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Monday, 18 June 2007
Page: 106

Mr BROADBENT (7:41 PM) —This bill demonstrates the government’s continuing commitment to aged-care reform and investment. It substantially increases outlays on residential care by the very significant growth in care places and its recognition of the complex care needs of residents of aged-care facilities. The bill proposes to amend the Aged Care Act 1997 to implement the government’s decision to reduce the number of funding levels in residential aged care and provide supplements for residents with complex healthcare needs, including palliative care, and for residents who have mental or behavioural conditions, including dementia.

Since coming to office in 1996, the Howard government has worked consistently to ensure that older Australians needing long-term care have access to a high-quality and affordable aged-care system capable of meeting their needs and preferences. This has included commissioning the Hogan review to look at pricing arrangements in residential aged care. The government immediately addressed the main recommendations raised in Professor Warren Hogan’s report by providing $2.2 billion as part of its 2004-05 budget package Investing in Australia’s Aged Care: More Places, Better Care—the largest single investment in aged care by any Australian government.

The new Minister for Ageing, the member for Sturt—and I take this opportunity to congratulate the minister on the work that he is doing at the present time—in his second reading speech said:

Over the last two years, the Howard government has consulted and worked with the residential aged-care industry, including nursing and care staff, to develop a more effective assessment and funding instrument which will reduce administrative effort and costs for aged-care providers—

an issue that has been raised with local members throughout the nation. Through the amendments proposed today the bill aims to replace the resident classification scale, which is the current method used to classify residents in order to allocate Australian government subsidies, with a new Aged Care Funding Instrument as the method for allocating subsidy to approved providers of residential aged care. As the minister said, the ACFI has been designed to better target funding towards the care of residents with higher needs and reduce the volume of documentation completed in residential aged-care facilities solely for funding purposes. The total investment by the government for the care of older Australians between 1996 and 2008 is $67 billion.

On 12 March this year, as a further demonstration of this government’s continued strong commitment to fair and affordable access to high-quality aged care, the Prime Minister announced an additional $1.5 billion in funding for aged-care services through the Securing the Future of Aged Care for Australians package. The Prime Minister said:

Let me put this in context, the simple fact is that over the next 20 years, as the baby boomers, as they’re called, go into retirement, we will see the number of people over the age of 70 double ... It’s a good thing. We’re all living longer, we’re all living healthier, longer lives and that is to be encouraged and appreciated. But it does of course mean that we need to put additional resources ...

This bill and this package will address these challenges. They will ensure that an increasing number of older Australians now and in the future will be able to access the right level of care when they need it. It will also help Australia’s aged care centre to meet those needs. The Howard government is providing more and better community care so more people can continue to live in their own homes for longer; increasing investment in high-level residential care; better matching funding to care so that, over time, payments for those with the highest care needs will increase; introducing a new, fairer income-tested care fee, which will no longer treat self-funded retirees on a different basis to pensioners with a similar income; providing more help for disadvantaged older people and people in remote areas, including Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders and homeless people; and introducing other measures to improve the fairness of the aged-care system.

These changes will make a fairer, simpler and better system, and will involve a large increase in Australian government subsidies for aged care. This bill and this package are further recognition that our aged-care system faces a number of long-term challenges. By 2051, Australia’s population is expected to reach 28 million, an increase of 37 per cent from today. Over the same time, the number of people over 55 is expected to increase by 113 per cent, from five million to around 10.7 million. The change will be even more marked among people aged 85 or over. At present this group represent around 1.4 per cent of the population. By 2051, they will account for between six per cent and nine per cent. These are massive changes and they present a number of challenges, but this government is facing up to these challenges. Our initiatives to date include: workplace and superannuation reforms, an overhaul of aged care, strengthening Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and increases in the training of doctors, nurses and aged care workers.

Of course, the Treasurer had to give my friends on the opposite side of the House a little money lesson this week with regard to saving and preparing for these challenges. The Future Fund, the Treasurer said:

... should never be funded by taking away the savings of future generations. Let me tell you, if you take the money out of the Future Fund now, you spend it, you are still going to have $140 billion of liability in 2020 except you won’t have the money to pay them.  And just at a time when the population is ageing, when we have got fewer people in the workforce, when the demands are greater, you are going to have no provision or less provision to actually meet those liabilities.

