Cyn­i­cal maybe, cu­ri­ous cer­tainly


Scott Mor­ri­son says it is a “cyn­i­cal” view to say a royal com­mis­sion into aged care has been called be­cause the gov­ern­ment has only now re­alised that years of lethar­gic re­form, hid­den re­ports and un­cer­tain fund­ing have af­fected its core vot­ers.

We can only take the Prime Min­is­ter at his word, although the record of re­cent history does lit­tle to dis­cour­age scep­ti­cism. When Mor­ri­son was trea­surer, di­rect­care sub­si­dies on which aged-care providers rely were frozen to the tune of $2 bil­lion. It was only in this year’s bud­get that panic set in and the Coali­tion tried to get some re­forms un­der way.

They are good, nec­es­sary re­forms yet they were largely shoved off into for­ward es­ti­mates. Mor­ri­son, Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt and Aged Care Min­is­ter Ken Wy­att an­nounced some key strate­gies will be brought for­ward, im­me­di­ately. A day later they even re­leased a work­force strat­egy re­port that hasn’t seen light since be­ing handed to the gov­ern­ment in June.

This news­pa­per has writ­ten re­port af­ter re­port about the mal­adies in the aged-care sec­tor. Just this year, we have high­lighted ma­jor nurs­ing home op­er­a­tors us­ing hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms as dump­ing grounds for res­i­dents with ba­sic care needs. Fewer than 10 per cent of providers have adopted vol­un­tary care stan­dards in­tro­duced two years ago.

We re­ported in June that rates of se­ri­ous risk no­tices had nearly dou­bled in less than a year. That fig­ure is now up by 170 per cent in the year.

It is this fig­ure Mor­ri­son says moved him to act, yet the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has al­ways known these fig­ures. It may be cyn­i­cal to sug­gest it has acted now only be­cause of more dam­ag­ing press due this evening. One more thing: the royal com­mis­sion isn’t ex­pected to fin­ish un­til af­ter the next elec­tion. The timeline is cer­tainly cu­ri­ous.

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