House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business

Reform Agenda for Older Australians

7:25 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion of put forward by the member for Shortland for aged-care reform for older Australians. The motion asks of the House that it acknowledges that the Gillard government:

… has a positive reform agenda for older Australians and is delivering enormous commitment and investment in aged care and promoting positive aged-care issues by:

(a) increasing the aged pension;

(b) reforming the aged care system; and

(c) helping older Australians stay at work longer;

That is certainly something that I have encountered much feedback on in my electorate of Moreton. I have had a lot of seniors morning teas over the years. I have every four or six months or so and have had positive feedback and difficult questions about the Gillard government's aged-care agenda. In my electorate of Moreton there are over 17,000 constituents over the age of 65 and, of those 17,000, almost 11,500 were on the aged pension as of December 2012.

The Gillard government has implemented historic changes to aged-care reform with the Living Longer, Living Better reforms. The reform involves a comprehensive 10-year plan to reshape aged care, providing $3.7 billion over five years to build a better, fairer and more nationally consistent aged-care system.

Moreton is home to a number of wonderful aged care facilities with great staff and superb community atmosphere. I recently took the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon. Mark Butler, to Cazna Gardens Retirement Community in Sunnybank Hills to show him the new dementia wing. The environment was warm and friendly but I know that the facility staff do a difficult job. Minister Butler was very impressed by the quality of life the staff at Cazna Gardens provide to the people in that facility. Sadly, the number of applicants is getting longer and longer.

Aged care has recently implemented a number of initiatives in aged-care reform and this motion put forward by the member for Shortland is about taking the extra step towards reform for our older generations. As I mentioned earlier, I regularly hold seniors morning teas in my electorate, and I have had presentations from representatives of Centrelink, Medicare, the local police, aged-care service providers and other local community organisations. Every time I meet with the local groups from my electorate I learn from the experience, but particularly from these seniors morning teas. That collected wisdom of our elders is something that has to be experienced to be believed. These discussions with hundreds of older Australian's from my electorate has taught me that we obviously need to do more for older Australians, particularly those in aged care.

The Labor government was responsible for delivering the biggest ever increase to the pension. We have reformed the indexation system so that the pension keeps better pace with the cost of living. We have also introduced a new seniors work bonus, to make sure pensioners can keep more of their pension while working, if that is what they so choose. We have also delivered another pension increase as part of the household assistance package. My understanding is that that is something that would be cut away by those opposite.

The government is also continuing the full implementation of the Living Longer, Living Better aged-care reforms. Under the reforms, older Australians, their families and their carers will get the right sort of care and support, either in their own home if they so choose and are able to do so or in the appropriate aged-care facility. The aged-care system under Labor will be better and fairer and will provide greater choice and control for older Australians. As I know from my mother's experience and my father's experience, having choice and control is most important. It delivers most dignity and is the fairest approach.

The recent budget builds on the government's work to support Australians in retirement, and I would like to particularly mention a few organisations in my electorate. One that has shown great initiative in the aged-care sector is the Evergreen Community located in Sunnybank.

Evergreen Community is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing aged-care services for the Chinese Australian senior citizens and people with disabilities in the Brisbane area. Tyrone Kam and his team of 25 at Evergreen Community offer a range of learning, social and health services for their members.

Due to the language barrier and cultural differences, most of these elderly people would find it hard to communicate with the outside world if they were left at home. Their children may not be able to attend to their needs due to work commitments or other reasons, resulting in a group of elders who would be living a life of loneliness and helplessness.

The establishment of the Evergreen Community will help the Chinese seniors in Brisbane to settle into society and make Australia their second home. their motto is: with care dedication, we are able to make the lives of the elderly richer and more meaningful—and they certainly do so.

7:31 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to rise and speak on this motion moved by the member for Shortland. I welcome this motion being brought on as it also provides an opportunity to touch on a package of legislation that recently passed through the House but fell well short of expectations, certainly for those in our aged-care sector.

As we have seen, this government's record on aged care has been patchy to say the least. For five years this government has ummed and ahhed in response to this most critical industry, an industry in crisis. It is known that up to 60 per cent of facilities currently in the aged-care sector are running at a loss. We have seen providers leaving the industry aghast and sick of waiting for the government to respond to inquiry after inquiry and report after report.

