House debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Constituency Statements

Aged Care

10:19 am

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Six weeks ago, I stood here in the chamber and predicted that the vast majority of aged-care workers would never receive the Prime Minister's $400 bonus payment, and I was right. Most workers have not received the bonus, and they're wondering why. They feel frustrated and let down by a government that has completely abandoned them and the vulnerable aged-care residents they care for. What these workers need is a permanent pay rise, not a pathetic one-off payment that most won't even get because they work on a casual or part-time basis.

Now, in this budget, aged-care workers have received another slap in the face. They've been overlooked yet again in a budget which completely fails to address the problems in aged care. One of the biggest problems is low wages. The other is staff-to-resident ratios. The royal commission into aged care called for higher wages and more time for staff to spend with those they're caring for. Aged-care workers do some of the most important and compassionate work in our communities, and yet they get paid $21 an hour. That's less than someone who stacks shelves in a supermarket. This must change if we are to attract and retain skilled aged-care workers in the sector.

In my electorate, so many families are affected by the crisis in aged care. Donna is a personal care attendant in a local aged-care facility. She spoke passionately at a recent forum I held in Armstrong Creek. Donna spoke about low wages, insecure work and the frustration of being unable to properly care for frail and elderly residents. These are her words: 'I love my job. I wanted to make lives better, but now we're facing a roadblock. We've got six minutes to put each resident to bed each night.' Donna's hourly rate has increased by only $7 in the 11 years she has been employed in the aged-care sector. She earns $21 per hour. This is a disgrace. She said that more staff are desperately needed to improve resident-worker ratios. Currently, in the high-level care unit she works in, there is only one staff member to every 12 residents. This makes it extremely difficult for Donna to change a soiled continence pad, give medicine and carefully wash a frail resident before bedtime.

The Morrison government are refusing to do anything to help Donna and Australia's aged-care workers. They refuse to implement the aged-care recommendations, and it is all our elderly relatives and loved ones who are suffering. This is unacceptable. Low wages, a casualised workforce and low staff-to-resident ratios have all led to a system buckling under intense pressure. It's time for a government that will care about our aged-care workers and our most vulnerable citizens and their families. It's time for an Albanese Labor government.