CANBERRA, AAP – The federal budget will include record funding on aged care and a “full response” to the damning findings of the royal commission into the sector.
Health Minister Greg Hunt declined to confirm reports the aged care package could be almost $18 billion over four years, but noted it would be a “fundamental line in the sand”.
“We will be responding in full to the royal commission,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Mr Hunt said it was more than just about investing in the sector.
“It is about the deep and profound respect for older Australians.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has only confirmed the package will be worth more than $10 billion over the forward estimates.
However, even if the latest figure proves to be true, it is still seen as inadequate.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians points out the royal commission into aged care estimated successive government cuts had already left a shortfall of almost $10 billion annually.
“The findings of the royal commission were damning,” RACP spokesman John Maddison said.
“They mandate a more significant commitment from government that makes delivering all their recommendations possible – not a temporary boost that kicks the can down the road.”
But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham disputed some of the budget reductions being reported in aged care.
“We have seen continued growth in investment, and indeed under our government we have also substantially invested in recent times in home care packages,” he told ABC radio.
In the latest round of budget leaks, Mr Frydenberg will also announce $10 billion worth of infrastructure spending over the next decade, as well as some adjustments to superannuation for older Australians.
However, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was unimpressed.
“This is like a showbag budget, a budget that looks pretty flashy but when you take it home it only lasts a few days or a few weeks,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Canberra.
“There is no lasting legacy from this government except for a trillion dollars of debt, no substantial economic reform, no plan to deal with stagnant wages, no plan to deal with living standards under real pressure.”
Only half of the $10 billion spend on road and rail projects over the next 10 years has been confirmed.
One of the projects is a freight terminal in Melbourne which will receive $2 billion, and another $2 billion will be spent upgrading the Great Western Highway in NSW.
“Rest assured, it is supporting tens of thousands of workers,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters in Canberra.
“Rest assured, it’s building the infrastructure that Australia needs and it’s working with the states co-operatively to get that infrastructure prioritised.”
Tuesday’s budget will also include funding to extend a scheme where Australians are able to bolster their retirement savings when they downsize the family home.
It will extend to people aged 60, down from 65, with the initiative also aimed at freeing up housing stock.
As well, the work test for self-funded retirees – which limits super top-ups – will be scrapped for those aged between 67 and 74 years.
At present, this group has to be employed for at least 40 hours in a consecutive 30-day period in a financial year before they can make contributions.