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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 829

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (Minister for Social Services) - What we have just heard deserves only a few words in reply. I will not reply at any length. I think the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) overestimated the generosity of this House when he said that his statement would commend itself to both sides. He had a reasonable expectation of this but it did not turn out that way.

The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is not really concerned with poverty. He is concerned with the election. It is quite repulsive to hear the way in which he was not concerned at all really with this inquiry. What he is concerned with is trying to make political capital out of the plight of the poor, out of the plight of anybody. Time and time again I have heard honourable members for the Opposition gloat, absolutely gloat, about the misfortunes of Australia or the misfortunes of individuals in Australia. I have heard this too often and over too many years. But I do not remember an occasion on which this has been done more blatantly.

The honourable member for Oxley shows that he is not really worried at all about the substantial matters. He is only worried about trying to abuse the Government. He is only worried about trying to make his own marble good in the coming election. I think that the country will repudiate this kind of activity. The Government- has a genuine concern here. We are told that one is not enough to conduct this inquiry. There is nobody in Australia that would have the same breadth of experience and general respect that Professor Henderson has in this field. It is not necessary to say: 'He will not be able to look at the medical, social or some other aspects'. Just the opposite is the case. He will have complete freedom and will be able to call evidence and get the assistance of whomever he so desires in this matter. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made it quite clear that the conduct of this inquiry would be determined by Professor Henderson himself. There is no thought of tramelling him nor any thought of confining him within the terms of bis reference, which are wide and far reaching. He will have full freedom of action to do as he thinks fit and there is nobody who would be more capable of knowing where to go, where to look and what to do.

The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) had some disparaging words to say about the terms of reference. He said: Is this going to be only monetary poverty or primary poverty? What about cultural poverty, social poverty and so on?' He contradicted himself, because in introducing his remarks he made a quotation from Professor Henderson's own book which showed that Professor Henderson did not take this narrow viewpoint. He quoted from the book People in Poverty: A Melbourne Survey' to show that Professor Henderson does not think solely in monetary terms but also in these wider terms. The honourable member for Oxley must acknowledge that the terms set down are wide and far ranging. They do not confine the Professor and there is no reason at all to think that he will find any inhibition in going in whatever direction he may think fitting and desirable.

What Professor Henderson has written gives the lie to what the honourable member for Oxley said, namely, that there is a possibility that this inquiry will be only narrow and confined within the mere monetary sense.

Even in the mere monetary sense I think that the House must realise that in this last Budget a great many of the residual pockets of poverty have been eliminated. I will not go into detail at this stage. There will be other opportunities to do this. Furthermore, I am not trying to override the proper function of this committee, the Government is undertaking this inquiry honestly and above board. It has made only one mistake, that is, in believing that it would commend itself to both sides of this House. I think we shall look with disgust on the narrow and partisan approach of the honourable member for Oxley who sets himself up in this matter as the spokesman for the Opposition.


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