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Tuesday, 14 October 1975
Page: 2089


Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) -When speaking during the adjournment debate on 2 October 1975 I commented on the criticisms made by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) of the Regional Employment Development scheme. He had complained of alleged injustices caused to sponsors of projects which had been approved under this scheme but which now, because of budgetary constraints, could not be funded. The honourable member for Mallee had complained that in many cases sponsors had had projects approved and had in good faith entered into expenditure on materials and preparation for the project, implying that the sponsor- in many cases local government or community organisations with limited financial resources- would have to foot the bill themselves now that the project would not go ahead. In looking at Hansard, it seemed to me that there could be some misunderstanding so I sought further advice on this subject from the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland).

I can now provide some clarification of my remarks of 2 October 1975 following the speech of the honourable member for Mallee. A Press statement was released by the Minister for Labor and Immigration on 10 September following a meeting of the ministerial committee which administers the Regional Employment Development scheme. The relevant part of the statement indicates that projects which had not been started would not now receive funds, although the Budget allocation of $ 135 m should enable all projects already commenced to be continued to the extent of the grant initially approved. The only exceptions to this principle were a small number of projects approved but not started in areas of more than 10 per cent local unemployment. The Press statement goes on to say with regard to projects approved in other areas which will not be funded that 'claims for any legitimate expenditure of moneys already incurred in relation to these projects would be considered sympathetically and speedily'. Senator James McClelland has advised me that in fact it is proposed to reimburse the sponsors of these projects for all legitimate expenditures they have incurred subsequent to being advised regarding approval of the projects. I think it was on this point that I had some misunderstanding with the honourable member for Mallee. I trust that this statement will clarify the situation. I seek leave of the House to incorporate the Press statement of the Minister in Hansard.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTER FOR LABOR AND IMMIGRATION SENATOR JAMES McCLELLAND

At a meeting of Ministers administering the Regional Employment Development Scheme on Wednesday, 10 September 1975, consideration was given to the results of a review, undertaken by the Department of Labor and Immigration, of projects approved after 30 June 1973 and of those approved before that date on which work had not begun. Officers of the Department of Labor and Immigration contacted sponsors of all those projects and sought information as to whether work had started or not, and what financial commitments had been incurred. Pending the completion of the review, and the finalisation of Budgetary provision for funds for the Scheme, those sponsors were told that they should not assume that funds would be available to enable completion of the work and that, if work had not started by the engagement of unemployed workers, then it should be held in abeyance.

At their meeting the Ministers decided that the $135 million provided in the Budget for the Scheme in 1 975-76:

(a)   should enable all projects already commenced, i.e. on which unemployed workers had been engaged, to be continued within their approved financial allocation under the Scheme;

(b)   the projects which had not already commenced should proceed now only in the small number of areas experiencing most severe unemployment. In general this would mean a local unemployment rate of twice the national rate;

(c)   that all other projects previously approved should not be funded but that claims for any legitimate expenditure of moneys already incurred in relation to these projects would be considered sympathetically and speedily; and

(d)   that no new requests for assistance under the Scheme would be accepted.

The Ministers also decided that no further cost escalation would be funded on projects other than in the most exceptional circumstances.

CANBERRA, A.C.T

10 September 1975

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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