House debates

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Aged Care

3:12 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Franklin proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government’s failure to deliver adequate aged care services to older Australians.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:13 pm

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

This government continues to fail older Australians. Many older Australians and their loved ones are still desperate to access care in this country. This is despite this government calling a royal commission and saying that it would implement the recommendations from that royal commission. Indeed, the very first interim recommendation—and royal commissions don't usually make interim recommendations—was to fix up the home care waitlist. And what do we have today? We have over 100,000 older Australians who have had an assessment for care, who are eligible for care, who have been deemed as needing care, who are not getting the care they need under this government.

It is shameful that, after calling for a royal commission, after pressure from the public, and after saying that they would implement the recommendations, we still have no plan from this Prime Minister about how he is going to properly fix the home care waitlist. Instead what we have seen is a bit of smoke and mirrors and a bit of marketing saying, 'Yeah; we've got this.' When you release only 10,000 packages when 110,000 people are waiting, you ain't got it at all. In fact, older Australians are still wondering when they are going to get their home care package. The Productivity Commission's recent report said that the mean wait time for somebody to access home care is now 36 months for a level 4 package. People are waiting 36 months. And we hear from this government, 'We can't do anything because of the royal commission.'

What have they done? They've ripped out billions of dollars. They've had four aged-care ministers. Over two years, 30,000 older Australians have died while waiting for their home-care package. More than 25,000 older Australians who wanted to stay at home, where it's better for them and cheaper for the government, have had to go into residential care because there weren't enough home-care packages. The transition to the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which was supposed to be integrated into home-care packages, was first supposed to happen in 2018; it was delayed to 2020 and now to 2022 because the government can't get its act together. We've got growing concerns that rural, regional and remote residential facilities are at risk of closure. We had a motion in the Senate amending a bill about transparency, and the government didn't support it. We've got workforce issues that the government has not addressed. Recommendation after recommendation, from report after report after report, is sitting on the minister's desk, still not fully implemented, including from the report on elder abuse. None of the aged-care recommendations have been fully implemented, more than 2½ years after the government got that report—2½ years! We're talking about aged care's part in elder abuse. This is just disgraceful. They clearly have no plan to deal with it.

The government keep saying, 'We can't do anything before the royal commission,' but they have done something. Just before Christmas, up on their website was a little notice:

New aged care assessment arrangements will provide streamlined consumer assessment for access to aged care services from April 2021.

They're actually going to privatise the aged-care assessment teams. It's absolutely outrageous. This is a professional workforce of almost 1,000 workers around Australia—professionals, registered nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists—who are qualified to do proper assessments of what type of care older Australians need, and what are those opposite going to do? They're going to privatise these assessments. It's not just Labor that's been critical of this. Even the Liberal health minister in New South Wales, Brad Hazzard, has come out and said:

NSW has major concerns … It seems pre-emptive and unreasonable to be effectively privatising health aged-care services while the royal commission into aged care is still underway.

When the federal minister was questioned about it he said, 'The royal commission supports us.' But, unfortunately for the minister, he was wrong. The aged-care royal commissioner had to slap the minister down and say, 'The royal commission has not at all considered what should happen to the aged-care assessment teams.' The minister was not telling the truth, something we're used to from this government, which is totally loose with the truth every single time. They pretend they're fixing home care; they haven't done it. They say they can't do anything because of the aged-care royal commission, then they privatise the aged-care assessment teams—or try to. They're under criticism for it, and they still will not prioritise and come up with a plan for dealing with the aged-care system in Australia today. It is outrageous that older Australians—100,000 of them—are still languishing on the waiting list for home care. I have raised it in this place time and time again, but it is still an issue that the government doesn't have a clear plan for.

There are many things they could do, because they actually have a whole heap of recommendations that tell them some of the things they could do. Some of them don't even cost the government very much money and could be done quite quickly and easily, in terms of the home-care waiting list. But those opposite still haven't done any of those things. They could prioritise older Australians who have a terminal illness and only a short period of time before they die. Surely those older Australians who have had that type of diagnosis deserve some care at home.

It is appalling that we're getting 93-year-olds being told they have to wait three years for their home-care package. What does the minister think is happening to these older Australians as they languish at home waiting for care? It is not good enough in Australia today for the Prime Minister to get up here and pretend everything is wonderful. We get the big marketing ad: 'How great is Australia today? How good are we?' It's not good for older Australians. It's not good for their loved ones and their families, who are trying desperately. They ring my office and the offices of the members on this side—and I'm sure they're ringing the offices of the members on that side too—to try and get some care for these older Australians. It is not good enough that they have to ring members of parliament and beg to get care for their loved ones.

