Monday, 21 June 2021
Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading
The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021 makes three urgent changes to deliver the first stage of aged-care reform developed in response to the royal commission and to ensure senior Australians receive high-quality and safe aged care. From 1 July 2021, this bill introduces important limitations on the ability for approved providers to use restraints and strengthens protections for aged-care recipients from any abuse associated with this practice. The term 'restraint' will be replaced with 'restrictive practices', continuing regulatory harmonisation with the disability sector. Further and more specific details of the strengthened obligations on approved providers will be prescribed by the Quality of Care Principles 2014.
The bill and the amended principles provide a framework to minimise the use of restrictive practices. The amendments do not authorise the use of restrictive practices where they are otherwise unlawful. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner's powers will be expanded to include the ability to give a written notice if a provider does not comply with its responsibilities relating to the use of restrictive practices and the ability to apply for a civil penalty order if they do not comply with the written notice.
Aged-care providers and their staff are very important. I know from personal observation that the vast majority of providers do a good job in my own electorate of Petrie up in Queensland—that's from talking to staff and residents in that area. But these changes here are to further strengthen what's required. I want to give a bit of a shout out to the staff in my own electorate of Petrie for the work that they do. They do an amazing job. The staff there care for people in aged care who in many ways helped to build this country. I know that many of those residents have had a difficult time as well with COVID-19 over the last 12 to 18 months. They haven't been able to leave the premises and also have not been able to receive visitors.
I would say to young people too, as the Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, to maybe consider a career in caring for our elderly. That's very important. On Friday I visited a resident in my own electorate, Mr John Russell OAM, who is 101—it was his 101st birthday. He's a veteran from the Second World War. He spent seven years overseas and he actually spent time in Antarctica as well. He's also the author of a new book which has just been released. His daughter, Sue Morgan, is the carer for him. But I would say to young people that caring for our elderly Australians is a great career and that you can learn so much from elderly Australians.
This bill establishes an annual program of risk-based assurance reviews of home-care providers. The secretary of the Department of Health will be able to require approved home-care providers and their employees to provide information for the purposes of program assurance and to prepare and publish reports on the assurance reviews. This builds on our existing work to improve transparency of the aged-care sector and fosters community confidence in the costs of the aged care they receive. The bill also repeals a requirement for the minister to establish the Aged Care Financing Authority, the ACFA. An advisory group will be established to replace ACFA from July 2021, to ensure that the government continues to receive advice on financing issues in the aged-care sector.
I thank all members for their contributions to the debate on this bill. The health, safety and wellbeing of senior Australians is of the utmost importance to the Morrison government, and is driving our plan for generational change in the aged-care system.