Will this Friday be D-day?

There is speculation that the federal government will either make a public announcement or secretly tell NACA members the details of its aged care reform package, during an impromtu NACA meeting in Canberra this Friday.

Above: CEO of CHA, Martin Laverty, appears on ABC 1 (with other NACA spokespeople) as he fronts a room of journalists at the NACA Press Club event last week.  

By Yasmin Noone

Friday 20 April could be the date the aged care sector and older Australians around the country have been waiting for – the day the federal government announces its response to the Productivity Commission’s (PC) Caring for Older Australians final report.

AAA can confirm that the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, has requested that all the members of the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) make themselves available this Friday for a spontaneous, unscheduled, afternoon meeting at Parliament House, Canberra.

An agenda has not yet been set and NACA members have not been told the nature of the meeting. However, there is speculation that the Minister will announce an aged care reform package that day or at least communicate its PC response to NACA members during the meeting.

CEO of Catholic Health Australia (CHA) and one of the three main NACA spokespeople, Martin Laverty, said that he, like many others, has cancelled important plans to ensure he is in Canberra this Friday “because I understand that the government has something important to say to us”.

“The request to the NACA members was to be available to [attend a meeting] at Parliament House for most of the day,” said Mr Laverty.

“I have no idea what Minister Butler might say to the members of NACA on Friday.

“But I do note that, as it’s been more than 250 days since PC released its recommendations, it’s impossible to think that the Minister would ask members of NACA to assemble in Canberra if he didn’t have something important to say.”

Mr Laverty said he was notified about the meeting sometime last week.

Regardless of the reason for the meeting, Mr Laverty hopes it will feature an aged care reform announcement “because the interests of older Australians are best served by getting on with it”.

“…Not another day should pass before the government’s decision [on the PC report] is known.”

The news of an impromptu pre-budget NACA meeting follows on from a recent The Age article which said the government will make an aged care announcement before May 8, so that the issue does not get “overshadowed” by the spending cuts associated with the upcoming 2012/13 Federal Budget surplus.

The Age political journalist, Michelle Grattan who wrote the article, also said “the government is going to announce its aged care package before the budget” live on the ABC Radio National’s Breakfast yesterday morning.

“It’s a big reform and it will have of course pluses and minuses in it,” she said on radio. “But nevertheless they [the government] would like to get it out, as a reform, rather than just as part of the whole budget mix.”

CEO of COTA Australia and leading NACA spokesperson, Ian Yates, also confirmed news of Friday’s meeting.

But, he said, the minister asked to meet with NACA this Friday just as he has asked to meet regularly before and just as he always attends scheduled NACA meetings.

“I’m sure it will be about aged care reform but what the nature of the meeting will be at this point seems uncertain,” Mr Yates said.

“It is quite possible that the minister will seek to clarify our views about [reform] options or use the meeting to tell us something.

“I think we will go and see what the minister wants to talk to us about. I think clearly that the budget process is the budget process, and as much as we might like the minister to have control over that, from our point of view, he clearly doesn’t.

“We are not privy to what is happening in the Expenditure Review Committee and we may or may not be wiser about it after Friday.”

He said it is common for the federal government to leak information about the budget’s contents in the mainstream media before its official release so that the public “do not have to try and digest the whole package on the night”.

But, he added, “I’ve been around long enough to know that you don’t know what’s going to happen in a political environment until it happens. So I will go to the meeting with an open mind and be ready to respond to whatever happens”.

Mr Yates has therefore urged the sector to “maintain the pressure” on the government for reform and if aged care advocates have not yet signed up to NACA’s Agewell campaign, to do so now. (Click here to access the Agewell website)

The Australian Nursing Federation provided the following statement about Friday’s meeting: “The position of the ANF remains the same. Any reform of Australia’s under-resourced aged care sector must include wages and staffing,” an ANF spokesperson said.

“If these two crucial issues aren’t addressed, the ANF and its 214,000 members believes the Gillard government would have failed to deliver meaningful reform of the sector.”

