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20 September 2018

The Hon Bill Shorten

Leader of the Opposition

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Aged Care Royal Commission hearings in regional areas

Dear Mr Shorten,

I am writing in support of the call by the Labor Candidate for Page, Patrick Deegan, for the Royal Commission into Aged Care to hold special sittings in regional areas, including the Mid-North and North Coasts of New South Wales. 

We need Labor to advocate for regional hearings as calls fall on deaf ears in National Party held seats. Aged care is a significant issue for our region, and it is essential for local people to participate in the Royal Commission, without having to travel to Sydney or Brisbane.

The strip between Newcastle and the Queensland border is an aged care ‘hot-spot’ with an above average number of retirees and workers in the industry. 

For example, there are 5,274 people in aged care in on the Mid-North Coast, stretching from the Great Lakes to Grafton. Just over 50 per cent of people using permanent residential aged care on the Mid North Coast at the middle of this year had a diagnosis of dementia.

The federal electorate of Cowper, covering Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and the Mid-North Coast has a high number of older residents – in fact, a quarter of all people in the electorate are aged 65 and older. 

We also have close to 2,500 people working in aged care residential services, representing close to four per cent of the workforce, double the state and national averages. 

In recent times, the aged care crisis has hit home in Northern NSW. We now know 1,160 people are on the aged care unallocated waiting list for aged care home packages on the Mid-North Coast. (Source: News Release)

This week’s Four Corners’ expose on the state of Australia’s aged care sector showed an industry in crisis, and highlighted the urgent need to fix the funding shortfall for aged care. The stories that emerged this week were chilling.

Just last weekend, the Daily Telegraph also reported allegations of bullying and sub-standard care at an aged care facility in Coffs Harbour. (Source: Daily Telegraph) As a community, we cannot stand by and accept that this is the best we can do. 

Sadly, the retiring National Party Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, has clocked off and it will now be left to Labor and the Royal Commission to stand up for aged care residents, staff, service providers, their friends and families in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Kempsey and the Mid-North Coast.

I would like to use this opportunity to invite yourself and Ms Julie Collins to visit the Mid-North Coast. It would be great to have you visit us for a ‘Town Hall’ and for Julie to hold one of her forums with older Australians and their loved ones about the things that Labor can do most quickly that will improve the quality of care for people and conditions of staff.

Thank you for the excellent work that you and the federal Labor team are doing for all us.

In solidarity,

ANDREW WOODWARD

Candidate for Cowper

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20 September 2018