I second the motion.
The member for Mayo is a crusader for a fairer aged care system. She represents one of our oldest electorates and, during her last five years in this place, she has fought tirelessly for senior Australians.
Before the aged care royal commission exposed the system’s failings in black and white, the member for Mayo shone a light on what people chose to ignore and she urged the government to do better. Today is the next step in her fight, with the making aged-care fairer bill.
Ageing at home is the clear preference of older Australians. Demand for home care packages is set to surge as the baby boomer generation ages. Yet, astoundingly, up to 45 to 50 per cent of the costs of home care packages can go to management and administration fees. There’s no way to tell if the reasonable fees that providers are allowed to charge bear any relationship to the actual cost involved. This bill will ensure that these fees are directly attributable to the costs to administer or manage the provision of home care to the recipient. This seeks to prevent price gouging and give older people and their families an informed choice and greater autonomy about their home care and what they pay for that care.
The royal commission reported that the most common concern among home care respondents to a survey was finance and administration, including value for money and transparency around fees and charges.
High management fees could be justifiable if they went towards better wages for our aged-care workers, but, sadly, this is not the case. Our aged care workforce is chronically underpaid and undervalued.
The government’s response to high management fees is to make pricing more transparent and let competition put downward pressure on the fees. Yet, the royal commission reported that, despite increased pricing transparency measures, care management fees had increased as a proportion of all fees, so it does not seem to be working.
It’s not simply about information scarcity or consumer choice. I represent hundreds of constituents in rural and regional areas who simply do not have a choice of providers. There is one provider, and you take whatever they offer you, including—possibly—exorbitant fees, because it’s better than nothing; you can’t shop around.
We need regulation like this, so we know that older Australians and their families aren’t getting ripped off. Over 55,000 people are still waiting for a home care package. When their wait is over, let’s make sure they get value for money and a high-quality service, so that they can age safely and happily in their home.