Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Ludwig. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's statement of 21 July 2010 when she proudly announced that aged-care reform would be a second-term priority. I also refer the minister to a statement made by the then Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, that the government would respond quickly to the Productivity Commission's recommendations. Given that it has now been seven months since the Productivity Commission's report was released and we still do not have a response, what is the government's definition of quickly?
I thank Senator Fierravanti-Wells for her question within her portfolio responsibility. We know that older Australians are leading longer, healthier and more prosperous lives than ever before. They will have greater opportunities to age well, lead vibrant lives and participate in society in a productive way. Our population is ageing—and so the opposition make the point—and over the next 40 years the over-65 population will increase from one in six to one in four and the over-85 population will grow from one in 200 to about one in 20. As a nation, we recognise there are pressures on Australia's aged-care system from increasing demand and an undersupply of care and support.
Since coming to office, this government has provided more than $51.6 billion for aged-care services but, as recognised in the question, there is still more to be done. Since releasing the final Productivity Commission report Caring for Older Australians, the government has been seeking the views of the community, consumer organisations and the aged-care sector on the recommendations of the report. Mr Butler, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, has met over 4,000 older Australians, their families and their carers and engaged with industry stakeholders through their peak organisations, the National Aged Care Alliance and the Ageing Consultative Committee.
We have said from day one that aged-care reform is a second-term priority for this government and we remain committed to commencing fundamental reform in this term of government. The report focuses, as the government requested, on long-term reform with recommendations not just with a view to the next five years but the next 20 years. We want to make sure that we get this right. (Time expired)
Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Minister, in the last aged-care approval rounds announced on 22 December 2011, more than 24,000 applications were made to the Department of Health and Ageing for the 1,698 community places advertised. How can the Gillard government, which claims to care for older Australians, sit on its hands while over 22,000 applicants miss out?
Within the aged-care area there has been significant funding from this government, more than I indicated in my answer to the primary question. There will be $56 billion in government funding for aged care over the next four years and $38.3 billion in government funding for residential aged care over the next four years. More than $12.9 billion is the estimated total revenue from the government and residents for the residential aged-care industry this year.
The estimated average total revenue per resident is $75,000 per year, and the estimated average funding per resident from the Australian government is $51,200 over three years. Since coming to office, this government has significantly increased funding for aged care and residential aged care. The level of funding per resident has grown significantly faster than the CPI due to the indexation and policy changes. (Time expired)
Mr President, given the minister's failure to answer both my question and my supplementary question, let me try with my second supplementary question. Minister, on 9 February you informed the Senate: '… the future of our aged-care system is on the minds of many Australians, and we are committed to starting aged-care reform in this term of government …' Aged care is certainly on the minds of the many COTA members in the gallery today. Can you assure them and other older Australians that you will not delay reform any longer?
I thank Senator Fierravanti-Wells for her question. You would recall from when you last asked me a similar question to this, that in formulating a response, we want to get this right. The government will be guided by the four overarching principles I enunciated last time. Firstly, older Australians have earned the right to be able to access quality care and support that is appropriate to their needs when needed. Secondly, older Australians deserve greater choice and control over their care arrangements than the system currently gives. Thirdly, funding arrangements for aged care must be sustainable and fair for both older Australians and for the broader community. Finally, older Australians deserve to receive quality care from an appropriately skilled workforce. This government has been acting and will continue to act on the Productivity Commission's report. We will be guided by those four principles, unlike those opposite who did not fund it. (Time expired)