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THE

VOICE

OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW Print Post Approved PP235387100064

ISSN 10353615

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

Winner of the 2009 Older People Speak Out Media Award - Seniors’ Newsletters

ENERGY PRICES UP COMPLAINTS SOAR

The way things are going, nothing’s off limits

THERE has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints about energy and water utilities in NSW. Data released by the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) shows that the number of complaints about energy and water utilities has risen 43 per cent. Complaints about energy retailers increased from 8,889 in 2008/2009 to 12,987 in 2009/2010 - a staggering 46 per cent. These figures throw into question the NSW Government’s decision to privatise energy retailers and deregulate pricing.

If complaints are increasing while there is Government oversight and regulation what will happen once these protections for consumers are removed? How many more people will be badly affected? Victoria presents the litmus test. Complaints made about Victoria’s energy retailers rose by 264 per cent following the privatisation of the energy market in the state. In 2008/2009 there were nearly 35,000 complaints, up from 13,179 in 2006/2007. The privatisation and deregulation of energy

in Victoria has resulted in manipulative and misleading marketing strategies; poorer customer service and customer assistance when people had difficulty paying their bills; and more disputed accounts. In NSW, sale of the retailers is supposed to increase competition in the sector. However, sources close to the sale, as revealed in The Australian Financial Review (17/11/2010), reported that only three bids were made for the three state-owned retailers, Energy Australia, Country Energy and Integral Energy.

The three bidders are reportedly AGL, TRUenergy and Origin, which, if they end up winning the contracts, will reduce the number of retailers in NSW from six to three. So much for increased competition. And, as analysts have implied, with lower competition, lighter regulation, and increased market share, the three bidders stand to make a killing. Governments, in the pursuit of a fast dollar, have seemingly forgotten that energy is an essential service to which everybody should have affordable access.

CPSA wishes everyone Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year! 1

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THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


Letters CPSA Executive (as at 2.11.2010)

Grace Selway OAM President Bob Jay Secretary Betty Chamberlain Treasurer Bill Holland Senior Vice President Assistant Treasurer Sue Latimer Vice President Margaret Craven-Scott Assistant Secretary Edna Kay Publications Editor Barbara Wright Assistant Publications Editor Shirley Bains Marie Mihell George Ray Colin Vernon

THE VOICE

OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW

Editor: Edna Kay Assistant Editor: Barbara Wright Phone: (02) 9281 3588 Fax: (02) 9281 9716 Email: voice@cpsa.org.au Production: Charmaine Crowe & Antoine Mangion Printer: MPD, Unit E1, 46-62 Maddox Street, Alexandria 2015 All content prepared by the editorial and production team with reference to stories on AAP newswire, unless indicated. THE VOICE CPSA, Level 9, 28 Foveaux St Surry Hils NSW 2010

Disclaimer

Letters are personal views only and do not necessarily reflect CPSA policy. Ed.

Rising energy prices an insult to customers I SEE the notification of increasing power prices as an insult, as you can read for yourself. The following is a letter I sent to the General Manager of Origin Energy. “Dear General Manager Many thanks for letting me know that the power price, as expected, is going up again. When the next increase is due, please do not bother writing to me again because I see it as an insult. While you carry big money home in your suitcase, others are getting cut off from power and have to suffer. I do know there is a kind of expression going around in the business world which support ripping people off with a smile – it’s no crime as long as it’s legalised by the government. And you and other power companies take full advantage of it due

to an incompetent NSW Government which has failed to keep up the modernisation of power plants. Does one not say that when two people (in this case voters and the Government) have differences, the third person involved comes out of it laughing? And your power company is laughing all the way to the bank while the rest of the world could not give a hoot about polluting the air. Makes a lot of sense to me! Yours sincerely, no rustic clown,” Herbert Eder Abbotsford, NSW Rising costs and impossible bulk buys OVER many years, the prices of 1 litre Dulux products has risen, e.g. ten years ago at $27.00, now we have Weathershield (white) at $41.90. Recently while in a Bunnings store, an elderly woman asked me for advice

on what paint to buy to paint a very small fence which her son had built for her, concrete and timber, total cost $30.00. She was shocked when the cost of Weathershield was explained and she could not afford it. This incident highlights the on-going problem of the outrageous cost for 1 litre of paint which is so unfair to the consumer. While Weathershield is $41.90 for 1 litre, a 4 litre tin of the same product is $74.50, or $18.50 a litre. Same with Dulux Wash n Wear (white): a 1 litre tin cost $36.71 while a 4 litre tin is $63.90 or $16.00 a litre. I have asked Dulux Australia to explain this outrageous cost to me and other consumers, particularly to pensioners and retirees, yet to date I have not received a response. I now have no loyalty to Dulux, which is likely to be taken over by

Donations, Bequests, Membership and THE VOICE subscriptions Membership is open to all who support the aims and objectives of CPSA I’d like to renew my Membership or join CPSA as a Member and enclose my individual Membership fee of $12 (Includes a free annual subscription to THE VOICE, valued at $25.00). Please send me information about my nearest Branch. I do not wish to join CPSA but would like to subscribe to THE VOICE (1 year—$25.00 incl. GST). I belong to an organisation and would like information about how we can become a Branch or an Affiliate of CPSA. (NB: Branches are covered by CPSA’s $10 million Public Liability Insurance). I wish to make a donation of $______ (All donations above $2 are tax deductible).

No responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of information contained in advertisements or text supplied by other organisations or individuals and/or typographical errors.

Name:_____________________________________________________________________________ Address:___________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________State:_____________Postcode:__________ Phone: ______________________________Email:_________________________________________

CPSA does not support or promote the products or views in paid advertising.

Payment details (for credit card): Visa Mastercard Name on card:__________________________Card Number:___________________Expiry:_________ Amount:______________________ Signature:_____________________________________________ Please send to: CPSA, Level 9, 28 Foveaux St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

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Please send me information about THE VOICE gift subscriptions. I wish to make a bequest to CPSA in my Will. Please send me information.

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


Letters American interests, despite me having been a Retail and Trade representative for the company for more than 16years. Charles Lindstrom Saratoga, NSW Silence is not golden for nursing home resident welfare THANK YOU, Maureen Ballantine for discussing the lack of care in nursing homes (November 2010). Where does the buck stop, who is responsible for feeding clients and giving them a drink? Surely someone knows who is supposed to feed these helpless souls.  Where does one lodge a complaint? They must come under review and be answerable to someone. Don’t walk away, complain to the right authority. That’s the problem, everyone turns a blind eye. Good on you Maureen. Edith Doherty Davistown, NSW To lodge a complaint about the mistreatment of an aged care recipient contact the Complaints Investigation Scheme on 1800 550 552. Ed. Digital pain renders no political gain

Government will soon switch off, literally getting up the noses of thousands of people unless something is done to provide a decent signal. I hope this will be addressed, because there is nothing that renters or pensioners (who can’t afford installations) can do about their digital TV reception if they have to rely on rabbits ears. No TV = No Votes Simon Evans Ascot, Queensland A word of thanks LAST month, I was taken to the tribunal by government housing. I am a single pensioner who has lived over 30 years in my home. I was issued with a letter telling me that I was to remove my security screens that I had had put on my home over 18 years ago. I was given the contact for OPTS and CPSA and I cannot thank the staff enough as they helped resolve a very distressing issue for me, even coming to the hearing with me. Thank you so much. I am so relieved that my security screens can stay as they are my security and peace of mind. Wendy Hall Doonside, NSW

A Scrap Heap Challenge I live in the suburb of for the Government Ascot, which is pretty much WHAT the devil are we doing the Brisbane inner city. throwing experienced people While I can get digital TV onto the poverty scrap heap? on the main antenna which How about a mandatory is boosted, the other two TVs percentage of government in the house that use small job vacancies going to antennas cannot, even though mature-aged applicants? Is one is boosted. this too radical? I’m not sure if anyone Can we even get an has stopped to think of how interview? Truthful resumes many hundreds of thousands reveal years of experience of people, especially those and thus, likely age and who are renting, have to because ageism far outstrips use the ‘rabbit’s ears’ type the old bugbear ‘sexism’ of antennas. They work fine nowadays, many competent on analogue TV which the people become dependants Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

upon welfare and health budgets instead of retaining their health and dignity by contributing with their own income tax. We’d hear a lot less complaint about the ‘cost’ of seniors! Let’s make it mandatory for banks and all major employers to follow Twiggy Forrest’s example. Let’s mandate for every government department to set the pace and lead as they do on other discriminatory issues. Income versus expenditure for the public purse. A win-win situation all round. Wouldn’t there be many votes in that? Pamela Dunsford Potts Point, NSW Fairer ways to collect FSL I WRITE with regards to the October VOICE article The Fire Service Levy. The levy should be collected by the local or city council yearly with the other services which they already provide. This way all the households will be paying, not only the insure households. This is a more equitable situation. We will then have more money than enough to give to the fire service and is a much easier way to do it. I can’t see the insurance companies making every household to pay otherwise. Victor Borg Gladesville, NSW Send a letter to THE VOICE By mail to: THE VOICE, CPSA Level 9, 28 Foveaux St Surry Hills NSW 2010 or by email to voice@cpsa.org.au

