Aug 14, 2020







SUBJECTS: 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Day; aged care Coronavirus crisis; Aged Care Royal Commission; Government backflipping on Clive Palmer’s High Court challenge; Ruby Princess.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Tomorrow morning I’ll be at the Australian War Memorial to commemorate Victory in the Pacific, the end of World War II, paying tribute to the veterans who put their lives on the line and so many who lost lives to defend our nation. I must say, when I think of what is going on in aged care facilities at the moment, some of the stories that I am hearing, the pictures that we are seeing, my heart is shredded. The fact is, that too many of our sons and daughters of our World War II veterans are saying their final goodbyes to their parents over FaceTime. Our incredible aged care workers are holding the hands of our precious elderly as they pass. The fact is, we as a country need to do much better. When the Prime Minister stood in the courtyard on the Thursday of a sitting week, after Question Time, and waved around the document, saying that it was the plan to deal with COVID-19 and its impact on Australians, that document said very clearly and I quote Section 4.1.4: “The Australian Government will also be responsible for residential aged care facilities.” Nothing equivocal about it. Very clearly there from the Prime Minister saying that the Australian Government was responsible. The Australian Government now needs to do more than say they will await a national cabinet discussion, so that once again we can have lines drawn between whether things are federal or state responsibilities. Because the Prime Minister has already declared that it’s a federal responsibility.


Now after the closing address from the Council Assisting the Royal Commission who outlined the failure of the Federal Government to have a plan when it comes to looking after our elderly Australians in aged care, who said very clearly and pointedly that a number of the deaths could have been avoided, who said very pointedly that the problems in aged care could have been foreseen, particularly after the events we saw at Newmarch House and other facilities in March and April, the Commissioner, Tony Pagone, urged the Federal Government to create an aged care specific national coordinating body. Labor is urging today the Federal Government to ensure that it creates an aged care specific national coordinating body in line with the statement of Commissioner Pagone. We urge the Government to act on this as a matter of urgency and therefore to use that body to make sure that there’s appropriate staff, there’s appropriate training and, importantly one of the most astonishing facts that has come out through the Royal Commission and other evidence and statements, is the fact that aged care workers haven’t had access to personal protective equipment. The idea that in 2020, someone looking after an elderly, sick Australian, who has helped build this country, has to decide whether they will use a left glove or a right globe because they can’t use both is simply not good enough. We need to do much better. We need to be inspired by the stories that we will commemorate tomorrow and we will commemorate this week about the effort that these Australians had done for us, for our country. The least we could do for them is to give them dignity and respect in their elder years.


JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, the Prime Minister says that he did have a plan in place for aged care, they have [inaudible] at various press conferences. How do you think those plans could have actually been enforced because clearly, they haven’t been?


ALBANESE: Clearly, the Prime Minister, to pretend there has been a plan, if this is a plan, I would hate to see what it would be if it was unplanned. Because quite clearly we haven’t seen the sort of outcomes that we would regard as acceptable. And the Prime Minister himself half conceded that today.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said this morning, he was asked specifically about the Commission recommendation yesterday for a national body and he said what’s in place in Victoria mirrors that. Is it good enough to have it in place in Victoria?


ALBANESE: Quite clearly it doesn’t mirror that, because that’s not a national coordinating body in place in one state. Quite clearly that’s not the case. So the Prime Minister has answered his own question. Here we have a very clear recommendation from the aged care Royal Commissioner. This is a Royal Commission not instigated by the Government, but conceded to by the Government after a considerable campaign. Aged care has been a major issue for a long period of time. And we need to do better and the Prime Minister has not responded, otherwise what’s he saying? That the Royal Commissioner asked for something that was already there? I think the Royal Commissioner, who has focused on these issues along with his co-Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs, what they are doing is a good job of getting the information. What we need is a government committed into actually implementing recommendations and it’d be a start if the Prime Minister responded positively to what’s a constructive suggestion.


JOURNALIST: Do you accept one of the arguments from the Feds today, that the reason it is getting into aged care is because there is community transmission in Victoria. And is the blame for community transmission ultimately with the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews?


