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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1137


Senator COATES —Has the Minister for Community Services seen criticism, particularly by State Ministers such as Tasmania's Mr Cleary, that the Federal Government is not doing enough in the field of care for the aged? Will the Minister outline this Government's aged care initiatives and give a breakdown of Commonwealth expenditure on aged care?


Senator Missen —Another Dorothy Dix question, I suppose.


Senator GRIMES —No, Senator Missen is wrong. Yes, I have seen the criticisms that Mr Cleary has made and makes frequently about this Government's approach to aged care or anything else concerned with his area. I accept that that is the sort of thing we have to put up with when someone like Mr Cleary is a Minister in a State like Tasmania. The simple fact is that at present we are trying to negotiate with all the States a home and community care agreement to assist aged people to stay in their homes. We are trying to negotiate a sensible system of nursing home approvals. We have initiated with the Tasmanian Government a system of assessment of people in nursing homes, in Mr Cleary's area in particular. It is not easy, though, to deal with Mr Cleary, as I have said before, or with Mr Cleary's Government, because Mr Cleary cannot make any decisions without having to go to the Premier and get each of those decisions checked by the Premier. He cannot negotiate, in any real sense of the term, unless he has the Premier sitting next to him to check on everything he does. So, there is a bit of delay in trying to develop things like this in Tasmania.

In general, the Federal Government spends on services to the aged, on everything from aged and disabled persons homes, respite care, delivered meals, home care services, domiciliary nursing care benefits, to nursing home assistance and benefits, about $1.3 billion. If we add to that the $7.3 billion that we spend on service pensions and pensions for the aged, we have considerable expenditure. Despite that, and despite the fact that this expenditure goes up each year, the present Government has in fact been very concerned to make sure that the funds spent on the aged go to where they are most needed. We are in the process of initiating programs so that our elderly people can live, for instance, where they want to live, that is, largely in their own homes and certainly in their own districts, and so that, where necessary, they can live in a less dependent type of accommodation than that in which they have lived in the past. That is what the home and community care program is about and that is what the revamping of the hostel program is about.

We hoped that, in co-operation with the States-all States except Tasmania are very keen to co-operate in this area-we will be able to rationalise the large number of programs which are the responsibility of Federal and State governments, State departments, local government and non-government organisations, to avoid the duplication and confusion which occur in this area. I do not take too much notice of Mr Cleary's complaints. Mr Cleary in fact makes a lot of noise in the areas in which he and his Government are most deficient. I think that is something that people like Senator Coates and I, being Tasmanians, just have to wear.