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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Labor and coalition switch focus to wooing seniors’ vote

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Senior Australians are being courted by the major parties as each side commits to extra health care benefits.

But the peak body representing older Australians wants more ambitious policies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised an extra 50,000 older Australians will have access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if the Liberal-National coalition is re-elected by increasing the income test threshold.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese immediately matched the commitment on Monday.

At the commonwealth level, all cardholders will be eligible for cheaper medications and health care and may also be entitled to state, territory and local government savings.

Labor would always support good policy ideas, Albanese said, and the policy would help relieve cost of living pressures.

Albanese also ruled out increases to superannuation taxes or policy changes for self-funded retirees. 

“We have no intentions of making any super changes … we’re making all of our policies clear, we’re putting them out there for all to see,” he told reporters in Brisbane. 

But Council on the Ageing chief Ian Yates said both parties must consider a review of the aged pension, private rental market assistance for pensioners and a seniors’ dental and oral health plan.

“Oral health for older Australians is a real challenge and has all sorts of implications for their physical and mental health,” he told ABC News.

“It was taken by Labor to the last election. We would like to see both parties commit to introducing a seniors’ dental and oral health plan.”

Labor and the coalition are also promising an expansion of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

The coalition has committed to cutting the cost of medications by $10, while Labor is proposing a $12.50 cut.  

Yet Labor may have to work harder to secure the older vote, as the most recent Roy Morgan poll shows the coalition ahead of the ALP 57-43 on a two-party basis among the 65 and older bracket.

Both parties are treading lightly around poll results, as Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare warned they were wrong about the 2019 election. 

“We need to win seats, not polls, we need to win people’s votes all across the country and we’re going to,” he told ABC Radio National. 

But coalition campaign spokeswoman Anne Ruston said the election was still a choice between the status quo and an opposition with no economic plan. 

She claimed key Labor policies such as extending the PBS and manufacturing opportunities copied the Liberal approach. 

The opposition is leading the Liberal-National coalition by 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, a Newspoll published in The Australian on Monday showed.

If realised, the coalition could lose 10 seats at the May 21 election.

Asked if it was time for a change of government, the Newspoll of 1538 voters taken between April 27 and 30 found 56 per cent agreed and 44 per cent said the coalition should be returned.

But 45 per cent of respondents believe Morrison would make the better prime minister, against 39 per cent for Albanese.

A Resolve poll of 1408 voters published in Nine newspapers on Monday closely mirrored the Newspoll result, finding Labor leading on a two-party basis at 54-46.

Morrison was ahead on the preferred prime minister measure at 39 per cent to 33 per cent.

Morrison started Monday in western Sydney where he attended Eid prayers in the marginal Parramatta seat with Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd attended the same prayers with Labor’s candidate Andrew Charlton. 

Albanese is attending the traditional Labour Day march in Brisbane.


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