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Issue #1610      September 11, 2013

The Coalition’s aged care cuts

In the first election debate on August 11, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said: “I accept that it (the government’s Living Longer, Living Better aged care reforms) was quite a detailed set of changes ... We have no plans to make significant changes to the system the government’s put in place.”

However, his tune has changed.

On August 31, the Australian Financial Review reported on a leaked Coalition policy document that showed significant changes to the Aged Care Act should a Coalition government be elected.

The document is heavily in favour of employer groups, ultimately making it easier for them to get around both state and federal regulations and funding dramatically reduced for improvements to the aged care sector.

According to the document, residents would also be worse off, with both means-testing and user pays being considered. Employers could also bring in less trained staff and since there will be a four year gap between funding and regulations being renegotiated, residents and nurses would not be able to easily reverse bad employer decisions.

At an election debate on August 28 Tony Abbott said the delivery of improved wages for aged care workers should not be achieved through enterprise bargaining and should be put into a “general pool” of aged care funding instead.

The leaked document confirms that the workforce compact will be “under review”.

An enterprise bargaining agreement is the only way to legally guarantee that employers pass the funding onto aged care nurses in much needed increased wages.

The current aged care supplement for increased funding potentially lifts wages of all aged care workers who are protected by an enterprise bargaining agreement. This was after a hard-fought campaign by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.

Already in NSW, nurses employed by Domain Principal and Uniting Care have voted “yes” to their increased wages, protected in an Enterprise Agreement.

Next article – Quandamooka urge Newman to listen up

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