House debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading

6:16 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Our aged-care system is in crisis because of this Liberal-National government, and its response to the aged care royal commission is far, far from enough. In fact, it really is a complete disgrace. In fact, the government itself is in crisis. We've seen this today, and, instead of focusing on the really big issues across the country, like its bungled vaccine rollout or its lack of quarantine facilities, its completely consumed with itself. We're seeing crisis after crisis from this government, particularly when it comes to aged care. The government's response to aged care really falls well short of what was required and fails to deliver on the long-term reforms that are needed in the sector.

They created this crisis through their ongoing funding cuts and their lack of will and capacity to address problems within the sector. This crisis, when it comes to our senior Australians, is part of the government's overall failure, whether it's their pension cuts or their failure to invest in aged care. Time and time again, our senior Australians know they just cannot trust this government when it comes to accessing the services or the health care or the aged care that they might need.

We were all equally horrified by some of the reports that we saw in the royal commission. Some of those stories of maltreatment and substandard care were truly distressing. Some of the really graphic stories we heard, very tragic ones, include things like neglect, including maggots in the wounds of residents. This is disgusting! We heard that two-thirds of residents were malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. It is appalling that these older Australians in our nursing homes are being treated this way or are at risk of such horrific treatment. The stories were incredibly distressing right across the board. But make no mistake: this situation is a direct result of the Morrison government's severe funding cuts to aged care. That's why the situation is so bad. They have chronically underfunded aged care; they cut billions from aged care over the past eight years. The Liberal-National government, with the various prime ministers and deputy prime ministers throughout that time, have consistently cut funding to aged care.

We also see a lack of funding when it comes to home care as well. We know there are over 100,000 Australians waiting for home-care packages. With the very large proportion of seniors in my electorate, every day I hear from locals who are unable to access home-care packages or the sufficient package that they require to stay in their homes. Of course our older Australians, like everybody else, want to remain in their home for as long as they can, but they can't do that unless they've got a home-care package tailored to their needs, and so many of them are waiting sometimes up to two or three years. This is just appalling—the situations we hear about day by day of older people who are unable to stay in their homes because of this government's funding cuts—and it keeps getting worse and worse.

In terms of the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021, I totally support the amendment moved by the member for Cooper which notes the systemic ongoing failures in Australia's aged-care system as evidenced by the royal commission, including, but not limited to, the use of restrictive practices and restraints in aged care, the inadequacy of the government's response to the royal commission, and the government's failures in protecting residents and workers due to their poor management during the pandemic and the COVID-19 outbreak. The amendment also calls on the government to explain, as a matter of urgency, its plan to fully vaccinate aged-care residents and workers. What an ongoing debacle that has been! Right throughout the country, we have seen the failure of the vaccine rollout and the constant bungling by this government, but, in terms of the residents and the workers in aged care, it has been horrendous. These people should have been prioritised and vaccinated first. We've seen so many situations where particular nursing homes have had to be locked down because these people are not vaccinated. This government has completely bungled it. When it came to this pandemic, they had two major responsibilities: to roll out the vaccine and have fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities. They've completely failed their government responsibilities. The Prime Minister's responsibility—totally failed it. Of course this Prime Minister is responsible for the aged-care system. He's responsible for the funding cuts, and he is responsible for that terrible neglect that's been identified in the royal commission, yet he fails to take responsibility for that and fix it.

This bill does fail to tackle some of the major issues in aged care. The problem is that the government has failed to put forward a comprehensive, overall plan for reform of the sector. They've fobbed off or delayed or outright rejected many of the key recommendations, and there is nothing in this bill that will address desperately needed workplace reform. The people who work in the aged-care sector are incredible people, but they are underpaid, overstretched and overworked. They are not properly paid for the incredible work that they do, and there is nothing in this bill at all to address that. The government has also failed, in this bill, to make sure there's adequate transparency and accountability linked to funding given to aged-care providers. Also, in terms of the introduction of the assurance review, it's disappointing that the government hasn't followed more closely the recommendations from the royal commission to increase transparency and accountability measures. They've failed to clear the home-care package waitlist of over 100,000 people, and they've also ignored the recommendation to require a nurse to be on duty 24/7 in residential care. This is absolutely imperative and is at the heart of improving care. They have ignored that. We know that staffing levels are central to the quality care issues that we've seen in aged care. The government has also failed to do enough in terms of ensuring that there is enough support for those at risk due to the use of restraints.

In conclusion, as I have said many times before, we have a duty as a nation to ensure that every Australian is treated with respect and dignity, and we must ensure that they can access public services, health care and aged-care support when they need them. We must always remember that it's our older Australians who built this country, and they need to have better support from this government. It is disgraceful that they've been neglected by the Liberal-National government. We see across the board the government's complete neglect when it comes to our older Australians. Whether it's because of their cuts to pensions, their plans to expand the cashless welfare card or their cuts to aged care, older Australians know this government cannot be trusted at all.


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