Written on the 3 September 2014
Ms MIKAKOS (Northern Metropolitan) -- I move:That this house condemns the Napthine government for --
(1) cutting $75 million of funding from public sector residential aged care, with $25 million cut this financial year and $50 million to be cut in 2015-16;(2) moving to privatise 1000 metropolitan public sector residential aged-care beds;
(3) closing public aged-care facilities in Ballarat, Castlemaine, Flemington, Koroit, Kyneton, Melbourne, Melton South and Williamstown, as well as the privatisation of Rosebud Residential Aged Care Services, despite an ageing population;(4) closing 410 public sector aged-care beds since coming to office;
(5) limiting aged-care choices for Victorian families;(6) failing to address the increasing cost-of-living pressures by slugging Victorian pensioners more for car registration, public transport, the new fire services property levy and public housing rents;
(7) neglecting the provision of essential services that Victorian seniors rely on, such as our health system, by ripping $826 million from Victorian hospitals;(8) failing to stand up to the Abbott government's attacks on seniors including the $7 GP tax, changes to pension indexation and retirement age; and
(9) failing to stand up to the Abbott government's decision to cease providing the dementia and severe behaviours supplement and aged-care payroll tax supplement;and calls on the Napthine government to stop the attacks on Victoria's seniors and, in particular, to stop its privatisation of public aged care.
When it comes to this government's record on aged care, what is very clear is that this government does not value senior Victorians. We just need to look at its record over the last four years. Since coming to government in 2010 the coalition has closed -- --Hon. W. A. Lovell -- Spare us the crap.
Ms MIKAKOS -- 'Spare us the crap', the minister says. I beg the minister's pardon. If Ms Lovell wants to participate in the debate, I look forward to her getting up and participating.Since coming to government in 2010 the coalition has closed 410 public sector residential aged-care beds. Of these, 240 beds have been lost in metropolitan Melbourne and 170 have been lost in rural and regional areas.
Beds have been lost in Sebastopol, Boort, Echuca, Trentham, Kilmore, Sea Lake, Rochester, Yarram, Castlemaine, Colac, North Geelong and Cheltenham. Under this government eight public aged-care facilities have closed today, including 42 beds lost with the closure of Jessie Gillett Court Hostel in Sebastopol, which is part of Ballarat Health Services, 30 beds lost with the closure of the nursing home in Koroit which is part of Koroit health services, 19 beds lost through the closure of Castlemaine Health's Renshaw House in Castlemaine, 30 beds lost through the closure of the Thomas Hogan Centre aged-care nursing home in Kyneton, which is part of Kyneton District Health Services, 40 beds lost through the closure of Western Health's Hazeldean Nursing Home in Williamstown, 30 beds lost with the closure of Western Health's Reg Geary House in Melton South, 50 beds lost through the closure of Melbourne Health's Parkville Hostel in Parkville and 30 beds lost through Melbourne Health's recent closure of Weighbridge residential nursing home in Flemington, the first aged-persons mental health facility to be closed by this government.The minister still says he supports aged care in country towns, yet four of the eight facilities that have closed under his watch have been in regional Victoria. You have to ask what members of The Nationals are doing whilst this is happening. They are sitting silently, and they are complicit. This government has overseen the privatisation of Peninsula Health's Rosebud Residential Aged Care Services, which consisted of 50 beds at two facilities, the Jean Turner Nursing Home and Lotus Lodge Hostel.
This decision has left the Mornington Peninsula with no public sector residential aged-care facility and has severely limited aged-care choices for those local families.What lies at the heart of this motion is that we are seeing a government that is pursuing its ideological agenda of cost cutting and privatisation above the interests of Victorian families. We are seeing the limiting of aged-care choices for Victorian seniors. As Victoria continues to experience an ageing population, this motion provides a clear view of what the Napthine government stands for -- cuts, contracting out and neglecting seniors.
To understand why Labor has always been suspicious of the government's agenda in respect of aged care, we need look no further than what happened when the coalition was previously in government.The Kennett government privatised aged-care services in Bairnsdale, Paynesville, Warrnambool and Mildura, with many other areas sitting on its hit list. Its 1999 election policy document even lists the transfer of 2300 nursing home beds to the private sector as an achievement; coalition members were proud of their privatisation agenda. The Minister for Ageing, Mr Davis, must be very proud of his record today -- 410 beds have been lost, eight facilities have closed and there are countless other bed vacancies across the state at the moment. One facility has been privatised, and other sell-offs are on the cards as we speak. It is clear that the Premier, a former Kennett minister, is determined to continue Jeff Kennett's legacy of privatisation and outsourcing. There is no need for Jeff to make a comeback in the lower house seat of Hawthorn; his proteges are continuing the slash-and-burn policies Jeff Kennett was famous for.
In the case of Minister Davis, he is very fond of stretching the truth. Actions really do speak louder than his words.The government's aged-care privatisation is happening despite the minister's earlier vehement denials that this was even on the cards. At the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) budget estimates hearing in 2011, Labor members asked the minister to rule out the sale, outsourcing or privatisation of Victoria's public sector residential aged-care beds. His response at that time was, 'We have absolutely no proposal or focus on doing that'. That is what he said on 11 May 2011 to PAEC.
In a question time debate in August 2012 I asked the minister whether he would rule out the sale, outsourcing or privatisation of an existing publicly owned residential aged-care facility and he replied:The government is committed to supporting aged-care services ...
He refused to reiterate his previous categorical denial that it was even on the cards.At that time there were media reports that the government had commissioned a secret Vertigan report that had spelt out the government's agenda to privatise and outsource a wide range of government services, including public aged care. We are yet to see that Vertigan report. It has been put in the bottom drawer of a locked safe somewhere -- --
An honourable member interjected.Ms MIKAKOS -- It's in Mr Davis's man safe. We are yet to see the details of that report.
Less than four months later, in December 2012, the government released its 2012-13 budget update, which foreshadowed cuts of $75 million to Victoria's public aged-care sector -- $25 million in cuts in that financial year and $50 million in cuts in the next financial year. Victorians need to understand, in case the Premier and the coalition are re-elected, that the Minister for Ageing is planning on making these further cuts to public aged care as well as planning to continue to close and sell public aged-care facilities.The 2012-13 budget update described these cuts as:
a measured reallocation of government-managed aged-care places to non-government providers in the metropolitan area, to provide responsive and innovative delivery of aged care.I have heard a lot of Orwellian speak from members of this government, but this takes the cake. The government is very fond of springing announcements such as this one on us just before Christmas when its members think no-one is watching. We had that particular privatisation announcement just before Christmas in 2012, and in 2013, again just before Christmas, the minister cynically put out to tender 1000 of metropolitan Melbourne's public aged-care beds. The government invited non-government aged-care providers to register their interest to be part of a provider panel. Page 4 of the document the Department of Health put out states that: The department intends to select a prequalified panel of service providers that will have the opportunity to:
work in partnership with the department to develop options for reallocation of places and investment in capital developments or redevelopments ...Page 2 of that document sets out a number of dot points relating to the reallocation of public aged-care places, including dot points saying that the reallocation of these aged-care places:
and that it --
It is very clear from this document that the government has put everything up for sale.It has put bed places up for sale, it has put land up for sale, it has put buildings up for sale and it is talking about transferring accommodation bonds.