Disability Support Pensioners able to access low-cost internet THE COMPANY that recently took over a notfor-profit internet service provider for Disability Support and Age Pensioners have changed their policy to allow new customers who are on a Disability Support Pension and under the age of 55 to access the service. CPSA contacted the company ONESeniors shortly after they had taken over TADAust Connect because the company limited access to their internet and phone services to people aged 55 and over. CPSA considered this to be unfair, because TADAust Connect by Technical Aid for the Disabled (ACT) to provide an affordable internet service for pensioners, to bridge the communication gap. ONESeniors claimed that they had changed their policy because they were not able to verify if a new customer was in receipt of a Disability Support Pension, and therefore they imposed an age based eligibility criterion instead. CPSA argued that a Pension Concession Card includes payment information on it, and that would be a way to determine if someone was in receipt of the Disability Support Pension or not. T h a n k f u l l y, ONESeniors has adopted this recommendation. New customers under the age of 55 must show proof of their Pensioner Concession Card to access the service. This can be done either online at www. oneseniors.com.au or by telephoning ONESeniors on 1300 735 439.

You must include your name and suburb or town for the letter to be published. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. THE VOICE ONLINE: www.cpsa.org.au

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Members’ page CPSA Merchandise

THE e-VOICE is available to view on the internet at www.cpsa.org.au/evoice.html

Good news! CPSA now has new Life Member badges. Association Life Members (awarded at Conference each year) will receive Association Life Member title bars. Similarly, Branch Life Members will receive Branch Life Member badges. If you are a Life Member, please send your Life Member badge to CPSA Head Office with your name and address and we will replace it with a new Association Life Member or Branch Life Member badge for free. Prices at the badge company have increased, so if you are ordering badges, please note the new price of $5 for the title bar and $4 for the pendant (a total of $9).

$ 3.60 $ 9.00 $5.00 $ 4.00 $ 10.15 $16.15 $0.10 $1.00 $3.30 $1.10 $2.00 $5.50 $10.00 $4.40

Donations CPSA is grateful for all donations. Due to lack of space, the following only includes donations above $35. M. Blanch Nowra CPSA

$38.00 $4,308.80

Crossword Across

Down

1. Offensive 8. Opportunities 9. Russian dictator 10. Stomach pains (5,5) 11. Welsh emblem 12. Stage whispers 14. Miscellaneous articles 17. Outdoor (2,6) dining, eg 20. Die of hunger 23. Deprived of feeling 24. Improvement 25. Swim-suit 26. Tidiness 27. What type of hat did the farmer own (2,3,1,7)

1. 2. 3. 4.

Answers on back page 4

Miss Margaret Burns, long-time Member of Nyngan CPSA has passed away. She regularly attended meetings and loved her carpet bowls. Margaret will be sadly missed. Shoalhaven Heads Branch’s dearest Member, Joan Lucas, will be sadly missed by all, for her cheery greetings each week. Ignoring the pain she felt, Joan always had a smile and a good word for everyone. God bless, Joan. Neville Starr was a Member of Guildford CPSA for over 30 years. He will be sadly missed.

CPSA Merchandise Badges Membership Title Bar* + pendant Title Bar Pendant (*except Welfare Officer Asst Soc. Sec.) Cards Membership Waratah card Card wallet Certificate (80/90 years/Appreciation) Emergency medical information book Leather key ring Letter opener: silver or gold Tea caddy spoon

Garden of Remembrance

NILS® NSW www.nilsnsw.org.au

No Interest Loans Scheme NILS® is a community managed small loan program developed by the Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service designed to assist low income people, i.e., receiving income support from Cenrelink. Loans for approximately $1,000 are for new essential household items, medical goods and services. NILS® now has a Freecall service funded by NSW Fair Trading:

1800 509 994 Please phone 9:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday except public holidays for information/eligibility/schemes in your local area. Unfortunately, as yet, there is not a scheme in every town or suburb of NSW. NILS® is not for emergency relief, bond or rent, living expenses or debt repayment. For help with credit & debt difficulties, please call the Credit & Debt Hotline: Freecall 1800 808 488.

by Hilda Thorburn

Subjugate Rattled Solicits The pupils were interested ...(excursions) (2, 6-7) 5. Snouts 6. Writing system for the blind 7. Obvious 13. Treatment to produce test tube babes (abbrev.) 15. Despondent 16. Neither ... 18. Oafish 19. Nonsense, garbage 21. Nuts 22. Deer flesh 24. Erect

