Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:44): I'll take the opportunity in the speeches that follow the budget being handed down on Tuesday night to talk more broadly about the budget, but there's one aspect of it that has made me really angry, and I want to take this short opportunity to put it on the public record. In December last year, I went public in the local Illawarra media about the great frustration, indeed, distress, being caused to older people in my community and their families and also the service providers who work with them.
The reason for that was that we'd hit 950 people on the aged-care home care package waiting list in our region—950 people who had been assessed as needing home care support who were trying to sustain themselves in their own homes and needed the support that is provided by these packages, which are important not only to them but also to their families. I have had people in tears on the phone talking about the struggles that families are having as they wait for up to a year—some for more than a year—to get the package that they have already been assessed as needing. I was very frustrated and, on behalf of those older people, their families and our service providers, I went public about that particular issue.
Then in March we got a new, updated report on the state of the packages across the nation. In my area of the Illawarra we'd seen about a 10 per cent increase in that waiting list again. We'd gone from 950 to over 1,000 people. The table in the report makes it clear that this is only people who were not in or assigned an interim level package, so it hides the number of people who need, for example, a level 4 package who've been put on an interim level 2 package. That means the service providers are left having to say to people: 'We're not funded to provide you with the additional support you've been assessed as needing. We're only funded to provide this level.' Many of those providers, out of their own budgets and their own resources, are trying to provide additional support.
Not surprisingly, I was quite encouraged when I saw the speculation before the budget that the government was going to make a major investment in this space. That is not what we got on Tuesday night. What we got was 14,000 places over four years, when the national waiting list is over 100,000, and that's funded by taking funding out of residential aged care. This is a terrible con on people. It's cruel and unfair. Across my region, there are many families who want to see the government take real action on this crisis in aged care. It's appalling that they were encouraged to think that that was about to happen and it has not.