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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3163

Mr HURFORD (Minister for Community Services)(10.14) —in reply-I thank the House, as nobody else has risen to speak, because I am now given the opportunity to do so. Regrettably, there are time constraints, as the honourable member for Dobell (Mr Lee) said. We know that the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) is an experienced member, but the new front bench dry shadow Minister for Community Services, the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter), is still new to this place and pretty wet behind the ears and probably does not understand, as the honourable member for Petrie does, that there is a very great pressure on the time of this parliament. The Whip moved that the question be put, therefore I was not able to reply to the second reading debate. But I did manage to do what most Ministers have not been able to do over the years; that is, get the answers into the speech of a very competent back bench member, the honourable member for Dobell. I stand behind what he has said absolutely.

In my response on the third reading I will stay in order by responding just to the points raised by the honourable member for Barker, the new shadow Minister, and the honourable member for Petrie. The main point is that our Government will not vacate this field of nursing homes and hostels and home care for the aged. We shall not reject these responsibilities as, indeed, this new dry shadow Minister is now stating that the Liberal Party will do. Opposition members camouflage this by saying that they will hand the matter over to the States. Over the next six to eight months-whatever time we have until the next election-I will have great pleasure going to every nursing home and hostel in this country telling people that this is the new policy of the New Right, of this new conservative party that is now the alternative government of this country.

I have been a member of this House for 17 1/2 years and I have visited many such places in that time. I have not found one that wants administration of this area handed over to the States; they want the Commonwealth to stay in the field. While they have a Federal Labor government, while they have this Hawke Labor Government, they will have the Commonwealth in this field. What the Liberals are promising in this proposal put forward by this new dry shadow Minister has been supported by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Cowan) but fortunately not by the honourable member for Page (Mr Ian Robinson) and the honourable member for Hinkler (Mr Conquest) in this debate. They showed some compassion, concern and understanding for this problem. The honourable member for Lyne, I suppose under the pressure of the Bjelke-Petersen push, has identified himself and the Nationals with this dry push. It is to camouflage nothing more than their trying to do something about the $16 billion credibility gap that they have between what they say they will spend and what they are not going to collect, according to the details that they are giving us.

Mr Porter —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister has yet to address himself--

Mr HURFORD —I am responding to the points that the honourable member has made.

Mr Porter —The Minister has yet to address himself to the legislation. This purely hypothetical figure and suggestions by the Government--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) -Order! I take it that the honourable member for Barker will get to the point of order.

Mr Porter —About cuts that are going to be made by the Opposition across all sorts of other fields have no relevance to this legislation.

Mr HURFORD —I therefore move away and come back to the--

Mr Porter —Excuse me! The Deputy Speaker has not ruled on the point of order yet.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thought the Minister was coming back to the specific clauses of the Bill but the Minister did say that he was responding to some of the wider remarks that the honourable member for Barker had made.

Mr Porter —You did not let me do that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Barker did not come back as closely as he might have.

Mr HURFORD —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am responding just to the points made by the Opposition. You will remember that the honourable member made a big play on deregulation. That is another camouflage. It is the latest one now that the Opposition has got rid of the previous small `l' liberal shadow Minister, Senator Peter Baume, who in no way would identify himself with the proposals put forward by the honourable member for Barker, any more than the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) would. This is New Right policy, deregulation. Of course the conservatives want to deregulate. That means leaving this field to the private sector only, and that means no subsidies because one cannot subsidise unless one has regulations. Taxpayers will not like their contributions going to people who do not need taxpayers funds paid as contributions. Of course there has to be some control and planning. It cannot be left to the private sector or to local government with an open cheque when taxpayers' funds are involved. Let us be clear that when the Opposition talks about deregulation it is talking about vacating this field and ignoring the needs of the aged in this country. The Australian Labor Party will not desert the old. We will not allow the conservatives to get away with this camouflaged method of seeking to desert the old.

This legislation is about sensible funding and improved standards in nursing homes. We are proud of it. We are pleased that in spite of the threats of the honourable member for Barker the Opposition does not oppose this legislation. I make this point: It is now up to the Senate to see that this legislation is in place to commence a new era from 1 July next. I hope that the Senate does not make any amendments because the industry has been waiting for a year for the provisions in this legislation and it excepts them to start on 1 July. This cannot happen if the Senate amends the legislation after this House has gone into recess. I urge the Opposition not to allow this to happen. More legislation will be introduced in the Budget session and if amendments are found to be needed they will be made then. I thank all honourable members who have taken part in the debate and I urge the House to pass this legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.