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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 948

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Housing) - I have listened intently to what the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has said. It is obvious that he has raised a matter that is of serious concern to a number of people. Nevertheless, it appears that he is implying that in all circumstances the Commonwealth should be prepared to underwrite the varying rates which might be charged at any time by nursing homes.

Mr Wilson - No.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member gave this impression. For a long time the former Opposition, the present Government, has taken the view in respect of these matters that there is an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to ensure that facilities are available for repatriation patients other than those who depend on medical care of a type which would contribute to the remedying of the particular ailments from which they suffer. But despite the contentions made over a long period the fact of the matter is that this area of convalescent care for repatriation patients has been subject to neglect over a long period. Quite contemporaneously, the previous Government started to give some attention to the matter. We are not in the business of underwriting convalescent homes and nursing homes, which in the period of the last Government and particularly the last Parliament, were able to gain such astronomical profits that the organisations concerned were listed on the stock exchange and reaped a great harvest at the expense of the sick in the community. Apparently they set out with the expectation of reaping even greater harvests from a bottomless pit of Commonwealth resources. This Government has set out on a programme designed to ensure a total attitude to care in respect of all people whether it is in regard to those who served in war and suffered as a consequence or people in other circumstances - the ordinary civilian population whose ailments and illnesses and convalescent needs do not have those characteristics.

A great deal has been indicated to the Parliament and the people at large to show that these matters are in the process of radical and effective overhaul. The honourable member for Sturt need have no misunderstanding about the fact that in the very near future many of these ailments from which we are suffering and many of these temporary remedial processes that are now under way will be improved and replaced by more adequate schemes and forms of government action which will bring about a sense of security for all people and which will have a very beneficial effect on the repatriation system that operates throughout the country.

I have listened to what the honourable member has said. One matter is very apparent. It is the fact that the people concerned are suffering and are incurring financial liability that they can probably ill afford. In consideration of that matter, I believe that it is important that I should refer the matter to my colleague in another place, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), because 1 know of his concern about these matters. In keeping with the attitude of this Government and unlike the attitude of the previous Government, I can say this to the honourable member: He has not just stood here on the occasion of an adjournment debate talking into the open spaces. There will be proper account given to what he said. I have no doubt that my colleague in another place will do what no former Minister has ever done to me or perhaps to any of my colleagues who have talked in the adjournment debate on such matters. He will prepare an explanation and an adequate reply to the points raised. I think they will be of a placatory nature. If they are not, I am sure that the Minister will be able to indicate the steps which the Government intends to take to overcome the matters which have been raised.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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