11 September 2023

Older Australians helped build this country. They've worked hard, paid their taxes and raised their families. They rightly expect that their federal government will support them in their later years after a life contributing to their communities and to our nation. The Albanese government recognises this significant contribution and we're 100 per cent committed to better supporting our older Australians after a decade of neglect by the former coalition government.

In their time we saw an alarming rise in malnutrition amongst older Australians in aged care, a concerning lack of access to quality, timely care, rising allegations of assault and abuse in the aged-care sector and overuse of chemical restraints. What a woeful record that was, sadly, reconfirmed in the findings of the royal commission into aged care. The fact that the interim report of the royal commission was titled Neglect says it all. Unlike the coalition, we have taken a proactive approach to restoring care, dignity and respect into our aged-care system, a system that is highly dependent on the care provided by our much-valued aged-care workers. I know—and our government knows and our union advocates know—how much pride these aged-care workers take in their work. Many of these workers have shared their harrowing stories with me.

Now in government, we are acting swiftly to end the barriers to quality, compassionate care. In the past year there has been a reduction in pressure injuries, physical restraints, significant unplanned weight loss and the use of antipsychotic drugs in aged care. We've also seen improvements in the star rating data, with fewer one- and two-star ratings and more four- and five-star ratings, fewer falls, fewer avoidable hospital admissions and more older people feeling safe and respected in aged care.

Working in aged care is physically and emotionally demanding work. It is skilled work and the aged-care workforce deserve to be properly recognised in their pay for their work. This is why it was a top priority for our government to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission in support of a meaningful pay rise for aged-care workers. As a result, about 250,000 aged-care workers will receive a 15 per cent pay rise, with further increases to come.

Our government is also setting ambitious targets around care minutes and 24/7 nurses to improve the care of older Australians. To lift quality care and safety standards in residential aged care we are legislating around-the-clock nurses and increased care minutes. A skilled and dedicated workforce is the foundation of a better aged-care system—a system we all want to see. Our first set of data for our 24/7 nurses mandate revealed staggering improvements. On average there is a nurse onsite 98 per cent of the time, or 23½ hours a day. We have also addressed the shocking findings from the royal commission, which revealed that more than two-thirds of residents in aged care were malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. A good meal with good nutrition is crucial to quality of life for everyone, but especially for older Australians. I am proud to say that the May budget invested $12.9 million to help make this happen. Our significant investment will increase the capability and, importantly, the accountability of aged-care providers to provide good food and nutrition.

We took a plan of action to the federal election to address the crisis in aged care—a plan that provides a clear direction in reforming the aged-care sector; a plan that was informed by the recommendations of the royal commission. We believe the work of the royal commission, the story told, the voice it gave to vulnerable older Australians and its recommendations are vital.

In closing, I'd like to thank the member for Robertson for moving this important motion today. To care for those who once cared for us is a great honour, one that this government will always take to heart.