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Monday, 18 October 2010
Page: 592


Mr RIPOLL (12:38 PM) —I will begin my contribution by first congratulating the member for Pearce. She is a good person and somebody who gets on well with everybody in this place and in the parliament and I have a lot of respect for her. I acknowledge the good work she has done in a range of areas including this motion, which has many good parts, which I think we can all agree on. Acknowledging the work of carers is, I think, very important because carers are really the unsung heroes in our community. They are the people who not only because of a family link but also because of a friendship link or other reason have become a carer and have chosen to do something. This is an extraordinary task for someone to carry out. It is a very special job, which requires people to give completely of themselves for somebody else. People who do that work are typically parents of children with a disability. Of course, we ought to recognise them and do everything we can in this place to make their lives a little bit easier and a little bit more comfortable in any way we can.

I think it is also important to recognise ageing parents. I have spoken to many parents, and I am sure that other members of the House have as well, who care for their disabled child and sometimes that child is 40 or 50 years of age. It has cost the parents a lot, physically, emotionally and financially. It is something they obviously willingly do and will continue to do. I believe it is our job in parliament to make sure that our regulations, our systems and the structures we put in place actually assist them in whatever way possible. So I do congratulate the member for Pearce for putting this motion forward. However, I have got to say that although there are many good parts, I just simply cannot agree with the last two parts in which she condemns the government for not taking seriously the recommendations that are outlined in the October 2008 Senate standing committee report Building trust: supporting families through disability trusts.  I cannot agree for the simple reason that it is not the case that this government is not taking seriously either that report or the work of carers or the special disability trusts themselves, because we do take them seriously. We care very deeply about the mechanisms and systems to assist carers regardless of their age.

In fact, the government have a good record of doing that. We have got a good record in a range of areas, particularly in the last parliament, with the then Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services looking at specific ways we can make the job of carers easier, looking at the financial security of carers very specifically and other people who are on pensions, by having record pension rises and increases—real increases—that matched the cost of living and expectations that people have. We have increased the annual and ongoing carer supplement—a permanent increase. We have ensured there are new rules to make it easier for carers of children with a disability to get income support.

I congratulate the former government which, back in 2006, introduced the Special Disability Trust, because its intent was good, it was right and we support that. But like a lot of things, we do not always get it right straightaway. More work needs to be done to make sure that these disability trusts match what happens in the real world and match what happens when it comes to actually caring for people and that the intent is right. That is what we want to do while we are in government. These are the things we want to make sure we get right. There are 2.6 million carers in this country. That is a lot of people who actually rely on government assistance. Very few people would be in a position to fully fund or provide support out of their own income. Often they give up the opportunity to have an income in order to care for a disabled family member, a child or other relative. So I think it is important that we acknowledge the work of carers, that that they are ageing and that it is difficult. But I think it is important that we also do not play politics with this particular issue. It is important that we also acknowledge that all governments work towards these same objectives and goals, and certainly this government does. Our National Carer Strategy has worked to improve coordination across the states and territories and to provide better services to make sure that government is not a burden or a barrier but that it is there to assist. We have done that particularly by considering special training and skills needs of carers, ensuring that they have got the right skills and the adequate knowledge to do their job properly. Carers Week this year, coming up between 17 and 23 October, is a real opportunity for everyone to— (Time expired)