IN 1914, the famous American lawyer Louis Brandelis wrote that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
Brandelis was talking about the need to shine a light on the corrupt practices of banks. As we have seen with the Banking Royal Commission, he was (and still is) 100 per cent right.
Of course, Australia’s Banking Royal Commission very nearly didn’t happen. The Federal Government resisted calling it for as long as they could, and Member for Page Kevin Hogan voted against holding the Royal Commission some 25 times.
Eventually the stench of scandal just became too strong, and Liberals and Nationals had to give in.
Since then we’ve heard all about the practice of “fee for no service”, customer’s accounts being plundered after they have died, and banks heartlessly pursuing people into bankruptcy.
Perhaps the most galling story to come out of the Banking Royal Commission was the instance of a young man with Down Syndrome being bullied into taking out an insurance contract.
The community is now starting to understand just how badly regulated the for-profit financial services sector has been.
SUPPORTING OLDER AUSTRALIANS
The disinfectant of sunlight is now penetrating the inner workings of another industry – aged care.
The wonderful woman that I am married to – Gail – is an aged care worker. I am in awe of the wonderful work she does every single day.
Aged care workers are a rare breed: generous, dedicated, humble and caring. They deserve our utmost admiration and gratitude.
But admiration and gratitude isn’t enough. Aged care workers also deserve decent pay and conditions, just as the residents of age care facilities deserve to have the best possible standard of care.
As last month’s Four Corners programs into aged care showed, however, the margins for operators are getting tighter all the time.
The problem is that the level of funding for aged care is simply not keeping pace with the booming demand for services.
As result, operators are always looking for ways to reduce spending.
Recently, for example, it was revealed that aged care provider Southern Cross Care was cutting 734 working hours per fortnight from its two residential facilities in Grafton and Casino. As a result, a number of local workers were made redundant.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not promised to put back the $1.2 billion he cut from the Aged Care Funding Instrument in 2016. – but at least he has now recognised there is a genuine crisis in aged care, and agreed to conduct a Royal Commission into the sector.
BRINGING THE ROYAL COMMISSION TO NORTHERN NSW
This is a very important issue for our community. Nearly 20 per cent of the population of the electorate of Page is aged 70 and older.
Our local aged care workers, aged care residents and their families deserve the opportunity to have their say.
That’s why over the past few weeks I have been calling for the Royal Commission to hold a special sitting on the Northern Rivers.
I have already made a submission to the Department of Health in regard to the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission, and I have also written to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
I can assure you that I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure our community’s voice is heard at the Aged Care Royal Commission.
Let the sun shine in.
By Patrick Deegan, ALP Candidate for the Federal seat of Page.
This article first appeared in the October edition of the Nimbin Good Times.