Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the peak body for older Australians, welcomes the Albanese Government’s first Budget.
“This is a budget that has kept its promises to older Australians and gone further in some areas,” said COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates.
“Looking at the Budget as a whole, the Government’s focus on reducing inflation as soon as possible, helping get from 7.75% this year to 3.5% in 2023/24, will be a welcome relief to older Australians on fixed incomes and will protect the savings of retirees and people saving for retirement.
This Budget also builds on the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission and implements the Government’s Federal Election commitments to further reform aged care. For full details see our separate Media Release, “COTA Australia welcomes commitment to aged care reform in Federal Budget”.
This Budget has kept the promises to reduce the PBS co-payment, revamp the primary health system, establish Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, and rural health provision. These initiatives will both improve the health of older people, and also help with the cost of living. COTA Australia will continue to advocate for better dental care for older Australians.
The government’s commitment to addressing Australia’s housing crisis is welcome. Spiralling rents have been especially difficult for older people on fixed incomes. We look forward to the National Housing Accord delivering affordable housing. That Accord should include measures that promote more accessible housing that is suitable for everyone as we age. As that Accord is negotiated, COTA Australia will be focused on ensuring it fixes Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which currently falls far short of making rental housing affordable for pensioners and other low income people.
Older workers in Australia often face ageism, and sometimes regulated discrimination. Improving the participation rate of older workers should be a priority, both for their wellbeing and so the country can benefit fully from their skills and experience. The one-off $4,000 credit to the Work Bonus scheme until 30 June 2023 announced at the Jobs Summit was welcome but longer term solutions are needed.
Reforms to the workplace relations system that enhance flexibility for older workers are an important step. So too is improving the anti-discrimination framework – flagged in this budget. We look forward to working with the Government to develop longer term solutions to improving the participation rate for older workers.
The commitment to gender equality is clear and welcome in this Budget. Older women face many of the same pressures all women face, but after a lifetime of discrimination, also face an accumulation of financial and social barriers. Initiatives in workforce, housing and education will all be of assistance. COTA Australia is particularly pleased to see the focus on the gender superannuation gap. We look forward to working with Government on future policies in housing and superannuation to solve the poverty trap faced by too many older women.
Paid Paternal Leave and Childcare
Taking care of children is not just a parenting question, it often includes grandparents as well. When childcare is not accessible, grandparents often sacrifice their own later careers to provide childcare so their own children can go back to work. The initiatives to expand Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks, and to improve the affordability of childcare, will help many older Australians.
Disaster resilience and preparedness
Older people are among the most vulnerable to natural disaster. The longer term focus of the disaster readiness initiative is particularly helpful to older people living in disaster prone communities. We welcome the focus on reducing the cost of insurance, and making insurance more accessible and better understood. It means that when disaster strikes, older Australians on fixed incomes will not be left with nothing.
“This is a Budget that honours election commitments and seeks to steady an economy that at present represents real risks to older people,” Mr Yates said. “We welcome it and look forward to further advancing its initiatives to achieve a just, fair and achieving Australia for all, including older people.”