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Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Page: 52

Mr HARDGRAVE (12:16 PM) —I am very pleased to speak on the Aged Care Amendment (Residential Care) Bill 2007. Should the day ever come when a doctor decides that I have lost the physical or mental capacity to look after myself and that I should be in a nursing home—people go to nursing homes when a doctor decides. It is not a choice; it is not as the member for Hindmarsh and others in the Labor opposition would suppose—that when people reach a benchmark age they are automatically institutionalised. It is not the case that families can suddenly decide that mum or dad should now be parked somewhere else. I forecast to the House that in the future it will be the music of the Eagles, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones blaring out of that aged-care facility and no longer the music of Vera Lynn.

Talk about the baby boomers: I was born on 5 January 1960—if you want to send me a card, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and member for Casey. I make the point that facilities for the aged are provided by the taxpayer, subsidising hundreds of dollars per patient per bed per day, deliberately for when a person reaches a point not of their choosing but of their mental or physical incapacity to look after themselves. That point is constantly forgotten in presentations from those opposite.

I despair when I hear this whole victim analogy, which I have heard yet again this morning. I heard it from the member for Reid the other day and I heard it from the poor old member for Hindmarsh, who basically is saying to anyone over a certain age, ‘You’re going to be up the creek without a bed because that’s just the way life is.’ I do not know what is going wrong in their part of the world, but in my electorate of Moreton in the last 10 years the number of aged-care beds available has tripled. I like to think I have done something special about advocating for that.

When we came to office, we inherited a problem where Queensland was way below the national benchmarks and we as a government have done something about it. One particular set of aged-care packages was basically frozen in the hands of one organisation and the Labor Party did nothing about it—dozens of beds were not being put to use. Forget the fact that state governments are in charge of licensing the facilities; forget the fact that state governments and local councils are responsible for the planning permission needed to build buildings. This organisation had done nothing about fulfilling their obligation to the Commonwealth, and the Labor Party did nothing about it. So we took from them the right to have those beds and we redistributed those beds to other people. We now have a variety of very innovative places as well as a long-term traditional service to our local frail and aged community. You do not just have to be aged to be in these sorts of places.

I also remember a statistic from the great debates we had where those opposite fought us tooth and nail over the question of a financial contribution from people with a capacity to make one towards the physical environment of their nursing home. The people opposite fought us all the way. They ran this lousy argument everywhere that it was suddenly the right of every person to demand of government that absolutely everything about their aged care had to be taken from the Australian taxpayer when they reached a certain age, forgetting that people with a capacity to make a contribution can, and do, do so. They fought us tooth and nail when we said that the maximum stay in a nursing home should be up to five years and that during that period each nursing home would demand a contribution towards the general upkeep and maintenance of what were, when we came to office, facilities falling down about us. They fought us every last inch on that.

The people of Australia rightly routed the Labor campaign against this kind of family involvement and personal contribution towards the maintenance of aged-care facilities. So when they come in here and argue about the lamentable circumstances of individual Australians, such as the member for Hindmarsh talking about this poor woman of 99 years of age who could not find care when she needed it—which I am awfully sad about, I abhor and am shocked to hear—I can also tell you plenty of stories about the way the aged-care sector has met its responsibilities far better than it did years ago. Had we followed Labor’s pre-1996 practice, much worse circumstances would exist in Australia. Had we followed Labor’s practice, we would not have the requirement on accreditation that we now have where providers, to date and over the years ahead, are going to have to further improve what they do and what they provide.

I want to pay tribute to the staff involved in aged-care services throughout my electorate. I have spoken to nurses and other caregivers, and my great fear in looking at these equations is that they are the last people to be properly resourced. The patient-caregiver equation should be the first place that you resource, just as teacher-student equations should be the first place you place your education funding. If it were not for the very special character of nurses and caregivers in aged-care facilities, so much of what we come to rely upon would not occur. As I have said before, they do not get paid enough for the dedication they bring to their job, and I do not think that they are appreciated by the aged-care system—not the sector, but the system—in the way it organises itself. I worry when people have wood lined offices and flash cars ahead of paying good rates to the caregivers that we as family rely upon in our aged-care centres.

