April 01, 2022

DAN COX, PRESENTER: Last night the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese used his Budget Reply speech to detail plans for a $2.5 billion investment that aims to improve aged care. That would include making sure there’s a registered nurse on site 24/7, increasing the amount of direct care residents would get, there was better food for residents discussed as well, and a pay rise for aged care workers. 

JENNY MARCHANT, PRESENTER: Pat Conroy is the Labor Member for Shortland. Good morning. 


MARCHANT: Are there enough aged care workers to support this plan?

CONROY: Well we’re seeing an aged skilled workforce shortage which is causing huge issues already. I’ve had a nursing home at Swansea close down because they can’t get enough workers to cover their shifts, and that’s why you need to actually fund and help support a pay rise for the industry, and that’s why you need to fund more minutes per resident. These two factors not just improve the lives of people in nursing homes, it makes it more attractive as a profession. We’ve got a shortage because workers can be paid as little as $22 an hour. This has to change, and that was a key part of Anthony Albanese’s announcement last night.

COX: And do you think that pay rise would make the job more attractive than it is right now?

CONROY: Oh absolutely. And look, people in this industry, in this profession do it because they love helping people (INAUDIBLE)

MARCHANT: Oh sorry Pat Conroy, we are having a bit of trouble with your phone line there.

CONROY: Oh sorry, I apologise.

MARCHANT: That’s alright, would you like to make that point again and hopefully we will hear you this time.

CONROY: Yeah, I apologise. People in this profession do the job because they love it and they love helping people. But they also have to feed their family, and that’s why a pay rise is really important, because people are leaving the industry not because they don’t love what they do, but because they have to live. And that’s why the pay rise is important, and that’s why we’re funding more minutes per resident so that workers actually have time to spend with each resident.

MARCHANT: Anthony Albanese in the speech last night also said that Labor would make childcare cheaper, but I didn’t hear much detail on that plan in the speech last night. What’s being proposed there?

CONROY: Some really important changes that will have a huge impact and save families thousands of dollars a year. And those changes include increasing the maximum subsidy rate to 90 per cent for families up to $80,000 a year, removing the annual subsidy cap which is really important because that’s what often families get hit at in the last three months of the year, and smoothing the taper rate more gradually down from the new 90 per cent subsidy rate which means that families won’t lose as much money for each dollar they earn.

And the impact of all this is that families will be thousands of dollars better off. There’ll be less of that dreaded cliff that my own family faced that stops wage earners, particularly the second wage earner, from going back to work more than two to three days a week, and it’s also great for productivity and participation in the economy. So it helps families’ cost of living, but it also helps our economy by getting carers, particularly – not always, but usually – mums back into the workforce.

COX: Voters are of course pretty cynical when we are this close to an election and we are talking about budgets and money. Will these measures be funded and implemented if Labor wins government?

CONROY: Absolutely, and the important point is that cost of living is going up massively under this Government, and all they’ve proposed is short-term fixes to get them past the election. Short-term fixes for the next six or seven weeks, and we will support them because people do need immediate relief, but there’s no long-term plan to improve our country and help people with the costs of living. Our plans to make childcare cheaper, to improve and save Medicare, and to return aged care to what it should be will actually make a hugely meaningful impact on the lives of so many Australians, particularly in the Hunter.

MARCHANT: Pat Conroy, thank you.

CONROY: Have a great morning.