House debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Aged Care Amendment (Red Tape Reduction in Places Management) Bill 2015; Second Reading

5:20 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I say at the outset that Labor will support the Aged Care Amendment (Red Tape Reduction in Places Management) Bill 2015. This legislation comes after consultation with the Aged Care Sector Committee. We commend the government for this legislation and we support it. We have seen members opposite wax lyrical about the alleged $4.5 billion in savings, but this is red tape reduction. For the sake of those who may be listening, the four tranches of legislation that the government has put forward save only $63.6 million of taxpayers money. We commend them for doing so, but it is not $4.5 billion.

We are in favour of getting rid of spelling and punctuation errors. We are in favour of reducing red tape, as this legislation does—and I will go through the terms and details of this legislation. But much of the reforms that have been made in relation to the aged-care sector come very much out of Labor's Living Longer Living Better reforms—a $3.7 billion tranche of legislation that Labor brought in in the last year of its tenure, after extensive consultation with the unions, LASA, COTA, National Seniors, ACSA and a whole range of aged-care providers and stakeholders. The government has continued to consult with the sector, but there are continuing challenges.

This particular bill amends the Aged Care Act 1997 to streamline processes in two main respects. There are two schedules: the first schedule relates to the transfer of places between aged-care providers, and the second schedule deals with provisionally allocated places in aged-care facilities.

In relation to the aged care sector generally as well the background to this bill, it has to be understood that the coalition has accepted the deliverance of the biggest aged care reforms that have ever been made in this country—Living Longer Living Better. The strategy is consistent with red-tape reduction, and we brought that in when we were in government. Living Longer Living Better provides a framework to build an aged care system for the future. It was a strategy over a 10-year period to build a better, a fairer, more sustainable and nationally consistent aged care system. The reforms are all about delivering choice, easier access and better care for older Australians, their families and carers, while making sure that the aged care industry is equipped to deal with the dramatic demographic changes that we will see with the ageing population. There will be a burden experienced by the community and the taxpayers but there will also be an opportunity in terms of trade and investment and the export of our skills, talents and abilities into the growing, the burgeoning, ageing populations of Asia.

So Labor's reforms were about appropriately funding the system and making it more sustainable as the demands for aged care services increase significantly over the next few decades. In the next few decades, the proportion of Australians over 65 years of age will increase from about 14 per cent to about 25 per cent—about one in four Australians will be over the age of 65 years. On this side of the chamber, we remain committed to ongoing reform. We remain committed to Labor's Living Longer Living Better reforms, which the government is carrying out. We are also committed, as I said before, to ongoing aged care reform and red-tape reduction.

What does this legislation have to say, specifically? It implements, as I said, the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan that the government has developed in consultation with many of the stakeholders that I referred to. The Red Tape Reduction Action Plan sets out a range of actions to reduce red tape for aged care providers and consumers. One particular area highlighted in the plan was the review of places management. There are changes in relation to: policy setting and governance, streamlining of administrative requirements, and simplification of consumers' interaction with the aged care system. Specifically, this legislation says as follows. Schedule 1, in relation to the transfer of places, says that, when an approved provider of residential aged care decides it is no longer capable of delivering care to residents, it may seek out another approved provider to continue that care and it may transfer the ownership—if I can put it like that—of the aged care places.

Prior to the amendments that we have before the chamber today, there was an indefinite opportunity for approved aged care providers to continue to hold those aged care places in place without the developments of facilities for a long period of time. That resulted in some challenges, because people held beds for a start and were not going about making sure those beds were operational. Indeed, they were not going about making sure that they were ready within the time frame that the public expected or that the government anticipated. When they were transferring beds, what they actually had to do was get the approval of the secretary of the department, who would consider and either reject or approve all of the applications. This was in circumstances where the department and the minister had actually approved these two aged care providers already. It seemed to the government, and I concur with its assessment, that amendments needed to be made to streamline the transfer process where you have two providers already approved. The amendments remove the requirement for approved providers to make applications and simply wait for the secretary of the department's decision. The amendments deem the transfer to be approved already after a notice of transfer has been given by the approved provider. We agree that that is a good sensible suggestion.

