ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
5AA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER
FRIDAY, 14 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECT: Aged care crisis.
LEON BYNER, HOST: One of the most important issues for our community is how we treat our aged, particularly those who are very vulnerable. Not vulnerable because of their age, but because of their medical condition. Now, there’s a couple of interesting things that have occurred in the last 48 hours. We’ve had the Prime Minister say that we should be showing our aged much more respect and care. I don’t think anybody’s going to disagree with that. However, according to evidence put in the Royal Commission on Aged Care, which we have, the Morrison Government displayed a degree – and I’m quoting here – displayed a degree of self-congratulation and even hubris about the aged care sector in the lead up to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria that has so far left 170 residents dead. And this is the Aged Care Royal Commission hearing evidence, right, ending three days of examination.
Now, it’s easy to throw barbs at decision makers and indeed the bureaucracy. Plenty of reasons why you would. But the important thing is what are we going to do about this? And that question is not easily answered because there are so many different parties involved in the oversight and regulation. Look, for example, at this business with Integrity, NDIS says ‘oh, you won’t do anything for us anymore. We’ve shut you down’. It was reported as if Integrity weren’t going to do anything. Wrong. It was only within the NDIS. That’s somebody else’s area. This whole minced area of responsibility, and that’s what it is, has thrown up some pretty ugly stuff that we have to fix, because it’s our responsibility to do it.
Let’s talk to the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Anthony, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
BYNER: What do you say about this?
ALBANESE: Well, what I say is that the evidence before the Royal Commission is quite shocking. Older Australians have made this country and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and receive appropriate care towards the end of their years. And what we have here is that in spite of the fact that we had the events in Sydney – Newmarch House, Dorothy Henderson Lodge, which occurred many months ago now, claiming more than 20 lives – that should have been an absolute wake up call and a clarion call for a plan to be in place. But it would appear that the Morrison Government wasn’t listening and that they were very complacent in the way that they approached things, in spite of the fact that the Federal Government has very clear responsibility for the issue of aged care. So the tragic facts speak for themselves.
But going forward, we need to make sure that every nursing home in Australia has adequate staff, that they have the right training, and that they have the right personal protective equipment as well to keep themselves, and to keep the people they look after, safe.
BYNER: There’s another issue here, Anthony, and that is that right now we need good people in the aged care sector. And there’s no question that we have many of those already working in there. But what’s just happened is there’s been a ruling made – and we understand why – where you can’t go around as a casual worker and go to different locations and do your job. You’ve got to stick to one. What that means effectively is that those people who would rely on going to multiple sites now are going to find that their wage earning capacity is down the toilet, and they won’t be able to put food on the table. Surely, we have to do something about that?
ALBANESE: That’s right, and that’s an issue of that workforce planning and about the structure of the sector that’s been identified already as a real issue before the Royal Commission.
ALBANESE: As you know, Leon, I’ve given a series of vision statements, the fourth one I gave was on respecting and valuing older Australians, because we could see that this was an issue. The Royal Commission, of course, was called before the pandemic because of the endemic problems that were there in the sector, and one of the problems that they identified is that staff are forced into a situation, because of the structure of the industry, of having to go and work multiple job. Now that has had consequences during the pandemic because if people are carrying an infection then obviously that is a way for it to spread. So the authorities have responded to that. What should have occurred thought was putting in place a bit of foresight to prevent these problems, rather than responding to them after they’ve occurred.
BYNER: So what’s your call Anthony? In a practical sense, what’s got to happen now?
ALBANESE: Well, in a really practical sense, firstly, we need to make sure that equipment is available. It’s quite shocking the evidence that we’ve heard of workers using one glove, for example, using just one hand because they don’t have two gloves available, because they’re essentially trying to ration out the equipment. That’s just shocking.
BYNER: Have we got a shortage of this equipment?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government says that there’s not, but the evidence is very different to that.
ALBANESE: And, you know, this is months after Scott Morrison stood in the courtyard of the Prime Minister’s office there. Parliament was sitting on the Thursday, he waited until after Question Time, and then he went out and waved around a document he said was the plan. And the plan was that the Federal Government had a plan for aged care. But we heard before the Royal Commission that they didn’t have a plan in place. Clear evidence that comes from an independent inquiry, not from the Labor Party or The Greens, or One Nation or anyone else. This is an independent Royal Commission established by the Morrison Government.
BYNER: Anthony, thanks for coming on today.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.