Senate debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Aged Care

2:01 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. Can the minister confirm that over the past two years almost 30,000 Australians died while waiting for their approved home-care package? How is this acceptable?

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

We have canvassed this issue a number of times in the chamber before. No-one in government or opposition, I'm sure, wants to see people passing away while they're waiting for a home-care package. That is why we've invested so heavily in home-care packages since coming to government.

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

But you haven't!

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

Senator Keneally clearly wasn't listening when we provided this information in the chamber before. When we came to government there were 60,000 home-care packages in the market. As of today there are 146,000-plus home-care packages in the market, and that will be 150,000 home-care packages by the end of this financial year. That is a significant increase—in fact, an investment of over $2.7 billion since the budget before last. We have made a significant investment.

We put 10,000 additional places into the market on the back of the interim report of the royal commission; the royal commission drew our attention to that issue. We want to see the waiting time for Australians waiting for home-care packages reduced. That's why we've continued to invest in new home-care packages and in the aged-care sector. We will continue to do that.

There are a couple of numbers Senator Keneally should remember: $387 billion and zero—$387 billion of taxes that the Labor Party promised at the last election and zero home-care packages.

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

Order! Senator Colbeck, please resume your seat. 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

It is on direct relevance. The question was fairly narrowly construed and made no mention of tax policy, neither the government's nor that of the Labor opposition. It was specifically about whether or not it is acceptable that 30,000 people have died waiting for a home-care package on their watch.

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

Until straying in the last few seconds, I considered the minister directly relevant. His attention has been drawn to the question. He has three seconds remaining.

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

$387 billion of taxes and zero home-care packages!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President

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

Senator Colbeck! I'm happy to address this. I'm going to ask ministers, if I say they are not being directly relevant, to not get up and say the same thing again. That material was not directly relevant, and I actually said so. In the other place the Speaker unilaterally sits down ministers. I have not taken that option, but, if that happens, I will. Senator Keneally, a supplementary question.

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

I am willing to accord the minister three extra seconds if he would like to correct—

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

Time has expired, so I will set the clock again so you can commence your supplementary question.

2:04 pm

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

Thank you, Mr President. Why are up to half of all older Australians in residential aged care malnourished?

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

I haven't had that particular statistic put forward to me specifically. I don't believe that's the case. If that's the case, I don't believe it's acceptable. That would not be acceptable to government and, quite frankly, that would mean that 50 per cent of the aged-care providers in this country were not meeting the standards that are established under the quality and safety commission. That would mean that the providers providing that care would be in breach of the quality and safety commission's quality standards obligations, because providing high-quality care and food is clearly— (Time expired)

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

Senator Keneally, a final supplementary question.

2:06 pm

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

Why is the Morrison government's priority to privatise aged-care assessment services, a demonstrably successful service that older Australians and their families rely upon and trust, instead of ensuring that older Australians are receiving the quality aged-care services they deserve now?

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

The government has never said that it was going to privatise aged-care assessment services. It has never said that. It has been stated by others in the media that that's what was going to happen, but the government has never stated that. In fact, on a number of occasions, I have refuted that. The Tune review—if Senator Keneally bothered to do some research into the history of this sector—recommended—

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why haven't you adopted the recommendations? You've had long enough.

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

I will take your interjection, Senator Polley. The Tune review recommended combining ACAT and RAS in its 2017 report. The Tune review recommended that we do that. The royal commission, in its interim report, said it was an urgent reform. That is why we are continuing with that reform, because the Tune review recommended it in 2017, and the aged care royal commission said it was urgent. (Time expired)