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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2881

Senator JONES —Is the Minister for Community Services aware of a report in the Brisbane Telegraph of 26 November 1986 containing allegations by the Queensland Minister for Welfare Services, Youth and Ethnic Affairs, Mrs Chapman, that the Commonwealth Government is ignoring Queensland's needy when it comes to funding emergency relief? Can the Minister give any details to show that the claims made are inaccurate?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I did see the article in the Brisbane Telegraph and, for the second time this week, I have had to say that Mrs Chapman is again telling fibs. She has obviously put out a series of statements this week about Commonwealth-State funding and in this case, as Senator Jones has said, it is about emergency relief. In keeping with other Commonwealth funded programs, Queensland receives its rightful share of emergency relief funding. In fact, as I said the other day, Queensland has 16 per cent of the population and receives 16 per cent of the national allocation of funds for emergency relief. At the moment emergency relief is a combined responsibility of the Commonwealth, the States and the voluntary sector. In 1979 the previous Government for the first time became involved in the provision of emergency relief. It regretted it from day one and this Government regrets it also. Prior to that, emergency relief was primarily a State responsibility. In 1986-87 Queensland will receive $1.033m in Commonwealth funds for emergency relief. In the same period the Queensland Government will contribute approximately $900,000. If we want to contrast that with the contribution by other States in this area, Western Australia contributes in excess of $4m. The Commonwealth has been involved in emergency relief only for the last six or seven years and in the time of this Government the Commonwealth has contributed over $3.9m to Queensland alone. The fact that Queensland has a lower percentage increase in general reflects the fact that Queensland has been receiving more than its fair share, disadvantaging other States, while the Queensland Government in turn has been contributing less. This is standard for the Queensland Government.

The problem here is also that most of the people who come for emergency relief are seeking it because they are having difficulty with State charges and taxes. In Queensland electricity charges are substantially higher than they are in the other States and Queensland, unlike the other States, provides no concessions in that area. The eligibility test of the mortgage and rent relief scheme is more stringent in Queensland than it is in other States and the relief is paid only once a year. People in the private rental area have great difficulties at times and need emergency relief. No transport concessions are available in Queensland. The absence of these fringe benefits in Queensland, the lower percentage expenditure in programs in areas such as emergency relief and family support-the fact that the Queensland Government is not interested in expenditure in those areas-means that, when we combine the Commonwealth and State funds in Queensland, Queenslanders get less, but they get less because of lower State funding and not because of lower Commonwealth funding. I think it is really a bit rich for the good Mrs Chapman, who considers herself such a pillar of virtue in the community, to go around trying to cover up the lack of interest of the Queensland Government in poor people and in providing welfare expenditure. It is a bit rich for her to try to accuse the Federal Government of short changing Queensland. She apparently expects the Federal Government to make up for the lack of expenditure by the Queensland Government, unlike the Western Australian Government, for instance.