The Prime Minister did not commit to any immediate reforms in last week’s Question Time.
The Senior Counsel outlined 124 recommendations and a five-year timeline to transform Australia’s aged care system on Thursday and Friday, including a new Aged Care Act, a new and independent process for setting aged care Quality Standards; a new enforceable general duty of care on approved providers mandated staff ratios, compulsory registration for aged care workers, an Aged Care Pricing Authority and a new independent Aged Care Commission – though there was disagreement from Commissioner Lynelle Briggs on this last point.
As we reported here, the Government accepted the six recommendations from the Royal Commission’s recent COVID report – including a 1 December deadline to report on its progress to Parliament – but Mr Morrison was coyer when questioned on the Counsel Assisting’s closing submissions.
Noting that his Government has increased aged care funding by a billion every year – and had provided the single biggest increase to Home Care Packages with the 23,000 new Packages delivered in the recent Federal Budget – the PM said they would continue to respond to the Royal Commission’s findings.
“We said we would respond again in this year’s budget – and we have. Again, in the midyear statement and again in next year’s budget we will have a comprehensive response to the royal commission recommendations when they are handed down again next year,” he said, adding: “I thank them for the work they are doing.”
“Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition and I joined together to speak on the work that has been done since the very important Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and what has flowed from that. I believe the same thing will flow from the Royal Commission into Aged Care, which is why I initiated it. This is a matter that we have to deal with as a parliament and as a government. We are dealing with it is a government but there is more to do. I think the Royal Commission will greatly aid us in that quest to join together to focus on the matters that need to be addressed in aged care. That’s why I called the Royal Commission. That’s why I’m looking forward to its recommendations. The news that comes from is difficult for all of us. So many of us in this place have sat around cabinet tables on either side of politics and dealt with the issues of aged care, and all of us know there is more to be done.”
The question is: will the Government – and the Opposition – have the drive to implement the kind of large-scale reforms put forward by the Counsel Assisting?