Anthony Albanese promises $2.5 billion fix to aged care crisis in budget reply

Albanese pledges $2.5 billion aged care fix

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Labor leader Anthony Albanese has vowed, if elected in May, to fix Australia's aged care crisis.

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Labor leader Anthony Albanese has vowed, if elected in May, to fix Australia's aged care crisis offering a $2.5 billion five-point plan to improve the lives of older people in care, including requiring 24/7 registered nursing care, better food and backing pay rises for aged care workers.

In the traditional budget reply, delivered on Thursday night, the last expected parliamentary sitting day before the election, Mr Albanese has vowed to put security, dignity, quality and humanity back into aged care.

The opposition leader's speech, which is not framed as an alternative budget, comes just days out from Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling the election. Mr Albanese offered a Labor government of "renewal" rather than "revolution" and promised Australians would not be left behind.

"If I'm Prime Minister, I won't go missing when the going gets tough - or pose for photos and then disappear when there's a job to be done," he told Parliament.

"I'll show up, I'll step up - and I'll work every day to bring our country together."

Mr Albanese said the stories of unforgivable neglect, told through the aged care royal commission, were chilling.

"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, and their carers, mostly women, are underpaid and overworked, some of the operators running these places are doing very well."

Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

Outlining the aged care policy Labor will take to the May election, the opposition leader offered five measures. Under the plan, there would be a requirement to have a registered, qualified nurse on site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The ALP will mandate the royal commission recommendation that residents receive a minimum of 215 minutes of care per day. Labor would back the workers' calls for better pay at the Fair Work Commission and fund the outcome.

Mr Albanese said a Labor government would develop and implement mandatory nutrition standards for aged care homes and, finally, he said Labor would deliver new funding to the sector and make residential care providers publicly report what they were spending money on.

"The simple truth of it is this: the Liberals have had a decade to do something about aged care," he said.

"If they are left in power, nothing will change - and the bleak present they have created will be the bleak future awaiting so many more Australians."

He also derided Tuesday's budget as a plan just for an election, saying it was "a budget for the next six weeks, when we need a plan for the next six years".

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday delivered his third pandemic budget, urging Australians not to change course as: "This is a time to stick to our plan."

He unveiled a short-term $8.6 billion cost-of-living support package for struggling Australian families, including an immediate halving of the fuel excise, tax relief for more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners and a new one-off $250 payment for more than six million Australians on income support.

"Our budget plans show that we have managed to achieve world leading economic recovery from COVID-19," Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said before the Labor leader's speech.

"We've managed to drive unemployment down to 4 per cent and have it headed towards 50-year lows."

The budget papers showed a buoyant Australian economy; a stronger-than-expected employment position and higher iron ore and coal prices helping to refill the national coffers.

The revised deficit of $78 billion was a $21.2 billion improvement since December, but still an extraordinary figure for a Coalition government which traditionally campaigns against debt and deficit.

The government wants more, accusing Labor of trying to "breeze into office". Labor has already flagged it will likely deliver another budget later this year if it wins office.

"At present the Labor Party is largely a blank sheet of paper. They've run this small target strategy, refusing to detail any of their plans for the Australian public," Senator Birmingham told reporters.

"Where are Mr Albanese's plans? He is the one making the statements criticising the government. He is the one who wants to go out there and present a whole lot of vague promises about what Labor might do in relation to future aspirations in childcare or future aspirations in paid parental leave or future aspirations for the rate of JobSeeker.

"But where are his economic plans? How would he pay for these aspirations?"

Mr Morrison is expected to call an election in a matter of days, with the election due to be held by May 21 at the latest.

This story first appeared on the Canberra Times.

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