PRIME Minister Scott Morrison got into a fiery exchange this morning as he was grilled on the government's approach to aged care.
Mr Morrison has announced a royal commission into the industry to investigate what he describes as an "alarming and disturbing" spike in elder abuse and poor standards at aged care facilities.
His decision marks a stunning reversal from recent comments by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, who said a royal commission would be a waste of time and money.
It comes ahead of an investigation into aged care by the ABC's Four Corners program, which is set to air tonight.
Speaking to reporters in parliament this morning, Mr Morrison got into a testy back-and-forth with The Australian's Rick Morton, who asked him about budget cuts affecting the aged care sector.
Here's the full exchange.
Morton: "Prime minister, when you were treasurer you cut $2 billion from aged care."
Morrison: "No, no. That's what the Labor Party says."
Morton: "No, you did."
Morrison: "No I didn't. The Labor Party says that."
Morton: "You cut $1.2 billion from aged care funding."
Morrison: No, I don't accept that. If people want to put questions, they're not allowed to put lies."
Morton: "Aged care funding had $1.2 billion ..."
Morrison: "No. We're increasing aged care funding by $1 billion every year."
Morton: "No, it's a direct question, Prime Minister."
Morrison: "We have put in place compliance measures to ensure that public funds don't get misused. So, this is why we are going to have a royal commission ..."
Morton: "Are you ignoring the facts?"
Morrison: "No, I'm not ignoring facts. That's why I'm calling a royal commission, if you'll just let me finish the answer."
The $1.2 billion figure they were arguing over comes from the 2016/17 Budget papers, backed up by analysis from the Parliamentary Library, which identified "savings" of that amount over the four years of forward estimates.
Essentially, spending on aged care is rising each year, but not by as much as previously predicted.
Mr Morrison is being attacked on another flank as well, with Labor claiming the government has waited far too long to launch a royal commission.
"I've been the prime minister for three weeks, I think that's a pretty quick time," Mr Morrison told Channel 9.
"I can take responsibility for my actions as prime minister, and that's what I'm doing."
He said he didn't want to get into a political fight over the issue.
"It's not just in the profit or the not-for-profit sector, it's not just in rural centres or urban centres or large centres or small centres," he said.
"Our work shows there is a problem potentially and actually in each of these areas, so we want to get to the bottom of it.
"I don't want to fight about it, I just want to fix it."
Labor's Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers believes the PM is crying crocodile tears.
"Older Australians deserve much better than a prime minister that cuts funding to aged care and then lies to them about it," Mr Chalmers told reporters in Canberra.
"If Scott Morrison is going to finally take responsibility for the mess that is aged care, he should start by 'fussing up to the impact his cuts have had on quality in the system.
"Scott Morrison is the architect to the cuts to the aged-care system."
The inquiry comes after audits at some facilities revealed a dramatic increase in noncompliance and abuses in the sector.
There was a 177 per cent increase in the number of aged-care homes where a serious risk to residents was identified in the past financial year. There was also a 292 per cent increase in the number of facilities that refused to comply with rules.
The royal commission will look at the quality of both residential and home aged care, including how young Australians with disabilities are cared for in residential facilities.
- with AAP