I am very pleased we’ve been able to secure from the Government 31 home care packages for Northern Coalfields Community Care.  We desperately need them and more.

In the past Australia was a relatively youthful country. In 1970-71, 31 per cent of the population was aged 15 years or younger, while by 2001-02 this proportion had dropped to 22 per cent. The proportion of Australia’s population aged over 65 years has grown from 8 per cent in 1970-71 to 13 per cent in 2001-02. The IGR projects that over the next 40 years, the proportion of the population over 65 years will almost double to around 25 per cent. At the same time, growth in the population of traditional workforce age is expected to slow to almost zero. This is a permanent change. Barring an unprecedented change in fertility rates, the age structure of the population is likely to stabilise with a far higher proportion of older Australians.

The ageing of the population is caused by two factors. Firstly, Australian families are, on average, having fewer children. Birth rates started declining in the late 1960s, and have been falling ever since. For the last 20 years or so the birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate — meaning that without migration Australia’s population would eventually begin to fall.

So we are going to have less people in the workforce paying taxes and more people retired and in many cases, needing some sort of support.  This is going to be a huge challenge for governments in the future.

But meet that challenge we must.   Taking care of people as they age must be a top priority.

Parliament rose last week and I’m pleased to be back spending more time in the electorate.  At this time of the year end-of-year school presentations take much of my time and I congratulate all students who have been recognised for their academic, sporting, leadership, music or cultural achievements.

Last week the Government announced a new drought package.  Sadly, the new post-drought loans will do nothing for farmers currently suffering drought.  There was plenty the Government could have done but it chose not to.  Sadly it's looking like a bleak Christmas for many farming families.

Thank you to all the stage 2 school students who participated in my What makes Hunter GREAT colouring-in competition. As always, I was amazed by the talent shown by our local students.

The judges had a tough time picking the 100 finalists. Now it’s up to electorate to decide on the two grand final winners. Make sure you check out the entries and vote for your favourite on my facebook page.

I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.

Why not go the extra step by following me on my Facebook page “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”. Or by regularly checking my website at www.joelfitzgibbon.com or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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