Thursday, 25 February 2021
It's my great hope that we see real change in the aged-care sector with the long-awaited release of the report of the royal commission into aged care. The commission's interim report confirmed our worst fears that the aged-care system is a victim of neglect. I believe that we should have seen action from the issues that were raised in the interim report, because we are letting down older Australians.
This morning there was another news story: an elderly man left in aged care, up on the roof in 40 degree weather, unattended for hours. His burns were so severe that he needed to be hospitalised. The sector will require change, and it will require increased funding. But I am loath for us as a parliament to write a blank cheque to a sector that has pushed back against scrutiny, change and regulation.
Last year, I introduced a bill that would require aged-care providers to disclose their income—what they spend on food; what they spend on medication, staff, training, accommodation and administration—to address how much is siphoned off to parent companies. Older Australians and their families deserve transparency, and I hope recommendations will require the opening of books so the government can properly determine how much it costs for quality care. The approach of 'the market will decide' has been a complete and utter failure in aged care.
It is my hope that the report will talk about the sustainability of our residential-care homes, particularly those in regional Australia. Recent analysis shows that three-quarters of them are losing money, because they're small. They're often repurposed very old buildings—they were hospitals; they're now very small aged-care facilities—and they do not have the economies of scale that are enjoyed by very large inner metropolitan facilities that have hundreds upon hundreds of residents.
It's my hope that we will properly address the waiting times for people who need a home-care package. We are seeing too many people going to residential aged care prematurely, because they are left to languish waiting for a package and care at home. And then, when they do get care at home—if they're lucky enough; after, sometimes, a couple of years—they are losing up to 45 per cent of their home-care package into administration and management fees. In regional Australia, many can't actually get anyone to come into the home and do that work. We need to fix this. It's a rort. It really is a rort.
Lastly, I want to see change so that aged-care workers are valued, encouraged and supported with decent pay, training and development. I put on notice to the government that the community will not accept the royal commission's report to sit on a shelf and gather dust, as so many royal commission reports have in the past. We need to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon urgently, because older Australians deserve so much better than what they have received with respect to aged care.