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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 959


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (12:59): I rise this afternoon to speak about Mr Turnbull's performance last week and his poor treatment of ageing and aged care. I know the Liberals love their theatrics, but I cannot imagine my constituency in my home state of Tasmania were particularly interested in Mr Turnbull trying to secure his own job by attacking Mr Shorten last week. In fact, the constituents I spoke to on my return on Friday until I left on Sunday to return here showed great disappointment, frustration and disgust, quite frankly, at seeing a Prime Minister act in that way. It is one thing for the Prime Minister to throw a few punches, as I said, and it is one thing for him to try to shore up his backbench, but there is another thing that has to be considered, and that is that his rant was obviously all about trying to secure the support of his backbench.

I do not think that my constituency or others would see anything clever about Mr Turnbull's outburst in the House of Representatives last week. His comments were built around insult rather that wit. It was one of the nastiest speeches we have seen from the Prime Minister since his petty election night dummy spit. Those on the other side in this place might have loved Mr Turnbull's take-down of Mr Shorten, claiming that he is a statesman and that he was just being open and honest. But the people of Australia saw right through that. They saw right through the comparison that it is okay for people on that side of the chamber to put their feet under the table with millionaires, but how dare a Labor person aspire to associate and represent all Australians? It was a very, very poor and desperate attempt by Mr Turnbull to get the sort of support that he needs to remain leader. The only thing Mr Turnbull was doing was auditioning for his own job. He will do and say anything to retain that position. He is actually quite obsessed—if you watch question time or read the transcripts, you see that Mr Turnbull is forever talking about Mr Shorten. Just like in his Press Club address the other week, Mr Turnbull said absolutely nothing about jobs for people—nothing at all. He had no strategy on the economy; he has demonstrated no strategy when he is talking about other people's jobs in this country; he is just obsessed with keeping his own.

The truth is that people do not feel that Malcolm Turnbull is fighting for them. They just feel that he is fighting for himself. That was clearly demonstrated in the House of Representatives chamber last week. Quite frankly, I think the Australian community are sick and tired of politicians who attack each other, who are more focused on their own internal battles within their own political party. They are sick of the dysfunction of this government, a government in which it does not matter what they touch—it turns to stone. They cannot do anything in terms of building the morale of the Australian community. They are not focused on creating more jobs in this country. We know they are not interested in protecting Medicare. We know they are only interested in cutting money out of the education and health systems. They are not doing anything at all about housing affordability.

Mr Turnbull's meltdown—that is what it was—was all about himself and the dysfunction and those people who are already starting to do the numbers behind the scenes. If you want to have the confidence of the Australian people it might be a good idea if the Prime Minister and his colleagues, both in this place and the other chamber, got out and started listening to what the real concerns of ordinary, everyday Australians are. They are hurting. They are hurting because of the cuts to the health budget. They are hurting because this government has yet again rubber-stamped an increase in premiums for private health insurance. The figures are really quite alarming when it comes to those that are now being forced out of private health insurance because they can no longer afford it. We know that when you talk about health, the first thing that comes to people's minds in the community is how much it is costing them now to go to the GP and how much it is costing them to be able to afford the tests that they need, whether it is pathology or scanning, and that there is an increase in costs for everyday Australians being able to access health care in this country. It is all about the strategy of those on the other side who want to undermine Medicare and the universal health system in this country.

In stark contrast to Labor, the Liberals have kicked off this year with no direction, no plan and, above all, no narrative. Unenlightening and uninspiring is a recurring theme for the Turnbull government and what most people are saying. Mr Turnbull's uninspiring, do-nothing approach extends to government policy. It is in the forefront of education, tax, the economy, child care and, of course, aged care. We know that this government does not really care about older Australians. When he had his fourth reshuffle of the ministry, I think it was, what did he do for older Australians? He relegated ageing and aged care to the outer ministry—a junior minister. I am not saying that the new minister does not have some compassion and ideas in relation to policy around ageing and aged care. But the reality is that if you are not sitting around that cabinet table you do not have the same support for arguing with your finance minister and your Treasurer to invest the money that needs to be invested in ageing, dementia and providing the best possible care for older Australians.

I often speak in this place about the lack of concern by this government that has been demonstrated over and over again when it comes to aged care. If we go right back to when Mr Howard was Prime Minister, we know that for 11 long years he did nothing. Sorry—he did do something on Mrs Bishop and the kerosene baths issue. But, in terms of real reform in this area, nothing happened until Labor came to office and until the former minister Mark Butler actually worked with the then opposition to build a framework going forward for aged care.

Those on the other side can shake their heads. They do not like to have the facts put on the record. But anyone who has followed this debate around ageing in this country would very well know who has the runs on the board. Then what did we have under Mr Abbott? We did not even have anyone who had any compassion or any vision when it came to age care. And then we had the experience of—wait—Senator Fifield! He was a minister who had the framework in front of him. All they had to do was roll it out when they came into government, but they could not even do that. He took his eye off the ball. He had no interest. His interest was in other areas. It is all very well to have interest in other areas, but in this country we need a government—and it really does not matter whether it is a Liberal government or a Labor government going forward—to address the issues that are confronting our community with an ageing population. It will have to be addressed by not only this government but future governments.

Today, we are launching a report into the rise of dementia in this country. And it is alarming. I want to give a plug: at 3.30 this afternoon go to the Senate alcove, where the book, about the challenges before us, will be launched by Alzheimer's Australia. Dementia in this country is the second leading cause of death of Australians. A lot of people do not understand that, but it is also a disease that affects too many families. And it is increasing every single day. The cost to our economy and our health system is escalating. So we need more money in funding. We need more money in health prevention so that we can change the way we live our lifestyle in this country to try and prevent this disease. A cure for dementia is still quite some way off.

When it comes to the government, they have been neglectful at the very least in relation to how they have treated older Australians. And the list goes on and on. So I want to call on the government today to take a leaf out of the book of the Australian Labor Party and put ageing and aged care in the forefront of the government's future development when it comes to policy priorities.