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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 637

Mr MILDREN(10.25) —Ballarat's winter, as you might know, Mr Speaker, is invigorating and particularly bracing. It poses a problem for those people who are trying to get sufficient warmth to see them through the rigours of that time. I refer to people such as pensioners, the unemployed and those on low incomes who live in that city. The winter we have just experienced was somewhat damper and harsher than usual. So the demand for energy use is greater than usual at this time of the year. As an example of the problems these people are suffering, I refer to the case of a supporting parent with two children receiving $240.70 a fortnight and paying $50 rent per week. I give as an example of a fuel bill for such a family an excellent article in the Ballarat Courier. The article stated:

An SEC quarterly bill of about $70 means $11.67 must be set aside per fortnight. The gas bill of $130 is another $32.50 a fortnight. These two items with the rent form $144.17 of the fortnightly benefit, leaving only $96.53 for all the other living costs for the family (about $48 a week).

Honourable members will see that these people have little left to enable them to cover the cost of food, clothing, transport and the other necessary family expenses. I am receiving an increasing number of pleas from families which are unable to meet these bills and which are receiving demands for payment.

It is an indictment on this potentially very wealthy country that money can be spent by the millions on a yacht race off the United States of America and that others can afford to pay millions of dollars to indulge themselves selfishly in penthouses and luxurious mansions, while many millions of our fellow Australians suffer the deprivation of poverty. I congratulate those voluntary organisations and welfare agencies which have extended their resources so generously to help the needy people in my electorate. While the need has grown alarmingly, the capacity of these organisations to serve those needs has not kept pace.

The community of Ballarat is a fairly close knit one, and there is a great deal of co-operation between the energy authorities and the agencies. I know of people who, while they have been given time to pay their bills, have had fuel bills well in excess of $250 a quarter. The cumulative effect of this pressure of debt repayment ultimately becomes too much for these people to bear. Although they have the best of intentions, many have been forced to default. Some just leave their accommodation overnight. On one occasion a deserted mother and her two young children were living in an old car. She was penniless and received no support from her husband. Fortunately, the Uniting Church Outreach Centre was able to help her.

Welfare funds, as I have said, cannot be stretched to meet all the needs. While the Government has made relief funds available, more is needed. Unemployment is running--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 10.30 p.m., the debate is interrupted.

Mr Dawkins —Mr Speaker, I require the debate to be extended.

Mr SPEAKER —The debate may continue until 10.40 p.m.