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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14515

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (18:30): It's not my intention to try to detain the House for very long, but I do appreciate the opportunity to outline Labor's position on the Aged Care Amendment (Movement of Provisionally Allocated Places) Bill 2019. The Aged Care Act is to be amended, as, in its current form, it does not permit a variation of the region to which residential aged-care places are provisionally allocated. My understanding is this bill will allow the Secretary of the Department of Health or her delegates to allow approved providers of residential aged care to move provisionally allocated residential aged-care places from one region to another within that state or territory.

The Department of Health is not seeking the power to move provisionally allocated places from one state or territory to another. This bill will not allow the movement of any provisionally allocated places outside the state or territory to which it was originally allocated, and I put that on the record to ensure that that does not occur because we understand that that's not allowed under the bill as it has been drafted. We understand that, under this amendment bill, providers must demonstrate the movement of the provisionally allocated places is in the interest of aged-care consumers and that there is a clear need for places in the new region being proposed. The amendment bill will seek to ensure that residential aged care is available as quickly as possible to those older Australians who require it and is appropriately allocated to address local needs. There appears to be no financial impact for the Australian government by these proposed amendments, because those places are allocated through the ACAR rounds.

It's not my intention to detain the House, and Labor doesn't want to cause any issues or delay this bill going through, but I do need to put on record that, after almost six years of cuts in the aged care portfolio, any announcements that are made tonight in relation to aged care—and particularly in relation to home care packages—will not fool older Australians, their families or their loved ones. Let's be really frank about this: the government has mucked up aged care to the point where it had to call a royal commission into the quality and safety of aged-care services in this country. We all know that more than 128,000 older Australians are currently on the waitlist for home care packages; 69,000 of those have no package at all allocated to them at this point in time and the others are on interim packages—that is, packages below the level of support that they require.

The government of course has made some announcements in the last few months in relation to aged care and home care packages, but let's not forget the cuts that they made to aged care. I do want to put them on the record: $110 million cut to the dementia supplement in residential aged care, almost $500 million cut in the 2015 MYEFO and a $1.2 billion cut to the aged care funding instrument in the 2016-17 budget. The architect of these cuts, almost $2 billion worth, was the current Prime Minister when he was Treasurer.

Recently it was revealed how the $1.2 billion cut has had an impact on the residential aged-care sector. We are hearing about it all the time. Departmental briefings confirmed that residential aged-care funding has gone backwards for those with complex needs. Departmental briefings described older Australians as 'winners' and 'losers' and revealed for the first time that funding for those with complex healthcare needs in residential aged care went backwards as a result of the Prime Minister's $1.2 billion cut. Funding for residents went backwards and staff cutbacks and aged-care 'losers'—according to the department—tripled. So let's not shy away from the fact that this government has taken billions of dollars out over six years, and any announcements tonight and over the next six weeks are not going to make up for those billions of dollars cut and the neglect of and lack of focus on aged care until the last few months.

Let's be honest: the government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to deal with this aged-care issue. It has only been because of the families who are contacting the offices of members of parliament every day trying to get reasonable aged-care services for their parents or their family members. Every day, my office and other offices in this place are taking calls from people desperate to get their loved ones home care packages. It is about time the government did something about this. It has been leaked to the Sunday papers to say that there are going to be home care packages in the budget tonight. That is welcome, but it's really not going to fool older Australians into thinking that this government does care about older Australians or has been focused on them for the last six years, because we know, with all the internal chaos and division, the government has been only focused on itself. Any increases tonight in home care packages will be really about the government trying to save itself and not about older Australians.