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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator BUTTFIELD (South Australia) .- I refer to Division No. 475, sub-division 4, item 05, which relates to a proposed appropriation of £120,000 for grants to eligible organisations for accommodation for disabled persons. For some time now I have been asking the Minister to look into this matter of assisting disabled people. I do not know of any section of the community the members of which arc more courageous or are doing more to help themselves, but they need certain things altered to give them more incentive to go on and possibly eventually to relieve the Commonwealth and the taxpayer of the need to pay them any pension at all. I had a question on notice for some time; it was answered a week or so ago. It asked how many applications had been made for this accommodation for disabled people, and I was told that one application had been made, suggesting that this perhaps was not the most urgent need for assisting these people. I was told that this was the result of a request that had been made to the Minister as the most efficient and most suitable way of assisting. I should like to ask the Minister which organisation asked for this type of assistance and, if only one grant had been applied for, was it that organisation that applied for it? In that case, I think it is very notable and laudable that it has been given £150,000. I hope they are finding this is the most urgent need they have. However, as only one organisation has asked for it, I would like to know whether the Federal Council for Disabled People was involved in this request. Is it the sort of thing that the

Council believes is the most urgent need? Recently 1 led a deputation to the Minister with the Federal Council for Disabled People and this was not what they asked for at that rime. They feel that there is a more urgent need and that is to provide these people with the incentive to go on and work harder and longer and thus draw nearer to the time when they can be fully employed in industry and be relieved of the need to ask for pensions. They want to do this and it should be encouraged. They show a splendid spirit when they want to be relieved of the pension.

I also asked the Minister some time ago whether he could furnish any figures as to how many people could be employed in sheltered workshops or industries, especially disabled people, and, if not, whether he would make it possible for some of these organisations themselves to go into the opportunities for employment and possibly to ascertain those who would still like to be employed but were unable to be employed. If they cannot be employed, what is the reason? Is any inquiry in the process of being underaken? It seems to me that it is very necessary to know whether these people want to be employed and cannot be employed, and how they can be assisted, not by the Government, but by the organisations which are prepared to do this work. It is most urgent to cope with this problem and the best way is to increase the amount of accommodation in which they can work. I do not refer to hospital accommodation. Surely it is better for these people to lead a normal life at home and go to work provided there is sufficient accommodation for them, but it seems that this is not available.

It also seems to be urgent that these people should be allowed to earn an additional amount before their pension is affected. Obviously, many of them are even out of pocket by going to a workshop to work one or more days a week. By the time they pay their fares, they are out of pocket. This does not offer much incentive to them to help themselves, to work more and gradually rehabilitate themselves. I think it is urgent that this should be investigated and that additional work opportunities should be provided. This can be done if workshops or factories can get some kind of government assistance. 1 urge the- Minister to look at this problem again to see whether something can be done to help these people to help themselves. This is what they want to do. They want to relieve themselves of Government assistance in the most practicable way. This would also add to the workforce of Australia and that is something we need.

The CHAIRMAN - For the benefit of honorable senators, I wish to explain the procedure I adopt in giving honorable senators the call. Briefly, when an honorable senator has spoken, whether on the Opposition side or the Government side, and the responsible Minister has replied, I give the call to the honorable senator on the opposite side to the honorable senator who spoke last. I do not regard the Minister as a Government senator for the purpose of these procedings. I hope that is clearly understood. Sometimes two honorable senators on the Opposition side may get the call in succession if no honorable senator on the Government side has risen. Sometimes the position is the other way around. I want to be fair to all honorable senators and I ask for their co-operation in addressing their remarks to the items under discussion.

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