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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3143

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - I congratulate the Government for plugging two of the gaps in areas of social welfare injustice in providing for the single or no-parent families with dependent children, the supporting mother's benefit, which clarified one area, and the double orphan's pension for the parentless or orphan child. I know that I am speaking on the same subject as did the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) but I am quite happy to do that because I believe that there is one area still outstanding which is the single most serious area of social welfare injustice in Australia, and that is the single male parent with dependent children, the widower, the divorced or the deserted father. The Australian Birthright Movement was reported in the 'Australian' of 17 October 1972 as saying that at that time there were approximately 11,000 of these people in Australia.

Any single parent has problems. The woman has a problem in earning an income while she looks after the house and the children. The man has the problem of paying for the housekeeper and child-minding facilities while he earns an income. A paper "The Deserted Father, A Study of his Problems' by the Family Services Committee of the Victorian Council of Social Service, Melbourne, on this subject had this to say:

The problem is much more complex when a father is deserted. He too may stay at home to care for the children whilst receiving social service benefits. However, the community tends to frown upon such a reversal of roles, and the father himself frequently cannot accept what he considered as a degrading position. Yet if he continues at his job. who does run the home and care for the children? As the community is prepared to take the responsibility as breadwinner for a deserted wife should the community also take responsibility for the provision of a substitute mother? This need is a much greater one and more difficult to meet because of its personal nature and the consequent demands in times and effort.

That is a fairly old paper. When I asked the Parliamentary Library Research Service to provide some material on this question of the single male parent 1 was surprised at how little material is available. A woman, if she has one dependent child, can work and earn up to $26 a week before the benefit of $32 a week is reduced. The man - nothing. The man is not even allowed child-minding or housekeeper services as tax deductions. The single male parent usually has a greater earning capacity than has the woman so the general benefit level cannot be applicable. But there should be some payment to cover the housekeeping and child-minding expenses. Just as a purely tentative suggestion I suggest a payment of $10 a week for the first child and $5 a week for succeeding children. If this Government can introduce a single parent benefit to cover this area of need I believe it will be doing a great service for Australia. I hope that the Government does this while it is in power rather than wait for the next Government to return.

The other matter I wish to mention concerns the danger of the introduction of exotic diseases into Australia, particularly foot and mouth disease. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) referred to this today in a question when he pointed out one of the weaknesses in our protection system in relation to small aeroplanes flying from somewhere in South East Asia, where there is foot and mouth disease, to some area in Australia which does not have preventive facilities. There is a greater avenue through which this disease could come in, and that is through the breakdown of inspection and disinfection procedures at our major airports. This is happening at a time when more people are entering Australia - perhaps this is one of the reasons why the system is breaking down - from countries where diseases such as foot and mouth disease are prevalent. A good example is Bali, a very popular holiday place for Australians now, where there is foot and mouth disease. This is also happening at a time when one of the greatest outbreaks of foot and mouth disease is occurring in Asia Minor. It is spreading from that area to other parts of the world. I quote from an article in the Shepparton 'News' by Mr K. D. Bowtell, Managing Director of Consolidated Meat Holdings Ltd. This was reported in a number of newspapers. He said:

I returned recently from Europe where I inspected farms and meatworks in foot and mouth countries but I had to ask the authorities to disinfect my footwear. A friend who returned about the same time from the same area forgot to ask the authorities and they didn't disinfect his shoes though he bad nominated on the customs entry that he'd been on farms in foot and mouth areas.

When I returned from the parliamentary delegation tour of China via Thailand and

Malaysia, I also reported on the customs form that I had been in those countries and that I had imported certain animal products. The customs officer did not bother to inspect the footwear or the other items. I drew his attention to this. He had a quick look and said: Oh, they're all right. We won't bother to spray them'. I could mention an increasing number of other people who have returned from farms in foot and mouth areas in other parts of the world who are having the same experience. The general consensus is that Darwin is quite good and that the procedures there are followed fairly well but that Sydney is very lax. There, one virtually has to force the customs officer to carry out the correct procedures. This is not good enough. When I was in New Zealand last year I found that the New Zealanders were far more conscientious with their application of disinfectant procedures than we are in Australia. Once again I quote Mr Bowtell to draw the attention of the Committee to the danger to Australia. He said:

At any one time, there is about $84m worth of export in store in Australia and another $48m worth of meat in transit to oversea countries. Thus $132m worth of meat would immediately be classed as a health hazard' and would be unsaleable in most parts of the world.

The meat industry is our greatest export industry, the one with the greatest future. We are putting it at risk with the present failure to carry out procedures at our major international airports. I know that this matter perhaps is not completely the responsibility of the Department of Health in the sense that that Department has the overall responsibility through the animal quarantine section and that the officers at the airports are customs officers and not officers of the Department of Health. I am also aware of the expert group of people in the animal quarantine section in the Department. I believe it would be better for Australia if they were transferred to a national veterinary service in the Department of Primary Industry, but that is beside the point at the moment. I ask the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to take this up with his officers to see that for the future of this industry which is important to Australia the procedures are strengthened and carried out as they should be with people coming in to Australia from foot and mouth disease affected areas of the world.

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