Scott Morrison – $10 billion aged care boost at heart of federal budget
A second source familiar with the expenditure review committee discussions described the aged care package as the budget’s centrepiece.
An increase of at least $2.5 billion per year in spending – and potentially more – would make significant progress in addressing some problems identified by the royal commission.
However, the Grattan Institute has estimated up to $7 billion per year may be needed to provide older Australians with the care they need.
The budget is also expected to include a series of measures on women’s economic security and a big focus on skills and the workforce. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has dismissed the idea of using budget cuts to reduce the deficit.
The royal commission’s recommendation to increase by $10 the basic daily fee paid on a per bed basis to aged care providers – which would cost about $700 million per year – has been discussed and is likely to be adopted, too.
The call for the introduction of a Medicare-style levy to help fund the package has also been discussed by the expenditure review committee, but it is not yet clear if this will be implemented. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has previously played down the prospect.
Expenditure review committee meetings have been growing in frequency with the federal budget just over three weeks away, and the final meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
After that the “hunting licence” stage of the budget process – when final measures are locked away and issues with specific budget measures are ironed out by a minister – will commence.
The expenditure review committee, sometimes known as the budget razor gang, comprises Mr Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Mr Frydenberg, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, Defence Minister Peter Dutton, Employment Minister Stuart Robert, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston as well as portfolio-specific ministers.
The royal commission report made a total of 148 recommendations over its 2800 pages, with other key measures including a new Aged Care Act – which the government has committed to – better wages and training for staff and an end to a cap on the number of Australians in the system.
The report also recommended enshrining the rights of elder Australians in legislation, creating an independent inspector-general to investigate and monitor governance of the aged care system, and mandatory minimum qualifications for workers as well as a national registration scheme for those staff.
Mr Morrison committed an extra $452.2 million to the system in March as a down payment on the response to the report, which estimated the collective decisions of successive governments had cut more than $9.8 billion from the budget for aged care.
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