We want to make sure that the quality of aged care and the capacity of the providers remain. So the secretary of the department would retain a power of veto, to ensure that the transfer is of someone who is suitable and appropriate, in order to make sure that the delivery of those aged care services can take place. The right of veto ensures that someone is not transferred to a shonky provider but to a provider who has actually been approved. That qualification protection remains for consumers and the Australian public, and we agree with it.

The second schedule in relation to this fairly simple bill relates to provisionally allocated places. I alluded to this before. One of the biggest problems that people, particularly providers, have complained about is the situation in relation to the time frame to get the beds and the places operational. People would get provisionally allocated places and, prior to these amendments, approval of the secretary of the department had to take place and you needed an extension after two years. Aged care providers told us, the government and the public that it takes on average longer than two years to get those residential aged care facilities and beds in place—in fact, that it takes on average about four years. So what the government is doing, and I think it is sensible, is making that two years into four years.

The point I made before was about the indefinite period of time in which provisional aged care places could remain in the pocket of the approved provider without being rolled out. What happened was that communities were not actually getting the delivery of residential aged care services; although the providers got the provisional places, they were not actually delivering them. That could have gone on and on and on. The government, through this legislation, will actually bring that to an end. There will be two one-year extensions that can be sought. After those two one-year periods, it is only in exceptional circumstances that that provisional allocation of beds can continue on. The providers have to go to the department and provide evidence that they can still deliver. They must also show that they need approval because the exceptional circumstances qualification has been satisfied.

I agree with the government; I do not think this has happened. As shadow minister for ageing, as I have gone around the country, what has happened is that too often beds are not delivered—residential aged-care facilities are not delivered, promised, allocated. That can potentially happen. I see that the member for Hasluck is here. I have been in his electorate and I know that the need for residential aged care places in his electorate is real—and I make no political comment or criticism of the government in relation to it. Hasluck just happens to be a marginal seat, by the way, but that is beside the point. I know that there is a need in that electorate for more residential aged care facilities and places—and that is quite clear in WA as well.

The government's amendments here are sensible, and we support them. While we are on the government's performance in terms of red tape reduction and administrative changes, the government has said it is carrying out Labor's Living Longer Living Better reforms. I am critical of the government's implementation of those reforms. While I am at the dispatch box and we are talking about administrative burdens and red tape reduction, one of the biggest administrative burdens that I hear about is the My Aged Care website. I think the government really needs to look into that and the hotline. I know the time frames have improved but, still, not enough providers are actually getting the referrals, and people are finding it difficult to navigate their way through the website. It still takes too long on the hotline. And I found residential aged care providers who, but for the fact they had waiting lists, would be broke by now and, but for the fact that we have actually provided the opportunity to get refundable accommodation deposits for high care, would have been really struggling financially.

The government really needs to have a look at that, if they are on about red tape reduction. The previous bill and this one are about red tape reduction. One of the biggest red tape reductions, administrative burdens and challenges that the government needs to face is the improvement of the My Aged Care website and hotline. More staff and resources have been allocated, but they need to do it. The system has been plagued by long delays, inaccurate and often incorrect information and there clearly is an inadequate referral system in this country through the My Aged Care website.

I say to the government: we will give you our support for this. Keep carrying out Labor's Living Longer Living Better reforms—we support you to do that—but implement them better than you have been. Make sure you do a better job in implementing them. You have not resourced the system appropriately. You have not consulted the key users of the system—GPs and aged-care providers—as much as you need to do. We know that is the case because the government has admitted it. When the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners wrote to the government recently, they labelled the new system 'unsafe, clunky and time consuming'. That led to an admission by the government that the My Aged Care website and hotline were not operating the way they need to—and, still, it needs to be improved. We will support the government on this legislation. We commend them for the red tape reduction in relation to this, but there is a lot more work to be done if they want to get it right.

