The Cost of Australia's Voice Referendum and Its Impact on Aged Care

referendum -

The Cost of Australia's Voice Referendum and Its Impact on Aged Care

The Cost of Australia's Voice Referendum and Its Impact on Aged Care

On October 14, 2023, Australian voters made a statement against the proposed referendum to amend the Constitution, giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a 'Voice' to Parliament to offer policy recommendations. With the referendum's price tag reaching approximately $450 million, it has ignited discussions about how these funds could have been used instead.

The Voice Referendum Results:

The results of the Voice referendum, held on that day, revealed a majority of voters opposing the proposed constitutional amendment, with a final tally of 60% against and 40% in favour. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) estimated the referendum's cost at $450 million, with the Federal Government contributing $364 million towards the effort.

While 'Yes' voters had hoped for greater recognition and support for First Nations people in the Constitution, the expenditure of these funds has faced criticism. Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe labelled the decision a 'waste of money' and a 'bad idea,' suggesting that there were more pressing issues in Australia.

Aged Care Funding:

One of the most contentious points of contention is the stark contrast between the Voice referendum's cost and the allocation for the Aged Care Act. The Federal Budget, which comes into effect on July 1, 2024, has earmarked a mere $81.9 million over three years for the development and implementation of the new Act. This includes funding for the crucial information and computer technology system changes required to make this reform a reality.

Additionally, $72.3 million was allocated in the 2023-24 Budget for the continued work on establishing a new aged care regulatory framework that will support the Aged Care Act. Moreover, the Budget announced a delay in the Support at Home program, which replaces the Home Care Packages program and the Commonwealth home support program, pushing its implementation to July 1, 2025.

For the same $364.6 million spent on the Voice referendum, the Budget could have achieved significant advancements in aged care, including:

$139.9 million to enhance the Star rating system.

$166.8 million in 2023-24 for an additional 9,500 Home Care Packages.

$12.9 million to develop, monitor, and enforce new food and nutritional standards.

$15.7 million to establish a long-awaited single aged care assessment system.

$12.9 million for the enhanced functions of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in its new role as the independent financial and prudential regulator.

$1.7 million for 2023-24 to appoint an interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner.

$0.7 million in 2023-24 to establish the Aged Care Sustainability Taskforce, which will advise the Government on creating and maintaining a high-quality and sustainable aged care system.

$0.1 million for an Independent Implementation Readiness Assessment of the aged care reforms.

When considering external funding sources, this $450 million could have been a game-changer in improving the viability of the residential aged care sector, particularly with the allocation of $98.7 million for a new Market Adjustment Program.

Older First Nations people, who constitute 1.5 percent of the Australian population aged 50 and over and 16 percent of the total Indigenous population, face unique challenges in accessing aged care services. 

Leave a comment