Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1714 ..
Mr Moore: I hope so.
MR STANHOPE: I hope so too, but I have a real concern that this Government entered into a deal with the Commonwealth to swap some land on which there is a priceless ACT community asset and did not take that into account in its negotiations, leaving us exposed to a potential cost of some millions of dollars. That is an issue which we have not concentrated on enough.
MR WOOD (10.05): Mr Speaker, I will focus on the community care aspects of this department. The budget papers claim that it is a clever and caring budget. If that is the case, it is in this area where the pressures are greatest. This is where the Government can be found out. Let me acknowledge first of all that this is also a department where the Government has provided additional money in a number of areas, and that is a fairly rare event. I certainly acknowledge that. There is nevertheless a problem contained here. The papers say that the Government has maintained its level of funding in this portfolio and has increased it in some areas. Does that mean that it has maintained the level of services? Has it been able to meet the increasing demand on services, including that created by the ageing of our population? It is one thing to say we have maintained funding, but does that necessarily do the job? I am not sure that it does.
A fairly wide range of programs come under the heading of this service. They include programs that it is difficult to meet the needs of. They include the alcohol and drug program, the dental health program - and I acknowledge there is new money for that - the disability program, for which there is also some new money, and the mental health program. They are the most demanding areas of government in this Territory, in my opinion. They place the greatest stress on service delivery. The service is delivered in many instances by the Government and in other circumstances by the range of providers who have traditionally done a job of very high standard in the Territory.
Like other members here, I often get calls about all these services. Sometimes I go to the Minister's office, and when the services are provided by a number of groups in the community I go to them. Respite care is just one example. I am told, "We cannot take any more cases. We cannot do it. We do not have the resources to do it". That is only one area. A little while ago I went with some delicacy and care to a flat where someone had died a few days before. He had been under the care of people who worked out of the alcohol and drug program, but it simply could not help him. There was not the residential care that that person needed. He had been through the program. He had been turned out at the end of it but there was not a level of care. Let me acknowledge that these are heavy demands, but over and over again there are people whose needs cannot be met because the resources are not there.
I turn to the disability program. I went to one of the private providers - it would be pretty easy to identify them because there are not too many of them - of accommodation about a house that was built for a number of people some years ago. It was well built but is in need of some touching up. Its standard is not of the order that it should be, especially the wet areas. They simply do not have the money to do it, because they are stretched to the limit in providing resources just to keep that place and other places running.