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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3570

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) -I ask the Prime Minister a question.

Mr Lusher - A bit of alternative life.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) -It is time the honourable member adopted an alternative life. He has had enough of the present one. The Prime Minister will know that I am not one of those people who believe that the Government can make a significant difference to the state of the economy. As I have said many times from that side of the table, it depends on the economic system and the Government is secondary to that I ask the Prime Minister: Will he ensure in the next few weeks when Parliament is not sitting that there is nothing the Government can do that is not done to prevent any need being satisfied, especially in relation to unemployment and loss of income in the country? Will he ensure that no puritanical economic policy, or any other kind of policy, prevents the satisfaction of genuine need, as far as the Government can achieve that?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I think his concern for those in genuine need is widely recognised throughout the Australian community. I believe the Government has demonstrated throughout the course of this year that it has taken a number of actions to direct assistance to those most in need. The honourable gentleman will well know, and I believe he will support, the decision taken to change the previous basis of child endowment payments to the present family allowance system. That system concentrates the benefits of assistance in low income families who just could not take advantage of the previous arrangements. I believe that that change has been widely supported, not only on all sides of the House but also throughout the Australian community. We have also taken decisions to index pensions automatically so that separate decisions do not have to be taken in relation to those matters. That, again, is a demonstration of our Government's concern and, I believe, of this Parliament's concern for those who are in a genuine position of need in the Australian community.

The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has introduced, as the honourable gentleman will recall, a number of programs designed quite specifically to assist young people who have had difficulty in getting jobs and who have, in recent times, left school. Those policies are of a continuing nature. They are already proving to be remarkably successful. I know quite well that the Minister will be monitoring those programs to see where and how improvements can be made. At the same time, certain decisions have been taken because of difficulties in assessing the facts of the situation when somebody leaves school in a particular year. Questions arise such as whether they will go back to school, whether they will go on to some other form of education or whether they are genuinely seeking employment. The House will know of the decisions which were taken in relation to that matter.

At the same time, within the province of the Department of Social Security and of the Director-General there is a capacity to use a discretion in relation to hardship. Where hardship can be properly demonstrated that discretion, I am sure, will be used. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question and for his expression of concern which I believe ought properly to be an expression of concern of the Parliament for those in need. For the Government's part, where we can see a genuine and proper need we will certainly act. Where I part company from the honourable gentleman is in the nature of policies which are designed on a permanent and enduring basis to overcome our economic ills. I hope that if the honourable gentleman disagrees with me and with this Government on the policies we pursue, he will at least do us the credit of judging the arguments on their merits and not on the basis of imputing improper motives. I believe that the objectives that we all have in the Parliament are similar in relation to economic recovery. There is a very marked difference of opinion on the means by which that process can properly be achieved. The Government has firm views. The honourable gentleman would also have views with which, I am afraid, I could not agree.

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