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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2056

Mr FitzPATRICK - I direct my question to the Minister for Labour. Owing to the large number of unemployed in Broken Hill and in other parts of my electorate, is there any truth in reports that the Government is considering curtailing rural unemployment relief grants?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - This matter has been raised with me on several occasions by the honourable member for Darling. He saw me last week and he saw me two or three times in the previous 3 weeks.

Mr James - He is concerned about his people.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, he is concerned about the people in Broken Hill and I understand his concern for them. I have discussed the matter fully with the honourable member. I have since then been studying the metropolitan and non-metropolitan unemploy ment relief schemes and shortly will be in a position, I hope, to make a submission to Cabinet on the whole question. It is true that, as a consequence of the rapid improvement in the employment situation, labour shortages in certain areas and particular occupations are now beginning to appear. As the general level of unemployment falls still further these shortages are almost certain to become more acute. Only this morning I heard on the radio serious criticism of the unemployment relief scheme which, as everyone knows, the previous Government was forced to intoduce in order to take up the tremendous slack in employment opportunities. This changing employment situation is steadily altering the needs for these unemployment relief schemes. I think we have reached the stage already at which the metropolitan unemployment relief schemes will have to be phased out excepting in special instances where there is still some need for them.

I should like to indicate to the Parliament the areas that 1 have already chosen as areas that will still need some assistance because of the special disabilities from which they suffer. I might add that I have had a number of requests from local governing bodies asking that the scheme should not be interrupted even in areas represented by some Country Party members. The places that I have chosen as areas that should be retained within the non-metropolitan unemployment scheme are Broken Hill, Cessnock, Gosford, Grafton, Kempsey, Lismore, Parkes, Tamworth, Taree, Ayr, Bundaberg, Cairns, Ingham, Innisfail, Ipswich, Mackay - I had talks recently with the Minister for Northern Development who presented a strong case for the retention of Mackay in the scheme - Mount Isa, Toowoomba, Townsville, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Bunbury, Medina and Devonport. It would seem that an immediate, straight-out termination of the scheme is just not feasible. To do this would cause great hardship in the areas that I have mentioned. They are not the only areas; there could easily be others that one would have to include.

I believe we have, however, reached the time when no more funds ought to be allocated for relief of unemployment in most of the metropolitan areas after the present scheme cuts out at the end of June. I believe steps should be taken to phase out the existing non-metropolitan unemployment scheme over the next 12 months or even a shorter period if possible. The phasing out in some areas will need, of course, to be more rapid than in others but while the scheme is being phased out completely I think that a local initiatives program ought to be introduced and restricted to areas where it is considered that the incidence of unemployment is in excess of the Australian average and where Commonwealth funds to relieve it can produce the best and most desirable local results.

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