Monday, 17 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. I refer the minister to the 2016-17 budget papers, which bear the name of then Treasurer Morrison. In particular I refer the minister to page 101 of Budget Paper No. 2, which states:
The Government will achieve efficiencies of $1.2 billion over four years through changes to the … Aged Care Funding Instrument …
Can the minister confirm that, in his first budget as Treasurer, Prime Minister Morrison cut $1.2 billion from aged care?
I can categorically confirm that that is not the case. The leader of the opposition in this place is pointing to the budget paper. Not only can I categorically say that that is not the case but that the first budget of Mr Morrison's spent an additional $1 billion. This is too important an issue for our senior Australians to get involved in the partisan rubbish that we sometimes get involved in. I can assure you that that isn't going to be happening from us. Not only in that budget but in sequential budgets for the last five years, around $1 billion year on year on year—every year is an increase of $1 billion.
That's upside down, Penny! Every year is an increase of $1 billion, so it's completely spurious to say that.
Since the last budget, I can confirm that we have delivered 20,000 new home care packages, 13,500 residential aged-care packages and 775 short-term restorative packages. Funding for aged care by this coalition government is at absolutely record levels. Over the next five years it will grow by $5 billion to $23.6 billion—something that every Australian should be very proud of.
Yesterday the Prime Minister claimed that he is:
… committed to providing older Australians with access to care that supports their dignity …
How is cutting $1.2 billion from aged-care funding—
Honourable senators interjecting—
As I've categorically indicated, there has not been a cut. There has been an increase of $1 billion year on year till now. Those opposite talk about what a harsh Prime Minister we've got.
Senator Cormann interjecting—
Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting—
We have increased funding year on year. But it's not only the total funding that we've increased. There have been an awful lot of things that we have done to ensure that our senior Australians get the very best deal. For those who were paying attention just last week in this place, you would note that we took through the Aged Care Quality Standards which, from 1 July 2019, will apply to 2,700 aged care homes, 366,000 staff. And the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will lead to unannounced visits, better policed quality and will boost specialist responses for complaints, audits and compliance. We are very much focused on this sector. We made huge investments in this sector, and senior Australians— (Time expired)
None of this denies the cuts. Yesterday, when asked about his cuts to aged care as Treasurer, Prime Minister Morrison said, 'No, I didn't.' How can the Prime Minister expect older Australians to trust him with aged care when he refuses to take responsibility for the harm caused by his own billion-dollar cut?
Senator Wong interjecting—
Senator Cormann interjecting—
So, for the third time, Mr President—I know you heard me—I know anyone who's listening to this debate would know that I have said that is categorically wrong. There was an increase. And you can wave budget papers around all you like. There was a billion-dollar increase, not only in the first year, but an increase on that in the second—
Year on year on year, it is a billion-dollar increase. That's a $5 billion increase to now from when we took the Treasury benches. It's as simple as that—$5 billion more, no matter how you cut it. I think Crikey referred to it as a 'bald-faced lie'. So if you want to get into the business of partisan politics about those people who have built this nation, you're welcome to that space all on your own.
I thank Senator Smith for his question. We're supporting senior Australians by making sure they're provided with access to care which supports their dignity and recognises the contribution that they have made to Australian society. Yesterday, the Prime Minister along with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, announced the establishment of a royal commission into the aged care sector. This is an important initiative. We know that our aged care sector providers provide some of the best care in the world and we are looked at as a leader in the field, to the point that aged care is now an important export industry for Australia. But we need to make sure that everyone is up to scratch.
The royal commission into the aged care sector will primarily look at the quality of care provided in residential aged care and in-home aged care for senior Australians. We will also look at younger Australians living with disabilities in residential aged care environments. Australians rightly expect high standards for the safety and quality of aged care services, and the Morrison government shares these expectations.
This royal commission will be about proactively determining what we need to do in the future to ensure these expectations can be met. There are thousands of extraordinary operators—facilities, care providers, nursing and other clinical staff, volunteers, cleaners, cooks, and therapists—working hard to improve the lives of senior Australians every day. But the best teams will always want to do better, and we need to be honest about the performance of the sector as a whole. At the royal commission, we'll look at the aged care sector as a whole without bias or prejudice. It will make findings on the evidence and as a government, as a parliament, it will be our job to act on these findings in the interests of all Australians. The terms of reference will be determined through consultation with the community, including residents and their families and aged care providers.
The Morrison coalition government knows that backing senior Australians is critical if we are to keep our economy strong. In addition, jobs growth, including for older Australians, has been strong under our government. Around a third of the more than 300,000 jobs created in the past year were for Australians over the age of 55. In our 2018-19 budget, we also expanded the pension work bonus to allow more age pensioners to earn up to $300 per fortnight in income without reducing their pension payments, including self-employed Australians. We also expanded the Pension Loans Scheme to give everyone of age-pension age the option to draw on equity in their own home. We provided more time for Australians aged 65 to 74 with less than $300,000 in super to boost their retirement savings by introducing an exemption from the superannuation work test. Around 4.8 million pensioners and allowance recipients will receive an increase in their payments on 20 September 2018. Since the Liberal-National government was elected, pensions have increased by $107.90 per fortnight for singles—
I thank Senator Smith for that question. I'm happy to say that funding for aged care is at record levels. In 2017-18, aged-care spending is estimated to reach $18.6 billion. That's of course appropriate, because governments should look after senior Australians where they're not able to look after themselves. Labor keeps spreading this lie that somehow there's been a cut to aged-care funding under the government, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Labor's last budget, aged-care funding in 2016-17 was forecast to be $10.1 billion. Of course, the actual expenditure by our government was nearly a billion dollars more—$10.9 billion—and that rose to $11.4 billion in the year that's just ended. As Bernard Keane, hardly an apologist for a Liberal-National government, quite rightly pointed out in Crikey:
The claim that the Coalition cut funding from aged care is a bald-faced lie, and one that points to the problems with a royal commission into the sector.
