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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1664


Senator JESSOP (South Australia) -On behalf of the Opposition I wish to refer to the second Bill that we are discussing in this cognate debate, namely the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1973 which is concerned with the extension of the subsidy paid for the delivery of meals to senior people. The Opposition wholeheartedly supports this legislation, as it supports other Bills that have been referred to by Senator Davidson. This is an example of how the Opposition is anxious to give speedy passage to legislation, particularly legislation of this nature which provides benefits to the needy in our community. It is interesting to note that the Opposition has been able to give approval to about 36 Bills that have been introduced into this House during this session. We have seen fit to reject only one Bill and to defer another one. I believe that the criticism by the Government that the Opposition is frustrating it is ill founded. I believe that many of the Bills that we have considered and passed have been improved by the amendments that we have been able to effect. I believe that better legislation has resulted because of our attention to these matters.

The Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill is in fact an extension of the benefits that were provided by the previous Government, as is the case in regard to many other similar Bills that we are discussing this afternoon. The Bill proposes to increase the subsidy to 354 organisations that have been approved for the purpose of delivering meals to the homes of the senior people of our community. The subsidy is to be increased by 5c in the first instance which will bring it up to 25c from the moment when this Bill is given royal assent. There is also a provision whereby an additional 5c will be paid for each meal provided with an approved vitamin C supplement. This will bring the subsidy to 20c. This is an important aspect in view of the number of people who are being served by these organisations today and the fact that almost 4 million meals were served last year. A considerable number of people are benefiting as a result of this subsidy.

I was interested to read the report of the survey which was recently conducted in New South Wales on Meals-on- Wheels. It is interesting to note that 70 per cent of these people are living alone, 87 per cent either own or have access to a refrigerator, 38 per cent are able to do some shopping for themselves and there is quite a large number where the family contact pattern is not evident. Also it is interesting to note from the report that the majority of the clients of mealsonwheels organisations are women. Over 50 per cent are over 50 years of age and 85 per cent are suffering from some chronic illness or permanent incapacity. Because these organisations take the trouble to provide meals which comply with dietary requirements for these people, particularly those suffering from chronic illness, the service they render is extraordinarily well appreciated by the people concerned. It is also worthy of note- the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has paid a tribute to this aspect of the service- that is it conducted largely by voluntary workers. Four million meals were provided last year by these people, most of whom are women, driving their own motor vehicles, probably averaging a couple of miles for each meal they deliver. If they were paid 10c a mile for the running of their cars a considerable amount of money would be due to these voluntary workers, not to mention the personal time which they sacrifice and also the physical effort which they have to exert to lift the sometimes fairly heavy containers and to carry the meals into the homes.

I believe that the senior citizens of our community, probably because of inactivity in their later years, do not really feel the requirement for food which perhaps they did in their younger days. They can easily slip into the habit of not bothering to cook themselves a well balanced meal. In fact, probably they resort to opening a can and they deny themselves the benefit of fresh vegetables and a properly balanced diet. So I believe that this service to the community is a very important one. It is going to grow. Last year the demands on the service grew by something like 13 per cent. This is an indication of just how important the service is and of how many people are taking advantage of it. I wholeheartedly support this Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill. I congratulate the Government on its recognition of the previous Government's work in this area. I hope that the Government will find the finance to increase the subsidy to an even greater extent and to encourage these organisations to expand their activities.







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