Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
It's very timely that we're having this debate in the Federation Chamber today, because we've just seen a recent report which shows that the number of aged-care facilities being built has slowed dramatically. As we know, the ageing of our community is continuing apace, and it should be of concern to all sides of this debate that we are now seeing aged-care residences being built at an ever-slowing rate. Not only that, we're seeing more and more challenges for aged-care providers to access the workforce that they need. I would ask the government to think again about how they are implementing the recommendations of the aged-care royal commission. As everyone knows, this royal commission was commissioned when we were in government because we wanted to set the pathway for the aged-care sector for the next decade in a sustainable way, a financially sustainable way, and in a way that would allow the care that was needed for our residents to improve, and to make sure that it continued to improve into the future.
There are decisions that the government have taken which they need to look at immediately. One of those is what the minister for immigration has done in requiring that before overseas workers can come into the sector to provide the care and the nurses that are needed they need to enter into an MOU with the union. This is blocking the flow of overseas workers into the aged-care sector. To demonstrate that is what is occurring, I have the transcript of the minister on ABC Radio National this morning. He was asked by Hamish Macdonald:
How many providers have actually signed up to your agreement to access workers from overseas?
Minister Giles said:
Eight providers have signed up so far …
Hamish Macdonald responded:
But eight providers of something like 800 across the country—
pointing out that this isn't working. Hamish then went on to say:
There does seem to be a concern about the unions and the level of access that they would have to these employees—
when you enter into this MOU. Hamish pointed out that the aged-care providers that they'd spoken to were concerned that all of a sudden unions were being given unfettered access to aged-care facilities, and he asked the minister:
Do you think it's an impediment?
The minister said:
Not at all.
We've got only eight out of 800 that have done this, yet the minister is saying it isn't an impediment. And yet, when Hamish and the ABC have asked providers what's holding them back, it's the MOU that's holding them back. So the government needs to relook at all this, because it is this ill founded regulation which is leading to the slowness of the provision of new facilities. The regulations on the sector that the government is putting in place mean that they can't get access to the workforce that they need. If this continues, the situation is going to get worse and all of those recommendations by the royal commission, which were put in place, are going to be worth zilch if the government does not get this implementation right. There was nothing in the recommendations of the royal commission which said that the unions should be allowed in the front door and that aged-care providers should have to sign an MOU. I ask any of the speakers today to point me to where that provision was in the royal commission recommendations. It's just not there.
If you continue to put more regulation on aged-care facilities, and not in a way that will enhance the care that they give, then it's going to lead to more and more problems in the sector. So it is very timely that we are having this debate when we're seeing reports that the situation is getting worse. I say to the government: don't pat yourself on the back for what you've done in 16 months; have a look at what is still going wrong. (Time expired)