I rise to speak on the amendment to the Aged Care Amendment (Aged Care Recipient Classification) Bill 2020, as moved by my good colleague the member for Franklin. As she has pointed out, the bill enables a new procedure to classify recipients of residential aged care. The member for Franklin has very thoroughly outlined our concerns and everything about this particular bill, notwithstanding the fact that we will ultimately support it.
Everybody agrees, as the member said, that the Aged Care Funding Instrument is no longer fit for purpose. When residents enter an aged-care facility, they are assessed using the ACFI—the Aged Care Funding Instrument. This assessment is usually undertaken by a nurse employed by the provider, and many nurses tell us that that is their sole duty—they spend pretty much their entire job doing the figures so that they can maximise the income from the ACFI—instead of using their nursing expertise where it should be used: actually being out on the floor looking after the aged-care residents. Many residential aged-care facilities have admitted that this is necessary because the instrument is very, very time consuming and complex, and they need to maximise the outcome.
It's interesting that we are moving to a new instrument, which has been trialled—the RUCS trial. I'm old enough to remember the old CAM-SAM funding, which was around a long time ago! I see that my colleagues here are also old enough to remember that! But the CAM-SAM funding gave a specific amount for standard care, which everybody got, and then there was an amount added to that for care, depending on the needs of the resident. It's with some amusement that I see, following the RUCS trial, that there is actually broad support returning to a model that is quite similar to the CAM-SAM funding model. It's almost gone the full circle—what goes around comes around. As I said, we will support this bill because this is all about quality, and we are supporting anything that will improve quality for our aged-care residents. As the member for Franklin noted, we on this side are incredibly frustrated with the lack of commitment to reforming our aged-care system and returning quality of care to the residents. I can't tell you how tired I am to stand in this place and keep saying the same things over and over. We keep repeating the words of the advocates, the unions, the workers, the residents, their families—all the things that they've been telling us for years about how broken the system is.
I just want to acknowledge the great work that the member for Franklin has done for all of those stakeholders and all of the people in the aged-care system. I repeat—ad nauseam—the aged-care system is broken. It was broken before COVID, but the pandemic has, of course, shone a light through the cracks. The royal commission detailed the shocking failures in individual aged-care homes. It outlined the structural weaknesses in our system and, to quote the commission itself:
… the aged care system fails to meet the needs of our older, often very vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care for older people. It is unkind and uncaring towards them.
Imagine that—to have to give up your loved one into a system that is unkind and uncaring. The royal commission says, 'In too many instances, it simply neglects them.'
I don't know how members of the government can sit there and listen to those words from the royal commission over and over again like we have and not hang their heads in shame. The commission says there was:
…serious substandard care and unsafe practice, an underpaid, undervalued and insufficiently trained workforce—
And that was before the pandemic hit. When we get to COVID, we know that the Prime Minister's plan was nothing more than guidelines offered up by an incompetent minister who never acts with the urgency the sector needs. The plan failed. It's a nonsense to say otherwise; it's an insult to say otherwise.
As a former nurse and head of the nurses' union, I spent a large part of my career actually fighting for a better aged-care system. We've been saying for decades that we need regulated staffing levels, a good skill mix of professionals, better pay and training, and we need to make aged-care providers accountable for the government funding they receive so we know it's spent on quality care. That is why it's so frustrating that amendments put by Senator Griff were defeated by the government—teaming up with One Nation—who voted against transparency in aged-care funding so that aged-care providers can spend or pocket the money they get from the government for their residents.
It's hard to understand how anyone could oppose Australians having more information about the new $20 billion that is actually spent in the aged-care system. We're saying, 'Enough is enough'. We have actually announced what we think is a plan that is necessary to fix aged care—which includes minimum staffing levels, reducing the Home Care Package list, and ensuring transparency and accountability of funding—because we know that Australians are angry. We know that Australians care very deeply about this and that we can no longer neglect the older generations of this country. We can't let them down, we can't let their carers down and we can't let their families down. In their final years of life, when they're sick and vulnerable, they should not be left in beds hungry. They should not be left in beds with maggots crawling through their wounds and without the care they need. It's a great shame. The Morrison government should hang its head in shame.