Speeches

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE; Aged Care

November 27, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (16:05): The standard of care for our elderly should not be compromised through restrictions of resources or for the budget bottom line. The aged-care system urgently needs a skill mix of medical, nursing and care staff. That's not the view expressed publicly by the opposition; it's the view expressed publicly by someone who's regularly quoted by the Prime Minister, and the minister on this occasion, Dr Tony Bartone, the President of the AMA—that militant organisation. He actually speaks the truth and, when necessary, is prepared to be brave enough to talk about the system, which he has, and which those on the other side continue to ignore. He really does put in perspective exactly what is going on here. None of those opposite could take any pleasure in the way that they have responded to the interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. What we're seeing is a litany of issues from the lack of staff, low-paid staff, lack of resourcing in the industry.

Granted, the government has delivered 10,000 additional home care packages. I've got to say, that is a drop in the ocean when you think there are 120,000 Australians on waiting lists at the moment. By the way, even though they've been approved for a package, they've been on waiting lists to receive them for up to, and over, two years. That is another statistic which is absolutely frightening. In one year alone, 16,000 people died while on that waiting list, waiting for the appropriate care. That is outrageous for a country like Australia, a country that professes to care about the vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable in our community than the aged?

The government initiated the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and Labor supported that. But they went into it kicking and screaming. How long did it take after all the activity that took place on this side of the parliament, criticising minister after minister? By the way, since they've been in government, those opposite have had four separate ministers who have had the opportunity to address this. Over that period of time, do you know what? They actually strangled the funding of aged care by about $2 billion, and that all started when the then Treasurer—Scott Morrison, the current Prime Minister—in his very first budget under the Turnbull government, decided to pull almost $2 billion out of aged care to meet the bottom line. This is all about meeting the budgetary bottom line.

If those opposite want to take some joy in that, I wouldn't go jumping up and down in your electorates. Not just the elderly but their loved ones will punish you for that sort of behaviour. The simple fact is the system is broken. You don't need to go any further than the royal commission to see that. The royal commission has found that the aged-care system has failed to deliver uniformly safe quality care. It is unkind, uncaring towards elderly people and there are too many instances of neglect. That's from the royal commission, the one they set up, the one that they're just not listening to at the moment. To put it further in perspective, Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs said it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation, yet the government are here today saying they are doing wonders in aged care. You've got to be joking. This system is broken. The interim report—yes, it is another report, but this report is another confirmation of the desperate situation facing older Australians.

In their report, the commissioners have listed three things that require urgent and immediate attention by this government: ensuring that older Australians are getting the care they need at home—well, that's a big zero, given the size of the waiting list; preventing the overreliance on chemical restraints; and ending the unacceptable number of young people entering residential care. We would encourage the government to read that report carefully and do what they say—act immediately. (Time expired)

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