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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 864

Mr Whitlam asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   What progress has been made with the review of the existing functions and activities of Commonwealth departments which' the Treasurer announced in his Budget Speech on 17th August 1971 (Hansard, page 45).

(2)   When does he expect' to announce any results of the review

Mr McMahon - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   and (2) The review has not yet been completed. It is being conducted within the Government itself and its benefits are expected to emerge in the longer term.

Child and Social Welfare: Ministerial Conference (Question No. 6085)

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Social

Services, upon notice:

(1)   What were the names and portfolios of the Ministers who attended the Conference of Child and Social Welfare Ministers held in Brisbane on 5th June 1972.

(2)   What requests or suggestions were made at the Conference for legislative or administrative action by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) the Territories and (c) the States.

Mr Wentworth - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The following State and Commonwealth Ministers attended the Conference of Child and Social Welfare Ministers held on 5th June 1972:


The Hon. S. D. Tooth, MLA (Chairman), Minister for Health.


The Hon. 1. Smith, MP, Minister for Social Welfare.

South Australia

The Hoa L. J. King, QC, MP, Minister for Social Welfare.

Western Australia

The Hon. W. A. Willesee. MLC, Minister for Community Welfare.


The Hoa A. J. Foster, MHA. Minister for Health.


The Hon. W. C. Wentworth, MP, Minister for Social Services.

The meeting was also attended by the Hon. L. R. Adams-Schneider, MP, Minister for Social Welfare, New Zealand.

(2)   The Conference decided to recommend to the States that the minimum age of criminal responsibility in children be raised to ten years. Discussion also took place on the recording of convictions in relation to children and their effect in relation to the child's future. The conference considered the issues of confidentiality of records and problems of availability of data for research purposes and agreed to refer the matter to the Conference of State Attorneys-General.

The Conference was attended for the first time by the Minister for Social Welfare from New Zealand the Honourable L. R. Adams-Schneider, MP. His presence enabled full discussion of the question of the recognition in Australia of New Zealand adoptions, and all States and Territories were agreed that the acceptance of New Zealand adoptions in Australia should be recommended. There is full recognition in New Zealand of all adoption!: made in Australian States and Territories.

It was also resolved that there should be uniformity amongst the States and Commonwealth Territories with regard to the recognition of foreign adoptions. So far as general procedures in relation to this matter were concerned, the Conference agreed to set up a special committee of senior officers of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

The Conference spent considerable time looking at the problems associated with inter-country adoptions and with particular reference to Vietnamese adoptions. In doing this, it restated that the basic principles and procedures applying to the applications of prospective adoptive parents to adopt an Australian child should be observed in all inter-country adoptions. It was recognised that, in inter-country adoptions, there are additional problems to be faced.

In relation to children from countries where there are no international agencies experienced in handling adoption cases, there are difficulties of maintaining those standards as required in adopting a child in Australia. The Conference has explored ways and means by which this matter can be satisfactorily handled, keeping before the authorities the fact that the interests of the child in all adoption arrangements are paramount.

All States agreed that, it having been first established to their satisfaction that a particular overseas child is available for adoption, they would assist by informing the Commonwealth whether or not they were prepared to support the adoption in the Court of their respective States:

It was also decided' to press the Commonwealth for the payment of allowances for children who have lost both parents.

Other important matters discussed were the standardisation as between the States of family assistance programmes and the adequacy of social worker services being provided by the States for unmarried mothers. The 'Commonwealth undertook to pursue the question of a survey info the factors operating in the community to increase the numbers of unmarried mothers and deserted wives dependent upon government assistance.

The States urged. the Commonwealth to accept liability for refunding in full to the States any initial payments made by the States, and to reduce the waiting period under the Commonwealth Social Services Act for the' granting of a" widow's pension from six months to three months in the case of a deserted wife; and also that there be no waiting period for pension eligibility when ahusband has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period greater than one month. The Commonwealth made the point that these appeared to be financial matters, more appropriate for the Premiers' Conference than for this Conference.

The Commonwealth Minister undertook to give consideration to the question of financial assistance for deserted fathers with dependent children.

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