Home and Community Care Program Funding
The Hon. JOHN RYAN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Disability Services. Has the Carr Government underspent its Home and Community Care funding allocation by at least $32 million in the last two financial years and accumulated possibly $60 million in total over some years? Are those funds being used by the New South Wales Government to prop up other disability services, such as supported accommodation? Has the Federal Government asked New South Wales to explain this massive diversion of funding? If so, what explanation was the Government able to give?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I believe I have referred before to the fact that I have discussed this matter with federal officials on a number of occasions, and discussed the matter with my federal analogue, the Hon. Julie Bishop. I have had a couple of fruitful discussions with her.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What is a federal "analogue"—do you mean digital?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not know the English language? I mean my equivalent in federal politics. The Home and Community Care [HACC] funding released today has been delayed as a result of Commonwealth inaction. As I mentioned, the Federal Minister for Ageing, Julie Bishop, has been sitting on the New South Wales HACC plan for six months while thousands of people in New South Wales have been denied basic support. The delays that have occurred were solely in the hands of the Commonwealth and for every month it stalls, $2 million worth of services are not being delivered to vulnerable people in New South Wales. It is high time the Commonwealth stopped its political game playing—which I suspect was behind the honourable member's question. During the past nine years, funding by the Carr Government has increased by $828 million. In the 2005-06 State budget a record $1.549 million has been allocated in support for the 178,000 people with disabilities and the frail aged in New South Wales.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Can you answer one of these questions without a briefing note?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Oh, yes I can; I answered one yesterday without a briefing note.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Not one of John Ryan's questions.
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I answered a question from the Hon. John Ryan yesterday without a briefing note, and I have three briefing notes here. The New South Wales Government understands the importance of the joint Commonwealth-State agreement that allows people to remain in their homes. The Government is committed to ensuring that people in this State receive their fair and equitable share of services. New South Wales is providing $166 million to the Home and Community Care program, and has committed an additional $12.82 million in the next financial year. I am pleased to report that the Commonwealth Minister has now endorsed the New South Wales plan.
The Hon. Melinda Pavey: Strong and detailed plan?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The Commonwealth Minister has endorsed our strong and detailed plan, enabling its contribution to be allocated to non-government organisations that provide these important services to the frail aged. The New South Wales Government also contributed unmatched funds for this program in the last financial year because the Commonwealth Government refused to pay its share of the so-called Community Services Award. The State took the initiative and provided $4.1 million to ensure provision of services by non-government organisations.