Sep 2, 2020

ANTHONY ALBANESE, KRISTINA KENEALLY & ANDREW GILES – TRANSCRIPT – VIRTUAL PRESS CONFERENCE – WEDNESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER

 

SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES

ANDREW GILES MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
MEMBER FOR SCULLIN

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
VIRTUAL PRESS CONFERENCE
VIA ZOOM – VISION CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE
WEDNESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020

 

SUBJECTS: Aged care, COVID-19 and culturally and linguistically diverse communities; Scott Morrison’s failures to address COVID-19 in aged care; Labor’s eight-point plan for aged care; a need for jobs; Elizabeth shares her mum’s aged care COVID story; CALD communications; Tony Abbott.

 

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good morning, everyone. And thank you all for joining us for our virtual press conference. It’s wonderful to have you all here. And as we start, I’d begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we all meet, here in Canberra where I am along with our leader, the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, and the Minister, the Shadow Minister Assisting on Immigration and Citizenship and the Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, Andrew Giles. We are here on the land of the Ngunnawal people. I’d also like to acknowledge that this is a very special one, that we are joined by the leader of the Labor Party. You know, in my view, he’s also very important as a South Sydney Rabbitohs fan, but he of course, has been leading Labor’s efforts to hold this government to account particularly around age care, which is a matter we’re going to discuss today. Just before we get to the housekeeping just before we get to the conference itself, I’d like to go through a few housekeeping matters. Some of you will have known these already, but those who joined us for the first time. Thank you to those who submitted questions when they registered for this conference. And we will come to those shortly. You can also ask questions via the Q&A function. And we’ll try to get to as many of those as possible. And the transcript of this press conference will be distributed afterwards. I’m now going to hand over to Andrew Giles, to say a few words.

 

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Thanks, Kristina, and welcome everyone, particularly those who might be joining us for the first time for one of these press conferences. As you may hear, we’re all in Parliament House at the moment so you can probably hear the division bell, so I apologise for that. I’d like to join Kristina and acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we gather and pay my respects to Elder’s past, present and emerging.

 

As, someone, who is not only Labor’s multicultural spokesperson, but a Melburnian, I’d like to particularly acknowledge the role that you’ve all played in keeping people connected through what’s been a tremendously challenging time. Our conversation today will be focused principally on aged care. But I think we’ve seen through the pandemic, the things in our society that work, and the things that don’t work, and the critical importance of making sure that everyone is always connected. In a very large part, in a multicultural society like ours, the fact that people have been able to maintain those connections to family, friends, and important public health information has been due to the work that you do. So, I wanted to acknowledge that before we move into the substantive conversation we’re going to have today and say thank you to all of you for the work that you’ve done. We all look forward to continuing that. And I’m particularly pleased on that note to be able to hand over to my friend, Australia’s next Prime Minister and the leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese.

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks. Thanks very much, Andrew. And thanks, Kristina, I join with you in acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to the elders past and present. Look, it’s terrific to join with you. I, of course, have a long history of engagement with many of you. My own electorate of Grayndler in the Inner West of Sydney, of course, has over 40% speak a language other than English at home. And many of the ethnic media organisations are based there, whether it be La Fiamma in Leichhardt, Greek Radio in Hurlstone Park and various other outlets as well and I’m very proud to represent a multicultural community. I’m also proud that at the next election, there will be an opportunity to have someone running for the top job in the land whose name is not Smith or Jones. That’s unusual. And I’m, I’m very pleased to be able to be in this position and very proud of the fact that that my heritage is of course, half Italian and half Irish. A great blend. There’s no need for you to guess what religion I come. I come from, with that sort of that sort of background. But our multicultural communities, are one of the things that make Australia special and the fact that people have come to Australia for opportunities not just for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren. And many of those who came here, are those who are impacted by the age care crisis that we’re seeing, I think the interim Royal Commission, the interim report at the Royal Commission, said it all with the title, neglect. In one word, they summed up some of the issues. And I know from my time as a Shadow Minister for Aged Care, that as well as a local member involved in those issues, that for many people, of course, as they go into their later years, they return to the language of their birth, and they lose their second language. And so that’s why it’s particularly important, the challenge of looking after multicultural communities when it comes to aged care. There’s been a campaign in my electorate for a Portuguese aged care specific facility for a long period of time. As well as the Greek, and Italian aged care facilities that are there in, in my electorate. So, I might leave it there because this is an opportunity to engage and to have dialogue. And I look forward to it.

