I want to agree with the member for Fraser on one thing: the importance to the Australian people of this issue and how we deliver services to older Australians. I listened very carefully to his statistics and the fact that we have an ageing society and government needs to address it. With regard to the personal stories told today, none of you said that those members of your family who were treated were treated badly. In fact, every one of you said they had the best of care—the best of care.
I’ve got a good story to tell. That story is this: from Koo Wee Rup to Korumburra to Leongatha to Foster to Warragul to Moe to Drouin and up to Neerim South, my aged people are getting the best of care from talented people who know how to deliver a service to those of us that are growing older and need that care. Yes, I’ve experienced aged care in its rawness with my own parents. I know what dementia is all about. I know the difficulties that families face. I know what my mum went through, hiding it for many years before it was so exposed that my father couldn’t be hidden anymore. We’ve all been through these issues. It’s not about bringing our personal responsibilities or experiences into this place; it’s about good policy and delivery.
You can all criticise one another for failing, but let me give you some history. When I first came to this place—after a long time in aged care and disability, by the way—the outlay of the government of the day, a Labor government, was less than $2 billion. After I was thrown out and came back the next time, it was $4 billion. Then, when I was thrown out again and came back again, aged care was on the agenda again, and it was $8 billion. The executive was starting to complain, whether it was a Labor executive or a Liberal-Nationals executive, that these outlays could not go on; the need was exponential. So members like myself—and yourselves—were coming in and pleading with the executive for more money, more money, more money. We have to have greater outlays in this area. The system that serviced our parents was now broken; the model was gone, because people were going into aged care at a much older age and, therefore, leaving aged care and having greater difficulties. Then we had low care and high care, but I won’t go into all that with you.
My job, as the local member, was to go to Korumburra and realise their need and deliver the $1.2 million that got their aged-care centre up and viable. It was capital outlay, but they’ve got really strong community support. Ageing in situ is really, really important for country and regional people. You who live in the city can hop on a tram and visit your older people. But, if you have an aged person in a facility, it’s got to be in your community. So here am I, standing in this parliament after all these years, saying: we need to put money into these nonprofits in small communities so people are being cared for in their communities and can be visited. They do well in that system. So I talk about those small communities, and I put it to the executive.
I say to the Labor opposition: had you won the last election, you would have been having exactly the same struggles that we’ve had. I sat with the Prime Minister immediately after the royal commission’s interim report. I travelled to where he was. We went through the way ahead. We have a plan for the way ahead, and we’re working through that plan for the way ahead. We’re all in this together. Every one of us is going to have an aged parent. Every one of us is going to be there ourselves one day. I know we can always do better. Every one of us can do better in everything that we do. I don’t like the system. I didn’t like the system when it was changed under John Howard so that the minister doesn’t have an input into the AKAR round. This is an abrogation of the responsibility of government to manage the thousands and millions of dollars that are outlaid. It shouldn’t be about the department; it should be the government of the day making decisions. If I can get that legislation repealed before I leave this place, I will. I want government and the minister to have direct involvement in the outlays in aged care. That’s crucially important.