QUEANBEYAN’S State Government representatives have become embroiled in a bitter argument about representing local elderly and disabled residents in the wake of a recent transition of Home and Community Care (HACC) services away from Queanbeyan City Council.
Upper House member Steve Whan ignited the issue this week when he lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI) search to the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services John Ajaka’s office to see whether Mr Barilaro had made any formal written submissions during the transition process last year.
He hadn’t, and Mr Whan went public to voice his concern.
“At no stage has Mr Barilaro sought any written assurance that standards of services would be maintained under the new contracts,” Mr Whan said.
“It shows a real lack of interest in an issue of critical importance to many of our communities’ least powerful people.”
However Mr Barilaro said Mr Whan was merely “playing politics.” He told The Queanbeyan Age he had monitored the transition process between Council and the state, including speaking personally to Minister Ajaka, Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall and general manager Gary Chapman about the issues.
“It’s a character assassination [from Steve Whan] on an issue that’s actually a Council issue,” Mr Barilaro said.
“FOI requests for documents are very clever political moves by Steve Whan, but ignore the fact that representations take many forms; text messages, phone calls, letters, emails, Party Room discussions and chats in the line over a coffee.
“Most of these interactions, of course, are the usual interactions of members and not subject to Freedom of Information requests,” he said.
The two men also disagreed about the level of community concern following the transition of aged and disability care services from Queanbeyan Council back to State and Federal Government providers from July 1 last year.
Mr Whan said he’d received a number of calls from concerned locals since the transition.
“I continue to receive phone calls from members of the community concerned at the way the services have changed – or more importantly – the services that have gone,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Barilaro said his office hadn’t received any complaints.
“My office has not actually received any individual correspondence about these issues. The only time these issues arise is through the media,” he said.
And he said while he would advocate for concerned residents, it wasn’t his role to ‘micro-manage” Council decision making.
“I don’t micromanage the decisions of council, but I will always monitor issues that have arisen from the transition,” he said.
“I’m more than happy to hear from those that are affected by the transitional changes, and make sure that I can then advocate on behalf of them, as I am doing.
“The reality is that the NSW Government continues to allocate resources as it has always done. The funding from the Government is no less than what it was under Labor, and somehow Mr Whan is now playing politics with an issue that he showed no interest in while being a Minister in the previous Government.”