Aug 12, 2020








SUBJECTS: University of Western Sydney; importance of the health workforce of the future; aged care crisis; early access to superannuation scheme; importance of health workforce during coronavirus pandemic.


PROFESSOR BARNEY GLOVER, VICE-CHANCELLOR OF WESTERN SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: Good morning and welcome, everyone. Particularly, I welcome all the students in the background. Thank you so much for your efforts today, it is greatly appreciated. I am Professor Barney Glover, the Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University. I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land of which we are meeting here in Rydalmere, the people of the Darug Nation, to acknowledge their elders past and present. Welcome everyone here to our Rydalmere campus of the Western Sydney University. A particular welcome to our special guests here today. I am very pleased that the Honourable Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Opposition, is with us, and Julie Owens MP, who is our local member for Parramatta. So, it is great to have both Anthony and Julie with us today.


We’re here during a very difficult time for everyone in the community. It’s true here at Western Sydney University, as it is right through the communities of Western Sydney and beyond, that we’re moving through such difficult and challenging times with this pandemic and COVID. But I’m very, very proud, though, of the great work that we’re doing as a university for the workforce, the health workforce of the future. And you’re seeing some of that behind me today. The nurses and the midwives of the future. We’re training them. We have one of the largest nursing programs in Australia, over 5,700 nursing students. And across all of the allied health and medical fields we have over 12,500 students who are studying and involved in clinical places and continuing to be involved in clinical places right through this very difficult COVID period. So, the university, and all universities, are playing such a crucial role in the jobs of the future, and to ensure that in 2021 and 2022, they will be graduating. The nurses, the midwives, the allied health professionals and the doctors that can contribute so much to the health and well-being of our communities well into the future.


It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to welcome the Opposition Leader here today to say a few words and to see firsthand the facilities that we have on this campus. At Western Sydney University, we are beginning to see return to campus for our students. It’s very slow, very gradual. We’ve been doing a huge amount of teaching from home, teaching online, working from home. Our students have done an extraordinary job in studying from home during first semester and now into second semester. So, these are very, very challenging times. And I want to mention, it’s not just the teaching and the research that continues despite these challenges. The wonderful staff from our School of Nursing and Midwifery that have volunteered to participate in COVID-19 testing is just one example of what we’re doing to help our community. And on this campus here, in Rydalmere, we have a COVID-19 testing centre for the Western Sydney LHD. So, we’re doing all we can to support our community. So, thank you very much for coming. It’s wonderful to have the Leader of the Opposition on campus today to see a little of what we’re doing to support the community in this very difficult time. But I’ll hand over to Julie to say a few words.


JULIE OWENS, MEMBER FOR PARRAMATTA: Thanks, Barney. Representing Parramatta, I’ve watched this university grow for many, many years. And I couldn’t be prouder of it. And here we are standing in the Western Sydney University School of Nursing and Midwifery at a time when the whole world can see how essential and tough the profession of nursing is. And yet here we have wonderful young people training to do that with incredible skilled instructors and extraordinary equipment at our university in Western Sydney. So, I couldn’t be prouder to invite Anthony Albanese here to see firsthand how important this place is for the future of our health profession. Anthony?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Julie. And thanks very much to Barney for the welcome here at the University of Western Sydney. I’m very proud to be here. One of my first political campaigns way back in the mid 1980s was to lobby the New South Wales Labor Government and the Federal Labor Government to establish the University of Western Sydney. And since then, we’ve seen campuses not just here but in Parramatta, the Hawkesbury, Penrith and an amazing new campus about spring-up in Bankstown, providing opportunity for people in Western Sydney to gain access to the highest level of tertiary education. And here with the School of Nursing and Midwifery, we have the fourth ranked Nursing and Midwifery school in the world. In the world. This is world’s best practice here that we have seen today. And the University of Western Sydney is worthy of support. And it’s something that we should be proud of as a nation. The fact that we provide such a high-level standard of education and training for what is, without doubt, we have been reminded during this pandemic, there is no more honourable or important profession than nursing. And I admire the young men and women and others and not so young who are going through the school. And we’ve had an opportunity to see firsthand what they do today. We also have been reminded in recent times of just how important their role is.


