Thursday, 14 November 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's interim report identified that the home care packages waiting list needed urgent action. How long will the Morrison government make older Australians wait for more home care packages to reduce the waiting list?
I'm not trying to be. Senator Marielle Smith, if that suits the chamber. It's a term I've heard in the chamber. I'm not trying to be disrespectful—let me put that on the record. I thank Senator Smith for the question. As I indicated in my answer to Senator Keneally earlier, the government has clearly said that it will respond, with respect to home care packages, prior to Christmas. The Prime Minister said that the day after the interim report from the royal commission was released. It's been repeated by other colleagues and it's been repeated by me. It was repeated by me in the chamber earlier. The government take this process extremely seriously. We said, when the commission interim report was released, that we would consider what it said very carefully and we would take the appropriate policy response, and the Prime Minister announced the following morning that we would invest additional resources into home care packages prior to Christmas. That's what we said we would do. That's what we will do.
Opposition senators interjecting—
More than 16,000 older Australians died in one year waiting for their approved home care package. The commissioners were alarmed to find that that many people died waiting. How many more older Australians will die waiting for their approved home care package?
The question actually demonstrates why this government is taking this matter so seriously, why this government has, since last year's budget, invested $2.2 billion in new home care packages and why it increased the number of home care packages last financial year by 25 per cent, which for the first time has actually reduced the waiting list. This government not only takes this matter seriously; it continues to act.
We called the royal commission because we wanted a forensic review of this industry, this sector more broadly, so that when we did reform the sector—
Will this minister take responsibility for delivering the urgent action called for by the commissioners and promise to bring forward the government's response so that older Australians aren't forced to keep waiting for the care they so desperately need?
I have already said a number of times in the chamber today that the government has listened to what the royal commission has said, particularly in the context of the three urgent items that the commission said we should address, and I have said that we would take action prior to Christmas, directly answering the questions that have been asked of the government. I've also said that we will go through the proper policy development process to develop that response. We will do all of those things that we have said. We are not going to play tricky inside-the-bubble tricks. We are actually going to deal with the issue—