5:33 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is a key principle at the heart of forward-thinking governments that also better positions the management capacity of the governments that follow to deal with emerging challenges. Failing to plan is planning to fail. For Australia, this is particularly true when it comes to old age and retirement. While most people want to grow old in their own home, in the neighbourhood they know and within easy reach of their family and friends and the community centred support networks that have grown around them, sometimes our elderly, unwell and frail family and friends need a level of care that can only be delivered in care facilities or a nursing home. The electorate of Ryan has 13 various homes and care facilities.

One of the biggest challenges Australia faces is how we are going to house, service and look after our ageing population. The latest Intergenerational report, for example, showed life expectancy was currently 91.5 years for men and 93.6 years for women but this would increase to 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women in 2054-55. And there is reason to expect that some of us will still be around: about 4.9 per cent of the population, or nearly two million Australians, will be aged 85 and over in just 40 years.

While our aged-care system is world class, people are living longer as a result of better health and better care. We need to make some fundamental changes now to ensure the system is more sustainable and affordable in the future. The coalition government is working to ensure the sustainability of aged care is not put at risk, ensuring that we will be able to provide quality care for older Australians now and into the future. The Australian government provides aged-care funding for residential aged care and a range of community care services, including care in the home.

It is encouraging that those opposite agree with us that there will always be a safety net and that people who can afford to contribute to the cost of their aged care should do so. The changes we are implementing today are designed to make the aged-care system more sustainable, more efficient, more flexible and easier to access and navigate. Moving towards consumer directed care is a big part of the changes we are making to the aged-care system that mean people will have greater choice and care will be based on needs.

As I said at the start of my contribution, failing to plan is planning to fail. The 2015 Intergenerational report shows how Australia may change over the next 40 years. While it projects that income growth will slow, it also shows that Australia can continue to prosper by making the best of our circumstances and opportunities, including by reforming the tax system to promote jobs, growth and opportunity. We need to do whatever we can to rein in unnecessary costs that are built into the aged-care system today in order to make services more affordable sooner, while helping create the most agile, innovative and affordable aged-care sector for future generations. I congratulate the Minister for Aged Care for recognising this and, more importantly, for doing something about it.

Australian government expenditure on aged care has nearly quadrupled since 1975. And, as a result of the increase in the number of people aged over 70, expenditure is projected to nearly double again as a share of the economy within 40 years. In effect, expenditure is projected to increase from 0.9 per cent of GDP in 2014-15 to 1.7 per cent of GDP in 2054-55. This is an increase from $620 to $2,000 in real, per person terms. When looking at the big challenges facing the Australian government, it is generally a good idea to have a look at the legacy of previous governments.

In this context, it is worth recalling that when the Rudd-Gillard governments came to office, Labor inherited a surplus of $20 billion with no net debt and $45 billion in the bank. When the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government left office six years later, it left in its wake 200,000 more unemployed, gross debt projected to rise to $667 billion, $123 billion in cumulative deficits, the world's biggest carbon tax and a mountain of job-destroying red and green tape. If no action had been taken on Labor's reckless spending commitments, within a decade our interest repayments would have been $3 billion a month. Clearly, there is a need to rein in Labor's debt and do whatever we can to grow the economy and create jobs.

Excessive red tape can detract from productivity and ultimately lower the standard of living of all Australians. I welcome the Aged Care Amendment (Red tape Reduction in Places Management) Bill 2015 as just one more step forward in our government's deregulation reform agenda. There are significant costs for business associated with various government laws, regulations, licences, approvals processes and compliance—on top of all the various government taxes, fees and charges. While there is always a role for government to set quality standards and protections for consumers, too often the process loses its sense of purpose and grows at a disproportionate cost for service providers. This unnecessary cost—the cost of government red and green tape—is then passed onto the consumer as higher priced goods and services.

Boosting productivity and reducing the burden of regulation is crucial to making Australian businesses, entrepreneurs and workers better off, while also helping drive down the cost of services for consumers. On this side of the House, we believe government should be an enabler. Sometimes the best thing we can do to make more services more affordable and more accessible for more of those who need it is for government to do less. The amendments in this bill aim to reduce red tape in aged-care places management by better aligning the current business realities of approved providers and removing the need for them to seek approval to transfer residential/home care and flexible aged-care places to another approved provider. This bill goes some way to chipping away at the mountain of red tape Labor left in the aged-care sector and is consistent with the coalition's commitment to reduce red tape by $l billion a year.