This document also makes it clear that all the public aged-care facilities managed and operated through each of Melbourne's nine health services are up for grabs. To see this, members need just to look at page 5 of the document, which lists the number of places currently run by Eastern Health, St Vincent's Health Australia, Alfred Health, Peninsula Health, Monash Health, Austin Health, Melbourne Health, Northern Health and Western Health -- a total of 1030 places, as I said, set out on page 5. The government put this document out just before Christmas last year without drawing any public attention to it but it indicates that these 1030 beds are up for sale. They include 500 specialised beds, including aged persons mental health beds and specialist beds for young people suffering from acquired brain injuries or strokes or multiple sclerosis.Together with other Labor members, I have visited a considerable number of these facilities across our state, including a number of these specialist facilities, and I take this opportunity to thank the dedicated staff who work in them, who provide a very high standard of care to residents. I have spoken to a number of residents at these facilities and their families, and many have expressed concerns about the government's plans.
The government's plans make it clear that the 500-odd specialist places that exist in our specialist public aged-care system are not going to be excluded from this process. In June this year the first aged persons mental health facility -- the Weighbridge residential nursing home in Flemington -- closed down. Incredibly, attempts were made to move residents out of that home in the same week they were informed the home was closing. This was a particularly distressing situation, and many residents refused to be moved so suddenly.It was an absolute disgrace and absolutely disrespectful of these very vulnerable senior Victorians, some of whom had lived in this home for many years. This was their home, yet they were being moved in the dead of night with next to no notice. I am concerned that this process is going to be repeated in future closures. It is very clear from my discussions with community members that they value our public aged-care system.
Honourable members interjecting.Ms MIKAKOS -- If members of the government have a view, I look forward to them contributing to the debate, and I particularly look forward to them standing up for their local communities and defending their local public aged-care facilities remaining in the control and ownership of their local communities.
I point to the concerns that have been expressed to me.For example, Ms Denise Natoli has spoken to me. Her 83-year-old mother, Eileen, is a resident at Merv Irvine in Bundoora. She requires 24-hour care to manage her high-level dementia and behavioural problems. Ms Natoli explained to me that her mother came across to this facility from a private facility, and she is concerned about the changes to nurse-patient ratios once the system changes hands. As the minister is well aware, public residential aged-care facilities have mandated levels of nurse-patient ratios to ensure quality care, ratios which do not exist in the private sector.
Mr Phillip Wynn is another concerned family member. His wife is also a resident at Merv Irvine, and he has expressed concerns about a potential closure or sale. He was quoted in the Herald Sun of 19 January as saying:
These people in here have been thrown out of the normal nursing homes because they can't be managed ...
How would any of the politicians feel if it was their loved ones in this situation?
Government members need to understand the great distress that this issue is causing to members of the community, particularly families who have a loved one in one of these facilities.These specialist beds do not only cater for older residents with complex behavioural or mental health issues, such as high-level dementia. There are also young people in some of these facilities. Facilities such as Cyril Jewell House in Keilor East, Gardenview House in Parkville and Boyne Russell House in Brunswick cater for young people who suffer from acquired injury, stroke or multiple sclerosis. I have spoken to the national director of the Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance, Bronwyn Morkham, about this issue on many occasions. She was quoted in the Age of 3 February this year as saying:
On their own, standard nurse centres cannot provide for young people who have very complex health needs.The same article also reports the acting Victorian branch secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Paul Gilbert, as saying:
... evidence from recent Fair Work proceedings showed that hospitals refer special-needs patients to publicly run centres because of the better skill mix and staffing levels.Private nursing home staffing is made up predominantly of personal care workers who are not required to have any formal training.
He made these comments in a letter to the CEO of Melbourne Health on 19 August this year.While the government's tender process closed in February this year, it has remained silent on which facilities it intends to sell. Instead, beds are being closed by stealth. For example, the ANMF recently raised concerns about a number of bed closures at Melbourne Health facilities, which Melbourne Health staff are reporting have to do with funding issues. In today's Moonee Valley Weekly the ANMF has provided details of a number of bed vacancies across Melbourne Health facilities. I share the ANMF's concerns that public aged-care facilities are being closed by stealth.
We know for a fact that there are more closures and privatisations on the cards. In the past few months Alfred Health has stepped up its restructure proposal to contract out its three aged-care facilities in Caulfield -- Montgomery Nursing Home, Namarra Nursing Home and Caulfield Hospital Nursing Home -- a total of 150 beds.Lee Nahmias, whose 88-year-old father, Victor, is a resident at the Caulfield Hospital Nursing Home, called this a 'silent sell off' in the Caulfield Glen Eira Leader of 1 April is reported as saying:
All the government seems to want to do is divest itself of looking after Victorians.I have previously called on the minister to ensure that the local community that uses Alfred Health is consulted about these proposals -- for example, I have asked the minister to ensure that the local community is invited to public meetings. On 19 May I wrote to the minister about the ANMF, which represents the workforce at Alfred Health, being advised that it would be inappropriate for it to attend a forum on 22 May about this restructure proposal. The local community was also not informed about this forum, and it has not been invited to any subsequent forums.
Labor's candidate for the Legislative Assembly seat of Caulfield, Josh Burns, was also excluded from participating at this forum.On 10 December 2013 the minister was reported as saying in Parliament:
... if Alfred Health were to progress down this path, it would look closely at consulting with the community.However, despite this, I received a letter from Minister Davis, dated 14 August, in which the minister effectively washed his hands of this matter, saying that each health service will make its own decisions about communication with affected residents, families, staff and the broader community. Despite his previous commitment in December last year about ensuring consultation, he is now washing his hands and saying it has nothing to do with him.
