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Tuesday, 14 December 1993
Page: 4500

Senator PATTERSON (3.15 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley), to a question without notice asked by Senator Patterson this day, relating to emergency relief funding for charitable organisations.

In the newspapers in the past few weeks there have been repeated stories of increases in demand from charitable organisations for people in need. For example, an article in the Australian on 3 December, headed `New poor blow out the Salvos' Christmas list', reported:

The number of people seeking food and shelter provided by the Salvation Army is expected to rise by up to 70 per cent this Christmas as the recession continues to bite.

I quote from an article in the Canberra Times on 14 November headed `More folk in need than ever: charity':

A Sydney charity has recorded a 30 per cent increase in food demand this year from people in need.

  The Anglican Home Mission Society launched its Christmas appeal yesterday and said in a statement that food was in greater demand than ever from the needy.

In the Australian in May there was another article saying that the Salvation Army needed more money. On 1 November this year the Sydney Morning Herald said:

The Smith Family is receiving more calls for help from people in the bush than ever before.

  In the past 18 months, the numbers have gone up by 40 per cent . . .

These are not just people in the city but people in the bush. In the Age of 30 November there is an article which says that the soup kitchen in the Sacred Heart Mission in Grey Street, St Kilda is empty. When the kitchen opens, 400 people pour through the doors for meals.

  We also have figures to show that those on the young homeless allowance have increased significantly, the total unemployment rate has gone up and the unemployment rate is about the same as it was this time last year—11.3 per cent last year and 11.1 per cent this year. In families with children aged nought to 14 in which neither parent is working, there has been almost no change. The number of families with children aged nought to 14, in which neither parent is working but at least one parent is looking for work, has gone up and the number of long term unemployed has gone up.

  If the minister thinks that there is no increase in need between this Christmas and last Christmas, she is just joking and trying to fool the Australian public. In answer to my question she said that the emergency relief program this year had increased on its base funding from last year. Mr President, there is no intention to increase or have a special Christmas appeal at this stage. Let me tell you, Mr President, that the base funding for 1992-93 was $18.35 million.

  The Prime Minister (Mr Keating) announced his scam scheme of matching dollar for dollar raised, but when the government went to sign, we saw in the fine print that it was dollar for dollar raised and spent. That amounted to about $9.9 million last year. Then he added another $2 million on to that base funding. The base funding for this year is estimated to be $17.63 million. I cannot see where it has gone up. In the previous year—1991-92—the figure was $16.3 million. So in 1991-92 it was $16.3 million. The next year the base amount was $18.35 million, with another $12 million handed out gratuitously before Christmas. This year we have an estimate of $17.6 million.

  The amount of emergency relief last year came to $30.2 million, much of it given before Christmas—$12 million in Christmas appeals, including $10 million to the Christmas appeal and $2 million as a gratuitous amount given out by Mr Keating. We see a 42 per cent decrease in the emergency relief funding from last year to this year. What was the emergency last year? There is no difference between the needs of the people in the community. I have demonstrated that the need is greater. The emergency was that the Labor Party was facing an election in February or March. Santa Claus Keating—Prime Minister Keating—came out with his Christmas sack on his back on 11 December on the Sunday program and announced his scam scheme, tricking the organisation into thinking it was going to get all the money that it raised, but it had only the money that it spent during the Christmas appeal. It had to keep some money until winter to deal with people who were in great need.

  What has happened? We get no funding before this Christmas because there is no election. I hope the Democrats are listening to this. This is the sort of government that we have in power. It comes in before an election and gives out $12 million in emergency relief. This year, when the need is as great, there is no money. The Australian people were duped last year before Christmas and they have been duped this year before Christmas—two Christmases in a row. The Christmas before last there was no money either.

  We have not seen an increase. In fact, we have seen a 42 per cent decrease in emergency relief funding. It is an appalling situation for Australians in need. Every Australian who is struggling this Christmas will look at Mr Keating and say how two-faced he is that last Christmas he gave out money and that this Christmas there is no money for people in need in Australia.