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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20583


Mr ZAHRA (12:25 PM) —Sometimes people take for granted the service that we get from aged care providers in country districts. These nursing homes and aged care hostels are the heart and soul of the communities that they operate in. They give people the opportunity to get professional aged care services in their local area and act as hubs of community activity. The Howard government's mean-spirited approach to aged care is putting these important local services at risk and, in some cases, people have to travel about 30 minutes to an alternative aged care provider if their local nursing home is forced to close. That is unacceptable to us. It shows real contempt for our district when the Howard government thinks that that is okay. I will continue to pressure the federal government on this issue and I will continue to work with our local aged care providers to get aged care services funded on a fair basis.

That brings me to a petition which has been organised in my constituency. It was put together by aged care providers on behalf of aged care providers more generally in our region. The petition has been organised by the Lyrebird Village Hostel for the Aged in Drouin, Pakenham Aged Care in Pakenham, the Hillview Hostel and Nursing Home in Bunyip, Mirboo North Aged Care in Mirboo North, the Latrobe Valley Village Hostel in Moe, the Neerim District Soldiers' Memorial Nursing Home and Hospital in Neerim South, the Yallambee Village in Traralgon, the Greenhills Hostel for the Aged in Loch, and Cooinda Lodge in Warragul.

For the benefit of the House, I will read a letter that I received on 4 September from Craig Stuchberry, the Chief Executive Officer of Neerim District Soldiers' Memorial Nursing Home and Hospital, and Mr Lindsay Oates, the Chief Executive Officer of Mirboo North Aged Care. It was on the day that the people from Mirboo North Aged Care and Neerim District Soldiers' Memorial Nursing Home and Hospital and the other providers presented me and the shadow minister for aged care, Annette Ellis, with this petition, which I will table in the parliament today. The letter states:

Dear Christian

Aged care providers in Gippsland are very concerned about the funding crisis which currently faces them. This crisis is due to the totally inadequate increase in funding provided by the federal government on 1 July this year. For Victorian aged care providers this increase was just 1.01 per cent which clearly will not cover rising costs.

After several years of diminishing or negative returns this latest meagre funding increase now threatens the very existence of many providers and puts the care of the frail, elderly community members at risk.

Members of our local communities have signed the enclosed petition to signify their concern at funding levels for aged care and to ask that funding be immediately increased.

The letter goes on to ask me to table the petition in the parliament.

We have an expression of very strong community sentiment against what the Howard government is doing in funding for aged care. These people are not people at whom the National Party or the Liberal Party point and say, `These people are just typical Labor Party supporters.' These are people who represent the communities in which they live and the communities in which their organisations operate. They represent the great cross-section of people from the districts in which their services are based. I say to the federal government: if you do not want to listen to me in relation to aged care, don't listen to me, but you should listen to Lyrebird Village in Drouin, Pakenham Aged Care in Pakenham, Hillview Hostel in Bunyip, Mirboo North Aged Care in Mirboo North, the Latrobe Valley Village in Moe, the Neerim District Soldiers' Memorial Nursing Home and Hospital in Neerim South, the Yallambee Village in Traralgon, Greenhills Hostel for the Aged in Loch, and Cooinda Lodge in Warragul.

This is an incredibly important issue. A number of very important organisations in our district, which have served our area in some cases for more than 50 or 60 years, are looking down the barrel at having to close in response to what the federal government is doing in aged care. I call on the federal government in the strongest possible terms to heed the sentiment in this petition and to immediately increase funding for aged care.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Before presenting the petition, could I draw the member's attention to standing order 117 and particularly section (b), where a petition cannot be tendered during the adjournment debate but in members' statements only. The petition should be put into the system in the usual way. I think the member has had his say on it.


Mr ZAHRA —Mr Deputy Speaker, may I seek clarification in relation to the advice?


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Yes, check with the clerks, but it is standing order 117.


Mr ZAHRA —My understanding is that there is a provision for members to be able to table petitions at any time, subject to agreement from members from the government side or from the opposition side—in this case from the government side. My understanding—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —We cannot have a debate about it; check the standing orders.