Aged Care changes

PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS - FEDERATION CHAMBER

I am pleased to rise as a member of the Albanese Labor government at any opportunity to speak about the actions we are taking in aged care. The member for Forrest in her contribution raised some questions, and I think it'd be timely for me to give her some answers to those questions—that aged-care homes that genuinely try to meet the requirement and recruit registered nurses will not be shut down because they can't fill the positions. Let's start there. Older Australians from rural and regional Australia will not be forced to travel miles away from their community to receive support, because their providers can apply for an exemption.

To listen to members of the opposition now speak about aged care is galling—a fearmongering campaign about the improvements to aged care not meeting a time line that was suddenly set by an opposition that for a decade ignored what was happening in aged care, ignored the need for a wage rise for aged-care workers to maintain them in the system and to recruit and retain workers in the aged-care system. So I take this opportunity with relish, because let's be frank about what this motion from the coalition is arguing against. It's arguing against getting more registered nurses into aged-care homes. It's arguing against treating older Australians with greater dignity. It's arguing for refusing to increase care access. It's arguing for refusing to lift standards—in an industry that the whole country knows needs to lift those standards, after the damning reports from the royal commission. It is astonishing that after those shameful findings of the royal commission, delivered on the opposition's watch in government, that the coalition is still actively trying to stop older Australians from getting the care they need.

After 10 years of neglect, the coalition is still trying to slow down and delay reform in aged care. Let's have a look at that 10 years. Let's have a really good look at it. In December 2013 former Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped Labor's $1.2 billion aged-care workforce compact, which would have delivered a pay rise to agedcare workers in 2013. In May 2016 former Treasurer Scott Morrison cut $2.5 billion from aged care over four years. In 2018 they ignored the key recommendations of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce report. On 31 March 2021 the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its shocking final report, describing the government's approach to care as 'the minimum commitment it could get away with'.

In contrast, this Labor government is putting things in place, starting with fixing the workforce shortage. It's not going to be easy, but the Albanese Labor government are using every tool in our kit to achieve it. In the October budget we delivered $473 million to help providers get their 24/7 nurses. We're delivering a 15 per cent pay rise for aged-care workers to attract and retain the workforce. We're increasing the permanent migration program ceiling to 195,000 in 2022-23 to help ease widespread critical workforce shortages, one of which of course includes aged care. We're providing an additional $1 billion in joint federal-state funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerating delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places. We're extending visas and relaxing work restrictions on international students to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour and providing additional funding to resolve the visa backlog. We're allowing people on the age pension and the veteran pension to earn an additional $4,000. Someone I met quite recently who was working in aged care and was on the age pension is making the most of that. We've done all of that in less than a year.

In comparison, Labor campaigned from opposition; Labor called out the then coalition government for years. And I will finish with this: in my electorate in the middle of the pandemic, aged-care facilities had no PPE on the ground, and that was on the former government's watch. The former government was responsible for the provision of those things, and when they were needed in my community—when the infection hit the aged-care facilities in my community—there was no PPE on the ground. I know that because I helped deliver it. I had to ring the then minister and ask for his assistance to deliver on what should already have been apparently needed and delivered to my community.

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