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


CPSA Conference 2010 Conference 2010

by law, they should never be disconnected from supply. CPSA’s 79th Annual PIAC’s research Conference, held at the showed that those being Salvation Army Congress disconnected were usually Hall in Sydney on 26 and 27 finding it difficult to make October, was a resounding ends meet. Many had success. difficulty paying rent, their The Conference mortgage or another debt. enjoyed a great turnout with Others had recently lost many familiar faces joining Conference speakers work, or their bills were new ones who we hope will unusually high. Joel Pringle, Public return next year. PIAC is concerned that Interest Advocacy Centre Attendees worked privatisation will consolidate (PIAC) hard on policy matters, but the market and therefore limit JOEL is competition. This is because this didn’t mean there was a Policy only a few companies are no time for enjoyment, with O f f i c e r likely to buy the government wonderful tea breaks, lunches with PIAC, retailers. and the social function after working on the first day. Privatisation will the Energy lead to increased door CPSA was fortunate Water Consumers’ to-door marketing which enough to have NSW and Program involves targeting vulnerable Minister for Ageing, Advocacy Disability Services, (EWCAP). consumers who are unaware EWCAP’s work Volunteering and Youth, of what is being sold to them Peter Primrose, speak at includes taking on energy and of their rights. Retailers privatisation in NSW; use third-party companies to Conference. for energy- do the marketing and this way Minister Primrose advocating spoke positively of the efficiency for low income there is less accountability. need for his portfolio to be households and advocating This has been the involved in the decision- against and researching the experience in Victoria where making process in other impacts of disconnections. energy has been privatised Joel said that while the portfolios such as transport and deregulated for over two number of disconnections and health. years now. from supply of electricity and Minister Primrose presesnted a Life gas has reduced, the numbers Linda Sparrow, Aged Care Membership Award to Betty have remained constant over Crisis LINDA spoke Chamberlain and in absentia the last two years and are still too high. Around 950 to Conference to Harry Crase, Grace households are disconnected about why we Newick, Phyllis Southwell in NSW every week. should make and Betty Kircher. Those being life worth Two new awards were also presented at this year’s disconnected tend to be living in nursing homes. on low incomes including She asked why we, as Conference. pensioners, unemployed, a community, place so little The Silver Bough Award is awarded to Members sole parents and people with value on the frail, old life and the end of life experience. with 25 years service as a a mental illness. More worryingly, Linda discussed how Branch volunteer. This year’s Joel said there was a large society does not view frail, recipients were Hazel Betts, percentage of people old age as a life well lived. Dorothy Blacker, Beryl Clark, Violet Griffiths, Kath receiving regular medical With importance placed on and people independence, health and Lamb, Win McRae, Faylande treatment Reay, Joan Swan and Gwen requiring energy for medical success, this only serves to equipment who were also remind people of what they Waddington. wish to avoid. The Golden Bough being disconnected. People needing She also highlighted Award is awarded to Members with 25 years medical equipment to live ageist rhetoric commonly service as Branch and/or Area need a constant energy supply used in society, which further Council Executives. Shirley to run that equipment and, devalues people in nursing Anderson, Ida Lilllian Blake, Connie Drover, Decima Edis, Mary Eastlake, John Reay, Athold Ryan, Edna Stevenson and Ida Sharpe were this year’s recipients. CPSA would like to congratulate all award recipients.

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

homes, as well as the fanciful interest to use robots to deliver aged care. Linda asked why it was that with so many consultative bodies, agencies and advisory committees; rarely does one include people who live in nursing homes or their family members. She spoke on the very important issue of staffing and its central role in the current Productivity Commission inquiry. So many inquiries have fallen by the wayside and Aged Care Crisis is hoping this one won’t have the same fate. Aged Care Crisis hears many stories of cuts to staffing. Staffing costs take up approximately 79 per cent of a nursing home’s budget and it’s the first port of call when cuts are being made. The effects of low staffing permeate every aspect of aged care. One important area is nutrition, where there aren’t enough staff to feed every resident. Another issue is the reduced skill level of staff. These days, a registered nurse is likely to be at the end of a phone rather than the end of the corridor. More and more people are entering nursing homes with complex needs and it is clear that their condition deteriorates when skill levels decline. Nurses in the industry have higher workloads and the burn-out rates are tremendous. Linda said there is great reliance on casual and agency staff. The very people who are likely to provide empathetic care are the very ones likely to leave to find a job which rewards them for their work and is personally satisfying. Linda concluded that this is one of our greatest moral tests – not to leave

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CPSA Member Benefit

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Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


CPSA Conference 2010

ageing and dying people in social exclusion and neglect but to willingly and lovingly support those at the end of the life journey. Bush Telegraph Campaigns CPSA Branches around the state get up to all sorts of activities, from simple gatherings and friendly lunches to outings and great expeditions. But it’s their involvement in the local community and their interest in the issues that affect pensioners and others that make them so important. Here is just a sample of what CPSA Branches told us was important in their community through the Bush Telegraph at this year’s Annual Conference. Manning Valley CPSA

Manning Valley lobbied their Federal Member Rob Oakshott MP on pensioner issues. They campaigned on the need to review couple pensions which received little increase in the

Pension Reforms and on the Pensioner Supplement which has not kept up with the rapid increase in utility prices. They continued to lobby for dental care in Medicare and in particular to maintain the existing Medicare funding for chronically ill patients. Riverlands Area Council

