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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4954

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (19:35): I find myself in furious agreement with the member for Shortland when she says that older Australians need help to be able to stay at home and that the ability of senior Australians to have home care and to be treated with dignity is very important. It is, and I agree with you wholeheartedly on that, Member for Shortland. This government, however, continues to make it tougher for older Australians to make ends meet. The recent budget offered little respite, and the Living Longer, Living Better aged-care reform package does not hide the fact that senior Australians are, with the rest of the nation, about to be lumbered with the world's biggest carbon tax. The Acting Prime Minister today refused to call it what it is—

Ms Hall: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The motion before the House has absolutely no reference whatsoever to a carbon tax. I ask that the member be brought to the point.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Grierson ): Thank you, Member for Shortland. I remind the member to confine his comments to the motion before the chamber.

Mr McCORMACK: I will, but it strikes to the very core of the fact that senior Australians are facing rising costs in all sorts of ways. They are facing rising costs with electricity and to be able to actually stay in their own homes.

Ms Hall: Madam Deputy Speaker—

Mr McCORMACK: I didn't interrupt you!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Please resume your seat, Member for Riverina.

Ms HALL: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. All I ask is that he speaks to the motion. It is about aged care.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will listen. Thank you.

Mr McCORMACK: This government has ignored self-funded retirees, and self-funded retirees certainly come into the—

Mr Neumann: No way in the world!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have to say, Member for Riverina, that you are straying. Please confine yourself to the motion. There is plenty of scope for you to discuss the needs of people in the aged-care area, so please confine your comments.

Mr McCORMACK: On 10 April this year, I was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association in Griffith, the capital of the western Riverina. All attendees shared similar concerns: how will they financially survive when everything increases but pensions stay the same? They are worried about being able to live in their own homes. They are worried about the cost of nursing homes. They are also worried about how they are going to meet rising costs. I have had many calls to my electorate office from older Australians stating that they are ashamed of what Australia has become and wish they could move overseas to retire, because here in Australia they feel like second-class citizens. When my electorate officer told me that, I quizzed her. I said, 'Are you sure that people are ringing in and saying this?' She said, 'They most certainly are.'

Only last week an elderly woman from Narrandera rang my Wagga Wagga electorate office in tears because she felt she had been so let down by a system which she said was failing the aged. She had scrimped and saved all her life to pay for things and to pay for, hopefully, a very good retirement, but it is just getting harder and harder, she said. This woman is in pain and needs dental work, but she is finding it more difficult to make ends meet. Her story is echoed right across the Riverina, right across regional New South Wales and indeed right across Australia.

The net spending over the forward estimates for older Australians is $284 million, and the net spend of the package in 2012-13 is $55.2 million, down to $26.9 million the following year. The budget refers to caps for means tested home care for part-rate pensioners at $5,000 a year and $10,000 for self-funded retirees and an annual cap of $25,000 for residential care. The government has not released any figures as to the number of older Australians affected by these measures. However, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that there were 3,103,529 persons aged 65 years and over at June 2011. And you can be sure that many of these people will feel the brunt. The budget has made clear that under this Labor government's aged-care package more means testing will mean more older Australians will have to pay extra for their aged-care needs. That is a fact.

This Labor government will also means test the cost of residential care. Residents will pay a basic fee of up to 85 per cent of the single basic pension, which is currently $15,364 per annum. Residents will also have to pay a means tested contribution to their accommodation and a means tested contribution to their care. An annual cap of $25,000 will apply to a resident's contribution to their care costs together with a lifetime cap of $60,000. Once again, while full-rate pensioners will be exempt, everyone else will have to start paying more for aged-care services. My time has run out but I wish that I could have spoken for longer. (Time expired)