Butler returns to ageing portfolio

Mark Butler is Labor’s new spokesman on health and ageing.

Mark Butler, who ushered in the current home care system under former PM Julia Gillard, will become Labor’s new spokesman on ageing.

Mark Butler

Mr Butler takes over from Julie Collins and will be assisted by Clare O’Neil, who has been appointed Shadow Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services.

Announcing his frontbench reshuffle last week, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said with the aged care royal commission set to deliver its report next week aged care has never been more important.

He said Mr Butler, who previously served as Health and Aged Care Minister during the introduction of Labor’s Living Longer Living Better package in 2013,  would do an “outstanding” job.

“It is a pretty serious job during a pandemic and with an Aged Care Royal Commission,” he told reporters. “(Mr Butler) is the authority in this building on ageing”.

Mr Butler is also the only parliamentarian to have written a book on ageing. Advanced Australia, published in 2015, looks at the ageing of the nation’s baby booms and makes the case for a more positive approach to ageing.

In a statement, Mr Butler said he was honoured to accept his new appointment as Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing as the nation grappled with a pandemic and an aged care crisis.

He said the Living Longer Living Better package had focused on better services for dementia and building a home care service that has been severely neglected under the current administration. 
“It’s been two years since the royal commission said the first thing the government needed to do was fix the home care waitlist,”  Mr Butler said.

“Two years on and there are still over 100,000 older Australians waiting for home care for which they’ve been approved.

Julie Collins

“Julie Collins has tirelessly advocated for senior Australians and I intend to do the same.”

Ms Collins, who has doggedly pursued the government over its aged care policy and now takes on agriculture, thanked everyone in the aged care sector for supporting her in her previous role.

“I particularly thank the incredible workers at the heart of our aged care system – the nurses, personal care workers, cleaners and cooks – who deserve so much better looking after some of our most vulnerable Australians,” she said. 

She said Mr Butler and Ms O’Neil were taking on their new roles at a pivotal moment for aged care and she was confident they would be champions for older Australians.

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