Providers in the aged-care sector offer a service absolutely critical to our nation's older citizens and this service is becoming more and more important with our ageing population. At the moment, unfortunately, we are seeing less investment in new facilities simply due to the uncertain environment that this government has provided.

However, despite this, there are some fine examples of wonderful facilities coming online and I have mentioned in this House previously the example of Barden Lodge, a facility in the electorate of Hughes which was opened earlier this year. It typifies the quality of service that on the whole is provided by the sector, dedicated to supporting and caring for older Australians.

But turning back to the contents of the motion before the House, it talks about a so-called positive agenda, an investment in aged care before highlighting three areas—namely, the aged pension, aged-care reform and support for older Australians to stay in the workforce. There is certainly nothing contentious in the motion but, when you cut through there flowery rhetoric, you see this as little more than typical of a government big on announcements and light on delivery.

Take increasing the age pension: we know that the current Prime Minister opposed this in cabinet with those famous words: 'Old people never vote for us.' Turn to Labor's so-called reforms—here we are speaking of the living longer, living better suite of legislation that we saw go through the House in the previous sitting week. The legislation came in response to the Productivity Commission's review, Caring for older Australians, that was handed down almost two years ago back in August 2011, which followed two other Productivity Commission reports in recent years.

But after sitting on this report for almost 12 months, what did this government come up with? Simply cherry-picking a couple of the 58 recommendations in the report and ripping $1.6 billion out of the aged-care funding instrument to pay for a $1.2 billion union recruitment strategy. he workforce supplement has been widely panned by industry stakeholders under the Senate estimates committee process, so it was no surprise that the Minister for Ageing was unable to find an aged-care centre to make this announcement.

While I could continue to describe the humorous scene of the minister announcing this policy outside a church, rather than an aged-care centre, just to the north of my electorate, I will instead take the remaining time to outline the positive plans the coalition has for older Australians in my own electorate and across the country.

The aged sector in this country is desperately in need of certainty, stability and support. That is why a coalition government, should we be elected in September, will introduce the first ever four-year aged-care provider agreement. This agreement will deliver better and more affordable aged care by reducing red tape and cutting time spent on reports and paperwork, allowing nurses to get back to providing care for clients, delivering value for money through revised subsidy arrangements and providing certainty for the aged-care workforce.

The coalition will also extend this certainty and stability to superannuation by making no unexpected adverse changes to superannuation, so that those planning for their retirement can do so with confidence, as well as supporting savings by getting the economy firing on all cylinders. We will support mature age workers with employment and support pensioners and self-funded retirees by tackling the cost-of-living pressures and providing pension increases and benefits without a carbon tax. And, importantly to my community, we will deliver fair indexation for DFRB and DFRDB pensions, where this government has spectacularly failed. We are going to see a terrible situation in the months to come, where many elderly Australians who have worked all their lives will be unable to afford to pay their electricity prices because of this government's carbon tax.

7:36 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight in support of this motion before the House. I do so because—and I know I have said it many times in this place—the electorate that I represent is one of the oldest electorates in terms of demographics in the country, with 20 per cent of the residents of Hindmarsh being over the age of 65. As I have said before and will say again, I like to call it the wisest electorate in the country, not so much the oldest electorate, because with age and with all those years of experience comes wisdom. So it gives me great pleasure to rise tonight and to speak in support of this motion.

This Labor government has demonstrated a very positive reform agenda for older Australians across our community and across our nation. Our reforms to the pension, for example, are the most significant changes since its introduction more than 100 years ago. The improvements to the indexation system mean that, when the cost of living goes up for pensioners, the pension goes up with it. Under Labor, the pension will keep going up. Since 2009, the maximum rate of the pension has increased by $207 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. Annually, this means that Labor has delivered $5,380 more each year for single pensioners on the maximum rate of the age pension and more than $6,130 each year for pensioner couples on the maximum rate.

We also know that, as people get older and their lives or circumstances change, they may want to downsize their home to something that better suits their needs, but many have been very concerned that they will lose some of their pension, if not all of their pension, with the extra money left aside if they do downsize and sell their family home. For pensioners downsizing their home, it may mean that they have, as I said, excess sale proceeds which may affect that level of pension that they receive after it is counted under the pensions income assets test, which many will know as the pensions means test. For some, the potential loss of that pension may force them to reconsider, and many have reconsidered a move to a smaller home that would have been more suited to their needs.

