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Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18460

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (3:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Aged Care. Would the minister inform the House how the Howard government is meeting the needs for aged care in the community?

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Minister for Aged Care) —I thank the member for Blair for his question. I know of his concern for his older constituents and those who need residential aged care in his electorate. I am pleased to say that, last Saturday, we advertised for more than 14,000 new residential aged care places and community aged care package places Australia wide. Together with last year's allocation, that makes 22,000 new places that have become available for allocation in the last two years.

I remind the House that in 1986 the Labor Party set a benchmark of having 100 places per 1,000 people aged 70 and over. They never once met that benchmark. With our allocation of 22,000 new places, we will make up what the Auditor-General found in 1996 was a deficit left by the Labor Party of 10,000 places. That meant that the Labor Party short-changed older Australians by 10,000 aged care places which they failed to provide. With our 22,000 new places we will make up that deficit and provide for growth. Since coming to office, we have increased our expenditure on aged care. The last Labor Party budget for residential aged care was $2.5 billion. In this current budget we are spending $3.8 billion—an increase of $1.3 billion. This is evidence of the commitment we have made to older Australians and their need for residential aged care and community aged care packages. We are meeting the benchmark that was set by the Labor Party—a benchmark which they never met, We are, in fact, making up the shortfall and providing for growth.