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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 525

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) (Minister for Social Security) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This is the second of 2 Bills designed to open the way for local governing bodies to make a greater contribution to the welfare of handicapped people. The first of these Bills was to enable local governing bodies to use borrowed money, either directly or by donating borrowed funds to other eligible organisations, to attract subsidy towards the capital cost of sheltered workshops and residential accommodation units for handicapped people. This Bill is designed to serve the same purpose in relation to training centres, training equipment and residential units for handicapped children. It will provide the means whereby local governing bodies, by using borrowed money, will be able to help in meeting the need for these facilities.

This is not an area of social activity with which local governing bodies have concerned themselves greatly in the past. Representatives of these bodies have more often called public meetings where responsibility for planning a training centre or hostel, and raising the necessary finance, has been vested in a committee. Quite a few local governing bodies have made land available for projects, but usually without becoming directly involved, There has, however, been a strong demand from voluntary and religious organisations for assistance by way of subsidy since the program was introduced little more than 3 years ago, and to the end of the last financial year grants totalling more than $7m had been approved. Most of these grants have been for training centres but $l.«im has been used to provide residential accommodation. Grants for training equipment have totalled $900,000.

It is probable that with the introduction of the recommendations of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, relating to the education and training of handicapped children, there will be a reduction in the assistance sought by voluntary and religious organisations under the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act. This development is, however, likely to affect only school buildings and training centres and probably some of the equipment needs. It will not affect the demand for subsidy assistance towards urgently needed hostels and other residential accommodation units. Indeed, some voluntary organisations have already announced that they plan to concentrate their future efforts on providing residential accommodation, especially for mentally retarded children. While local governing bodies in Australia have not concerned themselves greatly with the direct responsibility of meeting the needs of handicapped children, this Bill will open the way for them to do so by the use of borrowed money. It will also ensure that the respective provisions of the 2 pieces of related legislation are kept in line. The added expenditure resulting from this measure is not expected to exceed $100,000 for 1973-74. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser) adjourned.

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