‘It’s Time to Care About Aged Care’: aged care peaks unite to demand Royal Commission reform with a determined marginal seat campaign – just three seats needed to unseat the Coalition

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The gloves are respectfully off – at last – as the aged care sector takes the challenge to Government.

After 20 years of reviews and enquiries with no outcomes, the industry is saying enough.

The six remaining aged care peak bodies are revealing their hand, launching a comprehensive media campaign today that could challenge the Coalition’s slim three-seat majority ahead of the release of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Final Report by 26 February.

Banding together under a new banner, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), the alliance is made up of:

  • Leading Age Services Australia (LASA);
  • Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA);
  • Anglicare Australia;
  • Baptist Care Australia;
  • Catholic Health Australia;
  • and UnitingCare Australia.

They are targeting 15 marginal electorates which are home to just under 815,000 voters aged over 55, in a bid to secure bipartisan support to respond to the Royal Commission recommendations.

Timed to coincide with the first two full sitting weeks of Parliament which start this week, the campaign will run across a range of platforms including PR, social media and TV advertising and demand “big picture reform” under the tagline ‘It’s Time to Care About Aged Care’.

HERE is the launch TV commerical.

It’s being rolled out by Sydney-based crisis and reputation management firm Apollo Communications – which is led by former John Howard media adviser Adam Connolly – who was revealed last September to have been hired to head up the campaign.

New alliance representing 70% of services

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) – which has more than 1,000 organisations representing 70% of the Government-subsidised residential care and home care services in Australia on board including Not For Profits and a number of private operators – is arguing for an overhaul of four key elements of the aged care system:

  • the design;
  • objectives;
  • regulation; and
  • resourcing of aged care.

The campaign launch includes the release of a 60-page report which provides a ‘layman’s guide’ to Australia’s aged care system. You can download the report HERE.

Section 1 looks at the challenges facing the sector including funding and financing, the 20-plus reviews of the sector in the last 20 years, workforce issues and the impact of COVID.

The second section examines the different operators who provide care, the difference between home care and residential care – and stresses the point that the majority of residential care operators are small Not For Profits.

But it is the third and final section that is the ‘kicker’

Titled ‘Who can fix Australia’s aged care system?’, the chapter details research by the AACC that ranked each of the 151 Federal Parliamentary electorates by age from ‘oldest’ to ‘youngest’, according to the proportion of older residents living within them.

Of the 30 ‘oldest’ seats, half are marginal – in some cases, held by only a few hundred votes.

But these 15 electorates are home to 814,950 voters over the age of 55 – an “extraordinarily concentrated voting block” to quote the report.

“This means that aged care issues could determine the outcome in up to 15 seats at the next election, at a time when the government of the day only holds a three-seat majority,” the report states.

The plan is clear: target the older constituents in those electorates to push their local MP to make aged care – and the Royal Commission reforms – a political priority – or the Government could face losing the election.

“Their Members of Parliament have the opportunity to truly achieve something great – and avoid the mistakes of past Governments – by creating a sustainable and equitable aged care system that will stand the test of time,” the report concludes.

Where are these marginal seats?

The report shows eight of the marginal seats are held by the Coalition, while five are held by the Opposition and cross benches – with 14 of the 15 in regional areas.

Take a look at this chart.

The most marginal seat in Australia is Bass in regional Tasmania with 45.7% of 55-plus voters, held by Liberal MP Bridget Archer by a margin of just 0.2% – that’s just 155 votes needed to lose the seat.

She is followed closely by Labor’s Kristy McBain, who is hanging onto Eden-Monaro (45.6% of votes aged over 55) in regional NSW by 0.4% – only 458 votes.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie – who has advocated on aged care issues including improved financial transparency for providers and lower home care administration fees – also falls into the list with her regional SA electorate of Mayo (50.1%) clinging to a 2.6% margin.

Interestingly, the only marginal metropolitan electorate is Flinders in Melbourne, which is held by Health Minister and now Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt (50.7%) by a margin of 2.8%.

The other 15 electorates with high numbers of Australians aged over 55 are also highlighted.

“The 30 Members of Parliament who represent these seats have the greatest opportunity to represent the needs of their electorates, so that older Australians are finally given the respect, resources and support they deserve.”

Bipartisan support needed

The report also makes it clear that the industry is pursuing bipartisan support – not blame.

“No single government is responsible for creating the problem, but all governments must work to fix it, with a combination of greater compliance and regulation, clearer guidelines and more resources,” it reads.

“As we approach the next Federal Budget, and the subsequent election, Parliamentarians from all sides of politics have an opportunity to provide the necessary leadership to finally ensure older Australians are given the fair go they deserve.”

In short, the industry is going ‘all-in’ on the Government.

Will the campaign find success? The sector has invested considerable time and money in the campaign (see my video for the history).

The question is now: where will the Government go on this – will Scott Morrison be able to face down his marginal members? Or will he see it as a chance to establish his political legacy, a high quality and safe aged care system?

We will keep you posted as this significant story unfolds.