The Liberals Must Take Action on Aged Care - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

The Liberals Must Take Action on Aged Care

I recently spoke in Parliament about the Seniors Forum I hosted, as well as the need for urgent reform in the aged care sector.

You can read my full speech below.

I had a great seniors forum in my electorate recently and I was very pleased to see such a strong turnout of people to the Cannon Hill bowls club to talk about issues of concern to them on the south side. It was wonderful to have some of the service providers come along to be guest speakers as well. I want to thank Mark from Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia, which is a not-for-profit, independent, community based advocacy and education service. Mark came along to speak about their services for the wellbeing of older Australians and people with disability.

I also want to thank the Department of Human Services Financial Information Service. Representatives from the DHS Financial Information Service came along and talked with people about dealing with Centrelink and other issues in relation to the age pension and some of the other matters that are relevant to DHS. Anglicare also came along. Thanks to Anglicare for bringing a provider's perspective to our seniors forum. Paula from the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union came along to talk about their campaign for ratios for staff in aged care. The Brisbane South Primary Health Network came along as well—at quite short notice, actually.

I was concerned, as you would have been, Deputy Speaker Vasta, by some of the alarm amongst seniors in the electorate about the My Health Record. As you know, Labor has initiated a Senate inquiry in relation to some of the implementation aspects of My Health Record. But I also wanted to have the department represented, and to have the Primary Health Network come along to talk to people and provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about the My Health Record service and what it might involve. Thanks to Silvia and her team for being involved in that. I must say thanks also, of course, to the Cannon Hill Bowls Club. It's an excellent club, just a wonderful part of our local community, and it's a really important part of the lives of a lot of people. I want to thank them for having us along.

I want to take the opportunity to raise one of the many issues that came out in the seniors forum that we held. There is a lot of concern in the community about aged care at the moment, and I share that concern. I have a grandmother presently in aged care, and last year my grandfather passed away. He was in aged care and he had dementia. So I have recent and current experience with family in aged care. Like most Australians, I am concerned about aged care. Most people my age or older would either have family members in aged care or be looking at it for their own future. So I share the concerns of Australians in relation to aged care.

The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care is here at the table, and I acknowledge the work he is doing to bring some scrutiny to what's happening in aged care in Australia through the proposal for a royal commission. And, like everyone else in this place, I don't want to see any delay caused in relation to a royal commission. I know the minister has previously said he wanted to see an immediate focus on frontline services, rather than the possible delay that might arise from a royal commission. I don't want to see any delay in relation to reform, because we are all united in this place in being concerned about the standards and access to support within aged care in this country, and that's particularly the case in the wake of recent Four Corners exposes in relation to some of the really appalling and shocking stories coming out of aged care. So I encourage the minister to maintain his stance of not wanting to see any delay in reform and improvements in aged care. Royal commissions are, of course, very good tools to shine a spotlight on things that require public attention and the devotion of public resources, but they are not action in and of themselves. We also need to see action in relation to aged care. Some of that action must be dealing with some of the cuts to aged care.

The current Prime Minister, in his first budget as Treasurer, made a cut of $1.2 billion to aged care, and he cut residential aged-care places by 26,000 in this year's budget. These cuts must be addressed. In our nation, a nation with a strong economy and a healthy population, it's not good enough that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities should be in a situation where they are not getting the care that they deserve. If it were us or our family members—our parents, our grandparents—we would not want them to be at risk, as so often is the case, and we would not want them to be to be treated in a way that we wouldn't want to be treated ourselves.

It is important to recognise that Labor does support the royal commission, but there also has to be action now in relation to aged care, and the same goes for home care packages: it's important that we have a focus on home care packages as well.

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