The airwaves and the ether are eerily quiet two days after the release of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Is the sum greater than its parts? The value of a single industry aged care association.

The report, commissioned by Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) and supported by Aged Care Queensland (ACQ) was released on Tuesday.  It urges aged care providers to take advantage of the current mood for change, brought about by events including the Productivity Commission report and Intergenerational Report, to become a more national force through a merging of Aged Care Association Australia, Aged and Community Services Australia as well as the Retirement Villages Association of Australia.

AAA’s main news item on the report from Tuesday, entitled ‘Carpe Diem’, has attracted strong views from three high profile commentators but elsewhere potential spoksepeople are lying low, many yet to read the report in full.

CEO of Amaroo Village in WA, David Fenwick, doesn’t mince words in his message to ACCV and ACQ, pointing out that both organisations know about the impending survey of all ACSA members Australia-wide, seeking input on the future structure of that organisation.

“…why do they insist on pushing the case for amalgamation with ACAA when the future structure of ACSA is still to be determined? Back off or your cause shall flounder as other states will not be pushed into something we do not want,” he writes.

Above: David Fenwick, CEO Amaroo Villages WA

Speaking to AAA this afternoon in a private capacity as a Western Australian CEO – and not as an ACS WA board member – Mr Fenwick expressed concern that the voices of Western Australian providers  – and the specific issues confronting that state – were at risk of being ignored in a national structure.

“In recent experience, we campaigned loudly about some of our state’s specific concerns but the eastern states didn’t pick up on it because it’s not an issue for them.  If they’re not prepared to support us, if that’s their attititude, then we would get left behind and there would be nobody looking after our voice.  

“If we have to amalgamate, we have to ensure we maintain our influence and some independence,” said Mr Fenwick.

He said he was not ‘anti-amalgamation’ per se but was upset that the Queensland and Victorian organisations had ignored the process already in place to survey member opinion about ACSA’s future structure.  

“Let people speak up for themselves.  There is still NSW, Tasmania, SA, NT and WA to disagree.  You’ve got to consult the membership and listen to the membership’s views. 

“I’m not convinced that the membership will support having one body in Australia.   But we just don’t need to be pushed and forced into something we don’t want to do. We’ve got to think about the long term and make sure we are making the right decisions,” Mr Fenwick said.

Missionary zeal

Former CEO of ACSA, Greg Mundy, wrote on AAA’s website that Queensland and Victoria have a missionary zeal on the issue. 

“Their report shows no awareness of the perspectives of other states or much for facts in general if you read the PwC footnotes to the tables! It’s about proselytising more than analysis.

“This is no longer my business but I do wonder about the discipline of and leadership by the national ACSA Board that allows this sort of thing to go on unchecked,” he writes.

In a second comment this morning, Mundy wonders what ACCV and ACQ wish to achieve with the report.

“Well that’s two state aged care associations that agree with themselves! It will be interesting to see how the other seven line up. I am well off out of these issues these days but I do wonder what Victoria and Queensland think they will achieve with this report. ‘Embrace the science’ but watch the spin would be my advice if KPIs include counting media releases of the ‘Aged care leader has bowel movement’ variety.”

Mr Mundy isn’t the only person to question the quality of some of the fact-finding and measures used in the report to draw its conclusions. 

CEO of ACS NSW & ACT, Jill Pretty, who has been hosting a state conference this week and is yet to properly read the report, was reluctant to make any formal statement today.  However, she took issue with the PwC report’s comments about media profile for the state associations, calculated by counting mentions in the media.

“Our board is extremely supportive of one national voice and it is our express policy to feed our views and media comments through the national office, rather than work separately.   

Ms Pretty did however acknowledge the importance of the timing issues highlighted in the PwC report. “Yes and that is exactly why ACSA has decided to survey its members at this time to seek their opinions on a national structure for ACSA.”

ACSA’s acting CEO, Pat Sparrow said ACSA is currently looking at options and canvassing views among members for the best structure to adopt to meet the organisation’s needs for the future.

“It’s important for ACSA to be the most effective organisation it can be and it’s hard to speculate on what people will want.  

“There’s a diversity of views around what the right structure should be – a national body, a federated structure, a merger of the not-for profits and the for-profits? That’s why we’re consulting with all our members and its important they have their say,” Ms Sparrow said. 

Board perspectives

While ACSA board president, Klaus Zimmerman is currently on leave and was not therefore available to comment, he told AAA in a recent interview concerning the appointment of new ACSA CEO, Patrick McClure, that the ACSA board was on a journey.

