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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1824

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(10.30) —Last evening we heard a great deal about there being deficiencies in the Health Legislation Amendment Bill 1984 and the Social Security and Repatriation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984. We heard a great deal of mock indignation, particularly from Senator Peter Baume, who was a latecomer to the list of speakers and who clearly saw this debate as an opportunity to suggest that the Government's efforts in respect of this legislation were designed to hurt and harm the aged members of our community. Of course, the situation is to the contrary. It is quite the opposite of what Senator Baume and other members of the Opposition said it was in the debate last evening. The Government is about rectifying the grave problems that confront the Australian community with the aging of our population. It is about changing the emphasis from institutionalising the aged and the frail in nursing homes for prolonged periods to taking steps by government to encourage by legislation and financial assistance those persons who are able to do so to remain in their own homes and domestic environments.

It was apparent from the tone of the Opposition's contributions to the debate last evening that it does not and will not understand the emphasis that the Government's strategy places on that important change in direction. When the Opposition had its long periods in government it took no steps to put a different direction upon what was obviously taking place in the aged care area and accepted the inevitability of institutionalising those people who had reached advanced years and had no alternative but to be placed in nursing homes. However, this Government, in establishing an office of aged care and in taking other legislative steps, minor though they may be at this stage, is placing emphasis on encouraging aged persons to live within their own homes. They will be given government assistance in the form of home help and community care arrangements designed to fulfil two objectives, the first being to offer to aged persons a much more congenial environment in their latter years of life and the second being to save taxpayers' money in respect of the increasing costs involved in operating nursing homes. Of course, inevitably there will be some resistance to those changed proposals. Nevertheless, the Government has shown that it has a caring attitude, as does my Department, the Department of Veterans ' Affairs, in respect of repatriation beneficiaries.

In this legislation we are offering positive and effective new policies which, in totality, will vastly improve the environment for our ever-increasing aged population. Having established that emphasis, the legislation we are debating today takes us down a new track. It takes us away from the inevitability of the policies of the previous Liberal-National Party Government. The amendments to the National Health Act currently before the Senate are an important part of this Government's overall program of care for the frail and aged. Clearly, the Opposition does not understand or appreciate that. The changes will mean in respect of my Department that any person receiving repatriation or Commonwealth nursing home benefits will still be entitled to those benefits during absences totalling up to 28 days in a 12-month period. That is a degree of flexibility that did not exist in the previous legislation. They will be liable only for the existing patient contribution of $13 a day as against the $40 and $50 a day bed holding fee that they currently face.

As my colleague in the other place, the Minister for Health, Dr Blewett, pointed out in debating these Bills, there are no savings in this measure. The program for the aged will operate more effectively and more efficiently. It is not to be seen as a cost saving exercise. It is to be seen as a compassionate step being taken by this Government. Not only will these arrangements result in a substantial improvement in the quality of life of many nursing home patients; they will also constitute an incentive for nursing homes to admit short term patients to temporarily vacated beds-an issue which is completely ignored by Opposition speakers. This will provide relief for the carers of aged persons who , as we all know, are often under great pressure looking after their patients in their homes.

Also, because such respite care provided through my Department generally means as things stand the placement of repatriation beneficiaries in expensive private hospitals, the $120,000 gross cost of this measure for repatriation beneficiaries is reduced dramatically to an estimated net cost of a mere $13,000 . This measure is one small part of the Government's overall welfare and aged care programs for the older members of our community. An indication of our commitment to that principle is that we will establish a $30m program over the next three years to put into effect a more beneficial home help scheme and home and community care arrangements. Of course, in this legislation we are increasing the amount of subsidies to our Meals on Wheels organisations and to homes for aged and disabled persons.

These programs have to some extent been cruelly misrepresented by certain groups in the community. I and my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, have had to face a bitter and unscrupulous campaign of disinformation spearheaded by the Federal Opposition and others to the effect that we have singled out the aged for harsh and special treatment, whereas in fact this legislation improves the quality of life of those very people. However , I and honourable senators opposite know that once these programs have been implemented-once the assets test has been applied and pensioners see that the great majority of them will be utterly unaffected by it; as we continue to approach our goal of raising pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings- this campaign against the Government's program for aged persons will collapse completely. We will be seen to be providing the sort of assistance and recognition for our aged persons which any government worth its name should provide to help those members of our community.

