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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4032

Senator PATTERSON(5.29 p.m.) —I hope Senator Neal has the good grace to come in here and apologise to the Senate for the untruths that she has spread around in here today. What she has said is actually just adding to the untruths and the misrepresentations of our policy that the shadow minister for scare has been putting around since this bill saw the light of day. It is appalling.

Senator Neal said that we are not providing any money for capital. She said, `The amount of money they are providing is nil.' I would say through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that is wrong, Senator Neal. In the budget papers there is $10 million per annum for capital each year for the next four years.

Senator Neal —That was already provided.

Senator PATTERSON —Senator Neal said we had provided nil.

Senator Neal —That was already provided by our government, as you well know!

Senator PATTERSON —She is bleating over there on the other side saying it was already in the papers but she said that we were providing nil. She might have wanted to make it more clear.

Senator Neal —You provided that already.

Senator PATTERSON —Go back and check the Hansard . Anybody can go back and check the Hansard . She was absolutely wrong. She then went on to say that we are not giving the supplement for refurbishment of nursing homes. Under the previous government there was $3 a day for refurbishment or for capital upgrading for nursing homes and not a bean for hostels—but she has the gall to come in here and say that. Now we have $5 a day across the board; they had $3 for nursing homes and nothing for hostels. So when Senator Neal has the good grace to come in here and apologise I will hold her in higher regard. I hope she does not take the lead from the shadow minister, who is frightening older people.

Having been a shadow minister for aged care I find it despicable that Ms Macklin can behave in the way she has behaved. I would have thought she would have had more care for older people. But that is obviously not the case. All you have to do is look at what she has been saying in her press releases. Time after time her press releases have said things like:

`This will create a two-tier system, leaving church run nursing homes to look after the poor, forced to deliver a $5 "factory view" nursing home service rather than a $20 a day "harbour view" service,' Ms Macklin said.

That is an absolute, downright untruth.

When she was on the 7.30 Report she implied that that was all we were going to do: that we were going to give them a paltry $5 a day. She failed to say, on the 7.30 Report, that that was over and above the individual subsidy based on the person's need, which can be up to $100 a day. They do not tell the whole story; they only tell part of the story and have, on the 7.30 Report, $5 floating across the screen. What they should have said was that it was $3 only for nursing homes when they were in government and nothing for hostels. But, no, we only have half-truths, untruths and misrepresentations coming from the opposition, in order to scare older people.

Ms Macklin goes on in her press release of 26 May:

`Even with her embarrassing postponement today, Mrs Moylan still hasn't outlined how a prudential system will work . . .

She refers to a prudential system for the accommodation bonds. They had accommodation bonds for the hostels with no prudential system at all. If the hostel or the organisation running the hostel—and there are many of them that are community based, not large organisations—had gone down the tube, where was the prudential arrangement for them? There was no arrangement. Yet Ms Macklin gets up and talks about the fact that Mrs Moylan had not outlined one. Well, she has now and we will have prudential arrangements, unlike the Labor Party, which had no prudential arrangements and no guarantees for older people.

That is one press release. Now we go on to the next press release. They are appalling; I cannot believe it. In her press release of 22 May, Ms Macklin says:

Unless Minister Moylan postpones her `de facto death duty' agenda and sorts out the mess, the Aged Care sector is not going to escape the general incompetence that we have come to expect from Mr Howard's government.

This is just unbelievable. A de facto death duty. You would think that the Labor Party did not have an ingoing—or, as we are now calling it, an accommodation bond—into hostels when they were in government. They did. But they did not call it a de facto death duty.

Let me remind honourable senators on the other side that, of the people in hostels, 22 per cent of them have a personal care level which is equivalent to those nursing home residents in the mid-range nursing home category. So 22 per cent of residents could easily be in a nursing home. They paid an ingoing but we do not call that a de facto death duty. Oh, no. We have Ms Macklin running around saying, `They'll have to sell their homes. It's terrible. You don't choose to go into a nursing home; you choose to go into a hostel.' What absolute rubbish. It means that Ms Macklin has hardly been to a nursing home or a hostel, because if she goes around those hostels she will see what I have seen in the 10 years I have been in parliament: that the level of dependency has increased dramatically, up to something like an average age of 81 years.

The level of dependency in hostels is now very high, with 22 per cent of people being eligible for or equivalent to mid-range nursing home care. They paid an ingoing—the Labor Party never called it a de facto death duty—and those people had to go into a hostel because they were so frail. They did not choose to go. But, because we are now looking at the fact that the level of dependency has increased and we are setting up a much more flexible system, we have Ms Macklin running around making these ridiculous claims. Nowhere do I see Ms Macklin say, `Doesn't this system give us flexibility? Isn't it fantastic that an older person living in a rural area where there was only a hostel now won't have to move 150 kilometres down the road to a nursing home, away from a spouse or family or grandchildren who can pop in and see them?' This is the sort of system that will allow compassionate caring for older people.

Senator Neal, on the other side, said that we were providing nothing for capital—and I have debunked that myth she is spreading around. What was the Labor Party going to do about the fact that Professor Gregory had said we needed $540 million to bring nursing homes up to current standard? What do we see in their policy? Eight paragraphs of nothing. In government, with the resources of a whole department to produce a policy, we get eight paragraphs that tell us nothing about what they would do. Professor Gregory had told them that, just to bring nursing homes up to current standard, we need $540 million. They had no plan to do anything about it.

When the coalition comes up with a plan extending the arrangements that now exist in hostels, what do those on the other side do? They run around scaring older people, saying they will have to sell their homes. I have press release after press release that Ms Macklin has put out saying, `They have to sell their homes. They have to change their wills.' She does not say here that they have six months before they have to pay their ingoing or their accommodation bond and that they do not have to sell their homes: they can come to another arrangement, like renting their homes and paying the equivalent of the interest on their accommodation bond.

Senator Neal talked about the fact that residents do not get the interest on their money. They did not get it in hostels when Labor was in government either. That is the whole purpose of this. That is why many of the hostels are up to scratch and at world standard—because they had the interest from the ingoing money to actually improve the capital of those hostels. But there was no such thing for nursing homes.

So what we have seen, as Professor Gregory said, is four people in one ward in a nursing home and nursing homes that do not have appropriate fire protection and do not meet fire standards—and the Labor Party did nothing about it. They sat on their hands because they did not know what to do. It was appalling. Ms Macklin ought to hang her head in shame, judging by the detail in these press releases. Another one of her press releases from 2 May stated:

Nursing home care is health care, and people should not have to sell their homes to get an adequate standard of care at the end of their lives.

Twenty-two per cent of people currently in hostels are eligible for nursing homes, but it was okay for them, as I said, to pay an ingoing fee. They did not have to sell their homes, but why didn't Ms Macklin say that those 22 per cent—who really ought to be ineligible and ought to be in a nursing home—were getting health care in hostels?

In conclusion, I think Steven Spielberg ought to look out because there is another person around who is good at constructing terrifying fantasies, and her name is Jenny Macklin. We have this steady flow of misrepresentations, inaccuracies and half-truths. She is building her career on scaring the old, vulnerable people in our community. She should hang her head in shame.

After all, Ms Macklin was an adviser to the government which was responsible for the crisis in nursing home stock. Her government condemned nursing home residents to a system in crisis. The only people who are better off are the endless consultants who were employed to tell the Labor government what they already knew, and they did nothing about it.