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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 September 2017) . . Page.. 3517 ..

I am pleased of course that concessions for seniors will continue and I am pleased, as Minister Ramsay talked about, that the concessions are being extended to vulnerable seniors who are renting and who were not previously able to access our concession system. But I note with concern that it is an emerging issue where seniors on fixed incomes, who are burdened with paying increasing rates and being on fixed incomes, do not have increasing funds to do so. We have to be really careful to ensure that we do not end up with a system which makes it harder for people to live independently and we have to look at the large number of people—18,000 pensioners—who have applied for the rebate scheme.

Minister Ramsay also mentioned the rates deferral scheme. I put a question on notice about that and I was shocked and surprised to find there have been only two applications for that scheme so far. I think we will probably talk a lot more about this tomorrow on Mr Coe’s motion but I note that that scheme is in fact available only to people who live in the 20 per cent of most expensive blocks in Canberra. That is probably something that needs to be looked at urgently.

I would also note in terms of housing that older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Canberra and Australia and this is something—obviously speaking personally as an older woman, although not at risk of homelessness—that we need as a community to look at. The homelessness profile is changing. We are living longer; we are living a lot longer than we used to. When the aged pension first came out people could expect to be on it for a few months. Now people could expect to be on it for 10, 20 years and we have to look at how our society can work with that. A lot of these are federal issues but some of them are issues for the ACT as well.

Lastly I want to reiterate the enormous value that seniors have to our community. Hopefully we will all become seniors and hopefully we will all be respected for our contributions as seniors both past and present. Seniors’ ongoing contributions to our community provide enormous value to them, to their family, to their friends and to the wider community.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Office for mental health—establishment

Ministerial statement

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (11.09): Mental health and suicide prevention are continued priorities for the ACT government. This was reflected in the parliamentary agreement and committed to in the ACT government’s 2017-18 budget initiatives, including funding for the establishment of an ACT office for mental health.

I acknowledge members, providers and the community’s interest in the ACT office for mental health. I also recognise that there have unfortunately been some unavoidable delays in progressing formal consultation on this initiative. As members may be aware, the office for mental health is a key priority for me as the ACT’s first

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