Thursday, 14 November 2019
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Aged Care
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians (Senator Colbeck) to questions without notice asked by Senators Keneally, Marielle Smith, O'Neill today relating to aged care funding and home care packages.
I'm taking note of these answers because, on this side of the chamber, we have been asking the government to urgently respond to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
You can hear in Senator McMahon's voice that she is a sincere person. It must be very difficult for her to come into this third term of the Liberal-National government as a coalition member representing regional and rural Australia and know how this government has failed her community dismally. This is not a new government. Mr Morrison tries to make out that it is all brand new—'Oh, we've found this terrible problem in aged care and we're going to have an inquiry.' We definitely needed the inquiry, but we need the inquiry now because the government has failed to do its job for the last six years.
Before Mr Morrison was the Prime Minister, he in fact had a really good go at taking out critical funding for this sector. Senator McMahon said in her comments that they are investing money. She said that $1.4 billion isn't an unsubstantial amount. I agree: it is not an unsubstantial amount. But let's go back to the first budget of Mr Morrison as Treasurer to see what he really thinks about aged care. He took $1.2 billion out of the sector. When you take that much money out of the aged-care sector, something is going to give. I will tell you what gave: the aged-care sector gave and older people around this country are paying, and the people who love them are paying with their grief. People who expected this government to look after them have been failed by this government.
I am talking about people like the woman who gave evidence just last week in Mudgee, Ms Susan Hood. She said about her husband: 'I would have liked to have taken him back home, but I had no option but to put him in an aged-care facility, because I couldn't get a package. It was 18 to 24 months before you could go and get a package to keep him at home'—18 to 24 months! That story of Ms Hood and her very real husband in the very real place of Mudgee in our time is a consequence of the decision-making of this hard-hearted, miserly Liberal-National government, who ripped $1.2 billion out as their first order of business when they came to this place.
We saw the pitiful response of the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians today: 'Oh, my heart breaks for these people.' Well, they need a lot more than his breaking heart; they need money and assistance. They need an aged-care workforce. These guys, this government, have abrogated their responsibility to the aged in this country year after year after year after year after year after year. That's six years they have been doing this. This is no surprise. It is a great shame but it is no surprise. And in regional and rural Australia it is even worse. The government have been so bad at looking at the workforce in health care and aged care across this country. They removed funding from the agencies that actually planned for the workforce. They just took the money away. It's funny how, if you don't plan, things don't actually happen!
We are now finding in regional and rural Australia—areas represented by members of the National Party, who are in here defending their government's current position—that there are people whom they know, who live in a home or on a farm maybe 50 kilometres from where they live, who are suffering. They know that the story that I told of Ms Hood is correct. They know people in their community who are knocking on their doors right across the country, saying, 'Just give me an aged-care home package.' We know that there are 120,000 of them. In fact, Senator McMahon was honest enough to put on the record that there were going to be—I think this is what she said—125,000 in 2019, and 157,154 by 2022-23.
What did we get out of the minister today? 'Well, we might give you a little Christmas present of a bit more money, and we'll tell you some time just before Christmas'! It's not enough. It's disrespectful. If they're going to give the money—and they needed to give it years ago—they should not hold out for Christmas. It's a disgrace. (Time expired)
You might be surprised to hear how excited I am to make a contribution immediately following Senator O'Neill. Senator O'Neill made a very revealing comment. She said, 'If you don't plan, then nothing happens.' When I was thinking about my contribution a few moments ago, I thought: 'I'm not going into the politics. This is too important a national issue.' I actually don't think that Australians are interested in the politics of aged care. I do think they are interested in the solutions.
Senator Keneally interjecting—
Senator Keneally, hear me out. You won't be surprised, because I'm someone that guesses that you watch the media very regularly—watch your tweets, watch Twitter. I'll come to the ABC's comments about the false claims that Richard Marles made just a few days ago. ABC Fact Check—
I also rise to take note of answers to questions to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck, from myself and Senators Keneally and O'Neill. I want to start by responding to my fellow Senator Smith. Today I did not walk in here brazenly at all; I walked in here concerned. I walked in here horrified by the findings of that report—