Aged Care Royal Commission - 22/06/2021

21 June 2021


I rise tonight to talk about the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 1) Bill 2021. Of course the Labor Party will support this, but we've moved a second reading amendment because we need to do so much better than this to address the absolute crisis in aged care. This is not just another minor problem, as this government sees it. So often with the government we see that they are just looking for a solution as a political fix. Well, this is a deep, deep crisis. Anyone who has a loved one in aged care knows that, and anyone who has looked at the aged-care royal commission and its recommendations knows that. I want to again acknowledge the people who contributed their stories to the royal commission, because the nation can now clearly see the depth of this crisis—the malnourishment, the neglect, the situations of people with maggots in wounds. People who've had their own experiences with aged care know that these things are not uncommon either. These are not shocking sorts of things that have happened only once in a blue moon. These are very common things. It's not good enough in a country like Australia.

The government's response in this budget commits nowhere near the funding that is needed to address these problems, but also it doesn't go towards tying that funding, through accountability measures, to where it really needs to go. We've seen the government ignore a lot of the recommendations of that royal commission. Why don't we have 24-hour nurses in aged care? This is something that people have been calling for for many years. Anyone who has a loved one in aged care—or, again, anyone who has looked at the recommendations—knows that staffing is key to addressing these issues. The people who work in aged care do it because they have a deep dedication to residents, because they care about the older Australians in their care. When you talk to these workers that is so clear. They front up day after day because they care about these people. What is so devastating is that they can't actually deliver the care in the ways that they would like to because there simply aren't enough people. I saw that firsthand when my grandmother was in aged care. People would come who really, really cared for the elderly people and wanted to spend time making their lives a little bit brighter. But they couldn't even give them the care to ensure that they weren't in these situations of neglect.

We've seen a response from this government that does nothing to address that, and does nothing to ensure that that money goes where it is most needed. It just goes to the providers like a blank cheque. Some of the providers mean very well, and I want to acknowledge that. I've met with them here in Canberra. Some of them are people who want to create a great place for elderly people to go when they need residential care. But we've also seen people making enormous profits out of aged care while the residents don't even have three decent meals a day. That's not good enough. We could see a policy that would do something about that, but we've not seen that here. I think this quote from the royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs sums this up perfectly and quite shockingly. She said:

At times in this inquiry, it has felt like the Government's main consideration was what was the minimum commitment it could get away with, rather than what should be done to sustain the aged care system so that it is enabled to deliver high quality and safe care. This must change.

This must change, and we on this side of the House, as the member for Dunkley has just said, will not stop asking until it does.

This is not a political problem to be fixed. This is a very human crisis that needs genuine commitment and a genuine solution, so that people in Australia aren't absolutely terrified of the day that they or their loved ones will need to go into aged care. And it's not just residential care; it's people on waiting lists for home care, who can't get the most basic of things to ensure they have dignity and some wellbeing in their older years.

We support this bill, and we have moved this amendment to ensure that, for the restrictive practices that we've seen abused—and we have seen widespread abuse of these very serious interventions throughout aged care—an actual independent expert oversees them. We also want to see accountability measures introduced. But so much more needs to be done. After eight years of cuts and neglect from this government, more needs to be done and Labor wants to see it happen. We have a plan that, under a Labor government, would see a decent aged-care system, decent child care for young people and a decent Medicare for people in between. We have a plan that actually cares about people, because we on this side of the House actually do care about people. We don't see this as a political fix, and we will keep asking.