The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): I just remind honourable members that the member for Franklin was heard in silence. The member for Grey has the call.
Mr RAMSEY: They ‘call on the government to be honest with Australians’. I mean, really, that is a bit rich coming from that side of the chamber. The issue we are dealing with here is home care packages. The member for Franklin knows full well that when her team was in government we didn’t know the extent of the waiting list for home care packages. Labor’s waiting list was hidden because the requests for home care packages lay with the providers. The providers kept that information to themselves. They in fact made major changes to the aged-care industry, and then sat there on their hands and did not know what this demand was. That’s why I give the aged-care minister great credit, because he has flicked the scab off and shown what that demand is. To say that this demand just materialised over the last years is a load of rubbish.
An opposition member interjecting–
Mr RAMSEY: The demand was there before, and your people chose to ignore it by allowing a system to stay in place that hid the demand from the government and from the Australian public.
We instigated the increasing choices legislation in February last year. We now know the extent of the problem, and we have moved in a very significant way. The health minister should be congratulated. In fact, aged care will receive $19.8 billion this financial year. That is $5.5 billion more than the last time that Labor was in government. In five years, it has increased by around 30 per cent. It is outrageous for those on the other side to maintain that the government is not putting the blowtorch on this problem. We’ve identified the problem, and we are moving to fix the problem.
With the transparency of the list we have had for the first time a clear picture, and we have allocated 20,000 new places for home care packages. That is a remarkable figure-20,000. You go: ‘Yeah, well, that’s in abstract; 20,000, good on the government. Whatever.’ But in fact that is an 86 per cent increase over the last four years! Yet we are told by those on the other side of the chamber that somehow this problem has all eventuated in the last five years!
I understand they are concerned about aged care-we’re all concerned about aged care. But it is misleading and it is hypocrisy of the first order to make the statements that are in these motions accusing the government of dishonesty. We are the first government that has been absolutely honest on this issue, and we know-and the people know-what is needed.
So I congratulate the minister. I’ve had him out in my electorate; I think he’s possibly going to be one of the best aged-care ministers this country’s ever had, quite frankly. He is a man with compassion; he cares; he understands the industry, as it were; he understands the issues; and he’s quite prepared to go out and meet, greet and talk with my constituents, at least, but I know many more as well. I’ve had him in Ceduna and in Peterborough, where we addressed a number of other issues as well while we were there, including the extra challenges that aged-care facilities face in country regions. Most of us in this room, hopefully, would be aware that aged-care facilities need around 65 to 80 beds to be properly operationally efficient. In South Australia we have small regional centres and lots of little country towns that already have aged-care facilities. They are very, very important in the communities, so that people can age in situ as it were. But these aged-care organisations are completely under stress, and the minister organised some funding in the last budget to aid those issues. So he does well.