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Wednesday, 10 May 1972
Page: 2301

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury (RYAN, QUEENSLAND) - Is the motion seconded?

Mr Cope - I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.

Mr HAYDEN - I have moved this motion to test the sincerity of the Government on this issue of poverty. This is an issue of great moral import in the community. No-one in this community - it is a very wealthy community, and by and large it tends to be a middle class and middle income group community - can feel any satisfaction when 4 per cent, 5 per cent. 7 per cent or whatever percentage of people are in need and are in poverty. That is the sort of area about which we are talking. The Melbourne survey, which was the source of the figures which the Minister for Social Services used, indicated in its report that the poverty level defined by it was a very austere one. We cannot tolerate this situation any more. It is an incredibly selfish society that can calmly consider the situation, or more often than not ignore the situation, of so many deprived groups in the Australian community.

We are proposing an independent committee of inquiry. This should appeal to the Government, because we have heard the Minister say that he deplores the tendency for politics to be brought into this discussion about people in need. The assumption seems to be that anyone who raises the case on behalf of those in need must be politically motivated. It never occurs to the Minister that people can have humane considerations. The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), for instance, has lived in such an area for 40 years. Some honourable members on this side of the House have lived in such areas for much of their lives and know only too well what it is like to be deprived and not only to suffer the financial deprivation which is part and parcel of relative poverty in the Australian community but to know before one has progressed very far in life that socially and culturally one will be disadvantaged and that the greatest aspirations that one can reach out for are fairly limited. We propose that there ought to be a committee of inquiry. We challenge the Government to support it. The Government will be measured for its worth according to whether it supports or opposes this proposal.

I remind the Minister that on 22nd February 1971 in this House every honourable member on the Government side objected to a matter of public importance, as presented by members of the Opposition after being raised by myself, proposing improvements in social service benefits so that noone receiving these benefits would have payment rate below the poverty level. I then took the opportunity of moving the suspension of Standing Orders so that we could put this to a test by voting on this proposition, because as the House knows, as perhaps the public are not aware, we cannot vote on issues brought forward as matters of public importance. The only way we can really test the sense of responsibility of the Government in relation to issues raised as matters of public importance is to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. If honourable members on the Government side support my motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, it means that we can then put our motion calling for a committee of inquiry before the House, and if they vote for that motion it means that an independent committee of inquiry into poverty in Australia will be set up. This is something which has been long overdue. But no doubt they will vote against this proposal as they voted against proposals at the beginning of 1971 moved by the Opposition suggesting that no-one should have to live below the poverty level. The standard rate or single rate of pension is more than $5 a week below the poverty level. We have the incredible situation in which a man on unemployment or sickness benefits in the

State of Queensland, if he has a wife and 6 children, is $4 a week better off than he would be on the minimum award rate working for a local authority on works financed with relief money provided to overcome unemployment, but still $12.60 below the poverty level.

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