Monday, 20 March 2023
Private Members' Business
I rise to respond the motion tabled by the member for Forrest, which allows me an opportunity to highlight the many significant policies of the Albanese Labor government, policies that aim to restore the respect and dignity of older Australians in aged care, just as they deserve. One of the highlights of being a local member is spending time in the community listening to the stories, experiences and needs of my constituents. I welcome that feedback because my job as a federal member for Pearce is to hear and respond to my community and care for their needs to ensure families, businesses and organisations are supported by our government.
I meet with many groups, and I have been in regular contact with the group Aged Care Reform Now, which is working for change in the aged-care sector to ensure everyone's loved ones are appropriately looked after. Two fearless advocates that I would like to specifically mention are Amina Schipp and Yvonne Buters, who are driven by dreadful personal experiences of their loved ones in aged care and who are determined to see change for the better. Members of this advocacy group were recently in Parliament House to attend an aged-care roundtable. I can say with all certainty that, as a government, we care. The Albanese Labor government cares deeply about the now and the future of Australian families young and old.
Our government has a plan, and that plan includes increasing staffing levels to improve the quality and amount of care that older people receive, including putting nurses back into nursing homes. In less than a year our government has already had a positive impact on aged-care workforce shortages. The latest aged-care workforce estimates reveal the overall gap in supply and demand for workers is getting smaller. In 2023-24 the forecast gap in the number of registered nurses needed is now 8,400, down from 11,700. That is strong, steady and welcome progress. Departmental figures estimate that currently 80 per cent of facilities do have a registered nurse onsite 24/7.
The Albanese government has listened and consulted and we continue to do so. This consultation has taken place with many organisations representing the interests of older Australians and those who look after them. Undoubtedly, workforce and staffing are among the biggest challenges in the economy and the aged-care sector. However, it is important that I remind those opposite that this workforce crisis did not begin on 22 May 2022 when we were elected. For almost a decade the aged-care workforce was neglected by the coalition. And now faced with an opportunity to do good, to correct that shocking history and lack of care for older Australians, it is outstanding that the coalition chooses to argue against this very critical policy to boost the number of registered nurses in aged-care homes. Nobody should argue against treating older Australians with greater dignity. Even after shameful findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety the coalition is still actively trying to stop older Australians from accessing the care that they need.
In contrast, the Albanese Labor government has achieved a positive change. We delivered $473 million to help facilities provide 24/7 nurses, we are delivering a 15 per cent pay rise for aged-care workers and we are lifting the numbers for the permanent migration program to 195,000 to ease the critical workforce shortages. Rewind back to the coalition's time in government and their record has been less than impressive. In 2013, they scrapped Labor's $1.2 million compact to provide an aged-care pay rise. In 2016, they cut $2.5 billion from aged care. In 2018, they ignored the key recommendations in the aged-care workforce strategy taskforce report. And in 2022, the coalition refused to support a pay rise for aged-care workers. I also call out those opposite for sparking the shameless mischievous rumours that homes will be shut down because they can't get a 24/7 registered nurse. That is blatantly wrong. The importance of returning dignity and respecting our older Australians is a priority for our government, and nobody—nobody—should get in the way of such a crucial objective.