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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4072

Mr WILSON (STURT, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that he has received a report from a committee reviewing grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act? Does the report recommend that grants must be increased from $5,200 to an amount in excess of $7,000 per person accommodated to restore the subsidy to a $2 for $1 level in respect of land and building costs at current prices? Should organisations with projects in an advanced stage of planning delay signing contracts pending the decision on the new grants so as to benefit from the increased grants, or should they sign contracts under existing subsidy arrangements so as not to be prejudiced further by escalating building costs which in some areas are rising at the rate of 14 per cent per annum? Will the Minister remove doubts and stop speculation that it is his intention to torpedo a scheme which, so far as church, charitable and benevolent organisations are concerned-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman must ask his question. Before I call the Minister, let me say that there have been many complaints about the long answers given by Ministers. The present question invites a long answer.

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - It is true that I have received an interim report from the Social Welfare Commission. Only this week have I had the opportunity to read it. I regret that I had not been able to do so earlier. I had had it for only a couple of weeks. The report has a series of recommendations, but the decisions on those recommendations involve a policy decision by the Government. I assume that the honourable member for Sturt would not expect that I should give a policy decision at question time, before the Government has had an opportunity to consider fully the suggestions put forward in the report. I intend to table the report, but I shall not have an opportunity to do that today. I intend to do it as soon as possible next week, so that discussion on the contents of the report can take place in the community.

The future of the aged persons homes accommodation program again is a matter for a policy decision by the Government. I have indicated to the House on previous occasions that I do believe that it is necessary to thoroughly review the assumptions on which this program has been established and the way in which it operates. Such a review would involve not only the mechanics of the program but also the benefits which are provided through it and whether there are alternative ways which are more desirable for developing this sort of a program. Those matters will require subsequent consideration by the Government following a later report which we expect in the early part of next year from this working party set up by the Social Welfare Commission. In sum, then, I cannot give advice to any organisation about what it should or should not do, until the Government has made a decision on this matter. I am sorry.

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