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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3019 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

It is further complicated by everyone awaiting the government's response to the Gallop report. I just want to sound a warning note on the issuing of the government's response to the Gallop report. Minister Wood said in the Estimates Committee hearing that there is no extra money for whatever the government's response to the Gallop report will be and that the new department will have to live within its means.

I know that the Disability Reform Group is anxious to see the Gallop recommendations, in the main, implemented. That will cost additional money. Much has been made of the additional $1.25 million, I think it is, that the department received this year, but I again want to lay down the challenge to the government-we increased funding to the disability sector over the last four years by 40 per cent. It grew from $25 million to $36 million over the four years, and I would very much like to see it grow another 40 per cent-and that is the challenge for the government. It is nice to say, "Yes, we've put $10 million in", but is it enough? Will it give the people who need the services the service they need, where they need it? And will you be able to sustain that?

So the challenge is there for the government. If it can match our 40 per cent increase I think that would be a tremendous thing. The other point is that we actually put more money into disability in last year's budget than goes into the budget this year, and I think it is important to keep that in mind as well.

I move on to the area of community care, although we touched on this when we did health as well. I refer to the issue of respite care for the aged and the closure of the two aged respite care services at Dickson and at Narrabundah, which will be turned into active rehabilitation for the aged. Much has been made of the fact that there will be more services for the aged, but the government has taken the decision to close these two services at Narrabundah and Dickson. There was no consultation; it just decided that it would close them. It has not spoken to groups such as COTA, for instance. I rang COTA and asked whether it was aware that this was happening. They said no. Again, we see this secretive approach that the government is taking. When you ask them what the government will do in terms of active rehabilitation, well, it is under review. So on one hand it has closed the services, it is diverting the money from aged day care respite to active rehabilitation, but it does not know what that means and how that will be achieved. So I would like to put on the record again my disquiet at this.

I have had phone calls from constituents. In one particular case a lady wanted to get her mother into Narrabundah. She was told no, it was closed; it was moving to Tuggeranong and we would find out later what was going to happen. So, again, for a government that said it was going to be honest, open and accountable, what we are seeing is secretive closures, without consultation, from a government that I think lacks vision. What we are seeing is another review to hide the inadequacy of its approach. I think that the fear for the sector in the future will be whether, while there is more money-and, as I have said, that is welcome-that money results in anything for those on the ground that need it, which is yet to be shown.


(11.46): The new Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services comes at a time, as the previous speakers have said, that does not leave it open to very much scrutiny about what is going to happen and how it will operate. The new department is a bringing together of a whole lot of disparate areas across the government portfolios: the Office of Disability from the Department of Health; Disability Services

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