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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1941


Mr CREWTHER (Dunkley) (12:17): I particularly want to address today the private member's motion on home care packages as I have a special focus on health care and health facilities in Dunkley. With the support of my neighbour the member for Flinders, who is now Minister for Health, I've fought extremely hard to secure a number of improvements to our local assets, including, for example, a fully funded Medicare licence for MRI at Frankston Hospital, which has now been in place for over a year, saving Dunkley locals thousands of dollars every year. Another example is Total Care Medical Group in Karingal, who were one of the trial participants in the Health Care Homes stage 1 trial. I have a record of fighting and will continue to fight for the best facilities, best programs and best access to health funding for residents in Dunkley.

Home care packages are another way that the Turnbull coalition government is providing consumers with greater choice and control over their own care. Freedom of choice comes back to the core ideology and vision of the Liberal Party, and we—the coalition government and I—absolutely support Australians having the choice to remain in their homes and in their communities, if that is their choice, yet still receive the care that they need. Retaining independence is one of the most important considerations in these situations, and we are working to support that consideration wherever possible.

This funding was formerly under the Home and Community Care program, whose recipients were of geographic variety and differing focus. While these providers do a brilliant job, these changes achieve much-needed visibility and accountability. I note the other speakers' comments about timeliness and dramatic growth of the waiting list; however, part of the transition from the HACC program to our new home care system includes a refocus on how the packages are distributed. Packages are now released directly to consumers, rather than to providers, and consumers who have the most urgent needs or who have been waiting the longest receive packages first.

The aged-care planning region within which Dunkley falls—Southern Metro, Victoria—had 916 packages assigned to it according to the latest report, with its data catchment concluding on 30 September 2017. Over the same period there were a reported 4,188 consumers in care across the Southern Metro region and 53 approved providers. In the Southern Metro region the majority of people queuing for packages are waiting for level 2 packages, a lower level of care than the member for Hindmarsh suggested is reflected across the country. I acknowledge that Dunkley may be in the minority in this regard; however, one aspect that may have been overlooked by the member for Hindmarsh is that many of the people who have been waiting for level 3 and 4 packages are receiving interim packages, allowing them to access services while they wait.

When a new program such as this home care system is released, there will always be an increase in demand, and we are better able to understand the extent of demand for home care packages nationally now that the distribution of home care packages has direct interaction with consumers. In light of this I commend the Turnbull government and Minister Wyatt for the release of an additional 6,000 higher care packages over 2017-18. In addition to this the 2017 budget provided for an investment by the Turnbull government of $5.5 billion to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program for a further two years to June 2020. Even before this, approximately $461,000 was made available to deliver home support services, pending contractual agreements with service providers in Dunkley. We are committed to supporting our older Australians.

On a weekly basis 2,500 home care packages are released, an astounding figure. We are aware of the sheer number of older Australians who are waiting for a home care package; however, we are working to address the backlog of demand that existed even under the former Labor government's Living Longer Living Better program, whose problems we are still having to fix. It is absurd that other speakers are trying to condemn the government for working to fix aged-care funding problems of their own making; however, Australians will be glad to know that these changes and our new home care system are part of the Turnbull coalition government's commitment to quality care for senior Australians, whether they be in care or choose to stay at home in their community, surrounded by their loved ones.