Keith Pitt MP Federal Member for HINKLER

MPI - Aged Care

Mr PITT (Hinkler):  Can I say to those opposite: is there anything that they won't politicise? I note the contribution of the previous speaker, and they are the facts: there are more women in aged care. But that is because, quite simply, they live longer than men on average. That is just a statement of fact. So there will be more people in aged care who are female, because they live longer than men on average. That is just pretty straightforward. On all of these claims, once again, if we talk to the opposition, up is down, left is right, everything is incorrect and it's all a cut, cut, cut. I'll go to a quote on 17 September from that great supporter of the coalition at crikey.com, Bernard Keane, who I'm sure you've heard of, Mr Deputy Speaker. I quote from Mr Keane's article:

The claim that the Coalition cut funding from aged care is a bald-faced lie …

This is not someone who is in this chamber. It's not someone who writes the budget. It is quite simply someone in the media who put out a statement. I've got to say Mr Keane has probably not been that strong in his support for government positions before, but that is the quote:

The claim that the Coalition cut funding from aged care is a bald-faced lie …

So, once again, we have those on the opposite side out there making things up.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, all politics is local. In my electorate of Hinkler, between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, including the good burghers of Childers, Woodgate and everywhere in between, we have one of the largest percentages of elderly people in the country. As at March 2018, 27,738 people were on the age pension in Hinkler and 47,506 have a pensioner concession card out of roughly 104,000 voters. That is a substantial amount of the population.

Why are they there? They are there for a few reasons. The first one is it is a fantastic place to retire. It really is. Housing is affordable and the weather is wonderful with an average of 25 degrees. You can live at the beach. There are all sorts of facilities, particularly medical and aged care.

One of the issues that's been raised with me a number of times over the years—it was very bad about three years ago and it is very bad again now—is the wait time for ACAT assessments. The federal government funds ACAT assessments through the state and the state coordinates the resources that deliver ACAT assessments. The wait times for ACAT assessments are once again unacceptable.

It seems to me that if you live in the city, you get looked after by the Queensland Labor government, but if you live in the regions, you wait months for your ACAT assessment. I find that unacceptable. I've called for it before and I'll call for it again. They need to provide sufficient resources into the regions—

Dr Leigh interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The member for Fraser is warned.

Mr PITT:  The Department of Health and the office of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner held two aged-care forums in Bundaberg last month. We had around 100 people attend each session. There was one for consumers and one for aged-care providers. The reason for that was very straightforward. There were some concerns locally and we want to be able to deliver the facts. I'd say that this is one of the reasons that there is a royal commission, because it will be about the facts. It won't be about a union campaign; it will be about the reality of aged care in this country, what its needs are going forward and what is being delivered right now.

I had a meeting with a constituent some time ago and I gave them an undertaking that I would maintain their confidence, which I will and continue to do so. He was very concerned about his father who was in an aged-care facility. As a result of that meeting, I met with Minister Wyatt and we arranged one of the first unannounced visits to an aged-care facility in Australia. As a result of that, there were issues to be addressed and those issues are being addressed.

I want to give a shout out to those people who are working in the sector. These are good, honest and hard-working people. They are good, honest and hard-working people who continue to do a fantastic job. Not all aged-care facilities have issues which have been identified in the media in recent days. In fact, there are some which are fantastic.

In terms of reductions, this is what we've been doing. In 2014, an additional 126 residential care places and 57 home care packages in my electorate. In 2016, 278 residential care places. In 2017, 174 additional residential care places. Last time I checked, that's an increase. It's not what's being put forward by those opposite, that is an increase and these facilities are first class, particularly the two new facilities in Hervey Bay, one of which looks just like you're stepping onto a cruise ship. There are good facilities available, there are great people who are staffing them and I congratulate them on the work they do.

Authorised by Keith Pitt, Federal Member for Hinkler, 41b Woongarra Street, Bundaberg QLD 4670

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