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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3561


Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (17:51): I too rise to speak on the Living Longer Living Better package of bills. It is fair that we would all like to live longer and better. Every single one of us desires to live a long healthy and prosperous life. As we age our needs change and it is important to be assured that we will be cared for and treated with dignity when we can no longer live on our own. The ageing of our population is one of the biggest social issues facing Australia. We are all living longer and have a rapidly ageing population as a consequence. Statistics show that approximately nine per cent of our population is aged 70 years or older and this is expected to rise to 13 per cent by 2021 and to 20 per cent by 2051, which equates to 5.7 million people.

With this increase, there are a number of things we need to consider, including more complex health conditions and changing disease patterns resulting in increasing and changing aged-care needs. Almost 321,000 Australians are currently living with dementia, which is projected to increase to some 900,000 by 2050. Our culturally diverse population is growing. It is also worth considering the increase in dependency ratios. By 2047 we will be almost halved to 3.2 people of working age supporting every person aged over 67. As a consequence, there will be fewer people generating the tax revenue necessary to support our older Australians. Social structures will be eroded and things we have taken for granted will no longer be a given. As we head into a future with an increasingly ageing population, will our aged-care system be able to provide the care that all Australians expect?

Currently, over one million older Australians receive aged-care services subsidised by the government. As I said earlier, by 2050 some 3.5 million Australians are expected to use aged-care services each year. It is fair to say that, for all Australians, quality aged care should be a priority. Even the Prime Minister herself, during the 2010 election, said that aged-care reform would be a second-term priority. But, despite this aspiration, we have seen very little evidence of real change on the ground. There are literally pages and pages of reviews and reports into the aged-care sector; some 20 reviews and three Productivity Commission reports. Despite all of this work, and all of the recommendations, no decisions were made to secure aged care into the future. After five years of Labor's neglect, the aged-care system urgently requires change to provide Australians with the certainty that their lives will actually be longer and better. This is an important issue for my constituents in the electorate of Forde. Australians, including the many aged-care providers, aged-care workers and residents, would like to see real action to get things done. Real action which, to this day, has been neglected.

I think it is worth just having a look at what this package of bills contains. The Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Bill 2013 is the main bill of the package. It includes changes relating to residential care, changes to establish a new type of care—home care—changes relating to governance and administration, and minor administrative and other consequential changes. We also have the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Bill 2013, which establishes a new Australian Age Care Quality Agency as a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act and replaces the existing Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency from 1 January 2014. We have the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, which replaces the existing Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency and allows for transfer of custody of records and documents and the transfer of office holders and staff. We have the Aged Care (Bond Security) Amendment Bill 2013, which amends the existing Aged Care (Bond Security) Act 2006 and changes its name.

These bills were referred to a Senate inquiry, and during this inquiry the Department of Health and Ageing disclosed that there were some 19 pieces of legislative instruments that will affect the operation of these five bills. Once again the government has failed to provide us with those instruments, making it extremely difficult to thoroughly assess before these bills are voted on. These bills are typical of the government's practice of enacting a framework legislation and leaving the bulk of the detail to delegated regulation, thereby expecting the parliament to vote on bills when the full impact is unknown.

It is disappointing to have to point out that, despite the government's promises of reform, many outstanding viability issues for providers still remain. Instead of releasing pressure on this sector, this government has cut $1.6 billion from the Aged Care Funding Instrument. In addition, within these bills, more uncertainly surrounds the establishment of the framework for the $1.2 billion workforce supplement. This could be quite costly for providers relying on cuts to ACFI, and looks suspiciously to be a political mechanism to unionise the sector. Stakeholders are also concerned about the establishment of the Aged Care Funding Authority. Furthermore, these five bills seek to add more pain and pressure to what is already a highly regulated industry, by adding even more red tape. Unsurprisingly, we see the government once again cherry picking only a few of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission report.

When I speak to aged-care providers in the electorate of Forde, they tell me that red tape is one of their biggest issues, and we see this as a missed opportunity to reduce red tape in this industry. This is particularly relevant when I go and speak with organisations such as Seasons at Waterford West, The Lodge at Upper Coomera, Blue Care Wirunya Aged Care Facility and Connolly Court Hostel. These are some of the great aged-care service providers in our electorate. They all have that common story: red tape is strangling their ability to provide quality care for the residents in those facilities. As I mentioned in February this year when I spoke on this issue in the Federation Chamber, this is a sector that is absolutely buried beneath regulation and red tape. It is possibly one of the most regulated in our country. The coalition has been advised that aged care nurses spend on average a third of their time on paperwork. Under this package, that is only going to get worse.

The coalition wants to see reform in partnership with the aged care sector. It does not believe that fundamental reform should be imposed from above. If successful at the next federal election, the coalition will immediately commence consultation with stakeholders in the aged care sector on a framework for the first ever four-year aged care provider agreement, including consideration of a broad range of the recommendations contained in the Productivity Commission report. We will honour our senior Australians by giving them the care that they need now and in the future, because of their valuable contribution to our country.

We have support from the likes of the Campaign for Care of Older Australians, who said in response to our 2010 ageing policy: 'We commend the idea of a four-year industry agreement to focus on cutting red tape and addressing staff shortages as a plan to provide an effective and efficient system of care, and support older people's needs now and into the future.' We in the coalition will always support measures to assist the senior members of our community.

Our agreement will deliver better and more affordable aged care by seeking to reduce red tape and enable nurses to get back to nursing and looking after residents, providing certainty for older Australians underpinned by a high-quality framework. It will deliver value for money through revised subsidy arrangements, ensuring certainty for the aged care workforce. It will establish a more flexible and viable aged care provider network to meet care needs now and into the future. It will ensure that the comfort and safety of older Australians are maximised.

We would like to see the agreement in place within a year of taking office. We will commence by establishing a high-level aged care provider agreement committee of key stakeholders to oversee the administration and implementation of the agreement and provide advice to the minister. We will also establish an aged care provider agreement working group, which will undertake the detailed design and project work required to give effect to the agreement, including taking account the recommendations of the Productivity Commission inquiry and other relevant reviews. Once again, it will be a coalition government that will seek to do more to reform the aged care sector in Australia, reduce regulation and red tape and provide a positive vision to ensure that older Australians in our community are properly cared for and looked after.