Category Archives: Media

Older man talking with health worker at kitchen table with food

Blueprint for better aged care: new Grattan report

Australia needs a new aged care system. Spending an extra $7 billion a year could provide all older Australians with the care and support they need, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Reforming aged care: a practical plan for a rights-based system shows the current system has let down older Australians, with unacceptable waiting times for home care, shocking stories of neglect and abuse exposed by the aged care Royal Commission, and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths among aged care residents.

A new Aged Care Act should create a rights-based system that guarantees care and support for all who need it.

Australia should be divided into 30 regions, each with a ‘system manager’ responsible for individual support plans for older Australians in their area. Each older Australian would have the help of a local ‘assessment officer’ to draw up their support plan, and a local ‘support manager’ to act as their advocate in obtaining necessary services.

Many more Australians would receive care and support in their own homes. Rogue proprietors of residential aged care facilities would be driven out of the system. Aged care homes would have to meet minimum resident-to-carer ratios, and provide nursing supervision 24 hours a day. Carers would be registered, better trained, and better paid.

Residents of aged care homes would contribute to their accommodation costs by paying rent, but a means-test would be applied to ensure people who couldn’t afford the rent would pay less or not at all.

The Grattan model would require the Federal Government to spend 35 per cent more than the current failed system – an extra $7 billion a year – and even more in coming decades as Australia’s population continues to age. But it would also create an extra 70,000 jobs, not just improving care but boosting the economy after the COVID recession.

The new system should be phased in over three years, starting next year with a trial in the two smallest states, South Australia and Tasmania.

But before then, the Federal Government should create a one-off $1 billion national ‘rescue fund’ to force the worst providers of residential care to lift their game or get out of the system.

‘Australians already have universal access to health care via Medicare, and universal access to disability support via the NDIS. It’s time older Australians had universal access to aged care,’ says lead author and Grattan Institute Health Program Director Stephen Duckett.

‘Australians should of ashamed of aspects of the present aged care system. Our report is a blueprint for something we could all be proud of – an aged care system that protects the rights, upholds the dignity, and celebrates the contribution of older Australians,’ Dr Duckett says.

For media enquiries contact Stephen Duckett:
0447 837 741, stephen.duckett@grattaninstitute.edu.au

Energy gas worker in hi-vis turning pipe

Gas will inevitably decline, economically and environmentally: new Grattan report

Far from fuelling the recovery from the COVID recession, natural gas will inevitably decline as an energy source for industry and homes in Australia, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Flame out: the future of natural gas shows that a combination of economics and environmental imperatives imperil the industry.

Australia must reduce emissions over coming decades to meet our international climate change commitments. Gas is a fossil fuel, so the gas sector is no exception.

The east coast has already burned most of its low-cost gas, and will not go back to the good old days of low prices, so gas will become an increasingly expensive energy source.

‘The evidence is clear: over time, gas will decline, economically and environmentally,’ says lead author and Grattan Institute Energy Program Director Tony Wood.

‘Rather than indulging in wishful thinking or living in denial, the Federal Government and the gas industry – and its customers – should start planning now for a future without natural gas, or at least with a dramatically reduced role for natural gas.’

The Prime Minister has talked up a gas-fired recovery for manufacturing, raising expectations of big price reductions. But the report shows that eastern Australia faces inexorably more expensive gas. If the Government tries to swim against this tide by directly intervening in the market, taxpayers will pay the price via big subsidies.

Even if the Government could significantly reduce gas prices, the benefits to manufacturing are overstated. The companies that would benefit most contribute only about 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product, and employ only a little more than 10,000 people. And much of this gas-intensive industry is in Western Australia, which has low gas prices already.

The Government’s best role is to support the development and deployment of the low-emission alternatives that can replace natural gas in manufacturing, such as renewables-based hydrogen and renewables-based electricity.

