Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. When asked in question time yesterday when Minister Wyatt first became aware of discussions within government to support a royal commission, the minister said:
… the Monday before the Friday in the same week. Sorry I haven't got the Friday—
On what date did Minister Wyatt become aware of discussions within the government to support a royal commission?
My understanding was that Minister Wyatt had made some public utterances in an interview on Monday. I can take you to the actual date rather than the day of the week. It was the beginning of the last week of sittings. We had two weeks of sittings, and it was the Monday that started it, somewhere in that period of time. I would have to check directly what date we became aware. These are not matters that we would think people would be particularly interested in. Obviously it is of interest to those opposite, but I am unable to assist them with the exact date and the exact time.
I can say that Minister Wyatt has been completely focused on the circumstances of our First Australians. He's was the one who, in May 2017, ensured that we have an investigation into the aged-care systems. He's the one who has been responsible for issuing 14 noncompliance notices and closing 14 aged-care centres in 16 months. He's the one who has formulated the new framework that ensures that we have the highest quality and the best possible auditing. He's the one that has ensured that the $300 million compliance system is now headed up by a commissioner with special powers to look after our most vulnerable. The minister has been responsible for all of those matters. When he came to the conclusion that the complexity of these matters and the vast increase in the number reporting as a consequence of his auditing process—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I think there is an assumptions in that question that he had nothing to do with the decision. Of course, this is a cabinet government, and I won't talk in this place or anywhere else about what happens in cabinet. But cabinet are an informed group. We are not an isolated group. The coalition are informed, and we are informed by those people who know best. We are informed by the minister. I can assure you that the minister's experience, the information that he had, the work that he had been doing on this area and his views were taken into consideration in the government's decision. That shouldn't be surprising to anyone. Again, this is a minister that is very connected. It is his leadership that has led to the very best level of care for our most vulnerable Australians, and again I commend him for his work.
Minister Wyatt first said that he'd changed his mind and decided to support a royal commission because of a constituent's report of abuse. He then said it was because of a briefing from his department. On Monday, this minister told the Senate that Minister Wyatt changed his position because of the Four Corners report and then because of the terms of reference. So which is it?
I certainly did not say that the minister had said it was the Four Corners report. I certainly didn't say that the minister said it was the terms of reference. So I don't accept both premises of the question. I simply don't accept them. This is not a place to make stuff up. Again, we are very proud to be a government that puts people over politics. All week we've had the partisan approach: criticise and then cut. Every element of the most comprehensive level of protection and support in home care and residential care for our eldest Australians has been criticised by those opposite. The question should remain in everyone's minds: does the criticism now revert to cuts? You should stand in this place and support the fantastic initiatives of this government in the area of aged care.