Thursday, 3 September 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. In June the minister announced that a serious incident report scheme would be operational in 2021. In fact, today in question time the minister referenced this announcement as an example of his actions. Can the minister confirm that the establishment of this scheme will be four years after it was first recommended in 2017? Can the minister explain to the Senate why he and the Morrison government have taken four years to heed the warnings of the report Elder abuse—a national legal response and establish the scheme?
The point I made earlier in question time was that, rather than waiting until the budget for the announcement of funding for the Serious Incident Response Scheme, my imperative is to ensure that that work can commence immediately. That's why, when I had the opportunity to ensure that this funding was available—$23 million for the implementation of the Serious Incident Response Scheme—I took that opportunity to ensure that that occurred. As I said in my answer to a previous question today, the incidents that have occurred are not acceptable. That's why we've incorporated into the Serious Incident Response Scheme resident-on-resident assaults, which previously hadn't been part of the program, and that's why we expanded it—
The question was quite lengthy, Senator Wong. I think the minister talking about the activity he claims to have undertaken is directly relevant to—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Excuse me: I try, from the chair, to use non-pejorative phrases on questions and answers. He is being directly relevant, talking about his work and activity.
So, my action was to make sure that this funding was available quickly to continue the scheme. It was to ensure that resident-on-resident incidents were included in the scheme and also to ensure that the scheme covered home care, which it didn't previously. I have, all through my time in this portfolio, put this as one of the important things that I wanted to ensure that we achieved. So, I made sure the funding was available and announced in June, rather than waiting until the budget came down in October. And I will continue to pursue this as an important measure for the government and for those who are residing in residential aged care as well as, importantly, those who are receiving home-care services.
This minister has ignored the 2018 report of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce, the 2019 aged-care royal commission interim report titled Neglect, warnings from the northern hemisphere, warnings from experts and unions, and warnings from Dorothy Henderson Lodge in March and Newmarch House in April. Isn't the 2017 report Elder abuse—a national legal response just another warning this minister has ignored?
I completely reject the premise of Senator Wong's question. This government has continued to progress the interests of residents in aged care across the country. We called the royal commission into residential aged care because we wanted a forensic investigation of the entire residential aged-care sector. We have continued to reform the sector while the royal commission is being conducted, despite the royal commission saying that they didn't want to be investigating a moving target. We have continued the important reforms. Important reforms like the Serious Incident Response Scheme, like the new code of conduct for residential aged-care residents, like the new quality standards for residential aged care across the board and like the creation of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. I have, and this government has, continued to reform this sector while the royal commission is doing its work. We look forward to its report in February next year.
This minister has ignored warning after warning, failed to plan, failed to act urgently, and as a result he has lost the confidence of the Australian people and the confidence of the Senate. Today in the House of Representatives Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister, couldn't bring himself to express confidence in this minister. So I ask this minister: when will you resign?
Again, I reject the premise of Senator Wong's question. What I will do is what I've said I will do in previous questions during question time today. I will continue to work in the interests of senior Australians; I will continue to bring reforms forward to government, as I have done during my tenure and I will continue to work to ensure that senior Australians have access to the resources and the support that they need to ensure that they get an appropriate level of care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.5 billion, as a result of my interventions and work with the RC and the government, is a clear demonstration of the fact I take this role seriously. I'll continue to do just that.