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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 1417

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - I am very glad to have an opportunity to say a few words on these 2 Bills. I refer firstly to the Aged Persons Homes Bill 1972 which will amend the Aged Persons Homes Act. This Bill provides for an increase in the subsidy from $5 to $10 a week for each of those persons over 80 - the frail aged - residing in aged persons homes, as long as the accommodation reaches the agreed standard. We have no quibble about that provision, although, in the short time that we have had to read the second reading speeches of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), I was interested to note that when examining just what funds would be available to approved organisations the Minister spread this $10 a week over everybody in the organisation and came up with an average figure of $4.50. In other words, the Minister, too, realises that there is a great need for extra income for many of these people, whether they are over 80 years or not. However, a little is better than nothing and we are very glad to know that some organisations which have residents who are over 80 years of age will receive this extra help.

I could perhaps remind the House at this stage that the attitude of the Opposition in debating these Bills today, as the Minister has realised, is that it does not want to hold up the payment of these benefits. The benefits are to be paid from the date of the royal assent. At one stage, we were prepared to have only our spokesman on this matter speak in the debate. Since then we have learned that many members of the Government parties want to speak to the Bill, and this affords an opportunity to the rest of us also, at short notice, to talk about the Bill, to congratulate the Minister for Social Services on those areas where, as I have said, a little is better than nothing and also to mention errors of omission.

The second Bill, the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1972, is a little more difficult to understand. From the quick look I have had at the Minister's second reading speech, I believe that he has overlooked altogether setting out again just which organisations will benefit by this and the formula under which they will benefit. Perhaps he felt that there was no need to do this because it was set out in the Budget. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said in the Budget Speech:

To encourage the provision of hostel accommodation for the aged we will, as a special arrangement limited to 3 years-

I repeat that I have read the Minister's speech only hastily but I did not see anything in it about the limitation to 3 years -

.   . grant organisations that are eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act special assistance. The Commonwealth will meet the cost of 2 hostel beds for every one unsubsidised bed operated by the organisation or one bed for 2 where the accommodation was previously subsidised on a $ for $ basis.

I was very interested in the whole of the Minister's second reading speech on this Bill but, in the short time I have had to look at the speech, I could not find where that was brought in, and that is the kernel of what this Bill is all about.

As I understand it, having taken that formula, those organisations which are approved organisations will receive $7,800 per person to provide the hostel bed, buy the land and build the building, and will receive $250 extra for the furnishing of the room related to that particular bed. I would like to have learned from the second reading speech just how far the $7,800 will go. Unfortunately, in searching my files, I have found that the relevant documents are in Adelaide. Only recently I wrote to a number of the leading organisations in this field in South Australia to find out what their bed costs are at this time, in relation to the amount of donation which the average person is expected to find to make up the difference under the existing Aged Persons Homes Act. The Minister will realise that, when he comes to apply a means test in relation to the pensions payable, he is allowing a limit only for each one of these donors who goes into these homes. I think that the limit is about $2,500. I think that in South Australia our land and building costs are the lowest. In previous speeches in this Parliament the Minister has mentioned that we have the. lowest costs in Australia in relation to this matter. That is one of the reasons we have the provision of more beds under this Act. In South Australia alone the average donation that is required these days under the Aged Persons Homes Act is nearer $4,000 than $2,500. This leads me to believe that many of these organisations will have to find a margin over $7,800 plus the $250 for furnishings.

If the Minister has any more recent information about this I would be very grateful if he would enlighten the House, because I consider that it would be misleading the public to give the impression that donations will not be required. I know that donations cannot be asked for from those who will benefit under this Bill because the whole purpose of these extra hostel beds is to provide beds for people, who have not the wherewithal to provide the donation. But donations from the public to the organisation may have to be sought in order to make up the balance over $7,800 per bed plus the $250 for furnishings.

