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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 5001

Mr MITCHELL (McEwenGovernment Whip) (19:56): I rise to strongly support this motion. We on this side of the House have a proud record of achievement in supporting our seniors. Since being elected in 2007, the federal Labor government has added an extra 25,849 residential places, 13,052 community care or home care places, and 2,000 transition care places nationally. I have visited, right across my electorate of McEwen, many of the aged care homes to talk to the residents about our changes and, most importantly, to hear first-hand their thoughts.

The government have also provided more than $52.2 billion for aged care services, and we will provide nearly $13.6 billion for aged care in 2012-13, compared to the $7.8 billion of 2006-07. Over the next four years more than $59 billion will be invested in aged care services. Since 2007, the Labor government has increased its funding to the sector by over 60 per cent. Just last week, this House passed the Gillard government legislation for the $23.7 billion Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms. This will be of great benefit for the more than 19,000 seniors who I represent in the seat of McEwen.

Since Labor has delivered historic reforms to the aged care system and the pension, we have been investing in services and supporting older Australians to continue to work. We on this side of the House are giving seniors the choice, the support and the certainty that they deserve. Australians now live longer, have healthier lives and are more active in retirement. Changes to the Aged Care Act of 1997 were part of the 10-year plan to build a better, fairer, sustainable and nationally consistent aged care system to meet the challenges of the nation's ageing population. Our aged care reform plan will deliver more choice, easier access and better care for older Australians and their families and carers. As the member for Throsby pointed out, the current aged care system was designed a quarter of a century ago, and it is now ill-equipped to meet the needs of retiring baby boomers.

Key aspects of the reform include the consumer directed care packages rolled out nationwide, providing people with more control over the services they receive, and almost $1 billion in new funding for home care, which will see the number of home support packages almost double from 60,000 to 100,000. We also have the tailored care packages for people with dementia receiving home care; a new funding boost for dementia care; increased funding for residential aged care, with 30,000 new places over the next five years; and $480 million for aged care homes to significantly upgrade their facilities.

And, of course, there is the $1.2 billion to deliver higher wages, better conditions and more rewarding careers for the nation's 350,000 aged care workers. This has been something that has been a huge point at every aged-care facility that I have visited. Every one of the residents who are they all say just how great the staff are—just how dedicated and passionate they are to their industry and to their workplace. But one thing that has been holding aged-care workers that has been their wages and conditions. That is why it is important that we invest this money, to give higher wages and to make sure that people who want to be working in that industry are able to do so and to get a decent wage for the work that they do. In essence, we have created a single gateway to all aged care services, to make them easy to access and to navigate.

I would also like to note that the Gillard government has also delivered for pensioners, because we know that pensioners have limited room to move in their budgets. That is why we have delivered the single biggest boost to the pension in more than 100 years. That is why we changed the indexation system so that the pension goes up annually, to better reflect changes to pensioners' costs of living. Since our historic pension reforms in 2009, the maximum rate of the pension has increased by $207 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. Following the latest increases, total pension payments for people on the maximum rate, including the base rate pension supplement, are $808.40 a fortnight for singles and $1,218.80 for couples combined.

And the pension will keep going up under Labor. Both my parents are pensioners and they have told me, as have many pensioners across McEwen when I meet them, just how much these positive changes have meant to their lives. It is something very important to ensure that we continue to look after older Australians and make sure that we give them the opportunity to enjoy their retirement to their best advantage, and enjoy everything that we have to offer.