As Members of Parliament, we should always be mindful of the role older Australians have played in the development of our great nation.
Many of them lived through the toughest of times to improve living standards for future generations—standards we now enjoy today, as do our children. Indeed, many went to war to keep us safe and to preserve our nationhood. They paid their taxes for many years, but they don't enjoy the benefits of a universal superannuation system as working people do today.
They should be a priority for government—for every government—and their care and protection should be a matter of absolute bipartisanship in this place. We must keep them safe and ensure that they have a decent place to live, can afford the essentials in life and have access to the health care they need to maintain quality of life for as long as is possible. I don't believe that we are succeeding sufficiently in those objectives.
I recently officially opened an event to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day where we were reminded of our failure to sufficiently protect elderly Australians from both physical and mental abuse. Sadly, I learned on that occasion that about 92 per cent of abuse perpetrated on elderly people is perpetrated by another member of the family. I don't believe our pension payments are sufficiently keeping pace with our cost of living. And it appears we are failing to ensure older Australians have access to the health care they need when they need it.
As highlighted on the ABC's 7.30 recently, GPs are finding visits to aged-care facilities all too hard. Indeed, their visits, despite our ageing population, have declined 13 per cent in just three years. Our GPs are busy, and visits to aged-care facilities are time-consuming, both in getting there and once they arrive there. The care issues they encounter on those visits can be quite complex and, again, time-consuming.
The monetary compensation they receive for visiting aged-care facilities is less than that which they would receive if they saw patients in their own surgeries. And of course the Medicare rebate freeze has not helped. The Practice Incentives Program has to be adjusted to provide more incentives for GPs—or, alternatively, the rebate needs to be revisited so that GPs can see our elderly Australians.