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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9356

Aged Care


Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:28): My question is to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, representing the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon. Ken Wyatt. Aged-care bed licences are allocated each year through the aged-care allocation round at no cost—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Watt: How many people have you sold out today?

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Can we hear the question please?

Senator HANSON: Can I please start the question again?

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, if you let me get to it, I'll ask for absence of interjections during questions from right around the chamber, including on my right. Senator Hanson, start your question again, because I missed part of it myself.

Senator HANSON: Thank you very much, Mr President. My question is to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, representing the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon. Ken Wyatt. Aged-care bed licences are allocated each year—

Senator Watt interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, I have asked you before: please can we hear the question? You did this previously, and Senator Hanson had to start again. It is traditionally time for the opposition. It will cost the opposition time if I have to ask her a third time. Senator Hanson, please continue your question.

Senator HANSON: They clearly don't care about aged people. My question is to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, representing the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon. Ken Wyatt. Aged-care bed licences are allocated each year through the aged-care allocation round at no cost to regions based on projected future need. An aged-care provider operating 10 facilities, employing 675 people, wanting to expand in regional areas requested 314 places in the 2016 round and was allocated only 60.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator HANSON: By contrast—Mr President, I'm sorry, this is becoming very—

Senator Polley interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order! Senator Polley! If a senator requests the protection of the chair, they're going to get it. I want to hear this question in complete silence.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! A senator has requested the protection of the chair. The burden on all senators is to be silent. Senator Hanson, I heard all of that question and I saw Senator Fierravanti-Wells listening intently. Please continue your question. I will grant you some flexibility regarding the clock—sorry, Senator Hinch is on his feet.

Senator Hinch: Back here, Senator Bernardi and I could not hear Senator Hanson's question.

The PRESIDENT: I will ask Senator Hanson to continue and I will show some flexibility with the timing on the clock.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! This is to be heard in silence.

Senator HANSON: I don't even know where I'm up to now. There's been total confusion, and the time is down to 10 seconds.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, I said I would give you some flexibility with the clock. Please continue your question. You got to a number of places that had not been granted.

Senator HANSON: By contrast, Signature Care—a developer, not an aged-care provider—was allocated 640 licences. This is handing them an estimated market value of around $41.6 million on top of their profit, based on a per-bed value of $65,000. Why are developers with no track record of aged-care provision allowed to compete in a process which provides a significant financial benefit, to the detriment of aged-care operators? (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, I have shown you flexibility with the clock. That is well over the minute you were granted.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left—I said I would grant Senator Hanson some flexibility because you had interrupted the question on numerous occasions and she had sought the protection of the chair.




















Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:32): I thank Senator Hanson for the question and for advance warning. Can I start by outlining the process—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Not all of it, I didn't.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! I need to be able to hear the answer for the inevitable point of order on relevance.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: The Aged Care Act and the aged-care principles set out the process for the places for allocation under the ACAR round. It consists of three clear steps: (1) the creation of a number of places in each jurisdiction by the minister, using the government's targeted aged-care planning ratios; (2) the targeting of places to special needs; and (3) key issue groups in each state and territory, determined by the secretary and the secretary's allocation of those places to specific providers after a competitive selection process is conducted.

In the 2016-17 ACAR round, over 45,000 residential places were sought, and so 10,000 new residential places were allocated. That means that, for every 4.5 applications that were put in, there was one place, so it's a very competitive process. The year before, there were 3.6 applications for every place allocated, so we have increased it. Therefore, this year, we allocated places worth $649 million and nearly 500 restorative care beds, worth $34 million, and we have recently provided $64 million in capital grants.

The act provides for this process, and this ensures that a large amount of the funding it provides is allocated, and it's allocated in a rigorous, fair and impartial manner. The minister, the minister's office or any other parliamentarian do not have a role in the assessment of the allocation process. The act establishes this as a function of the department. The ACAR— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Before I call Senator Hanson on a supplementary question, I remind senators that the senator sought the protection of the chair for the previous question. Senator Hanson.






Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:34): Minister, we're talking about a developer that got 640 licences, and there were 45,000 applications. But the developer is not in the aged-care business. And, in the previous allocation round, they also received about the same amount of places. So, what provisions are in place to stop developers who are not genuine aged-care providers from profiteering when they are able to sell the investment within a day of completion of construction?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:35): Senator Hanson, the process is open to all applicants who are or who will become an approved provider under the act. So you have to be an approved provider. You have to go through a process under the act to be able to apply for places in an ACAR round. What sometimes happens is that they apply for places, they bring them into operation and then they on-sell those places to other people. I am instructed that of the approved provider entities that are known by the department to engage—in effect, property developers—14 per cent of residential places were allocated to them. The practice of applying for the places and bringing them into operation is actually provided for under the act. Therefore, first of all, to get a place, you have to go through a competitive process— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, a final supplementary question.



Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:36): Minister, we're actually talking about a developer that can make $41.6 million on the 640 beds that they are getting, plus the development profits. The program is intended to operate for the benefit of those needing aged care, not developers. Has the government considered limiting eligibility under the scheme to registered operators who have an established track record of at least three years?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:36): Senator Hanson, the competitive process under ACAR is open to all applicants, as I've indicated. Under the act, all providers must demonstrate their capacity to deliver aged care. They have to be in a residential, in a home or in a flexible setting. Under the act, the department must ensure that the ACAR process delivers diversity of choice in the care options available to consumers. This is available and this is done by opening the ACAR round to both new and existing aged-care providers. Limiting the eligibility to applicants with a set number of years of operating residential aged-care services would effectively block any new entrant from entering the sector. It would, in turn, dilute the care options available to consumers. As I've indicated, it is a competitive process, but it is one where the providers themselves, in effect, trade their places. (Time expired)