There was an identified need to reduce the red tape burden on approved providers to enable and support more efficient and effective management of aged-care places. I commend the minister for dealing with this issue in this bill and I commend the bill to the House.

5:41 pm

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I listened to the member for Blair very closely and I thought he gave a very good potted history of the Rudd-Gillard proposals for aged-care. Prior to that, over its time, the Howard government invested threefold. From what the member for Blair said and from what the member for Ryan just said, we are going to increase that twofold over the next 10 years. That is my summary of where we are at with the investment in aged-care. Because I am quite a bit older than the member for Blair—

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I am the shadow minister for ageing.

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You are the shadow minister for ageing, and you are obviously very passionate about this area of policy, which is very important to all of us in this House. In 1950, when I was born, we were transitioning from ageing in the home, with people looking after their own families, to beginning to age in residential care. Where did that come from? I do not know about the cities, because I was a country person. In the country we put in bush nursing hospitals, because four times more women were dying in childbirth in the country than in the city. Local government and communities got together with the state government and built bush nursing hospitals. The enormous rates of women dying in childbirth were cut to exactly the same levels as in the cities. That is what bush nursing hospitals did.

Those hospitals then began to take elderly people out of their communities to care for them as they aged. At that time people died a lot younger than they do today, and we heard from the member for Blair, the member for Ryan and others about how much longer we are living today. The member for Blair said that a quarter of the population will be over 65 in the next two decades. So we have an enormous task ahead of us with the changes that we have made. As we transitioned from bush nursing hospitals caring for older people, there was a very clear need for residential care for people who were ageing on their own, where communities needed to go into a household situation and put somebody into a situation where they got the specialist care they needed as they aged.

So was born the local nursing home. It will not surprise any of you that last Friday I was at a local nursing home-aged-care complex at Korumburra, Hillside Lodge, in my beautiful electorate of Macmillan. I was there to present a certificate of accreditation to the staff, because the management knows how much work the staff had put into the accreditation. Not one member of parliament has gone to an aged-care centre and not been told, 'Look at all the forms we have to fill in. We spend more time filling in forms than we do trying to give care to those for whom we are responsible in this aged care facility.' That has been the mantra for as long as I have been in aged care, and I can say that for the whole of my adult life I have had some connection to an aged-care facility in some way, either raising money or being on the committee or being part of the planning process for a new nursing home. That is what you do in the country—everybody is into everything. You go a fundraiser for an organisation—in our case it was a local aged-care attachment to the hospital, which ended up as aged-care only and not a hospital, as the world progressed.

I was at Korumburra presenting the accreditation certificate. Hillside Lodge is exactly what its name suggests—it is comfortable aged-care facility surrounded by the township of Korumburra and nestled in the beautiful hills of South Gippsland. Hillside Lodge is one of three aged-care facilities under the auspices of the Gippsland Southern Health Service, which operates out of the old Leongatha hospital. The other two are Alchera House, which also operates out of Korumburra, and Koorooman in Leongatha, and they are all fully accredited. There are 86 residents currently accommodated in the three venues.

One of the important things that all members desire for their elderly constituents is that they are able to age within their own communities, especially in country areas and that can move from home to care smoothly, though people are moving from home to care much later now because of the packages that the federal government provides. When there was a shortage of low-care and high-care beds in my area, people were finding that their partner quite often went into care away from the township. In the country you cannot just hop on the train and whip over to the next town—it has to be done by car—and so it is quite often very hard for families to maintain daily contact with their older relation if they are moved into a care facility far from where they live.

