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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6100

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (19:30): Today more than 100,000 ageing Australians are waiting for home care packages due to the chronic underfunding and neglect of this coalition government. Of that number more than 88,000 are people who require higher levels of care, such as those living with dementia. The government's own website estimates that people can expect delays of more than a year before they are able to receive the support that they're entitled to. It's not an exaggeration to say that some people will die while waiting to receive appropriate care. Frankly, this is a national disgrace.

Who is responsible? The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, personally oversaw the plundering of the aged-care system in this country. In his previous role as Treasurer, Mr Morrison signed off on almost $2 billion worth of cuts to aged-care services. Despite the growing delays there wasn't a single new of dollar funding allocated to help alleviate the strain on the system in his last budget. Now contrast this with the enterprise tax plan where Mr Morrison was more than happy to hand out $17 billion to the banks.

Across Australia no state has been more severely affected than New South Wales. Nearly 35,000 people in the state are going without this essential service due to the cuts of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments. We are already straining under the weight of one of the worst droughts in our history and yet elderly Australians across the state—particularly those in rural areas like Bathurst, Lithgow and Taree—are being forced to wait for appropriate care without any certainty or support. This is a government that talks endlessly about the effects of high electricity prices on the cost of living for pensioners but for five years now has been refusing to reform and fund vital aged-care services. There is no sign of improvement on the horizon. Instead of prioritising this issue in his latest reshuffle the current Prime Minister again chose to relegate the portfolio to an outer ministry. This government is so ashamed of its incompetence that it withheld data about the distribution of home care packages from the March quarter for three whole months before quietly releasing it on a Friday afternoon.

The current Prime Minister's actions betray the truth, that this is an out-of-touch and apathetic government, who have forgotten ordinary people. Labor recognises the importance of providing support and certainty to ageing Australians in their older years. We want a sustainable aged-care system that delivers choice, easier access and better care for older Australians, their families and their carers. It's a solemn commitment that underpins our social safety net. It's one that does not expire at the outskirts of our major cities.

The Prime Minister has spent the last fortnight desperately attempting to rehabilitate his image, but let's be frank we already know who ScoMo is and what he stands for. He is a man who took millions from our schools and hospitals. He is the Treasurer who slashed our penalty rates and cut pensions. He is the Treasurer who defunded the aged-care system all while arguing for business tax cuts, particularly those that would benefit the big end of town.

The legacy of this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government will be the way they chose to ignore the needs of the elderly in our communities in order to spend more time fighting amongst themselves. A Shorten Labor government will, if elected, prioritise ageing Australians; this government will just keep prioritising themselves. I said in my first speech that it is my view that a community is most healthy when its most vulnerable members are supported, included and protected. We must do better to help support elderly Australians, and that starts with properly funding our aged-care system and reducing excessive delays for home care packages.