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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6255

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (11:22): This government is sitting on the current waiting list for home care packages. It has delayed the release of the quarterly data from March, and one has to wonder why. As I said in this place last week, I expect the minister is in his office trying to get the department to scratch a few names off it, because there were already over 100,000 Australians sitting on that list, waiting for home care, as at the end of December last year. We know that that list had 20,000 people added to it in the last six months of last year. It is no wonder the government is sitting on the last quarterly release of data, from the March quarter. It is no wonder the government doesn't want this parliament still in session when those figures are released. I think we all know why the government doesn't want to release that data—because it's busy trying to remove names from there; it's busy trying to get more packages released. And good on it—it should be trying to get more packages released, but it should have been trying to do that long before now.

The problem here is that this is a government that in the last budget tried to pretend it was doing something amazing and remarkable. That is the cruel hoax of what this government has done. To have to sit here and listen to the other side bang on about how wonderful it is and what a great job it is doing—I don't think it's a great job when you've got 100,000 older Australians waiting for care as at December of last year. It's not good enough. It's not good enough from any government who can afford $80 billion in tax cuts for the big end of town to sit in here and say, 'We're not going to give older Australians one cent more than was already in the forward estimates,' when we've got 100,000 people waiting for home care packages, 'but we'll give $80 billion to the top end of town.' It shows its priorities. It absolutely shows what this government is all about.

This government has sat on this waiting list, this national priority queue, and has known about this data for well over a year. It knew that this queue was growing faster and faster. It did release 6,000 packages in September last year, and that's a good thing, and we welcome that from our side, but at the time we said, 'It's good but it's not good enough; we're going to need to do more.' And we were right, because that list is going to continue to grow, and the 14,000 new packages in the budget, level 3 and level 4, are welcome but it's not nearly enough. As my colleague the member for Cunningham pointed out, it's not even keeping up with demand. To say that we're going to release 14,000 packages, when the list grew by 20,000 in the last six months of last year, is not good enough.

What is this government going to do? What is it going to take for this government to be honest and open with the Australian public and have a fair dinkum conversation about how we're going to fix this? How are we as a community going to deal with the issue of old-age care in Australia, dealing with older Australians? My office is inundated. As the member for Cunningham talked about, we're getting calls from children who want to get care for their parents, children who are not going to work, adult children who are trying to care for their parents, but they've got full-time jobs and they need to go to work. They need to pay their mortgages. We need to have a proper discussion as a community about how we are going to deal with this going forward. The government needs to do that, rather than trying to turn this into a political issue, like they did with the budget, and pretend they're doing something remarkable, when clearly they are not.

When I talk to providers of home care, when I talk to providers of residential aged care, they know that this is a growing problem. They know that we have older Australians at home, going into residential care when they don’t want to. They know that emergency departments have got older Australians there, who, if they had the proper care at home, would not be there. So this is impacting on other sectors of the health services. It is impacting emergency departments, it is impacting residential care and it's impacting a whole range of other services, because these people cannot get the care they've been assessed for and approved for but haven't been allocated a package.

It needs to get better. The government needs to find a solution to this. To continue to say, 'Oh, it's all good. We fixed it. There are 14,000 in the last budget. Aren't we fabulous!' is not the answer. They need to be honest. They need to come clean. They need to release the data as soon as possible and have a fair dinkum conversation with the Australian public about what is going on in aged care in Australia today. They need to be honest about the type of care that people are able to get. To say that half the people on that waiting list are currently receiving services means that they are actually getting some services but not what they actually need to stay at home. The whole point of the assessment process is to make sure people get the care they need to stay at home.