Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020

02 Feb 2021 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby—Government Whip) (13:02): I take great issue with the allegations those opposite havemade in the several speeches we have heard so far. Our government has done more than any federal government to make sure that our senior Australians and our elderly Australians are cared for and protected. As someone from South Australia who was in this place when the Oakden disaster was reported, I take particular issue with the allegations of those opposite, because it was a state Labor government that oversaw and, in fact, ran the Oakden facility and that terribly neglected those very vulnerable senior Australians in their care. People died, people suffered injuries, and the families who fought for their loved ones still suffer the scars from fighting for so long to get justice for their family members. So I refuse to be lectured by those opposite.

We have done many things in this space to protect our senior Australians. We legislated for new aged-care quality standards—the first upgrade of the standards in more than 20 years. We established the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. The Morrison government also established a royal commission. The Prime Minister led this. The Prime Minister has led on this issue for the entire time that he has been Prime Minister. The royal commission was into the aged-care sector, and was one of his first acts as Prime Minister. We cannot and we will not tolerate instances of older people being hurt, abused or neglected, and we are working very hard to make sure that families who put their vulnerable loved ones into care have confidence in our aged-care system.

We have also put billions of dollars of extra funding and resourcing into aged care. Our funding has grown from $13.3 billion in 2012-13 to currently $23.9 billion this year to support senior Australians who want to stay at home for as long as possible. The government is providing an additional 23,000 home-care packages, which means the number of home-care packages has now tripled, from 60,300 in 2013 to around 185,500 this year. And 99 per cent of all those seeking an in-home aged-care place now have access to some form of in-home support.

We are also doing a huge amount in the dementia-care space. I am incredibly proud that, thanks to the federal government, my government, and the South Australian Liberal government, the former repat hospital site, another state Labor disaster—they shut down the much beloved repat hospital when they were in government—reopened
and we will have one of the nation's very best dementia-care facilities there. That is something that I am incredibly proud of to have delivered for my local community.

I have a high number of senior Australians residing in my electorate. There are three groups in our society who deserve a very particular level of care from us all: children, those with a disability and, of course, the
elderly. That's what we're speaking about today. These are some of our most vulnerable citizens who often can't advocate for themselves. They can't protect themselves, and I am, as I said, very proud that under our government we established the royal commission into aged care, we passed new quality and safety standards and we are introducing this bill today and speaking on this bill today, which I hope will pass through this place and the other very quickly, because we need to ensure that people understand how they can be protected, the help that they can seek if they need it and what the specific measures are that we will be putting in place through this bill.

The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020 introduces: the Serious Incident Response Scheme, which will respond to and take steps to prevent the incidents of abuse and neglect of older Australians in residential aged care and those receiving flexible care delivered in a residential aged-care setting; and a range of broader powers for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner consistent with the Regulatory Powers Act. Specifically—and these are some of the really important elements— under this bill, which will become the act, residential aged-care providers will be required to manage all incidents with a focus on the safety and well being of consumers and reduce the number of preventable incidents from reoccurring. This will expand the responsibilities of residential aged-care providers in relation to identifying, recording, managing, resolving and reporting assaults and a broader range of serious incidents in residential aged care. The reporting will include a range of new matters, which is really important, such as sexual misconduct, neglect, psychological abuse, inappropriate use of restraint—which was one of the key issues that was uncovered at Oakden, and it was absolutely appalling—and unexpected death, amongst others.

The bill does a range of specific things, as I've just outlined. Importantly, it includes broader protections for whistleblowers who disclose information about reportable incidents and it introduces the ability for the
commissioner to issue compliance notices in order to deal with enforcement of the incident management responsibilities, including in relation to reportable incidents. The bill also introduces new enforcement powers for the commissioner to impose civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and injunctions under the Regulatory Powers Act in relation to this bill and more broadly.

I'm very happy to commend this important bill to the House, and I look forward to making sure everyone in my local community is well aware of the standards that we expect to be applied to our most vulnerable citizens.