Senate debates

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Questions without Notice

Aged Care

2:56 pm

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Ageing, Senator Santoro. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the Howard government has been able to increase the safety and security of older Australians in aged care?

Photo of Santo SantoroSanto Santoro (Queensland, Liberal Party, Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Adams for her question and again acknowledge her very strong interest in matters relating to ageing Australians and particularly the physical health and welfare of ageing Australians within our aged-care homes. There is no doubt that with Australia’s rapidly ageing population the aged-care industry will continue to require greater financial support from the Commonwealth. It is worth noting that since this government took office in 1996 expenditure on ageing and aged-care activities has increased from $3.1 billion to an estimated $9.9 billion in 2010-11, an increase of 219 per cent. Since 1996 the total number of aged-care places has grown from 141,293 under Labor to 236,000 today. We are pleased that through this government’s disciplined economic management we have been able to deliver $1.5 billion, securing the future of aged care in Australia that I have been talking about in this place all week.

In relation to the package, we have welcomed the endorsement by many of the participants within the aged-care industry of Australia. We have also welcomed the endorsement of the government’s strong economic management by respected aged-care industry figures such as Francis Sullivan from Catholic health services. In relation to this package Mr Sullivan said—and it is worth noting in this place:

It is pleasing to see that frail elderly people can also benefit from the country’s surplus and join in the proceeds of prosperity.

That is what Mr Sullivan said. Just because you are getting on in years and just because you are an elderly person in an aged-care facility it does not mean that you are less deserving to share in the nation’s prosperity that you as an ageing person have contributed so much towards.

From today, as part of the government’s $100 million security reform package, all new aged-care workers and volunteers will be required to undergo police checks to ascertain their suitability to work with frail elderly Australians. With the implementation of this requirement for police checks, the Howard government is again delivering on its commitment to ensure the safety and security of our older citizens who rely on the aged-care sector. We have already delivered on our promise of one unannounced spot check for each aged-care home every year. We have already delivered on that vital promise. The fact that the government is able to fund such measures in an effort to ensure safety and security of aged-care residents as well as ensuring community confidence in the aged-care industry is another indication of what strong economic management can deliver. It shows that this government does not simply regulate and leave someone else with the economic burden, as the previous Labor administration did when they were in government—$100 million plus in debts that we had to fix up.

On this side of the House we recognise the imposition that new safety requirements have on the aged-care sector. Our strong fiscal position means that we have the capacity to assist. They can bleat all they want, but this contrasts with the inheritance this government had from the previous regime, whose fiscal and economic recklessness led the wolf to the doors of Australia’s aged. Embarrassed you may look and embarrassed you may be. Labor’s disastrous mismanagement of the Australian economy and, as a result, the aged-care system was exposed by the Auditor-General in his 1998 report, which revealed that Labor left a shortage of 10,000 beds when they went out of office. It is a stark reminder of how important good fiscal policy is and what a disastrous effect a Labor government would have on the sustainability of the aged-care industry. (Time expired)

Photo of Nick MinchinNick Minchin (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance and Administration) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.