Mr Deputy Speaker - ignoring the crisis in aged care is just plan cruel and is a dereliction of duty.
Yes - it’s a complex issue but the job of government is to face these complex issues and get the work done on behalf of all Australians - that’s what everyone in this chamber has been elected to do.
The Morrison Government established the Aged Care Royal Commission… but to date those opposite have wasted and ignored the very wisdom and experience they sort to empower.
The Royal Commission’s interim report titled ‘Neglect’ was published over a year ago.
It’s a heartbreaking title Mr Deputy Speaker – it gets my attention… but apparently not the attention of the Prime Minister or his failed Minister.
The Commission recommended that the Morrison Government urgently address the waiting list for home care packages – a waiting list that was described as cruel, unfair and discriminatory.
Feelings that I fear ring true for the 608 elders in Eden-Monaro currently on that waiting list.
As the COVID pandemic grew the Commission suggested that the Government establish a national body dedicated to deal with the outbreak in aged care.
The Prime Minister failed to listen – heartbreak has followed for over 680 families – including my own.
Earlier this month my family farewelled my 91-year-old grandmother – Gladys Hobson.
Nanny Hobby had been living with dementia in a Victorian care home for some time… but her final six months came with extra distress for her and my family because of the collapse in services on this government’s watch.
Indeed, her aged care facility had the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside of metro Melbourne.
My mum, Kaye, nursed and comforted Nanny Hobby through her final weeks, drawing on her 15-year career as an aged care worker herself.
Mum talks about this part of her working life as being “a privilege” – a privilege to care for, connect with, and protect people who have led lives big and small – but people who have all made a contribution to our community.
And I know everyone who works in aged care feels the same – and I want to honour their service – thank you for what you do.
You are the people who day in, day out, make the best of this failing system for the people and families in your care.
Mr Deputy Speaker - everyone agrees we need to do better, but those charged with the task simply don’t hear the call coming from the Royal Commission and indeed every Australian family.
We need to put the care of these vulnerable people at the heart of aged care reform… and deliver for people and families… rather than shareholders.
I want to make special mention of young people living in an aged care facility – we hear your need and indeed so does the Royal Commission.
In its interim report, the Commission flagged the need to stop the flow of younger people going into aged care - and asked that the process of getting younger people out of aged care – be expedited.
There is no reason to delay action on this work.
In my own electorate at Queanbeyan, the community is presenting us with the solutions.
The Commonwealth and NSW governments say they are supporting ‘Respite Care for Queanbeyan’ to build a 6-bedroom purpose-built facility for younger people - but as yet, there is no funding to support its ongoing operation.
South of Queanbeyan, at Cooma and Jindabyne, the community is also asking for action – the home of Snowy 2.0 needs more aged care places.
Regional people want to grow old with dignity surrounded by their family, their friends and the environment and culture that was central to their younger years – but the choices of people in Jindabyne and Cooma are extremely limited.
These communities are crying out for help – and yet this Government doesn’t appear to by listening.
Mr Deputy Speaker - the foundations of our country’s aged care system have buckled under the pressures of 2020, but the solutions are there for all to see.
Indeed, these solutions can form part of our recovery from drought, bushfire and COVID-19.
The care economy creates jobs – jobs in Queanbeyan, jobs in Cooma, jobs in Jindabyne.
Regional communities are naturally geared towards looking after their own – care for young and old creates meaningful work in country towns and builds prosperity.
And above all, provides dignity and decency.
Labor has a plan to deliver aged care reform and has been calling on the Morrison Government to act.
The Prime Minister and his failed Aged Care Minister must do much more to ensure older Australians are safe and receiving high quality care.
Earlier this year, when asked about his role in fighting the bushfires that have traumatised Eden-Monaro, the Prime Minister famously said “I don’t hold a hose mate.”
When it comes to our aged care system, the Prime Minister does “hold the hose” – aged care is the direct responsibility of the Commonwealth.
Australians deserve better – day after day, the evidence mounts.
I hope Australians don’t have to wait for an Albanese Government to be elected next year for meaningful aged care reform to begin.