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Aged care discussion was animated and fiery during second leaders debate

Last night's second leadership debate saw current Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese lock heads over aged care issues, including nurses, future fixes for the sector, and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

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The second Leaders Debate saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese clash heads over aged care. [Source: 60 Minutes]

The Great Debate was hosted on Channel 9's 60 minutes program, moderated by reporter Sarah Abo.

The questions were asked by a journalist panel consisting of Chris Uhlmann (Political Editor for Nine News), Deb Knight (Radio Presenter on 2GB and Host of A Current Affair) and David Crowe (Chief Political Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age).

Viewers of the hour-long debate were able to vote for who they thought won, with a total of 30,000 people putting in their vote.

At the end of The Great Debate, the final poll found that the prospective leaders were tied, 50/50, as winners of the second debate.

During the opening remarks, PM Morrison focused on being able to deliver a strong economy and encouraged voters to stay the course with his party.

Whereas Mr Albanese said aged care was in crisis and needed to be fixed, that older Australians deserve dignity and respect in their later years, and that Labor has a plan to deliver what’s needed.

During the debate, the topic of aged care was raised by Mr Crowe, who asked Mr Albanese what would happen if not enough nurses could be found for aged care facilities - in relation to a key policy commitment from the Labor Party to have 24/7 nursing in every facility within the year.

Mr Albanese reiterated that the Royal Commission made it clear that nurses need to be available at all times in nursing homes, including many other important recommendations to fix aged care.

"[The Royal Commission] made clear recommendations of a nurse in every nursing home, of 215 minutes of care, of better food and nutrition, of making sure aged care workers get better pay, and more transparency and accountability," says Mr Albanese.

"And that is the basis of what we will take forward. Now with regard to aged care nurses, the majority of nurses in the aged care sector right now are working part-time. So one of the things we can do is to make sure they get more hours and more contribution. And we have worked with the [Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation] on this policy."

Mr Albanese continued, saying that a Labor Government will deliver on this policy and it is “a shame” that so many nurses and aged care workers have left the sector, putting immense pressure on the remaining workforce.

Following this, Mr Crowe asked PM Morrison why voters should trust the current Coalition to deliver appropriate aged care reform, stating that they haven't made big changes to the sector prior to the last couple of years.

PM Morrison says the Royal Commission was needed to look into the problem in aged care, and not a couple of "glib papers here and there".

"It occurred over 30 years, and that is exactly what the Royal Commission has said, and that includes over the last nine years, under the previous Labor government, the previous Liberal Government before that and the Labor Government before that," says PM Morrison.

"The problems in aged care are very difficult, and we all know what the problems are.

"The solutions are very difficult. And so when it comes to 24/7 nurses, our plan [is to have that by] October 2024, and to get to 16 hours out of 24 hours later this year. We are investing $300 million to ensure we are building up the nursing workforce."

PM Morrison was adamant that voters could trust him to make the necessary changes to aged care, stating that he was the "one that blew the whistle" to have the Royal Commission. This comment was met with derision from Mr Albanese.

In regards to home care, PM Morrison stated that when the current Government came into power there were 60,000 Home Care Package places, but now there are 225,000 and another 50,000 on the way.

At the end of the debate, aged care was mentioned in Mr Albanese's closing statement and was noticeably absent from PM Morrison's closing remarks.

The third and final leadership debate before the Federal Election will be held on 11 May and hosted by the Seven Network.

To get regular coverage of the future of aged care in the lead up to the Federal Election, subscribe to the Talking Aged Care newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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