ALBANESE: What I don’t accept is the blame game when the Federal Government itself have said in their documentation that they are responsible for aged care.


JOURNALIST: Why would a national coordinating body be better than one on the ground in Victoria? The Government’s argument being on the ground in Victoria where the problem is, is a more direct way to address the problem.


ALBANESE: Where was the problem before, two months ago, three months ago? It was in NSW. That is the point. That’s the point. Put in place mechanisms and systems that drive the change through. That you don’t wait for there to be a problem. One of the problems with this Government’s response has been that it has been that word, response. What we actually need across a range of issues is preemptive action. That’s what this Government doesn’t seem to understand and when it comes to, for example paid pandemic leave, they say that paid pandemic leave should occur after there’s an outbreak of the pandemic. No, what we need is structures put in place that minimise damage, not that deal with the damage.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Does that say that there should be more of these facilities run, with staff and patient ratios, by the states and not left to the private sector?


ALBANESE: It is something that needs to be looked at, arising out of the Royal Commission. And one of the things that happens, in general when you look at service delivery, when service delivery is based upon making profits, you change the dynamic of that service delivery. And in aged care, we are seeing a real distinction between outcomes in publicly run facilities and those run by the private sector for profit.


JOURNALIST: Can I just ask really quickly on WA, the PM said he wished WA all the best in its battle against Clive Palmer, billion and billions of dollars of arbitration, which is a big deal given WA and the rest of the country is facing a recession. What’s your response to this whole saga?


ALBANESE: That Scott Morrison was in it up to his neck. Scott Morrison and his Government where there supporting Clive Palmer’s legal case against Western Australia. Scott Morrison said, indeed and Christian Porter repeatedly, they had no choice but to participate in the legal case on the side of Mr Palmer. They criticised Mark McGowan repeatedly for maintaining WA’s borders. This Prime Minister opposed border closures before he supported them. He opposed wage subsidies before he supported them. He opposed lockdowns before supporting them. He opposed restrictions in areas like entry from the US until he supported them. He opposed Parliament sitting, remember, for six months before he supported them. This is a Prime Minister who changes when the mood changes. This is not a Prime Minister who is showing leadership on issues like the need to protect West Australians and West Australians should be very grateful that they have Mark McGowan leading that that State rather than Scott Morrison and his ally Clive Palmer. Thanks very much.


JOURNALIST: Could I just ask quickly on the Ruby Princess, on ABF?


ALBANESE: Sure, I was told you wanted a quick press conference. I just want to make the point I tried to deliver for you.


JOURNALIST: So we’ve heard…


ALBANESE: Just as I get out, they dragged me back. Godfather Three.


JOURNALIST: We’ve heard that the ABF did not handover the details of Ruby Princess passengers to the airlines to let them know whether they were carrying the Ruby Princess passengers because of privacy concerns. Is that acceptable?


ALBANESE: It’s an absolute disgrace, is what it is. And it’s an indictment of Peter Dutton in his running of the Australian Border Force. It’s also an indictment of the fact that they say they’re not responsible for health, Scott Morrison said. When quite clearly the people involved in the ABF, I think the figure that they used, I noted in one of the documents was, to do it accurately 920,000 medical checks a year, Australian Border Force do. I think it’s an outrage that the Australian Border Force were allowing people to come through Sydney Airport and Melbourne Airport, get on planes to other capital cities and to regional centres. Something I raised directly with the Prime Minister, directly with the Prime Minister and which he said the medical advice was no problem. People coming through Sydney Airport without so much as a temperature check. So when we talk about checks of quarantine issues, the Commonwealth clearly has responsibility for quarantine, people were allowed to come in and allowed to spread throughout the country. And of course, the worst example is the Ruby Princess, which saw 30 people lose their lives, and which was responsible for hundreds of infections. And the idea that no one has responsibility in Border Force for this is an outrage. And the idea as well, that it’s acceptable that the Morrison Government won’t allow public officials to give evidence before an inquiry that’s been established by Gladys Berejiklian’s Government is an outrage and it should make every Australian angry that that is not happening. Thanks.