social security beneficiaries. For instance, if we were to provide the $4 supplementary assistance for all people paying rent or board the cost to taxpayers would be $50m. If we were to provide this level of supplementary assistance to all pensioners without any reference to whether they paid board or rent the cost would be $150m. So there are some complex problems.

My own predisposition is towards developing some system of guaranteed award wages for these people. As I have mentioned in this House before, I find extremely attractive the West German practice by which a levy on payroll is imposed on all employers who employ above a minimum number of employees Under that system the proceeds are paid back to employers to subsidise any loss in earnings that they may suffer as a result of employing handicapped people who cannot perform to the average output level and to allow the employers to make any architectural changes which are necessary to facilitate the movement of handicapped people in general employment. This is something that we are looking at. I hope that in the near future something substantial will come from this study.

It is clear, of course, that I cannot accept the amendments that will be put forward by the honourable member for Mackellar. Apart from any other reason, I do not have any authority from the Government and such a matter would call for a policy decision. But in rejecting the amendments I state quite clearly that the views are commendable, they are worth developing and we are searching in this area. I have no doubt at all that throughout the period that the honourable member for Mackellar was a Minister, although he was not able to effect these changes, he desperately tried to do so. I repeat that the Government cannot accept the amendments for the reasons that I have mentioned.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Debate interrupted.







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