Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019

Second Reading Speech

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania - Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries and Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism)

I present the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

Today I am proud to introduce the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019, which builds on this Government's commitment to ensure older Australians in the aged care system are better cared for. This Bill gives additional regulatory functions and powers to the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, fulfilling the Government's 2018-19 Budget announcement.

The Government established the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1 January 2019, bringing together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. The Commission's initial responsibilities for complaints resolution and the accreditation, assessment and monitoring of aged care services will now be expanded.

From 1 January 2020, the Commissioner will be responsible for:

the approval of aged care providers, regardless of whether the care they provide is delivered in a residential aged care home or in an individual's home;
compliance and enforcement actions in relation to the care being provided to care recipients; and
the administration of the responsibilities of approved providers to report assaults.

These additional functions build on the existing functions of the

Commissioner and ensure the Commission is the primary point of contact for Senior Australians and their families to raise concerns and ask questions about the quality of their aged care, knowing the Commission is empowered to respond.

The transfer of these regulatory functions from the Secretary of the Department of Health to the Commissioner is a fundamental strengthening of the regulation of the aged care sector.

The Commissioner will now have the ability to approve providers' entry into aged care, stronger powers to monitor the quality of the care they provide and a broader remit to oversee and enforce their compliance with all aged care responsibilities.

If a provider is not providing the care required and expected of them, the Commissioner will be empowered to impose sanctions to protect care recipients, including revoking their approval to participate in the Commonwealth subsidised market.

The amendments in the Bill also streamline the process for the Commissioner to impose sanctions on aged care providers found not to be complying with their responsibilities and failing to make a sufficient response to the identified non-compliance.

Providers will continue to be expected to cooperate with the Commission, and officers of the Commission will be able to seek a warrant in order to exercise their powers where providers fail to cooperate.

The Commission will also have additional powers to seek information from providers related to their suitability to provide aged care and how they look after the funds that care recipients contribute to the cost of their care.

At the same time, the Bill ensures the Secretary and the Department have the necessary powers to continue to administer funding arrangements which will remain under the Aged Care Act from 1 January 2020.

Although the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is still underway and we cannot anticipate any recommendations that will come from it, these reforms provide a basis upon which to consider them and demonstrate that the Government is listening to concerns being raised.

These reforms are the second stage of our direct response to Ms Kate Carrell and Professor Ron Paterson's findings and recommendations of the Review of National Aged Care Regulatory Process undertaken in 2017.

The first stage occurred on 1 January this year with the establishment of the Commission and appointment of Ms Janet Anderson as Commissioner. I would like to thank Janet for the work she and her team have done this year to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of people receiving aged care by implementing the Government's reforms, and building the new Commission.

But there is more to do. There continue to be failures of care and older Australians deserve to be safe and well looked after in their homes, whether that's in a residential aged care facility or their own home. We should rightfully expect that those responsible for failures will be held to account.

This Bill demonstrates the Government's commitment to continue to strengthen the aged care regulatory framework in response to these challenges.

Debate adjourned.