The dust is settling from the Federal Election, and Australia has a new Government. Before speculating about what benefits and risks the new Government will have for Older Australians, I would first like to reflect on the events of the last few weeks.
Most importantly for Older Australians, the election was more focused on the issues that matter to us than any other election I can remember. Aged Care, Retirement Incomes, and Rights for Older People and intergenerational justice all featured in the election. For all we like or don’t like about what different parties had to say, it was far better than being ignored.
Most importantly for me, I announced my departure from COTA Australia. I will still be here for much of this year whilst a new Chief Executive is found, and to support them in transition. After over three decades, first at COTA South Australia, then 20 years in the national role, it was a good time to announce a transition before the election. I will continue to be heavily involved in the implementation of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, and on many other topics as well. As I have said for many years – retirement is a word that should be retired, and I don’t plan on being retired!
I want to acknowledge the achievements of the outgoing Coalition government in a number of our key portfolios. We need to recognise in particular their acceptance of and commitment to the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission, as set out in the very comprehensive and complex response in the 2021 Federal Budget. The implementation plan that was developed by the Department and Ministers is a highly sophisticated multiyear and multi-project planning process, that for some reason the government did not release widely to the sector and the public.
Implementation of many recommendations has commenced and in some cases is well advanced. With over $19 billion now allocated, more to come when the Fair Work Value case is funded, over 80,000 home care packages, and much more, this is without question the most comprehensive aged care reform package ever.
We have also seen significant reforms of superannuation over several Budgets including the Your Future Your Super reforms of this term and the passage into law of the very important Retirement Income Covenant. There has also been significant development and improvement of the former Pension Loan Scheme into the Home Equity Access Scheme.
There are many other things to acknowledge in time. The coalition government did not do many things we wanted them to do, but they did do a lot in aged care and retirement incomes, and in health, so we honour the initiatives that have occurred over recent years. We look forward to many positive initiatives from Labor over the coming term, including those we didn’t achieve with the coalition, but hope will get a better hearing now.
There is now a new government with a mix of familiar and very new faces. We have met with some already and have sent many of them formal briefings. As the new Labor Ministers get their feet under the desk and find out where the challenges are that weren’t mentioned in the election, we will continue to advance our agenda of ageing as a time of possibility, opportunity and influence within an equitable, just and inclusive society, in which the voices of older Australians are respected and strong.
Ian Yates AM