Given this event has occurred, the right thing to do is for the government to respond expeditiously to help those impacted, and that has occurred. Both the Commonwealth government and the Queensland Department of Health acted quickly to ensure that a level of care was provided to those impacted.
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:09):
I do welcome the questions that Senator Watt has put on the record these last two days. This is an extremely serious matter, and I applaud him for bringing it forward. It should definitely be subject to appropriate scrutiny here in this chamber. It's nice to see that question time is used to investigate what are very important, weighty matters—matters that have clearly affected individuals very severely.
Although, I am a little critical as I think at times Senator Watt moved into more of a political mode. I think he did himself a disservice when he said that the minister's been bumbling and things like that as what we really need to focus on is not the minister involved but the 71 residents who've been impacted by this unfortunate set of events. We also need to learn the lessons and make sure these sorts of things do not happen again. While Senator Watt has said that a number of actions have taken place, I do think it's important to have on the record exactly what those were. Certainly it is not true to say that somehow People Care Pty Ltd, the operator of this centre, was not subject to scrutiny or action from the Commonwealth department. Indeed, from the advice I've got from the Department of Health in Queensland, I believe the sanctions include ones as recent as 13 July this year, 11 May 2017 and 3 June 2016 going back to 30 April 2007.
That's the point: sanction after sanction after sanction, and they're still going on.
I'll take that interjection, Senator Watt. The logical consequence of some of what you seem to be suggesting is that, any time there is a sanction, a centre should be shut down. We've got four sanctions over a period extending 12 years. I don't have in front of me exactly what those sanctions were or are, but I don't think the logical consequence of any—
I've got four written down here, but it might be seven. I don't agree with the logical consequence that you seem to be suggesting—that is, any time there is some kind of sanction, we should shut down the facility—because, obviously, that would have a very big impact. What we need to have is appropriate regulatory action depending on the severity of the breach. That is good regulatory practice.
Given this event has occurred, the right thing to do is for the government to respond expeditiously to help those impacted, and that has occurred. Both the Commonwealth government and the Queensland Department of Health acted quickly to ensure that a level of care was provided to those impacted. That included the appointment of two nurse advisors. We've mobilised department staff nationally to assist. We've established an emergency hotline and we're now undertaking an assessment.
Once that initial care is provided, the next most important thing to do is to make sure that anything that has not been done correctly by the department or the regulatory authority is properly investigate. That's why I do welcome these questions. The government has already announced a full inquiry, to be led by Kate Carnell, into the circumstances leading up to the collapse of this facility to make sure we understand why it happened and, if anything has gone wrong here, to make sure appropriate action is taken and to, of course, put in place measures to ensure it does not happen again. That is what the government is focused on doing now.
The government overall here in this space is taking the issue of aged care incredibly seriously. It's been a strong focus of the Liberal National government for the past few years, and it has been a particular focus for Prime Minister Morrison in his term. One of the first decisions he made as Prime Minister was to establish a royal commission into aged-care facilities and aged-care services. Even before the findings of that commission are released, we will be increasing funding for the aged-care sector by $7 billion over five years. That will make sure we deliver more home care places and develop the skills that are needed in the workforce to provide a safe environment and a quality service to our older Australians. This is much more additional funding than was delivered by previous governments. It is right and proper that we make these decisions given our ageing population and the clear requirement that we treat the older people in our society with the respect and care they deserve. We are never going to get everything to be perfect, but the most important thing here is that we provide assistance to the people impacted and ensure that, as a government, we do things better every day and provide a better service to our older Australians over time.