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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23698

Mr FITZGIBBON (9:40 AM) —There could be no greater priority for any government, in particular a national government, than to take care of those who have served their country in a theatre of war. Therefore, members can imagine my shock, amazement and anger when the Minister for Veterans' Affairs informed me that the many veterans and war widows and widowers living in my electorate who remain on waiting lists for Home Care assessment will be forced to continue to wait because of, to use her words, a lack of resources. Surely, in a $170 billion budget and in times of economic growth, we can find sufficient money to ensure that our veterans and war widows and widowers get the home help that they are entitled to and deserve. Veterans Home Care is an essential service that is designed to help veterans and war widows and widowers remain in their homes for a longer period and, most importantly, to choose the way of life which is most suitable to them. The services provided by Home Care range from domestic assistance such as housework, gardening and personal care to, of course, home respite care. In the Hunter electorate, approximately 65 per cent of veterans currently receive or have applied for an assessment, and about 22 per cent are waiting for assessment or a service allocation.

These are usually not big requests. For example, recently a constituent contacted my office seeking to have some help once a week rather than once a fortnight—not a big commitment for the Commonwealth to make on behalf of my constituent. It is extraordinary for the minister to say that these people will have to continue to await reassessment because the department simply does not have the resources. As I said at the beginning of my speech, no greater commitment should there be from any national government than to our veterans and war widows and widowers. The government should hang its head in shame. I appeal to the minister to review the situation and assure people who choose to stay in their homes—which is a saving to the government—that they will be allowed to do so with dignity and that they will be afforded the assistance that they require. (Time expired)