The treasurer Josh Frydenberg says more than $10bn will be committed to aged care over the forward estimates as part of the Coalition’s response to the royal commission that will be outlined in Tuesday night’s budget.
In a round of scene-setting television interviews ahead of Tuesday night’s economic statement, Frydenberg quantified the aged care spend, and also confirmed that 105,000 Australians had come off income support in April after the jobkeeper wage subsidy ended.
The treasurer also told the ABC that Tuesday night’s budget would contain an assumption that the international border would not reopen until 2022. Given delays in the rollout, the government was also expected to revise a key underlying assumption from last year’s mid-year economic forecast that a population-wide Covid-19 vaccination program would be fully in place by late 2021.
On Sunday, to coincide with mother’s day, the government also pre-announced a number of measures, including $353.9m in spending for women’s health initiatives. The package includes funding for combatting cervical and breast cancer.
Key initiatives include $100.4m for improvements to cervical and breast cancer screening programs, support for mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents, and new genetic testing of embryos prior to implantation.
Nearly $27m will go towards support for people with eating disorders and their families. Women account for almost two thirds of eating disorder diagnoses.
There is also funding for programs addressing endometriosis run by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia.
The health minister Greg Hunt said the government was committed to improving health services around Australia for all women and girls, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Guardian Essential poll indicates the furore triggered by the former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleging she was raped by a colleague in the parliament in 2019 has eroded Scott Morrison’s standing with female voters.
The budget will include a statement on women’s economic and safety and health. Frydenberg told Guardian Australia last week the budget would also contain grant programs for female entrepreneurs.
The aged care package will include more investments in home and residential care, and new governance arrangements, as well as skills and training initiatives. The government has flagged there will be a focus on building a workforce for the caring professions.
Frydenberg told the ABC on Sunday morning the royal commission had confirmed the aged care sector was “in dire need of reform”.
“We have an ageing population and it isn’t just about spending more money, it is also about ensuring that money is well spent,” the treasurer said. “Our focus is on governance, workforce issues, the quality of aged care services.”
“It is a very significant commitment designed to deal with what the royal commission has found to strengthen our system and ensure that older Australians can retire, can live with dignity, respect and with safety.”
Frydenberg said the budget was about securing the economic recovery from Covid-19. He said the economic statement had been configured in uncertain times.
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic – that is something nobody can forget,” the treasurer said.
He said Europe had entered a double dip recession triggered by the pandemic, and the “tragic events in India” underscored the fact the public health crisis persisted.
“There is lots of work still to be done, and this budget is about securing a recovery,” Frydenberg said.
The shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC the budget should not be “another trillion-dollar political patch-and-paint job” or another “missed opportunity”.
Chalmers said the government had an obligation to look beyond the imperative of fighting the next federal election. “This can’t be the type of budget which is just geared towards the next election and not the next decade of more jobs and more opportunities for more people.”
“Unfortunately what we’ve seen so far, it just looks like it is a lot of money thrown at a lot of political problems, to get the government through another election when the country needs and deserves better than that, given the sacrifices that people have made for each other to get ourselves into this position”.