 

KENEALLY: Thank you Anthony, and we will go to that we I just will flag we are hoping to (inaudible) another (inaudible) who might speak more about aged care. A constituent, who in Melbourne who is actually had a story about her mother, a Greek migrant to Australia, but we are just got some technical challenges getting her connected right now, but I flagged that in case we are able to get her connected, she was very keen to share her story. But Anthony, we might go to some of the questions. And the first one is, um, submitted from SBS radio to you, and it says what can the Labor Party do to regain the initiative after the pandemic has shifted the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a coalition government with considerably more media exposure in the last six months, and what new policies will be announced in the next few weeks or months?

 

ALBANESE: Well, the pandemic has, of course been a challenge for the opposition, not just federally, but state and territory wise as well. It’s natural during a pandemic that we’ve had the Prime Minister along with the Chief Medical Officer holding press conferences that are broadcast live across not just public broadcasters, but the private media as well. We have been determined to ensure that we looked after the national interest during this period though, we’ve been constructive. So, again, this week, labor has voted for the extension of JobKeeper and JobSeeker. We’ve voted for all, of the packages that have gone through in terms of support through the Parliament. And often the media just report where there’s conflict. So that has meant that, we haven’t got as much exposure as the government even though they’ve been joint initiatives. But we have been determined not to worry about that. We’ve been determined to worry about the national interest in protecting people. And we’ve continued to raise issues of people being left behind, whether they be people who are excluded from JobKeeper. And then there are many people in the art sector, transport workers for dnata, people who worked for universities, casual workers, and particularly women and young people have been impacted by the pandemic. And many of the people in the most insecure work were the first people who were put off and weren’t able to receive support. So, we’ve been very concerned about that. And today, when in a short period of time, we will officially be in recession. We’ve also continued to raise the 1 million Australian who are unemployed, the 400,000, who it’s predicted to lose their jobs between now and Christmas, and we want to make sure that the Government gets called out where they’ve made mistakes, be it aged care, be it leaving people out of support, the early withdrawal of support. There’ll be a whole lot of people who don’t follow the news, wonder why all of a sudden, the cheques they have received is about to go down, whether it’s JobSeeker or JobKeeper, and at a time when there is less government support, there’s more need for it than ever before. So we think that the government actions will mean that the recession is deeper and lasts longer than there needs to be. We think also on issues like superannuation, we’ve seen substantial fraud, we’ve seen people, 600,000 people, have their superannuation accounts for retirement savings reduced to zero. And we think that’s bad policy. Why have they had to take the money out? Because they’ve needed it, because they haven’t got the support that they need.
So we will continue to be constructive. We’ll continue to put forward practical ideas as we have with our eight point aged care plan, that I advanced at the National Press Club last week. But we believe, very firmly as well, that the big issue that will emerge arising in the coming months will be a jobs plan and the fact that the government doesn’t really have a plan for jobs. And that is of great concern to us.

 

KENEALLY: Anthony, that’s a good segue into the next question, in fact, which is from the South Asia Times, who’ve asked you what are the essential steps needed to revive the Australian economy in the post pandemic period?

 

ALBANESE: We need a plan for job creation. And that can be across a range of traditional areas, but also new areas. The pandemic has identified as someone said to me at one of the forums, a pandemic is like an X-ray, it shows us what’s broken. And there are a range of things that are broken. The fact that we have issues, even if there is a vaccine, do we have enough vials? Are we able to produce them here in Australia? A whole range of areas where we’ve been shown to be vulnerable, things that should be produced here, there was an issue with ventilators, for example. So we need to look at what areas of manufacturing are required and how government can support the private sector to undertake work there. There’s also going to be direct public investment required in areas such as infrastructure bring forwards, both in terms of transport infrastructure, in the traditional way that it’s seen, but in other areas as well, such as social housing. We have a great need that’s on the waiting list for public housing in this country are enormous, people just can’t get in.