Without wanting to name them all, but not wanting to miss any either, the variety of aged-care centres in my electorate is enormous. The resident classification scale, which we are aiming to replace with a new aged-care funding instrument, relies on these aged-care professionals to be good at filling out paperwork and to be good caregivers. We put a lot of pressure on the nurses and caregivers and I would like to pay tribute to them. I do so in no particular order. I know that TriCare Annerley and the Church of Christ Hillcrest Centre at Annerley have served our community for an enormous amount of time. I have met so many people there over the years, including, unfortunately, people who have since passed away whilst in care. The facilities at those places have been in service for a long time. My grandparents—Perce and Rita Hardgrave of Sunnybank Hills, who are sadly long gone—stayed at the Carramar centre at Hellawell Road, Sunnybank Hills while waiting to be placed in other centres. That service is provided by the Uniting Church. My grandfather passed away at the Cazna Gardens centre, which is provided by RSL Care.

Interstate members would be wise to look at the work that the Queensland RSL has pioneered in aged care through their war service homes, which particularly target veterans. The RSL Care people have provided exemplary service and a great standard of care. To the nurses and caregivers there I say thank you for what you do and repeat publicly my thanks for what you did for my own family. RSL Care, to their great credit, also work with a new group of people—the Chinese and Buddhist communities, the Buddha’s Light International Association as well as others in Queensland. Whilst it is just outside of my electorate—I think you will find it in my good friend the member for Forde’s seat—the Jeta Gardens complex is now making itself available with high care, low care and residential facilities for people who want to retire, if you like, in the Buddhist and Chinese traditions. That could be an attractive thing—the Beatles wafting out of that environment might be something that I could be happy about in 50 years time. It is that sort of innovation that this government has presided over and encouraged from community and private organisations—to target the diversity of groups in our community. I am surprised when I see the member for Reid saying, as he did the other day, that these other communities cannot get access to care when I know that what is happening in my electorate is that there is innovation and support coming from the government.

Likewise, the Russian Orthodox community has had a long tradition of aged care. Serge Voloschenko and others involved with the Pine Lodge facilities at Rocklea have been there so long—since the late Sir James Killen opened the facility in about 1969. In fact I think his name is also on the opening block for the renovations after about 15 feet of water went through it during the 1974 floods. And they are expanding their facilities further. If you go there you will hear the Russian language spoken and you will see lots of very good parties and lots of active good fun taking place. But there is also a serious amount of care being given, and they are responding in every possible way to the demands placed upon them by this government to improve the care they give.

Likewise, the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres—who are in the member for Rankin’s electorate—are a very ancient Catholic order that started their work in Hong Kong 311 years ago, and they have been providing support to many Chinese people. My grandmother, Rita, stayed there for a little while many years ago. Beth Eden at Graceville and the Salvation Army at Warrina Village, Chelmer are inspired by their sense of service and by the churches and religious organisations that they represent. All these facilities are providing care, including Bethany Care in more recent times—the most recent of three new aged-care facilities that I have seen in my electorate in the last few years. Minister Bronwyn Bishop opened the White House, and I like the synergy of having the member for Mackellar opening the White House at Warrigal Road, Eight Mile Plains. Minister Andrews opened the Regis facility at Salisbury in Lillian Avenue, where local people are now able to age in a place close to where they have always lived. That is a facility that was not there until we came to government. Regis had the confidence to do that. Former Minister Santoro opened the Bethany facility at Underwood Road, Kuraby. Each of these new facilities is providing benchmark services for the future and for the long term.

Unlike Labor’s pro-institutionalised approach, which seems to suggest that you reach a certain age and then this is where you have to go, we are providing a range of options for people as they age. The concept of ageing in place, which those opposite have continued to criticise through their contributions today, has been an important part of the element of dignity that we have reintroduced into aged care in the past 10 or 11 years. Work is done through the Home and Community Care program, which is 60 per cent funded by the Commonwealth but 100 per cent claimed by state governments—except that when the Labor Party want to complain that they cannot get enough HACC funding in their area then they blame us completely. The contradiction of state governments claiming HACC is all theirs—we fund 60 per cent and yet Labor is saying it is all our fault—is just breathtaking.