There have also been moves by Peninsula Health to privatise its remaining two facilities: Carinya Nursing Home in Frankston and Michael Court Hostel in Seaford. Together with Lee Tarlamis, I joined a number of staff members, family members and supporters at a rally outside Carinya Nursing Home in June. All those present voiced their concerns about the plans to transfer operation of the facilities to private operators. Once these facilities are privatised, Peninsula Health will not run a single public aged-care facility.It is interesting to note that the documentation released by Peninsula Health identified the reasons this privatisation is occurring, stating:
... public health services are required to have higher staffing levels and skill mix than the not-for-profit and non-government sectors because of our public sector EBAs ...That is a telling admission. It is very clear that the reason the coalition is so determined to sell off public aged-care facilities is that it does not support nurse-patient ratios. There was a protracted campaign by the government and this minister in 2012 to remove nurse-patient ratios in hospitals. The ANMF stood its ground, and ultimately the government backed down on that issue. Now it is trying to achieve the same thing in aged care.The minister has sought to deflect responsibility for all these closures. He claims they were all decisions made by the relevant health boards. Labor has obtained a number of documents through the FOl process that are very telling in this regard. How does the minister explain the briefing notes he received as minister? For example, a briefing note from the health department to the minister regarding the closure of Jessie Gillett Court Hostel in 2011 even stated:
Current departmental practice is to seek ministerial approval of any proposed service closure ...Yet the minister indicated his approval of the closure of these facilities by circling the word 'approved' next to his signature. Can it be any more blatant than that? I query whether the policy has been changed so that the minister can try to deflect responsibility from those closures and sell-offs.
The minister is well aware that his funding cuts to aged care are what is driving the decisions by these health boards. His policy and his government's actions in starving health services of funds are directly responsible for what is happening under his watch. On a number of occasions the minister has sought to wash his hands of these decisions and feign ignorance. Apparently we are to believe that his role as a minister is to be but a rubber stamp for every decision by a health service.If a health service were to announce it was going to sell a public hospital tomorrow, would the minister express a view? Would he take any steps to stop it? Why are public aged-care facilities any different?
The minister likes to have a bob each way. He likes to say that Labor did certain things in government that he claims are Labor's responsibility, and yet when it comes to what is happening under his watch, it is never his responsibility. While it may be disappointing to see the government take this route, it is not surprising. As we know, the Liberals have form on this issue.As I said earlier, this is why Labor is suspicious of the government's agenda in aged care: it says one thing but it does another. It has started the privatisation process in relation to metropolitan aged-care beds. Why would Victorians living in regional Victoria believe their aged-care facilities will be treated any differently?
As I said earlier, we have already seen four regional aged-care facilities close. How can Victorians living in regional Victoria be confident that if the coalition is re-elected in November, their aged-care facilities will not be next on the chopping block?Labor understands how important it is to maintain high-quality residential aged-care facilities. In stark contrast to the Napthine government, in Labor's last term in office it invested $471 million upgrading 48 public aged-care facilities across the state. Of these 48 facilities, 45 are in rural and regional Victoria.
I was proud to visit with Luke Donnellan, the member for Narre Warren North in the Assembly, the 100-bed Chestnut Gardens aged-care home in Doveton. Following a $27.7 million major redevelopment under the Brumby government this facility became Australia's first teaching nursing home. Labor opened more than 432 beds.We are proud to say that during our time in government Victoria had the highest number of residential aged-care beds of any state or territory in Australia. By contrast the coalition prides itself on selling aged-care beds.
Labor recognises that those needing specialised care want to remain close to their local communities, with the best possible care available to them. We believe that families and seniors in our community should have a choice about the facilities in which they live. It is clear that these things do not matter to the coalition, which is all about removing choice. That is why Labor is very much opposed to the privatisation agenda on which the Napthine government has embarked. That is why this motion calls on the government to listen to the community's concerns and stop its privatisation of public aged care.This motion also deals with other issues in relation to seniors, which I will just touch upon very briefly, in particular the lack of advocacy to the federal government around the implications of the federal budget on the aged-care system and on senior Victorians. In another blow to the aged-care sector, the Abbott federal government has made a decision to cease the dementia and severe behaviour supplement payable to all aged-care providers who care for people assessed as having complex dementia needs. This will make it harder for aged-care providers to provide that high level of care for people with dementia at a time when the Napthine government is closing and selling aged persons mental health facilities. You have to really wonder where those people with complex behavioural needs and challenges are going to go if they cannot use the public system and if not-for-profit and private providers are less likely to take them as residents.
The Abbott government is also ceasing to provide the aged-care payroll tax supplement. All these things provide additional challenges to the aged-care system more broadly. We have an ageing population and need more aged-care beds, yet we have a shrinking of the public system.This year the Abbott government's budget declared war on seniors. It did this by increasing the retirement age to 70. It has reduced the way the pension will increase in the future through indexation so that its value will decrease over time. It has done a number of things that are intended to make pensioners' lives even more difficult. As it is we know that many pensioners are already struggling.
The federal government is also hitting patients, including seniors, with a new GP tax which has the sole purpose of stopping vulnerable Victorians going to the doctor. This tax represents Joe Hockey's hands in the pockets of every Victorian pensioner every time they visit the doctor or have a blood test or medical scan. We all know that GPs are at the front line of our healthcare system, and fewer visits being made to doctors will mean more serious illnesses and hospitalisations will occur in the long term.Changes to the cost of petrol will make it even harder for pensioners to afford to use their vehicles. It might be news to Joe Hockey, but poor people do drive cars.
The Abbott government is not only putting its hands into pensioners' pockets but it is attacking the essential services on which Victorian seniors rely. We have seen it slash $50 billion from the state's health systems.This comes on top of the Napthine government and the Minister for Health ripping $31 million from Victoria's health budget. We know that it is our seniors who most rely on what up to now has been a universal public health system that is absolutely worth fighting for. The current crisis in Victorian hospitals includes long waiting lists for elective surgery, long waiting periods in emergency departments and ambulance delays that are causing anxiety in the community and putting people's health at risk.
Prior to the 2010 election the coalition had a lot to say about cost-of-living issues and promised to fix the so-called problems. Over the past four years the Napthine government has failed to address the increasing cost-of-living pressures faced by Victorians, including our seniors. They have been slugged more for car registration, more to use public transport, more for public housing rents and more for the new fire services property levy.The Napthine government has scrapped the Home Wise program, which was an initiative established by the Labor government to support low-income seniors to replace broken appliances. It has scrapped the Victorian energy efficiency target, which had been shown to have a good take-up rate in low-income postcodes. Most importantly the concessions on which pensioners and low-income families in this state rely are now at risk. In this year's federal budget Tony Abbott cut $75 million in concession payments from Victoria's pensioners and seniors. The Premier has committed to only one year's funding for these payments, in order to take him just beyond the coming state election.
Minister Davis had a lot to say yesterday about the year-round energy concessions. He made a number of absurd claims, conveniently forgetting that Labor took a commitment to the 2010 election to introduce a new summer electricity concession, effectively providing a year-round concession.The minister also crowed about a new program for Seniors Card holders through AGL, a program that costs the government nothing to promote one particular energy provider. There is nothing to prevent other energy providers from offering similar discounts and deals, as they do at the moment, and I hope that Victorian consumers will continue to look for the best deal available to them.
