There has hardly been a dull moment for Justine Elliot since, subsequent to last year's Rudd-slide, she was appointed Minister for Ageing. She speaks with Villages about her objectives for the portfolio, the Budget and the importance of re-thinking older age.
Justine Elliot: "Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was a community representative on various local councils, focusing particularly on local health and hospital issues. I have been meeting and mixing with older Australians for a long time, hearing their concerns."
"I worked as a youth justice convenor with the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice, and was on local community groups, including Neighbourhood Watch and the RSPCA. With seven years as a general duties police officer, I certainly saw the very best and very worst in people."
"Being appointed Minister for Ageing in the first Rudd Government is an honour and presents me with an incredible opportunity to help older Australians. There are two million Australians aged 70 and over, comprising nearly 10 percent of the population. This number will double to four million in the next 20 years."
"We will reform the aged sector to meet these changing demographics. We will work closely with older Australians, state and territory and local governments, and the aged care industry to build a modern Australia capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. This includes ensuring older Australians get the quality and choice of care they want and need, while improving the long-term viability of the aged care sector."
"Underpinning all this is a fundamental need - the need to rethink our perception of older age as a period of declining health and wellbeing and replace it with the view that old age can be positive, healthy and active. This is not just the responsibility of government, it's something we all need to think about."
"The Government established the Ambassador for Ageing because we wanted someone to promote internationally recognised principles of positive and active ageing, to make older people aware of Government programs and how to access them, to encourage them to plan for the future."
"Let me say with absolute confidence that the three year appointment of Noeline Brown as Ambassador for Ageing is already proving to be a resounding success. Noeline fits the bill perfectly - she brings a great energy and enthusiasm to it, and takes the role very seriously. She's down to earth, very approachable, and a wonderful speaker; she really connects."
"There has been lots of positive feedback and, might I say, lots of invitations for her to speak. And what a role model for healthy active ageing! Just look at her - she's terrific."
"The 2008-09 Budget delivers on a range of initiatives that signal a new era of efficiency, flexibility and fairness in meeting the needs of older Australians. As Minister for Ageing, I am responsible for nursing homes and community care - over the next four years, the Rudd Government will invest more than $40 billion into these areas. $11.4 billion, for example, will go into community care such as home help and meals on wheels services."
"I am proud our first budget delivered $5.2 billion in additional funding for older Australians. Through Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, we delivered the $500 Bonus and also substantially increased the Utilities Allowance from $107.20 to $500. It is now paid quarterly instead of half-yearly."
"But there is more than just the Bonus and Utilities Allowance in this budget. For the first time, there are additional bonus payments to pensioners who are also carers. If you have the internet, your phone allowance increases from $88 to $132."
"More than two million Age Pensioners receiving income support will now be able to earn more income and hold more valuable assets without their pensions being affected. Starting early 2009, pensioners and those who are eligible for NSW Seniors Card will be able to use it inter-state for the first time to access transport concessions."
"The Federal Government has also substantially increased funding to the States to reduce surgical wait times and will reintroduce the Commonwealth Dental Health Program so as to reverse the cruel cut to this program made by the previous Government in 1996."
"This is just a start - we know more needs to be done. That is why the Government has committed to a total review of our taxation system and of retirement incomes. Fixing the system after 12 years of neglect will not be simple, but the Government is getting on with the job and I am committed to fighting for the best outcomes for our community."
"The Rudd Government has wasted no time in putting in place its agenda for a more comprehensive, inclusive and integrated aged care sector. This is not optional. Dramatic population shifts are occurring in this country. Did you know that the number of elderly Australians has already overtaken the number of younger people aged 14 or less?"
"There are many positive, supportive and creative opportunities ahead of us - including in technology, data collection, research networking and healthier ageing - and the Rudd Government's policies aim to provide more beds, more places, more nurses and more training for personal care workers."
"We'll also be regularly reviewing aged care planning ratios to take into account demographic changes and ensure the supply of aged care appropriately meets current and future demand - that older Australians needing care in the future receive the most appropriate services."
"We are about ensuring older Australians get what they need, including access to health care services; an after-hours GP clinic; a bed in a nursing home, if they need one; or access to home care services, if they want to remain in their homes."
"We have a vision of how society should treat its older citizens, and as a Government we have to implement that vision. Our actions are matching our words."
"While we are getting older, modern medicine and more active lives mean we are also seeing the creation of a largely healthy, independent older population that can be a valued social resource providing care, and sharing skills and knowledge, and contributing to the community through active participation and volunteering. It's clearly better to have an ageing population which is healthy, active and involved."
"Our seniors built this nation and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. An ageing population creates so many opportunities; we can learn so much from the wisdom, knowledge and experience of older Australians."