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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 81

Mr BROADBENT (1:54 PM) —I am disappointed that the memory of the shadow minister—who was not here at the time—does not go back to the shambles left in aged care by the previous Labor government, as seen by me on one of my visits to this House between 1990 and 1993. If you want to talk about the blame game, Carolyn Hogg was in Victoria—this is from my Victorian experience—and Peter Staples was up here as Minister for Housing and Aged Care and they could not agree on anything. All over the place they had nursing homes without funded beds. It was a complete shambles. Who had to come in and fix it? The Howard government came in and said, ‘We will deal with aged care.’ At that time, about $2 billion was being spent by the previous Labor government; now we are up to about $6½ billion being spent by the Howard government. However, what this legislation is about is this.

Opposition member interjecting—

Mr BROADBENT —It was a shambles; it is no longer a shambles. Actually, this government should be congratulated for the things it has done. The new Minister for Ageing will be a great advocate for those in the aged-care sector, whether they be the instruments of delivery of services or those who work within the industry itself.

This legislation is quite dear to me. As a local member, the first thing that is said to me when I go into a nursing home or a hostel is, ‘Russel, we want to take you aside for a minute. We cannot stand the red tape that we have to fill in on behalf of our residents all the time.’ I guarantee that not one member in this place has not had that complaint from people who have to deliver these services. I remember visiting Fairview homes with Vicky May and former Minister Bishop. The priority of the day for those committed people in that hostel was to let the minister and me know that they wanted changes to the forms they had to fill in for new patients or those changing their residence. I boldly said, ‘I believe that we can address this matter,’ and I took it to the minister at the time. What are backbenchers, if anything, but a bridge from the backbench to the executive? In that minister, we had someone who listened and who was prepared to put together legislation like this, which makes a huge difference to those who work in the aged care sector.

It is impressive that the Howard government has been so forthright in bringing in this new minister. I note that the Minister for Ageing stated in the Adelaide Sunday Mail:

It has been a whirlwind week for me as the new Minister for Ageing. The size and depth of the portfolio is challenging but exhilarating.

He goes on to cite some very interesting figures. He says:

By 2051 Australia’s population is expected to reach 28 million—an increase of 37 per cent from today.

Over the same time the number of people over 55 is expected to increase by 113 per cent—from five million to 10.7 million.

The change will be even more marked among people aged 85 or over. At present they represent about 1.4 per cent of the population, by 2051 they will likely account for between 6 per cent and 9 per cent.

In Australia our median age will rise from 35.4 years in 2000 to 46.7 years in 2050. That means there will be as many people over 46 or 47 as there are under that age.

Six years ago the Government announced a whole-of-government approach to the ageing of Australia’s population, and it has been pursuing it ever since.

I will continue my remarks on those figures later. But, to continue reading from the article, the new minister said:

Under Labor there were fewer than 5000 community aged care packages available across Australia ...

This is what I am talking about: when the Howard government came into office, aged care was in a shambles and they were not given the opportunity, like these people, to stay in their home. The Howard government took those 5,000 community aged care places and added to them and, by 2010, there will be 50,000 community aged care places—that is, 50,000 people who will be able to stay longer in their home. In my seat of McMillan we have more than the average number of older people than there are across rural Victoria, so I know the importance of being able to give older people the opportunity to remain in their home for as long as possible. This is what they choose to do. I would recommend to the House that they find this article in the Sunday Mail and read it very carefully—

Government member—It is a very fine piece.

Mr BROADBENT —It is a very fine piece.

The SPEAKER —It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.