Some of the stories that I and other members in this place get about older Australians would bring you to tears. There are so many personal stories. I have been fortunate to meet some of these older Australians who are at home waiting for care. Of course, we can't give them any comfort at all, because the government said it would respond to the royal commission's interim recommendations—and the first one was to fix home care—and we got 10,000 packages, but only 5,000 packages straight up in November, and there are 110,000 people on that list. So, even if the whole 10,000 packages were delivered, there would still be 100,000 older Australians waiting.

Then we have the obfuscation with not releasing data on time and dropping the data on Friday afternoons when they think nobody is looking. Then we can't get an answer to how many Australians died whilst waiting for care. You get huge obfuscation by this government when they should be trying to come up with a plan to fix aged care in Australia today. Older Australians and their loved ones can't afford to wait. Older Australians in their 90s and older Australians who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness do not have the time for this government to keep sitting on its hands. They don't have the time to deal with all the bureaucracy that this government puts in their way. Certainly they don't have the time to deal with aged-care assessment teams being privatised.

The aged-care assessment teams are actually the only part of the aged-care system that hasn't been widely criticised during the royal commission. It's probably the only part that's working well. So what's this government's great plan? 'We'll privatise that bit. We'll try to save a little bit of money here. We'll outsource it to some mates of ours'—that seems to be what happens over there. This privatisation should not go ahead. The government should stop the privatisation at least until it gets the royal commission's recommendations. As I said, it has been widely criticised. None of the states and territories are supporting this. There's a COAG meeting at the end of the month, and I'm sure that they're going to put to the minister their views about the aged-care assessment teams.

They are professional, hardworking teams who have all the qualifications to do the assessments properly. Labor, of course, are supportive of streamlining assessments for the Commonwealth Home Support Program and home-care packages, but we will not sit idly by while this government tries to privatise a workforce of at least 1,000 people, who are currently working for state and territory governments and local governments. We will not stand by while they try to do this, because it will hurt older Australians. Not only that; who is going to actually provide these assessments? They will be organisations that will then go out and provide care. What will happen is these organisations will then bid and will be doing that care.

They should not be privatising these aged-care assessment teams. Most of them are actually located in hospitals. They're dealing with some of the bed block that this government has created by not providing home-care packages, by increasing waiting lists in residential care and by increasing waiting lists in home care. The government needs to act and the government needs to do something today, particularly about home care. It said in its response to the royal commission that it would respond. Clearly it is not doing anywhere near enough when it comes to supporting older Australians at home and in residential aged care.

3:23 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm delighted to take this MPI, because since the 2018-19 budget this government has invested in an extra 44,000 home-care packages, at a cost of $2.7 billion. When the opposition had the chance to be an alternative government, how much did they allocate at the last election, less than a year ago? Zero places. So 44,000 versus zero places. That's the reality. It's important to remember that they had $387 billion in extra taxes, but not 10,000, not 8,000, not 6,000, not 4,000 and not 2,000 places—zero places. We've invested in an extra 44,000 places since the 2018-19 budget. For all of their hyperbole, when they believed that they were about to become the government and were preparing to be in government, they had not one extra home-care place. If you want an example of extraordinary hubris, systemic hypocrisy and an utter failure of policy and priority, the Australian Labor Party's zero home-care places at the last election stands as a totemic failure and a totemic figure. In addition to that, we've taken—

Mr Shorten interjecting

I'll take the member for Maribyrnong on, because he was the leader at the time: Mr Zero, when it comes to home care places. We have gone from 60,000 places, when Labor was last in, to 150,000 places at the moment. That's a growth of 150 per cent, dramatically outstripping the increase in the population in that age group. In the last two years alone what we've seen is a dramatic increase in the places and a 13 per cent decrease in waiting times. These are our tasks and our responsibilities, in our time, and absolutely we take those on. Sixty thousand to 150,000—that's 150 per cent growth, dramatically outstripping the rate of growth of those in the aged-care cohort.

In addition to that, we did call a royal commission. We called a royal commission for a very real reason: we looked at the systemic challenges over decades. That royal commission has made a series of interim findings, and we've accepted all of them and we've acted on all of them. We've taken, immediately, an investment decision of $537 million, including an additional 10,000 home care places at $496 million. We've also had $25 million to improve medication management. We're the ones that have taken this challenge on—nobody else at no other time—and we've embraced and accepted the recommendations and the findings of the royal commission through the interim process. There's $10 million to increase support for dementia behaviour management through advisory services; $4.7 million to help younger people, under 65 years, to move from residential aged care to more age appropriate support.

These are things that are actually happening. At the very moment when the member for Maribyrnong and the shadow minister sought to take control of the country and sought to take control of the aged-care system, they gave zero: zero, zero between them. That's an extraordinary indictment on the priorities that they have. Over the period, we've put in 44,000 and they've put in zero. Over the period since we've been in government: 60,000 to 150,000 home care places. Calling a royal commission: with all of the reality that it will make difficult findings for Australia, and we embrace what they have done.

