Aged care workers are set to receive two $400 payments in a bid to recognise the pressure they’re facing as coronavirus cases spiral, but the federal government has come under fire for doing too little for wages.
Prime minister Scott Morrison will announce the payments at a National Press Club address on Tuesday, where he is also due to reveal how $2.2 billion will be spent on commercialising university research.
The cash bonus for aged care workers comes as more than 400 Australians in aged care have died following becoming infected with coronavirus since the start of this year.
Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes described the payments as “cheap and nasty” and not addressing low wages in the aged care sector.
“This payment is a pre-election political strategy rather than a serious plan to fix the chronic underpayment of the nation’s most deserving workers,” Hayes said, adding that the union was pushing for a 25% pay rise for workers.
Bill Shorten, Labor’s NDIS spokesperson, said the base rate for workers needed to increase rather than workers receiving a one-off handout.
“I think there is compelling evidence from the Royal Commission that $22 an hour is too low,” Shorten said.
The funding to commercialise university research are linked to the government’s modern manufacturing priorities — resources technology and critical minerals; food and beverage; medical products; recycling and clean energy; defence and space.
The money includes $1.6 billion to support early-stage research that has higher levels of risk and uncertainty. It was budgeted previously, and acting education minister Stuart Robert brushed off claims it was a pre-election sweetener.
“This is not something that’s been quickly thought through,” Robert told ABC News Breakfast. “And this is all about working with our universities and our industry and bringing them closer together.”
He compared the funding with the CSIRO Main Sequence Venture Fund, launched in 2017 to invest in scaling-up commercial ideas that stem from the public research sector.
“CSIRO’s Main Sequence Venture has already invested in 39 different corporations and seen over 1000 jobs created in the technical field. We want to see more of that,” Robert said.