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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1740

Mr REITH(10.25) —I give my support to the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Jagajaga (Mr Staples). He has addressed an important subject tonight and I look forward to hearing further contributions from him on it. I want to say something tonight on a not unrelated subject, the care of the aged and in particular residential accommodation for the aged. Madam Speaker, you may well be aware that the Minister for Community Services (Mr Hurford) is shortly to address the question of nursing home bed allocations throughout Australia. That will entail him in making some fairly momentous decisions which will affect communities around Australia and in particular the aged portions of those communities. It is useful to say that the perspective within which the Minister will be making his decisions is one where the Government has announced a policy to place greater emphasis on the provision of hostel beds as opposed to nursing home beds. The Opposition supports and endorses that general policy direction.

My particular concern is with those nursing homes and communities which have entered into arrangements for the construction of these facilities on the basis of the previous policy. Basically, whilst understanding the direction in which the Government is heading, I ask it to give particular emphasis to and take particular cognisance of the fact that some groups acted on the previous policy. I have two groups in my electorate which are in this situation. One to which I have referred already is Kooweerup and the other is the Wonthaggi and District Nursing Home. The Wonthaggi and District Nursing Home first made application in January 1985 and approval in principle was formally granted by the Government in March 1986. The approval in principle included a firm statement of Government support, a statement that the organisation would need to raise its own share of the project cost at the time the grant of subsidy was being considered. In other words, the Government said: `We are supporting you, but you go away and organise your share of the funds'. There has been some delay in processing approvals in principle because there was in our region at least one appeal which delayed the finalising of the arrangements for the go-ahead for additional beds.

The Wonthaggi community, which is not a well-off community in socioeconomic terms, has had tremendous local community support. In fact, it has raised very close to the sum required-$700,000. It really is a big amount and a great tribute to the local community. The approval in principal is a recognition by the Commonwealth that this is a necessary and much needed project. I say to the Minister, firstly, that the home should be given a six-month approval so that this matter can be the subject of negotiation with the community; and secondly, that no retrospectivity should be applied in view of the Government's change of policy. In this area I believe that the job started by the approval in principle is a job which requires finishing. I hope that the Government sees the importance and the significance of this project for the Wonthaggi and district community.