ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC RADIO THE WORLD TODAY WITH THOMAS ORITI – THURSDAY, 13 AUGUST 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC RADIO THE WORLD TODAY WITH THOMAS ORITI
THURSDAY, 13 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Aged care crisis; handling of coronavirus in the aged care sector.
THOMAS ORITI, HOST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining the program. Aged care is obviously in the spotlight. It is a tragic situation, particularly in Victoria. How would a Federal Labor Government change our aged care system to avoid these problems in the future?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, the first principle is; we know that what family members want is for their loved ones to be kept safe and be treated with dignity. Now, we know there were massive problems with the aged care system, in part as a result of the funding cuts that were put in place by the Morrison Government. In part because of failure to properly have workforce planning, so, a lack of skilled workers there. In part due to regulation issues. And we know the Federal Government has got responsibility. We could start with actually responding constructively to the interim report of the Royal Commission which has largely been ignored and largely has seen the Government just pass the buck and not express the appropriate response. Yesterday, the head bureaucrat seemed disinterested. He tried to pass questions off to the Chief Medical Officer.
ORITI: But do you have a plan? You focused on the issues here, but do you have a way to solve them?
ALBANESE: Well, a starting point is to ensure that there’s proper workforce planning, to make sure that there’s proper regulation and to make sure that there’s appropriate funding mechanisms there. The third vision statement I gave as Labor Leader was on respecting and valuing older Australians. And part of that is the issue of aged care. It is indeed an indictment on the current Government that there are so many older Australians who’ve died while waiting for the home-based care that they’ve been approved to receive. They die before it’s actually delivered.
ORITI: It is obviously a tragic situation. But one side is blaming the other. Isn’t the truth somewhere in the middle in both the Commonwealth, your Liberal opponents, and Victoria, your Labor comrades? Surely, they both need to accept some responsibility here? People are dying.
ALBANESE: Well, the truth is that the Commonwealth has responsibility for aged care. And indeed, when Scott Morrison, on one of the sittings of Parliament, went into the Prime Minister’s courtyard on a Thursday afternoon and waved around a document saying, ‘This is our plan to deal with the pandemic’. Part of that explicitly was saying that the Commonwealth would bear responsibility for aged care.
ORITI: Sorry to interrupt but people have lost family members, or they’re worried they’re going to lose loved ones. Surely the last thing they want to hear at the moment is a political blame game?
ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. They want the Commonwealth to accept responsibility and to have had a plan for this. They haven’t had a plan up to now. We heard that at the Aged Care Royal Commission. They need to make sure that there is, going forward, a plan, rather than responding once tragedies have occurred. And the Prime Minister should front up and answer questions about why the Government was so ill-prepared for these tragic outbreaks, particularly when we look at Newmarch House which happened way back in April. It’s now four months on from that. And it would appear that the issues are very much still front and centre.
ORITI: Perhaps you’ve got a chance here. You’re in Opposition. Perhaps you’ve got a chance to reset the debate between Canberra and your Labor allies. I mean, is the blame game doing anything to solve this problem?
ALBANESE: People don’t want to hear about the blame game. People want the Government to take responsibility.
ORITI: But aren’t you engaging it?
ALBANESE: No, because the Commonwealth is responsible. That’s just a fact. And you need to have those who are responsible accept that responsibility and put in place mechanisms that avoid the aged care failures that we’ve seen continuing into the future.
ORITI: But there have been a lot of mistakes, of course, and a lot of hindsight about how these mistakes could have been avoided. Is it that simple during a pandemic that no one saw coming? You didn’t have a crystal ball, neither did the Coalition. Is it that simple to blame this on a systemic failure, be it at a state or federal level?
ALBANESE: Well, none of these issues are simple. But what we know is that when the problems arose at Newmarch house in April 2020, that should have run the alarm bells. But it would appear that the Commonwealth wasn’t listening at the time, still didn’t put in place a plan, which Scott Morrison himself stood in the Prime Minister’s courtyard and said, ‘Here’s the pandemic plan for Australia’. And part of that was that the Commonwealth would take responsibility for aged care, which it does have responsibility for.
ORITI: Okay, we’re out of time. Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining The World Today.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Tom.