THE MAGAZINE OF THE NSW NURSES AND MIDWIVES’ ASSOCIATION
FEDERAL ELECTION 2013
VOTE FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PUBLIC HEALTH CARE
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NURSES AND MIDWIVES VOTE | FEDERAL ELECTION | SEPTEMBER 2013
FOLLOWING THE FOLLY OF THE USA
DISABILITYCARE TO HELP 460,000
Health care in the United States is exorbitant and inefficient, yet in Australia the Liberals seem determined to adopt the American way with the privatisation of our public hospitals.
Nurses and carers have welcomed Labor’s historic reform of disability services in Australia.
WHOSE HEALTH POLICY IS THE BEST MEDICINE?
NBN A BOON FOR THE BUSH
Labor has promised to boost funding for public health, while the Coalition has not revealed the detail of its health policy.
Labor’s National Broadband Network will be essential to improving health and aged care services — especially outside the big cities — experts say.
LIBS THREATEN AGED CARE WAGES
ABBOTT’S DOUBLE HIT TO SUPER
Many aged care providers can’t afford higher wages, according to the Coalition.
The Coalition’s superannuation policy strikes a double blow to the retirement plans of low and middle-income earners including nurses.
PENALTY RATES AT RISK: ACTU
FOREIGN WORKERS EXPLOITED: LOCALS LEFT OUT OF WORK
Chastised by its experience of WorkChoices, the Coalition isn’t saying much about industrial relations in this election campaign.
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On the issue of imported workers on temporary visas, Labor has tightened controls while the Coalition wants to make temporary overseas workers a “mainstay”.
LIKE IT OR NOT, POLITICS ARE IMPORTANT We are on the eve of a federal election and everyone who is enrolled to vote has a choice.
Over the past three years Australian federal politics have been toxic. It is easy to understand why many people have found this disheartening and have disengaged from the political process. But the NSWNMA believes it is important that you understand the issues from a union point of view, so your vote is informed and considered. That is why we have produced this booklet. Like it or not politics is important. Your union needs to negotiate with governments about pay and conditions. Politicians make decisions and laws which impact on our working lives. So it is important that you understand what the parties are saying about issues and what impact their policies will have on our capacity to win better outcomes for members. We understand there are other issues that are relevant to your vote, but in this booklet we have stuck to those issues we believe will have the most impact on nurses and midwives: the health system, aged care and your workplace. Until the recent change of Prime Minister, there was a real possibility of a landslide election and a Tony Abbott-led Liberal National Party (LNP) coalition government, in control of both houses of parliament, with almost no opposition left.
A federal election is a pivotal moment. It sets out the terrain on which unions must operate when trying to improve the working lives of their members.
That could still happen. We need to remember that the Howard Government implemented WorkChoices when it achieved power in both houses of parliament. It is clear that an Abbott Government would use the poor behaviour of one union to justify hobbling the rest of the union movement in legal inquiries and red tape, as the Newman Government has done in Queensland. Its real agenda is to remove the capacity of unions to campaign on behalf of their members, leaving workers vulnerable to an attack on their workplace rights.
A key element of Liberal National Party policy on industrial relations is to use the Productivity Commission as a vehicle to remove worker entitlements, such as penalty rates, in their second term of office. Privatisation of our public health system is also on the agenda for Liberal National Parties at state and federal levels. If we have conservative governments at both the state and federal level, the door will be left open to private operators to seize control of the billions of dollars of taxpayersâ€™ money currently paid to maintain our public health system. This will be done under the false premise that private business is always more efficient than public sector management of crucial services. A federal election is a pivotal moment. It sets out the terrain on which unions must operate when trying to improve the working lives of their members. It is important to exercise your democratic right to determine which party is to govern the country on your behalf. When you do exercise your vote, I urge you to give strong consideration to the issues that will impact upon your daily lives as nurses and midwives.
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FOLLOWING THE FOLLY OF THE USA Health care in the United States is exorbitant and inefficient, yet in Australia the Liberals seem determined to adopt the American way with the privatisation of our public hospitals.
