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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 993

Mr REID (HOLT, VICTORIA) - Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been drawn to requests by church authorities for an inquiry into social conditions wider in scope than the approved inquiry into poverty by Professor Henderson? Does the Minister intend to make any recommendations in relation to these requests?

Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Social Services) - I think 1 should say first that the scope of Professor Henderson's inquiry will be very wide indeed. This arises, firstly, because Professor Henderson is such a competent authority and does take a very wide view of these matters; secondly, because the terms of the inquiry themselves are very wide; and thirdly, because although the Government will provide Professor Henderson with all assistance possible it will give him no riding instructions in the matter. I regret to say that a false impression also has been conveyed in this House and elsewhere that Professor Henderson's inquiry will be confined purely to monetary terms. This is not so. If he so desires, he can examine all the matters that generally are described as quality of life'. I have seen the reports to which the honourable member referred. Of course, the present inquiry does not necessarily preclude a further inquiry at some later date. However, the request for a further inquiry should not be allowed to defer or delay the present inquiry. That is the view the Government has taken.

Let me mention some considerations involved in this matter. My Department is not perfect, but it is not in every respect imperfect. To a very great extent we have conducted over the years a running inquiry into these matters. As honourable members and other people know, my door is always open to those who would make recommendations. Although these matters are to some extent fragmented, this is not altogether a vice. There is, in the administration of these matters, some proper call for the use of different authorities, including church authorities, to whom I think we should be very grateful for what they have done in this sphere. I would be glad to hear any representations on the proposal for a further inquiry, but I suggest that we should not have this inquiry so diffuse as to be devoid of meaning. One thing that might be considered is a non-governmental inquiry conducted on an inter-church basis. I personally would welcome this and I would consider making available servicing staff, information, and perhaps, with the Treasurer's permission, even some funds. However, I am not making any recommendation at present. I can say only that my mind is open in relation to what recommendations I would make and I will be listening to the representations made to me in regard to this matter.

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