Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Turnbull Government, Aged Care

7:29 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight because I think it is important to acknowledge that, Mr Turnbull having knifed Tony Abbott and becoming the new Prime Minister, he announced his ministry, but once again, in the tradition of the Liberal Party, one of the issues that he failed to address which is so important to the Australian community is that a minister for ageing or aged care was not announced at that time. But I do give credit to the new Prime Minister that a Minister for Aged Care was announced a week later. It was a bit of an after thought after all the sector and those on this side, including myself, had been saying for two years or more that we needed to have a minister that was dedicated to aged care and the care of older Australians. Finally, now, I pay tribute.

I have worked with Minister Ley on committees during my time in this place. She has an enormous task ahead of her for the government to regain the trust that they are now listening to the sector and to the community around issues affecting older Australians. We know that the assistant minister left a long list of issues that were unresolved. We know the government over the last two years had taken their eyes off the ball when it came to aged care in this country, and, unfortunately, it was never given the priority it deserved. So now we have a fresh start. We have a new Prime Minister with the same old policies in all areas, and I do not expect that aged care is going to be any different. But we do have anopportunity, if this minister can grasp the concept that the sector and the Australian community need to be listened to when it comes to ageing and aged care issues in this country.

As we heard in question time today, it is not just about areas of policy like whether the Nationals are going to be done over when it comes to water but we are now hearing whispers that Ms Ley may not, as minister, have a hands-on control of what is happening in the aged care sector in this country, which gives great concern to those on this side of the chamber.

Over the last week, I visited a number of aged care centres in Tasmania to gauge their views on what still needs to be done in this area of policy development. The response was resounding that we need a minister that is across these issues and who has the vision and the passion to lead the debate. We also have an issue around the aged care gateway; it is not working the way that it should be working. The assistant minister came into this chamber on 26 June last year and said the government were cutting the funding for those people suffering severe behaviour issues around dementia. Then there was a great policy announcement, without any thought or planning, of what they were really going to deliver. We got the flying squads. Now the tenders have gone out for these flying squads. What direction was given to the sector in what was going to be expected of these flying squads? This government said 'you tell us how they should work'. How is that for leading aged care in this country? No vision, no passion and no real understanding. Quite frankly, I do not think those opposite like older Australians. There is a big issue there and a big hole to fill as to what this government are going to do around dementia and around planning for the ageing of the Australian population.

But there was a number of other issues that were brought to my attention when talking to those people in the sector—that is, they believe that the Labor Party's policy framework of Living Longer Living Better was a well defined policy. Of course it needed to be put into practice and it needed to have the eye of the government firmly monitoring the outcomes of the programs. But what did we see from this government, a government that took its eye off the ball, a government that cannot be trusted? I want to put Minister Ley on notice that we on this side of the chamber will be keeping our eyes firmly on her to ensure that she fulfils the requirements of the Australian community.