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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4177

Senator BOSWELL(10.11) —Senator Macklin makes a lot of sense. But appealing to the Minister for Resources (Senator Cook) is not enough; it is not in the Minister's hands. The concern that Senator Macklin raises is now in the hands of the Australian Democrats. The Democrats, by supporting the amendment that the Opposition is moving, will take out of the legislation that transfer of the Nursing Homes Assistance Act into the Disability Services Act. If the Democrats support the amendment, the legislation will go before a Senate committee. The unions, the providers of the services and the patients who are able to make submissions to the Senate inquiry will be able to put their cases before a Senate committee that will have people from the National Party of Australia, the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party. Let that be the way we address the problem. I say again to the Democrats: do not pass the buck to the Government; it is in your hands. Senator Macklin and Senator Coulter know the problem. The Australian Democrats have the capacity to do something about it.

I will speak on another point that Senator Macklin raised. We came in here tonight and addressed Senator Cook, whose major responsibility is for resources and a number of other matters. He is only filling in for the responsible Minister, the Minister for Community Services and Health (Dr Blewett). Senator Cook is getting his advice from the advisers of the Minister for Community Services and Health. I have a note here that supports Senator Macklin's accusation that people are being coerced into signing these agreements. I have permission to use the note in my speech to put this matter into the record. The Chief Executive of the Crowle Home for Sub-Normal Children has been told that if it signs the contracts it has almost as much time as it likes to come up with a transition plan. In the meantime it is guaranteed grants at least equal to the last year's grant plus consumer price index. But the Crowle Home has been told-I hope Senator Macklin is listening to this-that there is a general shortage of funds. It has been implied that, if it does not sign the contract, it is definitely going to suffer. The formula, as per the Department's bulletin, would be strictly enforced. In areas where it has not spent its budget level, it will be stuck with it in future years. This was very serious to the Crowle Home as, at present, it has underspent its wages vote by $80,000 because it cannot fill certain positions. That will mean that in next year's budget it will be $80,000 underfunded. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber know that that is coercion in any way that one puts it. In fact, the Manager of Crowle puts it in even stronger terms. He feels that he is being bribed or threatened. Those are not my words; they are the words of the Manager of Crowle. The Minister gets up and gives us all the assurances and reassurances that things are great out in the welfare world; but, today, as I pointed out in my speech, the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled met. Sixty-five people from every State in Australia gathered and passed a resolution. It was unanimously passed that this part of the legislation be withdrawn until a Senate committee can determine the response of the welfare agencies, the unions and all those types of people actively engaged in these nursing homes. The Minister has not given us an accurate cost. Will it cost $10,000 to put people in community accommodation? Will it cost $20,000 or $30,000? The Minister cannot tell me that it has not been costed because I do not believe that that is a fact. I do not believe that any responsible department or any responsible Minister would draw up legislation without any costing. It is unbelievable that the Minister can come into the Senate and say that. Can the Minister give us even a ball park figure?