Page 1224 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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Another issue that we deal with is shopping centres. Local shopping centres are most important for those who do not have access to vehicles or the ability to drive them. It is really important to have local shopping centres that can be walked to. In some suburbs we know that there has been a real loss of amenities in shopping centres—the loss of supermarkets and in some cases newsagents, pharmacies, doctors and so on. The Greens would really like to see a focused attempt to make our local shopping centres viable again so that a person who cannot go any further than their shopping centre can buy everything they need for basic living. It should be a sort of a rule.

There is public transport. We have already heard a bit about that today. I would say that at least half the concerns that were expressed about the new ACTION bus network were from elderly people. That is because they really rely upon buses; it is a safe way for them to travel and it is a cheap way for them to travel.

There have been concerns about taxis as well. I was pleased to hear from the minister—I think I understood him to say it—that older residents will no longer have to pay more if they travel in peak hour. I am not sure about that; perhaps he can clarify it when he stands up. I have not had a chance to read the answer to my question yet. Access to taxis will be a big one, I note, for people in the disability community. A lot of elderly people have disabilities; access to taxis that are able to carry them is really important.

We know that access to GPs is a very big issue for people at that end of their lives, because their health status is often poorer than that of other people. And it is not only that: many elderly people find themselves living on their own after the death of a partner. It is my belief that being alone does lead to greater focus on health. There is no-one to share it with, no-one to talk about it with; there are depression issues and quality-of-life issues altogether. So health services are really important.

One of the things we have to be very careful of is that we do not assume that all senior citizens are retirees with decent incomes. The fact is that an awful lot of our senior citizens never had a chance to accumulate a decent superannuation sum and do not own their houses—or, if they do own their houses, through sheer luck in being able to buy them when they were affordable, cannot afford to maintain them. And people really worry about their safety in their communities and so on. There are a whole lot of issues around that.

I would like to see our government set up a home and garden maintenance program that elderly people could call on, with an emphasis on occupational health—that would be an adequate reason, in my mind—and fire safety. They could work with community organisations to do that. We have to realise that it is going to be good for us all if no-one has a backyard that is a fire risk, for instance.

Another thing is that planning is going to be hugely important. We realise that we now have people who are home all alone in their streets because everyone else is at work. We can have elderly people at home with no-one to call upon. That is why I would like to see more attempts to do community development in suburbs so that in every street it is known that that person is there alone and vulnerable. In some ways,

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