Nor does gas stack up as a ‘transition fuel’. As Australia’s coal-fired power stations retire over coming decades, it would be more expensive to replace them with gas than to switch to more renewable energy such as wind and solar.

Gas will play an important backstop role in power generation when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, but this does not require large volumes of gas.

In the home, too, Australia must either replace natural gas with low-emissions substitutes such as biomethane or hydrogen, or switch to electricity, for heating and cooking.

It is already clear that households would save money and Australia would reduce emissions if new houses in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, and the ACT were all-electric. The report calls on governments in those places to impose a moratorium on new gas connections.

Large tunnel boring machine on an underground construction site

Mega transport projects mean mega cost blowouts: new Grattan report

Australian governments are committing to a record number of ‘mega’ transport projects, and that exposes taxpayers to mega risks of cost blowouts, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

The rise of megaprojects: counting the costs finds that 10 years ago there was just one transport infrastructure project in Australia worth more than $5 billion. Today there are nine, and costs have already blown out by $24 billion on just six of them.

Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane was costed at $4.4 billion in 2010; it’s now estimated to cost $9.9 billion. Melbourne’s North East Link was costed at $6 billion in 2008; it’s now expected to cost $15.8 billion. The Sydney Metro City & Southwest was costed at $11 billion in 2015; this year the NSW Government announced the latest cost estimate is $15.5 billion.

Even before the megaprojects era, cost overruns were a megaproblem. Over the past two decades, Australian governments spent $34 billion more on transport infrastructure than they first told us they would. Analysis of all projects valued at $20 million or more and built in the past 20 years shows that the actual costs exceeded the promised costs by 21 per cent.

Big projects are particularly risky. More than one third of overruns since 2001 came from just seven big projects.

Projects announced before governments are prepared to formally commit are also particularly risky. About one third of projects are announced prematurely; they account for more than three quarters of the cost overruns.

Australian governments are now fast-tracking transport projects in the quest for an infrastructure-led recovery from the COVID-19 recession. But spending big on transport projects conceived before COVID makes little sense, because the pandemic has pushed population growth over a cliff, and fewer people will commute in future as working from home becomes part of ‘COVID normal’.

‘The danger is that governments are rushing to waste our money on what may turn out to be a herd of white elephants,’ says the report’s lead author, Grattan Institute Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill.

Even before the pandemic, the Prime Minister, federal Treasurer, and state infrastructure ministers were worried that there weren’t enough workers, materials, and machinery for the massive construction workload. When there are already bottlenecks, racing to build projects dreamt up before the pandemic just pushes up prices.

‘Taxpayers would get bigger bang for their buck if politicians steered clear of what they like to call “nation building” and “city shaping” mega projects, and instead spent more on upgrading existing infrastructure and on social infrastructure such as aged care and mental health care,’ Ms Terrill says.

The pandemic should prompt governments to rethink major projects that have been promised or are under construction, particularly those announced without a business case. The report recommends governments continuously disclose to Parliament material changes to expected costs and benefits, as listed companies are required to disclose to the stock exchange. And to avoid ending up here again in future, governments should collect data on and learn lessons from past projects.

‘The key lesson is that megaprojects should be a last, not a first resort,’ Ms Terrill says.

For further enquiries:

Marion Terrill, Transport & Cities Program Director
T. 03 9035 9881 E. marion.terrill@grattan.edu.au

Revamp aged care to stop the horror stories

Australia’s aged care system is failing older Australians and their families and needs to be overhauled, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Rethinking aged care: emphasising the rights of older Australians says the care and support of older Australians must trump the profits of private providers.

The report identifies ageism as part of the problem, and emphasising the rights of older Australians in need of care and support as the start of the solution.

‘The horror stories from the Royal Commission into aged care and from the COVID-19 aged care crisis have to stop,’ says lead author and Grattan Institute Health Program Director Stephen Duckett.

‘More money and different regulation are both necessary, but won’t be enough. Australia needs to fundamentally change the culture of its aged care system.’

