ABC South East - Labor's Budget reply

ABC South East - Labor's Budget reply Main Image

01 April 2022


SUBJECT: Labor’s Budget reply

SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: Labor leader Anthony Albanese has pledged billions of dollars to fix the aged care industry which he has dubbed as being in crisis, if Labor wins the upcoming federal election. Mr Albanese used his budget reply speech last night to make his pitch for returning Labor to government after nine years in the political wilderness. His $2.5 billion pledge includes around the clock nurses for aged care homes, better food and safer conditions for residents and higher pay for workers. To tell us more about it we are joined by Labor's Kristy McBain, the Member for Eden-Monaro. Good morning. 


LAUDER: So how can the Labor Party fix the aged care sector with $2.5 billion? What would that involve?

MCBAIN: We all know aged care is in crisis and we had 20 odd reports and a Royal Commission that pointed to the fact that we needed to increase care hours for older Australians in aged care. He pointed to the fact that some of the lowest wages paid across the country are in aged care. And we really have to get back to the mantra and that is about caring for people. So it's no surprise it was the centrepiece of the budget in reply speech. We take very seriously the recommendations of the Royal Commission and we really need to get on with getting more carers and getting more registered nurses into the sector and making wages competitive enough so that people actually look at it as a career option.

LAUDER: Is the workforce there already to make this a reality? Or is it going to be a struggle if you don't get those things in place to bolster the workforce enough that you will be able to get more nurses into aged care?

MCBAIN: We know that there has been a number of staff losses who have gone to different careers in disability care, that have gone into the health workforce, because the pay is substantially different. We believe that there is workforce there. But this is always an opportunity for people to look at the work that they're doing, to retrain or look at a career in aged care. My mum worked for 15 years in aged care as a second career after she sold our small business. So the opportunities are there. And we know that these are rewarding careers.

LAUDER: Now unions have a case before the Fair Work Commission for a 25 per cent pay rise for aged care workers. And last night Anthony Albanese said Labor would fund the outcome of that case. But how would that be paid for?

MCBAIN: That would be a budgetary measure. We have seen a lot of waste and rotting of our budget over a number of years now. We only have to look at the $29 billion that was paid to companies whose profits increased over COVID. To know that better management of our budget would be the primary place to start.

LAUDER: And Anthony Albanese is also promising cheaper child care tell us some details of that policy. How would Labor make child care cheaper?

MCBAIN: There’s a bunch of regulations in child care and different subsidies payable, actually streamlining that process and getting rid of some of the complexity in the funding model is key to that. But actually starting to take our early childhood education seriously, because it will increase women's participation in the workforce primarily. Participation increases productivity, productivity increases the budget bottom line. And the kicker for all of that is that it is also good for kids. We know that 90% of brain development happens between zero and five years of age. For some people, there is no choice but to make that decision to send your kids into early childhood education and daycare. For other families, they make the decision to keep their kids at home. So this is allowing, families more choice when it comes to those big decisions about whether you go back to work after having a child or children. And it really is about making sure that we as a community and as a society, value the work done by families whether that’s at home or in the workforce.

LAUDER: And I guess a focus there on making child care cheaper, but what about addressing the shortage of child care places? What would Labor do about that, particularly in regional areas?

MCBAIN: At the end of the day, we need to make sure that the sector is a profitable one for people to go into. We're very lucky in our region to have fantastic long daycare centres, early childhood education centres, community run preschools. But we have to make sure that there is choice in that sector, and that it is profitable for people to run. It's about making sure that we make it easier for providers, and easier for families to enter into the system.

LAUDER: And there was also a bit of a focus on boosting wages and jobs or a plan to drive investment and jobs in cheap, renewable energy. A plan to manufacture more in Australia, some of what Anthony Albanese talked about last night. Can you point to any projects in Eden-Monaro that would come as a result of that?

MCBAIN: We know that there are a number of companies out there already who have been looking at parts of Eden-Monaro for renewable energy projects. I was at a briefing session only last week about an offshore wind project proposed for Eden. There have been solar projects proposed in different parts of the region. Obviously, we have Snowy 2 happening in the region, as well. There are a number of manufacturers who are also looking for a place to set up or to expand their business within Eden-Monaro. Some of the biggest issues that they have with increasing their production is specifically around the cost of energy. And if we can start to bring down the cost of energy then I think you'll find that manufacturers will start looking at doing more on home soil. And we really need that, we've seen in COVID that we really are at the end of a supply chain, that we need to start making more goods here, that we have to be a self-sustainable nation. I think the OECD has listed second last for self-sustainability. So we really need to get on and start making plans, not just for the next six months, but for the foreseeable future. We really need a vision for this country. Post bushfires post COVID and post floods.

LAUDER: And Kristy McBain yesterday we heard from advocates for survivors of paedophile Maurice Van Ryn calling on the federal government to pick up what it promised which is a review of superannuation and victims of crime compensation. Is that something that you're advocating on as well?

MCBAIN: Look, I know that proposal is around. I know that obviously the Van Ryn case created a lot of angst amongst people who realise that that compensation may not be payable. And it's something that I'm more than happy to speak to Labor's team about. At the end of the day we want to make sure that victims of crime are adequately compensated, although we know that compensation really isn't enough for victims who have been through such horrific trauma.

LAUDER: Thanks so much for your time this morning. 

MCBAIN: Thank you very much. 

LAUDER: Kristy McBain Kristy McBain talking about the budget reply speech of leader, our opposition leader Anthony Albanese last night.