Monday, 1 September 2014
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Bushby for his question. I guess I can surmise why he is asking the question—because of his failure to hear my answers because of what was coming from the other side in response to Senator Polley's questions.
Senator Bushby asks for the reasons for the design failure of the scheme. I would have thought those opposite would know, but clearly they do not. Let me share it with them. The reason why the blow-out occurred was because of serious design failures. Let me be very specific about what they were. As a result of the design of the former government, there was no validation process to check whether or not the claims were for those people the scheme was designed to support—that is, 2,000 people with dementia exhibiting severe behaviours—and there was no validation process to check whether or not it was effectively supporting management of those severe behaviours.
I know my colleagues had difficulty hearing the statistics I referred to before, so I will repeat them. The previous government in the last financial year budgeted $11 million for the scheme. It came in at $110 million. Over the forward estimates, they budgeted $52 million. On a constant policy basis it would have been $780 million, and over 10 years it would have been $1.5 billion. The design of those opposite was meant to see 2,000 people qualify, with aged-care providers to receive that supplement. At the end of the last financial year it was 29,000 people, not 2,000—29,000 people. As I have said in answer to probably three or four questions in this place on the dementia and severe behaviours supplement, although we were not the people who created this problem, although we were not the people who created this design flaw, it nevertheless fell to us to address the situation.
(—) (): Yes, I can. Those opposite do have an alternative plan, which is more of the same. Mr Shorten was in an aged-care facility today where he said, 'Look at the ALP website; look at our petition.' He did not say, 'Look, we realise we fundamentally made a hash of the design of the scheme.' He did not say that. He did not say, 'Our design resulted in a fundamental budget blow-out.' What he said was, 'We're going to reinstate it.' So it is incumbent upon the Australian Labor Party to indicate where they are going to find $780 million over the forward estimates—money that is beyond the $52 million that was budgeted for. Where are they going to find, over 10 years, $1.5 billion? You would think that they would at least have the good grace to say, 'Look, we're looking at an alternative proposal.' No, they are not. What they are proposing is more of the same. I feel for Mr Bowen and I feel for his counterpart, the shadow minister for finance. They would have slapped their heads, thinking, 'What has Bill Shorten put us into here?' (Time expired)
There is a strange noise emanating from over there. I cannot quite work out what it is but it has been fairly constant. The government has been actively consulting with the aged-care sector on this issue. As I indicated on Thursday, the government is going to be holding a forum in coming weeks to bring together relevant stakeholders and experts to consider strategies to improve care for people with dementia in residential settings. It is important to note that it will consider the issue in the context of dementia care being core business for all aged-care services and will also acknowledge the need for specialist support for clients with more severe behavioural symptoms. Again I say: this is not a problem of this government's creation but it is one that we are determined to find a solution to.
Senator Polley interjecting
Mr President, there is still that strange noise emanating from somewhere in the vicinity of Tasmania over there. I do not know what it is, but it is incoherent and incomprehensible. (Time expired)