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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 200


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (12:55): I rise today to discuss the issue of AIDS, TB, and malaria and to update this chamber regarding the Turnbull government's lack of leadership in the aged-care sector.

AIDS, TB and malaria are amongst the world's most debilitating illnesses and were identified by the World Health Organization and the G8 as the three leading infectious and parasitic diseases across the world.

Last week I met with RESULTS International in my electorate office in Launceston, where we discussed the work of the Global Fund and its targets moving forward. I would like to thank the team of volunteers who came to meet with me. They are passionate campaigners from our local communities who are determined to see an end to these illnesses and hold the government to our normal commitment to funding this organisation.

We know how important it is that this work is carried out in our region and internationally to eradicate these diseases. These volunteers are doing some very important work educating not only politicians but also people in the wider community about the importance and relevance of the Global Fund.

Thanks to the Global Fund's work, since 2002,    17 million lives have been saved, and targets project it will save 22 million lives by the end of 2016. The work of the fund has also ensured a decline of one-third in the number of people dying from HIV, TB and malaria.

The Global Fund's work has been supported by continuous federal governments, because the work they do across the world to fund the fight against these diseases is paramount to global health and international security. We must do more to address inequality in our society and internationally. It is in our economic, social and security interests to ensure that we do more to alleviate poverty, wherever it may be, and treat illness and disease with the most advanced medical techniques available.

Despite the good work of the Global Fund and its presence in the global community, there is still much misinformation within the community about AIDS, TB and malaria. As stated in the other place earlier in the year, most Australians actually believe that TB was eradicated in the 20th century. This is far from the truth, which is why it is fundamental that the Global Fund be supported to continue its work. TB remains a major threat to public health within developing countries, with over 100 million people infected on an annual basis. Out of that number, 1.5 million people die every year. This is too high and it must be eradicated. We have a responsibility to our neighbouring communities and South-East Asia to do what we can to ensure that this money is forthcoming.

RESULTS is calling on the Australian government to contribute $300 million to the Global Fund for 2017-19. Our percentage share is normally about 1.7 per cent, so I think it is a very shrewd investment. It is important internationally and because we need to be good neighbours. The work that the Global Fund has been doing and will continue to do is in Australia's interest.

I want to turn to the Turnbull government's lack of leadership in the area of ageing and the aged-care sector. We heard in the election campaign very few words about aged care or our ageing population in this country. In this 45th Parliament—it is only two days old—we have seen nothing that indicates that there is any change. In fact, in the Governor-General's address in this very place yesterday, which one might say was an inspiring speech—I am not sure I agree with that, but I think many people were trying to stay awake during that speech, and it was not just Senator Hinch—you would have thought that the government would outline clearly their plan for aged-care policy and address the issues of our ageing population. But, no, there was no real detail, as usual. All the Governor-General said was—and I quote—that the government would address Australia's ageing population and the needs of older Australians. Those opposite need to do far more. You need to do a lot more.

Senator Williams interjecting

Senator POLLEY: It is just a shame, Senator Williams, that you are not more passionate and ensuring that your minister and your government deliver to older Australians and develop a backbone, actually show some leadership, have some good policy, have a plan and have a vision, because these people, our ageing population, are not going to go away. In fact, they are just going to increase. We heard nothing, as I said, through the election campaign. There was $3 million, I think it was, that was pledged as part of their policy for dementia research, but there is still so much more that needs to be done.

The reality is that, over the 44th Parliament, in every budget from this government there were cuts to aged care. In fact, this government is renowned throughout the aged-care sector for using aged care as an ATM. What did it do? It kept making withdrawals. In every budget that it brought down, it just cut. 'How much?' you would ask. How much did it cut from the aged-care sector? $3 billion. That was just in its last term of government: $3 billion.

I and the former shadow minister for ageing, Shayne Neumann, toured the country during the last term of parliament. Now we have a new shadow minister for ageing, Julie Collins MP, the great member for Franklin, and I am her assistant minister. We have already been out talking and listening to the aged-care sector. They do not know where to turn. They have had no response. The recent cut to ACFI—that is, the Aged Care Funding Instrument—of $1.2 billion during the election campaign was made without any consultation. The sector and the opposition have always said that we want to have a bipartisan approach to this policy area. This is too important. My state, I am afraid, has the biggest ageing population, and the oldest population in this country is in my home state of Tasmania, so I take this very personally.

The government do not even have a minister for ageing. They have a Minister for Health and Aged Care, which is Sussan Ley. And what have we seen from her since she has been the minister responsible? Vacant land. Nothing. The only thing that she has been able to do as a minister is use the aged-care sector as an ATM. It is a disgrace in a country as wealthy as we are. The government say they are active, agile, grown-up and all these other three-word slogans that they use during their campaigns and while they are in government. They have done nothing. They really have done nothing.

When we were in government last time, we developed the Living Longer, Living Better policy. That was a platform for the next decade or so to go forward. They could not even roll that out. They could not even manage to roll that out, because they are incompetent. What we have asked for, and what the sector has asked for, is to release the modelling on which you based your decisions to cut the $1.2 billion out of ACFI. Why do we need to put in a freedom-of-information request to get this information? If the minister and Malcolm Turnbull have nothing to hide, release that information. Release it publicly. Let the sector understand why you have made this cut. That is what we did when we were in government. We consulted, and we advised them of the issues that needed to be addressed. They will come with you. So will the opposition.

But what we have seen demonstrated is that this government, not only during the 44th Parliament but in the 45th Parliament, is again keeping those things secret. Why do you hide away? Why do you run away from making this public? You obviously have something to hide. The minister responsible, Sussan Ley, should come out in the House this afternoon in question time, if not before that, and explain why this government has chosen to cut the $1.2 billion. Why has she done that? Let the sector know why, and we can work together. (Time expired)