Speeches

Child Care, Medicare and Aged Care

June 24, 2021

From the cradle to the twilight years, and in sickness or in health, Labor is on your side. We know that families are under pressure in their early years of being a family with young children. Mums talk to me about having to make terrible choices about whether to take an extra day's work, when that will actually cost them money because they will lose some of their subsidies. Labor is going to fix that problem. We have also seen fees going up, on average, by 37 per cent in the years that the Liberals have been in government. They have skyrocketed way beyond the cost-of-living rise.

Under Labor's plan, 97 per cent of families will be better off with their childcare bills than they are under those opposite. That includes people who have kids in before- and after-school care. It does seem, when your kids are little, that it's a joy when they get off to school, but those before- and after-school care bills, especially when you live a distance from work, as so many people in my community do, are an equally strong burden—on the family budget. No family will be worse off under our plan, and 97 per cent of families will be better off. The other big difference that strikes me in terms of what's being offered and put on the table by the government, which is just a tokenistic response to try and fix their women's problem, is that they seem to think that it's only after you've got a second child in care that the cost becomes a burden. They are so out of touch, and it's only Labor who really understands this.

I am also really pleased that we will require accountability from the big childcare providers. Anyone with more than 25 childcare centres, and landlords owning more than 10 centres, will need to report their profits. While we want good quality care and we need a variety of providers to do it, we don't want people to be really exploiting families and making massive profits out of something that is largely subsidised by the government. There are a whole package of things that show Labor understands what it's like to be a mum or dad with kids, and that's just where it starts.

The next phase of your life comes to the point when not everything necessarily goes well, and illness can sometimes hit. This is where having a universal health system, where everyone can afford to have an operation or get the treatment that they need when they need it, without having to rely on a credit card, is so important, and that's where Medicare comes in. We will always defend Medicare and the right for people to have universal access to quality health care. It's particularly important for mental health. I cannot understand why the government has failed to provide a headspace for the Hawkesbury, when that is one of the key gaps that we see as we go through our lives and we see some of the challenges our children face. Medicare is fundamental. Right now, one of the biggest changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule in history is underway, with one in six items being changed, including orthopaedic surgery items, cardiac surgery, a whole lot of general surgery. It's about to happen, and no-one knows how it's going to work on the ground, because this mob has not done the work, has not worked through the process with all the people involved. Labor will never cause the chaos that the Liberals are causing in these changes to Medicare.

Towards the end of people's lives, a whole other set of challenges comes up, and that's to do with aged care and those who rely on a pension for their income. Let's be really clear: you are not a bludger if you're on a pension. Pensioners built this country and this economy, and you should never fear homelessness or poverty as you age; nor should you feel a threat that your pension will be restricted by some sort of cashless debit card that means a government could control what you buy and where you buy it. Older Australians should be treated with respect and not have those sorts of fears dangled over them by legislation that the government puts into this place. Older Australians deserve better, as they do in aged care. Labor is committed to changing and reforming aged care in the way that the royal commission said it needed to. Right now it's a system that is not just neglected but in real crisis, and this government fails to address those issues with the tiny changes it has brought in. Older Australians do not get the support they need as they transition into aged care, nor are they getting the support they need to stay in their own homes. These are the issues that matter to people's lives. There is total chaos on the other side. Only Labor will be able to fix these issues.