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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19705

Mrs DRAPER (3:26 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Ageing. Would the minister inform the House how the Australian government—

The SPEAKER —The member for Makin will resume her seat.

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith! I call the member for Makin.

Mrs DRAPER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Ageing. Would the minister inform the House how the Australian government has been working to increase the number of aged care beds for frail, elderly Australians? Are town planning processes obstructing this process? How can state and local governments cooperate in delivering quality aged services?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the member for Makin for her question. As I indicated to the House yesterday, since 1999 the Australian government has released some 52,700 beds for nursing homes and hostels in Australia. Under the aged care legislation, there is a provision for these beds and places to be brought on line generally within two years. According to data which has recently been supplied by the Department of Health and Ageing, some 58 per cent of the delays in making provisional allocations operational are due to planning issues or site problems. Indeed, delays in obtaining council planning permits and delays due to resident objections and appeals are key factors in approved providers failing to bring provisionally allocated residential care places on line in a timely manner.

In order to seek to address this, I have written not only to all the state and territory planning ministers but also to the local government and municipal associations in each of the states and territories, asking if there is some way in which we can cooperate to overcome this major cause of delays. I am pleased to indicate that the minister for health in Tasmania, Mr Llewellyn, has agreed to a process; indeed, a protocol has been signed between the Commonwealth, the state of Tasmania and local government in Tasmania, in order to overcome these delays in Tasmania so that we can get the aged care places in a timely manner.

There are delays elsewhere. In Victoria, an innovative pool project which would have the effect of moving some 450 to 470 elderly people out of acute public hospitals into rehabilitation has effectively been delayed for 12 months because of town planning delays on the part of the Victorian government itself. This is a cooperative project between the Commonwealth and the state. Getting the planning approval done is in the state's hands, and it has effectively been delayed for 12 months. Just today, I have been made aware of the fact that a major provider in Sydney intends to hand 50 beds back to the Commonwealth because of delays occasioned by the south-eastern health authority in the Sutherland region of New South Wales.

So these are real examples of delays in getting aged care beds on line because of the failure to streamline the town planning process in the states around Australia. I am pleased to say that the governments in Victoria and New South Wales have now agreed to a forum to address these issues so that we can bring these beds on line in a timely manner. The only state now that remains outside this process in failing to do so is South Australia. I am informed that in South Australia 52 per cent of all the operational delays are due to planning issues in that state. I urge those members representing South Australian constituencies here to encourage the South Australian government to cooperate in this process so we can get the beds built.