To understand the significance of the appointment of Butler as Shadow Minister for Ageing, we need to understand two other issues:
- There has been a deep divide around the belief and implementation of free markets that has split both major political parties into factions since the late 1970s. This was exemplified by differences in policy between Fraser and Howard, Hawke and Keating, Beazley/Rudd and Gillard, and Turnbull sandwiched between Abbott/Morrison. The second of each paired group followed free market policies more aggressively.
- These differences have had a profound influence on aged care policy. On the one hand there are those who see aged care as a market conforming to neoliberal free market and management principles. On the other are those who see aged care as a community service to which the market contributes. The market is required to adopt community values and meet their expectations.
Hawke's attempts to reform aged care during the 1980s were strongly resisted by vested interests and largely abandoned by Keating in the 1990s. In 1997, when Beazley was Labor leader, Senator Gibbs was able to mount a savage and prophetic attack on the Howard government's 1997 free-market aged care policies, predicting that they would fail and explaining why.