The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:
1. Has the Government accepted the Commonwealth’s offer to extend concessions to self-funded retirees?
2. (a) Is the system which enables electronic confirmation of eligibility for concessions fully operational?
(b) If not, when does the Minister for Families and Communities expect that it will be?
The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Families and Communities has provided the following information:
1. The Commonwealth Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator the Hon Kay Patterson, wrote to me on 26 March 2004, offering to continue negotiations around extending concessions that are currently available to pensioners to holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). I responded to Senator Patterson on 19 May 2004, advising that the South Australian Government is prepared to enter into negotiations.
On 27 July 2004, Australian Government officers provided the Department for Families and Communities (DFC) with a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a letter confirming that a number of issues needed to be worked through. Australian Government officers advised that they would be providing a revised MOU to Senator Patterson for approval.
I was concerned about the lack of progress on this issue and, on 9 September 2004, I again wrote to Senator Patterson asking that the Australian Government resolve this matter. I still have not received the revised MOU or a response to my letter.
After two weeks of attempting to speak to Hon Senator Patterson by phone I finally spoke to her on 25 November 2004. I again repeated our willingness to finalise negotiation on her offer. She drew my attention to the promises made by the Prime Minister during the recent federal election to provide $100 per annum to pensioners, and $200 per annum to CSHC holders, to assist with the cost of utilities. She said this would have an impact on the original offer.
DFC contacted the Commonwealth to seek information. Advice received by DFC was that the Australian Government officers did not have any details at this time, but expected that the CSHC offer may be modified or even withdrawn.
2. DFC, through Children, Youth and Family Services, entered into a contract with Centrelink for the electronic confirmation of eligibility for Commonwealth benefits, which has been operational since March 2004.