But there was a trial announcement by the government in the budget which will ensure that pensioners who wish to downsize the family home to a less expensive home can do so now without their pension being affected by the sale proceeds of their home. This is a very, very good thing which will allow older Australians to downsize as their needs change. This is all about giving our senior citizens and older Australians more choices and better options as they make important decisions about their lives, and I am very proud, as those of us on this side of the House are, to support these very good reforms.

Yet another substantial program supporting older Australians is the very successful Broadband for Seniors program. Under this program, the government has established around 2,000 internet kiosks for seniors around the country and I have had the pleasure of going to the openings of a few of them in my electorate. These kiosks provide free access to broadband internet and more vital access to training that will enable seniors to learn new computer skills and feel confident online and be connected to the world—and, most importantly, to their grandchildren who sometimes might not live close by and the only way they have access to them is through emails and the internet. More than 250,000 seniors have already benefited from this seniors broadband program.

Thanks to the new Keeping Seniors Connected budget measure, each kiosk will be able to receive a new computer terminal with a touchscreen as well as the latest software, and a $2,000 grant to boost training and information sessions. These information and training sessions will be particularly focused on cybersecurity and personal online safety. All of these reforms, including indexation of pensions, are under threat from an Abbott-led opposition. It is the same opposition that supports cuts to superannuation and the same opposition that wants to rip the GST revenue out of the hands of South Australians, for example, while simultaneously increasing the rate and base of the GST. And we heard that Mr Abbott will finish the job of the Henry review, and we know that many of the recommendations, including using the family home as part of the assets test for the pension, were in that Henry review.

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to speak on this motion regarding the government's reform agenda for older Australians. Aged care is an issue that affects all of us. We may have parents or other older relatives and friends needing aged care, either now or prospectively, or we may ourselves be at a stage of life where we need such care, either in our own home or in an aged-care facility.

I want to speak for a moment about the many fine retirement villages and aged-care facilities in my electorate of Bradfield. Just in the last few months I have had the opportunity of visiting Fernbank Retirement Village in St Ives, Christophorous House retirement village in Hornsby, the BUPA retirement village in Roseville, KOPWA aged care in Roseville, which stands for the Ku-ring-gai Old People's Welfare Association but now is just KOPWA, the Presbyterian Aged Care Northern Sydney Community Care Service, the Adventist Retirement Village in Normanhurst, the Southern Cross Residential Care Retirement Village in North Turramurra and the Rohini retirement village in Turramurra.

I regularly find myself very impressed by the quality of the facilities I visit—the caring staff, the cleanliness, the high physical standards and the facilities—but achieving this outcome is not easy. I regularly hear from those who operate aged-care facilities in my electorate about the difficulties they are facing in maintaining the economic viability of those facilities.

This motion before the House this evening speaks in glowing terms about the current government's enormous investment in aged care, an investment that was purportedly manifested in the Living Longer Living Better package announced in April 2012. But it very soon became clear, after that package was announced, that its immediate effect was in fact to reduce funding to many aged-care facilities; indeed, there was a total reduction of $1.6 billion in the aged-care funding instrument. I received many complaints—as did many other coalition members—about the fact that the government sought to achieve savings of $500 million from this instrument in one year, starting from 1 July 2012. One local aged-care provider had this to say, in response to the statement in the minister's press release of April last year that the new package would 'set stricter standards, with greater oversight of aged care' in a letter he wrote to me:

The aged-care industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in Australia. The requirement to meet the four accreditation standards and 44 outcomes, with two annual audits and a major one every three years, and with numerous regulations and requirements of all kinds, begs the question: why even more scrutiny? What is prompting these kinds of statements?

The frustration which is evident in that letter speaks volumes for the mismatch between the approach that this government has taken and what is likely to be required to solve the difficulties that, we all agree, are facing the aged-care sector. There is a significant constraint on the availability of places in aged-care facilities where Australians of older years can go, to receive the care that they rightly expect and that we would all want them to have and that we would all want for ourselves when we come to that stage of life.

Let me quote from a letter I received from the major aged-care provider Bupa, which has a number of facilities around Australia including a facility at Roseville in my electorate, which I visited last year. Bupa had this to say:

In our view the Living Longer Living Better reform package ... largely ignored the Productivity Commission's recommendation for a personalised care entitlement system that would enable improved customer choice and flexibility. We believe our Older Australians and their families should be able to pick and choose where they receive their care. We therefore urge the Government to proceed with a single entitlement based funding system and to start this process of reform now; not 5 years hence as suggested.

