Thursday, 4 August 2022
Macquarie Electorate: Floods, Aged Care
I may have been here in parliament for our first sittings, but my thoughts have not been very far from the flood-affected Hawkesbury residents, where anxiety about another flood is very high. And, understandably, with more rain forecast and the declaration of the Indian Ocean Dipole by the Bureau of Meteorology, people who are now facing a big job repairing, cleaning up and rebuilding after the July flood now feel overwhelmed and a bit in limbo because of these forecasts. But of course it isn't a given that a flood will occur. What should be happening, though, is there should be action being taken by the New South Wales government. They should be doing everything possible to mitigate the risk of flood—everything that they can, right now—and that includes drawing down the Warragamba Dam, reducing the level, which has stayed close to a hundred per cent for weeks, if not months. People are understandably asking the question: 'Why won't the new South Wales government just act?' It's hard to fathom the deaf ear that these calls are falling on. Again, I plead with the New South Wales Premier: 'Please listen to my community.'
We know you can't stop floods, but we also know that the conditions right now are unlike anything in memory—the soggy soils with very little ability to absorb local falls and the heavy rain forecast to fall somewhere in the coming months. I congratulate the New South Wales opposition leader, Chris Minns, and his shadow ministers Rose Jackson and Jihad Dib, who came and met with Pitt Town residents, because they are willing to act. They're also willing to look at improving the evacuation routes that places like Pitt Town so desperately need. Unfortunately, we can't wait for a New South Wales Labor government for this to happen. We really need the current New South Wales government to act on these measures. Lowering the level of the water in the existing dam, using the resources that we have right now, would allow for a buffer, and it must be something that the New South Wales government tries. If it doesn't, should we see more heavy rains, I fear the New South Wales government will find the anger in the community towards them will be almost uncontrollable.
While people are worrying about the future, though, they're also dealing with the past, and that means the clean-up and recovery. Three new grants have been made available, and there's been good collaboration between the New South Wales government and our federal government in the last few weeks. There are three new grants, including a grant for renters of 16 weeks of support, because we know you don't get back home in a matter of a fortnight. There's a new grant for rural landholders of up to $25,000 for those who are not eligible for the other funding—the primary producers grant or the small business grant. There's also, just announced, the homeowners grant of up to $25,000 for people who need to do things to get back home. I know that there's more to do, but these are fast actions to try and make the recovery from this disaster as quick and as painless as it can be. We know there is much more that needs to be done, and I'll continue to advocate for those things.
One of the really significant pieces of legislation that we passed in this sitting fortnight has been around aged care. This is an issue very close to my heart and to my community's. I want to talk through what those changes will mean. There's more to do, we're not finished with aged-care reforms. We've really only got started. One of the changes that we've made will lead to a more equitable funding approach, that means it'll better match the providers' costs in delivering care to residents than the previous government's regime did. This is going to make a difference to aged-care providers in my community.
What we'll also be expecting, and we'll be starting to see later this year, is the publishing of star ratings for all residential aged-care facilities. That'll be in place by the end of this year. It will put a spotlight on the sector and it will allow people to actually compare the quality and the safety performance. It will no longer just be gossip and word-of-mouth, people will be able to actually go and see the data. The legislation also includes measures to extend the serious incident response scheme to in-home care providers. I see this as a really significant start to the many issues that we face in fixing home care, which is such an important part of our aged-care services. All of this means greater transparency and is a really significant step forward for aged care.