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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3515

Aged Care

Ms HALL (Shortland) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister for Social Inclusion and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform. How are the government's reforms to aged care delivering fairer and better support and more choice for older Australians?

Mr Melham interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Banks is warned.

Mr BUTLER (Port AdelaideMinister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister for Social Inclusion and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform) (14:59): I thank the member for Shortland for her timely question, because this morning the House resumed debate on five bills that implement the government's Living Longer Living Better package of aged-care reforms. This legislation has been subject to a very detailed work with the aged-care sector and follows the delivery already of a number of different elements of the package—

Mr Simpkins interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cowan will leave the chamber under standing order 94(a). His constant interjecting will not be tolerated. The minister has the call.

The member for Cowan then left the chamber.

Mr BUTLER: elements like the design and the release of new home care packages, all consumer directed, that will begin operation this year; determinations by the new aged-care financing authority about how aged-care providers will access the increased accommodation payments from the government, as well as a fairer and more transparent system of accommodation charging for consumers; new programs that kick in this year for better dementia supports and better linkages between aged care, palliative care and other aspects of the health care system; and arrangements that start to lift the wages of literally tens of thousands of hardworking nurses, carers and other staff in the aged-care sector, improving recruitment and retention in this critical part of the workforce.

In a typically Pavlovian response, the merest mention of improved wages and conditions set out in collective agreements rather than individual contracts or at the whim or their employer caused those opposite to be sent into a frenzy about leftist conspiracies, of course, but those who followed this debate will know that the announcements I made some weeks ago reflect entirely and exactly the advice that we received from the aged care sector through the National Aged Care Alliance—advice contained in the blueprint for aged-care reform, which I table again for the purposes of this debate and which includes the endorsement of every single significant aged-care provider in the country.

It is time now to deal with this legislation. The legislation has broad support from very diverse groups in the sector and support from the biggest debt and equity providers of finance to this sector: the ANZ Bank, and AMP Capital, respectively. Big providers like Catholic Health Care and Anglicare are urging the parliament to deal with these bills. Perhaps most importantly of all, consumer groups like the Council on the Ageing and Alzheimer's Australia have expressed their support for this legislation.

The government is, of course, aware that the Senate has conducted an inquiry into these bills and will report very soon. We are looking forward to that report and we are looking forward to the debate that we assume will follow in that chamber. I urge the opposition to dispense with the delaying tactics in this place. Let's finish the debate when the House resumes the week after next and let's all get on with the job of providing better aged-care services to older Australians.