Struggling Aged Care Sector

20 June, 2023

The member for Blair, who just spoke, put across the government's arguments. I've been around this aged-care issue since the Hawke government. There have been difficulties, of course, as the aged-care sector evolved and changed, and I've said this many times before. In the last year of the Howard government, I went to see the Prime Minister about something. He said to me, 'Russell, I hope you're not here again on aged care, because we haven't got any more money to give them.' We had increased the money, nearly doubling it, year after year because of our aging population.

There was always going to be pressure put on a sector whereby, in the fifties, sixties and seventies, people would go into an aged-care home, sometimes as young as 50, as a care facility. It was used as a community care facility. Some people would go in and would have been there for 10, 15 or 20 years, living a great life, many of them very well. In those days, I remember few in high care. High care was when people, strangely, lived longer, but not now. It is because of the care that we give them, the drugs that are available to them and the attention that they get.

Neglect cannot be put on any one of the nursing homes and aged-care facilities in my electorate. I've had to write to my aged-care sector, every one as individuals, and say to them, 'It's not you they're talking about.' But they say, We're being tarred with the same brush.' I say, 'No, you're not,' especially my not-for-profits. Have I had complaints over the years? Yes, I have, but not about any centre that I have personally attended or been invited to.

The aged-care sector has really struggled over the past two years to get staff, especially in regional areas. When you pay them more, you say, 'That's great for the staff. They're being paid more money by this new government.' But then the people in disability are saying, 'Well, if they're getting that much in aged care, I'm going to go and work in aged care.' So you distort the market of where people might go and work. So then NDIS comes in and says: 'We'll pay you more. You come and work in the NDIS. You can work with people with disabilities. We will pay you more.' So then the aged-care sector loses.

When they said we're going to introduce 24-hour nurses, I thought it was a laudable idea. Fantastic. I love it. That means Mrs Jones down on the corner, who may have gastroenteritis, is checked on that day and she's not waiting for the GP to come a week later, which may be too late. Mrs Jones may be so dehydrated she may pass away. That has happened. There's no doubt about it.

In the most expensive nursing homes there have been people who've been treated badly and not cared for properly. There's no doubt about that. So it's not the money you pay to go into a nursing home; it's the actual care you get within the nursing home, so who the people are and how they attend to their responsibilities.

I'm not going to admit to all the accusations that were thrown by the member for Blair. I'm not going to, because every government, to my knowledge, has done the best they can in the aged-care sector, having regard to the budget that was available to them. I remember when Kim Beazley was giving his valedictory speech. He said in that valedictory speech what the Hawk government would have given to have a $1 billion surplus or a $100 million surplus, but, for years and years, this nation couldn't ever get itself into surplus until the Howard government came along. So the aged-care sector benefited from one of the wealthiest governments since the gold rush. The Howard government was able to pour an enormous amount of money into aged care that benefited every community—small, large, country, regional—in Australia. Thank you, John Howard.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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