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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19923

Ms BURKE (9:40 AM) —I rise today to speak on a matter of crisis, a matter that is raising alarm bells within my seat of Chisholm—that of aged care. There is an aged care crisis in our society. On the government's own figures alone, we are 13,179 beds short, and in the system at the moment there are 21,125 phantom beds. They are beds were licences have been granted, but they have not been built.

Every day in the parliament we see the Minister for Ageing shifting blame—blaming everybody else. At the moment he is blaming local government for their inability to grant planning permits. This is the height of hypocrisy. I had an aged care facility in my electorate that was built and up and running but could not open its doors because the government had failed to grant it any aged care licences. This was not a facility that was being driven out by a lack of planning, because we had actually already opened the facility. It reminded me very much of a Yes Minister episode: we were walking around this beautiful facility but there was nobody in a bed because there were no licences. They did manage to mention that it was running very effectively without anybody in it, but it was not helping one aged care person, one frail elderly, in our community to get out of an acute care hospital bed and into an appropriate aged care facility.

There is a crisis out there at the moment—and what is the government doing? It is having inquiry after inquiry after inquiry. There is currently an inquiry into pricing in the aged care industry. Yes, this is needed, but what is needed is action on the ground now. The recent agreement in respect of funding, though welcomed by the industry, falls way short of addressing any of the problems in the sector at the moment. The agreement provides, on average, a one per cent increase to the sector. This is all well and good, but there is currently a four per cent wage increase being offered out there. So that is, on average, three per cent short already. That is just on wages alone. It does not cover maintenance, buildings or anything else. So we will see closures of facilities and more impacts being put back on the aged care sector.

There is also an inquiry into paperwork. What is the inquiry into paperwork doing? It is creating more paperwork for the sector. Nurses are being taken away from their primary responsibility of giving care in the community to deal with reports, paperwork and inquiries. What we need is action. We need more money going into the sector. We need someone to stand up and say, `Yes, there is a crisis and we are going to help.' We have seen time and time again that the not-for-profit sector in the aged care industry has been overlooked. This is probably the most vital part of the industry, and I am blessed in my electorate to have many great institutions offering phenomenal aged care services. We need more assistance at the moment and not more blame. (Time expired)