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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2338

Senator BUTTON -Mr Staley could not spell social welfare ' let alone go.

Senator GREENWOOD - I am sorry that Senator Button said that. He said that Mr Staley cannot spell 'social welfare' and I guess that is supposed to be the reason why he was not given an invitation. This, I believe, highlights and justifies the sort of criticism I am making. There is some view on the part of some Government senators that some Liberal members of Parliament cannot spell- and what an unreasonable assertion it is to make in respect of a university lecturer in political science- and that, therefore, that particular person is not to receive an invitation.

When we have this sort of reaction from Senator Button together with the explanations given by Senator Wheeldon one ought to question whether this Assistance Plan is or is not being used for the purpose of political patronage. I said earlier that the function of these interim committees was to establish some sort of welfare program. We have not been told what the definition of 'welfare' is. Welfare may be best asserted by having a Labor Party member in the district and that may be the way in which the money is meant to be expended. I do not know. But quite apart from that question, these interim committees are supposed to form themselves into a social council. Once they have formed themselves into a social council they are supposed to create a company registered under the Companies Act of the particular State. We have had that happening in Victoria.

I think it is instructive to read this document headed 'The Guidelines for a Pilot Program' to see the specimen memorandum and articles of association for the companies which are supposed to be formed by these committees. If ever there is an indication of how to control the operations of a company it is contained in this document. Anyone who wants to misuse companies for their own purposes ought to read this document because they will get a lot of instruction. This interim committee presumably decides to form a company and therefore it has to have the subscribers to the memorandum of a company. My recollection is that S subscribers are adequate in order to form a company. When those subscribers have formed a company and have formed the articles of association there is in existence the embryonic means of conducting the affairs of that company.

How is it to be conducted? It is to be conducted by an executive committee. Who is to form that first executive committee? It is to be constituted of 12 persons. It is all set out here in this document. Twelve are to be appointed by the subscribers to the memorandum. What are the powers of that executive committee? It will then determine whether it wants to have on its council the members who have been appointed by the State Minister for Health. There is a power of veto if the executive committee does not like them. It is to have on its committee 2 members appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for Health or the Minister for Social Security. If the executive committee does not like them it has the power of veto over them. It is to have all sorts of other people representing bodies within the region- municipal bodies, associations and other welfare groups. But if the executive committee does not regard that organisation as being an organisation really concerned in welfare projects it can exclude it. All power rests in that executive committee.

Who, may I remind the Committee, appoints that executive committee? It is appointed by the subscribers to the memorandum. May I ask who appoints the subscribers to the memorandum? Will the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation inform us? Will he say how those people are appointed? If he does he really will be breaking new ground. I believe that at the present time the persons who appoint the subscribers to the memorandum are the persons approved by the Minister for Social Security and his minions and in the sense it is nothing more than a means of political patronage.

I accept, as my colleague Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has said, that there is a genuine feeling throughout the community that this type of assistance program has a tremendous amount going for it. There are a lot of people who see in it a future which could revolutionise the provision of welfare in this country, members of the Opposition are amongst those people, but we do not believe that the program as at present devised ought to be subject to the manipulation to which it is subject at the present time. Let us combine all the goodwill that exists in the community. Let us ensure that proper welfare purposes are served, but let us make sure that there is a proper procedure under which the members of these committees are appointed and under which the money which is able to be dispensed is dispensed. Let us make sure that it is not a means of dispensing political patronage. I believe, for all the simulated indignation which the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation can raise, that this is one of the functions which this Government believes its assistance program is promoting. I believe that we have to examine this assistance program to make sure that the purposes for which the Parliament as a whole believes it can serve usefully are served and that the particular political purposes which the Labor Party wants for it are prevented from occurring.

Proposed expenditure passed.

Proposed expenditures- Department of Health, $99,872,000 and Department of the Environment and Conservation, $3,653,000- passed.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Webster -We now pass on to the departments covered by Senate Estimates Committee F.

Postmaster-General's Department

Proposed expenditure, $ 1 8,895,000.

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