Page 1226 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008
services, transport services and education services. As with any age cohort, the policy inclusions will not be one-size-fits-all, but rather a multiplicity of policy and program initiatives that reflect the diversity within the older population.
Although the ageing population will have both fiscal and economic pressures, such a phenomenon will also provide opportunities and benefits. Key amongst these is an increased level of family and community involvement and a ready supply of skilled and experienced labour. As the Chief Minister discussed in the chamber yesterday, the ACT is currently experiencing a low unemployment rate. More Canberrans than ever are currently employed, with unemployment at a record low of 2.4 per cent. We have a unique situation in the territory where there are still more vacant positions than people unemployed. The chief executive of the ACT and region chamber of commerce has commented that the ACT private sector could readily absorb some 1,000 jobs. It may be that older Canberrans can supplement these labour and skill shortages. Of course, after October, maybe I will take up one of them too, Mr Speaker.
Following an approach by the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing last year, the Chief Minister asked the Commissioner for Public Administration to consider formalising grandparental leave for ACT public servants. On 28 February this year, the commissioner recommended to the joint council that grandparental leave be incorporated into an ACT public service mature age employment strategy.
The development of an ACT public service mature age strategy is a commitment under the ACT public service union collective agreements, most of which were entered into late last year. In addition to the provision of grandparental leave, it is intended that the strategy also go to payments equivalent to the employer superannuation contributions for employees 70 years or over; assistance for mature age employees transition to retirement by converting to permanent part-time employment status; and the development of measures to attract mature age workers to the ACT public sector.
Detailed procedures for the implementation of grandparental leave and the payment of an amount equal to the employer superannuation contribution to employees aged over 70 have been developed. It is planned to have the overall mature age employment strategy agreed by July 2008. At this stage it can be anticipated that grandparental leave will be granted to permanent full or part-time staff who assume a primary caretaking role after the birth or adoption of a grandchild or after their children accept an authorised carer’s role under a law of the state or territory—for example, foster care during the first three years of a child’s life.
The issue of aged persons’ accommodation is another area on which the Stanhope Labor government has focused its attention. In 2003, the ACT government released Building for our ageing community, detailing a commitment to work with industry and service providers to reduce the time involved in delivering high-quality aged persons accommodation. To this end, the Stanhope government has increased total funding for aged care and rehabilitation from $18 million to $35½ million since the amalgamation of the service in 2004. This represents an increase of approximately 97 per cent in the past four years. Prior to 2007, there was a shortfall in the number of publicly funded beds available for older people and those with rehabilitation needs.