Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. In May of this year, the Labor Party raised serious concerns about the aged care sector and warned it was 'in a state of national crisis'. The minister dismissed Labor's warning saying it was 'verging on the abuse of elder Australians'. Did the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care watch last night's Four Corners program and, if so, does the minister now agree there is an aged care crisis or does he stand by his statement that such warnings are 'verging on the abuse of elder Australians'?
I can only guess that the minister watched Four Corners last night. I haven't confirmed that with him. I don't think I need to take that on notice. He was—I have had confirmed that's the case. We always need to keep an eye on our responsibilities to those more vulnerable in our community and that's exactly what this government have been doing. We have called a royal commission because of the very complex nature of the systems, of the different levels of providers, of the different levels of support to ensure we can have a forensic examination of every element to ensure we take a very precautionary approach, to ensure that the way we approach this matter means that we will leave no stone unturned. At the end of this royal commission, every Australian will be able to say with absolute confidence we have had an independent, well-funded, forensic process to identify any of those gaps in service provision or any gaps in compliance or where there is elder abuse or suspected elder abuse or whether the funding is the right funding and has been allocated in the right way. That's what we have undertaken to do because we take this matter very, very seriously. I'm not sure about Labor's conversations and what Labor has said. We've gone and done some research and found that the Labor government apparently warned Australia—
On relevance—the minister sounds like he is going somewhere else. He still hasn't actually answered the question. I wouldn't think it would be too hard. Did the minister watch the program or not? Yes or no? Is aged care in crisis?
I confirm I then had information the minister had, in fact, watched Four Corners. As for is aged care in crisis, look, there are elements of aged care, there is no doubt about it, that— (Time expired)
In interviews for the Four Corners program, the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care continued to argue against a royal commission. Given the minister has had 24 hours to check, when did Minister Wyatt first become aware of discussions within government to support a royal commission?
On a recent Monday, I understand that Minister Wyatt indicated during an interview that, at that stage, he really would like to see similar sorts of money that we might spend on a royal commission invested in the sector. I'm not sure if it was the same Monday but it was around the same time that Bill Shorten said, 'I'm not sure if we want a royal commission.' I'm not sure if this is very useful but, as I've indicated, in that period of time, some significant evidence—
On relevance. I do indicate, again, that it has been 24 hours since this question was first asked. I know there are many Mondays in a year but we'd like some actual details. The minister had 24 hours to identify the dates.
The point of order is on direct relevance. We asked a question yesterday—and the minister has had 24 hours to go away and check—which was: when did the minister he represents first become aware of discussions in the government for a royal commission? It is a reasonable question, given that the minister he represents said something contrary to government policy. I ask you to remind the minister of the question, and I ask the minister to do the courtesy to the chamber of answering the question.
Senator O'Neill, a final supplementary question.
Senator Scullion interjecting—
Senator Scullion, you will have an opportunity in a moment.
Honourable senators interjecting—
We will waste time here as long as there are interjections. Senator O'Neill, a final supplementary question.
Given the minister has been the minister responsible for aged-care policy and regulation for over 30 months and that there have now been 14 reports, reviews and inquiries into aged care, why has it taken a television expose to prompt the minister to change his mind about the need for a royal commission?
I indicated in my answer to the previous question that there are cumulative issues that come up. There were some significant pieces of evidence that came up at the time we had been considering these matters. As you would be aware, we have actually invested in changes—and thank you to all of those people in this place for their support in the last sitting week before this one—to the cop on the beat and changes to the quality framework. This was in this context. We have continued to look at this issue. We have continued to look at our investment, and cabinet decided, on balance, that now is the time to have a forensic examination of the circumstances that our most vulnerable and treasured Australians are in. That is why we made the decision at that time.