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PM tries to build bridges with charity groups at SVdP launch

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday launched the St Vincent de Paul Society's annual winter appeal in Sydney, and in doing so attempted to heal a rift between the charity and the Federal Government over welfare policy.

Mr Howard promised the Government would release its plans for welfare reform this month.

He said the Government will not be reducing its responsibilities to welfare recipients.

Last November, Employment Services Minister Tony Abbott was involved in a public argument with St Vincent de Paul over an apparent increase in the number of people being referred to the charity by Centrelink.

Mr Abbott was not at yesterday's launch, which took place in his electorate on Sydney's northern beaches.