Let me look at what we've also done. In terms of residential aged care, when Labor was in power there were 186,000 places. We have increased that now to this year 219,000 and next year 226,000 or from $9 billion to $13.3 billion of investment. Those increases are significant. It's part of a much broader increase from $13 billion to almost $22 billion, $23 billion, $24 billion and $25 billion, a near doubling of funding over the course since Labor left government. This is at a faster rate than inflation, at a faster rate than the vast majority of areas of government investment. We did inherit a system with great challenges and we have made, successively, very significant increases: a near doubling of funding, a 1½-fold increase in the home care places.

Let me ask the opposition this question: what was the rate of home care per person, over the age of 75, under you as opposed to us? It's been dramatically higher under this government. It's not just the raw numbers; the rate is dramatically higher. We are providing higher numbers, a higher rate and a reduction in the waiting times. Those are the important things. At the same time, we are investing in younger people living in residential aged care. The royal commission identified what has been a longstanding challenge over some decades now. It set out three goals, and we have accepted all of those: no people under the age of 65 entering residential aged care by 2022, no people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022 and no people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care by 2025. These are all extremely important things.

One of the other things I want to deal with, because it's been raised on a number of occasions, is some sort of indication—this is the first time I have had these figures, so I think they will be very important and informative to the House. The opposition has tried to indicate that people who were looking to be on a home care package had not been receiving them. In fact, the latest advice that I have is that 98 per cent of senior Australians who are waiting for a package at their assessed level had been offered support from the government, and that continues to be the case. Most significantly, the opposition has tried to indicate that, in some way, that led to people dying. That is a shameful accusation. But what I have not had before is a comparison of the figures of the average rate of death for those in the general population who are 75 years and over, and the average rate of death for those who are 75 and over and who are looking for home care support. At this point in time, there is a six per cent general population loss of life for those 75 and over and 5.2 per cent for those who are actually seeking additional home care support. I say that because we have a great task, but I wanted to deal with what has been a shameful, disgraceful, disgusting and dishonest accusation. I think it is time to deal with that; I had not previously seen those figures and I had not previously received those figures.

Let us set out what is an important matter. Firstly, we called a royal commission that nobody else had ever done before. We called that royal commission on our watch, in our time, because we believed that historic challenges needed to be addressed and they needed to be addressed in a way which had never been done before and on a scale which had never been done before. As a consequence of that, we accepted all of the findings of the interim report. We have acted on those findings with over $500 million of investment, including younger people, including medication management and including home care.

More broadly, in terms of home care, what have we done? There has been an up to 150 per cent increase so far from 60,000 places under Labor to 150,000 places now. And, as we've done that, we've made sure that 98 per cent of those people seeking places have been offered support. But we are doing more work—44,000 place since the 2018 budget versus zero. I think that's the thing that this House must recognise more than any other. The two people with responsibility and control when Labor went to the last election are sitting there on the front bench opposite at this moment: the member for Maribyrnong and the shadow minister. At the time that they had the capacity to invest, they chose zero—zero places, zero investment. And that is what they will have to live with. In our time, on our watch, there have been 44,000 places and $2.7 billion extra since the 2018 budget—a 150 per cent increase since we came to government, and all up, going from $13 billion—

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

Fake news there, mate. You're making it up.

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

All of these are facts, and, if you want to challenge any of those facts, you are entitled to. But it was $13 billion under them, and what we see now is almost $22 billion, $23 billion, $24 billion and $25 billion, over the course of the forward estimates—a near doubling of funds and a 150 per cent increase in places. They're the things that make the difference. (Time expired)

3:33 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Skills) Share this | | Hansard source

We just had 10 minutes of nothing—no response to what we know is a crisis. The Minister for Health has nothing to offer. This House has heard before that a government can be judged on how it cares for its most vulnerable. Think of our children, think of young people, think of people with a disability, think of our aged: this government fails on every score. They have no commitment to early childhood education. Families are struggling to pay for child care. They're failing to deal with the youth unemployment crisis. The member for Maribyrnong will tell us that the NDIS is a mess. These are all travesties, yes, but can anything be more shameful than the way they are failing our elderly? Is there any more concerning indication of the fact that they are failing as a government than what they are failing to do for our elderly citizens? Billions and billions have been cut from the aged-care budget. The litany of failures is longer than your arm. Sadly, so many of us have all had the experience of worrying about our loved ones, struggling to care for them while we work, knowing they're at home alone during the day, and struggling to juggle care for our children as well.

Aged-care packages are supposed to help with that stress. They should help a little bit to relieve some of that worry—to perhaps keep mum and dad in their home just that little bit longer. But, no, this government can't even do that. We've heard from our shadow minister that 100,000 people are on a waiting list with a wait time of almost three years. We've heard that 30,000 people on that list have died and 25,000 people have been driven prematurely into residential aged care, and, even then, the waiting list for residential aged care is 152 days. What of residential aged care?

