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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6249


Mr HART (Bass) (11:01): by leave—At the request of the member for Franklin, I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) the public release of the latest quarterly data on the home care package waitlist has been delayed by the Government;

(b) there was a commitment to release the data two months after the period that the data covers, but this timeframe has now not been met; and

(c) the data has been sitting on the desk of the Minister for Aged Care without any action being taken;

(2) further notes the:

(a) latest figures showed around 105,000 older Australians are now waiting for a home care package they were approved for;

(b) average wait time for a high level package has blown out to more than a year; and

(c) demand for home care packages grew by 20,000 older Australians in the last six months of 2017 alone;

(3) condemns the Government for the aged care crisis it made on its watch; and

(4) calls on the Government to be honest with older Australians and immediately release the latest round of data on the waitlist for home care packages.

I rise today to support this motion, and I join with the member for Franklin in condemning the government for the aged-care crisis that it has created on its watch. I have a distinct sense of deja vu as I stand here today, just as I did in the chamber last week, to once again make the point that older Australians and their families are languishing in limbo while the delivery of care packages is delayed. I brought to the attention of the House the plight of thousands of elderly Australians waiting for a home care package for which they've been approved, and potentially thousands more waiting for approval for packages following needs based assessments. At this point in time, we don't know exactly how many people are in this situation, because the public release of the latest quarterly data on the home care package wait list has been delay by the government. There was a commitment to release the data two months after the period the data covers, but this time frame has now not been met again. Instead, the data has been sitting on the desk of the Minister for Aged Care, seemingly without any action being taken.

The last figures released revealed around 105,000 older Australians are now waiting for a home care package they were approved for, with the average wait time for a high-level package having blown out to over a year. Given that demand for home care packages grew by 20,000 in the last six months of 2017 alone, I wonder just how many older Australians will be revealed as waiting for their home care package once these latest figures finally make the slow journey off the minister's desk. We know through the estimates process that the Department of Health previously committed to releasing the data two months after the period that the data covers. With the latest quarter ending in March, this means the data is now a fortnight late. There are questions that the minister has to answer: Where is this data? Why is there a delay? What is he hiding? Why is transparency so hard for this government? Let's not forget that this is not an abstract exercise. These figures represent real people, elderly Australians who need care and support to remain with dignity in their own home, and their families, many of whom are feeling the pressure to provide suitable care to their loved ones whilst navigating a complicated and, some might say, dysfunctional system. I think that it's fair to say that this government doesn't care enough about these older Australians to get it right.

The Abbott-Turnbull government created the aged-care crisis, cutting billions from the budget over the last five years. There was not one new extra dollar for Australia's aged-care system in this year's budget—not one extra dollar. Slashing funding to residential care to try and fix the home care mess is an insult to older Australians. Not only will residential services suffer from a decrease in funding on this minister's watch; the commitment in the budget to 14,000 home care packages is woefully inadequate in the face of growing demand.

As I said in this place only seven days ago, this government's inaction is placing older Australians in a terribly vulnerable and difficult situation. Australians who need home care assistance will be forced to look at residential care if they are unable to look after themselves in their home environment. But they will find that, because of this government's refusal to provide additional, real funding, that residential care will be difficult to find. It is a no-win situation that places elderly Australians at risk of a lack of adequate care, and lacking the dignity, that they deserve. Indeed, when we talk about risk, we are talking about the additional risks to people of being unsupported in their own homes. Even though it may be better for them to be in a familiar environment, if that environment isn't supported by a home care package, there are additional risks.

The priorities of this government are, sadly, skewed. They can find $80 billion for tax cuts for big business and they can find billions more for tax cuts for the highest income earners, even six years before they are to be delivered, but they cannot seem to find the funds to provide older Australians with adequate care at the point in their lives when they need it the most. If this government truly cared about older Australians, it would treat them with honesty and respect, not withhold these important figures or try to pull the wool over their eyes with sneaky budget diversions and cuts.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Bird: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.