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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 369

Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(3.53) -by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

On behalf of the coalition I welcome the prospect of a review of the repatriation hospital system. I believe that the review will provide the sort of recommendations and insights that it will be necessary to follow if the capacity of the repatriation system is to be equal to the task that lies ahead of it, particularly in the next 15 to 20 years. I think it is proper that I should emphasise that I cannot agree with inferences here and there in the statement- admittedly chiefly in the early part of the statement-that there has been neglect of the repatriation hospital system. It has always been the very distinct and strong policy of the Liberal and National parties that the repatriation hospitals system should be encouraged and developed to the maximum degree that is consistent with economic responsibility.

Indeed, we set in train a number of matters which the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) has referred to and, of course, acknowledged. These include the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital in Adelaide, certain developments in Perth and the needs and prospects for Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney and the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital in Brisbane of which, of course, we were aware. It is important in a consideration of a review such as this that we should be particularly aware of the age circumstances of the people involved. Indeed, as the next two decades pass by the greatest pressure will be brought to bear on the capacity of the repatriation hospitals. Incidentally, the coalition parties always supported them as strongly as was reliably and responsibly possible.

It is important that these repatriation hospitals should develop along lines that will enable them to meet the enormous obligations that they already have and which they will continue to have. Indeed, most of the hospitals in this category around Australia today have a 90 per cent to 100 per cent bed occupancy . This indicates the severity and the significance of the problem. I believe that, as outlined by the Minister, the Committee of Review of the Repatriation Hospital System which will undertake these investigations and which will bring down the recommendations is a broad one with a broad base. It should be successful in developing the sort of report from which a continuing and developing exercise in the repatriation hospital area may be followed.