PMB – Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
Mr PITT: Firstly, I acknowledge the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, who is in attendance in the chamber, and I thank the minister for the visits he has made to my region. Aged care is an incredibly important provision of services into my local region for some very simple reasons. The first one is that as at March 2018 I had 27,738 people on the aged pension and 47,506 on a pension concession card. That is a substantial amount for local voters in the Hinkler electorate who will need these services moving into the future. It is an important issue for them, so it is an important issue for me. Can I also congratulate the member for Fairfax, better known as ‘Super Ted’ O’Brien, for bringing forward this PMB and giving us the opportunity to demonstrate our support.
As I said, all issues are local. For my people, simply because they live in a regional area does not mean that they are second-class citizens. It does not mean that they should have fewer services or lower ability to access those services than their city counterparts. Unfortunately, over a long period of time we have seen, particularly around ACAT assessments, real difficulty for the Labor state government to deliver those assessments in any reasonable time frame. At a federal level we continue to fund those, but unfortunately we do not see sufficient services in the regions to do these in any reasonable time. That means that people wait longer to get themselves onto the waiting list and they wait longer for a package, right from the commencement point. This is the challenge that we’ve addressed sometimes before, but we do need to address it again. Certainly, consumers do not understand the difference in the packages from 1 through 4. They certainly don’t understand that prior to level 4 they may still be waiting for those packages for a considerable amount of time. I personally think that is unacceptable. We need to do better, in terms of the delivery of these packages into regional areas, particularly for those smaller centres. If you live in Monto or Eidsvold or Biggenden, all inside the electorate of the member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd, those services are provided in the major regional centres, in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. It means that their loved ones have to travel to those regional centres to visit them.
Once again, I want to point out the work of the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care. Ken Wyatt has worked in very difficult circumstances. Let’s face facts here: it is very often that these circumstances are with grieving families. They are grieving families who have found themselves in a position where their loved one has passed on. It is a tough role, and I congratulate him on the work that he’s done. I also congratulate the member for Goldstein. We don’t often see eye to eye, but on this we do. We cannot tar everyone in the aged-care industry with the same brush. We cannot say to the entire aged-care industry that they are not performing, that they are in crisis. The reality is that there are very hardworking people in the aged-care sector who are doing a good job. There are aged-care residential services that are doing a fantastic job, particularly in my electorate. We have any number of new facilities which have just opened in the last 12 months which are top class—five star. In fact, one of them I always looked at as a cruise ship offering. It’s quite incredible. Where there are those bad seeds that are not providing sufficient services, where those organisations are not providing sufficient boots on the ground, then it is the department’s role to crack down on them. That is what we have been doing. Once again, I thank minister for aged care for the action that he took in one particular residence in my electorate. I must say, again, that it is not a reflection on the sector that you have one individual organisation with some challenges that need to be addressed.
The aged-care royal commission has been called. It will be about facts; it will not be about people out there politicising this very difficult issue. It will be about an individual with the resources and the facilities to investigate the facts, make determinations and make further recommendations. It is a difficult sector. As I’ve said, these are people who demand our respect and who deserve our respect. They have lived through changes in technology, like you wouldn’t believe, from the donkey hot water system and the combustion stove. They’ve been through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have lost children and grandchildren on their way through life. When they find themselves at the tail end and not the beginning, it is up to us to ensure the facilities and services that they need and deserve are provided. I look forward to the results of the aged-care royal commission, and certainly to getting to the facts and establishing what we can do to improve those services for them.