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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2482

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted?

Senator Greenwood - No.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.

Senator WHEELDON - I am glad that Senator Greenwood so appreciates my elocution. It is unfortunate that all of his colleagues will be detained for just as long as I am while I read it.

Senator Webster - I do not think that it will worry us very much.

Senator WHEELDON - All right. It does not worry me, either. The Aged Persons Hostels Act came into being on 29 September 1972, its purpose being to stimulate the building of additional hostel accommodation for needy aged persons. This legislation is complementary to the Aged Persons Homes Act, and eligible organisations receive entitlements on the basis of 2 beds for every unsubsidised bed they currently operate or one bed for every 2 beds subsidised in the first few years of the Aged Persons Homes Act on a $1 for$1 basis.

The intention of the Aged Persons Hostels Act was that religious, charitable and other voluntary organisations having an entitlement under the formula I have just mentioned would be able to use their entitlement to erect hostels without having to make any contribution to their capital cost. The amount of the grant was specified in the Act as $7,800 per person accommodated plus $250 per person for furnishings. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government's announcement in March 1974, and referred to on a number of occasions since then, that the capital grant payable under the Aged Persons Hostels Act would be increased from $7,800 to $9,000 per person accommodated in a hostel approved under this Act, retrospective to 1 April 1974.

As most honourable senators are aware, increases in maximum subsidy limits can be made administratively under the Aged Persons Homes Act but hitherto this has not been possible under the Aged Persons Hostels Act as the maximum amounts which can be approved in respect of capital expenditure and furnishings are stated in this legislation in specific terms. In order to allow a greater degree of flexibility and to enable changes in the amount of grants to be made more readily in the light of changing costs, it is proposed that the specific amounts detailed be deleted from the Act and provision made for the maximum amount of the grants to be determined by the Minister for Social Security in future. I might add that this problem does not arise in respect of the Aged Persons Homes Act as the latter does not specify maximum amounts of subsidy.

The Government's intention was to introduce this legislation at a much earlier point in time but it has been delayed by the double dissolution and other very important matters which had to be dealt with during the limited time that the House has been in session since then. The delay of some 6 months in presenting this legislation to Parliament and the rapidly escalating building costs in that time have resulted in some organisations that commenced projects in good faith being now faced with financial problems in meeting their commitments. Many others have deferred action on building urgently needed hostels. The level of construction costs has undoubtedly been a restraint on the development of this program recently. Most honourable senators will be aware of the need for more hostel accommodation for the aged and particularly for hostels in which personal care services can be provided for those who have become frail but who do not need nursing attention. Unfortunately lack of suitable hostel accommodation in the past has resulted in the less acceptable and more expensive nursing beds being utilised for such persons.

Honourable senators will be interested to know that with the concurrence of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), a working party of officers of the Departments of Social Security and Treasury has been looking into questions associated with the maximum subsidy limits such as methods of cushioning the increased building costs of projects approved prior to and since 1 April 1974 and the feasibility of introducing zone loadings in respect of projects in country areas. It is known that many organisations with entitlement under the Aged Persons Hostels Act do not propose to use them. The reasons are varied but mainly are that they are fully extended in administering the accommodation they have already provided or they may have a small entitlement which would be inadequate to enable them to provide a hostel of a size that would be an economic proposition, or they may feel that they have not the necessary expertise to enter this field of care of the aged. In order that these entitlements will not be wasted and to add further stimulus to the legislation, the Bill introduces a provision which will enable an organisation which does not intend to take advantage of its rights, to transfer them in whole or in part to another eligible organisation, subject to the approval of the Director-General of Social Services. The measures in this Bill should enable this 3-year program to more readily achieve its object of encouraging the quick provision of accommodation of the aged of the type most needed. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.

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