CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s mental health and aged care systems will receive record funding in the federal budget with billions of dollars set to be spent on the ailing sectors.
But experts have warned the packages may only begin to claw background after years of funding shortfalls.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down his third budget on May 11 with major spending expected across government services.
Mental health advocates have long implored the federal government to dramatically increase funding.
National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan, who advises Prime Minister Scott Morrison on suicide prevention, said early intervention, service integration, and access were key.
“We need to be able to intervene a lot earlier in illness, in the episode, and in life,” she told in an interview on a famous radio station.
Leading psychiatrist Patrick McGorry said the federal government was spending AU$ 3.6 billion ($2.82 billion) annually on an issue that affected five million Australians every year.
“No governments anywhere in the world have understood the scale of the issue,” he told.
Health Minister Greg Hunt is also remaining tight-lipped on reports the aged care package could be almost AU$18 billion ($14.09 billion) over four years.
Hunt said it would be a fundamental line in the sand after a damning royal commission report called for radical changes across the troubled system.
Building a better-paid workforce and boosting training are set to be key targets of the package.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians says the royal commission showed successive government cuts created an AU$10 billion ($7.83 billion) annual funding shortfall.
Job creation and driving economic confidence are also in sharp focus for the coalition. Frydenberg is expected to announce an AU$1 billion ($0.78 billion) extension of the JobTrainer program, which offers free or low-fee courses to young and unemployed people.
It comes as the government prepares to dump a hiring credit for people under 35 which supported just 1100 of the 450,000 jobs it was supposed to.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticized the government for lacking a plan to address record low wages growth, unemployment, and underemployment.
He said the coalition was pushing the nation’s debt towards AU$1 trillion ($0.78 trillion) but lacked an economic plan.
“Every dollar they spend is borrowed money, and yet they have spent it on sports rorts, community safety rorts, companies using JobKeeper then paying huge executive bonuses,” Albanese told a caucus meeting.
The government will also unveil a major women’s safety and economic security package, including domestic violence funding doubling to AU$680 million ($532.17 million) and AU$354 million ($277.04 million) over four years for health.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)
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