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Thursday, 10 February 2022
Page: 271

Senator McCARTHY (Northern TerritoryDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:27): I rise to take note of questions asked by Senators Sheldon, Walsh, Watt and Grogan of the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services. It's interesting listening to the previous senators speak about the royal commission. There always seems to be a lapse in memory. The only reason the royal commission into aged care came about was the pressure that was applied to this government, time and time again, by those of us on this side of the chamber. It was a royal commission that you did not wish to take part in, or even to establish, until there was political pressure to do the right thing.

That's the same in this context as well. We shouldn't be surprised that this minister cannot answer a basic question about the impact of cost-of-living increases on senior Australians. This is, after all, a minister who'd rather be at the cricket than working on solving the crisis in his portfolio—the crisis affecting our elders, our parents and our grandparents. The Australian Bureau of Statistics published data back on 2 February that said aged pensioners were experiencing higher cost-of-living increases. More than a week ago, the ABS published findings that annual increases in living costs in the December quarter ranged between 2.6 per cent for employee households and 3.4 per cent for aged-pensioner households—and food makes up a high proportion of overall expenditure, especially for our elders. What we have consistently said in this chamber, time and time again, is: take accountability. Take responsibility. This minister has failed time and time again to do those things. People have died under his watch—hundreds of people. His inability to stand before this Senate and face that accountability is reprehensible. He should resign.

There are people in our communities in the Northern Territory who still do not have the RATs that they should have. Our aged-care centres do not have the resourcing that they should have in terms of staffing. Our elders across those regions need this parliament to do the right thing in protecting and caring for the vulnerable. You said that from day one you would care for the vulnerable in our country and you have failed. You have totally failed.

Question agreed to.