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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3376

Senator SIBRAA —Can the Minister for Community Services explain the delay that has occurred in the construction of the Scalabrini Village nursing home in Griffith, and are there similar delays in other ethno-specific nursing homes in New South Wales?

Senator GRIMES —Last year the Government approved a series of ethnic nursing homes in various States-a total of five, I think, in New South Wales-because of the lack of opportunity for elderly people of ethnic origin to get accommodation with their own people, with people who understood their languages and their cultural problems, et cetera. We approved a number of such nursing homes, including the proposed Scalabrini nursing home in Griffith, where there is a large number of elderly people of Italian origin. A company called Davnar Pty Ltd, which is a private nursing home company, requested me and the Department to make a reconsideration of all these projects. As a result of that, the capacity to fund the organisation was delayed. I considered the applications, my Department painstakingly went over the applications and I eventually, after going through it all, affirmed the delegate's decision to grant approval in principle to the four or five successful applicants, including Scalabrini. Davnar Pty Ltd has now lodged a further appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In fact, it has announced that if it is not successful there it will go to the courts. The application has now been considered on its merits by the Department and all the submissions have been carefully reconsidered by the Department and me. But there will still be a delay while the appeal goes ahead.

In recent legislation we eliminated the AAT review in this area, as the AAT believed it should have been eliminated. But because the appeal was lodged before that legislation was passed this application will still be heard by the AAT. This is not the only area in which this occurs. In other areas it is fairly common, particularly for large commercial organisations, to appeal against applications in the hope-in one case with the clear intention-of doing a deal with the Government to get nursing home beds for themselves. In exchange for the Government giving them nursing home beds they would withdraw their appeals. I am not willing to do deals of that type; neither is the Government; neither can the Department. It is unfortunate for the people of Griffith who have been working hard to build this nursing home but I am afraid that we will have to await the result of the appeal unless the appellant withdraws the case. It is a pity but I think it is one of the problems in taking decisions which I believe are rightly decisions of government out of the hands of government and putting them in the hands of bodies such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.