United, we ‘should’ stand

LASA CEO Gerard Mansour calls on the aged care sector to uniite and maintain its vigilance until all reforms are pushed through.

LASA CEO Gerard Mansour calls on congress delegates to continue fighting and engaging and keep believing that change will happen

By Yasmin Noone

The reigning but soon to depart CEO of the sector’s newest peak body, Leading Age Services, has used his keynote LASA 2012 Congress address to motivate commercial, non-profit, and retirement living providers to stand united for the cause for reform and keep pushing through these last few tough but vital campaigning years.

Gerard Mansour, who last week announced he will leave the top job soon due to personal reasons, rounded up around 700 LASA members at the opening of the congress earlier this week with a heartfelt, personal call to the audience to keep fighting, keep engaging and keep believing that desired change will come.

But he said, the sector will seal the deal on what is only the beginning of reform if providers stand united, continuously engage with politicians – at a local, state and federal level – and persist with a ‘glass is half-full’ attitude.

“My view is that no matter who wins government next year, we are now in a new decade of reform,” Mr Mansour said.

“…Over coming years we will continually find one statement comes back to us time and time again – ‘united we stand and divided we fall’. 

“Our policy challenge will continue to be taking the time to consider solutions which meet the needs of our entire industry.

“If we as an industry do not do that, someone else, typically government, will make those decisions for us.”

The aged care sector, Mr Mansour recapped, faces just one more federal budget and one more federal election before phase one of the Living Longer. Living Better (LLLB) package priorities, timetabled for June 2014, will be realised.

After that, he said, the “second phase of reform” will incorporate a lead up to the five-year review point in 2017, as announced by the current government in LLLB.

And the third, final phase will be reached in 2022 at the 10-year stopping point.

“I believe we are now on a new journey, which I characterise as a decade of reform. 

“Our industry has matured significantly since the reforms of the late 1990s, and we are now on the cusp of changes which will be equally important.”

A final call to action

According to Mr Mansour, the power of an impassioned peak body can sway a government – elected to govern but also elected to rightly represent the constituents that elected it. LASA therefore must exercise its role, on behalf of its members, as a ‘thought leader’, to engage governments and influence policy.

“There can be no doubt whatsoever, in any industry, that those who are at the coal face have so much to contribute to the policy dialogue about industry reform. 

“LASA and our members are ideally placed to play that role, and we will do so.”

Invoking the famous Martin Luther King Jnr speech – ‘I have a dream’ – Mr Mansour invited “each and every one of you, over coming days, to take the time to ponder, to reflect, to dream.”

LASA’s own short-term dreams involve a six-point wish list, which would “shape much about the first phase of journey to June 2014. Collectively these are vitally important”.”

The list included: changes to ACFI, in favour of providers: a positive decision about ‘significant refurbishment’ to be announced on 9 November; a decision about accommodation payments which will allow the industry to set accommodation prices; a significant shift to ‘consumer directed care’ in the roll out of the 2012 ACAR for home care packages; allowing flexibility for providers to charge additional fees for extra hotel and lifestyle services in residential care; and a working wages compact.

“I have picked these six as, when taken together, they will determine the new ‘starting point’ for our quest to build a viable and robust aged care industry capable of meeting the needs of all older Australians.”  

The industry leader also momentarily took stock of the last year – part of year one of LASA’s existence.

“I am proud to announce today that we are now well and truly through our establishment phase.

“…LASA is well and truly here. 

“And we are having an impact.”

Using his love of sport to provide a few closing words of inspiration, Mr Mansour encouraged LASA members to keep fighting the good fight. 

“Just like an AFL season, a netball season, or rugby, this is a marathon not a sprint. It is not about ‘one decision’.  

“I think the ‘end game’, our key objective, is actually pretty clear to us all. We need a viable and flourishing industry to meet the needs of older Australians in the decades ahead. That is the game. That is what is at stake.

“My own personal strategy is simple, not complex: take what we can get now, re-position, set new goals and keep moving forward.

“Whatever change was going to come after the release of the Productivity Commission Report it was always going to be long-term.

“Even if the government had announced the full adoption of the PC report and reform agenda, it was always going to be years and phased transition.

“…No one is oblivious to the magnitude of the challenge,” he said.

“But in the end there is a simple principle, which must dominate the thoughts of policy makers – without a viable and flourishing industry, older Australians will not receive the care and services they need.”

Tags: gerard-mansour, keynote-speech, lasa-ceo, lasa-national-congress-2012, leading-age-services-australia,

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