Aug 26, 2020







SUBJECTS: Federal Government’s response to COVID-19; aged care crisis.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Hello, Anthony. How are you?




PAUL: Thank you for your time. It’s not good enough, is it?


ALBANESE: Well, it is not good enough. Yesterday we learnt that the Minister had been removed from any responsibility for emergency responses in aged care facilities. So, they are taking his day job off him, essentially, but leaving him with the title. Now they are right to take his day job off him. They should take his title off him as well. Because he just not up to it.


PAUL: Well, and that’s the thing. It’s not personal for me, I don’t care who’s running the joint. I just want it to be run better. I’m afraid to say that this minister is out of his depth. And I was mortified, I was absolutely mortified. I was watching this live. And the fact that the man could not recall how many people in aged care facilities had lost their lives during the current pandemic just floored me. It really did. It came across as non-caring. Look, with respect, of course, Richard Colbeck would probably be a very caring man. But that’s his job to be on top of the portfolio and to know exactly what’s going on. And, sadly, I don’t think he does. And as a result of that, I have no confidence going forward that we’ll see any reforms that are desperately needed in this sector.


ALBANESE: Marcus, this wasn’t a trick question. This was a basic question asked by Senator Gallagher. And what’s more, I just don’t think that the current Government is taking aged care seriously. We have had seven ministers in seven years. We had an interim report of the Royal Commission handed down at the end of last year. Now it was titled, quite astonishingly, ‘Neglect’. The hint is there in the title. Neglect. The Royal Commission, with Royal Commissioners appointed by this Government. This isn’t the Labor Party. This is Royal Commissioners appointed by this Government who have a title of ‘Neglect’ in the interim report where they outlined just atrocities. I will give you one statement in that report, Marcus. Up to half of aged care residents in Australia are malnourished. They are literally starving.


PAUL: Well, that is what happens, with respect, sorry to interrupt, and this is the analogy I use, there is something desperately wrong, Anthony Albanese, when we have a sector that spends roughly $3 to feed aged care residents per day. But then you equate that to the money that’s being spent in our prison systems, on average $18 a day. In other words, we’re looking after our prison population far better than we are those elderly and most vulnerable people in our community.


ALBANESE: Marcus, last Thursday, Susan Templeman, who’s our fantastic local member servicing the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, invited me Richmond to sit down with families of aged care residents. And the stories I heard were quite shocking. One spoke about how she asked what her mum was being fed, the menu. Now, Monday was sausage rolls for dinner. Tuesday was party pies. Wednesday was a croissant.


PAUL: A croissant for dinner?


ALBANESE: It had cheese in it, I think. Essentially frozen stuff that you can buy, no brand, at Coles and Woolies. it would have cost $1 each for dinner for people who should be getting sustenance and people who should be in a position whereby, this is a private facility where a woman’s paying substantial fees, and this facility has failed its accreditation. And when the residents’ families sought to, because the inspection body, believe it or not, they give notice when they’re going to inspect a facility. So, you’ve got a week to clean up your act. When they asked to see the people in charge, these bureaucrats, when they went through the issues that they had at the facility, they were told, ‘We are not the complaints unit’. And these family members said, ‘Well, who are we supposed to complain to?’ The system is simply not functioning properly. And what we had is that report last year. And then we had earlier in the year, because the outbreaks, of course, were first in Europe and not in Australia, we could see what was coming, and all of the advice was that older people were particularly vulnerable to this pandemic. And in spite of that, there was no response put in place. No plan put in place by the Federal Government, which it has got to be said, they fund and regulate aged care. The Federal Government are responsible. Then you had Dorothy Henderson Lodge in March and Newmarch House in April. So, we could see the issues that were there. Again, no plans put in place. And the Royal Commissioners have said that there was no plan in place. And what’s the Federal Government’s response? They criticise the Royal Commission that they established. The Royal Commissioners that they appointed. This is simply not good enough. Older Australians have built this nation. They are deserving of respect and to live out their later years with dignity. And the fact is that one of the people said to me last week, that one of the things about a pandemic is it’s like an X-ray, it shows what is broken. Well, this system is broken. I met with aged care workers at the Health Services Union last Tuesday, and one of the things that they were talking about is the fact that they’ve got to work at two or three facilities which is one of the ways in which this virus has spread. Because they get paid $19 an hour. There’s casualised employment. There is not a proper workforce plan. We don’t have the right number of nurses, carers and other workers in these facilities.


PAUL: That was my main point I was going to get to. Look, meals aside, you’re right. The casualised employment setup means that unfortunately, we are seeing, during these COVID times, and I don’t blame the nurses, I don’t blame the aged care workers, they need to earn money and they do need to. If they want to get five days a week in work, which they need to, to support their own families, they will need to move from different aged care facilities. But the problem is, Anthony, you say you met with people at Windsor or Richmond, I know you have. I receive plenty of phone calls in this job from people affected by the aged care sector. One of the biggest complaints that I receive is the staff-patient ratio is completely out of whack. When you hear nurses calling this program saying, ‘I don’t know what to do, I am at my wit’s end. They give me two and a half minutes, Marcus, to bath and dress a patient to get them ready for the day. And I’ve got 10 of these patients to do. And I’ve got to do it in a certain amount of time’. Where’s the care? Why are these people being treated as bloody numbers, Anthony, rather, and a meal ticket, if you like, for the aged care operators, rather than human beings, Australian citizens who have put their work and their tears and their sweat into our country to build it up to enjoy what we have today. It’s like slapping them in the face.


ALBANESE: One of the workers said to me last Wednesday, ‘These aren’t residents, these are our friends’. And that’s the way that they think. These workers are doing an incredible job under extraordinary pressure but are being asked to do things that are just impossible. And when you combine that with the fact that so many workers have said they didn’t even have enough personal protective equipment, having to choose between whether you put on a left glove or a right-hand glove, because you need to ration them, in 2020 during a pandemic, in a country as rich as ours, is just not good.


PAUL: That’s right. Anthony, I do need to go because I got the news coming up. But we’ll talk more on this. It’s a passionate issue that I will continue to scream about until I’m blue in the face.


ALBANESE: Good on you, Marcus.


PAUL: You’re right that there is something completely wrong with the rationing of gloves when the owners and operators of these joints are turning up in the latest Maserati machines. It is just ridiculous. We’ll talk soon. Thank you.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Marcus.