I table the article for the reference of Labor senators, who clearly don't know how to read the budget papers. (Time expired)
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government cut $110 million from the dementia supplement paid to nursing homes for people who are living with dementia. Can the minister explain how this cut has contributed to the crisis Australia now faces in aged care?
I'll have to take the particular details of that on notice. But I should say that I've just spent some time—in fact, the last question and two supplementaries—correcting an erroneous statement from those opposite that was the premise to the question. So, whilst I'll have to take this on notice, I have a fair bit of cynicism around whether or not the assertion behind the question is absolutely correct.
The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government cut around half a billion dollars from aged care in the 2015 MYEFO. Can the minister explain how these cuts to aged care have contributed to the crisis Australia now faces in aged care?
The Australian government provides in excess of $50 million every year for dementia specific programs that seek to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers. I would add that one of the elements of the terms of reference of the royal commission deals specifically with the issue of dementia. In the 2018 budget, a further $5.3 million has been committed over four years to ensure that we pilot the improvements to care for people living with dementia with an emphasis on the use of innovative technologies. We've committed over five years $200 million to 2019 to boost Australia's research into the prevention, the diagnosis, the treatment and the cure of dementia, and this includes the establishment of the National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute for Dementia Research.
Given that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government cut $110 million from the dementia supplement, cut half a billion dollars from aged care in the 2015 MYEFO and cut $1.2 billion from aged care in the 2016-17 budget, will Prime Minister Morrison now take responsibility for the cuts he made as Treasurer that are now impacting on the care of older Australians?
That's a really easy one to answer. We've already established that we have not cut half a billion dollars from aged care. There is nowhere in any budget over that period of time that you can point to in any way that is different to the fact that we have improved our funding to aged care and to our senior Australians by a billion dollars every year, increasing year-on-year. Since we took over the Treasury benches there has an increase of over $5 billion, and we can expect there to be an increase of the around the same amount over the next five years. So, again, there is no point asking a question when the premise of that question is erroneous. Please don't confuse our senior Australians about what is happening.
Opposition senators interjecting—
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion—whilst he's on a roll correcting the misinformation from the other side. Following the coalition government's decisive action to call a royal commission into the quality of the aged care sector and the safety of Australians within it, could the minister advise what investment it is government making in the aged scare sector?
Thank you, Senator Martin, for that very important question and for your very strong advocacy on behalf of senior Tasmanians. The Morrison government is committed to providing older Australians with access to care that supports their dignity and recognises the huge contribution that they have made to our nation. Investment in aged care is at record levels. In the last year alone, aged-care spending is estimated to reach about $18.6 billion. Moving forward over the next four years, as I've indicated, funding will grow by $5 billion to $23.6 billion.
We're investing $4.5 billion more than Labor provided in their last budget. On this argument, those opposite don't have a leg to stand on. We have provided $1.6 billion to create an additional 20,000 high-needs home care places since last December and, by 2020-21, over 74,000 high-level home care places will be eligible. That is an increase of 86 per cent on 2017-18. We've worked through the 2017 legislative review of aged care and we've responded in the 2018 budget with the More Choices for a Longer Life package, which encourages active ageing and provides an extra $1.6 billion in care.
Our aged-care sector in Australia provides some of the best care in the world, and we're rightly looked to as a leader in the field. There are thousands of extraordinary operators, facilities, care providers, nursing and other clinical staff, volunteers, cleaners, cooks and therapists out there improving the lives of senior Australians every day. They do this out of love and a deep professional commitment. Even the best teams will want to do it better. If you care about aged care, which those who work in the sector do, you want it to be at its very best—and I know that you will all welcome the strong measures, including the royal commission, that the Morrison government has announced.
Thank you, Senator, for that question. Our older Australians deserve to be cared for with love, respect and dignity, and that is what is driving everything that we are doing as a government. By establishing a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission we're giving older Australians and their families the confidence that they will be properly protected in the system that should care for them.
Senator Polley interjecting—
We're investing $50 million for the Quality Care Fund to assist residential aged-care providers to transition to this new aged-care quality standard. We're delivering greater transparency; we're delivering greater accountability in the quality of aged care through our investment in robust risk profiling of aged-care providers and the introduction of a performance-rating system against those quality standards, with a user-friendly provider comparison tool on the My Aged Care website. And can I say to the interjections of those opposite: this is something you never did when you were in government.
Thank you, Senator. We also want to support Australians prepare better for their older years. They want access across the key areas of health, different skills and finance. We, too, want to give them the greatest opportunities to remain independent and socially connected as they age. We've introduced a new $23 million program to support sporting and non-government organisations roll out local community-based activities to promote physical activity and to keep older Australians connected to their communities.
Our new $8.2 million Healthy Ageing Campaign celebrates the fact that Australians are living longer and therefore have more choices and opportunities ahead. The campaign encourages Australians aged 45 and over to think about ageing in a positive way. The campaign website longliveyou.gov.au connects older Australians to a range of useful links, and I encourage all older Australians to visit the website. (Time expired)