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Thursday, 12 April 1973
Page: 1376

Mr STREET (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it now Government policy that jobs offered to registered job seekers must be of the same trade as or equivalent in nature to the work they did previously? Could this result in people who are able to work and for whom work is available being placed on the unemployment benefit at a lower rate of income than that provided by a job which would enable them to make a productive contribution to the community? In view of the Minister's reply a moment ago to the honourable member for Diamond Valley and his expressed concern for an efficient allocation of resources, does he think that this will improve the living standards of the people concerned and their families and lead to a more efficient use of our human resources?

Mr HAYDEN - The decision to alter the manual of procedures in relation to the unemployment benefit, specifically in the area to which the honourable member referred, was made in response to the right of individuals to dignity and self-respect in their vocational calling. What we tried to do was eliminate the coercion and repression which riddle the whole system of manual procedures. The procedures as changed do not preclude an unemployment beneficiary from taking a job at a lower rating than that which he normally follows, if he wishes to. But what it does do is exclude the right of coercion, of authoritarian direction, in regard, for instance, to requiring a highly skilled worker to take a totally unskilled job. I believe that this step is absolutely necessary.

Up to the present there have been more than 100.000 people unemployed in the community and they are the casualties of the disastrous economic policies of the last Government. They are unemployed not through any fault of their own but because of the incompetence with which economic policy was applied in this community. It is bad enough to have these people lose their self-respect and their sense of dignity by being cast into unemployment without having imposed on them odious practices which create in many people a sense of being demeaned. We have aimed at introducing elements of self-respct within the procedures where unemployment benefit is provided.

There is another thing we have done and which some members of the Opposition have opposed quite vigorously. The honourable member for Mackellar, for instance, when Minister for Social Services, was particularly vocal in his objections to our generous moves to increase unemployment benefit. Until the recent amendments to the Social Services Act. unemployment benefits for a man, a wife and 2 children were $18 a week below the updated poverty line, and they have been below that poverty line for a very, very long time. Thi:, was a national scandal, but the former Minister for Social Services made the objection tha* these benefits were too generous and by implication ought not to have been increased. This belief was put forward on the sole argument - a very questionable on and one which seems to reveal certain biases he has - that it would destroy the moral fibre and the drive for self-improvement of Aborigines. 1 reject these sorts of repressive authoritarian attitudes which- are implicit in so much of what the Opposition did when it was a government.

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