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Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Page: 2450

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Aged Care and Senior Australians and Minister for Youth and Sport) (18:52): I thank colleagues for their contributions to the debate. Much of it was quite considered, and debate is an important part of the way that we progress this very important issue for Australians—important for Australians regardless of age but particularly for those who are seeking to access services. I would particularly like to thank Senator Smith for his contribution in which he corrected the record on some of the misinformation that had been provided previously by those opposite. It is important that the debate is balanced, and thanks go to Senator Siewert for her considered comments. I know that over a long period of time she has been very passionate and attentive to this issue. It remains a significant challenge for this country to continue to provide high-quality aged care for senior Australians and their families, and they deserve access to high-quality care.

As the Prime Minister has said, and as I've said on a number of occasions, it's important that we continue to strive in this space. It is an area where community demand continues to change, and we've seen that over the last two or three decades in particular, with more people looking to stay in their own residence rather than move into a residential aged-care facility. This specific piece of legislation deals with the capacity of the system to be adaptive in respect of the allocation of places, and it's important that we continue to adapt to the way that senior Australians are looking to support their aged-care needs.

Importantly, this legislation—and I acknowledge the support from across the chamber for the legislation—supports approved providers to make residential aged-care places ready for use as quickly as possible. We know that constructing facilities can be sometimes difficult, time-consuming and an expensive exercise. There are significant resources required. It's not uncommon for providers to finish aged-care homes with fewer rooms than originally intended, due to planning or construction issues. Where this is the case, the Aged Care Act 1997 needs to be flexible enough to allow these leftover places to be moved to another suitable location. Similarly, a provider may find a more suitable or affordable location for an aged-care home a few minutes drive from the planning region to which the places were originally allocated. Again, the act needs to be flexible enough to allow for this.

The amendments in this bill seek to add that flexibility to the act by allowing provisionally allocated residential aged-care places to be moved from one region to another where a provider can demonstrate that the movement is in the interest of aged-care consumers, there is a clear need for places in the region and it is not detrimental to the region to which the provisionally allocated places are currently allocated. The change, as I've indicated, is in the interests of all older Australians and the broader community, and it intends to remove a potential barrier to the community in accessing residential aged care, thereby aligning with the government's commitment to ensuring the delivery of high-quality aged-care places when and where they are needed. I again thank senators for their contributions and commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.