This government is scaring those large low-income households which due to their size use more electricity and gas by imposing caps on their concessions. With gas prices going up significantly, it will not come as a surprise if some seniors hit the cap later this year after their winter bills come through. The Premier will cut your power but he will not cut your power bill. There are many challenges facing Victorian seniors. The Napthine government has only made things harder for them.
I say that the choice for Victorian seniors come November is pretty clear: the cuts and closures they have seen under the current government or greater choice and certainty under an Andrews Labor government. Labor has made its opposition to public aged-care privatisation very clear. We are very concerned about what the government is doing in relation to these closures and the sell-off agenda. We are concerned about the targeting of 1000 beds in metropolitan areas. As I said earlier, we are also concerned that public aged-care facilities in regional Victoria will be next. We have already seen regional aged-care facilities close under this government.
This motion calls on the government to listen to the community's concerns and to stop the attacks on Victorian seniors and its privatisation of public aged care. I look forward to government members getting up and defending their local public aged-care facilities and the interests of the seniors in their electorates by supporting Labor's motion to stop the privatisation of the public aged-care system by the Napthine government.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I will be very brief because I believe Ms Mikakos has prosecuted this motion very well. I have very similar concerns to the ones she raised. Having previously worked in an office of housing high-rise building which housed 90 older people, I know the dilemmas they face.I am particularly concerned about the privatisation of aged care because we all know that standards in public aged care are always higher than they are in private aged care.
We must consider that many low-income people cannot afford the kind of money needed to reside in a private facility.
We have to make sure we protect older people in their declining years so they have adequate accommodation, medical care and food. All of these things are what a caring society is about. Privatising aged care is not what a caring society does.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- Ms Hartland did say she was going to be brief, but I see she caught you by surprise too, Acting President.I am pleased to rise to speak this afternoon on Ms Mikakos's motion -- --
Mr Lenders -- I don't think you're really pleased.Ms CROZIER -- I am really pleased, Mr Lenders, because there are some points that I would like to make in relation to this important -- --
Ms Mikakos -- The minister should come in and respond.Ms CROZIER -- Ms Mikakos might doubt my capabilities, but I will have something to say about -- --
Ms Mikakos interjected.The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) -- Order! Ms Mikakos is not in her place. Members should speak through the Chair. Ms Crozier, to continue without assistance from anyone.
Ms CROZIER -- As I was saying, I am pleased to rise to speak on this motion on behalf of the government. I have listened to the highly emotive language Ms Mikakos used throughout her contribution, and I have to say it was complete scaremongering. The Minister for Health is now in the chamber. The government takes very seriously indeed the needs of Victorian seniors. They are among the most vulnerable members of our community, and they need assistance in many situations. There is no doubt that we want to provide high-quality residential care right across the state for Victorian seniors. That is something this government is very focused on. As Ms Mikakos very well knows, under the federal Aged Care Act 1997 it is the responsibility of the commonwealth government to regulate all residential aged-care services across Australia. That means that no matter how a residential aged-care facility is run, all aged-care services must comply with the same national standards of quality care -- --Ms Mikakos interjected.
Ms CROZIER -- I will get to your record in government, which was only three and a half years ago -- let us not forget that. Before we came to government in 2010 we said we would fix the problems, and one of the problems was the healthcare system. We are doing that.Ms Mikakos -- How is that going?
Ms CROZIER -- Exceptionally well, actually; it is far better than when you left it. We are fixing the problems and getting on with it.In many instances aged-care facilities in rural and regional Victoria are quite isolated, and they play a unique role in terms of what they do in local communities. The government is looking at supporting the various facilities in those areas. In her contribution Ms Mikakos talked a lot about choice.
There is no doubt that we want to give people as much choice as possible in relation to a whole lot of services that we provide. In the last budget the government committed $14 million to a hospital for Boort, including an aged-care facility -- --Ms Mikakos -- Yes, one -- one facility.
Ms CROZIER -- I am just using that as an example. In the overall budget we gave a record amount of funding to health services. That is just one aged-care facility in a regional area that I wanted to highlight. I will not go through them all, but regional facilities right across the state -- in Heathcote, Creswick, Wangaratta, Omeo, Inglewood, Red Cliffs, Ballarat, Tallangatta, Maldon and Warragul -- are sharing in targeted aged-care funding.Since coming to government we have committed more than $90 million to support country residential aged-care services, and we have delivered on that. I want to highlight some of our other investments in country aged-care facilities, because they are often overlooked -- and they were certainly overlooked under the previous regime. They include: $4 million in capital support under the government's Rural Capital Support Fund, more than $12 million in minor capital and equipment grants, $18 million for the Swan Hill District Health aged-care redevelopment and more than $40 million for redeveloping health services with aged-care facilities at Kerang and Charlton.
Ms Mikakos espoused that she wanted to give people more choice.The government wants non-government service providers, including not-for-profit organisations, to have the opportunity to play a vital role in providing services in this important area. It is completely false to say the state government has been limiting aged-care choices for Victorians, including those who have been involved in making those choices on behalf of their elderly parents. In fact it is quite the opposite: we want to have those facilities expanded and revitalised, and we have been undertaking that process. Indeed in the case of a number of government-run places, particularly on the Mornington Peninsula -- and Ms Mikakos mentioned Peninsula Health in her contribution -- the transfer of government-run places was successfully undertaken. The transfer of places at the Rosebud residential aged-care facility between Peninsula Health and Southern Cross Care was negotiated, and as a result the number of beds was increased from 50 to 120.
I point out to members just what Ms Mikakos's government did.Labor has a track record of closing aged-care beds, and I will highlight some examples. I just mentioned Peninsula Health. In 2009 Peninsula Health's Lotus Lodge was reduced from 80 to 60 beds. A Ballarat Health Services facility was closed in 2007. In October 2006 there was a reconfiguration of an Alfred Health aged-care facility, resulting in reduced beds. There was another closure of a Ballarat Health Services facility in September 2003 -- --
Ms Mikakos interjected.Ms CROZIER -- I am going through the closures of beds, so to say that your government did not do any of this is ridiculous. I am pointing out your hypocrisy in the contribution you just made.
The list continues: Ballarat Health Services -- again -- June 2002; Peninsula Health, April 2002.There is a track record of Ms Mikakos's government -- the 11 years of Labor -- closing beds.
Ms Mikakos interjected.Ms CROZIER -- Labor closed beds. To say that it did not is complete and utter hypocrisy.