In Queensland and Western Australia, Liberal state governments are well down the path of privatising the management of public hospitals. New South Wales is following suit. In WA, the Barnett Government has privatised, or is looking to privatise, services at the Peel Health Campus, the Fiona Stanley Hospital and the Midland Health Campus.
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The full privatisation of the planned Sunshine Coast University Hospital in Queensland is on the table, as is the operation of the new Queensland Children’s Hospital. The public day oncology services at the Mater Public Hospital in Brisbane have already been privatised to form a new Mater Cancer Care Service.
In NSW the O’Farrell Government has invited expressions of interest from the private sector to design, construct, operate and maintain a public hospital on Sydney’s northern beaches.
‘We can’t put profits before patients.’
The federal opposition’s Shadow Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, has put on the table that a Tony Abbott-led federal government would favour the involvement of the private sector in the running of our public hospitals. Dutton told the Australian Financial Review that the federal Coalition did not see public hospitals as immune in its drive to find savings in its health budget. He said “the Coalition, if we’re elected, would continue to work with state governments that have delivered … services through private hospitals and not-for-profits. “If that means it’s more efficient to spend through change management at public hospitals, then we shouldn’t be afraid of that debate.” General Secretary Brett Holmes says the NSWNMA is not afraid of that debate. “We have run TV ads in New South Wales to alert the community of the Liberal Party’s intentions for our public hospitals. We will not allow privatisation to occur by stealth. “Public health is funded by the public and we believe the best way to make sure those funds are used in an accountable way is
through public service management, not a private company that would prioritise cost cutting and profit. “The assertion that private companies deliver more efficient outcomes in health is contradicted strongly by overseas experience. “Significant numbers of Americans do not have health cover because of its prohibitive cost and the US system is wasteful and economically exorbitant. “While the Coalition strongly denies it wants to go down the US route, the handover of public management to private companies will produce similar outcomes in the long term.” The role of not-for-profit health providers is a model favoured by Liberal governments in Australia. Yet the US experience shows that notfor-profit hospitals are in fact just as profit seeking as commercially run hospitals. Time magazine reported that when McKinsey Consulting, aided by a Bank of America survey, pulled together all hospital financial reports it found that “the 2900 non-profit hospitals across the country, which are exempt from income taxes, actually end up averaging higher operating profit margins than the 1000 for-profit hospitals, after the for-profits’ income tax obligations are deducted. In health care being nonprofit produces more profit.”
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON PRIVATISATION
Labor Labor says it will never support attempts to privatise public hospitals. It says “Australians deserve quality health care regardless of their income level – without flourishing public hospitals this is a goal we cannot achieve.”
Coalition State Liberal governments in Queensland, Western Australia and now New South Wales have taken the path of privatisating public health services including the building and operating of new public hospitals. On several occasions the federal Liberal spokesperson for health Peter Dutton has indicated that a federal Coalition government would build on this record.
Greens The Greens are committed to keeping public hospitals in public hands, including the administration and provision of essential health services. The Greens would oppose any move to privatise public health services and, in government, would scrap any existing privatisation undertaking.
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WHOSE HEALTH POLICY IS THE BEST MEDICINE? Labor has promised to boost funding for public health, while the Coalition has not revealed the detail of its health policy.
Labor has guaranteed additional health funding of more than $16 billion per year while the Coalition has made no funding promises for the health system. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) asked the major parties: “What will your party do to improve funding/reform of the health system?” Labor replied: “Labor has provided unprecedented additional funding of public hospitals with $14.9 billion in 2013-14 and guaranteed additional funding of over $16 billion per year over the period 2014-15 to 2019-20.” The Liberal Party replied: “The Coalition is committed not only to providing additional resources for health and hospitals, but to direct action to provide better models of care and alleviate pressure on our public hospitals.” It added, “Full details of the Coalition’s health policy will be released prior to the election.” The Coalition had not released a detailed health policy when this election issue of The Lamp went to press, just weeks prior to the federal election. The Greens said an effective health care system “depends on a wellskilled and well-resourced workforce” and pledged support for “the redirection of funds that currently subsidise private health insurance, back into the public health system.” The ANMF also asked: “Will your party work towards maintaining the newly established e-Health system that enhances patient care?” Labor said it had provided funding for e-Health in the 2012-13 budget while the Liberal Party answered: ”We will work with health providers and the
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Labor has provided unprecedented additional funding of public hospitals with $14.9 billion in 2013-14.”
