I have made some points throughout the whole debate on arguments that have been presented on the aged-care issue, but there is one point I want to press upon everybody tonight. The motion before us proposes that a committee, to be known as the Joint Select Committee on Oversight of the Implementation of Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, be established.
I want to say, firstly, that we shouldn’t have to establish such a committee. It’s the government’s responsibility to oversight the issues that come out of a Royal Commission. Out of that Royal Commission we learned a lot of things, one of which is that there wasn’t enough money going into aged care. So the government have rightly put in another $10 a day for every resident. They have come up with 80,000 new places. But, to service those new places, you might need 180,000 new workers. In regional communities, which I and others in the room represent, they’re more difficult to find than in urban areas. So we have a double dose of aged-care life.
I want to make this point at the outset of my remarks: going from your home or from a package into residential aged care should be another step in life, not the beginning of passing away. It should be another step in life. We should be looking at the way we care for our older Australians as a step in living and improving their place. So what did we do? I had a lady on the phone a few minutes ago who’s reasonably worried. She said, ‘Russell, I’m on a package, but sometimes the people that should be visiting me’—I won’t name the group—’are short of staff in Gippsland, so sometimes I don’t get the fullness of my package delivered to me. You’ve now given out 80,000 new packages. Am I going to miss out because you’ve given out 80,000 new packages?’ I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ But I can’t really trust in that when I say, ‘No, you’re not,’ because that means I’m believing that we will find the workforce and we will be able to deliver on behalf of the lady who’s concerned today and on behalf of everybody else that takes a package.
I said at the outset that there shouldn’t be a need for a joint select committee. But, if there is, I’d love to be a part of it.
I’d like to be a part of monitoring what we’re doing. With an $18 billion package that the government has put forward in response to this, how can we improve the way that’s spent? Where’s our oversight over Defence and their spending? Where’s our oversight over all the areas of government outlays where I would suggest, because it’s not a whole-of-government focus, there may be wastage? We can spend billions on one thing, but we have our other priorities in other areas that do not allow the focus to be on what Australia really needs to be focusing on.
Through the Aged-Care Royal Commission and the Australian people’s desire for the wellbeing of older Australians, that’s how we end up here, because the Australian people say: ‘These are the sorts of representatives we want. Go and tell our story, and our story is on aged care.’ Our broader community and our nation of small communities said, ‘We don’t believe that our older people are getting the care that they need, and the government needs to address it’—therefore the Royal Commission, and therefore your desire, Member for Mayo, to have an oversight body, virtually to continue what the Royal Commission’s done. That’s how I see it. It would be a continuing reviewing activity on how the money’s being spent.
To me, the best thing that happened in this budget in regard to aged care was the regional sites that the government’s going to put out, because one of my biggest complaints was that we don’t have enough staff on the ground, as we used to have, so that the knowledge that they would find in the regional areas is then transferred back to government for better decisions to be made at that level. It seems common sense, but we don’t have those people in the states at that level anymore. That’s one positive out of this proposal.