Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Questions without Notice

Aged Care

2:36 pm

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. The devastating interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has confirmed the shameful neglect of older Australians. Today we see analysis that about 50,000 older Australians across the country are at risk as a result of an unacceptably high risk of insolvency of at least 200 residential aged-care providers. Will the minister take responsibility for fixing Australia's broken aged-care system?

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

The government has taken significant efforts over recent times to repair the aged-care system, and one of the actions that we took in relation to dealing with the circumstances that occur in the aged-care sector was to call the royal commission. That royal commission said a number of things. It laid open the circumstance of aged care in this country. It put Australia on notice, it put the Australian government on notice, it put the Australian aged-care sector on notice and it put the aged-care industry on notice about the circumstance in aged care and made some recommendations in respect of what needed to be done to repair that. The government said, in response to the report when it was released last week, that we would take some action, particularly in the areas that were recommended by the royal commission. It had three key elements that it wanted to see done. It wanted to see some action with respect to home care packages, and the Prime Minister has said that we will make some statements about that prior to Christmas, and the government will do that. It also said that it wanted to see some work done with respect to young people in aged care, and that work has already commenced and we will take further action in that space, as I have said and as the government has said. It also said that it wanted to see some work done with respect to the use of restraints, and the government has said we will take some action to deal with that. The aged-care royal commission report said that the issues in aged care were historical, over a number of governments—not just this government but a number of governments—and we all need to take responsibility for that, and the government will take action to repair the aged-care sector.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Keneally, a supplementary question?

2:38 pm

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I note the minister mentioned taking action by Christmas, so let me ask: the royal commission's interim report recommended as one of three urgent actions an immediate injection of more government funds into home care services. In addition, Leading Age Services now argues that an urgent pre-Christmas injection into residential aged care is also required. What urgent support will the Morrison government give the aged-care sector prior to Christmas?

2:39 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

The government will do what it said it would do when the royal commission report was released the week before last. It will consider the report carefully and it will take action, particularly with respect to home care places. The Prime Minister has said quite clearly that we will make additional investment into the home care sector, and I've also said that we will look at reforming the home care sector, because that's what the royal commission report said we should do. We will be doing what we said we would do, which is to make additional investment in the sector.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Keneally, on a point of order?

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Direct relevance—the minister has been speaking for 30 seconds. He has less than that amount of time left. The question was very specific: what urgent support will be delivered before Christmas? Either he can answer it or he can't. He hasn't done that yet.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm listening very carefully to the minister's answer. You have restated the end of the question. I believe the minister is talking about issues that are directly relevant to the question. I can't instruct him on how to answer a question, but he is specifically talking about one of the issues you raised. There is an opportunity after question time to debate the merits of a minister's answer. Senator Colbeck.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. As I was saying, we have said quite clearly that we will make additional investment into the aged-care sector prior to Christmas. We will make some specific announcements in alignment with MYEFO after we've been through our proper processes of government. That's what we will do.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Keneally, a final supplementary question.

2:41 pm

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I note the minister said there will be announcements before Christmas. We will watch. Chief executive of Leading Age Services Australia, Sean Rooney, says:

If there is no action from government on this, there is the risk of missed care and the threat of service failure and closure.

After six years in government, when will the coalition finally take action to fix a broken aged-care system that's leaving older Australians at risk?

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

We are clearly taking action, and the calling of the royal commission was a part of that process.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

What we wanted was an industry-wide inspection of the aged-care sector so that they could then come back to us and make recommendations to us on how the aged-care sector should look in the future. If Senator Keneally had read the report, she would've seen in the report that it calls for action in three areas—which we've said we will take—but it also says it doesn't want to be working on a moving target. It cautions about what actions we take in what areas as part of our processes moving forward. But we have already taken significant actions.

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

What we've taken already is new aged-care regulations and a resident-facing code of conduct. (Time expired)