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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6201

Mrs ELLIOT (Minister for Ageing) (5:47 PM) —I thank the shadow minister for the array of questions that she asked, and I will certainly address each of those in detail. Let me start off by saying that the Rudd government is absolutely committed to providing aged and community care for our elderly Australians. Certainly we saw record funding when it comes to the sector in the budget—we are looking at $44 billion over the next four years, which is an increase of $2.5 billion over the four-year period.

In 2009-10, the government will provide a total of $9.9 billion to support the aged-care needs of our older Australians—9.9 per cent more than in 2008-09. That is, indeed, a huge increase. Also, the budget will deliver an additional $728 million over the next four years, which includes an additional $14.8 million to increase viability supplements that the government pays to eligible residential aged-care providers in regional, rural and remote areas. This is very important—it is part of our ongoing commitment to support our older Australians, especially through our record funding.

The shadow minister asked specifically in relation to the conditional adjustment payment. The Rudd government is committed to retaining the conditional adjustment payment at the current level of 8.75 per cent on top of the basic residential care subsidy. Additionally, over the next four years, aged-care providers will receive $2.3 billion through this payment. As I said, a total of $14.8 million is being allocated to increase viability supplements, particularly for those in rural and regional areas. This brings total government funding for the viability supplement to $72.3 million over the next four years. As a result of the pension increase, which we see in the budget, our aged-care homes will receive $713 million over the next four years.

I will now speak about the impact of the pension rise on aged care. Firstly, pensioners in aged care will benefit from the increased pension and will have more money for their incidental expenses—a total of $76.76 per week, which is an increase of almost 15 per cent on what they currently receive. As I said, our 2,830 nursing homes will receive an additional $713 million over the next four years to contribute to their running costs. This is extremely important when it comes to not only making sure that we are addressing the needs associated with the ongoing costs that are incurred by the aged-care providers but also ensuring that some of that pension increase flows on to those pensioners in our aged-care homes.

Aged-care residents who are in care on 19 September 2009 and who are self-funded retirees or part-pensioners who have not benefited significantly from the pension rise will have their existing fee rates grandfathered until they leave care. For those entering care after that date who do not get the benefit of the pension increase, arrangements are being put in place to give them time to adjust their financial affairs; however, it is fair that eventually everyone on the same income level will pay the same fees. Over four years their fees will gradually increase until they are paying 84 per cent of the pension.

To ensure that aged-care homes receive the same level of income for all new residents entering care from 20 September 2009, a new, compensating government-funded aged-care supplement will be introduced. So the new standard resident contribution and the government supplement will start from 20 September 2009 and, as I said, deliver $713 million over four years in additional payments to aged-care providers, including the supplement, at a total cost to the government of $25.3 million.

Mrs May —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister is not answering the questions I asked. I ask that she please address the questions I asked.

Mrs ELLIOT —The shadow minister asked a whole variety of questions. I am outlining the major amounts of record spending in this budget and I am more than happy to go into extensive detail. We have covered some of the areas: firstly, there are the conditional adjustment payments; and, secondly, when it comes to the pensions, I certainly want to be able to provide that detail.

The next point that the shadow minister raised was the stimulus package. Aged-care providers can access some measures in the package, in particular some of the climate change initiatives. May I remind the member that these were initiatives that the opposition voted against, so I find it quite remarkable that they have brought them up.

The shadow minister brought up the issue of various surveys within the industry. There are a variety of surveys out there and we could—

Mrs May interjecting

Mrs ELLIOT —I am more than happy to address each of those concerns. When we look at some surveys—(Time expired)