The Committee and its Predecessors
Since the establishment of the Senate Standing Committees in 1970, matters
presently covered by the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs
have fallen, formally, within the areas of interest of the following Committees:
- Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare
(Appointed 19 August 1970)
- Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare
(Appointed 2 March 1976)
- Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs
(Appointed 22 September 1987)
The membership of the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs
in December 1990 was as follows:
- Senator A.O. Zakharov (ALP, VIC) (Chair)
Senator J.R. Devereux (ALP, TAS)
Senator J.J. Herron (LP, QLD)
Senator S.C. Knowles (LP, WA)
Senator M.H. Lees (AD, SA)
Senator the Hon. M. Reynolds (ALP, QLD)
Senator M.S. Walters (LP, TAS)
Senator S.M. West (ALP, NSW)
A full listing of membership and Committee Chairpersons on the Senate
Standing Committee on Community Affairs and other related committees are
listed in an attachment to this section. Other attachments to this section
include lists of committee secretaries and reports tabled by the committees.
The Work of the Committees
In its twenty-year existence the Committee (and its predecessors) has
concentrated on the areas of social and community health and welfare,
and family issues. Apart from specific inquiries, it has also conducted
investigations into annual reports and petitions referred to it within
this general area of public policy.
The initial inquiry of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare was
into 'The Problems of, and the Provision of Assistance to, Mentally
and Physically Handicapped Persons in Australia'. The report of this
inquiry was tabled in the Senate in May 1971.
It is interesting to note that almost twenty years later, the Committee
once again was conducting inquiries into the employment of people with
disabilities and accommodation for people with disabilities. The Committee
reported on the latter subject in May 1990 and is still inquiring into
the former. The conclusions and recommendations on accommodation differed
considerably in the two reports reflecting significant changes over twenty
years in the prevailing community attitudes towards people with disabilities.
In August 1972, the Senate referred to the Committee a continuing oversight
of aspects of the report of the Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and
Drug Abuse which had been tabled in the Senate in May 1971. In an initial
report in February 1975, the Committee outlined developments that had
taken place since 1971 in all areas covered by the Select Committee in
its report, commented on those developments and made further recommendations.
The Committee resolved to keep drug trafficking and abuse under review.
In June 1976 it embarked on an inquiry into the nature and extent of the
inappropriate use of alcohol, tobacco, analgesics and cannabis. In its
report, 'Drug Problems in Australia - An Intoxicated Society?',
tabled in October 1977, the Committee put forward a seven point strategy
supported by eighty-four specific recommendations. It was the most comprehensive
report on this subject in Australia up to that time.
The Committee's third major report on drugs was presented to the Senate
in May 1981. Entitled 'Another Side to the Drug Debate ... A Medicated
Society?', it dealt with the use and abuse of medication available
over the counter or on prescription. More specifically, it concerned itself
with the prevalence of medication in society; the system of evaluating,
distributing and controlling drug usage; the untoward effects of drugs;
and the question of whether medication is a solution to the ills of society.
The Committee recommended that all governments in Australia reaffirm their
commitment to the Committee's declared strategy included in its earlier
report. It also recommended that governments support the reappraisal of
that strategy called for in its report.
In June 1976, the Senate charged the Committee with evaluating the adequacy
of Australian health and welfare services. Work was interrupted on this
inquiry to enable the report 'Drug Problems in Australia - An Intoxicated
Society?' to be completed. Work was resumed in 1978 and the report
was presented to the Senate in May 1979. In the report, 'Through a
Glass, Darkly', the Committee sought ways of making the system of
health services and social welfare more equitable, rational, efficient
and effective. The Committee asserted in the report that to do this, it
was necessary to conduct ongoing evaluation of government programs.
'Through a Glass, Darkly' achieved wide acclaim. It helped to
stimulate awareness of the need for evaluation to become an integral part
of government programs. Over the next decade, the operations of the Commonwealth
Public Service underwent radical changes. Program performance is now monitored
and evaluated through the use of such measures as program budgeting, corporate
plans and performance indicators.
The second volume of 'Through a Glass, Darkly', which was tabled
in the Senate in September 1979, contained seven papers commissioned by
the Committee to fill gaps in information which could not be covered adequately
through the normal inquiry process.
In the early 1980s, the Committee turned its attention to youth problems.
The Committee's report 'Homeless Youth', tabled in August 1982,
contained recommendations on crisis accommodation such as the youth refuge;
youth unemployment and income security. This was an important forerunner
of subsequent research into this problem, including that undertaken by
the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Australian Institute
of Family Studies.
Another far-reaching report, tabled in August 1985, was entitled 'Children
in Institutional and Other Forms of Care - A National Perspective'.
Hitherto work in this area had been undertaken mainly at the State level.
A long and comprehensive inquiry into superannuation and pension provision
resulted in the tabling in the Senate in December 1988 of a report entitled
'Income Support for the Retired and the Aged - An Agenda for Reform'.
Part One of this report dealt with income support provided through the
social security system and Part Two covered income support obtainable
through the occupational superannuation system.