South Australian Centre Alliance Member of Parliament Rebekha Sharkie has called for a special committee with upper and lower house representatives to track the implementation of the royal commission’s aged care reforms.
Ms Sharkie, who is Federal Member for Mayo, moved a motion in Federal Parliament on Monday to establish a Joint Select Committee on Oversight of the Implementation of Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
During the subsequent debate, independent and Labor Members of Parliament supported the motion, but those representing the government did not.
If established, the committee will inquire into and report on the government’s response to the aged care royal commission’s recommendations and any matter in relation to the recommendations referred to the committee.
Ms Sharkie proposed a committee with four senators and five members of the House of Representatives representing the Government, the Opposition, independents and minor parties.
The motion aims to provide older Australians with transparency on the aged care reforms, she said.
“I’ve moved this motion calling for an establishment of a joint select committee so that we can work together in a bipartisan way with oversight of the implementation of the royal commission’s recommendations,” Ms Sharkie told parliament on Monday.
“It would ensure the redesign of the aged care system is afforded the highest priority,” she said.
Ms Sharkie said it was disappointing the government rejected Royal Commissioner Tony Pagone’s recommendation to establish an independent Australian Aged Care Commission, which would be responsible for the system governor, quality regulator and prudential regulator, and an independent pricing authority.
“I believe that this important area of public policy deserves its own commission rather than the aged care system remaining within the remit of the Department of Health,” she said.
MPs debate motion
The majority of MPs who responded to Ms Sharkie’s motion on Monday supported it including Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie, the independent Member for Clark.
Mr Wilkie, who seconded the motion, said the royal commission presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change aged care services.
“It is imperative we make the most of the opportunity to overturn the failures of the past. But there must be adequate funding allocated to drive this change, and it must be used for this purpose and not to line the pockets of service providers,” Mr Wilkie told Parliament.
“Australians deserve to be reassured that the work of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will not be in vain, and we as a nation need to see evidence that things are changing for the better,” he said.
Australian Labor Party Member for Corangamite in Victoria, Libby Coker also supported the motion but said there needed to be further commitment from the government to act on the recommendations.
“While a Joint Standing Committee has merit, unless the Morrison government has the will to introduce comprehensive reform, nothing much will change,” Ms Coker said in Parliament.
Fellow Australian Labor Party MPs Steve Georganas and Ged Kearney and Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggalli also backed the motion.
Another layer of supervision
The Parliament also heard from Liberal Party MP Dr Katie Allen, who did not support the motion.
“We don’t need more bureaucratic parliamentary supervision. What we need is enhanced consumer engagement. The voice of older Australians needs to be heard,” said Dr Allen, who represents Higgins in Victoria.
Older Australians can be heard through the council of elders, national aged care advisory council and inspector-general of aged care, which are recommendations the Government committed to in its response, she said.
Fellow Liberal Party MP Russell Broadbent, who represents the seat of Monash also in Victoria, said there was no need to form this committee, but would “love to be a part of it” should it be established.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to oversee the issues that come out of a royal commission,” Mr Broadbent said.
“I’d like to be a part of monitoring what we’re doing. With an $18 billion package that the government has put forward in response to this, how can we improve the way that’s spend?” he said.
Sharkie met with PM
Ms Sharkie said she met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week to advocate for the committee.
“The meeting was constructive, and the PM said he would consider the matter,” Ms Sharkie said in a statement.
Australian Ageing Agenda has sought a response from Mr Morrison.
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