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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3135

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - (Quorum formed) I want particularly to draw attention to the tremendous reforms that have already been introduced by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). Without a doubt, already in a period of only 11 months, they have created a completely new perspective and completely new horizons in the fields of social welfare and health services. Even in the short period since the Budget was introduced very great reforms have been brought to fruition, and I think that every possible credit should go to the 2 Ministers concerned for the job they have done. I realise that they have the great problem of finding the necessary finance, to overcome some of the money problems that still exist because practically nothing was done in these fields for so many years. There was a time when Australia could boast that it was one of the great countries of experiment in social welfare. That has not been the case for the last 23 years. We steadily slipped back behind other countries. Today we are catching up again.

While I realise only too well that the problem of finding the necessary finance is a very great one I still think there are some matters to which it would be well to refer. I particularly refer to the problem of the deserted wife, the widow pensioner, who is still finding it pretty hard to make ends meet.

For example, a widow pensioner with 2 children would get a total of $39 a week in pension. But even her position is not as bad as that of the deserted husband, of whom we hear very little indeed. The deserted husband, of course, is placed in a very difficult situation when he finds himself responsible for the upkeep of his children. For example a case which came to my attention involves a male divorcee with 5 children aged from 9 to 15 years. He is earning $65.10 a week, and he pays $16 a week in rent. On the other hand a female divorcee earning the same amount - keep that in mind; earning the same amount per week - with the same number of children would be entitled to a pension of $44.45.

We do not know how many people would be in the same category as the man to whom I have referred. We know that if we introduced a scheme to help them a means test would have to be applied. Nevertheless I have struck cases in my own electorate which are very sad, and the man concerned is in a very difficult position. Let us say that there are some 20,000 such people in the whole country who would need assistance. They do not number very many in terms of voting power. They do not constitute a big lobby electorally, but from the point of view of morality and trying to do something for people who are put in an impossible situation I think their claim is very strong. It may be necessary to introduce some type of pension which would be based on a means test but which would allow deserted husbands to find some way of getting housekeeper services, or alternatively the Australian Government might have to make a grant through the States to local government authorities for housekeeper services for people placed in this situation. I suggest this is one matter that requires very deep thought.

Added to that, I think it is time we looked at the question of extending the domiciliary home nursing care service to those under the age of 65 years. Presently a person aged over 65 years can get assistance, but for a person 64 years of age assistance is not available. I suggest to the Minister for Social Security that in the future, when the necessary finance is available, this is something which should receive very definite thought.

I compliment the Minister for Health on the job he has done for community health services. In my own area, at Mount Druitt quite recently a community health complex worth $528,000 was opened. In Blacktown there is a child immunisation clinic worth $12,000. For the whole of the region there is a community nursing program involving 30 nurses. Actually the number of nurses will work out at 45. The cost of that service is $145,500. The Fairfield-Penrith community health back-up services cost $103,000. A specialist conslutative team for the whole region is provided at a cost of $276,750 and a health education team services the whole region at a cost of $22,550. For Mount Druitt there is a therapeutic day care centre costing $65,000 and a pediatric out-patients service costing $15,950.

I make one other point before my time elapses. There is a very strong move in Mount Druitt by the medical profession to try to stop the community health complex in that area having an outpatients' section, that is to say, a section where people can go to get treatment. The reason for the move, of course, is that treatment would be free. The doctors there feel that this would mean they would have unfair competition, but the facts are that the members of the medical profession throughout that area are very hard to get hold of at night and during the weekends. Time after time people make calls to the doctors, but the doctors will not attend patients during these times. So the obvious thing is to have an outpatients' clinic at Mount Druitt staffed by full time doctors who, in the first instance anyhow, can give assistance, give treatment, at nights and at weekends. I think that is the approach that needs to be taken. I am rather upset that there is this strong lobby by the medical profession, whose members still will not give the necessary attention themselves but still want to object and put barriers in the way of the Australian Government providing that very necessary service. For those reasons I ask the Minister, when this matter comes before him, to consider it carefully. Apart from that, I think that most honourable members would agree that both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Security have already done a wonderful job. They have opened up completely new perspectives and completely new horizons. They have introduced reforms which should have been introduced many years ago. They have a big job to do. They are already handling it. They have done this in the very short period of 1 1 months.

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