Mark Butler has used his first interview as Australia's new health minister to emphasise the government's focus on aged care and strengthening Medicare.
"I think that the two key priorities that Anthony Albanese the Prime Minister has outlaid for our government is, first of all, making it easier to see a doctor and strengthening Medicare; and secondly, as your introduction indicated, fixing the aged-care crisis," he told Nine's Today show.
"I mean, there is no truer test of a decent society than how we support older Australians, those who worked hard for decades and paid their taxes, raised their kids, and built this society that we're so lucky to live in. And I think Australians have frankly been devastated to see the state of our aged care system, not only during the COVID pandemic but before that.
"The Royal Commission titled their interim report 'Neglect' and that said everything we needed to know as a government about what we need to do to improve the aged care sector. We will be focusing very heavily on the workforce - getting nurses back into nursing homes, making sure that carers have more time care and improving the wages of some of the most underpaid people in the community."
Mr Butler said he had already initiated discussions with his department about improving COVID-19 preparedness in aged care, including personal protective equipment and vaccinations, and made a joint submission to the Fair Work Commission with the aged care minister Anika Wells seeking leave to become part of the proceeding.
Minister Butler also said the government will focus on making it easier to see a doctor. "So we are focused on making it easier to get to see a doctor, to make it cheaper to see a doctor and to make sure particularly that those things that happen when your kid falls off a skateboard, do not end up in an emergency department but instead end up in an urgent care service that a GP is able to provide in the community."