A week since its reintroduction by the Albanese Government, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill – which stalled when first presented to parliament 1 September last year – has finally made it through both chambers of the house.
The bill – one of two brought before parliament last Tuesday – responds to 17 recommendations of the aged care royal commission’s final report, including:
- an extension of functions and name change of the hospital pricing authority to the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority
- the extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to home care settings by 1 December 2022
- the introduction of a new code of conduct for approved providers, aged care workers and governing persons from 1 December 2022
- the introduction of new reporting responsibilities for commonwealth-funded aged care providers.
First step on the journey
“With today’s passage of the royal commission response bill, the government has taken a significant step to ensure older Australians receive the care, dignity and respect they deserve,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement. “Having an aged care bill in response to the royal commission become the first to pass through parliament show how seriously we take reform in the sector.”
On Twitter, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said: “Today the 47th parliament passed its first bill. We made a promise to Australians that we would take better care of their loved ones and restore dignity to our most vulnerable citizens. Reforming aged care will take years, but this bill is a first step on the journey.”
Provider peak Aged & Community Care Providers Association welcomed the passage of the legislation, particularly the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority component of the bill, which interim CEO Paul Sadler described as a positive step forward “in the delivery of real aged care reform.”
However, the need for “a sustainable funding model for aged care into the future” remains an ongoing issue, said Mr Sadler.
Quick to respond to the news, the United Workers Union called the bill’s passing an “historic moment”. In a statement, UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith said: “The passage of the first piece of crucial aged care reforms offers the hope that the dark days of neglect are nearing an end.”
Aged care workers have fought hard on these issues, added Ms Smith and “are proud that the change that have campaigned for is finally coming to fruition.”
Aged care and disability workforce platform Mable said the passing of the royal commission response bill was “the first step of many” towards reforming an aged care system that is “ripe for improvement”.
“The issues in the sector are well known including improvement of the quality of care, ensuring we cater to individual needs and preferences, addressing chronic workforce shortages by attracting, training, rewarding and retaining the care workforce and managing the ongoing threat from Covid-19,” said Mable CEO Peter Scutt.
Meanwhile, the second piece of legislation, the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill – which includes caps placed on home care administration and management fees, plus a ban on exit fees – has been referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, which is due to report back on 31 August.