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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2331

Senator BAUME -Before the sitting of the Senate was suspended I was speaking to the Australian Assistance Plan, about the question of access of interested groups in the community to participate in the regional councils, about the question of publicity and about the question of whether local government councils should be more involved than they are at the present time. A central issue concerning the regional councils is to know to whom they are responsible. I would like the Minister to give us an answer to this question: To whom is a regional council that receives a capitation grant answerable for the expenditure of the money? There is no way that I can discover from reading the material on the Australian Assistance Plan whether the councils are really answerable in that they have to disclose to whom money has gone so that we can find out whether it has been used properly. If there is a situation in which the councils are not really answerable in the sense about which I am talking and we do not discover where the money has gone or how it has been used, then there will be disquiet in the Parliament. This is one of the issues that has not yet been resolved. I repeat what I was saying before: Local government councils elected in open elections are closer to the people than these regional councils. They represent smaller groupings of people. I remind you, Mr Chairman, that the Melbourne group referred to by Senator Greenwood received a grant for over 100,000 people. Although these teething troubles that the regional councils are going through may be only temporary, there is nothing in the arrangements of which we have heard yet that indicates to us that anything is being done to resolve these problems.

Finally, I remind Senator Wheeldon that I am keen to know the position of the large welfare agencies. I refer to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Sydney City Mission, the Smith Family and agencies of this kind that at the present time are quite unhappy about the setup of the Australian Assistance Plan and about the possibilities of their participating in it. The only other thing I would like to do is to answer something that Senator Devitt said before the sitting was suspended. He referred to the information attached to the report of Senate Estimates Committee E and quoted extensively from it. I emphasise that the information we were given established that the regional councils could use money for advertising, not that they had to use money for advertising. So the position could arise that regional councils did not bother to insert a newspaper advertisement in all the newspapers in their areas -

Senator Poyser - What is this all about?

Senator BAUME - I am answering the points made by Senator Devitt. The Estimates Committee made the point that very little money was expended in paid advertising. This brings me back to my original criticism: This is one of the things that should have been done and we would hope to see done in the future.

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