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Monday, 19 October 2020
Page: 7283


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:25): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I wish to start by thanking the aged-care workers in my electorate for their efforts in recent months. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's special report on the impact of COVID-19 on the aged-care sector highlighted that, while their interim report noted the aged-care workforce is underresourced and overworked, it is now also traumatised. My Centre Alliance colleague Stirling Griff has introduced this bill in another place. We have both long campaigned for staffing ratios in the aged-care sector, and the frequent reply from both government and the industry is that it's simply too expensive to implement.

Estia Health, Japara, Regis Healthcare are all residential aged-care providers and all ASX listed companies. According to recent investigations conducted by The Saturday Paper, the trio have received a combined $8.4 billion in revenue from government subsidies and resident charges in the last five years alone. At the same time, these three companies have paid out more than $600 million to shareholders. We've heard stories of directors of aged-care companies who have had the ability to use their funds to buy luxury cars. There's money in offshore bank accounts. We hear allegations of where rent is more than double the commercial rate, with money being funnelled back into church coffers.

At the other end of the spectrum, a report carried out by StewartBrown Advisory earlier this year, pre COVID, shows that 75 per cent of aged-care providers in regional areas are operating at a cash loss, and questions remain as to whether small community-based providers can remain viable. Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong in the aged-care sector, but, without shedding light on each aged-care facility, we won't know the extent of the damage.

The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Financial Transparency) Bill 2020 [No. 2] requires aged-care providers to disclose their income; their spend on food and medication; the amount spent on staff and staff training, accommodation and administration; and how much they pay out to their parent bodies. The providers will be required to submit an annual report to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, who will make the report available to the public. Similarly, the bill also amends the Corporations Act 2001 to ensure residential aged-care providers include detailed financial information in their annual financial statements. This will enable families of loved ones, stakeholders and the public to have a clear view, for the first time, of the proportion of income that providers actually spend on the cost of care and how much is being pocketed or wasted.

People were shocked by the extent of the abuse and poor care exposed in the interim report by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety—a report released almost 12 months ago today. The interim report showed that the government has deep systemic work to do to fix the aged-care system, and it also needs to increase its investment. In 2018-19, government spent over $20 billion on aged care, with approximately 66 per cent of this funding spent on residential aged care. But it simply can't keep pouring more money into a system without first asking for a more accountable and transparent framework from providers.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has got financial transparency squarely on its agenda. The interim report criticised the aged-care system for failing to publish sufficiently specific financial information, saying:

There is no public information on the way providers use taxpayers' funds and individuals' contributions to deliver aged care services.

Currently, there is no clear way to know how much a provider is spending on the provision of care. It is permissible for providers to spend their taxpayer subsidies pretty much as they choose. In an environment where our elderly are being subjected to systemic neglect, this cannot continue.

This bill is about transparency and accountability. It's something that residents deserve, it's something their families deserve and it's something that taxpayers deserve. This bill simply seeks factual information from providers so the government and the public will have a clearer picture of how facilities are resourced. This will be crucial if we, as the parliament, are to engage in sustainable reforms to the sector that will improve the experience and the treatment of vulnerable elderly people living in residential aged care.

Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, with your permission, I would like to give my remaining time to the member for Warringah, who is seconding my bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): Order. Is the motion seconded?