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Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Page: 2371


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (13:55): I appreciate the opportunity to outline Labor's position on the Aged Care Amendment (Movement of Provisionally Allocated Places) Bill 2019. The Aged Care Act 1997 is to be amended as in its current form it does not permit a variation of the region to which residential aged-care places are provisionally allocated. This bill will allow the Secretary of the Department of Health or her delegates to allow approved providers of residential aged care to move provisionally allocated residential aged-care places from one region to another within a state or territory. The Department of Health is not seeking the power to move provisionally allocated places from one state or territory to another. The bill will not allow for any provisionally allocated place to be moved outside of the state or territory to which it was originally allocated.

Under this amendment, providers must demonstrate the movement of the provisionally allocated places is in the interests of aged-care consumers and there is a clear need for places in the new region. This amendment will seek to ensure residential aged care is available to those older Australians who require it as quickly as possible and is appropriately allocated to address local needs. There is no financial impact for the Australian government by the proposed amendments. Obviously, there is a review being undertaken by the Department of Health in relation to how residential aged-care places will be allocated. We may see that in the future the legislation may be redundant over time, dependent on whether there are any alternative proposals emanating from the aged-care approval rounds review. Much of this review, of course, is based upon three recommendations from the Tune review, which was tabled in the parliament back in September 2017. We will watch the outcomes of this review with a keen interest given the emphasis on establishing an alternative model that encourages greater consumer choice.

The government's record in relation to aged care is not good. It's now been six years since the Liberals obtained government. Looking back over this, it's easy to question whether the Liberals have done anything of significance to help older Australians access aged-care services and get the care they need. Actually, it's difficult to think of anything the Liberals have done well when it comes to aged-care reform. As mentioned in the other place by the shadow minister, the member for Franklin, the problem is that the Liberals have not had a genuine reform agenda. They have lurched from crisis to crisis and their approach has been policy on the run. Not only is there a lack of reform happening; those opposite don't even rate aged care as a priority.

How do we know this? The Liberals are on their fourth aged-care minister in six years, and still the aged-care minister is not considered important enough to be in the cabinet, even though there is a royal commission into aged care happening now. Since the Liberals have obtained government, the policy and reform void has been startling.

Let's start with home care, shall we? There are 129,000 older Australians waiting for their approved home care package. Around 75,000 are waiting without any care at all. The waiting list has grown from 88,000 to 129,000 in the past 18 months. This is simply not good enough. It is totally unacceptable. Sadly, more than 16,000 people have died waiting for their approved package and 14,000 have had to enter residential aged care because they could no longer stay at home waiting for care that wasn't there. Others enter emergency departments or the hospital system due to their increasing care needs. Not only is there a distinct lack of packages available; there is also the increasing length of time older Australians have to wait for their approved home care package. Many approved for the highest level of home care are now waiting more than 24 months to receive their approved packages. The wait time is a national crisis. Figures included in the most recent government report clearly show there are more people on the home care package waiting list than there are packages currently in the system.

For years Labor has been calling on successive Liberal governments to fix the home care package waiting list crisis. We know Australia has a growing ageing population. We also know Australians—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The debate is interrupted. Senator Sterle, you will be in continuation.