Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Aged Care

19 June 2023

 I'd like to thank my friend the member for Jagajaga for moving this motion. I also thank the Minister for Aged Care, the member for Lilley, for her work in helping lift the standards of our aged-care sector. I think how we look after our aged in our community reflects how we as a society view some of our most vulnerable people. Aged care should not an afterthought of government, nor should key investment and quality standards in aged care be neglected. Sadly, this was the attitude of the previous government, who reluctantly agreed to convene the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, with much prodding, and then chose to delay acting on the commission's findings. This was not only shameful but also a poor reflection of what the Morrison government thought of residents and workers in aged care.

Thankfully, things have changed for the better. I'm proud to be part of a government which cares, commits and carries through for aged-care residents and workers, and is getting on with addressing the recommendations of the royal commission—all of them. So far, we've directly addressed 37 of these recommendations, whereas during their time in government those opposite completed a mere six per cent of the 148 recommendations made by the royal commission, with the then minister for aged care, Senator Colbeck, refusing to accept that aged care was in a state of crisis. 'Shocking' does not adequately capture their lack of action.

Combining the measures from the legislation that we've passed and the two budgets that we've delivered, we've addressed in full or in part a total of 69 recommendations, and we've got no plan to stop our work in reforming and transforming the sector, which was really left to rot under the coalition. It is something that all Australians can be proud of. At the heart of this sector is the workforce who, day in and day out, deal with residents who are ill, frail and stressed and who, from time to time, pass away. In aged care these days it's much different than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Patients are sicker, more dependent and older and have more physical and neurological demands. It's a mentally and physically demanding job. That's why our record 15 per cent pay increase for Australia's aged-care workers is so significant. It's significant not only because it's the largest pay rise ever for this workforce but also because it will go a long way in increasing workforce participation and morale and reducing turnover.

The pay rise is also a reflection of our government's approach towards this sector and our strong belief in improving quality and care for those within it. Whilst I'm again proud to be part of a government that has delivered this important milestone, it's shocking that only now are these experienced, hardworking aged-care workers earning over $30 an hour. This shows the distance that we must still go towards providing adequate support for this workforce.

Another aspect of aged care we are working on is our commitment to increasing transparency over public dollars going into aged care as part of our plan to put security, dignity, humanity and accountability back into the sector. From January 2024 our government will provide a full picture of how residential and aged-care providers are spending their money so that residents and taxpayers can see how much is spent on components of residents' care such as diet and nutrition, personal care et cetera. People will be able to vote with their feet and leave a provider whose performance on these critical measures is poor. This greater transparency will help rebuild trust in the sector and provide assurance for those already in care and for taxpayers that providers are spending money as they would expect.

Our commitment also addresses the royal commission's finding that there's a lack of publicly available and high-quality information to help older Australians make effective comparisons between aged-care services. In my electorate of Macarthur we have some wonderful aged-care providers such as Estia Health Kilbride, located in Gilead, which I've visited on a number of occasions, as well as IRT Macarthur and Uniting Home Care in Campbelltown. I had the privilege of visiting Estia Kilbride with the now assistant minister, Ged Kearney, in 2021. Together we met with staff and residents to discuss their concerns and hopes for better policy.

These are just some of the many steps that we are taking to help residents and staff in the aged-care sector. I'm proud of the way the aged are cared for in my electorate and I'm proud of the way our government is addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society. There's much more to do, and failings of the past need to be corrected, but I'm optimistic that aged-care people in Australia will get the care they deserve.