Riverlands called on Centrelink to introduce seating to be available for use by those who are waiting, similar to those supplied by the RTA. They also said that there needs to be a better system for issuing tickets to the Premier’s Concerts in both March and Christmas. Orange CPSA

Orange Branch expressed its sympathy to their friends further out west where health and hospital services are being taken away. There is no doubt that, with the new medical centre, the services in Orange will be beautiful, but that does not provide much comfort to those who can’t access them. It’s another example of the government giving with one

hand, and taking with the other. Grenfell CPSA

Grenfell Branch is concerned about the situation at Grenfell Hospital and the MultiPurpose Service nursing home attached to it. Grenfell residents have been assured that the hospital will not close but the situation has been critical for over a year. There is no doctor visiting the hospital. Grenfell CPSA President has, and is still prepared to, write letters to the local paper about the situation. Cooma CPSA

Cooma’s need for better coordinated transport still remains unchanged. On some days there is a five hour gap between trains in Canberra and Cooma buses. A better, more flexible timetable for visiting Sydney specialists would be helpful to those in Cooma. One needs three days travel to Sydney for an x-ray and specialist appointment. This all costs $500 not including the medical fees;

quite a lot for pensioners. Residents must travel to Canberra for dialysis and some surgical procedures. The Australian National University has sent out some doctors in training to try rural medical practice. The result has been encouraging. Trying to attract medicos to the bush is a challenge! Gunnedah CPSA

The major news out of Gunnedah at the moment is the construction of a new Medical centre. This is a very large project that will cater for visiting specialists and also bring more doctors to the area. This will be beneficial to a lot of Gunnedah people especially pensioners, who won’t have to face travelling long distances for appointments. The town has been inundated with coal miners and since the mines opened, house prices have nearly doubled, units are being built everywhere and the town is busy but the shops are still empty. One wonders where people do their shopping.

Top, bottom left and right: President Grace Selway awards the Golden Bough Award to CPSA Members Centre: Minister Peter Primrose awards CPSA Life Membership to CPSA Treasurer Betty Chamberlain

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

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CPSA Campaigns Calls to reform Rate Rebate growing CPSA WAS pleased to hear of support for rate paying pensioners by a local council in the push to increase the pensioner rate rebate. CPSA has long known that local councils have been pushing the State Government to increase support to pensioners. When this gets picked up by mainstream media it’s a wonderful thing. And so it was with Nambucca Shire Council, who called on the NSW Government to increase the rate rebate which has stood at $250 for almost 20 years. Meanwhile, council rates across the state have doubled or tripled in that time. According to ABC Radio, Nambucca Council’s general manager Michael Coulter said that there are many older residents on low incomes, so the low rebate has serious consequences. “Just to give you an idea, out of our total rate assessments which is about 9000, we’ve got about 2400 assessments where we are granting pensioner concessions or rebates,” he told ABC Radio. “So it’s quite a large proportion of our total rate assessments that are held by pensioners. Their rebates have declined in real terms since 1989.” Councils like Nambucca would find it very difficult to fund increases to the rate rebate. CPSA calls on the NSW Government to make an election commitment to reform the rate rebate to cover 50 per cent of rates charged and has called on the NSW Opposition to support such reform. 8

Aged Care Commissioner disagrees with more than 50% of the Complaints Investigation Scheme’s decisions THE Aged Care Commissioner disagreed with the Department of Health and Ageing’s Complaints Investigation Scheme’s (CIS) decisions about aged care complaints in more than 50 per cent of cases for the 2009/10 financial year. Complainants to the CIS can appeal to the Commissioner if they are unsatisfied with the outcome of their original complaint. Both operate under the Minister for Ageing. The Commissioner’s Annual Report shows that of the 114 appeals dealt with during 2009/10, the Commissioner recommended that 51 per cent of the CIS’s decisions be altered. The Department refused to alter fully or in part 5 of the 51 decisions questioned by the Commissioner. Still, CPSA is concerned that 50 per cent of the appeals made found fault in the CIS’s original decision. It raises questions about the ability of the CIS. The CIS is the first ‘independent’ point of call for consumers or providers of aged care services to make a complaint about aged care or the assessment of care services by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency. Most appeals that go to the Commissioner are from consumers who are not satisfied with the result of the CIS’s investigations. There continues to be one considerable flaw in the system, and that’s the Commissioner’s decisions