 

Now, during the pandemic, we put homeless people up in hotels because there wasn’t housing options available. We think that direct job creation to public housing expansion would as well of course create an asset at the end and that’s why it would be valuable. Other areas as well, we had the New South Wales premier last week say that New South Wales wasn’t very good at making trains or public transport infrastructure. It’s absurd that that’s the case and regional centres like Maryborough in Queensland, Newcastle historically, and Ballarat in Victoria, in Western Australia the WA Government making sure that they make things here is really important for those communities. When you visit Melbourne and see made in Victoria on the trams, on the side. People are proud of that. So we need to have a concerted job creation programme, which we’re not seeing from this government at this point in time.

 

KENEALLY: Yeah. Anthony, I couldn’t agree more and I you might expect me to say that under a Keneally Labor government trains were made in Newcastle. We’re getting Elizabeth connected here. Elizabeth, how are you? Are you able to hear me? She’s connecting to audio. Elizabeth, welcome.

 

ELIZABETH: I am and I’m so sorry guys. I don’t know. I was just on a zoom meeting before this and everything was fine.

 

KENEALLY: That’s perfectly fine. It’s absolutely terrific to have you join us. You’re here of course, with the leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese.

 

ALBANESE: Hi Elizabeth.

 

KENEALLY: And Andrew Giles, who is our Shadow Minister Assisting on Immigration and Citizenship and for Multiculturalism. Elizabeth, I want to thank you very much for your generosity in sharing your mother’s Serafina story, as well as your generosity for being here today. And we do want to talk about how challenging your mother’s COVID diagnosis has been. But I do want to start on a positive note. Your mother, just like me, was a migrant to Australia. Where did she come from originally? And how did she build her life here?

 

ELIZABETH: We came – I was born in Greece as well. We came to Australia in 1971 from Greece, from Thessaloniki. They were both, you know, approached upon arrival at the port of Melbourne from the boat and offered many, many jobs, to which they accepted. They then went onto live with four other families in a house in Richmond. They both got work, very difficult for them, given the fact that they couldn’t speak English. They managed to overcome all that and have friends to interpret. And basically, they did labouring work, which didn’t require a lot of communication. They bought themselves a house within two years in Richmond and built their family here.

 

KENEALLY: You have siblings, they’ve raised their children here, and obviously do they now have a wide family of friends here. I imagine your family is well rooted in Australia?

 

ELIZABETH: Yes.

 

KENEALLY: Elizabeth, I think Anthony was going to ask you some questions about your mom’s diagnosis with COVID.

 

ALBANESE: Yes, Elizabeth if you wouldn’t mind going through what the circumstances were of your mom? I’ve spoken to many families and there’s been so many issues raised, part of it is just communication, you know how you dealt with the issues that you were confronting at a time, you want to be trouble free because you’re worried enough about your mom and just day to day circumstances. So I was wondering if you can go through that for us?

 

ELIZABETH: So, in fact, when I was notified that she had COVID I received a phone call by the management. And he said, look, I have bad news for you, your mum has just tested positive to COVID. To be honest, it didn’t surprise me based on the lack of high standards – what was going on in a facility before that, even before stage four, they were walking, they didn’t wear masks. There was not even on the night that…

 

KENEALLY: It sounds like you’re saying there was no infection control that you could observe.

 

ELIZABETH: No, no, absolutely, absolutely.

 

ALBANESE: How long ago was this Elizabeth?

