2013 Federal Election Campaign

At the outset of the Federal Election campaign, Occupational Therapy Australia wrote to the leaders of the currently represented political parties (Labor, Coalition and Greens) to ask their views on a selection of issues for the profession. Click here to view.

Occupational Therapy Australia is eager to better inform members of the views of the main political parties. It is not our role to provide a ranking of the parties or to ask members to vote for one of them. Instead, we can help members find information that is relevant to them and to the profession which may assist them with their decisions.

Occupational Therapy Australia hasn’t yet received responses to our letters, but has published here the relevant parts of the statements and policies announced by the parties during the election campaign. We will share any responses received in future editions of Connections.

Please click the topics below to view the questions asked by OTA [highlighted in yellow] and the parties responses to each.

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Health and Aged Care

  • Medicare Locals

What approach would a Labor Government take in the local management and planning of primary health care services? Allied Health professionals are a large part of the workforce in Medicare Locals and Local Hospital Networks, bringing extensive program knowledge to the planning and delivery of health services. Do you propose any changes to this area?

Different communities have different health needs, and local communities deserve a say in how their health care is run. Labor has established Medicare Locals to deliver better health services local communities. Medicare Locals are the newest part of Australia’s universal health system and are delivering things like GP after hours, immunisation programs, mental health services, and much more.

More information click here

To further alleviate pressure on public hospitals, Australia needs strong primary care that’s readily accessible. Good primary care provides for earlier interventions and better outcomes … We will also review the Medicare Locals structure to ensure that funding is being spent as effectively as possible to support frontline services rather than administration.

More information click here

The Greens would invest $664m in extra funding for Medicare over the forward estimates. This money is a sorely needed top-up to the health system that reverses the cuts to Medicare made by Labor in the last budget and supported by the Coalition.

More information click here

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  • Aged Care reforms

I note with pleasure that the Aged Care reforms passed by the last Parliament. Occupational Therapy Australia is a long-standing member of the National Aged Care Alliance and would like to ask your intentions in relation to the direction of these reforms. In particular, will you support the recommendations of the Productivity Commission?

Would your Government provide the resources for eligible individuals (determined by a needs based assessment at the aged care Gateway) to meet their needs however they choose to do so – in their own home or a residential care home.

Would your Government undertake an independent ‘Cost of Care’ study so we can make better, informed decisions about how we fund aged care into the future.

Since 2007 Labor has invested more than 70 per cent more funding into the aged care sector, adding more than 21,000 residential care places and 18,000 home care places nationally.

Changes are being made to the aged care system which will lift quality in residential aged care homes and allow more people to access care in their own homes.

Older Australians who want to live independently in their own home are more likely to have that choice: Labor is increasing the number of Home Care Packages by 40,000 -- to nearly 100,000 by 2017.

From next financial year, means tested care costs will be capped, giving older Australians financial certainty and peace of mind. The residential care cost cap is $25,000 per year and home care packages are capped at $5,000 for part pensioners and $10,000 for self-funded retirees. And no one will ever pay more than Labor's $60,000 cap over their lifetime.

To help people keep their family home, and to prevent anyone being forced to sell their home, Labor will give families more choice about how to pay for care. From 1 July 2014, instead of a bond which can cost millions and might bear no resemblance to the actual cost of accommodation, you will be able to pay through a lump sum or a periodic payment - or a combination of both. And from April next year, providers of care will need to publish their prices and ensure accommodation pricing appropriately reflects value.

[No policy announcement has been made in relation to aged care. Occupational Therapy Australia notes that the Coalition supported the Aged Care reforms which passed Parliament in 2013.]

The Greens supported and improved the recent aged care reform legislation and secured a homelessness supplement among other amendments.

The Greens approach to aged care is focused on supporting access to the aged care system; an emphasis on wellness; a strong and sustainable workforce, both paid and volunteer; and delivering quality residential and community care.

The Greens worked hard to improve the Living Longer, Living Better aged care legislation that was passed through Parliament earlier this year. One of our key amendments ensured that there is now an independent body, the Aged Care Financing Authority that will monitor the financial impacts of the legislation on both consumers and providers as it is implemented and make recommendations to Government.

We want to improve the aged care workforce, with both better wages and access to training and career development. We respect the role allied health professionals play and we understand the difficulty that many providers have in attracting and retaining quality staff.