Over the past few decades the sector has become a ‘market’. As for-profit providers moved in, residential facilities got bigger. Regulation has not kept pace with the increasingly privatised market. Government focus has been on constraining costs rather than ensuring quality.

The government’s poor commitment to the care and support of older Australians reflects society’s disdainful attitude to the aged.

‘Older Australians are often seen as a burden and no longer valuable or contributing members of society,’ Dr Duckett says.

‘They are pushed out of sight and out of mind.

‘The result is the shameful mess we have today: a top-down, provider-centric aged care system that is under-funded, poorly regulated, and failing older Australians.

‘Merely adding further Band-Aids to a broken system is not enough. We need to start again with a new Act that puts the rights of older Australians at the heart.’

Five key rights-based principles should shape the system:

• Independence, self-fulfilment, and participation in community
• Informed and supported choice and control
• Universal access to reasonable and necessary supports
• Equity and non-discrimination
• Dignity, including dignity in death

This first Grattan report on aged care sets the overarching framework for reform. A second Grattan report to follow will detail how Australia can build a rights-based aged care system so that older Australians can live dignified and meaningful lives.

Read the report

Contact

Stephen Duckett, Health Program Director
‬ T. ‭03 9035 9881 M. ‭0447 837 741 E. stephen.duckett@grattan.edu.au

businessman standing in front of wall of post-it notes

Prioritise policies to boost prosperity

Australian governments would be better at policy reform if they prioritised their agenda better, according to a new Grattan Institute report, Prioritising a government’s agenda.

The failure to prioritise has been identified as one reason for failings of the Rudd Government, the Abbott Government, and the Shorten Opposition.

‘Governments need to steer a middle course between doing good and political reality,’ lead author and former Grattan Institute CEO John Daley says. ‘If a reform both serves the public interest and is wildly popular, then it has usually happened already.’

Political capital, ministerial time, and the bandwidth of the public service to design and implement policy are always scarce, and the public has limited tolerance for change. Governments that are more methodical in prioritising their agenda can use their scarce political capital better.

Yet governments in Australia do not publish sophisticated approaches to prioritisation. They rely too much on the budget process, which has limits as a mechanism for prioritisation. Budget processes tend to lead to too many initiatives at once, underplay reforms that pay off over the longer term, and don’t pay enough attention to the limits of political capital.

Governments should look for the reforms that will make more of a difference while minimising the political cost. This means assessing both the value and feasibility of potential initiatives.

Governments should be more articulate about the breadth of the valuable ends they serve. While rhetoric tends to focus on economic growth, there is little dispute that governments are also trying to improve health, education, public safety, social connection, the environment, the scope for individual choice, and cultural identity.

The biggest stumbling block to prioritisation is not disagreement about what is a valuable end, but how to trade off these ends.

Weak supporting evidence, strong opposition (including from political opponents, interest groups, and the public), and complex implementation all make a reform less feasible.

A disciplined assessment can often identify some reforms as much more valuable than others. And an ordered assessment may flag some reforms as more feasible.

Governments should prioritise a small number of reforms that are both high value and more feasible, and therefore worth the investment of the substantial political capital that is usually needed to get big reforms over the line.

‘This kind of disciplined prioritisation is the key to maximising prosperity – and perhaps even to maximising the chances of re-election,’ Professor Daley says.

‘Our research shows that governments in the first 20 years of this century completed fewer of the important reforms on the slate than in the 1980s and 90s. Better prioritisation is one of the keys to doing more of the reforms that matter.’

Contact

John Daley: 0407 004 231, john.daley@grattaninstitute.edu.au

Woman at home with two children staring out the window

Australia should go for zero COVID-19 cases

Victoria, NSW, and Queensland should aggressively drive COVID-19 cases down to zero as part of an explicit national policy of no active cases in the Australian community, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Go for zero: how Australia can get to zero COVID-19 cases shows that opening up too early, while coronavirus is still in the community, runs the risk of future outbreaks, reimposed lockdowns, renewed economic disruption, and more deaths.

