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Thursday, 29 March 1984
Page: 880

Senator REYNOLDS —Can the Minister for Social Security report on current negotiations with State governments regarding the organisation of the women's emergency services program? In particular, is the Minister aware of concern that realistic salary increases for women's refuge workers may not be implemented by the Queensland Government? Furthermore, can the Minister assure all Queensland women's refuge organisations that the new funding arrangements will be expedited through that State so that women's refuges will not experience the serious delays of past years?

Senator GRIMES —I am at the moment negotiating with the States for the distribution of the women's emergency services money. Replies to this Government 's offer for the use of that money are now coming in. We have offered to use those funds to increase the salaries of all funded positions in refuges in each State and to upgrade to four the number of positions in those refuges where there are less than four. I received a letter from the Minister for Welfare Services in Queensland in the last couple of days accepting the conditions for the distribution of funds. He says that he is at the moment talking to Queensland refuges to decide how those funds will be distributed. Provided his concept of the conditions is the same as mine, I see no reason why the funds cannot flow to Queensland very quickly. A similar situation prevails in some of the other States. I am still awaiting replies from others. I hope that within the next month I will be in a position to distribute all those funds, the initial aim being to upgrade the wages and conditions of women who work in refuges who, as Senator Reynolds knows, are amongst the most exploited workers in this country. It has been a long process, largely because of the wariness of the States, I believe, that the Commonwealth will fund something this year and leave them holding the baby next year. However, I think we have managed to reassure most of the States that that is not the case and that the money will go out very soon.