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The late Richard Tracey with fellow commissioner Lynelle Briggs. Photo: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

Aged care report is ‘late chair’s legacy’

The federal government needs to honour the legacy of the aged care royal commission’s chair by acting on the inquiry’s interim report, an advocate says.

Richard Tracey, QC, spent the last weeks of his life finalising the report while being treated for terminal cancer in the US, where the 71-year-old died on October 11.

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said the government must take heed of today’s interim report to ensure Tracey’s legacy was not forgotten.

“What I would like to see is the big issues addressed and not for this report to be noted by the government,” Henschke told AAP.

“This is a person who served his country right up until almost the day he died, and you cannot out of respect for that person say, ‘We’ll put all this off until November next year,’ or ‘We’ll look at what he says and take it into account maybe when the budget’s in better shape.’

“It’s the end of his life’s work, but it’s just the beginning of what government has to do.”

Henschke said aged care should be beyond politics, arguing the government and opposition should commit to fixing it even if it requires more money.

In a background paper released on Monday, royal commission staff criticised the slow and opaque responses by successive federal governments to 18 previous inquiries and reviews into aged care over the past two decades.

“The overarching question that arises is why, after all these reviews, the aged care system still fails to support an appropriate quality life for the most frail and vulnerable members of our community,” the Office of the Royal Commission staff concluded.

The interim report will contain Tracey and fellow commissioner Lynelle Briggs’ overall impressions of the aged care system, but any recommendations for reform are not expected until the final report in November 2020.

Tracey, a former Federal Court judge, labelled aspects of the aged care system cruel and unkind.

Briggs said Tracey also encouraged her to drive their policy agenda beyond change at the margin to transformative change, given the degree of substandard care that was apparent to them.

The central issue of funding of the aged care sector has yet to be examined in detail by the royal commission.

Advocacy group COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates expects the interim report will acknowledge the sector needs more resources, despite the royal commission not yet examining the central issue of funding in detail.

He said the report may also highlight the key issues going forward as the inquiry moves into the next phase of finding solutions to the problems in aged care.

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