Koorooman House and places like it throughout my electorate are extremely important. There is a brand-new facility down at Foster—an absolutely beautiful facility with a waiting list a mile long. It is so important for people of Foster and the surrounding district to know there is somewhere for them to go when their time comes to go into care. It is important for every district to have such a facility, but it is all very expensive. There are 86 people, as I just said, across three facilities, and we know that model is broken. The new model is for larger facilities at less cost—90 beds, 150 beds, 200 beds. There has been a lot of amalgamation of aged care facilities and health facilities right across electorates just like mine of Macmillan.

It is important for us to reduce the burden of paperwork. I think this has been adequately explained by previous members and so I do not need to go into the details of the particular amendments. We are streamlining the forms that people need to complete when they move from one facility to another. Accreditation is not a small thing. If you do not get accreditation, you are closed down. It is harder for some of the older facilities to get accreditation than the brand new ones. I was down at Wonthaggi opening a beautiful new facility and accreditation was not a problem. Older facilities like Korumburra which have been there for 30 or 40 years are no longer up to scratch for this type of accreditation, and they have to put a lot of work into their accreditation. And it often falls to the staff, along with the management, to help carry through that accreditation.

I want to pay tribute to president the of the board of management, Mr Mark Holmes; to the CEO, Mr Mark Johnson; Ms Vicki Farthing, the Executive Director of Nursing; Mrs Marg Radmore, the Director of Nursing at Hillside. I would also like to particularly mention Mrs Helen Husband and Mrs Lyn Carmichael, who are much loved by the residents. I notice the member for Grey is in the chamber; I am surprised he is as thin as he is. If he went to afternoon teas similar to the ones I attend at these facilities, he would find it difficult not to partake in the beautiful afternoon teas that they present. I would like to congratulate all at Hillside, Alchera and Koorooman for attaining full accreditation. I thank you on behalf of the government and the people I represent for the wonderful job you do. These facilities give our parents or grandparents the most wonderful care. There are the thousands and thousands of people in residential care at the moment—high care, low care or dementia care.

I am not going to speak in this place without saying something directly to the people whose work is looking after older people. They are the salt of the earth. It does not matter where I go in my electorate, I am always stunned by the wonderful care given to residents. No matter how their ageing has affected their health, they get treated with dignity and they get treated with care—they get treated with care that in some cases even their family could not provide. The people who work in aged care have my absolute adoration. We all recognise these people and the work they do every time we go to a centre. It does not hurt to pat someone on the back and say, 'I know you get paid for your job, but well done for the job you do—well done for the care you give to the elderly people of this nation.'

It is said that this is the best time to be an Australian. The care given to the elderly people in this nation is A1-plus-plus-plus. I thank all those carers who are listening for the work that they do in our aged care centres—you are worth gold to us because you do what we cannot do; you carry us and you carry our older parents and grandparents when we cannot carry them. The work that you do is very important to us. Having had my mum and dad and Bron's mum and dad go through aged care, all of them having passed away now, we saw the care and love and attention that they received in their latter years and it is something we are very proud of.

5:54 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is an honour to speak on the Aged Care Amendment (Red Tape Reduction in Places Management) Bill on behalf of the government and on behalf of the people of Grey. It is pleasing to be part of a government that has taken some very solid action in this area to remove unnecessary red tape not just in aged care but right across the board. Aged care is an area that has layer upon layer of regulation. Not for one minute would I suggested that we throw out the regulatory rule book altogether, but it is a right and proper thing for governments to revisit the rule book and see what it is that has to be there and what it is that does not, and find those areas in the middle where we can make improvements to the system to make the life of those who own and operate our aged care facilities and those who work within them develop these facilities into better places for residents.

This bill addresses the issue where aged care places have been allocated but for one reason or another they have not been built. We know we are going to need more and more aged care facilities in our communities—the Intergenerational Report tells us exactly that. We have an ageing population. There are other things the government can do in this area, and we continue to grow the area of aged care support that is home care packages. Home care packages are wonderful things because, firstly, they save the taxpayer money, and that is a good thing. Secondly, and more importantly, they allow people to grow old in their homes. Who would ever prefer to leave their home even if they were going to the best aged care facility in the world if home is a good and adequate place to be? After all, home has that one special quality—it is our home and we are surrounded by the memories of our full lifetime.

