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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3080


Senator PETER BAUME(8.26) —It is not popular to speak at the Committee stage at the moment, but the Australian Council on the Ageing has raised a number of matters which I think deserve a response from the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes). All of the matters which it raised are contained in the Schedule to the Bill. The Bill consists mainly of the Schedule.

The first matter concerns the use of the phrase `brain failure'. Maybe it is matter of style, but I am sure that when Senator Grimes and I did medicine at a very fine medical school in this country-I notice other graduates from the school in the gallery tonight-that was not the phrase that we would normally have used. Although people may have said that they wanted to use the phrase `brain failure', in a sense it would seem to presuppose that there was a failure from some previous condition which was rather better. What about those who have a disability which may be congenital; which may not be a condition of dementia, but a condition of relative amentia? Why use that phrase just because it meets the convenience of some people? In a medical sense, calling a spade a spade, it seems to beg a number of questions. I am not even sure that it will help us in the long term.

The second matter raised by the Council on the Ageing is rather more technical. It relates to clauses 5 (1) (e) and (j) and clause 7 (1) (h) of the Schedule, in which reference is made in one place to `assessment or referral (or both)' and in another place reference is made to an integrated and co-ordinated approach between assessment and referral. The Council on the Ageing has made the point quite strongly that if the Minister's goals are to be achieved, assessment and referral services will need to be integrated. It seems to be suggested in the Schedule that people may offer one or the other. It is not quite clear that if one is offered the other necessarily will follow. If I have heard the Minister correctly, he has talked about the need for an assessment, referral and service provision. That question from the Council on the Ageing may be one to which the Minister will respond.

The third matter to which the Council on the Ageing has made reference is in Part VII of the Schedule, which relates to the supply of information. I refer particularly to clauses 30 (1) and (6) which require the development of a home and community care information system with regard to the views of local government services providers and users, and the provision of the information to those bodies where appropriate. The Council on the Ageing has made the point that the processes of development of both the information system and the agreed standard definitions and collection methods have not been defined in the Schedule. That is not surprising; they are scarcely the sorts of things that would be defined in the Schedule. But the Schedule goes on to state that the Commonwealth Minister will specify the requirements.

The Council on the Ageing supports the view of the national non-government organisation on HACC-that consultation between Government and service providers will be essential for the development of an effective information system with appropriate standardised definitions of services. It refers to several sections where that is made clear. Would the Minister be able to give assurances in that direction? They are the three matters. Why do we talk about brain failure? Can we get a definition on the question of the necessary relationship between assessment and referral for service and on the question of the information systems?