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Monday, 20 October 1997
Page: 9199

Mr BEAZLEY —My question is to the Minister for Family Services. Minister, if you believe we should not neglect the elderly, if you believe—this is the first time I have heard the expression—`There is a tidal wave of elderly descending upon us,' if you believe that the nursing homes are in the state of collapse that you so describe them to be, and if you believe that the funding has come down to unacceptably low levels, why did your government cut $500 million out of aged care in the last two budgets?

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Mr Speaker, how ironic that we get a question from a former Minister for Finance. There is $3.7 billion being spent on aged care now. That is an increase. The changes in the budget context were nothing much to do with capital replacement. You know as well as I do that the means test application you looked at, I am sure, as Minister for Finance but did not take any action on—you squibbed it. Kim, is it any wonder that she wants to come over to your side? She can see the vacuum, the lack of leadership and lack of guts.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I know we have a frantic fellow on our hands but he ought to use the proper forms of the House.

Mr SPEAKER —I thank the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister is aware of the conventions of the House.

Ms Macklin —It is $500 million you have cut.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Jagajaga! I know you have an interest in this. Don't jeopardise it.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —I apologise to the member for—what is your seat? If that is the only thing that I have to apologise for, then I feel quite comfortable with putting forward the policies of this government. As I said to you just a moment ago, you fundamentally misunderstand what is being undertaken here.

The outlays for aged care will continue to increase—that is the whole point. Unless we do something about seeking a fair contribution in a fair and decent way—the capital that you took out you failed to put back, according to that graph that I just showed you—those issues will never be addressed. And short, cheap questions like the one you have just asked do you no credit either, particularly when you were the finance minister with Mr Keating and Mr Hawke and you did nothing. You sat on your hands. No wonder Cheryl Kernot wants your job.