The reality is despite the glowing assessment of this current government's approach to aged care, which is implicit in the words of the motion before the House this evening, the reality is that in this area as in so many others this Rudd-Gillard government has made sweeping promises in relation to reform of aged care. But in fact, the reality has fallen troublingly short of those bold promises. By contrast, the coalition has a clear plan for the aged-care sector, which has been well articulated by our spokesperson, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. We intend to establish a four-year aged-care provider agreement to deliver vital certainty in this sector.

7:46 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Throsby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I want to speak about the importance of seniors, their contribution to our community and the need for policies which meet the needs of the seniors' community. I believe the House should acknowledge that the government has a positive reform agenda for older Australians and is delivering enormous commitments and investments in aged care and promoting positive aged-care issues. For example, the increase in the age pension, which I will talk about; reforming the aged-care system; and helping older Australians stay at work longer.

Australia has one of the longest life expectancies in the world—something that we should be celebrating as a nation. With a growing population, over-65-year-olds will represent one in four Australians by 2047. There are great opportunities for our community and for our economy if we encourage healthy ageing, the lifelong development of skills and capitalise on the extensive experience of older Australians.

Labor has a strong record of delivering for older Australians. For example, we have delivered the biggest ever increase to the pension and reformed the indexation system so that the pension better keeps pace with the cost of living. This was a claim that was tested recently by PolitiFact Australia. They consulted with Prof. Peter Whiteford at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University and he had this to say:

There is no doubt in my mind that the real value of the pension is much higher now than at any time previously.

PolitiFact Australia went on to say that after calculating the real value of the aged pension over the years, the 2009 pension increase was the biggest rise in real terms after adjusting for inflation. Prof. Whiteford's calculation showed that, adjusting to 2012 dollar values, the rise in 2009 was to $18,522 from $16,010.41 or nearly $2,500 per year. This is an historic reform delivered by this Labor government.

We have also introduced a new seniors work bonus to make sure pensioners can keep more of the pension while remaining in the workforce. We delivered another pension increase as part of the Household Assistance Package to ensure that pensioners' budgets can keep pace with increasing utility costs.

Since 2009 the maximum rate of the pension has gone up by $2007 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. The government is also continuing the full implementation of the Living Longer Living Better aged-care reforms. Under the reforms, older Australians, their families and carers will get the right care and support either in their own home or in an aged-care facility. The aged-care system under Labor will be better, fairer and provide greater choice and greater control for older Australians. The 2013-14 budget builds on the government's work to support Australians in retirement. Amendments to the Aged Care Act 1997 are a part of a 10-year plan to build a better, fairer, sustainable and nationally consistent aged-care system to meet the challenges of the nation's ageing population. The government's aged-care reform plan will deliver more choice, easier access and better care for older Australians, their families and carers. We are replacing an aged-care system designed a quarter of a century ago and which is now ill-equipped to the needs of retiring baby boomers and their parents, who are living longer and healthier lives. The government is supporting senior Australians with a number of initiatives in the 2013-14 budget, including a $112.4 million pilot for a program to support age pensioners and other pensioners of age pension who want to downsize their home without immediately affecting their pension.

I think there are great opportunities for my electorate with what I would like to describe as the seniors economy. It is much more than aged-care facilities, it is about ensuring that we have the sorts of services for people who like to move to a region like the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands for their retirement to live and enjoy. Services such as leisure, sport, culture, accommodation, care and health services provide a booming service and a booming opportunity for regions like mine. The Illawarra is an attractive and affordable destination for retirees and our potential is poised to develop a vibrant seniors economy well into the future. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this motion because the care of senior Australians is of vital importance to our nation's future and equally to the aspect of reform being real and meaningful. Elements of a reform that does not encompass what is included in the Productivity Commission report are problematic. I have met some of the providers and people who access healthcare and all of them have raised issues with me. We know that every 71 minutes another older Australians is denied access to the care that they need, and care for aged varies according to geographic location, access to services that are viable, access to services that provide for the context of living in care or living within their homes. If the workforce is not supported, 279,000 Australians will be denied care by 2050. So reform has to be forward-thinking and project into the future as to the level of need that is required.

