Articles

While the Royal Commission into aged care made some useful recommendations, Aged Care Crisis has been very concerned at the matters they failed to address. These are issues within our society and our political system that impact on aged care and the many other sectors that have failed. 

Our experience, our research and our analysis indicates that they were the reasons why the aged care system has failed repeatedly and so badly. This analysis also shows why policy failures like this are so resistant to change and why the failures in aged care and similar sectors keep recurring in spite of attempts to make changes.

We have been even more concerned by the response of government and industry who seem to be denying their responsibility for what the Royal Commission found to be “a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation”. They are pursuing the same policies and behaving in exactly the same way as they did before. They have appointed and commissioned the same people from industry to advise and work with them.

We became aware of another consultation 'Aligning Regulation across Care and Support Sector' by the Department of Health and discovered that they were conducting it in exactly the same restrictive way they have done in the past. This restricts criticism and prevents other parties from seeing the criticisms that others are making. Nothing seems to have changed.

We have therefore decided to set out the result of our experience, research and analysis (PDF658.67 KB). This explains what has been happening and indicates what needs to be done to create a context where we can address the difficult problems that develop in the complex world we live in more sensibly in the hope that some will find it informative and useful.

 

Aged care in Australia is not alone. The same policies were introduced in the USA and the UK as well as other countries. Those with experience and knowledge of human behaviour tried hard to warn us that this would not work. They were ignored. The same or very similar adverse consequences have developed in aged care in these countries as well.

We have a system that was largely designed by industry, for industry. By consulting with the same architects of the existing broken system, proposed system improvements by the recent Royal Commission and various consultations and inquiries following, are likely to suffer the same malady. We will be back here sometime in the future, but only after more needless suffering of vulnerable residents in aged care.

Background

Aged care as a wider societal problem: Over the last 30 to 40 years there have been multiple failures in the market, particularly in those where participants are vulnerable and easily exploited. This has occurred in the USA, UK, Australia as well as other countries. Aged care is clearly part of a wider problem which we are not acknowledging. It is simply one of the worst affected.

To understand the significance of the appointment of Butler as Shadow Minister for Ageing, we need to understand two other issues:

  1. There has been a deep divide around the belief and implementation of free markets that has split both major political parties into factions since the late 1970s. This was exemplified by differences in policy between Fraser and Howard, Hawke and Keating, Beazley/Rudd and Gillard, and Turnbull sandwiched between Abbott/Morrison. The second of each paired group followed free market policies more aggressively.
  2. These differences have had a profound influence on aged care policy. On the one hand there are those who see aged care as a market conforming to neoliberal free market and management principles. On the other are those who see aged care as a community service to which the market contributes. The market is required to adopt community values and meet their expectations.

Hawke's attempts to reform aged care during the 1980s were strongly resisted by vested interests and largely abandoned by Keating in the 1990s. In 1997, when Beazley was Labor leader, Senator Gibbs was able to mount a savage and prophetic attack on the Howard government's 1997 free-market aged care policies, predicting that they would fail and explaining why.