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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 1432

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (Minister for Social Services) - in reply - I thank honourable members on both sides of the House for what they have said during the course of this debate. May I just sum up and try to put some matters in perspective. The 2 Bills which we are debating together are part of a pattern. The doubling of the personal care subsidy will enable the hostel type accommodation to be run without loss by the organisations concerned and still leave a spending margin for the inmates. The new subsidy for hostels will enable the organisations to expand more quickly the hostel type accommodation. This is a crash programme for 3 years and is designed to have quite an immense impact upon the entire situation.

Since we are not going to have a Committee debate, may I take this opportunity of reiterating some of the details of the Aged Persons Hostels Bill in case they are not quite clear in the minds of honourable members. The qualifying home really is one which has not received the full subsidy. If it is a qualifying, unsubsidised home and it is a home which, in essence, is the same whether it be maintained as a hostel type, nursing home type or unit type aged persons home, it will qualify. The unsubsidised home is one which has received no subsidy. The subsidised qualifying home is one which was built between the years 1954 and 1957 and which therefore received only a $1 for $1 subsidy. This is the basis of the computation on which the subsidy will be paid. For every bed in an unsubsidised qualifying home, there will be 2 new subsidised beds. For every 2 beds in a subsidised qualifying home there will be one new subsidised bed. So, if we take the example of an aged persons home which has 50 beds and which has received no subsidy, under the new provisions it will be entitled to receive the new subsidy on 100 beds. In the case of an aged persons home which has 50 beds and which, in the past, has received a $1 for $1 subsidy, it will now be entitled to receive the subsidy on 25 beds.

Mr Berinson - Does that mean that there will be no subsidy for homes which had received a $2 for $1 subsidy?

Mr WENTWORTH - No, they have already received their full subsidy. The subsidy is $7,800 per bed, to which is added $250 for furnishings which, in round figures, is a total subsidy of $8,000. This subsidy must be spent on hostel type accommodation without donation by the incoming residents and accommodation must be given in accordance with need. However, a new hostel need not be built on the same site as the existing home. The organisation will have a free choice as to whether it will invest the new subsidy in its existing home on its own site or whether it will move to another site. The organisation will have a free choice in that regard and it may use the money for one home or for 2 homes as it sees fit. We are not going to try to trammel that. What we want are hostel beds quickly. We want them without donation by incoming residents and we want them allocated to those in need. These are the requirements. Because they are going into the administration of organisations which have, by their past actions, given evidence of their full bona fides, we will ensure that the best possible use will be made of this money.

I have instanced to the House church organisations, bodies like the Returned Services League, organisations for the blind and charitable trusts of long standing. These organisations are all run by good people and they will find it no hardship at all to take the money, to say 'We will take no further donation in respect of it' and to allocate it in accordance with need. Do honourable members think, for example, that organisations like Chesalon Church of England, St Vincent de Paul, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Lutheran homes or the Montefiore homes will find these conditions onerous? Of course not. It will be very much the opposite. I am sure that they will be welcomed. I want to see from this an efflorescence of hostel beds all over Australia to meet the needs of old people and to prevent the undue incursion of aged people into nursing homes in the future. This is what the programme is aimed at and this is what it will do.

I think that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) raised an important point when he asked: 'Will this $7,800 be sufficient?' In general I think it will because we are dealing- with hostel type accommodation which, taking it by and large, is the most economical type of accommodation to build. Our investigations indicate that at present, for this amount or less, a bed can very conveniently be provided. It may be that they will not be able to provide the full number of beds. I do not know this. The plans will be approved from time to time by my Department. This scheme is very flexible. It is inflexible, I suppose, in the sense that it has to be directed to those most in need and it has to be run by those who are best qualified to run it, but in its administration within those limitations it will have a great deal of margin for operation and I believe it will be very quickly effective.

I do not know what the reaction of these organisations will be - I have not been in touch with them - but I think I can predict it fairly certainly. I feel that these charitable organisations - seeing the need, knowing that they can now go ahead without further capital expenditure themselves and knowing that because of the cognate Bill on the subsidy they will be able to run without loss - will feel that they have every reason to act quickly. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), I think it was, spoke about our estimates of cost. How can we have a firm estimate of cost when we are dependent on what voluntary organisations themselves decide? We cannot command them. But it has been a principle in the past with the Aged Persons Homes Act that a proper application for a subsidy has never been refused on financial grounds, and I see no reason to believe that the present Bill will not be the same in that regard.

I have taken note of the other matters that have been raised in this debate but I shall not refer to them in detail. Perhaps I should mention but one or two of them. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) spoke about this scheme being piecemeal. It is not piecemeal. This is part of a scheme to help the ailing aged, the most comprehensive scheme, the most effective scheme, traversing the Department of Health and my Department. I think it is the most comprehensive and the most effective scheme that we have ever had in Australia and, in all probability, it is the best and most forward scheme that exists in any part of the world, because it covers the whole spectrum in a way in which I do not think any other scheme does with the same efficiency and effect. It is perfectly true that we will not solve these problems overnight. Buildings take time.

Mr Bryant - About 23 years.

Mr WENTWORTH - An honourable member has said '23 years', but in that time this Government has made greater strides for the real benefit of the ailing aged than have ever been made before. We have a system here, in our aged persons homes organisation of which we may well he proud. I have heard the phrase 'key money' used in this debate. I have heard people speaking of the nation's take. I remind the House - honourable members will know this from the monthly statements which I circulate to all honourable members - that the majority of beds which are being built under the old system are free of donation. I remind the. House also that even the beds that have been built with donation eventually become charitable beds, because each bed will have 10, 12 or 15 occupants during the course of its lifetime. Old people, generation after generation, will use them and be. grateful. We are accumulating a stock of real charitable beds. This could not have been done so quickly or effectively under any other scheme. This new Bill that we are bringing in is by no means a substitution for our existing' aged persons homes scheme. The aged persons homes scheme as we have it will go on unchanged. This will be a temporary addition to it, a crash programme designed as part of the Government's scheme to help effectively the ailing aged.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.

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