I notice that the member for Shortland's motion talks about the positive reform agenda for older Australians and that the government is delivering on this commitment. But sometimes commitment has to be tangible and real in all facets of what is needed by those who are reaching the age of retirement or whose health needs force them into aged-care facilities. In talking with people within the service delivery sector there is a view that we will be $90 million short between income and the real cost of care for those in residential facilities and that 83,000 new beds are needed to be built within the next nine years, at an estimated $17 billion. So there are some challenges in claiming that the reform has gone sufficiently far enough to address the needs of our elderly Australians and those who work in the area as well.

It was interesting looking at the leading aged services. What they indicated in one of their publications is that there are three million Australians aged 65 and over, there are close to 1,000,000 Australians receiving Home and Community Care, there are around 170,000 Australians living in residential aged-care facilities, there are 1.3 million family carers of older Australians and there are 300,000 people who are aged-care workers.

If that is not meeting our needs this year, and we have not done sufficient reform based on the Productivity Commission report, then the matter will be exacerbated over the forthcoming years, particularly when you consider that the tax base will go from six workers for every retiree, to 3.2 workers for every retiree by 2047, which will leave us with an incredible shortfall.

When reforming we have to think outside the square. We have to consider a range of options and considerations in the delivery of services. Sometimes we stay with models of reform processes that are comfortable instead of looking at how we can become much more creative and innovative. How do we empower the elderly and give them some options that are tangible and which meet their needs?

Within my own electorate if you are in the area of Kalamunda-Lesmurdie and you require aged care services you either have to go to Joondalup or to Gosnells, which are significantly far enough away to be problematic for those who use public transport. Reform has to be real and we have to consider seriously how we do that with a bipartisan approach as opposed to taking a political approach that meets short-term agendas that sound as though they are achieving the results that are sought—the information and approach taken by the current government.

I think it is important that any future reform around aged care services is real and includes the industry. Certainly the guidelines, as espoused in the recent debate on aged care services, need to be transparent so that the industry can respond. The issues in aged care services in Australia are real and challenging, and there is work to be done.

7:56 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to strongly support this motion. We on this side of the House have a proud record of achievement in supporting our seniors. Since being elected in 2007, the federal Labor government has added an extra 25,849 residential places, 13,052 community care or home care places, and 2,000 transition care places nationally. I have visited, right across my electorate of McEwen, many of the aged care homes to talk to the residents about our changes and, most importantly, to hear first-hand their thoughts.

The government have also provided more than $52.2 billion for aged care services, and we will provide nearly $13.6 billion for aged care in 2012-13, compared to the $7.8 billion of 2006-07. Over the next four years more than $59 billion will be invested in aged care services. Since 2007, the Labor government has increased its funding to the sector by over 60 per cent. Just last week, this House passed the Gillard government legislation for the $23.7 billion Living Longer Living Better aged care reforms. This will be of great benefit for the more than 19,000 seniors who I represent in the seat of McEwen.

Since Labor has delivered historic reforms to the aged care system and the pension, we have been investing in services and supporting older Australians to continue to work. We on this side of the House are giving seniors the choice, the support and the certainty that they deserve. Australians now live longer, have healthier lives and are more active in retirement. Changes to the Aged Care Act of 1997 were part of the 10-year plan to build a better, fairer, sustainable and nationally consistent aged care system to meet the challenges of the nation's ageing population. Our aged care reform plan will deliver more choice, easier access and better care for older Australians and their families and carers. As the member for Throsby pointed out, the current aged care system was designed a quarter of a century ago, and it is now ill-equipped to meet the needs of retiring baby boomers.

Key aspects of the reform include the consumer directed care packages rolled out nationwide, providing people with more control over the services they receive, and almost $1 billion in new funding for home care, which will see the number of home support packages almost double from 60,000 to 100,000. We also have the tailored care packages for people with dementia receiving home care; a new funding boost for dementia care; increased funding for residential aged care, with 30,000 new places over the next five years; and $480 million for aged care homes to significantly upgrade their facilities.

And, of course, there is the $1.2 billion to deliver higher wages, better conditions and more rewarding careers for the nation's 350,000 aged care workers. This has been something that has been a huge point at every aged-care facility that I have visited. Every one of the residents who are they all say just how great the staff are—just how dedicated and passionate they are to their industry and to their workplace. But one thing that has been holding aged-care workers that has been their wages and conditions. That is why it is important that we invest this money, to give higher wages and to make sure that people who want to be working in that industry are able to do so and to get a decent wage for the work that they do. In essence, we have created a single gateway to all aged care services, to make them easy to access and to navigate.

