Government and One Nation fail to support transparent aged care funding

A Bill seeking transparency and accountability for the billions of dollars in taxpayer-funding received by nursing home operators was today blocked by the federal government with the support of One Nation.

The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019, introduced into Parliament, was seeking aged care operators to reveal their income source and disclose how much of it they spent on direct resident care, including costs of staffing and training, medical products and continence aids. The amendment proposed that this information would then be publicly available through the new Quality and Safety Commissioner.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) have expressed their extreme disappointment about the decision stating that once again the government, with the support of One Nation, had failed to commit to genuine improvements in aged care and for older Australians.

“Privately-operated aged care providers receive between 70-80% of their funding from the Australian taxpayer, but with no current laws in place, they aren’t obliged to disclose how this money is spent and whether in fact, it’s being used for the care of elderly residents. Providers are currently free to spend public funds however they choose,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“Last year’s ANMF commissioned Tax Justice Network Report, Tax Avoidance by For-Profit Aged Care Companies: Profit Shifting on Public Funds examined tax avoidance in the aged care sector, showing how Australia’s top six aged care providers, some with foreign ownership, posted enormous profits while taking advantage of AUD $2.17 billion in Australian taxpayer funded subsidies, using various loopholes, corporate structures and discretionary trusts to avoid paying their fair share of tax,” she said.

Ms Butler said over the years, governments had injected additional funding into the aged care sector, some of which was designed to improve wages for nurses and care-workers but with no guarantees attached or requirements to demonstrate its use. This funding, however, had failed to make a difference to the wages of aged care staff and had in fact further diminished their capacity to provide quality care, she said.

“This Amendment to the Bill would have at long last required providers to be transparent and accountable for the public funds they receive and reveal how much they direct to actual care provision. Until we have this in place we will not be able to make genuine assessments about what further funding is needed for the sector. It is extremely disappointing that the government and One Nation have rejected this great start towards improving transparency and accountability in the aged care sector.”

Ms Butler, however, commended Senator Griff who proposed this important Amendment and thanked the ALP, Greens and Centre Alliance for supporting moves to bring much-needed transparency into aged care funding.

“The ANMF will continue to work hard with those politicians, Centre Alliance, the ALP and Greens, who are genuinely committed to improving care for older Australians in the New Year.” Ms Butler said.

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