I would like to make the point that there are so many wonderful people trying their hardest to care for their charges. I give a big shout-out to the aged-care workforce. But, so many terrible stories are coming our way. Complaints have doubled in one year alone. Right now people are fearful. My dear father-in-law, in his 80s, cannot bring himself to watch the reports on television. He told me it terrifies him. How good is that? We have an elder generation that is terrified. We, their children, are terrified. The situation is so appalling that the government called a royal commission, pretty much into themselves and their lack of commitment to the aged-care sector.

Associate Professor Sarah Holland-Batt is a concerned citizen who gave evidence at the royal commission. She gained some public attention. She wrote about her father. She said: 'He was a brilliant, kind and educated man who lives with a greatly diminished quality of life due to the physical and psychological injuries he sustained in aged care. He contributed much to Australia during his working life as a brilliant metallurgical engineer. Now it's very sad to see that he has experienced the full force of the catastrophic failures that regularly occur in our aged-care system, such as major injuries due to chronic understaffing; misdiagnosis; inadequate clinical care due to an undertrained, casualised workforce; deliberate mistreatment and cruelty; and indifference and neglect.' She also noticed that the royal commission's interim report has revealed that this government's inertia has played out against a backdrop of escalating failures in the sector with a 170 per cent increase in risk notices and a 292 per cent increase in serious noncompliance. Between 2003-13 there was a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths in aged care—disgraceful.

In 2017-18 alone there were 3,773 reportable assaults in Australian aged care. This sector is in crisis. There's no transparency and accountability of funding and we don't know if taxpayer funds go to care or to the Cayman Islands. There are not enough resources for monitoring compliance and there's little response when the problems are found. Their response? Some crumbs of funding for aged-care packages that will nowhere near meet the demand and privatising the aged-care assessment services. As the shadow minister has pointed out, this is about the only part of the system that is working okay and the government lied, blatantly, about it being a recommendation of the royal commission. The commissioners were obliged to publicly say that they, in fact, did not make that recommendation. The system is in crisis, and this government's response is a total failure because they simply don't care.

3:38 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me real pleasure to rise today and speak on this topic of aged care. The member for Franklin and the member for Cooper may not realise it, but parents and family of people on our side of the House age as well. Every single member of parliament in this House has people that age and often need looking after as they get older.

My father-in-law, my wife's father, is in aged care right now. He suffers from a form of Parkinson's, and this has been a really tough time. He's only in his early 70s. My mother-in-law is worried at times about how he's being cared for there, and so is my wife. But, I've got to say, he is getting looked after quite well. Last week, he fell over and cracked his hip. It was terrible. I should say that, despite the fact that he did get good care in Queensland Health and at Queensland hospitals, he was at the Mater Hospital, ramped for four hours in the back of an ambulance. My wife and mother-in-law weren't able to go out and see him. That is something that needs addressing by the Queensland state Labor government: ramping has increased.

But let me say a little about aged-care facilities. The staff at aged-care facilities play a very important role. Nursing staff and lifestyle staff are really important. Relationships between aged-care staff, the residents and the residents' families are also extremely important. Aged-care facilities, I'm sure, do a very good job on the whole in trying to help those people. I would say to the member for Cooper and others that there are plenty of good places out there, and we shouldn't be coming to parliament and making out that the whole sector is not looking good.

Openness and communication, to ensure that all needs are met, is important to families in aged-care facilities. Not all residents have many visitors. We know there are many lonely people, and lifestyle staff in aged-care facilities are important as well. As the Minister for Health said before, an additional 44,000 home care packages from the Morrison government have been announced in the last 12 months, and $2.7 billion in additional funding. Waiting lists—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The member opposite talks about places. As the Minister for Health said, back in 2013 there were 60,000 places in home care. There are now 150,000. That is 90,000 places more in the last six years, for the member for Jagajaga. I'd say that waiting lists—

Opposition members interjecting

Yes, as the federal member for the electorate of Petrie I can say that we want to make sure that those who need aged care get it. That's why we often talk about the economy and jobs. If we get that right, more money flows in and we have more to invest in this sector. I'm sure there are 151 members in this place who care about this.

Last month the Morrison government announced a $50 million grant for aged-care providers to access targeted business improvement resources. This grant program is aimed at directly supporting facilities and improving business operations, because we know that providing quality care comes at a cost, and if some providers require assistance with that, we're here to help. Applications for this fund are expected to open later this month, so all members should let their providers know.

Opposition members interjecting

Absolutely! I can tell you that in my marginal seat my providers will know about it, because as a member of parliament, that's what I do. You may have the luxury of being in a safe Labor seat, member for Jagajaga, but I assure you that my members will know about it.

