Thursday, 3 September 2020
Questions without Notice
My question without notice is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. News Corp newspapers revealed in reports this morning that more than 100 older Australians are being raped, assaulted and even murdered in this minister's aged-care system every week, with more than 50,000 incidents of assault and abuse going unreported each year. Advocacy group Aged Care Crisis has found:
… aged care residents in nursing homes have been raped, robbed, bathed in kerosene, attacked by rodents, suffered injuries or death from other residents, burnt to death, strangled, cooked, melted, sedated to death, overmedicated or choked to death.
Is the minister going to ignore these warnings?
I thank the senator for the question. The government isn't and hasn't been ignoring those warnings. In fact, this government has continued to act to reform the aged-care sector, including the calling of the royal commission, which is currently investigating in a forensic manner the aged-care sector. But, while the royal commission is being undertaken, we have continued to act to reform the aged-care sector. Beginning from July last year, we've had the new Aged Care Quality Standards that we've put in place. We've instituted a new charter of rights for residents in residential aged care. We've completed the legislative process to bring together the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission as one entity, and that entity began its work as a single entity on 1 January this year. So we have continued to act in a reform sense as the royal commission has continued.
In respect of the story in the media this morning, those things are clearly unacceptable—clearly unacceptable. And that's why we've progressed the work on the Serious Incident Response Scheme, and in that Serious Incident Response Scheme we've incorporated some things that didn't exist previously, including resident-on-resident attacks, which a lot of these issues that were reported this morning are. We've included home care in the Serious Incident Response Scheme and we actually brought forward the funding. Instead of waiting until the budget in October of this year, we announced the funding for the progression of the Serious Incident Response Scheme in June this year because we understand it's an important piece of work and we wanted to make sure it was being progressed. So not only do we recognise these issues but we understand that they are not acceptable, and we continue to reform the sector to improve the outcomes for residents in residential aged care and aged care across the sector.
I have to say reform hasn't been going too well so far. The CEO of Painaustralia quit the Morrison government's aged-care quality advisory council because she found 'the focus was not about quality at all; it just really fell short of the mark.' Why do older Australians have to suffer the consequences of a minister who keeps falling short of the mark?
The individual that is mentioned by the senator actually, as I understand it, resigned from the previous incarnation of the quality advisory council over two years ago. There is a new quality council in place now under a new framework, and it is operating quite differently. So it's all very well for the senator to bring up historical events, but, as I said in my previous answer, we have continued to reform this sector. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which commenced in its new form on 1 January this year, is operating in a different way. We are providing additional powers, and some of those powers have occurred during the COVID-19 outbreak. And we continue to look to and work with the quality and safety advisory council on what additional powers might be required for the commissioner to utilise.
As a result of the horrific reality of the minister's aged-care system, including ants crawling in wounds, loved ones left abandoned for hours and families who've lost mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandads, the Senate has actually censured the minister. When will the minister resign and give his portfolio to someone who won't fall short of the mark and might be capable of getting it right?
What I will continue to do and what the government will continue to do is the work that we have been doing in reforming and improving the aged-care sector in this country. Had the senator listened to the answers that I gave to the first two questions, she would understand that that work has been occurring and continues to occur—not only that; we are acting with appropriate urgency to ensure that these reforms continue.
It was this government that called the royal commission into aged care. There have been members on the other side trotting around saying that they supported it, when they didn't; in fact they called into doubt whether we actually needed an aged-care royal commission. This government has acted and continues to act while the royal commission continues to reform the sector and improve it so that senior Australians get the care they deserve in residential care and in home care.