Monday, 18 February 2019
Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018; Second Reading
I'm fortunate to represent a community in which many Australian seniors call home. Not only am I lucky enough to be invited to things like trivia days, trivia nights, morning teas and ceremonies that are held at my local retirement villages, nursing homes and aged care facilities; but I also get the opportunity to speak with and hear from those great people who built our nation. Let me tell you, Deputy Speaker, they can often spin quite a yarn when they talk about their lives! These are people who have worked hard their whole life, and they have the wisdom and life experience to show for it. And it's why we, as those who follow them, have a duty to support Australia's seniors and ensure they have access to adequate aged care.
I'm supportive of a number of the elements of the member for Mayo's private member's bill, the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2018. I'll always be supportive of any measure that goes towards improving transparency for older Australians, their families and their carers—those people seeking aged care services. This could be with regard to transparency around staffing numbers. It could be with regard to the number of complaints a facility receives. It could be with regard to information on accreditation failures or the measures that service providers have put in place to deal with accreditation issues. I hope that transparency for customers is a key focus of the royal commission into aged care. Labor has been calling for this royal commission for some time, but the government decided instead to play politics, likening it to committing elder abuse. It's a positive to see that the government is now finally listening to Labor and the people of Australia and has changed its mind.
It's no secret that Australia has an ageing population; it's no secret at all. The number of people aged over 85 is rapidly increasing compared to our younger age groups, and it's predicted to double by 2032. This means we will need to see a tripling of the aged care workforce in the next 30 years to be able to provide a high standard of living and care for this growing proportion of older Australians. This will only happen, though, when the government looks forward and cooperates with the aged care providers, the unions and, of course, the training organisations to ensure that we have an adequately skilled, an adequately funded and an adequately equipped aged care workforce to care for that rapidly ageing population.
But the government's track record doesn't bode well for the long-term future. We have endured three Prime Ministers in the last few years and together those three Prime Ministers have presided over shameful cuts to this sector. They have ignored important reports, they have failed to drive reforms and they have allowed the blowout of home care package waitlists to occur. This is a government that is too busy fighting each other for the top job to look after Australia's seniors. Currently sitting on the government's desk are more than a dozen reviews, with recommendations on aged care that still have not been implemented.
I haven't been quiet on this—and I can tell you, Deputy Speaker, I'm not going to be quiet on this—and, in fact, neither have the good people in my community. From the health professionals and doctors to the daughters and sons of our seniors, they haven't been quiet on this either. So, together with Labor, we have been putting pressure on the government for some time now, and it seems that they are starting to realise that this isn't just an issue for older Australians; it's also a bit of a political problem for them and it could cost them their jobs. So it's good to see that they're starting to act, although, we can question the motivation.
After five years and billions of dollars in cuts, including a $1.2 billion cut by the Prime Minister when he was Treasurer, it comes as a great relief now to see some action being taken. With the government calling on a royal commission into aged care, it appears that they're now scrambling to respond to the many issues that they have allowed to pile up and pile up—issues that should have been dealt with months and months and years ago. There is significant work to be done. There's an election coming up in a few months, and I suspect there will be an answer to those delays. (Time expired)