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Thursday, 17 March 2005
Page: 80

Ms GILLARD (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. Didn’t the minister mislead the House yesterday when she said:

... the government notified all services that there would be an invitation to apply for new services.

Isn’t it the truth that the government has notified every community care service funded under the National Respite for Carers Program that their existing services will only continue to get funding if they compete for funds by tendering and their tender is accepted?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the member for her question. In view of the question yesterday and my answer to it in Hansard, let me make a few points. This open competitive process is designed to ensure that more providers can offer new or better or different services in the community care programs, that existing providers can offer better ways of delivering community care programs and that older Australians who are receiving services under the community care programs have better access to services. In relation to the timing, existing providers have been on notice for some 18 months or more as existing contracts have not been renewed but rolled over, pending the outcome of the community care review. Last August the government produced its response to the community care review, ‘The Way Forward’. I recall that at the time the member for Canberra supported the government’s approach to the community care review. In fact, when the document was released there was support from the Australian Labor Party on the approach we were to take. Now when we do adopt that approach all the Labor Party does is criticise.

A letter was sent to peak organisations and to providers advising of the open competitive process. Advertisements were placed in the paper. A procurement company was engaged to ensure independent probity and advice. The new contracts will be in place by 1 July. The department is working with all applicants and all providers to ensure that if transition arrangements are needed they will be put in place. Our priority is to ensure continuity of care for older Australians. This government has expended over $1.4 billion on community care programs. The service providers need to be accountable and older Australians deserve choice and better access to community care programs.