In my electorate of Petrie I celebrate aged-care facilities that are making a difference for people who need care. There's a whole list of them. I recently had awards at Azure Blue at Redcliffe, BallyCara at Scarborough and the North Lakes Retirement Resort, to name a few. There are so many good aged-care providers in Petrie. I want the people of Petrie to know that yes, we've had a royal commission, and yes, there have been some issues in some of those places—and the government is acting—but there are many, many great aged-care facilities, including Seabrook aged care, Opal at North Lakes, Palm Lakes aged care at Deception Bay, Compton Gardens at Aspley, BallyCara and Azure Blue, just to name a few. (Time expired)

3:43 pm

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

As I rise to speak today my thoughts are with the residents and staff of Wyong Aged Care in Mardi. Flooding has meant that local roads are underwater, isolating residents and staff. State Emergency Service volunteers are using punts to get staff in and out. My grandmother Mollie passed away at Wyong Aged Care. I know it well. Staff assure me that there is no damage to the facility and that everyone is safe and well. I am relieved. But I wonder what would happen if the facility had to be evacuated. The reality is that the Central Coast community could not cope. We need the beds. There's a shortage of aged-care places, particularly for those living with dementia. This government does not have a plan to properly look after older people on the Central Coast or anywhere in Australia. This government's track record on aged care is of cuts and crisis. It's failed to deal with Australia's aged-care crisis for seven years. Older Australians can't afford to wait any longer for the care they urgently need and deserve now.

Let's not forget it was the current Prime Minister who, as Treasurer, ripped $1.2 billion out of aged-care funding. Last year, before the government announced its response to the interim report of the royal commission, two aged-care facilities in my electorate—The Orchards' memory unit, at Lisarow, and Henry Kendall Aged Care, in Wyoming—announced they were closing their doors. Moving aged-care residents is like kicking them out of their own homes. It's a strain on them and their families—more so when the person is living with dementia. Given the ageing population on the coast and the lack of home care packages, the closure of a dementia unit and of an aged-care facility is adding further strain to a system in crisis.

In November, I hosted a forum on aged care in my community, along with the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and the mayor of Central Coast Council. We heard from so many people, of their experiences, their challenges and the hardship they face in aged care. Leanne came to the aged-care forum because her mother lived in the dementia unit that was closing at The Orchards. Five weeks before its closure, Leanne received a call—a call—that the unit was closing. She was given just five weeks to find her mum, Shirley, another home and to transfer her to a new facility. When Leanne tried to contact The Orchards to meet, they refused. Eventually, they told her that the decision to close the dementia unit was a business decision. Later, Leanne was told, 'The unit was not set up to be permanent, but the operators would see how it went.' What's worse is that Shirley paid a bond of $325,000 and was then forced to move because the place she'd invested in was not permanent. Three hundred and twenty five thousand dollars is a lot to invest. It's invested because people like Shirley need security. They're looking for a home, only to be told they have to leave.

This government responded to the interim report of the royal commission by providing 10,000 home care packages, when we know that over 100,000 people are waiting and that 30,000 people have died in two years whilst waiting. On the coast, the number of people waiting is growing year on year. One thousand three hundred and thirty three older people are waiting right now in my community. They have no care. They are the most vulnerable people and are most likely to end up in emergency departments and, prematurely, into residential care. This is up from 1,286 in December 2018. Either this government doesn't get it or just doesn't care.

Almost one in five people in my community on the Central Coast of New South Wales are aged over 65. This is higher than both the state and national average. In communities like mine in regional Australia, aged care matters. Aged care matters more in communities like mine. Older Australians deserve to live with dignity, especially vulnerable older Australians living with dementia. I lost my father to younger onset dementia—it's his anniversary this week—and my grandmother to dementia. She was in the aged-care unit that I mentioned that's now flooded. This government has to act. It's callous. It is cruel. This indifference is cruelty. It is elder abuse to older Australians and their families. It can't continue. People can't die waiting for this government to act. It is unfair, it is unjust and it must change. People like my father and my grandmother deserve better. People across Australia deserve better. This has to change. This government has to act now. They cannot continue to neglect and allow this abuse of older Australians. It has to change.

3:48 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have spoken previously in this place about the government and how it's made improvements to the aged-care system for senior Australians. Over 1.3 million Australians are using some form of aged care, including two-thirds who have access to basic in-home supports. As of June 2019, there were over 220,000 places in Australia's aged-care system, across 873 residential providers, 929 home-care providers, and 1,458 organisations funded to deliver Commonwealth home-support programs. The government is delivering a record amount of funding for the aged-care system. It is up from $13.3 billion in 2012 to $21.4 billion this year.

One of the Prime Minister's first actions when he took office was to call for a royal commission into aged care, and I commend the Prime Minister on his leadership. The findings of the interim report of this royal commission were distressing for everybody. Because of this, we are taking action to improve the quality of care for older Australians and to provide older Australians with the support services they want and need.

