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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4280

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (11:22 AM) —I rise to speak on the National Health Amendment (Continence Aids Payment Scheme) Bill 2010. The National Continence Management Strategy was established in 1998 by the coalition government to provide funding to research and service development initiatives aimed at prevention and treatment. This affects primarily the Ageing portfolio but also involves the disability portfolio. The Continence Aids Assistance Scheme provides a payment to assist eligible people who have permanent, severe incontinence to meet some of the costs of their continence products. In February 2007, the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme was expanded to include people aged five to 15 years and 65 years and over. In the May 2007 budget the scheme was further expanded from 1 July to include anyone over the age of five years with a permanent cause for their incontinence with either a neurological or non-neurological cause for their conditions.

In the 2009-10 budget the government announced that from 1 July 2010 it would replace the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme with the continence support payment. This change is a savings measure of $10.7 million. Under the new scheme eligible people will instead receive a payment as a contribution towards the cost of products. The disability sector has expressed concerns that the new scheme may incur delivery costs, as under the current scheme there are no delivery costs. It is understood that the increased competition will ensure that free delivery will likely be offered as an incentive to purchasers. This is a view that has been put forward by the Continence Foundation of Australia. However, the coalition is yet to be convinced that this will occur, and we will be watching the rollout of this program. There is also concern that the government may reduce or change eligibility at 30 June 2011. There is also some concern that the government has not done the best job in communicating this change to recipients of the scheme, notwithstanding the distribution of an information kit.

I make two quick points in relation to that. We are trying to claw back $10 million at a time when this government is wasting billions and billions of dollars on pink batts and, of course, the worst offending scheme—the $16.2 billion waste of funds for the Julia Gillard memorial halls. Here we are taking money away from this scheme for people with continence problems, affecting our most aged and frail and people with disabilities. How typical that we will now be looking to save this sort of money when we have wasted so much money on all sorts of reckless spending. I place those comments on the record. The coalition will not be opposing the bill.