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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6259

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (11:37): I rise to speak on this motion as being moved by the honourable member opposite. One should put this in the context of an ageing population in Australia. The reality is that the number and proportion of people aged over 65 is going to double over a period of some 20 years; that the fastest growing cohort in the Australian population are people aged 80 and over; and that the entry point into old age when I was a child was probably somewhere around 60 to 65—it's now 80 or more. People in their 60s and, indeed, in their 70s, for the most part are living vital, active lives, unlike generations ago in the past. Indeed, if one goes back far enough, to the beginning of the last century, average life expectancy in this country for men was just over 50 and in the mid-50s for women. So what we've seen over the passage of a century is a huge increase in longevity, which is continuing today.

That increase in longevity in terms of death rates came about, firstly, by the very significant reduction in death in childbirth—something which was an infliction for centuries into the past. One only has to go to a cemetery or a graveyard where there are gravestones and headstones from a century ago to see that so many of them relate to women who were young and died, sadly, giving birth, and, tragically, to many children who died in the early days, months and years of life. And then in the second part of last century, we saw this huge increase in longevity through the fact that surgery and medicine and all the wonderful pharmaceutical products which are now available have meant that people are living longer and longer. So this is not some recent matter that we've dealt with.

These matters have been a challenge for governments in Australia for some 20 or 30 years. I could have been here almost 20 years ago in the same sort of debate when I was the aged-care minister, addressing these sorts of issues, and it is an ongoing challenge for whoever happens to be in government. So the context of providing aged care is important in terms of a debate such as this. I understand why the opposition have raised a motion such as this. It's the sort of thing that happens in this place regardless of who happens to be in opposition at the present time, but the context of the challenges of an ageing population, which are ongoing, need to be taken account of in considering these matters.

Secondly, one must take account of the fact that home care packages of this sort are a relatively recent invention. If you go back two or three decades, the reality was that most aged care was seen as residential aged care. Yes, there were meals on wheels and similar services, but what we've seen over the last 20 years or so is a huge increase in home care packages, reflecting the fact that most Australians, when they need care in their old age, want to stay in their home, rather than moving into a residential accommodation, if they can possibly achieve that for themselves, and their families would like that as well. The reality is that if you look at the proportion of care being provided as home care in its various guises now, it is much greater than it was, say, two or three decades ago.

This is an ongoing challenge for the nation in terms of an ageing population. The great baby-boom generation, which, if I look around, seems to include most people in this chamber right at the moment—with some notable exceptions—at the moment are part of the baby-boom generation. That great generation, which increased the population of Australia over that period from the end of the Second World War onwards, is now moving into old age, so the challenges of providing aged care, regardless of who is in government, are going to be ongoing challenges for the future.

Prior to February 2017, we didn't actually have lists or queues in relation to home care packages, not because there weren't people waiting; it was simply because prior to those reforms in February 2017, they weren't published and queues, to the extent that they existed, were managed by the providers themselves. Having this information is an advance, but we shouldn't pretend for a moment, in a party-political way, that this is not a challenge that is going to face every government, now and into the future, regardless of who happens to be in government.