AAA contacted Minister Butler’s office about the meeting and rumours of a pre-budget aged care reform announcement but it did not provide a response in time.

Tags: abc, agewell, anf, butler, caring-for-older-australians, cha, cota, fran-kelly, gillard, laverty, michelle-grattan, naca, parliament, pm, radio-national, the-age,

5 thoughts on “Will this Friday be D-day?

  1. Sad to see how irrelevant ACSA, and ACAA/LASA, have made themselves on the big questions of the decade for aged care. Not mentioned here. Why would they choose to focus on self-destructive internal squabbling about issues that make no sense at all to anyone outside their increasingly fetid tent? Is it because the real issues on the table are too hard, too scary perhaps? Internal fixations on meaningless concepts such as a ‘single voice’ easier to deal with? Where did sector leadership go? It’s not that long since The Grand Plan focussed aged care people on the 2010 Federal Election. An indictment really.

  2. I would like to support Greg’s comments above – his observation is I think a common theme, that bedevils aged care providers – being lost in the forest and not being able to get into the helicopter for a more systemic view … I call it thinking rather than just doing … there has to be a balance of course.

    I wish NACA every success in working with the Government to renew our aged care system so that it can be a better. I just hope the split between the groups (ACSA/LASA etc) is not used to stifle progress. Too often when industry or professional bodies cannot hold a united voice on a key policy issue, in my experience, this can mean that government does very little. And chances like the current one are rare!

    Dr Ralph Hampson, Aged Care Consultant

  3. Interesting comments which add little. Working in health and aged care for over 35 years and specifically in the aged care industry for the past 14, I have never known a time of greater concensus and unity in dealing with the government of the day as is occuring through NACA. Far from being silent LASA/ACSA, as key participants within NACA, have continued to show solidarity in promoting the concept of three dedicated spokespersons ensuring the message to government is heard and consistent. Never achieved before. Sounds a little like SOL. Darryl

  4. For the first time since the introduction of the current aged care act back in 1997 we have a very strong consensus position from the vast majority of stakeholders including consumers, unions, churches and key peak body groups such as ACSA and LASA (previously ACCA).This has come about because of many years of hard lobbying and advocacy by many many people. NACA is a broad represenative group that the Minister Mark Butler prefers to work with. Each of the groups represented on NACA play a powerful and important role in their own right. The sector leadership in the past and present has focussed strongly on what outcomes the aged care industry needs. They have worked tirelessly to make that happen. Hopefully announcements in a positive way are not too far away. ACSA remains as relevant as it ever was. The federation model of running an organsiation has many difficulties. Getting every board member at every state board to agree on complex policy issues has always been a challenge and will remain so in a federation model. However progress has been significant and the recent Press Club lobby day in Canberra was evidence of the broad understanding of the issues and concensus. Engagement with the Minister and his department has never been better. Media focus in recent times has never been greater than ever before as evidenced by media measuring organisations.It’s easy to make cheap shots from the outside particulary when one is not actively involved with the various organisations. The reality is there is massive consensus, a broad understanding of what the changes needed are understood and many many people have been massive contributors to this point. The world is complex, people are complex, the aged care industry is complex. Change be it to ACSA/LASA is inevitable as everything around us is changing. Change is the only thing that drives us forward. Otherwise it would be the same as yesterday and the day before etc.

    Klaus Zimmermann
    Eldercare Inc.
    Immediate past president ACSA

  5. Yes, your post does sound a little SOL-affected Darryl but what I take to be your main point, that ACSA and LASA/ACAA have adopted a supporting role in the NACA AgeWell campaign is sound and consistent with my original point.

    Anyway it sounds like the real game will be on from Friday when the Government signals its intentions on aged care reform. That will be interesting and hopefully the beginning of a new era for the care of older people in Australia. And yes, it is likely to be complex Klaus. If it was easy it might have been done a long time ago. Bring it on I say!

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