‘Having come this far, we should finish the job,’ says lead author and Grattan Health Program Director Stephen Duckett.

‘COVID is a classic case of short-term pain for long-term gain. Getting cases down to zero, and keeping them there, will be hard work – but it will save lives and enable the economy to recover more quickly.’

The report shows that allowing the virus to run free, as suggested by some commentators and business advocates, would be deadly. About 10 million Australians, including the elderly, the poor, and people who live or work in crowded conditions, are at higher risk from COVID-19.

The NSW strategy of seeking to keep cases down to a manageable level is also dangerous, because the longer the virus is in the community, the greater the risk of breakouts requiring lockdowns to be reimposed to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed. ‘That’s the “yo-yo” strategy,’ Dr Duckett says. ‘The economy could be seized with uncertainty as businesses open, close, open, and close again.’

Instead, NSW, Queensland, and Victoria – the epicentre of Australia’s second wave – should set out to drive community cases down to zero. The report shows that Victoria could get to zero by the end of October, but only if the vast majority of the population adheres to strict social distancing measures.

Just as restrictions were phased in as each wave of the pandemic struck, they should be phased out as case numbers decline. There should be no easing until daily new cases are below 20, then further easing when the numbers fall to five, and again at zero.

Keeping numbers at zero will require effective quarantining of all international arrivals. The states will have to ramp up testing, including random mass testing of higher-risk groups. And contact tracing will have to be faster and more accurate.

But a successful national campaign to get to zero and stay there would enable all restrictions to be eased other than international quarantine, while the quest for a vaccine continues.

‘We should go for zero, because the pay-off will be worth it,’ Dr Duckett says. ‘Our report shows how Australia can get there, and stay there.’

Stephen Duckett : 0447 837 741, stephen.duckett@grattaninstitute.edu.au

Woman working from home with young daughter next to her on play phone

Make childcare cheaper to recharge the economy: Grattan Institute

Childcare should be made cheaper to enable more women to do more paid work and to help lift the economy out of the COVID recession, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Cheaper childcare: A practical plan to boost female workforce participation calls on the Federal Government to spend an extra $5 billion a year on childcare subsidies.

The payoff would be an $11 billion-a-year increase in GDP from the boost to workforce participation – and $150,000 in higher lifetime earnings for the typical Australian mother.

The report recommends raising the childcare subsidy for low-income families from 85 per cent to 95 per cent, gradually tapering for households with income above $68,000. Under this scheme, 60 per cent of families would pay less than $20 per day per child for childcare, and no family would be worse off.

The report identifies a range of policy, cultural, and social factors that conspire to prevent many Australian women from working the paid hours they would prefer.

A combination of tax, welfare settings, and childcare costs means some second-earners take home little or no extra pay for additional hours of work. This ‘workforce disincentive rate’ can be particularly punishing for the fourth and fifth day of work for the primary carer, still generally a woman.

‘We can hardly be surprised that many mothers conclude that working an extra day for no or virtually no take-home pay makes no sense,’ says Grattan Institute CEO and report lead author Danielle Wood.

‘And Australia’s high out-of-pocket childcare costs bite even harder now for families that have lost jobs or hours because of the COVID crisis.’

Australia’s female workforce participation rate is above the OECD average, but Australian women are much more likely to work part-time. Before the COVID crisis, a typical Australian woman with pre-teenage children worked 2.5 days a week.

Women in Australia continue to do most of the unpaid household work, which further constrains their choices about doing more paid work.

Women are quick to embrace flexibility in their working arrangements after they have a child, but men’s work hours and contribution to household duties change very little. Men do more unpaid work in countries with more dedicated parental leave for fathers.

