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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1488

Mr RIPOLL (6:57 PM) —It is a great pleasure for me to speak on this motion, because it is a really important motion about some very important people in our community. I want to congratulate the member for Parramatta, Julie Owens, for putting this motion on the Notice Paper. She is well regarded in this place for her commitment to carers and has a longstanding history of working in that particular area. I also want to place on the record my support for carers broadly and for this motion.

Last week was National Carers Week. I got the opportunity to speak briefly on a range of matters in relation to that last week. It is time for us in this place to recognise the vital work that is done by nearly 2.6 million carers across this country. That is a lot of people. If you analyse what that represents and the work that they do, it is a lot of hours, a lot of effort and a lot of love going into making sure that the people who need them are properly cared for. We cannot ever as a government compensate people for the work that they do in providing that care every hour of every day. It is almost an impossible task. There are numbers floating around the place about what that represents. We heard just before from the member for Brisbane a figure of around $30 billion a year. Whatever the number is, it is too much for any government to bear on its own. That is why we need to recognise the work of carers; that is why we need to acknowledge what they do. Beyond recognition, we need to provide real support for people who care for others. That is where government comes in: to put in place the proper assistance measures and regulations.

It is fair to say, I think, that all governments through time progressively work through improvements for people who are carers. I know that, as much as people on the other side have done their bit when they were in government, we too, on this side, will do our part now that we are in government. And we have done that in a number of areas. We have recognised that being a carer is an exhausting job. It is a full-time job, much more than a paid job. It is often seven days a week. It is 24 hours a day. There is often very little opportunity for respite, and that is one of the great areas of difficulty and need: how do you provide that respite for 2.6 million carers around the nation?

The government is committed to supplying practical help for carers. We are doing that across a range of areas, from disability care through to health care, mental health care, aged-care services and a range of other areas. Measures we have particularly taken are to deliver a $60 a fortnight increase to the base pension rate plus an increase of $5 a fortnight in the new pension supplement for carers who receive the maximum single rate of carer payment. We have moved to guarantee the certainty of the annual ongoing carer supplement of $600 for each person in care, which benefits around half a million carers specifically. We have also looked at overhauling the complex and restrictive eligibility requirements for carer payment, particularly in relation to children, which is often not as well recognised.

We have provided a funding boost for the states and territories for specialist disability services as well, and we have put in place and are developing a National Carer Strategy, which is a really long-term agenda, a long-term approach, to help guide policy development and delivery. Often the things that government could do and can provide are more than just monetary supplement. It is also about making sure that policy development and delivery are done properly. That strategy is due for release in the first half of next year, in 2011.

The government also is committed to recognising the role of carers and the very important part they play. Last week I spoke on the Carer Recognition Bill, which for the first time actually defines what a carer is and sets out 10 key principles on how carers should be treated, through the Statement for Australia’s Carers. That is reflected back through the public sector, through the Public Service, through policy, and will bring a much more holistic approach to the way that carers are treated in this country.

I also want to mention an incredible couple who were the feature of a media story in my electorate last week: Goodna’s Harry Chalk and his wife Ellie, who cares for her husband around the clock and has been doing this very unselfishly for the past 20 years. Harry was struck down with a particular disability which meant that he had no movement from the neck down, and Ellie has been there for him for a very, very long time and continues to provide that support. You can imagine the amount of work and the pressure on this one woman to look after her husband for the past 20 years and continue to do that. That story for me reflects what we need to do in this place and the care we should provide as well.