The Home and Community Care program needs to constantly test itself, as some on the other side have suggested, with regard to flexible delivery. It needs to make sure that those who are involved in providing ageing in place have the language and cultural skills necessary to meet everybody’s needs. So why would I be anything but delighted when I see the fantastic people from the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland providing respite care, providing home and community care programs funded by us. This is not about them being funded to just look after Muslims, because the exciting news is that the first person into the respite care centre they operate at Calum Road in Sunnybank Hills was in fact a Jewish woman. It is just like the Country Women’s Association, just like various women’s groups in all sorts of good organisations that have been in our community for generations. The Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland are putting their hand up and saying, ‘We’re motivated by our belief. We’re motivated by our culture and our care. We’re motivated because we are women. The government is backing us and we are doing our work.’ I say well done to them.

The Aged Care Amendment (Residential Care) Bill is about simplifying and streamlining further the already impressive set of circumstances that we now have in aged care in Australia. It is about reducing the number of funding levels for basic care. It is about introducing two new payments: one for residents with complex health and nursing needs, including palliative care; and one for residents who have mental or behavioural conditions including dementia. It has come as a result of former Minister for Ageing Andrews’ response to industry concerns back in 2002. It has taken time because it has needed full consultation.

The aged-care funding instrument which is now going to be used was tested through 2005, and just under a quarter of all residential services around Australia participated. The trial results were very positive and indicated that there were major time-saving benefits for staff, a greater level of agreement between aged-care providers and external checkers, and that on average assessors took less than an hour to complete the ACFI approval process.

The government have said, ‘We’re listening; we understand the importance of backing the patient-caregiver equation, understand the diversity of the range of work that is before them, understand the dedication that nurses and caregivers want to bring to the equation and recognise that one of the real pains in their posteriors is the paperwork associated with all of this.’ The government are responding to these sentiments, which I have expressed in my contribution today. No-one from the other side is complaining about it, and we are very pleased about that.

We are very determined as a government to continue to be innovative. As the Treasurer’s Intergenerational report of five years ago states very clearly, the ageing of Australia’s population is going to bring real costs to Australia unless we invest in this area. The Treasurer’s Intergenerational report highlights the statistics which underpin the need for us to get this right. It is a simple fact that Australia is a nation built on migrants. Australia’s population is now reaching the stage where, in the decades to come, its only growth will be because of migrants. We do indeed need to recognise—and on this I guess I share a platform with the member for Reid but I will express it differently—the cultural and linguistic diversity of our community and make sure that there is the agility and flexibility in our aged-care sector to properly respond to it.

I am sure that the House would agree with the issues that I have raised and the examples I have given from the electorate of Moreton, the most culturally diverse electorate in Queensland. Work is being done on the ground today right throughout my electorate.

One in four Australians was born in another place—that is the figure for Australia’s population today. Almost one in four—certainly one in five—has at least one parent who was born in another place. That means that there is a very real issue in making sure that the system demands standards, as well as flexibility and agility, when it comes to dealing with our linguistically diverse people. No matter the English skills they may have achieved after they came to Australia, the reality is that one of the signs of a dementia patient is that they may take on the tendencies they had as a child. One of the things they may do is revert to the language that they had as a child—they will forget the language that they learned as an adult. You may well see the circumstance where, after 50 years in Australia, someone is suddenly back to speaking Greek, Macedonian, Italian, Polish, German or indeed maybe Gaelic or something exciting like that. The member for Gorton, who is in the chamber, would appreciate that, being an O’Connor.

It is important that we do not then do as the Labor Party often seems to suggest and ‘over-ethno’ our response. What we have to do is demand that our aged-care providers see them not as suddenly now separate but as different strands in the same fabric, and have on their staff people with the language and cultural skills that will fit the particular background that a patient might have. You do not necessarily need to have a Polish aged-care facility or a Dutch, German, Italian or Greek one. It is terrific if you have one; I have a Russian facility and a few others that are doing things. What is important is that you make your facilities available to everyone but that you also have staff with those skills on board—not just the caregiving skills but also the language and cultural skills. That is going to be part of the challenge of the years ahead.

I believe that the framework that we are amending today will make it more possible for the caregivers to focus on those kinds of quality assurance issues to make sure that, when a patient’s doctor has decided they have reached a physical or mental circumstance that means they require care in a care facility, that care is there for them. I commend the bill to the House.