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Wednesday, 16 February 1977
Page: 159


Mr NEIL (St George) -The Kids Activities Newtown project is an extremely worthy project. It carries out some activities in the St George electorate, in particular at Arncliffe and some other places. It caters not only for children who are taken from one place to the other but also for children in the immediate vicinity that the bus visits. I have had the opportunity to inspect the bus and I have been extremely impressed with the wide range of the facilities that are made available. The history of the dealings between the project managers and the Department of Social Security has not been particularly happy, to say the least. It is not easy to find out exactly what has occurred. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) with whom I join in urging the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to reconsider this matter, and I over the last few days have approached the Minister's office on a number of occasions and also have discussed the matter in depth with the project managers.

Project managers' is probably a misleading term because in fact the persons running the venture are volunteers. They are persons who have to devote their work time to the activity. They are considerably burdened by what appear to us at times to be minor matters such as telephone calls and the like. It is no easy thing to have to pay out of one's own pocket for long distance telephone calls to departments in Canberra or other places and not to be able to get reimbursement. The Australian Assistance Plan in fact was offered to the States under the federalism policy last year. The 20.6 per cent larger general purpose grants to New South Wales, far exceeding the inflation rate, obviously were designed to assist the New South Wales Government if it chose to take over the Australian Assistance Plan. The New South Wales Minister for Youth and Community Services, Mr Jackson, was reported in the Press initially as saying that the New South Wales Government would take over the Australian Assistance Plan. That has not eventuated. I do not know the attitude of that Government. I certainly hope that it wil take over as many projects as possible. I hope that its attitude is not to make as much political capital as possible at the expense of the Federal Government before doing what its Minister was originally reported as saying it would do.

Be that as it may, I understand that the Kids Activities Newtown group was funded to the extent of $28,000 last year and that the running costs Will amount to $28,000 for the next year. The persons associated with the project appear to me to be persons of considerable credibility and one could take their assessment of the running costs as accurate. I think they made an application originally under the Australian Assistance Plan. I am not certain of the exact details. Their application was processed by the Department and apparently they were told that AAP matters were not being dealt with by the Federal Government any more but that the Office of Child Care would look into the matter. They subsequently made an application to the Office of Child Care. I understand that a person from that office visited the project and looked at it. Since then there appears to have been some delay in the Department. This delay, according to our system of government, regrettably is to be referred to the Minister for Social Security.

I understand that since the matter came to the Minister's attention every effort has been made to look at it in detail and carefully. The net result has been a letter stating in substance that $5,000 wil be offered as a once-only figure, instead of the $28,000, and that the persons concerned should look to the AAP for consideration of further funding through the State. These people have been put back 5 or 6 months in their appUcation. The $5,000 will last a maximum of about 10 weeks. To start again, to take time off work, to give up holidays, which the manager would have to do, and to engage in the expense of starting again with the State Government is a very serious problem. The letter is not absolutely conclusive that the position is final. An offer is stated, and I think that in that letter there is room for the Minister to manoeuvre and perhaps to consider granting a full year's donation to enable this one-off situation, this very difficult problem that has arisen, to be resolved within a period of 12 months to the satisfaction of the people concerned with this extremely worthy project.







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