Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:13): The first half of the statement that we are debating today infers that the government has been neglecting the aged-care system. I absolutely reject that part of the statement. The second half of the statement, which says we are in crisis, I think may be closer to a sustainable statement, insomuch as certainly aged care is under enormous pressure at the moment, and it certainly is on my patch.
On the issue of neglect: since we came to power in 2013, spending in the aged-care sector has doubled from $13 billion to $26 billion. Doubled. That is an astonishing amount. It is budgeted to go right out to $34 billion in the next three years. There is provision for this sector to keep growing and the funding to keep growing. I don’t think that could be labelled as neglect in any way. It’s showing some attention.
One of the previous speakers was speaking about home-care packages. I must say, we like home-care packages. I like them. Certainly, as good as any aged-care home might be—and I’m very mindful of the comments from the member for Mackellar—I don’t think I’ll be looking to move into one before I have to, and I think that is the case with many of us. We like living at home, and I think it’s a very good outcome if we can be assisted to stay in our homes longer. As long as it’s safe and we’re well looked after, it’s a very good place to be. It’s good for the taxpayer, and I think it’s good for the individual as well.
We have lifted the number of home-care packages from 60,000 when we came to office to over 200,000 now, and that number is due to hit 275,000 in the next three years. That’s a 357 per cent increase from when we came to office through to now. It begs the question of why there weren’t more than 60,000 home-care packages in 2013. But it is certainly not a sign of neglect by the government in this sector. It’s a sign of a government that’s showing great interest and involvement in the sector. We also established an aged-care royal commission, which has been referred to. That commission made 148 recommendations, with 142 either accepted or under further consideration. Only six of those recommendations have been rejected, and we have either delivered outcomes already or are working on delivering outcomes on the rest of them.
We have installed the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. I think it is a very important point that the policing of the facilities is now beyond the reach of government, if you like. It is within the remit of an independent body, and I’m getting plenty of feedback from my nursing homes that the accreditation process has certainly tightened up. There have been more black marks for infringements, but the aged-care commission works with these organisations and their facilities to bring them up to scratch ASAP. That would seem to me to be an indication of good housekeeping, not poor housekeeping. The fact that more facilities are getting called out at the moment is not necessarily an indication of their standard; it indicates that we are requiring a higher standard. As a government we are targeting home care, residential care, quality care, safety, sustainability, a bigger and better workforce with better skills, new legislation and better governance. That is not neglect.
On the second half of the premise—and I’m running out of time—certainly I know how difficult running aged-care facilities in my electorate can be. We lost one in Whyalla in my electorate last year. It was called Annie Lockwood, one of three facilities run by Kindred Living. That organisation has now come under the control of Helping Hand. The federal government gave a considerable amount of assistance to bringing it up to speed and getting it back on track, but the problem they had was that they could not get staff. The lack of staff was not necessarily affected by COVID; they just couldn’t get enough staff. But I can say that it is not just the aged-care sector in regional Australia that’s struggling for staff. We can’t get enough dentists, we can’t get enough doctors, we can’t get enough sparkies, we can’t get enough mechanics and we can’t get enough experienced teachers to come to live and work in the country. An additional problem for regional Australia at the moment is the number of people who are not prepared to commit.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O’Brien ): The discussion is now concluded.