business sector generally to build our e-Health capacity on a sustainable basis.” The parties were asked if they would preserve preventative health services such as Breast Screen and drug and alcohol services. Labor said it had committed $56 million to expand the target age range for Breast Screen by five years, increased funding of $16 million for the national bowel cancer
Full details of the Coalition’s health policy will be released prior to the election.”
screening program, and promised to preserve funding for drug and alcohol services. The Coalition said it “continues to strongly support evidence-based preventive health measures and screening initiatives including BreastScreen, cervical cancer screening and bowel cancer screening.” It said it “supports appropriate and effective drug and alcohol treatment
Support for the re-direction of funds that currently subsidise private health insurance, back into the public health system.” programs” and claimed its 1997, Tough on Drugs, policy had reduced illicit drug use. The Greens said they would rather see money redirected from drug law enforcement to “more effective patient based, health focused” drug and alcohol expenditure. The ANMF asked: “Will you commit to maintaining and extending the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program?”
Labor pointed to its current budget, which gives the MHNIP an additional $22.4 million. Funding would be maintained “at 2012-13 service levels” while the government considered the findings of a 2012 evaluation report in consultation with stakeholders. “This additional funding will make sure existing eligible organisations and nurses can maintain client service levels, and continue to make claims to Medicare so patients receive the care they need. Organisations can continue to accept new patients into the program and engage new nurses, as long as the overall service levels of the organisation are maintained,” Labor added. The Greens also promised support for the MHNIP, however the Liberal Party made no reference to the program. It claimed the Coalition had “a very strong record on mental health” and said: “We will continue to work closely with the sector and the National Mental Health Commission on the challenges that lie ahead.” Earlier statements by the Coalition have cast doubt on the future of Medicare Locals, which the Labor government established to coordinate primary health care delivery. Coalition health spokesman Peter Dutton has promised a “formal review” of Medicare Locals. The review’s first term of reference is to “Recognise general practice as the cornerstone of primary care in the governance structures.” The Coalition has also promised to privatise Medibank Private.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON HEALTH POLICIES
Labor Has cut the private health insurance rebate – which took back from high wage earners to put back into the public health system – while guaranteeing increased funding for public hospitals. Has overseen increases in bulk billing rates. Has invested $4 billion over six years in a new dental scheme to treat lowincome patients including pensioners, concession cardholders and children of poor families. Has expanded mental health services.
Coalition Will “review” Medicare Locals and privatise Medibank Private. Has promised to restore the private health insurance rebate but has not said when. Wants to give hospital boards more control.
Greens Got Labor to agree to a Medicarefunded dental scheme in return for their support of Labor in government. The scheme applies to 3.4 million children in families eligible for Family Tax Benefit A. Want a stronger focus on preventive health, including a ban on junk food advertising during children’s television, improved food labelling and tougher restrictions on drug company promotions to doctors
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LIBS THREATEN AGED CARE WAGES Many aged care providers can’t afford higher wages, according to the Coalition.
The Liberal-led Coalition has refused to guarantee that it will maintain $1.2 billion in extra funding to boost wages of nurses and other aged care employees if it wins government. The Coalition has implied it could scrap the Aged Care Workforce Supplement because, it says, many aged care providers cannot afford it. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation asked the main political parties: “Will you commit to continuing the Aged Care Workforce Supplement?” The Liberal Party’s federal campaign director, Brian Loughnane, replied: “With less than half of all aged care providers operating in the black, the Coalition is concerned that many providers will not be able to afford the regulatory burden imposed by the Workforce Compact and the associated ongoing costs. “These pressures may further erode the viability of many aged care centres, especially those smaller providers in regional and rural areas.” Both Labor and the Greens have promised to maintain the compact. ALP national secretary George Wright said it would lead to higher wages and better conditions for aged care staff, and help the industry to attract and retain a skilled workforce. The Coalition’s refusal to guarantee to keep the wages supplement would take money away from almost 200,000 residential aged care workers and 100,000 home and community care workers. Under Labor’s aged care reforms, which recently became law, aged care workers should get governmentfunded wage rises totalling 3.5%, between 1 July 2013 and 1 July 2016.