 

ELIZABETH: So on the 4th of August was when the ambulance was called. She was barely, barely breathing, she was coughing. They were still insisting that the ambulance was not to be called. If I didn’t push for it, the ambulance wouldn’t have come at all. So that night when I went to the facility, I saw a staff member walked outside sort of snarking. I noticed while I was waiting, I noticed staff members going into the facility without sanitising, without wearing masks. I actually confronted one of the staff members and she pulled out a dirty mask out of her pocket and put it on her face. I observed kitchen staff going in without masks and without gloves into the kitchen. I mean, you tell me what you would like to know, and I could go on and on and on. But even before this, the staff, their patients, the residents were neglected.

 

ALBANESE: That’s the beginning of last month?

 

ELIZABETH: Yep.

 

ALBANESE: Just overseas experience showed when infections started internationally, there was a, there was a phone hook-up indeed do between bureaucrats, federal and state, that showed that best practice overseas was the immediate transfer to isolate people if someone had COVID-19, put them in hospital, separate them out from the facility and that wasn’t happening. Your mum’s lucky that she had you to speak up for her. A lot of older people don’t have anyone.

 

ELIZABETH: They don’t. And they end up dying.

 

KENEALLY: Well, actually that point about having someone to speak up for you. You’ve shared your story with me previously, with my office, and you know one of the things I think you also found out- that your mother had been left alone for hours on end and sometimes for the whole day, without any personal care or attention. And she ended up, she didn’t just have the COVID infection, did she? She had some other health issues that had been untreated?

 

ELIZABETH: Yes. So once I spoke to the doctors at the hospital, they had discovered that she had a urinary tract infection- quite a bad infection- and without any medical knowledge, I can’t really comment on that. However, I do know that urinary tract infections are caused from bacteria into the urethra. And she would often, she has a mobile phone so we would speak, and I was on the phone with her one day for two hours. She kept buzzing. They came in, they turned her buzzer off and said they would come back in five minutes. This went on for two hours on this particular day. She said, “I just wanted to die”. She said I’m covered in in faces, you know, excuse the detail. She said it’s coming out of my back. During that conversation, I heard a staff member come in and say, “What do you want Serafia?!” She was she was actually yelled at.

 

ALBANESE: It’s just horrific that older people who deserve dignity and respect in their later life. It’s actually one of the things that multicultural communities have brought here is the way that the elderly, in terms of cultures. I know the Greek culture coming from- I like in Marrickville which is the heartland of the Greek community in Sydney- I know that older people are just revered and respected. And it must be just so tough.

 

ELIZABETH: It is.

 

ALBANESE: And it’s tough for the for a lot of the staff to be fair as well. You know, they’re working impossible circumstance.

 

ELIZABETH: Yes. I’m glad you brought that up because they are. they are so understaffed. They are trying so hard. The understaffing- 2-to-30 people. Two staff members to 30 residents is very common in any given day. Before this all happened, I was at the aged care facility every day, as was my dad, and these people work to the bone. They’re just, you know, I hear Scott Morrison talking about “doing this” and none of that is happening. It’s just not happening.

 

ALBANESE: Yeah. It’s no accident that the first point of our eight point aged care plan that could be adopted immediately is about minimum staffing levels. Now we used to call, I’ve made the point we used to call aged care facilities “nursing homes”; implies nurses are there. Now circumstances of one nurse in facilities with 150 residents. One nurse. Some have none, of course. Whether it be nurses or carers. And for those people I mean, by and large, are working so hard.

 

ELIZABETH: And they’re not, there’s no there’s no nurses at night. They are working hard. There’s language barriers; some of the nursing staff can’t even speak English properly. I mean, I can’t understand what they’re saying, let alone a frail person who, you know. My mum’s got a little bit, you know, one European can communicate with another European, in a different language in English because they have a way of, you know, talking-like-this and doing all that sort of thing. There’s no way that half of these people can understand a lot of the staff members. Basic training is missing. This is such a lack of basic training. Common sense, you know, you’ve just wiped somebody’s genitalia after toileting them and you’ve used the same gloves to clothe them and feed them.

 

ALBANESE: Yep.

 

ELIZABETH: Who’s running the show? Who’s management? And it all comes down to funding.

