Monday, 17 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. In an interview for the Four Corners program to be broadcast tonight, the minister said:
A royal commission, after two years and maybe $200 million being spent on it, will come back with the same set or a very similar set of recommendations …
When was the minister first advised of the change in the government's policy? Was it before or after his interview with Four Corners?
The exact nature of the timing of that meeting I'm quite sure someone listening will provide me with. I understood that it was earlier in the week that the minister made a statement of a similar ilk. I didn't realise it was to Four CornersI'd read his comments about he'd much rather invest much of these funds that potentially could be for a royal commission into the sector. I think we'd all acknowledge that since then he's made another statement, but I think certainly most Australians would acknowledge that—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Well, because there are some things that have come to light since then. The gigglers from the other side: it's a very serious matter. Some additional information has to come light that has shown—
There is, quite clearly, some information that has come to light on the Four Corners report. There is some additional information that the minister has been looking at. He now has indicated in a statement, particularly after looking at the terms of reference, that he would support a royal commission. The reason he will support a royal commission is that, wherever we have our senior Australians, , whose care is not the best care we can offer, where the quality of that care is not the best care that we can provide—
On the point of order, Mr President—my indication was that she asked me whether or not the minister knew before or after the Four Corners report. I said I didn't know, and I said I will get back to you on notice. I was then proceeding with the remainder of the question, Mr President.
Thank you very much. It is absolutely essential that we are able to ensure the quality and safety of our most treasured Australians. And so a royal commission will be able to outline a confidence for families, with relatives and with friends that we'll throw a light on it in so much as parliament—not government, but parliament—can provide those matters. And, can I say, it was pretty interesting about people being confused about their position. The quote 'I don't know if one is needed' on Tuesday was in fact from Bill Shorten.
We are a cabinet government, and the decision was made by cabinet. But I would indicate that I don't accept the premise of the question where the indications are that we somehow changed our position. We came to a conclusion when there was significant new material. We looked carefully at a number of reports of inquiries into this matter in addition to the material that was provided by Four Corners. The government considered that information, as they do, in the normal way, and we made a decision that this would be in the interests of senior Australians, and that's why we've moved on this matter. I don't think that should be a particular surprise. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the most senior Australians have the very best care and the very best safety, and we have their very best interests at heart.
Will the minister now apologise to older Australians, their families and their loved ones for dismissing warnings about the state of the aged-care sector and delaying real action to address this crisis?
Thank you for that, Mr President. Again, there seems to be a move towards partisanship on this most important issue. We will not get dragged into that sorry mess. We're about fixing something. We're about doing something that the previous government never did. We will not be dragged into politicising the outcomes. We are working to fix this. We have made significant investments. As I've indicated, we'll be making an investment of an additional $5 billion over the next five years. We've increased investment by $5 billion over the past five years. A $10 billion increase in investment in care and safety of our most treasured Australians is a great record from this government.