Motions - Aged Care

I'd like to thank the member for Indi for bringing forward this motion regarding aged care. Once again, we're seeing a government that's big on announcements but that fails on delivery. We are seeing a government that simply cannot keep its promises. It's been three months since $630 million was announced by this government to go towards improving regional and rural aged care. That $630 million is vital. It's essential to improving the lives of our most vulnerable people. We know this because the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which we on this side of the House fought so hard for, told us. From that interim report called Neglect, we know how important this issue is. That report urged the government to immediately improve the supply, diversity and affordability of aged care across rural and regional Australia.

We know that the priority of those opposite is not about better service but about cutting costs, and we've seen that in health care. In the eight years since the Liberals have been in government the cost of seeing a doctor in my electorate has risen by 35 per cent, and that's why I'm pleased Labor has forced an inquiry into rural and regional health care, which will also assist older people in the community. We have seen the ramifications of this government's cuts and neglect to the aged-care sector. Earlier this month we learnt of the critical workforce shortage that the aged-care sector is expected to face in coming years. We are facing a shortage of more than 110,000 workers over the next decade. And yet this government has overseen significant cuts to workforce training enrolments, impacting the sector right now, with those seeking to train in this industry going backwards.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research revealed that since the government came to office there are 4,000 fewer health and welfare support workers and 3,000 fewer aged and disability carers graduating. This is a cut of more than 7,000 to those coming through this vital, essential skilled workforce. This is a workforce—largely older women—that our country has relied upon at the frontline during the pandemic. We are putting the effort of this pandemic onto the shoulders of these incredible workers, who are doing such hard, taxing physical work every day in these aged-care centres. These workers are exhausted, and we know that because they've come to the parliament and they've told us on a number of visits that they are exhausted. They are overstretched. They are under-resourced. All they are begging for is time to care and decent pay for the work that they do. They are exhausted and overstretched.

I reject the blame-shifting when it comes to vaccination that we have seen regarding aged-care workers. A public health order now mandates that all residential aged-care workers in Tasmania must receive a first dose by 17 September—fair enough—but this government has failed to put the structures in place, and it has left the workers high and dry. Aged-care workers were told they were at the front of the queue and that they would get easy access to the vaccine at work. They weren't and they didn't. We need to make vaccination easy and available for workers, not shame them, these incredible workers who do such incredible work.

In my state of Tasmania the Health and Community Services Union has heard reports that because of chronic short-staffing some aged-care residents are being left in incontinence pads for hours and chronic dehydration has become a widespread issue across a number of homes. But, as the harrowing royal commission made clear, they simply lack the resources they need to take care of older Australians. If you state the obvious, we need more highly skilled carers and support staff in this sector, not fewer. We need to do better by our incredible aged-care workers and the incredible work that they do.