House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019


Aged Care

7:29 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

We heard an extraordinary comment from the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care in parliament today when he talked about how senior Australians and those in aged care deserve better than what we've seen in the last 20 years. I wanted to take this opportunity to point out to the minister that the Liberal-National government has been in government for 14½ of that last 20 years, so he's right—they have absolutely let them down.

This Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government will be remembered for five years of inaction, cutting funding and not driving long-term reform when it comes to aged care. In fact, they did such a terrible job of it they've had to call a royal commission. Indeed, they have done nothing to deal with the home care waitlist. It was, of course, federal Labor that did aged-care reforms, bipartisan aged-care reforms, last time we were in government. The former minister did a lot of work on those reforms to get that bipartisanship, but, sadly, we've not seen similar energy and effort from those on the other side.

Now, of course, as we come into the lead-up to the election, we've got those on the other side pretending they care about older Australians. As I have said publicly, older Australians are not going to be fooled—they're not going to be fooled at all. Indeed, in recent weeks we've heard about some of the impacts that the cuts have had. There was a document from the government's own department which called some of the people in residential aged care 'losers'—a term that you wouldn't expect to see when it comes to older Australians in a government departmental brief, I wouldn't have thought. They were referring to the $1.2 billion cut in the Aged Care Funding Instrument in the 2016-17 budget that, of course, was the responsibility of the then Treasurer now Prime Minister. That came on top of a half a billion dollar cut—$500 million—in the 2015 MYEFO, on top of more than $100 million in the dementia supplement in residential aged care that was cut. That's almost $2 billion in direct cuts, but, of course, they have an effect where they add up cumulatively over years. People in the industry, in the sector, are talking about around $3 billion of cuts just in the last five years from this government when it comes to aged care.

As I said, after all of this, and, of course, that terrible Four Corners program that showed some of the terrible treatment of older Australians in aged care, we finally got a royal commission. We've been really clear on our side that we support this royal commission. Then we had the government respond to some of the revelations to date in the royal commission, particularly in relation to chemical and physical restraints, where we had the government say that they intend to act in the coming weeks. Well, we've got three days left between here and the budget sittings, and then, of course, sometime after that the election will no doubt be formally called, so I don't see when the government is actually going to respond and deal with this really serious issue of chemical and physical restraints. It's had a report on its desk for 18 months saying that it needed to do something about this. Of course, the government has a whole series of reports sitting on its desk. At my last count, there were more than a dozen, with many, many recommendations that have still not been acted on. Indeed, one of those reports is the Tune report, which is the legislated five-year review into Labor's living longer, living better reforms, which is still only partially addressed.

Then, of course, we come to the issue that I get almost every day from around the country, and that's people calling into my office about home care packages. As people would know, there's now a national priority queue, which of course was part of Labor's reforms. What we've seen under this government, under its watch, is that waitlist blow out to 127,000 older Australians waiting in that queue. What's really concerning is that 69,000 of those older Australians actually have no home care package at all. These are older Australians at home, who have been assessed for a home care package and who have been approved for a home care package, but have not yet been allocated a home care package. Sadly, what we've seen is the wait time for those packages blow out terribly under this government.

Now, the government has responded due to pressure from the public, from the sector and, I'd like to think, from some of us on this side of the House to actually respond to and fund some more home care packages, but it's too little too late. The public are not going to be fooled by the government rushing at the last minute to do something about an issue it has known about for 18 months. This list has now been compiled for some time— (Time expired)