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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6176

Mrs MARKUS (4:00 PM) —Last week I was delighted to host a visit to my electorate of Greenway by the Hon. Margaret May MP, the shadow minister for ageing. A community forum, a roundtable meeting with members of the Association of Independent Retirees and visits to local aged care facilities were opportunities to engage the local community and to see firsthand the great work being done in Greenway for our senior Australians.

Key issues of concern included the impact of the Rudd Labor government’s debt and deficit on services, particularly in aged care, health and community services, and the threat of changes to the Commonwealth seniors health card. The question was asked: when the government needs to find more savings next year, what will be next? Another issue was the diminishing ability of seniors to manage their own futures because of the Rudd Labor government’s regressive policies on private health insurance and superannuation—two issues that were particularly important and were raised by the independent retirees association.

When the coalition were in government, we understood the desire of senior Australians to remain independent and to manage their own futures. We introduced incentives to encourage superannuation and to have private health insurance, but that has gone under Labor. Other issues raised include the cuts to Medicare rebates, particularly for cataract operations, and increasing social isolation as volunteer numbers drop and families move away to locations where work is available. Our senior Australians are under siege by the reckless spending and poor economic management of the Rudd Labor government. Take the recent policy decision to cut the Medicare rebate for cataract operations. That decision alone will now cost senior Australians hundreds of dollars as they attempt to cover the cost of the gap. Many senior Australians simply cannot afford this and will forego surgery, increasing blindness and vision impairment, which will in turn increase their chances of falling and, again, increase additional health costs. What is their alternative?

I would like to thank the Richmond Club, Hawkesbury Living aged care and Holy Family Polish Aged Care Services at Marayong for their time and for the excellent services they provide to senior Australians living in Greenway. The ageing of our population is the biggest social issue that Australia faces. With people living longer, the pace of ageing will quicken after 2010 as the baby boomer generation starts to reach the age of 65. We need to ensure that we have an appropriate level of service that contributes to wellbeing, independence and social interaction so that senior Australians can continue to be active contributors to family and community life.