I am well aware, even in my own electorate, of places being allocated to various companies to build aged care facilities and they have not got off the ground. In one case I can think of, eventually those places were handed back. Then, when others wanted to access those places—in the same city, as it turns out—it was not so easy. This reform allows for proposed providers to transfer their licences to other aged care providers who may want to operate facilities in the area. Instead of having to go through the rigmarole of advising government, following ream after ream of paper on what has to be done, there is now a fairly simple notification process.

Departmental data indicates that the median time it takes for providers to build new facilities is four years, and 80 per cent are operational within six years. This bill amends the legislation so that approved providers have to build within four years with the possibility of two 12-month extensions. That gets to that six-year point when about 80 per cent of these facilities are currently built. Further extensions will be granted in exceptional circumstances. On 30 June 2014 there were more than 7,000 aged care places still provisionally allocated six or more years after allocation—they still had not been built. These were 7,000 aged care places that the government of the day had planned to have available. Approved providers to whom places have been provisionally allocated have been accustomed to just rolling over the extensions: 'We'll keep our hands on those, they'll be worth something one day.' This will bring that behaviour to an end—it will be easier for us to control that situation.

The contents of this bill allow me to speak on a few other issues concerning the aged care industry, and the member for McMillan, who spoke before me, touched on some of them. At one stage, I was chair of a management committee for a local aged-care facility. I will come to that in a moment. In all the time that I have been involved in politics I, like the member for McMillan, have been absolutely amazed at people who have dedicated their life to caring for the aged in their community. I think of myself as a caring man but I marvel at what these people do and I doubt that I would have it in me to do the same job.

The one thing that you can guarantee when you go into an aged-care facility is that the nurses and workers will tell you about the paperwork. I cannot believe what they have to do. The member for McMillan touched on accreditation. When I was the chair of this particular facility, we would eye the three-yearly time frame as we came to accreditation with great trepidation because we knew how much work would be required by the staff to meet these accreditation guidelines. The facilities are getting older and it is harder to meet those accreditation guidelines. Sometimes I even became convinced, in both the area of aged care and in the hospital sector, that the accreditors were people of fetish. One accreditor would say that the facility was in perfect working order and the next accreditor would pick on anything they could find just to prove they had been doing their job. And if the first accreditor was not the person who rolled up the next time, the person who did come would not be particularly concerned about the improvements that may have been made in that area. It is a fairly imprecise science and it is not a time that nursing homes and aged-care facilities look forward to.

I am reminded of a story that a good friend of mine who was running a fair sized nursing home at the time told me. This facility was some distance from Adelaide—about a six-hour drive and about a 1½-hour flight. In a two-week period, she had four different inspectors come into the kitchen of the aged-care facility. I think one of them checked the gas to see that it was safe. Another one looked at the food health standards within the kitchen. I am not too sure now what the other two were for. But in each and every case the aged-care facility was responsible for transporting the licensing inspectors there. And being 600 kilometres from Adelaide you can image how this would add to that particular facility's cost.

Like I said, we are not going to throw out the regulatory rule book but we should at least look at all these things and see how it affects the operations of these facilities. My electorate is made up of vast open spaces and the towns are a long way in between. Many of our facilities are below critical mass. They are just not big enough to make money on a regular basis. In fact, they are probably pretty good at just trying to break even. If you have a 30-bed facility, or even a 20-bed facility, it is very, very hard to make ends meet. Interestingly enough, in my electorate I have a number of major private providers that are concentrated in the bigger centres. Port Pirie, for instance, has a major private provider and Port Lincoln has a major private provider. But in the smaller communities we have facilities that quite often started life as aged-care hostels. And because of the changing demographic and the changing demand for aged-care facilities, they have become de facto nursing homes with much higher levels of care. They are not necessarily designed to deliver nursing home standards but, because that is what you have got, the staff make it work and very well.

