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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- I should like to add my remarks to those already made in support of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) which seeks to provide employment for physically handicapped people in the Public Service on a wider basis than is the case at present. At about this time last year we had an " Employ the Physically Handicapped " week, organized by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. During that week we had statements by Ministers of this Government imploring private industry to assist these people. Yet now, when there is opportunity to amend the Public Service Act in order to liberalize the employment of physically handicapped people, we find the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) telling us, during his second-reading speech, that the Public Service Board has established a separate committee to go into this aspect. The Boyer committee inquired into this matter and recommended that something should be done about these people. That committee was apparently quite aware of the problems which confront the Public Service in regard to superannuation and gratuity payments involved in the employment of these people. It suggested that the act be amended to provide that physically handicapped people need not be covered by either superannuation benefits or the gratuity scheme.

Now we find that the Public Service Board has set up another committee to go into a matter that has already been examined by an independent committee. If this Government and the people generally are interested in employing the physically handicapped, surely it is time that we got down to doing something about the matter rather than just discussing it time and time again. The physically handicapped are doing amazingly good work in providing employment for themselves by opening workshops for the physically handicapped, and in many instances they are backed by some of the service organizations in the community. Private industry is also playing a certain part in employing physically handicapped people and some governmental and municipal government authorities are doing their share. The Canterbury and Bankstown municipalities have recently employed paraplegics to repair books belonging to municipal libraries. These people have proved not only that their work record is as good as that of any one else employed but also that their attendance record is as good as that of any other employees.

Physically handicapped people in the community deserve better treatment from the Commonwealth Government, which, after all, could be expected to set an example and employ people who, perhaps, in days gone by were the kind of people who were kept locked in a room by their parents because members of the community were so unaccustomed to seeing their deformities or illness. We have come a long way since those days, and now the physically handicapped person can be of value to the community and can be employed in many capacities which will add to the wealth of our nation. Again to put off the employment of physically handicapped people in the Commonwealth Public Service, by appointing another committee to go into the matter, seems to me to be only another way of pigeon-holing the matter. I support the amendment.

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