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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1210

Mr DOWNER(10.56) —I am not going to take up the time of the House indulging in the sorts of exercises the Left of the Labor Party of Australia indulge in-that is, spreading fear and terror through the community by exaggerating, by mammoth degree, problems of a nuclear kind in the community. Those people have been doing that for years and years, and it is a process of intellectual terrorism which is having a real impact on the young and impressionable people of this country. We would expect parliamentarians to be more responsible than that.

I am going to be responsible tonight because I am going to talk about the problems of nursing homes in my own electorate and, in particular, in the town of Strathalbyn, one of the most beautiful towns in the Adelaide hills. There is, however, in that town a very great need for some nursing home accommodation, and some time ago an application was put to the Department of Community Services for approval, in principle, for a capital grant for the building of a nursing home. At the time I not only supported that application but congratulated the Government on giving that approval in principle, because the Government did show at that time that it recognised the very pressing need in Strathalbyn for more nursing home beds. So enthusiastic were the good people of Strathalbyn about getting a nursing home, so enthusiastic were those people to help the elderly in the community, that they raised up to a quarter of a million dollars as a contribution to the building of this nursing home.

It is with a very great degree of regret that I inform the House tonight that the Department of Community Services has now said that it is going to change the criteria for providing nursing home accommodation in that part of my electorate. Strathalbyn is undeniably an extremely rural area. By any criterion one could imagine, Strathalbyn is rural; and yet what the Department of Community Services in Canberra is saying it wants to do is to include Strathalbyn in a metropolitan zone. The Department would take the very rural characteristics of Strathalbyn away from it, at least as far as nursing home accommodation is concerned, and lump it in with the seaside suburbs of metropolitan Adelaide.

The bottom line of this change in government policy is that Strathalbyn will end up not getting the nursing home beds that it so desperately needs. By including Strathalbyn in the metropolitan area, we find that the ratio of people over the age of 70 per thousand of the population substantially changes, and it changes in a way that means that Strathalbyn and all of that district, by that criterion, turns out to be well serviced for nursing home beds. If one separates Strathalbyn from that region, if one recognises that Strathalbyn is a genuinely rural area and one includes it in the Adelaide hills region, which it was in before, Strathalbyn would, most certainly, be eligible for funding for nursing homebeds. Under the criteria, Strathalbyn is not going to get those beds.

I appeal to the Minister for Community Services (Mr Hurford) to review what the Department in Canberra is proposing, to take on board the recommendations which are coming from the Adelaide office of the Department of Community Services, from the Director of that Department downwards, to take on board the proposals and recommendations that are being put forward by the Strathalbyn Memorial Hospital and by the people of that district, to ensure that there will be proper nursing home accommodation in Strathalbyn. The problem now is that if that nursing home accommodation is not provided, either elderly people in that community will be taking up hospital beds in the Memorial Hospital, which is hardly the purpose that hospital was built for, or they will be transferred to metropolitan Adelaide. Anybody who lives in my electorate knows that the last place he wants to move to is the metropolitan area. The beauty of the environment they live in, with the proximity of their friends and relations and the supportive community, is something that they have a right to continue with. I hope very much that the Minister and the Government will reverse the decision which seems almost to have been made by the Department.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.