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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1490

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - The Country Party supports the 3 Bills before the House. We generally agree with the provisions. I will not weary the House by making lengthy comment which would only be repeating what has been said earlier this evening. I will not discuss the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill at all because my colleague, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), will be speaking on that Bill later. I will restrict my comments to the Aged Persons Homes Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. During my comments I wish to put several questions to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden).

The Minister, in his second reading speech, stated that a reassessment of the aged persons homes program is being undertaken at the moment by the National Commission on Social Welfare and pending the receipt of the Commission's report no major changes are contemplated. Repeating what was said by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), I hope that the Minister does not wait for this report before updating the Commonwealth contribution to the per bed limit which at present stands at S5,200 or a total allocation of $7,800 plus $250 for furniture. This contribution ceiling has not been altered since February 1972. I think we all would agree that with all the inflation in Australia, whether it is the fault of the last Government or the fault of this Government, building costs probably have been the most inflationary. 1 have received a number of requests and complaints from organisations in my electorate saying that they just cannot meet the ceiling which at present is imposed and that raising the additional finance is quite a problem to them.

Recently I received a letter from the Numurkah Pioneer Memorial Lodge in which it asked me to put certain matters to the Minister. I now put the 2 questions to the Minister: Firstly, are there plans to increase the subsidy to take account of the severe inflation in costs in the building industry since the grant was last increased in February 1972? Secondly, if the grant is to be increased how soon can that society and other societies like it be informed so that their projects can continue? I ask that, when the Minister replies when closing this debate tomorrow, he make a statement to the House, if he possibly can, that the ceiling will be lifted and that it will be lifted to a ceiling of at least $6,500, allowing an overall ceiling of about $10,000 which will take into account the increase in building costs since February 1972. If the Minister makes such a statement will he also give details of the commencing date and inform the House whether those organisations that have made application but have not started to build or have nin into difficulties because of the increased inflationary costs will be given help with these new limits?

I refer now to the hostel section of the Bill, which is really the major part of it and which relates to the increase from SIO to S12 a week in the subsidy paid where personal care services are provided and where the eligibility has been widened. We agree with these proposals and agree with what the Minister said in his speech, namely, that this should more than compensate homes for cost increases that have taken place in the past 12 months and maintain the incentive for organisations to provide this valuable type of accommodation. I remind the Minister that, to be consistent, if it is right to take account of increased costs for one section of the aged program he should take account of the overall increase in building costs which has been even more alarming.

I also wish to refer to the Aged Persons Hostels Bill of 1972. This was amending legislation introduced by the previous Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I will quote some relevant sections from the then Minister's second reading speech. He said:

The Bill provides for the Commonwealth to make grants to eligible organisations towards the building of hostel-type accommodation on the basis of existing homes which were built either without Government subsidy or when subsidy was available only on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The Commonwealth will meet the capital cost of providing hostel-type accommodation for two additional aged persons for every one at present accommodated in an unsubsidised home, or one additional person for every two in an existing home subsidised on a dollarfordollar basis, up to a maximum of $7,800 for every aged person or necessary staff member accommodated.

The then Minister went on to say:

The Bill also includes a requirement that construction of the new hostel must be substantially commenced within a period of 12 months from the date of approval of the grant by the Director-General of Social Services. Otherwise the approval shall be deemed to have lapsed. The object of this provision is to bring about the building of the new accommodation within a reasonably short period. The legislation will operate for a 3-year period only, commencing from the date on which the Bill receives royal assent. In order to ensure that the 'free' homes established under this Act provide accommodation for those most in need of it, it will be a condition of approval that the accommodation is to be allocated strictly on the basis of need, without any contribution being required or received from the prospective resident towards the capital cost of the home or the funds of the sponsoring organisation. Personal care subsidy, provided under Part III of the Aged Persons Homes Act, will be payable, subject to the usual conditions, to homes established under this legislation.

I discussed that legislation with the then Minister soon after it was introduced. I pointed out to him that at least one organisation in Victoria - I am sure there are many others in other States as well - has a long and proud record of providing assistance to aged people but has not the organisation, facilities or staff arrangements to enter into hostel-type accommodation. I refer particularly to the Alexander Miller Homes - an organisation which I think is well known to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in Geelong in the electorate of Corio. There are quite a number of these self-contained units in the electorate of Murray.

I asked the then Minister whether it would be possible to allow transferability of entitlement to beds from this organisation or other organisations to other bodies which are providing hostel accommodation. At the lime the then Minister said that he wanted the legislation to start working and that 1 should come to see him later on. I have allowed, 1 think, a reasonable time for this scheme to be working and I now ask the present Minister: Will he consider altering the regulations or the legislation to allow transferability of bed entitlements under the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1972 to other organisations which are providing this type of accommodation? In asking this question I wish to make 2 points. The Minister has mentioned that hostel-type accommodation is what is urgently required and that he wishes, to encourage the principle of the granting of these beds on a needs basis. The reason I made the lengthy quotation from the previous Minister's speech is that one of the conditions of these free bed entitlements under that legislation is that they be allocated on a needs basis with no ingoings. I ask the Minister whether, in his reply tomorrow, he will give some indication as to whether transferability will be considered under this legislation as a means of increasing the number of hostel beds that are available, in particular hostel beds for the needy.

The second piece of legislation is the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. It widens the home care services available, with some safeguards, which I think are essential, so that the States do not reduce their expenditure. I join with the honourable member for Perth who explained very well some of the principles involved in the provision of domiciliary care benefits to various groups of needy people. 1 wish to ask the Minister a question which relates to the domiciliary care benefits scheme which commenced early this year. I know that it is not part of this legislation, but I think it is part of the overall pattern of endeavouring to assist people to be cared for in their own homes rather than in the more expensive and, I think, less socially desirable way in a hostel or home. The Minister did state earlier that some problem had arisen with the application of the requirements for the domiciliary care benefit and that this matter was being investigated. I ask him what has happened to those investigations. Is it possible to make an announcement on increased flexibility for those who should be eligible or could be eligible under this scheme, particularly those people living in country areas where problems arise through the unavailability or insufficient numbers of registered nurses? This is one of the requirements of the legislation. I ask the Minister whether he can indicate when these new ideas for this domiciliary benefit will be available for application.

The other question that I wish to ask concerns senior citizens club rooms or centres. 1 congratulate the Minister on increasing the Commonwealth's contribution to a maximum of two-thirds of the total cost although his description of this change in his second reading speech could be slightly clearer than it is. Slight confusion is found in the expression two-thirds or something else, whichever is the less'. The Minister stated also that this applies with respect to State or local governments. I ask: Why does the qualification 'local government' apply? I know of a number of cases where a local organisation has raised money for the capital cost of a senior citizens centre. The only way that contribution can be included for subsidy or grant purposes is if it is handed over to a local government organisation which then claims that money as its own so that a subsidy or grant will apply. This may be peculiar to Victoria. If it is 1 would welcome the Minister's statement to that effect.

Why can the scheme not be a little more flexible so that a local organisation which is set up for the purpose of community involvement to raise money can be approved by a local government body for the purpose of subsidy under this Act? If this cannot be done, I ask the Minister to explain why. If it can be done, perhaps he could indicate whether the regulations or the Act wil be altered to allow this approach, which is more flexible, more sensible and enables greater community involvement, to apply.

I hope that the Minister will answer these questions. I have put them constructsvely in a non-partisan way. I believe that they are important to the subjects under discussion. In conclusion, I repeat that the Country Party supports these measures.

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