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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1777


Mr HILL (Bruce) (11:09): This is an important motion, and I congratulate the member for Hindmarsh on moving it. Already what we've seen that it's having an impact because previously there were no government speakers listed at all. The minister just happened to be sitting around doing some paperwork and went: 'Oh, my God! It's my portfolio. I might start talking.' Now the government have sent backbenchers in to read out random dot points and press releases.

I was going to take a point of order on relevance, because most of what the previous speaker talked about was not to do with home care; it was about hospital funding and the PBS and whatever other random pages she'd had shoved into her hand to come here and read to the House. But let's make an important point: I didn't take a point of order, because I think she is digging a hole for the government here. The point of properly funding home care is that it saves money, because people can stay in their own home instead of having to spend more on hospitals. That is an important point.

This is a growing crisis, by anyone's measure. There are more than 100,000 senior Australians right now sitting at home without proper care. This includes 60,000 people with absolutely nothing—no care whatsoever. Forty-thousand people are on a lower level of care than they actually need and 80,000 people need high-needs care, including people with severe dementia. It's important to remember that these are people—human beings—not just numbers. We often bandy around statistics—we need that many billion and there are this many thousand people—but these are human beings: senior Australians who have served our country, worked for decades, built the country and paid taxes, in most cases, and they deserve decent treatment.

This is especially important in my electorate. My electorate has a much older demographic than the surrounding areas in south-east Melbourne, with over 35,000 people aged 60 and over. There is the despair and pain, as the member for Franklin said, of people calling our offices, usually sons and daughters, saying, 'Please, can you do something to help my aged parents, who are living in despair at home without proper care and with no time line as to when this will be fixed?'

The government should not see this as a surprise. It's been raised before by the shadow minister, by local governments across the country, by aged-care peak bodies and by many Labor MPs. But we've had zero action from the minister. In fact, it's worse than zero action. Despite the minister's polite waffle—he told us it's complex—it's actually not that complex: find the funding and you clear the backlog. He admitted that when he was asked only a few months ago, 'Why is this backlog there?' he said, 'There are budgetary and fiscal pressures.' So, that is the truth of it. He's already said what the problem is: the government have not prioritised funding for senior Australians. That is the fact of it.

They have prioritised, as the member for Franklin aptly said, a tax cut—a $65 billion tax cut for big business. The other thing they prioritised in their budget was a tax cut for everyone in this chamber. The top two per cent of Australians, those earning over $180,000, got a tax cut from this mob in the budget. They got a tax cut—

Mr Falinski: Are you kidding? That was not a tax cut—

Mr HILL: Oh, sorry. 'We removed the deficit levy.' Is that what we're hearing? You removed the two per cent deficit levy—which is a tax cut—and guess what? The budget is still in deficit. Maybe we should have kept the deficit levy there. I'll put my hand up and say, 'I, for one, would be happy to pay an extra two per cent tax.' I don't think anyone in Australia would begrudge senior Australians decent care and a decent home care package to put that levy back on.

Government members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): The member for Mackellar will be quiet. So will the minister.

Mr HILL: I encourage you to just take what you can get. I encourage people on waiting lists to—whatever level you're offered—just take that offer. Like it or leave it. It doesn't actually matter if you need four days a week of care and you can't shower yourself. If you can get someone to come for two hours a week and clean the kitchen, well, that's good enough. Just take that. That's what the minister said. That's a direct quote.

What about the government? The minister's not up to it. He's a lovely man and I speak highly of him. I would speak more highly of him if he'd come and visit the Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative in my electorate, but we are living in hope. He says he'll come one day. But what about the government? They've obviously been to the Christensen school of courage, haven't they? They're courageous; they're brave. Look at all the speakers here willing to stand up for their reforms.

Ms Brodtmann: They're coming in at the last minute!

Mr HILL: That's right. It's not a complex issue. For my final point, I need to call the minister out on something. He said in dulcet tones, 'Aged care is generally a bipartisan issue.' It's not a bipartisan issue right now. Those hundred thousand people are not a bipartisan issue. This is your mess. It's your shame. The $3 billion cuts to residential aged care are not a bipartisan issue. This is your mess to fix.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.