House debates

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Carer Recognition Bill 2010

Second Reading

11:03 am

Photo of Sharman StoneSharman Stone (Murray, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The member for Shortland asked why we did not do something about it. I suggest she reads the record. When in government, the coalition developed a package of measures to improve the position of carers. We included more respite and the establishment of the National Respite for Carers Program. We actually did that. In 1999 we introduced the carer allowance. We also gave the first recognition to young carers and their specific needs through respite and information services. We funded the Young Carers Research Project in 2001 and in 2004 we funded the first carers’ summit, which was so important in having those young people step into this place. Some who were in parliament at the time remember that summit and the amazing, magnificent young people who took advantage of the opportunity. They told us what it was like to be looking after their loved ones, their elders in almost every case, and about the difficulties that they faced every day in trying to meet their own personal needs and their future employment and education needs, given that they were 100 per cent, seven days a week, 24 hours a day carers.

During the 2010 election the coalition released a range of policies to further assist people with a disability and carers, including a plan to establish a Commonwealth disability and care ombudsman and a $3 million policy to introduce a young carer scholarship. I commend the recommendations in our policy to the Labor government because they would make a difference to young people. When announcing her ministry, Julia Gillard forgot even to appoint a member of executive with specific portfolio responsibilities for disabilities and carers. What a disgrace! A few days later she rushed to fill the gap with an appointment of a parliamentary secretary. We had expected more because the then parliamentary secretary, Bill Shorten, had assured us that he really cared about the sector, the disability sector in particular. But then Prime Minister Gillard forgot to give someone responsibility for that area when she announced a new set of portfolios—quite extraordinary.

Let me quote from the Carers Alliance, a very important advocacy group. When they heard about this bill, in a media release of 18 March 2010 they said:

Carers Alliance is profoundly disappointed in the Carer Recognition Bill tabled yesterday … It is a very watered down version of what Carers Alliance has lobbied for in our campaign for family carers to be recognised by legal status with rights and entitlements to services … It is unfortunate, but this Bill is not even a first step, it is actually marking time, going nowhere and providing nothing but legislative platitudes. It is most unsatisfactory and very disappointing.

So I suggest the people in government right now go and talk to the Carers Alliance. I suggest you really do make sure that we go beyond the platitudes. Of course recognition is important, but what about legal status? What about better respite support? What about understanding that in my electorate, for example, there are 80-year-old women—and they are invariably women—who have been looking after adult sons and daughters with profound disabilities since their birth, and they are now worried sick about who is going to pick up the caring that they have been offering all of their lives to their sons and daughters if they themselves die.

We simply do not have the accommodation in our communities to replace the caring that parents have been providing in their homes. As the older carers transition into aged care support, we need to have places where their sons and daughters who need care can go during at least the daytime and then for overnight accommodation, before perhaps transitioning to care for 24 hours, seven days a week because their elderly parents will not be able to continue carrying the load.

All of those needs are out there, particularly in rural and regional Australia and in Indigenous communities. The bill before us from this government simply says: ‘Yes, we know these carers exist. Look, we are going to have a recognition bill.’ I say that you have got to do much more than that. The social inclusion agenda of the last government was a farce. The now Prime Minister carried that portfolio and I cannot think of a single thing she did to reduce social exclusion or to promote social inclusion in this society—not a single thing. All we saw was rural and regional people getting more and more distant from the resources and opportunities available in metropolitan Australia. We saw Indigenous Australians more isolated and disadvantaged, and I do not think that is fair. (Time expired)


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