“We are on a journey and looking at moving away from a federation toward a more national structure.  Our membership survey will be going out soon and the response to that will determine the direction for the future.”

WA’s Amana Living CEO, Ray Glickman told AAA that he was unable to comment on the report as an ACSA board member. However, as the Chairman of Aged and Community Services WA, he said it was naturally the prerogative of ACCV and ACQ to commission papers of this kind. 

“However, I wouldn’t expect it to have any bearing on the views of our members in relation to the ACSA redevelopment proposal. The board of ACSWA is committed to consultation with its members on the reform proposal to determine a position. However, right at this moment we are firmly a NFP representative organisation and we express and advocate for the distinctive interests and values of community benefit organisations”.

Always back self-interest

HammondCare Chief Executive, Stephen Judd, writing on the AAA news website, questioned the financial motives of those who have commissioned and published the PwC report.

“One of Paul Keating’s great lines was “In the race of life always back self-interest…at least you know it’s trying”. Let’s step back from the report’s statements and ask, “What’s the self-interest?” in its commissioning and publication at this stage? And, maybe to help us in answering this question, there’s an old saying that if you can’t quite find out motivations, follow the money,” he wrote.

Asked for his views, ACAA CEO, Rod Young, said he preferred to stay away from the debate.

“This is really ACSA business to reach an agreed position.  ACAA has had an agreed position for five years where we have decided to work toward a merger and we think it makes sense.

“However there are people in the broader industry that don’t support that view and, as we have seen from other organisations, if there is not broad support for [change like this] it will be prone to falter,” said  Mr Young. 

 “At the end of the day, those two merged states believe there are clear benefits in representing their members. Some of the concerns people have about a merged environment don’t seem to have been demonstrated there.  But there was the need to work through those concerns. 

“When you look at some other industry groups that operate under one banner across various jurisdictions, their ability to convey a single message is certainly enhanced.  But if you move too quickly then you are likely to cause disruption and potentially get people offside.

“Sometimes it is slowly, slowly that gets a result.  It might be frustrating but you’ve got to take people with you.  Top down and bottom up is the best way,” he said.

Harness the energy

Speaking in response to some of the comments being expressed, ACCV CEO, Gerard Mansour, said he was very pleased that the report has generated discussion among readers.

“What we do encourage people to do is to consider the report in full and really gain an understanding of the proposals and the benefits that they present to lead the industry successfully into the future. 

“On page 45 of the report, it is highlighted that to achieve change and ensure that the key priorities of existing associations are not lost, it is important to ensure that the implementation is consensus-based and involves all existing industry associations working together to achieve change.

“Just imagine just how good it could be if we truly harnessed all the great skills and energy in one place to make our industry truly the leading industry!” Mr Mansour said.

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2 Comments

  1. Rural and remote australia has gradually lost every single government and large business organisation from their areas due to nationalisation, consolidateion, business restructure etc etc, in fact the list is endless. Towns are dying, communities struggle to support their needs having lost control of decision making and any form of local input. We are not pessimistic about nationalising the voice of aged care because we are uninformed yokals, we are pesimistic because of known history and current reality. Private enterprise in not out here in the sticks because basically they cannot make a buck, not-for profits and charitable organisations are the backbone of rural australia. Loss of the rural NFP voice to an amalgamated national body consolidating both NFP’s and FP will kill whatever small strength some of these providers are still exhibiting in a collapsing world.

  2. The more things change – the more they stay the same – or so it would appear when it comes to this debate. It is a positive that the PWC report is out and focusing perspectives in the lead up to the work being done by ACSA in its strategic thinking. Not one member of our industry can be forgotten in this journey and it appears as an outsider that this is exactly what the ACSA Board is ensuring through the methodology they have adopted. Much has been gained over recent years through cooperation, but aged care remains the poor cousin – indeed almost the relative that no political family member want to talk about. At a time when we all know the demographics and challenges therefrom, the thinking needs to be around how best do we as an industry, focused on the building of community capacity, positively influence Government action. We are a major provider of services, one of the top half dozen employer groups in the nation, and a massive contributor to the economic fabric of Australia – and yet “break through” seems ellusive even now. In the amended words of JFK “think not what our industry can do for you – think what you can do for your industry”. A stronger and more successful industry – metropolitan; rural and remote, covering all needs groups – will lead to a stronger Australian society demonstrating its humanity to the world. We can be a part of this evolution and move forward positively – carpe diem!

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