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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18704

Mr WINDSOR (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. Following the minister's answer last week regarding a review of the aged care formula, could the minister elaborate on the review process? Given that the electorates of New England and Gwydir, for instance, are 500 times and 1,600 times larger respectively than many metropolitan seats and that all seats are currently governed by the same formula, is the minister willing to incorporate the parameters of distance, remoteness and community size in the review of the formula?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the honourable member for New England for his question. I indicate to him that the process I outlined last week in reply to a question from the member for Calare involves essentially modelling the formula according to different age groups and doing that over a period of some 20 to 30 years. We are trying to plan in a way that makes sure that we meet the aged care needs of people right throughout Australia into the future.

The basis of that formula is to provide equitable distribution of aged care places, regardless of where people live. There are special provisions for those in rural and regional parts of Australia. For example, there is weighting in favour of them in terms of capital funding and also in relation to some of the places that are allocated to regional and rural parts of Australia. That interest in those regions of Australia will continue to be in the mind of the government when making these decisions.

I indicate for the benefit of the House that since 1999 some 279 additional aged care places have been allocated to the New England planning region, worth some $3.4 million in annual recurrent funding. Aged care providers in the region have also received some $2.3 million in capital funding. A little while ago, I was able to visit aged care providers in the honourable member for New England's electorate and had a well attended forum of aged care providers, which the honourable member was present at, and I was able to participate with him in the opening of a new home at Uralla in the New England electorate. The provision of aged care services in rural parts of Australia is done in a flexible way, particularly through multipurpose services. Currently there are four MPSs operating in New England, at Urbenville, Boggabri, Vegetable Creek and Barraba.

Mr ANDREWS —I am advised by the Acting Prime Minister that they are also in Gwydir. There are also plans to expand in that region generally the MPS programs at Bingara, Walcha, Warialda and Guyra. This is a commitment on the part of the government towards the provision of aged care and health services generally to the residents of the New England region of Australia, like we attempt to do in a fair way for residents and people who live in all parts of Australia.