Aged Care Royal Commission: A Business Improvement Initiative?

Article published 20 September 2018

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On Sunday 16 September 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Royal Commission into aged care, but you wonder why.

The Prime Minister said, as part of his announcement, that “Australia provides some of the best care in the world. And we are looked to as a leader in the field. Aged care services and training has become an important service export industry for Australia”.

Then why have a Royal Commission into aged care? If aged care is top-notch, why bother?

It is, says the Prime Minister invoking the old one-rotten-apple analogy, because “the best teams will always want to do better, and will always want to be honest about the performance of the sector as a whole”.

It seems we are having a Royal Commission into aged care purely as a business improvement initiative, not because aged care is a mess and needs to go to rehab. No, no, no.

The mixed messages from the Prime Minister were parroted by aged care provider representatives who want you to think they actually welcome a Royal Commission into their industry. This defies belief. This is an industry so secretive about its operations that it has succeeded in being made, to all intents and purposes, exempt from Freedom of Information legislation. This industry now makes out that the supreme mechanism for bringing to light information, a Royal Commission, is just what this industry needs and has always wanted.

At least, advocates and industry agree, albeit for different reasons: a Royal Commission into aged care will be a good thing.

Now it’s game on for writing the terms of reference to be included into the Letters Patent for this Royal Commission.

The Prime Minister said that the terms of reference “will be determined in consultation with the community including residents and their families and aged care providers”.

Note the absence of advocacy organisations who have been calling for a Royal Commission in this list of prospective consultees.

Inadvertent omission?


The membership of the Government’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce did not have a single union representative on it, so it’s very likely that the community input into the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Aged Care will be limited to community organisations who never saw fit to call for a Royal Commission and also some private individuals with no experience in drafting terms of reference.

Does this matter?

It needn’t. Just look at the Banking Royal Commission, whose terms of reference were written by the banks.

Royal Commissions are like that. They are truth-finding machines unleashing unwanted facts with abandon and often forcing Governments into actions that they had rather avoided taking.

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