I would also like to note that the Gillard government has also delivered for pensioners, because we know that pensioners have limited room to move in their budgets. That is why we have delivered the single biggest boost to the pension in more than 100 years. That is why we changed the indexation system so that the pension goes up annually, to better reflect changes to pensioners' costs of living. Since our historic pension reforms in 2009, the maximum rate of the pension has increased by $207 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. Following the latest increases, total pension payments for people on the maximum rate, including the base rate pension supplement, are $808.40 a fortnight for singles and $1,218.80 for couples combined.

And the pension will keep going up under Labor. Both my parents are pensioners and they have told me, as have many pensioners across McEwen when I meet them, just how much these positive changes have meant to their lives. It is something very important to ensure that we continue to look after older Australians and make sure that we give them the opportunity to enjoy their retirement to their best advantage, and enjoy everything that we have to offer.

8:01 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on an issue that is extremely important to the people of Kooyong, namely, the future of aged care. Be under no illusions: there is a crisis in aged care. Only 40 per cent of residential aged-care providers are operating in the black. Under its reforms the government has cut $1.6 billion from the Aged Care Funding Instrument, with leading aged-care services, LASA, saying that there will be a revenue black hole of more than $750 million over the next 2½ years.

There is insufficient support for people to remain in their homes. For example, in 2011 there were 24,000 applicants for the 1,698 community care places advertised. Attracting high-quality nursing staff is difficult, with aged-care nurses receiving in some cases up to 30 per cent less than their colleagues working in acute care. And the sector is suffocating under increased red tape and regulation, with aged-care nurses reporting that up to one-third of their time is spent on paperwork. Add to this mix that through its new workforce supplement the government is seeking to unionise all those who work in the aged-care sector, and one could not imagine it getting any worse.

But it will, as Australia is facing a demographic time bomb—not unlike many other countries in the world, but we are simply ill-prepared. Today 13 per cent of our population is over the age of 65, a number which will reach 26 per cent by 2050. Today, 2,700 people are over the age of 100, rising to 78,000 by 2050. Today, the ratio of working Australians to every person in retirement is just over five to one, but by 2050 it will nearly be 2.7 to one.

These numbers will create huge funding problems in the aged-care sector, as the number of users continues to grow: some 3½ million people each year by 2050, with governments expected to meet the costs of funding concessional and assisted aged-care residents. Indeed, by the Department of Health and Ageing's own numbers, by 2050 five per cent of the Australian workforce—over 827,000 people—will be engaged in the provision of aged care. So, given this tsunami of demand that is coming our way, what is the Gillard government doing to prepare us for the future? The answer is 'very little'.

Back in August 2011 the Productivity Commission released an important report, Caring for older Australians. It is one of 20 reviews and three Productivity Commission reports undertaken by this government. But rather than respond quickly to the report's recommendations, which included shifting the ration system of licences and packages currently place to an entitlement system where aged care would be part of the health system, the government took 250 days to announce its response—which in the end was contrary to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, as it introduced new regulations to pricing.

What this government clearly does not understand is that accommodation bonds as refundable deposits play a critical role in the aged-care funding model, building the capacity for investors to construct new facilities and open up more beds. The government's proposed legislation, which is being hastily rushed through this parliament—including by truncating the reporting dates for an important Senate inquiry—will see the creation of a new bureaucracy, the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner, which will make a discretionary determination regarding the pricing of bonds. This has created huge uncertainty and a disincentive to invest.

In addition, the aged-care workforce supplement I referred to previously will require aged-care operators with 50 or more beds to enter into enterprise bargaining agreements as a condition of receiving additional funding. Those operators with under 50 beds will have to abide by the conditions of the supplement nonetheless. Like the government's tactics in the childcare sector, this is a brazen attempt to increase the membership of the depleted and scandal-ridden HSU, as well as boosting the stocks of Minister Mark Butler's old union, United Voice. This reform is going ahead despite being roundly rejected by the peak provider bodies.

Enough is enough. This government has to be called to account for its failure to prepare for a better future for aged care. Its policies have been more than disappointing; they have been detrimental in the extreme. It is with that in mind that I oppose the member for Shortland's motion today.

Debate adjourned.