By Yasmin Noone
The Senate Community Affairs Committee has not received a single written submission towards its aged care reform legislation inquiry since it was charged with the task of investigating the five bills, currently before federal parliament, two weeks ago.
The Senate jointly referred the five aged care bills to the committee for inquiry on 14 March, with an expected sitting date in the last week of April and a reporting deadline of 17 June.
The parliamentary committee is now calling on interested individuals and organisations to submit written submissions by 22 April.
Once all written submissions are received, the committee will hold a hearing to take oral evidence from witnesses, appearing in a representative capacity or otherwise.
The parliamentary committee will then report its findings back to the parliament and the bills will be debated.
Aged care advocates say reform therefore hinges on the support of the Greens, Independents and the Opposition, and getting the legislation passed through both houses by June 27.
Consumer lobby group, COTA Australia, has expressed concern that the legislative process is taking too long, as the bills have not yet been debated or voted on in the House of Representatives.
CEO of COTA, Ian Yates, said the legislation must be passed before 27 June because that is the last sitting day before the election and many changes are scheduled for 1 July.
“Because the Bills did not pass the House as scheduled [last] week means we now have a very tight window for the legislation to pass through a Senate Committee Inquiry and both houses by 27 June,” Mr Yates said.
“The government must guarantee it will not drop the ball on these reforms and they are dealt with as the highest priority in the budget session.”
The government announced the changes proposed by the five bills in April last year with a start date of 1 July 2013.
“The whole sector has been gearing up on this basis and providers have applied for new residential beds and home care packages in the latest Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) based on the new policies and higher charges being in place,” he said.
“The ACAR will fall over if the reforms are not passed, resulting in a greater shortage of home care and residential beds.
“Other reforms include the new Aged Care Gateway that will solve the problems of accessing aged care – currently described as negotiating a maze blindfolded – and the introduction of new measures of care quality.”
The bills are: Aged Care (Bond Security) Amendment Bill 2013 and the Aged Care (Bond Security) Levy Amendment Bill 2013 and the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Bill 2013 and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Bill 2013.
Senate parliamentary committees involve a small number of Senators or Members of the House of Representatives (or both) appointed to conduct inquiries and report back to the parliament.
Committees provide an opportunity for organisations and individuals to have their views placed on the public record and considered as part of the process of considering proposed laws, or government policies and programs.
For information on how to make an inquiry submission, visit the committee’s page on the Senate website.
Related article: AAA’s Parliament to debate aged care legislation, https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2013/03/14/article/Parliament-to-debate-aged-care-legislation/KFILNNHRMK.html