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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 40

Senator CHAPMAN (3:25 PM) —It ill behoves Senator McLucas to come in here today and raise this issue of aged care accommodation given the absolutely appalling record of the Labor Party when it was last in government, during the Hawke-Keating era. Compounding that is its absolute, current lack of policy on this issue.

A few moments ago Senator Eggleston, on behalf of the government, highlighted the initiatives taken by the Howard government to overcome the years of neglect of aged care accommodation that were evident under the Hawke-Keating Labor governments. As Senator Eggleston recalled, during the time that Bronwyn Bishop was minister she set up accreditation requirements to ensure that the inadequate standards for aged care that had existed throughout the period of the previous Labor government were brought to account and were significantly improved. She introduced a number of initiatives, including a significant improvement in funding availability, to ensure that aged care accommodation improved.

The government subsequently commissioned Professor Hogan to review our aged care system. In the last budget, in May, the government responded positively regarding the short- and medium-term recommendations of the report presented by Professor Hogan as a consequence of his investigations. In fact, it has implemented 18 of the 20 recommendations arising from the Hogan review. It has also committed to consulting with the community and the aged care accommodation sector on the few remaining medium-term recommendations that were not implemented in the last budget, as well as the six long-term options.

That is the issue that the Labor Party is trying to raise today with regard to aged care accommodation. It is saying, `The government hasn't implemented all of the Hogan review recommendations.' In fact, the government is responding to those recommendations in a considered and logical manner. As I say, in the last budget it proceeded to implement the recommendations that were appropriate to be implemented immediately, and it is giving further consideration to the remaining recommendations—including, very importantly, community and industry sector consultation.

The government has been gradually introducing a series of reforms to ensure we have a world-class system of aged care. As I said, that goes right back to the days when Mrs Bishop was the responsible minister and introduced, for the first time ever, a system of accreditation with regard to aged care accommodation. The recommendations of the Hogan review and the government's response represent a further step in the reform process which, as I said, was introduced in the May budget this year. Additional funding of $2.2 billion has been provided in the budget this year. That will translate into a $30 billion expenditure on this sector by 2008.

The government has established a ministerial implementation task force to oversee the implementation of the Hogan review's recommendations. The government is certainly confident that the impact of these options on those needing care has been fully considered and it will decide what elements may be implemented in the longer term. As I said, consultation is a very important part of the process, particularly when dealing with aged people, in order to ensure that accommodation which is suitable for their needs is provided.

The government are actively planning for the ageing of our population. We are doing that not only through aged care accommodation but also through a number of other initiatives, including the issue of intergenerational transfers and the like. We want to ensure, particularly with regard to aged care accommodation, that we have quality, accessibility and a sustainable aged care system. Since 1996, when the Howard government came to office, we have provided $37 billion in aged care funding and, as I said a few moments ago, we will provide more than $30 billion over the next four years. We have introduced that quality accreditation system. We have allocated more than 68,000 places and given older Australians greater choice in the types of care which they are able to receive, including more community care places to allow older people to stay at home for as long as possible which, of course, many of them desire to do. All in all, this government's record with regard to aged care policies generally and aged care accommodation particularly— (Time expired)