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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19257


Mr NAIRN (9:49 AM) —I wish to raise a very important health matter for the Queanbeyan area of my electorate. Pepper Tree Lodge in Queanbeyan is a facility for confused and disturbed elderly people. It is called a CADE unit. It was opened in 1987 by a New South Wales Labor government during the term of a federal Labor government and it is totally run by, funded by and the responsibility of the New South Wales government. About two years ago the Southern Area Health Service announced that it would be closing Pepper Tree Lodge. That announcement was certainly very poorly received within the community because the lodge does an excellent job for those people as part of the mental health system, which is clearly the responsibility of the New South Wales government. After a lot of pressure from me and the then state member for Monaro, Peter Webb, all of a sudden the closure seemed to go off the agenda and we heard nothing more until about two months ago, when once again it was announced that it would close by 31 December this year. A number of constituents in my electorate have contacted me. They include Rita Claringbold, Elaine Moore and Robert Randall, who have relatives staying there. They are very concerned about this move.

The New South Wales government says that it is closing the unit because it is really aged care—which is the responsibility of the federal government—which flies in the face of what it has done over a long period of time. It totally goes against the whole purpose of that unit being there. The New South Wales Department of Health has never applied for any aged care places, for instance, for Pepper Tree Lodge, which it could have done. The current state member, who is just running the party line and supporting the closure of the unit, says, `No, we couldn't apply for any federal funding because we are the New South Wales government and it wouldn't get accredited.' All the information shows that that is absolute rubbish; it could have applied but it never has.

The federal government raised this issue with the New South Wales government. We heard about it in the press. It said that it was our responsibility but it was not prepared to talk to us. Finally, at the insistence of the federal government, a meeting was scheduled for 29 July. The meeting was cancelled at New South Wales Health's request; it was rescheduled for 13 August and it cancelled it again. Where is the commitment to sort out this issue? The state member, Steve Whan, is saying that nobody will be shifted until places are found. The Southern Area Health Service has told New South Wales Health that it will close it by 2003 but, at the same time, it has given New South Wales Health no plans for how the funding that it is currently using will be allocated. It is an absolute disaster. The people of Queanbeyan deserve a lot better than this from the New South Wales government. (Time expired)