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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1595

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (Minister for Social Services) - The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) has raised 3 matters, and I will try to deal with them in reverse order, if I may. In regard to the last case which he mentioned, I must say that I know nothing of this matter personally at the moment, but will most certainly have it specially looked into, as the honourable member has asked. Indeed, I would have done this even if he had not raised it in the House but had come and raised it specially with me. As honourable members know, I am always, or nearly always, available to honourable members from both sides of the House Who have any particular matter to raise about a constituent or some other matter. Nobody would say that there were never cases of justice, and it is within my ministerial prerogative to rectify some of them; some do not come within my ministerial responsibility. But I can assure the honourable member that in this case, and in other cases where something is brought to my attention by any member of this House or of the Senate, I will look specially into the matter.

The second matter which the honourable member raised referred to supplementary assistance. I think the House might be interested to know that not only he is concerned about this matter; I and the Government also are concerned about it. What he has said is not without substance, and of course it is not without substance particularly in regard to sheltered workshops. Sheltered workshops are not entirely new in this country, but I think that it was only about 5 years ago when they became a recognised part of our social service structure with the introduction of the sheltered workshop allowance. The anomalies in regard to supplementary assistance to which the honourable member has referred are particularly onerous when they relate to sheltered workshops, and I think that what he has said not only merits attention but is already receiving attention. I am hoping that some quite fundamental changes will be made which will obviate the kind of anomaly which the honourable member has, I think quite rightly, drawn to the attention of the House. I can assure him that this matter has already received my attention and is receiving the attention of the Government.

The third matter which the honourable member raised referred to the payment of unemployment benefits and to what Senator McKenna may or may not remember about the past. If I may, I will read the final paragraph of a letter which Senator McKenna wrote as a ministerial direction to my Department in this matter on 12th May 1948. A copy of this letter is already available in the papers of the House. I will quote precisely and exactly from the ministerial direction which was given to my Department by Senator McKenna. It was under his own personal signature of that date. It states:

The broad principle must be applied that if the sponsorship by a Union of a Key Worker strike causes unemployment the Union and its members whether in the same or another industry - and these are the words I emphasise -

.   . must accept responsibility for the natural and foreseeable consequences of their sponsorship.

This is in regard to the non-payment of unemployment benefits in a strike situation. The then Minister, Senator McKenna, said whether in the same or another industry'. That is the ministerial direction which he gave to my Department and which has been acted on. I am sure that the honourable member for Sydney was not personally aware of this because I am afraid that it entirely contradicts the interpretation which he gave.

Mr Cope - That is not what Senator McKenna told me.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am sorry about that. All I have is Senator McKenna's direction in writing to my Department, of which he was then the ministerial head, and a copy of that direction is available for all honourable members to see. I can assure honourable members that I am trying to be fair and reasonable in this matter, and I am trying to quote, as far as I can, from documents which substantiate the practices which have been carried out in my Department in this regard during the time of the Labor government and ever since.

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