PM promises action on aged care reforms – but new funding remains the long-term challenge

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With the 47th Parliament due to sit for the first time for two weeks starting next Tuesday, all eyes will be on whether Anthony Albanese and his Ministry can now deliver on its aged care promises – and how they will be funded.

A key priority will be the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 2) Bill 2021, which was deferred in April ahead of the Federal Election after Labor and the Coalition joined forces to prevent its passage.

The Bill contains several key reforms critical to the Royal Commission’s five-year timeline to reform the sector, including the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model due to start from 1 October 2022 – just over two months from now.

Longer-term, however, the Government faces a deeper problem: how to fund its wider reform agenda.

In an interview with The Australian this week, Mr Albanese said that he would not walk back from any of Labor’s election promises, which include more funding for aged care as well as childcare, training, and climate change.

The PM also committed to a “large” legislative agenda beyond these commitments – but he faces some immediate challenges.

Rising interest rates, inflation, cost of living and lingering pandemic debt will all impact on the Budget bottom line.

It was perhaps not a surprise, then, to read that Mr Albanese stated there would be no new revenue measures in the upcoming October Budget.

Instead, any measures will be funded out of finding savings elsewhere – with no new taxes.

But with aged care and disability only increasing their burden on taxpayers – and a worsening global economic outlook – the Government will need to make some hard decisions in the not-too-distant future about how it will continue to foot the bill.

In a recent interview, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said the Government was open to the new funding options for the sector – watch this space, then.