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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I should like to deal with the matters that have been raised so far while they are fresh in my mind. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin asked the reason for the distinction between Queensland and the other States in relation to the allocation for the housekeeper service. The point is that the grant is made to an organisation in Queensland so it is mentioned specifically. Grants to other States for this service are dealt with under " Payments to the States ". That is the short answer to the question. Historically, this form of assistance to the States came into existence as a result of offers made by the Prime Minister to the State Premiers in 1951. The Prime Minister's correspondence indicated the nature and purpose of the assistance. Four of the six States accepted the offer. In New South Wales and Victoria the grant is paid to the State Governments and disbursed through government or local government channels. In Queensland it is paid by the Department of Social Services direct to housekeeper services now operated only by the Country Women's Association. In Western Australia the grant is paid to the State Government and is disbursed to the Lady Mitchell Housekeeper Scheme and the League of Home Help in equal shares. In Tasmania the grant is paid to the State Government and is disbursed to its own service and the Country Women's Association. An arrangement is being negotiated with South Australia, as I have already indicated.

In relation to homes for the aged, to which Senator Cavanagh referred, it is proper to say that in a broad sense the organisations must be charitable and nonprofit organisations. It is written into the arrangement made with the organisations that the homes must continue to be used for the aged. If this is not so, there is provision for the organisations to refund the amounts of the grants involved. The grants must always be used for the purposes for which the Commonwealth provides the subsidy. While undertakings in relation to this matter are not required from religious organisations, they are required from certain non-religious organisations which are working in this field. The honorable senator should accept the view that a group of well meaning people can set about the purpose of establishing an organisation, but in the final analysis they have to satisfy the Department that they are in fact competent and will be able to fulfil the requirements of the Act and the agreements that are consequential upon the Act. Quite frankly, I fe;l that Senator Cavanagh is giving weight to this matter that is not justified. The other point I want to make is that the last survey that was taken revealed that the majority of persons who were living in these homes for the aged were pensioners with no other means of support than their pensions. I am sure that Senator Cavanagh and everybody else will agree that this legislation provides a magnificent service and that it is being administered in a practical way.

I want to refer to a point raised by Senator Murphy in relation to the payment to Victoria for dependants for the first six months after desertion. This provision was introduced in 1947, not by a government of this persuasion but by a government of the persuasion of honorable senators opposite. Victoria was treated separately, with the concurrence no doubt of the other States, because all the other States had an Act, regulation or other provision which covered such cases during the first six months. This matter has been raised over the years at Premiers' Conference level, lt will be recalled that in the recent debate on social services it was raised specifically by Senator Morris. Generally speaking, the payment to Victoria was brought about by a need to meet the circumstances of the time and it has continued since. The honorable senator asked where this was dealt with and where it appears in the estimates. The answer is that it is under the item " Special benefits ". I think it will be found that the sum is £650,000. As the honorable senator doubtless knows, special benefit may be granted to a person not qualified for unemployment or sickness benefit if, because of age or physical or mental disability or because of domestic circumstances or because, for any other reason, he is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants. The maximum rate of this benefit is the same as that for unemployment or sickness benefit. The benefit is not payable to any person receiving an age, invalid or widow's pension, service pension or tuberculosis allowance. I cannot give the break up of this amount of £650,000. If, subsequently, that information can be made available to me, I shall certainly see that a suitable reply is directed to the honorable senator.

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