House debates

Monday, 20 March 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

12:16 pm

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

When I saw this motion coming up for debate I raced to put my name to speak because I find it extraordinary that those opposite are now criticising the Albanese Labor government on our progress to fix aged care. Often times in this place, disagreement or tension is created out of the smallest of differences, and I know that it is just the way politics happens. But on aged care, there really is clear blue water between this government and those opposite, and I was astounded to see this motion framed the way it has been. After 10 years of complete neglect of the aged-care system, I am shocked to see those opposite come in here to criticise our efforts to repair the system. After 10 years of coalition neglect, I am shocked to see those opposite come in here to tell us that we're not doing enough to attract and retain the workforce in aged care. After 10 years of coalition neglect, I am shocked to see those opposite are seeking to condemn this government for cleaning up their mess. We are fixing this broken system, a system those opposite left in a state of disrepair.

Despite that neglect, there are some facilities that are doing well; for example, the Bernard Chan facility in my electorate that I visited with Anika Wells, the minister for aged care, last year. It is providing culturally appropriate care to elderly Chinese Australians. They have bilingual staff, ensuring that elderly are able to speak in their mother tongue; they celebrate Chinese traditions and cook Chinese food so that those Chinese Australians are able to feel comfortable in their final years. They are also exceeding their minutes-of-care requirements. They've managed to do this thanks to committed staff and great management, not thanks to those opposite.

Let's take a look at what we on this side are doing to attract the workers required for our aged-care system. In the October budget, we delivered $473 million to help providers get nurses on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are increasing the permanent migration program ceiling to 193,000 in 2022-23 to help the widespread critical workforce shortage, including in aged care. We are providing an additional $1 billion in joint federal-state funding for 465,000 fee-free TAFE places in 2023, which includes several courses in aged care. Anyone who meets an aged-care worker knows that many of them do this challenging work because they find it rewarding to care for others. But for too long, they have been underpaid for the valuable work that they do. We are delivering on 15 per cent pay rise—15 per cent, think of that.

The member for Forrest comes in here complaining about workforce shortages in aged care yet she was part of a government that sat on its hands for almost a decade. They did nothing to make the industry more appealing to workers, nothing to help aged-care workers. Let's take on the last element of this motion. Those opposite are like the emperor without any clothes on, trying to hide behind a fig leaf. That fig leaf is made of vicious and untrue rumours. Aged-care homes that genuinely try to meet the requirements to recruit registered nurses will not be shut down because they can't fill those positions. Older Australians will not have to travel from their community to receive support, because they can apply for an exemption. In their desperate attempt to distract from their own neglect, they are now trying to spread fear and anxiety amongst older Australians.

We are putting registered nurses into aged-care homes. We are making a requirement of these facilities to provide a minimum standard of care. The department has estimated that 80 per cent of facilities have a registered nurse on 24/7 and additional facilities are very close to meeting that. Here is my suggestion to those opposite: stop trying to deflect and distract from your own failures. Instead, work with us to help fix this broken system, because older Australians deserve better than this. They deserve a genuine reform of the system. We are doing the hard work now to help fix this problem. You ignored the workforce shortages for too long, for too many years. I'm proud to be part of a government that is helping to fix the mess that you left behind.


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