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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2017

Mr BERINSON - I direct a question to the Prime Minister arising from his announcement this week of a welcome increase in nursing home subsidies. I ask the Prime Minister whether, in the course of considering this measure, consideration was also given to increasing the Commonwealth contribution to public hospitals especially in respect of public hospital treatment of pensioners. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth contribution of $5 a day on account of pensioners has remained unaltered for almost 5 years? Is it also a fact that, taking Western Australia as an example, this contribution now represents only onequarter of the public ward charges and about one-eighth of actual public ward costs in public hospitals? Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to statements by the Western Australian Minister for Health to the effect that from a position where the Commonwealth provided free hospitalisation for pensioners the stage has now been reached where free hospitalisation is provided by the State with merely a small Commonwealth subsidy? In view of the primary responsibility of the Commonwealth for pensioner welfare and the severely strained resources of the States, will the Prime Minister undertake to consider remedial action at an early date?

Mr McMAHON - The statement that I made in the House relating to nursing home care and the care of people requiring nursing attention was restricted exclusively to the matters that were set out in my speech and did not relate to public hospital care of pensioners. In other words, we had a very tight Budget. While I believe that the integrity of the Budget should be maintained to the maximum possible extent, I also believe that where we do get areas of real, very serious need as we find in the case of nursing homes, we will give attention to those areas immediately. But we also have had to delay for the time being - at least until more detailed consideration can be given to it - the whole problem of nursing homes and nursing care attention. I can but repeat what I said before, that my statement relates to that matter and to no other matter.

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