Overwhelming support for federal government to pay for aged care wage increase, Vote Compass shows

ABC News, 8 May 2022

Carlton Williams works in aged care but he has to work a second job to make ends meet.

He lives on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in home care during the day and bartending at night and on weekends.

"I get paid more to pour drinks, take out food and wait tables than look after someone's life," Mr Williams said.

"One lady I know earns $23 an hour. She doesn't want to quit because she says 'who will look after these people', but she's on bugger all money."

Australians overwhelmingly want the federal government to increase pay for workers in the aged care sector, according to ABC Vote Compass results.

One of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety last year was for better wages in the sector.

Vote Compass results show 82 per cent of Australians agree or strongly agree the federal government should fund a pay increase.

There is majority support when we look at voting intention too, although Labor and Greens voters are more likely to strongly agree with the position.

And when we look at the age breakdowns, Australians aged 65 years and older show 87 per cent support and 95 per cent for the 50- to 64-year-old age bracket.

The Health Services Union and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have brought a case to the Fair Work Commission, arguing for a 25 per cent increase.

Given the aged care sector is mostly funded by the Commonwealth, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Fair Work decision would be honoured by whoever wins in May.

But he has not made it clear who would pay for it, leaving open the option of a cost-sharing arrangement with the sector.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, on the other hand, says a Labor Government would advocate for and fully fund any wage rise awarded to aged care workers by the Fair Work Commission.

Dr Peter Chen teaches politics at the University of Sydney and says there is a "staffing crisis" as well as the issue of low pay.

"We're looking at roughly 200,000 workers who are looking to get a fairly significant increase," Dr Chen said.

"We're talking billions of dollars for the federal government to pay that."

Vote Compass has also asked if Medicare should offer basic dental care for all Australians.

91 per cent of Australians agree or strongly agree.

That proposition has gained support over time.