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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12373

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (17:59): It is no secret that Australia has an ageing population. A 2017 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that over one in seven people were aged 65 and over. In my electorate of Paterson that number is bigger. Over 28,000 of my constituents are aged over 65 years—that's one in five people. I love representing people who are, as they tell me, 'more experienced'. My OBEs—those 'over bloody 80'—are very proud of the experiences they've had in their lives, and I say, 'Good on them!' They want to live proud and independent lives.

As lawmakers in this parliament, we have an obligation to support our ageing population. The Morrison government has, sadly, failed this obligation. The statistics prove it. The latest data on the government's home care packages waiting list revealed that more than 126,000 older Australians are languishing as they wait for care. It also stated that over 69,000 Australians are without any home care package at all. There are almost 300 older Australians who have waited more than two years for their approved home care package without any care whatsoever.

The 2017 budget committed 14,000 new home care packages over four years, yet, as Labor predicted, this number is distressingly inadequate. The latest figures show that the waiting list for home care packages grew by more than 20,000 between July and December last year, and this number is expected to climb dramatically. We are in an aged-care crisis, and it is the product of this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. As the waiting list for home care packages grows longer and longer, fresh stories emerge daily about older Australians, many of them in pretty dire circumstances, waiting for care. Older Australians are entering residential care, or even emergency departments, rather than being able to stay at home and receive the home care they have been approved for.

Members of my community are feeling this pain. I was recently contacted by John, whose 81-year-old mother, Mary, lives in Maitland in my electorate of Paterson. Due to Mary's age and the number of illnesses she suffers from, she requires help at home to perform basic tasks such as cooking, cleaning and bathing. Mary is entitled to an aged-care package, yet today is the 530th day she has been waiting for one—530 days! During their recent talk with My Aged Care, John was informed his mother's wait was far from over. Mary is expected to wait at least another six months to receive her home care package. This means Mary will have been waiting for a home care package for at least two years.

The reality of this wait really is heartbreaking. In the past 18 months, Mary has been in and out of hospital with conditions that John, her son, says could have been avoided if she'd had appropriate care—simple things such as preventable infections. Mary's condition is even having a heartbreaking effect on the health of her husband, Peter. Peter is in his late 80s and he is Mary's primary carer. How often do we see circumstances like these? John has described the home care package process as long and frustrating, and I guarantee he is not the only person experiencing this frustration.

It is fair to say that there are lives on the line because of this. The dignity and comfort of older members of our Australian community are at stake here. I'm calling on the government—in fact, I'm begging the government, pleading with them—to invest in fixing the home care package waiting list and properly address the growing crisis. This is a case of better late than never.

We owe it to these Australians. I think of the stories of older Australians that have been shared with my staff and me, often stories of couples, like Peter and Mary, trying to care for one another. The wait is totally unacceptable in Australia in 2018. Older people in Australia have been told they should age gracefully at home. Well, we should provide the support and home care packages to see that they can. It is evidence based medicine. We should be able to provide the correct care and appropriate packages to see that in place.

Mr Broadbent: A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: colloquial language is acceptable in the parliament except when you use descriptive language like 'OBE'. That's what we can't do. In future, members need to accord the Chamber the understanding that you can't use such language in here.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr McVeigh ): I note the comments from the member for McMillan. Thank you. The question is that the motion be agreed to.