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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8327


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:20): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

I rise to take note of answers given by government senators to questions asked by Labor senators. I want to go to a very important question I asked the minister, which was the question as to who actually made the decision to spend $8.2 million on advertising home care packages, when this government knew that the waiting list had blown out.

We know that the government sat on the last two lots of data. They sat on it for weeks and weeks instead of releasing it. When they finally released the last set of data, the waiting list had grown by an additional 13,000 Australians. Now, as it currently stands—we know from the government's own data—there are 121,000 older Australians who are still waiting for their approved packages of care. As I said in my question, there are 56,000 older Australians who have been assessed to get care but are getting nothing—not even level 1 or level 2, let alone levels 3 or 4, which are what the majority of them, 96,000 of them, have been waiting for. This government has failed on every single policy decision when it comes to older Australians. What they've done is spend $8.2 million on advertising home care packages, when the waiting times in some circumstances have blown out to two years.

Just so that those opposite actually understand what they're doing as far as the impact on older Australians goes, let me say that I had a woman email me this morning, having heard the comments I made in a speech yesterday about this blowout in the waiting list, to say: 'People are dying while they wait for their home care package.' That's what the reality is. This lady wrote: 'My husband had cancer of the stomach and liver. He was approved for a level 3 package earlier this year. He was provided with a glossy booklet that promoted and explained how the packages worked et cetera. As my husband's condition seriously deteriorated, I contacted My Aged Care to see when he could start receiving his level 3 package.' It was at this time that this lady learned about the 121,000 older Australians on the national waiting list. She was shocked and in total disbelief that the government promoted the benefit of the home care packages in the glossy booklet but was unable to deliver the care in a timely manner. Her husband passed away last month, before he could receive his level 3 home care package. This poor man went through the whole year very unwell without adequate care. The toll on this lady and her family was just a nightmare. That's just one example. I could go through countless. I outlined three others in my speech yesterday.

The government has been unable to deliver the services. This is a government that has been in charge of this policy area for five years. There have been three ministers. It was this government that actually called a royal commission into its own failures as a government. That's what it's done. It wasn't us calling for a royal commission; it was the government itself, because it has failed.

When the minister today, in his response, tried to suggest it was their idea to have the home care packages, he was blatantly wrong. He doesn't know what he's talking about. They were part of the Living Longer Living Better package, which was developed in consultation with the opposition at the time—that crew over there—and the sector. The framework was already there. All those opposite have had to do is roll out the plans that were established between the Labor government, the sector and the then opposition, and they've failed. They have failed miserably in not being able to do that.

What they want us to do is trust them. Well, the next data is due to be rolled out in the next few weeks, and I warned those opposite yesterday: don't release this new data on Christmas Eve, because you can't hide. They might try to run, but they can't hide from the fact that the waitlist will have blown out by, I would suggest, in excess of another 10,000 to 15,000 older Australians. It was a disgrace and dishonest for the Prime Minister to promise older Australians—when he knifed Malcolm Turnbull—that he would make older Australians a priority. He hasn't. If he calls allowing this wait list to blow out without taking any recourse at all a priority, he is a failure and he should stand condemned.