NEWS: Zali Steggall MP supports the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Financial Transparency) Bill 2020

19 October, 2020


It is with great pleasure that I second the member for Mayo's bill, the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Financial Transparency) Bill 2020 [No. 2]. This bill seeks to legislate increased transparency of expenditure by aged-care providers. The sector receives approximately $13 billion per annum in public funding and some $12 billion in private funding. Total profit for the sector in financial year 2018 was $1.1 billion. Not enough transparency is available on where the funds are spent, giving rise to questions of the quality of care in certain facilities, and this has never been more evident than this year during the COVID pandemic.

At the outset, I'd like to thank the aged-care sector for their efforts in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Aged-care workers have been on the frontline for over six months and are enduring very high levels of pressure and stress. The workers in these sectors are really in unfathomable conditions. So we must absolutely be focused on ensuring their work environment is as it should be.

The care exhibited in the various aged-care homes and their staff that I've met with over the last couple of months has been exemplary. Many of the aged-care facilities in Warringah have yet to record even a single case of the flu this season. I've met with Anglicare, Twilight and Allambie village aged-care facilities in the electorate. They're feeling the strain, but they are pleased with how their staff and residents have responded to the pandemic.

Those on the front line are supportive of the measures provided in this bill, and that's important. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation strongly recommends that this bill be supported and passed by the parliament as a matter of urgency.

This bill is important because it will improve transparency of financial records of aged-care providers. It will enhance the ability for stakeholders—including residents, families, suppliers and potential residents—to make an informed decision about the level of care provided at each home. An independent report commissioned by the royal commission into aged care has highlighted that there is insufficient financial transparency about the use of funds, from government and people in care, which totalled some $25 billion in the financial year 2018-19. At present, the financial reporting provided by residential care providers is only available to the Department of Health. Increasing the transparency of these records and specifying key areas of detail will increase confidence in the sector and allow for more public accountability.

The Law Council of Australia raised concerns as well, regarding the transparency of funds distributed to residential aged-care facilities. Their concerns include: the use of allocated funding, because it is unsupervised; that there is insufficient accountability in the way the funding is used; and that funding is not intensively or routinely audited.

Over 20 submissions have been received to the inquiry into a very similar bill introduced in the other place and have been largely supportive of the measures introduced in this bill. So this bill presupposes the final findings of the royal commission. It's consistent with the interim report and with the submissions provided to date and should urgently be considered by the government. It's been more than a year since the interim report was published, and I strongly support the initiative taken with this bill to act on the findings of the interim report of the royal commission and put in place some measures that will improve the accountability and transparency of the sector with minimal impacts on residents.

The issues of where money is being spent, nursing ratios and quality of care—all these things are incredibly important, and we've seen, through this COVID pandemic, that this is an area where we have a crack: we are exposed as a society. Our elderly are our most vulnerable, and we have a duty to ensure that they are properly taken care of. I commend this bill to the House.