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We need a new vision, not a new tax.

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334a Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204 Phone (02) 9564 3588  Fax (02) 9564 1734 Parliament House: Phone (02) 6277 4031 Fax (02) 6277 8445

Monday, 22 April 2002

WE NEED A NEW VISION, NOT A NEW TAX The Howard Government contribution to the debate over an ageing Australian population is an attempt to divert the community’s attention from the immediate crisis in the aged care sector and justify the further crude cost-cutting to essential medicines in the May Budget.

While Labor recognises the need for a careful analysis of the long-term financial implications of an ageing Australia, this should not divert the focus of the Government from fixing the immediate problems within the aged care sector.

Specifically, the Government must act to address:

! The chronic shortage of aged care beds; ! The 13,300 phantom beds have been allocated but are still not operational; ! The doubling in average waiting times for an aged care bed; ! The erosion of public confidence in the complaints and inspection regime; ! The shortage of nursing and care staff; and ! The complex accreditation and resident classification system.

The long-term cost to the Federal budget will be far greater unless action is taken in the coming May Budget to address these immediate problems.

Aged care has not recovered from Costello’s first budget where he cut $500 million from the sector. The Government’s undermining of universal superannuation over the past 6 years has also eroded our community’s long-term capacity to support an ageing population.

The Intergenerational Report that was promised as part of the 1996 Charter of Budget Honesty appears to have replaced Minister Andrews’ much hyped "National Strategy for an Ageing Australia" - a strategy that took 5 years, 4 Ministers and $6.1 million to produce! This is not surprising given it had no specific policy proposals, no funding and no timelines.

Peter Costello called the Intergenerational Report “visionary”. However, there is nothing visionary about cutting the hard won entitlements of current and future generations of older Australians.

Instead of short-term budgetary cuts, a visionary response to an ageing population would be to develop a policy framework that improves the living standards of all Australians through expanded investment in our public services and institutions.

The May Budget must address the immediate crisis in aged care if the Government is to have any credibility in arguing that it has a longer vision for an ageing Australia besides that of a user pays nirvana.

For more information: Anthony Albanese 02 9564 3588 / 0419 777 597 Jeff Singleton 02 9564 3588 / 0414 492 420

Anthony Albanese MP Federal M ember for Grayndler Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors