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Thursday, 22 August 1996
Page: 2940

Senator PATTERSON(3.10 p.m.) —I rise today firstly to put on the public record that Senator Newman is here. Senator Crowley said she had gone. That is appalling. Also, it is amazing that Senator Crowley would say that Senator Newman spoke mumbo jumbo. The answers that Senator Crowley gave when she was a minister were verbal fruit salad!

I want to put paid to the untruths that are being bandied around, scaring older people about going into nursing homes. I find what Senator Neal said in the adjournment debate last night offensive and I find what Senator Crowley said today offensive. Let me put on the public record that the changes to nursing homes will, in fact, be along the lines of contributions that are made to hostels now, contributions which were brought in in 1988 by the then Labor government. The changes that we have brought in to nursing homes will not impact on full pensioners, who make up 65 per cent of residents of nursing homes.

For those opposite to stand there and say that people will pay $26,000 to go into a nursing homes is wrong, wrong, wrong, and they should know it is. Senator Crowley is just trying to scare older people. People going into nursing homes who can afford to make a contribution will do so on the same basis as people who go into hostels and can afford to make a contribution. For all full pensioners entering nursing homes this will continue to be the case. Entry fees will not be set by government. People entering a nursing home will negotiate an entry contribution with the provider. The government will ensure safeguards. Entry contributions will not be charged to full pensioners or existing residents. Anyone who has assets of less than $22,280 will not be charged an entry contribution. Entry contributions will not apply for short stays of up to six months, and that applies to many people who go into nursing homes. I can give you an example of my stepfather, who died in April. He was not in the nursing home six months, so he would not have been required to make an entry contribution.

The provider can only take out of that contribution $2,600 per annum over five years. The balance of that is then left to go back to the resident or back into their estate. So even to say that they are paying a $26,000 entry contribution is, in fact, a furphy. There will be no draw-down for the first six months and the maximum that can be drawn down over five years is set at $13,000. This means that where the entry contribution is $20,000 or $50,000 the maximum draw-down is $13,000.

How can you have sat over there for years and protected people who had huge incomes and not required them to pay an entry contribution to a nursing home? Millionaires were able to go into a nursing home and have no other additional cost other than the pension. That is what you did, and you let nursing homes degenerate. Professor Gregory said $300 million would be needed to bring nursing homes up to an acceptable level. That is what you let happen, while millionaires went into nursing homes paying no entry contribution. Now what you are saying is, `Don't let them pay. We can't let millionaires pay to go into nursing homes.' How ridiculous! All members of the industry have been saying there ought to be a contribution.

People who are on low incomes will be protected. If the Labor Party goes out telling older people that they have to pay $26,000, it will cause grief and distress amongst thousands of older people who should not be facing that grief and distress from being told fibs, lies and untruths by the Labor Party. I find it offensive, totally un-Australian and appalling that they would do that to older Australians.

Let me just say how the contributions work, just to make it clear. The contributions will be based on a person's ability to pay. Let me say it again, just so the Labor Party can understand. It will be based on a person's ability to pay. It will not be that everyone pays $26,000. Pensioners will not be required to pay. People's assets will be assessed. Even now a lot of providers do not ask for an entry contribution, even though they are allowed to do it. A very small percentage of them—I think it is about six per cent—ask for the maximum contribution. It has worked well. There are checks and balances to ensure that people are not deprived. They make a contribution according to their ability to pay and it allows hostels to have capital upgrading.

What has happened under Labor is that nursing homes have degenerated. In some nursing homes there are six people in a ward. That is antiquated and outdated and not the sort of aged care that we should be providing. Some nursing homes have four, five and six people in a ward, while people in other nursing homes are in a room with an ensuite. That is the sort of standard we are aiming for. (Time expired)