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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2329

Senator BAUME (New South Wales) - When we were first discussing the Australian Assistance Plan some time ago we were concerned about some of the administrative problems that seemed to be arising which might make an excellent concept difficult to operate well. I think that some of the things that have been raised should be reiterated, and there is one other problem which has not yet been ventilated which I think should be brought to the attention of the Minister. There are certain welfare agencies which play a very major role in delivering services, particularly in the city of Sydney where I come from, which are going to find it difficult to operate under a regionally funded system. There are certain organisations in Sydney, for example the Smith Family and the Sydney City Mission, which operate centrally but operate throughout areas of need in Sydney. Administratively, they are going to find it difficult to get money through regional councils.

Their concern is that they are going to have difficulty on 2 scores. Firstly, they are going to find it difficult to convince regional councils that they should be funded. It could well be said: 'But you are a central body, you get your money elsewhere.' If these organisations do want to get money from regional councils they are going to have to seek representation on those regional councils. These charitable organisations have finite resources in terms of personnel and it worries them that they will have to try to join each of the regional councils around Sydney. Secondly, they are worried that there will be less money available from a central source from which they can seek an allocation to carry on their present work. So while they applaud local initiative and the provision of welfare services, they see themselves as threatened.

Some of these welfare services are notable for the fact that they are very flexible and are involved where services are needed. To give just a simple example, the Sydney City Mission for a long time maintained some activities in Paddington. Some years ago Paddington was taken over by a new kind of resident who was more middle class and less in need of help. The Sydney City Mission disposed of all its assets in Paddington and with the money it received it has now moved out to Green Valley, where it has opened some very urgently needed community services. It is doing a job all round Sydney trying to fill areas of need, but it sees a threat, in the operation of the regional arrangement, to its continued efficient functioning. I am not asking on that ground that the regional system be abandoned, but I am asking that account be taken of the fact that there are certain groups giving welfare help for whom this kind of arrangement will be inappropriate. This applies in most cities.

Senator Devitt - Can they not be integrated into the system? What is the difficulty?

Senator BAUME - Senator Devittasks: 'Can they not be integrated into the system?' I hope that they can, but at the moment they see some difficulty as the system is proposed. We have been told that the system is having teething problems and that we should accept this. That is fine. But I think it is important that those of us who are examining the Estimates ought to state what these teething troubles are and should try to highlight some of the areas of difficulty.

I should like to make only one other point for the Minister, and that is to suggest that a region as it is constituted is less close to the people than local municipal councils. It is extremely easy to demonstrate that fact. It was mentioned earlier- I think by Senator Greenwood- that a capitation grant of $236,000 was made in Melbourne.

Senator Greenwood -I said $700,000 but I was told that it was $236,000.

Senator BAUME - I am sorry, the amount of $236,000 was mentioned by Senator Wheeldon. At $2 a head that means that 1 18,000 people are represented by the regional council which received that money. There are fewer people represented by most municipal councils. I am not convinced that we could not achieve the same aims with regard to the provision of welfare services if we worked through our local elected councils. There is no problem of access there. We know that access is good. We know that the councils are elected in a democratic fashion. Perhaps we should encourage them to seek to appoint some grouping of interested people to disburse the money.

Senator Devitt - They do it. A council is able to delegate to a special committee the responsibility for a special thing of this kind.

Senator BAUME -That may be. Mr Chairman, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; progress reported.

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