Recognising the importance of older Australians

Warrigal_Care_15April13_025.jpgTonight I want to speak about the importance of seniors, their contribution to our community and the need for policies which meet the needs of the seniors' community. I believe the House should acknowledge that the government has a positive reform agenda for older Australians and is delivering enormous commitments and investments in aged care and promoting positive aged-care issues. For example, the increase in the age pension, which I will talk about; reforming the aged-care system; and helping older Australians stay at work longer.

Australia has one of the longest life expectancies in the world—something that we should be celebrating as a nation. With a growing population, over-65-year-olds will represent one in four Australians by 2047. There are great opportunities for our community and for our economy if we encourage healthy ageing, the lifelong development of skills and capitalise on the extensive experience of older Australians.

Labor has a strong record of delivering for older Australians. For example, we have delivered the biggest ever increase to the pension and reformed the indexation system so that the pension better keeps pace with the cost of living. This was a claim that was tested recently by PolitiFact Australia. They consulted with Prof. Peter Whiteford at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University and he had this to say:

There is no doubt in my mind that the real value of the pension is much higher now than at any time previously.

PolitiFact Australia went on to say that after calculating the real value of the aged pension over the years, the 2009 pension increase was the biggest rise in real terms after adjusting for inflation. Prof. Whiteford's calculation showed that, adjusting to 2012 dollar values, the rise in 2009 was to $18,522 from $16,010.41 or nearly $2,500 per year. This is an historic reform delivered by this Labor government.

We have also introduced a new seniors work bonus to make sure pensioners can keep more of the pension while remaining in the workforce. We delivered another pension increase as part of the Household Assistance Package to ensure that pensioners' budgets can keep pace with increasing utility costs.

Since 2009 the maximum rate of the pension has gone up by $2007 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. The government is also continuing the full implementation of the Living Longer Living Better aged-care reforms. Under the reforms, older Australians, their families and carers will get the right care and support either in their own home or in an aged-care facility. The aged-care system under Labor will be better, fairer and provide greater choice and greater control for older Australians. The 2013-14 budget builds on the government's work to support Australians in retirement. Amendments to the Aged Care Act 1997 are a part of a 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. The government's aged-care reform plan will deliver more choice, easier access and better care for older Australians, their families and carers. We are replacing an aged-care system designed a quarter of a century ago and which is now ill-equipped to the needs of retiring baby boomers and their parents, who are living longer and healthier lives. The government is supporting senior Australians with a number of initiatives in the 2013-14 budget, including a $112.4 million pilot for a program to support age pensioners and other pensioners of age pension who want to downsize their home without immediately affecting their pension.

I think there are great opportunities for my electorate with what I would like to describe as the seniors economy. It is much more than aged-care facilities, it is about ensuring that we have the sorts of services for people who like to move to a region like the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands for their retirement to live and enjoy. Services such as leisure, sport, culture, accommodation, care and health services provide a booming service and a booming opportunity for regions like mine. The Illawarra is an attractive and affordable destination for retirees and our potential is poised to develop a vibrant seniors economy well into the future. I commend the motion to the House.