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Wednesday, 25 November 1998
Page: 681

Ms HALL (7:37 PM) —This government has waged a war on all older Australians. It has attacked every area of aged care. The attitude of this government to elderly Australians is reflected in the words of Senator Jocelyn Newman in a speech she made to the Sydney Institute on 6 July this year. In that speech she stated:

There are many older Australians today who, through thriftiness and hard work, managed to save enough for their own retirement.

Senator Newman's statement implies that those who did not saved enough were neither hard working nor thrifty. In other words, they only have themselves to blame if they cannot afford the care they need. Unfortunately, it shows a total lack of understanding of the real world and the lives of real working Australians. Senator Newman's statement is an insult to older Australians and reflects the contempt the government has for them.

The minimum cost that elderly Australians in need of nursing home care will pay is $4,380 a year. That is $4,380 for essential care, care they need to survive. Those elderly Australians with some private income now have to pay an extra daily rate of up to $347 a week. This is typical of this miserable government, attacking people in our community who are most vulnerable. And who could be more vulnerable than the sickest and frailest elderly people in our community?

The Howard government's attack on the elderly is not confined to aged care. There have been cuts to health care funding. We only have to look at what happened here today to see what we have got in store for us in the area of health. These cuts include the complete removal of the Commonwealth dental health care program. If you are an older Australian, you cannot afford to get sick, you cannot afford to have your teeth or dentures fixed, because this government has decided that older Australians do not deserve to have dental care.

The assault on health care includes increased costs for prescriptions; restricted access to the newest and best drugs; the withdrawal of free hearing aids for Commonwealth seniors card holders; and an increase in the charges older Australians pay for the home and community care service, as well as a reduction in this service and a decrease in the funding. The Howard government's assault on public housing will cause further hardship for older Australians, with funding for public housing to be decreased by $28 million over the next four years.

The Howard government's answer to the problem of our aging population is to cut services to older Australians and increase costs. This makes it harder for elderly people to get the care they need and deserve.

Nationally, 8.3 per cent of the population is aged over 70, whilst in the Shortland electorate that figure is 10.8 per cent. It is ranked as having the 15th oldest population based on the 1996 census figures. The percentage of people over age 70 will increase over the years as our population ages. In the Shortland electorate there are 12 nursing homes with 586 beds, and 16,716 people over age of 65, which gives a nursing home bed to person ratio of 28.52. Nationally there are 1,490 nursing homes, with 139,200 beds and 2,150,828 people over the age of 65, giving a bed to person ratio of 15.4. Considering that over 10 per cent of the population in the electorate of Shortland are over the age of 70, a bed to person ratio half that of the national average is completely unacceptable.

This is a miserable government, one that attacks all elderly people—particularly those who are most vulnerable. I hear the members on the other side complaining about it too. They obviously agree with me that this is not good enough. In Shortland that assault and the lack of resources is even greater. I demand that the Prime Minister order his minister to take action to redress the injustice his government has forced on older people in Shortland.

This government is now set to cause even more pain to older Australians by forcing a GST on them. The new tax will increase the cost of their food, electricity, gas, clothes and all the basics of life. Older Australians do not want this tax. They voted against it, they cannot afford it, and the compensation is inadequate. Once again, this government is determined to cause misery to those people who are most vulnerable: older Australians—the sickest, poorest and frailest in our society. This government stands condemned.(Time expired)