Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 178

Senator McLUCAS (6:30 PM) —I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 5290:

(1)    Page 2 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

4 Review

         (1)    The Minister must cause to be carried out an independent review of the operation of this Act within 2 years of the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

         (2)    The review is to be conducted by a person or persons (the reviewing officers) who, in the Minister’s opinion, possess appropriate qualifications to undertake the review, and must include one or more persons who are not employed by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority.

         (3)    The reviewing officers must consider:

              (a)    the extent to which the purposes of this Act have been attained; and

              (b)    the administration of this Act; and

              (c)    such other matters as appear to the reviewing officers to be relevant.

         (4)    The reviewing officers must prepare a report of the review and present it to the Minister within six months of commencing the review, and the Minister must cause the report to be presented to both Houses of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of receiving it.

Could the parliamentary secretary confirm something for me. Perhaps it is because the bill has been transferred and introduced here in an amended form. I want to confirm that the high dependency care leave has been accommodated, as well as the residential care subsidy during extended hospital leave. Those two amendments have been incorporated into the bill, I understand. I am very pleased that that has happened. They were two recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs in its inquiry into this bill. They are not substantive amendments. They are not going to affect a large sector of the aged-care community, but it was the view of the committee, and certainly the view of the Labor Party, that those two issues needed to be adopted. I am pleased about that.

However, the other recommendation made by the community affairs committee was to request that a review of the operations of the new aged-care funding instrument be formally placed in the bill. That is a reasonable request that the committee made, and it is not without precedent. In 1997, when the Aged Care Act was introduced, it represented a substantial change to aged care in Australia. As part of the Aged Care Act, the resident classification scale—what is now known in the industry as the RCS—was introduced. That was a big change to the way that facilities operated, in that resident subsidies were provided. As part of the Senate debate at the time, there was agreement that there would be a review. In fact, in Professor Len Gray’s review of aged-care reforms, he alluded to that. He said:

... it was agreed in the Senate that a review would occur within twelve months of its implementation.

As a result of that agreement in the Senate, an internal departmental review was undertaken by Cuthbertson, Lindsay-Smith and Rosewarne. They reported in July 1998. This is not dissimilar to what we are requesting here. Professor Gray said:

The review team drew on over 100 submissions, Australia-wide consultations, departmental staff advice, and analysis and data of the operation of the RCS ...

The RCS was, like the ACFI, a big change to the way in which we fund aged care. He went on to say:

As a result of the report, a revised RCS was introduced in November 1988.

What the Labor Party is proposing here is no different from what we did in 1997. It was sensible then and it is sensible now. When you bring in a big change to the operation of such an important system in any public policy, it is important to put in place the appropriate checks and balances. That is what we are asking for here—a review that would occur 18 months from the operation, from March next year.

Initially, we thought 12 months would be appropriate, but because of the transitional nature of this legislation and the fact that there will be a period when people who are currently in aged care will be operating under the RCS—so it will take some time for the ACFI data to be collected—the committee came to the view that probably 18 months out was more appropriate. I remind the parliamentary secretary that this was a unanimous report of the committee. This was not a partisan position. It is a sensible recommendation so that we will have an ability to make sure that ACFI does do what it intends to do—that is, to reduce paperwork.

When the RCS was introduced, nobody knew that we would end up with this paperwork pile—paperwork that has necessitated that the ACFI be instituted. No-one predicted that. Here we are with another significant, major change to what we do in aged care—the way we fund it and the way we provide care to older Australians—yet we are not prepared to say that, 18 months down the track, we should have a proper review to see whether or not paperwork has been reduced. This is a simple, sensible and reasonable proposition. I am quite astonished, to be frank, that the minister did not adopt this recommendation by the community affairs committee.