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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18696

Ms ELLIS (2:19 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. Is the minister aware that there is a shortage of 13,179 nursing home beds in Australia? Is the minister also aware that there are over 2,000 elderly people in hospitals waiting desperately for a nursing home bed, including 600 in New South Wales, 565 in Victoria, 142 in Western Australia and 95 in South Australia? Minister, why has the Howard government allowed this nursing home crisis to occur and what action will the government take to address this crisis?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the honourable member for her question. I point out to her, and to members of the House, that in the last five years this government has released 52,700 additional aged care places in Australia. I say two things to her: firstly, when we came to government an independent report of the Auditor-General indicated that there was a shortage of 10,000 aged care beds in Australia—10,000 left by the Labor Party when in government—and, secondly, we have established for ourselves a target of 200,000 aged care places by 2006, something the Labor Party in government was incapable of doing. We are well on track to reach that target.

We hear a lot from state premiers about age and health matters at the present time. Let us contrast the increase in aged care places with the responsibility of the states around Australia to provide public hospital beds. In the last 12 years, the state government of New South Wales, the largest state in Australia, has slashed 6,291 beds from the public hospital system. Let us talk about the record of the current Labor government in New South Wales. Since Mr Carr has been Premier his government has slashed 4,158 beds. In less time than that, we have allocated 13,756 aged care places. If the Labor Party want to compare our record with theirs when in opposition, our record is good. If they want to compare the record in terms of the health care system, perhaps they should go back to their Labor state premiers and health ministers and ask them why they are slashing public hospital beds at the current rate.