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Australia news LIVE: Government defends cash bonuses for aged care staff; nation’s total COVID-19 cases continue to grow

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Key posts

  • Cash bonuses for aged care workers as Coalition faces poll anger
  • Watchdog finds Victoria has nation’s unhealthiest hospital system
  • Presumed Liberal candidate for Warringah quits amid state branch turmoil
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Cash bonuses for aged care workers as Coalition faces poll anger

More than 200,000 workers in aged care services will receive a cash bonus within weeks in a move from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to address community anger about soaring virus infections and lift the government into a stronger position ahead of the election due by May.

Mr Morrison will promise up to $400 in a wage top-up to aged care workers this month and the same amount again in early May in a scheme timed to bolster support as senior cabinet ministers admit voters are sending them a message in a savage swing against the Coalition in published opinion polls.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce payments to aged care workers and extra money for research funding.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The federal payment comes two days after Labor leader Anthony Albanese called for a pay rise for aged care staff and tougher regulation so every nursing home had a nurse, intensifying a political clash when 1519 people have died in Australia with or from the coronavirus so far this year.

Mr Morrison will outline the new measures in a speech to the National Press Club that will also promise $2.2 billion in research funding for local industry while acknowledging the frustration in the community over surging infections, a shortage of test kits and an economic hit to employers.

Read the full story here.

Watchdog finds Victoria has nation’s unhealthiest hospital system

Victoria spends less money per person running public hospitals than any other state in the country, with fewer beds, fewer staff and longer wait times in emergency departments.

A snapshot by Australia’s productivity watchdog paints a sobering picture of the performance of Victoria’s hospitals, with the state lagging the nation across a range of measures even before the pandemic pushed the health system to the brink.

Victoria’s hospital performance standards are under pressure, even more so under the pressure of COVID.Credit:Justin McManus

The Productivity Commission’s annual Report on Government Services shows Victorian public hospitals received the equivalent of $2687 per person in recurrent funding in 2019-20, compared with a national average of $2971 per person.

No other state offered up less funding per capita, with hospitals getting the equivalent of $2887 in NSW, $3094 in Queensland, $3366 in Western Australia, $2730 in South Australia and $3294 in Tasmania.

More on the findings here.

Presumed Liberal candidate for Warringah quits amid state branch turmoil

The presumed Liberal candidate in Tony Abbott’s former seat of Warringah has pulled out of the preselection process amid turmoil in the party’s NSW branch over its failure to lock in contenders ahead of the federal election.

Barrister Jane Buncle, who had been courting preselection in the northern beaches seat since the last election, withdrew her nomination last night, four Liberal Party officials confirmed.

Independent MP Zali Steggall, left, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer, Christopher Pearce

It was not immediately clear why Ms Buncle withdrew her nomination and she did not respond to inquiries on Monday night. However, party sources suggested she was unhappy about the failure to expedite the preselection process and therefore give her time in the field to be competitive against independent MP Zali Steggall, who holds the seat on a 7.2 per cent margin.

It comes as the state executive rejected a motion that would have used special powers to endorse sitting MPs and protect three Morrison government members – Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, Environment Minister Sussan Ley and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman – who are under threat from preselection challenges.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.

I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of the day’s biggest stories as they unfold.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • Labor has criticised the Morrison government’s cash bonus plan for aged care workers. Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says workers need a long term, sustainable solution and not the equivalent of political “panic buying”. Yesterday, it was revealed the federal government plans to provide the first $400 wage top-up to aged care workers as soon as this month. It comes after a string of opinion polls suggesting Labor is likely to win the next election (due by May this year).
  • In NSW, the presumed Liberal candidate for Tony Abbott’s former seat of Warringah has pulled out of the preselection process. Independent MP Zali Steggall, who campaigned strongly on climate change at the last election when she ousted the former prime minister, currently holds the seat on a 7.2 per cent margin. Meanwhile, NSW recorded 13,026 cases of COVID-19 and 27 deaths.
  • Australia’s productivity watchdog has found that Victoria spends less money running public hospitals per person than any other state in the country. The state yesterday reported 10,053 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths.
  • Queensland authorities say COVID-19 hospitalisations appear to be declining. The state yesterday reported 7462 known coronavirus cases and three deaths.
  • And in international news, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised after an investigation into lockdown parties attended by politicians and political staffers found serious breaches of coronavirus rules. However, he has again refused calls to resign from the Labour opposition as well as some members of his own Conservative Party.
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