Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Elliot: A Year of Power in Review; MP Handles Ageing Gracefully

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Elliot: A Year of Power in Review; MP Handles Ageing Gracefully

Article excerpt

Byline: ED SOUTHORN

THIS time last year, Justine Elliot had her fingers crossed she would not be out of a job.

Twelve months later, she is Ageing Minister in the Rudd Government, in charge of looking after the growing and complex aged care industry.

The re-elected Richmond MP will celebrate her first year as a federal minister on December 3.

"My focus had been on just winning my seat, and then to win the election was fantastic," said Mrs Elliot, who still lives at Fingal with husband Craig and their young family.

Although she was one of the first Labor MPs to publicly back Kevin Rudd in his leadership showdown with Kim Beazley, she was not expecting to be handed a ministry.

"I felt at the time Kevin was the best person to be leader, and of course I still do," Mrs Elliot said.

"He's always been a very hard worker and very committed and good at talking about the direction of the Labor Party."

She said it was "a real surprise, a privilege and an honour" to be given the Ageing Ministry.

"I was pleased it was Ageing. From 2004 to 2007, I'd been dealing a lot with our local seniors groups and then we had the (Richmond) aged care summit in 2005."

Mrs Elliot was happy to confess in the lead-up to last year's election campaign, after Mr Rudd was forced to admit to a strip club night out in New York, that she also had visited girlie bars when she was a policewoman.

Although some other more experienced Rudd government ministers might be more aggressive media performers, Mrs Elliot has so far managed to avoid any gaffes in a portfolio which involves difficult administrative and funding arrangements for the health and welfare of some of Australia's most vulnerable people.

And despite protests by seniors angry at missing out on pension increases in the Rudd government's first budget, Mrs Elliot has surprised some critics who felt she might struggle with the demands of being a minister.

Mrs Elliot says she is delivering Labor's campaign commitments, focusing on shifting older people out of hospitals, providing private sector financial assistance to build more nursing homes, strengthening regulations to ensure high quality aged care and improving access to home and community care services. …

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