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Thursday, 12 September 1985
Page: 507

Senator KNOWLES —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security to please explain under what conditions emergency relief can be obtained from the Department of Social Security regional offices and, in particular, can emergency relief be obtained for the payment of fines and court costs?

Senator GRIMES —Unless something has changed in very recent days, emergency relief cannot be obtained from any office of the Department of Social Security. We distribute emergency relief through the Department of Community Services to non-government welfare organisations throughout Australia such as the Salvation Army and the Smith Family. They distribute the emergency relief which we provide. We have not provided, and do not provide, emergency relief directly from offices of the Department of Social Security, first of all because the relief cannot be distributed widely enough; secondly, because the offices do not operate a sufficient number of hours to enable them to distribute relief efficiently; and, thirdly, because we believe and have always believed that it is far better that those organisations which have always delivered emergency relief should continue to do so. In some States the State equivalent of the Department of Social Security, such as some State departments of community welfare, provides emergency relief. I do not know whether they provide emergency relief for the sorts of cases referred to by Senator Knowles. I will ask the Minister for Social Security or my Department whether we have any information on this.