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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4966


Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (20:25): I rise to speak on the member for Shortland's motion about the importance of aged care for our community. The one thing that on both sides of the chamber we can readily agree on is the fact that we want older Australians to have the security and dignity of proper, efficient, sustainable quality aged care. We acknowledge here in this place the great work that so many older Australians have contributed to our country to make our country the great country that it is. Most importantly though, on this side of the chamber we believe very strongly that choice is critical in providing that dignity and that quality of care for older Australians.

Why is the issue of aged care so important? You only need to look at some of the statistics to understand why it is so significant we focus our minds and attention on this important issue. Today there are about a million people receiving aged-care services. By 2050 there will be 3.5 million people who will require aged-care services. In 2010 there were around 400,000 people aged 85 and above, but by 2050 there will be 1.8 million. It is important that we get it right. It is important that we make the decisions today that will last into the future to ensure quality of care. We know that by 2050 government spending is going to significantly increase in terms of healthcare costs, which will more than triple, and aged-care costs will quadruple according to the latest Productivity Commission reports.

There have been a number of reviews since 2007 and there have been over 20 inquiries relating to ageing and aged-care issues including an excellent report by the Productivity Commission. In August 2011 the final Productivity Commission report was presented to the government, but we received a response only a number of weeks ago to that report, a response from the government that left many unanswered questions. I just want to go through a couple of very quick issues in the time available tonight.

Firstly, I will go to the funding issue. There was much self-congratulation and acclamation from the other side about the $3.7 billion package over the five years. However when you look closely at the detail, only $577 million of this is new money. Most is actually redirected or means tested. In fact, when you look carefully at the figures, means testing will allow the government to collect $561 million over five years and $183 million for home-care packages and $378 million for residential aged care. What does this mean? It will mean that with means testing, unless you are a pensioner your home and residential care will cost more.

These changes though, will not start until after 1 July 2014, well after the next election, which is why the government will avoid quite a significant degree of scrutiny, because the impact will not be directly felt until that time. We believe it is very important for older Australians to have choice in aged care. Many older Australians now want to be able to have home care and stay in their home for as long as possible before, in some cases, they require residential care. It is a good thing to increase home care packages, but it must be sustainable and we must ensure that those home care packages are available in a cost-effective way for all Australians.

What is very significant about the latest announcement by the government is that nothing was said about red tape. I know, as Deputy Chairman of the Coalitions Deregulation Taskforce, that red tape is a significant issue for the aged-care sector and much reform needs to occur. In fact, the government is increasing red tape, as shown in the announcement it recently made, through the new Aged Care Financing Authority that will approve accommodation charges. There are so many unanswered questions and we need to find the right solutions.

Debate adjourned.