Page 1257 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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There are many other excellent community organisations in the ACT that do a first-class job in catering to the needs of older Canberrans and they are to be commended, particularly this week.

The role of the government is very different from the role of a community organisation, as we all appreciate. For the government it is important to ensure that services which are available to the general community and which facilitate basic living requirements are suitable for older people so that they are able to participate in community life in the same way as younger Canberrans. This can be a challenging exercise. Indeed, in some cases it requires services to be able to adapt to the particular frailties or other difficulties faced by some older people.

For a young person, for example, walking to the local bus stop and jumping onto a bus to travel to meet friends can be taken for granted. However, for some older people these basic tasks can, of course, be extremely difficult. The challenge for government is to ensure that its services are made as accessible as possible to older people. In dealing with this issue it is not ideal to rely on existing policies in different service areas to accommodate the needs of older people. Comprehensive policies focusing on older people are a valuable tool to ensure that these issues do not fall between the cracks of other portfolios.

I did enjoy the role of shadow minister for ageing during my time as a member of the opposition and, whilst I found the name of the portfolio rather odd, the existence of such a portfolio area makes perfect sense. In fact, I pressed to get that particular position. The portfolio drives home the necessity for some overarching policy to deal with issues facing older Canberrans. It involves consideration of many other areas of government, in particular issues of health and transport.

I try to call my mother every night, as she lives interstate, and I often find it informative to hear of some of the challenges that she faces in going about her business—things such as dealing with the banks, who want everybody to use ATMs or online banking. It is a challenge because, although there are many older people who have become used to computers, the majority have not and suffer considerably because of that and because the large institutions fail to provide services. Insurance companies have constant step-down arrangements on telephone services, which older people find distressing. Groups such as Telstra want everybody to deal with a computer voice rather than a human being.

These are the sort of issues that our society needs to focus on. It cannot all be about making money and bottom line efficiencies. We need to pay regard to the seniors in our community. I am pleased that the government is continuing to support Seniors Week and I was impressed by the breakfast which it continues to sponsor and which I aim to attend each year.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The Assembly adjourned at 6.23 pm.

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