Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (11:09): I thank the member for Indi for bringing this important motion forward. It has dated a bit since she tabled it, of course—we’ve had a budget since then and $17.7 extra billion have been allocated over the forward estimates to aged care.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that we’re dealing with difficult issues in Grey on aged care at the moment, in particular in Whyalla. Whyalla Kindred Living, which was Whyalla Aged Care, a community organisation, is having to close one of its three facilities due to a lack of staff. People jump on the bandwagon and say that is because, of course, staff are not treated well enough or not paid enough or whatever it might be. Most of them—almost all of them—have gone to the hospitals. But it demonstrates a problem that we really have, which is a lack of staff generally in country areas. Of course, if there weren’t 15 or 18 vacant positions at the Whyalla Hospital for registered nurses, they would’ve stayed at the aged-care facility.
This is a problem that we are seeing right across the board, where skilled Australians just do not want to go to, live in or work in our regional areas. It’s a blight on our nation, and it’s not restricted to aged care, let me tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker Claydon. I can demonstrate the same problems in virtually any industry across the board and on aged care in particular.
This motion carries the intonation that the government is not trying or is failing on aged care. I point out that before the $17.7 billion boost that was announced in the budget that, in fact, aged-care funding in Australia had increased from $13.3 billion per annum to $23.9 billion per annum from when we came to government in 2013. That’s in fact 50 per cent in real terms. If money were the only issue, it would make you wonder why we still have any problems at all. On home-care packages, which is a place that the government has taken some criticism on along the way, let me say that there were 59,300 when we came to government in 2013 and there are now over 183,000. By the time the funding that was announced in the budget comes through by 2024 there will be 275,000. It’s a growth of 500 per cent or more. So government is investing back in aged care in a very significant way. The package in the budget, which accelerates or lifts the amount of funding available to all facilities—but in particular to country facilities—for additional specialist care, and a lift of $10 a day in the base rate, will all make a difference. It’ll all make a difference.
These are very important institutions in our regional areas: not only do they look after our loved ones but they also employ a lot of people. There’s a lot of opportunity there, and government is also investing in training for aged-care workers and registered nurses—which seems to be the very tight spot in my community at the moment. I make the point to my constituents that there is a good university in Whyalla and there are uni hubs in Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Kadina which are all capable of delivering nursing degrees. This is a great way to get into work. You can be very sure that for a long time in Australia there are going to be plenty of work opportunities in aged care and indeed in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and other associated issues. It’s one of the reasons we are facing such a tight time at the moment.
On those issues in Whyalla: as I said, we’ve seen the hospital absorb or attract a lot of these workers from aged care, which has led to a terrible position where we have 37 people that have to be relocated and there are only about 19 positions available in Whyalla. We’re working with the families to get through that at the moment. It was brought on, though, I guess, by a perfect storm, where we’ve got this underlying shortage of aged-care workers—of nurses and of skilled workers in the country—but we also have the demand for them to work on COVID testing stations and COVID injecting stations. We’ve had very little import of nursing-degree-credentialed people into Australia in the last 12 months. So there’s much work to be done, but we’re working hard.