 

ALBANESE: Yep. Funding, transparency, training, PPE equipment, minimum staff levels. It has been report after report, and the Royal Commissioners have been very strong, to their credit. Royal Commissioners have said really explicitly last Monday, when the government was almost trying to blame them, the people who were inquiring or critical of them. They came out and really said, yeah, if the advice from previous reports had been taken, we wouldn’t be in the current circumstances.

 

ELIZABETH: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

 

KENEALLY: Now, Elizabeth, I know that your time is precious, and we’re just so grateful that you’ve had the generosity to speak up – not just for your mother, but for all residents in aged care. So I might ask you one last question before we let you go, how is your mother doing now? And, you know, if you look ahead what is what is the – we know that aged care is a federal responsibility, what is the thing you would like the government to do the most here to help immediately – to help fix the problems that you see on the ground in aged care

 

ELIZABETH: Well, get out and do what they keep saying that they’re doing, and they’re not doing it. They need – my mum is still struggling, she’s deteriorating again. She had a second stint in hospital for two weeks nearly, and she’s gone back to the facility in really good health, and she’s deteriorating again because she’s just not receiving the care, and they’re and they’re locked in their rooms 24/7. So that they don’t even go out for fresh air. My mother has not been out for fresh air other than the hospital trip to the hospital and back for two months.
So he needs to, you know, they’re saying DHHS is getting – you know, I hear Scott Morrison talking about DHHS going out to the facilities, the facilities know that they’re going out, they’re prepared, they prepare so everything seems shiny and lovely, but you know, WorkCover turns up to workplaces without notice. They need to turn up without notice and see what’s really going on.

 

KENEALLY: Okay, Elizabeth, thank you so much for your time this morning. We really appreciate you joining us. Now, you are welcome to stay and listen to the rest of the media conference, or we’re happy if you’d like to sign off here, but we’re just so grateful that you’re speaking up, because your words and your witness carry such import to give us all of us – we talk about a crisis in aged care, we talked about neglect, but you have just illustrated it in such an important way. Thank you.

 

ALBANESE: Yeah, thanks, Elizabeth, and best wishes for your mum.

 

ELIZABETH: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

 

ALBANESE: And mum’s are special.

 

ELIZABETH: They sure are.

 

KENEALLY: Thank you. We’ll continue on with the questions. And in fact, Andrew, the next question is to you, and it really flows from what Elizabeth has said it. It’s from Andrew from Radio 4EB in Brisbane, but he makes the – he’s asking about what plans Labor’s supporting or proposing for people who’ve got linguistic difficulties to, you know, to help them understand the seriousness of the present, you know, health and economic situation and how they obtain help.

 

GILES: Yeah, thanks, Kristina, and we just heard from Elizabeth in such effecting and powerful terms how important it is for vulnerable people, especially, but everyone here to be able to access public health information and engage with others through the pandemic. And this has been a focus right from the start.
I probably should say to our friends at 4EB that I was very sorry that I couldn’t visit you in Kangaroo Point earlier in the year for the community broadcasting conference. I hope I’ll get an invitation back. But look, what Anthony said earlier was also so critically important – that we’ve seen our role in Labor as being constructive, and in terms of engagement with multicultural communities, from the start we raised with the government the importance of ensuring, firstly, that all government information was appropriately translated.
Unfortunately, we saw the government slow on this, and when they did provide translations, two things were missing. Firstly, we’ve seen many inaccurate and misleading translations, but also a failure to listen to community, and, particularly, probably to the voices here, to understand that simply translating something doesn’t mean communicating effectively, and I guess that’s what we have been trying to challenge the government to do better. To not just talk at

 

ALBANESE: Yep. Funding, transparency, training, PPE equipment, minimum staff levels. It has been report after report, and the Royal Commissioners have been very strong, to their credit. Royal Commissioners have said really explicitly last Monday, when the government was almost trying to blame them, the people who were inquiring or critical of them. They came out and really said, yeah, if the advice from previous reports had been taken, we wouldn’t be in the current circumstances.

