Transcript of Fred Chuah on On Luck

April 19, 2010

Here is a transcript of the question and answer session with Manningham's deputy mayor Fred Chuah at the March 30 council meeting.

Audio of Fred Chuah's answers to David Ellis questions

Cr David Ellis: Councillor Chuah, did you in September of last year attend a meeting or meetings, in Canberra to negotiate with Federal Government officials regarding bed licences for the On Luck nursing home.

Cr Fred Chuah: the answer is no.

Cr Ellis:
councillor Chuah did any representative of On Luck, in the second half of last year, attend a meeting or meetings, in Canberra to negotiate bed licences for the On Luck nursing home.

Cr Chuah: not directly.

Cr Ellis:
councillor Chuah how does one attend a meeting to negotiate not directly?

Cr Chuah: the Chinese community in Victoria noted that there is a shortage of Chinese nursing home beds. We did the research and looked at the studies, and we found there are a lot of people who are dying before they can get a bed with us. Our facilities have breaked the 100% occupancy right from the day one. As such quite a number of them die before they even can get an opportunity to getting there. There is this needs. We feel strongly about it, that there is a demand. There is no other nursing home that caters for Chinese community in the state of Victoria. None. There are two hospitals….

Cr Ellis: Mr Mayor, I asked a very clear question about attending in Canberra…..

Mayor Pick: Councillor Ellis. Please sit. Please sit! Councillor Ellis. Councillor Ellis! Councillor Ellis! Please again, you are neither a lawyer, nor an investigator, you've asked a question…

Cr Ellis: I'm a councillor…

Mayor Pick: councillor Chuah can choose to answer them. Councillor Chuah can choose to answer as he is. Continue councillor Chuah.

Cr Chuah: the main thing is that we need to make the people need to be aware and also the government need to be aware of the needs of the people. Now the Federal government, in their wisdom, realise that for ethno-specific groups they have special needs. There is a special provision for them. And we want to impress on the Federal government that there are these needs that need to be registered. And therefore we did a petition, some of you know, that 12,430 signatures were received within in a space of 8 weeks, and there were more coming. We stopped that and went to Canberra and we say, please, we not only looking for the Chinese, we are looking for ethno-specific groups as well. We care for everybody. The special needs of the people. These peoples are suffering.

There are nursing home beds, yes, but they are not catering for the special needs of these people, and we need them. And therefore we went up there to say ‘please think about' – that's all! There's no pushing them or pressuring them into giving us, there is no guarantee we could get a single nursing home bed when the decision is made this year. There's none! Some of you thought that it is a fait accompli and there are cases there is given up to the community, yet the Chinese community is doing the wrong thing, and then there is this contrast really against another organisation. We are not. We are the only Chinese-specific nursing home in the state of Victoria, and I'm proud of it - we are doing well.

It is important that we all know that we are not competing against anybody. We single ourselves out as Chinese specific, and we are not getting the beds of non-Chinese specific. There is a special pool for Chinese specific people. That is what we are looking for. Our obligation is just for that. To tell the people that there is a contrast, a competition against other people is a lie. It's misleading to the community. Let's put it this way, if I wasn't an applicant, if I wasn't owner of On Luck, it was my dream yes, it's the people. It belongs to all of you. I can get sent away, but some of you still thinking the fact that, yes Fred, it's your business. It's not!

It's everybody's business. I am doing all for you, and what you doing for me? Saying I have a vested interest. I haven't got. My interest is people – all people. That's the truth!

It's very disappointing them to put my name up there, just because I don't speak out too often, doesn't mean I don't have feelings. Some people have got to wake up to the fact that there are people in this world who do it for nothing. Just for the satisfaction of seeing a smile in another person.

Cr Ellis: you say you are not the owner of On Luck.

Cr Chuah: Yes I'm not.

Cr Ellis: you say it's about all the people, councillor Chuah, but you are in fact the chairman of the On Luck board. Is that correct?

Cr Chuah: I am one of nine.

Cr Ellis: are you the chairman of the On Luck board?

Cr Chuah: I am only one of nine people sitting on the board and I happen to be the chairman. I am the chairman. You should know. Everybody knows that.

Mayor Pick: please stand for your answer. Please stand when you answer councillor Chuah.

Cr Chuah: everybody knows I am the chairman. I've declared it openly, everybody knows that. But it doesn't mean that I make decision. The board makes decision. The board decided. You have been asking me, you have never asked me, who is the applicant for the amendment. I wasn't, the board was.

Cr Ellis: yeah but you head up the board…

Councillor Ivan Reid:
this isn't a debate, it is a McCarthy inquest! It's disgusting the way that he….

Cr Ellis: I'm sorry you'll have to hate me, I going to go on with this.

Mayor Pick: No no, you can continue with questions, and you can, councillor Chuah, decide whether or not to answer those questions. It's up to you. You can use your full decision making capabilities to do that, if you want to continue defending yourself you may, if you do not, you don't have to because this is not an interrogation.

Cr Ellis: Councillor Chuah, I notice your response, your emotive response, I notice your distinction between being a chairman of the board. I will ask you, in light of what you've said about the visit to Canberra to negotiate with Federal government officials, why at the time when you were doing that, and as you've said looking for more ethno-specific beds, when you were lobbying for a special pool for Chinese aged care, why did it not occur to you to notify, being our Deputy Mayor, to notify your fellow councillors of what you were doing and to let us in to your plans?

