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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8321

Aged Care

Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (14:57): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Senator Scullion. The government's own data shows that there are more than 121,000 older Australians waiting for their approved home care package. Around 96,000 are waiting for a level 3 or 4 package. Around 56,000 have no package at all. Why did Prime Minister Morrison approve spending of $8.2 million to advertise home care packages when the government knew the wait time to receive a level 3 or 4 package was more than 12 months, with some waiting for over two years for care?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:58): I think we all understand that the demand for home care, particularly for the high-level packages that the senator has indicated, continues to increase because it's a reflection of the desire of older Australians to remain in their homes as long as possible. The government are addressing this demand. As we've indicated here in this place before, there is an additional $1.6 billion investment in home care packages. This will allow for 14,000 new high-level home care packages to be released over the next four years. That's on top of the 6,000 that were released in MYEFO.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, on a point of order?

Senator Polley: My point of order is on relevance. My question goes to the judgement of why $8.2 million was spent on advertising home care packages when there's already a blowout of 121,000 older Australians still waiting.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, you've restated the last part of your question. There was a substantial preliminary part of your question. The minister's entitled to address that, and he was being directly relevant.

Senator SCULLION: More people than ever before are receiving home care packages. Of the 121,487 people, as of 30 June 2018, who are waiting for a package at their approved level, half were already on an existing package. It's very important to note that. They were already on an existing package, so it wasn't as if, as those opposite are trying to assert, no support was being provided. It is also very important in this context that people understand that $5.5 billion is also available as part of the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which assists around 800,000 older Australians. Meals on Wheels, you name it—there are a whole range of support packages that are also receiving care. I have to say: the fact that we even have a queue is something only this government has done. Under Labor there was absolutely no waiting list. We have provided the transparency. We've delivered significant long-term reforms in the provision of home and residential care for older Australians. The average wait time for people waiting for their first home-care package is about one to three months. We have provided an increase of 86 per cent, which is going to lead to more than 74,000 high-level home care packages being available in 2021-22.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, a supplementary question.

Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:00): It's so obvious, Minister, that you just don't get it. Whose idea was it to spend $8.2 million to promote home care packages despite the government overseeing a blowout to the waiting list of in excess of 121,000 Australians?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:01): As I've indicated, there is an increase. The number of people in care has actually increased by 24.4 per cent over a year. That has gone from 70,579 people receiving care in 2017 to—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, on a point of order.

Senator Polley: I ask you to ask the minister to be relevant. The question was: whose idea was it to spend the $8.2 million on advertising instead of providing care to older Australians? He hasn't come anywhere near that.

The PRESIDENT: There were other terms in your question. You did use the term 'blowout' and the minister is entitled to challenge that term in his answer and be directly relevant to the question.

Senator SCULLION: If she's concerned about that particular element of her question, the minister responsible is the person who came up with that good idea to ensure elderly people have the information they need. As I've indicated, we're talking about an investment of $1.6 billion, but I don't want to put the $1.6 billion out there and not tell anyone it exists. That might be a trap for those opposite. We want to inform people on how to get access. It's so important for older Australians to understand the nature of those processes. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, a final supplementary question.

Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:03): Is this just another example of Mr Morrison's poor judgement? What does the minister say to the 121,000 older Australians waiting for their approved home care packages in response to the government's decision to spend $8.2 million promoting home care packages instead of using the money to get the care that they need?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:03): As I indicated in my first answer, there's no point quoting half of the information, trying to make it sound it worse than it is. You need to incorporate—remember, I've just indicated our investment of $5.5 billion. As I've said, over 64,000 of those 121,000 are receiving a home care package, but so many of them will be receiving benefits of $5.5 billion, and we know that they're receiving support services through that record $5.5 billion investment of the Commonwealth Home Support Program, which assists more than 121,000; it assists 800,000 older Australians. We are very proud of our record. We have invested $5 billion, year on year, $1 billion more than those opposite did, and we will invest $5 billion extra over the next— (Time expired)

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.