MOTIONS (Federation Chamber): Aged Care

24 May 2021

I rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Mayo for a Joint Select Committee on Oversight of the Implementation of Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Labor supports this proposal and, if it is successful, I need to say that we will take this very seriously.

The aged-care royal commission provides the government with a once-in-a-generation blueprint for reform, yet we've already seen the government fob off, delay, or outright reject key recommendations. Worse, we know this government avoids scrutiny just as it avoids vaccinating Australians. Think of the things we only know about because we as an opposition have used this parliament to hold this government to account: sports rorts, safer seats rorts, robodebt, and the fact that a staggering 17 of 30 former ministers in the Liberal government have been appointed to cushy government positions or get paid to lobby their mates in government. It goes from jobs for mates to endless ministerial scandals. It's been hard to stay across all the scandals that the minister for energy and emissions—sorry, emissions reduction, but he's failing on that part—has been involved in. We've had 'grassgate', 'watergate' and the forged documents affair. Remember when the government spent $7 million on COVIDSafe app ads and the app then only found 17 people, or when the Prime Minister's solution to the bushfire crisis was to shell out $190,000 of taxpayers' money to a mate to make a flashy video, or when the COVID committee asked the grossly incompetent aged-care minister how many people had died from COVID in aged-care facilities and we had that awful folder-flipping moment before he admitted that he didn't know?

In opposition, we have a fundamental responsibility to hold the government of the day to account for how it responds to key recommendations of the aged-care royal commission. The government has been tasked with development of a new Aged Care Act which aims to radically change the aged-care sector so that its only focus is the safety, health and wellbeing of older people, and the truth is that the government's initial response has huge gaps that leave our residents in aged care wanting. As someone who has spent a long time campaigning for aged care, I don't believe their response package is the generational reform that the royal commission wanted and that the system so desperately needs. It seems to me to be more untied funding for providers that lacks proper wage increases for new nurses and carers. They fobbed off, delayed or outright rejected key recommendations.

There are a couple of points on this. Firstly, nothing will change without reform to the workforce. There was nothing to improve wages for overstretched, undervalued aged-care workers. Critically, there is no plan to ensure real accountability and transparency of funding. There is nothing that seriously reforms the system to see exactly where the money goes. There is no change to auditing requirements to stop money being funnelled away to Maseratis, offshore tax havens or secret family trusts while residents suffer malnutrition, lie in soiled beds and have deep, deep wounds—some, as we've seen, with maggots in them. They're gifting $3.2 billion to providers with no strings attached to ensure that this goes to actual care and better food and not management bonuses or new office fit-outs. They've promised 80,000 home-care packages for a waitlist of 100,000 people and growing. The maths here just don't add up. Australians do want to age at home, but they need those packages to do so.

They've ignored the recommendation to require a registered nurse to be on duty 24/7 in residential care, which we know is core to improving care. Their approach shirks also the main increase to mandatory care minutes in residential aged care. Staffing levels are central to the quality of care problems in residential aged care. Given that this government has ignored so many recommendations, ignored 22 previous expert reports and neglected aged care for eight years, how can any Australian, their families or hardworking carers trust them to fix this broken system? That's why Labor is supporting this motion of the member for Mayo. We must push the government to actually respond to, and implement, the recommendations from the royal commission. Failure to do so will mean we fail another generation of our elderly who will age fearful of the treatment they will receive in their final years.