A Labor MP has impressed viewers after an “articulate” and “impressive” TV appearance on Sunday. Shadow Minister for Aged Care Services Clare O’Neil was applauded online after appearing on ABC’s Insiders program. She called for the Federal Government to help fund pay increases for aged care workers and improve the struggling system.
The aged care sector is given a $10 billion boost over the next four years in dubbed a “major overhaul” of the system, but problems still persist. The much-needed funds come after recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care which uncovered shocking reports of neglect within the system in March this year.
In the overhaul of the aged care sector, the money will address understaffing issues, support for the elderly to stay in their own homes, and more resources for residential facilities. At present, there are an estimated 200,000 elderly Australians in aged care facilities.
Health Minister Greg Hunt described the deal as the “largest package in Australia’s history”. But one major issue from the inquiry’s recommendations still stands; a push for a wage increase for aged care workers through the fair work commission.
Ms O’Neil supported 25 per cent union push for an increase, and slammed the federal Government’s reply to the royal commission’s findings, saying their response “has been disrespectful”. “One of the things I’ve learned in my time in this portfolio is nothing is going to fundamentally change about the aged care system unless we fix the issues facing the workforce and the government’s response was unacceptable for a whole range of reasons, but probably the most glaring omission is that there was nothing in there for aged care workers,” she explained.
“This job is complex, it’s difficult, the people who do it, it’s incredibly emotional and draining, and they are some of the worst paid people in Australia today.” Ms. O’Neil told Insiders host David Speers the Government should step in if providers can’t foot the money for the extra wage increase.
“It’s not a great mystery the government pays the bill for what happens in aged care in this country,” she said. “The government has to fund aged care pay; that’s how the system works. We pay for the vast majority of the expenses in aged care”. She said the Government had failed in their support of aged care workers and was “disrespectful” and “unacceptable for aged care workers”.
“We need to push them to be doing better”. She said, “this is a real decision point for the community here, about how we want older Australians in our country to be treated.” Viewers applauded Ms. O’Neil online, describing her appearance as “brilliant”, “informative,” and “impressive”. Ms. O’Neil said Labor is “going to have a different and better-aged care policy” going into the election but would not offer further details.
“The thing that is most important here is that we have a crisis; the Government has known about this for a long time. “Instead of doing something to fix it, they’ve cut funding. That won’t be Labor’s approach.” Earlier this month, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government is committed to fixing the royal commission’s problems highlighted in its report.
“We’ve had a royal commission which has indicated that the sector is in dire need of reform,” Mr. Frydenberg said. “We have an aging population, and it’s not just about spending more money, it’s also about ensuring that that money is well spent and our focus is on governance, workforce issues, the quality of aged care services.”