Proposed Aged Care Levy Labelled ‘Lazy’ Solution

Proposed Aged Care Levy Labelled ‘Lazy’ Solution
Signage is seen at Arcare aged care facility in Maidstone on May 30, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Calls for a levy to improve aged care quality have been labelled as a “lazy” way of fixing issues in the sector by federal opposition.

Opposition aged care spokeswoman Anne Ruston said while there were many ways of addressing shortfalls in the industry, imposing a levy was not the answer.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells used an address at the National Press Club to suggest a new aged care taskforce should consider looking at a taxpayer levy as a funding measure for improvements to the sector.

But Senator Ruston said other options needed to be considered.

“Putting a tax or a levy on the table up front, quite frankly, is a lazy way to go,” she told ABC Radio on Friday.

“There’s some pretty eminent and experienced people on that task force, and what we’re looking forward to is seeing some of the innovative and reformist ideas that they’re going to come up with.”

The task force will include a mix of economic, finance, public policy, First Nations and consumer advocacy representatives to provide advice on the next steps in reform.

Members of the task force include Senior Australian of the Year Tom Calma, Council on the Ageing Australia chief executive Pat Sparrow and former NSW Liberal premier Mike Baird, who now heads up aged care provider HammondCare.

Senator Ruston said a new levy would not provide a broader incentive for other long-term reform measures.

“The government is expecting them to come up with something that’s more innovative and more reformist, and something that’s going to be sustainable into the longer term,” she said.

“We’ve got to actually address and investigate all options, and that could be looking overseas for international experience before we go down this really blunt instrument of just stick a tax on it.”

An interim report from the task force will be provided to the government in October, with a final report due by the end of December.

Aged care facilities have until the end of the month to meet new guidelines to have round-the-clock nurses on site as part of new government guidelines.

The guidelines were a recommendation from the aged care royal commission.

However, the measure has sparked warnings that not all facilities would be equipped to deal with the staffing level changes.

Senator Ruston said many facilities were struggling with the new guidelines.

“We’ve got towns that don’t have registered nurses, and yet the aged care facilities have been forced by legislation by this government to have them in place by the first of July,” she said.

“The exemption criteria is so narrow, you’ve got to actually be almost a remote nursing home with less than 30 beds to even be considered for an exemption.”

Wells said most facilities were going to meet the nursing requirements by the deadline, and her department was assisting those who may fall short.

“The boat doesn’t leave the harbour on July 1, and everybody left on the pontoon is done for—I'll keep trying on July 2 and every day after that until we get it done,” she said at the press club earlier this week.

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