Sunday 22nd April 2012
Independent Federal MP Tony Windsor spoke to The Lamp about improving the lot of Australia’s elderly.You named action on aged care as one of your top priorities when you supported the Gillard Government after the 2010 election. Why was that?
I don’t see aged care as being solely about aged care. I see it in the context of regional development as well. If you don’t have aged care and health facilities people will leave country areas before they get old and sick. You can’t just look at aged care in isolation, just in terms of provision of service. If it were just about provision of service you’d just provide feedlots for older people. It has to be delivered with integrity.
Do you think Julia Gillard rates aged care as a high priority for the government’s reform agenda?
Yes I do. She knows it is a legitimate issue. The baby boomers are coming through, which creates capital and operational issues for government. Demand is on the increase and the government knows that. I made the point to the PM (when I was with her recently) about this disparity with the salaries. If nurses can earn $200 per week more elsewhere why would they want to commit to aged care? If we leave this to the market it will be farcical. There has to be a plan with the bubble of people coming through. This will be one of the big issues of the next few years and it will have to be dealt with.
The Federal Government now has the Productivity Commission report on aged care. What aspects of that report do you think are particularly important to implement?
The wages gap is obviously important. If we value the people who do the caring then we need to remunerate them. You have to be a special person to work in aged care. The most important people in our society are the people who look after our old and our young. They do it for the rest of us.
You’ve been a strong advocate of the National Broadband Network (NBN).How will it help deal with the health issues faced by rural Australia?
The NBN could be a contributor to aged care in the future. It will help maintain the integrity of rural communities. If you get fibre to the home you give a security blanket to old people with health issues. My mother is 94, in aged care, with reasonable health except for her eyesight. She could stay for longer in her own home with a smart house connected to the NBN. If you could keep 200,000 people in their homes for an extra year or two there are enormous capital and operational savings for government. With the baby boomers coming through it could change the dynamics. It is a way of holding costs back. We could slow the movement into aged care through the use of technology.
Does the fact that your mother is in aged care make aged care more personal to you?
It does influence you. I go to aged care facilities, and not just for opening days, as an MP. You get the appreciation the residents have for the staff. My mother is not demanding but she is still very appreciative of the care she gets from the staff.
Do you think the ANF’s Because We Care aged care campaign is achievable?
Anything is achievable, it is just a question of priorities. If society is not about looking after your young and your old then what is it?