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That is on top of minimum annual increases of 2.75% paid by employers. Wage increases can begin from 1 July this year, providing employers negotiate enterprise bargaining agreements. NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Workforce Supplement was the result of four years of strong union campaigning and Labor had listened to the campaign message.
“The Labor government saw the need to develop a comprehensive workforce strategy to deliver fairer wages, improved access to education and training and access to more rewarding career paths,” he said. Brett said Labor had upset the Coalition by insisting that employers would only get the governmentfunded wage supplements if they signed enterprise agreements with their employees.
Providers sign up despite Coalition hysteria
“Labor did this to make sure providers could not divert additional government funding intended for wage increases, as has happened in previous years.”
The NSWNMA is negotiating agreements for aged care providers to pay the governmentfunded Workforce Supplement – despite the Coalition’s claim that providers cannot afford it. Agreements were finalised, or in advanced stages of negotiation, with several providers including Domain Principal Group (DPG) and Uniting Care, as this election issue of The Lamp went to press. DPG has 55 residential aged care homes nationwide including 28 in New South Wales. DPG managing director Gary Barnier wrote: “We believe the reform package will deliver good care outcomes and choice of accommodation to consumers, while ensuring the viability of providers.” Earlier this year, Liberal/National Party Senators opposed the Aged Care Workforce Supplement during a Senate committee inquiry into Labor’s aged care reforms. Opposition Shadow Minister for Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, described it as “nothing more than a union driven industrial process” and “a backdoor way to get more aged care workers to join the union”.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON AGED CARE
Labor Introduced a package of reforms including extra pay increases under the Aged Care Workforce Supplement. It provides funding to “assist the sector in delivering fair and competitive wages in the short term” while the Aged Care Financing Authority considers longer-term options.
Coalition Refuses to commit to keeping the Aged Care Workforce Supplement because “many providers” cannot afford it. Claims higher wages for aged care staff “may further erode the viability of many aged care centres, especially those smaller providers in regional and rural areas.”
Greens The Greens remain committed to the aged care reforms including the Workforce Supplement and say their amendments strengthened Labor’s original legislation.
“The Aged Care Workforce Supplement will lead to higher wages and better conditions for Australia’s aged care workforce.” — ALP national secretary George Wright
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PENALTY RATES AT RISK: ACTU Chastised by its experience of WorkChoices, the Coalition isn’t saying much about industrial relations in this election campaign. But the ACTU is concerned about their intention towards penalty rates, individual contracts and other workers’ rights. Tony Abbott isn’t saying much publicly about industrial relations policy, except to say that under a Liberal National government the Fair Work Act would be subject to an inquiry run by the Productivity Commission. ACTU President Ged Kearney says that while the Coalition does not want to talk about industrial relations, the fine print of its IR policy, coupled with its promised review of the Fair Work Act, means conditions are at risk. “We know what the business agenda is: abolish penalty rates, cut wages, introduce individual contracts, make it harder for workers to bargain collectively and make it easier to sack people in the name of flexibility,” Ged said. Business lobby groups such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have criticised the Liberal policy as too soft. The head of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, has wondered why employers should wait four more years for “employment regulation reforms”. While Tony Abbott has been guarded in his public comments about reviving aspects of WorkChoices, he has been more forthcoming at Liberal Party forums. A few months ago, at a Liberal Partyorganised forum in Kingston, South Australia, he was asked about abolishing penalty rates. He said he believed the only way to bring this about would be for a federal government to pressure the independent umpire to strip back penalty rates. “I think the best way forward, at
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least initially, is to try to ensure that the award situation does maximise employment, and at the moment we are not maximising employment by closing down businesses and preventing people from getting jobs. “I am confident that if the government were to back, for argument’s sake, applications to the Fair Work Commission for adjustments in this area, it may well be successful.” Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party’s attitude towards penalty rates is as out of touch with public opinion now
as it was during the Your Rights At Work campaign. Polling conducted by Essential Research last month shows that most Australians (79%) support higher pay rates for people who work outside normal hours on night shifts, weekends or public holidays. Only 13% were opposed. Australians rejected the claim that cutting penalties rates would save jobs, with 64% saying the main outcome of abolishing penalty rates would be that company profits would increase, and only 18% saying they
Liberal state governments show the way
believed it would lead to companies employing more workers. A majority of those surveyed (57%) said abolishing penalty rates would be bad for the economy because workers would have less to spend, while only 22% said it would be good for the economy because it would create more jobs. “Cutting penalty rates would immediately reduce the standard of living of millions of Australians and take many billions of dollars out of the economy, costing jobs,” says Ged Kearney.
