Above: Amigos…the three NACA spokespeople at the press conference. L-R: Martin Laverty, Ian Yates and Sue Lines
By Keryn Curtis [written Friday 20 April 2012]
‘’A new era”, “a remarkable achievement”, “a huge leap forward”, “a real ‘road to Damascus’ moment”. These are the phrases being used across the many aged care stakeholder groups to describe the $3.7 billion package of reforms for the aged care sector announced today by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler.
‘Furious agreement’ was the term used by chief political correspondent and Canberra bureau chief for SBS Television, Karen Middleton, after listening to the chorus of positive responses from National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) spokespeople.
The seasoned press gallery reporter and author fired a barrage of questions to NACA spokespeople, Ian Yates, Martin Laverty and Sue Lines at the NACA press conference in the Senate courtyard shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement. Middleton dominated questioning at the forum, doggedly testing new angles, looking for cracks in the smooth face of their beaming solidarity.
“How can you all be in such furious agreement on this? How often does this happen?” she finally said in disbelief.
She was right to be astonished. Consistency and unity between apparently disparate stakeholders is indeed an uncommon event in politics and social and national affairs. Unions and employers on the same team? Service providers and customers all in accord? Unheard of!
And while, come Monday, there will of course be questions and concerns, requests for detail and calls to retain the pressure and momentum, today was a day for elation and celebration, as well as relief.
COTA CEO and NACA spokesperson for consumers, Ian Yates said it was an excellent beginning. “The system now has a sense of direction. And continuing to work collaboratively, we can ensure we can iron out any unintended consequences along the way.”
Mr Yates congratulated the government and the opposition and said the sector should congratulate itself too.
“We’ve worked hard for many years to achieve this. For many years but especially since 2009 when we first launched the Campaign for the Care of Older Australians.“
“Government after government has put aged care in the too-hard basket and all the disparate voices within the sector have made it easier for that to happen.”
CEO of Catholic Health Australia and NACA spokesperson for aged care providers, Martin Laverty, said consensus among the voices had been critical in achieving this outcome.
“Employers, unions and consumers have shown their consensus and commitment to reform; now it is up to the Parliament to do the same,” Mr Laverty said.
Assistant National Secretary of United Voice, the union representing most aged care workers, Sue Lines said there was a new maturity in the relationship between employers and unions.
“Both the unions and the employers recognise that we are stronger together than when we are apart. The Workforce Compact [announced in the package of reforms] will give us the opportunity to agree to things. And it will be up to us to be innovative and bold and to get the sector and the workforce that Australians want and deserve. It’s a very exciting future for us,” Ms Lines said.
The Minister, speaking personally
Above: Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler at the joint press conference for the announcement.
Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler agreed that consensus among the many stakeholders had been critical in getting the reforms over the line.
“I think that’s been a problem in the past to some degree. If the sector talks of different priorities and disagrees on some of the fundamental building blocks, it’s hard for the government and the parliament to be confident about what direction is the best,” said Mr Butler.
“The wonderful thing about this process for some years has been just how hard the sector has worked at achieving consensus as far as they possibly can around the building blocks.
“Now you can’t agree on everything and there will be disagreements around priorities and there will be disagreement on issues around the edge, but the work that has been done in the sector to achieve consensus, as much as they can, has been essential for the government and the parliament to have the confidence that what we are proposing is the right direction,” Mr Butler said.
“I know that, just from talking to cross benchers and from back benchers in the government who have talked to the NACA members over the last few months as they’ve been stomping the halls of parliament.
“When they look at the [NACA] Blueprint and they see the list of organisations signing up to the same set of principles – the diversity of those organisations, the fact that those organisations in the past and in some other forums disagree profoundly about things; they have a level of confidence that the direction is the right one,” Mr Butler said.