Anthony Albanese put “care” at the centre of his budget reply on Thursday night, telling Australians Labor would make sure “security, dignity, quality and humanity” returned to the aged care sector.
Albanese said the thought of entering the aged care system is currently leaving a generation of Australians with “dread”, especially after the first years of the pandemic and a damning royal commission. He said the aged care system is in crisis and the Morrison government has not adequately addressed the problems in the sector.
Albanese said Australians have been “chilled by stories of unforgiveable neglect”.
“Maggots in wounds, people going days without fresh air, a shower, or a change of clothes, stories of residents lying on the floor, crying out in pain, and nobody is there to help them,” he said. “It goes against everything we are as Australians.”
“And while our loved ones suffer, their carers, mostly women, are underpaid and overworked [and] some of the operators running these places are doing very well.”
Albanese then went on to pledge a $2.5 billion plan to transform the sector over four years.
The five-point plan includes requiring every aged care home to have a registered nurse of site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We are going to put the nurses back into nursing homes. This will save thousands of stressful, expensive and ultimately unnecessary trips to hospital emergency departments for issues that a nurse, with all of their skills, could solve on the spot,” he said. “Every Australian living in aged care should get the medial attention they need, the moment they need it.”
Labor would implement a minimum standard of 215 minutes of care per day, per aged care resident, as recommended by the royal commission
“A reminder that older Australians aren’t just a number, they aren’t a burden, they are people who built this country, who deserve respect, courtesy and the best possible attention,” he said.
He said Labor would guarantee a pay rise for aged care workers, who in some cases currently earn as little as $22 an hour. Labor would do this by supporting and funding the outcome of a case before the Fair Work Commission.
“If we want higher standards of care, we need to support higher wages for our carers,” he said. “If we want to recruit and retain more carers to look after a population that’s growing older, we need to treat their vital and essential work with respect and reward it with better pay.”
Albanese said Labor would implement mandatory nutrition standards for aged care and improve the food served to residents. They would focus on integrity and accountability mechanisms, to ensure money in the sector is being spent appropriately by providers on improving care outcomes.
“If we want to change aged care in this country for the better, then we need to start by changing the government.”
Albanese also reiterated Labor’s policy to make early childhood education and care cheaper for “almost all families”.
“Our plan will stop the economic distortion that stops, particularly mums, working more than three or four days a week. It will boost productivity and workforce participation across the country.”