While the Coalition has been quiet at the federal level on IR issues, at the state level, especially in New South Wales and Queensland, conservative governments have been ruthless in rolling back workers’ rights, especially those of state sector workers. One of the first actions of the Campbell Newman Liberal National Party (LNP) government, on taking office in Queensland, was to automatically recover, without prior approval, overpayments of up to 25% of a nurse’s wage, overpaid in a health department payroll disaster. In their first budget, the Queensland LNP earmarked more than 4000 jobs to be cut from the health sector. They have placed unprecedented restrictions on the Queensland Nurses Union’s right of entry to hospitals and the rights of union members to attend union meetings, conferences and training. They have passed legislation that forces the union to run a full membership referendum before spending more than $10,000 on a political campaign. In New South Wales, the O’Farrell Government has capped public sector pay at 2.5% (effectively made 2.25% by deducting for the increase in superannuation guarantee contribution); has gutted the Workers Compensation scheme; and removed most of the powers of the independent umpire, the Industrial Relations Commission.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
Labor The Labor Party is committed to maintaining a comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions and supports collective bargaining at the heart of the Fair Work system. It supports right of entry provisions for union officials.
Coalition The Coalition will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a review of the Fair Work laws and will implement its recommendations if elected.
Greens The Greens oppose stripping back the content of awards and believe that issues such as nurse/patient ratios and job security should be allowable award matters. They want to see an extension of rights available under the National Employment Standards.
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DISABILITYCARE TO HELP 460,000 Nurses and carers have welcomed Labor’s historic reform of disability services in Australia.
The national disability insurance scheme, DisabilityCare, which opened for business on July 1, has been described as one of Labor’s most important reforms. DisabilityCare Australia was launched in Tasmania for young people aged 15-24, in South Australia for children aged 0-14, and in the Barwon area of Victoria and the Hunter area in New South Wales for people up to age 65. By the time the full scheme is rolled out nationally, in July 2019, about 460,000 Australians with disabilities will be benefitting. DisabilityCare is for people who have “a significant and permanent disability that affects their communication, mobility, self-care or self-management, and who need assistance with everyday activities” according to the scheme’s website. “This includes people who are dependent on a wheelchair or prosthesis for mobility, assistance from others in decision making, accessing the community and/or managing household tasks. “DisabilityCare Australia will also support people who would benefit substantially from early intervention to prevent or reduce permanent disability.” Labor has replaced the previous underfunded and fragmented system with guaranteed funding for services. The scheme will be paid for, partly, by an increase in the Medicare levy from 1.5% to 2%. People with disabilities, and their carers, will have more choice over their support and more say in how that support is provided.
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“DisabilityCare is about putting power into the hands of families, allowing them to spend money to buy the services they really need.” The Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, said DisabilityCare would work with individuals to identify their individual goals and needs, develop individual plans, consider the support needed to strengthen caring arrangements, and connect people to service providers and community support services. Developmental disability nurse Gary Dunne says it is an exciting time to be in disability nursing. “Once DisabilityCare rolls out it’s going to make an incredible difference to the lives of a whole lot of people,” said Gary, who nurses at ADHC’s Summer Hill centre in Sydney. John Hunter hospital midwife Debbie Lawson hopes the introduction of DisabilityCare will allow her daughter Olivia, who has Down Syndrome, to access services tailored to her individual needs “rather than the ‘one size fits all’ approach currently on offer from service providers. “DisabilityCare is about putting power into the hands of families, allowing them to spend money to buy the services they really need,” said Debbie.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON DISABILITYCARE
Labor Introduced historic reforms to disability services known as DisabilityCare. Committed $1 billion to the trial sites, will raise $3.3 billion a year from the increased Medicare levy and committed an additional $14.3 billion over seven years to roll out the scheme nationally, in addition to existing Commonwealth disability funding.
