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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2510

Aged Care

Mr PASIN (Barker) (15:02): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney update the House on the importance of responding to reports of elder abuse, especially in my home state of South Australia? What is the coalition government doing to respond to the issue of elder abuse, and are there any alternatives?

Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General) (15:02): I thank the member for his question. As the member is well aware, the Turnbull government is the first Australian government to commit to the development of a national plan on elder abuse. That started with the PM's commitment of $15 million to ensure that we understand the nature, the extent and the prevalence of the problem and plan our responses properly. The national plan will be designed to safeguard at-risk older people, to design and institute an Australia-wide system of nationally consistent, high-standard responses to protect the safety and rights of older Australians.

As to the need for that response on elder abuse, we can highlight that need by some of the recent events in South Australia where, yesterday, families of people who suffered and, indeed, died in the South Australian Oakden facility refused to accept the Labor's Premier's apology. That is perhaps not unsurprising when you consider what the report uncovered. Multiple South Australian Labor ministers were found to be responsible. Their lack of awareness of what was going on in this facility was described as astonishing. Health officials sent numerous briefing notices to those ministers setting out the need to change service delivery models. They recommended outsourcing some service delivery to create what was quoted as 'a more suitable environment with specialist operators'. But those same Labor ministers were privately warned by union leaders that a range of unions, including United Voice, would launch a campaign against reform and had 'indicated their intention to launch that campaign'. So what was the reason for inaction, the reasons for the tragedies in that institution? Well, Jack Snelling as minister told the inquiry that the main concern was not service delivery but that 'South Australian Labor did not want an industrial war'.

In the final insult to victims, there was a clear lack of cooperation with the inquiry. The Premier refused access to documents asked for by the inquiry, and here is how the commissioner described the evidence given by former Labor Minister Vlahos: 'She was a poor witness—belligerent, aggressive and evasive.' He also said:

Much of her evidence was inherently inconsistent.

So what we had was unions dictating Labor policy, resulting in a commission, resulting in evasive evidence from a senior Labor person. Does that ring any bells? Does that sound familiar?

Strangely, I had the occasion to look at another description, in this case by a royal commissioner, of another very senior Labor member in front of an inquiry where unions had dictated policy to Labor. The description of that witness was:

What I am concerned about more is your credibility as a witness and perhaps your self interest as a witness as well.

Get rid of this South Australian— (Time expired)