Dear Government: expert PC Panel

A panel of key industry commentators gives the government a few pointers on what must happen next.

Debate and discussion will continue on the Productivity Commission’s long awaited draft report delivered last week but most stakeholders have been quick to grasp the key elements and deliver their initial comments and observations.

AAA invited a cross section of aged care industry leaders and stakeholder representatives to form a panel to provide commentary and help to influence the direction of the discussion and debate.

We asked them a range of questions.  One question was about how they thought the government must respond to the report to ensure positive, sustainable reform of aged care can be achieved.

Here is some of what they said in response to the question: How should the government respond?

Preferably, as quickly as possible to limit instability in the sector resulting from uncertainty about whether the recommendations in funding, approvals and subsidy structure will be implemented in full or in part. 

“In the interim, immediately fix the clearly-enunciated, capital-raising challenge of new services by returning to allowing partial extra services approvals in all new high care services. It is clear that allowing, say, 30 per cent of all new places to be extra services means that 70 per cent of new places are available for non-ES admissions. The Report stated that extra services has been used for the purpose of capital funding much-needed GENERAL places that are built concurrently with the extra services places.”
James Underwood, Director, Underwood & Associates

The Government needs to be courageous and responsible. We all understand the fiscal constraints on Government, but at the end of the day, quality aged care has to be funded appropriately. The primary responsibility for doing this is with Government. However many consumers can contribute as well. The Government should not shy away from the difficult issue of introducing co-payments for aged care (as occurs in other areas of public policy) as long as there is adequate protection for those who are unable to do this. We owe this to current and future generations.”
Gillian McFee, Director, UnitingCare Ageing NSW & ACT

 “Provide a timely response which accepts the principles and premises; identifies the gaps and develops a planned, costed, integrated implementation model.”
Rosa Colanero, Chief Executive Officer, Multicultural Aged Care Inc

The government needs to provide real leadership on a social policy challenge that has implications for now and for decades ahead. It must also be sensitive to the vulnerability of our oldest citizens. It needs to accept that people in their retirement years have limited opportunity to adapt to changed policy arrangements and as such transition arrangements will be critical. Fundamentally it needs to do better than administrations over the past decade or more.”
Michael O’Neil, CEO, National Seniors

By endorsing the focus of the draft report, and being prepared to start the process of the detailed work that will be necessary to make the changes needed to build a new and better way of providing care for older Australians.”
Barbara Squires, General Manager – Ageing, Benevolent Society

Assuming the government adopts the recommendations made, then the challenge will be around implementing the recommendations. I trust it will not be clouded/delayed by political indecision or weakness! Effective implementation has not been a hallmark of the Rudd Government and is yet to be tested by the Gillard Government.
Doug Strain, Chief Executive Officer, Masonic Homes Limited

“[The government should respond] positively with a sense of urgency, including budgetary consideration; ensure aged care reforms are well linked with others reforms such as the Health and Hospital Reform agenda; and continue the spirit of sector engagement and cooperation.”
Dale Cleaver, CEO, Royal District Nursing Service SA (RDNS SA)

This is a time for a government to lead. The most significant task for the government and the minister is to embrace the reform agenda and lead the reform dialogue and process.  It won’t be a simple road.  There are lots of challenges so it needs a passionate and committed government that can do that.
Gerard Mansour, CEO, Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV)

The government should respond as it has by restating its commitment to serious reform of aged care and emphasising the need for greater access to high quality care, greater choice, and a sustainable and fair funding model.  The government also needs to consider how it can ensure a smooth transition and to allocate the resources required for the implementation of reform over a 5-8 year period.
Glenn Rees, CEO, Alzheimer’s Australia

At the end of the day it will be the government who decides what reforms take place. We urge the government not to forget that this is about people. It’s about the experiences and care of the elderly nursing home residents. Or the older Australians who are trying to access some home care while they live independently.  Any solution must put the resident back in the centre of care and include strategies that support and adequately remunerate the staff who provide care.”
Lee Thomas, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF)

The Government’s response should be to accept the recommendations and work with the aged care industry and other key stakeholders to develop a detailed plan to implement each of the recommendations. In doing this, the government should give serious consideration to elevating the minister for ageing position to a full cabinet position to ensure the industry and the recommendations are given a high priority.  It needs to be acknowledged that these reforms will bring significant changes and opportunities to DOHA.
Sandra Hills, CEO, Benetas

The government should take the lead in discussing the draft report with the community and the aged care sector. In our ongoing discussions with the minister, we will be reminding him of the hard working, low paid men and women who are the backbone of the sector. These workers must form a key part of the government’s response to this report and to the ongoing enquiry into the sector.
Sue Lines, Assistant National Secretary, LHMU (Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union)

Government(s) need(s) to give this a tick and get on with implementation. The opposition needs not to play politics with this; they had their turn and failed to make the most of it.
Greg Mundy, aged care commentator

Minister Butler has been on the front foot so far with his responses about awaiting the final report before too much further consideration by government.  His statements have been positive about the review and the work of the PC.

“If I were him I would immediately create a Ministerial Task Force – a very high level group of say 10 to 12 industry stakeholders – to provide advice to the minister on how he might begin to consider the implementation of such matters.  I would not be waiting for the final report, given that I suspect that a significant part of this report will not change.

“The minister must also lead much consultation with all stakeholders, but particularly providers.  At the end of the day their businesses must be sustainable so that care continues.  The adopted model must work!
Wayne Belcher, former CEO, The Bethanie Group, WA

Comments on the draft report must be submitted to the Productivity Commission by Monday, 21 March 2011. Feedback can be sent to

Tags: caring-for-older-australians, draft-report, government, productivity-commission,

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