Transcript by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Joint Doorstop interview with Dan Tehan MP

Location: Eventide Lutheran Homes, Hamilton, Victoria


JOURNALIST: So what is the purpose of your visit here today, to the region?

FIFIELD: To meet with disability organisations and aged care groups. To hear from them the things that they think are working well, but also to hear from them the things that they think can be improved in terms of the government arrangements.

JOURNALIST: So specifically with your meeting here at Eventide, was that with management?

FIFIELD: It was with an alliance of aged care providers, who I met with previously in Melbourne, about a year ago. I undertook when I met with them in Melbourne that I would come here to meet with them.

JOURNALIST: What kind of topics where discussed here this afternoon?

FIFIELD: That providing social services in regional areas, particularly aged care, does see some unique challenges for service providers.

JOURNALIST: In terms of age care funding more widely, seeing the Intergenerational Report recently which has the ratio of people of working age, defined of course by the international standards, aged 65 to people who have retired, isn’t that ratio expected to change and the numbers of workers helping pay for aged care changing, how is that challenge being addressed by the Federal Government?

FIFIELD: We have a few challenges as a nation that’s ageing. The first and most important point though is that in having an ageing population, that is living longer and living healthier, it’s one of the best challenges that you can have. It’s something that we as a society have been working towards so that is unequivocally a good thing. What that means though is that on current trends you will have a smaller percentage of the population in work. We will need Australians to work longer and the great thing is, when you have an ageing population that is living longer and healthier, more Australians will be in a position to work and more Australians will want to work. And it’s really important that we address some of the issues that currently might prevent older people working, which is why with the Attorney General we’ve given a reference to the Australian Human Rights Commission to look at what some of the barrier are that prevent older people working and staying in the work force, so that’s important. We do have as a core part of the Government’s business, providing additional support to people who face extra challenges for reason beyond their control and that includes people with disability but also includes older Australians because the challenges that you face as you get older are beyond your control, so we’re absolutely committed to making sure we have a strong aged care sector. We currently allocate on behalf of the Australian community about $15 billion a year for aged care support.

JOURNALIST: In term of pensions, with the Deloitte Access Economics Report suggesting a larger deficit and series of deficits that previously estimated and with pensions being such a significant percentage of Commonwealth Government spending, what is the Government current stance on how to address the challenge of funding pensions in the future?

FIFIELD: We have a good safety net in the form of the Age Pension. We did have some proposition at the last budget to ensure that the pension was on a sustainable footing. It is clear that those propositions don’t enjoy broad community support and would face a challenging future in the Senate. Scott Morrison has made clear that we are very open to alternative propositions, to see the pension sustainable and Scott Morrison is working hard on those with a broad range of groups in the sector including the Australian Council of Social Services who have been very positive and good to deal with.

JOURNALIST: You haven’t come to a decision on some of those ACOSS suggestions?

FIFIELD: No Scott Morrison is still working through different proposals with the sector.

JOURNALIST: With Hamilton specifically and regions in general, with their populations that seem to be aging at a higher rate, than other more urbanised areas, is there anything specifically committed to regional areas by the Federal Government to help address that?

FIFIELD: In the last Budget we announced a 20 percent increase in the Rural and Regional Viability Supplement for age care providers, which was an increase of $54 million dollars a year that was in recognition of some of the additional challenges faced in rural areas. We are always open to ideas and engaging with regional providers as to those things that they think we can do to better support them.

INTERVIEWER: Anything you would like to add Dan?

TEHAN: Terrific to have Senator Fifield here today. He’s obviously got a very important portfolio when it comes to regional and rural Victoria. Obviously he is in charge of the rollout of the NDIS and also with implementing the aged care reforms and both are vital services for country areas.