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Laws responding to the recommendations from the aged care royal commission have become the first to pass federal parliament under the new Labor government.
The legislation amends the aged care subsidy funding model and introduces new reporting and transparency requirements.
It responds to 17 recommendations of the royal commission’s final report.
The royal commission response bill was introduced by the former coalition government before lapsing at the federal election and was reinstated when parliament resumed last week.
Under the legislation, the Department of Health and Aged Care will publish star ratings for all aged care services by the end of 2022.
The star ratings system will allow older Australians and their families to compare quality and safety performance of different services and providers.
The laws also extend the Serious Incident Response Scheme to all in-home care providers, from December 1 and introduce a new code of conduct for approved providers, aged care workers and key personnel.
Labor minister Murray Watt told the Senate the passing of the laws showed the importance of putting in place a “decent, well funded, well regulated aged care systems for our older Australians”.
“(It’s) nothing less than they deserve.”
The government has also introduced legislation in the upper house to have a nurse in aged care homes at all times.
A contentious inclusion in the proposed bill is legal immunity for providers who engage in restrictive practices.
The immunity provision is a temporary measure and will only apply when restrictive practices are used as a last resort, for the shortest time possible and to prevent harm to the care recipient, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said.
“This is a sunset clause that gets us to the opportunity to consult fully with all of our advocacy groups to make sure that the new (legislation) is as good as it could possibly be,” she told parliament on Tuesday.
“This is reform that has to last for decades, we want to do it once and we want to do it well.”
Government modelling shows an additional 869 registered nurses were needed to meet its election pledge of 24/7 nursing.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said older Australians were closer to receiving the care and dignity they deserved with the passage of the bill.
“I made promises to the Australian people to improved aged care and inside our first 10 weeks we have begun delivering on those promises,” he said.
“This bill will usher in a new standard of respect.”
Further aged care reforms will be introduced in 2023.
Dominic Giannini and Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)