Cr Chuah: I don't believe it is council's duty to question whatever I do outside council business.

Cr Ellis: councillor Chuah, do you not consider an application to change Manningham's planning scheme to be council business?

Cr Chuah: I don't think I should respond to that because as you know, there will be further inquiry into my conduct tomorrow, courtesy of your and Geoff's (sic) innovation.

Cr Ellis: councillor Chuah why did you decide to make your application to the Minister, on January 4th when council was in recess, again without any notification to council or council officers.

Cr Chuah: for you information I wasn't at the application – the board is. And we have consulted widely, and it is the legal and proper process that we undertake. And if it is not legal, the State government would not have gazetted and approve it.

Audio of Fred Chuah answers Stephen Mayne questions

Cr Stephen Mayne:
I respect the comments he has made and the passion he has showed, is councillor Chuah concerned about the precedent issues that a ministerial amendment creates for us fellow councillors? And I would be particularly interested in his comments about our ability to argue to retain control over Eastern Golf.

Cr Chuah: I can answer the second part councillor Mayne, but the first part is, no I don't see it as a precedent as it has happened before. Right? It has happened before.

Mayne: by a councillor?

Cr Chuah: no not in the sense that to move that process in, in the sense that you are talking about presenting as a councillor and me doing that. I am not doing it as councillor. Now a lot of people aren't aware of the fact that all the time, all the time, when these amendments went through, I wasn't acting as deputy mayor. Any other meetings I attended wasn't as the deputy mayor, I was the president of the centre. I went in there as the president of the centre, and we got proof of it – we got written proof of it that I went in there as the president of the centre, not as deputy mayor. Some people decided to say 'no you are always deputy mayor'. Now you cannot be deputy mayor 24 hour. I know some people do say that, yes, ok, but not me. In a sense I have many roles. If you are in a particular role in a particular meeting, you act in that capacity. Now I don't believe I create a precedent, as I am not applying for the amendment – the board is. Alright, and please bear in mind that we do have expert advice before the board decided to take that stand. It is not something we do blindly – we are professional. The name on that application is Mr Andrew Clarke, not Ms Clarke as published by The Leader.

Cr Mayne: just a clarification on the deputy mayor's earlier comments about the competition issues around bed licenses. We've heard from a number of councillors about the sanctity of this document, the Explanatory Report from the Minister and the department, about how this changes everything, this means we can go to the minister, what is in here is very very important, and I would like to quote from it…

“The CCSSC seeking Commonwealth government allocation of an additional 120 high care residential aged care places to expand the existing On Luck Chinese Nursing Home. Allocation of places is highly competitive. With 1,490 residential aged care places to be allocated in the 2009-10 period and 230 places in the Eastern Metropolitan Region. The focus for allocation of places for non-English speaking backgrounds and/or veterans and facilities providing high care, dementia services and respite care."

Now I don't think that sits with the earlier comments, that this is the State government saying it is highly competitive process, and I'm just interested in this argument that you are making, that it was okay to vote against other competing nursing home applications, most notably in Park Orchards.

Cr Chuah: I will answer that very clearly once-and-for-all. Nursing home beds are classified mainly in several ways, classified differently. In the 2009-10 aged care funding round, which is current, there is a pool of nursing home beds, of 375 beds if I am not mistaken, specifically for NESB, note example: Chinese, Croation and so forth. Then you got so-called people claiming I have problems with Park Orchards, saying that there is a conflict of interest. But Park Orchards doesn't realise that we applied the 120 beds to that pool, and not the Manningham pool of 280. It is a separate pool of nursing home beds so there is no conflict.

Cr Mayne: I note that the Mayor at the February 2 council meeting, when asked when he knew about this process, said quote "my first notice of knowing this came up is when I saw it in Infosum as well.”

Infosum was January 22 and that's a specific reference to knowing that the formal application to the Minister had gone in, in the first week of January.

My question to councillor Chuah is, why didn't he tell all the councillors and, at the very least, why didn't he tell the mayor, given you had attended that meeting on December 11 with the department and with the mayor and with Mr Molan and madam CEO. So you had attended a meeting with the department, and you then formally lodged the application on January 6, and according to the mayor's statement from the February 2 council meeting, you hadn't even told the mayor, when you're his deputy, that you had done this. Why didn't you tell the mayor and all councillors, that the group that you chaired had decided to go down this course?

Cr Chuah: I'm smiling here because the fact that you need to know the scenario. The main things is number one, 4th of January I was not in town, I was overseas, I didn't even know about it alright? It wasn't me who put in the application, it was the town planner, our town planner, Mr Andrew Clarke that did that in consultation with Paul Molan and the officers prior to that, prior to January 4th when it was lodged. I didn't know when it was lodged, how the hell do I know? I didn't come back from overseas until 18th January.

Cr Ellis: was it a surprise to you?

Cr Chuah: No. We didn't know when it was going to be lodged.

Cr Ellis: oh, come on. Andrew Clarke works for you! He is your consultant.

Cr Chuah: Ladies and gentleman of the chambers please look at the back page of The Manningham Leader tomorrow. All the facts will be on the back of it. We decided, the board decided rather, to put on a paid advertisement to make sure that the real facts goes out to the people of Manningham, alright?

Cr Mayne: that's good.

Cr Chuah: alright? I don't have to go the council every time I think of something to do.

Mayor Pick: now we have two people interrogating the deputy mayor. Could you please stop that!