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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 37

Senator McLUCAS (3:11 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Family and Community Services (Senator Patterson) to questions without notice asked by Senators Collins and McLucas today relating to child care and to residential aged care.

Today's reporting of Professor Warren Hogan's address to the Victorian Nursing Homes and Extended Care Association conference on the weekend should be seen by the government as another wake-up call in terms of the lack of response they have had to the Hogan review. Professor Hogan's words expressed not only his frustration but also the frustration of most in the sector about the lack of a credible government response to the series of structural and financial problems in the residential aged care sector.

Professor Hogan is not known for his flamboyant language or in fact for his academic work on the history of Stalin—he is an economist, and a health economist at that. Mrs Bishop herself welcomed his report in quite glowing terms when it was handed down, interestingly, on budget night this year. One can only, therefore, speculate why Professor Hogan decided to use such seemingly inflammatory language. He told the conference in Melbourne that the system for administering nursing home beds `had its ideological basis in the central planning offices of Moscow in 1928'. Further he said that the May budget measures—according to Senator Patterson's answer today—fell a long way short of the shift required to bring the Stalinist-style system into the 21st century world of market forces. It is clear to me and to many that Professor Hogan's decision to use this sort of language is a reflection of his frustration and the frustration of the sector at the delays and the half approach to responding to not only the Hogan review but the broader planning and funding needs of both the residential and community care sectors.

Those who heard Senator Patterson's response to the question I posed today would have noted with interest that she had to be reminded on two occasions by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of the substance of the question and that with only about half a minute to go she started talking about Professor Hogan's work and what the government's response might be. It is also interesting to note that Senator Patterson took the opportunity in her answer—when she finally got to the substance of the question—to raise the issue of accommodation bonds for high-need residents of aged care facilities. She quite inappropriately accused Ms Macklin of acting inappropriately when she was the aged care opposition spokesperson. That is not correct, and I am glad that the record has been corrected in that respect. Residents, future residents and, importantly, the families of future residents will be interested to note that once again accommodation bonds for high-need residents seem to be the only policy response this government has to the needs—the viability needs and the sustainability needs—of the residential aged care sector.

People will remember that the whole process of the Hogan review has been long and protracted. In early 2002 the then minister, Mr Andrews, asked Professor Hogan, an economist, to review nursing home pricing. At the end of 2003 a response was expected. Professor Hogan requested an extension of time to complete his work. We were then told that the report would be ready in early 2004. The opposition and the sector were continually asking: `Where is the report? When can we get this information so that we can deal with it?' Finally, the government snuck it out on the night of the budget. They said that they had responded to it in the budget. It was very difficult for the sector to make an informed view when the response—according to the government—and the report were released in the hubbub of a budget. I do not know that that is a respectful way to treat the sector. They certainly do not feel that it was, and I am sure Professor Hogan is also concerned. (Time expired)