Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has refused to clarify comments that spending public funds on elderly LGBTI people is a “waste of money”.
Last week, Hockey told the Sunday Telegraph that programs to train aged care staff in how to deal with increasing numbers of LGBTI seniors who may face discrimination should be paid for by private operators, not taxpayers.
A spokesman for Hockey told the Star Observer that the shadow treasurer stood by the comment and claimed the objection was not because the funding was for the LGBTI community, but because of the program itself.
“Mr Hockey was asked to respond to a specific question regarding the use of taxpayer funds,” the spokesman said.
“He was not singling out any particular group in the community nor was he denigrating any particular group.”
But when asked if Hockey also thought funding for other groups such as Aboriginal seniors or a new program for seniors from non-English speaking backgrounds was wasteful spending, the spokesman refused to clarify.
Aged care provider UnitingCare last week said Hockey’s comments were off the mark and out of touch with the LGBTI community and their aged care needs.
“There is a growing awareness in the aged care industry that the LGBTI communities have been under-represented and face fears of discrimination,” UnitingCare Ageing director Steve Teulan said.
“Improving the acceptability and accessibility of aged care through training of aged care staff is appropriate and welcome.”
UnitingCare Ageing appointed a LGBTI project officer in 2011.
Hockey did not elaborate on whether the program would be cut under a Liberal government or if the Liberal Party would make any attempt to get private operators to provide LGBTI sensitivity training.
Ageing Minister Mark Butler said Hockey was determined to cut LGBTI programs from the budget.
“The LGBTI strategy was a recommendation of the Productivity Commission and we took that recommendation very seriously,“ Butler said.
“I shudder to think what other support for the LGBTI community would be cut if Joe Hockey ever got near the treasury benches.”