Jun 17, 2020

Richard Colbeck Denies That He Said Aged Care Bonuses Would Be Tax-Free


Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck denies that he promised that the $235 million payments to aged care workers would not be taxed during Question Time in parliament on Monday.

During a heated exchange, Labor Senator Jess Walsh asked Mr. Colbeck if he stood by his previous statement in which he declared that the bonus would mean “a payment of up to $800 after tax per quarter – paid for two quarters – for direct care workers.”

Despite the wording of that statement, Mr. Colbeck said “we didn’t say that the bonuses would be tax-free, because they’re not, and that’s not how these sorts of income bonuses work.”

“We said ‘up to $800’ – and ‘up to $600’ – each quarter. Sixteen hundred dollars additional income to workers in residential aged care is a significant amount of money.”

“We never said at any point in time that these support bonuses would be tax-free. That was never said.”

He also claimed that the decision to tax these payments was a “decision of government,” and he would not reveal when that decision was made.

News of the taxing of the aged care worker retention bonus was lambasted by hardworking aged care staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and aged care peak bodies alike.

Aged Community Services Australia (ACSA) condemned the perceived change by the government last week, claiming that they had “backtracked” on a financial commitment it made to aged care workers at the height of the pandemic.

ACSA CEO, Patricia Sparrow, said, “This has been simply mean-spirited and misleading. Workers were led to believe the payments would be more generous.

“The government has shortchanged some of the nation’s hardest working people on some of the lowest wages.

“Everyone knows aged care is the frontline of the pandemic now, and our workers deserve the best possible support,” Ms Sparrow said.

Numerous questions have been raised regarding the bonus in recent times, as other valued aged care staff including laundry workers, cleaners, cooks, drivers, and reception staff, were made exempt from the payment, despite shouldering the same risks as other members of staff.

The Australian aged care workforce is largely comprised of part-time staff, meaning that pro-rata based payments would result in many aged care workers not receiving the full $800 or $600.

Claims have also been made that these exemptions have become a source of division amongst staff working in aged care facilities.

The government expects the payments to be made in July and September, with the September bonus only applying to staff employed as of 31 August 2020.


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