House debates

Monday, 20 March 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

11:51 am

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm given to reflect that the government is fast learning the difference between opposition and government. In opposition, everything looks so easy. It's easy to throw stones, but, of course, the buck stops with the government, and the government is in place now and they have been disingenuous. In fact, that contribution from the member for Lalor was exactly that. It was the coalition government that took funding for aged care from $13.3 billion in 2013 through to $30 billion in 2022. That's a 126 per cent increase. I wouldn't call that a dereliction of duty.

In opposition, Labor provided 60,000 home-care packages, or a little fewer. When they came to government there were around 220,000, so there was around about a quadrupling of home-care packages. That also is not a dereliction of duty; that's an incredibly big effort. Now, they can say there should be more, and they've been given the opportunity now to do more, but they might find it's not quite as easy, as I said, from government as they first thought.

Firstly, it's a reasonable question to ask: why were there only 60,000 home-care packages when Labor were in government and when they left government? Secondly, what would they have done to ensure there were more than 220,000 when they came to government? Having said all that, they said in opposition that they would fix aged care and, in fact, they were campaigning in April, May and June last year for a 25 per cent increase in aged-care wages. Eventually the Fair Work Commission settled on 15 per cent and, to be fair, the government doesn't actually have to do what the Fair Work Commission says. They could give 25 per cent if they wish—they are the major funder of aged care—but they went along with the 15 per cent. But not only have they not now, 10 months later, delivered the 15 per cent; they haven't delivered the 10 per cent. Now it has been whittled down to 10 per cent in June and 5 per cent in June next year. So not only have they not delivered on their promise to the people in May; they haven't delivered on the 10 per cent that the Fair Work Commission told them to give—so they're still hanging out for that—and we're still 14 months or 15 months away from the 15 per cent.

Now, I've been talking to aged-care providers in my electorate and they're very concerned about some of these decisions of the government. For instance, if you live in the country, one of first things you'll know, Mr Deputy Speaker Wilkie, is that our aged-care facilities have to pay above-award rates. So they are already paying 10 or 15 per cent higher and even higher percentages for good aged-care staff. The 15 per cent increase is actually predicated on the award rate, so if they are paying above that, are they going to tell these nurses, 'I'm sorry, you can't have a pay increase because you've already got over-reward rates,' or are they going to be forced to give the 10 per cent on top of the inflated 10 per cent that is in place already, which is going to further erode their ability to compete and to deliver the services? And we know that many of these nursing homes are losing money.

Further to that, they're very concerned about the stipulation about the mandatory hours—the 24/7 for registered nurses, the 40 minutes a week from a registered nurse, rising to 44 minutes by, I think, 2030, and the 200 minutes from other aged-care staff. Firstly, I don't know where on earth they're going to get those extra registered nurses—almost 7,000 across Australia mind you. Given that we can't get them in the regional areas anyhow and are often reduced to paying agency rates for those nurses—given that that's difficult to find—they don't know how they're going to meet those mandated timeframes. I was talking to a provider who said, 'We employ more enrolled nurses than the industry average in our component workforce and we believe that gives a better standard of care to our residents.' To fund the registered nurses, if they can find them, they're going to have to cut the ratio down and have fewer enrolled nurses and more aged-care workers that have cert IIIs or whatever in their facilities. They believe that this will erode their capacity to deliver the same high-level care that they are delivering at the moment. They don't see any flexibility in that coming from the government. The member for Lalor says that facilities will not have to—(Time expired)


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