Above: CEO of CHA, Martin Laverty
By Yasmin Noone
Australia’s current hung parliament is a major threat to aged care reform and could possibly jeopardise the government’s ability to reform the sector and provide for a rapidly ageing population.
Amidst all the excitement and energy circulating throughout the sector in lead up to the public release of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) final Caring for Older Australians report, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has warned of the political reality that may impede reform.
CEO of CHA, Martin Laverty, said that given the government’s other hot button priorities – carbon tax and refugee issues – there is a chance that aged care reform could get pushed down its agenda.
And, even if the Prime Minister sticks to her commitment to reform the aged care sector in her second term of office, the current structure of the House of Representatives could make passing such legislation problematic.
“There is one major risk and it’s almost nobody’s fault,” said Mr Laverty.
“We have a hung parliament that makes major reform difficult, even with the best will of government.
“I’m am really worried that because there are other issues that parliament is tackling – including environmental issues, health reform and disability reform –it would be very easy for aged care to join a backlog of [reform requests] that get forgotten in a hung parliament.”
In the current environment (where no party has more than half the MPs in the House of Representatives), no party can pass laws without gaining support from other political parties or independent members of the house.
Support can either come in the form of a formal coalition or the governing party can negotiate with the other parties to get laws passed.
Mr Laverty therefore stressed the importance of guaranteeing that all members of the federal lower house (including Liberal and independent politicians) back aged care reform.
“..To all 150 members of the lower house, we say that consumers need improvements in aged care services.
“Providers are backing the reform of aged care funding…and the PC is giving a once in a generation [aged] care plan to set up a system to cope with the ageing population.
“The unity that exists between consumers and providers is the same unity we are looking [for] for members of federal parliament.
“With a once in a generation opportunity to fix the system problems, we now need all members of the federal parliament to put politics aside and commit to changing aged care laws and funding in order to set it up to be ready for the care needs of the Baby Boom generation.
“Don’t let the hung parliament be an excuse [not to support aged care reform]. Get behind the PC’s plan and don’t let it join a queue of other important matters.
“Take this once in a generation opportunity to improve aged care.”