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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2735

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is to the Minister for Social Security. To help overcome some pockets of poverty amongst Aborigines and others in rural Australia, will the Minister continue- 'indeed, step up - the previous Government's policy of providing regional offices of his Department in rural areas? Is he aware that these regional offices currently are serving the needs of people up to 300 and 400 miles away from these offices? Will he open either an office or an agency of his Department in every community centre throughout Australia so that all people, especially those in rural areas not already served by such facilities, will have easy access to information concerning their social welfare entitlements?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I am aware that there is a very serious problem of poverty, and indeed, a serious health problem among Aborigines in Australia. I am not aware that the last Government did much about those problems. I am also aware that there is a serious problem of poverty and deprivation amongst many people living in urban areas in Australia. I am aware that the last Government did very little about that situation, either. As to regional devolution of office representation of the Department of Social Security, that is currently under consideration. However, I suggest that the honourable member and anyone else who seems to believe that poverty can adequately be attacked simply by setting up an office of the Department of Social Security are badly self deceived.

We will be undertaking a major offensive against poverty. We are awaiting preliminary reports, which will take a few months yet, from the Henderson Committee of inquiry into poverty. We expanded that inquiry considerably. We gave it a much greater range of opportunity to research and report on the rather serious situation existing in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The fact that it still existed after nearly a quarter of a century of Liberal-Country Party administration is a very poor commentary on the conduct of this country in that period.

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