Coalition Tony Abbott initially opposed an increase in the Medicare levy to fund DisabilityCare, but the Opposition later voted for it in parliament. The Coalition says it is committed to fully funding the scheme.
Greens The Greens attempted, but failed, to have the legislation amended to cover people aged 65 and over. A person must be under 65 when an access request is made.
NBN A BOON FOR THE BUSH Labor’s National Broadband Network will be essential to improving health and aged care services — especially outside the big cities — experts say.
New models of care using video and other technologies have the potential to provide all Australians with health services that are currently only available in big cities. However, such technologies need a stable and reliable internet connection at higher speeds than ADSL technology is able to deliver across Australia’s existing copper telephone network. High speed broadband is therefore essential to help close the health care gap between cities and country areas, rural health experts say. About seven million people, or 32% of Australians, live outside major cities. On average, they suffer poorer health and lower life expectancy. The top priority recommendation from this year’s national rural health conference, organised by the National Rural Health Alliance, was the completion of the National Broadband Network (NBN). Under the Labor government’s NBN, 93% of Australians will get the fastest internet technology available with fibre optic cable running to their homes, schools and workplaces. The remaining 7% will get fixed satellite and wireless, which deliver speeds equal to or faster than the fastest current ADSL connections over copper wire. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the National Rural Health Alliance, which includes the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said high broadband speeds were crucial to new models of health care, such as those that use high-definition videoconferencing, data exchange and high-resolution image transfer.
“The NBN has the potential to help meet the growing demand for aged care services.” High speed broadband would, for example, allow an interactive videoconference consultation between an acute burns treatment team in a capital city hospital, and a rural outpost trying to treat severe burns patients following a serious accident. The internet connection would need to be fast enough and stable enough for a two-way, real time conversation to take place, with good visualisation of the patients and their injuries. The Alliance said the NBN would help rural health providers to use the skills of city-based specialists in many areas including psychiatry and psychology, skin cancer assessments, eye health and rehabilitation. It said the NBN would give health professionals in remote areas access to higher levels of professional support and education, as well as helping them to maintain social links. The NBN also has the potential to help meet the growing demand for aged care services by enabling elderly Australians to stay in their homes and connect via video with health professionals, as well as family and friends.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON NBN
Labor Labor’s $37.4 billion NBN will give 93% of Australians the fastest internet technology available using fibre optic cable. The other 7% will receive alternative technologies delivering speeds similar to the fastest current ADSL plans. Everyone will be connected by 2021.
Coalition The Coalition promises a cheaper system — about $17 billion less than Labor’s — to be finished two years earlier. However internet speeds will be much slower. That’s because the Coalition plan involves running fibre optic cable to roadside cabinets and then using the old copper telephone lines to connect to homes.
Greens The Greens support Labor’s fibre-to-the-home system and criticise the Coalition’s model as an inadequate short-term solution.
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ABBOTT’S DOUBLE HIT TO SUPER The Liberal-National coalition’s superannuation policy strikes a double blow to the retirement plans of low and middle-income earners including nurses and midwives.
Tony Abbott will delay for two years a Labor government measure to increase the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) from 9% to 12%. He will also abolish the Low Income Superannuation Contribution (LISC) – in effect, raising taxes on the superannuation of people earning less than $37,000 per year. Under current law, supported by Labor and the Greens, the SG rate will increase gradually, with initial increments of 0.25 percentage points on 1 July 2013 and on 1 July 2014. Further increments of 0.5 percentage points will apply annually up to 2019-20, when the SG rate will sit at 12%.
“A bitter disappointment and a blow to the retirement savings of Australians.” — former Liberal leader John Brogden
Labor says the increase from 9% to 12% means around an extra $127,000 in superannuation for today’s 30-year-old, earning average full time wages, who retires at 67. If the Coalition wins the September 7 election, the increase to 9.25% for the 2013/2014 year will remain but there will be no further increase until 2016 at the earliest.