My heart goes out to the families who have loved ones in aged care at the moment. What they want is for their parents, their grandparents, their uncles and aunties to be treated with dignity. What they want is to have confidence that they can be looked after. And I say to the Federal Government, that they need to get their act together and put in place a proper national plan so that people can have that confidence. Because in recent days, what has emerged from the Aged Care Royal Commission is of great concern to all Australians. And we need to do much better. Older Australians have built this country. We need to treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And these young people who we’ve had the opportunity to meet today are certainly, regardless of which profession of nursing and midwifery that they go into, they’re passionate about learning. And they’re passionate about making a difference. And it’s good that young Sophie over here, the model that they’re trying out on Sophie and others, Adam, Sophie, we want them to be able to get that experience here as well as experience on the ground. And the welcome here has been quite extraordinary. I want to introduce you to Sawagata who is one of the young people here, a Western Sydney local, getting access to this first-class education and training.


SAWAGATA DAS, NURSING STUDENT OF WESTERN SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: Hello everyone, I’m Sawagata. I am a third-year nursing student of Western Sydney University. I’m very glad here that I’m able to host Anthony Albanese and Julie Owens today to share our study experiences and thoughts about our health sector. As the Vice Chancellor said, our university has kept up with the current COVID situation very well and I feel very safe as a student to study here. And I can’t wait to start my journey as a registered nurse soon. Thank you, everyone. Thank you.


ALBANESE: Thank you very much. And I’m sure you will have a very successful career. And one of the things that the students and the educators, it must be said today, is how proud they are of making a difference, literally, in the most practical way possible to people’s lives. On that note, happy to take questions, but particularly on this issue or health issues first, if we can have them.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports that people in aged care in Victoria (inaudible)?


ALBANESE: Look, all of the reports about aged care are of real concern. I think people don’t want to hear bickering between different levels of government. What they want is to have confidence that older Australians are being looked after. And there is clearly an absolute need for the Federal Government to have a plan in place. It’s extraordinary that after Newmarch a plan wasn’t put in place. Because the bells were ringing loud and clear. But the Federal Government wasn’t listening. And what we need to do is to make sure, in terms of aged care, that appropriate plans are put in place at a national level, that we have best practice across the nation. Because we know that older people are particularly vulnerable during this pandemic.


JOURNALIST: Do you think residents at a residence with COVID-19 should be taken to hospital or stay at the aged care facility?


ALBANESE: I think what we need to do is to make sure that we follow the best possible medical advice. Now, that’s not a decision for politicians. What politicians have a responsibility to do is to make sure that they facilitate that national plan being put in place, and that it’s carried out throughout the nation and that it filters down and we make sure that is in place.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the early access superannuation scheme is a target (inaudible)?


ALBANESE: Look, we have expressed concern since the time that the Federal Government chose to go down this track. Superannuation should be about people’s retirement savings. What we’ve seen is a system established by the Commonwealth Government that has opened itself up to fraud, where we now know there have been no checks and balances put in place to ensure that applicants are actually eligible to withdraw their funding. And we’ve seen so many Australians, particularly young Australians, now without superannuation balances at all because all of the money has been withdrawn. This will hurt Australians when they retire, but it will also hurt the national economy because superannuation is there to be invested in infrastructure and to be a ballast for our national economy.


JOURNALIST: What about reports that a property developer and a school have tried to exploit the program by encouraging people to spend money from their super?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ve seen countless examples of the abuse of the superannuation scheme that was established by the Federal Government without any proper checks and balances in place. The fact that we’ve had such a large withdrawal of funds by thousands of Australians is of real concern, let alone the fraud that has occurred as a result of the Commonwealth Government just dismissing it. This is an example of the Commonwealth Government putting its ideology first. A Commonwealth Government and a Coalition that doesn’t support superannuation and never did. And they have used this opportunity to undermine our superannuation system that was there to pay for people’s retirement and to give them dignity in retirement but was also there to provide a ballast for our national economy. Any further questions? Thank you.