A former politician has urged the sector to relentlessly use its might to influence the government to pass the Productivity Commission recommendations that it, not the nation’s leaders, wants adopted.

The former Victorian Liberal MP, parliamentary secretary and party leader, Bill Forwood, addressed the sector at the Aged and Community Services Australia national conference in Hobart yesterday and stressed the upcoming chance for reform.

“The Productivity Commission is a chance that we must not miss,” Mr Forwood said.

“It’s just the hook upon which you can really hang the sector.

“You,” he said, are the ones who will be responsible for the government adopting or ignoring the Productivity Commission’s recommendations.

“You are the crucial people who ought to be put together the policy that you want passed and then pursue it.”

“They’re not going to give us a blank cheque but that doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in reform or not interested in public policy.”

“Now is the chance to get what we and all Australians want and need for the future.”

He explained that he sector needs to be at the bargaining table when it comes down to matters of policy, with not just one or two temporary seats but rather a consolidated say. 
 
“You need to be there, argy bargy long-term, discussing and organising a permanent seat at the table to influence the decisions that need to be made. And you need to stay in that seat.”

Mr Forwood recommended that providers align with a range of politicians, including local MPs, who will carry the torch and advocate issues, on their behalf, in parliament.

“Identify about four or five politicians who will adopt aged care as a prime concern and advocate internally in the caucus room for a result.

“You should use them as a resource…Let them be your new best friend.”

“Also, [think about] people on social policy committees. Then make an assessment about whether they are singing from your own song sheet or running their own agenda.”

Most importantly, he said, the sector also needs a definitive plan of what it needs, what the future of aged care should look like and what needs to change.

“You need to be plan driven. You can’t be haphazard about this.

“What we really need to do is to sort out our response to the Productivity Commission and to articulate that to the people that matter, as quickly as possible.

“And as Mark Butler said, you must speak with one voice.

“If you go to the government divided, they will divide you and it will end up with a mishmash around what they want not what we know Australia needs.”
 

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