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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2483

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted?

Senator Greenwood - No.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.

Senator WHEELDON -As Senator Greenwoodwill doubtless be pleased to learn, this speech will take longer than the previous speech.

Senator Greenwood - I rise on a point of order. Is it permissible for Senator Wheeldon to comment upon why a senator refused leave? If so, may I explain why?

The PRESIDENT - I did not hear Senator Wheeldon comment on your disapproving leave. Do you wish to speak further to the point of order?

Senator Greenwood - Yes. The point of order is this: Is it proper for a senator to comment upon refusal to give leave?

The PRESIDENT - Senator Wheeldon,were you commenting upon the refusal to give leave?

Senator WHEELDON -I was not commenting on why leave was refused. I was merely stating that Senator Greenwood will be pleased to learn that the longer the day goes on the longer the speeches get, so he will be able to hear more of me.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted. The Minister will make his second reading speech.

Senator Webster - I rise on the point of order which relates to the right of a Minister to comment on the refusal of leave. I make the point that leave is being refused to the Government because the Government refused leave, on the request of Opposition senators, including myself, last week.

Senator WHEELDON -The Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the other place contained a great many items concerned with this country's welfare services. Several of these are concerned with care of the aged and include an increase in the rate of subsidy payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act from $2 for $ 1 to $4 for $1 as from 1 January 1975, and also for a 25 per cent increase in the rate of Personal Care Subsidy paid in respect of aged residents in hostel-type accommodation. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to one of the items mentioned in the Budget Speech, namely, to increase the rate of subsidy payable under the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act by 5 cents per meal, i.e. from 20 to 25 cents for each meal delivered or 30 cents if the meal includes an approved Vitamin C supplement. This represents an increase of 25 per cent on the basic rate.

One of the most traumatic effects of growing old is for people to find that with increasing frailty they can no longer maintain their independent way of life in the dignity of their own homes. From social, humanitarian and economic viewpoints it is obviously preferable for aged people to remain in 'their own homes rather than build institutionalised accommodation to house them. This means, of course, that attention has to be given to the provision of a range of domiciliary services upon which the aged person may depend according to his or her particular requirements. As honourable senators will know, the Government meets two-thirds of the States' expenses in providing home care services for the aged under the States Grants (Home Care) Act. These may include housekeeping, shopping, sitter, linen, and handyman services. I might add here that while many very good services have been developed in some States, the Australian Government is far from satisfied with their rate of growth. The Minister for Social Security intends to examine ways and means by which a greater coverage of these services can be obtained.

As a complement to home care schemes, meals-on-wheels services play an important role in caring for the aged by delivering nutritious meals to the homes of frail elderly persons. The main burden of the work in preparing and delivering meals-on-wheels is undertaken by voluntary helpers who give their time and the use of their vehicles to maintain this service for elderly people who for varying reasons cannot prepare their own meals. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Australian Government to thank all the volunteers throughout Australia for their continuing assistance in supporting this worthwhile service. To fully appreciate the value of a meals-on-wheels service, it is necessary to recognise all the functions involved. Primarily from a purely medical point of view the aged person is supplied with a hot appetising meal which will contain most of the nutrients required for a minimal daily intake. This alone could be the factor which permits the aged person to continue to live in his or her own home. Other allied services which may be made available to the recipients could include shopping, letter writing, and referral of other facilities available through other organisations. But in many cases the social contact with the meals-on-wheels volunteer is equally welcomed by the aged recipient.

It is not that the nutritional aspect has been overlooked. This is a matter which has been of considerable concern to both the Honourable the Minister for Health and the Honourable the Minister for Social Security. In order to ensure that both the meals-on-wheels organisations and the aged persons are aware of the nutritional aspects, the Nutrition Section of the Department of Health has produced two publications. One is entitled 'Welcome to Meals-on- Wheels' and explains to the aged person what other items of food they should consume each day to supplement the delivered meal. This publication has been distributed by the Department of Social Security. The second publication is a rather more comprehensive document entitled 'MealsonWheels Food Guide' which is designed to provide meals-on-wheels organisers with a valuable guide to planning highly nutritious meals. It is expected that this publication will be distributed by the Department of Social Security later this year.

The Bill provides that the increased rate of subsidy will be payable in respect of all meals delivered on and after 1 July 1974. It is estimated that meals-on-wheels services will deliver more than 5 million meals during 1974-75. On that figure the annual cost of this measure will be $250,000. Mr President, I am confident that all honourable senators will support the increase in subsidy provided in this legislation, and I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.

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