On this side of the House, we recognise the need to save and invest in the future generations of this nation and the challenges of an ageing population; the Labor members opposite want to raid the kitty and spend the proceeds now. It is what Labor did when they were in office 11 years ago. Labor cannot be trusted with money. They see this fund, which has been set aside to set up Australia for future challenges, as something they can break into and they are trying to consume the proceeds for their own electoral purposes.

My electorate of McMillan is a snapshot of the ageing population picture. The McMillan electorate covers some 8,300 square kilometres, from the Great Dividing Range, or Mount Baw Baw, in the north to Wilsons Promontory in the south and from the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, at Pakenham, to the heart of the Latrobe Valley in the east. 15.4 per cent of the population is in the 65-years-and-over age bracket. That is higher than the average for Victorian rural electorates. Within McMillan itself, the figure varies widely. The highest proportion of the 65-plus age group is in the south Gippsland region, where the proportion is over 16 per cent. McMillan has 24 aged-care services. Today, that is 1,227 beds. In 1996, it was a mere 776 beds, when the Howard government came to office.

Of course, every member in this House would boast of the facilities in their electorate. I also boast of the facilities in my electorate of McMillan. I recently visited Rose Lodge in Wonthaggi, who were successful recipients in the 2006 aged-care funding round of a further 20 low-care beds. This will further enhance the good work being done at Rose Lodge, particularly the work of Barbara Shipp, secretary of the board, and Mrs Clara Purcell, who plays piano. She sings and plays some of my dad’s favourite songs, particularly Dancing with My Shadow, which she knew. I am very proud of the aged-care facilities in my electorate. I do not think the minister at the table would know that song, but I am sure his father would.

Mr Hunt —Yes.

Mr BROADBENT —I am a supporter of continued investment in aged care across the nation, but in particular I am seeking to support, as I always do, individual centres. I mention three aged care facilities in my electorate: Lyrebird Village in Drouin, Latrobe Valley Village in Moe and the Corner Inlet Community Care Association’s nursing home at Toora and associated facilities. I will just dwell on the Corner Inlet Community Care Association for a minute. It is a community owned, not-for-profit association operating in surplus. They operate two nursing homes—Banksia Lodge Hostel at Foster and Toora Nursing Home at Toora, where I visited recently, and I am there quite often.

I have seen the work that those wonderful people do in nursing homes. It takes particular people with particular expertise and particular heart to deal with people who are not sick but old. It takes compassion, care and heartfelt endeavour. I am sure that I am not the only member in Australia who recognises the work that people do within aged-care facilities. They are dedicated and put in an effort because sometimes, not all the time, they have very difficult clients. The Toora Nursing Home is the biggest employer in Toora. Toora is only a tiny place and Toora Nursing Home is not a big nursing home. They not only meet but exceed accreditation standards in quality of care. They have a very efficient and professional board of management. Good operations always—as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker Wilkie—come from good leadership and a community that actively supports their endeavours.

I will be speaking further about these issues with the new aged-care minister—about being able to support this group and others who have done the hard yards and stood on their own as a beacon of success in that community. These people have raised a very large amount of money to support themselves in the process. I can only appreciate how much a local community cares about their aged-care facilities when they do it in real terms—when they raise real dollars, big money, as an investment. It is an investment not only in the aged-care facility, the staff and leadership but in those who have paid such a high price in the past, many of them through two wars. These people have been the great investors in the community where I live and work, in South Gippsland and across Gippsland. I have mentioned the area that I am from. We owe a great debt to that generation and, in owing that debt, it has been with some gratification that I see the money that the Howard government has poured into the aged-care sector. There is always more to do. The government, above all, knows that there is always more to do. Six years ago, the government announced the whole-of-government approach to the ageing of Australia’s population and has pursued that ever since. This bill continues on that path. I commend the bill to the House.