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

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are not binding. The Commissioner may find that an aged care facility did breach its responsibilities under the Aged Care Act, but the Department can say “we disagree” and the case is closed. Appellants have only 14 days after the receipt of the CIS’s decision within which they can lodge an appeal with the Commissioner. This means that many, who would have appealed, don’t, as they do not have enough time to compile the paperwork and evidence to make an appeal. The Commissioner was not able to accept 21 appeals in 2009/10 because they failed to arrive at the Commissioner’s office in time. One can bet that most of these came from consumers who were unaware of the strict timeframes. The Commissioner stated “The reason for the ‘late’ lodgement of appeals is unclear. It could be that personal or business issues prevent people from lodging applications within the

legislative timeframe; or that people are unaware the legislation does not allow for discretion in this matter”. CPSA called for an increase in the timeframe within which one can lodge an appeal, to 28 days. This was supported by Dr Merrylin Walton in her review of the aged care complaints system. Dr Walton also called for the Commissioner to have determining powers, which is currently not the case. “The Commissioner herself [then Ms Rhonda Parker] told me that she thinks her office has limited impact in the current complaints scheme” (Review of the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme, October 2009). Public housing pension clawback in limbo THE single pension $30 clawback by the NSW Government is in limbo at the moment, after a meeting held with the Minister for Housing, Frank Terenzini, housing and pensioner stakeholders. The meeting was

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


CPSA Campaigns convened to hear the arguments from both sides of the debate about whether single pensioners should be able to keep the entire $30 weekly rise they received in September 2009, or whether 25 per cent of it should go to state housing authorities, in accordance with the renttied-to-income policy. CPSA argued that the automatic rent calculation of 25 per cent of a pensioner’s base rate of pension assumes that the pensioner then has enough to cover the cost of everything else they must purchase each week after rent. This setting of 25% reportedly originates from when lenders used to base their loans on one week’s pay in each month going toward paying off the loan. There is little evidence to show that this policy ensures low-income people have an adequate income to cover the cost of other essentials. In the UK and the Netherlands, social housing rents are charged at a market rate, and the tenant is then given payments to cover the cost. This results in housing authorities receiving a higher rental income than in Australia. It also removes any disincentives to work if the tenant can because if they earn more money, they won’t lose most, or all of it because of rent or income test taper rates, as is the case here. Indeed, some tenants in Australia are worse off if they take up work because of the loss of income or the risk of losing their home. This is because we have a tightly targeted system that allocates public housing to those most in need. Unfortunately, this

well-intentioned policy has left housing providers underfunded, and it discourages people from increasing their incomes if they are able to work. However, the extra $27 million that the NSW Government wishes to take from single pensioners in social housing is a drop in the ocean when it comes to social housing funding. In this light, it is wrong to argue that funding deficiencies will be exacerbated by quaranting the single pensioners $30 rise. The Commonwealth and State governments need to better fund social housing. Speaking of which, the Australian Government’s housing stimulus of $5.6 billion has been caught in the rain. Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib said that although the housing was on track, some construction had been delayed because of the amount of rainfall across various parts of the country. “Construction has commenced on 17,800 dwellings, and more than 5,100 dwellings have now been completed,” Minister Arbib said. Cost of living up, thanks to water, electricity and insurance THE latest data from the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) shows that living costs for pensioners and other income support recipients have increased by 1.0%. This was higher than the regular Consumer Price Index (CPI), which showed living costs rose by 0.7% for the same quarter (June to September).

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

The biggest rises were seen in the areas of utilities (2.9%), alcohol and tobacco (4.0%) finance and insurance services (3.1%) and clothing and footwear (1.4%). Offsets were seen in the areas of food (-0.6%), transportation (-1.0%) and health (-2.0%). Since 2007, when the PBLCI was first compiled, it has tracked higher than CPI, showing rises of 12.3% compared with CPI rises of 10.0%. It confirms what pensioners have long known that their basket of goods has become more expensive than the average household, thanks to what they purchase. It’s just a shame that pensioners have not had the benefit of the PBLCI for longer. The Pension Reform increases were viewed as a way to address the decline in the pension’s value as a result of indexation not recognising the types of products and services a pensioner primarily purchases, like utilities, healthcare and food. These costs are not necessarily offset by falls in prices in other areas such as telecommunications, home entertainment systems and petrol (many pensioners don’t have a car, or drive).

These price rises won’t be covered in pension rises until March next year of course, as indexation of pensions and other payments lags behind real increases in the cost of living. Do you know about energy payment assistance available? CPSA often speaks to pensioners who are experiencing great difficulty paying their energy bills. Few know about the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance vouchers, otherwise known as EAPA vouchers. EAPA vouchers are funded by the NSW Government, and are available through charitable organisations such as The Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul, and they provide financial assistance to low-income householders struggling to pay their energy bills. Their value varies between $30 and $480 per bill. CPSA supports this scheme but there is room for improvement. The NSW Government announced that they will review the scheme to assess whether it’s meeting its

