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Wednesday, 7 March 1973
Page: 321

Mr WALLIS (Grey) - It would appear from what the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) has just said that he feels that quite a high percentage of our young people do not want to work and that all that this increase in unemployment benefits will do is encourage people not to seek jobs but to become dirty, unwashed layabouts with long hair. I think he shows a lack of faith in our young .people because I am positive that a high percentage of them want jobs and do not want to be in a position of needing unemployment benefits with all the degrading aspects associated with them. He comes from a rural area. I come from what I would call not a rural area but a non-metropolitan area. It is an area where jobs are limited for a certain class of people. It is an area in which there is a limited number of apprenticeships. It has quite a high proportion of Aborigines who because of their background find difficulty in obtaining jobs. Probably a very high proportion of them have to live on some assistance from the Government in the form of unemployment benefits. The only chance they have of keeping their families under any sort of decent circumstances is for us to make sure that they get reasonable assistance from the Government.

They have the responsibility of sending their children to school as well as the responsibility of seeing that their children are reasonably well dressed. But without jobs and without unemployment benefits things would be very grim for them indeed. Those who have jobs find that the whole family makes a valiant effort to try to make their conditions a lot better. The honourable member for Murray spoke about people not wanting jobs but my understanding of the way the Department of Labour works is that if a person does not have a work record he does not get unemployment benefits. If a person cannot produce proof that he has applied for a job recently or worked recently he does, not necessarily get unemployment benefits. I understand that that is the position - just or unjust, and I have my reservations about it - if a person cannot produce some sort of record to show that he has worked.

Social services has been a pretty hot issue over the last few years. In 1969 we saw the question of social services and the treatment of pensioners becoming a very hot political issue. It was one of the main issues which brought about the reduced support for the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. From 1969 onwards we saw gallup polls showing an erosion of support for that Government and I am sure that this question was one of the reasons for that erosion of support. It appears that the Liberal-Country Party Government used social services mainly at times when pressure was put on it, such as when people showed that unless the Government was prepared to do something they would vote it out of office. That situation applied over the last 12 months and in the last Budget we saw some improvements in social services and the treatment of age and other pensioners. I think it is a fact that this would not have happened had it not been for the pressure put on the previous Government by the people to change completely all that it had said in the past.

It had said since about 1953 that it was impossible to do away with the means test, notwithstanding that the Liberal and Country Parties, were elected in 1949 on their promise to abolish the means test, but it found in 1972 that it was possible to abolish it and it did subsequently give some relief to the people who were being penalised by that means test. At this point it cannot be argued that the previous Government did not realise that the Labor Party's policy, which was part of the 1969 policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), to do away with the means test within a period of 2 Parliaments was something which the people wanted and something which the people considered they were justly entitled to. The Liberal-Country Party Government saw that if it was to have a chance of winning the 1972 elections it would have to do something about the abolition of the means test. So what happened? It did introduce some alleviation in the means test and this was something which everybody on this side of the House approved. But it was something which we realised the then Government had taken from our policy. The means test was something which the then

Government had decided to do away with completely. The previous Government's attitude followed the same line that we had already taken, that is, that the means test would be abolished within 6 years. As I said earlier, the whole question of the treatment of social service pensioners and the matter of unemployment benefits have always been political footballs but at last we have a very responsible and conscientious Minister who has shown by his actions to date as Minister for Social Security that he has a genuine concern for the less fortunate in our society. Every action he has taken since being appointed Minister for Social Security has been towards relieving poverty and want within our society.

This Bill is indicative of his approach and the approach of the Labor Party to the whole question of social services. The Bill does not provide a great deal and we know that the increases which are included in it will certainly not solve all the problems that the less fortunate in our society face, but at least it does go part of the way. As a result of the promises of action to follow this step, promises such as increasing the age pension twice yearly until it reaches 25 per cent of the average wage, we will achieve a position where our people upon retirement are not forced to accept a much lower standard of living than they had been used to. Other matters such as national superannuation were also contained in Labor's election promises but at least the step taken by this Bill is a start. I am sure that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will be untiring in his efforts to make these promised changes and do away with the poverty that exists in our society.

Over the last 3 years we have seen developed by the South Australian Labor Government a completely different attitude to the question of the needy in Australia. The South Australian Government, like the present Federal Labor Government, has shown a very sympathetic attitude to the less fortunate in society. It has announced some beneficial proposals such as rebates on rates which it will introduce if it is re-elected, as I have no doubt it will be.

The increases in pension rates that are to be granted under the legislation before us show how far this Government is going in its effort to eliminate poverty. The standard rate of age pension will be increased by $1.50 a week to $21.50. This is the first step in the Government's plan to bring pensions up to a reasonable level of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. This discrimination that exists at present between A and B class widows will be eliminated. The B class widow will not only receive the general increase of $1.50 a week but also will be brought to the level of the A class widow. This will mean a total increase of $4.25 a week. At present the difference between the pensions is $2.75 per week. 1 do not want to take up my full time. I know that honourable members on this side of the House want to see this Bill passed through the House. I understand that this is the attitude, too, of members of the Opposition. I conclude by once again congratulating the Minister for Social Security on the Bill which he has introduced. This is the first step by the present Government in a genuine attempt to do away with poverty. The Minister has taken this matter so much to heart that he will in future legislation take further steps to eliminate the poverty that does exist. Whilst this Bill is a big improvement, we know that it is not the end. With the sympathetic Minister that we have it will not be very long, as Was said the other day, before Australia has the best social service system in the world.

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