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Tuesday, 27 February 2001
Page: 24475

Mr O'KEEFE (2:53 PM) —My question is to the gentleman described yesterday by his colleague as `just another Liberal'—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Burke will identify the minister to whom he is referring the question or resume his seat.

Mr O'KEEFE —the Deputy Prime Minister. Minister, are you aware that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs has received a report on the viability of nursing homes which found that those with 40 beds or less were `unlikely to be financially viable' and could generate significant losses over time? Given that 60 per cent of nursing homes in rural and remote areas have 40 beds or less, doesn't this report simply confirm the views of the aged care sector that many rural nursing homes are now at risk? Isn't the fact that older Australians are at risk of having to leave their communities to access aged care just another reason why public confidence in you and your government is collapsing?

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Minister for Aged Care) —Mr Speaker—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will resume her seat.


Mr SPEAKER —The minister will resume her seat. The member for Burke.

Mr O'Keefe —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. My question was addressed to the Leader of the National Party—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Burke will resume his seat. By any standard of any occupier of this chair, the question can be answered by the appropriate minister, in this case the Minister for Aged Care.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP —This government is most concerned that frail aged people in rural, remote and regional Australia in fact receive adequate services which are viable. Accordingly, in the last round only a month ago, I announced 14,000 places. This was the largest round ever: it had to be large because the Auditor-General found that the Labor Party had left us 10,000 places short. It meant that we issued 14,000 places and $44 million of capital. I would add of that round that 44 per cent of the places went to rural and regional Australia.

Mr Costello —Forty-four per cent?

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP —Forty-four per cent, despite the fact that only 30 per cent of older Australians live in rural and regional Australia. I would add that, of the $44 million of capital, 74 per cent went to rural and regional Australia. We did that deliberately, because, in rural and regional Australia, they have less access to—

Mr SPEAKER —Before the member for Prospect succumbs to temptation, I would remind her of her status.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP —the bonds and accommodation funds that we use for refurbishment of premises in urban Australia. It is very important to this government that we put emphasis on maintaining viability for aged care homes in rural and regional Australia. For that reason, we pay viability funding for smaller homes. In the last budget, Mr Speaker, you would appreciate that we doubled the amount of money we are spending on viability funding in order that smaller homes may serve those smaller communities. Far from there being the sort of policies that the Labor Party had in place when they were in office, when they neglected rural and regional Australia, when they were found to have left a shortfall of 10,000 places because of their cutbacks, both in additional beds and in capital funding, we have now remedied that by bringing on 22,000 places in the last year. And as I said, in the last round of the 14,000 places, 74 per cent of capital and 44 per cent of places went to rural and regional Australia to ensure that they get their fair, adequate and reasonable access to aged care places when they need them.