Above: Australian Greens Spokesperson on Ageing, Senator Rachel Siewert
By Keryn Curtis
Aged care advocates must continue to pressure the government for reform in the lead up to the release of the 2012/13 Federal Budget in May to ensure that urgently needed reforms are actually adopted, according to the Australian Greens party.
Greens Spokesperson on Ageing, Senator Rachel Siewert, has stressed the importance of the sector’s call for a funding and reform announcement in almost two months time, given the government’s political goal to reduce expenditure and bring this year’s budget into surplus.
The Senator’s speech, delivered yesterday to a crowd of aged care professionals from Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales attending the 21st Annual Tri-State Confernece in Albury, came via video link.
Originally, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, was scheduled to deliver his own message to conference attendees in person but he had to pull out to be in Canberra for the ALP leadership ballot.
“The sector needs to keep the pressure up,” Senator Siewert said.
“You need to be in Parliament House as often as possible, in the offices of the parliamentarians. I think you’ve done a really good job there but you need to keep it up.
“The question is how adventurous the government will be in the current political and economic environment?”
Senator Siewert said there was no doubt that aged care reform was nessecary.
“The Greens often disagree with the Productivity Commission (PC) but on this issue, we support almost all of the recommendations,” Senator Siewert said.
“We also strongly support the PC’s recommendations for the Disability Insurance Scheme, and it is appropriate that the two reports [on age care and disability care and support] are being considered at the same time.”
“There is no doubt there is a strong belief that the reforms are absolutely necessary.”
She said bipartisan support was strong, and suggested that it was in the Coalition’s interests to support reform while the ALP is in government, rather than have to face the prospect of dealing with the reforms themselves if they got into government.
“It makes sense for the Coalition to let this government [reform the sector] and then deal with any tricky things that might come up, because the issue isn’t going to go away.
“If the Coalition has to deal with [passing aged care reform] themselves further down the track, it’s likely that it will be an even harder issue to deal with.
The Senator said she had been asked to comment on the actual ‘likelihood’ of getting reform measures included in the upcoming May federal budget.
“I must admit, I still worry about the government’s commitment to deliver a budget surplus.
“They know they’ll cop it from the opposition and the media if they don’t meet their surplus commitment.
“The Greens think it is a stupid, artificial constraint.
“However, they are very committed to it and (…) I’m not confident there won’t be some political game playing.”
The Senator also commented on the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) Australians Deserve to Age Well campaign and blueprint for reform: “I think NACA has done a great job with its discussion papers. They have articulated the issues really well.”
The NACA campaign was further promoted at the conference when Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) CEO, Rod Young, urged delegates to get out their phones and computers in the auditorium, go to the ‘Age Well’ campaign website and sign up as a supporter.
Mr Young also showed the short film, screened at the NACA blueprint launch, at the conference and suggested practical measures people could take to ‘keep up the pressure’, like writing letters to government, raising aged care issues in the media, meeting with local MPs and inviting them to support the campaign.