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Earlier this year, the Coalition had pledged to increase the SG to 12% by 2019, in line with Labor policy. Their policy backflip left many superannuation experts wondering whether the Coalition could be trusted to eventually increase the guarantee to 12%. Lynn Ralph, chairman of BT Funds Management, which manages more than $60 billion of superannuation money for clients, said the proposed two-year delay gave everyone in the industry “a nervous feeling that we will never get that 12% which, I thought, everyone in a bipartisan sense had agreed to.” Chief executive officer of the Financial Services Council, John Brogden – a former Liberal leader in New South Wales – called Mr Abbott’s policy to “defer” 12%, “a bitter disappointment and a blow to the retirement savings of Australians.” Labor’s LISC provides a tax rebate of up to $500 for people earning less than $37,000 per year, meaning they effectively pay no tax on their concessional super contributions. “The LISC was brought in to correct an injustice for low-income earners, who used to pay as much if not more tax on their super contributions than on their wage income,” NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said. “It is highly unfair for Mr Abbott to target this group for budget savings.” Trish Power, publisher of the consumer advice website SuperGuide, and author of several books on superannuation, called the Coalition’s decision to scrap the LISC “unwise and unfair”.
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND ON SUPERANNUATION
Labor Will increase employer contributions to superannuation from 9% to 12% boosting the savings of around 8.4 million Australians. Will keep the tax rebate for people earning less than $37,000 per year.
Coalition Will delay the increase to 12% in employer contributions for at least two years. Will scrap the tax concession for low-income earners.
Greens Support the increase in employer contributions and want to keep the tax concession for low-income earners.
FOREIGN WORKERS EXPLOITED: LOCALS LEFT OUT OF WORK On the issue of imported workers on temporary visas, Labor has tightened controls while the Coalition wants to make temporary overseas workers a “mainstay”. Under recently introduced changes to laws governing the use of 457 temporary (skilled) work visas, employers must prove they have advertised and tried to employ locals before recruiting overseas workers to fill positions. The 457 visa is designed to allow employers to import workers, including nurses and midwives, to fill vacancies for “skilled” jobs for up to four years. Earlier this year then Prime Minister Julia Gillard criticised the widespread and growing use of foreign temporary workers in hospitals and health care and said more needed to be done to train Australians to fill job vacancies. “We don’t want to be a nation that can’t care for its own sick and can’t provide jobs for its own kids,” she said. Other changes Labor made to the law surrounding 457 visas were designed to: • Stop employers paying foreign workers less than local “market rates”. • Raise the English language requirement for getting visas for certain jobs. • Strengthen existing requirements to train Australians. • Hire more inspectors to enforce rules. The NSWNMA welcomed the amendments, in the context of continuing underemployment of local graduates. General Secretary Brett Holmes says some overseas workers are needed to fill skill shortages, but local workers, graduates and apprentices should not be left behind without jobs and training.
“Employers should not object to having to train and employ locals first, before bringing in workers from overseas,” he said. However some employers in the health care sector, such as Catholic Health Australia, have called for the 457-visa program to be extended to lower-skilled categories such as Enrolled Nurses. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised his business supporters that a Coalition government will make it easier for temporary workers to enter Australia. “Under a Coalition government, section 457 visas won’t be just a component, but a mainstay of our immigration program,” Mr Abbott said in a speech delivered to the Institute of Public Affairs on 27 April 2012. Media reports revealed that employers have used the 457 scheme to underpay workers (as little as $3 an hour); to force workers to take fatal risks; to force workers to pay for overcrowded, unsanitary accommodation; and to coerce workers with threats of violence, the sack and deportation. Stories in Fairfax Media also revealed that hundreds of foreign workers and students were being forced into debt bondage after paying up to $40,000 for an Australian skilled worker visa. Brett Holmes says these reports show that approved migrants on temporary work visas should receive the same level of union protection and service as Australians. He said the NSWNMA had signed up and supported a number of foreign nurses employed on 457 temporary visas.
“Under a Coalition government, section 457 visas won’t be just a component, but a mainstay of our immigration program.” — Tony Abbott
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“We can’t put profits before patients.”
“Everybody has the right to public healthcare.”
Vote for your right to public healthcare.