Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Aged Care

6:22 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | Hansard source

Labor remains concerned about the ongoing predictability and sustainability of the funding of residential aged care in Australia. We believe that older Australians, having worked hard and contributed to our nation for decades, deserve dignity and security in their older years. We believe that all older Australians deserve access to the high-quality care and services that we would wish for our own loved ones. It is because of this belief that, when last in government, Labor delivered the biggest reforms to aged care and ageing policy in a generation.

Through the Living Longer Living Better aged-care package Labor provided a ten-year plan to build a better, fairer, more sustainable and nationally consistent aged-care system. Labor laid a strong framework to build the aged-care services that Australians deserve, and progress was being made. Progress was being made at delivering choice, easier access and better care for older Australians, their families and carers. Progress was being made in conjunction with the aged-care service industry to grow a highly trained workforce that could respond to the dramatic growth in our ageing population.

Labor's commitment to delivering sustainable care and services that provide quality of life for older Australians is enduring and on the record. Unfortunately the instability and inaction of the Turnbull Liberal government—more focused on its own internal divisions than the needs of older and vulnerable Australians—is threatening the continued progress of these critical reforms and the ongoing sustainability and predictability of funding to provide these services. It is no wonder the government cannot seem to get its act together when it comes to providing for older Australians.

This government cannot seem to even get through 24 hours without stuffing something up. Malcolm Turnbull's government is in complete disarray—mired in dysfunction, chaos and distraction. From the plebiscite bill to the backpacker tax and Mr Turnbull's suite of anti-worker laws, everything he touches he stuffs up. As with the instability of residential aged-care funding, it is ordinary Australians who will be left to pay the price.

The Classification Amendment (CHC Domain Scores) Principles 2016, to which this motion relates, is one of the instruments delivering the Turnbull government's 2015 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook measures. These measures were allegedly designed to restore predictability to the aged-care funding instrument to bring funding into line with expected growth in expenditure over the forward estimates.

However, less than six months later in its 2016 budget the Turnbull Liberal government cut a further $1.2 billion from the aged-care funding instrument after expenditure again exceeded the government's predictions. It is this lack of predictability that is now causing significant concern for the future of residential aged-care funding and the delivery of high-quality care. This instability within residential aged-care funding means the community simply cannot have confidence that older Australians will have access to the care they need.

This instability also means that aged-care providers have no security, predictability or confidence to invest in the residential aged-care beds we will need to provide for our rapidly ageing population. It is for this reason that Labor committed to an independent review of ACFI, as part of the legislated review of the Living Longer Living Better reforms during the recent federal election. We have followed through with our commitment and introduced the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 into parliament to deliver an independent review of residential aged-care funding.

Unfortunately the Turnbull Liberal government has continued to shut out consumers and providers and refused a proper review. Instead of reforming residential aged-care funding in an open and transparent manner, it has hidden the long-term financial modelling for these measures. Instead of talking to consumers, medical professionals, aged-care providers and experts to review and reform the residential aged-care funding, the Turnbull Liberal government has shut out stakeholders and engaged consultants to look at just a small part of the way residential aged-care funding is determined.

The government has been secretive and failed to genuinely consult with the people who are affected by these measures and has shown no concern about their impact. The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Sussan Ley, admitted in May 2016 that she is 'concerned the current Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) model is too complex and not always clear about what can be claimed.' A recent judgment of the full Federal Court found aged-care funding instrument documents are 'riddled with ambiguous, uncertain and inconsistent language' and that they should be reviewed. The aged-care sector has said that a review of ACFI, in the context of growing demand for aged-care services, is long overdue. The Commonwealth Department of Health itself says ACFI is failing. In estimates in October 2016 departmental officials stated that under the Turnbull government ACFI 'does not deliver the stability needed for the sector.' The case for a proper review and reform is clear.

But what we also know is that disallowing the Classification Amendment (CHC Domain Scores) Principles 2016 today will not immediately resolve the instability and uncertainty facing the sector and will not resolve the funding issues created by the government's failure to review and reform ACFI. Rather, this disallowance motion will only further compound these issues by creating even greater uncertainty in future funding.

It must be noted that many providers and peak organisations in the sector, including Aged and Community Services Australia, while expressing disappointment at the government's 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook measures, accepted these measures at the time because they were targeted and were to deliver predictability. But the sector cannot accept the ongoing instability and unpredictability that the Turnbull Liberal government's mismanagement and lack of action is creating. It is a lack of predictability that inevitably will impact the care outcomes of older Australians and hurt vulnerable people.

Labor has consistently supported the sector in its calls for an immediate independent review and reform of ACFI. This remains our commitment as the only path to a sustainable, transparent and predictable residential aged-care funding model. We stand with the aged-care sector and older Australians in imploring the government to do the right thing and commit to a genuine review and reform to deliver a better funding model now.

We again call on the government to agree to the review of ACFI. It could commence immediately as part of the Living Longer Living Better legislative review that has only just commenced. If senators in this place are concerned and serious about the sustainability of the sector, as Labor is, they would support Labor's moves for a review, not this disallowance motion that will only further compound the instability and uncertainty that this government has created.


No comments