Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has used a speech in Queensland to affirm his party’s plans for older Australians who “did the hard yards” and “built this nation”.
Albanese told the Brisbane Media Club that if elected to government – the next federal election can occur no later than 21 May 2022 – Labor will “move quickly to develop and implement a Positive Ageing Strategy”.
“If we acknowledge the importance of our older Australians, we need to make sure that their later years are good years,” he said.
“It will outline a plan to help Australians in their final years of paid work, to build the nest egg that will let them retire when and how they want.”
Albanese took the current crop of government ministers to task for their ageist language and attitudes.
“The Government talks of the elderly as though they are a burden – an “economic time bomb”, to quote Josh Frydenberg.”
“When Scott Morrison was Treasurer, he tried cutting the age pension in every Budget – and he succeeded in cutting it for 370,000 Australians in 2015 by changing the assets test,” Albanese said.
The opposition leader reaffirmed Labor’s pledge from their last election campaign to enact a dental plan for pensioners.
He also said that a Labor government would fund better pay for the aged care workforce and better long-term planning to ensure transport networks, homes, shops and community facilities are accessible and fit for ageing.
Albanese also criticised the Government’s response to the Royal Commission interim report and said that the ACAT system won’t be privatised under his leadership.
“Our aged care system is broken – and this Government wants to make it worse by subjecting ACAT to the indifference of the market. There is a role for the market. But markets have no conscience.
“The Government must abandon its plans immediately. It must act on the Royal Commission recommendations.”
COTA chief executive Ian Yates welcomed Mr Albanese’s recognition of the valuable contribution of older Australians to the community and applauded Albanese’s acknowledgement that a 3 per cent increase in workforce participation by Australians over age 55 would grow the Australian economy by $33 billion per year.
“Mr Albanese is absolutely correct that older Australians are a diverse group of people who cannot be treated all the same,” said Mr Yates.
“They require a diverse policy response that addresses issues across employment, health, finance, care, welfare and industrial relations, which I expect Labor’s proposed Positive Ageing Strategy would address.
“However, one point on which we disagree with the Opposition Leader is characterising the Federal Government’s planned single aged care assessment system as ‘privatisation’ and we will discuss this with Labor.
“A single consumer-focused professional national assessment service with many local access points has been recommended for years by successive reviews and by COTA and the National Aged Care Alliance. This is an essential front door for a reformed aged care system.”
Albanese ended his speech by telling the crowd that his drive to fix our attitudes towards the elderly and the aged care system comes from his mother.
“Having seen what my mum went through in her later years, I want to be able to make a difference for older Australians now, and the older Australians of the future,” he said.
“Mum raised me on her own. She was a strong woman with a great mind and a huge heart. She gave so much. But she experienced years of sickness and struggle. She died too young at just 65.
“I can’t go back in time to fix things for mum. But, with planning, vision and just some of the spirit that defines our older Australians, we can take care of the future.”Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]