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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9424


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (16:29): This is yet another supposedly 'critical matter of public importance' by those opposite, complaining of some hypothetical 'hurt' to Australians. I remember speaking on a debate just last week with very similar wording. It is great to see that those opposite have so little to complain about, they cannot even change their MPI statements.

Those opposite must be total hypochondriacs; they complain of hurt here, and hurt there. They talk about hurt to education, when funding to education has gone up under the coalition. They talk about hurt to seniors, when the pension continues to go up under the coalition. They talk about hurt to health, when the funding for health continues to increase under the coalition. They talk about hurt for senior Australians, when the coalition has already moved to reduce the cost of living for older Australians, and to provide incentives to business to employ them. The intestinal fortitude of those opposite to come into this place and make out that the coalition has somehow done wrong by aged pensioners and senior Australians is unfathomable.

Since those opposite obviously have minds with as many holes in them as their economic policy, I will take this opportunity to remind the opposition of their own record when it comes to older Australians. They were the party that introduced the carbon tax, which raised the cost of living despite promises to the contrary. They were the ones who attacked private health insurance, hurting older Australians and self-funded retirees who were already doing the right thing and contributing where they could to the cost of their retirement and health. And they were the ones who increased the pension age to 67.

I believe that Australians are getting sick and tired of Labor tooting their truth-tilting trumpets, and it is time to set the record straight on the coalition's aged-care changes. We are all aware that one of the biggest problems that Australia faces into the future is our ageing population. And the coalition is taking action. The coalition is addressing the limitations of our current system to ensure that we get the best outcomes possible for older Australians, now and into the future.

The coalition is ensuring that the sustainability of aged care is not put at risk, ensuring that we will be able to provide quality care for older Australians now and into the future. The changes are designed to make the aged-care system: more sustainable, more efficient, more flexible and easier to access and navigate. Contrary to the malicious trumpeting of those opposite, there will always be a safety net. We are asking people who can afford to contribute to the cost of their aged care to do so.

I would like to make it clear that these changes were already taking effect, and the coalition inherited them from the previous Labor government. But our incoming government did not start with a clean slate. If it had been a coalition government at the helm at the time, these changes may have been slightly different. These aged-care changes have their origin in a Productivity Commission report from 2011.

It is a great shame that we cannot afford a luxurious suite of aged-care policies. Our aged-care generation deserves them. But, with Labor having plunged Australia into the fastest deterioration of debt in our modern history, if no action was taken on Labor's reckless spending commitments, within a decade our interest repayments would have been $3 billion a month. That is three thousand million dollars every month wasted. With this money we could afford to give every aged pensioner their own 24/7 personal nurse. This is money we could put to dementia research, free pharmaceuticals, free treatment for arthritis, cancer research—you name it—this money could made a real difference.

But we do not have the money for these initiatives; we do not have the money, as a result of poor and reckless financial management by those opposite. Instead all of us are forced to tighten our belts and to rein in spending, to pay off their irresponsible fiscal incompetence. It is shameful.

It is laughable that those opposite are claiming that the coalition is hurting Australians. It was Labor who tried to stand in the way of the government honouring its election commitment to self-funded retirees, to index the income threshold for the Commonwealth seniors health card to inflation from 20 September this year. Labor voted against legislation to provide wider access to this card that provides essential and affordable medical services to nearly 300,000 senior Australians.

Those opposite remain in their fictitious fairyland filled with foolish fantasies. They have no clue when it comes to doing the right thing by older Australians.