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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2513

Mr STREET (Corangamite) - The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. In fact, as the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has pointed out, the Opposition is co-operating with the Government to ensure that the legislation is passed through this

House as soon as possible. The principal reason why the Opposition supports this legislation which provides for a benefit to be paid to people termed supporting mothers is the beneficial effect the Opposition believes the legislation will have on children who otherwise could suffer subsequent disadvantages. Unfortunately, lack of time will not permit me to expand that argument. However, I just wanted that particular item put on the record.

One uncertain feature of the legislation - this was referred to by the Opposition in a debate on a social service Bill earlier this year - is the possibility of abuse. 1 would like to bring to the attention of the Minister the specific possibility of a young woman eligible for the benefit under the terms of this legislation who comes to Australia, perhaps even under assisted passage provisions, acquiring the right through the portability provision to this benefit and then leaving Australia. This woman, assuming she did not marry again or take up some de facto relationship - and incidentally I will ask the Minister how he proposes to guard against the latter possibility occurring overseas without his knowledge - would be entitled to a lifetime income even though she was not then living in Australia. This, of course, is quite a different situation to the portability aspects of age pensions where there is a qualifying residential period. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government proposes to deal with that problem.

On behalf of the Opposition I would like to point out some weaknesses or omissions which we believe are apparent in the social services legislation. One example directly relevant to the Bill is the lack of any mention about a supporting benefit for widowers who find themselves in much the same position as supporting mothers as defined in this Bill. My colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), will be distributing an amendment relating to this aspect. However, to ensure the quick passage of the Bil) to which I referred a moment ago the Opposition will not be pressing for a division on this amendment. In addition, we see the need for the amendment of social service legislation referring to certain aspects of sheltered workshops. Again, the honourable member for Mackellar has an amendment which will be distributed so that the Opposition's attitude will be placed on record.

Finally, I wish to make it clear that although the Opposition is not opposed to this Bill its main concern is with the normal 2-parent family and especially the young family. In other words, in our efforts to redress anomalies suffered by a minority we must not lose sight of the quite legitimate claims of everybody else. As I mentioned in a speech on earlier social services legislation, the resources allocated to social services must be allocated on a basis of priority. The Opposition, while supporting this legislation, puts as its first priority the needs of the young family who face many difficulties and who have accepted their heavy responsibilities.

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