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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 2965

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls stating in his speech on the 1979 Budget:

I think it is one of the remarkable things of this Government over nearly three years that during periods of real financial stringency we have shown our real concern for those in need and made sure that even though other areas of expenditure have had to be restrained to the utmost extent, areas of real need have been met by increasing expenditure.

In the light of that statement about the 1979 Budget, how can he justify a reduction of more than 30 per cent in real terms or more than $35m this year in Aboriginal welfare spending as against spending in 1975- an accumulative real cut in the Aboriginal Affairs budget since 1975 totalling $128m? Will the Government immediately replace its prejudicial treatment of Aboriginal Australians as third class citizens and raise expenditure to an appropriate level to combat the grave human need behind the increasingly appalling statistics in areas such as Aboriginal health, housing, education and employment?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) -The Government has, over approaching five years in office, given very close attention to the needs of elderly and disadvantaged people in the Australian community no matter what groups they may come from. I will respond to the honourable gentleman's request in relation to Aborigines in a moment. I remind the House first of some of the other things that this Government has done or initiated to support the less well-off people within the Australian community.

Over the last five years there has been unparalleled support for the building of hostels and homes for elderly people. Right around the country grants have been provided to expand enormously the provision throughout the community for elderly people, including homes for the aged. The Minister for Social Security has been pursuing programs in relation to the disadvantaged. The expansion of sheltered workshops and the assistance to the disadvantaged have also been unparalleled and unequalled by any other government. The introduction of family allowances early in the term of this Government, which were designed to give special and particular support to lower income families who would not have the benefit of tax concessions because their incomes were too low, was a notable achievement which has been applauded right around the country. The Government has helped in many other ways. The introduction of family allowances was a notable achievement and it materially assisted low income families throughout this country. The only cause for resentment from the Labor Party is that it was this socially reforming Government that introduced that proposal rather than the Labor Party, which had an opportunity but did not do so.

I remind the House that this Government is also concerned for single income families. Tax reforms announced by my colleague the Treasurer, which will come into force on 1 July, will materially assist the position of single income families because the spouse allowance will be increased very substantially. There will be a substantial tax reduction, therefore, for many single income families. In all these ways, across a very broad spectrum, this Government has shown concern for disadvantaged groups within the community. One could, of course, go on. The Government replaced the hard to understand and unfair capital and income tests on age pensions with a single, clear, simple income test which again removed a disadvantage from many people throughout the Australian community. In whatever area one looks, there are reforms that have been pursued and introduced by this Government which the honourable gentleman could have introduced but did not when he was in government.

The honourable gentleman asked questions about the Aboriginal people in particular. If he is in close touch with the National Aboriginal Conference and with the work which our two Ministers from Aboriginal Affairs have consummated over recent years he will know that the work this Government is doing on behalf of the Aboriginal people is very much appreciated in every corner of this Commonwealth. One of the things the Aboriginal people understand, and they understand it much better than the Opposition- it is a tragedy for the Opposition that it does not realise this- is that their problems will not be solved merely by the throwing of money at them as the Labor Party did when it was in office. They know quite well that they need programs and policies of self-management, programs that will enhance the dignity and self-esteem of the Aboriginal people. These are not matters that can be solved by wildly scattering' money around, as the honourable member for Wills did when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in a way that did much more harm than good. The Aboriginal people have come to a recognition of that fact and they have no thanks for the honourable gentleman for, in a sense, having deceived them that that was a solution to their problems, when they know quite well that it was not.

In addition, it clearly needs to be understood that, under the programs of this Government, the policies for Aboriginal people have been well devised. The funds have been directed to specific objectives. The employment program introduced only recently by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, directed specifically at government departments and government instrumentalities of the States and of the Commonwealth and also at the private sector, is starting to have some significant results for the employment of Aboriginal people. That is just another example of an area in which we have shown an initiative of a practical kind. The Aboriginal people understand that. They know that our policies are devised to get to the real source of the difficulties.

I think it is worth noting that in the last Budget, when grant funds were made available to a much greater extent in support of welfare housing, for the first time we put in a special provision that a significant sum- I think $20m of that total grant- be made available through the States specifically for Aboriginal housing. That therefore enabled a greater expansion of government support for Aboriginal housing than had occurred on other occasions. That, again, is an example of funds being directed to areas of real need.

I suggest only that the honourable gentleman speak on a personal basis with members of the National Aboriginal Conference and learn how they appreciate and understand what this Government is doing for the Aboriginal people.

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