Prime Minister Kevin Rudd received his usual rock-star reception during his visit to Lismore and the Tweed yesterday where he announced new multi-million-dollar health-care initiatives aimed at the region’s large elderly population.
Everywhere he went, meeting and greeting the locals was part and parcel of Mr Rudd’s visit, including stops at local cafes.
The visit was also part of his support for Labor’s Richmond and Page MPs who in turn supported him during this year’s leadership challenge and are fighting hard to retain their seats.
In Lismore, Mr Rudd and Page MP Janelle Saffin jointly announced a new $50 million Medicare initiative for stroke sufferers when they visited the town’s Medicare Local office.
One of the 70 stroke care co-ordinators under the new national program will work from Lismore.
Mr Rudd later visited Murwillumbah and Condong in the Tweed where he joined Richmond MP Justine Elliot in announcing that federal Labor will invest $20 million in ‘Active Ageing’ projects to allow thousands more older Australians to take part in activities to improve their well-being.
Under the scheme, grants will be available to community organisations and local governments for projects fostering healthy ageing.
In his announcement, Mr Rudd said ‘Active Ageing’ projects like exercise, recreation, nutrition and other activities help older people enjoy better health and mobility and more independence.
‘They allow seniors to stay engaged and connected to their communities.’ he said.
Photogallery Jeff Dawson
‘Helping older people to stay healthy and participate in the community and the economy is increasingly important as Australia has an ageing population.’
Yesterday’s announcement follows federal Labor’s $3.7 billion aged-care reform plan which Mr Rudd accused the coalition of repeatedly trying to defer and block.
‘Now the Coalition are planning $70 billion in cuts and this means services for older Australians would be in the firing line under an Abbott-led government,’ he said.
Tweed councillor Gary Bagnall was one of those who met Mr Rudd yesterday.
Cr Bagnall said staff and customers at his New Leaf cafe in Murwillumbah were thrilled to have him sit down there for a chat and refreshment.
‘He chatted away for an hour to my staff and customers quite relaxed as there were no press snapping away or asking questions,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘Our staff and customers were thrilled to have Mr Rudd sitting down to coffee with them. Kevin was so relaxed and friendly.
‘There were a lot of school kids wanting their picture with him, and the barber invited him into his shop to try the barber’s chair.
‘He seemed very down to earth and just happy to be sitting around enjoying the town and its people.’
Echonetdaily political correspondent Mungo MacCallum also joined Mr Rudd and his wife Therese Rein on the visit to both towns.
Mr MacCallum is following Mr Rudd’s campaign trail for an upcoming book.