Our response to the interim report was swift and substantial. We provided $25.5 million to improve medication management to reduce the use of chemical and physical restraints. We provided $10 million for better support for dementia behaviour management. We provided $4.7 million to help young people move from residential aged care to more age-appropriate support and to stop new younger Australians from entering aged care by the end of 2022.

Like my grandmother, more and more older Australians are choosing to stay in their homes, and the Morrison government is committed to providing the support for older Australians who make this choice. Since the 2018-19 budget, the government has invested in providing 44,000 new home-care packages at a cost of $2.7 billion. Home-care packages have increased from 60,308 under Labor in 2012-13 to a projected 158,030 in 2022-23—an increase of over 160 per cent. And for higher level packages funding will increase by 249 per cent over the same period.

In January, we announced support for struggling aged-care providers with the Business Improvement Fund providing grants, particularly for aged-care providers in regional, remote and rural communities. Every year, under us, home-care packages are up, residential-care places are up and, every year, aged-care funding is up.

Beyond providing funding for the aged-care sector, the government has introduced the new Aged Care Quality Standards and Charter of Aged Care Rights, which commenced last year and apply to all aged-care services. The standards focus on quality outcomes for consumers rather than on provider processes. The new charter of rights provides the same rights to all consumers, regardless of the type of aged-care funding or the services they receive. As our population ages, the government will continue to provide funding and support for the aged-care sector.

Reforming the aged-care sector in this country is a serious matter, which will not be solved overnight and which does not benefit from a knee-jerk reaction. Despite Labor's plans for $387 billion in new taxes, Labor, at the election, provided no additional funding in their costings for home-care places or any additional funding for aged-care quality, workforce or residential aged care.

3:53 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Since 2013, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government's treatment of vulnerable older Australians has been nothing short of disgraceful. They have tried to cut pensions by changing the indexation method. They've cut a billion from pension concessions; axed the $900 seniors supplement to self-funded retirees receiving the Commonwealth seniors card; changed the asset test, cutting the pension of around 370,000 people; tried to cut pensions by limiting overseas travel to six weeks; tried to cut the pension for over 1.5 million Australians by scrapping the energy supplement for new pensioners; tried to increase the pension age to 70; continued to rip off pensioners by charging high-interest rates through the Pension Loans Scheme and applying high deeming rates; bungled the NBN rollout, regularly leaving older Australians disconnected and frustrated; left people waiting for months before processing their pension applications; and left people, mostly older Australians, waiting for years for elective surgery. Even this week I received a letter from Meals on Wheels arguing for some fairness in respect to the government's payment for the meals that the people on Meals on Wheels received.

This is a government that simply does not care about older Australians and the services they need. Not surprisingly, we have had a revolving door of aged care ministers, none of whom have been in cabinet. That says it all when it comes to knowing what this government thinks of older Australians. They don't have a voice in cabinet, albeit, as we know, over 15 per cent of Australians are over 65. This is a government that, since 2016, has cut $1.2 billion from the aged care budget alone and then a further $110 million from the residential aged care dementia supplement, when we know that of the 200,000 people who are in residential aged care facilities, about half of them suffer from a dementia related illness.

Aged care across this country is at a crisis point. As a member of the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, which inquired into this very issue, we heard firsthand, time and time again, stories about the suffering of people in those places. The 14 recommendations of that committee are still sitting on the shelf, yet to be acted on by this government.

There are over 100,000 Australians still waiting for an approved home care package, and the waiting lists are up to three years. Around 10,000 of those are in my state of South Australia, and can I say to members in this House that we regularly receive representations from them to try to fast-track their application. The median waiting time to get into a nursing home is now 152 days. In South Australia, in particular, that is clogging up hospitals because older Australians, who would otherwise be in a residential aged care facility, if a bed were available, are having to be kept in hospitals, and in the process, people who need urgent care in those hospitals are being discharged earlier than they should be, because the hospitals cannot cope and they need the beds. That in itself is disgraceful. Can I say that in South Australia the bed block time is 2½ times worse than it is for the rest of the country.

Older Australians are suffering because the Morrison government is simply sitting on its hands. The stories of abuse, restraints, poor meals, poor medication delivery, poor care, assaults, neglect and so on, we've heard them all. I'm sure members opposite have equally heard them and probably seen them for themselves. Yet, they're doing nothing about it. One of the critical concerns I have—and this was a matter put to the committee—is this: we now have doctors who simply won't go to residential aged care facilities because the Medicare payments are inadequate for the services they have to provide. So, we are having people left in these places who cannot access a doctor. In a country like Australia, that is absolutely disgraceful. We could do better and should do better.

The government has certainly set up a royal commission. My view is that most of the things that need to be done are known by the government and form part of the recommendations the House committee put to the government. They are matters that were also the subject of previous inquiries. So, it's not a case of having to wait for the end of the royal commission before delivering the services that people know are needed, that people have been waiting on for years and that this government knows about. The reality is that this government has failed older Australians because it simply won't treat them with the dignity they serve.

