Senior Victorians (2.09.2014)

Written on the 2 September 2014

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Ageing, Mr Davis. Can the minister update the house on what the Napthine government is doing to ease cost-of-living pressures on Victorian seniors?


Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Ageing) -- I can indicate to the member and to the house that the government takes very seriously the issue of the cost of living for our seniors, including those who are Seniors Card holders and those who are concession card holders. It is important that the cost of living is managed, and the government seeks to do that to the best of its ability.

Obviously the government has a number of matters that are at a national level and others that are aspects of the private sector, but the government has taken significant steps. Since coming to government we have, importantly, extended the concession that is available to Victorians to all-year-round concessions -- unlike the winter concession that Ms Mikakos supported. She did not support all-year-round concessions for our seniors. She left people without that support through the hot summer months, and the Labor Party, over 11 years of government, was not prepared to put that support in place.

Equally, the increased water and sewerage concessions are significant, and they have made a difference. The $50 concession on the fires services property levy for pension card holders, Department of Veterans' Affairs war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated gold card holders is a significant one. Halving the cost of ambulance membership has been important.

Ensuring that there is stamp duty relief for eligible seniors, including eligible self-funded retirees, has been important as well.

I can indicate that the government has brokered an additional energy deal and has put out to tender an arrangement with AGL -- as it turns out, the successful tenderer -- for a system that uses the significant base of Seniors Card holders in the state. When we went out to tender we found we could get a good deal for Seniors Card holders.

On Saturday I was pleased to meet with Enid Shahvelli, who lives in Bentleigh. It went very well indeed. She is a lovely lady, and she is very happy that the deal will offer her savings of almost $300 annually. That is a significant saving, and I was there with Ms Miller, the member for Bentleigh in the Assembly, who grew up in that area. In fact the member for Bentleigh grew up next door to Mrs Shahvelli and knew that family very well.

She knew everyone down the street, and she is very much a strong advocate for getting good deals for pensioners and for Seniors Card holders in this case. This was a very significant example of what can be achieved. The government, using its Seniors Card support system, has negotiated a deal with AGL whereby pensioners will have energy audits if they wish. They will also have a very competitive energy plan, and that competitive energy plan will help them manage the cost of their energy and thereby manage their cost of living.

I was proud to be with Elizabeth Miller to meet Enid Shahvelli and to understand that she and her husband, William, who live in Bentleigh, will save significantly because of the deal they have struck with AGL under the Seniors Card arrangement. This is a significant step. I would have thought that the opposition would support such a step and would want to see the cost of living cut for pensioners.

Instead of that, the opposition does not want to see the cost of living cut for pensioners and did not introduce all-year-round energy concessions. The opposition failed to do that in its 11 years in government. It was this government that put the energy arrangements in all year round to enable our pensioners -- --

The PRESIDENT -- Order! The member's time has expired.

    Supplementary question

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I thank the minister for highlighting to the house those important initiatives. Can he also inform the house how these initiatives will impact those within Oakleigh?

Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Ageing) -- I thank the member for her supplementary question and her interest in Oakleigh. She will understand that this is an important area of the state that the government is focused on, and it is an important area of our electorate that we are certainly very focused on. Oakleigh residents Brian and Judy Mitcham have also signed up to the AGL deal through their seniors cards.

Mr Jennings interjected.

Hon. D. M. DAVIS -- No matter what Mr Jennings says, the fact is that the Mitcham family could save up to $500 a year.

Mr Jennings -- On a point of order, President, you may from the nature of my interjections realise that my point of order will be about how the impact of this deal on the Oakleigh electorate relates to the minister's portfolio.

How does it fall within the scope of a supplementary question to the question that was originally asked?

Hon. D. M. DAVIS -- On the point of order, President, let me be quite clear. I am the Minister for Ageing, and a deal has recently been negotiated with AGL in relation to the Seniors Card program, a program that I am responsible for. Indeed in Oakleigh there is a couple, a nice couple whom I met on Thursday last week, the Mitchams. They live in Oakleigh, and they have signed up to the deal that is part of the arrangements we have -- --

The PRESIDENT -- Order!

The minister is starting to debate. I do not uphold the point of order because, as the minister said, I believe he has jurisdiction in this matter and the question is relevant in the sense that he is responsible for this program. In fact I noted from the media that he made an announcement at the weekend. His response to the supplementary question is also relevant to the substantive answer. All I can say is that I wonder if we have 400 suburbs, towns and villages to go.Hon. D. M. DAVIS -- I can tell you, President, that in every suburb in the state, country and city, people with seniors cards can sign up to the AGL deal and get reduced energy costs. That is a good thing, because it will help. I was proud to be there on Thursday with the Liberal candidate for Oakleigh, Theo Zographos. Theo was very much engaged. He too supports the deal and wants to see lower energy costs. Mr Jennings does not.

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