THE VOICE ONLINE: www.cpsa.org.au

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CPSA Campaigns objectives, being helping low-income householders face the massive cost of energy. One of CPSA’s concerns is that pensioners and others on a low income don’t realise this type of assistance is available to them. The other problem is that many do not want to approach a charity for assistance, feeling that it is undignified. CPSA encourages anyone having problems paying their energy bills to approach their local provider of EAPA vouchers. However, we also understand why some people choose not to do so. The other glaring problem is that many customers are not eligible for EAPA vouchers in the first place, such as people living in a residential park. CPSA plans to work on some reforms in the area of EAPA vouchers and would like to hear from you. CPSA would like to know what you think about EAPA vouchers, and whether such assistance should be provided by charities or the NSW Government directly. CPSA would also like to hear from people who have accessed the EAPA scheme. Please call Charmaine or Antoine in the Policy

Office on (02) 9281 3588 or 1800 451 488. Alternatively, send a letter to CPSA L9/28 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010, or email policy@ cpsa.org.au. Please get in touch too if you would like to access an EAPA voucher, as CPSA will be able to refer you to your nearest supplier. Don’t let people tell you that the Age Pension is too expensive for governments! NOTICED the calls for the need for future generations of retirees to save for their own retirement? Have you also noticed the swell of discussion about the fact that our population is ageing, and we must do something so as to not burden future younger generations with enormous tax bills? Well CPSA has too, and thought it was time to dispel a few myths about the ageing of the population and the need for more retirees to be ‘self-sufficient’ in their retirement. This means that rather than accessing the Age Pension, future retirees should have saved enough, primarily through superannuation so as to not need the Age Pension. What is not talked about much is the amount

spent in foregone revenue each year through tax concessions through superannuation. In the last financial year, the Australian Government spent $22 billion in foregone tax revenue via superannuation. Expenditure declined slightly from previous years, because of the impact the Global Financial Crisis had on retirement savings. The Australian Government spent $29 billion on the Age Pension in the same year. So, there is really not that great a difference between spending on the Age Pension and on superannuation. And expenditure on superannuation is set to grow, especially if the Superannuation Guarantee rises to 12% (it’s currently set at 9% of one’s income). Commentators have forecast that a 12% Superannuation Guarantee will add $8 billion per year to the superannuation bill. There is $1.l2 trillion dollars sitting in superannuation funds at the moment. However, most

people over the age of 50 heading into retirement have inadequate superannuation to retire with little more than a pension. Even then, by 2047, Treasury estimate that with the present policy settings for retirement income (superannuation guarantee at 9 per cent, and the Age Pension age remaining at 65), 80% of retirees will be in receipt of some form of the Age Pension. Startling stuff hey? The common reason for most being on an Age Pension for today’s retirees is that they did not have the benefit of superannuation when they were working. However, as the above statistic shows, even with a full working life of superannuation, most will need an Age Pension anyway. So, when politicians go out and say that superannuation is needed to lower the number of people accessing the Age Pension, tell them that most will end up doing so, and that superannuation is not a low cost option as far as the public purse goes.

Lets talk about Energy Poverty Energy poverty is something people experience when they have inadequate access to a supply of energy. Energy poverty affects people’s day-to-day lives, impacting on their health and wellbeing. Four short videos created by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) Energy + Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program (EWCAP) and posted online focus attention on energy poverty. You can access the clips at http://www. piac.asn.au/energy-poverty. They include conversations with Kevin, an energy consumer; Dr Lynne Chester, an energy researcher from the University of Sydney; and Dr Alan Morris, a sociologist from the University of NSW. If energy poverty is something that you have experienced or feel strongly about, PIAC invites you to leave a comment on this page. EWCAP’s policy team will use your feedback to advocate for affordable and accessible energy for consumers across NSW. The page also includes a link to information about support that is available for people who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

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Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW


CPSA Information Directory INCOME SECURITY Centrelink Age Pension 13 23 00 DSP/Carer benefits 13 27 17 Family Assistance 13 61 50 Welfare Rights Centre Info on Government pensions and other benefits 9211 5300 1800 226 028 National Information Centre on Retirement Investments Anything for the small investor and people wondering about super or how to invest 1800 020 110 Financial Ombudsman Services Complaints about banking, insurance, super, financial planning 1300 780 808 Financial Advisers Industry Fund Financial Planning 1300 138 848 Australian Taxation Office Super/Lost super 13 10 20 Personal tax 13 28 61 British Pensions in Australia Assistance in claiming the British Pension (02) 9521 7964 1300 308 353 RIGHTS Australian Human Rights Commission Complaints about discrimination and harassment 1300 369 711 Commonwealth Ombudsman Complaints about Federal Government departments and agencies 1300 362 072 NSW Ombudsman’s Office Complaints about NSW Government agencies 1800 451 524 Office of the Protective Commissioner 1300 360 466

