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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3154

Mr WILSON (Sturt) - In this debate I want to draw the attention of the Commit tee to waiting lists, not in relation to the present scheme under which they are at a minimum, but in relation to the scheme proposed by the Government inherent in which, in contrast with the present system, the only possible restraint upon over-use of medical services looks like being long waiting lists with those who are providing medical care directing the majority of their attention to minor ailments and not showing the required concern for .those whose medical needs are greatest. My concern this evening is to draw the attention of the Committee and of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to waiting lists of old people who are seeking accommodation in modern, self-contained flats; of old people who need modern accommodation in hostels where the type of service provided takes account of their frailty and their declining ability to provide for themselves in all respects; of old people who need to go into modern, well-run nursing homes run by charitable and benevolent organisations on a non-profit basis where they can be provided with care and given the rehabilitation services to which many of them will respond. This is not the first occasion upon which I have raised this matter. I raise it tonight because the procrastination of the Minister in arriving at a decision is reaching scandal proportions.

I refer particularly to an urgent need - a need which was urgent last month, was urgent the month before and was then drawn to the attention of the Minister- which today is as urgent as, if not more urgent than, it was then. That is the need to upgrade the amount of subsidy available to charitable and benevolent organisations willing and able to provide accommodation for the aged, whether they be sick or able to look after themselves in self-contained accommodation. In South Australia there are a number of these organisations who have done a marvellous job in providing adequate and proper accommodation for various classes of aged persons - the sick, the frail, and those who are well. The programs to these organisations are grinding to a halt as a consequence of the Minister's procrastination.

In September I urged upon him the need to lift at least to $10,000 the ceiling limit in relation to which the $2 for $1 subsidy would be paid - a subsidy which he constantly refers to as being a $2 for $1 subsidy but which in fact is now less than $1 for $1. In September of this year in the Government publication called 'Shelter', in an article written by Mr Neville Brooke of the Melbourne organistion the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Minister's concern was reported upon. In that article the writer drew attention to the Minister's alarm at the proportion of funds provided by charitable organisations as their share of the cost of developing home units and which is generally raised from ingoing donations has gone from 35 per cent to 62 per cent. But it is raised not only from the contributions of the ingoing occupants. Much of this money is raised by residents already benefiting from this type of accommodation - people who collect paper, gather bottles, sew aprons, make jams and run fetes in order to raise the funds that will attract the subsidy.

Only recently I attended the magnificent Lutheran homes in my electorate. I attended on this occasion to be present at a fund raising fete to which 300 or so residents made a magnificent contribution. They had been working for months, indeed years, in order that their organisation would have the funds with which it could build a nursing home and hostel to provide for those of the residents who become sick or frail and for others in the community who could benefit from that accommodation. The board of management of that organisation has recently called for tenders to build a 12'8-bed hostel and nursing home complex. The board is faced with a dilemma. A month ago, on 13 October, in Adelaide the Minister said that the question of the ceiling limit on this subsidy was under review. In September we were told that he was alarmed. There is no outcome of the review on 12 November - a month after the Minister made his statement in Adelaide that the review was taking place. The statement was made a month after the urgency of this matter was drawn to his attention.

There is another organisation in Adelaide - a municipality - which would build selfcontained unit accommodation for the aged if it knew the outcome of the Minister's review. Until it knows, it is unable to indicate to those people who are in urgent need of accommodation the magnitude of the contribution that the municipality will require before it can proceed with its $500,000 project. The difference in contribution that could be made by an updating of the contribution level which was last set in January 1971 could be as high as $1,000 per occupant. How often do we hear the Minister say that his concern is for those people in need - for those people with limited means. Yet his failure to grapple with the problem of updating this subsidy limit does not give much credit to his argument that he is concerned for those who are in need. In fact, one wonders whether his procrastination is designed to destroy the purposes of the Aged Persons Homes Act, because he can protest that there is a $2 for $1 subsidy whilst on the other hand the ceiling limit remains and the whole scheme is strangled by the financial inability of the organisations building this type of accommodation to set their contributions at such a high level either that it means it is impossible for occupants to pay it or alternatively that it means it is impossible to raise the funds through fetes and similar fund raising activities.

The position of the Lutheran homes is so serious that whilst they await the decision of the Minister as to whether he will update the ceiling limit - he has indicated that it is under review so they as resident trustees should not make a decision until the review is announced - on a Sim contract with building costs rising as they are rising today it is costing the Lutheran homes at least $12,000 a month in the rise - not fall - clause of a possible building contract. That $12,000 means one fewer nursing home available to the needy aged in the South Australian community. In fact, today it was drawn to my attention that a home in the electorate of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has received a tender which indicates that, excluding the land cost, the cost in Adelaide and South Australia today of building a hostel unit is $9,300, the cost of building an independent living unit is $10,000 in addition to the land cost, and likewise the cost of providing a nursing home bed is $10,000. Yet the maximum that will be subsidised is $7,800. How can the aged be provided for by organisations with the facilities, the know-how and the capacity to build this accommodation when the Aged Persons Homes Act is being topedoed by procrastination as a result of the failure of the Minister to treat as urgent the updating of the subsidy limit, to put it at a realistic level so that it is restored to a $2 for $1 subsidy instead of something less than that.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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