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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2075

Ms ELLIS (2:44 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Ageing. Does the minister recall the tragic case, raised by the member for Isaacs in this chamber, about Chelsea Private Nursing Home, which passed 43 out of 44 accreditation standards in September 2003 and then failed 19 of 44 standards only two months later, following the death of a resident which was allegedly caused by an attack by another patient? Does the minister recall saying about that tragic case, `This is an example of how the accreditation system that was introduced by the Howard government in 1996-97 is working'? Minister, isn't this tragic case just one example of a myriad of cases as outlined in today's Bulletin? What does the minister have to say to the husband of the woman who died so tragically because of the failure of Howard government's accreditation system?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Minister for Ageing) —I am aware of the article in the Bulletin magazine today. I point out that a number of the matters in that article have been raised before and more current information is, in fact, available. All four of the current aged care homes cited by the Bulletin are now fully compliant with all 44 outcomes required under the accreditation process introduced by this government. On coming to office, because there was nothing in place under Labor, this government put in place a comprehensive regulatory framework to ensure that the highest standard quality care would be delivered in aged care homes. We introduced an accreditation system. This was the first national legislated quality assurance program this country had seen. In its 13 years in government, Labor did not address a national quality assurance program. We introduced certification to ensure that aged care homes reached specific building standards. That was not introduced under Labor. We introduced a complaints resolution scheme and a freecall number so that if any resident, family member or staff member had a concern or complaint it could be raised, even anonymously. We introduced the position of a commissioner for complaints, who has a role in mediating and negotiating outcomes as a result of complaints. We introduced a charter of residents' rights and responsibilities. None of this existed under Labor. Aged care providers are required to meet these high standards at law.

Aged care is now well supervised, well monitored and very well subsidised. In the last budget, over $2.2 billion was allocated to residential aged care, the largest single funding package for aged care by any government at any time. This means that from today until 2008 over $30 billion of taxpayers' funds will be invested in the aged care sector. That funding was designed to ensure that more funds are available by way of care subsidies to meet the cost of care, more funds are available for education and training, more funds are available for capital and more places are available to meet the needs of older Australians.

Instances of poor care are never acceptable but, under the system this government has introduced, instances of poor care are detected and acted upon. Poor compliance is worked on until it becomes good compliance. Instead of Labor always knocking the aged care sector and, by inference, casting aspersions on the aged care work force—the skilled and dedicated workers who provide the love, care and support for older Australians—it ought to release an aged care policy. This government is delivering on a world-class system of aged care that is high-quality, affordable and accessible, and we will keep on getting on with the job of caring for older Australians.