 

ELIZABETH: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

 

KENEALLY: Now, Elizabeth, I know that your time is precious, and we’re just so grateful that you’ve had the generosity to speak up – not just for your mother, but for all residents in aged care. So I might ask you one last question before we let you go, how is your mother doing now? And, you know, if you look ahead what is what is the – we know that aged care is a federal responsibility, what is the thing you would like the government to do the most here to help immediately – to help fix the problems that you see on the ground in aged care

 

ELIZABETH: Well, get out and do what they keep saying that they’re doing, and they’re not doing it. They need – my mum is still struggling, she’s deteriorating again. She had a second stint in hospital for two weeks nearly, and she’s gone back to the facility in really good health, and she’s deteriorating again because she’s just not receiving the care, and they’re and they’re locked in their rooms 24/7. So that they don’t even go out for fresh air. My mother has not been out for fresh air other than the hospital trip to the hospital and back for two months.
So he needs to, you know, they’re saying DHHS is getting – you know, I hear Scott Morrison talking about DHHS going out to the facilities, the facilities know that they’re going out, they’re prepared, they prepare so everything seems shiny and lovely, but you know, WorkCover turns up to workplaces without notice. They need to turn up without notice and see what’s really going on.

 

KENEALLY: Okay, Elizabeth, thank you so much for your time this morning. We really appreciate you joining us. Now, you are welcome to stay and listen to the rest of the media conference, or we’re happy if you’d like to sign off here, but we’re just so grateful that you’re speaking up, because your words and your witness carry such import to give us all of us – we talk about a crisis in aged care, we talked about neglect, but you have just illustrated it in such an important way. Thank you.

 

ALBANESE: Yeah, thanks, Elizabeth, and best wishes for your mum.

 

ELIZABETH: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

 

ALBANESE: And mum’s are special.

 

ELIZABETH: They sure are.

 

KENEALLY: Thank you. We’ll continue on with the questions. And in fact, Andrew, the next question is to you, and it really flows from what Elizabeth has said it. It’s from Andrew from Radio 4EB in Brisbane, but he makes the – he’s asking about what plans Labor’s supporting or proposing for people who’ve got linguistic difficulties to, you know, to help them understand the seriousness of the present, you know, health and economic situation and how they obtain help.

 

GILES: Yeah, thanks, Kristina, and we just heard from Elizabeth in such effecting and powerful terms how important it is for vulnerable people, especially, but everyone here to be able to access public health information and engage with others through the pandemic. And this has been a focus right from the start. I probably should say to our friends at 4EB that I was very sorry that I couldn’t visit you in Kangaroo Point earlier in the year for the community broadcasting conference. I hope I’ll get an invitation back. But look, what Anthony said earlier was also so critically important – that we’ve seen our role in Labor as being constructive, and in terms of engagement with multicultural communities, from the start we raised with the government the importance of ensuring, firstly, that all government information was appropriately translated.

 

Unfortunately, we saw the government slow on this, and when they did provide translations, two things were missing. Firstly, we’ve seen many inaccurate and misleading translations, but also a failure to listen to community, and, particularly, probably to the voices here, to understand that simply translating something doesn’t mean communicating effectively, and I guess that’s what we have been trying to challenge the government to do better.

 

To not just talk at multicultural communities, but to listen to them and to harness the leadership that’s found in communities, and particularly in the media, and we’ve put forward a series of ideas, but probably the most significant suggesting to the government that they put forward a programme of grants to incentivize COVID communication that’s appropriate to multicultural communities, particularly emerging ones, and particularly multicultural media who understand how people in particular communities, language communities and cultural communities communicate with one another. So this is something that we are keen to keep talking about.

