Doorstop interview. Blue Haven Independent Living Units, Kiama, NSW
JOURNALIST: Today you did a tour. What do you think? What are your impressions?
FIFIELD: It’s great to be here with Ann Sudmalis. This is a fabulous facility and I think the council showed great foresight in the past to acquire this land. To be able to build both retirement villages and aged care facilities to make sure that there’s a full range of supports to people as they get older.
JOURNALIST: Are you able to just talk to the announcement today by Scott Morrison? And just give us an idea on what may be in next week’s Budget for pensions and it means for them?
FIFIELD: Scott Morrison has announced today that we’re looking at a different way of putting the pension on a more sustainable footing. Looking at ensuring that for people who might be at the lower level in terms of the assets that they have, that they are able to include more of those assets, before it affects their pension. So that will be many tens of thousands of Australians have more money in their pocket.
JOURNALIST: Will anyone be worse off though?
FIFIELD: Well Scott also flagged that we will be looking at reversing the 2007 changes to the taper rate which would see some people who have significant assets no longer receiving the part pension. It’s important to make sure we get the balance right with the pension. The balance between people who have the capacity to provide for themselves to do so, but also making sure that there’s a good, strong and a generous safety net for those people of lower means.
JOURNALIST: I know you weren’t giving much up there as to what’s in the budget, but can you give us any indication what might be in it for your specific portfolio and in particular the Illawarra at all?
FIFIELD: In my portfolio area there will be the continued provision of funds to support the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Which we have an objective of having it nation-wide by 2018-19. And there’ll also be good provision for aged care. At the moment we spend about $14 billion a year on providing aged care support, and there will good ongoing provision for older Australians who face extra challenges as a result of getting older.
JOURNALIST: With a significant ageing population, does that give you a chance to actually be about to get on the ground and meet people face to face and talk about them about what their concerns are ahead of the budget?
FIFIELD: There’s no substitute for actually being on the ground and talking to older Australians about what they’re thinking. About what they think is working well and what they think needs improving. There is just a quality of information and experience that you can’t get from reading a briefing note, that you can only get from talking to the people that government services are designed to support.
JOURNALIST: Anything else?
FIFIELD: Just that I think it’s really important when we talk about an ageing population, that we see that as an unequivocally good thing. The fact that people are living longer that people are living healthier is a fabulous thing. It’s something that we as a community have been working towards and it’s a great community asset. There are about 3,000 Australians at the moment who are centenarians, over the age of 100, by 2050 there will be 50,000 Australians who are over the age of 100. That’s a great national resource and we’ve got to think about how we can tap into that.