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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) . - I wish to address my remarks to Division No. 470 - Central Administration. In reply to a question asked this week we were informed that the wife of a deserting or imprisoned husband for the first six months that she is left alone does not receive payment of any benefit, other than in Victoria. I ask the Minister to inform the Committee of the amount that is paid for the first six months to women in such circumstances in Victoria.

I turn now to Division No. 475 - State Establishments. I have placed a question on the notice-paper and perhaps now is the appropriate time to ask the Minister to reply to it. On page 25 of the report of the Director-General of Social Services for 1963-64 the following reference is made to accommodation -

The provision of suitable office accommodation continues to present real problems to this growing Department. Even where the type of accommodation is satisfactory the Department is constantly facing the problem of the inadequacy of the total area available and hence the difficulty of expansion as needs dictate. In particular, the Department occupies space in Adelaide, South Australia, which is of inferior standard and is in a somewhat inaccessible location for the convenience of the public.

Anyone who is familiar with the office of the Department in Adelaide will appreciate the reference to its inaccessibility to the public. It is located in an old, remodelled building in Gawler Place, and the office on the third floor is reached by passing through a warehouse containing electrical goods. I ask the Minister whether he can inform the Committee whether action is being taken to provide better facilities for the Department's Adelaide office.

I turn now to sub-division 4 of Division No. 475, to the item relating to the housekeeper service in Queensland - assistance to voluntary organisations. It is stated in the report of the Director-General of Social Services that funds are allocated for housekeeping services to all States except South Australia. I inquired of the Deputy Regional Director in South Australia the reason why no payment is made to that State. He informed me that he believes that the conditions of payment were not acceptable to South Australia and for that reason no allocation was made. I sought information as to where in the decisions of Parliament the conditions of grants for housekeeping services were made. The Deputy Regional Director was unable to tell me, but he was of the opinion that the promise to institute this service was made by the Prime Minister in 1947, and that information would be available from the Prime Minister's Department. I have been unable to locate any reference to the housekeeping service in the estimates of the Prime Minister's Department, and the only reference in the estimates of the Department of Social Services is to assistance to voluntary housekeeper organisations in Queensland.

The report of the Director-General shows that a total of £13,370 was distributed during 1963-64 as follows: New South Wales, £5,900; Victoria, £4,100; Queensland, £1,870; Western Australia, £1,000; and Tasmania, £500. The amount of £1,870 appears in the estimates of the Department of Social Services as the expenditure for 1963-64 on assistance to voluntary housekeeper organisations in Queensland. But nowhere can I find details of the payments to the other States. I assume that those details appear under another heading and T would appreciate the Minister's advice in this respect. I should also like to know why the expenditure in Queensland is shown separately and where I may find the authorisation for that payment in order that I may establish whether the conditions of payment are applicable to South Australia. 1 now want to address a few remarks to the question of homes for aged persons and grants to eligible organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act which is found under sub-division 4. We find that last year the appropriation was £3,700,000 and the expenditure would appear to have been £4,000 in excess of the appropriation.

Senator Anderson - What was the Division again?

Senator CAVANAGH - It ls Division No. 475, sub-division 4, item 02 - Homes for Aged Persons - Grants to Eligible Persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act. This year the same amount is being sought as was appropriated last year, an amount of £3,700,000. Again, this report of the Director-General of Social Services provides information on grants for aged people's homes during last year. I think this matter needs a thorough investigation. Not only do we find a problem in relation to this matter in South Australia, but lt seems to be an Australian-wide problem. I have correspondence from the Housing Activities Club of the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of Elizabeth Street, Sydney. This correspondence sets out some of the anomalies that exist. The report of the Director-General of Social Services shows that the grants approved in the period 1954-55 to 1963-64 amounted to £21,109,022 and shows the organisations to which the money was granted. In another column of the report it shows the States in which the money was granted. This sum provided homes for 18,337 aged people. Whether that figure represents couples or single people we do not know. However, these figures show there is a government subsidy of somewhat under £1,200 paid to organisations for accommodation for each individual. If, as the plan proposes, the Government subsidy is on the basis of £2 for £1, then we can say that the cost of housing an individual pensioner works out at about £1,800 under the system of building these homes.

The position in South Australia is that before an aged person can get into one of these homes he has to make a payment of £900. lt was intended that the Government would subsidise the charitable collection of the organisations concerned. However, in South Australia, as I have said, the intending tenant is required to pay the sum of £900. Then the organisation receives a Government subsidy of £1,800 on the basis of £2 for £1 so that it can build the home. If there is a profit, it goes to the organisation. They are non-profit making organisations and we do not say that they are making a profit but a proportion of this amount received by the organisations can be used for the building of hospitals for the aged. They are building hospitals, using the deposits paid by those who enter the dwellings, plus the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government in respect of the dwellings. We get a situation where the organisation is setting up a group of homes for accommodating old people, together with hospital and other facilities for catering towards the cost of which the organisation does not subscribe anything. There is no equity for the payment by the old people to which I have referred. Applying to the homes is a set of regulations with which it can be expected (hat people in closely tenanted areas must comply. At times it is very difficult for these rules to be complied with by aged people. Aged people seem to develop peculiarities, and possibly they need more attention. Because of this tendency which is brought about by nothing else, I think, than being in the close settlement area, plus their age some of these people develop a behaviour pattern that cannot be tolerated in the close settlement area. The organisation is then compelled to do something about it. It may have to evict them and such a person who has paid £900 has no further use of the property and cannot Jive in the dwelling.

I have put a question on notice relating to this Aged Persons Homes Act asking whether the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) or his Department can require the organisation to give a guarantee that the homes will continue to be used for the housing of aged people. 1 have not yet received a reply. I make no criticism about that because it was only this week or last week that the question was put on the notice paper. However, I would ask the Minister whether it would be possible to state bow many of these grants carry the guarantee that the homes will continue to be used for old people and how many grants have been made without such a guarantee. If it is the practice to make the grants without such a guarantee we get a situation where a scries of homes is built by an organisation which has not contributed one penny to them because the cost has been met by the contribution of the original occupants, plus a Commonwealth Government grant, and at some time or other the organisation can decide to use the homes for other purposes if it is so desired. As I said before, this situation is not confined to South Australia. The correspondence 1 received from Sydney shows that there is a bigger demand for payment in such cases in Sydney than in South Australia. Senator Ormonde would criticise me if I said there is more racketeering in Sydney.

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