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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1682

Mr CHIPP (Hotham) - The Opposition supports these 2 Bills - the Sheltered Employment (Assistance)' Bill and the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill. Mr Speaker, at the outset may I be permitted to raise a question of principle .in which I think you would be interested? These are Budget Bills. There is unanimity in the House about them, but the House will take probably 2 hours to debate them. Yet earlier this week and indeed today the Government had to gag matters of fundamental. importance. I can sympathise with the Government for wanting to do this, although 1 do not agree with it. But I wonder sometimes at the priorities we have in this House when we debate these matters on which everybody is in agreement, while debates on matters of great- national controversy are gagged and .Very, few honourable members can speak upon them.

I can sympathise with honourable members who have a point of view to put on this tremendously important human problem of handicapped people. I am being led to believe that perhaps we could adopt the American system under which a member who has a contribution to make to a debate on a subject that is not controversial may have his speech read and approved by the Opposition and then obtain leave to incorporate that speech in Hansard. That is a new idea in this place. I know that the suggestion will outrage the traditionalists, but as a former Leader of the House I would have loved to allow this Parliament to become the national forum for debating highly important national issues, whilst not denying the right of an honourable member to make a contribution on an important matter like this one but which is not controversial as far as party politics are concerned. Even if we sit every week in the year, with the complexity of business that is now facing this national Parliament, with the obsession we have with passing Bills - which are necessary - we will spend most of our time debating Bills, some large and some small, and this place will not be the national forum for debate on important national issues that it should be. I invite the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and you, Sir, as- Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, to contemplate that prospect.

The Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill provides that local government bodies can use borrowed money to attract subsidies for sheltered workshops, hostels or other residential units for the handicapped. It provides also that local government bodies can donate borrowed money to the approved organisations for approved purposes and that money will also be eligible for subsidy. It is hoped that these provisions will encourage further supply of facilities for the handicapped. No great immediate demand under these provisions is expected. A sum of $200,000 is set aside for the next financial year, 1973-1974.

The Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill provides for extensions similar to those I have just outlined, but in addition provides for training centres, training equipment and residential units for handicapped children. It provides the means whereby local government bodies, by using borrowed money, will be able to help in meeting the need for these facilities. I think the outstanding feature of the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) was his announcement that the Government intends to establish a national council ,for the handicapped. I have been one of those members on this side of the House who ha ve. been constantly critical of the number of boards, commissions, new departments and the growth of bureaucracy under the Labor Government. However, I strongly support the establishment of this council and would wish it. luck in its endeavours.

To test ' the bona fides of my friend the Leader of - the House, I have some background notes to my - speech as Opposition spokesman on social security which I think would detain the House if I read them. They comprise one page. The Leader of the House has seen it. I ask leave for these background notes to be incorporated in Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Background Notes:

(A)   'Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act was introduced in 1967, and it is estimated that there are 175 approved workshops currently operating in Australia, employing about 7,500 people. Gross income for workshop production is estimated at $11. 6m for the year ended 30 June 1972.

Under this Act, a subsidy ($2 for $1) is provided towards the capital cost of accommodation, rental of premises; extensions and equipment for sheltered works for the handicapped.

In 1-970 a provision was introduced into the Act to provide subsidies of $1 for $1 for staff salaries over a wide range of activities, such as supervision, medical guidance, counselling and social work, a $500 training fee. -to be paid to sheltered workshops which had placed, people in permanent employment after at least 6 months training, and a $2 for $1 capital grant to organisations providing accommodation for handicapped people engaged in open employment.


(B)   Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act: was introduced in 1970 and provided for subsidies of $2 for $1 to be paid to eligible organisations towards the capital cost of premises to be used for the training of handicapped children; the cost of equipment to be used for or in connection with such training; and the capita] cost of residential accommodation for handicapped children receiving training.

As at 30 June 1973, more than 12,000 children were attending handicapped children's training centres subsidised under the Handicapped . Children (Assistance) Act, an inc. ease of about 1,000 during the financial year.

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