Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
I'd like to thank the member for Robertson for tabling this very important motion. I am very pleased to be here today to speak about aged care. Improving aged care for residents and supporting our aged-care workers is something I am passionate about, and I know it is so important for people on the New South Wales South Coast. I remember vividly one conversation with a family member whose mum was in aged care. He lived away but he said: 'I worry about my mum. Can you please just fix aged care.' With the Gilmore electorate having the second-oldest demographic in Australia, there are many elderly people who need care in our region and many workers who show up, day in, day out to take care of the ones we love.
Before I was elected in 2019, aged-care workers came to me many times crying out for more support. They said they just wanted more time to be able to care for residents. They wanted aged-care workers to be remunerated for the important work they do, and they wanted to be able to attract and retain aged-care workers in recognition of how important aged care is to our loved ones. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety described the former government's approach to edge care as 'the minimum commitment it could get away with'. That's what aged care looked like under the former government—the bare minimum. But the tide is turning. I am proud that the Albanese Labor government is working to fix the aged-care sector. I care deeply about the people and families who rely on aged care, the dedicated workforce that sustains it and the quality of care they provide.
Older Australians deserve better than a broken aged-care system, and since being elected we have hit the ground running. Our reforms are producing real, tangible results on the ground, and I've seen them working. The Albanese Labor government committed $11.3 billion to fund and deliver a pay rise for aged-care workers. That's a 15 per cent pay rise for these essential workers. That's around 250,000 aged-care workers in this country getting a pay rise which is long overdue. Aged-care workers can now feel happy to have a government that understands the physical and emotional demands of their work as well as the skills required—a government who knows they deserve proper recognition in their pay.
On a recent visit to a local nursing home I was told about the difference our fee-free TAFE is having on encouraging more people to study the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing), which is great news. We've also brought in 24/7 registered nurses to enhance the quality of care for older Australians and mandated an increase in care time per resident. This is in direct response to the aged-care royal commission's recommendations. Having nurses in aged-care facilities 24/7 is the right thing to do. It leads to better treatment and safety in the case of emergencies and also less strain on our hospital emergency departments. Quality care is better than emergency intervention and proper nutrition is key to better care.
Food and nutrition in aged-care homes is another issue we're addressing. Two-thirds of older Australians were malnourished or at risk of malnourishment under the former coalition government. The importance of good nutrition can't be understated. The Albanese Labor government has invested $12.9 million to improve food quality and nutrition in aged care. This includes the establishment of a dedicated food nutrition and dining support unit, menu and mealtime assessments, dietary guidelines and a communication campaign to raise awareness of residents' nutritional needs.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives
Sitting suspended from 12:13 to 12:24
As I was saying, transparency and accountability are essential in aged care. The Albanese Labor government has made it clear we are committed to increasing transparency regarding public dollars spent in aged care. Next year, we will provide a comprehensive breakdown of how residential aged-care providers allocate their funds. This will mean residents and families can make informed choices about their care providers. People will finally be able to see where and how the money is spent.
We've listened to the experts and heard the voices of those who are impacted. The royal commission gave a voice to vulnerable older Australians, and we listened. Our 2023 budget allocated a record $36 billion to aged care, addressing 69 recommendations in full or in part, and we will continue our work in transforming the aged-care sector into something all Australians can be proud of.