Zero Budget was right on the money. It had zero aspiration and has set out zero plan to deal with some of the major issues facing New Zealand.
I could go on about growth, rising unemployment or the plane-loads of Kiwis heading across the Tasman every week.
But one of the stories of National’s Budget that did not come with a whizz bang announcement, that did not get a mention in the Finance Minister’s speech was how this National Government is treating our elderly.
You won’t need a new Budget 2012 iphone app for this story.
The Hidden Story
Because if you go looking for it in the mountains of Budget information, tables, pie graphs, and appendices, you won’t find it.
So inconsequential was this change that it did not need bother the media with a dedicated press release in amongst the plethora of “new” initiatives a Government issues on the day it tells New Zealand’s taxpayers how it intends to spend the money they all happily handed over to the collective.
But push pause. This issue of little significance required a change of legislation, so insignificant was this issue that it had to be rushed through Parliament under urgency.
So insignificant that the Minister was calling it a “priority”.
So what was this insignificant matter requiring little trumpet, but much urgency?
Well, in an effort to eek every last nickel and dime out of the back of the couch, the National Government thought it prudent to sting elderly Kiwis with a change to how the asset threshold for the residential-care subsidy is calculated. Under the old regime, the threshold rose by $10,000 a year. But rest ye not, for the new formula now changes that to adjust along with the rate of inflation.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, surely this makes it harder for many elderly who are close to threshold? Well Ministry of Health officials suggest this to be true. In the first year 170 older Kiwis will find themselves paying more for their care, and eventually in the fourth year under the new regime 610 Kiwis will find themselves in the same boat.
The One-Word Question
So we come to the ultimate of all one-word questions. Why?
National says to make aged care more sustainable. But our helpful Ministry of Health officials tell us that in year 1 this measure will save $4.5 million and in year 4, $14 million. Which in this area is a pittance.
To suggest that this is being done to ensure the long-term sustainability of aged care leaves one wondering if they are being taken for a ride.
Aged care is a major issue that needs real leadership. That will be better understood on the Kapiti Coast more than anywhere in New Zealand.
The need for a system of quality assurance across the industry, pay parity and staff training are all major issues that were highlighted in the Labour initiated aged-care inquiry released in October 2010.
The recently released report from the Human Rights Commission reinforced these issues and Labour renews its call on the Government to get on with the job that needs to be done to ensure older Kiwis can be cared for and live their lives with dignity.
This will require all political parties, the aged-care sector and all New Zealanders to work together towards a fair, affordable and compassionate way of looking after our older family members.
We are too often hearing horror reports of how our elderly are being treated or neglected and too often we are hearing stories about how those who care for them are being treated.
It’s time for an across the board approach towards an aged care strategy for New Zealand. In fact, it’s well overdue.
This leaves me with a few more “WHY?” questions.
More Questions for the Government
- WHY, weren’t elderly New Zealanders told of this before the election?
- WHY, weren’t elderly and their families given the chance to voice their opinions at Select Committee?
- WHY, was this so insignificant that it didn’t require mentioning in a Budget speech, but required legislation change under urgency?
- WHY, don’t we have any leadership on an aged care strategy?
- WHY, is the National treating our elderly with disrespect, by bringing in these changes in this way?
I asked all of these questions during the debate in Parliament. But they weren’t answered. I would encourage you all to ask these questions of Government MPs.