Hon. D. M. Davis interjected.Ms CROZIER -- I will take up Mr Davis's interjection as he is correcting the record.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) -- Order! If Mr Davis wants to make a contribution, I can put him on the speakers list.Ms CROZIER -- Thank you, Acting President. I reiterate that Mr Davis is correcting the record for Ms Mikakos. Nevertheless -- --
Hon. D. M. Davis interjected.The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) -- Order! Mr Davis has been warned. If he wants to make a contribution, he can put his name on the list.
Ms CROZIER -- I will continue because I want to take up the point of Ms Mikakos moving a ridiculous motion that says the government does not value Victorian seniors. That is so far from the truth; we only need to look at what this government has done to support Victorian seniors.I note that Mrs Coote is in the chamber.
In this government's first year in office the Family and Community Development Committee (FCDC) undertook an inquiry into opportunities for participation of Victorian seniors. A recommendation of the FCDC's report was that a seniors commissioner be appointed, and Gerard Mansour was appointed to that role, the first of its kind in Australia. The seniors commissioner is doing a tremendous job. He is providing wonderful support to seniors right across the state and is showing great leadership in this very important area. That is just one area.As I speak I am opening a copy of an article I have been reading that Mr Mansour contributed to Seniors Card Magazine 2014. This magazine highlights many good things that are happening to support seniors right across Victoria, including some of the concessions that have been applied and supported by this government. I will run through some of those initiatives the government has undertaken to support Victorian seniors.
We have heard a lot about energy costs and cost-of-living pressures -- all of those elements. There is no doubt that those who are on our side of politics want to reduce the cost of living in whatever way we can. Many vulnerable Victorians, including many senior Victorians, are coming under pressure in terms of utility costs in particular. Utility costs have increased over a number of years, and no-one can forget the desalination plant that was commissioned by Ms Mikakos's government and which will cost Victorians $1.8 million each day for the next few decades. That is a direct cost-of-living pressure, and Minister Walsh should be congratulated for the work he has undertaken to reduce water costs for Victorians right across the board. This government has undertaken many initiatives to support Victorian seniors, including the introduction of year-round reductions in electricity bills for concession card holders. Some 800 000 households will benefit from lower electricity bills all year round.This government has also halved the cost of ambulance membership for Victorian families, including Victorian seniors -- a subject we debated earlier today.
Ms Mikakos -- How did that go?Ms CROZIER -- Very well actually. The debate highlighted that this government supports people taking out ambulance membership. We support seniors and the most vulnerable people in our community -- people who were completely ignored by Ms Mikakos's government. Labor ignored the fact that the population of this state is growing and that as people age they have to deal with chronic conditions and have complex needs. Our health services do a tremendous job, and a great deal of money is spent on addressing healthcare issues. The Minister for Health and this government should be commended for their work. In 11 years Ms Mikakos's government did very little.
I return to putting on the record what this government has done to support seniors. We have provided $42.1 million in stamp duty relief for eligible seniors, including self-funded retirees who are entitled to a commonwealth seniors health card. Self-funded retirees are a tremendous support to our community and do an enormous amount by managing their own affairs. This government has also provided seniors with a $50 concession for the fire services property levy, which has applied since 1 July last year. In addition, it has increased the cap on senior Victorians' concessions for municipal water and sewerage rates by 18.5 per cent since 2011.This government made an election commitment to improve participation for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) seniors, and it is continuing to enhance the participation of senior Victorians through a grants program to support CALD community organisations and enable senior Victorians to participate further in those programs.
This government is also supporting the University of the Third Age. Last Thursday I attended a U3A luncheon in Melbourne. The luncheon was very well attended, and I commend the U3A on the work it does and the activities it provides for senior Victorians so they can participate in the community. Those people should be congratulated and commended for the work they do.In October each year the Victorian Seniors Festival involves events being held right across the state. The coalition government provides grants so that the 79 local councils can support those festivities and events can be conducted throughout the Seniors Festival period. This funding enables many seniors to be engaged in their communities more broadly and provides them with relevant information that can assist them with many of the issues they face on a regular basis.
I have been closely involved with the area of elder abuse.This government has done much to address the complex and sensitive issue of elder abuse by increasing community awareness. I congratulate everybody involved on the work they have undertaken to provide the government with recommendations and suggestions. The government has taken up those recommendations, and the work of the government is having a huge impact on many vulnerable Victorians who are affected by elder abuse. We should do anything we can to raise awareness of elder abuse.
An important initiative of the government was the introduction of the Carers Recognition Act 2012. That legislation is at the heart of the issues faced by many carers in their senior -- indeed their elderly -- years. Those people take a huge burden off government facilities and organisations through the work they undertake. Many members of this chamber will agree that the Carers Recognition Act was long overdue.I reiterate that this government has undertaken many initiatives, including the development of the Seniors Card Magazine, which contains many tips and a great deal of information so that senior Victorians can get the most out of their Seniors Card in their everyday living and on such matters as concession deals and contact details for information lines. This is an important initiative that will help senior Victorians get the best value for their dollars. The government has also been responsible for initiating a historic deal between Victoria and New Zealand so that senior Victorians will be able to enjoy discounts made available by the New Zealand government. That is a terrific initiative for seniors who want to travel to New Zealand in their later years.
I return to the subject of choice. It is this government which has brokered discounted energy plans for seniors through a partnership with the energy retailer AGL. Seniors can now go online to compare energy prices and examine the market. They will be able to find the deals that best suit them and their circumstances. That initiative will provide great savings for seniors, particularly for their energy usage but also for bills in general.I commend the Minister for Public Transport, Mr Mulder, on the government's initiative to provide free tram travel in the CBD and Docklands, and on reducing zone 1 and 2 fares from 1 January 2015.
This initiative will benefit the many people, including many seniors, who travel on our public transport system.In her motion Ms Mikakos claims that this government does not support Victorian seniors, but that claim is debunked by the facts I have listed in my contribution to this debate. This government has done a great deal. As I have said, Victorian seniors are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and government should be there to protect and look after them. Of course there are people who will be more impacted on by certain events than others. However, this government is very focused on doing what it can to see aged-care services provided for the future growth of our ageing population and ensuring that aged-care providers and residents have a choice. Ms Mikakos, with her government's record, cannot say that -- --
Ms Mikakos -- We have a very good record.We invested in public aged care, unlike you.
Ms CROZIER -- That is not to say that we are not investing in a whole range of areas. If I were to move an amendment to Ms Mikakos's motion -- and I will not be circulating this -- I would substitute some of her points and instead propose that this house:(1) congratulates the Napthine government on its management of public hospitals, healthcare and aged-care services in Victoria;
(2) notes that under Labor aged-care services were sold or privatised in Rosebud, Ballarat, Ballarat North, Caulfield, Wendouree and Frankston;(3) further notes that saving measures worth more than $1 billion annually were introduced by the Honourable Daniel Andrews, MP, as health minister;
(4) welcomes the steps taken by the government to address cost-of-living pressures faced by Victorian pensioners, including concessions on their electricity (year round), gas and water bills, municipal rates, fire service levies and half-price ambulance membership;(5) congratulates the government on its successful reduction of elective surgery waiting lists and the positive impact of this on the quality of life of many Victorian patients; and
(6) affirms that the government stood up for Victorians, unlike Labor MPs of the Legislative Council, who refused to support Victorian health care in the face of Ms Gillard and Ms Plibersek's cuts of $107 million to Victorian hospitals in December 2012.
