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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1751

Mr DUBOIS —Has the Minister for Community Services seen a report that medical rehabilitation services in New South Wales will suffer because of his Department's policy of regionalising rehabilitation services? Is there any truth in this report?

Mr HURFORD —I can tell the honourable member for St George that I did see a segment on this subject on the 7.30 Report last night and, to say the least, the segment was distorted. I understand the term used in the United Kingdom is `Pilgerised' and that term is now becoming increasingly used in Australia. I was not contacted for comment in spite of being the responsible Minister. I was given an assurance that my office was not contacted for any comment by me whatsoever. The whole segment, which was very poorly edited, left those who know the situation with the realisation that here was another occasion when a good story was not to be spoilt by the facts.

The situation is this: Medical rehabilitation facilities are part of the health and hospital responsibilities of State governments. State government services will far better administer medical rehabilitation than will the Commonwealth. It will be far more efficient when it is part of total State health and hospital systems. Negotiations are taking place for that to happen. Already South Australia has purchased the St Margarets Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide and will be continuing to operate the head injuries unit and the other vital parts of medical rehabilitation. In New South Wales the Government has purchased the Queen Elizabeth II centre at Camperdown and we are confidently expecting that the Government will follow what is happening in South Australia. Meantime, our Government has given an assurance-I repeat that assurance today-that no vacuum of services in this medical rehabilitation area will be allowed. We will make sure that adequate medical services are maintained until more satisfactory alternative arrangements are negotiated with the States. Our policy of handing over medical rehabilitation to the area where it can be better administered has allowed us to improve vastly the other vocational rehabilitation services across Australia. Our smaller regional units helping the disabled are being placed to provide services nearer to the people who need them. We are able to provide a wider range of services and to cater for many more people than have hitherto been catered for. This is part of our Government's improvements to the caring Australian society which the other side does not want to hear about. That caring Australian society is under terrible and vicious attack from the conservative parties of this country with their $15 billion cut in government spending credibility gap.