I spoke earlier about the fact that I used to chair one of these organisations. That came about by happenstance because at the time I was chairman of my local hospital board and in the same town we had a separately operating hostel facility. We got our heads together and thought that the smart thing to do there would be to amalgamate the two boards and amalgamate the responsibilities because there were a lot of good synergies—the hospital kitchen, for instance, could supply the meals to the aged-care facility. We were not the only community that moved in this way; it was quite common across South Australia once the ball got rolling. In the end, these facilities became controlled and operated by our hospital and aged care boards.

Some 12 years ago the state government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to basically take over the hospitals. They got rid of all the local hospital boards and now those facilities are operated from 'Adelaide Central'. But, of course, they picked up the aged-care facilities at the same time because they were common property for the hospitals. State governments do not have a direct interest in aged care as a rule, so the state government has ended up with a lot of facilities that it does not really want. They operate on Commonwealth subsidies but that is all they get. And they have no appetite, in my opinion, for reinvestment in this area.

When these particular facilities reach their use-by date in 30 or 40 years, what is going to be the driver to deliver aged care in these smaller communities in the future? The South Australian government has no direct responsibility. It does not seem to have a lot of interest in the area. I think it is embarrassed by the fact that it owns aged-care facilities. The current model would suggest that we should be looking for a larger private provider to move in because these markets are just not big enough to sustain a hostel of, say, 60 beds. It is reaching crisis point in some place. On a number of occasions, I have raised it with ministers here. As long as those facilities remain in the ownership of the state government it is difficult to see how we are going to get a breakthrough.

They are a number of issues that gave me an opportunity to speak this afternoon. The legislation itself is good common-sense reform. It delivers on the government's agenda on red tape reduction. It is going to make life easier for administrators on the ground. It will make it easier for people to invest in the aged-care industry because they will be able to obtain the bed licences when and where they need them—on a secondary market, if you like—without too much red tape surrounding it. I commend the legislation. Thanks for the opportunity to speak on it.

6:07 pm

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

I have the privilege of doing the summing-up speech on this debate. I thank the member for Blair for his comments, and, in respect to my aged-care website, I know that our department has been working on the issues that have been raised, as each issue is identified. I want to acknowledge the work they are doing in order to streamline the process and for a better point of access. I also thank the member for Ryan, the member for McMillan—and I certainly concur that the staff in aged care are the salt of the earth because of the support and services they deliver—and the member for Grey.

The Aged Care Amendment (Red Tape Reduction in Places Management) Bill 2015 is an important component of the government's deregulation agenda. Australia has an ageing population, with the life expectancy of older people increasing. With this demographic comes the need for governments to support older people with their increasing care needs and make the process of delivering care less administratively burdensome.

This bill makes the business of delivering aged care easier for service providers and removes unnecessary red tape so that a focus on care delivery can be at the forefront of a service provider's attention. This bill aligns with the action areas in the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan by reviewing current practice and assessing the case for enhanced policy settings, streamlining administrative requirements and ensuring fit-for-purpose regulation.

The amendments proposed in this bill remove the need for approved providers to seek approval to transfer their places to another provider. They simply notify the Department of Health of the transfer and wait for the transfer to be processed. The Department of Health will retain the ability to veto transfers where they are not appropriate, and must still consider the matters critical to ensuring aged-care consumers are protected. As part of the notice to veto, the location and special needs associated with the places remain an important consideration for government. These requirements to continue to support older people, including those who live in rural or remote areas, will be maintained by this amendment.

The amendments proposed in this bill also reduce the number of times approved providers who have been provisionally allocated places must apply to extend the period of provisional allocation. The bill amends the act to give approved providers four years, with the possibility of two 12-month extensions and further extensions in exceptional circumstances.

Both measures are founded on the three key concepts of only seeking additional information from the aged-care sector that is necessary to provide an informed risk-managed perspective of the proposed transfer; reduced involvement in business transactions of approved providers of residential care; and, most importantly, upholding quality aged-care service delivery and other consumer protections. This bill is a positive step forward in reducing red tape for aged-care providers.

I thank the members for their contributions to the debate on this bill. These measures have been supported by those consulted within the aged-care sector, and I welcome your support for this bill in reducing red tape in the management of aged-care places.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.