Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Aged Care

7:34 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 crisis that has developed on the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government watch—an aged-care crisis that the latest Prime Minister claims he's only just become aware of in the last few days. But the latest Prime Minister was the architect behind some of the cruellest cuts the aged-care sector has ever seen. It was his cuts that brought us to the crisis point we are at now. In his first year as Treasurer, he tried to rip almost $2 billion from the aged-care sector. Now he's claimed aged care is his top priority and that he is a friend to older Australians. Well, your crocodile tears aren't working, Mr Morrison. Older Australians won't be fooled. If aged care were truly your top priority, it would have had a seat at your cabinet table.

One of Mr Morrison's first acts as Treasurer was to slash almost $500 million from aged-care funding in the 2015 MYEFO. He followed this with an even bigger cut: $1.2 billion from aged-care funding in the 2016 budget. Even as the waiting lists for home care packages blew out to more than 108,000, Mr Morrison's budget this year did not deliver one extra dollar—not one extra dollar of funding to aged care. Let's not forget the 26,000 residential aged-care places he also cut in this year's budget. It's actually quite embarrassing. Mr Morrison acts as though he is only recently interested and is a bystander in all that has taken place, but we know his role in this. Mr Morrison's shameful record on aged care is crystal clear. The budget papers do not lie. He has cut aged care in every single budget he has been responsible for as Treasurer. The fact that he can stand in front of the cameras and deny this is quite unbelievable. It tells you everything you need to know about the new Prime Minister. Older Australians deserve better than a Prime Minister who cuts funding to aged care and then lies about it.

Mr Morrison's belittling response to his aged-care cuts this week have been shameful. First he said that calling him out on this $1.2 billion cut to aged care was childish. Then in question time on Monday he characterised his $1.2 billion cut to aged care as just a 'little fact'—an insult to every older Australian who relies on care. Mr Morrison's $2 billion cut to aged care during his time as Treasurer is just not a little fact. It had a detrimental impact on the sector and on older Australians. Even more disturbing was yesterday when the Prime Minister refused to rule out any further funding cuts to the aged-care sector. I've got a message for the new Prime Minister, the current Prime Minister, and his disillusioned government: you do not fix aged care by cutting it.

Obviously Labor supports the royal commission into the aged care-sector, but the government won't be let off the hook. The government's call for this royal commission is an admission of their failure. They have essentially called for a royal commission into themselves. They've been in charge for five years and have nothing to show for it. I warned those opposite, and Labor warned those opposite, that this royal commission must not become the latest excuse for doing nothing. You cannot fix the wait list by calling a royal commission. You can't afford to wait until the royal commission brings down its findings to invest to resolve these critical issues. The need for more aged-care workers can't wait. The need for better training can't wait. The need for better pay and conditions for those in the aged-care sector can't wait. Of course, the 108,000 older Australians who are waiting for home care packages—88,000 of whom want and need high-needs care, and many of whom are living with dementia—cannot wait until the royal commission brings down its findings. The way to fix this is for this government to show some courage to address these important issues because older Australians deserve nothing less.

Senate adjourned at 19 : 39