Page 1067 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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If Mr Stefaniak is aware of any cases where he believes that people have died because they have not been able to get access to surgery in a timely way, I would ask him to tell me and I will investigate those matters. But to make the assertion through what would appear on the surface to be an innocently worded question is completely inappropriate.

Community services

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is for the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services. Can the minister update the Assembly on the progress of negotiations with the commonwealth government on the supported accommodation assistance program.

MR HARGREAVES: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question because, as we can see by the standard of debate lately, it has been in the forefront of everybody’s mind. I attended a meeting of community and disability services ministers in Melbourne last Friday. State and territory ministers called the meeting to discuss concerns about the commonwealth government’s SAAP V offer. State and territory ministers felt that the commonwealth offer was completely unacceptable and that acceptance of the offer would create a growth in disadvantage and poverty throughout the county that would have implications for years to come.

Opposition members interjecting

MR SPEAKER: Order! Minister, please resume your seat. This morning I issued a warning to the opposition. You were not here Mr Mulcahy, but I will restate that general warning about interjections, and that is to all of you.

MR HARGREAVES: The states and territories urge the commonwealth to reconsider their package to ensure that the vital emergency services provided through SAAP are not jeopardised. I am pleased to advise that, following the meeting last Friday, all ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the continuation of SAAP and to the SAAP Act. Ministers also committed to making every effort to conclude negotiations of a SAAP V agreement by 1 July of this year. Ministers agreed to authorise departmental officials to develop options to address the concerns of the states and territories about aspects of the SAAP V agreement, and I acknowledge the concession that the commonwealth made at this point.

When we walked in the door, all options were closed off. It was a take it or leave it proposition. When we walked out, commonsense had prevailed. The specific issues that will be addressed include SAAP service, viability and demand issues, definitions of new services which could count for inclusion in SAAP V—those initiatives we had done in the course of SAAP IV were specifically excluded by the commonwealth—definitions of innovation for the entire SAAP program, taking into account the recommendations of the SAAP IV national evaluation. That was another concession because in the fact the ACT had led the way in innovation. Also being addressed is the proposed investment fund and its associated governance arrangements—this was that sleight of hand $106 million, where it was taken out of the base, promptly put back in the base as a capital injection, and the states and territories would have to fund its recurrence for the life the agreement, and that has now been looked into again—and the transition to a minimum of 50 per cent

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