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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4322


The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Lowe has the call. My apologies, the member for Reid has the call—we have got to stop changing the names of seats!

Mr MURPHY (Reid) (15:04): My question is to the Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform. Minister, how will the budget deliver greater choice and better access to services for all older people, and make sure the aged care sector is sustainable into the future?

Mr BUTLER (Port AdelaideMinister for Social Inclusion, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform) (15:05): I thank the former member for Lowe and the current member for Reid for his question. In the lead-up to the last election, this Prime Minister promised that aged care reform would be a priority for this term of government. Last night's budget delivers on that commitment.

A little over a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister and I announced the most sweeping changes and improvements to aged care in almost 30 years, transforming a system that was built in the 1980s around nursing homes to one that is built around supporting older Australians to stay in their own homes for as long as possible and, if at all possible, for the remainder of their lives. In designing our reforms, we listened closely to the Productivity Commission and to the aged care sector itself, but most importantly, we listened directly to older Australians. The overwhelming message to us was that what they want from an aged care system is support to stay in their own homes.

Over the next five years, we will expand home care by two-thirds, taking the total expansion of home care under this government to around 110 per cent. Home care will shift from being provider centred to being truly consumer directed and consumer controlled. A fairer system of residential care financing will not only stimulate new investment but also put an end to the excessive bonds that too many families have to pay, amounting to almost $2.6 million in some cases, just to get entry to a facility. Better wages and better work practices will help underpin more sustainable workforce arrangements that will allow us to grow the workforce to the size that we need. Significant new investments will be made in areas like dementia and palliative care, investments that have been warmly welcomed by groups like Alzheimer's Australia and Palliative Care Australia. The government's package allocates $3.7 billion over five years to new initiatives to improve access, choice and quality of care and does so in a way designed also to improve the sustainability of our aged-care system. With aged-care spending this year around 70 per cent higher than it was five years ago, we have unashamedly redirected some of that money from old priorities into these new initiatives. We have also made some new changes to co-contribution arrangements that kick in after July 2014, with robust caps and strong protections for full pensioners, and we have been able to do all of that while still maintaining protections around the family home.

The government's package has received very, very broad support from the aged-care sector and from the community, but they have also told us that they want support for aged-care reform across the parliament. To that end we all look forward to the Leader of the Opposition tomorrow night telling the nation where he stands on the future of aged care.