In response to the Budget presented by the Australian Government on 29 March 2022, the Leader of the Opposition presented a suite of policy plans.
Two of those plans have particular importance for older Australians. They are about aged care and social housing
The Opposition Leader promised that under a Labor government every nursing home would have at least one registered nurse on site around the clock and more personal carers so that residents will receive more care.
It should be noted that the Opposition Leader did not commit to mandatory staff-to-residents ratios.
Apart from more staff in nursing homes, he also promised that Labor would pay them whatever the Fair Work Commission determined they should be paid as a minimum. The Fair Work Commission ruling is expected to produce a significant wage rise for nurses and personal carers in residential aged care.
We note that the staff shortages in both nursing homes and home care are truly frightening. It is difficult to see how these would be resolved simply by saying that there will be more and better-paid staff. This problem has no short-term solution.
The Opposition Leader promised that nursing home food would improve. We note that this, too, would require more funding.
Finally, he promised better scrutiny of how providers spend Government subsidies and residents’ personal contributions, mentioning further powers for the ineffectual Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
In later announcements, he foreshadowed jail time for aged care providers doing the wrong thing This sounds fair, but we are sceptical. We remind readers that aged care provider BUPA ran dozens of seriously non-compliant nursing homes and never lost accreditation for a single one of them.
On social housing, the Opposition Leader committed to action to reduce the waiting list of more than 150,000 households Australia-wide, saying that Labor would build around 20,000 social housing properties. Four thousand of these homes will be allocated to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes.
He said Labor would build 10,000 affordable housing properties for frontline workers such as nurses and emergency services workers.
Missing in the Opposition Leader’s Budget reply speech was a commitment to review social security payments, including pensions and the JobSeeker Payment, in particular for older people who have no prospect of getting another job.