3:58 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Aged care is so important. It is really important in the Lyne electorate, because we have one of the oldest demographics in the country. Over a quarter of my constituents are aged over 65. There's also a huge base of people who work in aged care, way greater than the average across the country. In fact, residential aged care employment is the biggest employer in Lyne electorate. Certainly, federal funding for the aged care system in Lyne electorate has grown in the years from 2013 to 2016, then again in the last parliament, and in this parliament it's also budgeted to increase. When I was first given the honour of representing Lyne, there was $19 million a year in recurrent funding. That is now up to $160 million a year, in 2020. We have been investing in a range of expansions of existing aged care, as well as an expansion in home care. Aged care in the residential space is being expanded, as we speak. There will be another 10 places at Banyula Lodge, in Old Bar, and eight in Taree, at Alkira Lodge. Construction of the Gloucester seniors living complex state-of-the-art aged-care facility is underway. Pacific Cape is being expanded by GLAICA, with 144 new residential aged-care places. The Salvation Army is due to commence construction of an expansion in Taree, with a whole new facility there as well. And Bundaleer home care has a state-of-the-art expansion planned for Wauchope.

Some of the previous speakers have focused on complaining about surgery lists, the NBN, the NDIS and pensions, but I want to focus on what this MPI is about—the really important stuff—and that is aged care and home care. We have had announcements made as a result of the royal commission, and everyone is really committed to making things better. There are obvious deficiencies, but one would think that every aged-care facility is bad. There are some people who don't meet the standards. There are some people, who we have seen on TV, who obviously shouldn't have been working in the industry. But everyone is committed to improving the case. The people who are working in aged care in my part of the world at all the facilities I visit have an enormous commitment to deliver high-quality care. They all work under pressure, and they deliver as good as they can.

In the home-care space, we have delivered a record expansion in home care packages—44,000 and $2.7 billion extra. When we were first given the responsibility of governing after the 2013 election, there were only 60,308 home-care packages in the system. By 2022-23, the end of this term, that will have expanded to 158,000 home-care places. The funding is increasing gradually because the workforce has to increase gradually. Otherwise, you have the case where you get inflated fees. I know the minister and many of us who have people in the home-care space are looking at the charging of administration fees, because we want all the money that the taxpayers are committing to be delivered to the people—not sitting in the accounts of businesses providing home care, using so much of the critical funding on administrative charges rather than care.

At the last election there was no commitment, as far as I could see, from the other side for an expansion of home-care places. Those opposite are big on complaining about everything—but it isn't about what they say; it's about what they do. They promised taxes upon taxes. Almost $390 billion of taxes were promised, but they failed to mention what they were going to do. But they come in here and complain and complain.

There were some things that were pointed out in the royal commission. We are addressing that with a $537 million package and 10,000 more home-care places. We're trying to get medication management under control and we're addressing the problem of young people in— (Time expired)

4:03 pm

Photo of Daniel MulinoDaniel Mulino (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I commend the shadow minister for raising this motion here today. I believe this is one of the most important issues that this parliament and the parliaments following it will face. I also commend the speeches made by others on this side, which I think have highlighted the abject failure for the last seven years on the part of this government. I would particularly highlight the speech by the member for Dobell. There are a lot of statistics in this space, but it's critical to remember that, behind each of these statistics, there are real people. I think her speech highlighted in a very compelling way what it means for real people when a government fails to deliver services, as this government currently is.

I, like the member for Dobell and other members in this place, have a personal connection with the sector through members of my family. But I also have a personal connection in that my main area of research when I lectured in economics at Monash University was the impact of an ageing population on our economy and on our society. It was interesting to me to reflect on the Intergenerational report most recently published by this government, which highlighted that this government isn't looking at its own published documents closely enough.

We are an ageing society. This has been happening for decades and it will happen for decades to come. It's very hard to make projections, but if there's one set of projections that you can be confident about it is demographics, with their great inertia. We know that our society will be far older in 30, 40 or 50 years than it is today. That's a good thing. It's an opportunity more than anything, but it also creates challenges. In 1974-75, 8.7 per cent of our population was over 65. Today it's a bit over 15 per cent. In 2050 it's going to be over 22 per cent. That is a transformational change in our society. This is one of the great transformational changes societies are going through as we speak.

In 1974-75 there were 120 centenarians. In 2054-55 there will be over 40,000. We are talking about a transformational change both in the need for service delivery in our society and in the way that they will need to be funded. This is also reflected in the relationship between those who are old and the number of working-age people. In 1974-75 there were 7.3 workers for each person over 65. Now it's around 4½, and in 2054 it's going to be 2.7. This is something the government needs to be creating visionary policy for, holistic policy. Instead, all we've had is budget cuts that use the aged-care sector almost as a balancing item.

