Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Aged Care

25 June 2018

I welcome the opportunity to support this motion on aged care, because this government must be held to account for its shameful and deceitful handling of the issue of home care packages and aged care in general and what that says about an out-of-touch government. Let me go to some of the ways this government has completely failed to deliver for our most vulnerable Australians, for the people who care for them and for their concerned families. Let's be clear: the government pulled billions of dollars out of residential care in 2015-16. One can only imagine the reverberations of that right across the community and how that has contributed to what is an aged-care crisis right now.

The government, in this budget, hailed one of the greatest achievements of the Minister for Aged Care, in that 14,000 places were announced for home care packages. There were 14,000 places announced in the budget when we know around 105,000 older Australians are waiting for these packages! Indeed, in the last six months alone, 20,000 people joined the waiting list. Worst of all, it turns out that the government is actually slashing residential care to try and fix the home care package crisis. Over the next three years 21,000 residential aged care places will be cut to pay for the small increase to the number of home care packages. There is no new money in the budget at all for the funding of home care and residential aged care. None!

Older Australians and their families remain frustrated, and confused and let down by this government, which is so out of touch it clearly has no idea what it means to be hoping for help with an older loved one. It has no idea what it means to watch an elderly parent wait in vain for assistance at home. It has no idea what it means for a family to struggle to provide that care themselves, juggling rosters at work and juggling their own children, who need their care and attention. Families are taking risks, ultimately, because sometimes it just doesn't work out the way you want it to, and then you worry desperately because you can't get home on time, because an elderly loved one is home all alone just for that bit too long, because they didn't get a shower at all, because they missed their midday medications or because they didn't eat their lunch. You worry that the Post-It Notes you put out to remind them to take their pills or turn off the gas or to put the heating on might have fallen away or been pulled down or missed.

I recently had a visit from a constituent who's been waiting for over 12 months for a package for his mum. He's at his wit's end. Each time it appears one is coming up his mum has deteriorated just a bit more and they say she needs a re-assessment, and then there is another wait. He is absolutely convinced that the government is forcing this to happen so ultimately she deteriorates so much without home assistance that he will have to place her in residential care, where he will have to find a bond and move his mum away. He said: 'Mum doesn't have much. We don't have much. They just want me to come up with a stack of money we don't really have, pay up-front and put her in a home, when we just want to keep her with us and we could do that with some help.'

The coalition continues its smoke-and-mirrors tricks in relation to the most basic functions of government—releasing timely information. Data on the wait list for home care packages is missing in action. Where is the data? Why is there a delay? What are the aged-care minister and his government hiding?

Finally, the Prime Minister exposed the lack of respect he has for aged-care workers last week when he said that he expected these Australians to aspire to a better job. The arrogance of this statement and the absolute failings of this government to deliver on aged care tell us so much about the priorities of those who sit opposite us. They simply don't care about the elderly. They don't care about the people who raised us, cared for us and love us. They deserve so much better than this smoke-and-mirrors approach.

The government don't care that they are forcing Australians to work till they're 70, and they don't care about the workers who look after our elderly. These workers have been screaming out for reform and resources, a call that has been ignored by this government. They need resources so they can continue to do the job they love and the jobs they aspire to. The only people the government do seem to care about are the wealthiest Australians who stand to gain the most from their tax cuts, the bankers and high-flying executives who will have their corporate tax rates slashed, and, oh yes, let's not forget Captain Cook who's getting a $50 million memorial.

As I said just last week, a society is judged by how it cares for its most vulnerable. Our elderly are our most vulnerable, and this government has failed to deliver home care packages and care to so many older Australians. It created an aged-care crisis. It is ignoring the aged-care crisis, and its budget fails to fix it.