We choose fairness not fear

The federal election result is a setback for the union movement but the issues and problems we have highlighted in aged care, public health and with workers’ rights are not going to just magically disappear.

There is no sugarcoating it – the federal election result was a blow for the union movement. As a movement we campaigned on issues relevant to our members. Those issues required a change only offered by progressive political parties and in the end the Australian electorate chose not to change.

Although it was disheartening we must be clear – the federal election outcome was not a referendum on our issues.  Significant parts of the community listened to fear and chose tax cuts instead of fairness for all.

There is an important lesson for us in the outcome: it will require a lot more work to turn around 40 years of inequality and trickle down economics. The changes we need will not be achieved in one election cycle.

During the federal election campaign, not enough union members believed things had become bad enough to change the government or they didn’t believe that it could be changed. This means our work must continue.

We have to continue because there is no choice. Too many Australians – young and old – depend on us for their health and welfare and it is our duty to advocate for them, to stand up for them and to fight for them.

Nowhere is that clearer than in aged care. In this month’s Lamp we report on the hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care. There are the findings of the ANMF National survey and another report into aged care conducted by the NSWNMA. There is a damning analysis by a prominent, well-respected specialist in geriatric medicine.

All these accounts reinforce what we have been saying publicly for some time: aged care is in a severe crisis. It has been in crisis for over a decade and things are getting progressively worse. It is a crisis that cannot just be wished away. Fixing the crisis requires action by a government that cares about the elderly as much as we do.

We have to salute and support the NSWNMA members who fronted up to the Commission and gave personal testimonies from the frontline about the dire state of the sector. It tool real courage and it is obvious from the comments of the Commissioner that they made a difference. He was effusive in his praise of these brave nurses and their constructive contribution.

We are building support for better aged care

While the federal election was an opportunity to get our perspective out to the community it never defined our aged care campaign. It is much bigger than that.

Irrespective of the election result tens of thousands of people are more aware of the need for better staffing in aged care. Our campaign led to a royal commission, an admission from the government of non-compliance and failures in the aged care sector and the attention of the media and a country that is ready to support real change.

That is a solid base from which to continue our crusade for a better deal for our elderly.

The other issues we have campaigned on aren’t going away either. Wages stagnation remains a serious issue for our economy and as an obstacle to fairness in Australia.

The climate change emergency intensifies with each day without action and our health system remains woefully unprepared without a health and climate change strategy.

The public health system remains underfunded, understaffed and under resourced.

None of these issues are going away and neither are we. Although the outcome in the election was not what we wanted our strength and capacity as a union has grown for being in the fight.

And we are going to use that increased strength and capacity to continue the fight: for our members, for our patients, for the elderly, for public health, for aged care.

That is what we are. That is what we do.