Today Abigail stood to speak about the need to take profit out of the aged care sector and guarantee care to everyone who needs it.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:48:12): Everyone deserves access to compassionate and guaranteed universal health care but, currently, not everyone is getting it. Older people in Australia are falling through the cracks of an enormous systemic failure and are missing out on the safe, secure and compassionate care that we all deserve in our old age. We owe our elders so much better. The degradation of our aged-care system has been bubbling under the surface, unseen for most of the past two decades since John Howard's Aged Care Act 1997 turned aged care into an opportunity to make an easy dollar and allowed massive private investment while failing to enforce adequate minimum staffing standards. Many of us saw this coming in 1997 because at the core of the Aged Care Act was the same market obsession that has corrupted governments for the past four decades.
If you ask someone on the street what the most important goal of our aged care sector is they will say healthy and happy older people. If you ask the Liberals or aged care bosses, they will say bottom line efficiency, which is why a typical nursing home today receives half the government funding for registered nurses that it would have received in the mid‑1990s and the most profitable aged care companies in Australia see almost four times the profits of oversees equivalents.
With three-quarters of COVID deaths across Australia being aged care residents, it is painfully clear that government savings and private profits do not fulfil the community's basic expectations of our aged care sector. That the majority of COVID deaths of older people in aged care have been in Victoria does not mean that this crisis is not playing out in New South Wales. Of the 52 people in New South Wales who have died of the virus, 28 were aged care residents. We are lucky that the scale of disaster in the sector has not reached us here, but neither our community nor the Government should relax. It is a national problem 23 years in the making and every Government in the country must act urgently to fix the fundamentally broken system.
The solution is straightforward: Take profit out of health care and bring aged care provision into public ownership and operation. There is no place for maximising profits when it comes to the health and wellbeing of older people. We must see individuals whose lives are shaped by our decisions as people, not as a dollar on a page. Older people, their loved ones and the workers who care for them, not executives and shareholders, must be front and centre in the reform and ongoing management of aged care. The crisis has demonstrated the devastating reality of putting profit before people and The Greens will continue to stand up for the health and wellbeing of older people until we have a system that puts their lives above the bottom line.