Aged care advocates are urging federal parliament to quickly pass measures to reform the sector after the Albanese government introduced a suite of proposals.
Two bills aimed at improving aged care were presented to parliament on its first full business day, which Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said will return security, dignity, quality and humanity to the sector.
Proposed amendments to existing aged care laws will require a qualified and registered nurse to be on site in every residential home at all times.
It will also introduce measures to monitor the costs associated with aged care, specifically administration fees, and place greater responsibility on providers to be transparent and fair.
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Ms Wells said the government would not only expect greater transparency, but mandate it.
“It will ensure older Australians have access to more and better information on aged care services and providers, including how much money is spent on their care,” she told parliament on Wednesday.
Independent MP Rebekha Sharkie said the government’s proposal is an important first step, but called for more transparency from providers on executive salaries and profits.
“Elderly Australians deserve a system that does not fail them,” she said.
“We must also address the underpayment of aged care workers with many in the sector underpaid by 25 per cent compared with workers in the disability sector.”
The minister also introduced a bill responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
It contains nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system, and responds to 17 recommendations of the final report.
The opposition supported the introductions but spokeswoman Sussan Ley said the royal commission response was a reintroduction of the former Liberal-National government’s proposal.
“They’re trying to redo what has already been done,” she said.
“We will be keeping a close eye on further upcoming aged care reform introduced by the government to ensure these regulations are actually implemented so that poor conduct in the sector is held to account.”
Introducing the two proposals on the first day of parliament was unprecedented and indicated the government’s priority for aged care reform, the peak body for older Australians said.
“These bills are crucial steps in a reform process that … will ensure Australia finally enjoys the quality aged care system all older Australians deserve,” Council of the Ageing chief Ian Yates said.
“This is about the right of older people to receive quality care, adequately funded services, strong consumer protections and transparency.
“We can’t afford to wait any longer.”