Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2018


Aged Care

7:55 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this evening to speak about the aged-care home-care package waiting list, which is blowing out under this incompetent and inept government. It's important that the severity of the crisis isn't lost amidst the Liberals' chaos, dysfunction and bloodletting of today. The release of the latest data, the March quarter data, by the Turnbull government was revealed last week, some three months after the data was supposed to be released.

There are over 108,000 older Australians who are waiting for home care so that they can reside in their own homes and get the support that they need. This figure includes 88,000 older Australians waiting with high care needs, and people with dementia are amongst those. And there are almost 54,000 people who are receiving no package, no support, at all. That's almost a four per cent increase since last December.

We understand perfectly why the government have been sitting on this data, because it's blowing out further and further. The minister deliberately sat on the data for three months, and now we know very clearly why. The figures are blowing out. They have no solution. They have no policies for addressing this. We have heard from the minister. He publicly admitted that the government will need to consider other interventions to reduce the waiting list.

Well, now's the time for some action, whether that's under Minister Wyatt, under the current Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, or under future Prime Minister Dutton. Something has to be done. Older Australians are actually dying while waiting to get the home-care package that they need. They're ending up either having to go into acute hospitals or going prematurely into residential care.

No matter which way you look at this, this government has failed older Australians. If it weren't so serious, you would say it was a hoax and joke about the budget when they said there was going to be more money given to aged care. But in fact the 14,000 additional places for those waiting on home-care packages have done nothing to relieve the anxiety that's being experienced by older Australians and their families and carers. The 3,500 new home-care packages a year that were committed to in this budget aren't even keeping up with the demand.

If you listened to what's been happening in this place today with the spill in the Liberal party room, you would know that Mr Turnbull's mind is not on older Australians. That's been evident for the entire time he's been the Prime Minister of this country, because he failed at the first hurdle by not appointing a minister for ageing that was a cabinet position. That's what is warranted. You need somebody who's going to speak up for older Australians. That needs to be a cabinet minister. What we have now is a minister with no authority and a Prime Minister who has obviously no interest other than protecting his own job.

The waiting list is of major concern. People are being directly affected by this. For instance, there's a 94-year-old gentleman who was told he would have to wait in excess of 12 months. I'm sorry, but, if you are in need of a level 3 or 4 home-care package and you're 94 years of age, there's probably some chance that you're not going to be still on this earth when that package comes through. And I spoke previously about a woman I met in Townsville when the Medicare taskforce committee met up there recently. Her mother had been receiving a level 4 package in New South Wales. When she moved up to Townsville in Queensland, she had to go through the whole process again. Although she was given a lower-level package for a little while, it was insufficient to keep her healthy and able to stay at home. Unfortunately, she passed away before the level 4 package was offered to her.

This is a call-out to the current Prime Minister: get your act together; think about those who are most vulnerable, older Australians; do something about this waiting list to ensure that older Australians are getting the care that they need in their own homes; and prevent them from filling up acute hospitals that are already under pressure because of government cuts to their budgets. Whether it's Mr Turnbull or Mr Dutton, I hope that the Prime Minister is going to do something to reset this waiting list. (Time expired)