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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6419

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (11:23 AM) —I would like to thank the member for Kingston for her remarks. Having been down in her electorate with her, I know what a great advocate she is for both young and older people. She does have a very large number of pensioners in her electorate who will benefit as a result of these changes. Overall, it is 3.3 million people who will benefit from these changes.

I would like to take this opportunity to say—and to let the member for Kingston know—that today is an especially great day for carers. Today is the day that the new carer supplement starts to be paid. About half a million carers around the country will start receiving the $600 annual supplement into their bank accounts over the next 10 days, so let your constituents know. I know from speaking with people here in Canberra today how well received it is going to be. I have just been at a lovely forum with carers here in the ACT this morning and they have said to me how pleased they are to know that they have security—that security that the member for Kingston highlighted—for the future. They are not going to have to wait year on year as they did under the Howard government. They can now know that they are secure. Each year, at the beginning of July, this carers supplement of $600 will be paid to people who receive the carer payment and the carer allowance. The payment will also be paid to people who received related veterans payments. If you are on the carer allowance and looking after two people you will, of course, get $1,200.

We understand that for many people their caring responsibilities mean that they are unable to participate in the workforce. I met a couple today who have two children who are now grown up, but they have been looking after them all of their lives. It is impossible for them to work because of their huge caring load. This additional supplement will be very important to those carers. We also heard from carers that they wanted an increase in the carer payment, and that is being delivered in the same way that it is being delivered to single and couple pensioners. Those who are dependent on the carer payment and those who are receiving the carer allowance emphasised how important it was to have this lump sum once a year in order to be able to pay for those larger items that people need, especially when they are caring. So this is a very big day for carers.

While I am speaking of carers, I would also emphasise that from 1 July the new rules for carer payment (child) come into effect. That went through the Senate last night and it will mean that around 19,000 extra carers will become eligible for carer payment (child). This has also been a long time in the making. None of these changes happened under the previous government. Even though we had years and years of strong economic growth built on the back of the mining boom, none of these changes were made to benefit carers and pensioners. It has taken this government, in these very difficult economic times, to make these tough decisions and also to make the difficult savings decisions that go with them so that we can make sure that the pension changes and the changes for carers are sustainable in the long term. They are difficult decisions that we have made but we have made them because we know that pensioners have been struggling, especially single pensioners—as the member for Kingston so rightly highlighted—and particularly those pensioners who are living alone. We are very pleased that from 20 September those increases in pensions will be made.