Mark Butler has been named as the new Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care.
The deputy leader of the lower house was sworn in on Wednesday along with Queensland MP Anika Wells, who was appointed Minister for Aged Care and Sport.
Butler, who has acted as Labor's health spokesperson since 2021, was previously minister for Ageing and Aged Care under the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.
It was under the Gillard government in 2012 where he ushered in the ‘Living Longer Living Better’ aged care reforms.
The $3.7 billion dollar program rolled out over 10 years and saw the replacement of ‘community care’ with the introduction of home care.
A 2019 independent review of the package concluded it had successfully made the sector more “consumer-driven and sustainable”.
The program’s focus on marketisation, however, has been critiqued for “transferring part of the financial burden from the government to users”.
Following the final report of the royal commission, Butler slammed the Coalition’s handling of workforce issues and rising COVID-19 infections in aged care homes.
“Aged care workers want to provide quality care for their residents, but they are exhausted, undervalued and stretched to their limit and as we saw during the pandemic, they lack the resources they need to take care of vulnerable older Australians,” he wrote in a 2021 statement.
“Only a Labor Government will fix this crisis and give older Australians the care they deserve.”
Butler is considered a senior member of Labor's left faction, previously voting in favour of same-sex marriage equality and a royal commision into violence and abuse against people with disabilities.
As the new aged care minister, Butler will be responsible for overseeing a raft of reforms pledged by Labor during the election.
This includes 24/7 nurses for all residential care facilities, greater financial accountability for providers and better pay for aged care workers.
Speaking to the ABC yesterday, the new Minister for Aged Care and Sport Anika Wells said she was “looking forward to getting started”.
“I know that Australians care deeply about fixing aged care,” she said.
“We need tens of thousands more workers in this industry into the coming decades, and I just don’t feel like people who work in aged care or who have considered working in aged care feel that position is valued enough.”
Former nurse Ged Kearney has been appointed Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care.
Clare O’Neil, who was previously Shadow Minister for Aged Care, has moved to the position of Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security.
Peaks want 'ambitious and immediate action'
Following the news, the nation's top aged care organisations have called for immediate reform to be prioritised by the Albanese government.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) said aged care must be nominated as a key issue in the next 100 days to ensure reform is included in upcoming crossbench negotiations.
"The election has helped focus attention on the need for ambitious action for older Australians and for greater respect and better pay for aged care workers," a statement read.
"The care economy was at the heart of the Labor pitch for election and it should be top of its agenda in government.
"We look forward to working in partnership with the new Minister for Aged Care and the whole of government on the transformation needed to deliver better support and care for all older Australians."Do you have an idea for a story?
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