Also on occasions we have stated our view that this campaign has been orchestrated to some extent by extremist elements in our society. It is on this point that I would like now to comment very briefly. Probably few people noticed a small item on an inside page of last Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald headed 'Wentworth to head Grey Power ticket'. Fewer still would have read to the last paragraph, where Mr Wentworth's running mates were listed. One is the actress Carol Raye, who is at present or was a member and a long time close associate of the New South Wales Liberal Party. Another is a Mr Robert Clarke. I imagine hardly any Sydney Morning Herald reader or member of parliament would register any close association with that name, but honourable senators should know that Robert Clarke is President of the Immigration Control Association, a body which some may recall mounted a vicious racist campaign against Al Grassby in the seat of Riverina during the 1974 election. Mr Clarke migrated to Australia from South Africa and has for some years been a rabid campaigner in Australia on behalf of the racist South African regime. So, while the Government is taking steps to assist aged persons, there are campaigns by such elements both in this place and outside of it designed to create fear and confusion amongst the aging members of our community.

In 1980 the Immigration Control Association formed an offshoot body, the Progressive Conservative Party, and in 1981 these two bodies merged with the fascist National Alliance to form the Progressive Nationalist Party, with Clarke as president. After a major ruction in 1982, the Progressive Nationalist Party reconstituted itself as National Action. National Action is, of course, the organisation which is at the forefront of the current campaign of race hatred directed against Indo-Chinese immigrants. The national organiser of National Action, and before that of the National Alliance and the Progressive Nationalist Party, is a Mr Jim Saleam. Saleam was convicted in the mid-1970s of attempting to firebomb the East Wind Bookshop in Brisbane and, at about the same time, was photographed in full Nazi regalia with the notorious Skull. His attitude to non- white citizens, and to the political process generally, is perhaps best encapsulated in this quote from the Melbourne Age of 25 July:

I saw recently some Vietnamese was clubbed down with a baseball bat. So what. They would have been better off going up the road and finding Bob Hawke and giving it to him.

Saleam also described Joseph Goebbels, in an article in the National Action newspaper Audacity, as a genius. He urged his readers to study Goebbels's life, as an example to inspire the right measure of fanaticism among his followers. I note, incidentally, that he is currently up on charges of insurance fraud and breaking and entering. The foregoing is a far from comprehensive survey of just one small part of the neo-fascist and quasi-terrorist right wing fringe in this country, but it illustrates I believe the capacity of such groups to infiltrate and influence movements that seem respectable and responsible to outsiders. It indicates how they seek to trade on the fear and confusion often developed amongst people when legislation is debated in this place. One part of the web that I have not touched on is the role of the League of Rights in this whole exercise. I would, however, mention that it is alleged that W. C. Wentworth, the leader of the Grey Power ticket, is or was the New South Wales President of the World Freedom League, which is the parent body of the League of Rights. Perhaps in this context it is not so much--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard) —Senator Gietzelt, I draw your attention to the legislation being debated. We have allowed debate to range far and wide but I think your remarks now are a little beyond what is relevant to this legislation. Please bring them back to the Bills.

Senator GIETZELT —Mr Acting Deputy President, I think this is related to the legislation because, in this context it is not so much a case of grey power as it is of white power. I think it is rather disgraceful we should have debates used by outside organisations to create confusion and concern in the Australian community. This legislation is positive legislation. It is legislation designed to assist the frail and the aged in the Australian community, whether they be veterans or social security beneficiaries. The whole emphasis of the Government' s strategy is to provide an environment in which our frail and aged persons will be protected from those who seek to exploit them. It is in that context that I referred to the extra-parliamentary activities taking place in the current election campaign which are designed, I believe, to play on the fears and confusion of people who ought not to be placed at peril by the tactics of such groups that are obviously aided and abetted even by some members of the Opposition.