Guardianship Tribunal Financial management orders for people with decisionmaking disabilities 1800 463 928 Seniors Information Service 13 12 44 GOODS AND SERVICE Consumer Trader & Tenancy Tribunal Tenancy, trader and consumer disputes 13 32 20 Energy & Water Ombudsman (EWON) Complaints about all NSW electricity/gas retailers and Sydney and Hunter Water 1800 246 545 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Phone and internet complaints 1800 062 058 Telstra Pensioner Discount For basic plans only 1800 353 652 NSW Seniors Card Discounts on goods and services 1300 364 758 NSW Companion Card Free event admission for companions of eligible people with a disability 1800 893 044 HEALTH AND CARE Commonwealth CareLink Info about aged and community care 1800 052 222 Office of Hearing Services Subsidised hearing aids 1800 500 726 Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 Single-gender Ward Hotline For patients who wish to be placed in a singlegender ward after 24hrs hospitalisation 1800 700 830

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

VisionCare NSW Subsidised spectacles (02) 9344 412

Home Care Service NSW Domestic assistance, respite and personal care 1800 044 043 Rape Crisis Centre 24hours/7days 1800 424 017 Health Care Complaints Commission NSW only 9219 7444 Carers NSW Information, support 1800 242 636 Emergency respite 1800 059 059 Aged care information line Residential and community aged care information 1800 500 853 Aged Care Complaints Scheme Complaints about residential and community aged care 1800 550 552 Lifeline Mental health support, suicide prevention 13 11 14 Beyond Blue Depression and anxiety information 1300 224 636 Public Dental Health Services Call NSW Health for details 9391 9000 1800 639 398 Medicare Enhanced Primary Care Dental Scheme Call Medicare for details 132 011 People with Disabilities Advice for people with a disability 9370 3100 1800 422 016 Exit Australia Information about euthanasia 1300 103 948 Dying with Dignity NSW 02 9212 4782 Australian Men’s Shed Association 1300 550 009

HOUSING CPSA’s Older Persons Tenants’ Service (OPTS) Individual advocacy 9566 1120 1800 131310 CPSA’s Park and Village Service (PAVS) Individual advocacy for caravan parks and manufactured homes villages 9566 1010 1800 177 688 NSW Department of Housing Info and applications 1800 629 212 Tenants Advice Line Mondays 3-6pm 1800 251 101 LEGAL The Aged-care Rights Service including Older Persons’ Legal Service Aged care and retirement village advocacy and information and legal advice for older people. 9281 3600 1800 424 079 Law Access Referrals for legal help 1300 888 529 The Law Society Solicitor and legal firm referrals 9926 0300 1800 422 713 Community Justice Centres Dispute resolution services for minor matters 9228 7455 Domestic Violence Advocacy Service 1800 200 526 Family Relationship Centres Relationship and separation information 1800 050 321 Office of the Legal Services Commissioner Complaints about lawyers and conveyancers 1800 242 958

THE VOICE ONLINE: www.cpsa.org.au

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Giggle Page The Christmas Diet

You thought you had it bad! Dear Sir I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In section 3 of the accident reporting form, I put ‘poor planning’ as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and I trust that the following details will be sufficient. I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six storey building. When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of bricks left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks. You will note in section 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two-knuckles deep into the pulley.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all round my hips were Arnott’s choc biscuits that sneaked past my lips. Fudge brownies were stored in the freezer with care in hopes that my thighs would forget they were there. While Mama in her girdle and I in chin straps had just settled down to sugar-borne naps. When out in the pantry there arose such a clatter I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the kitchen I flew like a flash tore open the icebox then threw up the sash. The marshmallow look of the new-fallen snow sent thoughts of a binge to my body below. When what to my wandering eyes should appear: a marzipan Santa with eight chocolate reindeer! That huge chunk of candy so luscious and slick I knew in a second that I’d wind up sick. The sweet-coated Santa, those sugared reindeer I closed my eyes tightly but still I could hear; On diets, on fasting, on weakness, on TOPS a Weight Watcher dropout from sugar detox. My droll little mouth and my round little belly they shook when I laughed like a bowl full of jelly. I spoke not a word but went straight to my work ate all of the candy then turned with a jerk. And laying a finger beside my heartburn I gave a quick nod toward the bedroom I turned. I eased into bed, to the heavens I cry if temptation’s removed I’ll get thin by and by. And I mumbled again as I turned for the night in the morning I’ll starve . . . ‘til I take that first bite.

Crossword Solutions Crossword on page 4

Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed approximately fifty pounds. I refer you again to my weight, As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the lacerations of my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel slowed enough to lessen my injuring when I fell onto the pile of bricks and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay on the bricks – in pain, unable to stand and watching the empty barrel six stories above me – I again lost my presence of mind and I let go of the rope! 12

Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

THE VOICE OF PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS OF NSW

THE VOICE - Dec 2010-Jan 2011  

THE VOICE of Pensioners and Superannuants of NSW