10 February 2022

*** E&OE***

We just listened to fantasyland from the minister and his junior minister, who think that aged care is going exceptionally well.

Tell that to the people who are working in the sector, And I pay tribute to them.

I have just come from a meeting with a CEO of RSL LifeCare to talk about the challenges they are facing, with staff living with COVID.

We've got 60 per cent of aged care workers who haven't had their booster shot.

At least 60,000 residents haven't had their boosters.

We've got a quarter of aged care shifts not being filled. We've got a situation where 639 people have died of COVID this year.

This is ridiculous - that this Minister should go on the way he is.

Before I was elected in 2007, I spent 14 years on the board of Carinity Aged Care in Queensland, and as a lawyer I acted for a lot of aged care providers.

I can tell you they had hope with the Howard government in 1996.

The Aged Care Act 1997 that governs the regulation of aged care, talks about the quality of care, funding and regulation.

But, by the end of the Howard years, the aged care providers that I acted for and dealt with in Queensland were furious with the Howard Government.

It took a Labor Government, with Living Longer Living Better, under the Member for Port Adelaide as the responsible Minister, to make the reforms that were necessary in this area.

There have been nine years of neglect by this Government.

Now, the Minister thinks they haven't cut aged care.

I tell you what, budget papers have facts. They actually have them in there.

I'll refer, Minister, to the budget papers.

There was an interesting debate we had - and he was here at the time and so was I. I was the Shadow Minister for Ageing.

On 12 December 2013, in 32 minutes this Government cut $1.1 billion of funding in dementia supplements - $16 a day - for residential aged care providers to help with workforce situations.

Through nine years they have opposed the kind of funding that was needed in terms of wage increases and an aged care workforce strategy.

In 32 minutes they cut $1.1 billion - $16 a day - for veterans' supplements, for people in the veterans' community as well.

They were in power for 86 days and cut it, and that has continued.

They also took aged care out of the Health portfolio, stuck it in the Social Security portfolio and gave it to a junior Minister.

For a period of time, the now Prime Minister was directly responsible for aged care.

I used to go to events with him as the responsible Shadow Minister.

We argued fiercely and eventually they had to backflip and put ageing back with Health.

But that didn't stop them from cutting.

Let's have a look, Minister.

In MYEFO 2015-16 they cut $472.4 million over four years by refining the Aged Care Funding Instrument.

Guess what? It talks about savings:

The savings from this measure will be redirected by the Government to repair the Budget and fund policy priorities.

That's savings. That's the MYEFO.

Then you have another thing. Budget papers are curious things. They actually specify the government's priorities - their values, their morals, their ethics.

They outline what they want to do in aged care.

Guess what they say?  Budget papers 2016-17:

The Government will achieve efficiencies of $1.2 billion over four years through changes to the scoring matrix of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) that determines the level of funding paid to aged care providers… The savings from this measure will be redirected by the Government to fund Health policy priorities.

At one stage the Government took money towards (residential care) beds from Home Care.

Budget after budget; Minister after Minister; revolving door after revolving door: they cut and cut and cut.

They neglected the sector to the point where they spent over $100 million on a Royal Commission, to ignore the findings.

The Royal Commission interim report says: neglect; malnourishment; lack of food; maggots in wounds.

They neglected it and they haven't acted on it.

We were in a crisis before COVID hit. It continues.

This Government has neglected the aged-care sector and never prioritised senior Australians.

Living Longer Living Better was a good strategy under the previous Labor Government.

This Government is not about ageing well.

It's not about an active ageing agenda.

It's not even about being a dementia-friendly country.

This government has no vision in the area of aged care.

We are living with the consequences.

Every day those brave people working in the sector are living with the consequences of this Government's failure.