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Veterans’ Affairs

Occupational Therapy has its origins in the provision of services to returned servicemen and women in WW2. Will Labor commit to a review of the schedule of items that provide funding for veterans to see allied health providers? The rate of remuneration lags far behind that available to Occupational Therapists through State funded programs such as Workcover and Motor Accident Authority Schemes, and also that of DisabilityCare.

Occupational Therapy Australia has been working with DVA for over a year and will seek to raise our concerns with the Minister in the next Parliament.

[The ALP, Coalition or Greens have not yet made an announcement in relation to allied health providers to veterans.]

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DisabilityCare Australia

Occupational Therapy is a client-centred, evidence based profession and the most important allied health profession in the support of people with disabilities. Will Labor commit to maintain the eligibility requirements and timetable for the development of DisabilityCare Australia across Australia?

The ALP policy on disability and carers is here

The Coalition policy on disability and carers is here

The Australian Greens do not believe that access to supports and services should be different for someone who acquires a disability after the age of 65. The Australian Greens moved amendments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) legislation to remove the age limit, unfortunately our amendment wasn’t supported by either the Liberals or Labor. We also raised this issue through the debate on the aged care reform legislation and secured a commitment from both the Ageing and the Disability Ministers that they would work together to review the access of over 65s to appropriate services. Until this issue is fully resolved, the Greens will continue to campaign for no age restriction on access to the NDIS when the scheme is fully rolled out.

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Education

It is our view that students with a recognised disability should have access to the allied health profession that can support them. However most of the funding through the 'More Support for Students with Disabilities' program has been directed at professional development and the employment of teachers’ aides and assistants. I am aware of several examples where children with disabilities have not had their needs met and have ended up moving to specialist education centres instead of staying in education settings.

Would you be prepared to revisit the composition of the Minister’s advisory committee, should the Labor Party form Government, so as to ensure that voices from outside of the education mainstream are better represented to DEEWR and the State / Territory Departments?

The ALP has extended the funding for the MSSD program into 2014, and from then on the funding will become part of the Better Schools Plan, which will include a ‘students with disability loading’ to fund schools from 2015.

More information click here

The Coalition will extend the funding for the MSSD program into 2014, and will maintain funding for schools as agreed between the Federal, State and Territory Governments for the next four years.

More information click here

The Greens would double the funding for the education reforms proposed by the current Government, and provide better assistance for children with a disability. The additional funding would enable the loading for children with a disability to be applied consistently, according to need, regardless of where children live. At the moment assistance varies across Australia.

The Greens full Education policy can be read here

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Taxation: Self-education expenses

The Government has now deferred the introduction of the $2,000 per annum cap on self-education expenses for a year. Occupational Therapy Australia joined the Scrap the Cap Campaign, and remains concerned at the impact of the proposal, particularly on Occupational Therapists working in regional and rural areas, and those paying fees for further qualifications. What is the ALP’s intention in relation to this issue?

The Federal Government will defer the introduction of the $2,000 self-education cap until 1 July 2015.

The announcement was made by Treasurer Chris Bowen as part of the Government's Economic Statement released on August 2nd.

"This will allow for further consultation on how best to target excessive claims while ensuring the impact on university enrolments and genuine continuing professional development is minimised," the statement said.

In addition the Coalition accepts that whilst we do not like many of the savings initiatives announced by the Government on Friday 2 August 2013 we must proceed with the Budget bottom line savings as presented in the Pre –Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO), given the budgetary mess created by Labor.

This applies to all savings other than those specifically identified by the Coalition as unacceptable such as the changes announced by the Government on Fringe Benefits Tax for motor vehicles. The Coalition will not proceed with this flawed taxation change.

Taken from this document

The Greens have not commented on this issue during the campaign but issued a statement earlier, saying:

“The Greens have major concerns with the Rudd government's proposal to cap self education expense deductions to $2,000. This change will require legislation and we would move to send the legislation to a full Senate inquiry," said Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne.

The Greens are concerned that while the current scheme may need better targeting, the $2,000 cap is a blunt instrument. While rorting from some professions is anecdotally reported, that should not outweigh the concerns of people such as nurses from regional areas trying to get training.

"I am also concerned this measure will unfairly impact on women re-entering the workforce after having children and people in professions that require costly continuing education."

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Mental Health

Occupational Therapy Australia is a member of the Mental Health Council of Australia and supports their policy calls during this election. Interested members can view the MHCA media releases below for more information on mental health policy announcements.