The State Liberal Party in Victoria has promised if they are elected at the upcoming State Election in November, they will provide aged care workers with free public transport.
This free transport commitment extends to nurses, personal care workers, allied health workers, paramedics and other hospital workers.
Victorian Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, announced the plan over the weekend, stating that nurses and aged care workers would be up to $1,800 a year better off if this scheme was implemented.
Mr Guy said that this plan is a real and important commitment by his party to fix ongoing issues in the health and aged care sector.
“Our nurses have given so much for our community over the past three years – this important commitment demonstrates the value we place on them.
“A cheaper, easier commute to work is exactly what our nurses need and deserve.”
This plan would impact more than 260,000 people in Victoria and would provide free public transport not only on metropolitan lines but also V/Line transport (rural) – and this scheme would run through to November 2026.
Over a four-year period, this could save nurses, aged care workers and other frontline workers up to $7,200.
Georgie Crozier, Shadow Minister for Health, said this initiative would go a “long way to easing hip-pocket pressures” for nurses and aged care workers.
“Our plan will make it cheaper and easier for nurses and other healthcare staff to get to and from work, as well as support them when going about their daily lives.”
The State Opposition also said that the scheme would be greatly beneficial for workers in regional communities, as they will have access to free public transport travel for holidays, visiting family and friends, and everyday life.
So far, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has not indicated whether his Party would match the committment, but stated that his Government has already made inroads in assisting the aged care and health workforce.
He said this included the provision of $3,000 bonuses for hospital staff – the first instalment of $1,500 was meant to be delivered yesterday – and a $59 million recruitment drive for student nurses.
This Victorian Opposition scheme would be the first of its kind in Australia, with only one other State providing a similar, but temporary, initiative.
Over the pandemic, South Australia introduced a scheme that provided free public transport to frontline workers.
However, Adelaide Metro announced that since the Major Emergency Declaration was lifted earlier this year, free transport for frontline workers is no longer in place.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) told the ABC that while the idea would be beneficial for workers in metropolitan areas, it won’t provide much benefit to people in rural areas that have more unreliable transport.
“For example, if you work at Monash [Health] in Clayton, which is the biggest employer across the state, the idea that you are going to wait 45 minutes after the end of your shift on the side of the road for a bus to take you home … I don’t think that’s what we want happening,” she told the ABC.
“What we do need is we need free or affordable car parking and access because that is much safer for nurses and midwives and other healthcare workers to get to and from work.”
The only other initiative providing some form of free transport to aged care workers is a specific Federal Government scheme for the surge workforce that is operating in facilities and services that are low in worker numbers.
Workers that are part of a surge workforce assisting in facilities with workforce challenges due to COVID-19 – including outbreaks or isolation requirements – are eligible for this scheme.
The Federal Government is providing travel and accommodation support to these workers, particularly those who have to go interstate or travel to regional areas to assist facilities or services.
Staff in a surge workforce can expect a return flight, up to eight weeks accommodation, and bus or shuttle transfers from the airport to accommodation, or from the accommodation to the aged care home, to be covered by the Government.
However, this travel cost assistance doesn’t extend to other areas, like taxis or public transport, car hire, or excess baggage charges.