Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)
The Turnbull government is facing pressure to have two federal watchdogs oversee the retirement village industry.
The ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night exposed what Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt described as “exploitation” of retirement village residents.
The program and related reports in Fairfax Media detailed overly complex contracts, misleading marketing, lengthy delays in dealing with health and safety issues and massive fees.
“I will take the necessary steps that are appropriate. We certainly have to prevent exploitation of senior Australians,” Mr Wyatt said on Tuesday.
One of those steps could be greater harmonisation between states and territories because legislation fell within their jurisdictions.
However, the peak body representing older people, COTA Australia, says national regulation is needed because of gaps in state regulations.
They should be subject to regulation by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and not under-resourced and inappropriate State tenancy tribunals, COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said.
“When it boils down to it, older Australians deserve the utmost clarity and consumer protection when they are choosing where and how they should live in the latter stages of their life,” he said.
While most retirement village residents were happy with their living arrangements, contracts still remained too complex and far too many people became residents without fully understanding the rules.
Labor leader Bill Shorten says he is prepared to discuss reform of the sector with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“A country which treats old people in the manner in which we saw last night should be ashamed of itself,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“The longer we leave the problem of not taking aged care seriously, the bigger the problem we are going to have in the future.”
Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson, a former federal health minister, says all levels of government need to work together, starting with taking another look at recommendations from a 2007 parliamentary report.
The report recommended governments consider appointing a statutory supervisor, greater harmony of legislation and a joint project between the ACCC and state fair trading offices to examine retirement village contracts and fees.
The company at the centre of the allegations, Aveo, says its contracts complied with industry standards and legislation and it had engaged with residents to understand their concerns.
“While we are aware that in some instances the service we provide our residents may fall short of our expectations and our customers’ expectations, the issues in question are very much isolated in their nature,” Aveo said in a statement.