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Thursday, 15 February 2007
Page: 16

Mr PYNE (Assistant Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:01 AM) —In reply—I am pleased to sum up today the Aged Care Amendment (Security and Protection) Bill 2007 on behalf of the Minister for Ageing, Senator Santoro. I would like to thank those people who have spoken on the bill: the members for Gellibrand, McPherson, Moreton, Blaxland, Riverina, Richmond, Canberra, Hindmarsh, Charlton and New England. It has been a very useful debate. The opposition have raised a few issues that I would like to comment on. I am pleased that they are supporting this bill and that they are welcoming the reforms, including the new Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance and the new Aged Care Commissioner.

The opposition have, however, raised a few issues that I would like to touch on in this summing up. The opposition have suggested that there has been too little time to respond to this bill and that the shadow minister has had insufficient time to consider it. I make the point that the bill was introduced in the first week of this sitting to allow maximum time for consideration in this parliamentary sitting and the debate has not been cut short. The opposition have been offered a number of briefings. The shadow minister was briefed last week and has requested a second briefing, which I think is occurring today. The Senate inquiry into this bill will also provide an opportunity for everyone to have input into the bill.

The opposition have also made the audacious claim that there has been too little consultation with industry. Anyone who knows the Minister for Ageing, Senator Santoro, will know how much he likes to consult over and over again with many different people, so the claim that he would not have consulted with industry does not stack up. He has told me how he has personally met with as many people as possible—nurses, managers, the approved providers, residents and their families—and I think one accusation that could not be levelled at the Minister for Ageing is a lack of consultation. The minister and the department have also undertaken ongoing consultation with the Aged Care Advisory Committee which, as the opposition would know, comprises most of the peak industry bodies, consumer groups, and medical and nursing bodies.

The opposition have also said that the principles of the delegated legislation have not been made available. The department has prepared and circulated a very detailed explanatory guide, which is available even on the department’s website, which describes the proposed content of the principles. The shadow minister has been briefed on this and has requested a second briefing, which is occurring today. The department will continue to consult on the proposed content of the principles and, of course, we would welcome any input that the opposition might have into what is a very important and very sensitive issue.

The opposition have also claimed that the government have taken too long to do anything about the sexual and physical abuse of the aged in nursing facilities. Obviously abuse is an extremely difficult and sensitive issue and the government is acting by implementing a very multifaceted response. Police check requirements have already been legislated and the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency is already undertaking increased spot checks. This further part of the package, this bill, implements even more measures to address the issue. They are important and complex measures and the government has very properly taken the time to consult extensively and develop appropriate legislation. It seems passing strange that we would be accused by the opposition of not consulting enough and also of not bringing in the bill fast enough. The opposition cannot have it both ways. We have tried to meet the market in both areas and the bill that we are passing today, the Aged Care Amendment (Security and Protection) Bill 2007, is an excellent response. I congratulate the minister, I congratulate those people who have contributed to the debate and I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.