17 March 2023

Addressing the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care

Ms WELLS (Lilley—Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Sport): I thank the member for Fremantle for his question. I know that he has been very engaged with aged-care facilities in his electorate like the Italian Village, a facility that provides which provides culturally and linguistically diverse care to older Australians.

March 1 marked two years since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's shocking final report was tabled in the parliament. It was damning in its assessment of the aged-care system. It showed us stomach-turning evidence of how our most vulnerable people were being treated—maggots in the wounds of older Australians, and two-thirds of people in residential care malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. People who were supposed to be being cared for were literally not getting enough food to eat.

The royal commission told us all that we must do better, be better, and this government is not wasting a single day.

These are not new problems, but we are giving new energy to fixing them and we have already directly addressed 37 royal commission recommendations—that is, four times more than what those opposite did in 17 months.

We are putting nurses back into nursing homes 24/7 to improve clinical care and to reduce trips to hospital. We are putting in mandatory minimum care minutes from 1 October this year and a deserved pay rise for our workforce, to recognise their work properly—a rise supported by this government. There's the star-rating system, to increase choice, accountability and transparency; the inaugural code of conduct to protect older people; capping homecare charges and exit fees to stop the rorting; and enhancing safeguards for restrictive practices. And this only scratches the surface of the critical reforms that we have and have yet to tackle in the coming years and months as we are working hard to set up this sector for long-term success.

Aged care has had a very difficult decade, but I see a bright, positive and ambitious future for this sector. Those opposite do not share this optimism. They continue to talk down the sector and continue to talk down recommendations of the royal commission. They even talk down the need for round-the-clock nursing and for the right for older people to access round-the-clock nursing. I'm talking about the urgent need for reform in aged care asked of us by the royal commission due to the actions and neglect of those opposite.

They might accuse us of rushing reform in aged care; we certainly could not accuse them of rushing anything in aged care, because it is very hard to rush neglect—you really have to let it wither on the vine. They could not commit to 24/7 nurses, they could not commit to basic standards of care minutes for our older Australians and they could not commit to a pay rise for aged-care workers. But they remain steadfastly committed to neglecting the duty of care and the standard required in aged care.

This government will not apologise for being ambitious for aged care. We will keep working and we will keep fighting, even though the reform required is complex and difficult. We remain committed to the task and we remain committed to older Australians.