We can look at the 2014-15 budget—a horror budget, the first budget of this government, the budget of broken promises. What did we see with aged care? We saw that the government took measures to adjust the real rate of growth in the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which slashed billions upon billions of dollars. Their first reaction to this complicated policy challenge was to cut. We've seen this in so many subsequent budgets. In the 2015 budget half a billion was cut from MYEFO. In the 2016 budget over a billion was cut.

The minister came here today cherrypicking statistics, trying to say that on this or that statistic things might have been a little bit better than at some point in time when Labor was in government. He must have had the Parliamentary Library working overtime trying to find any way in which this government looks good. But let's look at statistics which are unambiguous and clear and relate to how people are actually experiencing this sector. Let's look at the fact that there are 100,000 older people on the waiting list. Let's look at the fact that 30,000 older Australians died waiting. That's not implying that the deaths were caused by waiting; it's simply saying that this is a horrific circumstance to be in. For those opposite to be quibbling about the technicalities of that statistic shows how little they are in touch with what's going on on the ground.

More than 25,000 older Australians entered residential aged care prematurely. Again, any government with a sense of how to treat older Australians' complex needs in a holistic way would understand that forcing someone into residential aged care early by not funding in-home care is not only an inhumane way to treat their need; it hurts the budget bottom line because it's not treating them in a way which creates the least cost to the community and to the government.

Let's also look at the fact that not only are we getting older, but the needs of our older cohort are getting more complicated. We have growing numbers of people with a non-English-speaking background, and we know how complicated that makes aged-care services. I visited Fronditha Care in my electorate and saw how complicated it was to provide aged care to people who were reverting to their first tongue. We know dementia has all sorts of complicated challenges around workforce needs. That was raised by both the minister and the assistant minister earlier. We know that the needs of very old people are greater than those just post retirement. This is an area which requires vision. Instead, all we get is cuts after cuts.

4:08 pm

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (Monash, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to agree with the member for Fraser on one thing: the importance to the Australian people of this issue and how we deliver services to older Australians. I listened very carefully to his statistics and the fact that we have an ageing society and government needs to address it. With regard to the personal stories told today, none of you said that those members of your family who were treated were treated badly. In fact, every one of you said they had the best of care—the best of care.

I've got a good story to tell. That story is this: from Koo Wee Rup to Korumburra to Leongatha to Foster to Warragul to Moe to Drouin and up to Neerim South, my aged people are getting the best of care from talented people who know how to deliver a service to those of us that are growing older and need that care. Yes, I've experienced aged care in its rawness with my own parents. I know what dementia is all about. I know the difficulties that families face. I know what my mum went through, hiding it for many years before it was so exposed that my father couldn't be hidden anymore. We've all been through these issues. It's not about bringing our personal responsibilities or experiences into this place; it's about good policy and delivery.

You can all criticise one another for failing, but let me give you some history. When I first came to this place—after a long time in aged care and disability, by the way—the outlay of the government of the day, a Labor government, was less than $2 billion. After I was thrown out and came back the next time, it was $4 billion. Then, when I was thrown out again and came back again, aged care was on the agenda again, and it was $8 billion. The executive was starting to complain, whether it was a Labor executive or a Liberal-Nationals executive, that these outlays could not go on; the need was exponential. So members like myself—and yourselves—were coming in and pleading with the executive for more money, more money, more money. We had to have greater outlays in this area. The system that serviced our parents was now broken; the model was gone, because people were going into aged care at a much older age and, therefore, leaving aged care and having greater difficulties. Then we had low care and high care, but I won't go into all that with you.

My job, as the local member, was to go to Korumburra and realise their need and deliver the $1.2 million that got their aged-care centre up and viable. It was capital outlay, but they've got really strong community support. Ageing in situ is really, really important for country and regional people. You who live in the city can hop on a tram and visit your older people. But, if you have an aged person in a facility, it's got to be in your community. So here am I, standing in this parliament after all these years, saying: we need to put money into these nonprofits in small communities so people are being cared for in their communities and can be visited. They do well in that system. So I talk about those small communities, and I put it to the executive.

I say to the Labor opposition: had you won the last election, you would have been having exactly the same struggles that we've had. I sat with the Prime Minister immediately after the royal commission's interim report. I travelled to where he was. We went through the way ahead. We have a plan for the way ahead, and we're working through that plan. We're all in this together. Every one of us is going to have an aged parent. Every one of us is going to be there ourselves one day. I know we can always do better. Every one of us can do better in everything that we do. I don't like the system. I didn't like the system when it was changed under John Howard so that the minister doesn't have an input into the AKAR. This is an abrogation of the responsibility of government to manage the thousands and millions of dollars that are outlaid. It shouldn't be about the department; it should be the government of the day making decisions. If I can get that legislation repealed before I leave this place, I will. I want government and the minister to have direct involvement in the outlays in aged care. That's crucially important. (Time expired)

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.