The government will not be supporting Ms Mikakos's motion.
Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I have a couple of things to say in response to Ms Crozier's contribution. I am sure that no member of this chamber would have any doubt about Ms Crozier's ability to defend the failed Minister for Ageing. Some of us might question her passion in doing so, but I suppose that is another thing altogether.Ms Crozier outlined a number of initiatives that she said her government has implemented which will assist seniors as far as travel, council rates and a number of other things are concerned. The last thing the people in the aged-care facilities that Ms Mikakos and I visited in Kilsyth and Forest Hill and their families are concerned about is cheaper tram fares and council rates. They are very dependent on the health experts and the facilities they are in for their day-to-day existence.
As we know, these matters are of great concern to people with elderly parents and family members in aged care. It is a stressful thing for the family in any event. Often when close family members end up in aged-care facilities, unfortunately that is the place they will spend the rest of their lives. They need quite intensive care and, as I said, it is quite a stressful thing for the person who is in aged care and for the family members of that particular person. This government has done nothing to decrease the concerns that people have when their family members are in aged care; it has actually made things a lot worse. Family members are concerned about whether their elderly loved ones can stay in a stable environment or whether facilities will be closed or privatised, which would change the nature of care given.Ms Mikakos's motion, which I wholly support, notes that the government has cut $75 million from funding for public sector residential aged care. That can only add to these concerns. Privatising 1000 metropolitan public sector residential aged-care beds could only add to the angst and concern that is already there for people who have elderly loved ones living in these facilities.Despite all its rhetoric, since 2010 the coalition government has closed 410 public sector residential aged-care beds. When you look at the facilities that have been closed, you see that no part of Victoria has been untouched by this government's closures. Ballarat, Koroit, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Williamstown, Melton South, Parkville and Flemington are just some of the suburbs in which aged-care facilities have been closed.
Taking into account that when you have an elderly family member in aged care you try to get that member into a facility that is close to where the rest of the family resides so that it is easy to visit them, this government has added a great deal of angst for elderly people in aged care and their families.
The government can talk about cheaper trams, cheaper council rates and all that sort of stuff, but in relation to aged care this government has really dropped the ball. There will need to be a lot of attention given to aged care if this government is re-elected. For an incoming government this area will need a lot of attention post 29 November. I am very grateful that Ms Mikakos has brought this motion to the house, and I fully support it.
Mrs COOTE (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am very pleased to stand up to speak on the motion, because it gives me an opportunity to talk about aged care and the positive results we have achieved as a coalition government but also to look at aged care in a broader context. In the debate today we have talked about the nitty-gritty, and there has been an enormous amount of scaremongering from Ms Mikakos. I know she has to play the political trump card, but it was unnecessary given we are dealing with frail aged people who will be concerned when they read her contribution to the debate.I want to remind the chamber about aged care in this country. I refer to an aged-care briefing given in Melbourne on 31 March to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia by Senator Mitch Fifield, who is Assistant Minister for Social Services, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and a senator for Victoria.
It is interesting to reflect on where aged care sits in the Australian community, and then I will drill down into the motion to see how it affects us here in Victoria. I remind members, as Mitch Fifield did in his speech, that when Peter Costello was Treasurer he commissioned an intergenerational report. That was the first time Australians had stopped to look at the empirical data and understand that we have an ageing population and the ramifications of that information.We have to be very careful with our terminology when we speak about aged Australians. I have said in this place many times that when the Family and Community Development Committee conducted an inquiry into issues affecting senior Victorians the sector told us that a senior Victorian is anyone over the age of 45 years. However, I believe Ms Mikakos is talking about frail aged people, and it is important to get the terminology right as we go through the debate.
Peter Costello's intergenerational report talks about putting the p's on our economic and social agenda. They are proactivity, participation and population. Mitch Fifield said:
It's sobering to read what the original report saw as our key challenges. And the same pressures exist today as they did back then:
Much of this has been touched on in the debate this afternoon, not always with a lot of accuracy. There has been a lot of scaremongering, misinformation and not enough properly thought through empirical evidence to back up the case presented by Ms Mikakos. The aged-care system comprises 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), 2.5 per cent of the Australian workforce and 3.5 per cent of federal government expenditure. The Australian government's contribution accounts for $13.3 billion. Consumers also make a considerable contribution outside taxation to the costs of their living expenses, care and accommodation. People needing aged care paid around $4.6 billion in the last financial year.Providers hold over 65 000 resident bonds with a total value of $14.2 billion.
The sector totals $32 billion. It is a significant part of our economy. As Mitch Fifield said, the aged-care sector will double as a percentage of GDP by 2050, and our aged-care workforce will need to double to around 827 000 people by that time.What are we looking at as we talk about aged care into the future? What is it that the frail aged and the aged want? Why is this motion important in the scheme of where we are going, and why is it so important to get the facts right? It is important because we have to deal with this in a strategic manner. Given all the political imperatives, many of which I have outlined, it is important that we look at where each one of the decisions fits. On 1 July Mitch Fifield said: Currently providers seek lump sum payments -- accommodation bonds -- from low-care residents and are restricted to only capped daily payments in high care.
From July 1 restrictions on high-care prices will be removed so that providers will be able to receive both lump sums and daily payments in high care and the capping on daily payments will be removed.All residents of aged-care facilities will have the choice to pay either a lump sum payment:
a refundable accommodation deposit; oran equivalent daily accommodation payment.
If they elect to pay an accommodation deposit it is fully refunded when the person leaves the residential care facility.Providers have the flexibility to set their accommodation prices at a level which will give the same income flow they currently receive.
This is a very important point.We are in a state of change and of recognising where aged care is going in this country and the economic pressures that will be put on governments, service providers and the aged community. Mitch Fifield said:
KPMG modelling conducted for the Aged Care Financing Authority has predicted the reforms will have a significant positive impact for providers in aggregate, with a net increase of $3 billion in lump sums for providers in the first year.This is about providing greater choice for consumers while ensuring a viable industry.