The next aspect of the Minister's speech on which I invite comment from him relates to those who will benefit under the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. I realise that they will mainly be those who are in greatest need and who have not been able to provide donations for the type of accommodation which has mainly been available under this Act hitherto. I commend the Minister for that. But he made a lot of play in his second reading speech about how this would relieve the nursing homes; how a tremendous number of people in nursing homes, who are costing the community a lot of money, may be transferred; and how we hope that they will benefit under this legislation and therefore relieve the nursing homes. On the other hand, elsewhere in his speech he talked about the 834,000 people in our community who are pensioners. He divided them into 519,000 who are in their own homes, 25,000 who are in state nursing homes or unsubsidised hostels and 40,000 who are in unsubsidised nursing homes. He did not actually mention the balancing figure, but his figures seem to me to leave some 200,000 pensioners who either live with their families or live in adequate rental accommodation. That leaves 50,000, to use the Minister's own figures, who are living in unsatisfactory conditions. It seems to me that it will be those 50,000 who are at present in unsatisfactory conditions because they cannot afford the donations required to take advantage of the Aged Persons Homes Act, who will use this hostel accommodation and that the Minister will not be relieving the pressures on the nursing homes as he hoped, as I understood his second reading speech.

I now want to echo or reinforce what has been said already by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in relation to the whole field of housing for aged persons. I think it should be mentioned here that one of the tremendous problems in providing accommodation under these existing Acts relates to another part of Government policy. I am now referring to land prices and building costs in Australia. As the Minister knows, before coming into this House I was on the board of the largest organisation in South Australia providing this accommodation. I left because I felt, from experience after coming to this House, that I was not able to attend board meetings, that the responsibilities were great and that it was of no use continuing on the board if 1 could not play my part at the board meetings.

Mr Brown - The honourable member will be able to go back next year.

Mr HURFORD - We will see whether the honourable member for Diamond Val ley or I go back to our previous callings first. I will make no boasts about it but let me say that I am quietly confident. Anyway I would hope that they would have me back. At that time I was on the board of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia Incorporated, providing over 1,200 beds under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It is the cost of land and building prices generally that is making it extremely difficult to provide accommodation of the right sort at about the $4,000 mark donation if the proper reserves were being put aside to look after nursing home accommodation and the other needs. Once one took responsibility for people coming within the organisation one not only had to see that they had their individual living unit but also that this hostel type accommodation was provided for them when they could no longer look, after themselves entirely or, when they could no longer live in hostel type accommodation, that there were nursing homes available' providing, on the one hand, ordinary nursing home care and then, later, intensive care. 1 want to make the point quite clear' here ' that we would be helping enormously the whole field of housing for the aged if we tackled this other, problem of land prices and building costs. This should be mentioned in this context because in my view the present Government does not have a policy in this area. Wc need the sort of policies that my party is outlining in this very field. If we could bring down land costs we could provide far better housing _ accommodation for these older people.

The other matter I want to mention under the- heading of errors of omission - because now is the time to clear this up - is one that the Minister knows about because, he and I have had a number of dealings with him in regard to it. I refer to my belief that this Act should provide the funds to enable the modernisation of older accommodation. The Minister was good enough to come with me on a hot Sunday last summer to the Cottage Homes Incorporated group of flats in the suburb of Prospect, which is in my electorate of Adelaide. There we found the original organisation ' in South Australia providing the sort of care that the Minister and I seek for older people. The organisation has some magnificent sites and some buildings which were adequate in days gone by but which are now inadequate. For a sum which is far less than the sum required to put up a new unit, existing units could be modernised with great saving of resources to the community. At the same time, this would save a lot of old people the problems associated with moving away from the area in which they have lived and have been very happy for many years.

Instead, under this existing legislation, this organisation and others like it throughout the country are forced to sell up their existing sites. It is not economical for some of them to do this. However, they are forced to take this action. They are forced to use the sum which they receive for their sites to build a new set of units. Often, they require donations from those coming into the new units in order to make ends meet. The Cottage Homes Incorporated organisation is at present attempting to raise funds in South Australia in order to modernise its units and save the community the resources about which I talk. I am sure that the Minister will support me in hoping that the appeal is successful; but there is doubt about this. How much better it would be it the Aged Persons Homes Act provided funds to enable organisations such as the Cottage Homes Incorporated to modernise their flats and thereby make a lot more people a lot happier.

I remind the House that we have not had the time in this debate to be in touch with the relevant organisations in our electorates which will be affected by the legislation in order to ascertain their views about it. However, over the next week or so I will be learning about their views and I hope that I will be able to contact my colleagues in the Senate so that they can discuss this matter when the legislation comes before that chamber. However, in the meantime I congratulate the Minister for what is good in these 2 Bills. However, I also lay emphasis on what I consider to be the errors of omission.

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