Opposition: stop talking and get on with it

The opposition says the aged care sector wants to see less talk and more action on aged care reform from the government and has even backed a prominent union’s call for higher wages. Minister Butler thinks that’s just typical.

By Stephen Easton

The Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, has accused the government of taking too long to act on the Productivity Commission’s aged care reform recommendations and, she claimed, most of the sector agrees with her.

The senator’s comments followed the Australian Nursing Federation’s (ANF) ultimatum issued to the government late last week, that it must allocate $494 million to improving wages for aged care nurses before the next federal budget or face a voter backlash.

“Aged care reform is taking too long and Minister Butler has been given a push by the Australian Nursing Federation to get on with it,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said in a statement released last Friday.

“The Government has the Productivity Commission report Caring for Older Australians and the time for talking is over but Minister Butler is engaged on another round of ‘conversations’,” the statement continued. 

“No wonder the sector has review fatigue. I congratulate the Australian Nursing Federation’s federal secretary Lee Thomas in expressing her union’s extreme frustration. It is something the Coalition and the aged care sector share with them.”

But according to her opposite number, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, she must be talking about a different aged care sector to the one he has been engaged with.

“That’s not been my observation,” Mr Butler said today in a written response emailed to AAA. “Quite the contrary in fact. The engagement by almost all in the sector in our explorations has been positive, enthusiastic and welcomed.”

“The absence of a minority group such as the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association is regrettable, but their business alone. 

“Our door has been open at all times to all who wish to enter, and the overwhelmingly positive engagement is what I expected and what I have welcomed. Engagement with the aged care sector is a critical part of the reform process.”

Conversations attacked

The Shadow Minister also criticised Mr Butler’s community conversations as a waste of time, adding that “the Coalition would be pleased to see reform right across aged care long before [the 2012 budget], but will not be holding its breath.”

“Mr Butler’s “conversations” are in addition to the many consultations that all the reviews this government has already conducted have generated,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said in a written response to AAA’s questions. 

“The Productivity Commission received two lots of submissions, many from the same individuals, organisations and companies during the duration of this inquiry. It also held public hearings. There is a surfeit of information.

“This is the Government’s report and it is up to the Government to implement changes. It is as if it is paralysed with fear of doing anything, so it has some more discussions.”

Mr Butler strongly defended the consumer consultations, which he said were very popular and had been attended by more than 2,000 people, and dismissed the Shadow Minister’s criticisms as typical of the Liberal Opposition.

“I disagree with the Shadow Minister that dialogue equates to reform fatigue,” he said. “Imagine what would be said by the Opposition if I charged ahead with reform without consulting all relevant parties.”

“An issue as important as the future of our aged care system deserves a full and robust discussion with those who will be impacted. I am speaking directly with older Australians because it’s their care that will be affected by the implementation of aged care reform.”

After criticising the government’s lack of a firm commitment to any particular timeframe for responding to the PC report, the Opposition senator described her party’s alternative, which she said had been “well received at the last election”.

“The Coalition has a plan that it took to the Federal election to sign a four-year agreement with the sector within a year of winning government,” Ms Fierravanti-Wells said. 

“This would operate like the Pharmacy Agreement. Our is to aim is to reduce red tape, free up hospital beds, address workforce issues and provide certainty to developers and operators of aged care facilities and services.”

Back to the wages ultimatum…

Ms Fierravanti-Wells did not address AAA’s questions relating to the ANF’s 2012 budget ultimatum, while Mr Butler simply said it was up to providers and their staff to negotiate wage rises.

“Workplace reforms have delivered a framework that provides greater opportunities for all workers to negotiate enterprise agreements that improve wages and conditions as well as workplace productivity and flexibility,” Mr Butler asserted.

The ANF wants funding to be allocated to aged care providers through a transparent “national framework”, with the specific purpose of closing the wage gap between nurses working in aged care and those working in the hospital system of the same state.

These earmarked funds could then be delivered quickly to workers as higher wages through a normal enterprise bargaining process, according to ANF assistant federal secretary, Yvonne Chaperon.

Ms Chaperon said that injections of funding had previously been allocated to aged care providers to fund wage rises, but had been spent in other areas, a claim detailed in the ANF’s initial submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry.

Tags: anf, anf-campaign, because-we-care-campaign, concetta-fierravanti-wells, mark-butler, opposition, productivity-commission, wage-justice, wage-parity, wages,

3 thoughts on “Opposition: stop talking and get on with it

  1. ‘here we go round the mulberry bush’. reform comes from change, and we have not seen much of that …..just talk. leadership is achieved through ‘doing’ what they are doing is taking more funding away. Or am I the only one with this view?

  2. While Minister Butler remains beholding to the unions who put him in the position he holds, we can expect to see funds taken from residential care and redistributed to the whole aged care industry designated for wages. So what does this mean? It means that residential aged care providers who were denied any form of price indexation and had some $480M cut from their budgets this year, who are already paying 72% of their income out as staff costs will be forced to reduce staff if they haven’t already to keep their doors open. The Gillard Gov’t has done little for aged care reform, the Minister has consulted in safe Labor electorates to ‘invited’ guests and response times to important issues are short to minimise any alternative point of view or criticism, and the whole LLLB is a total sham. Well done Mr Butler.

  3. couldn’t agree more, talk fests continue
    I would willingling give my deserving staff a massive pay increase if I had the income. The change to ACFI & COPD just does not equate with increased pay rises or staff hours
    as for channeling money into other areas, how does one pay 6-10% increases in electricity, gas & water with no COPD?
    it is about time politicians came out of fairyland to the real world

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *