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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 3546

Senator WATT (Queensland) (19:58): Essential workers have been the heroes of COVID-19. Our health workers, our cleaners, our truckies, our retail staff and of course our aged-care workers have ensured that some of our most vulnerable citizens remain safe from the virus. I know that expectations were raised amongst aged-care workers when the government agreed to pay them a retention bonus to ensure the continuity of the workforce for aged-care workers in both residential and home care. But, sadly, as we so often see with this government, these expectations were dashed by yet another broken promise.

Firstly, having raised these expectations and for once making aged-care workers feel truly valued for their vital work, the government then excluded about 40 per cent of aged-care workers from receiving the retention bonus. Just as this government has excluded short-term casuals, arts and entertainment workers, university workers, migrant workers and others from receiving the JobKeeper payment, it decided to exclude the catering staff, cleaners, gardeners, therapy assistance and leisure and lifestyle workers at aged-care facilities, as well as aged-care workers delivering care under the Commonwealth Home Support Program. Is the government really saying that some aged-care workers aren't as important as others? Why would the government exclude 40 per cent of aged-care workers from receiving a payment meant to recognise their service?

Secondly, the government promised payments of up to $800 after-tax per quarter for residential care workers and up to $600 after-tax per quarter for home care workers. But after making this announcement, the government changed the goal posts, making these payments taxable. All week we've seen the aged care minister dodge this. The fact is that the government have broken their promise. It's an absolute disgrace and disrespects aged-care workers.

Senate adjourned at 20:00