VULNERABLE PEOPLE AROUND THE COUNTRY GET APPALLING AND NEGLIGENT SERVICE FROM THE LIBERALS

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (15:43): The minister just told us that aged pensioners in this country deserve a government that delivers the services they need. That was probably the only true and accurate statement in the 10-minute speech we just heard. Let's talk about all of the vulnerable people in our communities, in my electorate and in electorates around the country, who are getting appalling, negligent service from this government. Let's start with the aged-care sector—I'll come back to the minister's portfolio—and I see the shadow minister here. Let's talk about the over 1,200 people still waiting for a home care package.

Ms Collins:  120,000.

Ms Bird: It's 120,000. Thank you, shadow minister. One hundred and twenty thousand are waiting for a home care package. My office spends week after week after week dealing with elderly people in our communities who have been assessed as needing a level 4, the highest level package that can be provided, and who still are waiting 12 months to actually get one allocated. That means that their families—if they're lucky enough to have the support of a family—cannot function while they're trying to fulfil the responsibility that this government has assessed it should be delivering, and it's taking a year.

Let's talk about the people in our community with disabilities. Let's talk about the mismanagement, the poor planning and the under-resourcing by this government that has gone into the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme across our electorates. There are many people who were anticipating, as all of us were, the implementation of this major, important reform for people with a disability. If it works well this is a great thing. I hear from people in my electorate how great that is. But let me tell you, under this government when it's not working, and when there are problems, it's appalling. It's an appalling experience for people.

Again, there is case after case in my office where we are having to fight and battle to get decent, reasonable outcomes for people when they have problems. Similar to what the shadow minister said about this sector in human services, a lot of it's because they haven't resourced it properly. They haven't been able to ensure that the people who are in place running it at the departmental level have continuity, experience and skills. These are complex matters. The minister himself admitted that with pensions. You need experienced people to be able to work in that space.

Let's talk about our littlest children, our most vulnerable under five-year-olds, who need preschool education. This government can't even guarantee ongoing four-year-old preschool for those kids who really need preschool to be able to be prepared to perform when they go into kindy. They can't even guarantee what they have already got, the four-year-old preschool, let alone meet Labor's commitment to give two years of preschool.

In the minister's own portfolio area, and in my seat—that borders with my colleague the member for Whitlam—we have some of the most disadvantaged communities across the suburbs of Warrawong, Port Kembla and Berkeley. What has this government done? They've taken away their Centrelink and Medicare offices. So single mums with toddlers have to try and get on a bus and go into Wollongong to meet their requirements for Centrelink. Many of the aged people in those suburbs are from non-English speaking backgrounds. Forget the phone system for those people, let alone the massively long waits you get when you ring. It is complex for them. They need to talk someone face-to-face. They've taken away their Medicare and Centrelink offices at Warrawong. This is what this government is doing to the most vulnerable in our communities. The age pensioners that I am hearing from in my office day after day are experiencing exactly what our shadow minister described.

I won't use their names, but Mr L of Figtree lodged a claim in early May this year. He approached our office in October because he hadn't heard anything. We had to chase it and get it resolved for him. Mr G of Figtree lodged in December 2017. He was rejected in March, appealed and had to come to us again in October to get a resolution, that's what they're struggling with. The government needs to wake up to how it's treating these vulnerable people.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.