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Thursday, 4 April 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - If there is some misunderstanding remaining in Western Australia as to eligibility for the unemployment benefit, following the statement that I made in the House recently on the matter, it may be partly due to what I bel;eve has been sonic failure on the part of what is a normally and very responsible and accurate journal of opinion in that State, the " West Australian " newspaper, to appreciate the point which 1 brought out in my explanation to the House regarding eligibility. There was, it will be recalled, a suggestion that in some way an officer or officers of the Department of Labour and National Service had been so manipulating offers of casual work as to take the names of unemployed persons off the list of persons receiving the unemployment benefit and so prevent them from receiving the unemployment benefit. What I said on that occasion expresses my view of the integrity and propriety of the officers concerned in this matter in the department. That point was taken up by the newspaper. 1 went on to say that, even if any departmental officer had been so disposed, or if any Minister had been so regardless of his responsibilities in the matter, as to issue instructions having the purport alleged by the honorable member for Stirling, the provisions of the legislation would have made such action not only quite unacceptable, but also incapable of performance. The fact of the matter is that once a person qualifies for unemployment benefit after the waiting period of a week, and his entitlement is determined, not by the Department of Labour and National Service, but by the Department of Social Services - so it is not a question of the Department of Labour and National Service manipulating eligibility in these matters - he must earn above the permissible income--

Mr Ward - Which is how much?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - He must earn it not in one week, but in four successive weeks.

Mr Ward - How much is the permissible income?

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - May 1 proceed without interruption, Mr. Speaker?

Mr Ward - The Minister is not game to mention the amount. It is a miserable sum.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! 1 ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I think that the amount is about double what it was when' the honorable member for East Sydney was' Minister, but that is by the by. I can appreciate the embarrassment of the honorable member, because he and his colleagues do not want these- facts brought out. The real crux of the,, matter is that the person on unemployment benefit-

Mr Ward - Or his wife.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The person must earn above the permissible income for a period of four weeks before he is taken off the unemployment benefit and before he is required to qualify again by waiting i;C prescribed period for entitlement to the benefit. If a man receives casual work for one week which puts him above the permissible income limit, he is taken off the list of those receiving the benefit for the week.

Mr Ward - He has to wait another week.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to obey the Chair.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Quite contrary to the honorable member's interjection, the man does not have to wait.

Mr Ward - Yes, he does.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to apologize to the Chair for continually interjecting.

Mr Ward - I apologize.

Mr SPEAKER -The honorable member must refrain from continuing his interjections.

Mr Calwell - I rise to order. I do not want to interrupt the Minister, but I point out that, by referring to the honorable member for East Sydney and making an argument, he invites interjections.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - To put the matter in a nutshell, my statement in this house went far beyond any claim that officers of the Department of Labour and National Service had acted with complete propriety in this matter. I had no doubt in: my own mind at all times that they had done so. But, even further, the legislation rnakes it quite clear what the situation is. Therefore, there is no ground for inquiry of the kind that the newspaper recommended. To deal with the final point raised by the honorable member as to any evidence of anything improper or not in accordance with the statute being found, I invited honorable members, including the honorable member for Stirling, to give me par ticulars of any instance in which the things alleged by him had occurred. So far, no instance has been forthcoming.

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