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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1497

Mr MCVEIGH (Darling Downs) - The Aged Persons Homes Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill seek to build on the foundation of previous Bills introduced by the LiberalCountry Party governments. The second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) on the States Grants (Home Care) Bill once again was indicative of the quality of the man. It contained not one word of recognition that it was a free enterprise government that pioneered legislation of this type. Praise for a job well done is good and should be readily forthcoming. It has a twofold object. It invigorates the recipient and develops a sense of generosity and fairness in the giver. I suggest to the Minister that these are admirable traits of character that he should endeavour to cultivate. For our part, we of the Country Party would supply the fertiliser without subsidy.

The whole social security legislation at the present time would surely indicate that the Minister is losing both a policy war and a personal battle. We hear each day of this commission or that commission being set up and of target dates which forever seem to be receding into the horizon of dim obscurity. No doubt these things have been a bitter experience for the Minister; but, for the sake of Australia for the short time that he will be the Minister, it is to be hoped that he has learnt at. least part of a valuable lesson. Let us look at some of the irregularities which we could have expected the Minister to clarify, recognise and alleviate. The first item for home care service schemes which provide housekeeping and other domestic assistance for aged people in their own home is not covered adequately. With the fanfare of publicity that surrounded the Minister's accession to his portfolio, we hoped that the scope of services would be widened in their concept and their area. There are many families who are in need of domestic help and who do not meet the criterion of age. The Minister, in effect, is saying that he is not concerned about the crippled, the amputees, the chronically ill and the poor. All these people are in need of help, particularly domestic help.

Let us consider the mother of a large family with a husband on the basic wage. She becomes til and the family obviously has no money to pay for domestic help. One must have a feeling for these people and be directly responsible for their demands. The Minister probably can say that this is a Bill dealing with the aged, but I remind him that in another debate in this chamber we were advised that revenue from a meat export tax for the purpose of paying for inspection services was to be used also for the eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. Hence, with this background of historical knowledge of how the Labor machine fires, I pose the question: Why has the Minister not included cases other than the aged? Surely the quality of a nation can be measured, in a way, by the concern it shows for the unfortunates and the old in its care.

We on this side of the House cannot accept and will not accept that the only ones who matter in society are the strong, the determined, the courageous and the visionary. We will not stand idly by while the weak, the sick and those who cannot cope are swept aside. That is why we are disappointed that the scope of the people to whom the benefits are to apply has not been widened. The Minister did not state in the debate the Government's plans for increased payments or increased varieties of help. He did not tell this House whether there were plans to increase the number of home services in such places as Queensland, where branches are established at 5 centres - Brisbane, Townsville, Ipswich, Toowoomba and the MaryboroughBundabergGympieNambour area. The Minister pays lip service to equality of opportunity but then fails to admit that legislation of this type denies that equality. I ask: Why should the people of Brisbane have access to help and the people of Charleville be denied it? How does the Minister reconcile this with his socialistic philosophy? It is obviously based not on justice or philosophy but on the cheap political trick of gaining votes in the large areas of population. This type of thinking is anathema to us. We want this type of service extended to all, irrespective of where they live.

It is rather remarkable to look at the amounts of money spent on home care over the last 4 years by the various States. What an astonishing fact we ascertain! In the free enterprise States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the sums of $607,199, $527,273 and $517,826 respectively have been expended, while in . the socialistic States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania the sums expended have been $50,347, $26,000 and $27,221. Does this not inspire the question in our minds: Do the Labor States reject the proposition that they are responsible for the care of the aged? The figures would seem to indicate this. We welcome the increased Commonwealth contribution in this sphere but we express the wish - and let us hope that it is not a pious wish that will attract a flow of platitudes from the Minister - 'that the Minister will recognise the great and basic need of many people who are excluded because of the age or distance factor. We uphold the proposition that, if at all possible, people should be looked after in their own homes and surroundings where the dignity and privacy of their lives can be encouraged and respected and where they retain a sense of belonging.

The second matter to which I want to make reference concerns senior citizens centres. These centres are the hub of existence of many people. From them, by the opportunity they present for people to meet in suitable and peaceful surroundings, these people draw strength and renewed confidence and enthusiasm to resist the pressures that are thrust on them from economic, social, health and family worries. It is good to see the Commonwealth giving increased subsidies provided the States do not spend less than they did in the previous period. In the Darling Downs area only 2 organisations - the Toowoomba Senior Citizens Club, which is actually in operation, and the contemplated Oakey Senior Citizens Club - are participators in the scheme. Why is this so? Is the scheme not broad enough? I submit that it is not.

The capital cost of the scheme in Queensland since its inception has been $1,238,307, made up as follows: $412,769 from the State, $412,770 from the Commonwealth, $90,693 from local government bodies and $322,075 from voluntary organisations. Why has the scheme not spread further? The obvious answer, to me, would be that local authorities are unable to raise sufficient finance. At times the local authorities experience great difficulty in balancing their budgets and have to expend their finances on the bread and butter issues. The Minister should get out of his ivory tower of isolationism and observe what is going on. Why does he not, in this legislation, widen the range of organisations which can contribute to the building of senior citizens club rooms and attract subsidy? I refer to local voluntary and service bodies such as Apex, Lions, Rotary, the Country Women's Association and many other such organisations which contribute manifestly to the welfare of the citizens within their sphere of influence. These people should be encouraged to develop their policy of generosity of heart and mind. The Minister appears to have as one of his 'aims the complete disregard-

Debate interrupted.

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