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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1774

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (10:59): I'm obviously up on my feet because, as the member for Newcastle indicated, there has been only one government speaker on this motion. It appears that not enough of those on the other side care about older Australians waiting for home care packages. I must say I am flabbergasted that they have no speakers for this motion other than the minister, who just happened to be here on duty. But I do thank the minister for his contribution.

As the member for Hindmarsh and the member for Newcastle have pointed out, Labor is very concerned about this waiting list. This government has followed through with Labor's reforms—the Living Longer Living Better reforms. Indeed, it is these reforms that, for the first time, have given us a national priority queue for people waiting for home care packages. But what the minister hasn't said is that this queue started 12 months ago tomorrow. On 27 February last year these reforms were implemented, so the government has now been collecting this data of people waiting for home care packages for a year. Indeed, we've only had two releases of data about the numbers on these packages and, in between those, in that three-month period, the waiting list grew by 10,000. So not only do we have 100,000 people waiting on the list; we know that last time it grew by 10,000. We're expecting another release of data, the December quarter, so we can find out how many people are waiting now, because we don't know how many more older Australians were added to that list last year.

I am particularly concerned that this list continues to grow. To date the government's only response has been to add another 6,000 packages, and that has been by adjusting level 1 and level 2 packages to create more level 3 and level 4 packages—that is, the high-care need packages. But what we're really concerned about is that our offices are being inundated by people contacting us because their parents are too frail to contact us themselves directly. They're saying, 'Please help me help my parents. Please help me.' We heard from the member for Newcastle that one of her constituents had spent over 300 hours talking to My Aged Care, desperate to get help for their parents.

As the shadow minister for ageing, I am inundated daily by requests from people saying, 'Please help me help my parents.' People want their older parents to receive the care they need. We are a wealthy nation. We should be able to fix this. The government should be able to fix this. After all it is cheaper for the government to fix this than to let older Australians languish in their own homes without the support that they need, because the alternatives to this are, of course, the acute hospital system—where many older Australians end up if they're not getting the care they need at home—or residential aged care. Many older Australians who want to stay at home—and, with the right supports, could—end up in residential aged care when they don't want to.

It is simply not good enough for the government and the minister to come into this place and say, 'We'll cobble together some support—just a little bit—for them while they wait for what they actually need.' In this nation in this day and age that is not good enough. If we can afford $65 billion in tax cuts for big business, we can afford to look after older Australians. It is not good enough that we have 100,000 older Australians, many with dementia, at home, waiting for care. Their children are coming to our offices absolutely desperate to get help for their parents, and this government is sitting by. They had options last year; they had MYEFO last year, and we're hearing, 'We'll fix it in the budget.' Well, they'd best be fixing it, because I will not stand by while older Australians continue to suffer in their own homes and while their children ring our offices desperate for that help and care for their parents.

It is not good enough, and to have just the minister come into this place and say, 'We'll cobble together some support; that'll be alright for a little while till we fix it,' is not good enough. That waiting list continues to grow, more older Australians are added to it every day, and the government needs to do something to fix it. It needs to act, and it needs to act today—not in May, not in July, not later in the year, but today. It can do something about this. It should have done something about it last year. I will continue to get on the government's case and the minister's case until they do something about it.