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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2388

Ms MACKLIN —My question is directed to the Minister for Family Services. Does the minister now acknowledge that the $1 billion this government has cut from nursing homes, home and community care and disability services has imposed an unfair and heavy burden on families who care for a child with a disability or an older relative? Is not the Prime Minister's restoration of $270 million an admission that his savage budget cuts went too far? Minister, why have you only repaired one-quarter of the damage?

Mr WARWICK SMITH (Minister for Family Services) —The question from the opposition is absolutely amazing. The $1 billion figure that the member for Jagajaga was referring to has no relation to reality at all. What took place today was the first time in Australia's governmental history that a government has targeted a program to assist elderly Australians to stay in their homes. It has not been done before.

Let me refer honourable members to sheet No. 5 that we issued this morning entitled `Assistance for ageing carers'. Do you know that there are about 3,500 age carers, parents who have mature children who have a disability, who have been looking after their children for 30 years and not one government has ever done anything about a targeted program for them. What absolute hypocrisy to come in here and say that this is a program that ought not to be supported. Do you want to look at the figures?

Ms Macklin —Yes, tell me the figures.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Where your $1 billion comes from is an absolute nonsense. What about the money? In 1995-96, $2.4 billion was spent on recurrent aged care. The next year—listen to the increase; this is why your figures are wrong—in 1996-97, $2.618 billion was spent. In 1997-98, $2.76 billion will be spent, a nominal increase of 5.7 per cent. What are you talking about? It is an absolute outrage. You are trying to perpetuate a myth. You had the opportunity to address these issues and you never did, and the first question that you ask today ignores the fundamental good that has been done here to date.

It is interesting to have a look at the member for Werriwa's book. He talks about the need to develop social capital, to recognise volunteers and networking in the community, to bind a good community. We have recognised that there are 540,000 principal carers in this nation, and today, for the first time, a government has taken steps to support these people. You talk about social capital. We are doing it.

Mr SPEAKER —Before I call the honourable member for Macquarie, I ask all members to keep the level of conversation down. The noise in the chamber is such that everybody is flat out hearing what is being said.