Australian voters choose reform over surplus

An overwhelming majority of Australian voters would opt for Treasury’s money to be spent on aged care reform, rather than being kept aside as a budget surplus, a new survey has found.

Above: NACA representatives after the Agewell campaign press conference at Parliament House, Canberra, yesterday. (L to R)  United Voice’s national industry coordinator aged care, Sam Porter; ANF federal secretary, Lee Thomas; Uniting Care’s national director, Lin Hatfield Dodds; CEO of COTA Australia, Ian Yates; and CEO of ACAA, Rod Young. 

By Yasmin Noone

Almost two thirds of all Australian voters would give the federal government the green light to ditch its plan to return the 2012/13 Federal Budget to surplus and possibly, even run at a deficit, if that is what it takes to introduce aged care reform from this year, a new survey has shown. 

An independent poll of over 1,000 voting-age Australians, commissioned by the National Aged Care Alliance, has found that an overwhelming majority of people think “it is more important” for the government to put its money where its mouth is and fund aged care reform now, rather than return the next federal budget to surplus, as previously promised.

Over 70 per cent of the survey participants who opted for aged care reform over excess cash in the Treasury kitty identified as Labor voters.

Support for immediate action on aged care reform was also spread throughout all age groups – more than 50 per cent of the survey partipants aged 18 to 24 years old said they preferred the government to spend money and time to improve the aged care system and forgo a budget surplus if need be, as did 54 per cent of the 25 to 34 age group; 74 per cent of those aged 45 to 54 years old; 81 per cent of the 55 to 64 year old group and 83 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Almost 20 per cent of survey respondents swung the opposite way, stating that they preferred that the government stick to its promise to bring the budget into surplus.

CEO of COTA Australia and member of NACA, Ian Yates, said the poll results clearly show that the government would have the community on its side if it started aged care reform in the 2012/13 Federal Budget.

“The public shares our concern that we should get aged care reform on the map this federal budget,” Mr Yates said at a press conference at Parliament House, Canberra, yesterday. 

“The government has had the Productivity Commission’s report on aged care since last July.

“…It’s got the answers. Those answers have been endorsed by the 28 organisations of the National Aged Care Alliance. It’s now just up to government to do it.”

Despite the sector’s preference to get aged care reform funded in the upcoming budget, the Prime Minister is under no obligation to do so.

Last year, the PM promised to begin to reform the sector in this term of government. That means she still has a year or so on her side to act.

But Mr Yates insisted that the PM should take action as soon as possible.

“We don’t need the rest of the term.

“The answers are there now. All we need is for government to start doing it.

“One year will make a substantial amount of difference to all of those consumers who are not getting care.

“One year will make a significant difference to the drift of good workers out of aged care. It will make a substantial difference to the providers of aged care who are ready to go [and leave the sector] if we can [not] get a sustainable system for the future.

“We are already behind time.

“If the government wants the confidence of the sector and the confidence of the two thirds of the community that think it needs to act on aged care, it needs to do it now.”

Mr Yates said that aged care reform and a budget surplus are not necessarily opposing notions. Aged care reform is not all about money – what is needed is a real commitment to reform and an implementation timeline which lays out what will happen over the next five years, how and when. 

“The government can still deliver a budget in surplus in 2012 if it wants to, as long as it’s got aged care reform in it.

“But the outrage in the community will be substantial if we don’t see aged care reform [happen soon]. It’s only being contained at the moment by the fact that there is a hope that we will see it in the 2012 budget.”

Uniting Care’s national director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, who was also at the same press conference, stressed that the government could win community and political support if it made 2012 the year of the aged care budget.

“The vast majority of Australians understand the need for the government to invest in aged care services and supports and they understand that a consequence of that is that we may not return to budget surplus,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.

“Budgets are for a purpose. Let’s do something with our collective funding that [could be] a surplus – something that matters.

“Let’s make life look a lot brighter now and into the future for older Australians and their families.

“Australia’s economy is very strong. We came through the global financial crisis largely unscathed. Treasury has told us that our fiscal outlook for the next decade is very solid. If we can’t act now on an issue at is this important, when are we going to?”

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said she believes that the community support the need for aged care reform because it is an issue that has or will touch every member of the population.

“The Australian electorate understand that aged care is really a critical issue for all of us and that is why so many of them support aged care reform over a surplus,” Ms Lee said.

“…If the government didn’t factor aged care reform into this upcoming budget the community would be outraged. I’m [certain that] aged care stakeholders would be outraged as well.

“We don’t have a choice about this. The government doesn’t have a choice about this.

“I think it’s important that we realise that [aged care] is definitely an election issue and it will be [an important one] at the next election if aged care reform isn’t started in budget 2012.”

Tags: age, agewell, alp, anf, budget, cota, gillard, labor, lee-thomas, naca, parliament, pm, productivity-commission, treasury, unitingcare, wayne-swan, yates,

1 thought on “Australian voters choose reform over surplus

  1. I would never compromise care at my facility and I would always try to conduct nursing care professionally inspite of work overload and lowest pay because I am first a nurse and secound I do not want aged care facilities turned into institutions where people are treated like unwanted peple. In the old days, some of us who had worked in psychiatric hospitals and similar institutions knew that unwanted people were dumped in institutions and were neglected because the staff were over whelmed by the work load. I want aged care reform now.

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