 

KENEALLY: Right. Thank you, Andrew. Anthony, I’m going to go to you. There’s one from the Q&A on the chat, and it’s from Samuel Yang, who’s asking from ABC Asia’s Pacific newsroom. He’s asking about – he says doctors have raised concerns about the lack of, you know, testing, of masks in healthcare settings and training of staff. I think he’s going to the issue about training of staff to wear them, you know, that they’re fitted properly. He’s asking are we doing enough to protect and train our health care workers? And you know, and I would think we could add in there, the aged care workers as well. So I know your eight-point plan talked a bit about this in terms of training and infection control, but perhaps you’d like to just address that.

 

ALBANESE: Yeah, thanks. Thanks very much. Well, clearly, the evidence is in, and we’re not doing enough. It’s something that’s been raised in the Royal Commission repeatedly, that people aren’t getting training, and we also simply aren’t giving the equipment, the PPE – people personal protective equipment – to staff. We have circumstances whereby people have given public statements that they’ve had to choose between a left-hand glove and a right-hand glove because they don’t have enough equipment to use both, and then to dispose of carefully.

 

So there’s the – the first thing is you’ve got to have the equipment there. You’ve got to have masks. Elizabeth’s statement that – we’re talking about August here, well into the pandemic, that the workers at her mom’s facility didn’t have masks, didn’t have PPE, and weren’t conscious of training issues. So it is quite shocking that that is the case, and it is also the case that, as Elizabeth said, and I’ve had this raised with me around the country, the idea that you have inspections – a regulator – so the Federal government funds age care, and regulates aged care – so the idea that you give a week’s notice, I’m going to visit the facility next Wednesday – the day, of course, isn’t appropriate either.

 

So we clearly need to do much better in terms of training, much better in terms of PPE, and much better as well – the other point related to workforce directly is a surge workforce service is required. So that where you have a facility that you know the staff are going to have to be withdrawn, that there’s a workforce ready to go in, and that also is the responsibility of government to ensure that that’s available.

 

KENEALLY: Anthony, thank you. There’s a question here on the chat as well that I’m going to throw to you that is from Neeraj Nanda. She asks about your comment, and I’m presuming you may have seen these comments about what Tony Abbott said about seniors being left out during the pandemic – and just for those who are watching, Tony Abbott said in his speech last night, he made comments that families would have to make decisions, to let nature take its course and allow elderly people to just die during this in the context of the pandemic. So Anthony, I don’t know if you’d like to respond to that.

 

ALBANESE: Well, look, Tony Abbott was never known for his compassion, but this is a new low. The idea, he’s not alone, there have been some other commentators have a view that because the pandemic doesn’t exclusively, but older people are more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, than people who are younger and fitter, can impact young people as well. But, they’re particularly vulnerable, and we knew that that was the case.

 

The idea, that as has been said that we just old people are going to die anyway, this just brings it forward. Where that sort of attitude ends up is, I think, in a place, I don’t want Australia to be. The idea that we are essentially complacent, and we essentially see older people as being well, they going to die anyway and therefore we don’t have to do everything we can to keep them in good health and if they do get sick to look after them. This flies in the face of humanity.

 

I was shocked, frankly, by the heartless nature of the comments. But I was also shocked that Scott Morrison said that 97% of aged care facilities didn’t have COVID-19, as if that was a good outcome. I am concerned that for both those comments for the more than 450 grieving families who have lost a loved one, will be hurt by that. These are real people, with real families. They’re our mums and dads, our grandfathers, our grandmothers, they’re our sisters and brothers. And I just think that Tony Abbott’s comments were regrettable, is the kindest word that I can say.

 

KENEALLY: Thank you, Anthony. I know we are coming up against time and I want to appreciate everyone who has submitted questions. There were a couple we didn’t get to that had been submitted earlier and my office is more than happy to follow up with those journalists but unfortunately, the demands of Parliament require that we need to get back into our respective chambers. So I would like to thank everyone, for joining us today for submitting questions and participating in the chat function. I particularly acknowledge Elizabeth’s generous contribution, from Melbourne, and I think I can speak on behalf of Andrew and I in thanking the Leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese for joining us today.

 

ALBANESE: Thanks, everyone.

 

KENEALLY: Thank you all. We’ll talk again soon

 

GILES: Thanks

 

ENDS