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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2467

Mr GILES (Angas) - I want to take advantage of the few minutes that are left to point out a small grievance I have with the Government at the present time. I do so on behalf of the war service land settlers in my electorate. It is a long time now since those who are under budgetary control - some of them have volunteered to be placed in these circumstances and others have been put under budgetary control to help them in the management of their blocks - have received an increase in what is officially referred to as advances for living expenses. The current level of payment is about $2,200 a year. I ask those honourable members to think for themselves: How many of them could look after their wife and family on an advance for living at the rate of $2,200 a year? I have forgotten the exact period of time but I think it is probably 18 months since this amount has been looked at and increased.

I wrote to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in relation to this matter some time ago. I received a letter from him today. He objects to my using the phrase 'living allowance' and says that I should use the phrase are granted advances for living'. He does so for the simplereason that in the case of these advances for living' all sorts of expenditure items are not brought into account. He lists certain items and comments that the $2,200 a year is meant to cover little more than the cost of food and clothing for 12 months. In his letter the Minister says that expenditure for such items as house rent, medical, hospital and dental expenses and the cost of education and holidays are provided separately. In all fairness to these people I must point out to this House that I think that this is a parsimonious, ridiculous and hard hearted attitude to take. The justification for this sum is included in a paragraph in the letter which says:

It should be recognised that keeping the advance against living expenses at a reasonably low level is in the settlers' own interests.

If they can exist. The Minister went on to say:

By avoiding unnecessary expenditure the equity of each settler is increased year by year.

We can accept this. But surely to goodness people in this House do not think that it is possible for a man and his wife and family to exist at that level, even for only food and clothing, for 12 months in this day and age.

That was bad enough but the thing that really made me see red, if I might presume to say so tonight, was the final paragraph which said:

Since taking over this portfolio, I have bad cause to examine a number of individual cases, involving the manner in which the War Service Land Settlement Scheme is being administered and I am satisfied that settlers are being treated fairly and as sympathetically, as is possible.

This surely is quite out of all real touch with the cost of living today. Might I again ask the House: How can people reasonably be expected to live at this level in many cases in outlying areas where costs frequently are higher for many goods than they are in the city? I hope that the Minister concerned and the Government will take notice of the fact that there are soldier settlers, people of whom this nation is meant to be proud and whom we are meant to care for, being treated in this fashion.

In spite of the glowing terms in which this letter points out how much the Government is saving the soldier settlers each year I am quite certain that not many of the settlers concerned think along these lines and it is for that reason that I have risen on their behalf tonight to say that I am dissatisfied with the situation. I beseech the Government to have another look at this matter and to do whatever it can. If ever there was a time when costs were rising at a far more rapid rate than ever before it is now. One would have thought, firstly, that the Minister would have been aware of this fact; secondly, that he would have accepted some of the blame as the Minister of the Crown who is partially, at any rate, responsible for this raging increase in costs to which everybody is subject; and thirdly, that he should do something about it under the particular authority that he possesses by being in charge of the war service land settlement scheme. I hesitate to use these words, but I think it is a scurrilous situation - a situation that conveys no gratitude or consideration to war service land settlers who are subject to these rigid and stringent conditions.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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