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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1494

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The 3 Bills before the House tonight are all concerned with the welfare of the aged. 1 do not believe there is any disagreement about these Bills. There no doubt is a difference in emphasis and in detail. Indeed our senior citizens have found much improved conditions in recent years in Australia but there is still substantial loneliness and substantial hardship particularly in the larger cities and particularly amongst those who are older and frail. I commended the Government in the Budget debate on many measures within the social security field. I repeat that commendation this evening. I think the Minister for Social Security (Mr

Hayden) has presented to the House 3 desirable Bills. I believe it is quite valid to put on record the tremendous improvements that have occurred under the Liberal-Country Party Government. I particularly make reference to the contribution by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), a former Minister for Social Services who did conduct the portfolio he held in a very humane and compassionate way.

In supporting the Bills, I would like to make just a few comments. As to the Aged Persons Homes Bill, which increases the subsidy for eligible organisations which provide personal care services for the aged in hostel accommodation, I am very pleased to see that eligibility for those under 80 years has now been made available and that there is an increase in the subsidy for homes on a $2 for $1 basis. The Minister expressed some concern about what he referred to as key money or donations in this general situation. My own experience would lead me to believe that there is some tidying up to be achieved. I am therefore very pleased to see that a special committee within the national commission on social security is attending to that because I know of one or two circumstances myself which are undesirable.

As to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, the Meals on Wheels organisation has grown throughout Australia and it is tremendously desirable. I think the nation as a whole can take some pride in the contribution by people from many walks of life. There is no doubt that the longer we can keep people in their own homes the better. There are definite social benefits to be gained by doing that. The increase of the subsidy to 25c when vitamin C content is made available has been accepted and, as far as I can ascertain, accepted well by Meals on Wheels organisations. Certainly that is the case in Queensland. Similarly payment on a quarterly basis is desirable and commendable.

It is a fact that Meals on Wheels do more than just provide meals to people in their own homes. It is a very valuable social benefit. It provides a social contact with people and it alleviates loneliness. I am quite certain that there are many members of this House who through their wives or personally have had an association with this organisation and have seen for themselves the enormous social benefits which flow from it.

I am a little concerned to read the figures relating to Queensland. That State is somewhat behind other States, particularly when one compares the Queensland figures with the figures for Western Australia and South Australia. I am informed that there are 45 Meals on Wheels organisations in Queensland, 18 of which are in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. There are a number of committees at present at work hoping to expand the organisation. The Minister might look at the desirability of one of his officers assisting local committees to get moving. I believe there is an area there where the Government could be of very real assistance. I am also not sure as to grants for kitchen equipment. I know there is a very handsome subsidy for capital works. The Minister might look at whether that covers the cost of kitchen equipment because I believe if it does not - and it could - an extension of the subsidy to kitchen equipment would assist in getting many new organisations moving.

As to the States Grants (Home Care) Bill in which we see increased assistance to State governments and, as I read it now, a S2 for $1 subsidy, this Bill as we know provides for housekeeper and general domestic assistance for the aged in their own homes. I would hope each and every State will be tremendously active and will take up the full entitlement of the Australian Government's contribution in this area. When we see the figure - and I take it as accurate - of 13,000 people in nursing homes who do not really need to be there then it is tremendously important that this home care service gets all the attention and assistance it can.

I believe that there was an instance on the Gold Coast within the electorate of Mcpherson where a lady had broken her arm. She had been found the next day by the Meals on Wheels organisation and been taken to hospital but was returned to her home within a matter of days. Of course she was not able to look after herself. There is no home care service operating in the city of the Gold Coast and I hope that the Queensland Government sees fit to extend the service to that area as quickly as possible. If it were not for the Meals on Wheels organisation doing more than it had to do and other voluntary community organisations who helped that particular woman then she would have found it very difficult to manage. I am certain that is only an example of many cases that occur throughout Australia.

I commend the Government again on the increased subsidy for community centres. The Minister expressed in his speech his concern that some discrimination was used as to the complete use of the centres. I do not suggest that 1 know all the answers but looking at the situation on the Gold Coast where, as everybody would know, there is an enormous number of retired people - senior citizens - the more complete the centre is the more chance you have of having everybody use it and of having a community involvement in it. Here again, I believe that there is room for improvement because I see some areas of fragmentation of effort in my own city.

I agree that the increasing of the share of the salary subsidy for welfare officers is desirable. Again, tidying up is required here because there is not the cohesion between the government departments that there should be. I have had experience in my electorate of finding that because, welfare officers are appointed by many departments, their communications are not as good as they should be and there has not been the support and the service given to the community which could result if we had great co-operation. However, I commend the Government. This is a very desirable area in which we all want to move. I do not believe that it matters very much which Party is in power. We all have a commitment to see that our senior citizens are looked after, and I believe there is so much more to be done in our whole approach to this matter that government expenditure in other areas should be carefully pruned. This is one area in which there is an immense amount of work yet to do.

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