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.