Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Swan Electorate: Aged Care
On 4 October the shadow minister for ageing and mental health, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, visited my electorate of Swan to meet with the aged-care sector and discuss pressures on the aged-care industry. It was a productive meeting, and I thank the shadow minister for making the trip over to Western Australia to meet with my constituents and providers. Many of the participants in the forum were not from management but actual front-line staff who work each day on the coalface and feel the effects of poor government management.
According to the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the costs of providing aged care are predicted to double in the next 40 years. Australians are living longer and creating an ageing population which is, in my view, the biggest social issue facing Australia and of key importance to this and future governments. To give an insight into the scope of this challenge, it is over-85-year-olds who are the main users of the aged-care services, and these will increase from 400,000, or 1.7 per cent of the total population, in 2007 to 1.6 million, or 5.6 per cent, by 2047. It is clear that we need to provide the most advantageous environment possible to the providers if they are to thrive and meet the future challenges of providing services to our communities. Not only is the ageing population resulting in potentially unsustainable increased costs as we age, but we have more complex health conditions and changing disease patterns, resulting in increasing and changed aged-care needs. I have particular interest in this area—as you do, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas; you are the chair and I am the deputy chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, and we have both spoken many times since entering this parliament on the challenges that the community faces in these areas.
If there is one thing that I took from the meeting, it was the view that, whilst plenty of noise has been made in Canberra, what actually matters to those running these organisations and those on the coalface is that we formulate policies that can actually be delivered. Until there is a proper structural reform of the aged-care sector, the care and wellbeing of senior Australians is and will continue to be at risk. Despite promises for reform, five years on there is very little evidence of real change on the ground. Labor has failed to deliver on promises and refuses to make the hard decisions. As is common with this government, it undertook a litany of reports and reviews but very little action has been achieved. The coalition has been calling on the government for much-needed reform for some time, and at the last election we set out our framework for real reform through the first ever four-year aged-care provider agreement with the sector, including consideration of the Productivity Commission report. In closing, the industry and clients that I have met all want 100 per cent of the Productivity Commission report implemented, not just the five per cent the Labor government is introducing.