It is really important to have a viable industry. If we reflect on the industry -- and Ms Mikakos has been here since 1999, as have I -- we realise we have seen enormous changes in the aged-care area in those 15 years.We have seen it go from being a cottage industry. We have talked about a range of federal-state agreements, and we have talked about there being a disparate group in the past. We now see the aged-care sector as a cohesive sector which works collaboratively. It is a powerhouse of our economy. As I have said before in this place we are seeing some really big changes in the sector, because the baby boomers are getting older and realising that they are heading for aged care, and they want to make certain their governments get it right. I congratulate the federal government on being very tough in looking at the direction for and ramifications of aged care. Mitch Fifield has said:
Make no mistake, the consumer voice will be heard. There will inevitably be a rebalancing from residential care to home support and fewer low-care residential settings. And some providers will look at what is their core business. Will they provide both care and accommodation or decide their strengths lie in one area.In this state, home and community care (HACC) is structured differently from every other state, where there is a deal between the service providers in health and the federal government. In Victoria HACC has an intermediary, which happens to be the state government. We are slightly out of kilter with the rest of the country. This causes challenges at times, but it is important to take a holistic approach to aged care in our state.
The federal changes are going to have huge ramifications for us in Victoria. Rightly Ms Mikakos is championing for particular people and particular areas, and it is always important for oppositions to come up with those points and to hold governments to account. I do not think any of us in this chamber wants to see an aged-care sector that does not work. We need to get this right and to work collaboratively across the country. We are doing this with the national disability insurance scheme, and it has been fascinating to see how its rollout has worked in the trials across the country.The thrust behind the national disability insurance scheme is for a collaborative Australia-wide program.
I think the aged-care sector is largely ahead of this. We look at the federal government, which has major control, and then we look at where the states are, which brings me back to this motion today.Before I get on to what we do here in Victoria I would like to pick up on a comment Ms Mikakos made about personal care workers. I think personal care workers are going to be enormously in demand, not only in the aged-care sector but also in the disability sector. Within a very short time, perhaps the next five years, we will be talking about a huge shortage of personal care workers.
If we want flexibility in our disability and aged-care systems, we need to have trained personal care workers who can come into our homes and perform the sorts of duties needed to enable many frail aged Australians to live in their own homes. Not all frail Australians are going to want to live in aged-care facilities. Many are going to wish to stay in their own homes and to modify their homes and services accordingly, but they are going to need staff to be able to do that. It is incumbent upon us as a government, and on any future government, to make quite certain that we have highly trained personal care workers who can do this very important work.Here in Victoria, as Labor well knows, the commonwealth government, under the commonwealth Aged Care Act 1997, regulates all residential aged-care services. As I said at the outset of my contribution, it is very important to understand that balance. Therefore it is important that in any debate we have in this place we remember whose responsibilities lie where.
It is very pleasing for me to be able to talk about what the coalition has done for older Victorians in this state. I would like to refer to a number of points in detail to outline the enormity of the programs we have put in place and the money we have put behind them so that our senior Victorians can live as they wish to -- that is, with choice, flexibility and control over their lives. Quite frankly, that is something we all aspire to, especially as we get older.I would like to talk about some of these achievements. We have eased cost-of-living pressures for older Victorians by introducing a year-round reduction on electricity bills for concession card holders. This enables more than 800 000 households to benefit from lower electricity bills year round.
We have had many debates in this place. I can remember a debate which seemed bizarre at the time, and in retrospect it is even more so, about collecting firewood from Victorian forests. I am pleased to note that it was a coalition government that reinstated the opportunity to collect firewood from state forests. I can see Ms Mikakos looking very quizzical. In that debate we spoke about elderly people in our community, particularly in country areas, who could not afford electricity and who used firewood for their cooking and heating. In many instances they were totally and utterly reliant on it.It has been very pleasing to see that this coalition government has honoured its election commitment by rolling out reticulated natural gas to country towns in Victoria. I think the most recent one was Huntly in Bendigo, which has been a great success. We have also heard in debates in this place how in the past senior Victorians have stayed at home in bed because they could not afford to turn on the electricity to keep warm, particularly in winter. It is particularly pleasing to think that 800 000 households will benefit from lower electricity bills all year round thanks to the coalition government.
On 1 July 2011 the coalition government halved the cost of ambulance membership for Victorian families and singles, including senior Victorians. It was a huge worry when people needed to get an ambulance but could not get one because of the prohibitive cost. This is a very real change that makes a very real difference to senior Victorians.As a coalition we have provided $42.1 million in stamp duty relief for eligible seniors, including eligible self-funded retirees who are entitled to a commonwealth seniors health card. If we can keep our self-funded retirees and our older and senior Victorians healthy and engaged in the community, given some support and assistance, we are going to make quite certain that they will not become as frail as quickly and that they do in fact have a better quality of life. This is another very important initiative.
From 1 July 2013 we have provided a $50 fire services property levy concession for property owners who currently receive a local council rates concession in respect of their principal place of residence. Fifty dollars might not mean much to a lot of the MPs in here, but it is actually quite a lot when you are living on a very limited income. It is a recognition that there needs to be some assistance for senior Victorians.We have also increased the municipal rates concession and the water and sewerage concession annual cap amounts by 18.5 per cent since 2011. That is a considerable saving, and I know that people who pay those bills will recognise that saving.
We implemented our election commitment to improve participation for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) seniors through the CALD seniors program, including a grants program to support community organisations to create or expand participation opportunities for isolated CALD seniors. In our debates we can easily forget what members of CALD communities require. They have some very specific needs. When they start to develop Alzheimer's or something else, they often revert to their language of origin. A series of added complications affect people from CALD backgrounds. It is very important to make certain that they are not isolated but rather incorporated.We have supported the University of the Third Age and Life Activities Clubs Victoria. We have supported the annual Victorian Seniors Festival, which is about to happen again in October; I encourage everybody to turn up in their local communities. We have improved the tools and functioning of Seniors Online to enhance its accessibility. As I have said in this place before, you only have to go to the State Library of Victoria on any given day to see the number of seniors accessing the computers, usually, I think, driving their grandchildren, who are travelling overseas, mad.
There are a number of other things. We have developed the first Seniors Card Magazine with tips to get the most out of the Seniors Card. We have introduced the Seniors Card age-friendly partners program and we have initiated a historic deal between Victoria and New Zealand so that Victorian seniors can use their seniors cards to enjoy discounts offered abroad. We have developed publications such as Savvy Savings for Seniors, and we are introducing free tram travel in the CBD and Docklands and reducing the zone 1 and 2 fare from January next year.We have also appointed Victoria's first commissioner for senior Victorians, Gerard Mansour, who has had a very good history in the aged-care sector. This is a first for Victoria, and we will start to see the ramifications.
