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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories - 24/10/2012 - Department of Regional Development, Regional Australia and Local Government annual report 2010-11

JAROSZ, Ms Diane Rae Jarosz, Secretary, Christmas Island Women’s Association

[11:33]

CHAIR: Welcome. The committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, so I advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses.

The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I invite you to make a statement to the committee.

Ms Jarosz : I only have a few points. One of the main things is the cost of living, especially for the seniors up here. This week, I went to buy a lettuce and it was $20. That is a lot of money for seniors to spend to get the nutrition that they need.

CHAIR: I have paid up to $5 before.

Ms Jarosz : That was one of the issues we were looking at: is there some way that the cost of fresh fruit and vegies can somehow be subsidised to help the seniors? The other thing we think is needed is some aged care facilities on the island—for instance, residential care, a nursing home and special care workers—and home care visits to be arranged for seniors. Once a month the Christmas Island Women's Association supplies fruit and vegetables to the seniors, and that is donated by Serco.

The other thing is school holiday programs and after-school programs for teenagers. The younger children have programs running at the rec centre, but some of the older children are missing out. Someone was running a go-kart track here previously, and we thought, if that could be linked with someone teaching mechanical skills—and maybe a motorcycle track, because there are lots of young boys now with motorcycles on the island, and maybe they need some safety.

The second last one was dental care for pensioners. Maybe if they could somehow get their dental care, their check-ups at a reduced rate, because dental care is very expensive. I know that in 2014 dental care is coming in but at the moment there is nothing available for seniors up here.

The last one I had was the airfare concession for seniors heading either north or south, because the cost of the airfares are so high. If you are on a pension, it is virtually impossible. That is all I have, sorry.

CHAIR: That is terrific. We appreciate short and to the point. Thank you. Ms Brodtmann.

Ms BRODTMANN: On the dental care for pensioners, my mum is on the pension and she gets some sort of discount when she goes to the dentist. It is under a federal government scheme, from what I can gather. Does that not apply here?

Ms Jarosz : I do not think so.

Senator CROSSIN: Dental care for pensioners is not an issue that has been raised with me before. The airfares going north instead of south has been raised.

I am testing my memory here—I think I have written numerous times about it—there is an answer as to why it cannot happen but I do not remember that at this point in time. I have a feeling it has something to do with the delivery agreement with the WA government, but I would have to go back and look at my records. It sounds easy to fix but I think it has something to do with WA regulations that we would need to change. I will do my research and report back to the committee next time we meet.

Ms BRODTMANN: Is there a government health service that is offered here or dental service through that?

Ms Jarosz : There is a dentist here that provides dental care.

Ms BRODTMANN: But is that private?

Ms Jarosz : It is run through the health services.

Ms BRODTMANN: But it is a private outfit.

Ms Jarosz : I think so, yes.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Dental care—has that always been the case with the issue of the cost of dental care? Because there has been a chronic disease dental scheme in place that has been Medicare funded—or has this come onto the horizon?

Ms Jarosz : Yes. Apparently, one of the nurses from the hospital has been looking into people over a certain age and one of the issues that came up was dental care.

Senator CROSSIN: They might not necessarily have a chronic disease.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: If it is detrimental to their health and they have got dental issues and they cannot chew properly whatever, what was in place would prescribe up to $4,000 a year on dental care, which is a scheme that is ending. I am just wondering if this has just hit the horizon because of the changes or whether it is—

Ms Jarosz : I think it is just the cost of living for seniors.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Possibly.

CHAIR: Before we close our proceedings, has any work been done that you are aware of that looks at the most effective way of lowering the cost of fresh produce other than a direct government subsidy, which may not be the most efficient way of doing it?

Ms Jarosz : I think there have been lots of people come in the last few years doing feasibility studies but, because these are local shops that charge, I do not think there is much they can do about the pricing. I know it has been looked into quite a few times.

CHAIR: So, essentially, it would have to be a local supply of fruit and vegetables at a lower price where the costs of production are properly looked at.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Are there any locally grown vegetables here?

Ms Jarosz : Not really, no.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: There are nods at the back.

Ms Jarosz : You can buy local bananas and things, and Dennis Jones grows tomatoes and cucumbers but there isn't a market garden or anything. There is a study into someone doing that, yes, but that has not started as yet.

CHAIR: Thank you for coming to put that on the record—it was very worth while.