The Federal Government should extend the parental leave scheme to offer six weeks ‘use it or lose it’ leave at minimum wage for each parent, plus 12 weeks they can share between them. This would cost an extra $600 million a year, but would help fathers to spend more time with their children in the critical first year of the child’s life.

‘Cheaper childcare is a win-win – it would boost the economy and give Australian women enhanced life choices,’ says Ms Wood.

‘It should be central to the Government’s plans for lifting Australia out of recession.’

For further enquiries contact: Danielle Wood: 0405 510 763, Danielle.wood@grattaninstitute.edu.au

New Grattan Institute book lays out Australia’s road to COVID-19 recovery

To help Australia recover from the COVID-19 recession, the Federal Government should inject $70 billion to $90 billion in extra economic stimulus, including revamping and extending JobKeeper, according to a new Grattan Institute book.

The Recovery Book: what Australian governments should do now is a policy and strategy blueprint for federal, state, and territory governments, including for hospitals and health care, schools and universities, roads and trains, budgets and energy.

The book urges governments to prioritise ruthlessly. Long term reforms – assuming they’re desirable – such as tax, industrial relations, and skills policy changes should be put on hold while governments tackle a huge agenda of urgent policies over the next six months.

The Federal Government should announce extra economic stimulus – including spending on social housing and shovel-ready maintenance and infrastructure projects – in or before the October Budget, with the goal of getting hundreds of thousands of Australians back to work and dragging unemployment back down to about 5 per cent by the middle of 2022.

JobKeeper should be expanded to include university staff, casual workers, and temporary migrants, and extended beyond September for businesses that are still in strife.

The permanent rate of JobSeeker should be increased by at least $100 a week, and Commonwealth Rent Assistance should be increased by 40 per cent.

The Child Care Subsidy should be raised to 95 per cent of costs for low-income households, to cushion the shock to family budgets as parents start paying for childcare again, and to reduce financial barriers for parents taking on more paid work.

The Recovery Book recommends transport policy reforms to reflect likely changes to patterns of work and commuting in a ‘with-COVID’ world. These include congestion charging to help prevent roads in our capital cities clogging up, higher registration fees for larger cars than for smaller cars, more cycle lanes and paths, and a rethink of major project priorities.

On health, the book calls for governments to refine policies put in place over the past few months: expanding telehealth – telephone and video consultations with GPs and specialists – and using private hospitals better, especially to help clear the elective surgery backlog.

On schools, the book urges the Federal Government to fund a $1 billion, six-month tutoring blitz to help a million disadvantaged students recover learning lost during lockdowns.

The Recovery Book calls for a rapid return of rigorous scrutiny and oversight of government spending and decisions, after parliaments were suspended at the height of the COVID crisis. The Federal Government should establish the promised national integrity commission.

‘This is a massive agenda, almost all needed in the next six months,’ Grattan Institute CEO and lead author Dr John Daley said. ‘Our book maps Australia’s road to recovery from the biggest economic and social shock since World War II. After the recovery has been established, Australian governments will have the resources to focus properly on structural reforms to the economy and the budget.’

For further inquiries on:

Launch a $1b tutoring blitz to help students catch-up after the lockdowns

Australia should launch a $1 billion, six-month tutoring blitz to help 1 million disadvantaged school students recover learning lost during the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

COVID catch-up: helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap calls on governments to send a battalion of 100,000 tutors into schools between now and Christmas to conduct intensive small-group sessions on reading and maths.

The report shows that many disadvantaged students – those from the poorest 25 per cent of families and rural areas – will have fallen further behind their classmates during the COVID-19 school closures.

Even where remote learning was working well for advantaged students, disadvantaged students are likely to have lost a month of learning on average during the six-to-nine weeks of school closures in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT.

About 1 million disadvantaged students should attend tutoring sessions three-to-five times a week for up to three months, in groups of about three, either during regular school hours or before or after school.