It builds on the system of commissioners that we have in Victoria, including the health services commissioner, the children and young persons commissioner and the disability services commissioner. These are all working exceedingly well and doing all that their offices were set up to do -- listening to the complaints and concerns of Victorians across the board so that services and service provision can be enhanced.It is with sadness that I look at Ms Mikakos's motion today because she has not recognised the bigger picture. She has not looked at Victoria's place in the wider sphere. Her motion and its nine paragraphs have missed the point, resulting in her spreading fear and trying to score political points with her scaremongering and trying to tie the responsibility back to the Abbott government. She has missed the point of what aged care in this country is doing and achieving, where it is going, what the strategic approach is and where Victoria should sit in this regard.
I sincerely hope Ms Mikakos never gets to become a minister for aged care, because that would be the very worst thing for Victoria.Just in case there are some members who have not heard me talk about many of these things, I will reiterate a couple of points. First, there is the concessions commitment. The coalition government has taken action to ensure that all Victorian seniors who hold a concession card will continue to enjoy a raft of vital money-saving concessions. Recent federal changes saw funding withdrawn for some of those concessions, but the Victorian government will fill this funding gap so that seniors with a pensioner concession card remain eligible for concessions on their electricity, gas and water bills, and municipal rates.
Aged care is important. As I said, that is why Ms Mikakos's motion is so disappointing. She is playing politics with the sector. It is sad to think that that is where we are at.I would have thought there was a more bipartisan approach in the aged-care sector. Perhaps Ms Mikakos is not as close to aged care as I am -- by that I mean her understanding of it.
As I said, the government has provided an enormous amount of support for country Victoria particularly, but in her motion Ms Mikakos mentions the closing of public aged-care facilities in Ballarat, Castlemaine, Flemington, Koroit et cetera. Ms Crozier pointed out in her contribution what was done under the former Labor government, and she did so particularly well.I am concerned about paragraph 5, which talks about limiting aged-care choices for Victorian families. I just talked about the opportunities across Victoria, and it is important to ensure that families understand they have choices, certainly about aged-care readiness.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, for example, can engage with the community and not feel isolated or fearful about entering the hospital system. They need to understand that they can afford to use ambulance facilities. These types of things are part of the pre-frail-aged sector and include supporting self-funded retirees and giving Victorians the confidence of knowing what those choices will be. This fits in very well with what the federal government is doing in looking into providing more choice for people. As Mitch Fifield said in his address to CEDA, there will be greater consumer choice. As people in this ageing population knock on the frail-aged door they will want more choice and more opportunity to age the way they choose to age.
I was particularly incensed with Ms Mikakos's comments about the lack of choice for senior Victorians. I dispute that strongly. Her motion also says:
failing to address the increasing cost-of-living pressures by slugging Victorian pensioners more for car registration, public transport, the new fire services property levy ...
As I said earlier in my contribution, there is a $50 concession for the fire services property levy. As I also said regarding public transport, Ms Mikakos has forgotten that the government's policy is to introduce free tram travel in the CBD and Docklands and to introduce the zone 1 and 2 fare from 1 January 2015. That will benefit not only senior Victorians but all Victorians. The motion talked about public transport, and as I said, that is an important issue.
Another important issue -- I am sure Ms Mikakos has also heard this -- is that it is hard to put an age on these things because you can find some 70-year-olds who are very frail and you can find some 90-year-olds who are hardy and healthy. You cannot really put a time or age on it. It is far better to talk about them in terms of being frail or not being frail. But you want people to be engaged and to lead an active life. I commend COTA Australia for its work. It does some fantastic work in ageing readiness. People of this generation who are facing frail age are becoming more used to being consumers, and that is very important.As I started to say before, I sincerely hope Ms Mikakos does not get to be aged care minister. That responsibility is far too important to be put into the hands of a Daniel Andrews Labor government. I put on the record my praise for all senior Victorians, frail and otherwise, and through the federal government's initiatives we will certainly get it right.
Ms MIKAKOS (Northern Metropolitan) -- My comments in reply will be brief. Mrs Coote usually makes considered contributions, and some of the points she made in her contribution today were quite considered comments. The point I wish to make to her is that this motion was not intended to be a comprehensive range of policies around aged care. Of course I accept that people want to age in place and that we need to have home and community care and other services to provide support to enable people to do that. We also need to encourage people to continue to be active in the community and participate in many other areas. That is why I have spoken on many occasions in the place about U3As, seniors groups and the activities of COTA and many other organisations. I commend them for their work.This motion is very specific. It is about highlighting the areas where we are concerned about what the government is doing.
In the past governments have made cuts to programs that encourage active living and good wellbeing programs, such as the Living Longer, Living Stronger program, which was a very good weight program that Labor supported in government. I was very critical of those cuts at the time and took up that issue with the minister.The issue that I seek to highlight through this motion today is specific and relates to our concerns about the government's agenda for privatising our public aged-care system. We are firmly committed to choice in aged care. As I said, we accept that most people would want to age in place -- that is, in their home. We also accept that will not be possible for all individuals. In some circumstances individuals will need to rely on aged-care facilities, including nursing homes, to fall back on where they are very frail and where they require constant medical care.
That is why we are committed to ensuring that people have a choice in those circumstances, whether they wish to go to a public facility, as is currently the case, or a not-for-profit or private aged-care facility. We are concerned that the government is taking away the choices and options that currently exist for senior Victorians.The motion specifically calls on the Napthine government to stop its privatisation of public aged care. I have also highlighted in this motion some cost-of-living issues. I will not reiterate all of those issues but I will make the point that, as Mrs Coote and other members have acknowledged in their contributions, seniors are doing it tough, particularly those who live on fixed incomes through the age pension. In many cases they are already struggling with the costs of energy, and in some cases they are fearful of turning the heating on at home because they are concerned about the power bills they will get.
They are concerned about the concessional support they receive from the government which, as I said, is now limited in nature for a 12-month period. These are all issues that need to be addressed.When we talk about costs of living, the government must acknowledge that its coalition colleagues in the federal government in Canberra are putting in place a whole raft of measures that will add to cost-of-living pressures for our seniors, particularly changes to the age pension and the real purchasing power that the age pension will provide in the future through the changes to indexation, through the imposition of the new GP tax and through other changes they are making.
In the past when there was a federal Labor government the state coalition government had a lot to say about Labor taking particular positions.I call on the government to stand up to Tony Abbott and his colleagues and do some advocacy around protecting Medicare -- our universal health system that so many seniors rely on -- and around the issue of the age pension to ensure that seniors will be able to live comfortable lives in retirement.
We put on the record our strong concerns about and our strong opposition to the government's privatisation of public aged care. If the government is serious about providing the choices that it has spoken about and if it is serious about looking after the needs of Victorian seniors, it will support this motion, which calls for the government to take action in a range of areas but in particular to stop the privatisation of our public aged-care system.
House divided on motion:
Viney, Mr Rich-Phillips, Mr
Motion negatived.Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 May 2010