Shorten wants more aged care spending but won’t back royal commission | Australia news
Bill Shorten says Labor will make aged care “a central national issue” and more spending is needed to address critical issues, but he remains unconvinced a royal commission into the sector is warranted.
Speaking in South Australia, where some of the most high-profile cases of aged care abuse have occurred, Shorten said he would caucus with his colleagues, but identified several key priorities for reform.
“One: we’ve got to make sure that aged care staff are valued, paid properly and properly trained,” he said.
“Two: we’ve got to make sure that the promises being made to vulnerable people in their care are being delivered on. Three: we’ve actually got to do a lot more to challenge the scourge of dementia.
“We don’t have a cure to that yet. But there are a lot of things that we can do to improve the lives of people with dementia and the people caring for them, both family members and professionals.”
Shorten’s comments follow his solo appearance on Q&A on Monday night, where he was asked about the possibility of a royal commission.
“I don’t know if one is needed,” he said on Tuesday. “Some people say so. Of course the advantage of a royal commission, as I’ve demonstrated with the banks, is that it puts it right in the centre of national attention.
“But of course there’ve been a lot of inquiries into aged care and how we properly fund it and what needs to be done. So others would say, ‘we’ve already got the answers, Bill, we just need a government in Canberra with the resolve to fix the problem’.”
Shorten’s view has been backed by the nation’s peak body for ageing, Cota, with its chief, Ian Yates, saying more needed to be done to implement the recommendations from inquiries that had already been held.
That included the Carnell-Paterson report, which was initiated by the aged care minister, Ken Wyatt, in May last year, following revelations of failure and abuse at the Oakden facility run by the South Australian government. That report recommended an independent aged care quality and safety commission be established.
Yates also wants to see more of the recommendations from the Tune review, which highlighted the sector’s waiting lists for home and residential care, put into action.
“The opposition needs to focus now on holding the government to account for delivering robustly on these reviews and not watering down in response to providers pushing back,” he said.
But not everyone in the sector is convinced that is the best way forward.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association senior policy adviser, Eliza Littleton, said the aged care system was “broken” and rather than handing “more money over to providers”, a royal commission was crucial to ensure change.
“Successive inquiries into aged care over the last couple of years have revealed hundreds of cases of neglect, abuse and poor care,” she said.
“These are not isolated issues; they are systemic issues stemming from ineffective quality standards, inadequate staffing ratios and an accreditation system that focuses on processes rather than outcomes
“A royal commission would pinpoint the problems within the system and enable evidence-based policy reform to better protect vulnerable Australians living in aged care.”
Shorten said he would continue to discuss the issue.
“You’ve got to talk to people. You just don’t do things on the spur of the moment, do you?” he said.
“And again, we had this discussion last night. We’re going to talk to our colleagues about it. No one wants to see this problem denied.”