Done well, these sessions could boost their learning by five months between now and the end of the year.

The tutors should be drawn from teachers and teacher aides who work part-time, but especially from young university graduates and pre-service teachers, who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 job and income losses.

Most tutors would work about eight hours a week. They could earn up to $6,300 over the six months.

The tutoring blitz would cost about $1 billion, but the benefits to the economy would be much larger. The young tutors would have extra income during the recession, and would be likely to spend it quickly, helping stimulate the economy between now and Christmas. And disadvantaged students who gained extra learning would earn more over their lifetime, boosting the economy in years to come.

The report also recommends governments spend $70 million expanding successful literacy and numeracy programs, especially for students in the early years, and $30 million on trials of ‘targeted teaching’ and extra support for student well-being.

‘Our schools, teachers, and students adapted remarkably well when the COVID-19 crisis forced them to switch almost overnight to remote learning,’ lead author and Grattan Institute Education Fellow Dr Julie Sonnemann said.

‘But this report shows that most students did not learn as much while at home as they would have in their classroom – and disadvantaged students were hardest hit.

‘Our tutoring blitz plan is a win-win-win: the tutors get extra income, the economy gets extra stimulus and, most importantly, our disadvantaged students get the chance for a better life.’

Forget bullet trains and be wary of expensive rail renovations

Australia should dump the decades-old dream of building a bullet train from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra, and we should be wary of expensive promises to upgrade regional rail to ease population pressures on our major capitals and boost struggling regional cities and towns, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Fast train fever: Why renovated rail might work but bullet trains won’t shows that the east-coast bullet train advocated by the federal ALP would be an expensive folly: Australia’s small population and vast distances make it unviable; it would add to greenhouse gas emissions for decades; and governments could help many more commuters by improving public transport in the booming outer suburbs of the capital cites.

East-coast business travellers would be the biggest winners from a multi-billion-dollar bullet train, but taxpayers from Broome to Perth, Darwin to Adelaide, and Launceston to Hobart would have to stump up an average of $10,000 each to make the dream a reality.

‘The global story is stark: good bullet trains are expensive, and bad bullet trains are very expensive,’ says Grattan’s Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill. ‘It’s time we Australians put this idea to bed.’

The report shows that the alternative of renovating rail lines to boost train speeds from capital cities to surrounding regions is less expensive and might be worth doing – but these renovations are unlikely to fulfil all the wishful thinking of their proponents.

The federal and state governments are funding or considering renovations to numerous rail lines, including from Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Wollongong, Melbourne to Geelong, Melbourne to Albury/Wodonga, Melbourne to Traralgon, Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast, and Brisbane to the Gold Coast.

But even if such projects stand up to scrutiny, that doesn’t mean they would solve all the problems people imagine they would: very few city residents would move to the regions; regional cities may actually lose out if their residents can get to the capital more quickly; and many regions have more pressing infrastructure needs than faster trains, including better schools, hospitals, and internet and mobile connections.

More commuters would benefit if governments improved public transport in heavily populated outer suburbs of the capital cities, including Fairfield, Penrith, and Richmond in Sydney, Frankston, Pakenham, and Berwick in Melbourne, and Burpengary, Redcliffe, and Beenleigh in Brisbane.

Often there are better ways to achieve the desired community benefits of faster trains. Introducing congestion charges would be the most effective way to ease pressure on the capital cities’ busiest roads; relaxing restrictive zoning regulation is the most direct way governments can make housing cheaper; and fixing road bottle-necks and putting on extra bus services would make it easier for people to move around their city.

‘Australians have always had a romantic attachment to the idea of faster trains,’ Ms Terrill says. ‘But in light of the COVID crisis, it’s never been more important for our politicians to spend our money wisely, rather than pander to unrealistic dreams.’

For further enquiries: Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director
T. 03 9035 9881‬ E. marion.terrill@grattanintstitute.edu.au
W. www.grattan.edu.au