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Tuesday, 14 December 1993
Page: 4502

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (3.20 p.m.) —Senator Patterson has got it very wrong and it is not the first time. I am afraid I did not hear all of Senator Patterson's contribution but I can understand what she was saying. It was a diatribe about how this government was concerned to make sure that families were assisted through emergency relief. She has run the argument in this place before, so one would think that she was actually opposed to providing people with emergency relief.

  This year, the government has increased its funding. Senator Patterson's claim that there is no increase in funding is not right; the increase is there. What is more, Senator Patterson might be very pleased to discover that in the budget an extra $2 million was allocated to emergency relief this year and that will be provided in the December allocation.

Senator Patterson —What about the other $10 million they got last year?

Senator CROWLEY —Before Senator Patterson starts saying, `What about everything else?', why does she not just accept what I said, which completely refutes what she was saying. `There is no money; there is no increase'—Senator Patterson is wrong. A $2 million increase this year is to be provided in the December allocation.

  The government has made it quite clear that its main emphasis through its budget policies is to target assistance to people in a long-term and permanent way, which is a point I was making during the answer I gave Senator Patterson. That is the main thrust of the announcements in the budget, and takes account of the fact that, despite the best intentions in the world, some people will get into an emergency—a financial or economic crisis. Such crisis is best dealt with by assistance—sometimes by payment of bills; other times by direct cash assistance to people under that emergency relief handout.

  That emergency relief funding will be increased this year by $2 million and will be allocated to people at Christmas time. The government recognises that, despite the best intentions of government to make sure that people are assisted with housing and pension benefits and payments, for some reason things go wrong for some families. So there is that continuing backup of emergency relief—not the main game but a backup.

  The increase of $2 million this year is over and above the increase in last year's allocation, and is allocated for payment in December. That recognises that sometimes crises occur as families try to cope with providing something for themselves at Christmas time.

  If one listened to Senator Patterson, one would think that this was not a compassionate government; this was not a government that was concerned about people; this was not a government that was interested in helping people in the long term—and it is. If we allocated all assistance to people as emergency relief, Senator Patterson would be the first in here saying, `Why don't we do the more long-term thing; the more permanent thing?'. Well, we are, and the emergency relief program has been increased with a special extra budget allocation over and above the indexed arrangement for emergency relief.

Senator Kemp —You have been rolled.

Senator CROWLEY —No, it is not wrong; it is a fact.

Senator Patterson —Where is the $10 million you gave last year?

Senator CROWLEY —Senator Patterson needs to calm down. She is asking for information and she is making claims—

Senator Patterson —I am not calm; I am angry.

Senator CROWLEY —I agree that Senator Patterson is angry and that does not help her case at all. What is more, she is making claims that are not accurate. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to make those claims accurate. I walked in here halfway through her contribution, when she was loudly insisting that this government had not increased funding for emergency relief this year. That is just not the case. It has been increased by indexation over and above the amount allocated last year. It has also had an extra allocation of $2 million in this budget, which will go to people during the December allocation for emergency relief and no doubt will be of assistance to them, both at Christmas and over the longer haul, if that is needed by those assisting people with emergency relief.

   It is more important that we assist people in ongoing management of their lives and manage a targeted focus on emergency relief to back up those people. The important point, which I do not believe can be overstressed, is that this government's budget and previous budgets target families in need in general. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.