Aug 28, 2020







SUBJECTS: Government’s failure to implement recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission; aged care crisis.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Anthony Albanese, good morning.




PAUL: It’s beyond the pale that a minister of the Crown, who basically, his one job is to ensure that he’s on top of his portfolio, I mean, let’s be honest, because of COVID-19, Parliament and the Senate sittings have been disrupted to a great extent this year. And when we’ve had issues around the pandemic and aged care, deaths, etc, the least I would expect of an elected representative is to stay in the bloody Parliament.


ALBANESE: Well, it was an astonishing performance from an incompetent minister who is simply not up to it. The only excuse he would have had for leaving the Parliament was if he was leaving the chamber to go back to his ministerial office and pack up his desk and hand in his resignation. Because you had a motion in the Senate being debated. He came in and made a statement. And then he just left. Didn’t even bother to stay for what his fellow senators had to say. It wasn’t a long debate, these are time-limited debates. He could have stayed for that period of time, listened to the stories that were relayed about people’s constituents. I sat down last Thursday in Richmond in Western Sydney, in the Hawkesbury, and listened to the families of aged care residents. On Wednesday I sat down and listened to staff, at the Health Services Union, tell me firsthand about what was going on. And this week, I’ve just been astonished. The Prime Minister has said that 97 per cent of aged care facilities are COVID free, as if that somehow was of some solace to the families of the, as of the latest figures, 373 deaths in aged care homes. And you had the Royal Commissioners saying, the Royal Commissioners appointed by this Government, saying that evidence was ignored, the plans weren’t put in place and that these issues could have been prevented. It is just astonishing.


PAUL: I want to get to your plan that you announced yesterday in that speech at the Press Club. I will get to Labor’s plan for aged care in a moment. You will see Scott Morrison today. I understand that you’re heading to this Bush Summit in Cooma. Will you be asking Scott Morrison, I know it’s difficult, you’re not in Parliament, but I mean, hopefully, and I really hope that you highlight this today when you get to speak to the press and maybe also to the Prime Minister, I mean, can you highlight to him that Richard Colbeck’s behaviour yesterday just isn’t good enough? I mean, we should be calling, I think, for this, and I don’t often do this because I hate the thought of anybody losing their job, but this bloke needs to go. He really does.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And it’s not something that I do either on a day-to-day basis, Marcus. But this is just such an open and shut case. And I asked the Prime Minister yesterday in the Parliament, I said, ‘Is the Prime Minister seriously saying that there is no one on his backbench who could do a better job?’ And under the Liberal Party rules, they are completely in the hands of the Prime Minister, who’s on the frontbench or not. So, all those people sitting behind him, isn’t there one person who’s worthy of promotion to take charge of this portfolio? Because quite clearly, this bloke just isn’t up to it. It’s not personal. I’ve met Richard Colbeck. He’s very personable, polite fellow. But this is just a very serious issue, and it needs a serious person in charge.


PAUL: All right. Yesterday, you announced your Party’s plans for aged care. I just want to run through a couple of the key indicators here. And ultimately, I think this is very important, right at the very top, minimum staffing levels in residential aged care. We need to get rid of these ridiculous staff-to-patient ratios that sees, and I’ve highlighted on my program, Anthony, on a number of occasions where I’ve had nurses in aged care facilities call me and say, ‘Marcus, I just went home, and I cried. Because they give me two and a half minutes or one and a half minutes to bathe and to dress one resident, to get them ready for breakfast for the day’. And it’s too much pressure. It’s just ridiculous.


ALBANESE: Look, it’s appalling. Whether it be the nurses, whether it be the carers who might be responsible for less medical support but play such an important role as well. The stories of people waiting, for example, to just be lifted back into bed at the end of the day and waiting hours because there’s no staff to help them. The people who are in bed and not being moved, if you’re lying in the one spot, if you are not very mobile, you get bed sores and they get infected. And we saw the pictures of ants crawling from a wound of an elderly lady. This is Australia in 2020. We are a pretty wealthy country, we can do much better than this. And we need minimum staffing levels across the board. And this is by no accident, Marcus, that I put this at the top of the list of eight things that can be done immediately. And we obviously need to wait for the Royal Commission for some of the longer term structural issues that need to be addressed. But these are things that should be addressed right now during this crisis. And that’s the first one.


PAUL: All right. Well, just along with the staff thing, and I haven’t got time to go through them at length in all of this, but obviously infection controls been a major issue during the coronavirus pandemic. So, we need better staff training on that. That was one of the key indicators from the Royal Commission. Reduce the home care waiting lists. Now, you and I have spoken about this at length. We did earlier in the week. We need to get more people being able to stay in their homes for a longer period. Look, I spoke to the National Seniors advocate, Ian Henschke, on the program about this the other day, Anthony, and he says that, this is the sorry state of aged care in Australia when there is a vast majority of people wanting to pull their loved ones out of aged care. They want to keep them at home as long as possible. They don’t want them within cooee of a place of aged care, because of the way the system is.


ALBANESE: That’s right. And in the end, in terms of costs, if someone’s kept in their home for longer, it reduces the cost. Common sense tells you that’s the case. And they want that. So many older people have said to me, not just during this crisis, but over the many years, ‘I want to stay in my home for as long as I can. For as long as I can’. And that’s a good thing. Some of the best facilities, and we should bear in mind that there are some fantastic facilities right around the country, and some of the best ones do things like make sure that they have in the one location, I know there’s a place in Port Macquarie I’ve visited, where people are essentially living independently. And as they get older and more frail, they can then get more support at home and then they can move into a less-care facility where they are getting some support, and eventually into a full nursing home on the same location. And there are some areas like that. People want to stay at home for as long as possible. And we have people who are literally dying who’ve been approved, before they can get their home care package, they die. It’s just extraordinary. There’s over 100,000 people who’ve been approved. These aren’t people applying. These are people who’ve been approved packages, waiting to get them.


PAUL: Anthony, you and I will go through more of this plan for aged care in the coming weeks on the program. I’m sorry, I haven’t got the time to go through it all today. But I want to get into the other issues of transparency and accountability of funding for aged care and also the Royal Commission’s recommendation for independent measurement and public reporting. There’s so many issues. But we’ll delve into more of those next week with you on the program, okay?


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Marcus. And thanks for your campaign to actually get a bit of justice and a bit of compassion for people who deserve it. These are people who have built the country. They are deserving of respect and dignity. And I’m determined to make sure they get it.


PAUL: All right, thank you very much. Anthony Albanese, have a good weekend. And don’t forget to ask ScoMo today to find out what’s going on with Mr Colbeck, please.