PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS; Home Care Packages - 13 Aug 2018

August 13, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (18:10): I take the opportunity to thank the member for Bass for raising this very important matter for debate this evening. I join with my colleagues in condemning the government for the way that they've handled the aged-care crisis that has occurred under their watch. We'll not let the government fool everyday Australians into believing that they care about our elderly. Time and time again, the government has shown no willingness to work with this side of the House to put the interests of older Australians at the front and centre of the debate. In fact, they've done the exact opposite. This government has played a hoax on the Australian people. They pretended to allocate more funding to aged care, but the fact is not an extra dollar was allocated to the aged-care system in this year's budget—not one extra dollar. How can the government find $80 billion of tax cuts for big business, including $17 billion for the big four banks—and the inquiry that's taking place at the moment is interesting—but can't find one single extra dollar to put into care for our older Australians?

Keep in mind that on top of this the Abbott-Turnbull governments have previously cut aged care, robbing the industry of billions of dollars over the past five years. The Health Services Union appropriately summed up the ramifications of the government's persistent attack on the aged-care sector in their submission to the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport. They stated:

What is undisputed among providers, unions, consumer advocacy groups and residents is that cuts to aged care funding by consecutive federal governments are having a significant and adverse impact upon the provision of quality care to older Australians.

It's clear that in the build-up to the budget that the government's rhetoric around aged care certainly didn't match its final announcement. In the lead-up to the budget the government framed the message around aged care, particularly the support that will be given to older Australians choosing to stay in their own homes. In fact, in a doorstop only days before the Treasurer handed down the budget the Minister for Health said, 'It's going to be a very good budget for health and aged care in particular.' All they did in the budget was simply cut the money out of residential aged care to pay that money to home-care packages, therefore, there wasn't an extra dollar in it. In other words, Malcolm Turnbull was simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.

For what it's worth, the government won't even come close to resolving this aged-care crisis which has occurred under its watch. The funding is for just 14,000 new home-care packages over the next four years. That's nothing but a cruel hoax. The simple fact is, to put this in perspective, it's only 3,500 places a year. Frankly, that's not acceptable. It is insufficient to keep pace with current demand. We currently have more than 100,000 older Australians still waiting for approved home-care packages. What we know is that in the last six months of 2017 alone the waiting list for home care grew by a staggering 20,000 places. Once again this government has been caught overpromising and underdelivering for older Australians. The government's response to older Australians is an insult and does nothing to address the aged-care crisis which they have created. This has all occurred on their watch.

This is a government that has a proven track record in cutting funding and underinvesting in aged care. It has not shown much compassion for older Australians. We have a government that expects Australians to work until they're 70 and to pay more for their energy by ripping off the energy supplement to two million Australians—and that also includes 400,000 aged pensioners. We simply have a responsibility to ensure quality aged-care services and ensure that real and positive change occurs in this sector. If we can't positively resource the sector that looks after older Australians, Australians who have contributed so much to this country, then, collectively, we have failed.

On this note, I would call on the government to immediately address the home-care crisis. Our older Australians and their families cannot afford to wait any longer. This government must act and it must act now.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Gee ): There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.