Following the Liberals unexpected win in the federal election, the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, is likely to keep the portfolio to see through the industry reforms he has driven for the last three years.
Despite polling by YouGov Galaxy putting Mr Wyatt at a 50-50 two-party preferred position with Labor candidate James Martin for the seat of Hasluck in Perth’s north east, the Minister comfortably held on with a 2.5 per cent swing in his favour.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Mr Wyatt described his feelings of elation at being re-elected, saying: “it’s good to be acknowledged for the work you have done for somebody.”
“Last night I went into that room quietly confident. About halfway through when the figures started to come in from each booth including pre polling, I had an absolute sense of elation. I was absolutely wrapped to be given the confidence by the people in Hasluck to serve them again for another three years. It’s hard to describe those feelings when you win an election.”
“I’m hoping to continue with aged care because I’ve started working with the sector on many reforms,” Minister Wyatt said.
“I want to change that mindset that we get old when we are 60 – we’re not. I want people to think about being old when they are 90, that they need to live life fully. That’s more important. And in the workplace, just because someone is coming up to the age of 60 we shouldn’t think that they should be retired. If they can still work we should let them work.”
While some media outlets are speculating the Minister may be asked to take on the Indigenous Affairs portfolio exclusively after the departure of Northern Territory senator Nigel Scullion (Mr Wyatt has been the Minister for Indigenous Health since January 2017), it is reasonable to expect Scott Morrison will opt for consistency when it comes to aged care.
The Royal Commission is seven months in to its 18-month inquiry, the new standards come into effect in less than eight weeks, the Quality and Safety Commission is still transitioning, the home care wait list is not yet under control while decisions are still to be made on the aged care funding instrument. It would not be fair on anyone, particularly consumers and providers, for further disruptions to this landscape.
Mr Wyatt carefully downplayed the speculation of another role in Government when pressed by local reporters.
“That’s not my choice, it’s the Prime Minister’s choice and if he offers it to me I would take it on with great pride, and with a view to building the relationships from the community level upwards. But I won’t circumvent a decision by the Prime Minister. Any position you’re given in cabinet is an honour to serve in,” Mr Wyatt said, possibly foreshadowing a return of the aged care portfolio to Cabinet after a three-year hiatus.
“We want stability, Australians want stability. Scott Morrison has shown he can give that stability and that’s why Australians backed him yesterday. And certainly our party is committed to wanting to working as a team on very key and critical issues that are important to Australians.”
Across the country, as seats were confirmed more politicians confirmed they would be raising aged care as an immediate priority.
In Western NSW, Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said funding for aged care facilities was a priority.
“I have a lot of local projects I am keen to get off the ground. It’s issues like greater funding for aged care facilities. It’s something I’m very passionate about. There are a number of others.”
“The budget is now in the black but we want to keep that good economic management going. When you do it you can deliver locally.”
In the marginal seat of Gilmore on the NSW south coast, newly elected Labor candidate Fiona Gilmore said aged care would be a particular focus given recommendations from recent inquiries have not been acted upon.
“We have knocked and phoned about 50,000 households. I learnt that people are doing it really tough.
“I was spending a lot of time talking to aged care workers, nurses, residents, families, volunteers; there are so many issues,” she said.
“I am passionate about ensuring we have people trained in jobs shortage areas, such as aged care, disability support,” Ms Gilmore said.
In the seat of Mayo in South Australia, Rebekha Sharkie said she would be advocating for more home care packages, transparency of aged care staffing ratios and an independent agency to set the age pension.
“One of my first tasks will be to lobby the new Government regarding ALL the promises made by the major parties in this election,” Ms Sharkie said.