Anthony Albanese says ‘most vulnerable citizens are being neglected’ by broken aged care system

<span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP</span>
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

The Labor leader Anthony Albanese will use a major pre-budget speech to pressure the government over aged care funding, while declaring he would be “cautious” about government spending if he was prime minister.

In a speech to the McKell Institute on Thursday, Albanese targets the prime minister for failing to adequately fund the overstretched aged care sector, saying “comprehensive reform” is overdue.

He says the Coalition had been aware of the extent of the crisis when it received the interim report on aged care from the royal commission in October 2019 which had exposed a “shame on our nation”.

Related: Aged care leaders worry Morrison government’s budget boost will not be enough

“The idea that our most vulnerable citizens are being neglected; of maggots crawling out from underneath bandages, and our own parents and grandparents being malnourished, is incomprehensible in 21st century Australia,” Albanese will say, according to draft excerpts of the speech.

“Scott Morrison could have acted earlier. He deliberately and callously chose not to do so.”

Albanese will say that “serious” investment in the sector is now needed, with 26,000 older Australians having died waiting for their approved home care packages over the past two years.

“It needs better nutrition for residents, it needs better pay, better training, and better conditions for overstretched and under-resourced staff. As the royal commission recommended, it needs minimum staffing levels and skills mix in residential aged care.”

Morrison has said next week’s budget will include the government’s response to the royal commission report, with expectations of a package worth about $10bn over the next four years. However the extra funding – understood to be focused on home care packages and an increase in the residential aged care daily fee – will fall well short of the $10bn extra a year that the royal commission’s recommendations are estimated to cost.

After ruling out a hike in the Medicare levy to fund the increased need, the government has considered a proposal to set aside the increase in the super guarantee from 10% to 12% to fund the commission’s recommendations.

In 2018-19, an estimated $27bn was spent on aged care in Australia, including $19.9bn from the federal government and $5.6bn from recipients’ co-contributions.

However, the royal commission’s final report found that the collective decisions of successive governments had cut more than $9.8bn from the budget for aged care in 2018–19.

The commission also concluded that given the funding shortfall, “some form of aged care levy should be introduced” by the government.

While pledging to “rebuild our broken aged care sector”, Albanese also called for an overhaul of dementia care, including formal training requirements for health care workers.

“Without comprehensive reform of the way we manage dementia we face a massive and continuing impact on the productivity of women, who are primarily the carers of ageing relatives.”

Related: Coalition still ‘developing options’ for Covid vaccine rollout to aged care workers under 50

Albanese will also use Thursday’s speech to outline his approach to governing, drawing on his upbringing by his mother, a disability pensioner, in council housing in Sydney.

“Money was always tight at our place. So, Mum also taught me the value of a dollar.”

“That’s why, when it comes to thinking about government spending, I am cautious.”

However, Albanese also says he appreciated the “enormous” difference government can make to people’s lives, saying Labor will “never leave behind those who need government support.”

He said the party’s policy to move towards universal provision of affordable childcare would make childcare more affordable for 97% of families, calling the government’s recent announcement a “pale imitation” of Labor’s policy.

“Scott Morrison has no blueprint. No agenda. No plan to help Australians get ahead. Just a plan for the next media cycle.”

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